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 Window on the World

Eclectic Potpourri:
Fact or Myth

Do the experts really know what they are talking about?

Nowadays, we are besieged by a fiber-optic pipe full of "experts", many of whom some people would prefer to describe as "wind bags". Presumed experts, flashing their advanced degrees, often mix a bit of truth with a lot of hot-air nonsense. Following paragraphs describe a few pieces of "expert" wisdom that deserve questioning.
From time-to-time, we will be adding to this list. Stop by our site again.

Coffee depletes your body of calcium:

  A large cup of coffee induces the excretion of 6 or 7 milligrams of calcium. An avid coffee drinker who consumes seven cups of coffee in a day would then be expected to excrete perhaps 50 milligrams of calcium:  
7 milligrams per cup ×
7 cups per day =
49 milligrams per day
The recommended daily intake of calcium for most adults is in the neighborhood of 1,000- to 1,300-milligrams per day. If the loss of 50 milligrams (~5%) of calcium versus an intake of 1,000 milligrams or more is a health hazard for a heavy coffee drinker, then perhaps, the overindulgent coffee drinker should eat some cheese, drink some milk, or devour some yogurt, or perhaps munch on a pile of seafood. If you are inclined to put a splash of milk into your coffee, perhaps you would actually increase your intake of calcium by drinking coffee, certainly so if you drink "caffè latte".
We must also mention that too much coffee may cause a temporary cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart­beat), which is not a good thing, but that does not mean that one gets "heart disease" because one drinks coffee. Much confusion revolves around the words "heart disease". The vernacular press often characterizes blocked, or "hardened", arteries as the only kind of heart disease, though there are many other forms of heart disease.
On the good side, the brown stuff gets us going in the morning. The taste of coffee blends well with many kinds of food and certainly has an enticing aroma. Add a little cream, and magically, one is in heaven.
For those readers who have a more formal interest in the good side of coffee drinking, surf to archives held at the National Institute of Health (NIH, USA).
Oh, that slice of cheese on your hamburger endows you with more than 100 milligrams of calcium, and yes, cheese on a couple of slices of luscious pizza adds hundreds of milligrams to one's calcium intake. Thank the food fairy for mathematics! I am hungry.

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levels have increased about 50 percent over the last 350 years, Carbon-dioxide, 10,000 years The sharp spike in CO2 levels that appears in this graph is, perhaps, a bit exaggerated by the truncated vertical axis. since the beginning of the In­dustrial Rev­olution. 
A problem with drawing a conclusion is that sunspot activity hovered around zero in 1700, but zoomed to 240 around 1775. then dropped again as the Industrial Revolution began to really hum on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This upward moving trend seems to be caused by rising levels of atmosopheric CO2; however, the two quantities are not represented by the same scale, i.e. the vertical y-axis, representing atmospheric CO2 levels in the atmosphere, has been truncated, which exaggerates changes shown on the y-axis. Beware of statistics. [One might also want to read How to Lie with Statilstics (17 Oct 1993) by Darrell Huff and Irving Geis]
Other relationships exist that seem to affect climate change. The Sun emits copious amounts of ultra-violet radiation, which often correlates with sunspot activity. Ultra-violet radiation is absorbed in the Earth's atmosphere, which heats the atmosphere, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; USA):
Water vapor [H2O] and ozone [O3] are especially sensitive to changes in the solar UV radiation.
The design of this chart's vertical axis distorts the graphic representation of the data. This chart shows a range of CO2 levels from 260 ppm to 400 ppm (parts per million). Over a period of 1-billion years of Earth's most recent history, Earth's atmospheric CO2 levels have oscillated from under 200 ppm, reached near the end of the last Ice Age (12,000 years ago) to 7,000 ppm, reached about 530-million years ago.
How have the levels of CO2 varied over time? The answer depends on how far back in history you look. If you look at the data from 10,000 years ago to the present, you might be ready to run for cover in an underground Armageddon shelter, because the CO2 level in Earth's atmosphere has been rising very sharply during the past few decades and lots of strange and "inconvenient" events have been occurring. This decades-long time frame, however, is not even a blink of the eye in terms of cosmic and geologic history. When one looks far back into history, nearly a billion years, one acquires a different perspective of current CO2 levels.
Current CO2 levels are very near their all-time lows, when one looks back nearly a billion years of Earth's history. Look at the graph published by http://deforestation.geologist-1011.net/  and com­pare this graph with the short-term graph displayed above. Short-term time frames have been used to support the hypothesis that CO2 and global warming are related. The suggestion is being made that global warming is something peculiar to modern times. Global warming and "cooling", however, have been periodic events over the period of nearly a billion years for which data is available.

As the Tao symbol portrays: debaters often mix some fiction with a lot of fact. Perhaps, many debaters are mixing a lot of fiction with a little fact. Tao symbol The S Korean flag-tae-geuk Tao symbol, also known as the Taijisymbol or Yin-Yang:  According to Taoist teachings, "nothing is perfect":  some truth exists in the falsehood and some falsehood exists in the truth.
  Observe a simi­lar theme in the mod­ern South Korean flag, called the "tae-geuk"
We are not proposing any hypotheses at this time, but we are asking questions. We are attempting to see the whole picture and trying to separate fact from speculation. Carbon dioxide is not the only "greenhouse gas". Another "warming gas", for example, is methane (CH4). Methane is produced in the gut of animals, as well as humans, and is among the decay products of all dead biological tissue. Methane, also known as "bio-gas" and "natural gas", absorbs 85 times more sunlight than does carbon dioxide. The real problem at this point in time is the planet may be approaching its maximum, sustaininable level in terms of human population. Within the framework of present technology, overpopulation is an inconvient problem that challenges solution. In the animal kingdom, animals do not reproduce or they die when resources are low. Humans preserve life, regardless of resources.
Non-physicists may be surprised that water (H2O) is yet another greenhouse gas and is a strong absorber of short-wavelength ultra-violet radiation and a mild absorber of infra-red radiation. Among the most important atmospheric absorbers of the Sun's radiated energy are: CO2 (carbon-dioxide); O2 (molecular oxygen); N2 (molecular nitrogen); CH4 (methane); as well as, H2O (water). Fortunately for we humans, very little of the Sun's visible radiation is absorbed by Earth's atmosphere; if the Sun's visible radiation was absorbed Earth's atmosphere, we would be in darkness. The "inconvenient truth" may in reality be that, yes, we humans, as well as all plants and animals on the planet, produce greenhouse gasses without the help of fossil fuels.
Other phenomenon also contribute to Earth's heat budget; for example, heat from the decay of uranium in the core of the Earth drives continental drift and volcanic activity, and perhaps, has other effects on the environment, such as El Niño. In trying to be objective, we should all try to understand the complexities of this subject.

Eggs Are Hazardous to Your Health:

 Some of us have been completely baffled by the recommendations of doctors and nutritionists to remove the yellow of an egg and eat only the white. Have any of these people taken a look at a chemical assay of eggs? The white is albumen, a protein, which is good to eat, but most of eggs' nutrients are in the yellow yolk.
Nutrients found in the yolk of an egg include:  lots of unsaturated fat and significant quantities of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E, as well as, an abundance of the water-soluble B-vitamins. Egg-yolk protein is also a generous source of complete protein, which refers to the "quality" of protein. Protein is constructed from smaller molecules, called "amino acids". Humans metabolism can synthesize, or manufacture, many amino acids, but there are nine "essential" amino acids that are not synthesized and must be obtained from food or supplements. Egg-yolk is among the very best sources of complete protein of any commonly available food. We could remind ourselves that eggs are the beginning of life and we might expect eggs to be extraordinarily nutritious.
We are not addressing an entirely separate issue of how eggs are produced on modern production-line farms;  that is a story for another day. We are interested, however, in the ironic story of the condemnation of eggs. Eggs are where life begins and, therefore, a nature-loving person might view eggs as a very natural and healthful food. Yet, proponents of healthful eating condemn eggs for being high in cholesterol. Is that "good" cholesterol or "bad"? Eggs are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which is good cholesterol.

Cholesterol Is Hazardous to Your Health: 

Breast milk contains on average across geographic and ethnic divisions about 20-percent more fat than "whole" milk from a Guernsey or Jersey cow. High levels of animal fat imply "cholesterol". With breast milk so high in saturated fat, perhaps, we should ask more questions about whether cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease or are high blood-cholesterol levels an indication, or a symptom, of a different cause of cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol is a group of alcohol-like chemicals that are required by living animals to maintain life, with the exception of nearly all bacteria. Disease is observed with both very high and very low blood-cholesterol levels. The range of "normal" for the moment is 200—230 (in the US). Much debate revolves around what level is conducive to good health.
Most cholesterol distributed around the body is maintained at certain levels by the body, which produces, or synthesizes, cholesterol when needed. Intake of dietary cholesterol is minimal when the body has a sufficient supply of its own, self-made cholesterol. A body of research exists which suggests that dietary intake of cholesterol has little effect upon blood levels of cholesterol. If this is truly the case, then researchers must find another cause of heart and artery disease.
Cholesterol levels are usually reported as one number, i.e. "total cholesterol" , which is the sum of two different kinds of cholesterol:  low-density lipids (fats are a kind of lipid), ( LDLs) and high-density lipids (HDLs). The two kinds of cholesterol are sometimes referred to as:
  • HDLs as "good" cholesterol
  • LDLs as "bad"  cholesterol
There are doctors and researchers who look at the ratio of total to good cholesterol:
to assess the dangers of high total-cholesterol values.
  • Total cholesterol / HDL =
  •  Good < 3.5 > Not good
  •  In recent years,
  •   LDL < 130
  •   has been considered optimal.
The issue of good versus bad cholesterol has become more complicated now that sub-species of good and bad cholesterol have been linked to health problems. Truth does not come easily.
Much chemical activity in the body involves cholesterol. Liver bile is manufactured by the liver from cholesterol. Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K through the intestinal walls is aided by cholesterol. Vitamin D and a fair number of hormones are naturally produced in the body from cholesterol, some of which are adrenal-gland hormones and the sex hormones progesterone, estrogens, and testosterone. Health issues related to cholesterol, thus, are very complex.  Someday, someone might even argue that a pizza topped with extra cheese and peppers and a glass of red wine may be more helpful in maintaining good health than a dish full of low-protein veggies.
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Fusion: Energy for the Future

Sources of Engergy Although the ratio of fossil fuels versus alter­native energy sources of pro­duction has not significantly changed over the past decade, energy from oil has declined; nuclear has increased about five-fold, and total energy production more than doubled.   Source: 2013 KeyWorld Energy Statistics, published by International Energy Agency
With much talk nowadays about carbon emissions and the finite amount of fossil fuels available on planet Earth, compounded by the vulnerabilities of "fission nuclear energy" and issues of safety and unsustainability are all cogent global issues in the 21st century. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 82 percent of the world's energy in 2011 was produced by fossil fuels, compared to 82 percent in 2007. A bit more coal and natural gas have been used in recent years. Although energy produced from renewable resources has been climbing, global energy consumption has also been climbing and will probably continue to climb as undeveloped nations begin to elevate the lifestyles of their citizens.
Nearly inexhaustible amounts of energy, however, may be possible in the future. Stars in the Universe produce profuse amounts of energy over periods of billions of years. Learning how to reproduce the process by which the stars produce energy is the ultimate solution to the Earth's energy needs.

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