Saturday, February 28, 2015

No "Big Bang"?

Big Bang Never Happened?  New Theory
Says Universe Has No Origin, No End
Delhi Daily News, February 15, 2015

Did Big Bang not happen at all? A new theory proposed by two researchers suggests that the universe did not originate with the Big Bang and it has no beginning, no end.

According to Ahmed Farag Ali from Egypt's Benha University and Saurya Das from the University of Lethbridge in Canada, universe was not born with the Big Bang.
The physicists stated that going by the quantum mechanics, Big Bang did not mark the birth of the universe. On the contrary, they state that the universe existed perpetually and has neither a beginning nor an end.

The physicists have based their proposition on a new model that they have developed. The new model applied quantum correction terms to the theory of general relativity given by Einstein, according to which, the universe was born when an extremely dense single point bursting outwards around 13.8 billion years ago.

This state, termed singularity does not consider what took place either before the Big Bang or at the time of the Big Bang. After removing singularity, the new model shows that the universe forever existed in quantum potential prior to its collapsing into the Big Bang.
The new model, also took into account dark energy and dark matter, and predicted a cosmological constant, according to which, the universe is not expanding but is static.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ceres' Bright Spots

Puzzling Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA, Feb 27, 2015:  Cruising through the asteroid belt, NASA Dawn spacecraft is approaching dwarf planet Ceres, and some puzzling features are coming into focus.

"We expected to be surprised by Ceres," says Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at UCLA. "We did not expect to be this puzzled."

The camera on Dawn can now see Ceres more clearly than any previous image taken of the dwarf planet, revealing craters and mysterious bright spots.

"We already knew from the Hubble Space Telescope that there were bright regions on Ceres," says Russell. "However, those images of the bright spots, taken more than 180 million miles away, appear to be large."

At close-range, Dawn's camera is revealing something different.

"As Dawn has come closer to Ceres, the bright spots have become brighter and smaller. Indeed, they are much brighter than the surrounding landscape and still unresolved in our images. The point of origin must be very small."

"Another way to express this is with fractals," he adds. "Most of the planetary surfaces we see are cratered in a random pattern. When you get closer, just as with fractals, the surface looks the same regardless of scale."

"However, the bright spot is telling us that there is a phenomenon that acts on a very small scale and NOT at the larger scale of the cratering."

"And since I don't have a clue what this is I am puzzled."

The view is about to improve even more. Dawn will be gently captured into orbit around Ceres on March 6, beginning a mission to map, explore and understand the dwarf planet. By the time Dawn is in its lowest altitude orbit at the end of this year, its pictures will be well over 800 times better than Hubble's.

"Even though Ceres is in the asteroid belt, it is entirely unlike asteroids," says Dawn's mission director, chief engineer and lead blogger Marc Rayman.

With an equatorial diameter of about 605 miles, Ceres has a surface area 38 percent of that of the continental United States, or four times the area of Texas, writes Rayman in his blog. Its size, nearly spherical shape and other factors have led astronomers to classify it as a dwarf planet.  Moreover, it is the largest body between the sun and Pluto (another dwarf planet) that has never been visited by a spacecraft.

"Earth is about to be introduced to a fascinating new world," says Rayman.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hypothalamus Controls Sleep

Study Shows How the Brain

Can Trigger a Deep Sleep
     by Laura Gallagher,, Imperial College London News, 24 February 2015

Scientists have discovered that switching on one
area of the brain chemically can trigger a deep sleep.

Scientists from Imperial College London found that certain types of sedative drugs work by ‘switching on’ neurons in a particular area of the brain, called the preoptic hypothalamus.  Their work, in mice, showed that it is these neurons that are responsible for shutting down the areas of the brain that are inactive during deep sleep.

Following a period of sleep deprivation, the brain triggers a process that leads to a deep recovery sleep. The researchers found that the process that is triggered by the sedatives is very similar. In mice, when the researchers used a chemical to activate only specific neurons in the preoptic hypothalamus, this produced a recovery sleep in the animals.

The new research is important because although scientists understand how sedatives bind to certain receptors to cause their desired effects, it had previously been assumed that they had a general effect throughout the brain. The knowledge that one distinct area of the brain triggers this kind of deep sleep paves the way for the development of better targeted sedative drugs and sleeping pills. These new drugs could directly hijack this natural mechanism to work more effectively, with fewer side effects and shorter recovery times.

“If you don’t sleep for a long period, your body shuts down – almost as if you had taken a drug,” said study co-author Professor Bill Wisden, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London. “We’ve shown that sedative drugs trigger the same neurons, making the two types of unconsciousness very similar.”

"Although we know that certain sedatives are effective, there are lots of gaps in scientists’ knowledge in terms of precisely what sedatives are doing in the brain. We looked at the class of sedative drugs commonly used for patients undergoing investigative procedures or minor operations, to try and identify the circuitry in the brain that they are affecting,” explained Professor Nick Franks, also from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London. “What we found was really striking. Most people might think that sedative drugs would work by directly shutting down certain neural pathways but actually what happened was that they first switched on one particular area – the preoptic hypothalamus – and this then caused other parts of the brain to shut down.”

“Lack of sleep is a really serious problem for many people, such as people suffering from stress or people working irregular shifts, and it affects their physical and mental health” added Professor Wisden. “There are many different sleeping pills available but none of them provide rest that is as restorative as natural sleep. We hope that our new research will ultimately lead to new ways of addressing this problem.”

In the study, published in Nature Neuroscience, the researchers used a genetic tagging system to mark neurons in mice that were activated both during sedation and in recovery sleep. When the researchers subsequently targeted those neurons in the mice with a selective chemical, this was sufficient to produce a recovery sleep in the mice.

The team plan to continue their investigations into sleep induction in the brain, to try to understand more of the complex chemical circuitry governing our response to tiredness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I.D. of a GoP R.I.N.O.

8 RINO Rules
By the Conservative Review staff
February 24, 2015

It becomes clearer every day that there are not only two parties in Washington, D.C., but there are also two wings of the Republican Party. Conservatives who fight for limited government, fewer taxes, less regulation, more freedom, devolving federal power to the states, prudent immigration, and constitutional principles

The other wing?

Whether you call them RINOs (Republican In Name Only), liberal Republicans or the Establishment, for them, it’s all about retaining the power that comes from working their well-established connections around “town.”

Some have raised the question, ‘You don’t really think that these members want to help/support/defend Obama’s agenda and policies – do you?’ 

Hopefully not, but their actions seem to align a lot closer with liberals than conservatives on many issues, so it’s hard to say. 

So what guides these powerful liberal Republicans?

Here are the 8 RINO rules:

1. Bait and Switch

This can also be referred to as “politics over principle” or “don’t fight now, fight later”. Members that have roamed the halls of Congress for multiple years have made a lot of campaign promises along the way, and they have undoubtedly broken a few of them. Some even admit a broken promise. Just look at Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) admitting he lied when asked whether he would honor his term limits commitment. When it comes to the big promises, you’d think politicians would stick to them.

This is where bait-and-switch comes into play: find a reason and tell the press in spin-o-riffic fashion why a vote for or against that promise would ultimately be a wasted vote. To them, party comes first, the next election, or the next fight. This is the main reason that the proverbial can continually gets kicked down the road. That really core thing, like not raising taxes – that will be fought for next time.

Right now is about keeping power, gaining goodwill for self-advancement, or supposedly gaining leverage, ironically the leverage doesn’t actually get used.   

2. Show Me the Money

Votes win elections and money is used to get votes, therefore simple calculus tells a RINO that money is the most important thing ever. It just so happens that special interest has lots of money. So what if this vote will raise taxes? Don’t worry, the Establishment needs this vote to remain in power and appease the special interest. This rule usually coincides with adherence to #1 where special interest greases the skids for the passage of a 1000-page bill as long as there is something that tips the scales in their favor. Unfortunately, it is easier to lobby Congress for a handout than it is for special interests to innovate.

3. Fear

This one is simple – they instill fear in you the voter. You don’t want a Democrat in office – do you? Of course you don’t, so you must vote for the RINO. But don’t worry, all those things they do that seem morally repugnant, they are just pragmatic actions to remain in power. Again, you don’t want a Democrat in office – do you?

4. Governing

This word is politician-speak for capitulation. If they ever use this word, they are probably a RINO, because it means they are more concerned with keeping power, making friends, or raising money. So again, governing involves politics over principle, money, and then of course, fear.

5. Double Standards

RINOs love double standards. They moan and complain about conservative primary challenges, but two years away from their next election, they will spend millions bashing and hammering conservatives back home in an effort to soften the ground for their next race. They will taint every conservative candidate as an unwashed, unelectable, extremist wacko, but the minute their people are caught with baggage (Steve Scalise (R-LA) with David Duke and Thad Cochran (R-MS) with neo-confederate organizations) they circle the wagons. As long as you support amnesty and are a member of the governing elite in good standing you can do no wrong. Again, politics, money, and fear are major cornerstones of these members, and they work well when it comes to double standards. Plus, double standards help them explain away their sellout votes with ease. 

6. Me Too

Originating in the 1930's, a term that tells the listener the RINO in question agrees with Democrats on issues with only moderating differences. As in when a Democrat says, "I believe in federal funding and involvement in education" the RINO responds, "Me too. But there is another way to manage this better." The political intent is to show that the RINO is socially acceptable and not an extremist, in other words, not a conservative. Their argument is that they are better managers of government than liberals, but ultimately both end up at the same place. The “me too” RINO just takes longer to arrive at the liberal destination and doesn’t stop the damage to our economy, society, or nation from a bloated all-powerful central government. 

7. Pragmatic

Pragmatic in the world of both RINO's and leftists is a buzz word meaning “not conservative." The implication, sometimes stated outright, is that conservatism is “ideological” while “liberalism” is just plain reality. And therefore to deal with reality – to "get things done" – a RINO advocates being “pragmatic”. Which, in practice, means accepting the liberal world view on an issue. For example, we must have highways and bridges; therefore, the “pragmatic” thing to do is raise the gas tax. Thus, the “pragmatic” question is about “how much the federal gas tax should be raised – by five cents or ten cents?” The question can never be "should we place the states in charge of funding their own highways and abolish the federal gas tax?” thereby ending the federal addiction to this money pit for mass transit and payoffs to Big Labor.
8. Preemptive Surrender

RINOs love to announce their plans to surrender in advance. For example, after the 2014 midterms, liberal Republican Leadership in both the House and the Senate announced that no matter what Obama did or would do to bypass Congress, they wouldn’t use any must pass bill as a leverage point. For all practical purposes the Establishment surrendered before they even took the field. This was all part of “governing” and used the tried and true “bait and switch” to promise to fight later. And every time that the Establishment announces surrender and kicks the can down the road it only emboldens Obama and Democrats to hold firm and not negotiate. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Giant Cell Arteritis

Chicken Pox, Shingles Virus Link

AURORA, Colo. (Feb. 19, 2015) – A new study developed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus links the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles to a condition that inflames blood vessels on the temples and scalp in the elderly, called giant cell arteritis.

Giant cell arteritis, which can cause blindness or stroke and can be life-threatening, is linked in the study to the varicella zoster virus, of the herpes virus family, which causes chicken pox and may reactivate later in life in the form of shingles, a very painful rash.

“Our analysis, which is the largest to-date, provides compelling evidence that the virus  also reactivates in people over 60 in another  way, triggering giant cell arteritis,” said lead author Don Gilden, MD, professor of neurology and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

Gilden’s study is published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academyt of Neurology.

Giant cell arteritis causes swellintg and tenderness of the arteries on the scalp and temples of people over the age of 50. Gilden noted that it is the most common type of inflammation of blood vessels in the elderly, affecting an estimated 29 out of 100,000 people. Symptoms include a new severe headache, scalp tenderness, jaw discomfort, blurred vision, fever, weight loss and tiredness.

For the study, researchers searched for evidence of the virus in 13 temporal artery biopsies of people who died and had no previous symptoms of giant cell arteritis and in 84 temporal artery biopsies of people with giant cell arteritis. All of the biopsies were from people over the age of 50.

The virus was found in 74 percent of the biopsies with giant cell arteritis and in only 8 percent of the normal skin biopsies.

“If the association in this landmark study can be replicated in other studies, clinical trials should focus on treating people with giant cell arteritis with a combination of the current steroid drugs used for the condition, plus antiviral treatment for the virus,” said Peter Kennedy, CBE, MD, PhD, DSc, with the Glasgow University in Scotland, in a corresponding editorial.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.,-Shingles-Link-.aspx

Monday, February 23, 2015

Finding Reliable Journalism

By the Blog Author

It’s getting harder and harder to find fair-minded, fact-based journalism even in the Anglosphere.  I’d like to share a few useful tricks that I use.

First of all, I don’t assume that one political philosophy has a monopoly on realism or accurate policy guidance.  Therefore I tend to follow both the center-left news summary of Teagan Goddard’s political wire as well as the center-right approach of RealClearPolitics.  This is the right path.  Both the left and the right are most trustworthy when they are criticizing themselves.

I have a lot of time on my hands these days, yet I don’t have any time to waste on modern television “news.”  It’s just awful.  It’s been going downhill –fast!—ever since the late John Chancellor was replaced by Connie Chung at NBC many years ago.  The news anchors these days are closely related, behaviorally and in personal philosophy, to flight attendants or to game show hosts.  They are paid precisely in accordance with how personable they appear to polled audiences and focus groups.  Therefore those who survive and thrive are at once vapid yet likeable.  Speed reading the headlines on the internet is a much more productive use of time than vegetating in front of a screen and being spoon-fed human interest blather of limited value.

A frustrating and worrisome problem that I’m having stems from the loss of Scientific American as the world standard of good writing about science.  Their modern biases and painfully trippy attempts to present misinformation as “relevant” have severely compromised this publication, and there isn’t a good replacement for it.  Science journalism can really run away with a silly fad these days, from “global warming” to the non-existent reappearance of the ivory-billed woodpecker.  What I do is cherry pick RealClearScience for articles with strong and factual implied narration and look especially for emerging technologies.

Fortunately, for business and banking issues, there is a gold standard in worldwide reporting – the Financial Times of London.  They were way ahead of everyone else on the crash of 2008, and they remain the most lucid and useful analysis of financial matters seven years later.

I am looking for and still have not found alternative media or blogs that are reliable enough to consistently sample.  Some of them are right some of the time, but this is not an environment where high quality can be found at this date.

Let me close by referring you to an article from Maclean’s in Canada that is spot-on as great and trustworthy print journalism.  RealClearPolitics is typically at its best when it references and links to an article from London, Ottawa, Toronto, Sydney or Melbourne, especially if the article is about geopolitics or America.  RCP was my source for the link below.  American journalists have lost the ability to analyze their own territory with unbiased insight and trustworthy internal narration.  The best of our Canadian neighbors still know how to spot and important political story and cover the facts.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

1930s Writer John O'Hara

Introduction by the Blog Author

There were two great fictional chroniclers of America during the 1930s – John Steinbeck and John O’Hara.  Steinbeck got the awards and the sympathy of the critics.  O’Hara got some minor awards.  Both wrote novels and short stories into the 1960s.

I want to submit one small but vital fact in support of John O’Hara as ultimately the better, or at least the more important, writer.  By the 30s, most Americans were city folk.  Rural America was still there, it was still important, but it was no longer the dominant arena of most American lives.  Americans had become city and town dwellers for the most part.  And O’Hara wrote about that in detail and with photographic honesty.  In the long run, by the middle of the twenty-first century, after the oldest twentieth century critics are dead, that skill and detail may be appreciated.

The two Amazon reviews below all refer to a book of three John O’Hara novels, Appointment in Samarra, Butterfield 8 and Hope of Heaven.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

5 Stars
Scandal in Gibbsville!
By Patrick W. Crabtree VINE VOICE on November 6, 2007

O'Hara wrote mostly of the daily peccadillos and scandals that transpired in the early 20th century small town of fictional Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, located in the anthracite region of the Keystone State. Gibbsville rarely escapes mention in any of his works.

His best novel of all (my opinion) is 'Appointment in Sammarra' where we are treated, right off, to a young mover and shaker who spontaneously decides to chuck his iced cocktail into his old mossbacked boss's face, giving the old man a black eye. That's the sort of story that it is and I loved every word.

In 'Butterfield 8', an adventurous young and beautiful gal has an affair with an unrepentent executive. He unwisely ticks her off by leaving her some cash to get home on after one particular night of wild carousing and, as the guy's wife is away from the apartment, she lifts his wife's mink coat from the closet, just to cause this scoundrel a panic. It goes downhill from there. The 'Butterfield 8' thing is a reference to a phone number, (for those of us who are aged enough to remember that phone numbers used to begin with 'names' so that we could remember them better).

'Hope of Heaven' is a tale of Hollywood (and obliquely of Gibbsville) and a playwright is the protagonist. And since it's Hollywood, of course there follows plenty of underhandedness, scandal and O'Hara's semi-graphic trademark conveyance.

O'Hara loves to kill off his characters, and not necessarily the ones that you expect to die. Every time he abruptly pulls it off, I find myself rolling in the floor, howling with laughter, mostly at myself for not seeing it coming.

This triad of novelettes is some of John O'Hara's finest work. If you enjoyed Grace Metallious's 'Peyton Place' you'll love O'Hara's work which is additionally injected with shrewdly-scribed humor.
This is fine 20th Century American literature, better than 99-percent of contemporary works -- it is timeless because O'Hara's characters have existed in every society throughout every era of time.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

5 Stars
Gorgeous but Depressing, July 17, 2013
By dion macellari - See all my reviews

This review is from: Appointment in Samarra, Butterfield 8, Hope of Heaven (Hardcover)

John O'Hara the underknown literary master of the 1930s is at the height of his powers here with "Butterfield 8" and his masterpiece "Appointment in Samarra." This ain't no summer romp but O'Hara does tragedy better than most anybody. This is my third or fourth time reading "Samarra" and it did not disappoint. And hey, it's short! You can knock it out in a couple evenings. 'nuff said. Butterfield 8 is exquisite also.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

[great overview of John O'Hara by a brilliant editor]:

An interim status report

John O'Hara is the Rodney Dangerfield of American literature: he's never got the proper respect and he spent much of his career complaining about it. At best, he's been called a "first-rate second-rate writer" in a clever phrase that seems to nail his literary reputation.

I'm here to try to change that.

For many critics, O'Hara is part of that twentieth-century, second-quarter, generation of celebrated American authors—including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck and William Faulkner—but not in their top ranks. Some rate his short stories among the best but disdain his novels, half-heartedly praising his first, Appointment in Samarra (1934), but seeing degeneration since that early promise. His later long works, his most popular with the public, are dismissed as gaudy bestsellers of upper-crust sex and glamour.

Even his prolific production of short stories, which appeared in magazines over four decades (holding the unbeatable record for appearances in The New Yorker) and were gathered into collections every few years, has been held against him. Especially in his latter career, it is charged, he was just knocking them out. The stories lost focus, meandered and became irrelevant, it is said

Part of the problem may be that O'Hara outlived and out-produced many of his acclaimed contemporaries. In addition to his faltering fiction of the 1960s, his letters and published commentary of that era showed him to be a conservative crank, obsessed with seeking status in the establishment. His major work then was still going over the times and subjects of his earlier work.

He was also known in literary circles—among the fellow writers he praised and idolized and in whose ranks he yearned to be accepted—as quite a piece of work: a mean drunk and a petty, self-promoting sycophant. Even when he wrote a fawning appreciation of Hemingway's otherwise panned novel, Across the River and Into the Trees, the master was offended at what he saw as O'Hara patronizing him.

But surely it's now past the time when the name of John O'Hara should evoke odious comparisons to his contemporaries. Or that mentions of his work should stir discussion of his possible failings as a man. More than forty years after his death, with several of his novels still in print and his best stories still being anthologized, we may be compelled to raise him a notch or two in our canon of great American literary figures.

In his early years, O'Hara was accepted as a leading chronicler of his times. His first novels, Appointment in Samarra (1934) and BUtterfield 8 (1935), and his first stories, collected in The Doctor's Son and Other Stories (1935) and Files on Parade (1939), were recognized as offering a command of the forms with a conversational style and dispassionate voice that was equal to but distinct from the work of his famous peers. Like Hemingway, he adopted journalistic skills of clear-eyed reporting and clarity of style for fictional subjects and, as with Fitzgerald, his subjects were often the social mores of his times. But O'Hara never became the master of style like the former nor the lyrical poet of prose like the latter.

Moreover, he seemed to deal with lighter-weight themes than the other greats of his time. He focused ever more intently on the ironies of social life, usually—but not always—of the affluent and artistic classes. Like Thackeray, Dreiser and James before him, and Tom Wolfe after him, he examined minutely the unwritten rules and byplay of status and sexual relationships in various levels of society. But his unadorned, colloquial style may have undercut the seriousness of his achievement, so he never received the same credit as those others.

Appointment in Samarra cleverly shows the intertwining of characters from all strata of Gibbsville (stand-in for the real town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania), the analysis disguised in the ironical story of an affluent local Cadillac dealer's self-destruction. BUtterfield 8 delves into the relationship of a proud, promiscuous, lower-class woman with an upper-class businessman.

Rescheduled appointments

His first major work to hit a critical and popular snag was Hope of Heaven (1938), taking place in Hollywood to which he was being drawn as a screenwriter. The novella was considered weak and implausible. But today it reads as compressed writing of satirical verve, akin to Nathanael West's similarly themed The Day of the Locusts (1939), albeit less apocalyptic.

But the stories kept coming and O'Hara bounced back in a big way with another novella, cobbled together from a series of short stories taking the form of letters from a self-aggrandizing jazz musician. Throughout his career, O'Hara's worst critics have always given him credit as at least a masterful dialogue writer, though often suggesting this is a minor achievement detracting from his serious writing. Pal Joey (1940) should have squelched that notion. Written entirely in one voice narrating a series of letters, it is usually overlooked as a work of literature, but it's a small gem of subtle, disciplined writing, a lesson in how to have a character say more than he thinks he is saying—in how to create a colourful milieu through a single prism.

O'Hara also adapted Pal Joey for a stage musical, with Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart providing the songs. It was a hit on Broadway with Gene Kelly in the lead and has been continually revived ever since.

After these early artfully compressed works of near-perfect colloquial writing, O'Hara's approach to his craft began to change. His next big work was one of his longest and most controversial: A Rage to Live (1949), about business and personal affairs among the movers and shakers of another Pennsylvania town. It scandalized some critics with its frank (for that time) sexuality. Several found the story superficial. The novel was  criticized for its long-windedness and rambling dialogue that sometimes takes up entire chapters.

It has to be admitted the writing in the 700-plus pages of A Rage to Live is somewhat looser than in O'Hara's earlier novels. At times the characterizations become paper thin and the narrative can be disjointed. But a canny reader can discover O'Hara expanding upon his past achievements, experimenting with directions in which to take the modern novel. Most people's stories in real life are not wrapped up in neat ironies, as presented in his early novels. Most of our lives are not shaped by profound motivations. Our personal narratives follow no dramatic arcs; they are rambling and repetitive for the most part, with abrupt breaks of deaths, illnesses, and infidelities. How much of this could O'Hara get across with a minimum of obvious artifice? And using just the language we all speak? And the surface minutiae of life we all experience?

It's not all successful experimenting, but it is interesting if you look at this as a watershed novel in O'Hara's career. And the story does stay with you, as do one or two of the characters. A Rage to Live was a huge success with the public—his biggest to date.

His next few novels generally plough the same fields, though with decreasing effect. Ten North Frederick (1955) and From the Terrace (1958) are both sprawling, thick novels following the travails of dysfunctional families. O'Hara kept going back to the time and place he was determined to record for posterity in detail: the first half of the twentieth century in America.

About this time, Hollywood, which had earlier tried to use O'Hara as screenwriter, caught on to O'Hara's books as material for potboiler movies. Between 1957 and 1965, a slew of uneven cinematic adaptations came out. Frank Sinatra took the lead in a decent film of the musical Pal Joey, Gary Cooper starred in a diminished Ten North Frederick, Paul Newman and Joanna Woodward paired in a middling From the Terrace, and Suzanne Pleshette played the sexually savvy leading lady of a forgettable A Rage to Live. Even BUtterfield 8 was adapted, decades after its publication, as a trashy movie, with an updated story set in 1960, complete with a car chase and with Elizabeth Taylor as the call girl.

Other novels followed in the 1960s, though with decreasing critical and commercial impact. Notable, though seldom mentioned now, is The Big Laugh (1962), called "the greatest Hollywood novel ever written" by O'Hara fan Fran Lebowitz. Its near-complete reliance on dialogue to convey character makes it similar to a movie script, though this (as usual with O'Hara) is generally cited as a criticism.

Another neglected late entry is The Instrument (1966), a likewise dialogue-ridden novel, with a terrifically crafted first chapter—harking back to Appointment in Samarra—that gives way to a thin, wandering story. It's worth reading though to see the novelist not just still plying his trade but still developing his art, coming up with new ways of using human conversation in fiction.

So where does our re-assessment of John O'Hara's career take us? To raising him at least a notch, from best of the second-raters to the second tier of first-raters.

If that sounds like damning with faint praise, well, let's give him time. Keep reading him and you may be tempted—with me—to place his best work among the very best of American writing in the mid-twentieth century. First-rate all the way.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Highest Biological Tensile Strength

A limpet is an aquatic snail with a shell broadly conical in shape. The term "limpet" is purely informal, a term of convenience; it refers to any gastropod whose shell has no obvious coiling such as one sees in familiar garden snails or in winkles. Although all limpets are members of Gastropoda, the group is highly polyphyletic, meaning that the various lines that we call limpets have descended independently from different ancestral gastropods. This general category of conical shell is technically known as "patelliform", meaning dish-shaped.

Some species of limpet live in fresh water, but by far the majority are saltwater inhabitants.

All members of the large and ancient marine clade Patellogastropoda are limpets, and within that clade the family Patellidae in particular often are called the "true limpets". However, other groups, not in the same family, also are called limpets of one type or another because of the general shapes of their shells. Examples include the Fissurellidae; they are the keyhole limpet family, contained in the clade Vetigastropoda, though many of the members of the Vetigastropoda do not have the morphology of limpets at all.

A study published in the Royal Society journal Interface in 2015 concluded that "the tensile strength of limpet teeth can reach values significantly higher than spider silk, considered to be currently the strongest biological material, and only comparable to the strongest commercial carbon fibres". The material was able to withstand 4.9 GPa. This considerable tensile strength of limpet teeth is attributed to a high mineral volume fraction of reinforcing goethite nanofibres.

Behavior and Ecology

True limpets in the family Patellidae live on hard surfaces in the intertidal zone. Unlike barnacles or mussels, true limpets are capable of locomotion instead of being permanently attached to a single spot. However, when they need to resist strong wave action or other disturbances, limpets cling extremely strongly to the hard surface on which they live, using their muscular foot to apply suction combined with the effect of adhesive mucus. It often is very difficult to remove a true limpet from a rock without injuring or killing it.

All "true" limpets are marine and have gills. However, because the adaptive feature of a simple conical shell has repeatedly arisen independently in gastropod evolution, limpets from many different evolutionary lineages occur in widely different environments. Some saltwater limpets, such as Trimusculidae breathe air, and some freshwater limpets are descendents of air-breathing land snails (e.g. the genus Ancylus) whose ancestors had a pallial cavity serving as a lung. In these small freshwater limpets that "lung" underwent secondary adaptation to absorption of dissolved oxygen from water.


The teeth of limpets consist of composite nanostructures with fractions of reinforcing goethite nanofibres within a softer chitin matrix to provide mechanical integrity.  A study into the tensile strength of teeth from Patella vulgata found ranges from 3.0 to 6.5 gigapascals (GPa), making them the strongest known biological material, outperforming spider silk.  The mineral protein of the limpet teeth can withstand a tensile stress of 4.9 GPa, compared to 4 GPa of spider silk and 0.5 GPa of human teeth.  This strength is attributed to a high mineral volume fraction of goethite nanofibres.

As the limpet teeth effectively resist abrasion, corresponding structural design features may be used for novel biomaterials, such as next-generation dental restorations.

The teeth are found on the radula—a rasping tongue which the limpet uses to scrape from rocks the algae on which it grazes.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Toward Better Batteries

New Paper-like Material Could
Boost Electric Vehicle Batteries

Researchers create silicon nanofibers 100 times thinner than human hair for potential applications in batteries for electric cars and personal electronics
By Sean Nealon, UCR Today, February 17, 2015

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bournes College of Engineering have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery.

This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair. It could be used in batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics.

The findings were just published in a paper, “Towards Scalable Binderless Electrodes: Carbon Coaterd Silicon Nanofiber Paper via Mg Reduction of Electrospun SIO2 Nanofibers,” in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The authors were Mihri Ozkan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, Cengiz S. Ozkan, a professor of mechanical engineering, and six of their graduate students: Zach Favors, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zafer Mutlu, Kazi Ahmed, Robert Ionescu and Rachel Ye.

The nanofibers were produced using a technique known as electrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS), a chemical compound frequently used in the semiconductor industry. The nanofibers are then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure.

Conventionally produced lithium-ion battery anodes are made using copper foil coated with a mixture of graphite, a conductive additive, and a polymer binder. But, because the performance of graphite has been nearly tapped out, researchers are experimenting with other materials, such as silicon, which has a specific capacity, or electrical charge per unit weight of the battery, nearly 10 times higher than graphite.

The problem with silicon is that is suffers from significant volume expansion, which can quickly degrade the battery. The silicon nanofiber structure created in the Ozkan’s labs circumvents this issue and allows the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation.

“Eliminating the need for metal current collectors and inactive polymer binders while switching to an energy dense material such as silicon will significantly boost the range capabilities of electric vehicles,” Favors said.

This technology also solves a problem that has plagued free-standing, or binderless, electrodes for years: scalability. Free-standing materials grown using chemical vapor deposition, such as carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires, can only be produced in very small quantities (micrograms). However, Favors was able to produce several grams of silicon nanofibers at a time even at the lab scale.

The researchers’ future work involves implementing the silicon nanofibers into a pouch cell format lithium-ion battery, which is a larger scale battery format that can be used in EVs and portable electronics.

The research is supported by Temiz Energy Technologies. The UC Riverside Office of Technology Commercialization has filed patents for inventions reported in the research paper.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Harper Lee Novel

Go Set a Watchman is a novel by Harper Lee, set to be published on July 14, 2015, by Harper Collins in the United States and William Heinemann in the United Kingdom. It was written before her only published novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."  It alludes to Scout’s view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass ("watchman") of Maycomb.


The novel follows an adult Scout Finch, who travels from New York to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father, Atticus Finch, twenty years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. According to the publisher, Scout "is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood."  Go Set a Watchman includes many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Development History 

Though the book has been characterized in media reports as a sequel to Lee's best-selling novel, Go Set a Watchman was written in the mid-1950s, before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published in 1960. It was set aside when her editor suggested that she write another novel from the young Scout Finch's perspective. The manuscript was then lost for many years, until being rediscovered by her lawyer in the fall of 2014. It will be published as originally written, with no revisions.

The novel is 304 pages, and will be published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, in the United States and Canada, and by Heinenann, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth (except Canada). The first printing will be two million copies. The publishers do not expect Lee, who is 88 years old and lives in assisted living in Monroeville, Alabama, to engage in a publicity tour to support the book.


Some publications have called the timing of the book "suspicious", citing Lee's declining health, statements she had made over several decades that she would not write or release another novel, and the death of her sister (and caretaker) just two months before the announcement.  NPR reported on the news of her new book release, with circumstances "raising questions about whether she is being taken advantage of in her old age". Some publications have even called for fans to boycott the work.

News sources, including NPR, BBC News and Jezebel, have reported that the conditions surrounding the release of the book are unclear and posit that Lee may not have had full control of the decision.

However, historian and Lee's longtime friend Wayne Flynt told the Associated Press that the "narrative of senility, exploitation of this helpless little old lady is just hogwash. It's just complete bunk". Flynt said he found Lee capable of giving consent, and believes no one will ever know for certain the terms of said consent.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Positive Quiddity: Uan Rasey

Introduction by the Blog Author

I’ll bet you never heard of Uan Rasey.  But you’ve probably heard him!  He was a dynamite Hollywood trumpet player for the MGM orchestra from 1949 into the seventies, the soloist for the opening and closing themes for the movie Chinatown and a widely respected professional by other musicians in Los Angeles.

                                                                     Uan Rasey
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


Uan Rasey (August 22, 1921 – September 26, 2011), the renowned trumpet player best known for his studio recordings, has passed away.

Uan was the first trumpet of the MGM film studios orchestra from 1949 until the early 1970s, and performed on nearly every MGM film score from the late 1940s until the early 1970s, along with film scores from many other motion picture studios.

Some of his career highlights include An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, and West Side Story.

Our thoughts are with Uan’s family.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Brief Biography

The annals of jazz and popular music have their share of star trumpet players: Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Maynard Ferguson Harry James, Wynton Marsalis, Bunny Berigan, Al Hirt, Doc Severinsen, and Wingy Manone come to mind. But the chances are very good that, ahead of all of these renowned figures, the average music listener may well have heard the music of Uan Rasey. A trumpet virtuoso to equal all rivals, Rasey has played with everyone from Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra to the Monkees, and on film scores from An American in Paris to Chinatown. His trumpet can be heard throughout Jerry Goldsmith's score for the latter film, one of the great, classic uses of the solo instrument in the history of cinema. Rasey spent the years 1949 through 1974 working for MGM Studios, and played lead trumpet on movies like An American in Paris and West Side Story. As a recording artist, he's played with the likes of Sinatra, Crosby, Nat "King" Cole, Mel Tormé, Anita O'Day, Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters, Benny Carter, Ray Anthony, Frankie Laine, Louis Prima, Judy Garland, Ella Mae Morse, and the Monkees. Since his retirement from MGM, he continued to participate in commercial recordings.

By Bruce Eder

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

An Engineer On Obamacare

Introduction by the Blog Author

A furious engineer in California wrote about the unfairness and political agenda of Obamacare.  His words have ricocheted around the internet and even I have gotten a copy of them in my email.  Here is the text:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Notes from an Engineer

I'm a 54 year old consulting engineer and make between $60,000 and $125,000 per year, depending on how hard I work and whether or not there are work projects out there for me.

My girlfriend is 61 and makes about $18,000 per year, working as a part-time mail clerk.

For me, making $60,000 a year, under ObamaCare, the cheapest, lowest grade policy I can buy, which also happens to impose a $5,000 deductible, costs $482 per month.

For my girlfriend, the same exact policy, same deductible, costs $1 per month. That's right, $1 per month. I'm not making this up.
Don't believe me? Just go to <> , the ObamaCare website for California and enter the parameters I've mentioned above and see for yourself. By the way, my zip code is 93940. You'll need to enter that.

So OK, clearly ObamaCare is a scheme that involves putting the cost burden of healthcare onto the middle and upper-income wage earners. But there's a lot more to it. Stick with me.

And before I make my next points, I'd like you to think about something:

I live in Monterey County, in Central California. We have a large land mass but just 426,000 residents - about the population of Colorado Springs or the city of Omaha.

But we do have a large Hispanic population, including a large number of illegal aliens, and to serve this group we have Natividad Medical Center, a massive, Federally subsidized county medical complex that takes up an area about one-third the size of the Chrysler Corporation automobile assembly plant in Belvedere, Illinois (see Google Earth View). Natividad has state-of-the-art operating rooms, Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging, fully equipped, 24 hour emergency room, and much more. If you have no insurance, if you've been in a drive-by shooting or have overdosed on crack cocaine, this is where you go. And it's essentially free, because almost everyone who ends up in the ER is uninsured.

Last year, 2,735 babies were born at Natividad. 32% of these were born to out-of-wedlock teenage mothers, 93% of which were Hispanic. Less than 20% could demonstrate proof of citizenship, and 71% listed their native language as Spanish. Of these 876 births, only 40 were covered under [any kind of] private health insurance. The taxpayers paid for the other 836. And in case you were wondering about the entire population - all 2,735 births - less than 24% involved insured coverage or even partial payment on behalf of the patient to the hospital in exchange for services. Keep this in mind as we move forward.

Now consider this:

If I want to upgrade my policy to a low-deductible premium policy, such as what I had with my last employer, my cost is $886 per month. But my girlfriend can upgrade her policy to the very same level, for just $4 per month. That's right, $4 per month. $48 per year for a zero-deductible, premium healthcare policy - the kind of thing you get when you work at IBM (except of course, IBM employees pay an average of $170 per month out of pocket for their coverage).

I mean, it's bad enough that I will be forced to subsidize the ObamaCare scheme in the first place. But even if I agreed with the basic scheme, which of course I do not, I would never agree to subsidize premium policies. If I have to pay $482 a month for a budget policy, I sure as hell do not want the guy I'm subsidizing to get a better policy, for less that 1% of what I have to fork out each month for a low-end policy.

Why must I pay $482 per month for something the other guy gets for a dollar? And why should the other guy get to buy an $886 policy for $4 a month? Think about this: I have to pay $10,632 a year for the same thing that the other guy can get for $48. $10,000 of net income is 60 days of full time work as an engineer. $48 is something I could could pay for collecting aluminum cans and plastic bottles, one day a month.

Are you with me on this? Are you starting to get an idea what ObamaCare is really about?

ObamaCare is not about dealing with inequities in the healthcare system. That's just the cover story. The real story is that it is a massive, political power grab. Do you think anyone who can insure himself with a premium policy for $4 a month will vote for anyone but the political party that provides him such a deal? ObamaCare is about enabling, subsidizing, and expanding the Left's political power base, at taxpayer expense. Why would I vote for anyone but a Democrat if I can have babies for $4 a month? For that matter, why would I go to college or strive for a better job or income if it means I have to pay real money for healthcare coverage? Heck, why study engineering when I can be a schlub for $20K per year and buy a new F-150 with all the money I'm saving?

And think about those $4-a-month babies - think in terms of propagation models. Think of just how many babies will be born to irresponsible, under-educated mothers. Will we get a new crop of brain surgeons and particle physicists from the dollar baby club, or will we need more cops, criminal courts and prisons? One thing you can be certain of: At $4 a month, they'll multiply, and multiply, and multiply.

ObamaCare: It's all about political power.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How Our Moon Was Formed

New Isotopic Evidence Supporting

Moon Formation via Earth Collision

with Planet-sized Body

June 5, 2014
Source:  European Association of Geochemistry

A new series of measurements of oxygen isotopes provides increasing evidence that the moon formed from the collision of the Earth with another large, planet-sized astronomical body, around 4.5 billion years ago.

This work will be published in Science on 6th June, and will be presented to the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in California on 11th June.

has been given the name Theia. Efforts to confirm that the impact had taken place had centred on measuring the ratios between the isotopes of oxygen, titanium, silicon and others. These ratios are known to vary throughout the solar system, but their close similarity between Earth and Moon conflicted with theoretical models of the collision that indicated that the Moon would form mostly from Theia, and thus would be expected to be compositionally different from Earth.

Now a group of German researchers, led by Dr. Daniel Herwartz, have used more refined techniques to compare the ratios of 17O/16O in lunar samples, with those from Earth. The team initially used lunar samples which had arrived on Earth via meteorites, but as these samples had exchanged their isotopes with water from Earth, fresher samples were sought. These were provided by NASA from the Apollo 11, 12 and 16 missions; they were found to contain significantly higher levels of 17O/16O than their Earthly counterparts.

Dr Herwartz said "The differences are small and difficult to detect, but they are there. This means two things; firstly we can now be reasonably sure that the Giant collision took place. Secondly, it gives us an idea of the geochemistry of Theia. Theia seems to have been similar to what we call E-type chondrites.  If this is true, we can now predict the geochemical and isotopic composition of the Moon, because the present Moon is a mixture of Theia and the early Earth. The next goal is to find out how much material of Theia is in the Moon."

Most models estimate that the Moon it is composed of around 70% to 90% material from Theia, with the remaining 10% to 30% coming from the early Earth. However, some models argue for as little as 8% Theia in the Moon. Dr Herwartz said that the new data indicate that a 50:50 mixture seems possible, but this needs to be confirmed.

The team used an advanced sample preparation technique before measuring the samples via stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry, which showed a 12 parts per million (± 3 ppm) difference in 17O/16O ratio between Earth and Moon.

CPR When Alone

Introduction by the Blog Author

This presentation makes some sense to me, though I have no medical training.  It's worth thinking about and may be worth doing if the disaster of a heart attack befalls you.  There is another thing worth undertaking that isn't mentioned below: if possible, immediately take an aspirin when the symptoms begin.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


1. Let’s say it’s 7.25pm and you’re going home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job.

2. You’re really tired, upset and frustrated.

3. Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up in to your jaw. You are only about five km from the hospital nearest your home.

4. Unfortunately you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far.

5. You have been trained in CPR, but the guy that taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.

Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

7. However, these victims can help themselves by coughing
Repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.

A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two
seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

8. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing
movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating.

The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.

9. Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

By Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
    In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
    Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
    And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
      What a beautiful Pussy you are,
          You are,
          You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
    How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
    But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
    To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
    With a ring at the end of his nose,
          His nose,
          His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.


'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
    Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,
          The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

[illustrations also by Edward Lear]


Friday, February 13, 2015

Academia Hates Wikipedia

Wikipedia use - nothing to be ashamed about

Monash University [Australia], February 11, 2015 -- Academics and students alike should be making better use of Wikipedia, a major study of digital technology use in Higher Education has recommended.

The Australia-UK collaboration led by Professor Neil Selwyn at Monash University’s Faculty of Education found that while Wikipedia was a popular background resource with students, it had not supplanted traditional sources of intellectual scholarship and authority.
The study of more than 1600 students found that while Wikipedia was used by seven in eight students, the world’s sixth most visited website wasn’t seen as the most useful education resource. Google and other internet search engines, library websites, learning management systems and Facebook all ranked higher. Most students used Wikipedia for background research.
The researchers suggest that given the important but relatively background role Wikipedia plays in student life, universities should continue to consider ways of better integrating Wikipedia into their accepted modes of teaching and learning provision.
“There are clearly many ways in which universities need to engage more directly in supporting and enhancing the role that Wikipedia is now playing in students’ scholarship,” Professor Selwyn said.
“The early alarmist fears that Wikipedia would lead to a dumbing down of university study was not apparent. But neither is Wikipedia ushering in a new dawn of enlightenment and students and teachers creating their own knowledge.

“Lecturers should be encouraging their classes to edit and improve Wikipedia pages. At the very least, more academics should become Wikipedia editors – writing on their areas of expertise.”

“Wikipedia is here to stay, and universities should be getting more engaged with it rather than just trying to deny its existence.”

The study was one of a series on Technology Enabled Learning funded by the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching. Articles have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Higher Education Policy & Management and Studies in Higher Education.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely On Wikipedia

October 27, 2011 08:00 AM
by Mark E. Moran

Wikipedia provides Internet users with millions of articles on a broad range of topics, and commonly ranks first in search engines. But its reliability and credibility fall well short of the standards for a school paper. According to Wikipedia itself, “[W]hile some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. … use [Wikipedia] with an informed understanding of what it is and what it isn't.”

To help you develop such an understanding, we present 10 reasons you can't rely on information in Wikipedia.

10. You must never fully rely on any one source for important information.
Everyone makes mistakes. All scholarly journals and newspapers contain “corrections” sections in which they acknowledge errors in their prior work. And even the most neutral writer is sometimes guilty of not being fully objective. Thus, you must take a skeptical approach to everything you read.

The focus of your search should be on finding accurate information and forming a full picture of an issue, rather than believing the first thing you read. This is particularly true on the Internet, where anyone can publish, cheaply and quickly. Always verify important information by confirming it with multiple sources.

9. You especially can’t rely on something when you don’t even know who wrote it.
Very few Wikipedia editors and contributors use their real name or provide any information about who they are. In order to properly evaluate information on the Internet, there are three questions you must always ask; the first two are “Who wrote this?” and “Why did they write it?” On sites with anonymous authors like Wikipedia, you can't find this information.

8.  The contributor with an agenda often prevails.
In theory, the intellectual sparring at the heart of Wikipedia's group editing process results in a consensus that removes unreliable contributions and edits. But often the contributor who “wins” is not the one with the soundest information, but rather the one with the strongest agenda.

In March 2009, Irish student Shane Fitzgerald, who was conducting research on the Internet and globalization of information, posted a fake quotation on the Wikipedia article about recently deceased French composer Maurice Jarre. Due to the fact that the quote was not attributed to a reliable source, it was removed several times by editors, but Fitzgerald continued re-posting it until it was allowed to remain.

Fitzgerald was startled to learn that several major newspapers picked up the quote and published it in obituaries, confirming his suspicions of the questionable ways in which journalists use Web sites, and Wikipedia, as a reliable source. Fitzgerald e-mailed the newspapers letting them know that the quote was fabricated; he believes that otherwise, they might never have found out.

7. Individuals with agendas sometimes have significant editing authority.
Administrators on Wikipedia have the power to delete or disallow comments or articles they disagree with and support the viewpoints they approve. For example, beginning in 2003, U.K. scientist William Connolley became a Web site administrator and subsequently wrote or rewrote more than 5,000 Wikipedia articles supporting the concept of climate change and global warming. More importantly, he used his authority to ban more than 2,000 contributors with opposing viewpoints from making further contributions.

According to The Financial Post, when Connolley was through editing, “The Medieval Warm Period disappeared, as did criticism of the global warming orthodoxy.” Connolley has since been stripped of authority at Wikipedia, but one blogger believes he continues to post.

Furthermore, in 2007, a new program called WikiScanner uncovered individuals with a clear conflict of interest that had written or edited some Wikipedia entries. Employees from organizations such as the CIA, the Democratic National Party and Diebold were editing Wikipedia entries in their employers' favor.

6. Sometimes “vandals” create malicious entries that go uncorrected for months.
Due to the fact that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with an Internet connection, users can falsify entries. Though in many instances reviewers quickly delete this “vandalism,” occasionally false information can remain on Wikipedia for extended periods of time.

For example, John Seigenthaler, a former assistant to Robert Kennedy, was falsely implicated in the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers on his Wikipedia biography for a period of more than 100 days without his knowledge.

5. There is little diversity among editors.
According to a 2009 survey by the Wikimedia Foundation, 87 percent of Wikipedia editors are male, with an average age of 26.8 years. According to executive director Sue Gardner, they hail mostly from Europe and North America, and many of them are in graduate school.

Although most of these editors are undoubtedly intelligent and passionate about enhancing the accuracy of Wikipedia, the site falls far short of its ideals of providing “the sum of all human knowledge” without the broad perspectives that a more diversified pool of editors would bring.

4. The number of active Wikipedia editors has flatlined.
The number of active Wikipedia editors (those who make at least five edits a month) has stopped growing. It remains to be seen whether the current number of active editors can maintain and continue updating Wikipedia.

3. It has become harder for casual participants to contribute.
According to the Palo Alto Research Center, the contributions of casual and new contributors are being reversed at a much greater rate than several years ago. The result is that a steady group of high-level editors has more control over Wikipedia than ever.

A group of editors known as “deletionists” are said to “edit first and ask questions later,” making it harder for new contributors to participate, and making it harder for Wikipedia—which, again, aspires to provide “the sum of all human knowledge”—to overcome the issue that it is controlled by a stagnant pool of editors from a limited demographic.

2. Accurate contributors can be silenced.
Deletionists on Wikipedia often rely on the argument that a contribution comes from an “unreliable source,” with the editor deciding what is reliable. An incident last year showed the degree to which editors at the very top of Wikipedia were willing to rely on this crutch when it suits their purpose.

When the Taliban kidnapped New York Times reporter David Rohde in Afghanistan, the paper convinced 40 media organizations plus Wikipedia not to report on it out of concerns that it would compromise Rohde's safety. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales told the Times, once Rohde was free, that “We were really helped by the fact that it (postings on Rohde) hadn’t appeared in a place we would regard as a reliable source.” Thus, Wales and other senior Wikipedia editors showed they were willing to rely on the “unreliable source” canard to delete information they had been told by a very reliable source was true, even when a more noble reason—Rohde’s safety—would have justified it.

And finally, the number one reason you can't cite or rely on Wikipedia:

1. It says so on Wikipedia
Wikipedia says, “We do not expect you to trust us.” It adds that it is “not a primary source” and that “because some articles may contain errors,” you should “not use Wikipedia to make critical decisions.”

Furthermore, as Wikipedia notes in its “About” section, “Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start: they may contain false or debatable information.”

Reference: Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia can actually be a constructive tool in the classroom if understood and used correctly. To learn more, read findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Wikipedia in the Classroom.

North Carolina State University Libraries has a short video that explains what Wikipedia is and how information is entered into it. Take a tour of the “article,” “discussion,” “edit this page” and “history” tabs to go “beneath the surface” of Wikipedia.

Stephen Colbert takes a satirical view of Wikipedia in a segment on his show and on his own user-generated encyclopedia, Wikiality. Though intended for laughs, it captures, in an entertaining fashion, why Wikipedia can't be relied upon as a sole source of information.


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Comments by the Blog Author

The blog author finds that all the criticisms listed above apply at least as much to academia itself as to Wikipedia.  Bias, clubbiness, personal attacks and bluffing are so rife in the academic environment, that Wikipedia in comparison is a relief and refuge for the most part.

I am particularly disturbed by the pettiness and pretentiousness of the criticisms above.  He even invites us to mock Wikipedia with Stephen Colbert. An intelligent reader, especially one with a college education, should be able to detect most bad editing and biased presentation of a written topic.  To check on the accuracy of Wikipedia entries, try to keep these concepts in mind with vigilant alertness:

  • Does the entry use any cognitive biases?

  • How frequent are outside references to published works?

  • Is the implied narration itself sensible and without favoritism?

  • Does the entry accurately summarize both sides of a controversial topic?

  • Does the entry itself deal with current politics or famous politicians or modern trends or notable fads or the social “sciences” or personal grooviness?  These are topics that invite biased editing, especially by academics who are also ideologues.
See also how a computer grades Wikipedia entries from the August 8, 2014 blog entry of this site.