Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Music
Society
Culture
Edward Hessler

Today's poem is by Lou Lipsitz.

And this video from the New Yorker which looks back at some of Arethra Franklin's greatest performances-- ten from the sixties to President and First Lady Michele Obama's White House.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Origami and Crafting Cancer Solutions

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

A consideration in cancer therapy is the placement of the right drug: right drug; right place. Cancers in the abdominal cavity are a case point one of which is advanced ovarian cancer.

The typical regimen in treating this cancer is to pump chemotherapy drugs into the abdominal cavity. This requires multiple-sessions and involves considerable pain.

Katerina Mantazavinov, a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, wondered about the possibility of developing a long-term deployable structure. After considering a spaghetti-like model, she turned to origami to help her develop folded structures that could be inserted through a small-tube. Once inside the abdominal cavity the structure would unfold and then deliver the drug evenly over time. She also wanted this to use a minimally invasive procedure.

Origami provides an answer to turning something large into something small. The origami models are used to serve as templates for 3-D printing of molds into which silicone is injected. This material is bio-compatible.

Ms. Mantazavinov is the feature of a short film in which she describes her work. There are a couple of cutaways in the film to Michael Cima, her advisor which provide some wonderful insights into the relationship between a talented mentor and a talented student. It is clear that he sees his task of handing-over the reins of this project to her and that she also has a successful career while being minimally invasive in the process. This is easy to say and sometimes hard to do. This story is also about the growing relationship between engineering and biomedicine.


Naturalism Videos

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Philosophy of Science
Nature of Science
History of Science
Edward Hessler

In 2012, California Institute of Technology theoretical physicist organized a workshop with the title "Moving Naturalism Forward."

The workshop was by invitation only and included 14 scientists and philosophers, among them philosopher Daniel Dennett, theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg (a Nobel prize honoree), philosopher/novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, theoretical physicist Janna Levin and evolutionary biologists, Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins.

Naturalism is simply not to believe in the supernatural or to put it another way, what follows when you don't believe in God. Another way of putting it is that all of reality, every last drop, can be accounted for in naturalistic terms. The result of the workshop were long transcripts and 10 unedited. These unwieldly videos were posted on You Tuber. The ten videos are about 1 and 1/2 hours in length.

On May 10, Professor Carroll announced that the videos have been edited.  He wrote, "Thanks to the heroic efforts of Gia Moore , the proceedings have been edited down to a number of much more accessible and content-centered highlights. There are over 80 videos (!), with a median length of maybe 5 minutes, though they range up to about 20 minutes and down to less than one. Each video centers on a particular idea, theme, or point of discussion, so you can dive right into whatever particular issues you may be interested in."

These videos are posted on the workshop's webpage. By clicking on each of the 9 categories you can sample the titles of the videos included in that category.

Here is Carroll's original post announcing their availability and the workshop webpage

Carroll has also discussed another kind of naturalism, poetic naturalism. He illustrates it with a quote from writer Muriel Ruykeyser: The universe is made of stories, not atoms. It is a particular approach to naturalism, one that takes into account that while there is only one world, there are many other ways of talking about the world. 

Here you will find his comments on poetic naturalism.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A "Bee-Jeweled" Nest

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Behavior
Biodiversity
Nature
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

NPR's Gabriela Quiroz calls much deserved and needed attention to a solitary bee, opening a story about this little known critter by writing, While honeybees and their buzzing hives and hyper-fertile queens get all the press for pollinating our food supply, the hard-working blue orchard bee is one of 4,000 bee species native to North America that does its solitary work in relative obscurity. That is, until now.

And Quiroz includes a KQED video so you can see her in action. On screen, right here, a recent release starring the Blue Orchard Bee, a native pollinator. The nest is beautiful and it is tempting to think she "knows" this.

The bee, often referred to with the acronym BOB, may be seen here--three images: above, side and head-on (use the arrow). BOBs vary in degree of blueness, including a deep blue-black.

Efforts to manage the blue-orchard bee (Osmia lignaria) have proven difficult. A March 5 2018 article in Scientific American reported that the world's largest almond grower just shut down an eight-year project to raise them to scale. Another problem is that they are not home-bodies and often fly away. Dan Nosowitz writing for the April 21 2017 Modern Farmer said this: Blue orchard bees might be excellent pollinators, but they're terrible employees. Nevertheless, research continues on BOBs as alternative pollinators.







Monday, August 13, 2018

Climate Change: The New York Times "Losing Earth" Controversial Essay

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

The planet has passed the one degree Celsius increase and seems on a headlong path to hit the two degree Celsius increase--the aim of the Paris climate agreement of 2015, the one that on June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would cease all participation. Exceeding a two degree Celsius increase is viewed by climate scientists as a prescription for disaster. A planet where temperatures exceed three degree Celsius, four degree Celsius and five degree Celsius are horrifying to contemplate. In such temperature regimes, large parts of the world would not be habitable. And at a five degrees Celsius increase, the apocalypse is a fair descriptor.

A 60+-page book doesn't seem particularly long except when it is on a vertical screen so I haven't read as carefully and certainly not as easily, as I would were it horizonal, "Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change," in the August 1, 2018 issue of The New York Times Magazine. Author Nathaniel Rich capsulizes the period, 1979 to 1989, as the "decisive decade" during which the climate crisis could have been solved.
 
Rich's report is divided into two parts, 1979 - 1982 and 1983 - 1989.

But first why this decade and not some other? I cherry pick a few sentences from Rich's reporting to support why he chose these to book-end his report.

Nearly everything we understand about global waraming was understood in 1979. ...  (T)he main scientific questions were settled beyond debate. ... A broad international consensus had settle on a solution: a globabl treaty to curb carbon emissions. The idea began to coalesce as early as February 1979, at the first World Climate Conference in Geneva, when scientists from 50 nations agree unanimously that it was "urgently necessary" to act. Four months later, at the Group of 7 meeting in Tokyo, the leaders of the world's seven wealthiest nations signed a statement resolving to reduce carbon emissions. ... The scientists summoned by Jule Charney to judge the fate of civilization arrived on July 23, 1979, with their wives, children and weekend bags at a three-story mansion in Woods Hole, on the southwestern spur of Cape Cod. They would review all the available science and decide whether the White House should take seriously Gordon MacDonald’s prediction of a climate apocalypse. 

Ten years later (1989), the first major diplomatic meeting to approve the framework for a binding treaty was called in the Netherlands. Delegates from more than 60 nations attended, with the goal of establishing a global summit meeting to be held about a year later. Among the scientists and world leaders, the sentiment was unanimous: Action had to be taken, and the United States would need to lead. It didn't.

In Part One is found a fascinating history of that decade (It is compelling reading and Rich knows his way with words and ideas.), stunning photographs and videos by George Steinmetz, a curriculum guide developed by the Pulitzer Foundation, and an author's prologue and epilogue. I had no idea how ignorant I was of important parts of the history of global climate change. history. I had never heard of Rafe Pomerance, Gordon J. F. MacDonald, and Jule Charney. While I had heard of the JASONS, I had no idea of their early work on global warming.

Part Two is about why we didn't act and this is the most contentious section of Rich's essay. In the prologue you will note that the two most "common boogeymen," the fossil fuel industry and the Republican party are given a pass, almost a complete pass. Rich's main culprit is us, Homo sapiens.  This surprised me and was contrary to what I believe based on evidence. I am not a student of governmental machinations and do not carefully track legislation and read hearings. I'd recently read a history of the environmental record of our U. S. presidents. Contemporary Republican presidents/administration are not known for their environmental record. I was aware of many reports on the fossil fuel's industry attempts at slowing and/or blocking policies on climate change. And about us, sure we have a role but we are not by any stretch of the imagination equal partners/players. 

One of the things I do when I read a report like this is to do a search look to others who know more about climate change and its history than me. This includes scientists and writers whose beat is the environment, writers who are respected and who are serious-minded. I turned to three writers and one resource.

Joe Romm, writing for ThinkProgress minces no words. "Indeed, the article's key assertion that 'we almost stopped climate change' in the decade from 1979 to 1989 is simply untrue and ahistorical. The world didn't even gather to serioiusly address climate change until the June 1992 Rio Earth Summit--and that did not even lead to any binding greenhouse gas reduction targets."

With respect to Rich's assertion that humans "are incapable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations," Romm notes that this does not implicate the key actors. "The fact is that during the times the United States was seriously contemplating action to address climate change, those efforts were thwarted again and again by the fossil fuel industry and its multi-decade disinformation campaign, as well as key Republicans dating back to the Reagan administration."

Another writer I depend on is The Atlantic's Robinson Meyer, who writes that "there are too many counterfactuals," including many in Rich's reporting. Meyer fills in the details on the fossil fuel side, details which have been widely reported. In writing about humanity's hubris in heating the planet, Meyer notes that It is not a risible idea: Perhaps (as Rich later speculates) climate change really is impossible for our mammalian minds to comprehend, its timescales too grand for our two- and four-year election cycles.

Ron Meador who writes for MinnPost has written a longer piece on the pushback to Rich's report. I always find Meador a wise reporter. This is how he economically frames the nature of the pushback. "Some (critics) point plausibly, to factual errors or obvious oversights. Others, inclined to blame most of our foot-dragging on Republicans and fossil-fuel interests, think Rich blames them too little. But the most substantial, and troubling, assert that the biggest, boldest conclusions of 'Losing Earth' reach so far beyond the supporting evidence that they become non sequiturs; that the problem is not with the facts but with their facile deployment.

Meador makes important comments on the difference between policy life then and now. He also includes a quote, a comment made by a congressional aide to Pomerance that struck me when I read Rich's report. It was for me a money quote and is about the nature of problems. I give you the pleasure of finding it either in Rich's report or in Meador's essay (it is near the end).
 
Rich's comment on the science of global climate change in the Epilogue is one to keep in mind especially about the science."Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., has a habit of asking new graduate students to name the largest fundamental breakthrough in climate physics since 1979. It's a trick question. There has been no breakthrough. As with any mature scientific discipline, there is only refinement. The computer models grow more precise; the regional analyses sharpen; estimates solidify into observational data. Where there have been inaccuracies, they have tended to be in the direction of understatement. Caldeira and a colleague recently published a paper in Nature finding that the world is warming more quickly than most climate models predict. The toughest emissions reductions now being proposed, even by the most committed nations, will probably fail to achieve 'any given global temperature stabilization target."

And finally RealClimate, a blog about climate by real scientists. Editor Gavin Schmidt (a renowned climate modeler) wrote that since the article puts the blame for this on “human nature”, rather than any actual humans, extensive Twitter discussion ensues…. He was on vacation, hadn't read it completely so he linked readers to commentary he found interesting and opened it up for comments which so far has led to 132). He noted that he might respond later (he hasn't insofar as I've been able to find). The commentary Schmidt links is critical of the essay and includes comments from well known climate scientists. Schmidt reminded readers "that a lot of people read the NY Times magazine (far more than follow any climate scientists on Twitter or Facebook...."  This makes me shiver.

I would not use the curriculum materials.



Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Making of a Bird's Nest

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Edward Hessler


This short film pays attention to the construction of a bird's nest.

It is a post-mortem but one not easily reverse engineered.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Just discovered poet, novelist and painter Clarence Major and liked what I've read. Here is one.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Childbirth in the United States: An Update

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Health
Medicine
Society
Edward Hessler

One of the standard phrases about the quality of U. S. health care is that it is the best in the world. I hear this most often from politicians.  I hope and expect that it is yet sometimes evidence points in another direction.

According to a recent probing report, if you are a woman having a baby in this country, the U. S. is "the most dangerous place in the world to give birth."  While the majority of childbirths are routine and without harm to patient or baby, "each year more than 50000 (mothers) are severely injured and about 700 die in/following childbirth."

Alison Young's investigative report published in USA TODAY--"Hospitals know how to protect mothers. They just aren't doing it."--is, at first surprising to people like me who do not keep track of such things and a real jolt to the midsection.

The long report, easy to read, thanks both to the writing and the layout, is divided into five chapters,

1. Routine failures
2.'I was really scared'
3. Frustrations of the 50,000
4. Attacking the problem
5. Women want answers

It is disheartening (maddening is better) to read that well-known standard practices are not practiced everywhere.  About themYoung writes, "These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tools that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers' lives."

One of the leading basic killers is high blood pressure. The incidence of dangerous blood loss may surprise you as well as how easily it can be monitored.

The report includes videos, easy to read graphs and includes a map of the United States where you can check states for statistics on maternal harms and deaths. It includes a link for mothers who have experienced life and death situations--or felt that care was inadequate throughout pregnancy and/or during childbirth, to tell their story.

Worth a look.

Shortly after reading the USA Today report, NPR's Renee Montagne reported on a reversal of the trend of mothers dying in childbirth. Since 2006, California has  reduced deaths by more than half. It was that year that the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative was founded. One of the first things they did was form a maternal mortality review committee which collected data on "how every mother had died over the previous five years."

"In particular, the committee found two well-known complications offered the best chance for survival if treated properly: hemmorage and the pregnancy induced high blood pressure called preeclampsia." Montagne reports on practices at the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center where more than 7000 babies a year are born.

Dr. Maria Hellen Rodriquez is the medical director of the maternal-fetal medicine at the hospital. Rodriquez explains that "every woman is at risk for hemorrhage if they are going to deliver." This is a new thought in medicine. So teams practice with mannequins preparing for worst case scenarios, rehearsals, if you will. "'You need to make sure that you can work [it] into your muscle memory,' Rodriquez notes, 'so it happens every time you take care of a patient.'"

In addition, the hospital uses toolkits on wheels that contain everything needed to tackle an emergency complication, from checklists to equipment to medications. The equipment includes "an IV line, oxygen masks, a special speculum, and a Kakri balloon, which, when inserted into the uterus, puts pressure on blood vessels. And, for measuring blood that is lost: sponges and pads. Traditionally--and in many hospitals still-nurses and doctors estimate the amount of blood lost by sight." The pre-weighed pads are weighed once they have filled with blood.

An especially important lesson, is one "delivered over and over again, is that each team member--doctor or nurse--has the power to change the outcome."

Montagne notes a claim in the 1950 Journal of the American Medical Association: "The battle to stop women from dying in childbirth had finally been won." But that victory was temporary as the focus shifted from mother to infant. This was due largely to technology.

California is now paying attention to both mother an infant.

Montagne includes information on a serious pregnancy known as placenta accreta. This "disorder used to be exceedingly rare in the U. S. In the 1950s, it appears in one in every 30,000 births. Today, placenta accreta appears in one in every 500 births. Its rise has coincided with the rise in c-sections, the rate of which is six time what it was fifty years ago. Today, one in three babies is born via c-section. a short case history on a mother who had had five c-sections"

The power of the collaborative is seen when one of the participating hospitals, small and rural, identifies the potential for hemorrhage in a pregnancy (c-section #6) and realizes that they are not equipped to manage it. The expectant mother was referred to a hospital well prepared to handle it and where she subsequently delivered a healthy baby boy and while she hemorrhaged, she lived. There is a lovely photograph of mother and baby.

Montagne's report is found here.



















very year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found.
Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.
These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives.


very year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found.
Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.
These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives.

very year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster, a USA TODAY investigation has found.
Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes.
These are not complicated procedures requiring expensive technology. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

History of the Bicycle

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Engineering
Technology
Edward Hessler

Here is a four-minute film on the first century of the bicycle. The ride is a wobbly one and in one case an awkward one in which walking and wheels are provided.

The written introductory comments define and discuss terms used and include a chronology.

The film has some great music so turn up the sound.

Happy trails! Wear a helmet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Minnesota to Louisiana

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Water & Watersheds
Rivers
Edward Hessler


Like "dem bones" that are connected from feet to head, so is the Mississippi connected from its top (Itasca State Park) to its bottom (Nawlins).

In How can the Midwest fix the ocean it has killed?MPR"s Cody Nelson describes this great dying, one in progress, and discusses some possible fixes, none of which are easy and all of which demand changes with different consequences depending on who it affects directly.