Forgot your password?

Comment: Great advice; see also seasonal vegetables (Score 1) 348

by Paul Fernhout (#46797207) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Hungry Students, How Common?

Leafy greens especially are really important to preventing many diseases. Cabbage is a fairly cheap one. You can steam the cabbage while cooking the rice. Dandelions are a terrific source of healthy greens (if they have not been sprayed with weedkiller etc.). It's crazy that people have been taught to hate healthy Dandelions.

Our stainless steel "Miracle" rice cooker with a steamer attachment was one of our best kitchen investments ($70) as it does not have Teflon as most rice cookers do, but we worked up to it from cheaper Teflon ones.

Without good food, the mind and body can go into a downward spiral of low energy and depression -- thus a cycle of poverty. Hunter/gathers are more than 100 different types of food over the course of a year. Getting calories in not enough -- you need micronutrients too, and that means a diversity of foods -- but they don't have to be expensive foods.

Of course, so many sick care schemes (Medicaid, Medicare, "health" insurance) will pay for expensive drugs and surgeries but won;t pay for good food to avoid drugs and surgeries. It doesn't help that stressed-out people tend to bulk up on calories as an ages old survival mechanism, not knowing where the next meal may be coming from. This is all made worse by US farm policy:
"Thanks to lobbying, Congress chooses to subsidize foods that weâ(TM)re supposed to eat less of."

Watch out for additives in bullion that might cause headaches and such. Lots of bad headaches could make it hard to keep a job or graduate from college.

Beans are also cheaper to buy dried than canned -- except you need to know how to prepare them and have a place to cook them and the electricity or gas too cook them, which together may not be possible for many students.

People need a healthy source of fat, too -- something lacking in what you outline. The brain is mostly fat, so it is no wonder on low fat (or poor fat) diets that people can get messed up mentally. Nuts can be one, but they tend to be expensive and they may be lacking in Omegas 3s. Eggs might be a good cheap choice of fat including some Omega-3s for many people; some other sources:

Eating vegetarian in general is healthier and cheaper. So is buying the right things in bulk, maybe splitting big purchases with others.

We also got a lot of value from a $100 blender to do smoothies from frozen fruit -- but that is beyond very cheap (although still cheaper and much healthier than a carton of ice cream).

Still, something like a "basic income" may be a needed as a general solution to poverty. The problem with a lot of frugal advice is that it forces people to take on various risks (like health risks of lack of vegetables, or safety risk of a cheap car, or assault risk in a bad neighborhood, and so on). Or it entails doing a lot of time consuming things that prevent more productive activities. Your advice though is very time-saving and practical, which is why I like it (except for quibbles on some of the above points as far as long-term living).

Comment: C. H. Douglas -- Social Credit (Score 4, Interesting) 348

by Paul Fernhout (#46797013) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Hungry Students, How Common?

"What sucks is we're so much more productive, you'd think we'd be working less. But why the hell would we give anything to anyone if they didn't 'work' for it?"

If inheriting property is a legitimate idea, what about all of humanity inheriting our collective know how and so being entitled to some of the fruits of our global productivity?
"Douglas disagreed with classical economists who recognised only three factors of production: land, labour and capital. While Douglas did not deny the role of these factors in production, he saw the "cultural inheritance of society" as the primary factor. He defined cultural inheritance as the knowledge, technique and processes that have been handed down to us incrementally from the origins of civilization. ..."

One way to implement that:

Comment: Post-Scarcity Princeton: Abundance vs. Elitism (Score 1) 98

by Paul Fernhout (#46794165) Attached to: Minerva CEO Details His High-Tech Plan To Disrupt Universities

From my essay discussing excellence vs. elitism & privilege:
So, the question becomes, how do we go about getting the whole world both accepted into Princeton and also with full tenured Professorships (researchy ones without teaching duties except as desired? :-) And maybe with robots to do anything people did not want to do? This is just intended as a humorous example, of course. I'm not suggesting Princeton would run the world of the future or that everyone would really have Princeton faculty ID cards and parking stickers. Still, that's a thought. :-) That motel for scholars, The Institute For Advanced Study, is already a bit like this (no required teaching duties), so it's an even better model. :-)

But you might object, who will run the kitchens, repair the roofs, plant Prospect Garden, and so forth? Essentially, who will be the Morlocks to support and maybe eat the Eloi on staff? :-)

Well, that's where this analogy breaks down, although one could perhaps imagine robots as the Morlocks (maybe without the whole eating PU staff for fuel thing).
    "A prototype robot capable of hunting down over 100 slugs an hour and using their rotting bodies to generate electricity is being developed by engineers at the University of West England's Intelligent Autonomous Systems Laboratory."

So, for the rest of this essay, I'll assume the "scarcity" world (at least in the USA) currently works more like, say, G. William Domhoff suggests:
    "Q: So, who does rule America?
    A: The owners and managers of large income-producing properties; i.e., corporations, banks, and agri-businesses. But they have plenty of help from the managers and experts they hire. ... I will try to demonstrate how rule by the wealthy few is possible despite free speech, regular elections, and organized opposition:
                * "The rich" coalesce into a social upper class that has developed institutions by which the children of its members are socialized into an upper-class worldview, and newly wealthy people are assimilated.
                * Members of this upper class control corporations, which have been the primary mechanisms for generating and holding wealth in the United States for upwards of 150 years now.
                * There exists a network of nonprofit organizations through which members of the upper class and hired corporate leaders not yet in the upper class shape policy debates in the United States.
                * Members of the upper class, with the help of their high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions, are able to dominate the federal government in Washington.
                * The rich, and corporate leaders, nonetheless claim to be relatively powerless.
                * Working people have less power than in many other democratic countries."

And what is the current result of that system of social organization? We create a self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity in part through fearing it, and then acting on that fear. (And the only antidotes to fear are things like joy and humor. :-) Consider, say the US military and Iraq. The USA invades Iraq and produces terrorists that now justify having invaded as well as now devoting more money to the military. :-( Now people are saying the Iraq war, promised as a "cakewalk" will cost about three trillion US dollars before it is done. So, now we need to cut back on US social programs like R&D and nursing homes and also reduce aid to poorer countries (which might have truly helped prevent more problems). Thus we ensure more scarcity at home and abroad.

How much of the US monetarized economy goes into managing "scarcity" in terms of person-hours of work?
* A big chunk of the prison system,
* A big chunk of the legal system,
* A big chunk of the military and police,
* Cashiers,
* Most guards,
* Most of the management chain,
* Most of the banking system,
* Most sales people,
* Most of the insurance industry,
* Most of the Welfare and Medicaid government program staff (eligibility and oversight),
* Most lawyers and related proceedings,
* Much of the schooling and grading system, and
* Most of the government.

Add it all up, and maybe it is 90% of the person-hours consumed by the money economy by now? That's just a wild guess, of course. :-) I'm sure someone else better with numbers could refute or affirm that. But it is loosely based on a study mentioned in the essay linked below.

If you consider that a lot of service work is unnecessary if people had more free time (babysitting, restaurants, teaching, home construction, entertainment) then even less hours in the money economy are really needed in a society with a lot of leisure to raise children, cook meals, putter around the house, take on apprentices or educate neighbors on demand, and sing their own songs or make up their own stories.

And of course, child-rearing and day-to-day housekeeping and volunteering probably represents many more person-hours than the 10% or so of the total person-hours that the money economy uses for real production (actual work on factory goods, actual labor in agriculture, actual work making energy etc.). So clearly people will do important tasks for intrinsic benefits.

Things may have been different 100 years ago when most US Americans still lived on somewhat subsistence farms, and so most work was local and for one's own family and business. But somewhere during the past century, I'd speculate a shift happened where the amount of hours spent guarding exceeded the amount of effort spent producing. And then it probably just got worse from there, to the current situation where most work was related to guarding, even though work that is mostly guarding may also euphemistically be called "cashiering", "teaching", "managing", and so on. Pick almost any job and take most of the guarding out of it and it becomes more enjoyable.

It's important to look at the hours people work on various tasks, not the money value assigned to the tasks. If all those person hours are going into guarding functions, then of course there is little time left over for playful productive work.

And note, this estimate is without even giving a long hard look to rethinking how things could be done to be easier or more fun. Down the road, once tasks are redesigned to ignore the guarding aspects, they might be more efficiently done. For example, think of all the time people waste waiting in supermarket checkout lines or at toll booths. Or the time educators devote to attendance and grading.

The above is all an echo of this essay by Bob Black :
        "The Abolition of Work" (written as I graduated in 1985, but I only saw it a couple years ago through the internet)
    "Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working."

How might a "post-scarcity" society really work?

So, how might a "post-scarcity" society really work? How could a "post-scarcity" society emerge at all, given this (obsolete) elite social deadlock Domhoff outlines?

What if some people get some "free" stuff somehow, and they use it, and in the process of using it they make more free stuff than they got? Let's assume these people then freely give this extra stuff away for free to others who use it to make even more free stuff. If everyone starts doing this, soon there could be an enormous amount of free stuff going around. A chain reaction (but a good one). Of course, as with any exponential process, with ever more free stuff on the way from more and more people, the problem becomes, where to find the space to put it all? (Hint: maybe "Space". :-) ...

Comment: Treadmill desk (Score 1) 310

by Paul Fernhout (#46784537) Attached to: Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

I set up a treadmill desk several years ago, with a regular treadmill, with a board across the hand holds for a keyboard (bungie cords and a wooden stick to hold up the board), facing a wall with adjustable shelves that I put LCD monitors on. I use a track ball instead of a mouse. I really like the setup, even if I may end using it less that I thought and otherwise alternating between standing or sitting on a tall stool. I had some intermittent problems with the treadmill motor early on that made it hard to use and requiring repairs and kind of broke me out of the habit of using it regularly.

I never go much beyond 1.5 mph on it, and more often slower (even 0.5 mph). I probably have never used it for more than four hours in one day or much more than 2-3 miles. Still, when I am using it frequently, I've found walking outside for long distances to be much easier. I can't imagine any research saying it is the same healthwise as a sitting desk -- unless it was by chair manufacturers. :-)
Dr. Levine's work at the Mayo is what inspired me to try it:

One advantage of a treadmill desk over a standing desk is that you keep your legs moving more so blood is less likely to pool in your legs.

However, I can see that it is not for everyone. I put one together for my wife but she had trouble typing reliably while walking and so just ran it while on calls or watching videos. Otherwise she mainly uses it as a standing desk or also sitting on a tall stool. She would probably have been happier with just keeping the standing desk setup she was using before the treadmill (since you don't have to get up onto an elevated treadmill surface to use those and have more flexibility where you position it).

For mine, I feel like there have been times it has contributed towards knee strain. I think that may be due in part to the limit of treadmills as unnatural walking experiences? One other downside to getting one was that I felt I was exercising more so I walked less outdoors. That probably contributed towards vitamin D deficiency (correctable with supplements, but you have to know to do that). Overall though it has been a good thing,

While it depends on what I'm doing, I also find that walking on the treadmill can actually contribute to my concentration.

Comment: Developers need time to do a good job (Score 1) 580

by Paul Fernhout (#46764497) Attached to: How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

To really understand a lot of projects to the point where a developer can make substantial contributions often takes a substantial investment of time by a developer. So some combination of full-time employment in the area, government grants, a basic income, or gifts of some sort are required for experienced developers to have substantial time to look at source code. It's true some developers have time to do it as a hobby, and others might have time as students. But to really dig into complex code and keep at it for a substantial period of time require, in US society at least, generally requires some kind of external support (even if just a spouse who earns money). This issue is not helped by the fragmentation of many software projects via forks, the competition between similar FOSS projects, and the proliferation of languages and not-very-good standards which all chew up vast amounts of developer time.

Of course, some people, like Bill Gates, who was born with a substantial trust fund have inherited the wealth needed to allow them to develop free software the rest of their life. However, for good or bad, he did not pursue that choice.
"How to Become As Rich As Bill Gates"
"William Henry Gates III made his best decision on October 28, 1955, the night he was born. He chose J.W. Maxwell as his great-grandfather. Maxwell founded Seattle's National City Bank in 1906. His son, James Willard Maxwell was also a banker and established a million-dollar trust fund for William (Bill) Henry Gates III. In some of the later lessons, you will be encouraged to take entrepreneurial risks. You may find it comforting to remember that at any time you can fall back on a trust fund worth many millions of 1998 dollars."

A substantial "basic income" equivalent to US Social Security from birth would, in a sense, make everyone a millionaire overnight and give them the time they need to pursue public benefit projects, whether doing code review or raising children well. Linux in part is a result of Finland's generous support for students like Linus.
"Torvalds thus decided to create a new operating system from scratch that was based on both MINIX and UNIX. It is unlikely that he was fully aware of the tremendous amount of work that would be necessary, and it is even far less likely that he could have envisioned the effects that his decision would have both on his life and on the rest of the world. Because university education in Finland is free and there was little pressure to graduate within four years, Torvalds decided to take a break and devote his full attention to his project."

Comment: The problem is more "The Big Crunch" (Score 1) 135

The ending of exponential growth of academia around 1970:
"Actually, during the period since 1970, the expansion of American science has not stopped altogether. Federal funding of scientific research, in inflation-corrected dollars, doubled during that period, and by no coincidence at all, the number of academic researchers has also doubled. Such a controlled rate of growth (controlled only by the available funding, to be sure) is not, however, consistent with the lifestyle that academic researchers have evolved. The average American professor in a research university turns out about 15 Ph.D students in the course of a career. In a stable, steady-state world of science, only one of those 15 can go on to become another professor in a research university. In a steady-state world, it is mathematically obvious that the professor's only reproductive role is to produce one professor for the next generation. But the American Ph.D is basically training to become a research professor. It didn't take long for American students to catch on to what was happening. The number of the best American students who decided to go to graduate school started to decline around 1970, and it has been declining ever since."

Comment: Re:Jenny Mcarthy is a free thinker vs. "Experts"? (Score 1) 586

by Paul Fernhout (#46755829) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

AC wrote: "Jenny Mcarthy is a free thinker ... and embodies the best tennants of 19th century science, when people made decisions based on their observations and in light of the best known understanding at the time. Today we have something akin to a blind belief in whatever the church, ughh i mean experts happen to be handing out at the time. Today an expert more often than nought is somebody who is paid to lobby for a paticular world view. Think about it in 2000 all the experts were saying the stock market is going to be going up and up and up. In 2008 all the experts were saying that real estate is a can't loose proposition, and I just happen to have a house you can buy. Stop believing in experts. Believe in yourself. If it is cloudy, and your skin is getting wet when you stand outside, it is probably raining outside despite the fact that the weather experts are on the radio right now saying you will have a clear and sunny day outside. Stand up and have the courage to say it's raining, fuck the experts. Jenny Mcarthy is a hero. So in spite of the fact that I have no advanced degree in meterology, I feel that I can accurately tell if it is raining or not. This used to be common sense, but today there is a global witch hunt on for whomever decides to believe in their own observations vs what the experts in the media are saying."

Conflict-of-interest definitely makes this all harder to sort through. Compare with the book "Disclipined Minds"
"Who are you going to be? That is the question.
      In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline."
      The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy.
      Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an independent thinker and to pursue one's own social vision in today's corporate society. He shows how an honest reassessment of what it really means to be a professional employee can be remarkably liberating. After reading this brutally frank book, no one who works for a living will ever think the same way about his or her job."

Other social problems with mainstream science:

All that said, a lot of time the experts are right -- for example, expert Civil Engineers designing and building bridges. Thinking is hard work, and a lot of "free thinking" may be re-inventing plausible but otherwise bad ideas. Perhaps the more variables involved, and the less we know about them, the more problematical the notion of "Expertise" becomes, other than to admit ignorance (which does not sound that impressive)? However, 2000 years ago, perhaps bridge building was more by trial and error, same as much medicine today? Certainly Cathedral building shows a process of trial and error before civil engineering became better understood in terms of materials and structures.

Here is a related diagram about different types of problem domains, where perhaps bridge building today is in one area but medicine in another:
"The Cynefin framework has five domains.[12] The first four domains are:
    * Simple, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all, the approach is to Sense - Categorise - Respond and we can apply best practice.
    * Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense - Analyze - Respond and we can apply good practice.
  * Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe - Sense - Respond and we can sense emergent practice.
    * Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act - Sense - Respond and we can discover novel practice.
    * The fifth domain is Disorder, which is the state of not knowing what type of causality exists, in which state people will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision. In full use, the Cynefin framework has sub-domains, and the boundary between simple and chaotic is seen as a catastrophic one: complacency leads to failure."

Disclaimer: My wife contributed to developing that framework,

BTW, other ways to keep kids healthy are through superior nutrition, which is mostly ignored in the USA when looking for a "magic bullet":
"Scientific research has demonstrated that humans have a powerful immune system, even stronger than other animals. Our bodies are self-repairing, self-defending organisms, which have the innate ability to defend themselves against microbes and prevent chronic illnesses. This can only happen if we give our bodies the correct raw materials. When we donâ(TM)t supply the young body with its nutritional requirements, we see bizarre diseases occur. We even witness the increasing appearance of cancers that were unheard of in prior human history.
    When you have a child, you have the unique opportunity to mold a developing person. One of your greatest gifts to them can be a disease resistant body created from excellent food choices beginning at youth. Ear infections, strep throats, allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADD or ADHD), and even autoimmune diseases can be prevented by sound nutritional practices early in life. Common childhood illnesses are not only avoidable, but they're more effectively managed by incorporating nutritional excellence into oneâ(TM)s diet. This is far superior to the dependence on drugs to which we are accustomed. No parent would disagree that our children deserve only the best."

It would help to have better tools to make sense of all this sometime conflicting advice. My proposal on that:
"There may well be "experts" out there who know good answers for these questions specifically about salt, but they probably are not you personally. Statistically there might be a small number of experts out of billions of people, so most people thinking about how much salt to eat are not goingto be experts. So, almost everyone is left wondering which experts to trust? Even if all the experts agree, they could still be wrong, or their general advice might be easy to misinterpret for your particular situation. And if you specifically by chance are an expert on salt intake, then you probably are not an expert on phytonutrient intake or cancer treatments, and so you would be faced with this same issue in some other area of personal health. So, there can be a gap between what an expert (or community of experts) know, and what an individual or local community knows and then acts on. Part of the value of better software tools, including educational aspects, may be to help bridge that gap between expert knowledge and individual practice. "

Comment: Using nuclear waste to protect wildlife (Score 1) 432

by Paul Fernhout (#46755693) Attached to: UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

Like at Chernobyl, as I suggest here:
"At SUNY Stony Brook, I knew one grad student who studied wildlife (turtles) in a reservation around a nuclear contaminated area, and while there was more mutations, in general, the wildlife was thriving [because human activities including hunting and habitat destruction were effectively excluded]. ... So, despite the problems, half-seriously, I suggest designating the NY Adirondack Park (where I live) for a nuclear waste disposal of glassified (vitrified) apple-sized lumps of waste. :-) That would be very good for a resurgence of wildlife in the Park. I might move out, but I would know a place I love would be "forever wild" for sure. :-)"

See also: "Chernobyl Area Becomes Wildlife Haven"

Comment: Nuclear risk was never "paid for" (Score 1) 432

by Paul Fernhout (#46755615) Attached to: UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

"Keeping old plants online is simply the capitalist thing to do: They're bought and paid for and still work. Why would you shut them down?"

In theory, fission-based nuclear energy is quite workable. In practice so far, within either a Soviet command economy or a Western capitalist economy, the "externalities" of systemic risk of meltdown (like Fukushima) have not been accounted for in up-front costs. So, these plants have never been "paid for". It is just that the general public has been forced to take on a risk, either as individuals or as a society. Fukushima is a tragic example of this. And many people affected by Fukushima are just left to pay many of the disastrous costs on their own, plus taxes go up for everyone, plus there are many other costs (like inspecting Japanese seafood or seaweed for radiation). So, the cost of Fukushima was not paid for up front. If the plants had been shut down sooner, huge future costs would have been avoided. Because capitalistic organizations eventually specialize in internalizing profits while socializing risks and costs and capturing their regulators via revolving doors and (legal) bribes, high risk nuclear power is a particularly difficult thing for such societies to manage. Sure, we could build much safer reactors, including probably thorium ones, but even now plans for new reactors are not fully fail-safe. TRIGA is an example of an alternative that is much more fail-safe.

Of course, I could say much the same for coal plants and their environmental affects. as externalities. Oil dependency also has huge costs in military defense of supply lines and pollution risks like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska or recently the US Gulf Coast.

That is why many renewables (as well as energy efficiency) have been cheaper than fossil fuels since the 1970s, all things considered. But all things were not considered, so we got coal and oil and bug health costs and big defense costs all paid either on health insurance premiums or taxes, not electric bills or at the gasoline pump. Even PV has externalities (including potentially cadmium runoff from some types of panels, as well as potentially blighting the landscape), although overall they are probably much less than coal and oil, and ideas like "solar roadways" may reduce the blight problem, as well as reduce the need for above ground electrical wires.
"The Solar Roadway is a series of structurally-engineered solar panels that are driven upon. The idea is to replace all current petroleum-based asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways with Solar Road Panels that collect energy to be used by our homes and businesses."

With the costs of PV solar falling as predicted decades ago, to now reaching "grid parity" in more and more areas, it is rapidly becoming uneconomical to install anything but solar, especially as battery and fuel cell technology continues to improve for energy storage.
"Predictions from the 2006 time-frame expected retail grid parity for solar in the 2016 to 2020 era, but due to rapid downward pricing changes, more recent calculations have forced dramatic reductions in time scale, and the suggestion that solar has already reached grid parity in a wide variety of locations."

Hot fusion or cold (LENR) fusion may change that equation. I don't see fission being more cost effective than solar anytime soon though, although maybe factory-made micro reactors (like Hyperion) will prove me wrong on that.

Comment: Thanks, Jon; hope you're onto better things (Score 1) 103

by Paul Fernhout (#46752363) Attached to: Why the IETF Isn't Working

1998: "'God of the Internet' is dead "
"Jon Postel, a key figure in the development of the Internet from its inception, died at the weekend of heart problems aged 55."

Now, thanks to a successful internet, I have learned all about how to prevent and reverse heart disease by eating more vegetables and getting enough vitamin D (a problem for many indoors-oriented technies). Sadly, too late for Jon. Hopefully not too late for Roblimo though?

The failure to adopt SQLite as a de-facto "Standard" for web browsers shows a deep problem, since a shared FOSS codebase is probably the best standard we can have.

Contrast that with suggestions of making de-facto standards by on the ground successes with working code. Which is what SQLite has done in a whole area of embedded storage.

Like Alan Kay has said, any standard with more than three lines is ambiguous. I can agree having had to work implementing a couple standards at IBM.

Comment: Please look at vitamin D and mitochrondrial issues (Score 1) 586

by Paul Fernhout (#46752091) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"
"The mitochondrial dysfunction identified in the JAMA study I've been talking about is ultimately only one downstream symptom of many upstream causes. Other researchers have found systemic inflammation,(ix) brain inflammation,(x) gut inflammation,(xi) elevated levels of toxins and metals, gluten and casein antibodies,(xii) nutrient deficiencies including omega-3 fats,(xiii) vitamin D,(xiv) zinc, and magnesium, and collections of metabolic dysfunction related to quirky genes that make it difficult to perform chemical reactions essential for health in the body such as methylation and sulfation.(xv)
    The take home message here is that the answer to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders will not be found in one of these factors, but in all of them taken together in varying degrees in each individual. There is no such thing as "autism." Rather there are "autisms"--different patterns of biological dysfunction unique to each child that result in multiple insults to the brain that all manifest with symptoms we call autism."

"To further validate their theories, the researchers cited a study involving Somali mothers, who naturally absorb less sunlight due to their dark skin pigmentation. When they moved north to Stockholm, a less-sunny region, they were found to be 4.5 times more likely to have autistic children, compared to the the country's lighter-skinned natives."

Also may help:

Good luck!

Comment: RAW sounds like he was quite a guy; thanks (Score 1) 136

by Paul Fernhout (#46743931) Attached to: Crowd Wisdom Better At Predictions Than Top CIA Analysts

Even to suggesting a "basic income":

Thanks for the pointer. I'd be curious where specifically (which book or other writing) wherein he says that, if you know off-hand.

Comment: IT for my OSCOMAK idea circa 1999 (Score 1) 733

by Paul Fernhout (#46738073) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

But, would be nice to develop it before-hand; from:
Self-replicating technical artifacts such as dogs, corn, and trees have been in use by humanity for thousands of years. While humans cannot lay credit to the original creation of such systems, they can claim the adaptation and selective breeding of these for defense, food, and building materials.

In the past few millennia, many people have become dependent on technology that is not self-replicating. Primarily this technology involves fairly pure forms of metals, plastics, and crystals. These technologies have expanded the earth's human carrying capacity in the short term, but are not sustainable in the long term. Such technologies lack the closed resource cycles, independent operation, redundancy, and resiliency found in natural systems. A symptom of the use of such non-sustainable systems is the fear that a single problem (like Y2K) could cause a major disruption of life-support infrastructure in the developed world.

For example, both Brittle Power (Amory and Hunter Lovins) and Energy, Vulnerability, and War (Wilson Clark and Jake Page), make clear how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is. As Brittle Power (pg.391-392) mentions, this vulnerability also holds for food and manufacturing production:

"The production and distribution of food are currently so centralized, with small buffer stocks and supply lines averaging thirteen hundred miles long, that bad weather or a truckers' strike can put many retail stores on short rations in a matter of days. This vulnerability is especially pronounced in the Northeast, which imports over eighty percent of its food. In a disaster, the lack of regional self sufficiency both in food production and food storage would cause havoc, but no one is planning for such possibilities."

And in reference to energy production:

"The Joint Committee on Defense Production notes that American industry is tailor made for easy disruption. Its qualities include large unit scale, concentration of key facilities, reliance on advanced materials inputs and on specialized electronics and automation, highly energy- and capital- intensive plants, and small inventories. The Committee found that correcting these defects, even incrementally and over many decades, could be very costly. But the cost of not doing so could be even higher -- a rapid regression of tens, or even hundreds of years in the American economy, should it be gravely disrupted."

In a long-term space mission or a space settlement, a self-sustaining economy must be created and supported. Therefore, addressing the problem of technological fragility on earth is an essential step in the development of the development of human settlement in space.
The heart of any community is its library, which stores a wide variety of technological processes, only some of which are used at any one time in any specific environment. If an independent community is like a cell, its library is like its DNA. A library has many functions: the education of new community members; the support of important activities such as farming and material extraction; historical recording of events; support for planning and design. And the library grows and evolves with the community.

The earth's library of technological knowledge is fragmented and obscure, and some important knowledge has been lost already. How can we create a library strong enough to foster the growth of new communities in space? How can we today use what we know to improve human life?
The development of the Oscomak infrastructure will be an ambitious undertaking, requiring the involvement of tens of thousands of knowledgeable individuals over a period of years. There is no way one single entity can fund this work. However, there is a way to allow such individuals to cooperate -- as an "open source" community, sharing knowledge and building a distributed repository over the internet.

The revolutionary aspect of this project is to leverage a small investment into a much larger effort by fostering an internet-based community which develops this knowledge and tools using an "open source" model similar to those used by Linux, GCC, Python, and Squeak. Individuals will participate in this process for rewards of status, advertising, friendship, self-esteem, reciprocity, and contribution toward a common goal.

Open-source software projects such as Linux, GCC, Squeak, and Python are an exploding phenomenon. However, successful open-source efforts still need a substantial investment of human capital to create the initial seed and to shepherd the development process over a period of years until it becomes self-sustaining. To date the successful open-source projects have been primarily in the areas of operating systems and programming languages. The next open-source frontiers are applications and knowledge repositories.

It is the aim of this project to create an open-source community centered around applications and knowledge related to space settlement. To gain the broadest participation, the project will also include knowledge related to terrestrial settlements. The initial focus will be on collecting "manufacturing recipes" on how to make things: for example, how to make a 1930's style lathe. Information collected will range from historical interest (fabrication techniques of the stone age to make flint knives) to current (fabrication techniques to make stainless steel knives) to futuristic (fabrication techniques requiring nanotechnology to make diamond knives). This project will involve potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals across the globe. It is expected that ultimately millions of individuals (many in developing nations) will benefit from use of this database directly or indirectly.

We take our lead from several projects on the internet. For example, the Educational Object Economy is a collaborative effort to collect 10,000 educational Java applets (it currently has about one thousand). There are also numerous food-related recipe collections on the internet.
The Oscomak project is an attempt to create a core of communities more in control of their technological destiny and its social implications. No single design for a community or technology will please everyone, or even many people. Nor would a single design be likely to survive. So this project endeavors to gather information and to develop tools and processes that all fit together conceptually like Tinkertoys or Legos. The result will be a library of possibilities that individuals in a community can use to achieve any degree of self-sufficiency and self-replication within any size community, from one person to a billion people. Within every community people will interact with these possibilities by using them and extending them to design a community economy and physical layout that suits their needs and ideas.

As the internet has grown, it has enabled collaborative work which has created many success stories, including Linux, Python, GCC, Squeak and other projects. We want to harness that power and apply it to organizing technological knowledge in concert with many interested individuals.

The main project goal is to develop an on-line library of technology ideas, techniques, and tools, including a range from high-tech processes like plastics to medium-tech like ceramic houses to low-tech like spinning wheels. Also included will be biotechnology processes, like perennial agriculture, companion planting, sheep farming, and eventually cloning and DNA synthesis.

One process to be included is a way to convert the high-tech computerized library to a low-tech paper one as desired. Key to the whole endeavor will be to present everything in a how-to fashion. Also needed is a way to map out and simulate the interrelations of processes; for instance, sheep raising requires veterinarians, antibiotics, feed, fencing, and shears; shears require a blacksmith, metal, and a furnace. This latter feature also would be used to keep track of the product flows into, out of, and within a community's entire economy.
Vannevar Bush, "As We may Think", The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945: Volumne 176, No. 1; Pages 101-108
    "Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.
  The applications of science have built man a well-supplied house, and are teaching him to live healthily therein. They have enabled him to throw masses of people against one another with cruel weapons. They may yet allow him truly to encompass the great record and to grow in the wisdom of race experience. He may perish in conflict before he learns to wield that record for his true good. Yet, in the application of science to the needs and desires of man, it would seem to be a singularly unfortunate stage at which to terminate the process, or to lose hope as to the outcome."

Robert Muller, Assistant Secretary-General (retired), United Nations, quoted in Surviving: The Best Game on Earth by Norrie Huddle, Schocken Books, New York, 1984, pg. 251 - 252.
    "The present condition of humanity was best described by the philosopher Gottfried Leibnitz a few hundred years ago when he said that humans would be so occupied with making scientific discoveries in every sector for several centuries that they would not look at the totality. But, he said, someday the proliferation and complexity of our knowledge would become so bewildering that it would be necessary to develop a global, universal, and synthetic view. This is exactly the time and juncture at which we have arrived. It shows in our new preoccupations with what is called 'interdisciplinary', 'global thinking', 'interdependence', and so on. It is all the same phenomenon.
One of the most useful things humanity could do at this point is to make an honest inventory of what we know. I have suggested to foundations that they ought to bring together the chief editors of the world's main encyclopedias to agree on a common table of contents of human knowledge. But it can be a dangerous idea. Why? Well, when the Frenchman Diderot invented the first encyclopedia, the archbishop of Paris ran to the king of France to have the book burned because it would totally change the existing value system of the Catholic church. If we developed a common index of human knowledge today it would similarly cause a change in our value systems. We would discover that in the whole framework of knowledge the contest between Israel and the Muslims would barely be listed because it is such a small problem in the totality of our preoccupation as a human species. The meeting might have to last several days before the editors would even mention it! This is exactly the point: some people don't want to develop such a framework of knowledge because they want their problem to be the most important problem on earth and go to great lengths to promote that notion.
    So that is what I believe to be most necessary for global security: an ordering of our knowledge at this point in our evolution, a good, honest classification of all we know from the infinitely large to the infinitely small - the cosmos, our planet, humanity, our dreams, our wishes, and so on. We haven't done it yet, but we will have to do it one way or another."
In 1928, J.D. Bernal (in the book The World, The Flesh and the Devil) proposed creating a network of self-replicating space habitats which duplicate themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore. He wrote:
    "Imagine a spherical shell ten miles or so in diameter, made of the lightest materials and mostly hollow; for this purpose the new molecular materials would be admirably suited. Owing to the absence of gravitation its construction would not be an engineering feat of any magnitude. The source of the material out of which this would be made would only be in small part drawn from the earth; for the great bulk of the structure would be made out of the substance of one or more smaller asteroids, rings of Saturn or other planetary detritus. The initial stages of construction are the most difficult to imagine. They will probably consist of attaching an asteroid of some hundred years or so diameter to a space vessel, hollowing it out and using the removed material to build the first protective shell. Afterwards the shell could be re-worked, bit by bit, using elaborated and more suitable substances and at the same time increasing its size by diminishing its thickness. The globe would fulfill all the functions by which our earth manages to support life. In default of a gravitational field it has, perforce, to keep its atmosphere and the greater portion of its life inside; but as all its nourishment comes in the form of energy through its outer surface it would be forced to resemble on the whole an enormously complicated single-celled plant. ... Yet the globe would be by no means isolated. It would be in continuous communication by wireless with other globes and with the earth, and this communication would include the transmission of every sort of sense message which we have at present acquired as well as those which we may require in the future. Interplanetary vessels would insure the transport of men and materials, and see to it that the colonies were not isolated units. ... However, the essential positive activity of the globe or colony would be in the development, growth and reproduction of the globe. A globe which was merely a satisfactory way of continuing life indefinitely would barely be more than a reproduction of terrestrial conditions in a more restricted sphere."

It is the ultimate aim of the Oscomak project to begin to create the social and technological infrastructure required to bring this seventy year old dream into reality.
Obviously, a project like designing such a habitat network is vast in scope, and will involve many thousands of people. The revolutionary aspect of this project is the use of the internet to allow large numbers of interested individuals to work together to accomplish this goal. A small investment used in this way can have a large outcome by leveraging the collective contributions of large numbers of individuals.

Long before space applications are feasible, this library will someday be at the center of a Community Development Corporation incorporating both the library and physical technology. If the library and CDC proves successful, it will start replicating in nearby neighborhoods until it spans the globe. Someday this network will have the resources to launch a project to create the first Bernal sphere.

The result of the interaction between tools and people will be a library of possibilities that individuals in a community can use to achieve many degrees of self-sufficiency and self-replication within any sized community from one person to a billion people. At the core of this knowledge-gathering process is the notion of a "manufacturing recipe" defining a possible manufacturing process. Within every community people will interact with these possibilities by using them and extending them to design a community economy and physical layout that suits their unique needs.

Aerospace designers will be able to use this knowledge base for designing long duration space missions, lunar colonies, or space habitats that are replicated from sunlight and asteroidal ore. By including such a knowledge base, crews on such long-duration missions will be able to adapt their available technology to new needs by creating new tools and products on an as-needed basis. One can think of this library of possibilities as like the DNA of a cell, with the cell deciding which processes to use based on environmental conditions.

In addition to the obvious result, the knowledge repository, the work will also produce research knowledge on the use of collaborative environments to build shared repositories of technological knowledge. We anticipate writing a series of papers on the project to share the understanding gained by shepherding the repository.

The success or failure of this project can be judged on three counts:

The level of interest as shown by accesses and downloads of the software and knowledge base.
The level of participation as shown by contributions to the knowledge base and collaborative improvements to the software tools.
The degree to which this database is used for education (such as in the Space Settlement contests) and in design (such as in mission planning for long duration space flight).
The race is on to make the human world a better (and more resilient) place before one of these overwhelms us:

Autonomous military robots out of control
Nanotechnology virus / gray slime
Ethnically targeted virus
Sterility virus
Computer virus
Asteroid impact
Other unforseen computer failure mode
Global warming / climate change / flooding
Nuclear / biological war
Unexpected economic collapse from Chaos effects
Terrorism w/ unforseen wide effects
Out of control bureaucracy (1984)
Religious / philosophical warfare
Economic imbalance leading to world war
Arms race leading to world war
Zero-point energy tap out of control
Time-space information system spreading failure effect (Chalker's Zinder Nullifier)
Unforseen consequences of research (energy, weapons, informational, biological)
No single design for such a community or technology will please everyone, or even many people. Nor would a single design be likely to survive. So the project will gather information and develop tools and processes that all fit together conceptually like Tinkertoys or Legos.

The recipes database will consist of primarily macro and micro manufacturing technology. It may also include some information applicable to nanotechnology manufacturing (such as the atomic composition of products, or ways to combine nanosynthesized components). The database will include information about patented processes with an eye towards the future when such patents have expired and can be freely used in space habitat construction.

In addition to the recipes database, a cross-platform simulator will be developed that will allow users to select recipes from the database and simulate an arbitrary technological infrastructure, such as one based primarily on extruded plastics (with feedstock derived from corn or algae). It will also be possible to print detailed reports on such infrastructures.

The simulation will be able to be used in a scenario mode in which simulated settlers are provided for by the users' actions. Several users may collaborate while the simulation runs to support the settlers by building a web of manufacturing processes selected from the recipes database. The goal of the scenario will be to construct a schematic connecting the resources of the solar system (sun, moons, asteroids, comets, etc.) to the web of manufacturing processes in order to deliver manufactured goods to the settlers. The simulation will evaluate the sustainability of the users' choices based on time constants (for example, time to depletion of air, water, or a critical material or tool). This will create an intrinsic motivation to explore the database as well as to contribute to it.

Eventually, various design and simulation tools will be created to assemble and organize this information in order to design communities with various levels of self reliance (given specific inputs of energy, raw materials, and manufactured goods). The software will also help to determine the minimal amount of technology needed to create these various communities and infrastructures (as a "seed" factory deployed onto in-situ resources such as an asteroid). At some point ten to forty years in the future, seed factory designs created using this database and simulator will be created and launched at near-earth asteroids to bootstrap space settlements.
We will develop software tools to enable the creation of the Oscomak knowledge repository: to collect, organize, and present information in a way that encourages collaboration and provides immediate benefit. Manufacturing "recipes" will form the core elements of the repository.

Our choice of software tools will emphasize cross-platform and open-source issues to maximize the potential for collaboration. Participants will download the software (and source) and some subset of knowledge modules in the repository, modify existing modules and/or create new modules, and communicate with other participants by sharing their changes. Many concurrent scales of collaboration will be supported, including local copies of the repository, small-group servers (for individuals with a particular interest, for example), and a central high-speed server which will coordinate activities. Changes to the software tools will work in the same way.

Comment: Carbon from soil erosion may be underconsidered (Score 0) 857

The US great plains over the last two hundred years in some places went from two feet or more of topsoil covered with with Prairie grass, Native Americans, and Buffalo to now more like six inches of topsoil mostly due to atrocious soil farming practices by the European invaders more akin to strip mining than stewardship. That is a lot of carbon loss.
"The farming practices of early settlers caused erosion of the topsoil. By the late 1870's the topsoil had vanished in the center of the prairie and the settlers who farmed there moved out to its edges. This was the beginning of the process that would create the Big Prairie Desert. This pattern of land use, dry conditions and soil erosion is what caused the dust bowl that was begining at about the same time in states further west."

Related (although perhaps an underestimate of the total loss):
"These pillars --- located outside a rest area off Highway 80 in Adair County, Iowa -- represent the topsoil Iowa has lost since large-scale farming began 150 years ago. In the 19th century, Iowa had 14-16 inches of topsoil. Today, it has just 6-8 inches of the stuff, and more is being lost all the time. The irony: The very farms that are depleting the topsoil desperately need it, too. "

See also:
"Although the figure is frequently being revised upwards with new discoveries, over 2,700 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon is stored in soils worldwide, which is well above the combined total of atmosphere (780 Gt) or biomass (575 Gt), most of which is wood. Carbon is taken out of the atmosphere by plant photosynthesis; about 60 Gt annually is incorporated into various types of soil organic matter (SOM) including surface litter; about 60 Gt annually is respired or oxidized from soil.[2] "

So, three-quarters of more of the carbon-rich top soil of the center of an entire continent (North America) was lost, much of it a century ago. That I think may help explain some global climate changes even more than recent fossil fuel use.

"When we lose soil, we are losing a resource that is, for practical purposes and human timespans, essentially non-renewable. An inch of soil takes between 200 - 1000 years to form, yet it can be swept away in a few seasons."

Ways to create topsoil faster included organic farming (focusing on adding organic matter to the soil) and remineralization from ground-up rock dust.

Still, maybe without all the extra carbon in the air we'd already be in another mini ice age?

Comment: Lots of truth but also some wishful thinking (Score 1) 149

by Paul Fernhout (#46734045) Attached to: NSA Allegedly Exploited Heartbleed

As I'm too often involved in myself sometimes: :-)
"This approximately 60 page document is a ramble about ways to ensure the CIA (as well as other big organizations) remains (or becomes) accountable to human needs and the needs of healthy, prosperous, joyful, secure, educated communities. The primarily suggestion is to encourage a paradigm shift away from scarcity thinking & competition thinking towards abundance thinking & cooperation thinking within the CIA and other organizations. I suggest that shift could be encouraged in part by providing publicly accessible free "intelligence" tools and other publicly accessible free information that all people (including in the CIA and elsewhere) can, if they want, use to better connect the dots about global issues and see those issues from multiple perspectives, to provide a better context for providing broad policy advice. It links that effort to bigger efforts to transform our global society into a place that works well for (almost) everyone that millions of people are engaged in. A central Haudenosaunee story-related theme is the transformation of Tadodaho through the efforts of the Peacemaker from someone who was evil and hurtful to someone who was good and helpful."

But more seriously, there are a lot of fine dedicated well-meaning people who work at three letter agencies. There are no doubt a lot of not-so-fine ones too. Any big bureaucracy has complex and often self-perpetuating social dynamics. If such places are to improve, IMHO one needs to support and encourage the fine people there and hope their actions can outweigh the not-so-fine ones. For example, IMHO Tom Armour was one of the finer ones:

Saying the KGB, the NSA, the Russian Oligarchy and so on are empty husks is a bit like saying capitalism is full of contradictions and unfairness and so it will fall apart on its own. I've said such things myself sometimes:
"Wikipedia. GNU/Linux. WordNet. Google. These things were not on the visible horizon to most of us even as little as twenty years ago. Now they have remade huge aspects of how we live. Are these free-to-the-user informational products and services all there is to be on the internet or are they the tip of a metaphorical iceberg of free stuff and free services that is heading our way? Or even, via projects like the RepRap 3D printer under development, are free physical objects someday heading into our homes? If a "post-scarcity" iceberg is coming, are our older scarcity-oriented social institutions prepared to survive it? Or like the Titanic, will these social institutions sink once the full force of the iceberg contacts them? And will they start taking on water even if just dinged by little chunks of sea ice like the cheap $100 laptops that are ahead of the main iceberg?"

Yet capitalism is still here and seemingly stringer than ever (as far as control of the US political machinery). And may well be for some time as the underlying power system morphs into new forms. Ancient China went hundreds of years at a stretch with peasants suffering all sorts of things, especially famine, and not much changing. Yet, something like a "basic income" might be a step towards improving capitalism even if it would not fix everything about it (the worst of consumerism, addictions, waste, short--term planning, systemic risks, externalities, etc.).

Short-term power in human societies also translates itself into sexual access and the spread of genes (e.g. Bill Clinton, theoretically). The best we can perhaps due as a society is structure how the competition for mates plays out in our society, as in what is valued. James P. Hogan wrote about that in his sc-fi novel "Voyage From Yesteryear". I'd suggest societies with a scarcity-based world view or at their current carrying capacity for their technology and cultural practices are probably more internally competitive and willing to accept competition and related cruelty than societies with an abundance-oriented world view and which see the potential in their technology and social practices for expansion (into whatever realms, including digital) and producing more than enough for all.

Most of the proto-mammals probably got killed off when the dinosaurs got wiped out too... Only a few small shrew-like creatures of probably large numbers by luck near huge supplies of seeds probably made it through, living underground. Do we really want that kind of global collapse, probably including global thermonuclear war and engineered plagues and killer robots and so on if these organizations become increasingly dysfunctional?
"Visualization of asteroid impact that killed dinosaurs 65 million years ago, based on accurate research and scientific fact. Created by Radek Michalik "

What are realistic and lower-risk ways forward, given all that?

"But this one goes to eleven." -- Nigel Tufnel