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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Brainiac

A few months ago I heard a story about how the human brain works. There are two parts to the brain. Of course there are more than two parts, but for our purposes we can divide the brain into just two parts. One is the cortex, which is the intelligent part, which forms a shell over the rest of the brain. The inner portion, which comprise most of the volume of the brain could be called the animal brain. One thing scientists noticed when studying the brain is that oftentimes when a person does something, it was the animal brain that makes the decision, and the intelligent part only provides a rationalization for the action after the fact. For instance, you are filling a glass with water and the intelligent part of the brain realizes you are thirsty and you should drink this glass of water that you are already filling.

Sometime later I was watching a show on PBS about the human brain and the guy described the cortex (the outer layer of the brain). He said if you spread it out and stretched out the wrinkles, it would be about the size of a neckerchief, that is about 30 inches square and only two or three millimeters thick. So this is the thinking part of the brain, and it is really just like icing on the cake.

So all this got me to thinking about emotional reactions and logical reasoning. And then I happened to look at the verbal war over gun control. What I see is that the people who are in favor of gun control are reacting emotionally to every tragedy they see. Someone was killed with a gun, guns are bad, we must do away with guns. Pro-gun people counter with logical arguments about the 2nd amendment and freedom and fascists. There is no compromise here, there is not even going to be any rational discussion. People are espousing their views from two completely different bases, and their opponents are basically incapable of understanding their argument. It just does not compute. I expect this argument will go on forever, and I certainly hope it does. If either side ever wins, things will definitely have taken a turn for the worse.

Then I got to thinking about the Global Warming argument. I kind of believe Global Warming is going on, mostly because the Republicans are opposed to the idea (more about that eventually). The data looks a little suspect to me. Is the temperature data collected 100 years ago as correct as today's data? And even if it is, the change is minuscule. Is one or two degrees really significant? On the other hand, the arctic ice seems to be melting, so maybe something is going on. On the other hand, we had an ice age here, what, 10,000 years ago? Or was it 50,000 years? In any case there is some room to doubt that man can have any impact on the global temperature. On the third hand, we are pouring a lot of various stuff into the air, and maybe we should think about that.

But! Then I had an idea. What if the global warming thing is just a ploy to get the US to reduce our oil consumption? Just asking people to reduce their oil consumption is not working. Taxing oil seems to be politically unmentionable. But if we go on the way we are, things are liable to get a little nasty. India and China are stepping up their oil consumption. With more demand, oil prices are bound to go up, which means more money is going to be going into these anti-American dictatorships, which is not good. Of course, we have been shipping money to these dedicated followers of Islam/Fascism for a while now. I don't know if shipping more money faster is really going to change anything, except the Saudis may make Farsi the official language in the US. I will not be surprised if there are big wars this century over oil. India invading the Middle East? China going up against Russia? And the US, as usual, against everybody.

So instead of attacking oil consumption directly, we/they are attacking the by-products of oil consumption, i.e. CO2. I really do not understand what they hope to achieve with these tactics. The only thing I can think of that would produce a real reduction in CO2 production would be a whole bunch of nuclear power plants and several tens of millions electric cars. That is, totally electric cars, not hybrids. And given the parlyzed state of the nuclear power industry in the US, I don't see anything happening in this line.

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