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.

Prejudice Comes in Many Stripes?

Many of my posts in 2018 dealt with the civil rights and the ways people  gave themselves a sense of coping and justice. Possessing the ability to tolerate hate and injustice is one of the hallmarks of inner peace and serenity. 

So, I will write and comment on the issue in the context of Border walls to the South and the injustices faced by Hispanics and others.

So, let’s start–

 

When the Christopher Columbus landed in Hispaniola in 1492 – he brought disease, death, and suffering to two continents of the Americas. While he may have believed that Catholicism could save the Indian and liberate the land for Spain, the parochial outlook of Columbus is not over emphasized.

As related in the book 1492, the Americas were a land of plenty to the original Americans. The original Americans knew how to steward the land properly. They burned acre upon acre of foliage and tree and deposited the ash into the soil. The subsequent ash enriched the soil — the Indian planted native crops and subsisted upon vegetation and bison.

The bison, to the Indian, were not as numerous as depicted in accounts by many of the early settlers. The Indian knew to not slaughter all of the bison — but enough remained, so that in subsequent seasons, new bison replaced the hunted bison.

When the first settlers came upon the virgin forests of Kentucky and the thousands of head of bison in the Ohio river valley (and beyond), they encountered an anomaly. Thousands upon thousands of Indians had lived in the Ohio river valley and in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee. They were gone– but why and how?

Popularizations of savage Indians being slaughtered by settlers tells a reckless half-truth — the Indians disappeared. Yes, they died at the hands of settlers -but not only by the gun. It was through small pox, the plague, and viral infections that settlers brought with them from Europe.

Not much is made of the fact that European horses brought small pox and the settlers brought tuberculosis, as well. These two diseases decimated the Indian populations east of the Rockies.

The settlers — in their brand of wisdom — did not realize the Indians had been on American continents for thousands of years prior to their arrival. However, the Indians possessed wisdom and not ignorance as suggested by some.

The Truth?

While the settlers utilized their own brand of wisdom garnished from experience and the Bible, the indian understood the land and the wisdom gained by working the land. Over thousands of years, the original Americans learned that they could not cruelly take and not replenish the resources of their homes. 

Presently, civilization stands at a nexus point –a crossroads where the continuation of not replenishing the land and it resources could spell extinction for some. As some who fail to understand that it is wrong to not replenish the land, they may disappear in an ironic act of karma. However, karma, for all of its irony and bitter truths, is a law of our own Earth –or how we act through our miss-perceptions of existence. Karma is chauvinistic view of our world and the Universe.

While I have as yet not found karma to be the accurate justification for losses and gains, it is humanity’s personal law of retribution and existence. Scientifically speaking, there is no physical evidence for a law of karma –only an ignorance to one’s actions and the effects of the actions taken. Thus, when some speak of karma coming to their assistance, individuals invoke propagating ignorance. And perhaps, their own extinction is at stake, as well if they’re not careful. 

 

While it may never pan out for some – what is real and true in the physical world are the laws of science- biology, physics, chemistry, and their allied fields.

 

What of Bigotry?

Well, at the roots of bigotry are hate, ignorance, and false pride; or, in certain contemporary terms, narcissism. Narcissism is an interesting term — it is bandied about in many venues. From evil-bosses and sexist chauvinists to political leaders and ex-lovers, we hear about and see a lot of it. 

This is where “change can take place” – real and unabashed change. This present age of hated, whether personal or overt, presents reasons for some to affect change.

How?- let me list a few:

  • set an example for others 
  • gently confront or correct others in their misdeeds
  • write and expose to the wider public the persons responsible
  • act in concert in a group setting — when was the last time you noticed a group of individuals act kindly and compassionately towards hate?
  • get the right authorities to act –if they exist, to enforce laws that violate basic, human rights

Bigotry can not co-exist with truth, love, and justice — they are polar opposites.

Peace-

Extraordinary Claims of Martian Fossils and the Evidence ?

ALH84001

This Martian meteorite contains molecular signatures that may change how we see life. NASA [Public domain]

Scientists draw on experimental results to answer important scientific questions. When an extraordinary claim happens, the scientist answered experimental questions with seemingly, incredible answers: potential Martian fossils.

Meteorite ALH84001, discovered in Antarctica in 1984 by NASA scientists, was ejected from Mars about 15 million years ago by an asteroid or meteor strike. According to scientists, ALH84001 was orbiting in our solar system space during most of that time. Surprisingly, the meteor fell to Antarctica only 13,000 years ago. 

Seemingly, Martian microfossils were found in Meteorite ALH84001 in 1996. While the claim by NASA scientists of microfossils is not completely correct – evidence was presented by the scientists that lent credence to a potential find of past life. Eventually, the claim was fomented by public opinion and even the president Clinton White House commented on the find. 

Microfossils

Earthen microfossils are several orders of magnitude larger than the purported Martian microfossils. Images by Frank Rattray Lillie, Carl Richard Moore, and Alfred Clarence Redfield

We need to first define microfossil?

What are Microfossils?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary of the English language defines microfossil:

Noun, A small fossil that typically can be studied only microscopically and that may be either a fragment of a larger organism or an entire minute organism

While many of us have seen a fossil, we rarely ask ourselves what about microfossils?

An Extraordinary Claim?

Meteorite ALH84001, analyzed thoroughly by NASA scientists in 1996 – seemed to  contain micro-fossils  within the rock. The shapes-contained in and chemical analysis within the rock resembled past life forms, according to NASA scientists.

The evidence for potential past life was the following:

(1)   The shapes of Martian fossils resembled earthen micro-fossils – namely cyanobacteria.

(2)   The Martian fossils encapsulated trace amounts of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

(3)   The so-called fossils possessed magnetic properties – much like earthen Magnetites.

(4)   All important chemical components from the fossil contained chemicals from Mars only- no cross contamination from Antarctica

Fake Fossils

Purported microfossils from Mars. While the long worm-like structure resembles ancient Earth fossils, most scientists agree it is not from Martian life. Image by NASA

According to NASA scientists, Mars was inhospitable to life in 1996. In essence, the claim of fossilized lifeforms was extraordinary. If Mars harbored life, scientists believed the planet must have, at one time, resembled the Earth. Mars, in 1996, appeared  dry and inhospitable — and without liquid water or breathable air.

While having liquid water is a major prerequisite for life, Mars’ past remained mysterious.

However, let’s look at the incident.

What are the Chemical Components Behind Martian Fossils?

Earthly fossilization processes occur as minerals from the soil seep through the membranes of the dead organism.  That process is permineralization. Martian permineralization processes are unknown.

In a 2012 publication from NASA, the scientists drew the following conclusions-

  • The purported fossils were calcium carbonate encapsulations of  Martian geology- its formation may be either biological or a strictly inorganic process.
  • Within the encapsulations are trace amounts or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Martian minerals containing iron, silicon, sulfur, and more carbonate.
  • The chemistry of formation is typical to both Earth and Mars- however its real origins are in doubt.
  • There is no evidence for Martian cyanobacteria.
  • Water needed to be present for the formation of the Martian ‘fossils.’ Water is present on Mars today and was in the distant past.
  • Humans or robotic missions must retrieve Martian soil and rocks — regiolith.

What Can We Say About Mars?

One can look at photographs of Mars from current NASA missions – one gets the sense of a desolate planet that once had water flowing in certain areas. The Martian geology also shows signs of water levels that receded over long periods of time and a lot of sand in other areas, as well. However, we see no signs of past life- no bones or macro-fossils in any area.

In a 2018 publication by NASA scientists, we note that if there was ever life on the planet, we need to dig and extract Martian rocks from below. NASA scientists cite the extreme ultraviolet radiation from the sun and cosmic rays from universe that penetrate the Martian soil (up to the first 9 feet, at least).

That is an answer to why we don’t see Martian life – life that we do not recognize or understand. Life based upon DNA.

Mars soil

The Martian surface is red because of an oxidation process. The iron, in the Martian soil, oxidizes to rust or Iron Oxide (Fe2O3). In fact, iron is not the major component of Mars- it silicon. Image from the NASA Pathfinder mission 1997.

Ordinary Science To Prove or Disprove Extraordinary Claims?

The statement, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was stated by Carl Sagan in his landmark series, Cosmos- A Personal Voyage. The statement needs to be restated – presently, scientists cannot prove or disprove whether Mars has life. A flat statement of life on a distant planet is an unproven claim -thus ordinary experimentation that can take up to several decades to prove or disprove the claim.

The passage of time renders an experiment extraordinary or unsolved. However, recent experimentation on similar meteorites point at the life’s signatures in chondrite meteors. Chondrite meteors bear primarily carbon-bearing molecules– ones similar to ALH84001.

ADDITIONAL READING & REFERENCES: 

J. WILLIAM SCHOPF, et. al. Astrobiology. 2005. Raman Imagery: A New Approach to Assess the Geochemical Maturity and Biogenicity of Permineralized Precambrian Fossils.

FIONA L. PLOWS, et. al. Geophysica et Cosmochimica Acta. 2003. Evidence That Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Two Carbonaceous Chondrites Predate Parent-Body Formation.

MONICA M. GRADY,  et. al. Astronomy and Geophysics. 1997, Microfossils from Mars: A Question of Faith.

MIKHAIL Y. ZOLOTOV and MIKHAIL V. MIRONENKO. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2007, Timing of Acid Weathering on Mars: A Kinetic-Thermodynamic Assessment.

THOMAS STEPHAN, et. al. Meteoritics and Planetary Science. 2003, TOF-SIMS Analysis of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Allan Hills 84001.

K.L. THOMAS-KEPRTA, et .al. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 2009, Origins of Magnetite Nanocrystals in Martian Meteorite ALH84001.

JACEK WIERZCHOS and CARMEN ASCASO. International Journal of Astrobiology. 2002, Microbial Fossil Record of Rocks from the Ross Desert, Antarctica: Implications in the Search for Past Life on Mars.

JOHN W. MOREAU and THOMAS G. SHARP. Astrobiology2004, A Transmission Electron Microscopy Study of Silica and Kerogen Biosignatures in 1.9 Ga Gunflint Microfossils.

A. STEELE, et. al. Science. 2012, A Reduced Organic Carbon Component in Martian Basalts. 

CHRISTOPHER R. WEBSTER, et. al. Science. 2018, Background Levels of Methane in Mars’ Atmosphere Show Strong Seasonal Variations.

PAUL VOOSEN. Science. 2018, Nasa Curiosity Hits Organic Paydirt on Mars.

 

 

 

At the Santa Fe Institute

The brain is perhaps one of the last frontiers. It is also the ultimate black box–

Baldscientist

One of the main desires that a scientist has (yes, we have wants and desires just like everyone else!) is to be recognized by other scientists. I got a taste of such recognition just a couple of weeks ago. In early December (Note: This happened in December 2017), I participated in an invitation-only event at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico (SFI from now on).

What is the SFI? I’m glad you asked. It is the “The world headquarters for complexity science”, nothing more, nothing less. For a primer on what exactly complexity science is, please go here. Briefly, complexity science encompasses pretty much everything, from the behavior of molecules, organisms, populations (remember my flock of birds post?), epidemics, economies, solar systems, and galaxies… and this is just a small sample of what is it about!

The institute has been described in many ways…

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November 2018 #metoo and #8yearsinPower and a #Solution

eightyears.001

If it wasn’t for the bumbling stupidity of the Republican mysogyny, a lot of the of the gains of the 2018 midterms would not have occured. Facts remain the same- money will dictate how most will vote. In my opinion, this is a sad indictment of the status quo.

Not only have we failed to squelch racism– it still rules many parts of the country — it is in the form of gerrymandering and voter suppression.

What we have learned is that more needs to be done-

Money from the far Right must be countered with a mainstream attempt from the Left to tell it like it is. Not back down — I, for one, plan to be more socially active in the coming year especially when it comes to calling a spade a spade. No more backing away — from political activism and countering falsehoods with the truth.

I will be posting my attempts on this blog to counter what I believe to be falsehood straight-on.

Cheers,

John

 

Where were you in 1968?

John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr

The american sprinters Tommie Smith,John Carlos and Peter Norman during the award ceremony of the 200 m race at the Mexican Olympic games. During the awards ceremony, Smith and Carlos protested against racial discrimination: they went barefoot on the podium and listened to their anthem bowing their heads and raising a fist with a black glove. Mexico City, Mexico, 1968 Mexico city, Mexico, 1968 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute

 

 

Where were you in 1968? I was just a child who didn’t know enough about the world–let alone what it meant to be repressed. My heart presently bleeds as I attempt to fathom the duplicity and lack of respect shown to immigrants. Children being separated from their mothers and kept in detention for weeks… How did we get here America???

Ramblngs: Curt Flood– Exemplary Role Model with a Golden Glove

By John A. Jaksich

Curt Flood played for three teams during his Major League Career: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Senators. He would have been regarded as Hall of Fame status in some circles. However, Mr. Flood is presently regarded as a Civil Rights figure that was many years ahead of his time.

You see, Curtis Charles Flood is responsible for challenging how baseball players were regarded by their owners. Curt Flood protested the trade that would have sent him to the Philadelphia Phillies. He refused to be regarded as property– he sued MLB and shortened his playing career. However, with his actions, he set the stage for future players to be paid salaries that they felt were deserving-of. His actions allowed Reggie Jackson to become a New York Yankee and not play for the Oakland Athletics.

Mr. Jackson, at the time. was a premier player with the Oakland ballclub. The team owner was  Mr.  O’Finley. He paid the players lower wages than they felt they deserved for the time. The team had won 3 world championships and the players felt they deserved better salaries. The city loved their team– its citizens could not have been prouder. But, behind the veil of ownership was a tight-fisted businessman. Whether he viewed his players as property is not known, however- his players wanted better.

What Does It All Mean?

Further examination of Mr. Flood’s actions should lead many of us to question how we regard our own loyalties. Many of us have careers and jobs that we enjoy; and in some ways, many of us don’t have to worry about being “owned by our employer.” Many times, we are free to choose how long we can continue to work at a particular employer. However, much of what we do and say in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the others, is subject to scrutiny.

Much of what is being scrutinized is our First Amendment rights in the US. While the Internet has no real borders, to many US citizens- losing our Civil Rights is a big deal. What many whites don’t understand — it is privilege that minorities don’t quite enjoy as well as they do.

If you look at close enough, much of the backlash of Social Media is a bad reflection of how many minorities have lived. Let me indulge the reader: One must live an exemplary and extraordinary life just to be online. Many minorities have lived in that manner — just to be accepted by the powers-that-be (white men who hold purse strings).

A Step Further?

If a non-minority had broken the law or stepped out-of-line with the police– there was no fear of potential violence against them. Whites, as a rule, can get away with some of the crimes that they commit after paying their debt to society. Many blacks, hispanics, and many others don’t get the luxury. It was taken away from them by a white ruling class that based its principles upon “so-called Christian ethics.”

The gospel of compassion was not on the minds of the white ruling class. We ‘white people’ felt our God was as white as our so-called souls -however, little did we know the truth.

God has no boundaries nor questions the love he gives. Pure love has no boundaries and sees no color (whatever it maybe)!

Not only that: True Compassion is Color Blind. (The real bigger truth).

While many of us stated emphatically that we felt no guilt because of what transpired  beyond our cozy apartments and homes, we were and still are complicit in what has transpired during our own watch. If we claim Christianity as our anchor, then we need to be compassionate and question personal motives everyday. From sunrise to sunset, we need to acknowledge that we have failed ourselves and our neighbors. We need to heal  the wounds of our own divisive ways.

How?

However, there was a time when not everyone had that luxury. That time was not more than 40 years ago. While the 1960s are celebrated for the advances in Civil Rights, much  needs to be addressed. Not only does Jim Crow Esq. affect minorities, it makes cowards of many of us whites. We don’t want to lose our jobs because we spoke out against racism and indignity. Not only athletes –but all of us need to stand up against racist dogma.

The Take Away?

While many of us do what we can on a daily basis, we are too complacent. Many of us need more backbone-

And it may take some time…. time that many don’t have…. our brothers and sisters who lose parents at the border because the US once represented freedom ….. 😦

Informal Bibliography:

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

 Ta-Nehisi Coates