All posts by Tom

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The best that can be said is that the less said, the better.

The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of

Pretty much as long as there has been human civilization, there has been lead. While it’s certainly useful, that usefulness has come with a terrible price. It’s been known since the Greeks and Romans that lead is harmful but it didn’t stop us from using it. It took a “fringe” scientist by the name of Clair Patterson, who accidentally discovered widespread lead contamination while trying to measure the age of the Earth, to finally convince people that the use of lead needed to be strictly curtailed.

It’s hard not to see parallels with the current battle of global climate change. Despite overwhelming evidence a few industry-supported voices still manage to keep us from doing anything. Will there be a modern Clair Patterson to finally bring us to our senses or are we doomed?

Ev Williams says Twitter’s role in Trump’s rise is ‘a very bad thing’

In an interview with the NY Times, Twitter co-founder Ev Williams says Twitter’s role in Trump’s rise is ‘a very bad thing’.

Commenting on the view of Silicon Valley as the “modern Prometheus”, Williams said:

What we tend to forget is that Zeus was so pissed at Prometheus that he chained him to a rock so eagles could peck out his guts for eternity,” he said. “Some would say that’s what we deserve for giving the power of tweets to Donald Trump.

FCC Ignores The Will Of The Public, Votes To Begin Dismantling Net Neutrality

You have to hand it to the Republicans, they don’t even pretend to care about anyone other than rich people and corporations. So the recent FCC votes to begin dismantling Net Neutrality doesn’t come as a surprise at all.

In the short term, you shouldn’t expect anything significant to change since there will be numerous lawsuits from various groups. In the longer term, as long as the GOP controls Washington the assaults on consumers will continue and Net Neutrality destruction is a priority. If this bothers you, check out the EFF and vote for those who think your rights as a consumer are worth protecting.

The Relay Computers

Most people are at least vaguely familiar with the early history of modern digital computers, particularly their importance in breaking the Nazi Enigma codes during WWII. Less familiar is the computing machines that preceded them.

In response to the need for more and faster computation, researchers developed a series of analog computers that did the job but were complicated and difficult to maintain. Inspired by (and in some cases actually using) the switches used to connect telephone calls, digital computers using relays were developed that used base 2 arithmetic. As useful as they were these relay computers would end up mostly being forgotten, replaced by machines based on vacuum tubes.

The Media Bubble is Real — And Worse Than You Think

Politico takes a look at the Media Bubble that gave us the false impression that Trump couldn’t possibly win. The trends that created that bubble are still in place and the movement of jobs away from local news organizations to the Internet has done nothing to shrink it.

My local newspaper has shed jobs, pages and local content all the while pretending this isn’t happening. Whenever I actually pick up a copy to read I’m always struck by how much of the content is sourced from USA Today and other national news organizations. All of which are based securely in the Media Bubble.

Ass-chewing and schadenfreude: Inside Hillary’s failed campaign

The Democrats have a litany of reasons why Clinton lost: Russia, poor whites, Bernie Sanders, etc. In truth, Clinton’s 2016 campaign failed for most of the same reasons her 2008 campaign did: a disorganized staff struggled to define a clear and persuasive message for their unexciting establishment candidate.

Instead of looking at the factors that caused Clinton to lose the nomination to Obama and addressing them, her campaign simply repeated everything. To no one’s surprise (but their’s, apparently) the results were the same.

Old Erie Canal Lock 54

Lock 54 on the original Erie Canal was sometimes called the Berlin lock for the nearest settlement, now called Lock Berlin. It’s east of Lyons, NY and west of Clyde, along Rt. 31. It was enlarged twice, with the final work being completed just before the Civil War. It was subsequently abandoned when the canal was rerouted in the early 20th century. A short section of the canal was left in place and thanks to the recent snow and rain it’s pretty much as full as it would have been when in use. The gates have long been gone but the photos below represent a view similar to what you would have seen when it was in use.

No Longer In Use by Tom Maszerowski on 500px.com

Lock 54 Exit by Tom Maszerowski on 500px.com

Lock 54 Entrance by Tom Maszerowski on 500px.com

Old Lock 54 by Tom Maszerowski on 500px.com

Why Men Don’t Live as Long as Women

It’s a well-known fact that on average, women live longer than men. If you’ve ever visited a facility catering to the elderly, you know this is indeed the case. That men die younger is a given, but determining why isn’t quite as simple. Men in general are often involved in more dangerous work situations and are more likely to take risks but much of the difference in life span can’t easily be explained only by these. So what other factors are at play?

From birds to humans, the answer is pretty much the same: testosterone. It’s complicated, of course. Both males and females have it but males obviously have it in much greater amounts. It’s essential for reproduction in both genders but the higher amounts in males has a high price, longevity-wise. It makes men more likely to suffer issues like heart attacks but can also lower immunity to diseases. It’s a double whammy.

Is there no hope for men? Yes and no. Obviously testosterone is necessary to ensure a species continues. Oddly enough, the historical record regarding eunuchs and others who were castrated  doesn’t show a significant difference in lifespan so that in itself isn’t the answer either. But human males may still have reason to hope. We’ve evolved to have much greater paternal roles in child rearing than pretty much any other animal. There is evolutionary pressure to live longer and to avoid some of the behaviors to contribute to earlier mortality. It won’t be enough to eliminate the gap with women but it is likely to shrink it. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.