Monday, October 31, 2016

Two Trillion Galaxies

I have a friend who has a very nerdy geeky friend.  In short, he likes numbers.  It seems that whenever a new factoid with a number gets into the news, this fellow likes to play with it.  So, I decided to ask him to write up his reaction to the latest numbers news.  So, here it is, with some slight editing to make it easier to understand.
A few weeks ago, astronomers announced that our (observable) universe contains ten to twenty times as many galaxies as they thought it had (a galaxy is a collection of stars held together by the center of gravity of the galaxy.  Our own galaxy, called the “Milky Way,” contains some 200 billion star systems (a star system is the star at the core, all its planets, asteroids, comets and other junk that is held in place by the star’s gravity)).  And our galaxy is an average galaxy.  Galaxies are HUGE affairs (the Milky Way is some six hundred quadrillion (600,000,000,000,000,000 = 6 * 1017) miles in diameter), and each galaxy is mostly empty interstellar (between stars) space.  Just weeks ago, astronomers believed that the count of galaxies within the observable universe was some 200 billion (200,000,000,000 = 1011) galaxies, roughly the same number as the number of stars in the Milky Way.  Now they believe that the universe contains 2 trillion galaxies, ten times as many.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Our Lying Politicians

Years ago, when my daughter was just getting used to college in a western town, one of the first things that she noticed – that made such an impression on me that I remember it to this day – was that her classmates there did not mean what they said.  She was used to peers who said what they meant, who said stuff that they would deliver on.  Like, “let’s meet at the Shack at 5:30 this afternoon” or “let’s talk at 8:30 tonight.”  She observed that her college classmates said what they said just to fill the vacuum of “it’s my turn to say something” without worrying much about what they said, and without intending to follow through on what they had carelessly promised.

I understand that it is easier, more polite, and more socially productive to say “see ya later” than it is to say “hey, you are not really my best friend and I don’t really care if I never see you again.”  I understand that if we always told the truth – the raw (and impolitic) truth of the moment – we’d have nary a single friend left in the world.  At least, that is the way some of us think, and act.

Which leads me to ask the following question: How hypocritical of us is it to demand of our politicians what we don’t demand of each other – to tell the unvarnished truth – what we don’t even demand of ourselves?

And here is a follow-up question: is the “unvarnished truth” always “politically incorrect”?  Can’t the truth be civil?  Must it be inflammatory and crude?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Stop the TPP

Initially, as a loyal member of President Obama’s administration, Hillary Clinton was for the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).  She changed her tune as a result of primary battles with Bernie Sanders, who strongly opposed it.  What will she do should she become President?  Who knows?  But here is one man’s views on this controversial treaty.

The issue is not trade.  Trade goes on, willy-nilly.  It is the lifeblood of the world’s economy.  Without trade, you will only have what you can produce yourself.  Trade is not the issue.