Monday, August 8, 2016

Hi, again


It's been a while. Just noticed the last "post" I made was actually unknown to me, as it was auto-posted from a live broadcast (via Bambuser) of the Sun Chief Sound choir (Faulkner State Community College).

Maybe this is the start of a new era of LBD blogging. Or maybe it's an interruption of a normally quiet channel.

Stay tuned... maybe there will be more here soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday evening musings: Have we peaked, and a question about black holes

Just musing recently and came across this thought: according to the theory of natural selection (AKA evolution), looking at modern humanity, we cannot progress. Natural selection emphasizes the "prospering" of genes (traits, and beneficial mutations) that increase the likelihood of survival. However, in general in modern humanity, people live past childbearing years without regard to their natural abilities: stamina, athleticism, intelligence, perception. Thus, all humans have (essentially) the same chance of reproducing and passing on their genes. (In some ways, some might argue that beauty or charm might be the genes that have the best chance of reproduction and passing on their genes, and thus the human race might move towards charming beauty, but I'd counter that seemingly everyone has essentially the same chance or rate of reproducing based on the variety of parental units I have observed in my lifetime.) With the exception of the remaining tribal societies scattered throughout the globe, there is little to affect the gene pool in terms of natural selection causing higher or lower probabilities of reproducing in modern societies. Sure, "bad" genes that could lead to mortality before reproductive age might be passed on, but then those genes would die off before being passed on too far, thus leading to a status quo as far as health-related genes.

Thus, without reverting to "artificial selection" (which, somewhat frighteningly, may not be that far off: "designer babies" from genetic engineering of humans), the human race has reached its peak of natural selection. I wonder if biologists who support natural selection would support this view?

On another note, consider black holes. These are the remnants of stars that have collapsed to the point that their gravity is so massive that not even light can escape its pull. Nothing can escape from the gravitational pull of a black hole. Instead, anything pulled into the object just adds to the mass of the black hole and increases its gravitational pull. With that in mind, consider the universe from the perspective of big bang creation theory. In the early stages of the big bang, supposedly all the matter of the universe was contained in a very small volume. Wouldn't this "object" fit the concept of a black hole? Something with massive gravitational pull, from which nothing can escape? With that in mind, how did all the matter in all the stars and galaxies (and in you and me) escape the small volume, high mass, ultra-gravitational young universe?

Just some Saturday evening musings.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Where's all the money going? AKA the GMO/Organic Food Post

OK, this post is a little different than usual. I've come to the conclusion that, as far as GMOs, it really is "all about the money" - on both sides of the issue. Yes, Monsanto (and other "for profit" genetic engineering companies) are trying to make money. That's the general definition of "for profit" - "to make money." So, any argument that says, "Monsanto is only out to make money" - well, you're probably right. Yes, I'm sure there are some working for Monsanto who want to help feed the world (which the yield from GMO makes easier), but overall, they're out to make money. With that in mind, I submit the first argument against Monsanto making "people killers" - if you're a "for profit" company, why in the world would you make your product kill off your customers? I mean, say you were a movie company, making a chainsaw killing movie, and decided to go "really live action" on it and have chainsaws in the seats that killed the viewers near the end of the movie... you wouldn't have much of an audience for "chainsaw killing 2" now would you? Similarly, if Monsanto wants $$$$$, they probably want the largest customer base buying the food produced by their genetically modified seed; killing off the customer isn't the best way to increase your market share.

But it's true on the other side of the fence, too. Anti-GMO and Organic are becoming HUGE cash cows to everyone (except me, it seems). Websites devoted to Anti-GMO or Organic that are about 75% advertising cover, usually cross-posting the same articles (with little or no supporting evidence, just various claims about how horrible the stuff is, how you died yesterday and it's your ghost that's currently reading it and really needs to warn your family and friends and post to every social media site you can log into, and pictures of some guys in hazmat suits in a corn or wheat field that, more than likely, was a publicity stunt by an Anti-GMO lobbying organization). And which are promoting all sorts of (highly overpriced) books by (supposedly) world renowned subject matter experts. GMO is big business - but so is Anti-GMO and Organic. Organic foods are typically significantly costlier than "regular" foods (by 25% or more), and the yields from farms raising "organic" foods are generally smaller as well (meaning the farm can feed less people per acre than a "normal" farm). So, your support of Organic and Anti-GMO is, in fact, making food more expensive and making it harder to feed the overall population, and making it harder for lower income families to afford the food they need as well (since the shelves which otherwise might have had larger varieties and quantities of lower cost items. I'll post some articles later on for you to do some further reading on.

Speaking of those Hazmat suit pics, check out this article, which includes a picture (see on left) of a farmer driving a tractor wearing a hazmat suit while spraying something on his crops. Thing is, that picture "was taken from a video about an organic cauliflower grower in California" who was spraying his crops with a "natural soap spray." Yep, that's right - "organic" and he's using a hazmat suit while farming it.

But what's the point? Are Organic and non-GMO foods safer and better for you than "normally" produced foods (i.e., non-Organic) or GMO foods? As a general rule, I offer "no" as the answer. Now, if you don't agree, and you have the income to support the non-GMO or Organic lifestyle you choose, go for it! Seriously, I won't say, "You shouldn't be doing that," and I won't mention the fact that, per one research study, organic meats eaten during the winter actually increased the likelihood of illness due to Campylobacter infections. Oops, sorry, I think I just mentioned it. I won't mention it again, but you can hear about it in this video:

"No significant differences." That's the general outcome of all these studies - "no significant differences." In fact, the risk of e-coli bacterial infection was slightly higher in the organic vs. the "normal" foods (although it was, really, statistically insignificant). But what else?

What about the "Bt toxin" in genetically modified Bt corn? That's a "bad" thing, right? Well, it seems that "for many decades, conventional and organic farmers have sprayed their crops with a bacterial solution containing Bacillus thuringiensis without any safety issues. These bacteria produce a toxin that kills a certain very specific range of harmful insects leaving other animals and humans unharmed. To make this method more efficient and less time-consuming, researchers inserted the gene for this toxin into the plant itself, so now the plant produce the toxin" (see this article as my reference source). The toxin used - which the Bt corn produces itself, while organic corn might have it sprayed on the corn externally - doesn't affect humans - our stomachs do not provide the right environment for this "toxin" to affect us. And just because something affects insects does not mean it will affect humans. In fact, "natural" insecticides are often made from dish detergent or Ivory liquid soap. I'm not saying you want to go drinking bottles of dish detergent, but you do wash your dishes with it (and then put your food on it), or your hands with Ivory or other soaps (and then eat with your hands), and I'll bet that you could probably eat an entire bar of Ivory soap or drink a bottle of Dawn or Ivory Liquid soap and probably not get cancer (maybe some diarrhea or something, based on the National Institutes of Health page about "swallowing soap" which says that "most bar soaps are considered harmless"). (No, you won't go blind from Soap Poisoning, despite the wonderful bit in A Christmas Story.)

Another point about the GMO plants and insecticide use: from the prior article, the amount of insecticide use and the type of insecticides used have improved (lessened the amount and reduced the harmful nature of) since GMO plant use increased. There's lots of talk about glyphosphates on GMO crops, but this increase of glyphosphate insecticide accompanies a decrease in use of more toxic insecticides.

There's lots more good info at the article - worth a few minutes to review. Things like the fact that "Golden Rice was developed to combat vitamin A deficiency that makes a half a million children go blind each year and kills nearly half of them. The patents were negotiated away in order to provide Golden Rice seeds free of charge to poor African farmers. Current research into Golden Rice is largely being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."

Not enough words in my blog post this time? I can help! Check out these articles for more info about the "cash cow" that Organic foods has become:

Another point, more related to various "ingredients" that are called out from time to time (usually in relation to processed foods or fast foods): just because something has another use besides food doesn't, by itself, mean it's bad for you. For instance, baking soda and vinegar are good cleaners, but they're not necessarily toxic (well, sure, if you take in too much at once, they probably are; most anything is in excess). Vegetable oil can be made into biodiesel.

And let's not really talk about artificial sweeteners (which, it turns out, Saccharin may end up being a cure for cancer!). I'll just leave you another video from the Healthcare Triage YouTube channel related to artificial sweeteners:

So, until next time... a topato!