Uncommon Sense

December 31, 2022

Getting to the Core of the Question

Filed under: History,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:43 am
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The following questions were recently asked on Quora.com, the question and answer site:

Do neutrons and protons touch each other in the atomic nucleus? Do protons and neutrons collide? Do protons and neutrons touch?

These are questions that seldom get asked and really should be asked more often.

The discovery of atomic nuclei (and protons) in 1911 and the neutron in 1932 (yes, some of that is less than 100 years old) combined with the previous discovery of electrons left us wondering how these “subatomic” particles were arranged.

Since the heavy, heavy, heavy nucleus was far smaller than the atom as a whole, the ps and ns had to be “in” there while the electrons were around and about. First it was assumed that the electrons orbited their nuclei, like tiny planets, supporting the “planetary model of the atom,” which had been imagined quite some time before. Shortly thereafter it was shown how any such orbits would result in the electrons spiraling down into the nuclei as the orbits were unstable. As I have said often enough, if it had been orbits and only orbits of tiny electrically-charged particles, the Book of Genesis would have been woefully short. It would have begun with “Let there be light . . .” and then the lights would have gone out.

The question at the heart of the questions above is, what was holding the protons, the ps, and the neutrons, the ns, so closely together? No known force was even close to being strong enough. So, a new force was postulated, the “strong nuclear force,” as it became known as, and its characteristics were determined by what it was able to do. And we were off and running using the model that had worked so often before.

But there is a problem here. It was a tiny problem called the mass defect. With the discovery of the neutron, lots of things started falling into place. The so-called “alpha particles” (remember alpha, beta, and gamma radiation from school?) were identified as being the nuclei of helium-4 atoms. Supposedly these alpha particles were made of two ps and two ns, but given the masses, m(p) = 1.00734u, m(n) = 1.00874u, m(α) = 4.0015u things don’t add up. The alpha particle is “missing” 0.0304u of mass. (The mass unit “u” being the atomic mass unit which is exactly one twelfth of the mass of a carbon-12 atom.) In other words, there isn’t enough mass there to account for the existence of two protons and two neutrons. We now know that this mass was converted into energy (E = mc2) when the four particles were fused together to make the alpha particle/helium-4 nucleus. Fusion energy is something we would like to master today as a source of energy to support our lives.

But people didn’t stop at that point and say, well if there isn’t enough mass to support the existence of those four particles, held together by a mysterious and really just conjectured new force, what else could it be?

In my mind it was a new single particle, for which we didn’t have to explain why the separate particles didn’t fly apart. The four had been fused, aka melted together, to make a single particle, with the same charge as the two protons had (charge is conserved) but not all of the mass of the four ingredient particles. Nuclei were made from protons and neutrons, not of protons and neutrons. Since the separate particles no longer existed, and would not unless enough mass-energy (and it is a lot, even if slightly less than 1% of the mass of the helium-4 nucleus) could be injected into those nuclei, there was no need of an explanatory force keeping them together.

Fast forward to today and we now know that protons and, by implication neutrons, have an internal composition. Inside them are quarks, gluons, and a veritable witches’ brew of other particles, and a soupcon of “mass-energy,” whatever the heck that is.

So, to address some other questions above:

Do neutrons and protons touch each other in the atomic nucleus? I would argue that they are not there to touch. If they were there, what does touch mean? Do the ps and ns have a rind or skin that defines where they start and stop? (If so, I haven’t heard of such a thing.)

Do protons and neutrons collide? Again, I don’t think they are there to collide with one another, but if they were, the answer must be yes. Above absolute zero, all particles are in a constant state of motion. Moving around in a confined space would meant they must collide, which brings up the question of why would they stay separated from one another and not merge. What keeps them being separated?

Do protons and neutrons touch? Again, I don’t think they are there to interact, but if they were, this is a key question: what would be touching what? These particles are as diffuse as clouds. Can clouds touch one another, without merging?

In the current model, the guts of the proton and neutrons are assumed to be held together by the strong nuclear force (using the mechanism promoted for such an attraction), so that brings up another question: If the guts of protons and neutrons are held together by the strong nuclear force, why would it also not hold together the new single particles, the nuclei, which would have all of the components of the various ps and ns all mixed together?

We should ask, what is keeping the protons and neutrons separate? They do not have a skin or rind to protect their insides. There are no repulsive forces keeping them from merging, at least to my knowledge. What?

Words Do Matter

Filed under: Culture,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
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Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject.” (Daniel Radcliffe)

All of the Daniel Radcliffe and J.K. Rowling kerfuffles aside, we are still having problems with words and what they mean.

A woman is an “adult human female.” A “trans woman” is a man who has decided to live their life as if they were a woman. At least this is the case when “trans” is short for “transgender.” If a man undergoes a sex change operation and becomes a transsexual person, that is a different matter.

The problem as I see it is that people keep using sex and gender interchangeably and they are not. Gender is a social construct, sex is biological.

In many species, the male of the species is highly colored and females are drab, e.g. Mallard ducks. Thus it was so for the elite Europeans of the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, for example. The men were dressed up in gaudy, flamboyant outfits that the women couldn’t compete with. All that is gone for now. Elite men are now garbed in corporate drag, which emphasizes dark colors, white shirts, etc. (Remember the heat President Obama took for wearing a tan suit! OMG, the horror!) Women are now allowed quite a bit more color and extravagance. These are gender-related issues.

So, ask yourself, in the U.S.:

  1. Boys do not wear dresses but girls do. Why?
  2. Young women wear elaborate earrings when out on the town, men do not. Why?
  3. Women wear elaborate facial make-up when celebrating, men generally do not. Why?
  4. Women are encouraged to show emotion, especially crying and men are not (to the contrary). Why?

All of these questions (I could have gone on) are outcomes of parents teaching children how to behave and how to dress, etc. Those parents are lovingly (but probably not knowingly) wrapping their children in a gender identity they think will support them later in life. We now know that some children are aware that the gender chosen for them is not correct. Later in life, they may choose to life a life engendered differently. They may keep their sex or decide to have it altered surgically and through drugs. Women are perfectly capable of dressing in men’s clothes and doing a man’s job, and swearing and spitting like a stevedore. Women are very powerful. Men are perfectly capable of dressing in women’s clothes and doing a woman’s job, and abiding by the rules of social etiquette. Men are very powerful.

Why are we making such a confused mess of this all?

Factually, transgender women are not women, they are men (adult human males) living as if they were women. To say otherwise is at best confusing. And it is demeaning to transgender people to describe them as something they are not.

December 30, 2022

OMG, Making Trump’s Tax Returns Public! It is an outrage!


It is not.

These are government documents and citizens have a right to see those not marked Top Secret or above.

In an actual civilized country, Sweden, any citizen’s tax return can be acquired by any other Swedish citizen who goes to a local tax office, fills out a form, and pays a small fee (for duplication costs). In Sweden, all tax returns are public documents, as they basically are here, except in the minds of those who want to hide their crimes. Or who want to lie about how much they make or about how much wealth they have.

Think about it. We are asked by our government to fill out extensive forms to determine how much tax we should pay. Why would those forms be secret to all other taxpayers, who may be suspicious that fraud is occurring elsewhere in the system? The answer is short—they should not.

Oh, did you see where Trump wrote off a $70,000 “business” expense for “hair care”? Any claim of him being a good businessman should end at that fact right there.

Getting Stressed Over Stress

The stresses of modern life are being touted at a high volume right now, including using terms like megastresses and permastress.

It is the case that one can talk oneself into an emotional state that is quite unnecessary based upon circumstances and this is one of those cases.

I am not trying to diminish people’s struggles with long COVID or unemployment or not having decent healthcare services available. All of those stresses are real. But politicians have been running the Fear Machine on overdrive for years now. For example, are you worried about the immigrants seeking asylum on the Texas border? If you are and you don’t live in Texas, you are being manipulated. Texas’s neighbor state New Mexico has a high population of Hispanics next to their border and the flow of people across the border is quite high, typically dominated by Americans going to Mexico to shop or to get cheaper dentistry, etc. They all seem to get along there in New Mexico and across the border in Mexico.

Gosh, do you think that the politicians in Texas are using the asylum seekers as grist for their Fear Machines to grind?

What other stressors do you focus upon? Cryptocurrency? Well, fools and their money are soon parted, so just ignore them. How about Antifa gangs? Again, made up nonsense from Fox “News,” in fact anything you hear on Fox “News” can be considered a false flag operation. Are you worried about your children being taught Critical Race Theory? If you are you should take them out of law school as that is the only place that theory is taught. Are you worried about LGBQ (whatever) folks recruiting your children? Relax, they don’t do that. Are you worried that teaching real American history will lead your kids to “Hate America”? If so, you would rather have patriotism based upon lies than upon truth and have you considered what happens when your children find out they were lied to? (My sister is still pissed that our parents didn’t tell her that Santa Claus was made up, and she is 80 years old now.)

There are stresses associated with modern life. In fact, a life without any stress may be unhealthy, but you do not need a load of bullpucky in the form of bullshit stressors added to your load. Ask yourself “How does this affect me?” in order to figure out what your response needs be. If you are worried about the war being waged upon Ukraine, maybe donations to the International Red Cross for Ukraine are in order. Maybe a letter to your Senator or Congressman stating support for relief being sent to Ukraine is your response. But sitting in front of your TV at night and wringing your hands does no one any good, especially you.

December 27, 2022

Why Do Lefties Have The Sweetest Swings?

Filed under: Reason,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 11:10 am
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The above question was asked on an Major League Baseball blog. The author then went about writing a very long article, missing the key point. He even went into things that had nothing to do with the quality of a swing, such as left-handed batters stand closer to first base, and therefore more likely to “beat out” weak grounders for hits. That might explain lefties having higher batting averages but not why their swings are so beautiful.

Do you want to know the real reason? (As if I know all, but . . .)

The answer is simple. The majority of MLB pitchers are right-handed. Since the majority of batters are also right-handed, the aspect faced by those hitters is a baseball coming at them over their left shoulders, as it were. It is just scarier facing a pitcher of the same handedness as you. (I think back to Don Drysdale, for instance, who deliberately threw “side-arm” to accentuate the fear.)

In baseball “lore” the pinch hitter you need is best of the opposite hand, if you have one. Your relief pitcher is best who is the same handedness as the upcoming batters. Managers set up their lineups with L–R–L–R– . . . batters so that other teams can’t take advantage of a heavy left- or right-handed lineup by throwing a same handed pitcher against them, even for short relief stints.

So, the advantage? The left-handed batter facing a right-handed pitcher doesn’t experience the same fear (of being hit by a pitch) and the ball’s placements draws their swings toward the plate, not falling away as the fear causes. They also can see the ball easier because they don’t have to turn their heads as far.

Since lefties face right-handed pitchers more often, they get used to swinging at their pitches. Righties don’t get all that much benefit from facing left-handed pitchers because there are many fewer left-handed pitchers and they experience more right-handers and thus their swings are constructed with “the fear” built in. The frequency of seeing those pitches, pitches that pull the batter in toward the plate determines the sweetness of the swing.

Facing  pitchers of the opposite handedness draws swings down and through the plate. Facing pitchers of the same handedness dissuades swings moving toward the plate through the fear of getting hit and encourage swinging away from the plate, even so far as “bailing out.”

It is merely a matter of angles and numbers.

December 20, 2022

Jan 6th Committee Punches Up!

The hapless Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot. When the House of Representatives decided to investigate the “Attack on the Capitol” the Republicans decided to play ball, the Republican Way. They nominated clear Trump loyalists/fan boys but those appointments were nixed by the Speaker of the House. Then they decided to not play ball at all and told their caucus to not serve on that committee. But the Committee was formed and it had two Republicans on it! Of course, there were consequences to those “rebellious” Republicans; neither will have seats in the next House.

But that didn’t deter the Republicans. They labeled the effort as a “partisan witch hunt” (and continue to do so to this day).

So, the Repubs refuse to appoint honest Republicans to that committee (maybe they couldn’t find any) and then claim that the committee’s work is political and biased and “partisan.” Brilliant. Trump even whined after one of the hearings that none of the committee members were defending his viewpoint. (Duh!)

The Committee held hearings on TV with the vast majority of those being heard were Republicans, including officials in the administration and Trump family members. (Trump declined to testify and the Committee declined subpoenaing him.)

Five Republican members of the House were asked to testify and when they declined, subpoenas were issued. All five spurned the subpoenas and so the committee referred them to the House Ethics Committee as such is a violation of House Rules, and well, you know, the law. (Only four were referred as one of the five had already left the House.)

Since the committee was investigative in nature, they could only make recommendations: recommendations for changes in governmental policy, the election laws, etc. And they recommended that the Department of Justice consider criminal proceedings against the main perpetrators. Many of the little perps are already in jail, but none of the masterminds are. If the DOJ pursues those cases, that may change.

One of the charges recommended by the committee is that of aiding or abetting an insurrection and that was leveled at former President Donald John Trump (all major criminals are referred to with their full names, e.g. Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, John Wilkes Booth, etc.) and potentially many others. And a provision of the Constitution is that anyone convicted of insurrection-related crimes is no longer eligible for public office. This is being called into dispute, I presume by Trump loyalists. They claim this provision may be unconstitutional.

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 3:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Now that is a hoot. The Constitution may be unconstitutional! The Constitution states all kinds of restrictions as to who can run for office. These involve age (you must be this old to ride this ride), to being a “natural born citizen” (we don’ need no stinkin’ immigrants). (Being white and male weren’t explicitly stated but were unofficial qualifications early on.) Why disallowing oath breakers and insurrectionists would conflict with the other parts of the Constitution seems bizarre, but with the current version of the Extreme Court, aka the Rogue Supreme Court, I guess anything is possible. The Repubs worked like beavers to get those political hacks installed on the SCOTUS bench and they seem to be betting that they will do their bidding no matter how ridiculous.

December 15, 2022

A Major Breakthrough? Hardly

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:03 am
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Gushing reports abound regarding a recent “breakthrough” in the search for viable fusion-powered energy generators. Here’s an example:

US Department of Energy officials on Tuesday announced that, for the first time, scientists “successfully produced more energy from a nuclear fusion experiment than the laser energy used to power it,” a major breakthrough in the search for clean, limitless energy. CNN reports:

“This is very important because from an energy perspective, it can’t be an energy source if you’re not getting out more energy than you’re putting in,” [scientist Julio] Friedmann told CNN. “Prior breakthroughs have been important but it’s not the same thing as generating energy that could one day be used on a larger scale.”

Yeah, a “major” breakthrough.

These researches have been going on for decades. The first attempts were rife with technological problems and as these problems were solved, minor advances were made. What is going on is our attempt to create the same reactions that power the Sun, but to do that we need to create the same temperatures and pressures that exist there. This requires a great deal of energy to be expended to create those conditions. When we first achieved some fusion reaction, it was hailed as a breakthrough, but it was noted that to get that fusion energy, a huge amount of energy was needed, so the process only returned a small fraction of the energy used to create it. I don’t remember the first percentage, but I will use 10% as an estimate of the amount of energy returned in the process. Over the years, that percent climbed, to 15%, then 20%, then . . .  98%, 99%, then 100+ percent! Hooray!

This is at best an incremental improvement. It does, however prove that the process can create more energy that it consumes, but that increase will need to be much, much greater if this is to turn out to be a practical energy source. Realize that they are comparing the experimental energy costs versus the benefits. They are not including the energy need to create the devices, mine the needed metals and other elements needed to construct the devices, etc.

Okay, let’s be positive and extrapolate this incremental improvement. Assume that the practical viability point is when the process creates 25% more energy that it consumes. That means it can power itself and produce a net amount of energy. If that energy goes to replacing fossil-fueled energy sources, it is all to the good. If the bonanza of electrical energy produced by “fusion-powered generators” just adds to our energy consumption, I think that would be bad. Here’s why. Electrical energy is highly valuable, but it always ends up as heat. So, all of the “new” electrical energy will add to the heat load of the planet. You remember the heat load of the planet, the heat that is being blocked from escaping into space by carbon dioxide and other gases, resulting in global atmosphere and ocean temperature increases, yes? So, if this new energy source does not get used to replace problematic sources (coal, natural gas, gasoline, fuel oil, etc.) which are contributing to “climate change” it may just make our situation worse.

December 10, 2022

Was Jesus (the Christ) a Real Person?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:16 pm
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Note It is Sunday, boys and girls, and you know what that means. S

Was Jesus (the Christ) a real person? This debate still rages on. And there are reputable scholars at both extremes and I recently had an interesting thought on the matter.

It seems to me that Jesus and John the Baptizer were related, working together, and were fomenting a rebellion. The idea was that a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God, was to rise up and throw out the Romans and other oppressors, so that a theocratic state of Israel, with Yahweh at the top of the org chart, would reign.

It seems that Jesus believed that Yahweh would show up and support the ejection of the Romans with magic or god-ju ju, however Yahweh acted supernaturally. So, when Jesus is arrested, he is expecting to be rescued.

In the earliest depiction of the arrest and conviction and execution of Jesus (in gMark), Jesus is shown in the Garden to be doubtful as to whether his plan was going to work. He asks Yahweh to remove the burden of leading the rebellion from him. When arrested, he is meek and mild and cooperative, just as you would expect. We’ve all seen westerns, gangster flicks, and other movies where a scion of an important family is arrested and he assumes either the family will break them out of jail or the family’s lawyers will free them. They are calm, cool, collected and not at all worried that things will turn out any other way way. “Just wait until my Pa shows up, is all I gotta say.”

In Jesus’s case, he is calm and cool, but not so collected and seems to be worried.

When nailed up and clearly dying, Jesus cries out asking why Yahweh has abandoned him. Because Yahweh’s appearance is clearly not going to come soon enough to save him.

This is the clear story in gMark . . . but not the other “gospels.”

The others proceed to make Jesus seem more godly, more in control, and less in doubt. Clearly the “follow-up” gospels were written because of perceived flaws in gMark (or all of the previous gospels). Since the dying Jesus in gMark shows a faltering of faith, I am sure that many questions were asked about just that appearance. So, gMatthew and gLuke made Jesus seem more immune to doubt, more sure of the outcome, and added a description of Jesus’s resurrection along with a divine birth story, which gMark did not. The resurrection was a strong indicator of why Jesus had faith, in that he knew that dying was temporary and he could handle the discomfort because he was coming back.

The Gospel of John, gJohn, goes over the top with Jesus announcing at every opportunity that those around him were in the presence of Yahweh and that the only way to a great afterlife was through him. This is Super Jesus who is kicking ass and taking names, but the result for the Romans was the same in all four, no?

So, my point is that gMark’s account appears to be the more truthful, because it included things the others felt were important to gloss over. I do not think that these accounts are histories, they don’t look like histories, sound like histories, or test out as histories (and if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck . . . ) I have no way of proving that they are fictitious either, but many of the signs point that way. And, only gMark lines up best with what Jesus stated his mission to be.

Jesus was a revolutionary, an insurrectionist, one who activist Jews mostly wanted to show up, except that his plan was based upon a general uprising kicked off by a personal appearance by Yahweh and that plan didn’t work. There was no Yahweh appearance and no general uprising. Jesus was just wrong about all of the main parts of his plan. He also certainly was not at all “all knowing” as his partner John was supposed to be his co-ruler (as the priestly messiah) and he didn’t foresee John losing his head or himself getting nailed up.

So, if he were a real person, his plans didn’t play out and he died as a result, as a failed insurrectionist. If he were fictitious, what motivated the author of gMark to write that ending up that way? Now that is a big puzzlement. Maybe as a warning to other wannabe messiahs who don’t gather up enough support.

December 9, 2022

Good Ideas Coming Out of the Walls

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:03 pm
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It is often that conservatives suggest things like drug testing for welfare recipients, and means testing for Social Security benefits, and identification papers to be able to vote. They think the “takers” should be branded with a letter T on their foreheads so we will know whether they are worthy of respect. (Well, they haven’t gone that far yet, but I also haven’t read much of the alt-right literature.) They should therefore like the following offering regarding means testing for federal government leadership positions.

On Quora recently the question was asked “Has the US taxpayer been subsidizing European welfare states, as conservatives increasingly proclaim?” Which drew this response:

No. We have been subsidizing conservative welfare states, the poverty leaders in the U.S., Kentucky for example. It is downright sordid that a senator (Moscow Mitch McConnell) from the biggest leach state in the union has had as much power as he’s had.

There should be a rule that when a state’s snorting of tax payer dollar lines exceeds how much they contribute in taxes by a reasonable amount, the state’s senators and reps can’t have leadership positions in our government. It’s not fair to the productive states. If you’re freeloading off the rest of us like Kentucky, you should be disqualified from leadership.

December 7, 2022

Thank You, Georgians . . . I Think

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:43 am
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Yesterday’s run-off election for U.S. Senate from Georgia ended with the incumbent Rafael Warnock winning over Herschel Walker 51.4% to 48.6%.

Both men were African-American so I presume racism wasn’t a player, but what about competence, integrity, virtue? Mr. Walker had none of the characteristics that would have been acceptable as a candidate for high office when I was a young man. He was caught clearly lying about his qualifications, he had children “out of wedlock” and apparently paid for an abortion or two for his paramours, while being staunchly anti-abortion in his politics. Any one of these things would have brought about his demise as a candidate just a few decades ago. So, why was this election so close?

Some pundits are claiming that people want candidates more like them. What? They want liars, cheaters, and stupid candidates? I don’t think so. I think this is a result of the demonization of the “D” party that results in large numbers of people voting for the candidate with the “R” after his/her name, regardless.

What is dismaying is the herd mentality of those who have accepted the demonization of their neighbors. Raphael Warnock is a minister in a very religious part of the country and has very few negatives in his profile. Herschel Walker admitted to living in Texas, yet he was running for Senator in Georgia, which requires candidates to be living in Georgia, for Pete’s sake. He also seems to spend much of his time confused about basic facts.

Have we gotten to the point that candidates with almost zero qualifications can run and even be elected? Apparently so, as we have to live down having elected Donald Trump to the presidency.

They say politics follows pendulum swings. One can only hope we have reached the bottom and will be returning to more rational times. But I couldn’t conceive of such a bottom as we have reached, just a few short years ago, so, I also cannot assume that “it can’t get any worse.” Clearly it can, there is no “bottom,” except what we establish as we go politically.

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