Class Warfare Blog

December 23, 2020

Conjunction Submunction, Part 2

In Part 1 of Conjunction Submunction I wrote: “I think the majority of the interest (in the conjunction) comes from people who still dabble in astrology. “OMG, Jupiter is in the house of Saturn? OMG!” (I know nothing about astrology, so that is clearly made up and if I offend any astrology people with my ignorance, well, you deserve it.)”

As things usually go, I received shortly thereafter what a “real” astrologer thinks it means, to wit:

“At 12:21 p.m. CT the Great Conjunction forms between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, showing us where innovation, community, and opportunity intersect. This is a rare occurrence as Jupiter and Saturn meet every 20 years and are doing so in air signs after over 200 years of being in earth signs. This conjunction is all about doing the work it takes to be free — individually, and collectively.

“Saturn is a harsh taskmaster, especially in a fixed sign like Aquarius. Aquarius energy can be full of peace, friendship, and humanity, but do not mistake the other end of the spectrum. Aquarius likes to connect, but exclusion is the flipside of inclusion and as our world begins to meld in ways that many don’t like, we may find many rebelling against the process of creating a humane, global community. This is where we learn the tough lessons of being human. Do what you say you will or stay silent. Rewards will not be given to lazy thinkers under these skies. If you’re dedicated to being silly, you’ll get goofy results. Edit and enhance your network with a discerning eye. Build friendships genuinely yet intelligently.”

So, now you know. (I always wanted to know where innovation, community, and opportunity intersected. I thought it was in Silicon Valley, but now I understand it is up in the sky . . . wtf?)

December 22, 2020

Conjunction Submunction

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:12 am
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There has been quite a stir in the astronomical community regarding a conjunction of the planets Saturn and Jupiter, out two largest planets. Do realize that these planets are “close” to one another in the sky merely in that they are close to a line of sight of someone standing on the planet Earth. They are actually about 450 million miles (730 million kilometers) apart at closest appearance.

So, why is this worth taking note of? Well, it isn’t there isn’t anything we can learn per se from this “event” or rather nonevent.

I suspect the interest is driven from (for astronomy geeks) having witnesses something that only happens every century or so. Blend in members of the astronomy community that want to get as much airtime as possible to establish the standing of their field. But I think the majority of the interest comes from people who still dabble in astrology. “OMG, Jupiter is in the house of Saturn? OMG!” (I know nothing about astrology, so that is clearly made up and if I offend any astrology people with my ignorance, well, you deserve it.)

Are you one of those who set up camera or telescope to get a view or picture of the two planets in the same frame? Or, did you, like me, wait for the flood of images posted on the internet to arrive? With regard to many of them, I could have done a better job using Photoshop, but then it wouldn’t be real, would it. I mean real in the meaning that it has anything to do with, well, anything.

Addendum As you might be able to tell, I am working on achieving my Curmudgeon Badge in the Old Timer Scouts program. It is on my bucket list.

At the Risk of Being Overbearing . . .

I offer a link to yet another aspect of the Pfizer vaccine roll-out kerfuffle. This post explains why the critic “IM Doc” was disappointed in the article in the New England Journal of Medicine, which exists to inform people, especially doctors, regarding what they need to know.

Whether this can be laid at the fee of the NEJM or Pfizer is almost irrelevant (almost, but not quite). It does, however, lead one to wonder how informed the opinions of our own doctors are.

A Document Maven Looks at the Pfizer Vaccine Paper in the New England Journal of Medicine


December 18, 2020

Follow-up on the IM Doc COVID Letter

Filed under: Politics,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:19 pm
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I link to the follow-up article below but note that someone was suspicious as to why the doctor didn’t use his name, and used the moniker “IM Doc” instead (standing for internal medicine doctor). Apparently the author was afraid he might lose his job if he went full on public. Can’t say whether that fear is valid, but since this is a Class Warfare blog, erring on the side of caution seems prudent.

The post is HERE.

December 17, 2020

An Open Letter to the Many Flat Earthers Now in Existence

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 1:21 pm

Dear Flat Earthers,
Many people have been derogatory of your belief that the Earth is flat. Please note that they are belittling your belief, not you per se. You, personally, are an idiot, but that is probably not your fault.

Here are any number of accessible approaches for discovering the shape of our beloved planet. Enjoy!

* * *

Use Your Phone!
On Christmas Day, here in Chicago, I expect there to be snow on the ground because, well, it is winter. On Christmas Day I can pick up my phone and dial up anyone in Australia and ask them “What season is it?” They will tell you that it is summer in Australia. You might want to ask your flat Earth mentors how it could be winter and summer simultaneously on a flat Earth.

Use Your Phone!
Go to a globe and pick a spot half way around the Earth (I know it is a false representation in your belief, but humor me.) In the middle of the day, phone somebody at or near that spot. Call a hotel, they are always open. Ask whoever responds “Is it light or dark outside?” They will tell you that it is dark where they are. You might want to ask your flat Earth mentors how it could be light and dark simultaneously on a flat Earth.

Look Up What Local Time Was
In the US there was this concept of “local time” which was that “noon” was when the sun was at its highest point in its arc. You could call up people on the telephone who were not that far away and ask them what time it was and they would tell you something different from what your clock was telling you. The farther away they were, the greater the difference would be. On a flat Earth the time would be the same everywhere.

Look Up What Time Zones Are
I am writing this in the central time zone in the U.S. These zones were created at the behest of the railroad industry whose dispatchers were going crazy making up schedules for trains when every place had their own times. By creating these “zones” everything would be exactly one hour off from those in neighboring zones, two hours off for the next over zones, and so on. If you don’t believe me . .  pick up your phone and dial up a friend who lives a considerable distance (east-west) away from you and ask them what time it is. The time they state will be a whole number of hours away from your time. Heck, even the NFL knows this. When I lived on the left coast, the games started at 10 AM and 1 PM. Now that I live in the central time zone, the games start at 12 Noon and 3 PM. Over New York way the games start at 1PM and 4 PM. Do you think those games are replayed in one hour increments? Nope, time zones!. You might want to ask your flat earth mentors how it could be that simultaneous games start at different times on a flat Earth.

Watch the Video
Astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) have made continuous videos of an entire orbit of the Earth. It takes only about an hour and a half about the length of a typical Hollywood movie. During the whole movie the earth appears round, and yet it is clear that different continents are passing in our view.

Now you may argue that NASA made this movie as propaganda for the Round Earth Conspiracy. It is certainly within our CGI abilities at this point, but you may want to ask why NASA would want to do such a thing? Plus, many astronauts have taken their own cameras aboard and taken pictures for themselves and they show the same thing. How could the Round Earth Conspiracy have allowed that to happen? It must be incompetence! Conspiracies aren’t what they used to be!

Da Balloon, Boss, Da Balloon
Many amateurs, unaffiliated with the government, have launched rockets and balloons high up into the atmosphere to take pictures. Every damned one of those pictures shows that the Earth is round. How come all of those cameras ended up pointed at the curved edge of your round and flat disk Earth? Such a coincidence!

An Oldie But Goodie #1
Occasionally, during a lunar eclipse, you can see the shadow of the earth falling upon the Moon. The shadow is always circular. This would be true if the flat earth were always dead on to the Moon, but the Moon orbits the Earth and wouldn’t a flat Earth be edgewise, often as not, and wouldn’t that create a non-round shadow on the Moon? Inquiring minds want to know.

An Oldie But Goodie #2
It was claimed that one of the first demonstrations of the earth being round was the observation of ships sailing west from Europe/England could be observed for a while but the ship itself was lost to sight while the mast was still visible. This would not happen on a flat Earth. The whole ship would just get smaller and smaller as it sailed west.

For pity’s sake, I live 22 stories up and the shores of Lake Michigan and I cannot see anything directly opposite me in Michigan. All I can see is water, with any kind of magnification I can muster. And I am not looking across the widest part of this lake! If the earth were flat, the lake would be flat and I could see the Michigan shore.

And Finally . . .

All of the fricking satellites! Do the math. What kind of orbit is stable around a flat disk earth? Answer none! And there are hundreds of the danged things in orbit. Well, maybe a circular orbit above the edge, but that would eliminate all communication satellites, GPS, cell phone, etc.

Also, just for giggles. Look up what a Foucault pendulum is, And explain its behavior based upon a flat Earth.

PS You may be getting good vibes in your special knowledge that you know something other people do not. However, would not that special feeling be more worthwhile were you to volunteer at a food bank or a day care center or senior center? Wouldn’t doing something worthwhile be more rewarding that making a statement about how those pointy-headed intellectuals aren’t so smart?

PPS I have seen the cute models with the Sun and Moon on sticks rotating around (see photo above). If that were the case, everyone could see the Sun and Moon all day, every day. (There is straight line access to both objects in that model from everywhere on the flat disk.) Do you see the Sun and Moon all day, every day? No? Maybe someone who had more creativity than knowledge came up with those models. They do sell well, I must admit, so maybe their interest is commercial.

PPPS Regarding the 200 foot wall of ice that supposedly exists at the “edge of the disk,” supposedly so all the water doesn’t flow off and be lost into space. By now don’t you think someone would have sailed next to that wall all of the way? That distance would be somewhere in the neighborhood of a 28,000 mile trip. Has anyone ever report such a thing? Hmm, I wonder why not.

December 13, 2020

A Brilliant Piece of Writing

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:36 am
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On Sundays, I like to share something of a “spiritual” nature. This is a brilliant piece of writing about reading “scripture.” I recommend it highly (albeit is a long piece).

Religious Faith in Scriptural Fiction

December 12, 2020

How Does He Know?

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:03 am
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We live in a high-rise condominium. There are two banks of elevators on opposite sides of the hallways that serve the entire building. Since they are two opposite two, if you go up to our floor in one set, you must turn left to get to our unit. From the other set it is a right-hand turn. I have cataloged a set of visual cues as to which way to turn when exiting the elevator, and even with those I take a wrong turn on occasion.

But this post is not about me.

When we take our dog, Jack, for a walk, we come back up the elevator. Jack does not enjoy the ride in the “shaky room,” so he is the first off when we get to our floor. When the door opens he is the first through and turning left or right before he even gets out of the door.

And he never turns the wrong way.

Does he have, like pigeons, a small set of cells in his brain that allow him to know compass directions? What?

Any ideas?

A portrait of Jack, in progress

October 19, 2020

Intelligent Design . . . Right . . .

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:31 pm
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Some claim that all order in nature is due to them being designed by some sort of intelligent designer. Here is an example.

This photo isn’t of an abstract painting. It’s a portrait of the crystals that form after two amino acids — L-glutamine and beta-alanine — were heated in a solution made of ethanol and water. One of the compounds, L-glutamine, is a building block for proteins and ensures that the immune system can function. The other, beta-alanine, helps with muscle endurance.

Look carefully. This phantasmagoric image was created by amino acids forming crystals all on their own.

Nature is self-organizing. This is not an article of faith. It is an observation.

Photo by Justin Zoll of Ithica, New York.

October 11, 2020

The War Between Religion and Science

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:03 pm
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Plenty has been written on this topic, including by me. It is interesting as there really isn’t anything that can be called “religion” or really “science” for that matter. There are not real things.

Science is what scientists do, a set of behaviors and thoughts, maybe. At best it can be considered a culture. Religion is no one thing. The Cargo Cults and the Catholic Church have very little in common.

In his book, Religion Explained, Pascal Boyer makes the point that religions use ordinary mental processes (he actually uses the phrase “hijacks normal inference systems”) that were designed by evolution (for other purposes).

To vastly oversimplify this, consider the scheme of System 1 and System 2 thinking invented by Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow was his landmark book). Type 1 thinking is fast, intuitive, emotional, unconscious thought. The Type 2 system is slow, calculating, analytical, conscious thought (think math problems). The big difference between Type 1 and Type 2 thinking is that Type 1 is fast and easy but very susceptible to bias, whereas Type 2 is slow and requires conscious effort but is much more resistant to cognitive biases.

Religion uses the Type 1 system. Science uses the Type 2 system.

We have evolved both kinds of thinking for very good reasons. For example, if you hear a grizzly bear growl very loud behind you, you do not want to be cogitating over which species of Ursus that growl might belong to, you want to be skeedaddling as fast as possible. Similarly, if you want to master the game of chess, or design a self-propelled vehicle, or a computer, intuition won’t get you very far.

These two systems really can’t war with one another.

If I may quote Boyer: “The religion-versus-science debate took a special turn in the West because of the existence not only of doctrinal religion but of a monopolistic doctrinal religion that made the crucial mistake of meddling in empirical statements of fact, providing us with a long list of particularly precise, official and officially compelling statements about the cosmos and biology, supposedly guaranteed by Revelation, that we now know to be false.” (page 320)

This is the equivalent of the meme “I found your nose . . . it was in my business again.”

But having lost every single disagreement between religious facts and scientific facts has resulted in the religious retreating into their Type 1 thinking zone, saying that religion addresses a special domain of human existence. (The touchy-feely zone? The Twilight Zone?)

Actually there is no war. The religious drifted out of their lane because of ignorance, and got smacked around for it. There is no contest here, so there is no war. The lanes are not race lanes.

Interestingly I see many, many questions on Quora addressing such lane changes, so the “faith” of religion encourages Type 1 thinking in that it “feels right” intuitively but ends up with still many religious practitioners trying to start the car they took the engine out of last year. It is too much trouble to lift up the hood of the car to find out why it wont start, that would involve Type 2 thinking and that is discouraged in all religions. (Curiously Type 2 thinking is allowed in “church fathers” and other intelligentsia (apologists, etc.) as long as they are on a leash, a leash that is held by the church.)

September 9, 2020

How Big?

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:33 am

This sounds like the beginning of a fisherman’s joke but actually I want to impress upon you the vast size of the universe.

* * *

There are about 6,000 or so stars that are visible with the naked eye, and the vast majority of them are within about 1,000 light-years of the Sun. Stars dim quickly with distance; from even 60 light-years away, the Sun would fade to invisibility.

In the extreme, that is in the very darkest conditions, the human eye can see stars at magnitude 6.5 or greater. Which works about to about 9,000 individual stars. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is 8.6 light years distant. The most distant bright star, Deneb, is about 1500 light years away from Earth.

Now consider that our galaxy, the Milky Way is about 106,000 light years across, so what we can see rpresents a disk only about 1.5% of the diameter and therefore about 0.02% of the area of the “disk” which is our galaxy.

Now consider this. The image below is the first Hubble Deep Field image that was cobbled together from 342 separate exposures. In it over 3000 galaxies are able to be counted. That is cool, but more importantly you need to consider how much of the night sky this image represents.

Several hundred never before seen galaxies are visible in this ‘deepest-ever’ view of the universe, called the Hubble Deep Field (HDF), made with the Hubble Space Telescope. Besides the classical spiral and elliptical shaped galaxies, there is a bewildering variety of other galaxy shapes and colors that are important clues to understanding the evolution of the universe. Some of the galaxies may have formed less that one billion years after the Big Bang.

Imagine, if you would, a circle in the sky around the Earth. Divide that circle into 360 degrees as we are wont to do. Make another circle at right angles to that circle and divide it the same way. Right at one of those circles, you can now make little squares that are “one degree by one degree” in size. This is not a small area in the night sky. Consider that the full Moon occupies only a little over one half of a degree (the Sun, too). So, as we are also wont to do, we break down each degree into minutes, 60 minutes = 1 degree (and we go farther to break each minute down into seconds, but we don’t have to go there now). So, the widths of the Moon and Sun take up a little over 30 “arcminutes” of space in the sky.

So, how big was the “field of view” of the first Hubble Deep Field Image?

It covers an area of 2.55 x 2.57 arcminutes.

If you do the math, we now believe that there are trillions of galaxies in the universe, each with billions of stars and more planets than stars.

Because the universe has been expanding during its entire existence, it is not just it’s age in light years in radius (14.8 billion years of time would create a universe 14.8 billion light years in radius if space were not expanding). According to current estimates, the “visible” universe is actually about 46 light years in radius, again due to the ongoing expansion of the universe. Beyond that we cannot see. So, the unobservable universe may have even more stuff or even different stuff or even no stuff in it. We cannot tell, but possibly we can make some inferences, we are still new to this game. Remember that about 100 years ago, we thought that the Milky Way galaxy was the entire universe!

When people talk about what else there is in the universe, other than what we can see from our back porches, consider how much of this we have actually studied.

This view of nearly 10,000 galaxies is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. The smallest, reddest galaxies, about 100, may be among the most distant known, existing when the universe was just 800 million years old. The nearest galaxies – the larger, brighter, well-defined spirals and ellipticals – thrived about 1 billion years ago, when the cosmos was 13 billion years old. The image required 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around Earth. The total amount of exposure time was 11.3 days, taken between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.

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