The Making of Donald Trump; David Cay Johnston; 2016; Melville House Publishing; 217 pgs; notes, index
David Johnston is a regular on the news shows as an expert on Trump and how he got to where he is today. The book is four years old now. There is very little that is new, and much that is familiar.
If you have followed the coverage, you are probably aware of grandpa Trump, who fled Germany to avoid the draft, and built and ran brothels. Daddy Trump was ruthless and corrupt. The Trump family has been in close contact with the mob. And so on…
The only thing that stood out for me is how many times Trump et al have been sued, lost, and then settled, only to have the settlement sealed. I do not think Trump would be where he is today without that. By sealing his court losses, he gets to pretend he won.
I learned little from this book. It is for Trumpaholics only now. But if you are not aware of the sordid details of Trump's life, this is the best book documenting the family up until 2016.
Red Sun Setting, The Battle of the Philippine Sea; William Y'Blood; 1981; Bluejacket Books; 213 pgs, glossary, appendices, notes, index
in thThe Battle of Leyte Gulf (BLG, October, 1944), which took place several months after the Battle of the Philippine Sea (BPS, June, 1944), essentially ended the mighty Japanese Navy as a threat in the Pacific. Ray Spruence, who acquitted himself quite well at Midway some two years before, was overly cautious. He headed the American side of the BPS and had a good shot at the taking out the Japanese Navy. But that would have to wait.
Regardless, the BPS, AKA "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" was a great success. The Marianas were the target of the invasion that was designed to bring the Japanese out to face the Americans. The Marianas include Guam, Saipan (a sad story, where many Japanese, fearing the Americans, committed suicide), Tinian (the Enola Gay took off from there), and Iwo Jima (the bloodiest of the island hopping amphibious assaults).
The Japanese were desperate at this point. They were up against it, primarily in terms of fuel. American submarines had dramatically curtailed their oil supply. This shaped the battle in many ways. At one point, Japanese destroyers were getting fueled from battle ships, rather than oil tankers! Much of the oil burned by the Japanese in the BPS was pumped directly from the ground in Tarakan, Indonesia and into the tanks of combat ships. This oil was high in paraffin and could be burned without refining. Thus, the fleet went to the oil, rather than the other way around!
Spruence decided he would wait for the Japanese to come to him. This made sense because the Japanese Navy planes had longer range than the Americans, and the Americans wanted to draw the Japanese in close. This worked to a point. The Japanese found the Americans first and launched all they had. But the defeat at Midway had decimated their Naval fliers and crews. The battle hardened Americans fliers met a bunch of rookies and tore them apart. Like the Battle of the Coral Sea (BCS) and Midway, no ship ever sighted an enemy ship. American submarines played a large part in the BPS, sinking at least one carrier. No so, for the Japanese.
The Thatch Weave, introduced at Midway by flier Jimmy Thatch, was used to good effect. The Japanese Zero (AKA Zeke) was faster and more agile than the Hellcat. But it could not take a punch. The Hellcat could. The Weave worked like this. Two planes fly together… a lead plane and a bait plane to one side and behind. A Japanese flier will naturally want to attack the rear plane first. The moment that happens, the two American planes veer violently towards each other, crossing each others paths and moving apart; and then they quickly swing back towards each other. This brings the Japanese plane chasing the bait plane under the guns of the lead plane, and down it goes.
One or three stories stood out for me.
A flier named Henderson flamed 4 "Zekes" (Mitsubishi Zeros) on his first pass, and then was lost from sight by his mates. His last message was "I knocked down four, and I have thirty more of them cornered!"
Another flier named Vracia landed his plane on the Lexington after the first major air engagement. As he was climbing out of the cockpit, he saw Admiral Mitscher looking down at him from the ship's island. He flashed a huge grin and held up 6 fingers, one for each kill.
A third story starred a Japanese flier. Because the Japanese fliers were so green, they had to be individually instructed by their flight leaders, in the air, minutes before they were to go into battle, regarding what each should do, and when, when they attacked. The Americans had a fluent Japanese speaker on board who listened in, providing essential intelligence for the Americans fliers about to enter the battle. At the end of the fight, the Americans let him go (i.e.: did not give chase) because, as an admiral quipped, he had done so much for them during the battle.
Although there was much more to the battle, it ended with the Americans launching everything they had at the Japanese at extreme range. This meant many fliers were forced to ditch as they ran out of gas on the return leg. In the end , the Americans sank three carriers and did damage to a few other ships.
On the Japanese side were the two biggest battle ships in world history: the Yamato (sunk at Okinowa) and Musashi (sunk in the BLG).They had a dozen or so carriers and many support and screening vessels. The Americans had a similar complement, including the carriers Yorktown and Lexington. Savvy readers will note that the Yorktown went down at Midway and the "Lex" was sunk in the BCS. The mighty US industrial base had replaced them. At the end of the war, the Americans had more than 100 carriers of various sizes. I believe that the Enterprise and the Hornet (the Dolittle Raid carrier) survived the war. If you recall the movie Magnum Force, there was a motorcycle "duel" on the decks of the Hornet at anchor in San Francisco Bay.
The BPS finished the Japanese Navy's command of the air. Indeed, the now nearly useless aircraft carriers (due to lack of planes, pilots and crews) were used/sacrificed as a lure/feint during the BLG.
The book has many fine photos and anecdotes. I enjoyed it a lot. The writing was compelling and It really aided my thinking about the Pacific War.
It is frustrating to look at the shared sense of duty that the Americans had in 1944. Today, they can't agree on which way is "up".
his book is in fine company. It is a book primarily about skepticism. The author and I have a little in common, in that we were or are members of a Skeptics Group. Prothero, a PhD geologist, is with the Pasadena Skeptics. I note that he is a PhD because he warns of books written by people who flaunt their PhDs.
The book covers geology related subjects that are a decent sub-set of all the crazy ideas that are out there. Young Earthers are trashed, as are flat Earthers, hawkers of crystals, Atlantis, dowsers, and moon-landing deniers.
Aside: Andy Kaufman died because he rejected modern medicine and relied instead on crystal healing.
It was a quick read and a good addition to my library on subjects (like Ley lines) that I would otherwise have to research.
One thing that comes across very clearly is that scientific illiteracy in the US is driven largely by the cesspool of the internet. In fact, by my count, he called the internet a "cesspool" four times. Ironically, the internet was created to serve scientists and promote data exchange. He speaks highly of, and quotes often, Carl Sagan. As a long time skeptic myself, I am familiar with the arguments about wrt scientific literacy, basic logical arguments, human biases, and such.
I only know one person personally that is foolish enough to posit a 10,000 year old (or less) Earth. I have had several exchanges with him over the years. One argument that gets repeated a lot is that his belief in god is no different than my belief in Newton's gravity and other scientific ideas like evolution. I often reply to this attack by explaining that I use the word "believe" in a different way (based on probability) than he does. The book suggests a different language, the gist of which is below:
Science has only one "belief"… namely, that the world is understandable. I do not "believe" in Newton's law, but rather I accept it, based on, in this particular case, an overwhelming preponderance of the evidence (Newton's laws got us to the moon and back). I like this language better, as it is easier to justify.
I also enjoyed the obvious fact that the author likes movies. He mentions several, including the worst SF film ever made (as voted by geoscientists), The Core.
The Abruzzo, Italy earthquake resulted in many deaths, and six seismologists were convicted of manslaughter for not predicting the quake! After 5,000 seismologists wrote letters, the conviction was overturned. Its hard to be a scientist sometimes.
The book has a well researched chapter on The Flood. The details of how Gilgamesh and the various versions of the old testament are weaved together into a mish-mash of "god's word" is very interesting. No one who understands how the Bible came to be can believe that it is the actual word of god, because it comes from several different sources, and it contradicts itself and reality… a lot. The absolute most charitable one can be is to say that the bible might reflect god's wishes, as filtered and understood by man. But that is thin gruel at best.
This book has a lot of fine photos and illustrations. It discusses basic skeptical issues like reserving judgment and human bias. And many of its topics are historical in nature, so there is lot here for a newcomer to the skeptical world to absorb.
If you have any interest in geology and the basics of skepticism, this is a good book for you.
Herbert Werner may be the luckiest man in the world. He joined the German Navy submarine force when the war started. He believed in Hitler and the German Reich. He found freedom October 30, 1945.
Werner started his submarine career as an ensign. He went on to captain his own boats. He planted mines in Chesapeake Bay. He successfully attacked convoys in the Atlantic, sinking dozens of ships. He wound up in prison camps after the war, but finally made his way back to Germany after more than 6 years of fighting. His family was killed while he was at sea. And he was depth charged in almost uncountable numbers by ships and planes.
The average U-Boat had about a 20% chance of returning to port on any given patrol. The Germans had three major U-Boat ports: Lorient, New Rochelle, and Breast. They fed out onto the bay of Biscay. Nearer the end of the war, the average U-Boat had a one in five chance of just getting out of the Bay alive. This was thanks to the Allies substantial lead in radar technology. A flying boat could see a U-Boat on the surface with radar long before the plane could be spotted visually. No branch of the German military had a worse chance for survival.
Life on board a U-Boat was awful. Lousy (literally) food, extremely crowded conditions; the smell of chlorine, diesel, oil and sweat everywhere. By comparison, life on an American submarine was like a stay at the Ritz. When the sub went deep, the latrine could not be pumped out, so you can add human waste to the equation.
When the war finally ended, Werner spent 8 months in prison camps until he escaped them, and made it back to Germany proper.
I found the internal workings and tactics of the German U-Boat very interesting.
What was also interesting is what the book lacks. The author never questions the German goal and their ultimate victory until the very end. He believed in Hitler. Doenitz kept sending his U-Boats out until the very end, asking his submariners to commit suicide and ram shipping to buy time for the "secret weapons" to be developed and deployed. The book contained no mention of Nazi policies at all. Not even Hitler's orders to shoot survivors of a sinking ship in the water. No mention of the Jews and other persecuted groups and nations. The book was written in 1969, so the author had plenty of time to think of such things.
The best thing about this book is that its contents and conclusions are basically in the table of contents. This makes it easy for me to summarize. Harriet Hall (Skeptic, and MD) wrote a short positive piece in the Skeptical Inquirer about the book which prompted me to buy it.
NB: Listen to your doctor. Do not take medical advice from me. Do your research.
Chapter 1: Don't take fever reducing meds during a cold. No ASA, no Tylenol, and no Advil. These drugs reduce fever, hobble your immune system (the immune system likes it hot), and lengthen your illness.
Chapter 2: Antibiotics are over prescribed and finishing your course of treatment is not always a good idea.
Chapter 4: Vitamin D is over-hyped. I stopped taking it when I read it was associated with kidney stones.
In general, stick to the FDA recommended amounts. Huge doses of vitamins can create poor outcomes.
Chapter 5: Antioxidants are a waste of money.
Chapter 6: Testosterone treatments are bad for you.
Chapter 7: Aspirin doesn't prevent heat attack or stroke.
Chapter 8: Expose your kids to peanuts and other allergens early.
Chapter 9: Sun block doesn't really work. Stay out of the sun.
Chapter 11: Prostrate cancer screening is not good for you.
Chapter 12: Ditto Thyroid screening.
Chapter 13: Ditto breast cancer screening.
Chapter 14: Heart stents do not work.
Chapter 15: Knee arthritis surgery is unnecessary.
Chapter 16: Mercury fillings are safe and effective.
Chapter 17: Vitamin C doesn't help colds.
How do you treat colds? It turns out that the old method of breathing steam works, because the virus does not reproduce well in warmer environments. Otherwise, treat your colds with contempt.
Chapter 18: Do NOT ice a sprained joint. Rather, do the opposite and apply heat.
For decades, the usual treatment for sprains was RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and it was pretty much exactly the opposite of what should be done.
Some of these are surprising results. Most I had heard of before.
The book is not as dry as one might imagine. It is fast read and backed by copious notes. It keeps the jargon to a minimum and the logic is easy to follow.
For example, your immune system is designed to work best at higher temperatures. Ergo, you get a fever when you get sick. It makes no sense to reduce your temperature, as doing so will impede your recovery.
One broad issue the book does discuss is malpractice law suits. These suits distort the system. The author recommends getting rid of jury trials and replacing the jury with a panel of experts.
This example amused the skeptic in me:
In 1986, "psychic" Judith Haimes had a CT scan of her head due to headaches. As a result, she claimed, she lost her power to talk to the dead. She sued and won $986,000!!... which was later overturned as excessive.
ofThis book and The Splendid and the Vile cover much of the same ground, but from different perspectives. The latter looks at the politics and infighting in Fighter Command and other agencies from the top… Churchill, Beaverbrook et al and their upper-class struggle to win the war. This book views the struggle from the bottom. Regular men and women thrust into the war and getting life lessons in fighting and dying.
The first familiar person mentioned, who appears again and again, was Douglas Bader. The double amputee was inspirational for millions of Brits. Another name that popped up a few times was Watson-Watt, the genius behind England's secret weapon: radar.
Air Marshall Hugh Dowding and his junior Keith Park were the top people running Fighter Command. Leigh-Mallory was also there. His brother George Mallory was notable as one of the first to climb Mt Everest. He did not climb down and his mummified body stood guard over the route up for decades. Leigh-Mallory was re-assigned after the Battle of Britain to Burma. Ironically, he never made it: his plane ran into a mountain.
I would write more about these folks, but the book lacks an index, so finding items in it is hard. I will only mention a few highlights.
The very first Battle of Britain sortie was so badly botched that two friendly squadrons went at each other! The first fatality in the Battle of Britain was a British pilot, shot down by another British pilot.
One theme came up regularly: the death of the British class system. War boils people down to their lowest common denominators, and class disappears. This was eye-opening for many people, especially young upper-class women who were suddenly removed from their posh surroundings and injected into the thick of it.
Bader was always pushing for more aggressive tactics during the battle. He was an advocate, along with Leigh-Mallory, of the "big wing" concept, which never really got off the ground. He fought the Battle of Britain like a champion; got shot down; and closed out the war in Colditz.
Polish pilots were terrific (in its original and modern sense). At the end of the war, they were told to go home. Home was now behind the Iron Curtain. Ultimately, the government relented and any Polish pilots who wished to stay, could.
At the end, the V1s and V2s started falling. Brave ammo-less pilots would catch up to the V1 and tip it with their wing tips. This was called "nudging". This action threw off the V2s gyros causing it to crash.
When the battle was won, both Park and Dowding were tossed aside. As the book notes, people are remarkably dismissive of their saviors after the are saved.
This book was written just a few years ago. As a movie fan, I was pleased to see a lot of references to the movies that have been made about this period, most notably Reach for the Sky and The Battle of Britain.
I can think of a couple of propaganda films that featured killed British flyers going to heaven where they met their slain mates. I thought this was just story telling, but it actually reflected a prevalent strong belief in spiritualism at the time. This is not "spiritualism" as we use the word today. Then, it meant belief in ghosts. People like Dowding write books on the subject.
I liked this book better than The Splendid and the Vile in that it spoke more about day-to-day life of all the service people during the war. The Observer Corp, Home Guard, and especially WAAFs and various other female groups that worked at Blechly Park (code breaking), and a Bently Priory (tracking incoming bombers and scrambling fighters to intercept), and operated the radar units.
A Crack in Creation; Jennifer A. Doudna, Samuel H. Sternberg; 2018; Mariner Books;246 pgs; Notes, index
If you examine the book cover, you will notice that some of the letters are in yellow, the others in white. The letters in yellow are A, C, T, and G… the first letters of the four amino acids that make up DNA. The author's last name is "Dou DNA", but that is just a coincidence. So this is a book about biology. I know a lot more about physics and computing than I do about biology, but oddly, that knowledge was quite helpful. My thanks to Blythe Nilson who corrected some ugly errors in my first draft of this piece.
CRISPR, the underlying technology here, is as important to our future as nuclear power. So you should know something about it. You don't need to know how it works, just what it might be able to do.
Physics and chemistry are closely related. Biology is chemical. And DNA biology is also very computational. DNA's ACGT structure is binary (i.e. base 2) code. You might say "Then why are there four letters, rather than two?" Because nature needed an easy way to copy DNA. The DNA chain is made up of paired letters: A always pairs with T, and G with C (each pairing is a bit). This allows the DNA to be cut in two long pieces, and then each piece is reassembled into a complete DNA chain by re-pairing (or repairing) the chain by adding the appropriate matching letter. One copy of DNA becomes two. This is the chemical basis for reproduction.
Each triplet of these letters code for a particular amino acid, and the sequence of DNA dictates how these amino acids will be built into proteins. Proteins are the true stuff of life.
As I read this book, I was struck by the number of times I could see software analogies in the chemistry. In computing, data and code are two sides of the same coin. The same is true for the molecules of life. They are hardware (a fixed bunch of atoms arranged just so) and software (do this, then do that) all packaged up into a single object.
Enter CRISPR (an acronym for Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeats), a new technology that is both enormously promising and bloody scary at the same time. CRISPR is not a great name. Even knowing what the letters stand for tells you nothing about what is actually is. The one chapter in the book that describes the CRISPR details is challenging. It is full of acronyms and strange words, making it hard to follow. The rest of the book is much less challenging.
CRISPR was initially just an observation that part of the DNA of the bacteria consists of Repeating Clusters of DNA. The repeated bits read the same forward as backward (Palindromic), were quite Short, and were always the same distance apart (Regularly Interspaced). It soon became apparent that these genes were associated with the bacteria's immune system. What a bacteria fears is a phage (short for bacteriophage), a virus that attacks bacteria. The CRISPR genes contain a length of genetic material in the Regularly Interspaced part. These bits of RNA are actually viral RNA that was taken from a phage in the past, and is now used as a pattern matching template to recognize viral DNA. Associated with CRISPR is an enzyme that, once activated, destroys its DNA/RNA target… in this case, the phage.
Aside: RNA and DNA are chemically very similar and sometimes serve similar purposes. RNA is a single stranded molecule, and DNA is double stranded. RNA uses uracil (U) instead of thymine (T) in its code.
Once the enzyme is released, it zooms down the DNA chain at a rate of 300,000 nucleotides per second, carving it up into amino acid junk! That is fast!
Scientists realized that this mechanism could be used to find, change, and/or disable genes with amazing accuracy. For a software guy like me, I see many analogies to computer code. Each segment of phage DNA/RNA in CRISPR is used as template to find an invading phage and kill it. This is like a parameter to a subroutine or, if you prefer, a kind of microscopic Google search using the DNA segment as the search target. This is hardly surprising since, at its core, genes are a series of zeros and ones that are used to make you and me. In other words, it is all software and software is easy to change (hence the "soft" part).
CRISPR technology has enormous potential for both good and evil. It might be used to cure horrible genetic diseases such Huntingtons, or it could be used to create supermen. It can be used to hunt down one gene with one wrong letter, tag that gene for repair, and then get the mechanisms of body to repair it. Sickle Cell Anemia is one such disease.
When writing software, one generally designs top-down and builds bottom-up. In the software of real life, there is no design, only what works. Software starts with building tools; and then uses those tools to build larger software structures which, in turn are used as tools to build even more complex structures and procedures. And with all these tools lying around, there often comes a realization that the existing tools could be easily repurposed to do something that previously seemed out of reach. I have experienced this many times in my software career. Bio-researchers are discovering all these tools lying around in the cell and are closing in on learning how to use them.
CRISPR opens many doors, some of which we should probably keep locked. Curing an awful disease is obviously a good thing. Changing human germ cells is much scarier. Changes to human germ cells means that the change is passed on to offspring. And that smacks of eugenics, NAZI supermen, designer babies etc., and it raises many ethical questions.
The closing chapters of the book focus on the future and the inherent advantages and dangers that CRISPR embodies.
Biotech like CRISPR gives us god-like powers to manipulate life. Advances in biotech and computing make it possible for us to wield those powers. I do not think it an exaggeration to say that CRISPR is the biotech equivalent of the Manhattan Project. I hope mankind learns to use it wisely, because use it we will.
This is a great book. Interesting details; not overly technical; and a Perry Mason who-dun-it (or more accurately, what-dun-it). First, the crime scene is set; then the possible perps are introduced; followed by the gathering of evidence, a trial, and a courtroom confession, with a somewhat "Orient Express" flavor.
The mystery is "Where did the moon come from?" This is called selenogony. Selene, the moon, is the daughter of Theia in Greek mythology. Before I tuck into my overview, a few fun facts.
George Howard Darwin was an eminent scientist and a great thinker on moon questions. With pen and paper, he did much of the basic number crunching on the moon and the gravitational dynamics that affect it and us. His contributions are overshadowed by those of his famous father Charles. Mind you, he was big on eugenics, so there is that too. Like his dad, he was knighted. Charles Darwin changed many people's thinking from catrastophism (stuff like the Flood) to gradualism (the Grand Canyon was carved slowly over thousands of years). The new "thing" was slow change over many years.
Many will recall the crashing of comet Shoemaker-Levi 9 into Jupiter (an excellent example of catastrophism at work). In addition to discovering the comet, Shoemaker, a geologist by training, did groundbreaking research into cratering (pun intended). He is the first, and still only, person to be buried on the moon.
Another fun fact: It is not possible to fire a bullet into orbit from the surface of the Earth. It will either go on forever, or fall back to Earth. This is true for any planet.
The three possible perps for the origin of the moon were: Fission, Capture, and Co-Accretion.
Fission: The early hot Earth was spinning very fast and flung the moon off (some thought, leaving the Pacific Ocean "hole" behind);
Capture: The moon accreted elsewhere; wandered into Earth's orbit and was ultimately captured into orbit around the Earth;
Co-Accretion: The two planets (the moon is a planet in all but name) formed together out of one accretion disk of material. An accretion disk is a collection of material orbiting something. Over time, gravity flattens the material into a disk shape and, over more time, objects in the disk stick together until larger and larger bodies are formed. Typically one body, a planet, is formed by vacuuming up everything within a certain distance of its orbit. In this example, two bodies accreted.
A fourth option was rarely discussed because it smacked of catastophism, which science had decided they did not like. That option was a huge impact (or Splat). More on this later.
Each theory has its problems. The resolution came after the last Apollo mission.
Aside: Apollo's moon data and samples were the only scientifically useful results that have been produced by manned space travel. The ISS is a boondoggle.
The same moon is visible to everyone on the planet, every where and every night. It was the standard clock for thousands of years. As a clock, it had a problem, of course. The lunar month was not an even divisor of the solar year. This made the seasons crawl about in a most unsettling way.
The fact that we live on a sphere can be determined in several easy ways. The most dramatic is to witness is lunar eclipse. You can plainly see the circular shadow of the Earth on the moon. But to many, the moon was flat, just like the Earth. Aristarchus of Samos was the first to suggest that the Earth both revolved and rotated.
A relevant short joke: "The only thing flat Earthers have to fear is sphere itself."
Kepler struggled with the then-ruling model of the solar system, which consisted of circles within circles, with the Earth at the center. Copernicus suggested that the Sun was at the center. Kepler tried many times to make circles work. Circles were perfect; and god was perfect; so it was a nice fit. Kepler tried circles with an offset center. His model was close. Only 8 minutes of arc off (the size of a quarter at 36 feet). But that 8 minutes meant he was wrong! He persevered until he finally broke with circles and invoked the elipse. Ta da! Kepler's three laws of planetary motion.
And it was about this time that Galileo turned his telescope on the moon… that pesky, mottled, luminous body in the sky. What he saw stunned everyone… shadows crawling across the moon's surface as it went through its 28 Earth-day day. The moon was a sphere too! The moon had mountains. Of course, he next turned his telescope on Jupiter and revealed something even more shocking: that stars (actually moons) were orbiting Jupiter… which was impossible because everything went around the Earth. Enter the Spanish Inquisition, but that is another story.
When George Darwin came along to ask moon origin questions, Newton's gravity was well understood. Especially when it came to where the action is: Tides and tidal forces.
A word about tides: Sailors have tracked the tides forever. They understood that there were three overlapping cycles: The moon revolving around the Earth; the Earth's rotation; and the position of the Sun. There are two high tides every day. This implies two bulges in the planet's oceans. The ocean nearest the moon is attracted more strongly than an ocean on the other side of the world, and so it bulges. The Earth itself is attracted to the moon, and falls toward it all the time. The Earth is attracted more than the ocean furthest from the moon, and this creates a bulge on the opposite side of the Earth. Gravity falls off with the square of the distance; tides fall off with the cube.
Tides (more accurately, tidal forces) are where the action is. Tides can squeeze and compress moons until they are molten. Tides explain why the moon only shows one face to the Earth. Tides can rob angular momentum from one body and transfer it to another. Without tidal forces, the solar system would be boring. In fact, it is tides that cause the moon to slowly move away from the Earth. Darwin knew this, but did not know how old the Earth was. If he had known, he could have used it to calculate when the moon was very close to the Earth, and perhaps divine its origin.
I mentioned Shoemaker and his craters. In modern times, we know of many craters on Earth. Some are volcanic and some were caused by impacts. The moon was covered in craters and the speculation was that they were volcanic. Why? Because impactors come in at many different angles and you would expect to see the crater smeared out in a line (think of a golf ball hitting a sand trap at an oblique angle). Shoemaker showed this was wrong. When an asteroid hits the moon or the Earth, it is travelling at orbital speeds… in the 20,000 mph neck of the woods. Pound for pound, they carry more energy than TNT. When the impact takes place, it is best modeled by a huge explosion. This is why impact craters are round and not smeared in one direction. Simply counting craters (along with some interesting math) gave an initial estimate of the age of the moon to be close to that of the Earth.
We are getting close to the end of the story. When the astronauts returned to the Earth, they brought hundreds of pounds of moon rock, including one that appeared green on the moon. At this point, the arguments get geologically quite detailed. They involve things like the behavior of elements at pressures of 250,000 atmospheres and temperatures of 8,000 Celsius. Suffice to say that under certain temperatures and pressures, some elements are iron-loving and not rock-loving. Under those conditions, they would follow iron into the core of the planet. Under other conditions, those same elements are rock-loving and would stay near the surface. Any theory about the moons origin must explain the various densities of elements at different levels.
It was at this time that the crazy impactor theory re-arose. It had some holes in it, but they could be resolved with more research.
The Fission theory was always wonky because no one could come up with a plausible story that could explain the enormous energies involved. The Earth-Moon system is essentially a double-planet and is unique in the solar system. If fission could happen, it should happen more than once.
The math of Co-Accretion suggests that the Earth should have swallowed the moon before it ever got moon-sized.
And Capture seemed like an impossibly unlikely bank shot in pool. Scientists do not like such "just-so" stories.
But a major impact solved all these problems (with a few open questions). At a conference (the trial, in my Perry Mason analogy) held in Kona, Hawaii, something very rare took place. Something actually happened. Conferences of this ilk are like political debates. Everyone knows what everyone else thinks; they hear what the others think; they say what they think; no one changes their mind; and they all go home. Not this time. The Impactor theory was re-opened as a possibility, and a score card was created for the four theories, the last being a kind of "Orient Express" conspiracy of Co-Accretion and Capture… AKA the Impactor theory. And Impact won! Scientists changed there minds right there and then. The role of Perry Mason was filled by moon scientist William Hartmann.
I knew the who the "perp" was when I bought the book. I grew up during Apollo. The book is a fascinating who-dun-it with whacko characters who discover half the story, and seers that broke the prejudice mold and created a scientific consensus. Well written with just enough hard science so you can follow the arguments.
I wrote an essay about 23.4 degrees (http://www.thegodcon.com/the-god-con/234-more-comments-from-a-space-nerd). Most things in the solar system are spinning, and most of that spinning is at right angles to the plane of the thing's orbit. But not Earth. It is spinning at 23.4 degrees off that angle, and a good thing too. Without it, no seasons on Earth, and no us. That wonky angle is evidence of an off-center impact with Earth of a planet about the size of Mars. A pool shot with English on it. It blew off a huge chunk of the Earth's iron-poor mantle, which ultimately coalesced into our moon; and it knocked the Earth off-axis. This explains why the moon is so iron poor, and why moon rocks and very old Earth rocks are the same age and composition. Tidal forces spread the shattered Earth's crust into a disk much like Saturn's; which quickly glommed into our moon.
Thus, we live on what might be quite rare in the galaxy: a double planet. The moon and the Earth both rotate about a common center of gravity which is about three Earth diameters away from the center of the Earth.
The impactor has appropriately been dubbed Theia, mother of the moon.
I do not have a lot to say about this book. A friend suggested it and I read it. It is well written, engrossing at times, and had many insights into the terrible struggle to survive that England went through in the first years of the war. There are a few very colorful characters, and few dark ones as well:
The image of Churchill walking around naked, drinking brandy and champagne, barking orders, and smoking his cigars is almost a cliché.
Lord Beaverbrook, the most interesting personality in the book, almost single-handedly ramped up airplane production and won the Battle of Britton. The Battle of Britton was the air war during the summer of 1940. The Blitz was the bombing of London and other civilian sites, and it went on much longer. The Battle Britton ended when the Blitz began.
Lindemann is a character I knew a bit about from other readings. He was Churchill's right-hand man, science advisor, and general all-round dickhead... hated by everyone. "Often wrong but never in doubt" sums him up pretty well. While he may have contributed to the war in many positive ways, the reverse was also true. For example, a few years later, he dismissed the idea of the V2 as a physically impossibility. He was very, very wrong.
Randolph was Churchill's ne'er-do-well son (his other children were women). A drunken, philandering, gambler… he spent about a million dollars a year (today's money) on booze, broads and gambling!
Rudolph Hess was the most interesting German character that was explored. I learned a few new things about his ill-fated trip to England to make peace. He would remain in Spandau prison, its last inmate, until he killed himself at age 94.
Adolph Galland is another interesting German character. He was an ace fighter pilot. I read his biography in my 20s. By the war's end, he was a general and ran the entire fighter defense of Germany. Later on, he was a technical consultant on the making of the movie "The Battle of Britton". He was the only pilot who was allowed, personally, by Hitler, to smoke cigars and fly at the same time. He smoked 20 a day.
The other principle characters are the remaining members of the Churchill family. A low-key Peyton Place.
Politically, the first years of the war were about survival and getting the US into the fray. The Lend-Lease Act was a big part of that. The pressure of constant bombing had eased up by mid '41, as Hitler turned his eye to the East. Within a week of Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, '41), the US was at war with both Japan and Germany. Germany declared war on the US, and the US reciprocated. The US was the only country that Germany declared war on in WWII! This is where the book ends.
This is a long book, but an easy read. If you skip a sentence or two, you don't miss much. I normally scribble notes into the books I read, and then summarize them afterward. I did that here, but only scribbled about a dozen times. In other words, I learned very little worth knowing. But if you want to get a feel for the gestalt at the time; the attitudes and feelings of both the government players and the people; and the nature of the suffering they went though, I would recommend it.
In 1981, I wrote scribbled up a list of questions to help distinguish science from pseudoscience. The list took on a life of its own and has popped up in the oddest of places. I once found it was part of a Dentistry curriculum. An independently derived and shorter list by Robert Part became part of US jurisprudence.
The differences between science and pseudoscience has been explored by many great minds, including an thorough article written in 1995 by my friend Barry Beyerstein.
I encourage any and all to use the list as appropriate, with proper citation.
Below is a list of questions you should ask yourself when investigating a new "scientific" topic. These questions will help you to separate the good science from the sham.
Pasted from <http://faculty.msmc.edu/markel/mst_101/class%20files/pseudoscience%20characteristics.htm>
Questions to help distinguish a pseudoscience from a protoscience (a new science trying to establish its legitimacy) adapted from Lee Moller's "BCS Debates a Qi Gong Master," Rational Enquirer, Vol 6, No. 4, Apr 94 (published by the British Columbia Skeptics Society)
1. Has the subject shown progress?
2. Does the discipline use technical words such as "vibration" or "energy" without clearly defining what they mean?
3. Would accepting the tenets of a claim require you to abandon any well established physical laws?
4. Are popular articles on the subject lacking in references?
5. Is the only evidence offered anecdotal in nature?
6. Does the proponent of the subject claim that "air-tight" experiments have been performed that prove the truth of the subject matter, and that cheating would have been impossible?
7. Are the results of the aforementioned experiments successfully repeated by other researchers? 8. Does the proponent of the subject claim to be overly or unfairly criticized?
9. Is the subject taught only in non-credit institutions?
10. Are the best texts on the subject decades old?
11. Does the proponent of the claim use what one writer has called "factuals" - statements that are a largely or wholly true but unrelated to the claim?
12. When criticized, do the defenders of the claim attack the critic rather than the criticism?
13. Does the proponent make appeals to history (i.e. it has been around a long time, so it must be true)?
14. Does the subject display the "shyness effect" (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't)?
15. Does the proponent use the appeal to ignorance argument ("there are more things under heaven … than are dreamed of in your philosophy …")?
16. Does the proponent use alleged expertise in other areas to lend weight to the claim?
This link is me, but that is all I can say. I think this is Korean?
疑似科学と未科学を識別するのに参考となる16の質問 by Lee ...
transact.seesaa.net › article
Aug 7, 2006 - ... おそらく主宰であるLee MollerがニューズレターRational Enquirerに書いた「Pseudoscience or Protoscience (疑似科学か未科学か)」という ..
This is the text of the original article I wrote in 1981. Most people rightly ignore the preamble and only pay attention to the list.
Pseudoscience or Protoscience?
by Lee Moller
As a skeptic, one can find something to argue about with almost anyone -- even other skeptics. After having participated in more than one such good-natured debate, some patterns of criticism of skepticism emerge. One of the most common criticisms is the question "How can one tell the difference between a pseudoscience and protoscience?" By protoscience, I mean any claim which, as the result of the unguessable verdict of history, will ultimately be viewed as a legitimate field of study. A common example of such a protoscience is continental drift. It was initially rejected or scoffed at by many scientists, but now continental drift and plate tectonics are well established facts. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Philosophers still debate the issue of "where do you draw the line?" I suspect that there is no way of distinguishing between science and pseudoscience (this is one reason why the skeptic must always be prepared to change his or her mind in the light of new evidence), but there are certain characteristics that most quackeries seem to share. This article will suggest some questions one could ask (not in any particular order) that might help to distinguish between the reasonable and the absurd.
1. Has the subject shown progress?
Many pseudosciences have been around for centuries and have progressed little, if at all. Graphology (handwriting analysis) is a good example. There have been several theories of graphology over the last century, and they all work equally poorly. Astrology is a second example. Astrologers hardly even blinked when Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered -- although the "theory" of astrology was supposedly complete before this happened.
2. Does the discipline use technical words as 'vibration,' 'frequency,' and 'energy' or phrases such as 'different dimension,' or 'plane of existence' without defining what they mean?
For example, many fringe medicines claim to "balance your body's vital energies." Without appropriate definitions, this statement is meaningless. The most common definition of "energy" is "the capacity to do work." What does it mean to "balance the body's vital capacities to do work?"
3. Would accepting the tenets of a claim require you to abandon any well-established physical laws?
For example, if one were to accept astrology, one would be forced to reconsider such well-established physical laws as causality or the limiting speed of light. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The evidence should be extremely compelling if it is going to convince you to abandon your confidence in modern physics -- a science that clearly has some handle on the truth. Witness the modern-day miracles of laser surgery, superconductivity and the silicon chip, to name a few.
4. Are popular articles on the subject lacking in references?
How many times have you heard phrases like "a recent study showed conclusively that..." but you can never find our which study or who performed it. On the rare occasions when explicit references are supplied, the references are hopelessly out of date or the data on the study often prove to be unavailable. No legitimate scientist will ever refuse to allow experimental data to be examined.
5. Is the only evidence offered anecdotal in nature?
Anecdotal evidence (e.g. "A friend of my mother had a dream about her daughter being in a accident...") for paranormal claims is ubiquitous and, in general, worthless. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, "If you've never seen a UFO, you're not very observant, and if you have seen as many as I have, you wouldn't believe in them either."
6. Does the proponent of the subject claim that airtight experiments were performed, and that cheating was impossible?
Many experiments on psi powers (such as those done of Uri Geller) that were supposedly fraud-proof were laughably transparent to magicians. Even in the presence of a qualified magician, cheating in experiments to test psi powers is never impossible. This leads to the next point.
7. Are the results of the experiments successfully repeated by other researchers?
It is amazing how, with boring regularity, the psychic powers of mediums or "gifted people" seem to evaporate whenever a video-camera or a magician is present in the room. (Psi researchers call this the "shyness effect;" I call it darn convenient.) Repeatability is a cornerstone of science. Without it, science is reduced to rumor and hearsay. Points 6,7,8 and 9 are, of course, tightly inter-related.
8. Does the proponent of the subject claim that he is overly criticized, or the victim of a conspiracy to suppress his ideas?
Conspiracies are not impossible, but it is inconsistent to suggest that, for example, the medical community is suppressing a cancer cure when doctors everywhere die of cancer with the same regularity as the man on the street.
9. Is the discipline taught in night-school non-credit courses only?
Check out local continuing education courses in your municipality. You will probably find courses on channeling, astrology, aura reading and many similar topics.
10. Are the best texts on the subject decades old and available from any store?
Pseudoscientific "experts" stubbornly continue to refer to out-of-date texts, and ignore the more recent literature that might take a little more time and effort to find.
11.Does the proponent of the claim use what one writer called 'factuals?'
A factual is a statement that contains just enough science to make it sound plausible. A common factual is to invoke the Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics to explain psychic powers, but to ignore those parts of quantum mechanics which disallow such an application.
12.When criticized, do the defenders of a claim attack the critic, rather than the criticisms?
Such ad hominem attacks are an excellent way of distracting the public from the real issues. There are other characteristics that often crop up, but those mentioned above are some of the most common. This is not to say that just because a certain subject displays one or two of these characteristics, that it is necessarily quackery. But most pseudosciences, at least in my experience, will display most if not all of these qualities simultaneously. In these cases, the verdict of history is almost certain. However, you never know... One day someone might actually see a sasquatch, and perhaps provide concrete evidence of the same, but to date, the number of hucksters and frauds that have been caught cheating provide ample reason to remain skeptical. People can say anything -- and many do.
(Reprinted with permission of the British Columbia Skeptics. Lee Moller is the editor of the Rational Inquirer, the newsletter of the BC Skeptics.)
Pasted from <http://www.ntskeptics.org/1989/1989mayjune/mayjune1989.htm#pseudoscience>
This is a nice summary of the list in a Math, Science and Technology course.
This link gives me pause, but still…
I get a reference in this psychology book.
The Bangladesh Institute of Sociology:
I was also cited in in psychology book: The Psychology of Science and the Origins of the Scientific Mind by Gregory Feist.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.