Monday, August 29, 2011

Labor Day Won't Be the Same

For 45 years watching The Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon was what millions of families did on Labor Day. The Telethon was to Labor Day what fireworks were to the 4th of July and a turkey dinner to Thanksgiving.

This year the Muscular Dystrophy Association has decided to replace this holiday tradition with a television show on Labor Day Eve. The 6-hour program will still be called a telethon, but Jerry Lewis won't be there and it won't be live for most viewers unless MDA has different programs for each time zone. The program will start at 6 P.M. local time in each time zone and end at midnight. Perhaps even the Eastern Time Zone will get a taped broadcast.

I hope the new approach works, but I doubt that a 6-hour program can do what the event did.

The old telethon was an event with activities throughout the day. Families would turn the tv on when they got up to see how much money had been raised. They would see if there were any fund raising activities they wanted to participate in. Perhaps they would go to the Mall or take advantage of a special offer at a local restaurant.

In some homes kids would tell their parents "I want to go out and collect money for Jerry's Kids." After they collected the money their parents would take them to the tv station or other location to turn the money in and possibly be seen on television while they were doing it.

Many of today's parents had celebrated Labor Day in this manner since they were kids.

The daytime format allowed for people to participate in more fund raising events. The new format will limit the number of outside fund raising events because the program is so late in the day. Most of the program will be on after dark, making it difficult for people to decide what events to attend with their children. By the time they learn of the events on the program, it may be too late to get to the event and back home. It's unlikely children will be able to go out and collect money to take to the station.

A major advantage of the old time choice was that people who worked during the day didn't regularly watch any daytime programs so they didn't have to miss a favorite program to watch the telethon. This year's prime time program will have to convince viewers of regular programs like "60 Minutes" to watch the telethon instead. Other competition includes "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and, for Texans, a football game between Southern Methodist University and Texas A & M.

Many potential viewers attend church services on Sunday evening or engage in other evening activities. I suspect one reason the old telethon got so many pledges late in the telethon was due to those who had spent the weekend at the lake or beach returning home on Monday afternoon. People who are at the lake Sunday evening probably won't watch the telethon although they might record it.

The decision to go with a prime time variety show ignores the fate of prime time variety shows. They have trouble attracting viewers unless the show includes a contest like "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars". Even Jay Leno couldn't attract viewers in prime time. The telethon used to start in prime time on Sunday night, but, at least on WGN and KAKE (Wichita), the start had been broadcast on a delayed basis.

Although the stars listed on the website can qualify as superstars, even superstars have trouble attracting a broad audience in today's musical entertainment world which makes it difficult for variety shows to attract a large prime time audience. . The musical world is fractured into various genres. Paul McCartney is one of the few superstars left from the 60's when many singers had a broad popular appeal. Most who could appeal to a variety of audiences, like Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, are dead.

I don't know about other viewers, but one aspect I liked about the old long telethon was the opportunity to see performers who weren't likely to appear on other shows. We had the opportunity to hear or see new performers as well as the established performers.

For many of us the stars weren't the only reason to watch the old telethon. Those with MD who appeared over several years became like neighbors or members of the family. I remember a couple of kids on the Wichita telethon with a non-fatal form of MD who grew up in front of our eyes. I watch the WGN satellite station as well as the Wichita station to keep up with Romania's "perfect 10" gymnast Nadia Comaneci and her husband, American gymnast Bart Conner.

A major advantage of the old live format was the ability to show how much money had been raised. People could watch the amount build. That won't be possible with the new format because the show will be ending in the Eastern Time Zone long before it does in the Pacific Time Zone. One possible reason for late donations on the old telethon was due to concern it might not raise as much as the previous year and potential donors didn't want to disappoint Jerry.

The MDA Telethon became a national institution in large part because Jerry Lewis was one of the greatest entertainers of the mid-20th Century. Jamie Foxx is the only younger performer who is currently in the same class as Lewis, although some others might eventually achieve that status.

MDA would have been much better off if Lewis had headed the first program in the new format. Many would have watched just to see his last MDA appearance. Some would have donated more to provide him with a good send off. The failure to explain why Lewis isn't going to be on this year is likely to cause some to skip this year's telethon because many assume the worst when explanations aren't provided.

I suppose it's too late for local stations to decide to go ahead and have a local Labor Day telethon without the benefit of a national show, but if they can do so they should try to. Alternatively, they should consider starting their telethons early in the afternoon to encourage people to participate in fundraising events.

Local stations will have to do extensive advertising that emphasizes the new time. Regular viewers may ignore reminders to watch the show if the ads don't prominently state the show will be on Sunday night instead of being a Monday telethon. Frequent stories on newscasts would be desirable. Many viewers may not discover the new time until they turn the tv on late on Sunday night. Some who go to bed early on Sunday night may get up Monday morning and wonder why they can't find the telethon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Is Physicist Stephen Hawking Overrated?

Professor Stephen Hawking's support for the global warming myth raises doubts about his knowledge of physics.

Professor Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" is one of the books I would like to reread if I could find the time. However, after learning that he supports the global warming myth I would read the book a little more critically than I did the first time.

Hawking says he's concerned about earth becoming as hot as Venus, but the alleged "greenhouse effect" cannot explain temperatures on Venus as I noted in my previous post.

I hope that Hawking is simply repeating something he's been told, but hasn't taken time to examine. If Hawking took the time to examine both sides of the debate over global warming he would realize that global warming is based on a long discredited 19th Century theory that is inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics. The so called greenhouse effect represents a form of perpetual motion machine that is inconsistent with accepted thermodynamic theories

Jean Baptist Joseph Fourier claimed in 1827 that greenhouses worked by allowing in sunlight and then trapping the infrared radiation produced inside to heat the greenhouse. R. W. Wood disproved this theory in a 1909 experiment that indicated no significant difference in temperature between a greenhouse that "trapped" IR and one that was transparent to IR. In fact in the initial run of the experiment the transparent greenhouse heated faster because the one that reflected IR reflected incoming solar IR back into space.

The greenhouse in R.W. Wood's experiment trapped a much broader spectrum of IR than CO2 interacts with. If that greenhouse didn't heat up more than a greenhouse that didn't "trap" IR, then how can anyone believe that CO2 could cause heating by interacting with IR.

The whole idea that a gas comprising less than 0.04% of the atmosphere can determine its temperature by interacting with a small range of infrared radiation (IR) sounds more like magic than science.

The data that those who claim global warming say supports warming temperatures in the 20th Century is inadequate for that purpose. They claim only a 0.25% increase which could easily result from changes in equipment or inaccuracies in the thermometers used in 1900 which were not as accurate as those used today. Changes in the thermal characteristics of the thermometer sites could explain the increase, particularly considering that many of today's sites are at airports with heat producing asphalt that did not exist in 1900.

A change of only 0.25% might be significant in the controlled conditions of a laboratory with precision equipment, but not in the open air with equipment that may not always be in good operating condition.

Mathematicians Bjarne Andresen, Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick have pointed out that the idea of a global average temperature is absurd. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".

Most real scientists, including social scientists, gave up using broad averages decades ago because such averages cover up too much information. For example, in climate the amount of time the temperature is above or below freezing is more important than the average temperature of the region because long periods of below freezing temperatures favors snow/ice cover and long periods of above freezing temperatures favors melting. Snow melts depend upon heat distribution not any global average. Significant melting could occur even if global temperatures were cooler because melting snow absorbs heat and cools the air. In order to melt, a single gram of snow must absorb enough heat to cool 80 grams of water 1 C.

Temperatures went up and down in the 20th Century while the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere gradually increased. The heat generated by human activity also increased and would be the more likely cause of any human caused heating. Replacement of plant covered areas by pavement also directly causes heating of the air.

Hawking has apparently failed to read the essay by Dr. Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner - (Falsification of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effects Within the Framework of Physics�) which points out the claim of greenhouse gases and a greenhouse effect conflict with established physics theories.

Hawking may also be unaware that NASA scientist Ferenc Miskolczi has revealed that the equation used to calculate catastrophic warming contains a major flaw. The equation falsely assumed an atmosphere of infinite thickness. Such a condition might be consistent with a black hole, but not the planet earth.

The claim that CO2 has some ability to control air temperature is a cancer growing on science. Many astrophysicists believe that the earth is about to enter a period of colder temperature associated with the sun entering a portion of a centuries long cycle in which it is less active. If the astrophysicists are correct, all of science may be discredited if the claim that global warming is based on science has not been abandoned.

A major difference between science and religion is that science relies on verification through repeated observation and experimentation while religion relies on acceptance of beliefs. The experiment that examined heating in a greenhouse demonstrated that trapping IR didn't cause higher temperatures. Unfortunately, those who believe that humans can control the environment through changes in a minor atmospheric gas aren't interested in scientific proof.

If Professor Hawking wants to protect science he needs to talk to those scientists who question global warming and then change his opinion.

Venus Not an Example of Greenhouse Gas Effect

Global warming groups falsely claim Venus provides an example of what they call the greenhouse gas effect. According to the greenhouse gas theory, the sun heats the surface of a planet and the atmosphere prevents infrared radiation (IR) from leaving which causes heating. Even if the theory about "trapping" had not been disproved in 1909 by R. W. Wood , the sun cannot be heating the surface of Venus to a temperature of 460 C.

Mercury's surface temperature only reaches 425 C and it is closer to the sun. Mercury's surface doesn't have an atmosphere that reflects 75% of the incoming solar radiation like Venus has. Thus solar radiation cannot be causing the high temperature of Venus. The surface of Venus even receives less solar radiation than earth's surface.

If the sun were heating Venus, there should be a temperature gradient with the highest temperature in the daylight area and the lowest temperature on the night area. Instead the temperature is the same in both areas as well as the same at the poles and the equator.

The only plausible explanation is that there is no significant heat input from outside. The atmosphere of Venus is more likely to be hot because the solid portion of the planet is hot and distributes that heat uniformly to the surface.

One explanation could be that Venus has a greater amount of radioactive material somewhere below its surface. Earth has deposits of uranium, but they are dispersed and produced no real heating of the surrounding material. Venus could have begun with much larger deposits that heated the subsurface areas for a long period of time.

Those who believe in greenhouse gases generally don't understand that earth's surface cools (loses heat) primarily by transferring heat energy to the atmosphere rather than by converting it to radiation. The surface conducts heat to the atmosphere through direct contact with the air.

Bodies of water transfer heat to the atmosphere through the evaporation of water. The ground can also transfer heat energy to the air through evaporation of water. Each gram of water that evaporates takes sufficient heat to reduce the temperature of 540 grams of water by 1 C. This process doesn't necessarily raise the temperature of the atmosphere except that wet air cools slower than dry air.

Greenhouse gas believers tend to ignore the fact that a significant portion of solar energy on earth is stored by plants as the electron bonds holding sugars and other complex carbon molecules together. Plants are not present on Venus to perform this function.

Gravity cools earth's atmosphere. Heat is the kinetic energy or motion of atoms/molecules. Any object attempting to move away from earth's surface whether it's a ball or a water molecule has part of its kinetic energy converted to potential energy. As air molecules move away from the surface they slow down and thus cool. When objects fall back to earth the potential energy is reconverted to kinetic energy, but for air molecules this energy is usually the kinetic energy of the air mass rather than the energy of individual molecules. Only rarely is the potential energy converted to heat energy such as in the Chinook wind along the east slope of the Rockies or the heat bursts associated with the collapse of thunderstorms.

On earth, high air pressure such as a Bermuda High and clouds can prevent heated air from cooling by rising. Venus has clouds that block heated air from rising and air pressure much higher than that of a Bermuda High.

Air doesn't convert heat to radiation very well so it doesn't cool significantly by producing radiation. Radiation by solids depends upon physical characteristics of the material. For example, dark material produces more radiation that light material. Scientists have insufficient data about the surface of Venus to determine how well it converts heat energy to radiation.

A common misconception about heat is that it can be "trapped". That would only be possible if heat were a fluid as Ben Franklin believed. Only heated matter such as gas molecules can be trapped. Greenhouses don't trap heat itself. They trap heated air.

The uniformity of temperature is not the only way Venus differs from other planets. Its rotation on its axis is clockwise which is the reverse of earth and other planets. Other large planets have moons but Venus does not. Venus doesn't have as many impact craters as other bodies including earth's moon. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide instead of an oxygen / nitrogen mix like earth. Venus lacks atmospheric and surface water and its clouds are comprised of sulfuric acid.

All of these conditions could be explained by a single event in the planet's relatively recent past, possibly within the last few hundred million years.

Dr. J Huw Davies of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University in the U.K. believes Venus once suffered a head on collision with another large body in its early history. He believes such a collision could have caused Venus to reverse its rotation.

What if such a collision occurred relatively recently and involved a body coming from the direction of the sun on a comet like trajectory? Such a body would have been very hot and moving at high speed to escape the sun's gravitational pull.

To reverse Venus rotation the body would have needed to hit Venus off center and at an angle so that the force would be applied opposite to the Venus direction of rotation.

The body could have been soft if not molten from passing close to the sun. The high speed collision with Venus would have generated heat for the body and Venus.

Instead of a hard impact that might have dislodged a piece of Venus to form a moon (the process many believe produced earth's moon), the body would have spread over the surface of Venus at a high velocity. This process would have filled in low areas while applying a force to the surface to change its direction of rotation. The impact of the flow on indentations such as craters or oceans would have been similar to the impact of water on a water wheel. The flow would have pushed the opposite side of one low area after another in the opposite direction.

A potential problem with reversing Venus' rotation would be the difficulty of changing the direction of rotation of a molten core, in case Venus has a molten core like Earth.

Alternatively, the object might have hit Venus at one of the poles and caused it to turn upside down relative to other planets. The impact wouldn't have changed the direction of rotation of Venus as perceived from the surface of the planet, but the view from other planets would indicate it was rotating clockwise instead of counterclockwise. If you place a transparent clock on a flat surface and then flip it over its hands will appear to someone looking down on it to be moving counterclockwise, but the hands would still be going from 12 to 3 to 6 to 9.

In either type impact, the heat would have incinerated any biosphere Venus might have had as well as igniting methane and similar organic (carbon containing) substances. The fires would have reduced the amount of oxygen while greatly increasing the amount of carbon dioxide.

Underground carbon deposits might have ignited, but burned more slowly because of a shortage of oxygen. The heat could have increased the oxygen supply by breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen. This process could have continued for a significant period of time helping to keep the subsurface heated.

Methane, coal and wood all burn at temperatures well above the current temperature of Venus.

Any surface and atmospheric water might have "boiled off" into space or broken down by separating the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The oxygen then would have perpetuated the carbon fires further increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Nils Müller
at the Joint Planetary Interior Physics Research Group of the University Münster and DLR Berlin believes infrared radiation from the planet's surface indicates the presence of granite which would imply the planet once had water which combines with basalt to form granite

Underground water could have combined with sulfur compounds to form sulfuric acid. The heat would have allowed the sulfuric acid molecules to rise in the atmosphere to form clouds. Heat could have broken down subsurface water into oxygen and hydrogen with the oxygen then combining with underground carbon through combustion to form carbon dioxide.

Venus deserves more study. The high temperature of the surface would make exploration more difficult because of the need to develop equipment that could function in the heat and not be damaged by the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. The large amount of carbon dioxide and lack of oxygen could indicate that the planet had large amounts of carbon that could be consistent with some type of biosphere before a major conflagration.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

S & P's Decision Appears Justified

Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. debt rating appears justified because of the inadequacy of the U.S. response to the debt issue. Allowing the U.S. to keep the top rating would falsely indicate the U.S. is doing the best it can to correct its debt problem. American voters are choosing politicians who lack the ability or willingness to deal realistically with the U.S. debt problem.

I waited to write about Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. debt rating because I wanted to think about it for awhile instead of taking a knee jerk reaction.

Dealing with a major crisis requires a strong experienced president. Unfortunately, Barack Obama is the weakest president since Gerald Ford. Obama's only apparent skill is an ability to read a teleprompter.

A smart president would have recognized he couldn't change the minds of House members and ended the debate early so he could prepare for a return match later.

Obama won the election because neither the voters nor the media understand the qualifications for an effective president. The President is the chief executive officer of the most powerful country in the world. Electing an president without executive experience makes no more sense then asking a high school quarterback to play quarterback in the Super Bowl.

Too many voters will support someone who promises to do "this, that and the other thing" even though the candidate has never demonstrated an ability to deliver on his promises. It's easy to make promises, but delivering on those promises can be difficult. Any quarterback can say he will win the Super Bowl, but very few are capable of doing so.

Unfortunately, many Republicans want to make the same mistake the Democrats did. These Republicans support Michele Bachmann who is just as inexperienced and unprepared for the presidency as Obama was.

The deficit debate was what we used to call the game of chicken. Two cars would approach each other in the same lane. The driver who veered off first was "chicken". Both sides seemed more interested in scoring political points than in conducting a serious discussion of the issue. They reminded me of the old beer commercials in which one side yelled "less filling" and the other side yelled "great taste".

One editorial cartoonist suggested the old Looney Tunes cartoon debate in which Daffy Duck says "Rabbit Season" and Bugs Bunny says "Duck Season". Bugs eventually gets Daffy to say "Duck Season", but Obama doesn't have Bugs Bunny's ability.

Too many members of Congress are either incapable of understanding the nature of the deficit crisis or don't care about dealing with the deficit in a realistic manner. Fixing the deficit will require an increase in revenue, preferably a tax on those with surplus income.

Cutting spending won't reduce the deficit as much as some expect because the federal government gets a kickback in the form of Social Security and income taxes from those it employs or from businesses government, and its employees, purchases from. Money given to welfare recipients goes to those they purchase goods and services from who in turn pay taxes.

If unemployment increases due to spending cuts, the next Congress may feel it needs to spend even more borrowed money to stimulate the economy.

Republicans and their supporters seem incapable of understanding the fact that it is not the amount of money someone has, but the financial status of the United States that is important. The financial health of the U.S. determines what its money is worth. For the rich, taxes are an investment in the financial health of the United States. Reducing the deficit would improve the financial health of the U.S. and make the money the rich have worth more.

There is a danger if the "rich" have too much money. Money can be addictive. As people obtain a certain amount of money they start wanting more and more. Like alcoholics they need more and more money to be satisfied.

When the "rich" obtain too much money a boom psychology can develop in which investors ignore the possibility of risk. They don't think they can lose money. They may think the stock market can only go up as many believed in the 20's.

The crisis of 2008 occurred because the rich had too much money and had bid stock prices up too high because too many expected everything to go up "forever". Many invested money in garbage like mortgage derivatives or gave it to crooks like Bernie Madoff who promised to make them even richer. If they had invested it in taxes, the country's financial health would be better today and many of them wouldn't have lost so much.

Talk about defaulting on debts incurred in the past raises concerns that the U.S. might default on newer debts. Those who started working 40 some years ago were told the Social Security taxes they were paying were for a pension program. They were loaning money to the federal government in return for a promise to provide them with retirement income. Congress may have handled Social Security funds like the program was a Ponzi scheme, but "investors" (Social Security taxpayers) were told they were investing in a pension plan.

Social Security and Medicare are debts, not entitlements. Benefits go to those who have paid in advance for them.

If the current Congress decides to default on the promise of Social Security payments to those who will be retiring in the next few years because the program was poorly administered by previous Congresses, how can those who purchase U.S. government securities today be sure that a future Congress won't decide to default on that debt because Congress in 2011 was not borrowing responsibly.