Monday, April 30, 2012

Birthday celebration for Edward R. Murrow in Blanchard, WA.

More descriptions and photos in my photo essay on Flikr.

Famous radio / TV newscaster Edward R. Murrow grew up in a place called Blanchard, WA. just down the road from Bellingham. He also attended Washington State College (now Washington State University) across the state from Blanchard in Pullman. I grew up in Pullman and remember when they built the Edward R. Murrow Communications Center at WSU while I was in high school. That was my first recollection of Murrow since most of my childhood was a bit after his time.

First TV newscasters I remember were Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. They were on NBC.

Last Sunday in April 2012, the folks of Blanchard decided to hold a festival for Murrow. It's hoped this event will become a yearly tradition.

I bicycled to the event from Bellingham; around 20 miles one way. Made for a nice day.

There were interesting lectures and discussion in the old chapel followed by a walking tour of Blanchard. Festivities continued at the old Blanchard Depot (now a community hall) where there was a birthday cake for Egbert Murrow. He changed his name from Egbert to Edward.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Can't have unlimited economic growth on a limited planet? How about asteroid mining?

Lots of talk in the media about some private firms exploring the idea of asteroid mining. Might be the start of a way to expand our economy beyond the confines of Earth in the really long term.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Citizens can participate in scientific research

Citizens can participate in science by joining the Zooniverse web site and looking for patterns in things like galaxies. The human brain is still good at this. I heard several radio interviews about this web site which now has over 600,000 participants. Even deciphering handwriting, I guess, reading old ship logs to fill in weather records. I thought about participating myself, but not sure if I would devote much time to it. One can devote as much, or as little, time as one wants. Maybe looking at thousands of galaxy images to see if any look unusual isn't too tedious a way to spend an afternoon?

I just think this is a cool idea. Participatory science. Sort of like a WIKI. A WIKI allowing you to put in your two bits for research.

Image from Zooniverse web site.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Global warming happens so slowly that people can deny it's happening

Some of the general public still doesn't believe global warming is happening; or at least they can't get real excited about it. There are several reasons for this, but one reason might just be the difficulty human minds have grasping gradual and long term issues.

People think in terms of a crisis, like the banking panic of 2008, but global warming is more gradual. If folks are expecting a crisis, it doesn't really happen so they get tired of waiting and put it on the back burner; so to speak.

Most folks think in terms of weather. There is always a lot of random fluctuation in the weather. Some years are warmer than normal, others are colder. These random fluctuations are more pronounced than the gradual warming due to global warming. These random weather fluctuations can confuse the picture. Long term trends seem to be warmer than cooler in most places, but for the most part, weather doesn't look that much different. After a colder than normal winter (which we still can have) folks take pictures of snowbanks around headlines talking about global warming. It becomes a big joke.

Scientists tend to say that global warming is for real. They see the big picture and notice things like glaciers retreating and long term drought in some parts of the world, including, for instance, the American Southwest. On the other hand, most people don't live in areas that are strongly effected by global warming. They get tired of waiting for the so called calamity.

Since we have 5 fingers on each hand, we tend to put emphasis on numbers that have fives and zeros after them. That means the year 2050 is often cited as a benchmark for predictions about global warming. Often scientists are quoted as saying "around 2050 it's likely that..." Well, a lot of post war baby boom generation isn't likely to even be alive then. It's just such a long term worry that many of the average folk have problems wrapping the mind around it.

Our minds are evolved to deal with more short term problems and crisis. Even though global warming is real, average people get tired of hearing about it and waiting. Some effects of it are already evident, but the effects are fairly subtle in most regions. Not quite as visible as something like the 2008 financial crisis, or today's weather.

Maybe a lot of folks don't necessarily deny global warming. They just aren't mentally equipped to react to something that's happening so slowly. People don't seem to be that evolved, emotionally, to deal with such long term issues. Scientists, on the other hand, use their rational minds to discuss the problem, but the average person tends to just think more in the short term and tends to think more emotionally.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mitt "Wall Street" Romney

Looks like Mitt "Wall Street" Romney is most likely to get the nomination as the Republican candidate. Middle name Wall Street is a good sound byte to stick on his candidacy. People don't like Wall Street even though, in actuality, Wall Street isn't very big. It's just a narrow street in New York City, but symbolic of something much bigger and meaner. There's also a Wall Street in Spokane, WA. but I don't think people are thinking of that Wall Street.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

From the transistor radio to the smartphone to ???

50 years ago, pocket radios called "transistor radios" were exciting new technology. Now, there are Smart Phones and Tablets. Amazing all the things Smart Phones can do compared to mere transistor radios. One can only imagine what progress technology will make in another 50 years. Gee, maybe we will have "Smart People!" Imagine that.