Archive for
October 2015

Comments for Sunday, October 25, 2015, thru Saturday, October 31, 2015:

October 31, 2015 - A couple days ago, I found an amusing political cartoon which showed Donald Trump and Ben Carson side by side before an audience.  Trump says, "I say idiotic things LOUDLY!"  And Ben Carson says, "I say idiotic thing quietly."  But looking around for a version of it I could use on this web site, I couldn't find any.  What I found instead are these about Trump: 

Donald Trump cartoon #1

Donald Trump cartoon #2

And these about Ben Carson:

Ben Carson political cartoon
Ben Carson political cartoon

I only wish I had the time to create a cartoon showing a dozen or more of the top Republican candidates mouthing their most idiotic statements.  

October 29, 2015 - This week was another bad week for new movies.  I rented "Spy," which stars Melissa McCarthy.  I really tried to watch it all the way through, but I gave up at about the 1 hour 15 minute mark.  The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) ranks it 7.2 out of 10.  According to, 93% of reviewers gave it a positive review, while 81% of audiences liked it.  I don't know who the reviewers are, but I presume they also give positive reviews to the most obnoxious trolls they can find on the Internet.  Foul mouthed and obnoxious have evidently replaced eloquence and charisma as positive values with movie reviewers these days.

I also rented "Pixels," (the IMDB ranks it 5.7 out of 10, while Rottentomatoes says that only 17% of reviewers liked it, while 51% of audiences liked it).  It was too silly for me, but I managed to watch it all the way through.  Of the 3 movies I rented this week, the one I "liked best" was "Entourage," which the IMDB ranks 6.8 out of 10 and Rottentomatoes says only 32% of reviewers liked, while 65% of audiences liked.  I probably liked it best because I've seen and generally enjoyed the first 6 seasons of the HBO series, thus the situations and characters are all familiar to me.  But I didn't like it well enough to recommend it to anyone who is not familiar with the HBO series.

The other available new movies were remake of "Poltergeist," which they say isn't anywhere near as good as the original, which I have in my DVD collection, and "Southpaw," a boxing movie.  I really need to be in the right mood before I'll watch a movie about about  boxing, and I'm not in such a mood right now (particularly since the movie seems to have a very depressing beginning, with the main character suffering some kind of major tragedy).  I'd rather watch an old movie that I'm in the right mood for and that I know I won't totally dislike.   

Meanwhile, I found another picture that shows a section of the Earth with stars in the background, although the stars cannot be easily seen in reduced-size version below (Click HERE for the full size version).

Karachi, Pakistan &
                  the India/Pakistani border

What's probably more interesting than the fact that the stars can be seen is the fact that the winding border between India and Pakistan can be seen as clearly as if it was a line drawn on a map.  That's because the entire border is fenced, guarded and illuminated at night with orange colored lights.  Here's a map of the same area:

Pakistan/India border
It's a flat map, and the picture from the International Space Station is of a spherical world, so it's much harder to judge distances on the sphere.  Karachi is the bright spot near the lower left corner, and the foothills of the Himalayas can be seen near the upper right horizon.  They're about 720 miles from Karachi. 

I'm still trying to get started on my new novel.  I'm thinking about it more and more, but I'm not yet ready to start typing.

October 27, 2015 - Checking The Huffington Post this morning, as I do almost every morning, I found an article that used the photo below.

horses across sunset

Wow!  That's a beautiful picture.  So, naturally I had to look for the largest version of the picture I could find.  I used  Click 
HERE for the biggest I found.  It seems to come from the Huffington Post, too.  There are other versions of it around, each with a different colored sky in the background, so I don't know if it's totally real or not.  It's certainly the most beautiful version, in my opinion.  Below is another version from the company that sells them.

                      horses from shutterstock 
I also check NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day web site every morning.  This morning I found another beautiful picture.  This one is of the Heart Nebula.  (Click HERE for the source, and click HERE for the full size image.)

Astronomy picture of the day -
                Heart Nebula

There are hundreds of pictures of the Heart Nebula around on the Internet.  The one above is my current favorite, probably because the focus of the picture is on the center of the "heart."  When you view the full size version, it looks like a window into another universe.  Below is another large photograph of the Heart Nebula (from HERE), rotated so the "heart" shape that gave the nebula its name is more clear:

Heart Nebula

Neither picture is a fake, even though the colors are different.   The differences are due to exposure time, filters, the angle and the cropping. 

Three of the pictures above have been saved in my computer.  What will I do with them?  Probably nothing.  Beautiful photographs don't need to serve some purpose.  They are worth keeping just because they are beautiful.  And they cost nothing.  I've downloaded and saved 730 astronomy pictures since I bought my laptop a year ago.  I also have 1,148 that I saved in my old computer (and on a backup hard disk) over the years.  So, if I someday decide I should replace the picture below, which I use as the background image on my start page, I'll have plenty of images to choose from.

view of earth from the

 Otherwise, the pictures are just available for browsing when I'm in the mood.

October 25, 2015 - It's another Sunday, and once again I don't have a "Sunday comment" prepared.  So, I'm going to have to "wing it."  I've just been too busy with other things.  For example, someone who read my interactive blog comment about creating a fake picture of the Earth surrounded by stars brought to my attention a real photo of the Earth with plenty of visible stars.  Here it is:

The earth, moon and stars
                  from millions of miles away

That's the earth next to the moon near the lower left corner of the picture.  The picture was taken by the Messenger spacecraft from 114 million miles away, somewhere in the vicinity of Mercury.  All the picture really shows that you can photograph the Earth and stars IF the Earth is so far away that the time exposure needed would be about the same as you would need to capture the stars. 

That made me wonder if there were more such pictures on the Internet.  Looking around, I quickly found a time exposure picture taken by American astronaut Reid Wiseman from the International Space Station (ISS) that shows a small part of the Earth along with plenty of stars.  Here it is:

stars and earth as seen
                  from the ISS

The only problem with the picture above is that, since it was a 3-second time exposure taken from the ISS, all the stars and everything else that was moving relative to the ISS are slightly blurred.

Those time exposure shots reminded me of the time (around 1956) that I went down to Lake Michigan at night to take a time exposure shot of the moon over the lake.  It was soon after I'd bought my first camera.  Here's the shot:

The moon over Lake
                  Michigan - circa 1956

There's a faint white dot above the horizon near the right edge of the photo.  That could be Venus, or it could be just a blemish on the slide. As I recall, I took several shots using pure guesswork as to how long the shutter needed to be open to get a good picture.  If I left the shutter open too long, the moon would move and turn into an oblong shape.  If I didn't leave it open long enough, everything would be too dark, and you wouldn't be able to see anything clearly.  The picture above is the only one from the session that looked right.

So, that was what I was doing yesterday when I should have been figuring out what to write about for today's comment.

This morning, I tried again.  I looked through the news for an idea on what to write about.  The main news story that caught my attention was that Maureen O'hara has died at the age of 95. 

Maureen O'hara    

That made me wonder how many of her movies I have in my DVD collection.  I checked and found I have "Miracle on 34th Street," "Our Man in Havana" and all five movies she made with John Wayne.  (My records show that the last time I watched "Our Man in Havana" was in April 2007, a couple years before I bought my 46-inch flatscreen.  So, I'll probably watch it tonight.)

Maureen O'hara in
                  "Our Man in Havana"

Is any of this worth writing about?  Will it be of interest to anyone but me?  I don't know.  I considered writing about some silly emails an Anthrax Truther sent me last week, but writing an analysis of his emails would just cause him to send me more silly emails.  I also thought about commenting on how many times he checks this web site every day.  He's visited this site 140 times so far this month.  That's an average of nearly 6 times a day, 5 times more often than the next most frequent visitor.  Yesterday, my visitor logs say he visited at 6:13 a.m., 7:38, 11:41, 12:25, 1:19 p.m., 3:21, and 7:59 p.m.  So, it was an above average day.  I didn't post any comments yesterday.  That's probably why he checked more times than average -- to see if I had posted anything new since the last time he'd checked. 

I hope this comment isn't too big a disappointment.  It's the best I could come up with for today. 

I really, really, really need to get to work on my novel.

Comments for Sunday, October 18, 2015, thru Saturday, October 24, 2015:

October 23, 2015 - This morning, the NASA Image of the Day web site led me to a different NASA web site where images from the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite are now routinely being made public.  The web page HERE explains:

On October 19, 2015, NASA launched a new website where it will post images of the full, sunlit side of Earth as observed by EPIC, the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera. The instrument flies on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a satellite built through a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Air Force. DSCOVR collects its images and measurements from a vantage point one million miles above the Earth and toward the Sun.

Once a day, the EPIC team at NASA will post roughly a dozen new color images of Earth that were acquired 12 to 36 hours earlier.
Below is one of today's images taken on October 21 from the satellite positioned 924,777 miles above the equator (click HERE for the full size image):  

View of Earth from DSCOVR

There's a lot of interesting science involved.  That distance of 924,777 miles is roughly 4 times further away than the moon.  The satellite is orbiting a Lagrange Point where the gravitational pull of the Earth exactly matches the gravitational pull of the Sun.  That means the satellite is NOT in an orbit around the Earth.  It is, in effect, in an orbit around the Sun that is just inside the Earth's orbit.  In such a position, its cameras can always be pointed at the daylight side of the Earth as the Earth rotates.  I find it also interesting that:

Since Earth is extremely bright compared to the darkness of space, the exposure time for images is as little as 20 to 100 milliseconds. The much fainter stars in the background are not visible because of this short exposure time.
So, just like the Apollo mission pictures taken on the moon, stars are not visible because the photographic exposure time that would be needed to capture starlight is much greater than the exposure time needed to photograph the bright surface of the Moon or the Earth.  Conspiracy theorists who are accustomed to seeing fake pictures of the Earth and stars in movies will illogically argue that because the stars cannot be seen in these images the way they are regularly seen in fake pictures, the real pictures cannot be real.

Just out of curiosity, I wondered what a fake combination picture of the real Earth on a real background of stars would look like.  Here's what I came up with (click HERE for the spectacular full size version):

fake picture of the real earth with real stars
                in background

It certainly looks cool and believable, but being cool and believable does not make it real.

Yesterday, an Anthrax Truther sent me three emails which basically just said, "It's the Truth if I believe it; if other conspiracy theorists agree with me, then it is proved; and it doesn't make any difference what the facts and evidence say."

The picture above is a "believable" image of real stars and the real Earth, but the picture is not real.  It doesn't make any difference how many people might believe it is real.  All that matters is that the facts and evidence say it is a fake.  I can testify to that.

October 22, 2015 - Articles and opinion pieces are still being written about the New York Times Magazine piece titled "What Do We Really Know About Osama bin Laden’s Death?This morning, someone sent me a link to a new Times  opinion piece titled "Baquet on Bin Laden Story: Critics ‘Reading It Wrong’."  It says basically what I said in my October 19 comment: "There is no serious dispute that bin Laden was killed in the raid.  There's just dispute over exactly how we figured out where he was."

Vanity Fair Magazine has an article titled "There’s Just One Problem with Those Bin Laden Conspiracy Theories."  The Washington Post has an article titled "What do we know about Osama bin Laden’s death? Quite a lot, actually."  The Post article says,

It is true that there are still questions about aspects of the hunt for bin Laden, and details about the raid remain in dispute, including which member of the SEAL team ascending the stairwell toward bin Laden’s chamber fired the first and fatal shots.

But the reality is that there is remarkable agreement across antagonistic governments, credit-hungry security agencies and fiercely competitive news organizations on the most salient facts: that bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. Special Operations forces conducted without the cooperation or awareness of the Pakistani government after a decade-long CIA manhunt.

To cast this in doubt, [Jonathan] Mahler [of The New York Times] engages in conspiracy-spinning sleight-of-hand.

It would be nice if there was some way to automatically weigh every opinion offered by everyone who has an opinion, and to flush down the toilet all those opinions that are based upon beliefs instead of on facts, but we have no such device or technique.  The complaint seems to be that Mahler of the Times gave Seymour Hersh's story some credibility it did not deserve.  It's like giving nitwit conspiracy theorists the same credibility that you would give solid fact-based reporting on the anthrax attacks of 2001.  It might be an interesting intellectual exercise to wonder if there is really anything to the nitwit arguments, but you should probably make it very clear that there are absolutely no facts to support such arguments.  It's just a "possibility" that there might be some "truth" in some nitwit argument that is "new," even though it changes absolutely nothing.

This all provides a good explanation for why it is generally better to ignore conspiracy theorists than to discuss their theories with them.  All a discussion does is give them some "credibility" they do not deserve.  If they have a theory, they should present better evidence in support of their theory than there is in support of the other theory.  If their argument is that the government is hiding the evidence, they are admitting that they have no evidence.  They have only an unshakable belief that everyone is lying, and only they know "the truth."  Since their beliefs are "unshakable," there's no point is arguing with them. 

Meanwhile, this morning I finished my "analysis" of pillow top mattresses and put the "analysis" on my interactive blog.  Title: "Do you HATE your pillow top mattress?"  (No, I don't think the mattress company conspired to sell me a mattress that I would HATE.  I just wish someone would have WARNED me about known problems with it.  So, I'm putting out a "warning" to others.)     

October 20, 2015 - While I keep finding new information which shows that 9/11 Truthers, Anthrax Truthers and Moon Landing Truthers are "Cannot Believers" who simply cannot believe the facts and solid evidence, and instead they just believe what they want to believe, it's been a long time since I've seen any new information that refutes what the JFK Assassination Truthers (a.k.a. "conspiracy theorists") believe.  Yesterday, someone sent me a link to a Forensic Magazine article titled "3-D Digital Forensic Analysis Confirms Lee Harvey Oswald Photo."  The photo that JFK Assassination Truthers claim is faked is this one:

Lee Harvey Oswald photo
According to the Forensic Magazine article,

Lee Harvey Oswald said the image was faked – and maintained he was just a “patsy” for others who were actually behind the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Skeptics of the image point to Oswald’s unusual posture, the rifle length, and the strange play of light around him as evidence of a frame-up.
Now a new study performed by forensic experts at Dartmouth college has provided new evidence using a 3-D computer model which shows there is no reason to believe the photo was faked.

3-D model of Lee Harvey
                  Oswald photo

The 3-D model shows that the lighting and shadows are consistent, the rifle is the right size compared to Oswald's height, the body is reasonably well balanced, and, of course, there is no sign of tampering with the image.

Nevertheless, we can be certain that this study will not change the mind of any JFK Assassination Truther.  Like all Truthers, they are not swayed by evidence or facts.  Their minds are closed.  They are "Cannot Believers" who simply cannot believe that things happened the way the evidence says they happened.  So, they concoct something they can believe.  That would not be a problem, except for the fact that they then set out to convert the rest of the world to their beliefs.  After all, they KNOW "the Truth."  The rest of us just need to accept that.

October 19, 2015 - This morning, someone sent me a CNN article titled "The New York Times' bizarre story on Osama bin Laden's death."  It refers to the recent NYT Sunday Magazine article titled "What Do We Really Know About Osama bin Laden’s Death?"  There's a lot to read in those articles, and while I was reading them, more than 85 people posted comments after the CNN article - some silly, some serious.

The CNN article seems to suggest that the NYT article is an attempt to create a new conspiracy theory.  Peter Bergen, the author of the CNN article, wrote,

So it was an unpleasant surprise to find that Times reporter Jonathan Mahler, in his more than 7,000 word piece, had discovered little new about the hunt for bin Laden and the raid that killed him, but also made the following claim: "It's not that the truth about bin Laden's death is unknowable; it's that we don't know it."

Mahler also asserted that it was "impossible to know what was true and what wasn't" about the story of bin Laden's death, which is now "floating somewhere between fact and mythology."

Really? That is only if you accept at face value the work of the investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who wrote a lengthy piece in the London Review of Books in May that set out to challenge the "official" story of bin Laden's death.

Seymour Hersh certainly seems to have turned into a silly conspiracy theorist - or maybe he's just another "Cannot Believer."  He just cannot believe that American helicopters could invade Pakistani airspace without being spotted.  He cannot believe that CIA analysts could figure out where bin Laden was without some Pakistani telling them.  He (and others) cannot believe that President Obama would take such a risk to send American soldiers into another country on such flimsy information.  Etc.  But the point Jonathan Mahler seems to have tried to make in his article is that there is no way to be absolutely certain about every detail of the raid that killed bin Laden.  That is true, whether we like it or not.  Every person involved saw things from his/her own personal perspective, and each point of view will be slightly different.  Plus, there are many people who will be deliberately distorting things to cover their mistakes and ignorance, and to make themselves seem more important to the story than they really were.  And, of course, there are lots of details that cannot be released because they would give our enemies important details about people working for us in other countries.  The NYT article says,

Reporters like to think of themselves as empiricists, but journalism is a soft science. Absent documentation, the grail of national-security reporting, they are only as good as their sources and their deductive reasoning. But what happens when different sources offer different accounts and deductive reasoning can be used to advance any number of contradictory arguments? How do we square Latif’s reporting in Abbottabad and Baer’s skepticism with the official story that Bowden and many others heard?

‘‘As a reporter in this world,’’ Bowden told me, ‘‘you have to always allow for the possibility that you are being lied to, you hope for good reason.’’

We may already know far more about the bin Laden raid than we were ever supposed to. In his 2014 memoir ‘‘Duty,’’ the former secretary of defense, Robert M. Gates, wrote that everyone who gathered in the White House Situation Room on the night of the raid had agreed to ‘‘keep mum on the details.’’ ‘‘That commitment lasted about five hours,’’ he added, pointing his finger directly at the White House and the C.I.A: ‘‘They just couldn’t wait to brag and to claim credit.’’

The problem is that amid all of this bragging, it became impossible to know what was true and what wasn’t.
It's not that there is a sinister conspiracy to cover up "the truth."  It's just that every individual involved in the event has his own idea of what "the truth" is, and when they tell their "truth" to someone else, the listener will hear only "the truth" that fits with his/her understanding of how the world works.  If you somehow believe that "all things are knowable," you will never accept that almost nothing is truly "knowable."  The best you can typically hope for is a good description of the more important details.

There is no serious dispute that bin Laden was killed in the raid.  There's just dispute over exactly how we figured out where he was, and whether or not we should all be able to view color pictures of his mangled body and movies of his corpse being dumped in the Indian Ocean.  Some need pictures and movies to achieve "closure."  Personally, I don't.      

October 18, 2015 - I spent much of the past week looking through the Apollo mission photo archives that I found on Oct. 13 or 14.  So far, I've downloaded and saved over 300 of them, but I'm nowhere near finished going through all the albums.  I made the mistake of first downloading about 50 pictures without properly labeling them in my files.  I just used the names that NASA used.  For example, this is NASA photo #21062657803_1b5573f7dc_o.jpg:

Apollo moon landing

Then I realized, if I wrote a comment about the picture for this web site or my interactive blog, I wouldn't be able to tell anyone in which album the full size picture could be found.  So, I had to go back and try to find which album each of the 50 photos had come from, in order to give each picture a new file name that had some meaning.  (As of this morning, I still hadn't located the album where I found the above picture. Then I tried TinEye, which shows that smaller versions of the photo are available on 97 different places on the Web, including a NASA site.  NASA's photo names included the mission and magazine numbers.  So, now I know it's from album Apollo 15 Magazine 82/SS.)  I knew the photo wasn't from the Apollo 11, 12 and 14 missions, because they didn't use a moon buggy on those visits to the lunar surface.   

I know I found the picture below in album "Apollo 16 Magazine 117/F," because I gave it a new name: A16-M117F-02A ("02A" means it's the 2nd picture I saved from that album, and it's cropped down from the original). 

Astronaut and moon buggy

The picture below is also from the Apollo 16 mission.  It's a cropped picture from magazine 114/B.  Most of the images from that film magazine contain a smudge mark that was on the camera lens.  The smudge mark is very visible on the left side in the image below: 

Apollo 16 picture with
                  smudge on lens

When I mentioned these photo albums on a Facebook page, it didn't take long before someone wrote: "Sure. Kubrick was such a genius."  I think the poster was joking, but I had been wondering how long it would take before a "Moon Landing Truther" would argue that all the pictures are faked. 

I'd also been wondering if there was anything in the pictures that might convince a "Moon Landing Truther" that we actually did go to the moon.  Probably not.  But, would Stanley Kubrick's special effects experts have created dozens and dozens of pictures that look nearly the same?  Would they have created smudged pictures and partial pictures from the end of a film roll?  Looking through the albums, I could not help but think how the astronauts weren't taking time to compose artistic photographs.  They were photographing everything, and the result was often a dozen pictures of the same rock from slightly different angles.  A "Truther" might argue that a single picture was faked, but it gets pretty hard to say a picture is a fake when it is one in a series of thirty shots taken from the moon buggy as they drive across the moonscape.  Where on planet earth would anyone find such a landscape illuminated that way under such a sky?

The picture below is cropped from one of several in Apollo 17 magazine 134/B which shows the American flag is slightly curled as it hangs motionless.

Image from Apollo !7 moon

One of the videos made during one of the moon landings shows an astronaut twisting the flagpole as the tries to push it into the lunar dirt.  The Truthers argue that the video shows the flag is blowing in the wind, which, of course, would make no sense if the whole event was created on a Hollywood sound stage.  But Moon Landing Truthers don't make much sense in anything they say.

In the picture below, the astronaut holds the corner of the flag to straighten it out.  Evidently, the much lower gravity on the moon wasn't sufficient to cause the flag to straighten out all by itself.

Apollo 17 holding flag
I could probably find other pictures in the Apollo archives which would be next to impossible to create on a sound stage, but Moon Landing Truthers - like 9/11 Truthers, Anthrax Truthers and Rational Science Methodists - cannot be swayed by rock solid logic or undeniable evidence.  Their minds are closed.

I'm not going through the 103 albums of pictures just to find ones that can be used in arguments with Truthers.  I'm simply fascinated by them.

This morning I read the material in the first album, which explains that the archive is not something NASA created.  It was created by a man named Kipp Teague from Lynchburg, Virginia.  He's currently employed as Director of Administrative Systems and Network Services in Information Technology & Resources at Lynchburg College, and he isn't even mentioned in the Huffington Post article that brought the archive to my attention.  It's pure coincidence that I was in Lynchburg two weeks ago.  It is indeed a small world.   

Comments for Sunday, October 11, 2015, thru Saturday, October 17, 2015:

October 14, 2015 - While browsing the Huffington Post web site, I came across an article titled "Now You Can Watch Amazing Stop Motion Video of Apollo Space Missions."  Here's the video: 

That video led me to the Project Apollo Archive on  And that in turn led me to the page that shows the available albums of photos from the Apollo missions.  I don't know how many images there are, but they certainly number in the many hundreds, they are full size, and they are in the public domain.  Most may never have been released to the public before.

As an example, here is a 1600 x 1569 pixel photo from Apollo 11 Magazine 40/S: (the original is 4048 x 3968, too large for me to provide here):

Apollo 11 shot on the

Here's a cropped version of a picture from the Apollo 16 mission:

Apollo 16 misson shot

If you are a science nut like I am, you can spend hours going through the albums and downloading the best of the best.

October 13, 2015 - Uh oh.  It looks like the "major scientific discovery" I was anticipating may turn out to be "a failed experiment."  The "mattress topper" I ordered was delivered this morning.  It's a lot softer than I expected.  I don't recall if I have any serious problems with a bed that is too soft, but I'll find out tonight.  I'm not going to write any more about it here, but there's a good chance that I'll just end up hating my pillow top mattress even more than before (see yesterday's comment) -- because it could be a lot harder to "fix" than I previously thought.  If anyone has any interest in reading my findings on this subject, I plan to create a thread about it on my interactive blog when all the results are in.

Meanwhile, I just rented two movies from Redbox: "Tomorrowland" and "Furious 7," which I'll try watching this evening.   I have very low expectations for both, but I'm sometimes unable to control my curiosity.  
"Tomorrowland" only gets a 50% rating on, while "Furious 7" gets 81%.  "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which I unsuccessfully tried to watch last Friday got a 74% rating.  While searching for links to those movies to use here, I found out about what seems to be an interesting TV series called "Manhattan" on a network called "WGN America," which I never heard of before and which doesn't seem to be available on my Time Warner cable.  Things are getting too complicated when there are NETWORKS I've never heard of before and can't watch!  Evidently, I'll have to wait until Season 1 comes out on DVD, and then I'll have to wait until the price comes down to something reasonable for a TV series I'm only mildly curious about.  That could be a year from now -- or maybe three.              

October 12, 2015 - For the record, yesterday evening I finished reading "Hot Six" by Janet Evanovich, the paperback novel I'd started reading on the Milwaukee to Charlotte leg of my trip to Virginia on October 3.  It was another very enjoyable read.  Next in the queue is my paperback copy of "Seven Up."  The queue currently contains sixteen more of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, the most recent being "Top Secret Twenty-One."  And I just noticed that "Tricky Twenty-Two" is coming out in hardcover next month.  Of course, I also have a second queue of "Jack Reacher" novels by Lee Child.  There are over a dozen novels still unread in that queue.  And I recently reserved a Kindle copy of "The Martian" from my local library.  I'm #23 in the waiting list. Groan.

But, I need to focus on my own novel -- book #3 in a 3-book series.

The problem is: Right now I feel like I'm on the verge of a major scientific discovery.  A few years ago, I bought an expensive pillow-top mattress.  For a year or so it was terrific.  Now I HATE it!  It's a "pillow" that cannot be fluffed up.  This morning I did some research and found I'm not alone.  Click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for web pages about how people HATE their pillow-top mattresses.  Months ago, I rotated the mattress 180 degrees, filled in the "divots" or "pits" with plastic foam, and I put a ½ inch foam pad atop it.  That helped a bit.  I then put a thick mattress cover over it to see if that would help further.  That didn't seem to help at all.  While I was in Virginia, I slept on a bed with a two-inch "memory foam topper" on top of a regular mattress.  It was terrific!  As soon as I got home, I ordered one.  It's supposed to be delivered on Friday.   Now the question is: If I put a 2-inch "topper" on top of the ½ pad, fill in any new "divots" or "pits,"  and remove the mattress cover, will it feel as comfortable as the bed I slept on in Virginia?  If so, then the solution should be welcomed by everyone who HATES their pillow top mattress. 

My "scientific discovery" might not be up there with E=MC², but I think there will be a lot of people who will find it of value and interest.     

October 11, 2015 - During breakfast and lunch for the past couple weeks (except when I was on my trip to Virginia), I've been reading Professor Michio Kaku's book "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100."  A couple days ago, I came across this interesting section about the quantum theory:
Some of the mind-bending principles of the quantum theory are:

• you cannot know the exact velocity and location of any particle — there is always uncertainty

• particles can in some sense be in two places at the same time

• all particles exist as mixtures of different states simultaneously; for example, spinning particles can be mixtures of particles whose axes spin both up and down simultaneously

• you can disappear and reappear somewhere else

All these statements sound ridiculous. In fact, Einstein once said, “the more successful the quantum theory is, the sillier it looks.” No one knows where these bizarre laws come from. They are simply postulates, with no explanation. The quantum theory has only one thing going for it: it is correct. Its accuracy has been measured to one part in ten billion, making it the most successful physical theory of all time. The reason we don’t see these incredible phenomena in daily life is because we are composed of trillions upon trillions of atoms, and these effects, in some sense, average out.
To me, that section explains WHY people become scientists.  "No one knows where these bizarre laws come from!!??"  There HAS to be some scientific reason WHY particles APPEAR to act that way.  It seems we can postulate for ten thousand years and never be certain why things are the way they are.  That is what fascinates me about science so much.  It's like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle which an infinite number of pieces.  We can put lots of pieces together and get many fully assembled parts of a beautiful and intriguing picture, but it appears we may never be able to see the whole picture.  We may never know exactly WHY do things work the way they do.  Furthermore, the solution - if it is ever found - might turn out to be a biggest disappointment of all time.  The real fascination is in the search for the solution.  

And that seems to also describe the dividing line between real scientists and the nay-sayers who follow the "Rational Scientific Method (RSM)."  Real scientists are saying they do not understand why things work they way they do, but all the evidence says this is how the universe seems to work.  "RSMists are saying that if you do not understand, that means you are stupid, because it is not "rational" for the universe to work that way.  The RSMists do not believe in "evidence," so nothing about the quantum theory is believable. 

The comment in Professor Kaku's book also reminded me of another book I have in my personal library titled "Absolute Zero Gravity" by Betsy Devine and Joel E. Cohen that I mentioned in a comment on my old web site a couple years ago.  It contains what might be viewed as the way that physicists - if asked - might require that product warning labels be written.  Here's part of such a warning label:

WARNING: This Product Attracts Every Other Piece of Matter in the Universe, Including the Products of Other Manufacturers, with a Force Proportional to the Product of the Masses and Inversely Proportional to the Square of the Distance Between Them.
warning label written by
     ADVISORY:  There Is an Extremely Small But Nonzero Chance That, Through a Process Known as "Tunneling," This Product May Spontaneously Disappear from Its Present Location and Reappear at Any Random Place in the Universe, Including Your Neighbor's Domicile.  The Manufacturer Will Not Be Responsible for Any Damages or Inconvenience That May Result.
     THIS IS A 100% MATTER PRODUCT: In the Unlikely Event That This Merchandise Should Contact Antimatter in Any Form, a Catastrophic Explosion Will Result.
     ATTENTION:  Despite Any Other Listing of Product Contents Found Hereon, the Consumer is Advised That, in Actuality, This Product Consists of 99.999999999999% Empty Space.
I was reminded of that above comment when I read an email "tip" an Anthrax Truther recently sent to the Department of Defense (DoD) to complain that the DoD and FBI are not doing things the way the Truther feels they should be done.  The "tip" is somewhat incoherent and difficult to decipher, but it appears the Anthrax Truther believes that "there is an extremely small but NONZERO chance" that through a process known as "Happenstance," the spores used in the anthrax attacks of 2001 could have come from someone other than Bruce Ivins, specifically some Muslim terrorist.  After all, 

There's a NONZERO chance that two batches of Ames-strain anthrax spores that Dugway Proving Grounds sent to USAMRIID in mid-2001 for irradiation were not 100% killed.

There's a NONZERO chance that someone might have stolen some of those unkilled spores.

There's a NONZERO chance that those unkilled Ames-strain anthrax spores found their way into the hands of some Muslim terrorist.

There's a NONZERO chance that the Muslim terrorist grew new batches of Ames bacteria and produced new spores that included the exact morphological variants as were found in Ivins's flask RMR-1029 and in the anthrax letters.

There's a NONZERO chance that the Muslim terrorists had some reason to first send unrefined spores to media outlets and then, weeks later, to send refined spores to Senators Daschle and Leahy.

There's a NONZERO chance the Muslim terrorists had religious reasons to put warnings in the letters, telling the recipients to "take penacilin now" and telling them that the powder was anthrax.

There's a NONZERO chance that the "hidden message" found in the media letters had some alternative explanation that pointed to Muslim terrorists and not to Bruce Ivins.

And there is also a NONZERO chance that Dr. Bruce Ivins was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the mountain of evidence that pointed to him as being the culprit was simply the result of "happenstance."    

And as all Truthers know, if the chances of your unshakable beliefs being true are "NONZERO," then that must be the way things happened.

After all, if we don't even know how the universe works, how can we possibly know what Dr. Ivins was doing during the times he had no alibi?  It's not rational. Particularly if you have an unshakable BELIEF that someone else did it.

Added Note: Within an hour of my posting the above comment, the Anthrax Truther sent me an email saying, in effect, that if I don't know exactly what happened to every spore in those shipments, then I have no evidence to prove that his beliefs are impossible - which means they are perfectly reasonable.

Comments for Sunday, October 4, 2015, thru Saturday, October 10, 2015:

October 9, 2015 - For what it's worth, just in case anyone is interested, I've added a comment to my interactive blog about the "weight and balance issues" I encountered on my airplane trip to Virginia.  (Click HERE.)  I did some research and it seems that asking one or more passengers to change seats due to "weight and balance issues" it is a fairly common thing on airline flights, particularly on smaller aircraft, and it is VERY unusual for anyone to refuse to change seats.

October 8, 2015 - Looking around to see what has changed or not changed while I was away, I see that Malaysia is calling for a meeting between Malaysia, Australia and China to plan how to proceed with the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 now that winter is over and the weather in the search area should be improving.

The various conspiracy theorists and Truthers are just arguing same-old, same-old, and definitely haven't learned anything new.

One "Rational Scientific Methodist" says he enjoyed the movie "The Martian."  He used terminology and abbreviations that weren't familiar to me, so I had to do some research to figure out what he was talking about.  It seems he didn't quite understand what he's talking about, so I posted some information for him.  It's an example of how it can be educational to talk with someone who misunderstands something.  The process of figuring out what he believes and what is correct can be very instructive.  The best part of the ensuing discussion, however, may have been this exchange:
Other guy: I think we should sort out our issues down here on earth before we put any serious effort into exploring the solar system.
Me: I don't think we'll ever sort out our "issues" here on Earth. So, we should always try some exploring. If nothing else, it might help us get away from each other. Republicans can go to Planet-X, Democrats can go to Planet-Y, and all the rest can go to Planet-Z.
I probably should have written: "All the rest can go to Planets A through W," since it would take a lot more than 3 planets to separate all the various factions.   

October 7, 2015 - I'm baaaaack. I was in Virginia for a few days - in a town near Lynchburg - visiting relatives.  It was a great trip, and in some ways it was like visiting another world.  The last time I flew on an airplane was when I went to the Austin Film Festival in October 2001 - right after 9/11.  Lots of things have changed since then.

The check-in procedure at the airport in Milwaukee is entirely automated.  There was a clerk nearby, but her only purpose seemed to be to help people who couldn't figure out how to get the automatic check-in device to work.  At the security check-point, I had to take my laptop out of my carry-on bag and run it through the X-ray separately, but I didn't have to open it - as I had read on the Internet I would have to do.  They told me to keep my shoes ON.  I'd thought they stopped requiring people to take their shoes off at the security station, but that was not the case on the way back.  On the return trip I had to take my shoes off before going through security in Lynchburg.

turbo-prop at Lynchburg

The photo above is of the turbo-prop aircraft that took me from Charlotte, NC, to Lynchburg, VA.  It was overcast when I arrived, but all the really bad weather was off to the East.  The news on TV was all about the rains and floods that were happening a few hundred miles to the east.

On Monday the skies were clear and we took a walk along the Appalachian Trail.  Here I am sitting on and posing by some interesting rocks:

Me on the Appalacian Trail
There seems to be a very large artist community in the town of Bedford, VA.  My sister is part of that community, so we visited a lot of studios and artists, and I took pictures of my sister next to some of her artwork - paintings and sculptures.

On the flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte, and again on the flight from Charlotte to Milwaukee, there were "weight and balance issues" with the plane.  On the trip to Charlotte, they needed someone from the first 4 rows to move to the back of the plane to solve the issues.  I was in row-3 and volunteered.  On the return flight from Charlotte to Milwaukee, they needed TWO people from the first 4 rows to move to the back of the plane.  I was in row-4, but a guy from row-1 and another from row-2 quickly volunteered.  I got the impression that there are occasional delays because no one volunteers.  I've seen that issue before on a flight in a small prop plane between islands in the Caribbean, but never on a jet.  Of course, the CRJ-200 is a fairly small jet.  Here's a picture of the one I flew in from Milwaukee to Charlotte, NC:

CRJ-200 at Charlotte,
                    NC, Airport

On the planes, it sometimes seemed that everyone but me was either playing with a smart phone or an iPad on every flight.  My laptop was in my carry-on bag in the overhead rack.  I took 2 books and my Kindle along, but I only read about 130 pages from one of the books.  Mostly I just looked out the window.  I was somewhat surprised that an enclosed ramp was used only 1 of the 8 times I got on or off an aircraft during my trip.  The other 7 times were from or to the tarmac, as shown in the picture above.

The flight back was at night, and the skies were clear.  I hadn't flown at night in a very long time, and I'd forgotten how beautiful towns and cities look from the air on a clear night.  My camera was in my bag, and I don't know if I could have gotten any good pictures anyway, but here's an idea of what the view was like:

night view of a town
                    from an airplane

And now I'm back.  Nothing earth-shattering seems to have happened while I was gone, which is good.  So, I'm more determined than ever to get started on my 3rd sci-fi novel.   

October 4, 2015 - It looks like I won't be updating this web site for a few days.  I've got some family matters that will be taking up all my time.  Sorry about that.

Comments for Thursday, October 1, 2015, thru Saturday, October 3, 2015:

October 1, 2015 - Yesterday, several news outlets reported on what appears to be some brand new conspiracy theories.  For example, the latest issue of Newsweek has an article titled "Mars Conspiracy ‘Truthers’ React to NASA’s Water Announcement."  The article has some interesting comments from "Mars Conspiracy Truther" Richard Hoagland:

Hoagland has previously told Newsweek that NASA imagery shows remnants of extraterrestrial civilizations, and that NASA is breaking the news to the public subtly, in order to avoid a panic, as suggested in the 1960 Brookings Report that the agency commissioned.

Hoagland and his colleagues have been reviewing NASA’s newly announced findings. “They’re dripping the information out to us very slowly,” says Robin Falkov, Hoagland’s longtime professional and romantic partner. “I truly wonder how fast things will go or can go.” has a very different article with a very different point of view.  It's titled "Rush Limbaugh pans evidence of water on Mars as part of 'leftist agenda'," and it briefly hints at a conspiracy theory Limbaugh has concocted;
“OK so there's flowing water on Mars. Yip yip yip yahoo. Hey, you know me, I'm science 101, big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I'm all in. But, NASA has been corrupted by the current regime,” Limbaugh said on his show, according to the left-leaning group Media Matters, a longtime critic of the radio host.

“Don't know how long it's going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda,” Limbaugh continued.

Limbaugh said that although he wasn’t entirely sure what the agenda was, he was going to “assume it would be something to do with global warming.”

He also talked about the burden he faces of “being right and being alone,” which he said “is a challenging existence.”
That article was followed by another titled "Rush Limbaugh: Mars remarks were taken out of context."  But the "context" can be examined on Rush Limbaugh's web site where he provides an actual transcript of his show.  On the show, Limbaugh described a discussion he had with "Snerdley," which is evidently a pseudonym Limbaugh uses to refer to one of his show's producers:

Now, Obama's up at the UN today, and he basically spelled out what he intends to do for the rest of this term.  There's so much fraud.  You know, Snerdley came in today, “What's this NASA news?” all excited. 

“Yeah, they found flowing water up there.” 

“No kidding!  Wow!  Wow!”  Snerdley said.  “Flowing water on Mars!” 

“Why does that excite you?  What, are you going there next week?  What's the big deal about flowing water on Mars?” 

“I don't know, man, it’s just, wow.” 

I said, “You know what, when they start selling iPhones on Mars, that's when it will matter to me.”  I said, “What do you think they're gonna do with this news? Look, the temperature data that has been reported by NASA has been made up, it's fraudulent for however many years. There isn't any warming. There hasn't been for 18 and a half years and yet they're lying about it.  They're just making up the amount of ice at the north and south poles. They're making up the temperatures. They're lying and making up false charts and so forth, so what's to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?”

And Limbaugh continued to explain his theory to "Snerdley" this way:
"Being right and being alone is a challenging existence.  Okay, so there's flowing water on Mars.  Yip yip yip yip yahoo.  You know me, I'm science 101 big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I'm all-in.  But NASA has been corrupted by the current Regime.  I want to find out what they're gonna tell us.  Okay, flowing water on Mars, if we’re even believe that, what are they gonna tell us that means?  That's what I'm gonna wait for.  Because I guarantee, let’s just wait and see.  This is September 28th.  Let's just wait and see, don't know how long it's gonna take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow gonna find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. 

I don't know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming and maybe there was once an advanced civilization. If they say they found flowing water, next they're gonna find a graveyard.  And then they're gonna be able to say in the graveyard is a dead advanced civilization.  What killed them?  Well, who knows.  This is a bit, of course, of an extreme exaggeration, but this is what happens."

In other words, Rush Limbaugh doesn't care that water was found on Mars.  All he knows is that "the current regime" is somehow planning to use the information to create a new lie about global warming.  What other possible reason could there be for making such a big deal about finding water on Mars?  Who cares if it could mean there is some form of microbial life on Mars, which would prove that life is not unique to Earth and probably exists on billions of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, and countless more in the rest of the universe?  If there are advanced civilizations on any of those other planets that say they believe in global warming, they are all part of the conspiracy, too!

© 2015 by Ed Lake