Saturday, July 26, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Population Growth Curves
Here's a simple curve for bacteria:
Bacterial population over time
Here's an oscillating curve based on the number of pelts from the Hudson Bay Trading Company:
Hare and lynx populations over time
Courtesy of Duke University's Math Dept.
Here's the human population curve:
Human population over time
Courtesy of the United Nations and the University of California at San Diego's Jim Moore (no relation)
Here's another teaching link from the University of Michigan.
There has likely been no sustainable human population in human history. This is due to climate change, predators, catastrophes, and disease. In other words, up until the last 250-300 years, the environment has controlled our numbers. This will not change over the long haul. Scientists don't know the carrying capacity of the Earth, but we are now seeing signs that the oceans are stressed on a global level. Fisheries (cod and salmon) are collapsing and unprecedented jellyfish blooms are two indicators that fish populations are being depleted. With a warming planet, whether it's due to excess carbon dioxide or increased solar activity, likely fresh water shortages will occur first if agricultural irrigation practices are not optimized to conserve water. Currently, they are not. However, people die in less than a week without water. A person can live for three weeks without food - longer with suboptimal rations. Now the water shortages to come can be lessened with the solar distillation of seawater or vapor compression distillation. (If your water is polluted with light oil or petroleum distillates that have a lower boiling point than water you are screwed.) Such water won't be cheap, but a thirsty man will pay for it. But all of this is beside the point. We are approaching a point in time where the human race will face a population limit due to the lack of either fresh water or food. If we act wisely, we might be able to create a steady state population sort of like the stationary phase that bacteria have. If we don't act wisely, we will likely have a huge population crash due to famine and disease. The Black Death killed over a third of the human populations it affected. (Then again, from the planet's perspective humanity could be seen as an infectious disease that is out of control akin to a bacterial infection. I wonder what antihuman mechanisms Nature will use to eradicate this infection.) Which would you choose, bacteria or lynx? The only difference between the curves is the length of the stationary phase.
Labels: population curves
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
On the Bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
"He steals from the poor and gives to the rich - stupid bitch!
Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb"
The Monty Python Dennis Moore sketch
Labels: redistribution of wealth
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I went to doyourownpestcontrol.com and bought two boxes of Advion(TM) bait gel for my friends' apartment. It wasn't cheap, but it's cheaper than the alternative. The stuff appears to be working. I've never seen roaches lap up a bait like honey, but a few minutes after applying the gel, that's what I saw. The bait seems to be thinning the population significantly. According to ScienceDaily, you can kill three generations of roaches in one application which is unheard of to my knowledge. As a matter of fact, I googled for "Advion" after reading the ScienceDaily article and that's how I found the online website that sells it. There's probably a cheaper retailer, but I didn't hunt around for the best deal. My friends' place is heavily infested and I've been looking for something that would clean out the critters for some time. I really dislike roaches. I do not like them at all.
Labels: tips human insect pests
Being Wise Instead of Foolish
Moonlight and the sound of pines
Are things we all know
Zen mind and delusion
Distinguish sage and fool
Go back to the place
Where not one thought appears
How shall I put this
Into words for you?
Han-shan Te-ch’ing (1546-1623)
In other words, when I am not mindful, present, or in Zen, I am being foolish or stupid.
Labels: essence of wisdom
Get Your Dog While It's Hot
Labels: Tongue in Cheek
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Resveratrol and Vitamins
Another study found that a small fraction of the population have one or more enzyme variants that misfold and do not function. However, when supplements such as vitamins were added, the enzymes folded properly and functioned. In this case, the vitamin wasn't just a coenzyme. It is acting as a scaffold or mold to help the protein fold into its proper 3 dimensional shape so that it will work. This is a case where phenotype masks genotype. It's due to a conditional mutation which affects protein folding. The reason why it's not serious is because without the specific vitamin (an environmental factor), the enzyme wouldn't work any way even if it were properly folded and otherwise functional. What it means though, is that certain people have higher dietary vitamin requirements than others.
Here's to the grape! Cheers!
Labels: Quality of Life
A Moment When Humanity Came Together Briefly
When we got back from the Moon, we were sent on a world tour. Everywhere we went, people didn't say, "You Americans walked on the Moon". Everyone we met said, "We did it!" That was a very ephemeral moment.
I can't think of a better tribute to John F. Kennedy and the aspiration he set for this country and for humanity; and for NASA and its astronauts who sacrificed much to make landing on the Moon a reality. In another year, the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing and Moon walk will take place.
Labels: Aspirations Leadership Humanity