Sunday, September 28, 2008

Automated Farm

I am challenging myself to think of a way to automate all common tasks on a farm, because farming was essentially the job of 99% of the population before the industrial revolution, and would continue to be today had farmers not grown more productive and industrial jobs proven more tempting due to the ability to meet people who are not your direct relatives and (often) higher salary.

Those farms that remain in business would appreciate the lessening of work, and corporate farms would appreciate the lower expenses. (All my food is basically corporate farmed.)

Farms are important because they make food (and textiles). They involve a lot of hard work to operate, especially if one intends to not only feed oneself, but to make a profit as well.

The details will have to wait, as I am currently swamped with a gazillion tasks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Suicide Belt

The graphic I am showing you is a WHO-made map of the earth, colored by the suicide rate of each country, with the countries greyed out having data that is more than ten years old (and thus useless). I want you to notice something.

Hey, there's a pattern in this chart...

With the exception of Germany, country from France to the Pacific (including Japan), is in the highest rate category. Yes, for some reason, Europeans and Asians are committing suicide more than anyone else on earth. Something must be going terribly, terribly wrong. Also, the last time I saw this map, about 2 years ago, Germany was in the highest category, making the belt outright continuous.

The highest rate is in Lithuania. Wikipedia reports that 40.2 Lithuanians out of every 100,000 end their lives every year, out of a total population of 3,369,600. Doing the rather grim math, 1,355 Lithuanians take their lives each year. Men were five times more likely to kill themselves. Lithuanian commentators blamed everything from poor economy to national disruption, to homogeneity, to lack of childcare. The Lithuanian government is worried that Lithuanians might disappear in the future, especially since their birthrate plummeted to 1.3 children per couple.

Many of the other countries could have their high rates blamed on lack of prohibition against suicide (Japan), shoddy psychiatric services (the Koreas), being inside the Arctic Circle and thus having dark and depressing winters (Russia, Finland), social isolation (rural China), or Alcoholism (every country even close to the former soviet union).

While most of my (American) readers will probably assume that these statistics means that Europe and Asia are very depressing places, I don't think that depression is the only factor here. The lowest rates are in Central and South America, where people don't commit suicide for religious regions. Catholic Christianity, the most common religion there, teaches that it is evil to commit suicide because of two reasons. The first being that your life was a gift from God, and that ending it is insultingly returning it. The second being that it denied that God was just, which was blasphemous. So Central and South Americans might be just as depressed, but finding some other way to deal with it.

It is not clear how these countries came to have this problem, nor can I offer any real solution to them. Germany might be a good place to start looking, as their rate recently declined. This may be due to action on the part of German society, or the German government, or it may have just been spontaneous.

As a Lithuanian commentator wrote, "Every civilized state must take care of its people's health by proposing ways of preventing suicides."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike about the Ocean

Discovery channel just showed a special in which one of my ideas was tried in a different form, and good news, it worked.

In my idea, boats would haul nutrient rich water to nutrient poor sections of the ocean, setting it into bloom and sucking enormous amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

In their version, they found that the deep ocean was already nutrient rich, came up with a pump that would, by wave-action alone, pump the deep water up to the surface, tested the bloom hypothesis, which checked out, and launched two pumps about 60 miles north of Hawaii.

It turns out that my hypothesis that you can feed the ocean is correct. Two weeks after launching the pumps, there was an explosion of fish in the area, plenty of phytoplankton, and loads and loads of seabirds. Unfortunately, one of the pumps was damaged by the ocean, and the show did not describe how expensive they were to build.

If this is all true, then it might be possible to convince a fishing group or government to pay for many pumps, sucking our excess carbon dioxide into the form of fish and birds. If people eat the fish, they might release the carbon contained in them, sure, but those people were planning to eat anyway. What they don't eat in fish, they'll eat in emergency rations distributed by charities.

This also helps because the complete collapse of most major fishing species is predicted within 10 years. Why are they in trouble? We humans keep eating them, as many cultures love eating fish. A tragedy of the commons occurs because every fisher wants more fish, but every fisher means less fish in the ocean to be had. The fish most commonly harvested won't go extinct, exactly, but it won't be profitable to go send a boat to get them because they will be so rare, the fisher will lose his or her boat, and life would suck for everyone generally.

Funding is the rub. That and a temporary mortorium on fishing, which would benefit everyone, especially the fishers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Improved Bed

The bed is a common device in the western world, as a supportive surface for sleeping, but it's not the universally preferred place to sleep. There are other cultures that sleep in hammocks, or on the ground, or on a chair, or perhaps by some other means. (Propped against a wall, perhaps?) But in America, a person sleeping on the ground is either a hobo or a drunk, hammocks are used only really for a nap outdoors or sleeping while camping. A few Americans sleep in a large supportive chair, but I'd say a bed is the most common way to sleep.

Most beds are fixed furniture, staying very much where they are installed. A mattress softens the impact of the sleeper's weight, sheets increase the smooth feeling, blankets keep the sleeper warm, and pillows support the sleeper's head. Beds may have a few other components, such as a drawer for commonly needed materials (sleeping pills, perhaps, or maybe a place to store eyeglasses or dentures), but most bed improvements have been incremental changes to one of those components. (Even hammock and floor cultures often have pillows or blankets of some kind.)

Well, what if instead, a sudden redesign replaced the whole thing with a much better version? I'm not the best industrial designer, so there are probably intellectual errors with this version that maybe can't be corrected, but why the hell not redesign a bed? If you wanted sane engineering, you'd ask a university or engineering firm, not this blog.

Let's start with Skinner's special crib. B.F. Skinner was a pychologist famous for studies involving rats in boxes. So when he built a special crib for his daughter, his critics started this insane story about the crib being a "skinner box," and that she hated him. This story is untrue -- the crib was not a skinner box of any kind, it was a special design for her comfort and his daughter actually still loves him very much. But the crib was an important starting point, because it was warm and immensely comfortable.

The crib has a closeable door with glass or plexiglass windows, sealed roof, and feeds warmed air into the sleeping compartment. In hot climates, cooled air could be substituted, of course. Since it is warm (or cool), blankets are not needed, and because it's finely controllable, the subject will likely neither sweat nor shiver. Skinner used a cloth mesh and that was pretty much it, since warm and comfy is all a baby needs, but let's not stop there. Adults like luxury.

The bottom should have a padded, memory foam surface that can easily be washed. (Because even if you don't sweat, you still shed a bit, both hair and skin. That and if somebody goes to bed after not showering all day....) Probably preferably detachable. A vibration source should be mounted beneath the mattress or foam pad, and when it is activated, it will massage the user. A control inside the box should activate or deactivate the vibration. Or, with a computer, have sophisticated vibration patterns activated by voice recognition.

A speaker wired to an MP3 player can play pleasing and relaxing music, chosen ahead of time. The speaker should play about at 30-40 dB. This would also allow a wakeup function, be it the gentle Zen method of bells that slowly get louder until the sleeper awakens, or by the traditional Alarm clock method that makes an irritating noise until deactivated. If the MP3 player is more of an embedded computer, this might even be arbitrarily selectable, although one does not want to encourage people to hit the snooze button repeatedly.

Sleepers fond of sleeping late will enjoy curtains. This would be an unwise choice for those that sleep in through school or work. Curtains will also grant the sleeper privacy if need be.

For the truly lazy, food or water could be kept in a tank outside the heated part and piped in through eating tubes. I think this should be discouraged before they have tubes built in to remove the waste afterwards, which, frankly, ick.

A number of drawers should be available, since people like to keep certain accessories near them when they sleep, such as their glasses, or dentures, or sleeping pills.

The circulation should replace all the air in the chamber within 2 minutes, and the exhaust air should be sterilized, perhaps with ultraviolet light. This would help sick sleepers to recover faster, since any bacteria they give of would not manage to return to their body, and all the air they breathe would be perfectly clean. Also, for maximum airflow, the input valve should face the output valve.

To Do:

* Find out more efficient way to temperature control than an incandescent bulb. Must maintain exact temperature for less watts. Also, controllable, because some people want to sleep at 30C, some want 20C, and a few want 10C. Lastly, reversible in case of hot climate and/or out of control summer.

* More comfortable sleeping surface than memory foam

* Somehow manage auto-cleaning when no human is in the chamber, such as at 11am every morning. No human will be in the chamber then, right?

* Make sure vibrating undermatress can't be clogged by, say, dropping one's keys, or the midnight snack in it.

* Determine a way to strap people to the mattress in order to adapt it for airplanes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Education and the world of "Durr"

Again I have been asking people about the world's worst problems, and at last I have come to find someone who agrees with me, a government clerk. According to us, the world's worst problem is stupidity. Okay, so she said it was "ignorance," which only somewhat overlaps. In any case, people's lack of education and/or refusal to apply intellectual effort is a major problem that causes several others.

People not knowing any better is improving over time as education becomes less expensive, more extensive, more readily available, and more publicly funded. The libertarians like to complain about paying for other people's education, but it serves no one to have a nation of ignoramuses with no future. Especially if said ignoramus thinks that the best way to get money is to burgle your house, rob you, or run scams. (Some crime is, in a way, an industry. An industry that operates to public detriment.) If they do not do crime, they may turn to begging, which is both annoying and an eyesore. Or they abruptly die of hunger, thirst, or exposure. In any case, it will cost you money either way.

The economy especially benefits from education. Currently, the United States has a surplus of unskilled labor and a deficit of skilled labor. Companies don't want to hire people with little education because they would be too expensive to train, and people with little education also often have little money and do not feel they can afford an education, perpetuating the problem.

Little can be done about intellectual laziness other than loss of privileges and perhaps a swift slap to the back of the head. It's a social problem.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Password is Shiboleth

It is recorded that the tribe of the Hebrews, the ancestors of modern Israel, were at war with an enemy that was ethnically similar to them, and tried to infiltrate them. Since spying was a big problem, a lot of effort was put into a solution, which was also dutifully reported. The Hebrews noticed that their enemy lacked a sound in their language that the Hebrews did have: what is “SH” in modern English. This group substituted “s.” And so they asked any suspected spy to pronounce a word with that sound in it, and if he couldn't do it, they killed him. This test of ferreting out by some word or action that an outsider cannot readily reproduce is now known by the word that the Hebrews did for their test, “shibboleth.” “shibboleth” means either “ear of corn” or “torrent of water” in Hebrew. The best the infiltrating group could manage was “sibolis,” and someone pronouncing it that way tended to be stabbed on the grounds that they were a spy.

Wikipedia records the use of shibboleths in war, because the cost of being infiltrated by an enemy group is quite high. They give the quick examples of the world war II, such as American example “Flash. Thunder. Welcome.” (America does have people of German and Japanese origin.) The sentence would have been pronounced by a German speaker as “Flash. Thunder. Velcome.” and by a Japanese speaker as “Frash. Thunda. Wercome.” A group approaching while shouting an “enemy” pronunciation would have been fired upon. The Australians had a similar shibboleth designed to root out Japanese speakers, since the German army was too far to menace Australia. They used “Wooloomaloo,” which would be incorrectly pronounced “Wurumaru.”

I speak English, American style, and Spanish. This is quite understandable for me, since I am an American of southwestern origin, English being America's standard language, and Spanish being the most common language of America's southern neighbor, Mexico.. It has left me wondering which shibboleths I could manage, and which ones I couldn't. Also, if there are anti-American shibboleths in most languages. I note that I can reproduce a few sounds that don't exist in my own native language, such as “ж” (which is a guttural sound vaguely like clearing your throat and would be badly approximated by the English “ch” ) which is odd. I may have picked this up from one of my father's friends who spoke Hebrew, Yiddish, or Greek, all languages which do have this sound.

I can immediately think of one anti-English shibboleth offhand. Korean has a sound that is halfway between what is “k” and “g” in my language. I cannot manage to make this sound, and so a word or phrase with one or more instances of this would make a good anti-American shibboleth. A person who was raised speaking English would fail the test, even if they were ethnically Korean.

Spanish (and I think also French) speakers have a “rolled R” that is hard for English speakers to reproduce. German has “ж.” Russian is a little short on concents, and has yet more “ж.”. A few African languages have a “throat click.” The Nordic languages have a few vowels that aren't in English, like “Ø.” Finnish has an especially easy time of this, and has a shibboleth that literally can't be said by anyone whose native language is anything other than Finnish. (It's their word for “steamroller.” It involves several “Øs,” a “hj,” and several other sounds that involve bending the mouth in ways that my mouth distinctly will not bend. A non-native speaker can manage a close enough representation to be understood.)

Speakers of many Asian languages will have a harder time coming up with shibboleths, because most sounds in their languages also exist in English. Speakers of the two big Chinese languages can hope to confound with their tonal system (in which, say “shi” with a rising tone means something differently than “shi” with a falling tone. ) Mandarin Chinese, spoken in northern China, has four distinct tones, and Cantonese Chinese, common in southern China, has six. A tonal based shibboleth is a bad idea, because the tones aren't hard to imitate for speakers of nontonal languages, such as English. A novice speaker might mix them up, but would still manage if their life was on the line. Thai and Vietnamese have some odd letters recorded, but I haven't heard enough of these languages spoken to determine if they represent sounds that aren't in English.
Japanese speakers would have a very hard time coming up with an English detecting shibboleth, since every sound in Japanese is also in English, while the reverse is not true. (although the sound transcribed as “r” is actually halfway between “r” and “l,” but that wouldn't be terribly effective due to an English “r” and an English “l” both being heard as the “r” sound in Japanese.) The only angle I could think of is that Japanese is sensitive to vowel length, in which “tan” and “taaaaan” are two different words. They would have to write a sentence where getting the vowel lengths wrong would have an immensely humorous (or nonsensical) implication.

The last thought is that a shibboleth need not be a word, but could also be an action. There was a supposed anti-Jewish shibboleth practiced by the nazis in which they would leave a person in a room with coffee and sugar cubes. They seemed to believe that a non-Jewish German person would put the cube in the coffee, stir, and then drink it, while a Jewish person would put the cube in their mouth and then drink the coffee. I disbelieve the truth and effectiveness of the test because I have never heard of any person, Jewish or otherwise, performing the second action. In fact, I know several Jewish people personally, and given a cup of coffee and a sugar cube, they all put the cube in the coffee, stir, and drink, although this may be because I was born at least a generation after the nazis, who murdered everyone who put the cube in their mouth, Jewish or otherwise. And anyone they thought was Jewish. And anyone who disagreed with their murderous policies. And anyone they disliked and could get a hold of, period.

Verbal shibboleths work because of the tenancy of adults to either mishear or be unable to reproduce any sound not present in a language they learned in early childhood, but action shibboleths only work if the subject is unaware of being tested and is unaware of the potential implications of their action. And of course, the main problem with a war shibboleth is that it detects a person's native language and/or culture, but not their true loyalty. The “Flash Thunder Welcome” test would be “failed” by an American soldier of German Jewish origin or Japanese origin, despite the total loyalty of this hypothetical man to the United States. It is recorded that some American soldiers of German Jewish origin did in fact have to quickly explain their loyalty to the United States by other means.

Are there any shibboleths to detect members of your group from other groups? Or the other way around?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Quasi-Automated Publishing

Most people who want to write a long document use a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice. The formatting is obvious, and what you see is what you get in a very literal way. Even a person who fears computers can write a novel with a word processor, and they often also know how to email that novel to their friends. This is assuming that they know how to write, of course. Some people are terrible at writing, such as myself.

But publishers cannot directly work with word processor documents. They have their own standard, PostScript, from which they can easily print properly formatted pages at whatever size paper the book happens to be, and any formatting, included pictures, or special considerations will be retained even if other factors are changed. (I will ask a publisher what these factors are, since I can't think of any other factors that would mess with the formatting.)

Both PostScript and most word processor formats are well documented and standardized. Therefore, it is possible to write a program that could easily convert between the two, and furthermore, possible to produce a webpage form that accepts a word-processed document, converts it to postscript, and offers both up to a publisher for consideration. Publishers reject most of the writing they get, on the grounds that most writing they get is absolutely terrible and would not sell very well. However, stripped of this technical limitation, I believe that worldwide literary output would increase. This may also increase worldwide literacy rates.

For best results, the conversion program should be open source so that anyone may use it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sorry we're late

You perhaps noticed that a number of entries appeared at once, all post-dated. Don't worry, this wasn't a glitch. I've had no Internet access for a while due to hurricane Ike and the breaking of some cable somewhere. I was able to write them when my power returned, but unable to post them until now. I apologize for any delay.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Diamond computing

Currently, most computers are made of silicon. Silicon is the most plentiful material on earth, mostly in the form of sand and rock. Unfortunately, silicon is limited in the temperatures it can endure, and modern computers dissipate more and more heat as they get more powerful. This is limiting the development of further computing power. In addition, most CPUs must be quite flat in order to be properly cooled.

But silicon is not the only possible material to build computers out of. A number of research teams around the world are conceiving of CPUs cut from synthetic diamond. Such a CPU could endure temperatures of thousands of degrees, would naturally conduct heat away at high speed, and could have an extremely tall, 3 dimensional structure. A thousandfold increase in processing power could happen easily.

Diamond mining companies are not pleased by these developments. Mined diamonds have uncontrollable impurities that ruin them for this purpose, and also cannot be outrageously large enough. In addition, synthetic diamonds might weaken the value of their own diamonds, since synthetic diamonds could arrive to any specification for cheap. An engagement ring with a gem the same color as your partner's eyes? No problem. A ring whose gem is made from the ashes of a family member who recently and tragically passed away? Can do.

Elaborate tests have been made by mining companies to distinguish laboratory-cultured diamonds verses naturally cultured, with the hopes that they can then encourage consumers to prefer naturally made. I think that a girl that would reject a laboratory diamond is not a girl for me.

How far away is diamond computing? A ways. An estimate of 10 years has been issued, but I suspect it is like the 50 year estimate for fusion power, it will remain 10 years away for another 10.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Engineerng Aphorisms

Work is good, but drudgery is evil. If there's a task that you really hate doing, you should work a thousand times harder to automate it so that you never have to do it again.

Adding extra workers to a late project makes it later. Not obvious, but different workers have different ideas of how to accomplish a given task, and errors will most likely occur on the interface between two different people's work. Some 85% of time is spent fixing those errors.

Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. --Derek Bok

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent --Isaac Asimov

The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?" The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?" The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?" The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?" (rimshot)

In a mad world, only the mad are sane. --Akiro Kurosawa

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. -- Mark Twain

No matter how complicated a problem is, it usually can be reduced to a simple, comprehensible form which is often the best solution. -- An Wang

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Interesting Uses of Household Heat

Even in southeast Texas where I live, where the weather remains well above 20C long into the winter, the bathroom tiles are always incredibly cold in the morning.

Meanwhile I have a computer, and it needs special effort to stay cool. Without cooling, the chips would literally melt.

There's a bathroom modification I've been reading about in which pipes are installed beneath the floor, and water from a boiler is run through the pipes, making the floor very warm and pleasant to walk on. The water goes back to the boiler when it runs out of heat.

Water cooling systems exist for PCs in which a carefully controlled set of tubes and pipes runs water over metal to absorb heat from the chips.

If you combined the two systems, your PC would keep your bathroom floor at least tepid, and your floor would keep your PC cold.

At least, if your PC is near your bathroom. If it has to travel through a lot of pipe, it very well might be cold by the time it gets to the bathroom.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Worst Case of Global Warming

Yes, Global Warming is big in the news right now. A skeptic, Wm. Robert Johnson, put together a hypothetical simulation of the worst possible case, despite his belief that it is not in any way happening. I think it's interesting how dismal the hypothetical case is, and how much less bad it is than the absolute most hysterical case given. I consider it the worst possible result of global warming.

In the worst possible case, all the ice on earth melts and the ocean rises 66 meters. This sounds like a lot, but the map that he threw together shows that the earth looks mostly the same. Mostly.
But some things are missing....

You'll note that some regions have sunk beneath the rising ocean, but most familiar features are still there. He was kind enough to also generate maps of big famous countries, one of them being the United States, where I live.

It's just slightly different

My house would sink beneath the waves towards the end of this but I would have ample warning to evacuate. Florida and all its oranges is gone, its residents forced to move to either Georgia or Texas. Louisiana's swamps are a thing of the past. New York has had to move to Yonkers. And that nice farming region in central California is now a bay.

Presumably, the sea would rise slowly enough for the people of Florida, Manhattan, Louisiana, Galveston, and central California to move to some place that isn't flooded, but most of those places are rather nice, and I'm sure the residents aren't going to be happy about losing them. New york will be especially annoying, as it has 8 million people and quite a bit of infrastructure that it will need to build elsewhere as the sea slowly inhales Manhattan.

The Caribbean is utterly devastated. Puerto Ricans will presumably move to the United States. Haitians will be streaming into whatever country will accept them. Cuba will be straining. Only Cuba will actually exist anymore.

The real nightmare, however, will be in China. The majors cities of Tianjin, Shijazhuang, Jinan, and Heibi will now all be beneath the waves. As far as I understand the population distribution of China, the residents of this region are about as numerous as a court district in the United States. They will all have to move west in enormous streams. Beijing will now be a coastal city, if it stays above the waves at all.

Things are very bad in eastern Asia...

Also in the region, the tiny country of Bangladesh will be gone. According to Wikipedia, it has 150,448,340 people. They will have to beg either India or Pakistan for rescue, and I don't think relations are great with either country. (Bangladesh was originally a Pakistani province, until it, broke away, just as Pakistan broke away from India in the first place.)

There is a tiny plus side to all of this, though. With the ice that was pushing it down gone, Antarctica will rise from beneath the waves, and Greenland will also gain additional territory, and between these two, there will actually be more land now than back when there was still ice on the earth.

But be honest with me. Given the choice, would you rather live in Florida, or Greenland?

Lastly, Mr. Johnson admits that the change in ocean would change the weather in ways that neither he nor I could predict. The bay in California, for instance, would increase rain production to the east of it, and the deserts in Nevada might actually bloom into a grassland. On the other hand, if the wind and climate change, the wheat belt, currently in central United States, might move north into Canada. It's not entirely clear if Kansas and Nebraska, currently growing wheat and corn, could change to growing grapefruit instead. Nor is it clear that the Dakota/Manitoba area could start growing wheat instead of whatever it is that they're doing now. I'd also like to remind skeptics that the theory of global warming does not indicate an even increase in all zones, but an average increase worldwide, and some zones could actually become colder. The wheat belt moving south into Oklahoma could be just as devastating to national agriculture as it moving north into Canada.

So, there you have it. Global warming isn't an utter disaster that will kill us all, but it could cause a massive inconvenience and annoyance. Also, did I mention expensive and painful? Thanks again to Mr. Johnson for his maps and research.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Popular, but Wrong

I hear about a number of ideas passing around that are quite popular, but don't have any basis in fact whatsoever. Please stop telling me these stories. They are not true, and repeating them will not make them true.

Water Fuel

Water cannot be made into a fuel. It is a low-energy compound, fundamentally. Hydrogen, which water contains, is high energy, but the only way to extract the hydrogen from the water involves injecting a lot of energy into it. So water is, at best, a store of energy, not a fuel.

There is no pill that will change water into gasoline, and there is no carburetor that can "burn" water. Yes, I understand the temptation, what with gasoline costing several dollars per gallon and water so cheap as to be practically free. Wishing will not make it so.

Cold Fusion
Cold fusion is the idea that you can have all the energy glories of nuclear fusion without the high temperatures and energy-expensive containment. Supposedly, this happens at room temperature, which is far below the temperatures involved in hot fusion. (Hot fusion basically copies the conditions in the sun -- absurdly high temperature.)

However, for all the buzz, it has only operated once, and no attempt to reproduce it has worked. Generally in science, when results are not reproducible, this generally means that either the first experiment was in error (such as having contamination that the performing scientist was unaware of), or deliberate fraud is occurring. This would not be the first time that somebody got a result that nobody else could copy.

Again, the temptation is obvious. Cold fusion would make it worthwhile to electrically hydrolyze water for fuel and would power entire cities with no pollution.

Science Teaches Morality

No, science is amoral in that it might show you the basic principles, but doesn't give you any guidelines in how to use them. Nuclear fission is identical in the atom bomb and the nuclear-powered electric reactor. One is clearly peaceful, the other is clearly a weapon of war. But both operate by the exact same principles.

Morality is left to the philosophers. Do it well, and get a society that is a joy to live in. Do it badly, and get a miserable hellhole.

Decelerating Speed of Light

Creationists, shown proof that certain stars are so far away that we could not possibly see them if the universe was as young as they say, try to escape this by claiming that the speed of light has been exponentially decreasing since the birth of the universe.

This does not work. Theory has implications in science, and a faster speed of light in the past would affect certain things in the present. No decay has been noted in the present, suggesting a certain curve, and if this curve is true, then there are some clusters of stars that prove the universe to be, under this model, no younger than 4 billion years old.

The theory of light being created already halfway to earth works functionally, but is unsatisfying for two reasons. One, it makes God out to be a liar, as he's showing light from a star that never came from the star. Two, it opens the problem of "Last Thursdayism," in which the Universe was actually created last Thursday with signs of being older, or the more extreme version in which the universe is ten minutes old. Clearly, "Last Thursdayism" is ridiculous.

Creationism may work as a religious belief, but it is so painfully obviously not science that it's not even funny. Yes, I understand you'd like science to back your religious beliefs. If you want it to be a scientific theory, it has to make predictions of some kind.

Naturopathic Medicine
Some people distrust doctors and other medical professionals. They're expensive. They talk in a jargon-y fashion. In the past, many of them had bad attitudes from the admittedly impressive training they went through. (I went through the college from hell, therefore STFU and do as I say, peon!)

So instead, these people try to relieve their medical problems through "natural" treatment. Unfortunately for them, they clearly don't know what they're doing, have a major fetish for "natural" treatment, which mostly involves random herbs and half-baked theories that don't really make sense.

Now herbs can be a valid part of treatment, since plants do contain compounds that can modify bodily chemistry. Most existing medications are indeed based on earlier herbal ones, with the active ingredient isolated and refined to avoid side effects.

But the theories are often patently ridiculous. Feeling funny? It must be your intestines "auto-intoxifying" itself with your own poop, which they go on to describe being backed up between 4 and 40 pounds of (which would probably kill you from the infection) and how only an herbal enema (with their patented formula, of course) can rescue you. You will feel so much better afterwards. If only because you were so embarrassed before.

"Toxin" is commonly abused in their parlance, and pretty much anything that they don't sell is labeled as a "toxin." Their theory of "whole body treatment" is also incredibly odd. Your toe is broken, therefore...we must mess around with your sinuses. Yes, of course, it is so obvious.

The government has secret funds for you that you can access by....

No, they freaking don't. It doesn't even logically make sense. Where would this magical money have come from, and if it's really rightfully yours, wouldn't it be easier for them to just give it to you, or discount your taxes?

Enlarge your penis/breasts

Ah, this common spam. Apparently, a number of men feel dissatisfied with the size of their genitals, and a number of women feel disappointed in the chest department, so along comes these companies to send a bazzillion emails to convince them that their pill will help.

A blogger actually tried ordering one of these pills. It was a sugar pill that came with an instruction book explaining exercises that any decent physiologist could have told you how to do for free. The exercises give you, maybe, one or two extra inches through tissue stretching.


A Soviet scientist once did an experiment that he claims changed a bucket of water into a polymer-like substance. He further claims that a bucket of water poured into this "Poly water" becomes more of the same.

Of course, just like the cold fusion above, no one else could replicate it, and signs pointed to contamination in the tubes used during the experiment. There are some glues and slimes that, when added to water, might explain the polymer-like behavior.

That there are other explanations does not deter some people from claiming that this is actually a brilliant discovery that "science" is "suppressing" for the glory of "capitalism."

And even if this were true, this would only lead to the eventual doom of the earth if somebody carelessly knocked over the bucket into the drain, which eventually leads to the ocean...

But wait, there's more

There are others, but I lost them when my internet connection cut out and I don't feel like retyping them. This article is long enough already.
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