A running whine on Twitter and Facebook: ‘Can you name anything government ever got right?’
One such occasion was July 20, 1969, when humans first put foot on the Moon.
It’s a day to remember history. Do you remember that day, the first time humans landed on the Moon?
God knows we could use more Americans to have faith in the good intentions of NASA scientists today; we could use more dreams like those NASA gave us then, too.
Southwest Elementary in Burley, Idaho, existed in a world far, far away from the U.S. space program. We watched rocket launches on black and white televisions — the orbital launches were important enough my father let me stay home from school to watch, but when he dropped me off at school, I was in a tiny band of students who actually made it to school. Potato farmers and the merchants who supported them thought the space program was big, big stuff, worth missing school.
By John Glenn’s flight, a three-orbit extravaganza on February 20, 1962, a television would appear in the main vestibule of the school, or in the auditorium, and we’d all watch. There were very few spitballs. Later that year my family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah.
Toward the end of the Gemini series, television news networks stopped providing constant coverage. The launch, the splashdown, a space walk or other mission highlight, but the nation didn’t hold its breath so much for every minute of every mission. Barry McGuire would sing about leaving the planet for four days in space (” . . . but when you return, it’s the same old place.“), then six days, but it was just newspaper headlines.
The Apollo 1 fire grabbed the nation’s attention again.Gus Grissom, one of the three who died, was one of the original space titans; death was always a possibility, but the U.S. program had been so lucky. Apollo’s start with tragedy put it back in the headlines.
The space program and its many successes made Americans hopeful, even in that dark decade when the Vietnam War showed the bloody possibilities of the Cold War. That darkest year of 1968 — see the box below — closed nicely with Apollo 8 orbiting the Moon, and the famous Christmas Eve telecast from the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William A. Anders. The space program kept us hopeful.
By early 1969 many of us looked forward to the flight of Apollo 11 scheduled for July — the space flight that promised to put people on the Moon for the first time in history, the realization of centuries-old dreams.
Then I got my assignment for Scouting for the summer. Out of nearly 50 nights under the stars, one of the days would include the day of the space walk. Not only was it difficult to get televisions into Maple Dell Scout Camp, a good signal would be virtually impossible. I went to bed Sunday night knowing the next day I’d miss the chance of a lifetime, to watch the first moon landing and walk.
Just after midnight my sister Annette woke me up. NASA decided to do the first walk on the Moon shortly after touchdown, at an ungodly hour. I’d be unrested to check Scouts in, but I’d have seen history.
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) used to list 11 dates for U.S. history as the touchstones kids need to have: 1609, the founding of Jamestown; 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitutional Convention; 1803, the Louisiana Purchase; 1861-1865, the American Civil War; 1877, the end of Reconstruction; 1898, the Spanish American War; 1914-1918, World War I; 1929, the Stock Market Crash and beginning of the Great Depression; 1941-1945, World War II; 1957, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets. Most teachers used to add the end of the Cold War, 1991; I usually included Apollo 11 — I think that when space exploration is viewed from a century in the future, manned exploration will be counted greater milestone than orbiting a satellite; my only hesitance on making such a judgment is the utter rejection of such manned exploration after Apollo, which will be posed as a great mystery to future high school students, I think.)
Happy to report the Texas State Board of Education has caught on. TEKS dates now include 1968 and assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1969 and Apollo 11, plus the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president.
* Why 1968 was such a tough year, in roughly chronological order: 1968 produced a series of disasters that would depress the most hopeful of people, including: the Pueblo incident, the B-52 crash in Greenland, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the nerve gas leak at the Army’s facility at Dugway, Utah, that killed thousands of sheep, Lyndon Johnson’s pullout from the presidential race with gathering gloom about Vietnam, the Memphis garbage strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots, the Black Panther shoot-out in Oakland, the Columbia University student takeover, the French student strikes, the tornadoes in Iowa and Arkansas on May 15, the Catonsville 9 vandalism of the Selective Service office, the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. Scorpion with all hands, the shooting of Andy Warhol, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Buenos Aires soccer riot that killed 74 people, the Glenville shoot-out in Cleveland, the cynicism of the Republicans and the nomination of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia crushing the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms, the Chicago Democratic Convention and the police riot, the brutal election campaign, the Tlatololco massacre of students in Mexico City, Black Power demonstrations by winning U.S. athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, coup d’etat in Panama. Whew!
Like faces in clouds, some people claimed to see a link. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, coincided with Lenin’s birthday. There was no link — Earth Day was scheduled for a spring Wednesday, when the greatest number of college students would be on campus.
Now, years later, with almost-annual repeats of the claim from the braying right wing, it’s just a cruel hoax. It’s as much a hoax on the ill-informed of the right, as anyone else. Many of them believe it.
No, there’s no link between Earth Day and the birthday of V. I. Lenin:
One surefire way to tell an Earth Day post is done by an Earth Day denialist: They’ll note that the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an anniversary of the birth of Lenin.
Coincidentally, yes, Lenin was born on April 22, on the new style calendar; it was April 10 on the calendar when he was born — one might accurately note that Lenin’s mother always said he was born on April 10.
It’s a hoax. There is no meaning to the first Earth Day’s falling on Lenin’s birthday — Lenin was not prescient enough to plan his birthday to fall in the middle of Earth Week, a hundred years before Earth Week was even planned.
Does Earth Day Promote Communism?
Earth Day 1970 was initially conceived as a teach-in, modeled on the teach-ins used successfully by Vietnam War protesters to spread their message and generate support on U.S. college campuses. It is generally believed that April 22 was chosen for Earth Day because it was a Wednesday that fell between spring break and final exams—a day when a majority of college students would be able to participate.
U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the guy who dreamed up the nationwide teach-in that became Earth Day, once tried to put the whole “Earth Day as communist plot” idea into perspective.
“On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” Nelson said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”
April 22 is also the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraska newspaper editor who founded Arbor Day (a national holiday devoted to planting trees) on April 22, 1872, when Lenin was still in diapers. Maybe April 22 was chosen to honor Morton and nobody knew. Maybe environmentalists were trying to send a subliminal message to the national subconscious that would transform people into tree-planting zombies. One birthday “plot” seems just about as likely as the other. What’s the chance that one person in a thousand could tell you when either of these guys were born.
My guess is that only a few really wacko conservatives know that April 22 is Lenin’s birthday (was it ever celebrated in the Soviet Union?). No one else bothers to think about it, or say anything about it, nor especially, to celebrate it.
Certainly, the Soviet Union never celebrated Earth Day. Nor was Lenin any great friend of the environment. He stood instead with the oil-drillers-without-clean-up, with the strip-miners-without-reclamation, with the dirty-smokestack guys. You’d think someone with a bit of logic and a rudimentary knowledge of history could put that together.
Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in.” He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.
After President Kennedy’s [conservation] tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?
I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.
At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.
Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:
“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”
Nelson, a veteran of the U.S. armed services (Okinawa campaign), flag-waving ex-governor of Wisconsin (Sen. Joe McCarthy’s home state, but also the home of Aldo Leopold and birthplace of John Muir), was working to raise America’s consciousness and conscience about environmental issues.
Humor at The ObamaCrat: “Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was ‘a Communist trick,’ and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, ‘subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them.'” God forbid!
About.com, “Is Earth Day a communist plot?”; “U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the guy who dreamed up the nationwide teach-in that became Earth Day, once tried to put the whole “Earth Day as communist plot” idea into perspective.”On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” Nelson said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.”
Rich Kozlovich at Paradigms and Demographic; Kozlovich repeats these fantastic lies, without even bothering to hint at any backup: “There is one factor that is known. This whole green stuff was imposed in Nazi Germany and in Soviet Russia and their views are virtually identical to the views of modern greenies and it is a reasonable assumption to think they were inspirational to the green movement of today; who have morphed into the step child of socialism. I think it is fair to question any denials on their part, in that their denials can be being likened to cow flatulence. Back to today.” [Editor’s note: Complete and utter balderdash.]
I know many Darwin students, and science students, usually concede that Darwin was “racist by today’s standards,” but better than most of his pre-Victorian and Victorian colleagues. I think that’s an unnecessary and very much inaccurate concession. Darwin simply was not racist.
To come to that conclusion, one needs to read a bunch of Darwin’s writings, and see what he really said. Darwin was bound by English usage mostly in the first half of the 19th century, and that produces confusion among people who assume “savage” is a pejorative term, and not simply the pre-1860 version of “wild” or “aboriginal.”
But beyond that, a look at Darwin’s life should produce an appreciation of the remarkable lack of bias he shows to people of color — though he does demonstrate bias against French, Germans and Turks, and it’s difficult to understand if he’s being sarcastic in those uses.
We discussed this issue way back in 2007, at Dr. P. Z. Myers’s blog, Pharyngula, back when it was a part of a series of science blogs hosted by Seed Magazine, which has gone defunct. P. Z. took an answer I gave in one post, and made a freestanding post out of it.
I was surprised, but happy to bump into the answer recently — because it remains a good summary response. It would have benefited from links, but in 2007 I wasn’t adept at adding links in other blogs (didn’t even have this one), and links were limited, as I recall.
So I’ll add in links below.
Here’s my 2007 answer to the retort, “Darwin was racist,” with no editing, but links added.
Here’s the post from P. Z. Myers, featuring my answer.
Since Ed Darrell made such a comprehensive comment on the question of whether Darwin was as wicked a racist as the illiterate ideologues of Uncommon Descent would like you to believe, I’m just copying his list here.
Remember the famous quarrel between Capt. FitzRoy and Darwin aboard the Beagle? After leaving Brazil, in their mess discussions (remember: Darwin was along to talk to FitzRoy at meals, to keep FitzRoy from going insane as his predecessor had), Darwin noted the inherent injustice of slavery. Darwin argued it was racist and unjust, and therefore unholy. FitzRoy loudly argued slavery was justified, and racism was justified, by the scriptures. It was a nasty argument, and Darwin was banned to mess with the crew with instructions to get off the boat at the next convenient stop. FitzRoy came to his senses after a few days of dining alone. Two things about this episode: First, it shows Darwin as a committed anti-racist; second, it contrasts Darwin’s views with the common, scripture-inspired view of the day, which was racist.
Watch for the notorious quote mining of Emma’s remark that Charles was “a bigot.” It’s true, she said it. Emma said Charles was a bigot, but in respect to Darwin’s hatred of spiritualists and seances. Darwin’s brother, Erasmus, was suckered in by spiritualists. Darwin was, indeed, a bigot against such hoaxes. It’s recounted in Desmond and Moore’s biography, but shameless quote miners hope their audience hasn’t read the book and won’t. Down here in Texas, a lot of the quote miners are Baptists. I enjoy asking them if they do not share Darwin’s bigotry against fortune tellers. Smart ones smile, and drop the argument.
One might hope that the “Darwin-was-racist” crap comes around to the old canard that Darwin’s work was the basis of the campaign to kill the natives of Tasmania. That was truly a terrible, racist campaign, and largely successful. Of course, historians note that the war against Tasmanians was begun in 1805, and essentially completed by 1831, when just a handful of Tasmanians remained alive. These dates are significant, of course, because they show the war started four years prior to Darwin’s birth, and it was over when Darwin first encountered Tasmania on his voyage, leaving England in 1831. In fact, Darwin laments the battle. I have often found Darwin critics quoting Darwin’s words exactly, but claiming they were the words of others against Darwin’s stand.
Also, one should be familiar with Darwin’s writing about “civilized” Europeans wiping out “savages.” In the first place, “savage” in that day and in Darwin’s context simply means ‘not living in European-style cities, with tea and the occasional Mozart.’ In the second, and more critical place, Darwin advances the argument noting that (in the case of the Tasmanians, especially), the “savages” are the group that is better fit to the natural environment, and hence superior to the Europeans, evolutionarily. Darwin does not urge these conflicts, but rather, laments them. How ironic that creationist quote miners do not recognize that.
P. Z. closed off:
Isn’t it odd how the creationists are so divorced from reality that they can’t even concede that Darwin was an abolitionist, and are so reduced in their arguments against evolution that they’ve had to resort to the desperate “Darwin beats puppies!” attack?
Sadly, many of the posts in that old home for Pharyngula eroded away as the old Appalachian Mountain range eroded to be smaller than the Rockies. Time passes, even the rocks change.
Darwin’s still not racist. Creationists and other malignant forces revive the false claim, from time to time.
Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination. Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor.
In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history. Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services. Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”
Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time. He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection. His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle). At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day. Hymns were specially written for the occasion. Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.
Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more. Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.
Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration. Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.
Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860. Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858. On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.
Darwin and Lincoln might have got along well, but they never met.
What unusual coincidences.
Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.
A school kid could do much worse than to study the history of these two great men. We study them far too little, it seems to me.
Anybody know what hour of the day either of these men was born?
Yes, you may fly your flag today for Lincoln’s birthday, according to the Flag Code; the official holiday, Washington’s Birthday, is next Monday, February 15th — and yes, it’s usually called “Presidents Day” by merchants and calendar makers. You want to fly your flag for Charles Darwin? Darwin never set foot in North America, remained a loyal subject of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to the end of his days. But go ahead. Who would know?
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
NowThis runs compelling video on FaceBook, but just try to find that video on their YouTube channel or website to share.
This one will have to do. It makes the point.
California’s wildfires, growing steadily worse, rapidly, demonstrate problems of global heating/climate change that we need to solve, but which offer lots of bad arguments for Do Nothings and Climate Dismissives.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell, explained in this video: Rain patterns changed. California now gets massive rains in the spring, which drive overgrowth of grasses, quick-growing shrubs and other fire-prone plants.
Then the rains stop. Hotter summers and autumns dry out the new growth, creating explosive fuel for a fire.
So when a fire starts, it’s difficult-to-impossible to control.
Do Nothings argue that rain totals haven’t dropped, or maybe have increased, so drought fears are not warranted — though the summer without rain drives soil water levels into drought.
Then, they argue that the problem is environmentalists won’t let foresters clean understory dry wood and other fuels to prevent fires. That’s a whole cloth fabrication — reality is that federal budget cuts over the past 20 years leave the U.S. Forest Service unable to do significant brush clearing.
Then, Do Nothings argue that the problem is Caliornians build too many homes, and too many homes in near-wild areas.
In short, it’s always the fault of a “librul Californian,” with no causation left over for global warming.
Plagued by historically harsh winds, California has been hit with an onslaught of wildfires—the newest of which has broken out near the famed Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It joins several other fires burning across the state, including the Oak Fire in Calabasas, the Tick Fire in Southern California and the massive Kincade Fire in Northern California.
Last night, the Kincade Fire was still burning out of control in its fifth day, dropping from 10% containment to 5% due to hurricane-force winds and dry conditions that have allowed it to spread and made it difficult to control. There have been 200,000 evacuations in Sonoma County because of the fire, and it is expected to burn for another week and a half with no rain in the forecast.
The Getty Fire began early Monday, prompting police to ask thousands of people to evacuate, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, LeBron James, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s parents. About 25,000 live in the LA evacuation zone, which covers a swath of high-priced real estate. A fire in December 2017 lit up the same area and forced drivers into a horrifying, apocalyptic-looking morning commute.
Governor Gavin Newsom secured Fire Management Assistance Grants to help fight the flames and announced a $75 million program to alleviate the fires’ impact on citizens. In an emergency declaration made Sunday, he urgent people not to ignore warnings, saying, , “It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires.” At least 3,400 first responders and personnel are fighting the wildfires.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) the state’s biggest utility provider, shut off power to more than a million residents to try to curb further fire risks, but has received criticism for the lack of notice given. In a statement released Sunday, PG&E said more shut offs may come later in the week. In May, Cal Fire found PG&E was responsible for the Camp Fire, which left 85 dead and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes in 2018. It was the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. PG&E had admitted it’s equipment was “likely” culpable.
The people hit hardest by California’s fires are those who are already vulnerable: homeless populations, the elderly, low-income populations without access to emergency preparations. The LA Times reported that a housekeeper and gardener showed up in the midst of ash and fire to their clients’ homes for work without realizing the homeowners had already evacuated.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
NOAA’s chief scientist reminds everyone that accuracy with honor is necessary for science to be good.
Here is the entire message from NOAA Assistant Administrator Craig McLean, to NOAA staff, sent out Tuesday, September 10, 2019.
A Message from Craig McLean: Hurricane Dorian and Exceptional Service
This following is the original message Craig McLean, NOAA Research Assistant Administrator, sent to all NOAA Research employees on the morning of Monday, September 9th regarding Hurricane Dorian and its wide-ranging impacts.
The fierce storm we know as Hurricane Dorian has concluded its ferocious path through the Bahamas and along the U.S. East Coast. Many of you have contributed to the excellent science that has underpinned the forecasts and current understanding of storms such as this one, which accelerated quite rapidly in intensity. The storm also presented challenges in track which improved with enhanced observations. We know that our collective work, from the scientists in the aircraft penetrating the storm, to the scientists deploying the glider picket line, to the modelers and folks working the physics of the storms, across OAR and in our CI’s, and across all NOAA Lines, we are working the problem in order to give the NWS forecasters the best tools we possibly can to keep America and our neighbors safe. Thank you.
During the course of the storm, as I am sure you are aware, there were routine and exceptional expert forecasts, the best possible, issued by the NWS Forecasters. These are remarkable colleagues of ours, who receive our products, use them well, and provide the benefit of their own experience in announcing accurate forecasts accompanied by the distinction of all credible scientists—they sign their work. As I’m sure you also know, there was a complex issue involving the President commenting on the path of the hurricane. The NWS Forecaster(s) corrected any public misunderstanding in an expert and timely way, as they should. There followed, last Friday, an unsigned press release from “NOAA” that inappropriately and incorrectly contradicted the NWS forecaster. My understanding is that this intervention to contradict the forecaster was not based on science but on external factors including reputation and appearance, or simply put, political. Our NOAA Scientific Integrity Policy and Code of Scientific Conduct make clear that all NOAA employees shall approach all scientific activities with honesty, objectively, and completely, without allegiance to individuals, organizations, or ideology. The content of this press release is very concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. If the public cannot trust our information, or we debase our forecaster’s warnings and products, that specific danger arises.
You know that the value of our science is in the complexity of our understanding, our ability to convey that understanding to a wide audience of users of this information, and to establish and sustain the public trust in the truth and legitimacy of that information. Unfortunately, the press release of last Friday violated this trust and violated NOAA’s policies of scientific integrity. In my role as Assistant Administrator for Research, and as I continue to administratively serve as Acting Chief Scientist, I am pursuing the potential violations of our NOAA Administrative Order on Scientific Integrity. Thankfully, we have such policies that are independently cited as among the best in the federal community, if not the best. Your NOAA and OAR management and leadership team believes in these policies and principles. I have a responsibility to pursue these truths. I will.
Thank you for your continued excellent work, and your trust. Carry on.
Craig N. McLean Assistant Administrator Oceanic and Atmospheric Research National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub we celebrate a variety of historically holy days. December 31, by tradition, is Bright Idea Day, the anniversary of the day Thomas Edison demonstrated for the public a working light bulb, in 1879.
100,000 people gather in Times Square, New York City (surely not the 2 million predicted by NBC!) tonight, and millions more around the world, in festivities for the new year made possible by the work of Thomas Alva Edison.
Here it is, the invention that stole sleep from our grasp, made clubbing possible, and launched 50,000 cartoons about ideas:
The light bulb Thomas Edison demonstrated on December 31, 1879, at Menlo Park, New Jersey – Wikimedia image (GFDL)
The light bulb. It’s an incandescent bulb.
It wasn’t the first bulb. Edison a few months earlier devised a bulb that worked with a platinum filament. Platinum was too expensive for mass production, though — and Edison wanted mass production. So, with the cadre of great assistants at his Menlo Park laboratories, he struggled to find a good, inexpensive filament that would provide adequate life for the bulb. By late December 1879 they had settled on carbon filament.
Edison invited investors and the public to see the bulb demonstrated, on December 31, 1879.
Thomas Edison in 1878, the year before he demonstrated a workable electric light bulb. CREDIT: Thomas Edison, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-98067
Edison’s successful bulb indicated changes in science, technology, invention, intellectual property and finance well beyond its use of electricity. For example:
Edison’s Menlo Park, New Jersey, offices and laboratory were financed with earlier successful inventions. It was a hive of inventive activity aimed to make practical inventions from advances in science. Edison was all about selling inventions and rights to manufacture devices. He always had an eye on the profit potential. His improvements on the telegraph would found his laboratory he thought, and he expected to sell the device to Western Union for $5,000 to $7,000. Instead of offering it to them at a price, however, he asked Western Union to bid on it. They bid $10,000, which Edison gratefully accepted, along with the lesson that he might do better letting the marketplace establish the price for his inventions. Other inventive labs followed Edison’s example, such as the famous Bell Labs, but few equalled his success, or had as much fun doing it. (Economics teachers: Need an example of the marketplace in action?)
Edison didn’t invent the light bulb — but his improvements on it made it commercial. “In addressing the question ‘Who invented the incandescent lamp?’ historians Robert Friedel and Paul Israel list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Joseph Wilson Swan and Thomas Edison. They conclude that Edison’s version was able to outstrip the others because of a combination of three factors: an effective incandescent material, a higher vacuum than others were able to achieve (by use of the Sprengel pump) and a high resistance lamp that made power distribution from a centralized source economically viable.”
Look around yourself this evening, and you can find a score of ways that Edison’s invention and its descendants affect your life. One of the more amusing effects is in cartooning, however. Today a glowing lightbulb is universally accepted as a nonverbal symbol for ideas and inventions. (See Mark Parisi’s series of lightbulb cartoons, “Off the Mark.”)
Even with modern, electricity-saving bulbs, the cartoon shorthand hangs on, as in this Mitra Farmand cartoon.
Brilliant cartoon from Mitra Farmand, Fluffernutter (regrettably, we note this site is no longer there; but with some hope, we find a new site here)
Or see this wonderful animation, a video advertisement for United Airlines, by Joanna Quinn for Fallon — almost every frame has the symbolic lightbulb in it.
Electrification of America, and the consequent spread of electric lighting and electrical machines to make domestic and industrial life more productive, and the spread of great public works to enable these and other inventions to spread, were made possible by a people roughly united in advancing progress, what historians now call “the progressive agenda” and the great advances of the Progressive Era.
Could we get such agreement among workers, corporate bosses and many levels of government today? When we celebrate anniversaries, like the demonstration of the light bulb, we celebrate the united polity that made such things possible, too.
Thomas Edison’s electric lamp patent drawing and claim for the incandescent light bulb CREDIT: “New Jersey–The Wizard of Electricity–Thomas A. Edison’s System of Electric Illumination,” 1880. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-97960.
No standing still with malaria, fighting the disease must continue or progress can be quickly lost. Still from WHO film on World Malaria Report 2018 call to action.
World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Malaria Report 2018 dropped on November 19, a month earlier than usual (but about the same time as 2017). With an additional few weeks to plug it, it still sank without big ripples in world media.
This is prelude to a tragedy if industrialized and wealthy nations of the world pay no heed, and continue to cut budgets to fight malaria for whatever bad reason some crabby, brown Earth policy maker invents.
Ever optimistic, WHO gives a plan for action to continue to reduce malaria deaths and infections, even with reduced funding. None of the proposed actions involves more DDT to poison poor people in poor countries, however, so it is unlikely to find favor with the crabby policy people now in charge of fixing world problems in the increasingly isolationist West (including the U.S.).
Please watch the video. What is your country doing to eradicate malaria? How can you prod politicians to do more? 2,616
Covers of the last four World Malaria Reports. World Health Organization (WHO)
It’s a common tale but true: In any period when nations collaborate to defeat or eradicate malaria, funders of the programs get board and cut funding.
Malaria roars back.
This cycle has nothing to do with pesticides or medicines, mostly. Especially it’s not a problem that can be fixed with more DDT.
When a nation focuses on beating malaria, progress occurs. When nations lose their focus, malaria strikes back.
After great progress reducing malaria infections and malaria deaths between 1999 and 2017, nations including the U.S. lost focus. International donors failed to contribute enough money to keep the fight going.
World Malaria Report 2018 notes the striking back by malaria.
One other thing we can be quite sure of: Almost all mass media will ignore this report.
What will you do to change things?
You can help by donating $10 to a charity that delivers bednets to people who need them in Asia and Africa. You can help by writing letters to your local newspapers, to your Congressional representatives, and to the President. Every little bit helps.
Here’s the press release on World Malaria Report 2018, which was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 19, 2018.
WHO and partners launch new country-led response to put stalled malaria control efforts back on track
19 November 2018
Reductions in malaria cases have stalled after several years of decline globally, according to the new World malaria report 2018. To get the reduction in malaria deaths and disease back on track, WHO and partners are joining a new country-led response, launched today, to scale up prevention and treatment, and increased investment, to protect vulnerable people from the deadly disease.
For the second consecutive year, the annual report produced by WHO reveals a plateauing in numbers of people affected by malaria: in 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, compared to 217 million the year before. But in the years prior, the number of people contracting malaria globally had been steadily falling, from 239 million in 2010 to 214 million in 2015.
“Nobody should die from malaria. But the world faces a new reality: as progress stagnates, we are at risk of squandering years of toil, investment and success in reducing the number of people suffering from the disease,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We recognise we have to do something different – now. So today we are launching a country-focused and -led plan to take comprehensive action against malaria by making our work more effective where it counts most – at local level.”
Where malaria is hitting hardest
In 2017, approximately 70% of all malaria cases (151 million) and deaths (274 000) were concentrated in 11 countries: 10 in Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania) and India. There were 3.5 million more malaria cases reported in these 10 African countries in 2017 compared to the previous year, while India, however, showed progress in reducing its disease burden.
Despite marginal increases in recent years in the distribution and use of insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa – the primary tool for preventing malaria – the report highlights major coverage gaps. In 2017, an estimated half of at-risk people in Africa did not sleep under a treated net. Also, fewer homes are being protected by indoor residual spraying than before, and access to preventive therapies that protect pregnant women and children from malaria remains too low.
High impact response needed
In line with WHO’s strategic vision to scale up activities to protect people’s health, the new country-driven “High burden to high impact” response plan has been launched to support nations with most malaria cases and deaths. The response follows a call made by Dr Tedros at the World Health Assembly in May 2018 for an aggressive new approach to jump-start progress against malaria. It is based on four pillars:
Galvanizing national and global political attention to reduce malaria deaths;
Driving impact through the strategic use of information;
Establishing best global guidance, policies and strategies suitable for all malaria endemic countries; and
Implementing a coordinated country response.
Catalyzed by WHO and the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, “High burden to high impact” builds on the principle that no one should die from a disease that can be easily prevented and diagnosed, and that is entirely curable with available treatments.
“There is no standing still with malaria. The latest World malaria report shows that further progress is not inevitable and that business as usual is no longer an option,” said Dr Kesete Admasu, CEO of the RBM Partnership. “The new country-led response will jumpstart aggressive new malaria control efforts in the highest burden countries and will be crucial to get back on track with fighting one of the most pressing health challenges we face.”
Targets set by the WHO Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030 to reduce malaria case incidence and death rates by at least 40% by 2020 are not on track to being met.
Pockets of progress
The report highlights some positive progress. The number of countries nearing elimination continues to grow (46 in 2017 compared to 37 in 2010). Meanwhile in China and El Salvador, where malaria had long been endemic, no local transmission of malaria was reported in 2017, proof that intensive, country-led control efforts can succeed in reducing the risk people face from the disease.
In 2018, WHO certified Paraguay as malaria free, the first country in the Americas to receive this status in 45 years. Three other countries – Algeria, Argentina and Uzbekistan – have requested official malaria-free certification from WHO.
India – a country that represents 4% of the global malaria burden – recorded a 24% reduction in cases in 2017 compared to 2016. Also in Rwanda, 436 000 fewer cases were recorded in 2017 compared to 2016. Ethiopia and Pakistan both had estimated decreases of more than 240 000 in the same period.
“When countries prioritize action on malaria, we see the results in lives saved and cases reduced,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “WHO and global malaria control partners will continue striving to help governments, especially those with the highest burden, scale up the response to malaria.”
Domestic financing is key
As reductions in malaria cases and deaths slow, funding for the global response has also shown a levelling off, with US$ 3.1 billion made available for control and elimination programmes in 2017 including US$ 900 million (28%) from governments of malaria endemic countries. The United States of America remains the largest single international donor, contributing US$ 1.2 billion (39%) in 2017.
To meet the 2030 targets of the global malaria strategy, malaria investments should reach at least US$6.6 billion annually by 2020 – more than double the amount available today.
Recently found Nuno Serrão via some Twitter posts. He’s an astrophotographer — meaning, a photographer who spends time looking at the skies and works to capture on film or magnetic or digital media the beauty and oddities that hover over our heads every day, and especially at night.
Oh, just look at this time lapse:
Astrophotography timelapse shot in Madeira Island on February 21st . Captured a lenticular cloud, Moon, Mars and Venus. [33,329 views as of November 16, 2018]
It’s only 7 seconds of video, covering perhaps 15 minutes of time, showing the action of the wind in forming the odd lenticular cloud stunningly painted by a setting sun.
Lenticular clouds don’t resemble the fluffy cumulus clouds of cartoons, and so are held suspect by hoax lovers, especially those enthralled by “chemtrails” hoaxes, who argue that clouds are sinister creations of mad scientists and government cabals. Because this short piece shows some of the actions of winds, I love it more.
True legend has it that an artist friend of physicist Richard Feynman told Feynman that scientists can’t be artists, because they know too much behind the scenes. Feynman answered that scientists have even more appreciation of beauty, the image of the flower and its aroma, and an understanding of the lengthy process by which a plant creates a blossom of beauty and sweet smell, to attract insects or humans to propagate new offspring for the plant.
Malaria distribution was greatly reduced in the 20th century, reversing centuries of spreading. But malaria persisted into the 21st century. DDT helped reduce malaria, but the U.S. ban on DDT did not cause a rise in malaria infections or deaths. From a paper by Michael Palmer, M.D,. at Waterloo University.
The U.S. ban on DDT in 1972 did not cause millions of unnecessary deaths to malaria. In fact, the worldwide death toll to malaria dropped for at least 18 years after the ban, plateaued for most of a decade, and dropped from 1999 to 2017. Malaria deaths fell dramatically, after the U.S. banned DDT from U.S. farms.
Not sure why Dr. Palmer wrote his essay in 2013, but he got most of the major sources and got most of the history accurately, His title, “The ban of DDT did not cause millions to die from malaria.”
It’s a good paper to bookmark, because it doesn’t always show up in Google searches in the U.S. — Waterloo being a university in Canada, in Waterloo, Ontario
I like to use films like this as warmups to a year of history, and as a reminder once we get into studying the history of space exploration, of just how far we’ve come in understanding the universe, and how big this place is.
Of course, that means wer are just small parts.
The Eames’s genius showed the scale of things, from a couple picnicking in a park, to the outer reaches of the universe, and then back, zooming into the innermost reaches of a human down to the sub-atomic level.
There’s a series of these films; this one, published on YouTube by the Eames Office, was done in 1977, one of the later versions.
How can you use this in class, teachers? (I recommend buying it on DVD, as I did; better sound and pictures, generally.)
Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.
We've been soaking in the Bathtub for several months, long enough that some of the links we've used have gone to the Great Internet in the Sky.
If you find a dead link, please leave a comment to that post, and tell us what link has expired.
Retired teacher of law, economics, history, AP government, psychology and science. Former speechwriter, press guy and legislative aide in U.S. Senate. Former Department of Education. Former airline real estate, telecom towers, Big 6 (that old!) consultant. Lab and field research in air pollution control.
My blog, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, is a continuing experiment to test how to use blogs to improve and speed up learning processes for students, perhaps by making some of the courses actually interesting. It is a blog for teachers, to see if we can use blogs. It is for people interested in social studies and social studies education, to see if we can learn to get it right. It's a blog for science fans, to promote good science and good science policy. It's a blog for people interested in good government and how to achieve it.
BS in Mass Communication, University of Utah
Graduate study in Rhetoric and Speech Communication, University of Arizona
JD from the National Law Center, George Washington University