Monday, March 14, 2011

Up and atom

Japanese people see today their nuclear power centrals damaged due to the unfortunate earthquake they suffered a few days ago. Apparently, there might be some risky radioactive leaks, they are not sure yet. This has somehow re-opened the nuclear power debate, at least here in Europe.
I'll be clear here: Wel all have to face that nuclear power is not a choice nowadays. It's a must; that is, if you all want to continue living life like you do, using as much electricity as you want (which actually is a lot), etc. I will assume no one wants to go back using candles.
Then why is it a must?

We need electricity. We typically obtain it from 1-Renewable energy; 2-Non-renewable energy.

Renewable energy is awesome. Just imagine it, you build up infrastructures and get electricity without spending other resources! Also no smoke, no radiation. It's a pity we can't really afford it. This kind of energy is incredibly expensive compared to non-renewable ones, and it needs a huge landscape transformation. You want wind energy? You have to fill fields and fields of mills to achieve it. That's space you can't use for anything else, and the amount of energy produced isn't even worth it...maybe in some hills/mountain area with a lot of wind and no other use or something like that, but that's about it. Same with solar energy (although I like the idea of having solar panel roofs). Water energy is all right in my opinion because you both control water resources and produce electricity. There are others which are hard to use like biomass and geothermal, but useful when they are possible.
It's OK if politicians promote renewable energies and give away some money so companies can produce clean energy, but they are not saving the planet or securing our future by doing that, as many people think.

Non-renewable energy is not that awesome, but it's the easy and cheap way. You get "fuel" from nature, manage to produce steam by heating water with it  in order to move a turbine, and you have electricity. The problem is that those resources aren't going to last forever, and along with electricity you produce waste (smoke and nuclear waste, mainly)
However, we need these. Non-renewable energy provides ~80% of total worldwide electricity, and that's a lot. I don't think any of us can replace that 80% with renewable energies...anytime soon.
All in all, nuclear power is cheap and produces a lot of electricity with a little effort, and that makes it the most loved no-renewable energy. The problem is that people are aware of its dangers and its wastes, and reject it.
They are so aware of them that it has became fear or some kind of massive hysteria against this energy.
The truth is that centrals are secure if they are well under control. The world has been using nuclear power for decades without an accident. It provides ~16% of total worldwide electricity. Yes, I know..Chernobyl. You should remember it happened in the soviet union, which was a lot less concerned about security than modern countries are nowadays. Also, nuclear centrals doesn't produce CO2, if you are concerned about climate change.

So that's why I think we must use and encourage nuclear power. It provides a significantly amount of our electricity, it's cheap, secure and it's continously developing so I don't think we have to use it forever. We can deal with wastes, we have done it until now though, they just have to be well under control in special "nuclear graveyards". There will be another kind of energy in the future: clean, renewable and cheap, but until then...

Finally, and returning to can those accidents make people re-debate nuclear power? I mean, those centrals suffered a ~9 Richter earthquake, followed by a Tsunami...and they are still in their spot. There might be some leaks? Is that all we have to worry about when an earthquake+tsunami hits us? Personally I'm amazed that nuclear infrastructures are that solid, and you all should know that nobody expects that every central is hit by a 9 richter earthquake and a tsunami in a row, so you can be calm.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Educating educators

Today in class we discussed  Education. Questions like "Are state schools better than private schools?", "Are there any subjects that parents should be in charge of and not teachers?" "How can we achieve a good quality education?" were asked. That made me think about the issue and I came up with this entry.

We all can agree that Education is one of the most important matters in a society; it will make future members be one way or another. It's all about what we teach them at school...or is it?
It is known that education results vary depending on the country ( True that every country has a different way of teaching, but i don't think that's the only factor. School and teachers are not the things we have to look at to improve, the system could be better of course, as everything else, but I see that the roots of this issue are parents and environment. The term "parents" could be applied to family or close family, too.

Certainly it makes sense that environment and the teachings and habits you get from your parents during your life makes a huge difference. While the method is the same for every student, parents are not.
Ideally, students are raised by parents who often read, have culture related habits or interests (going to museums, hobbies and the like),  friendly discuss/debate stuff with others, have a lot of common sense, went to college, etc and the most important thing: parents who know how and want to teach their children or get them into all of that  (because other way it's pretty useless). Given this ideal parents and assuming the environment (children's friends, living place, the media) is favorable, education should be a succes.
All of the habits above clearly help the kid being successful at school by improving vocabulary, thinking and debating skills, and even making him more open-minded.
On the other hand, if parents are exactly or mostly the opposite as the ideal ones, the student is likely to fail. And by failing I don't mean ending up with a low wage job and no degrees, by failing I mean not having common sense or not having clue about general culture; two things which are a burden in anyone's life in my opinion.

School can be significant too. Imagine we have the second case of parents. The kid is not really motivated to learn and often fails, probably not caring much about it. However, if the kid has this perfect teacher who loves his job and is aware of his situation, this teacher is likely to "save" him and help him being succesful. Or the kid might sadly be a lost cause anyway.
The opposite would be a kid with ideal parents but a horrible teacher who barely cares about students and is not very good at teaching. In this case I think the kid would overcome this with his parents' support; they could explain whatever he couldn't understand, give him tips or even complain to the principal.

So yeah, states of the world. If you want to improve at education, take parents into account, too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interesting Reads: "Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture "

This is a book I read 4 or 5 years ago, back in high school. It was in a list of books our teacher gave us; we had to choose one and read it, and then write a paper about it.
When I saw the weird title I knew that would be the book I was going to read, and I'm sure it was a good choice because it really gave me some hours of good reading and kind of blowed my mind.

Have you ever wondered why indians worship cows? Or why muslims and jews are not allowed to eat meat? Well, the author, Marvin Harris, did. And he has this theory that there is a logical reason for people, society, to act that way. He states that every single human social behaviour (as weird or senseless as it can be) is ultimately caused by economic/survival needs or by environmental conditions like climate.

The book tells us that indians worship cows for the simple reason that they something to work/plow their lands with, fuel to keep them warm in winter, milk and flooring material, and a cow provides all that without the unnaffordable cost of buying tractors, gas/oil, etc. Cows are the tractors, fuel and heating. They don't eat beef because they need the cows for those other purposes. But people likes beef...the solution? Cows are sacred. You can't eat them. But yes, use them for whatever other needs you have and make them work so we keep the country running.

About the pig issue, it's pretty silly too. Islam and Judaism started in a desert-like place. Breeding pigs consumes a lot of water compared to other animals like sheeps or goats. For practical, economic purposes, eating pork was banned by those religions (by some smart guy that thought it was a bad idea to waste water in a desert landscape) At least it makes more sense than banning them for "being nasty" as those religions claim, when actually pigs are only that way if you breed them in a crowded, muddy farmyard. Pata Negra pigs prove that.

Concerning wars and witches, things get a bit more complicated. I encourage you to read the book and find out by yourselves! Or I may just re-read that part and write a review. We will see.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Death Penalty

We all have an opinion of this, but the fact is 60% of the world population lives in a country in which people are sometimes executed for their crimes, most important countries being China, The USA (most of states) and Indonesia.

I think this is a more advanced and modern world than it was decades or centuries ago, and I wonder why more than half of the world still applies death sentence. Sure, nobody likes rapists or murderers; neither do I. Killing them of course prevents them from commiting crimes again but that's not the solution,that's not why we created Penal Law; we created it to (basically) send people to jail so they learn the lesson. Some also say they never learn so it's better for everyone if we kill them...well that's what life imprisonment is for.

Now let's analyze some pros and cons of death penalty:

Prevents the person executed from commiting more crimes.
If anything, makes the victim's family, friends etc feel better as the murderer was killed (Retribution).

-We become murderers and violate the right to live.
-We can't go back or lift the punishment if we find out the criminal was actually innocent.
-There's no way the recluse will become a good citizen in the future (which is the main goal of Penal Law)

Death Penalty is basically an eye for an eye. And remember: An eye for an eye and we all go blind.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pseudosciences and how to spot them

I'm sure you all have to deal with some pseudoscience almost everyday. Whether you see them on TV, read about them in a book, talk about them with a friend...or actually take part in any of them (I hope not).

Pseudoscience is someone everyone should keep out from. At best, it's just about people trying to have a laugh, for example, reading their horoscope (this is not bad at all); at worst it's about people trying to scam you, for example,charging you for fortune telling or magical potions or whatever.

Let's define pseudoscience. It's some kind of practice or belief that is presented to you as scientific (as truthful, proven and real), but lacks the proper requirements such as using the scientific method and being backed up by real evidence, among others.

So how do you spot these "half-sciences"? Imagine you have one of any pseudoscience follower in front of you, and he is open for questions. Or hey, you totally could be one of those people reading this. Then ask him or yourself stuff like:

What's your methodology? -It should fit the scientific one
Do you have any real supporting evidence or if you do, do you constantly look for additional evidence? -Sciences does
How are you sure of the effectiveness of your activity? -It should be based on both confirmation of the results AND attempts of refutation of the premises. This is important because the Science we know today can be proven false anytime (pseudosciences can't), this has always happened historically and that's why you can't expect pseudoscience to be true after centuries remaining unmodified, maybe confirmed but never refutated.
Where and how do you learn it? -Books? Schools? Universities? Maybe you want to keep your "knowledge" unknown so the business keeps running?
Can anybody do what you do? If not, why not? -Anybody can learn Science if they want. No open minds, inner eyes, powerful spirits or being part of a group are needed.
Do you let independent specialists or members of the scientific community evaluate your work? We can guess why you don't.
Do you have any independent critical discipline such as Science has? (It's Philosophy) -If not, then who is controlling you and confirming your premises?
Why is your belief different around the world? -For example, there's chinese and western and mayan astrology, but astronomy (Science) is the same for the whole world.

There are more possible questions but those should do it.
Next time you hear about any possible pseudoscience or meet any of their know what to do!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


You know what people think about politicians. It is said that they constantly lie, they do things wrong, they spend our tax money awfully... In extremely cases, when things are really bad, people also say it's their fault or even insult them (yes, maybe some of them are stupid, but that's besides politics)
What if -most of them- didn't lie to us all the time, what if they actually wanted the best for our countries? Eventhough their best guess isn't actually what we need.
Do you really think someone elected would, in any case, attempt to harm their electors or do something clearly bad for their country for no reason? Why would they? Unless they are just stupid, but only some of them are.
Maybe I'm wrong but consider the following: Imagine you, the unselfish average smart citizen and a "good person", are a politician. Wouldn't you try your best to give your electors what you promised? Wouldn't you be honest with them and stay away from troublesome issues like corruption or any kind of fraud?
And that's for good people. Okay, not everyone is a "good person". Then let's imagine you are the worst person ever. You are selfish, you don't mind others and you only want us citizens to make cash and enjoy power. In that case, my take is the same.
You would try your best to give what you promised and make the country (or the city or whatever) develop and grow correctly, even if it's just to keep people happy and be re-elected. You would also stay away from trouble so your image doesn't get harmed and you can continue enjoying your charge.
So if you don't achieve what you thought you could, or what you told people you would achieve, I'm sure it's not because you arbitrarily promised random things so you could be elected, but because something unexpected happened or you were short of cash and therefore you had to make some sacrifices or change your mind in some way.
Of course there are exceptions, corruption and obvious lies happen. But let's suppose those who act that way -and their parties- are punished for it later in the polls and/or in jail.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Does God Exist? Part 2

Taking the second argument further, you can not only say that we created religion with an objective; you can say we created God itself in the first place, maybe in order to have an answer for questions we could not answer ourselves.
I guess that the first human beings stared at the sun and thought it was amazing. It gave them light and warmed them up, and they felt so happy in the day for some reason. Maybe it was the same with other weather phenomenon and many other things they couldn't explain. It makes sense, then, that they thought someone or something bigger than them provided those things, or even that those things were bigger beings themselves, controlling the world's fate and humankind's fate too; for example giving them abundancy and better crops, or on the other hand sending storms and making them starve. Given this, it makes sense too that they had an urge to please those beings with prays, keep them happy.
This also takes me to the fact of lots of co-existing religions and cults. It's an effect of what I said before. If many groups of human beings started in different points of the world, and developed differently, their perception of the world itself must have been really different. Therefore, they must have "created God" in a different way. For example, water sure was important for those living in a desert, the climate was important for those who grew vegetables and animals for those who were expert in hunting, and this is why they focused on one thing or another (thus acquiring different customs, rites...) and why, at the begining, politheist religions were more common.
Sure, you can think "We actually were perceiving God but we were too ignorant or silly to notice". Then I'll ask why God waited till the year 0 to send his son and warn us about our mistake. Or why Allah waited until the year (whatever year it was) to talk to his prophet. No matter how silly we were, surely God would have found a way to guide us to the right path.

That is all, by the moment. 
To end this entry, I' ll tell you about Carl Sagan's invisible dragon, specially for you agnostic followers. Sagan's text is not exactly like this, I'm explaining it with my own words:

Imagine someone tells you he has a Dragon in its garage. You think oh cool, a real dragon!, and ask the guy to take you to his garage so you can see by yourself. When you arrive, there's nothing there.You say "Hey, i see no dragons here" and he replies "Oh man, too bad; the dragon's invisible so you can't see it". You notice you can't feel the dragon in anyway either; you can't touch it, smell it or hear it, so you tell the guy, and he says it's a pity but the dragon floats in the air and it's ethereal. What about its fire breathing? Oh, its fire is heatless... And so on.
What's the difference of a dragon with those qualities and no dragon at all? Clearly there's no difference, only that person saying the dragon exists.
Now replace the dragon by...God, spirits, aliens, or whatever belief you can think of. And imagine that not only one person says that they exist, but millions of people. That doesn't make them be true. Sure I can't prove they are fake, specially if people act like the dragon owner,  but assuming they do is useless, pointless and definitely not sensible. What is the sensible way then? Moving on, dismissing everything you can't prove (at least until you find further useful evidence for it, if you ever do), and thinking of another hypothesis you can actually prove.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Does God Exist? Part 1

Yes, I know, this is a very controversial issue and it's hard to write about it but I still want to do this because it's been around my mind yesterday (and many days before since i was like 10). I hope nobody is offended by what I write, and I don't expect this to be a Theology text or anything, it's just my thoughts about the great question, so there won't be irrefutable or great arguments, just things everyone can figure out. First, some relevant facts about me:
I live in a country typically christian catholic, I took some religion classes in primary school but my parents are atheists, and so am I. When I was 8 or so I decided to be christian because all other kids in my class were doing so, also because my grandma made me pray at nights and well, the media helped too. However, I became an atheist later.

I never really thought about the whole thing until I noticed how the world really is. "What a cruel God we have if it really exists"; that was my first atheist argument so I'll talk about it first.
If there is a God who can do anything, achieve anything, and is everywhere...why are we so fucked up? I mean, poverty, starving people, brutal wars, all of that exist. Furthermore, the concept of hell confuses me. God is said to love us humans, to want the best for us, but if you make mistakes in your "mortal life" which is like, let's say, 70 years long, you pay for it with an enternity of pain and suffering...I really don't get it. Also he has this senseless decision of giving us freedom to think and do what we want, only to then punish us for actually thinking and doing whatever we want.

Another argument is the idea of how religion's interests matches society's interests, and ultimately society leaders' interests and this has been like that for ages. Think of religious rules everybody knows like "You shall not steal" or "You shall not kill", or commit suicide, or you will have sex only for children. This applies to what a society needs from its members to survive and develop. Certainly we are going nowhere if everyone is a thief and nobody produces anything, or if we go around killing each other or if we spend the day in bed with our couple. Given this, you can think Religion is just another social control instrument someone made up long ago, and still exist nowadays "adapted" to our times. It's really sad to think about people being "good" only because they will go to hell if they aren't, but I guess this is true for millions of people, and to be honest it creeps me out thinking of how would they act like if religion didn't exist...

Well this is Part 1 of the entry, I'm splitting it so I don't miss anything and also I just realized I may use your comments for Part 2 so feel free to ask, discuss, criticize, whatever.

Monday, February 7, 2011

As Seen On The News

Hey, greetings future followers. In this first entry I want to write about things I got to know today and what I think about them.
Let's go to Africa. Have you heard that a new country will be born in july or so? It will be called South Sudan, I heard, and apparently it will have plenty of oil. Suspicious.
Also in that same continent, riots and protests continue in Egypt. Basically people want Mubarack to go, and he is like "no way", I think he will have to eventually due to people being that persistent. However, that makes me (and every western citizen concerned about arabs) think...what if he goes away? That dictator is -or was-  ultimately supported by the Western countries. The reason? You know, he keeps the islamists away, and the Suez channel and egypt's oil are involved, too. Do you -do we- want freedom for Egypt after all?