Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

94 DAYS, AND HERE COMES AUGUST

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“Constant incredulity is the only non-contrived response to life.” My ex-wife said that decades ago, she was wise beyond her years. Not surprised she divorced my sorry ass, I wasn’t much of a husband. These days, my incredulity is in danger of burning out. Today’s theory is that huge numbers of Americans are so out of touch with reality that they wouldn’t recognize it if it hit them in the face. Though certainly hearing stories of people coming around as they are sick or dying of Covid-19. Covid-19 is actually a real thing, go figure.

In that vein, looking like a lot of otherwise OK Covid-19 survivors have damaged hearts. I’m sure plenty will dismiss this as “fake news.” Decades of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have turned a lot of brains to mush. I’m getting less inclined to be diplomatic as this insanity continues. We have a president praising a “doctor” who’s about as much of a quack as it’s possible to be (see previous  post,) so it’s no wonder so many of Trump’s remaining supporters keep thinking (if thinking is the operative word here) that actual science is some sort of plot to embarrass Trump. OK then.

Continuing in this vein, a new study indicates that Covid-19 aerosols remain infectious in the air for up to 16 hours. IE the droplets expelled by infectious people from simply breathing. This is apparently unusual, most viruses start breaking down much sooner. Although not surprising in that the evidence is very much pointing at Covid-19 being mostly spread by being in a room with a Covid-19 infected person. We knew really early on Covid-19 was a freakishly contagious disease, now we’re starting to understand why. Now if science could only  figure out why stupidity is so contagious.

I saw this article, not exactly sure how to take it. Claiming that Jared Kushner’s coronavirus task force decided no national response to Covid-19 was needed, because it was primarily a Blue State problem. It’s certainly believable, the GOP has politicized Covid-19 from the very beginning. That’s not really debatable, they turned wearing masks into a freaking political issue for Christ’s sake, which is so stupid as to beggar belief. These are the people who turned married couples’ genitals into a political issue though. In any event, the reason why no national response to Covid-19 has been launched doesn’t freaking matter. It’s stupid beyond belief no matter what the reason, as dumb as Roosevelt saying “Well, Hawaii can handle the Japanese, the attack on Pearl Harbor isn’t really a national problem.” As my friend Jonny recently said “We’re just so screwed man it’s sad.” Three months to go.

Anyhow, weekend coming up, here’s a few non Covid-19 links I found of interest. Scientists won an Ig Nobel Prize for a study about whether cats should be classified as liquids or solids. From Wikipedia: “The Ig Nobel Prize is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research, its stated aim being to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The name of the award is a pun on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and the word ignoble.” Being an ailurophile, I got a big kick out of it: Are cats liquid or solid?

Well, Japanese scientists did a study that required them to paint zebra stripes on cows. Science is often fun, what can I say. I mean, getting paid to paint zebra stripes on cows, how cool is that? The idea being that maybe zebra stripes protect against fly bites. Looks like a good study, looks like the stripes really did reduce fly bites. They aren’t sure why, they conjecture it somehow confuses the flies’ visual perception. I’m a little puzzled, if it was so effective wouldn’t more animals have evolved zebra stripes? And I always thought the purpose of zebra stripes was dazzle camouflage, IE it made it harder for a predator to single out a single zebra in the herd? Fun stuff though, if one starts seeing zebra striped cows, this is why.

Lastly, I Dream of Jeannie. My older readers will recognize that, a classic sitcom from the sixties. 1965 to 1970 I believe. A different world then. Especially television, there were only three networks, and it was much easier for shows to achieve cultural icon status. I was just a kid, wasn’t one of my faves, I was into science fiction even then. I was one of the kids who thought “Lost in Space” was much better than “Batman.” That was the big schoolyard debate then, simpler times. Less nuanced times? The lost country, as I’ve mentioned before. Anyhow, stumbled on this article analyzing the show from a sociological perspective: Jeannie’s American DreamThe Assimilation of a TV Icon. I thought it was a fascinating thought provoking read, I hope my readers enjoy it.

Stay safe and stay sane this weekend gentle readers. I will continue to blog daily as long as I am able. Judging from my doctor visit today, that might be more limited than I had hoped. No one lives forever. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Random image publicly posted on Facebook of unknown genesis, used without permission. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 31, 2020 at 8:51 pm

COVID-19, PERFECTLY TAILORED TO TARGET THE WILLFULLY IGNORANT? AND HOW DID TRUMP MISS THE OPPORTUNITY OF THE CENTURY?

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Was Covid-19 designed to target the willfully ignorant? What do I mean by that. I mean that unlike most ongoing natural disasters, this one’s easy to mischaracterize. The lava is coming, the dam has broken, the earthquake is happening … everyone is pretty much going to agree what to do, even if it’s just screaming and running. To some extent all plagues are more deniable, but Covid-19 hits under the waterline in additional ways. It kills a lot of people, but not enough to really freak everyone out. If it killed 10% of it’s victims, everyone would be going nuts. Better yet, it mostly kills the old! Makes it easy to ignore all the healthy people it kills. And finally the frosting on the cake, and the full horror and diabolical extent of this is still being revealed, for every person it kills, dozens have long term or permanent health deficits from Covid-19.

In other words, Covid-19 was the perfect weapon to fire at groups of willfully ignorant people and governments. I don’t mean stupid people, I mean people who use religion, ideology, magical thinking to guide their life. As opposed to people who at least try to use reason and science. The former’s risk assessment skills are spotty at best. (“It’s just a cold folks!” “It will all be gone by Easter!”) The latter, well, Vietnam took Covid-19 seriously in January. No fatalities, a handful of cases. My freaking American rural county has fared worse than the entire nation of Vietnam. Jesus wept.

So yeah, Covid-19 is the perfect weapon to deploy against Trump and similar? Is it going to kill/maim far more Modi/Trump/Boris/Putin people than others? Sure looks like it. If this aspect of Covid-19 turns out to be real, what does it mean? Is it just a coincidence? Did some secret liberal/commie lab invent Covid-19? Satan? Aliens? Let’s speculate …

First of all, I think the evidence is overwhelming that Covid-19 is a natural or feral virus. The experts in the field, and viruses are a very well studied field, say it has all the earmarks of a naturally evolved virus. There’s no global dissenters, the entire virology/epidemiology  field agrees. If evidence to the contrary emerges, I’ll reassess, but for starters we can safely eliminate this possibility as unlikely.

Are there other possibilities? Well, aliens. Maybe. At least if we postulate they exist, they would have the technology to do so, unlike hypothetical human agents creating Covid-19. Still, it’s a magical possibility. Same category as “God did it!” Or “Satan did it!” Circular reasoning, special pleading, whatever. As with the comic book idea that a human lab created Covid-19, if evidence emerges supporting the above, I’ll reassess.

So was Covid-19 being the perfect weapon to defeat Trump just a coincidence? Yeah, probably. Occam’s Razor tells us that. It’s the possibility that requires the least number of assumptions. Doesn’t always turn out to be the case, but only because new evidence shows up. With the evidence we have, Covid-19 was a natural and utterly predictable event. Especially since experts in the field have been warning us about this possibility pretty much all our lives, especially since the 1990s. It’s the most likely explanation, people that can’t accept that as a starting point in a debate, well, be careful, they may not be taking proper Covid-19 preparations either.

So, moving on. One caveat. It’s important to understand there are two faces to  an event. What actually happened, and how people responded to it. And by that I mean that yes, Covid-19 was a naturally occurring event … but … in January 2020 the smart with-it generals and other experts tasked with protecting nations … or concentrations of wealth … started having meetings. Started sitting down and brainstorming “What does Covid-19 mean, what threats does it pose, and can we use it to our advantage?” Is any major power or player using Covid-19 as a weapon yet? Maybe, I don’t see any evidence of it, but something to watch out for.

The speculation I wanted to put forward based on all of the above is this, what if Covid-19 is evidence that Evolution works in ways we don’t yet understand? What if on some as yet scientifically unexplored level this virus evolved to target things like Trump rallies, Evangelical church services, and other gatherings of Covid-19 denying folk. The perfect storm nature of the Covid-19 sure makes me wonder.

And it all could have been different too. Trump could have lept into action in January 2020, closed the borders, and used the awesome resources at his disposal to set up a  huge national test and trace program to stop Covid-19 from getting a foothold in America. He would have been ridiculed for a few months … and he would be an American God by now. If he had pulled off a Vietnam type Covid-19 response, with only a handful of dead Americans while hundreds of thousands died world wide, pretty sure his reelection would be a shoe in.

So in other words, Vietnam defeated us in war, and now they’ve defeated us in peace. Johnson and Nixon get the blame for the former, Trump gets it for the latter. He missed the golden ring he’s always aspired to, and will now go down in history like Nero at best, Caligula at worst. He wanted to be a Caesar, instead he is a Didius Julianus. Or a Commodus. One of history’s great, if largely unknown, losers.

Covid-19 is basically a test to see how in touch with reality people are. Welcome to the Universe. Stay safe and have a good week everyone. Sanity is optional at this point. Next post, black Holes. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Random image publicly posted on Facebook of unknown genesis, used without permission.)

Written by unitedcats

July 21, 2020 at 9:02 am

I THOUGHT WHEN THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENED PEOPLE WOULD NOTICE

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In other words: “The fire’s under control, it just looks bad because we installed all sorts of smoke detectors, if we hadn’t done that things would look great.”

It’s not reported because that’s not how it works Mr. Trump. His quote is like saying: ‘We’re making so many rifles, more rifles than any other country, we’re winning the war!’ No Mr Trump, it’s not how many rifles we make, it’s how they are  used. Having a lot of tests is useless if one isn’t using the tests to isolate infected people and track down and isolate the people they infected. And in that respect, the US is failing miserably. And no as well, on a per capita basis, our testing is lower than some other countries. And we’re not doing well fighting Covid-19, other countries are shutting Covid-19 down and cautiously reopening their economies. And lastly the 1/100th thing is so stupid it’s beyond my comprehesion.

So I’m still in shock here. What a fascinating time and place to be alive! Mass insanity! The Children’s Crusade? The Tulip Mania? <cue: hysterical laughter.> Future historians, not to mention most of the rest of the contemporary globe, will be challenged to explain how this happened. How did the USA, self supposedly the greatest nation on Earth, become the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Actually, we know how it happened. This isn’t complicated for the Trump supporters who are still reading. If one’s car breaks, one calls a mechanic. If one’s roof leaks, one calls a roofer. If one’s pipes are clogged, one calls a plumber. Right? This isn’t rocket science. By the same token, if one is facing a pandemic, one calls the pandemic experts. There’s no politics here, no religion; it’s just civilization, we have a complex society and expert knowledge is what keeps it running. There’s no room for reasonable debate here, one has a problem, one consults the people who have spent their lives and careers dealing with the problem. Right? Right?

Trump did not do this. He fired the pandemic experts on the White House staff years ago, and when the pandemic struck, he ignored the plan the pandemic experts had put together. The result has been exactly as the pandemic experts predicted, Covid-19 is exploding out of control in the US. In every other developed country (and plenty of undeveloped ones) Covid-19 has been shut down and they are slowly reopening their economies. And making sure to keep plague carrying Americans out. OMFG.

I just. I just keep having to rewrite this end of the world post because to my continuing shock and horror, maybe 2/3rds of Americans still aren’t getting it. Trump and company are still using tortured motivated reasoning to pretend everything is OK, we’re winning the fight, and everything will be fine in a few months. And if that’s the people one hangs out with and the “news” one watches, I guess it’s understandable. Sort of. One wonders how they will fare as the situation worsens, but hey, most people in North Korea think things are worse off in “American occupied” South Korea.

The other third who are not getting it  though, not Trumpers. Just normal folks who haven’t yet accepted that things have changed. A horrible new plague is spreading throughout the world. I guess it’s human nature to live in the world we create in our mind, normally that’s a good thing. “The map is not the territory” though. When reality updates, and Covid-19 is a reality update, time to change one’s internal map of the world. Harder to do for some than others. One freind for example, hates Trump, watches anti-Trump media constantly … has made essentially zero changes in his life plan due to Covid-19. Another friend is sure we’ll “muddle through.”

The problem with the former is that if things get really bad, which they could well, he’s going to be utterly unprepared. And the problem with the “muddling through” idea is that states that try to “muddle through” national disasters don’t. We don’t need muddling, we need effective national leadership. That’s not happening with Trump, his muddling has made the USA the world’s epicenter of Covid-19. More muddling is bad, not good. It’s magical thinking.

As an aside, Covid-19 has driven some people off the deep end. IE they have been completely consumed by Covid-19 Truther and conspiracy theories. A few Facebook friends. One irl friend. Last time I saw this sort of thing was 9/11, that unhinged a few people. When great tragedies happen, some people snap. A human interest offering, and further evidence that yes indeedy, Covid-19 is a big deal.

So yes, in short, I think I’m witnessing one of the greatest ongoing failures of national leadership ever in the face of a global disaster. Convince me otherwise. Hint: Tweets like the above are the opposite of convincing. So I’ve decided all in all it’s a sign. My kin have mostly deserted me, the world I knew is coming to an end, and to top it all off, it’s a freaking medical mystery why I’m even still alive. What does it mean?

It means it’s time to finish my damn book. If I can spend months planting onions and stacking cans of beans, I can spend the same furnishing my book. Or finishing it as the case may be. Now or never, since my odds of surviving Covid-19 are about 50-50 I figure. So my blog posts might drop in frequency, I dunno. I’ll do my best.

Reality is so weird now I sometimes seriously wonder if I did die some time back, and the whole Trumpian Covid-19 nightmare is a dark fantasy generated by my dying brain in its last moments. Sadly for my readers, I don’t think so. Stay safe and stay sanish everyone. Wear your damn masks. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Presidential tweets are an official channel of the US government, and thus Public Domain.)

Written by unitedcats

July 9, 2020 at 8:34 pm

THIS IS NOT NORMAL, AND NOT ONLY DOES TRUMP NOT HAVE A PLAN B, HE DOESN’T HAVE A PLAN A

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I’m torn two ways these days. On the one hand, I feel compelled to be as productive as possible before the coming storm. Planting food, stockpiling food/essentials/tradeables, growing local food share contacts, etc. It’s hard work but sure feels like I’m doing something about Covid-19, besides trying to be a voice of sanity in a rising tsunami of madness. God only knows the federal government apparently isn’t going to do anything. On the other hand, this might be the last time in my life I can call the good times, plenty of good food and beer, no pressing concerns. So why not just say “screw it” and enjoy life while I still can? And after much thought, I’m gonna do both! Two days of work, one day of play. Hopefully that will keep me on an even keel and I won’t start slashing wildly at invisible demons with my chainsaw. I always end up having to buy new drapes when that happens, it adds up.

So yes, I’m still predicting this pandemic is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, especially in the US where huge numbers of people don’t seem to grasp that reality has a liberal bias. Great article linked there, at least for people still in touch with reality. Trump supporters laboring under the pretext that Covid-19 is some sort of Democratic/liberal media  plot to make Trump look bad, I don’t know how to reach them. I mean, nearly 100,000 dead, with no end in sight. The same people who spent years yelling about Benghazi and four dead Americans have no problem with America having the highest Covid-19 death toll in the developed world. Once one has become wedded to an ideology or a religion as a guide to life, I think the brain turns to mush. Not limited to Republicans of course, but Dems believing Russians are undermining America aren’t doing the damage that Republicans believing Covid-19 is “just the flu” are.

Vietnam is a great example of how to fight Covid-19, yes, it is possible. Right next to China. Near 100 million people, many living in huge densely crowded cities. They must be getting slammed by Covid-19, right? Nope. 300 cases, zero deaths. How did they manage that? They took it very seriously from the beginning, closed their borders and country down, and did what needed to be done to keep people safe. At the time it was considered by some as an overreaction. In hindsight, they are now re-opening their country with robust systems in place to deal with Covid-19. And, again, 300 cases, zero deaths. And the question here is, if America with all its freedoms and democracy and such that make it oh-so-much-better than a communist one party state got hammered by Covid-19, maybe we could have done better? And my point is not “communism is better” or some stupid shit like that, it’s as stated: “Maybe we could have done better?” And maybe Trump’s boasts about how great he has handled this should be taken with a large dose of salt?

Sigh. What I am also afraid is happening is that Washington has just decided to “normalize” Covid-19. Trump and corporate America turn Covid-19 into a “fact of life” and just carry on and accept Covid-19 deaths as just part of normal life like heart attacks or car accidents. Because this is exactly what the castle or whatever one wants to call the corporate/military cabal that runs the nation wants. They want the serfs back in the fields, just go on creating wealth for the planet’s elite, granny was sick and old anyhow. And people do hate change, they do want “no problems” times. I can see why huge numbers of people are in denial and thinking things will get better.

I guess there’s two ways moving forward. We do what needs to be done to fight Covid-19, which means a lot of effort to protect workers and the vulnerable. MacDonald’s may have to forgo spending $10k per employee per year buying back their own stock. Or we do pretty much nothing, and carry on, which appears to be Trump’s plan.  Well, if he turns it around, I will cheerfully admit I’m wrong and vote for him this fall. And I hope to win the lottery while I’m at it.

In other End-o-the-World news, here’s a good article on our current understanding of how masks work, short version, they work pretty good when used properly in conjunction with other measures. It bears repeating that global warming is still getting worse, and oddly enough many of the very same people in denial about global warming are in denial about Covid-19 as well. Whole other blog post there, for now, pretty sure that ultimately denying reality is a failed strategy, no matter how high the stock market gets. And with Covid-19, we’ll know in months, not decades.

More empty shelves in the supermarket yesterday. Meat prices are spiking. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is my motto of the day. Lastly, an article I’ve posted before but it bears repeating, it’s the best I’ve seen on how Covid-19 spreads and how to avoid catching it. No one in their right mind wants to catch this disease, and I mean that literally. Have a great weekend everyone, stay safe, stay sane. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Massacre of the Innocents, Bruegel circa 1566. It depicts Spanish soldiers slaughtering Dutch children. I chose it because it depicts a terrible scene. And because it’s the original version depicting the slaughter of children. Then the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II had the nasty parts painted over. Fake news is nothing new in other words, today he’d run the Fox network no doubt.)

Written by unitedcats

May 16, 2020 at 8:30 am

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY

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The Invisible Enemy. This is how Trump has been characterizing Covid-19 recently. And got to give the man his due, in this instance, he’s right on the money. Covid-19 very much is an invisible enemy. And more on point, it’s an unknown enemy. A lot of people are not understanding that. Let me try to explain. In December 2019 an army of microscopic alien beings invaded Earth, from God knows where, but they landed in China. And you know what these invaders wanted? Our lungs. They found that they could use human lungs to grow ever more invaders, human lungs were perfect for their alien breeding facilities. And breed they did, infecting millions of lungs all over the planet, despite valiant attempts to hold them in check. The aliens have a foothold on Earth, a still expanding foothold.

What do these invaders want? Easy. They want to infect every human being on Earth. That is Covid-19’s “plan.” Or the reason for their existence or whatever, these aliens want to colonise every set of human lungs on Earth. Yours included gentle reader. An actual alien invader, just like the freaking things in the Aliens’ movies, wants to use your lungs to grow more copies of itself. Concerned yet? This is where we separate the wheat from the chaff. Because the next question is, so what if they win? What if Covid-19 does overwhelm our defences and infects a huge percentage of the human population? Again, easy. We don’t have a fucking clue. Let me repeat that, we have no idea what the long term effect on people Covid-19 will have.

This is where people confuse the map with the territory. Yes, Covid-19 might turn out to be “just another flu.” Might. Might also have all sorts of other consequences. The below quote goes into some of them. Or in another way, aliens have invaded Earth, should we just surrender to them to save the economy? Read the following to see what that may entail:

“I’ve seen a lot of people itching to “reopen” the country. Maybe I can add a tiny bit to this conversation and hopefully not be castrated for it. I’m a physician (ER Radiologist) and I’m seeing these patients. Right now there are many, many unknowns.

1) A high percent of people who get sick are dying, including young and healthy patients. For some reason the statistics being reported in the news is not what I’m seeing. I’m seeing a high proportion of dying patients in their 40’s. I’ve seen probably 2x more 40 year olds dying than patients over 70.

UPDATE 4/21/20: Since there have been nursing home outbreaks, the morbidity and mortality age statistics I’ve observed have started to reflect what is being reported in the media. Understand, though, this disease still greatly impacts younger individuals in very high numbers.

2) The ones who are surviving, including those who have “asymptomatic” random findings I see in the ER’s end up having elevated cardiac markers. In other words, this virus is messing with young patients’ hearts… and not a little bit. I’m talking WILDLY elevated cardiac markers. This could result in a massive need for heart transplants in the next decade and only time will tell if these patients convert to full blown cardiomyopathies (not a diagnosis I would wish on my worst enemy). If you are not scared of “a little” pneumonia and a small percent chance of dying from it, you should ABSOLUTELY be scared of getting a cardiomyopathy (and being among many at one time who will be getting it). This would be devastating for society.

3) This is only the first wave of the infection. All pandemics we know of come back with a vengeance. We won’t know when and we won’t know how bad. The (now decreased) estimated loss of life only takes into account ONE wave WITH mitigation. Any other assumptions after this one wave is truly a blind guess.

4) We don’t know whether or not infected individuals are gaining immunity. We also don’t know when a vaccine will be declared effective. It will be at a MINIMUM (best case) 18 months before we know, not a worst case.

5) We don’t know the effect of viral load yet. Whether the amount of virus you’ve been exposed to or remains in your body is a factor. Does it take repeated exposures or just one to become ill?

6) We don’t know ALL the effects of this virus yet. We know a common symptom is loss of smell and taste. Besides being incredibly “inconvenient” it means this virus is infecting the neurologic system. Herpes/Varicella viruses infect the neurologic system and then can get reactivated as the immune system weakens or when you get older. (How would you like to go through a life threatening illness every year of your life when you get older?) We also know many viruses cause cancer… HIV, EBV, HPV, etc. We don’t know if that will be the case with this one yet.

7) We don’t even know how to treat this well yet… forget cure, I’m talking about “well.” Once infected and progressing to the need for a ventilator, this infection doesn’t behave at all like what we’ve seen before. Hence, ineffective treatment and ~80% mortality on a ventilator. You don’t want to be in that situation. The last thing you’ll experience is suffocation and intubation and no family or friends around you. Not a great way to go.

— My take: Now, I don’t know about you, but if it meant that I stay locked up in jail (and we are not) in order to save my wife’s life or my children’s lives, you damn well believe I’d do it. I’ve seen the biostatistics, the epidemiology, the lack of trustworthy data coming from other countries, the conspiracy theories, but most importantly I’ve seen these patients’ lives and families be destroyed. Play the long game and don’t be impulsive. If we have no people left to participate in an economy, in a government then none of this is worthwhile. The best thing you can do for yourself and this world right now is avoid this infection at all cost and stay alive. 

Dr. Fred Weiss

Can I comment on the above? No, I’m not a doctor or an epidemiologist. What I do know is this, if the overwhelming majority of experts on the topic think we should do all we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19, it’s crazy not to listen to them. We live in crazy times though. So gentle reader, please, do whatever you can to avoid getting this disease. Be a survivor, not a statistic.

Have a great week everyone. Stay safe, stay sane. #StaytheFHome Comments, shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Public domain image from Snappygoat.)

Written by unitedcats

April 27, 2020 at 5:17 am

RUSH LIMBAUGH GOES ON A KILLING SPREE AND THE COMING RED STATE COVID-19 CATASTROPHE

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What a time to be alive. World War Two all over again. Well, not really, but first time since then that an event is occurring with similar global ramifications. Most of human history consists of huge areas of more or less stability, with local problems here and there. In the developed world, almost all stability since World War Two. It’s weird and different this time though. Now with the Interwebs, we are in touch with our friends in the front line. Some of them won’t survive the war. Hell of a thing. It’s the beginning of the storm. A million confirmed cases world wide, and certainly a wild undercount since so many countries have limited testing capabilities.

And in America, it’s going to be a Red State cataclysm. I almost never listen to Rush Limbaugh, every time I have it’s just a string of lies, false arguments, and vitriolic hatred directed towards his fellow Americans. Not my cup of tea. Well, turns out, surprise surprise, he’s had a lot to say about Covid-19, collected here for the gentle reader’s edification. Put a pillow on your keyboard before reading though, because your jaw and or forehead may hit it shortly:

February 24: “Folks, this coronavirus thing, I want to try to put this in perspective for you. It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. You think I’m wrong about this? You think I’m missing it by saying that’s — Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

February 25: “Why couldn’t the coronavirus get Donald Trump reelected? What if the United States comes up with a dramatically great policy to deal with it—and the number of cases in the United States dwindles, goes down, or does not expand like the cases around the world? Then why wouldn’t that be beneficial to Trump? Notice: Here we are in February, and they’ve already got this virus ruining the economy by November, in time to take out Trump. This is proof they’ve got nothing. They know they can’t beat the guy, folks…. Donald Trump has survived every coup attempt, every assault on him, that has been made up and now the coronavirus, they’re trying to lay it at his feet and make him responsible for it and they’re doing irresponsible news reports claiming that the coronavirus is gonna destroy the US economy by when? November! Isn’t it magical? The coronavirus is the new Russians…”

March 9: “Democrats out the wazoo are showing up at Trump rallies. This is why they want these rallies stopped. This is why — it’s not because of public safety, not because of public health.”

March 11: “This coronavirus, they’re just — all of this panic is just not warranted. This, I’m telling you, when I tell you — when I’ve told you that this virus is the common cold. When I said that, it was based on the number of cases. It’s also based on the kind of virus this is. Why do you think this is “COVID-19”? This is the 19th coronavirus. They’re not uncommon. Coronaviruses are respiratory cold and flu viruses. There is nothing about this, except where it came from, and the itinerant media panic…”

March 13: “We’re shutting down our country because of the — the cold virus, which is what coronaviruses are. This is COVID-19, the 19th version of the coronavirus. We’re shutting it — can you imagine our enemies watching this? You think the Chinese are not laughing themselves silly over how easy this has been?”

March 27: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC and they’re at the NIH, and they’re up, well — yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there. But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.”

Well, I stand corrected. I thought Mr Limbaugh was just an asshole making a living spewing hate and nonsense, why not, it’s a free country? I was wrong. He’s a fucking moron. A man so stupid that he thinks he’s smart, Dunning-Kruger on steroids. Essentially everything he’s saying above is not just wrong, it’s dangerously criminally wrong. Yes, various coronaviruses do cause the common cold. That’s where the similarity begins and ends, it’s like claiming all mushrooms are harmless because they sell them in stores. He is right though, our enemies are laughing at us, because people like Trump and Limbaugh utterly sabotaged our response to a global pandemic. The USA is now the world’s leader in Covid-19 cases, and the horror is just beginning.

And Mr. Limbaugh is just one of many. The anti-science, anti-public health efforts of the GOP are going to reap a terrible harvest. Many GOP governors refused to expand Medicaid, because, you know, Obama. And have seen dramatic closures of hospitals in rural areas as a result. Basically, the GOP’s efforts to undermine trust in government and science have crippled public health measures in regions they control. Read about it here in nauseating detail: The Coming Red State Coronavirus Catastrophe. It’s incredibly depressing, huge numbers of people are going to die because of the nonsense promulgated by the GOP … and others.

This is what happens when people become convinced that opinions and hunches and woo are better than science and reason. God only knows how this is all going to play out in detail, but it’s going to get ugly. Promoting paranoid nonsense has already caused one fellow to snap, he won’t be the last. Covid-19 in America is like a bad dream I can’t wake up from. There’s some hope though, around the world people are stepping up and organizing to help their fellow citizens get through this crisis. I just hope enough people in Red States can step up and make a difference, because the GOP leadership sure isn’t stepping up to the plate.

Have a safe and sane weekend everyone. #staythefuckhome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Communards in their Coffins, photograph taken by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in May 1871. Public domain image. I chose it because they just seemed so real, real people, they had friends, family, loved ones. Covid-19 isn’t partisan and doesn’t give a shit about someone’s ideology, only science and reason can defend us from a pandemic.)

Written by unitedcats

April 3, 2020 at 6:14 pm

NO APRIL FOOLS JOKE THIS YEAR

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No April Fools Jokes today. Would it were everyone suddenly shouted “April Fools!” and it turned out Covid-19 was the greatest Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity prank in history and none of it happened at all. Everyone would heave a huge sigh of relief and go out for a giant community BBQ. Yes, where we would BBQ every Delta Kappa Epsilon member we could find for scaring the bejesus out of the whole damn planet. Yeah, no, probably more like there will be scattered reports today that Covid-19 has mutated into a form that turned people into zombies, and they’ll be dismissed as April Fools jokes until Trump and company are overrun by zombies during his last and most famous press briefing. Trump screaming “This is Obama’s Fault!” as he went down. Yeah, I think my imagination is running amok after staring at the same walls and annoying cat for weeks.

Boy, this is a new one for me, living through the worst global crisis since World War Two. Weird and new and disturbing on multiple levels, I could’ve gone the rest of my life without this. And especially weird since I live in the USA, a country that has grown increasingly disconnected from reality over my lifetime. And it’s showing now. Yes, Iowa is under quarantine, tons of businesses have closed. No more bars! But, phew, locals are clever, they are socializing in playgrounds and grocery stores. I shit you not, there are still a lot of people in my rural corner of Iowa who aren’t taking this seriously. Hell, there’s Coronavirus Truthers already, people convinced that a global pandemic is just some giant hoax. The mind reels.

This is what happens when powerful elements of a society decry reason and science for decades. A large percentage of Americans don’t trust experts or scientists, having been convinced they are all part of some sort of liberal plot to destroy America. America has the only major political party on Earth, developed Earth at least,  where science denial is a big part of the party platform. Every single 2016 GOP candidate for POTUS was an evolution denier. Every. Single. One. Inculcating distrust of government and international cooperation is also part of the toxic stew. And the idea, almost a cult belief in some, that anyone who has differing opinions than their own must be stupid.

So here we are, on the opposite side of the planet from where it all started, now the world’s epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, and even Trump is starting to sound alarms about how many Americans are going to die this summer. So much winning. I’ve tried to watch his daily briefings, but I don’t get far. He lies, brags, and says outrageous things, like blaming the lack of PPE on corrupt health care workers. That’s gotta be good for morale in the front lines. His base is still with him though, which is darkly ironic because he convinced so many of them that this was nothing to worry about and he had it under control. The next few months are gonna be interesting to say the least. And to be fair, the other side of the aisle has the same disconnect with reality, just in different ways. Contemporary American government has mastered propaganda in ways that would have been the envy of Goebbels and Hitler.

Yeah, making more Hitler comparisons now, because the effing world is getting more like the world that bred Hitler and Stalin every day. No apologies. Watching the Covid-19 pandemic explode is like watching 9/11 in slow motion. And in both cases it exposed how criminally vulnerable we were to something experts had been warning about for decades, while we learned the wrong lessons because our political system is corrupt, self-serving, and broken. And the slow motion version is climate change, now frustrated pandemic experts know exactly how climatologists have been feeling for years. A clear threat to the planet that requires a rational and scientific response, largely ignored because of political and religious agendas. Hell, Covid-19 is part of the ongoing climate crisis, and like Covid-19, it’s going to get worse faster than people are expecting. We still haven’t learnt that we learnt the wrong lessons from 9/11, our insane and counterproductive “war on terror” continues unabated as calls for global peace and coordinated international action against Covid-19 fall on deaf ears in Washington. Covid-19 is no more immune to politics than the other two crises, God help us all. We aren’t the indispensable nation, we are the insufferable nation.

Lastly, got sent this link about how Covid-19 may be an accidental release from a Chinese biological warfare research lab. Is it possible? Maybe. Every bit of expert opinion I could find says no, Covid-19’s DNA is clearly evolved from a wild strain. Wild as in living in some animal host before mutating and jumping to humans. What does it matter? It doesn’t really, this was going to occur naturally soon or later, so we can’t say we weren’t warned and didn’t know we should be ready for something like this. If it’s true then the nations of the world, the sane ones at least, will get to the bottom of it, biological warfare research is banned under international law for good reason. Blame shifting now serves no good purpose,  but alas that’s how Washington works now. Take credit for the good, blame others for the bad.

On the plus side I’m no longer enraged at Trump, just saddened and disappointed. He really has no clue, we needed a Lincoln, we got The Donald. Comments and shares appreciated, stay safe, stay healthy, #staythefuckhome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Copied from here, an excellent article about the techniques used by science deniers. Used without permission, but hopefully I can be forgiven as I am linking to the site and also trying to inculcate rational thinking in people.)

Written by unitedcats

April 1, 2020 at 2:40 pm

BETELGEUSE IS UP TO SOMETHING

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Betelgeuse, the 11th brightest star in the night sky, may explode. Wait, what? Yerp, Betelgeuse, the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, is acting very strangely indeed. Over the past few months it has dimmed to less than 40% of its normal brightness, and is now the 24th brightest star in the sky.  The next clear night I’m going to go out and look for myself, Orion is one of the most noticeable constellations in the sky. Never thought it would change in my lifetime. This is, by the way, essentially unprecedented. While there are a few variable stars in the sky including Betelgeuse, never has a super bright star such as Betelgeuse suddenly dimmed this much, at least in recorded history. What the hell is going on here?

Short answer, astronomers don’t know, but it could mean Betelgeuse is about to explode. Betelgeuse is a very unstable and active star, it’s likely just blown a dust cloud or such our way. Still, a supernova? This is because Betelgeuse is a red giant star nearing the end of its red giant phase. And sometimes such stars go supernova. Betelegeuse is maybe 10-20 times the mass of the Sun, and large enough to encompass the orbit of Mars and maybe Jupiter. It’s about 700 light years from Earth, right next door astronomically speaking. Most astronomers think it’s unlikely the dimming means Betelgeuse is going to explode anytime soon, but it is within the realm of possibility. Only eight such explosions have been observed in history, so it’s not like scientists have had much opportunity to study them.

If it does go supernova, it will be quite a sight. Betelgeuse will be the brightest star in the sky, rivalling the Moon in brightness, and so bright as to be visible during the day. And it will last for months. Hopefully the skies here will clear long enough for me to look. Cloudy with sleet today, oh joy. On the plus side, 700 light years away means it probably poses no danger to Earth. We know this mostly because we have a pretty good idea of how common supernovas are, so we can calculate how often Earth has been close to a supernova. Fairly often in cosmic terms, and the planet hasn’t been sterilized yet. Losing the ozone layer would be the biggest danger, the effects would be bad, but life would go on. Phew. We have enough on our plate at the moment.

So two thoughts about this. First, boy, in the pre electric light world this would be a much bigger deal. If one of the stars in Orion had dropped to less than half its brightness in 1800, everyone on Earth would have known about it pretty quickly. And in many eras, it would have been considered an omen or such, the heavens were supposed to be immutable. People wouldn’t have known what to make of it. Pre 1700 or so, before outer space was discovered, people would have been really perplexed. Might have even caused witch burnings or wars. So, good thing it’s happening now, when people don’t believe in superstitious nonsense. Snort. No, the evangelicals who are waiting for Jesus to come back see this as another sign of the End Times. Stay tuned.

Which leads to my second thought, a somewhat eccentric thought trail. This Betelgeuse dimming event is the fourth odd and unprecedented event in the sky since Tabby’s Star dimming in 2015 suggested (albeit unlikely) alien megastructures. The second being Oumuamua and Comet Borisov. Tabby’s Star suggesting aliens, the next two being the first two confirmed interstellar visitors to the Solar System. And now an interstellar event visible to the naked eye, that rarely happens. One might even include the recently discovered repeating FRB, though that’s a stretch.

Connecting these events is no doubt pareidolia on my part. Seeing patterns where none exist. Thinking aliens might announce their presence by making changes in the sky isn’t an original idea. In fact the whole “the aliens are coming” trope seems pretty clearly to be the modern version of “Jesus is coming.”  Still, if the aliens suddenly arrive, I will become a famous blogger. The guy who saw the signs that the aliens were coming! The Nostradamus of our time! Fame and fortune would surely follow. And what a nightmare that would be. Fortunately it’s about as likely as Betelgeuse going supernova in our time.

On a more serious aliens vein, a case has been made to mainstream SETI (The search for extraterrestrial intelligence.) There are excellent reasons for doing so, both SETI and astronomy in general will benefit. The reason SETI has been left out in the cold is because it’s easy for science deniers and evangelicals to ridicule. Humans just love to shoot themselves in the face, we’re an odd species for sure.

I’m sorry this post is a day late, still helping a friend convalesce from an operation. She flies home soon though, and I will resume posting on a more regular basis. Take that as a threat or a promise I suppose. Have a great week everyone!

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Remnant of Cassiopeia Supernova of 1572. Credit: Pixabay, free for commercial use, no attribution required.)

Written by unitedcats

February 18, 2020 at 8:17 am

THE GREAT METEOR PROCESSION OF 1913 AND OTHER GOINGS ON IN SPACE

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Around 9pm on 9 February 1913, the Great Meteor Procession. For several minutes a series of meteors streaked across the sky from Canada to the South Atlantic, crossing the US northeast. Unfortunately it was cloudy in the US northeast that night. So most of the witnesses were in Canada or on Atlantic ships. There have been other meteor processions in recorded history, so an unusual but not unique event. Most of us will never see one. It’s believed that this was a decent sized chunk of rock hitting Earth’s atmosphere at an angular sweet spot so to speak. A nice low angle so it slowly entered the atmosphere over thousands of miles and disintegrated as it descended. Some even could hear thunder like sounds as they passed, which due to the speed of sound shouldn’t have been possible. A topic for another day.

Sadly this was before the era of modern satellites and cameras, so all we have are eye witness accounts, such as the painting above. Some people got really excited obviously, but radio broadcasts were decades away, so no widespread anything. Most people would have been unaware of the procession until days or weeks afterwards. And while science can’t definitively explain the procession, there isn’t anything scientifically puzzling about it. Except for one thing. A small number of witnesses reported a second smaller meteor procession in the same location about 5 hours later. The Earth moves a long way through space in five hours, and it makes no sense that this second event was part of the first procession. Yet another procession in the same location as the first hours later would be astronomically unlikely. Say like flipping a coin and having it land on its edge twice in a row.

A FRB that repeats has been found, deepening the mystery of FRBs. discovered in 2007, FRBs, Fast Radio Bursts are incredibly powerful bursts of radio energy detected from across the Universe. Very few have been detected to date, their rarity and non repeating nature makes them tricky to study. Now we have one that goes through a regular cycle every sixteen days. So, woohoo, easier to study! And, crap, the best theories about FRBs posit they were created by cataclysmic events such as colliding stars. Back to the drawing board. Two quick notes, some sloppy reporting says this latest FRB is near Earth. It’s half a freaking billion light years away, so it’s near Earth only in a cosmic sense. Worse, some clickbait reporting implies the radio bursts are directed at Earth, implying the possibility of aliens. No, they are no more directed at us that if one sees a car a dozen miles away at night on a winding road occasionally brighten because the headlights were briefly pointed in your direction. And there is zero scientific speculation that FRBs are artificial. Unexplained doesn’t mean aliens did it.

Well, comet 2I/Borisov is not getting as much press as I expected. Probably because it’s not doing anything that can be spun as “I’m not saying it was aliens, but it’s aliens.” Comet Borisov is the second known interstellar object humans have observed passing through the Solar System, the first being asteroid like Oumuamua in 2017. Oumuamua had some odd characteristics never seen in an asteroid before, though nothing to indicate it was artificial. Borisov falls within the typical range of Solar System comets, the only thing out of the ordinary about it so far is its orbit. Which clearly places it as an interstellar interloper, it will pass through the Solar System once, never to return.

Alas, even though scientists spotted Borisov coming, unlike Oumuamua which was spotted only after it was on its way back into interstellar space, getting a probe to Borisov would be even more difficult than intercepting Oumuamua. So probes to either are highly unlikely at this point. Hopefully a future interstellar visitor will be spotted early enough and in a favorable trajectory, so that it could be visited by a probe. Being able to examine an interstellar object up close would be an astronomer’s dream, since it’s unlikely humans will be launching interstellar probes anytime soon. It’s safe to say that plans are being drawn up for just this sort of interception.

NASA is now planning to return humans to the Moon by 2024. In fact they plan to send the first woman to the Moon as well. In the early seventies, when only men were sent into orbit, it was still a man’s world in ways that are likely surprising to young people today. I’m glad NASA is returning to the Moon, hopefully there will be no tragedies because of the rush to get there while a certain politician is still in office. Trump is all about funding science if it will stroke his need for accomplishments, other science, he doesn’t want to know. So much more making America great again when it comes to science.

Sigh. Hope everyone is having a good week. Shares and comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Painting of the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 as seen from Toronto, Canada. Credit: Gustav Hahn. Public Domain under Canadian Copyright Law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 12, 2020 at 1:50 pm

WUT R WERDS

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In other words, the post I was working on isn’t finished yet, so I’m going to wing it this morning. There’s always something to write about, old or new. I’m watching an old movie for example, ‘Dances with Wolves.’ I tried to watch it when it came out, and couldn’t plod through it all. Not enough explosions for my younger self maybe? Halfway through now, and plodding definitely covers it. Plus somehow Kevin Kostner makes my skin crawl now, that’s a new experience. I will finish and report on by Monday. Two other famous (in their time at least) movies I couldn’t get through were ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Amadeus.’ I don’t believe I will be reattempting them, unless I lose a bet I suppose.

In India four men were accused of raping and murdering a woman. Made the news big time. Then the police took them to the scene of the crime for some reason, where they attempted to escape and were all shot and killed by the police. Rejoicing and celebration in the streets. That’s at least the gist of it from what I can tell. Well, they won’t be raping anyone else. Not sure really what to think of it all. Sort of sounds like an extrajudicial execution, I mean really, all four? I hope they were guilty, sort of, what an odd thing to hope for. Violence against women does appear to be a major problem in India, although it’s pretty much a problem everywhere. My only cogent thought on this is that I simply don’t know enough about India to have cogent thoughts about this. Other than rape is one of the ultimate evils, and it’s often treated far too lightly in the west. The story just got me, and a lot of people I suppose.

In other unfinished business I really tried to get through the Longmire books. I really liked the show. I liked the characters in the books too, but every book introduced a new cast of secondary characters. Worse, each book, at least the last two, used a narrative style where the damn book was half flashback. Two stories intermingled into one, sometimes each with its own cast of secondary characters. I finally gave up, I couldn’t keep  track of who was who when and where and what now. And wasn’t that a tortured turn of phrase, but it expresses how I feel. The dent in the wall where I threw the last book also expresses it.

An anti-vaxxer has been arrested for mass murder in Samoa. I wish. No, but he was arrested for ‘incitement against a government order.’ Samoa is in the midst of a measles epidemic that has killed 63 so far. Samoa has a population of about 200,000, about the size of Salt Lake City, so 63 deaths is a big deal. And anti-vaxxers spreading lies about vaccines are playing a huge negative role. This guy was telling people that vaccines are dangerous, and measles can be cured with vitamin C and papaya leaf extract. Right.

Worse, the anti-vaccine movement is getting more militant and effective in their global campaign to bring back deadly diseases humanity vanquished long ago.  Here’s the whole Samoa story in great detail, it’s freaking infuriating. I’m starting to wonder if the anti-vax movement is secretly run by extraterrestrials seeking to quietly depopulate the Earth. Probably a science fiction B film in there somewhere. More likely though it’s what most human failings can be attributed to. We’re not really an intelligent species.

And since its Friday, I’ll end on a positive note. A cute animated story about a little girl who writes a letter to Santa. Aw. But misspelled it ‘Satan.’ Uhoh. It goes downhill from there. Enjoy it here.

As always, remarks, queries, and, well, thesaurus.com couldn’t come up with a good synonym for shares. All still enjoyed and acknowledged. Enough lame thesaurus jokes.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A tweet. Credit: Tweeter or Tumblr thescalexwrites? Maybe this fellow? Used without permission, but since it’s floating around Facebook I hope I can be forgiven.)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2019 at 9:42 am