Monday, March 14, 2016

Venus, Earth’s Sister

There are enough similarities between Earth and Venus that many scientists consider the two to be near twin planets that just by happenstance evolved in different directions.  In fact Venus is often referred to as our sister planet because of similarities in size, mass, density and volume. It is believed that both planets share a common origin forming at the same time about 4.5 billion years ago.
Regardless, there are a few interesting anomalies worth siting between Venus and Earth, consider these — the direction of Venus’s rotation . . . the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east; the “spin cycle” of the planet is so slow that a “day” on Venus is equal to 243 Earth days & nights; a Venusian year though is just under 225 (224.7) Earth days & nights.

Our current knowledge of the planet Venus’ surface and its interior is similar to
the knowledge we held of Mars in the 1970’s following the Viking I & II missions. The Soviet Union placed a total of 8 probes on the surface of Venus, beginning with Venera 7 in 1970 and ending with Venera 14 in 1982; each of which took simple measurements within the 110 minutes or less before the surface environment’s heat “cooked” their on-board electronics. NASA’s Magellan spacecraft mapped the surface of Venus while in orbit with radar equipment in the early 1990’s before it crashed and burned onto the planet.

Mapping Venus’ surface requires using imaging radar that can penetrate its thick cloud cover. Unfortunately, the technology in the early 1990’s when Magellan flew was comparatively new and crude by today’s standards. Modern (2016) imaging radars are often used to study the surface of the earth both from airplanes and from satellites. The technology is well established and is relatively low cost.

During the past few years, something of a cottage industry has grown up proposing new missions to map Venus.  Dissimilar accounting rules make exact cost estimates difficult, but the proposed missions by most estimates would cost in the neighborhood of $600 Million at most.  Well yea, that’s a lot of money but then NASA’s budget that was approved last year (2015), was $18.01 Billion — $549 Million more than the White House requested.

So why spend all those US Taxpayer Dollars on a place in our Solar System that is extremely unlikely to ever be suitable for supporting an Earth colony? The potential knowledge gained from such an endeavor would address several key questions:
  • Since the average age of Venus’ surface is just a few hundred million years old, a tiny fraction of the age of the surfaces of most rocky and icy moons in the solar system, we desperately need to determine just what processes resurfaced the planet; and while we’re at it, find out if it occurred within the same time period or did the resurfacing process spread over an extended period of time?
  • A second important area of concern should be whether or not Venus is currently geologically active and if so continuing to remake her surface and release new gases into the atmosphere.
  • Finally, and if for no other reason, we should look at each of our neighboring planets to help understand the perils of global warming.  It is generally believed that both Mars and Venus started out much like Earth and then changed, thus holding priceless information for Earth’s climatologists. 

Even though Venus’s atmosphere is much thicker than Earth’s current climate, models can reproduce its present temperature structure just fine.  Planetary scientists should therefore turn the clock back so as to understand why and how Venus changed from its former Earth-like conditions into the “hellhole” of today. 

In Short, the greenhouse effect on Venus is often cited as a terrifying example of what may well happen to Earth if we don't get our current pollution pattern under control.

With a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere with a pressure that’s nearly 92 times what we feel on Earth and an average surface temperature that’s near 900° Fahrenheit, to say, “Venus does not have a welcoming environment”, is an understatement.    Venus is a planet of extremes. Yes, a few physical characteristics are similar, but there are more differences than not.  The most critical of which are perhaps the average surface temperatures: Earth—14° Celsius / 57°Fahrenhite . . . Venus—462° Celsius / 864°Fahrenhite.

Nevertheless about 31 miles above the planet’s surface, Venus is still almost Earth-like.   Beyond most of the clouds there's enough sunshine to provide solar power, the temperature is warm but cool enough for liquid water to exist, and the gravity is about 90% of what we experience on the Earth. The gases at that altitude can also support life, even though a little help is necessary and there's enough carbon dioxide to facilitate plant growth. The nitrogen in the air along with hydrogen gathered from floating sulfuric acid droplets can be turned into the elements necessary to support human life.

When you think about human beings developing into a “multi-planet” species, the collective vision is typically a future with humans living on both Earth and Mars. But then Venus just might be a better choice.

The argument for this type colonizing program was suggested by Geoffrey Landis, a scientist at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in a presentation at the Conference on Human Space Exploration, Space Technology & Applications International Forum in New Mexico back in 2003. More than a decade later, it’s still a captivating idea.  According to Mr. Robert Walker, a well-known inventor & programmer for Tune Smithy, Bounce Metronome, Virtual flower, 
Lissajous 3D, and Activity Timer, this idea actually dates back to the Russians in the early 1970’s.
Venus is, by most standards, a hellish world . . . Yet that thick, heavy, toxic atmosphere is exactly what makes Venus an appealing world for humans to live on. But then you do have to think “outside the box”— in that nothing says that to live on another planet means actually living on that planet’s surface!   In theory, you see, we could use Venus’ thick atmosphere to our advantage, and build floating “Cloud Cities”.

Because the surface of Venus is far too hot, and the atmosphere too dense for life derived from Earth’s surface to survive — 31 miles above the surface of Venus is, shall we say, “The Goldilocks Zone” in the Venusian region of our Solar System.   Now keep in mind that on Venus, Earth type air is actually a lifting gas with about half the lifting power helium has on Earth . . . so much like Weather Balloons naturally rise to their operating level high in Earth’s atmosphere, this method of operation should work in the same way for our habitats on Venus.   Earth bound Weather Balloons float at a level where the pressure is equal inside and out, and can be built of light construction materials as is a “Buckminster Fuller” dome.   31 miles beyond the Venusian surface is arguably the most hospitable region for humanity in our solar system, outside of Earth itself.             

Simply put, a habitat filled with normal breathable “Earth air” will float high atop the dense Venus atmosphere where the atmospheric pressure is the same as Earth’s sea level. Yes, the surface of Venus is harsh to the extreme, far beyond the range of habitability for any known life form from Earth. However, the environment at the cloud tops of Venus is surprisingly comfortable.  

Colonizing Venus in any manner might sound a bit like insanity gone crazy, but it’s not, strictly speaking, impossible.   In truth it’s not something we’re close to achieving anytime soon, but the time is right to turn our planetary attention to Venus in the ongoing quest to find a way to live on another world.


Friday, March 11, 2016

In The Land of Nod Cain Found a Wife

According to the interpretation or accounts in the Book of Genesis’ first chapter of the Holy Scripture’s “New American Standard Bible” (NASB) version, shortly after Cain Killed Abel he was banished from the Garden of Eden and forced into the infamous Land of Nod where he by some means found a woman who agreed to marry him.  One can only assume she was aware that he had killed his brother; “a global first”.

Skeptics have used Cain's wife time and again to discredit the Book of Genesis as a factual historical record. For the true believer, it is unfortunately that the average Christian has not been able to give an adequate answer to the question—where’d she come from?  

Common Sense suggests that for Cain to find a wife there must have been other “races” of people on the earth who were not descendants of Adam and Eve.   This question is a major stumbling block to accepting the creation account in Genesis and its record of only one man and woman at the beginning of human history—a record on which most Old and New Testament doctrines depend.

Here’s the New American Standard Bible’s abbreviated account of creation and the banishment of Cain from the “Garden of Eden” sometime prior to Adam (the first man) & Eve’s (the first woman) eventual exit from the “Garden”:

Genesis 1:1 . . . In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 2:7 . . . “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”.

Genesis 2:15 . . . Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it”.

Genesis 2:20 . . . “The man (Adam) gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him”.

Genesis 2:21 . . . “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man (Adam), and he slept; then He (God) took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.   2: 22 . . . “The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man”.

Genesis 4:1 . . . Now the man (Adam) had relations with his wife Eve and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord." 4:2 . . . “Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel”.

Genesis 4:8 . . . “And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him”.

Genesis 4:16 . . . “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden”.   4:17 . . . “Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son”.  

Just in case you’d like to know, Enoch the city was a pre-Flood town; it is the first “city” mentioned in Biblical Scriptures . . . it was probably located somewhere east of Eden most likely in the region known as the Land of Nod; regrettably, nothing else is known about it.

The conventional thought regarding where Cain’s bride came to be goes something like this:

Although only these three males are cited by name (Cain, Abel, and Seth), Adam and Eve had several other kids; one Jewish historian (Josephus), set the number at thirty-three (33) sons and twenty-three (23) daughters.  If you think a total of fifty-three (53) children is excessive; keep in mind that according to Genesis 5:5, Adam lived for 930 years and too Adam and Eve were commanded to “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

Logic dictates that if we work entirely from Scripture, at the onset, there was only the first generation of humans around to procreate, so you see, brothers would have had to marry sisters in order to be fruitful, and multiply; otherwise there would be no possibility of future generations!

Genesis simply fails to mention when Cain married or if he already had a sister or sisters of child-bearing age when he was banished to The Land of Nod.   In fact the same holds true for the details of other marriages amongst the children of Adam and Eve.  Regardless we can-not reasonably deny that some brothers had to marry their sisters in the early years of human kind’s history, be it Cain or his multitude of brothers and sisters.

Yes it’s true that many people immediately reject the conclusion that Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters married each other by citing the Jewish law against the marriage of close relatives. But this was not the case until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18-20) many years later; so technically anybody—brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece—even mother & father was considered fair game in the earliest of days!  

There is however an alternative to such statutory crimes being an absolute necessity for the increase in the numbers of man-kind . . . where-in the biblical text of Genesis suggests that Adam had a wife prior to Eve.  This most likely developed from an interpretation of the Book of Genesis and its “apparent” dual creation accounts: wherein, Genesis 1:27 & 1:28 indicates that both man and woman was created at the same time: 1:27 . . . “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.   1:28 . . . God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply . . .”   

Jewish folklore identifies this female as Lilith (Latin – Lami) and is described as Adam’s first wife, who was created at about the same time and from the same earthen clay as Adam.   In the 13th Century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith is said to have left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him (in that she refusal to agree to the missionary position with him during sex), and ultimately  refused to stay in the Garden of Eden.  This allegedly occurred shortly after she mated with archangel Samael, who in Jewish mysticism was the angel of death. 

For her, shall we say “discrepancies”; she was eventually banished from the Garden of Eden too; perhaps to the Land of Nod where she found a killer of a husband who went by the name “Cain”.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Donald

A Compassionate Bully?

“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep” . . . Attributed to Benito Mussolini / Il Duce (the leader) in TIME magazine’s August 1943 issue   “tweeted” by Donald Trump –28 February 2016 . . .

“Hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?” was Mr. Trump’s reply when confronted by the American Press for “borrowing” one of Il Duce’s best-known quotes.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s alleged Ivey League training failed to mention that Mussolini considered himself the “Duce of the Italian Social Republic” which was commonly known as a puppet state of Nazi Germany during the latter part of World War II (from 1943 until 1945).  

Technically the Italian Social Republic was the second and last manifestation of the Fascist Italian state led by, yep; you guessed it, Benito Mussolini and his reformed Republican Fascist Party.  Regardless by late April of 1945, Mussolini’s republic crashed and burned. At the point of its demise, the Italian Social Republic had existed for a little more than 19 months; the resulting damage can only be described as horrific to the Italian landscape; politically, economically, and socially.

Then again perhaps Mr. Trump subconsciously aspires to be like Mussolini — his abstract version of Gatorade’s “Be like Mike” commercial in 1992, or alternatively a little bit like Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler who in the beginning looked-up to Il Duce; in fact it’s common knowledge that Adolf was an admirer of Benito almost from the get-go. 

Others say the similarities end with the down-turned “smile” that was routinely displayed by Mussolini and has been perfected by Mr. Trump.  Is this facial expression merely coincidental or are the two actually long lost cousins separated by the vastness of an ocean and a single generation.

One outlandish story actually makes the clam that Il Duce and his mistress (Clara Petacci), mysteriously escaped their capture by Italian Partisans in late April of 1945, thus avoiding being shot by their captors. In the stead, the two somehow slipped away to the US where they changed their names to Il Donald and Melania and out of necessity followed separate paths.     

The story goes on to claim that in 2005 the two reunited by forming the perfect union of husband and wife.   Absent the two celebrities really being mythical Vampires, this story is a bit problematic, at best, to accept. 

Seriously, Mr. Trump nor his current wife are not likely to be Vampires, if for no other reason, in regard to the Donald anyway, because he has been described as a “star” high school athlete at the New York Military Academy by several of his former team mates, however no mention has ever been made suggesting that while a member of the varsity soccer, baseball, or football teams he displayed “superhuman” strength, a characteristic Vampires are known to possess.  Conversely some folks claim Melania is more likely to be an android. 

Regardless it’s only fair to mention that the Donald also won several awards while in high school, some for his athletic performance and the coveted “Neatness and Order Medal” in 1960—yet another strike against him being anything other than, at worse, an “anal–retentive” humanoid.   Then too, his image in the school’s yearbook displayed on the right is most damning to the vampire theory, as it unequivocally shows he has “aged” considerably over the years—and we all know the aging process for the typical Vampire is remarkably slow.

In any event it is perhaps unfortunate that Mr. Trump, as the heir apparent of the ongoing Republican Primary, in preparation of the 2016 General Presidential Election, harbors a major political flaw that will in all likelihood prove to be “fodder” for the likely Democratic Contender:

He remains an unfavorable candidate with the general electorate.  A recent Gallup poll (1/27/16) has Mr. Trump with a 60% un-favorability (1 point higher than the previous poll) rating while the likely Democratic Candidate, Ms. Clinton, has a 52% unfavorable rating; making her the Donald’s best and only beatable opponent in a General election. To put it another way, this means that Mr. Trump has a 40% rate of approval with American voters and Ms. Hillary has a 48% rate of approval among all the voters in America.  By the way, these poll results include all US voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.   

So it boils down to this — Mr. Trump will not be able to attract voters from an electorate—60% of who view him unfavorably . . .

The fact is, the Donald has a higher un-favorability rating than any other likely candidate from either major political party since Gallup began tracking favorability back in 1992.  Who’s second in that despicable category?  Here’s your first clue: It’s a little bit ironic that the two least favored Presidential Candidates are considered the most likely to win their respective party’s primary nomination . . . and a second clue: The Democratic presidential hopeful is  of the female gender.

If you’re one of those American voters who think unfavorably ratings don’t matter, consider this “political exercise”: It is generally understood that there is a 30-40-30 makeup of America’s voters. That means 30% on the left will always vote Democratic, 30% on the right will always vote Republican; the middle group of “Independents” make-up the balance at 40%.

For the sake of simplicity in this let’s assume the 30% on the left comprises 30 votes; the 30% on the right totals 30 votes; and the middle group totals 100 votes making up 40% of the Independent electric — totaling 160 votes.

Now then, if Mr. Trump by some minor miracle wins all of the Republican votes, which will nearly be impossible, especially when considering the marathon of negative campaigning that has become commonplace in the 2016 Republican primary, he will have captured only that 30 percent on the right end of the spectrum or 30 votes. His next impossibility becomes pulling enough voters from the 40 percent in the middle who are Independent in order to snatch victory away from his Democratic opponent.    
Common sense dictates that he at best will seize 40% or 40 of the Independent votes as is reflected in his 40% favorability rating—totaling 70 votes for the Donald.

On the other hand if in fact he is lucky enough to have Ms. Hillary as his General election opponent, let’s assume she is blessed with the same premise: 30 votes from the left leaning Democratic spectrum, and 48 votes from the Independent field of voters; totaling 78 votes for Ms. Hillary.  

Should Mr. Trump not be so lucky and the Democrats ultimately “feel the Burn”— after all, Sen. Sanders is the most liked candidate in the entire 2016 field, including all the Republican Candidates. You see, Sanders has a 51% favorability rating with all US voters, which is the other really bad news for the Donald.

And then to add insult to injury, the Donald has other complications.  For example he has recently switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent, to Democrat and back to Republican.  Fact is, Mr. Trump has switched political party affiliations at least five times since the late 1980’s . . . In the world of politics, come General Election time that happened yesterday.

Then there are all those “zingers” that often times attract the passionate, indecisive voter, who in the end will not help his presidential bid with the 60% who find him unfavorable. 

Here’s only three of dozens:

  • At the Fox News Republican presidential debate on Thursday evening, (March 3, 2016) the Donald re-emphasized his own vanity by suggested that he has a large penis.  Little wonder he was voted “Ladies Man” in his senior high school yearbook.
  • His criticism of John McCain’s views may be open season politically but questioning his valor in Vietnam is overboard and will cost votes in the General Election.
  • Finally, the Donald on waterboarding: “Torture works . . . Bluffton, S.C.—Wednesday, February 17, 2016.  Enough said.

But now-and-then some folks argue that he displays true signs of compassion: In 1999, he said on Meet the Press that he is very pro-choice when it comes to un-wanted pregnancies. On the Larry King Show, that same year, he said he was very liberal on healthcare and clearly supported universal health coverage.

The Donald must remind some post–World War II voters of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 run for the Whitehouse or to a lesser degree of Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic Presidential hopeful or some might reminisce of George McGovern’s unsuccessful bid in 1972 who failed to win his home state of South Dakota and only captured 17 Electoral College votes.  

Sen. Goldwater, you may recall, was very opinionated, overbearing, and aggressive in his campaign speeches. He attracted a strong following of conservatives that were hungry for someone or anyone to champion their plight. The problem was, when he got past the primary and ran against Lyndon B. Johnson, he discovered he had alienated more than half of the American voters. The result was a landslide victory for LBJ who won 61% of the vote, compared to Goldwater’s 38%. Goldwater only pulled 5% from that 40% in the middle referenced above. 

Political history may not mean a lot to today’s younger voters but keep in mind that history often repeats itself and a repeat in this campaign means that the various flaws of the Donald will in all likelihood keep him from being the next US president.