Notes: On the Trail For the Origins of Life—Viruses as One of the First Steps Towards Humanity?

A virus is often said to be a pseudo-living entity because it needs a host to survive. Viruses contain molecular pieces that make life possible. Viruses co-opt and steal the functioning machinery of true life. Moreover, viruses may have preceded us (humanity) as utilizing the first recognizable stuff of life (DNA/RNA). The viral origins of life appear reasonable because of the sheer volume of viral bio-material within the biosphere.

What is important to remember throughout the present pandemic— viruses are parasites. A familiar virus to most of us is the cold virus. Other viruses include: Ebola, the seasonal flu, the herpes-simplex virus, the AIDS virus, and many others— viruses are known to take lives. The virus on most of our minds, presently, is the novel Corona-19 virus. For most of us who follow the developments of the current viral pandemic closely, it appears odd. We are used to receiving a seasonal flu shot, and a doctor’s advice may sound rather generic, bed-rest and drink a high-volume of fluids. The current virus appears sophisticated—almost as if it were a manufactured agent targeting certain parts of its citizenry. However, the virus is one of many hidden aspects of life.

Anti-virals are often prescribed, but there is a piece of life’s puzzle staring square into our eyes. The novel Corona-19 virus seemingly jumped directly from animal to human—a rare occurrence. There is an important take-away: we are witnessing an extinction event.

Virus particles emerge from an infected cell in this illustration.
NIAID / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Scientists, studying viruses, state viral bio-materials are the most abundant of life-materials on the Earth. From chromosome-sized pieces to atom-sized fragments that enabled the thriving of life are everywhere in the biosphere. Previous models for life’s origins put no intermediate life between the elements and more complex uni-cellular life. Putting viruses in the middle may answer some long-held questions—a so-called missing link.

Astrobiologists and molecular biologists, looking for the beginnings of life, seemingly struck a vein of gold in their hunt for life’s origins. This serendipitous moment will be remembered in the annals of science history.

For those who wish to understand life’s origins, the path to re-creating life got a little more streamlined. Viral bio-material is everywhere— and the mechanistic details for life’s origins appear more biological and less chemical. This occurrence maybe deadly to numerous, unnamed millions in the end, but the wheels of science continue. We must be mindful of those who struggled in death’s wake.

We are not cold and emotionless robot scientists —we are a part of humanity. We have compassion and love for all —we share our planet with many living creatures. The need to show our compassion is paramount—we bleed and can hurt just as much as anyone else.

Further Reading (in no prevalent order):

Moazzam M, Sajid MI, Shahid H, Butt J, Bashir I, Jamshaid M, Shirazi AN, Tiwari RK. Understanding COVID-19: From Origin to Potential Therapeutics. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 14;17(16):5904. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17165904. PMID: 32823901; PMCID: PMC7460442.

Hu Y, Sun J, Dai Z, Deng H, Li X, Huang Q, Wu Y, Sun L, Xu Y. Prevalence and severity of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19): A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Virol. 2020 Jun;127:104371. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2020.104371. Epub 2020 Apr 14. PMID: 32315817; PMCID: PMC7195434.

Paraskevis D, Kostaki EG, Magiorkinis G, Panayiotakopoulos G, Sourvinos G, Tsiodras S. Full-genome evolutionary analysis of the novel corona virus (2019-nCoV) rejects the hypothesis of emergence as a result of a recent recombination event. Infect Genet Evol. 2020 Apr;79:104212. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104212. Epub 2020 Jan 29. PMID: 32004758; PMCID: PMC7106301.

Zhang XY, Huang HJ, Zhuang DL, Nasser MI, Yang MH, Zhu P, Zhao MY. Biological, clinical and epidemiological features of COVID-19, SARS and MERS and AutoDock simulation of ACE2. Infect Dis Poverty. 2020 Jul 20;9(1):99. doi: 10.1186/s40249-020-00691-6. PMID: 32690096; PMCID: PMC7369569.

Szostak N, Synak J, Borowski M, Wasik S, Blazewicz J. Simulating the origins of life: The dual role of RNA replicases as an obstacle to evolution. PLoS One. 2017 Jul 10;12(7):e0180827. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180827. PMID: 28700697; PMCID: PMC5507279.

Sutherland JD. The Origin of Life–Out of the Blue. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2016 Jan 4;55(1):104-21. doi: 10.1002/anie.201506585. Epub 2015 Oct 29. PMID: 26510485.

Ritson D, Sutherland JD. Prebiotic synthesis of simple sugars by photoredox systems chemistry. Nat Chem. 2012 Nov;4(11):895-9. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1467. Epub 2012 Sep 30. PMID: 23089863; PMCID: PMC3589744.

Hein JE, Blackmond DG. On the origin of single chirality of amino acids and sugars in biogenesis. Acc Chem Res. 2012 Dec 18;45(12):2045-54. doi: 10.1021/ar200316n. Epub 2012 Feb 22. PMID: 22353168.

My Country Tis Of Thee?

The Wild, the Willing, and the Teachable

The unofficial end to Summer is here. 2020 is shaping to be a transitional year. With luck and trepidation, a tyrant will be removed from the highest office of land (USA). However, my country is scarred with gaping wounds from an original sin.

The original sin, if you will, is slavery. Most of us have heard of it –whether spoken in serious conversation or read it in school. Its true origins come from a time when the wealthy ruled over others with impunity. While many of us believe the times have not changed readily over the past 300+ years, it is far stranger.

Christianity– the Bible

Tidbits of reality are teasingly interspersed among accounts in the most abused text of Christianity– the Bible. Not only were God’s chosen people enslaved with impunity – but the current slave-owners are none other than those claiming salvation. Being wholly righteous, these leaders makes some of us wary. We shake our heads in disbelief in the hopes we will not re-invent the wheel. Not only will the great historian, Santayana roll over in his grave but he will have to inform many of the others that our experiment in democracy is farcical and specious.

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

This act of irony is not lost on some of us. It is not only a bitter truth, but one that claims lives daily. In my own estimation, I believe my country will head for another Civil War — if we can’t stem the tide of hate. This, in many ways, is a cyclical reminder of how to not worship the Almighty.

What In The Far Depths of Hell Went Awry?

In distant corners of the world the downfall of the US will be welcomed. If anyone has traveled outside of our great country the answer is apparent for why we might be regarded as knaves and fools. We showed our own ignorance to our own history. I re-call my own travels in the summer of 1979 as a simple anecdotal evidence. I visited the birthplaces of my two parents. My parents, now passed away, showed me what it was to taste the freedom of our country from the vantage of immigrants. Their salt of the earth approach, spoke of past wars, subsistence farming, and humiliating poverty.

My first-cousins, uncles, and aunts knew more US History than me. By studying the goings-on of my home country they knew the underpinnings of my education. It was the scholastic tradition of western society. The western traditions of education were founded long ago in ancient Greece and were subsequently transformed by Christianity, modern democracy, and malnourished with vanity. As is often the case, one does not need to understand someone from their boasting–look at the company they keep, observe their speech patterns, and who are their parents?

While I attempted to display the bravado and strength of my 17+ years of good US education, I still realize my errors, daily. So many years later, I realize I was far too inexperienced.

As is often the case with many US immigrants, the first generation will excel further than those fathers and mothers. It was a prevalent pattern of many first emigres prior to the late 20th century.

My Country Tis Of Thee?

The once vaunted educational system of the US is showing its weaknesses. Its greatest strength, the Universities and Colleges, needs a re-birth of sorts. In election cycle of 2016, the weakest aspects of our democracy were manipulated. A foreign power may have manipulated the American public via Social Platforms and the Republican candidate, as well.

Given how the country devolved since November 2016, it should be apparent that our President manipulated the electoral process. However, what is not apparent is why much of the American public was blind to it? Whether it was the love of money or gullibility, I argue the American public must take stock of their right to vote. It must decide how to react to the influences of foreign powers — we can’t exist inside a bubble of indifference and ignorance.

Peace Out-

Chemistry and Evolution: Slow Ascent Of Intelligence

Chemical elements, at first glance, appear as abstractions. How often do we, normally, speak of carbon —or even phosphorus in daily speech? And, when someone mentions a chemical process like oxidation of carbon-based molecules—what do we envision? Do we struggle to envision burning embers of cooked meat or do we struggle, even more, to visualize carbon-based  molecules producing carbon dioxide?

In Evolutionary Terms: Chemistry Assists Life

Most chemistry and chemical bonding could be explained by the theoretical approaches of Quantum Mechanics and Statistical Mechanics. While these theories utilize uncertainties in the measurements of time, velocity, momentum, and position, we are hard pressed to explain everyday chemistry in concrete terms. So, we often hear highly convoluted explanations of chemistry in hard to grasp terms. This makes chemical processes lauded, feared, and misunderstood.

Fundamental chemistry assisted evolutionary processes by putting humanity in the driver’s seat of change. Humanity utilized simple chemical principles to construct hunting tools. The process made hunting easier. Animal flesh was cooked by flame. It taught humanity to produce digestible protein —making it indispensable to our diets. Meat eating put us in-line to dominate the food chain.

SantaCruz-CuevaManos-P2210651b
Once humanity took the reigns of its own evolution, it transformed the earth’s landscape. The planet has not been the same. Cueva de las Manos, Perito Moreno, Argentina. The art in the cave is dated between 13,000–9,000 BP, stenciled, mostly left hands are shown. Mariano • CC-BY-SA-3.0

While chemical elements other than carbon play important roles in life and it’s propagation, we are somewhat blind to their presence. The primary reason for our naivete is our carbon chauvinism. The chauvinistic view of carbon makes it harder to identify life that is less like our own. We have reason enough to send exploratory probes to other Solar System planets to better understand ourselves. This approach to getting away from our carbon chauvinism maybe termed as comparative planetology.

Through our explorations of the Solar System, we understand earthly life to be located in Goldie Locks Zone. This sweet zone gives the earth an oxygenated atmosphere and three physical forms of water that are requirements for life. However, without other chemical elements, life as we know it is incomplete. It is necessary that we not take our chauvinism for granted—with it, we can’t draw the necessary comparisons for the chemical elements of life.

SOURCES:

Featured Image:


Efbrazil / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Ramblings: Nexus of Change, Nexus of Despair? Times of Change-

The Sixties ushered an era filled with changing moralities and priorities. The biggest questions that come to mind from the era — how and why was the decade so impactful? Many who experienced the decade may acknowledge a confluence of circumstances. Firstly, the USA was a hotbed of protests with college-student ‘sit-ins.’ Secondly, the space-race between the USA and USSR was at a peak. Thirdly, the war in Southeast Asia pitted the USA against Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese who were aided by China and Russia, simultaneously. Fourth, the experimentation of teenagers and young adults with psychedelic drugs and marijuana was at a peak. Fifth, the Civil Rights Movement reached a peak –the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 moved the fulcrum of equality for minorities. Sixth, the environmental movement gathered steam and reached new heights — with Rachel Carson’s publication, Silent Spring.

The confluence of events provided a point where change and opportunity to change by individuals was possible. Whether individuals protested the Vietnam war or against unfair practices against minorities, the decade provided an opportunity to anyone who utilized their conscience for change.

However, areas of concern lay in the ease of illicit drug use. As if the US citizen did not have enough to manage on his proverbial dinner plate, beleaguered parents fretted over their own children falling prey to drug addiction. For those who recall the era, outrage and consternation from parts of the government seemed excessive. However, hindsight tells a different story.

Of all teens who start down the path of beer, cigarettes and marijuana –the vast majority do not die a miserable death from heroin overdoses. In fact, the percentage who travel down the path is about the size that lead lives of crime- sadly so.

Addictions can prove deadly. Whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol, intravenous drug use, or opioids, addictions seem to affect a random cross-section of population. When we look at this phenomenon, we also see individuals who appear to be more affected by mental illness. What does this mean?

A generation or two ago, policy makers attempted to explain this phenomenon as a gateway affect. It sounded a bit like this–teenagers with still-developing brains or anyone who becomes addicted to drugs started with introductory drug. The introductory drug was a gateway drug. Over the years, doctors and epidemiologists debated whether the gateway effect existed. In fact, the gateway was associated with alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and all too often any of a number of devices that blamed societal ills.

To a cynical or a skeptical observer, such pronouncements from the experts came across as dubious. And, the observers were correct. The latest research offers the more accurate explanation: there is a certain subsection of the world population that is more susceptible to addiction and mental illness than others. It is a product of genetics and the interactions with peers that some individuals are easily drawn to substance abuse.

Gateway drugs affect certain genetic markers that predispose a small section of population to mental health problems. In fact, the gateway concept was formulated as such, it applies to a rather few unlucky souls. No one knew how genetics played in such negative ways with environment. These individuals possess genetic markers that predispose them to addiction and some other mental health problems. Psychologists and other mental health experts term this issue – mal-adaptive way to handle a crisis.

Just take one case in point, we have a healthy child came out of the womb healthy. Here he is -three, five, or even seven years of age. He is subjected to the stress of child abuse. This unlucky person or soul say, tried to adapt to the stress with the only tools and made available to him or her. Now, this child learns to adapt in his or her immediate environment and that was that. However, with the child reaches maybe 20 maybe 18 maybe later only in the mid 20s, he chooses to use cigarettes, gambling, alcohol, or some drug of his choice. He may be a criminal that has serious mental health issues if his genetic markers deem as such. This individual, now branded a loser by parts of society, has to sustain the weight of abuse they he could not as a child. In present instances, this is termed PTSD. While it seems almost absurd to some – there are actual medical cases in which it has occurred. There are so many instances like it, and it is a diagnosis in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for physicians.

This line of reasoning has been apart of the public discourse since the 1960s. It comes across as liberal mumbo-jumbo or just plain bad science to some. However, to others, the scenario comes across as a failure of society to address its own accountability. And, in some ways, all scenarios are correct. The reason is that the cycle continues. People (good people) are impacted from a greater societal ill. We, as a people, need to aid the abused.

How do we address that the issue behind addiction criminality and mental health? It is a true health issue. Not just a mental health issue–given the propensity that any almost anyone can fall victim crime, we need a kinder approach to ourselves. This is not a platitude, but it is one approach that honors the human and does not impose upon him. I’m not asking we all undergo psychotherapy or some kind of genetic enhancement to remove the likelihood of addiction. The best approach is to rebuild how we approach one another. It is the ultimate message behind Christmas, itself.

We need turn away from the culture of hate and turn into a culture of respect and dignity. That’s the first step.

Greener Mars – When We Become Martians?

The latest edition of the American Heritage English Dictionary defines terraform as: a verb that means to transform (a landscape) on another planet into one having the characteristics of landscapes on Earth. [Latin term, terra earth: see terrace + form]

Mars, the red planet with a mythology that speaks volumes, is daunting. While there are notable stories surrounding Martian lore, it is the realities faced by NASA and other space agencies . Mars seems like a littered graveyard of crashed probes. Up until 2014, a full third of any earth launched rockets headed to the planet never made soft landings.

Countless visionaries and entrepreneurs voiced their desires to terraform Mars. While no country or entrepreneur has attempted to send missions to Mars to terraform it, attempts may ensue before the end of the 21st century. However, success in terraforming Mars hinges on important priorities.

  1. Successful understanding of Martian soil and rock (regolith).
  2. Successful manipulation of plant genomes to be radiation-resistant and withstand Martian cold.
  3. Plants need adequate sources of water.
  4. Martian soil may need adequate amending to ensure proper minerals within the soil.
  5. Astronauts must stay on Mars for an extended period of time to successfully implement the endeavor.

Scientists across the world have experimented with simulated Martian soil and performed computations for the past 25 years in the hopes of unlocking the secrets of Martian soil. If you recall Andy Weir’s book, The Martian or its movie adaptation, the lead character is stranded on Mars and grows potatoes to sustain himself until rescued. While Martian farming may occur in the lives of our children, it is decades until it becomes practical.

So, let’s get to the point – how can we terraform Mars?

There are, at least, two methods by which we can farm Mars:

1. Oxygenate the atmosphere first and then proceed to utilize the resources of Martian regolith with genetically engineered plants.

2. Use Greenhouses to grow crops and resources – vegetables, fruits, and hemp. Other uses of synthetic plants center upon genetic manipulations of plant biology to produce medicinal alterations and other commodity-like stuffs.

While the first method seems daunting, it has a sense of a pioneering spirit to it. It will take multiple generations to implement according to published studies. According to Cyprien Verseux and co-workers the first step is to seed multiple acreage of the Martian surface with cyanobacteria to begin an oxygenation of the atmosphere. It is postulated that early Earth had little to no oxygen and cyanobacteria or a related species of bacteria oxygenated the earth’s atmosphere. Life as we know it sprung forth. Professor Verseux and co-workers published their study in the International Journal of Astrobiology in 2016. Their studies delve into greater details of how engineered cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen fuels and potentially greater undertakings to help a Martian colony. In this fashion, multiple missions from NASA, Jaxa, or ESA tend to the endeavor.

Putting greenhouses on the Martian surface to facilitate colonization appears simpler than attempting to turn the Martian planet from rust-colored to an appealing shade or blue-green. NASA utilized the moon to put boots upon it and successfully proved they can do it almost routinely in the 1970s. Furthermore–from the Space lab in the 1970s to the ISS of present times, the international community proved it can work cooperatively to nobler ends. Thus, we get a better sense of the issues in the journal, Genes in 2018. The group of three Australian scientists paint a fascinating look at synthetic plant biology, in the article titled, The Multiplanetary Future of Plant Synthetic Biology.

The present outlook of international cooperation for space ventures appears cloudy from chaotic, nationalistic policies. It behooves nations of the world to band together. Perhaps, in the next decade, the world will understand and re-commit to space exploration as a peaceful undertaking.

Science fiction writers love Mars. Ray Bradbury, Andy Weir, and H. G. Wells encouraged readers to dream and fantasize of Martian aliens or desolate landscapes. The truth of Martian colonization maybe stranger than what he have dreamed or thought we could anticipate –it is a destiny well worth achieving. It may well turn the world stage away from war and terrorism to cooperation and peace.

SOURCES TO EXPLORE
Briando Llorente, and co-workers. The Multi-planetary Future of Plant Synthetic Biology. 2018. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes9070348f

Cyprien Verseux, and co-workers. Sustainable Life Support on Mars–the potential roles of cyanobacteria. 2016. https://doi.org/10.1017/S147355041500021X

American Heritage Dictionary https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=terraform

NASA log of International Martian missions– https://mars.nasa.gov/mars-exploration/missions/historical-log/

Human Rights January

A new year is upon us. As the old year is set to expire, planning and execution of what is important for the coming 12 months should be considered. For me, January is a “Human Rights” month.

Each month, I will pick an individual that I believe epitomizes the best of the human condition (dead or alive). In January of 2018, my pick is Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes. His views on civil rights and non-violence are an inspiration. His struggles to achieve his goals are well documented. From facing down water cannons and klansmen to dealing with uncooperative individuals from the government, his life is one of a profile of courage and hope (to borrow the phrase from JFK).

While his Dream speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial is one that many will remember, there are aspects of his inspiration that few heard of nor knew of. He realized that the dream he shared with so many was part of a long nightmare– (the following is taken from a Christmas sermon broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation):

… If there is to be peace on earth and good will toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified him, and there on Good Friday on the cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, “No lie can live forever.” And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and good will toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. …

The sermon was  broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Christmas Eve 1967

 

As can be inferred by my quotation (below) and passage choices, Martin Luther King Jr. never ever gave up. He understood that to persist in times of trouble, there had to be an overarching sense of purpose in the face of overwhelming odds.

For some of us, individuals like MLK Jr. hold inspiration – although we may not have the same trials— but their life of example is one to imitate. A better version of ourselves.

Lincoln Memorial

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –MLK Jr.

 

Are we truly free –or do we submit to the paean of the many? Traveling a road less traveled is normally far harder than would appear. Can we sacrifice selfish desires?

A Day in the Anthropocene

While the images like the Aurora borealis (seen below) are common to many of us. A lot of us recognize it as a scientific phenomena – It is one where the magnetic field of the Earth is excited by solar particles of our Sun.

The phenomenon is viewed as beautiful, and feelings of warmth and love are attributed to its viewing.

In many ways, there is a dichotomy to understanding our world. One of feeling and sentiment and one of analytical understanding based upon rationalism.

The dichotomy of the views present a problem– one can be said to think of the world in one of two ways. However, we can rectify the dichotomy. Rectifying the views requires wisdom.

This wisdom we need utilizing both rationalization and emotional/feeling — bringing together both to an understanding.

The present solutions to our problems are based upon concepts of Sustainability. Will we be wise enough to use the Paradigm of Sustainability to ensure that our progeny can thrive?

HOPE and BELIEF in a GREATER GOOD

Can wisdom sustain humanity’s future? Image by John A. Jaksich.

Many problems that require humanity’s wisdom begin with solutions based upon hope. In this present era, it is known as the (era of Man) Anthropocene. It is fraught with pain and anxiety.

This Era of Man is a wake-up call for all.

Whether it is a La Nina driven hurricane slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula or an extreme high tide inundating the Florida Keys, the effects of human-driven climate change will affect more than just local populations.  From journals to popular best-sellers, our planet’s challenges are documented.

Answers for the Anthropocene are based upon Sustainability—

Sustainability is the means of meeting the needs of the present while preserving biodiversity and the natural ecosystems for future generations.

A major issue surrounding the paradigm of sustainability is the lack of a crystal ball that the approach is meant to address. Let’s face it, when addressing the preparedness of humanity to take on disasters of their own making, our own track record is poor. Putting it succinctly: We can not solve today’s problems with yesterday’s technologies.  

I do have hope, however. I will not give in nor surrender.

Ramblings, Statements, and Opinions — Christmas Message!

Ramblings of History

The world has not quite been the same since the multiple jets  hit sites in the US on September 11, 2001 and unfortunately, the terror continues well into 2016.

The jihad  is much like a that of a desperate, cornered beast. Their war on the West can be said to be one of  nomads desperately seeking to turn back time. Let me explain.(1)

When the hordes of Genghis Khan swept from Asia into Europe, their attacks were that of a nomadic tribe seeking to displace the Romans from parts of their Empire. The Romans, for what little credit they are given, were a civilized society. (Yes, the Romans were barbaric but they laid the foundation for modern Western society.)

The hordes of Genghis Khan were a nomadic collection of warriors mounted on horseback. They originated in what is now the Mongolia-China region of the world. Nomads are feudal tribes — they do not farm nor herd cattle nor sheep. They subsist through violence and terror. Much like the jihadists, I believe a fair comparison can be drawn to the hordes of Genghis Khan.

The eventual decay and demise of the Romans had multiple factors, but  the Mongolian horde hastened the Roman demise. The demise of Rome led to a power vacuum where Rome once dominated.

When Christianity filled the power vacuum left by the Romans, it was a natural order of civilization. Christianity (given its merits and faults) helped to stabilize the regions once held by Rome.

Lessons of the Early 21st Century

The military responses of the West against terrorist cells have crippled the abilities of the jihadists — but as the decade wore through the 2000s to 2016– the mood of the public has changed. In Africa, jihadists are still strong; however, much of the world is not concerned with Africa. Presently there a few resources to exploit.

As long as we are incapable to mount a full response in areas that lack economic resources, our actions are mute. It reeks of shallowness

and of greed. In other regions of the world, Nationalism has spurred Nazi sympathies.

And the following question might be appropriate–

Power Vacuums and Political Instability?

Parts of the Mid-East and parts of Africa are still populated with terrorist cells. Much of the Mid-East is unstable, as well.

The Arab Spring coupled with the rise of Nationalistic sympathies seem to have made instabilities though much of the world.

I personally don’t believe that the West will fall. However, what is frightening is the poor humanitarian responses that Nationalistic sympathies seem to have brought. If the jihadists are to be defeated (or at least made to believe differently), they need reasons to do so. And, breast beating hegemony from parts of the US and other parts of the world will hasten further conflict.

We and much of the world are perched for armed conflict–in my humble opinion.

So, what do I believe should be done?

Seek a third path– While much of world seems perched with an unstable attitude and potentially toward war, Nationalistic sympathies need to be assuaged. The fomenting attitudes of Nationalism seemingly are based upon an attitude that says — the former status quo is not good and denying basic human rights to those who are suffering is justified.

Those who are presently fomenting hate need to be thrown out of power….before it is too late.

These patterns were seen prior to WWII– the Axis powers and used them to justify the slaughtering of Jews, gypsies, and many who were deemed unfit… (none-Aryan)

Well, as any student of history will tell you, anyone who does not understand their own mistakes will repeat them.

1. The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski. BBC Publications 1973.

Jacob Bronowski (1908–1974) was a mathematician, biologist, science historian, and author. His well-known works include The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination and The Ascent of Man.

Our Oceans: A Public Dumping Ground

 

Our oceans face a crisis. There are a number of important reasons for concern. The trickle down through the food chain may affect several generations of our progeny.

Sampling the World’s Oceans for Pollution

In every ocean on our planet, we find the signatures of humanity.

On the tiny Pacific Atoll of Midway, adult Albatross birds feed plastic and other garbage to their hatchlings. The skeletal remains of albatross chicks litter the beaches of Midway Atoll revealing a menagerie of un-digested plastic.

Off the coast of Los Angeles county, there is a US-EPA Superfund site, it had served as an illegal dumping ground of DDT and PCBs in the 1960s to 1970s for the Montrose Chemical Company. While its declaration as a Superfund site occurred in the 1997, its present status is still toxic. Recent studies appearing in the journal Environmental Pollution in 2016 find evidence of some coastal fish ingesting DDT and PCBs. The scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the University of California, Riverside and the Southern California Coastal Water Research of Costa Mesa California report high levels of DDT and PCBs in the sediment, as well.

A schematic from US Environmental Protection Agency that details levels of DDT contamination of sediment off the coast of Southern California. Highest levels are in red, while indigo represents the lowest reported levels of DDT. Image by US EPA.

One place that many would not fathom to believe finding the remnants of civilization is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. In 2016, it was reported that garbage was found there, as well.

Scientists are now finding the effects of technological excesses in the Arctic ocean, as well. Studies as recent as August of 2017 reveal finding  micro plastics (MP) in sediments and waters of the Arctic Ocean.

It does not take far or very long to notice the effects of ocean pollution. It is safe to deduce the oceans and we face a potential crisis.

PCB Pollution Los Angeles County

A schematic from US Environmental Protection Agency that details levels of DDT contamination of sediment off the coast of Southern California. Highest levels are in red, while indigo represents the lowest reported levels of DDT. Image by US EPA.

Image source: https://www3.epa.gov/region9/superfund/pvshelf/index.html

 

 

What are these ‘Newer Pollutants?’

Finding micro-sized particles ( known as beads from toiletries and micro-sized plastics) in sea life presents a new twist in the  water problem. Because the so-called particles are not readily trapped during sewage treatment processes, many different kinds of sea life are ingesting them, as well. Thus, micro-sized particles are found in many forms of  sea-life: kelp, shellfish, birds, and other fish. These findings have led to a further maturing of technology leading to the new field of nano-toxicology. However, not all of the scientific establishment is on board with the findings.

A Mindset that Allowed Micro-sized Refuse in the World’s Oceans

Whether it is leachate from plastics or micro-beads utilized in toiletries– the un-wanted chemicals are found in almost every species of sea life. As the world forged ahead by utilizing nanotechnology in the hopes of greening the planet, paradigms that were utilized in past technologies still haunt the planet’s population. The mindset of ignoring the repercussions of toxic chemicals was one that was rampant prior to Ecology Movement of the 1970s. Since that time, a majority of the newer generation of scientists have changed their priorities, but complete change is yet to come.

 

 

 

COVID-19: The Issues


COVID-19 is a virus with an extraordinarily long reach throughout the globe. Citizens, in different continents reporting similar symptoms, are experiencing higher than normal morbidities for an illness once described as nothing more than the ‘Asian Flu.’ Bigotry aside, the Asian Flu is slang terminology for seasonal influenza. And, as many medical professionals understand, viruses like the flu vary in severity from year to year. COVID-19 is a beast, if you can excuse the expression. As a civilization, we face a moment of truth. It is such a “come to Jesus” moment, that for some, exasperated expressions of ‘Oh My God’ appear as understatements. Many of us hope that our loved ones are spared the illness— it elicits a ‘Kiss of Death’ kind of thought in back of one’s mind. Why?


How Does the COVID-19 Virus Affect Body?


First, not everyone shows the same symptoms— thus many dread the thought of it. Anxiety’s grip
produces exaggerated feelings and might make your experience of the illness that much worse.
To those whose experiences of COVID-19 seem other-worldly, it maybe precisely that. First-hand accounts of the virus put it on a scale of regret that many recovering patients state they hadn’t ever experienced that kind of pain.


The symptoms of the infection vary as well. The symptoms—slightly feverish to cardiac arrhythmia, should tell the reader why many of us feared its grip.

So, Why Were the Symptoms of COVID-19 Different?


The proverbial $64,000 question has no simple answer, presently. However, if there was one underlying symptom that could tell the difference between life and death in COVID-19 symptoms, it is a person’s level of inflammation.
While it is an educated GUESS, there are reasons to believe that individuals with compromised immune systems also display a fair amount of inflammation. So, let’s try to dig a bit deeper?
In a publication dated March 2020, French researchers note the major differences for life and death in COVID-19 was levels of inflammation and the affected organs in the afflicted. People with a cancer diagnosis experienced the highest morbidity— very often, individuals with cancer undergo chemotherapy. All too often, chemotherapy elicits a storm of inflammation throughout the body—not just the cancerous growths are affected by the chemotherapeutic drugs.
Other notable illnesses are diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and COPD to list a handful. The researchers note— upon the infection of COVID-19 with these patients experience veritable storms of cytokines. The researchers further state that bodies experiencing that level cytokine flooding undergo a form of ‘shock’ that eventually lead to the body attacking itself. Autoimmune responses will kill off the host —thinking it is under attack from within.

It is a disease that is poorly understood, as well. Thus, it does elicit fear.

In essence, it becomes a terrible path to death. For those lucky enough to survive, re-infection is not unheard. It is the prospect of re-infection without subsequent re-exposure that is troublesome.

Suffering in the Path of Hate?

Darkness occurs in everyone’s life–

Darkness as a path

How we experience or live out the foreboding darkness in our lives is dependent on precipitating factors– our personal tolerance to pain and how well we forgive others (and ourselves).

Darkness can make our lives seem unforgiving and wretched. The two usually go hand-in-hand when first entering dark paths in our lives. However, there are darker ways to go about living life; perhaps, the darkest path is to make sure anyone along our path suffers as much us. When we act as if retribution is the only path, we are apt to harm ourselves out of self-spite — or better termed as self-loathing.

I would say, the worst path, is complete hatred. And, in that path, we selfishly deny our feelings that would make us wholly human. It would be as if I denied aspects of my humanity (not out of any sense of true humility but self-hatred).

And, there are times when –‘no pain no gain’ is precisely that– self suffering that leads a kind of hate.

A Little Rest & Recreation? —For Some—

I love the night sky— I have pondered its truths since I was seven years old. At that time, the Apollo program was in full swing. The moon landings of that generation put children like myself in full rapture. I had imagined myself exploring the moon at an unknown time and place—in much the same spirit as Andy Weir’s book, The Martian. But more to the point, the night sky provided the room for imagining.

Whether observing darting meteors or looking for Comet West during its periodic viewing cycle, the night sky never let me down. Pining to understand the humidity affects night viewing, I kept the child-like innocence to myself. It was my imagination’s sand box. I did not need to compete for anyone’s attention nor out-brawn anyone for supremacy. It is still my favorite way to wind down for a few hours—looking at the stars and local planets under darkened skies.

The night sky still intrigues me—from wishing to know the names of less common constellations to running a SETI@home program on several computers when it was in its hey-day and doable. It is still one large sand box giving me the time to be creative. I learned a lot about computers and distributed computations while doing SETI@home. It is truly fascinated me.

While the search for ET took a public citizen turn, we need to remember it was serious science. It made real science look fun.

Adapted Screenshot of Seti@Home Enhanced 5.15 SETI@HOME is licensed under the GPL. {{free screenshot|license=GNU Lesser General Public License}} Boinc end-user license agreement: [http://boinc.berkeley.edu/eula.txt] }}

While this may appear droll pursuit to some, it is ennobling. It carries a larger purpose. It helps create a sense of community.

The Upcoming Lessons from the Years of Trump/COVID-19 Debacle!

Truly, COVID-19 is a pandemic of biblical proportions. While I don’t want to sound as if we had the Free Will to prevent what has transpired since the start of 2020, however— the leader of the Free World let greed guide his heart. He led millions astray, and he could not lead others to act prudently. If we didn’t understand how the First Coming played out, then we may have responded as if we’re waiting for the Messiah. However, I don’t see the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse near, nor do I believe this event leads us to an Apocalypse within our children’s children’s lifetime. However, it is a hard lesson.

We need to study Natural History for what it truly is— take heed from lessons of the past.

The world’s climate augmented and accelerated the virulent behavior of Novel Corona-19. I will delve into it further in a another post. But, for now, I will set stage for it by examining its precedents, first.

The Anasazi, the Aztecs, the ruins at Machu Pichu, the ruins on Easter Island, and countless other civilizations have disappeared into the darkness. They disappeared as a result of not knowing how to respond to the environmental stressors they caused. This, in one convoluted nutshell, is our come to Jesus moment (pardon my religious reference). We can prevent further loss, pain, suffering, and death through a careful analysis of present trends and past precedents.

At the present moment, much of what has happened could have been prevented. The inept response by the Trump administration may go down in history as one in which science was viewed through a parochial lens of market forces. The parochial view that market forces and religious zealotry mix well —can save us from ourselves and the world is a joke. The best way to understand the virus and the pandemic is to use science within the physico-chemical laws of nature.

When the present pandemic ends, some may view it as the time of a personal trial. If we view it through the lens of a personal trial, the personal blame may fall directly on each one of us. Because we could not blame the powers that be to protect us— our own care (good, bad, or awful) most likely fell into a state of ineptitude. We became puppets for the wealthy to mock. None of us would have predicted the symptoms of Corona-19 could be so varied.

Imagine, if you will, the responses of those facing The Black Death — a plague of biblical proportions in the Dark Ages of Civilization. Not only had they believed it to be the end, much of their own fates were obscured by blaming dark spiritual forces to be behind the Black Death. In hindsight, it was the forces of ignorance masquerading in spiritual garb that led many to utilize spirituality rather than most medical intervention. What is even more daunting is that science, spirituality, and ignorance were mixed into a potent quack salvery.

And in a few short words, we witness a parallel situation today. We have a powerful leader masquerading as a pseudo-messiah. He proclaims himself to know more than all those around him— he eschews science and good leadership for what amounts as paranoia, chaos, and demagoguery. He truly believes to know more than all around him. This is perhaps the darkest moment of the US republic that we have faced since the Civil War that culminated in Lincoln’s assassination. What came afterwards was the bigotry backlash. We still live within its grasp, but it appears as if it is in decline. The election of president Obama brought out another bigoted backlash— Jim Crow esquire. While it appears completely frightful, it is nothing more than a cornered beast fighting for its appearance of legitimacy. What needs to be done is to make it die an ignoble death. A death so humiliating that it cannot rise from its own ashes.

The solutions behind the issues of Trump/COVID-19 era are, as of October 2020, taking form in the minds of those egregiously harmed during the present backlash of bigotry. I advise we follow suit with our own notions of progressive justice and healing—with every dark storm, sunshine, enlightenment, and love spring forth as if they were expertly planted in fertile and hallowed ground

COVID-19 is hideous in its attack on the human body—the primary issue is its unpredictable nature. Its complete effects on the human body are not completely known —months and years after infection.

Democracy in Peril: Part Deux

I watched last night’s VP debate with much interest. What I witnessed was a whole lot of demagoguery by VP Pence. The candidate, Kamala Harris stood her ground, counter punched , and fought back courageously and effectively. The two sides could not be any more disparate with their views. While I happen to be Roman Catholic— I find Mr. Pence to be an extremist with his religious faith. He fails in so many ways— to be a leader that the poor and disenfranchised can trust. He is wrong— with his approach. He fails to understand the plight of the poor.

The Denial~ —Signs of Maturity? The Short Response.

Wasn’t this democracy identical to the one that stood up to Kruschev during the Cuban missile crisis and averted a nuclear holocaust? Isn’t this the same democracy that impeached ex-president Nixon —who stated he was not a crook?

When our children’s children look back at this period of time, they may wonder how and why we could not remove a tyrant from the Presidency. Wasn’t our Democracy the same as the one that helped to remove Hitler. Mussolini, and Hirohito from their ‘thrones’ during WWII?

Well, NO! As angry as we may become—

—many of us were living our lives, and aspects of our collective personalities did not change. Our culture became fragmented — in five simple words: we lost our collective identity. Our lives became more complicated. Many decided their pursuits of a higher good were identical to pursing wealth and power.

We lost our way— didn’t we?

Let’s be honest with ourselves— how many can say they feel good about the state of the USA this day, October 1, 2020? Very few, if their conscience speaks honestly, are proud of the state of the union. We live in a corrupt time with the bright spots hidden from our view. Times are truly dark!

As long as the pursuits of power and wealth triumph over the pursuit of LOVE —we are a lost nation.

Further Along A Road Less Traveled

The Loneliness by Not Following the Crowd? – A Partial Soapbox Return

When it comes down to it, happiness comes from keeping oneself contented and away from the maddening crowd. When we follow and emulate every trend, we satisfy no one in our immediate circle of concern– but we satisfy those within our circle of vanity. Do you know whom consists in a circle of vanity? – those who won’t affirm the best in us but do affirm themselves in our own reflection. Thus, in this present day of social media phoniness and shallow attitudes – many of us need to retreat inwards. Oftentimes, the allure of social media has carried us away from what we can affect immediately.

One may believe they have found the Holy Grail of Happiness in one instant but is misled by the shallow din and desire to find happiness from the outside. Contrary to popular opinions, happiness and growth start within one’s core and love in happiness are not filled up from the outside. Happiness begins by recognizing who you are and to be true to yourself.

Being true to oneself allows one to be good to heir needs first and the needs others follow. To possess the makings of good self-esteem inside their core, one needs to be flexible with one’s self, and love all life (their life and others). From that juncture, happiness comes naturally and is not from the boisterous din of the crowd. One’s personal spring of happiness can be used as source of renewal when one is crushed by life’s adversities.

Once the core is overdrawn from too much adversity, one needs to follow a road to self-renewal and self-preservation.

Oftentimes, one may believe they have found themselves, but their presence at the gates of truth is illusory.

This path of truth, renewal, and spiritual revival is much like that of a spiritual staircase (if you will)–one may find oneself repeating paths from their past. It is not an illusion or a lie– no one is ever completed. Their path to spiritual happiness is a work in progress.

And, yes it is a Road Less Traveled-

imagesgrail

Some Sources Not Cited –

Arthurian Legend –

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Arthurian-legend

Book by Janice Bennett on the whereabouts of the Holy Grail-

https://books.google.com/books?id=ezsIjNeCkksC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1&output=embed” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Google Books Link