Trek Talk and the DOE

September 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Arts, Science, Technology | 3 Comments

Remember the wonderful tech-talk that the writers were so fond of on Star Trek?  Just reflect on the melodious qualities of this line:   “We’ll be retuning phasers to higher EM base emitting frequencies to try to disrupt their subspace field.”  Ah, music.  And who among us has not slipped into an aesthetic trance mulling over the metaphysical implications of  the Transporter’s Heisenberg Compensators?

So, when I stumbled across this one on an electronics trade mag website, I just had to post it for you all to enjoy. 

Sandia National Laboratories’ project, “Semi-polar GaN Materials Technology for High IQE Green LEDs,” seeks to improve the internal quantum efficiency (IQE) in green nitride-based LED structures by using semi-polar GaN planar orientations for InGaN multiple quantum well (MQW) growth. The DOE said that these semi-polar orientations have the advantage of significantly reducing the piezoelectric fields that distort the quantum well band structure and decrease electron-hole overlap. At the end of this program, Sandia National Laboratories expects MQW active regions at 540 nm with an IQE of 50%, which with an 80% light extraction efficiency should produce LEDs with an external quantum efficiency of 40%, or twice the estimated current state-of-the-art.

Now that’s poetry.

The Two-Child Policy?

August 26, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Economics, Science | Leave a comment

 I spotted this article a ways back, which naturally I found quite fascinating.  I wonder if the Chinese government had taken a good look at this:

Population Pyramid: Year 2000

Population Pyramid: Year 2050










Yes, this is the current projection — in forty years, the largest demographic segment of Chinese society will be women over eighty years old.  Their society and economy just isn’t set up to handle this.  And believe it or not, the situation is even worse in the urban areas — the above projections are based on a fertility rate of 1.77 children per woman (a stable population is about 2.1 children per women).  Shanghai has a fertility rate of 0.8 children per woman … and dropping.  No wonder they are scrambling!

Forty Years Later

July 20, 2009 at 8:17 pm | Posted in Personal, Science, Technology, Workplace | Leave a comment

My dad sent me an email message reminding me how I, as a ten-week-old baby, was propped up in front of the kit-built Heathkit to see the historic landing on the Moon.  This reminded me of a scene from a great movie, The Dish, and I found myself tracking down exactly what a 1201 error in the LEM guidance code was, anyway.

That led to this little gem.

Apparently, not much has changed in the world of third level tech support….

The Conspiracy Collision

June 5, 2009 at 11:54 am | Posted in Economics, Science, Theology | Leave a comment

Here’s an interesting observation courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor:

In Islam there is a necessary link between religiosity and worldly power and success. The prophet Muhammad founded a religion and an empire, which lasted for a millennium. Jews and Christians, by comparison, experienced existential crises early in their histories and, as a result, developed narratives whereby God regularly tests his people with hardship or exists in a realm separate from man’s tribulations – the Kingdom of Heaven. Not so in Islam.

As a result, many Muslims ask themselves: How can Christians, Jews, and atheists dominate us – the greatest community, the one most connected to an active God, the one with a right to rule the world in the name of justice? Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, one of radical Islamism‘s founders, sermonized: “Your honor, which no one dared to touch, is now being trampled upon.… You are Muslims and yet are slaves! This situation is impossible as it is for an object to be white and black.” 

There are three general paths out of this cognitive dissonance for Muslims.

The first is to secularize, to argue that Islam doesn’t entail earthly power. The unsuccessful Arab nationalists, communists, and liberals in the Muslim world have taken this view, holding in various ways that Islam is separate from politics.

The second is to pin blame on unfaithful adherents. Radical Islamists argue that if true Muslims are granted great power, then contemporary believers must be Muslims in name alone. Only by returning to the pure faith, which they interpret wildly into a totalitarian ideology, will the practical problems disappear.

The third solution – compatible with the first two, and the easiest one to adopt – is conspiracy theories. If Muslims are the preeminent community and deserve great success, evil forces must be suppressing them. Muslims will rise again, the argument goes, once they purge themselves of these shadowy foes.

Westerners often perceive Islam as a millenarian cult, while in fact it’s a rather practical religion. Social failure is so hard for many Muslims to swallow because Islam guarantees prosperity and justice. Conspiracy theories rationalize this failure by placing the blame apart from Muslims themselves and safeguarding the necessary connection between Islam and earthly success. Coupled with the real threats outsiders have posed, the theories seem reasonable to many Muslims.

This worldview, importantly, is not unique to radical Islamists. I spent a year studying the Muslim community of Mauritius, an island-nation in the Indian Ocean. I spoke to many liberal Muslims there, people who worked to create Mauritius’s effective and inspiring multicultural democracy. They often introduced conspiracy theories to explain away perceived Muslim failings.

All of this makes it difficult for Obama to speak directly to Muslims without them twisting his words and motivations into an American plot to destroy or at least dampen their communities and faith.

I find this to be a rather fascinating observation of the collision of world and worldview.  I would imagine that wherever conspiracy theories abound, there is such a collision lurking in the background.

On Curbing Carbon

May 12, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Posted in Economics, Science, Technology | Leave a comment

Here are two recent articles about the current governmental bogeyman of the human production of carbon dioxide.  The first is a scientifically dense but concise rebuttal to the current Anthropic Global Warming model.  The second article comes at the issue of carbon tax from a scientifically agnostic economic viewpoint.  The point is that someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.  The comments from the sheeple would be funny if they weren’t so sad.


Climate Change Science Isn’t Settled

 Bound to Burn

 This is one of my favorite topics to chase around the Net, and I’ve accumulated a nice list of links.  I’ll write more on this later….

A Baby Boomlet

March 18, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Economics, Science | 2 Comments

The US experienced a minor “baby boomlet” in 2007, during which the fertility rate rose to the sustainable 2.1 births per woman.  (This means that my wife is doing the work of three.) 

However, most of the economically advanced nations of the world continue to trail the USA, with the exception of Israel and Greenland, nearly tied at 2.41 and 2.40 respectively.  The next closest is Iceland at 1.92, followed by Ireland at 1.86 and France at 1.84.  Poor Hong Kong is at the bottom of the list at 0.95, which means that each successive generation there is less than half the size of the previous one.

The preliminary figures for 2008 are mixed.  The European nations seem to have arrested their decline, with most remaining even or showing a modest increase, with the exception of France and Russia, which posted a whopping 0.14 and 0.11 increases from the prior year.   This translates to an increase of about one extra baby per 1000 people in each country.  Still, both countries are still well below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman, so absent some serious immigration, their populations will continue to face some serious shrinkage in the future.  So too, interestingly enough, will China (1.75), Japan (1.23), Iran (1.71), and South Korea (1.28).

As expected, the fastest growing populations are in Africa, with Mali (7.38), Niger (7.37), and Uganda (6.84) topping the list.  It is a sad fact of life that the most children are born to the populations that have the least resources to share with them.

As I’ve said before, all this population instability cannot bode well for the future.  A decreasing share of the world’s children are being born into societies that can offer them education about, socialization in, and familiarization with advanced economies.  When the next generation takes the reins of what we call human civilization, will they be able to control the beast?


July 28, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Science, Theology | 4 Comments

I know that I am almost alone in this opinion and that it makes me most unpopular, but this is my blog and I can write whatever I want.

The “scientific art exhibit” known as Bodyworlds 2 is currently on open to the paying public at the Maryland Science Center.  For those not in the know, the Bodyworlds exhibit displays real corpses that have been plastinized, cut open, and arranged into various poses.  People then attend and get an anatomical education by gawking at the flayed, eviscerated, and mutilated human remains.

I’m sorry, but when I was young, a collection of dead bodies open to the public wasn’t called art or science — it was called a graveyard.

Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my old age.  I can’t help but think that each of these “exhibits” represents the life of a living, breathing human being who walked the earth just as you and I do, who lived and loved and had dreams and aspirations just like any of us.  Regardless of whether they donated their bodies or not, somehow I must believe that a more fitting tribute to the dignity of their lives must be found.  The human body, even in death, was not intended for this.

To be honest, I must be reminded of the Orthodox practice of the public display and veneration of relics.  They are not made of rubber, but they are preserved for viewing nonetheless.  So, what is the difference?

Well, there are a couple.  First of all, relics are not anonymous, but stand as a celebration of the fullness of the saint’s life.  In death, the saint is not reduced to his or her component parts, rather each component part carries within it the totality of a sanctified life.  Furthermore, in each piece lies the promise of not just the redemption of the soul but of the body and indeed the whole world.  The relic does not serve to tell us as much about who we are but rather who we can be.

But most importantly, I think, at the Bodyworlds exhibit it is clear that it is the human body that is to be worshipped.  The specimens, the accompanying text, literary quotations on the wall — all serve to glorify the human, and thus each viewer.  It is a raw display of self-idolatry.

On the other hand, when relics are properly venerated, it is not the human who is worshipped but the God within.  When a person so cooperates with the will of God to be filled with His energies, then his or her body becomes a true temple of the Lord, and the presence of the Lord dwells within the very bones and members such that they become sacred.  To venerate the relic is to acknowledge the God who made them, sanctified them, and continues His redeeming presence within them.

Just thinking about relics fills me with a sense of awe at the Lord’s presence and a sense of humility at the unfitness of my own being.  Thinking about Bodyworlds just makes me ill.  I hope I’m not the only one.

Don’t Color Me ANYTHING!

July 18, 2008 at 11:51 am | Posted in Science | 7 Comments

Yesterday, the Baltimore Sun ran an interesting article about the dangers of artificial colors in food products.  Of course, this article comes only about 34 years too late, but better late than never, I guess.  The article details the pressure the FDA is coming under to review its stance on the safety of chemical food dyes in light of recent statement by its British counterpart.   However, the FDA refuses to cave.

This should come as no surprise, considering the way the FDA operates.   Far be it for them to bite the hand that feeds them.  In the meantime, manufacturers continue to pour more and more artificial colors into their products.  And I’m pretty sure that they know exactly what these chemicals do.  Why else would Gatorade come in such garish colors?  What really irks me is that companies like Kraft, Mars, and Cadbury will voluntarily change their recipes in the UK, but leave them unchanged in the American markets.

My family has been on the Feingold Diet for a number of years now, originally to help with some of our youngsters’ behavioral problems.  But, I think it has helped with a broad range of issues, from general health to fertility (where did you think all the small lookalikes came from?)  Our kids rarely get sick, and usually is it nowhere as severe as what is making the rounds. 

Any chemist will tell you that any chemical compound can be dangerous if ingested.  When asked about the safety of a particular compound, my chemistry professor would always tell us, “Well, it won’t kill you right away.”  The problem seems to be that if a chemical doesn’t make you sick, then the FDA concludes that it must be safe.  And everyone believes the FDA — after all, they wear white lab coats.

Addendum:  The following was forwarded to me by my lovely wife, who belongs to a number of groups providing information on the topic.  Please take a moment to write to the address below — you may help change food history!

Meanwhile, McDonald’s has been in touch with the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) and has told them that they really aren’t sure that Americans are concerned about the fact that their food contains synthetic dyes.  McDonald’s has asked their nutrition & labeling manager, Julia Braun, to gather information on whether or not consumers have any interest in this area.

Julia says that McDonald’s rarely does anything unless they can document a consumer demand, so she has invited parents to write to her and share their feelings about food dyes, and she has provided information below on how to reach her. 

Her contact info:2111 McDonald’s Drive
    Oak Brook, IL  60523


    Julia Braun, MPH, RD
    Nutrition & Labeling Manager

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