J.C. Moore Online
Current events from a science perspective.

Archive for the ‘Bits and Pieces’ Category

Bits and Pieces: Blogging Tips from an Amateur

Wed ,25/06/2014

I sometimes get requests about website design, platforms, and for tips about blogging. I put my replies together in a short article in hopes it will help others get started.

Before getting started, you must choose a web host, which charges a small fee to host your blog. There are a number of platforms you can choose, but Free WordPress is a good platform, and it is a great way to get started. The paid upgrades aren’t that expensive and have more features. It is important to have an uncluttered website which goes along with the theme of your posts. I think it is a good idea to choose a theme and stick with it so that people who visit your site will recognize it immediately and be able to navigate it easily.

 Here is some advice I gave a friend of mine:

> Have a son who designs web sites. :>) He solves most of my problems.

> Have patience. If you have a quality site with good information, your readership will grow and people will return.

> Do not allow trolls to post comments on your site. Delete personal attacks and obviously false assertions.

> Use all of WordPresses’ Spam Filters. At first I was delighted to get comments, even with a web address attached. I edited each. Then I started getting dozens a day and was overwhelmed so I installed Askimet, Bad behavior, and Captcha – they are available as free Plugins. Send a little payment to the plugin sites you use. They deserve it and make your site much better.

>Be sure to use strong passwords and get a security program for your site – I use Better WP security. Install it before you post much. It once locked me out of my site and I would have lost all my work had my son not saved me.

> Think about posting a few articles on Ezinearticles.com. They give you some exposure and let you link to your own site.

> Put a copyright notice on your articles. That keeps others from legally copying your articles and using them without your permission. (C) 2014 Your Name – is adequate.

> Check into a translator such as at the top of my site. There is a Plugin that does it. I get many more hits from other countries now – but I cringe a bit at the idea of how things may be translated. Machines are not as good as people at translating but the main ideas get through.

>As to ideas, I usually read something that sparks my interest and I write a title and a few short paragraphs to start. My articles are usually based on research so I then begin collecting articles and references on the topic and write short descriptions of them. When I get enough information to be clear on the topic, it is just a matter of arranging the data and adding the background and a narrative to keep the reader interested.

> Write, write, write – but be sure to pay attention to your family. My wife does a lot of art on her computer, so she is understanding – yet sometimes she claims my computer has stolen me away, and refers to it as “that redhead”.

Best wishes and good luck.
J.C.

Bits and Pieces 15: Is Climate Change Threatening Our Food Supply?

Mon ,23/07/2012

The Palmer Drought Index has been used since 1890 to measure drought conditions on a scale of zero (normal rainfall) to -4 (extreme drought).

 

If you agree that  it is, then please sign the petition below, urging Congress to act.

The author asked Congressman Frank Lucas at his town hall meeting last May if he would consider investigating the effect of climate change on our food supply. Congressman Lucas said he could not commit to it, but he would consider it. However, more than a year has passed and an investigation has not been undertaken. Recently, Congressman Lucas’ campaign ads point out he is trying to keep food prices affordable by opposing government regulation on the size of chicken cages. However, climate change is a much greater threat to food prices and to our food supply.

Heat waves and droughts are becoming increasingly common and are greatly affecting food production and food prices.    During the last 30 years, the Palmer Drought Index, which measures drought severity has fallen as low as -2.2 for the latitudes at which crops are grown. That is  much, much lower than even the dustbowl days.  This is serious. Currently, 64% of theUnited States is under drought conditions. This year’s corn crop is expected to be 10% less than last year’s, which  is  driving up the price of food products and animal feed.  A round bale of hay, normally $20, may be as high as $100 next winter. Last year’s droughts and heat waves reduced the cattle herds by over 3 million animals, and many ranchers are now selling off part of their herds so they can afford to feed the rest next winter. This has kept prices low for now, but the effect will be seen later in the year.

In the past, climate scientists could only predict that climate change was increasing the probability of severe weather, heat waves, and droughts – but they now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. Recently  Stott, et. al.  found that, due to global warming, the heat waves and droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year were 20 times more likely to happen than in 1950. . Research by Hansen et. al. found the probability of extremely hot temperatures are now 10 times as likely as in 1980. That means that extreme temperatures that affected less than 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually. What we are experiencing now, will likely be the norm for the future.

If you are concerned about food prices and the future of our food supply, please click on this link, petition on signon.org  , to sign the petition urging Congressman Lucas to lead the Agricultural Committee in an investigation of the effect of climate change on our food supply. Then, please forward a link to the petition to your friends and contacts.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Bits and pieces 14: A Summary of the Affordable Care Act

Sun ,08/07/2012

 The goals of healthcare reform were to see that every citizen had adequate healthcare, ensure that healthcare was affordable, and protect citizens from insurance company abuses. Although many of the criticisms of the law were baseless, the law’s effect on the deficit and its constitutionality were serious questions. An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted the Affordable Care Act would decrease the projected deficit by $138 billion over the first 10 years and by approximately $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  The Supreme Court , in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius,  upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Below is a summary of the provisions the law that may affect you :

  • students and unemployed young adults may stay on their parents insurance until age 26
  • insurance companies may not limit the amount of care a person receives in their lifetime
  • insurance companies may not cancel coverage because a person is sick  
  • lowers the cost of care for Medicare recipients and closes the “doughnut hole” in prescription drugs, saving seniors $3.1 billion in prescription costs since 2010
  • insurance companies must cover preventive services like yearly checkups, mammograms, cancer screening, and inoculations
  • increases the penalties for Medicare fraud
  • insurance companies may not deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions
  • insurance companies must provide justification for raising rates
  • insurance companies must spend 80% of their premiums on health care or refund the difference. Americans are scheduled to receive $1.4 billion and Oklahomans $21 million in refunds this August.
  • provides tax credits for small business owners so they can afford quality insurance for their employees
  • provides for the creation of hundreds of community health centers and incentives for new doctors to staff them

Beginning in 2014:

  • provides working Americans tax credits to help them afford quality insurance
  • ends discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions
  • prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men or overcharging those in need of care
  • provides funds to create state based insurance exchanges where people can compare prices of insurance
  • provide states with funds to increase their Medicaid programs

       Source: healthcare.gov

 There are also hidden benefits: 

  • It would improve the competitiveness of American companies. Most working Americans obtain health insurance through their employers; however, this putsU.S.businesses at a disadvantage with foreign competitors. Small companies have the added disadvantage that they cannot negotiate rates as low as larger companies.
  •  It would cut down on the number of the uninsured using emergency services. Emergency room care is expensive and unpaid bills must be passed on to paying customers.
  • It would reduce bankruptcies. A Harvard study found that about 50% of all bankruptcies in theUnited Statesare caused by illness and medical bills. Health providers, banks, businesses, and credit card companies who lose money in bankruptcies pass the cost on to the rest of us.
  • It would improve everyone’s health. You and your family come into contact with many people each year. People without health insurance are less likely to receive immunizations and are much more likely to have untreated communicable diseases.

Research Credit: Barbara Moore

(C) 2012 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 12 : Should We Tax Unhealthy Foods?

Mon ,03/10/2011

Would people be more likely to avoid unhealthy foods if they received a tax incentive to do so? A few countries think so, and have enacted laws to increase taxes on fat, sweet and salty foods. The outgoing conservative Danish government has passed a “ fat tax” on foods high in saturated fats. Hungary has also introduced a new tax popularly known as the “Hamburger Law” that involves higher taxes on soft drink, pastries, salty snacks and food flavorings.  

Denmark now has a life expectancy much lower than other surrounding countries. “Higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy in Denmark,” health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen said, because “saturated fats can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer.”  The “fat tax” would help curb the country’s obesity problem and estimates are that it will increase the average life expectancy of Danes by three years over the next 10 years.

 Denmark’s and Hungary’s efforts to tax unhealthy foods might not be such a bad idea. While it seems that many people will not act to protect their own health, they might be a little more likely to eat healthy foods if they receive a financial incentive to do so. I doubt that the United States would ever have the political will to raise taxes on unhealthy food. We will just wait and pay the health costs. However, perhaps we could do it by lowering taxes.

Since many state legislatures have exhibited a passion for cutting taxes, they could encourage people to live longer and lead healthier lives by removing the sales tax on healthy foods. There are a number of resources such as Harvard’s Nutrition Source  that could provide the information that would be necessary to do that. Even without the financial incentive, it would be a good idea for everyone to become familiar with Nutrition Source, or even Dr. Oz’s list of 100 healthy foods.

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

Research Credit: Barbara Moore

Bits and pieces 10: Global Warming in Pictures

Wed ,31/08/2011

Science is about using observation and reason to understand the physical world. Some people are suspicious of computer models and theories; so here is some of the the basic data in pictures and graphs.

Ice Ages: In the past, the Earth’s temperature has varied from the Ice Ages to the much warmer temperatures of the interglacial periods.  Ice core data gives a good picture of what has happened to the Earth’s temperature in the last half million years, as shown by the blue line. The changing temperatures are attributed to the  Milankovitch cycles,  small variations in the Earth’s orbit that cause the Earth to receive different amounts of sunlight. The Earth becomes slowly warmer during the periods where the solar energy increases. As the Earth begins to be warmed by sunlight, CO2 becomes less soluble in the ocean and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increases, which further amplifies the warming since CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  The CO2 did not rise above 300 ppm in any of the the warmer interglacial periods but it is now 398 ppm and rising.

IceAges

 

  CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean, making them 20% more acidic, and the rest increases the concentration in the air.

 

Temperature: CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and NASA’s graph shows how its increase is changing the Earth’s temperature:

 

The Sun: The current global warming is often wrongly attributed to an increase in intensity of the sun. The sunspot activity does not show up above the noise in the temperature record above – and the solar irradiance increased slightly until 1960 and has declined slightly since then.

 

Arctic Ice: Many of the changes in the Earth are subtle but this NASA picture clearly shows  how the Earth is changing:

 

 

Arctic ice:  The next two graphs show quantitatively how both the extent and the volume of the Arctic ice is changing.

 

 

Arctic ice volume at each years minimum.

 

Antarctica: Research by Steig and by O’Donnell  show that Antarctica is warming. The warmer oceans result in more snowfall which increases the inland glacier mass, but the erosion of ice by the warmer oceans is causing an overall loss of ice mass.

 

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

 

 

Greenland: The Greenland ice sheets are also beginning to decline.

 

Ocean Level Rise: The melting ice sheets, melting glaciers, and thermal expansion are causing the oceans to rise by about 3 mm per year which, though it seems small, amounts to an increase in ocean volume of 1190 cubic kilometers/yr.

 

Rise in Sea Level.

 

Severe Weather: Warmer temperatures increase both the rate of evaporation and the energy and moisture in the air. This has doubled the incidence of severe weather, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

 

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

 

 

Economic Costs: Large insurance companies such as Suisse Re now consider global warming a risk factor as there has been a fivefold increase in billion-dollar weather events in the last 30 years.

 

 

Droughts: The Palmer Drought Index below includes most of the continental areas used for food production. Zero represents average rainfall and -4 represents extreme drought. Since 1980, drought conditions have grown worse worldwide, and no one disputes the effect of droughts on food production.

 

Food Production: The increasing CO2, temperatures, and droughts are expected to decrease food production worldwide.
Figure-28
Extreme Temperatures: Climate scientists now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. The figure below, from a paper by  Hansen et. al.,shows how the distributuion of temperature have varied over the past 60 years. Extremely hot temperatures, those over 3 standard deviations from the mean,  are now over 20 times as probable as for the 1950 – 1980 period and 10 times as probable as for the 1980 – 2010 average.  That means that extreme temperatures that affected less than 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually.

Note : This was posted on 08/31/2011 and  updated on 04/03/2012,08/11/2012, and o2/12/2013.

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 9: The Arctic Ice and the Inuit

Mon ,22/08/2011

“Pictures of the polar region from 1979 and 2003 clearly show that about 30% of the Arctic  ice has melted. This has greatly affected the way of life of the native Inuit who live and hunt on the Polar ice.  While some may adapt, their way of life and culture, which sustained them for centuries, will be destroyed.”

 

Although arguments still rage about whether the Arctic sea ice is disappearing, the disappearance is a fact of life for those who live near the Arctic Ocean.   The photos clearly show that the Arctic Sea ice is disappearing. A recent TulsaWorld article described how the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice has affected the lives of the native Inuit people in Greenland. Ice which used to be 2 meters thick in the winter, now grows only a few centimeters thick, far too thin to allow dogsleds to go to the nearest town, 50 miles away across the bay. They can no longer venture onto the ice to hunt for seals or walrus, a mainstay of their diet,  nor can they go out on the ice to fish. The Polar bears they sometimes hunt have no fat, as the bears cannot swim to the ice packs to hunt, and they sometimes prowl the villages looking for food.

Drilling for oil has picked up in the area as the ices disappears, but so far little oil has been found. Exploration continues, and if oil is eventually found, it carries the possibility of  economic development. But it also carries  the possibility that an oil spill, almost impossible to clean up in the icy  environment, would destroy much of the ocean life the natives now depend on for food. The sad thing is that they are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed.

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 8: Is It “Indisputable” that “Social Security Is Going Broke”?

Sun ,14/08/2011
Mary Beth Franklin has written an excellent article on how to improve Social Security. However, she claims that it is an “indisputable fact” that Social Security ”is slowly going broke” - which is hardly true. That claim was made up by those who wanted to privatize Social Security and, considering how private investments have gone, we should all be thankful that Social Security was not privatized.

As the article explains, ” revenue collected through payroll taxes, plus interest, will be sufficient to fund retirement benefits until 2023. After that, Social Security will have to dip into the Trust Fund until the trust fund runs dry around 2036.” That is true, but the Social Security Trust Fund was set up to pay for the surge in baby boomers who will go into the system the next few years, and when it is exhausted, its job will be done.  After 2036, Social Security will be able to pay 77% of its obligations through collections, which is hardly going broke.

Just as Social Security was changed in the 80′s to allow for the surge of baby boomers, it can also be changed to allow for the short-fall that will start occurring in 2036. Currently, wages over $106,800 are not subject to SS withholding taxes. A recent  poll  found that the change most Americans prefer is to also subject wages over $106,800 to Social Security taxes  - which would extend the Trust Fund through 2083.

Claiming Social Security is going broke is a wrong and harmful idea as it plays into the hands of those who want to change Social Security for political and special interest purposes.  

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 7: The President and the National Debt

Tue ,02/08/2011

This link is to a Tulsa World Cartoon showing Congress playing President Obama like a fiddle. Many who commented on it used it as an excuse to criticize Obama. They need to stop and think.

Yes, Congress is playing Obama like a fiddle. However, it reminds me of the story of Solomon. When two women came before him, both claiming the same son, Solomon ordered the boy cut in two and each woman given half. When one woman, cried “No”, she would give up her claim, Solomon awarded her the child, as she obviously cared more for it.

When Congress demanded Obama extend the tax cuts or they would cut benefits to the unemployed, Obama compromised. When Congress would have let us default on our debts, causing untold damage to our financil institutions and our citizens, Obama compromised. You may criticize Obama for compromising, but I think it is clear who cares more for America.

Bits and Pieces 6: Global Warming and Extreme Weather

Thu ,21/07/2011

Senator Jim Inhofe is wirting a book that he claims will disprove global warming. It will be interesting to see what research he cites and what might comprise such a proof. Last winter, after a blizzard, Sen. Jim Inhofe built an igloo for his grandchildren and claimed  that the record snowfall disproved global warming.  It will take more proof than that. Oklahoma is now experiencing a record drought and heat wave. Recently, Bruce Plante, a Tulsa World political cartoonist,  drew a cartoon of a hot, perspiring person asking at the library if Jim inhofe’s  book, disproving global warming, was out yet.  Dean Jones, a supporter of Inhofe, sent a letter to the Tulsa World entitled “Global Cooling” (TW, 7/20/2011), which takes issue with the cartoon and “global warming advocates”.  However, there are no advocates for global warming – but there are those who advocate  that we listen to climate scientists who say that global warming is causing the weather events that occur to be more extreme.(1)  Have you noticed any extreme weather lately?

 There is little evidence for Mr. Jones’ claim of “global cooling”.  NASA’s records of the Earth’s mean temperature show a clear  trend upward with the whole Earth now being about 1.2°F warmer than a century ago. (2) A warmer Earth means water evaporates faster and that the air can hold more moisture.  Areas that are normally dry, dry out faster. And, when conditions are right for precipitation, the combination of more energy and moisture in the air increases the chance of severe storms and flooding.

 If you don’t believe that the weather has become more extreme, just watch your insurance bill.  Insurance giants  Swiss Re and Munich Re, who insure other insurance companies, have assessed the risks and found that global warming has increased the risk of insurance losses.  If your insurance rates go up – blame those who have prevented effective action to mitigate global warming.

(1) http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/03/22/the-case-of-global-warming-and-extreme-weather/

(2) See the graph at http://jcmooreonline.com/2010/12/13/science-climate-change-and-the-greenhouse-effect/

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

Bits and Pieces 3:The “Fair Tax” Isn’t Fair to All

Thu ,05/08/2010

The “Fair Tax” proposal would replace income taxes with a “revenue neutral” consumption tax. To fund our government at the current level would require a national sales tax of  30%. The Fair Tax proposal  might simplify our tax codes, but it would also have ripple effects across our economy with unknown consequences.

Economist Mike Moffatt has identified the likely winners and losers under the Fair Tax proposal. Winners would be people who are inclined to save, people who can shop in other countries, those who can avoid sales taxes by unscrupulous means, and the wealthiest one percent who will get an average tax cut of about $75,000.

The losers would be the working poor, families with incomes less than $200,000, people who derive income from the current system (tax accountants, IRS employees and income tax lawyers), and seniors who have already paid a lifetime of income taxes and would now be taxed on spending as well.

The “Fair Tax” proposal would shift more of the tax burden to middle and lower income groups, those groups already benefiting the least from recent tax cuts. Our present graduated income tax code is based on the ideas that those who profit most from our country’s wealth, resources, and opportunities should pay a greater share of their bounty in taxes. The current system seems fairer and more pragmatic than shifting taxes to those who could least afford to pay.

For more information and references, click Here.