Is Science Fiction Really Fiction?

I used to think Star Trek was just fantasy, but is it?

STC_Enterprise-tI am a Star Trek addict. I admit it. There are many of us out there. I have watched Star Trek since my college days when most of the dorm community would watch the original Star Trek series before going for our evening meal. Ever since, I have continued to watch the various series such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise and even Deep Space Nine. I anxiously await the new series premiering in 2017. What attracted me to Star Trek, even though I understood that it is science fiction, is the technologies used on the voyages and ideas put forth by the various episodes seem possible. I have always been intrigued by such ideas as transporters, which convert a person or object into an energy pattern and then “beams” it to a target, where it is reconverted into matter. Especially intriguing to me are the concepts of time travel, the space-time continuum, and the idea that multiple dimensions or universes exist. What I find especially fascinating is that science, especially quantum physics, is now providing credible evidence that notions such as time travel and multiple universes may actually exist.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation series there is an episode called Parallels where the Enterprise returns to the location of the fissure, attempting to return Worf to his original universe. A Bajoran ship, which causes the fissure to destabilize and the various realities to merge, then attacks the Enterprise resulting in over 285,000 Enterprises appearing in the same area of space. The android, Data determines that the way to restore the realities is to send Worf by shuttlecraft to the Enterprise of his universe, passing through the fissure and using the shuttlecraft’s engines to close it. Worf safely passes through the fissure, finding himself back in normality with a single Enterprise in front of him. After boarding, Worf finds that no time has passed since he initially entered the fissure. When he returns to his room expecting a surprise party, he finds only Troi, the ships counsellor, waiting with the knowing that the two are married in many alternate universes.

According to the article, Will we ever have a Theory of Everything, on bbc.com’s Earth page, our universe is one of many. This huge collection of universes is referred to as the “multiverse”. The article describes it this way.

“At the beginning of time, the multiverse was like ‘a great foam of bubbles’, all slightly different shapes and sizes. Each bubble then expanded into its own universe. We’re in just one of those bubbles,” says Barrow of the University of Cambridge in the UK. As the bubbles expand, other bubbles can arise inside them, each one a new universe. “It’s making the geography of the universe really complicated.” Within each bubble universe, the same physical laws will apply. That’s why everything in our universe seems to behave the same. But the rules will be different in other universes. “The laws we see in our universe are just like bylaws,” says Barrow. “They govern our bit, but not all of the universes”…There are trillions of other universes, each one unique.

It seems that many theorize that multiple universes or dimensions, like the one put forth in the Star Trek episode, Parallels, may indeed be reality. Who knew?

Without getting into the detailed plots, there are two Star Trek movies built on the theme of time travel. The first is the movie Star Trek IV, the crew of the Enterprise must travel back in time to get whales in order to save the future of Earth. In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg make a second attempt to conquer the Federation. Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise follow the Borg three hundred years into the past when Zefram Cochrane is preparing to launch Humanity’s first warp-capable engine.

What is fascinating is the world of quantum physics, specifically the Quantum Entanglement theory, strongly proposes that time is an illusion; that time does not exist. Time in reality is a human creation. Experiments have been done where two particles (photons or electrons) A and B are paired, then separated, and placed in different locations. When particle A is stimulated, particle B reacts without any time delay. That means that both particles act at the same moment in time regardless of distance. This provides evidence that time does not exist, at the fundamental level. Our concept of time as a linear passage of events is perhaps wrong. All there is, is now. Everything exists in an ever-present moment.

Albert Einstein, known for his brilliant mind in science, wrote a letter to his close friend’s family, that is, Michele Besso’s family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Even Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds alive today, is now saying time travel is possible. In a lecture titled, Space and Time Warps, he says, “The conclusion of this lecture is that rapid space-travel, or travel back in time, can’t be ruled out, according to our present understanding.” So it seems that science is suggesting that time travel may be possible.

star-trek-1966-01-gEven transporters may be possible, according to Quantum Physics. In May of 2014, The New York Times reported that scientists have achieved Quantum teleportation. This involves transferring so-called quantum information, or what is known as the spin state of an electron, from one place to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached.

Now this is a long way from transport machines on star ships, but it does lend itself to the possibility that it may one day be reality. There is no question that some of the things quantum physics are doing is mind blowing. In fact Niels Bohr who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922 once said, “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.” I must say some of the things that are being discovered in quantum physics does shock me, and I don’t pretend to fully understand it.

So what is my point? What science seems to be telling us is that our world and our universe is much more complicated than what we’ve been taught. We humans like to get comfortable in our “little boxes” where we’ve been programmed to believe that things are a certain way. We resist any ideas or thoughts that oppose our conceptions of reality. We humans even go to great extremes to defend our beliefs about reality. It amazes me that there are still people who believe and set out to prove that the earth is flat. If you don’t believe, check out the Flat Earth Society website.

Maybe it’s time to open up our minds to the possibility that things may not be the way we think. One thing I’ve learned in my many years of life is that things are never as they seem. Actually, the poet W. H. Auden, says it better. “There’s always another story. There’s more than meets the eye.” There is always much more going on than we like to admit or even desire to know. Maybe science fiction is not so fiction after all.

2/3 Wildlife to Disappear by 2020. That’s Disturbing!

A commentary on climate change and endangered species.

A few weeks ago, an article on CBC.ca caused me some distress. The article is called; Two-thirds of wildlife will disappear by 2020, WWF. The news report says that according to the WWF conservation group, “worldwide populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have plunged by almost 60% since 1970.” It then goes on to say, “the decline is yet another sign that people have become the driving force for change on Earth”. Specifically, according to the article, this change is due to “the rising human population…threatening wildlife by clearing land for farms and cities”. It also lists other causes as “pollution, invasive species, hunting and climate change”. Think about that for a second. The year 2020 is only three years from now and according to the WWF 2/3 or 67%; more than half of the worlds wildlife will be extinct. I grew up seeing many of these animals in the wild or in zoos. To think my grandchildren will only be able to see pictures or videos of these animals is upsetting.

I went on to research this topic further. Another CBC report; A third of birds in North America threatened with extinction, states that “the first State of North America’s Birds report finds that of 1,154 bird species that live in and migrate among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, 432 are of ‘high concern’ due to low or declining populations, shrinking ranges and threats such as human-caused habitat loss, invasive predators and climate change”. Still another CBC report, Hundreds of animals, plants locally extinct due to climate change, reveals that a “new study found local extinctions (this is when a species can no longer be found at a location where it once lived) related to global warming have occurred in half of species studied”. But the article that alarmed me the most was CBC’s, Giraffes threatened by extinction, put on watch list. Giraffes! Really! The article blamed shrinking living space as the main cause. It says the giraffe situation is worsened by poaching and disease. There seems to be a common theme here, that is, that we humans are the problem. Another common theme is climate change.

Now I understand that climate change is not the sole cause for the loss of wildlife but I’ve read enough articles to come to the conclusion that it is definitely a big part of the problem. We’ve all heard the stories about polar bears. The chief threat to the polar bear is the loss of its sea ice habitat due to global warming. The National Wildlife Federation’s article; Effects on Wildlife and Habitat,  goes into detail of how climate change is affecting wildlife.

There are still people who have “their head in the sand”. There is still debate about the cause of climate change. Is it due to human activities or is it a natural phenomenon? There is no doubt that climate change is happening as the CBC news article, ‘It’s a little scary’: On Lennox Island, no one debates whether climate change is real, says. If you are at all skeptical watch the documentary Chasing Ice. It’s a 2012 documentary film about the efforts of nature photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey to inform the public to the effects of climate change. My wife and I, on recommendation of my sister, recently watched it on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, I would strongly encourage you to. In case you haven’t, here it is.

According to Wikipedia, a 2013 paper in Environmental Research Letters (a scientific journal) reviewed 11,944 abstracts of scientific papers matching “global warming” or “global climate change”. They found 4,014 which discussed the cause of recent global warming, and of these 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. To me that says that the vast majority of environmental scientists agree that climate change is due to human influence.

global_warming_0It concerns me when the president-elect in the United States tweeted in November of 2012 “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” and who promised during his campaign to roll back President Obama’s efforts to combat climate change. According to CNBC, a business news site, “president-elect Donald Trump’s Energy Department transition team sent the agency a memo this week asking for the names of people who have worked on climate change…alarming employees and advisors”. The fear is that Trump is preparing a political enemies list. At least I can proudly say that the Canadian government is working on implementing a national climate change plan (see Manitoba will not sign).

Historically, the European immigrants came to North America with their Eurocentric world view; a view that tended to interpret the world in terms of European values and experiences; a view that saw European values as better than Aboriginal values.  In reality, the aboriginal people had the right values as they had the far superior values. Before European influence, many First Nation communities believed everything was connected. The spirit world was connected to the earthly world; the sea was connected to the land and that the sky was connected to the land. Consequently, humans co-existed with animals and plants, with equal rights to life. In this belief lies commitment to respect all living things. George Blondin, a highly respected Dene Elder who was born in the Northwest Territories, put it this way.

“We are people of the land; we see ourselves as no different than the trees, the caribou, and the raven, except we are more complicated.”

First Nations people were very religious and respectful of the Great Spirit, and other spirits that they believe inhabited the land and animals all around them. These people were taught from a very young age to respect and give thanks to the animals, birds, plants, land and water which gave them everything they needed to stay alive.

Maybe it is time to take a serious look at aboriginal spirituality. These people once had a sacred relationship with Mother Earth and had a reverent respect for the plants and animals.  The reality is if we don’t, we may end up living on a planet with 2/3 less plant and animal species or worse. That would be shameful and a complete lack of respect for our future ancestors. But then again, maybe, just maybe, science can come to the rescue. CBC has a news article called, Reviving extinct species within reach, which quotes Hendrik Poinar, a scientist at McMaster University’s Ancient DNA Centre, who says, “The revival of an extinct species is in reach.” He is referring to a new field of science called ‘de-extinction’.

Clairvoyants. Are they for Real?

A commentary on the power of thoughts.

If you watch America’s Got Talent then you’ve likely heard of the Clairvoyants consisting of a mentalist duo, Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass. To watch them in action is “mind blowing” and captivating to say the least. It makes you ask, is this for real? Can this person really read minds? If you’ve never seen the Clairvoyants, then have a look at this video.

Now one thing I’ve discovered is no matter what you read, especially on the Internet, there are people out there who feel it is their sole purpose in life to debunk things. That is why conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination and the moon landing exist. The Clairvoyants are no different. There are lots of sites on the Internet putting forth explanations on how these two individuals do what they do. One of the common theories is that someone is communicating with the performers feeding them information. They suggest gadgets like a $200 device from a magic supplier called a thumper, are being used. This technology transmits Morse code via vibrations. (see Clairvoyants revealed). In my mind it would take a great deal of concentration while performing on stage to decipher the Morse code. Furthermore, if you watch the video above you will notice that neither Thommy Ten nor Amelie van Tass see the dice toss. So what message was sent? A guess perhaps?

So is this for real? A Clairvoyant is defined as having or exhibiting an ability to perceive events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact. So is beyond normal sensory contact possible? The Telegraph article, Why mind-reading is a science, not a magic trick, certainly suggests we humans have such an ability. It says “electrical activity within the brain means that our thoughts can be read and understood”. Another site, Live Science, is a site which delivers news about the natural and technological world. It’s article, Scientists Say Everyone Can Read Minds, says,

“Empathy allows us to feel the emotions of others, to identify and understand their feelings and motives and see things from their perspective. How we generate empathy remains a subject of intense debate in cognitive science…Some scientists now believe they may have finally discovered its root. We’re all essentially mind readers.”

So I say maybe Amelie van Tass can read minds. Just because we may have been taught that it is not possible doesn’t mean that that is the truth. “Yeah, right” you might say. “There is no way the mind is that powerful”. Check out these videos.

Japanese Dr. Masaru Emoto was one of the first to do experiments like these. Now if our thoughts can do this to water just imagine what our thoughts are doing to our bodies, which are made up of 50 – 65% water. The mind and body are not separate. Our thoughts have remarkable control over our bodies. I can personally attest to that. Many times I have told myself that I couldn’t do something and guess what? I couldn’t do it. Now I find myself wondering what would have happened had I repeatedly told myself that I could do it.

The Huffington Post published an article called; Can Our Brain Waves Affect Our Physical Reality? The article explains things this way.

Not only your brain, but your entire body has an electric field. Anywhere there’s a nerve cell, there’s electricity. It’s just concentrated the greatest around your head because that’s where the bulk of your nerve cells are.

Your thoughts are formed in this electric field. The measurable perturbations and disturbances in the brain’s overall electric field are your actual thoughts racing through your mind. As you read this article, the thoughts you are thinking of, the words your mind is processing, are all electrical impulses that can be measured if you had a few wires hooked up between your head and a machine. So thoughts are energy, the same as everything else.

The article goes on to explain how those thoughts (pieces of energy) influence the quantum field around us. In quantum physics they would say we are entangled with our environment so we can affect that environment and influence the randomness of it, just as it can influence us. Simply put, our thoughts can influence the environment around us, which is an environment consisting of energy. Albert Eienstein said,

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

So if thoughts are merely pieces of energy, then wouldn’t it be possible for another person to pick up that energy and “read” it. It seems possible to me. To once again quote Albert Einstein , “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” So I say, it is time we open up our minds, release some of the old beliefs systems and start to broaden our minds. I’m coming to believe that possibilities are limitless. Who living in the 1980s would have thought that computers could do what they do today? Jamie Paolinetti says, “Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” I’m beginning to realize he is right. If only I had learned this years ago. The only limits are those we place on ourselves. We believe it is not possible for one person to read another person’s thoughts, so we rationalize that it is a trick. What is a belief anyway? The late Wayne Dyer says, “a belief system is nothing more than a thought you’ve thought over and over again.” If only I had told myself over and over in my youth that I had a brilliant mind, then maybe I could read people’s minds. But then again, would I want to?

Can Cars Really Run on Water?

An exploration to determine if water-fuelled vehicles are for real.

Star.com has an article, Above the Arctic Circle, climate change closes in, that says researchers predict that by mid-century Barrow, Alaska and its eight surrounding villages will be underwater despite decades of erecting barriers, dredging soil and building raised banks to hold back the water. Whatever the cause, climate change is a fact.

global_warming_0When I was an active teacher I taught science as well as other subjects. In many of those classes we used to discuss climate change, specifically the greenhouse effect, the buildup of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere raising our planet’s temperatures. Often during class discussions, we would talk about solutions. That is when I would show them this Fox News video about the inventor, Dennis Klein.

This video would spark some interesting conversation. As you would expect some students would get excited about the solution given in the video. Others would be skeptics. Nonetheless, it made the class interesting. Over the years I often wondered about Mr. Klein’s invention.  I’ve guessed why I’ve never heard about this technology since the early 2000’s. What happened to this technology? My mind would try to explain possible responses. My mind sometimes went to conspiracy, that is, the idea that such a technology might have been discredited or maybe somehow made to disappear by the large oil conglomerates.  So I set out to find some answers.

Now whenever someone does research on the internet, one can get overwhelmed. There’s all sorts of information on the web and much of it  is conspiracy theories claiming that the technology is a scam. I always taught my students to be careful when using the Internet as there are many unreliable websites on the web. I used to tell my students “not to believe everything you read on the Internet as any ‘Joe Blow” can put up a website”. As far as that goes, don’t believe everything you read anywhere as not everything written is true, even when it comes from textbooks. I found many errors and some misinformation in school textbooks over my 35 years of teaching. So when I use the Internet I cross check information. If several websites are making the same claim; it is likely true. If only one site is making a claim, the information is likely not true.

Another thing to remember when researching on the Internet is to use only credible websites. These would be websites like universities, government sites, reputable organizations and so on. The University of Toronto  has a good article, Research Using the Internet, that explains the “ins and outs” of internet research.  So when I do my research, this is what I do.

So what did I learn? It seems the more I read, the more I don’t know. First of all, there are many sites, typically discussion sites, where people are putting forth all sorts of conspiracy theories. I like to stay away from these sites.

Wikipedia, a fairly reliable site, says in 2002, the firm Hydrogen Technology Applications patented an electrolyzer (a process of decomposing a molecule) design and trademarked the term “Aquygen” (changing the H2O to HHO, a new form of water) to refer to the hydrogen oxygen gas mixture produced by the device. The company claimed to be able to run a vehicle exclusively on water, via the production of “Aquygen”, and invoked an unproven state of matter called “magnegases” and a discredited theory about magnecules  to explain their results. Company founder Dennis Klein claimed to be in negotiations with a major US auto manufacturer and that the US government wanted to produce Hummers that used his technology. The company no longer claims it can run a car exclusively on water, and is instead marketing “Aquygen” production as a technique to increase fuel efficiency, thus making it Hydrogen fuel enhancement rather than a water-fueled car. Mr. Klein died in 2013.

So, can vehicles really run on water? The science magazine Scientific American says, Water won’t aid fuel economy in today’s cars, but it may help power the hydrogen cars of tomorrow. The Popular Mechanic’s article, the Truth about Water Powered Cars, says

There is energy in water. Chemically, it’s locked up in the atomic bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. When the hydrogen and oxygen combine…there’s energy left over in the form of heat or electrons. That’s converted to mechanical energy by the pistons and crankshaft or electrical motors to move the vehicle. Problem: It takes exactly the same amount of energy to pry those hydrogen and oxygen atoms apart inside the electrolysis cell as you get back when they recombine inside the fuel cell…Subtract the losses to heat in the engine…and you’re losing energy, not gaining it.

The Huffington Post’s article, Water-Powered Cars: Possible or Impossible? explains it this way.

Everybody knows it [water] contains hydrogen, and that hydrogen can be burned or used to generate electricity in fuel cells. But what few people seem to realize is that hydrogen is not an energy source …we have to break up water molecules via electrolysis, a process that uses more energy as input than you can then get out of the hydrogen as output.

2008-6-19-car01-copy
From philippinetop10.blogspot.ca

We Are Change is a nonpartisan, independent media organization composed of individuals and groups working to expose corruption worldwide. Seems like a reputable organization to me. Their article, The Suppression of Water Powered Cars, argues that water-fuelled cars is being suppressed from the public, namely by big oil companies. The article goes on to say, should inexpensive water-power exist; these oil companies would be set to lose billions.

So what is my conclusion? If you look at the science, then the claim that water can be used as a viable fuel source is false. To use a proverb, If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Having said that, the idea that the truth is being kept from us is always a possibility. Conspiracy theorists certainly would claim this. It’s happened before. Global Research, an organization I’ve referred to before in other posts says in their article, Monsanto’s Sealed Documents Reveal the Truth behind Roundup’s Toxicological Dangers, a large body of independent research has accumulated and now collectively provides a sound scientific rationale to confirm that glyphosate, better known as Roundup®, is far more toxic and poses more serious health risks to animals and humans than Monsanto and the US government admit. Roundup® has always been touted by Monsanto as a safe, environmentally friendly and easy to use herbicide. Too many times we have been told that a chemical is safe only to learn later on that is was not. The pesticide DDT and the herbicide Agent Orange are two examples. I have come to believe over my many years of life that there is always more going on than we will ever know. Another way to put it is to use the idiom, there is more (happening) than meets the eye. Is the truth being kept from us? Who really knows for sure?  Or, does the government know?

Music Can Change the World

A commentary on the benefits of music.

IMG_0252
Randy Bachman

This past weekend, my wife and I, along with four other friends, attended a Rock Festival in a nearby city. There is nothing I love to do more than to sit outside on a sunny, hot day and listen to the rock music I grew up on. This festival had rock icons like Randy Bachman, the cofounder of two great Canadian rock bands, The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO). I could have listened to Bachman for several more hours. There were others like Lou Gramm, lead singer for the 70’s and 80’s band Foreigner. It is always fun to sing along with the many hits he sang such as, “Cold as Ice” and “Hot Blooded”.  A surprise to me was the band 54-40, a Canadian alternative rock group from Vancouver, British Columbia, who took their name from the slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!, a slogan coined during a contested U.S.-Canada border dispute. Even though I wasn’t familiar with their music, I enjoyed every one of their songs. I have since purchased some of their music. All in all, it was a great weekend of music. My wife and I have attended rock festivals in the past as well as attended the local music festival at a nearby ski hill. My son sometimes attends the annual Country Music Festival. We go to these events whenever we can. Why? Music feeds the soul. It touches people at a spiritual level. At least that is true for me. Martin Luther, a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk and best known for his role in the Protestant Reformation once said,

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world”.

I believe Martin Luther was correct. Music is a treasure. It is something that needs to be promoted and valued. Music has the ability to unite people, put people in a happy state, has a calming effect on people and generally makes the world a better place to be in. Paul David Hewson, better known by his stage name Bono, the lead vocalist of the rock band U2, is quoted as saying,

“Music can change the world because it can change people”.

Bono is right! Music can change the world and change it for the better. The article, 11 Powerful Images That Prove How Music Really Can Change the World, reports eleven events that used music to bring change in our world. One particular event that caught my eye was the 600 guitarists who fought the rape culture in India by paying tribute to a 23-year-old who died after being gang raped on a bus. This action triggered other protests in the country.

One music project that is trying to change the world was initiated from the belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. The project is called, Playing For Change.  This movement is trying to inspire and connect the world through music. They’ve created many music videos by traveling the world and uniting musicians to create, Songs Around the World. Here is one of my favourites, “Stand by Me”.

Not only can music bring about positive change, it has health benefits. According to a Hufflington Post article, 5 Ways Music Improves our Health, Neuroscientists have discovered that listening to music heightens positive emotion through the reward centres of our brain, by stimulating dopamine, a neurotransmitter that typically makes us feel good or even elated. The article reports listening to music stimulates other areas of the brain suggesting more widespread effects and potential uses for music. This article resolves that music reduces stress and anxiety, that music decreases pain, that music may improve immune functioning, that music may aid memory, and that music helps people exercise.

According to the McGill University Newsroom article, Major health benefits of music uncovered, a large-scale review of 400 research papers in the neurochemistry of music was carried out by the McGill University’s Psychology Department.  It discovered that playing and listening to music has clear benefits for both mental and physical health. The article says music was found both to improve the body’s immune system function and to reduce levels of stress. It even suggests listening to music was found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety prior to surgery.

In another article by the New York Times, Is Music the Key to Success? the article claims, multiple studies link music study to academic achievement.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) News in Health’s article, Music Matters for Body and Mind, says:

Several well-controlled studies have found that listening to music can alleviate pain or reduce the need for pain medications. Other research suggests that music can benefit heart disease patients by reducing their blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. Music therapy has also been shown to lift the spirits of patients with depression. Making music yourself, either playing instruments or singing, can have therapeutic effects as well.

Over the past decade, new brain imaging techniques have shown that music activates many unexpected brain regions. It can turn on areas involved in emotion and memory. It can also activate the brain’s motor regions, which prepare for and coordinate physical movement.

The sentence,“It can turn on areas involved in emotion and memory” is very true. How often has a song come on the radio that immediately brings you back to a time in your past? It happens to me all the time and most often it is a happy time in my life.

Clearly scientific research is showing that music has health benefits. I’ve just quoted from four of the thousands of articles related to the benefits of music. The articles I drew upon were ones that caught my attention. There is no doubt in my mind that music is beneficial. I don’t need research to convince me. Just being at a music event such at the Rock Festival proves that for me. The people at these events are happy, having fun and very friendly. It can only be the music that does that. So, I encourage you to listen to music, no matter what style of music you like, as much as you can and if you are able to go to music festivals. Why? It’s good for you.

Climate Change Confusion

A commentary on whether humans are to blame for climate change

Carbonbrief.org, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy, reports, Study links heatwave deaths in London and Paris to climate change. The study refers to the 2003 tragedy where more than 70 000 people across Europe died in a  heatwave. Climate Change is a reality. I don’t think anyone disputes that and the science community doesn’t either. All a person needs to do is take note of the strange weather the world has experienced in recent years. In June, we saw extremely wet weather in Europe causing flooding in Paris, France and Germany. In the United States there has been sizzling heat in the Southwest causing uncontrollable wildfires in California.  West Virginia has experienced severe flooding. In the province of Alberta, 88 000 people had to be evacuated from Fort McMurray because of wildfires. Also in June, Eastern China saw a tornado and hailstorm that killed at least 98 people when it sped over the city of Yancheng’s outskirts, destroying buildings, smashing trees and flipping vehicles on their roofs. The list of weird weather goes on and on.

There is no question that our weather is changing and becoming extreme. The ongoing debate is: Is it human activity that is causing climate change? Now I’ve taught about this topic in science for many years and there has been no doubt in my mind that it was indeed humans causing global warming which leads to climate change. I would show the graph comparing CO2 levels to average global temperatures and use it as evidence to convince my students. I would show them pictures of the shrinking polar ice cap and melting glaciers. I would show them Al Gore’s movie: Inconvenient Truth (see trailer below) and emphasize Al Gore’s argument that most of the scientists around the world agree that humans are the main reason for the global warming.

The article Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming on NASA’s Global Climate Change website agrees with Al Gore’s conclusions as it says,

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

The Scientific America article: Is Global Warming a Myth? also agrees with Al Gore as it says,

…scientists have not been able to validate any such reasons for the current warming trend, despite exhaustive efforts. And a raft of recent peer reviewed studies—many which take advantage of new satellite data—back up the claim that it is emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks (and now factory farmed food animals, which release methane) that are causing potentially irreparable damage to the environment.

I have always believed that Al Gore must be right. But then I watched a video, on my son’s insistence, called, Climate Change: Fact or Fiction by Dr. Gary Smith (see below). Dr. Smith convincingly argues that humans are not causing global warming.

Global Research.ca, an organization that seems to me to be credible, has an article called Global Warming: Ten Facts and Ten Myths on Climate Change that seems to agree with Dr. Smith’s conclusions. This article agrees with Dr. Smith as it says,

 Climate has always changed, and it always will. The assumption that prior to the industrial revolution the Earth had a “stable” climate is simply wrong. The only sensible thing to do about climate change is to prepare for it.

The reality is that almost every aspect of climate science is the subject of vigorous debate. Further, thousands of qualified scientists worldwide have signed declarations which (i) query the evidence for hypothetical human-caused warming and (ii) support a rational scientific (not emotional) approach to its study within the context of known natural climate change.

So now I’m confused. I thought it was all clear in my mind but now I’m not so sure. The more I learn, the more confused I get. But I guess that is nothing new as Albert Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”  Even Aristotle said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

So now I’m not sure what to think. Am I convinced that humans are not to blame for climate change? NO I’m not. I suspect that we humans are contributing to the problem, but it could also be, at least in part, to natural changes in climate as the earth has gone through many warming and cooling periods. I suspect climate change is due to both. Having said that, I continue to believe that moving away from our addiction of fossil fuels can only help our planet. It just feels like the right thing to do. I guess we will just have to wait and see who wins the debate.

Power of the Mind

Buddha_in_Sarnath_Museum_(Dhammajak_Mutra)I’ve always been intrigued with Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism is said to have declared, “What we think, we become.” What does this really mean? I have been pondering that question for some time now. Others have said something similar. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, once said, “We become what we think about all day long.” Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” That is just a sampling of like-minded thinkers. So that begs the question, what do these quotes really mean?

I suppose the Buddha’s comment “What we think, we become” could be referring to self-esteem or self-talk. I know from personal experience and from observing my students as a teacher for 35 years, that self-talk is huge. I remember one particular student who thought that she could not pass my exams, and in fact, rarely did. What was interesting is this did not change until her thinking changed. I recommended to this student to visit the school counselor. She did and the counselor after much questioning discovered that her self-talk was such that she believed she could not pass my exams. The counselor worked with the student for a long while to change her thinking and lo and behold she started passing my exams. I also have worked with numerous students who told themselves that they were stupid, and these students were seldom successful. I suspect that this self-talk was reinforced at home. So quite literally “What we think, we become.”

Now this ties into what is known as the law of attraction. According to Wikipedia, “the law of attraction is the name given to the adage “like attracts like” which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and the belief that “like energy attracts like energy.” So this law would say if you think about something long enough, you will attract it to you. Now I’ve had experiences that could be explained by this law. A number of years ago we took a family vacation to the east coast of Canada using a rental car to travel around. As we often did, we stopped to pick up pudding cups for a treat. Since I didn’t want my children to spill pudding in our rental vehicle, I didn’t allow them to consume theirs in the car. The decision was solely mine as there was much protest from my children and my wife. We all stood outside and ate our pudding. After all my lecturing to my children, along with their opposition and my wife’s belief that I was being a “worry wart”, guess who slopped  all over themselves. You guessed it, me. You could call that law of attraction or as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “We become what we think about all day long.”

 Now the law of attraction would say that when we worry about something, say “I hope the car won’t break down” or “What if the car breaks down” that we attract that into our life even though we may not want it. I can also relate to this. Many years ago my wife and I took a road trip. Out of the blue my wife asks, “What would we do if the van breaks down?” I responded with, “find a mechanic.” Well, a few hours later our van died as the alternator failed. We had to find a mechanic. Was that the Law of Attraction? Perhaps. Orison Swett Marden, an American inspirational author and founder of SUCCESS magazine, said, “Worry clogs the brain and paralyzes the thought. A troubled brain can not think clearly, vigorously, locally.” This law would say that because we were worrying, thus constantly thinking that the van might break down; we attracted that into our experience.

What I find particularly fascinating is that science is providing evidence that the mind can affect matter. Here are two studies that caught my attention. The first is what is called the placebo affect. We’ve all heard of the use of placebos used in the study of new medications. A Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine (see Study Finds…), looked at surgery for patients with severe and debilitating knee pain. The patients were divided into three groups. The surgeons shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group. For the second group they flushed out the knee-joint, removing all of the material believed to be causing inflammation. The third group received a “fake” surgery, where the patients were only sedated and tricked that they actually had the knee surgery. For the patients who received the “fake” surgery, the doctors made the incisions and splashed salt water on the knee as they would in normal surgery. They then sewed up the incisions like the real thing. All three groups went through the same rehab process, and the results were surprising. The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had surgery.

Another fascinating example of how science is showing the power of the mind influences matter is the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto.  Dr. Emoto has been studying the effects of thoughts and feelings on water. He did this by producing different focused intentions through written and spoken words directed towards water samples. He did the same using musical styles. Dr. Emoto would literally present these thoughts to water samples and the water appears to “change its expression”. One of his books, The Hidden Messages in Water (1999), explains how he demonstrated the effects of human thoughts on water. More specifically, he observed the crystals of frozen water after exposing the water to music or thoughts. I have personally read this book and found it quite captivating and he has since published many more. (See Masaru Emoto)

There are many more captivating scientific studies that provide evidence that thought, or the human mind, can influence matter. See the 10 Scientific Studies… to learn more.

170px-Timehenryford
Henry Ford, Time Magazine, Jan 1935

So maybe there is something to the Buddha quote, “What we think, we become.” Or as Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” If we think we are a failure, we become a failure. If we think we are brainy, we become brainy. Now I’m not suggesting it is magic. If we think and believe we are good at something, say hockey, doesn’t mean we magically are. However, the wanting to be good motivates a person to practice and become good at it. Eckhart Tolle, a German-born resident of Canada, best known as the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, says, “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.” I get that now. If we control those negative or destructive thoughts then our mind can’t use us. If we use our mind in positive and creative ways, then we grow as human beings. It is true. What we think, we become.”

World Water Day

WaterDayTuesday, March 22, 2016 is World Water Day. I had not heard of this day until recently when reading a news article, so I decided to do some research to find out why a day deemed World Water Day was created. What surprised me is this day has been held annually since the 22nd of March 1993, which was the first World Water Day. How could there have been twenty-three World Water Days in the past and I had not heard of it before? Do I live in a bubble? I’ve always known that fresh water was, and still is, a precious resource and that it is rapidly disappearing due to pollution and melting glaciers. In fact, I taught many lessons to my students about it over the years, but when I did some research on the topic, I was surprised by what I learned.

If I am truly honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve always taken water for granted. There has never been a water shortage where I live. There has always been plenty of fresh, clean water to drink, to have a shower, to operate the clothes washer, to run the dishwasher, and to even water the lawn occasionally. I’ve always assumed, like most people I suspect, that we would always have a supply of fresh water. After doing some research, now I’m not so sure.

The Water Project is a non-profit organization providing reliable water to communities in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the website, water Scarcity is a reality on our planet! That means there is either the lack of enough water or lack of access to safe water. This site says 1 in 9 people worldwide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water. That means over a billion people on our planet lack access to safe water. The site also says that in developing countries, as much as 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.

The World Water Council is an international multi-stakeholder council that promotes awareness, builds political commitment and triggers action on critical water issues. According to the Council, 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water. The daily per capita use of water in residential areas is

  • 350 litres in North America and Japan
  • 200 litres in Europe
  • 10-20 litres in sub-Saharan Africa

That means each citizen of North America uses 350 litres every day. That’s a lot of water. It begs the question, are we wasting water?

From an agricultural perspective, the Water Councils says the quantity of water needed to produce 1 kg of wheat is 1 000 litres. Rice needs 1 400 litres and beef requires 13 000 litres of water. Perhaps it’s time to eat less steak.

Water.org is an international non-profit organization that brings water and sanitation to the developing world. Here are some interesting statistics I found on their site.

  • 663 million people – 1 in 10 – lack access to safe water.
  • 4 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to a toilet.
  • Twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water.
  • More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
  • Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease
eye
From ideahack.me

The Guardian’s article, How will climate change impact fresh water security? says fresh water scarcity is best understood by contemplating the distribution of fresh water on our planet. Approximately 98% of our water is in our oceans, which consists of salt water, and only 2% is fresh water. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice (namely glaciers), 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere. Climate change has had enormous effects on the amounts of fresh water available to us on the planet. The primary one is that global warming causes the polar ice caps and the world’s glaciers to melt into the sea, turning it into seawater.

Does this mean we should we alarmed? Yes it does. Does it mean we should lose hope for the future? No it doesn’t. All the various organizations I mentioned above are working towards solving the water scarcity problem. Science is also working towards solutions.

According to The Guardian’s article, 8 unbelievable solutions to future water shortages, science has come up with innovative ideas such as,

  • Waterless bathing using a lotion called DryBath which is a blend of essential oils, bioflavonoids (group of plant pigments), and an odour-eliminating chemical that is said to save four litres of water ever session.
  • Ultra efficient showers that use a screw-in device that captures water at the beginning of a shower and feeds it back into the system.
  • Using lasers to induce rain at times of drought, an idea debated by the World Meteorological Organization.
  • Folding toilets that make more efficient use of water. Its inventors claim that if installed it could save 10,000 litres per person every year.
  • Using a solar-chemical purification process that involves exposing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to ultra violet radiation from the sun to produce a photo catalytic composite that cleans water.

According to the Canada Free Press’ article, Israel holds the solution to world water crisis, Israel has many new innovative products and policies. Some of these are drip irrigation and “fertigation,” a process of injecting fertilizers, soil amendments, and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system. Israel promotes dual-flush toilets, seawater desalination, advanced wastewater treatment and reuse, free-market pricing of water, drought-resistant seeds, cutting-edge metering and leak-detection systems, conservation education and precision agriculture.

Perhaps the most alarming thing that I’ve learned was on the World Water Council website. It said,

“As the resource is becoming scarce, tensions among different users may intensify, both at the national and international level. Over 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries. In the absence of strong institutions and agreements, changes within a basin can lead to transboundary tensions. When major projects proceed without regional collaboration, they can become a point of conflicts, heightening regional instability.”

Water-Wars-Logo
Logo from touchland.com

The prospect of “water wars” has been flaunted for decades and according to the article, Global ‘water war’ threat by 2030 – US intelligence, it may become reality within a decade. The article says the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the organization that oversees US intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, was commissioned by President Barack Obama to examine the impact of water scarcity worldwide on US security. The ODNI predicts that by 2040 water demand will outstrip current supply by 40 per cent. The organization says it could lead to outright fighting, or water could be used as a tool of political leverage, similar to how gas and oil are used today. It suggests revising international water treaties and investing in superior water purification technologies that will make the increasingly scarce resource plentiful again.

The world faces many serious problems such as global warming and water scarcity. It is time for us to get our “heads out of the sand” and educate ourselves about these issues. Even more, it is time for us to get involved, even if it is something as simple as donating to an organization that brings clean water and sanitation to the developing world, taking shorter showers, or purchasing water efficient appliances. If we all do our small part, we will make a difference.