Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pluto: Planet or Something Else?

When I was a child in the fifties I knew “Pluto” was different. What made it different then was its orbit. Even though it was recognized as the ninth planet, I was aware that some points of its orbit were closer to our Sun than the closest points of Neptune the eighth planet‘s, orbit. The explanation offered for this phenomenon at the time was that Pluto was a runaway moon of Neptune.There were limits to what could be observed back then. Electronic (called "radio" then) telescopes were just beginning to be constructed. Astronomers’ observations were restricted by the size of the mirrors on their telescopes and visual interference from our own atmosphere. We knew Pluto had a lot of ice from spectrum analysis. What we didn’t know was that it was smaller in diameter than the planet Mercury or our own Moon.Our ability through the use of the Hubble Telescope helping to determine the true size and makeup of Pluto along with the discovery of four other celestial objects further from the Sun have caused some scientists to question whether Pluto should continue to be called a planet. The group of these celestial objects of which scientists claim Pluto is part of is called the Kuiper Belt. One of the objects, “2003 UB313” nicknamed “Xena”, is about 25 % larger than Pluto. Should it officially be made a 10th planet?3000 scientists and astronomers are meeting in Prague, Czechoslovakia tomorrow for 12 days to decide if Pluto will continue to be called a planet or to possibly determine if a new classification system of what is a planet is necessary.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Politicizing the Weather...

In the late 1970’s I was extensively involved in politics and was a delegate to party state conventions on more than one occasion. I remember one late night bull session in Orlando in the fall of 1977. One participant was an attorney from the Miami area who became very prominent in the early eighties.
“We could always be in power if we could just find a way to politicize the weather,” he was saying.
The rest of us joked about the notion saying stuff like, “Everybody talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.” Boy were we wrong!
Not long after that the concept of global warming went from being a topic of interest for a handful of scientists to a belief of millions across the planet.
I thought about that this morning when I read an article in USA today entitled “Hurricane Season Defying Forecasts.” In the midst of a gargantuan heat wave the National Hurricane Center is informing us that now we are into August and the tropics this year have barely produced a good whiff of wind. Bear in mind that the meat of any hurricane season is yet to come in the weeks after Labor Day. Nonetheless, I’m reminded that several months ago a group of environmental activists demonstrated around NOAA demanding the National Hurricane Center fire Max Mayfield and acknowledge that global warming was causing an increasing number of more and more powerful hurricanes. The Miami based scientists declined then the opportunity to endorse that concept.
Yesterday Hurricane Researcher William Gray reduced his annual prediction of expected hurricanes from 9 to 7 and said a monster storm like Katrina was unlikely this year.
The endorsement of “global warming” by previously skeptical Conservatives is quickly approaching what political scientists call the “tipping point”, wherein everyone will take it as a common assumption or as a given fact. This in spite of the belief on the part of many environmental scientists that many of the claimed underlying “proofs” put forth by non scientists like Al Gore are just not scientifically accurate.
Like many of the notions we accept in everyday life the politicizing of the weather relies on us using our current “commonsense” (and believe me after four absolutely miserable days here in the North East, commonsense abounds). When we do that however we completely overlook the history of our planet that some of us once studied in Geology class.
Consider this: It is a generally accepted scientific notion (supported by carbon data studies of the fossilized strata of the earth) that the Dinosaurs roamed the Earth around 300 MILLION Years ago.
Did you know?:
That in the last 1 MILLION years of Earth's 2 BILLION year existence there have been 18 ICE AGES, the last one approximately 54,000 years ago. This suggests that the Earth heats and cools in cycles and always has. And the debate continues among serious scientists as to whether the Earth currently is heating or cooling. As soon as one side produces proof that it has gotten hotter in the last 10 years, the other side comes out and shows evidence that the Earth has been cooling since the 1940’s. While Al Gore runs around saying that the Polar Ice Sheets are melting and shows images at a certain location of parts falling off and forming icebergs, there are credible scientists saying what he is depicting is a natural process taking place there but that the majority of the Polar Ice Sheets are expanding in other areas.
The other part of this shortsightedness is that we’ve made great technological advances in the past 30 years. We now have satellite imagery to measure current conditions with and some short term readings to make comparisons. What we really don’t have is comparable historical records over a long term because the technology wasn’t there. We don't really know if there was or wasn't an ozone hole expanding or contracting over the Antarctic because we never considered the concept prior to 1940. We’ve only kept official temperature records here in the US for the past 120 years.
These are things I believe we should take into consideration when we allow non scientists to "politicize our weather" for us.
Now I’ve got to go and find myself something cold to drink..That front that came through last night didn’t cool things down as much as the man on the TV said it would,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Silly Little Blog Victories...

Several acquaintances of mine are surprised that I "blog for fun"... Why not try to get yourself published?..Or why not put advertising like google ads on your site and get some income from it?
The short answer is that that would make it too much like work, something you have to do on a regular basis. Clearly I’m not disciplined about my blogging or there would be at least four times as much content as there is now.
When I do write I pick subjects which interest me and I hope will be interesting to my readers. Intuitively I recognize that this is not always the case. As a former educator I’m well aware that those that like history don’t always like science and those who really appreciate math may not care for English.
Many posts which I’ve put here I initially wrote very quickly once I had a feel for what I wanted to say. The initial writing was followed by a lot of editing much of it after it was originally posted. I always when rereading have found capitalization errors, verb tense problems, word redundancies and typos which still haven’t been corrected until the fifth or sixth editing.
It’s very nice when someone tells me they like my writing, but where I really get my kicks is from the ensuing search engine activity which brings out my small little victories in the world of cyberspace. I know I’ve written about this before but please bear with me while I recount some things which I am particularly proud of or I find amusing.
I am proud that:
1. No search engine has ever sent anyone to this site looking for “porn” (unless you insist on counting all that Cowher affair stuff).
2. Every week I get multiple “hits” from people looking for information on the “snap-on-smile”, something I dashed off in about ten minutes over a year ago. Until recently this site was the number 5 reference for this subject on yahoo.
3. About six weeks ago someone “asked Jeeves” ( “what broadway play were Don Knotts and Andy Griffith in?” and the search engine listed the tribute to Knotts I wrote within hours of his death last February as the # 1 source for the answer (ahead of Wikipedia even).
I mentioned to my son the “Redington Pirate” (soon to be the “South Tampa Pirate”) that every couple of weeks I get “hits” from people googling his fellow members of the Stetson Trial Team. Then I joked to him that no one has come to my site by googling him. He replied that that was because his real name has never appeared on my site which is true.
Here is something I find amusing. If you GOOGLE “Redington Pirate” or plug it into the Yahoo search engine the number # 1 reference is his law school's press release of November 2005 concerning the Stetson Trial Team’s winning of the National Criminal Trial Competition. Both search engines know the “Pirate” is in there somewhere although he is never mentioned. This site doesn’t get mentioned on Google until #’s 77 and 78.
I’ve run out of inspiration. I’ve got to go now and find some images to go with this post..
Stay cool everyone!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's Too Darn Hot!

Yes, it’s HOT!
Last night when I checked AccuWeather it was predicting 98 degrees at 4:00 PM today with a 106 degree heat index. It’s four and it’s only 94 with a 101 heat index and AccuWeather now says it will peak at 95 degrees at 5:00 PM.
The big storm system which is expected to bring relief is just beginning to enter the midwest and won’t be here until Thursday.
Over in the northeast someone has started a rumor that this is the year that a big hurricane will hit New York and Boston. Not necessarily so says Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center. During the 1950’s a lot of the tropical cyclones hit the northeast. In the Sixties and Seventies they hit the western Gulf of Mexico. In the 90’s they hit the southeast especially the Carolinas. A Storm which has been named Chris has formed east of Puerto Rico. It’s current projected path would bring it into the Bahamas on Saturday. We will update its direction daily.
Right now Grandma and I are drinking plenty of water and eating lots of rainbow sherbet while looking forward to Thursday.. Stay cool everyone!

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