Exploring Patagonia

Today I should be in Patagonia. I am writing this before we leave.We are on schedule to view the Perita Merino Glacier about now. It is located in the Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. It is one of the few glaciers according to Wikipedia that is stable, accumulating as much ice as it loses each year. I don’t know how current the information is.

Perito Moreno Glacier

My daughter was excited about seeing the Magellanic penguins. I find them fascinating as they waddle in their little tuxedos.

 

Earlier in our trip we were scheduled for hikes near the Andes Mountains in Torres Del Paines. The area is noted for its breath taking scenery and terrible weather that can change rapidly. We’ve packed rain gear.

2019: The year the Climate Denial Bear Stopped Hibernating

End-of-2019 reports a decline in the number of climate change skeptics. Some have directly experienced the disasters such as drought, floods, wild fires, and hurricanes, which dominated the news much of 2019 and the last decade. A study by the NY Times in January 2019 states that 73% of Americans believe that

 

Earth is warming and 62% understand that humans are mostly responsible. This is up 10% in both cases in a few short years.

Prior to that in October 2018 an IPCC report began to shake the sleeping bear. Climate scientists had discovered that dire consequences were happening sooner than they predicted and that serious action needed to happen within 12 years to keep Earth from overheating by 1.5 to 2 degrees centigrade. We are expected to hit 3 more degrees if serious change is not made. The number of degrees may sound small, but consider the Earth as having a fever, where a few degrees is huge. Some scientists fear a snowball effect, an ironic metaphor. Many catastrophes gain momentum as they continue.

One teenaged girl from Sweden in particular listened along with many other youth. I received a book of Greta Thunberg’s speeches in my Christmas stocking. Each one calls for adults to listen to the scientists and scolds inaction. The youth, who have the most to lose, conducted climate strikes worldwide while emissions continued to rise along with the number of disasters.

We have had the technology and the science to make the necessary changes for some time. Now, I’m hoping we have the political will.

https://www.ebrd.com/news/2019/2019-the-year-the-world-woke-up-to-climate-change.html

Eat all of your Christmas Cookies at Once?

Studies beginning with mice and fruit flies suggested that limiting eating to a ten-hour window each day can provide health benefits. Studying healthy people followed by people with metabolic diseases showed similar results. Health benefits include: weight loss, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, and increased good cholesterol.

Usually not hungry when I first wake, it was easy for me to try TRE—time restricted eating. I did lose weight, but I haven’t noticed other changes. One of my sisters also lost weight using TRE as one of her strategies.

The article doesn’t pose a reason for better health measures but did find that people ate 8% fewer calories.

And no, the article doesn’t recommend demolishing all of your Christmas cookies at one setting. I remember in years past developing the holiday habit of one sweet after dinner. Unfortunately, when the chocolate was gone my craving wasn’t.

Enjoy your holidays with or without treats.

Eloise

 

 

 

https://www.sciencealert.com/limiting-your-meals-to-a-10-hour-window-could-have-surprising-health-benefits

 

 

 

 

Please Let This Be As Good As It Sounds

An Israeli company— UBQ,short for ubiquitous— claims to have a means to turn trash—any and all—into plastic. This means that all current plastic can be recycled and fewer landfills will be belching propane. No sorting required by consumers. No water used in the processing.

 

The president of the International Solid Waste Association visited the plant, which is in the Negev desert, and is convinced the claims are valid.

It only takes hours for an 8-ton mound of garbage to be sorted, ground, chopped, shredded, cleaned, and heated at up to 400 degrees to come out as tiny plastic-like pellets that can be used for manufacturing everyday products.

Some like the chief executive of the Plastic Expert Group are still dubious, but have moved from scoffing at the idea to wanting to evaluate the products. I’ve learned from experience that recycled plastic should not be used for pipes under your house so I’m guessing the products’ strengths will be one thing to test. The group agrees that “If the technology proves commercially viable, “it could be a game changer for the global environment.” OTOH, oil companies are looking to manufacturing plastic now that electric cars are becoming more popular.

Even the products themselves can be recycled several times.

This is what I counted as my Thanksgiving thanks, but I’m crossing my fingers.

I hope your Thanksgiving was a good break from the world.

Like fun Social Justice Science Fiction? Click on the covers below to read the first two books of a planned trilogy.

1st in series

2nd in series

 

Technology: Friend or Foe

Despite my mathematics background, I confess to being a bit of a Luddite. I hate updates to my devices because the paths I used to take from A to Z are often changed. ‘If it works, don’t fix it’ is my motto. I view apps as the clutter of modern civilization.

I once texted my daughter using my voice saying I was at the Heifners so she’d know I’d be coming soon. I was puzzled when she texted back asking if I wanted her to pick me up. I had been at a woman’s march on a warm day and what she received was that I was at the Health Nurse.

My husband has set a security camera so any movement on our front porch sends a signal to his cell to tinkle every few seconds. Then he leaves his phone within hearing of my woman cave and goes off to his man cave.

I can get my desktop in a crazy state with a fumble of a finger, but recovery takes research on my iPad and 12 steps so I can get out of all caps, or type at all or some other weird undesirable state.

On the other hand I can’t imagine life without email, word processing, instant access to information, convenient shopping, and more.

I have mixed feelings about robots replacing human beings, but there’s one use on the horizon too time consuming for humans. Someone has invented an AI way of telling the difference between weeds and plants and distinguish between plants. Instead of blasting an entire field with weed killer, tiny amounts of herbicide can be administered to weeds and volunteer unwanted plants using robotic spigots and reducing herbicide use by 90%. John Deere has purchased the patent. What I like best about organic is the lack of herbicides so this seems a compromise between organic and mass produced food.

Machines, which eliminate back-breaking work harvesting food are being used, along with self-driving tractors.

Any innovation requires proper use for maximum benefit. Given the number of innovations, it’s not surprising we are discovering downsides like lack of privacy, difficulty separating truth from fiction, anonymous online attacks, and addiction to social media/online games.

Plastics Profusion Confusion

There is no doubt that plastics are prolific in our oceans and being eaten by sea life, which can kill them. This includes plankton, which produces 70% of the world’s oxygen. If the oceans die, humans will have to remove fish from our diet and add oxygen to their utility bills. (Oxygen can be derived from water. I suppose the hydrogen that is created could be used for clean fuel.) Do we want to go there?

A plethora of ocean organizations is working on cleaner oceans, which is good and bad news. Mostly great, but it makes it difficult to know which are best to support, and one wonders whether fewer larger organizations would be more effective. Some do work together on particular issues. The Ocean Conservancy formed the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, which brings together leaders from industry, conservation, and academia to brainstorm on trash reduction in the oceans.

Recent research by the same Ocean Conservancy produced a report  that includes statistics on the source of ocean plastic as well as the amount. I am curious about how they can distinguish between waste that has been collected and dumped in the ocean and waste that wanders in from rivers and streams as well as between the countries of origin when our country has shipped waste to Asia. Certainly the point that waste needs to be collected and that costs money— not necessarily available in all countries—means funds must be found.

Ocean Conservancy believes that a number of steps should be utilized to solve the problem.

* Provide financing so that all plastic waste is collected, possibly a fee on manufacturers of plastic goods.

*Ban single use plastic such as plastic grocery bags, plastic straws and stirrers, plastic cups and lids, plastic cutlery, foam food containers, and more.

*Increase demand for recycled plastic, which can also reduce the cost of collection.

I’d like to add containing litter. It astounds me to go hiking in a peaceful nature park and find plastic bottles and cups lying by the pathway or a stream, even when trashcans are available along the way. If one loves nature, why sully it? I can’t imagine anyone throws waste on their living room floor.

Enough preaching. I need to take heart from organizations like the Ocean Conservancy.

Our Mathematical Brains

Most of us are aware of the golden ratio, approximately 1.618. A rectangle whose larger side has such a ratio with its smaller size is called a golden rectange. A 5 x 8 picture frame comes close.

This ratio is related to the Fibonacci sequence 1,1,2,3,5,8,. . . where each number is obtained by adding the previous two. The ratios of two adjacent numbers approach the golden ratio, and these numbers are often found in nature.

Now one can find two ratios of  lengths between special points in the human skull are both 1.6.
These special points on the cranium  correspond with important underlying neural structures and junctions in both humans and other animals.

 

Our brains are even more complex than we imagined and advanced mathematics is being employed to understand what’s going on in that fabulous three pounds of matter. Scientists have long known our skulls contain billions of neurons and that thinking and experiencing involve synapses between them. Now they are finding it useful to study cliques of neurons that interact with each other. A neuron can belong to more than one clique. Imagine for each clique, a neuron is represented by a dot on a sheet of paper and if one neuron can transmit to another, draw an arrow. Such a picture is called a graph and there is an area of mathematics called graph theory, which is a subset of algebraic topology, an area of advanced mathematics. Brain researchers are finding it useful to try to understand the ways our minds work by using this mathematics to study the connections in these cliques. The article that alerted me to this use of algebraic topology made the strange claim that our brains contain structures only realized in eleven dimensions. Thinking of the physicists theory that space may be eleven dimensional and algebraic topology is useful in trying to determine the shape of the universe, I was fascinated. However, digging deeper into the source of the article there seems to be inconsistency on the definition of dimension. In one case it refers to it as the number of neurons in the clique, but then cliques with larger numbers of neurons are discussed so I am confused, but as a retired mathematician, I am always delighted that highly theoretical mathematics turns out to be useful in understanding the world we live in.