Itemized Deductions

first_imgHere are some free deductions to take the edge off Income Tax Day…. as long as one deduces correctly.Israel is picking a national bird.  So what feathered friend will represent the Holy Land?  “The nine finalists include the hoopoe, the owl, the spur-winged plover, and the griffin vulture, but no doves.”  Source: Science, Random Samples, 4/10/2008.  WWJD?Do I hear $700,000?  Step right and buy your own triceratops at the dinosaur auction.  Video at National Geographic.  Wouldn’t that be a conversation piece. (Science Random Samples, 30:5873 04/11/2008).An evolutionary biologist is coming to revitalize research at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  What are David Mindell’s goals?  “He wants to expand research in comparative genomics, strengthen ties with local university researchers, and do more public outreach–especially about evolution.”  (Science Newsmakers, 320:5873, 04/11/2008.)  Do they have a theater?  They could show Expelled nonstop.David Berlinski has answered the Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion with one of his own, The Devil’s Delusion (the identity of the devil is left as an exercise).  His book tour began on C-SPAN’s Book TV, and sounds to his critics like the raking of fingernails across Slate.Don’t tell the creationists: a biophysical complexity researcher has called into question the whole notion of fitness and natural selection, according to a Wired Blog.  “You always get into trouble if you say these things out loud with creationists around,” Maya Paczuski groaned.Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute has responded to the NCSE’s Expelled Exposed website with “Expelled Exposed” Exposed.  Could this be the start of an infinite regress?Richard A. Kerr gets the pun award for mixed metaphors: “An Early Big Hit to Mars May Have Scarred the Planet for Life” he said in Science (320:5873, 04/11/2008, pp. 165-166), calling the big show a “striptease.”  But if Mars put on a show and nobody was there to see it, would it be risque?Cassini got two years; NASA granted a two-year extended mission to the Saturn orbiter, reported JPL.The Israeli Antiquities Authority is in its third year of a trial accusing an Egyptian antiquities merchant of forgery for the famed James Ossuary and Jehoash Inscription, said Todd Bolen.  A speedy trial means something else in a land that boasts a 7,000 year history.Inconvenient facts?  Science Daily reported on a panel that praised Al Gore’s movie An Inconvient Truth for its visual excellence and persuasiveness – but not necessarily for its facts.All fired up: “Some scientists are urging Florida’s Legislature to reject a bill that would protect teachers from being fired if they present information challenging evolution,” reported ABC News SunCoast.com.Oh, the irony: critics of the documentary Expelled, which opens in theaters this Friday, have accused the producers of plagiarizing animations of the cell from a Harvard production (a charge Premise Media denies).  Of course to make this claim, the critics had to make an inference of intelligent design.  What message would it send to get Expelled expelled?Exercise:  Is the IRS tax code a product of intelligent design?  (Hint: not all complexity is “complex specified information”.)  Caution: there are no simple answers.(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Big Bang Cosmology Needs Miracles

first_img(Visited 916 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 B.C. cartoon by the late Johnny HartThis is the feeling one gets when reading an account of current big bang cosmology by Paul Sutter in New Scientist. Sutter is an astrophysicist at Ohio State University, and a popularizer of astronomy for radio, tours and magazines. He begins with his typical dramatic flair, glamorizing the big bang theory like Peter’s telephone:The Big Bang model is our most successful explanation for the history of the universe that we live in, and it’s ridiculously easy to encapsulate its core framework in a single, T-shirtable sentence: A long time ago, our universe was a lot smaller. From this simple statement flows major testable predictions that have been verified by decades of observation. The expansion rate of the universe. The cosmic microwave background. The production of the lightest elements. The differences between near and far galaxies. All the juicy lines of evidence that makes cosmology a science.Maybe you have been in a situation where someone makes a presentation, talks up his project or widget, gets everybody excited, then says, “There’s just one little problem….” He proceeds to mention a difficulty that is fatal to the project, undermining all the prior hype. That’s what Sutter does next:But there are some issues. The “vanilla” Big Bang model, without any other additions or amendments, can’t explain all the observations. The extent of Sutter’s “one little problem” will become evident shortly. For now, go back to the cartoon and imagine B.C. complaining to Peter about all the missing infrastructure to make a telephone work. Suppose Peter responds, “Well, we can just imagine these being solved by an imaginary model. I call it Poof Theory.” [We call it the Poof Spoof in the Darwin Dictionary.] This is Sutter’s miracle: an appeal to “inflation” (i.e., poof) to make the problems go away. More on that momentarily.The Big Banger’s Light-Distance ProblemFor now, notice that Sutter confesses that big bang cosmology has a serious light-distance problem of its own, just like creationists point out when critics of Biblical creation attack their light-distance problem (e.g., CMI).That light comes to us from distant reaches of the cosmos, so distant that it’s now inaccessible to us. And different sections of that background light are inaccessible to each other. In the wonderful jargon of physics, regions of the cosmic microwave background are not causally connected. In other words, for one chunk of the limits of our observable universe to communicate with another chunk in the past 13.8 billion years, they would have had to send signals faster than the speed of light.Which would be no big deal at all if the cosmic microwave background wasn’t almost perfectly smooth. The infant universe had the same temperature to one part in a million. How did everyone get so well-coordinated when changes in one area didn’t have enough time to affect others?Sutter also mentions the flatness problem:But there’s no reason for our universe to be flat. At large scales it could’ve had any old curvature it wanted. Our cosmos could’ve been shaped like a giant, multidimensional beach ball, or a horse-riding saddle. But, no, it picked flat. And not just a little bit flat. For us to measure no curvature to a precision of a few percent in the present-day universe, the young cosmos must’ve been flat to one part in a million.And the monopole problem: magnetic monopoles should be ubiquitous, according to standard big bang cosmology, but have never been detected.The Guth Goof Poof SpoofLike Peter, Sutter has set the stage to introduce his Poof Theory, called inflation. Committing the best-in-field fallacy, and raising the perhapsimaybecouldness index to astronomical levels, he announces,The best solution we have to these conundrums is a process called inflation. The idea was first proposed — and coined! — by physicist Alan Guth in 1980 when he suggested that the same exotic process that flooded the universe with magnetic monopoles could have sent the cosmos into a period of staggeringly rapid expansion.Like someone in a Johnny Carson audience, we shout out, “Just how staggeringly rapid was it?” Sutter was prepared for the question.Imagine if I ballooned you — your body, guts, brain, skeleton, the whole deal — to the size of our entire observable universe. And imagine it took me less than 10^-32 seconds to do it. That’s some serious expansion, and precisely what we mean by inflation. When our universe was incredibly young, Guth proposed, it inflated to such gargantuan scales in less than the blink of an eye.Sutter claims this solves all the problems of the big bang: the flatness problem, the horizon problem, and the monopole problem – because monopoles would be as difficult to find as pieces of your guts spread throughout the universe.Nothing like a Poof Spoof (i.e., a miracle) to make your telephone work. What Sutter fails to consider, though, is the Guth Goof, which we define as a solution that is worse than the problem it was invented to solve. Guth thought that inflation would solve the flatness problem, the lumpiness problem (the universe’s incredible smoothness), and the horizon problem (the light-distance problem) in one swell poof. Each of these problems are basically fine-tuning problems. For inflation to work, however, it would require even greater fine-tuning at the beginning. The initial conditions for an inflating universe – even for believers in big bang cosmology – would have to be immensely, incredibly, unimaginably exact, or else the miracle would not occur. And once inflation started, there would be no way to stop it. We wouldn’t even have stars to look at, they would be so far apart.Who knows; maybe Guth and Sutter are Boltzmann Brains in the emptiness of space cogitating imaginary possibilities within their own realities.Keep these guys in mind when you hear atheist critics accuse creationists of “denying science” and believing in miracles. Everyone believes in miracles. Some of us prefer to think they were intelligently designed by a cause necessary and sufficient for them: a Universe-Maker. A leading cosmologist’s account of the current big bang theory makes no sense unless the hearer is already committed to believing it.In an old B.C. cartoon, Johnny Hart pictured Peter showing B.C. the new telephone he invented. As it hangs on a tree, Peter tells about all the wonderful opportunities it opens up for long-distance communication. Impressed and hopeful, B.C. says, “Great. Let’s call somebody.” Peter responds, “We can’t. I only made one.” Now imagine other problems with Peter’s phone: telephone lines haven’t been invented yet, there is no theory of electromagnetism, no audio-to-electromagnetic conversion device, no infrastructure for switching, and no switchboard operators. The phone just hangs on the tree, useless.last_img read more

U.S. Green Building Council Marks 20th Anniversary

first_imgLEED for HomesWhy Is the U.S. Green Building Council So Out of Touch?Q&A with Rick Fedrizzi, President and CEO of USGBCA Chat With Henry GiffordCan’t We All Just Get Along?Pitting LEED Against Hopes and ExpectationsNew Urbanist Andres Duany Lashes Out at LEED Day Three at GreenBuild: John Picard’s Vision of the FutureMedia recognizes USGBC for greenwashing RELATED ARTICLES Small beginning, big numbersFedrizzi said the USGBC has grown to include almost 13,000 member companies with 10 million employees around the world. There are 77 local chapters in the United States, which “provide a front door to our organization,” he said.“Today, we have more than 182,000 residential and commercial projects participating in our suite of rating systems, which now also includes commercial interiors as well as existing buildings, homes, schools, and health care, and accounts for 10.5 billion sq. ft., 2.8 billion of which is already certified,” he said.More than 185,000 people now hold LEED professional accreditation.Creation of the USGBC also spawned similar councils around the world, Fedrizzi said, which now number 94, “each one modeled on USGBC.” For homebuilders, the group’s flagship certification is LEED for Homes, which has become an influential benchmark for construction and is probably the best-known green-building standard in the United States. Like other rating systems, LEED for Homes awards points for features designed to save energy and water, improve indoor air quality, protect natural site resources, and promote other sustainable building practices. Projects that meet certain point thresholds get a green ranking: certified, silver, gold, and then platinum.LEED for Homes was launched in 2008 after two years as a pilot program. It followed the earlier development of LEED guidelines for commercial buildings, and there now are LEED rating systems for schools, neighborhood development, health-care facilities, commercial interiors, and retail spaces. Critics want better performanceThe LEED program also has had its problems.Energy conservation, one of the underpinnings of the LEED rating system, has been a particular sore point. Unlike the Passivhaus standard, which sets specific targets for energy consumption, LEED for Homes doesn’t require certified buildings to hit any particular energy-efficiency goal. Critics complain that LEED certification doesn’t automatically bring exceptional energy performance and may, in fact, mean the opposite.One of the program’s most forceful critics has been Henry Gifford, a New York mechanical-systems consultant, who asserted in a 2010 federal class-action suit that USGBC’s claims of energy savings amounted to false advertising. The suit was dismissed in 2010, but Gifford is unrelenting in his criticism of the rating system.“Twenty years, and nobody has ever come up with any measurements that show LEED buildings save any energy at all,” he said in response to a recent email query. “Since my lawsuit against them, they no longer claim that LEED buildings save energy, but 20 years of failure should be a wake-up call to them and the rest of our industry that the system should be abandoned in favor of actually measuring energy.“I think that building energy-efficiency ratings should be based on building energy use,” Gifford continued. “If the USGBC wants to stay relevant, they can simply put their data where their mouth is and put the utility bills for every certified building on a giant website, updated each month.“The LEED system has evolved to be more complicated all the time, and more and more people waste more and more time learning the intricacies of the new rules instead of learning how to design and build better buildings.”Kaid Benfield, writing in a Natural Resources Defense Council blog, said LEED has “put green buildings on the map” while saving energy and helping to reduce environmental pollution.“But, man, there are a lot of warts in this system,” Benfield writes. “For starters, LEED has been criticized for being insufficiently demanding of its applicants. I believe that, to the extent this criticism is well placed, it stems from a belief held by many involved with the Green Building Council, some of them representatives of the building industry, that the standards should be set only a little bit above what industry is likely to do anyway.”Another complaint, Benfield says, is that LEED has become “more about earning points than achieving actual environmental performance,” as evidenced by the 2013 New American Home, a 6700-sq.-ft. showcase home in Las Vegas with nine bathrooms and three bedrooms that was awarded a LEED Platinum certification. (For more information on this series of show homes, see Energy-Efficient Show Home is an 8,500-Square-Foot Monster and Model Home for IBS Is Big, Near-Zero, and a Credit-Crunch Victim.)center_img The U.S. Green Building Council, the organization that launched the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for new and renovated buildings, marks its 20th birthday this month.The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit association that promotes sustainable materials and building practices. Fedrizzi is breathless“It leaves me breathless to think of the enormous amount of work our community has done in that short time,” USGBC president, CEO, and founding chairman Rick Fedrizzi said in a written statement released on April 9. “When David Gottfried and Mike Italiano and I sat down to sketch out our idea for how we could jump-start a fundamental change in how we design, construct, operate, and maintain our buildings and communities, I don’t think any of us could have even imagined where our movement would be standing today.” Pointing to the numbersUniversally lauded or not, LEED has made its mark. In noting its 20th birthday, along with the 13th anniversary of LEED, the Green Building Council made these points:More than 33,000 residential units have been certified to LEED standards since the first LEED for Homes project won approval in 2006.More than 80 million tons of waste has been diverted from landfills thanks to LEED, with the number expected to reach 540 million tons by 2030.Chicago’s Soldier Field and the second-tallest building in the world, Taipei 101, are among LEED-certified structures.More than half the buildings registered for LEED in 2012 were outside the United States, and LEED projects can be found on six out of seven continents (and in all 50 states in the United States).last_img read more

Designer bytes straight from the ramp

first_imgFashion is in the air in the capital, with PCJ Delhi Couture Week 2012 having concluded recently in the city. Simply Delhi caught up with the city’s fashion design stalwarts, JJ Valaya, Manish Arora and Shantanu and Nikhil for a tete-a-tete where they shared their views on the Couture Week,,Fashion is in the air in the capital, with PCJ Delhi Couture Week2012 having concluded recently in the city. Simply Delhi caught up withthe city’s fashion design stalwarts, JJ Valaya, Manish Arora andShantanu and Nikhil for a tete-a-tete where they shared their views onthe Couture Week, their personal fashion styles and their inspirations.Q and A: JJ Valaya”I was training to be a CA when fashion happened.”Q. What led you take up fashion as a career? Did you always know that’s what you wanted or was it something that happened out of the blue? A. I was actually training to be a cha rtered accountant. I didn’t know what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something creative and fashion just happened.Q. What would you consider the one event that was your ‘big break’ into the world of fashion?A. I was living in Chandigarh in the late 80’s when somebody told me about this new institute that had opened up in Delhi. At a time when fashion institutes were synonymous with tailoring colleges, the National Institute of Fashion and Technology (NIFT) came into the scene and completely turned things around. For me, enrolling into NIFT in 1988 is what I consider ‘divine intervention.’Q. What has been your idea behind this season’s designs?A. For me couture is always about timelessness and I don’t think that trends always work. I want my designs to be passed on through generations. For example, recently I had a client for whom I had designed bridal wear more than two decades ago. She came to me a few days ago asking me to alter the same dress to fit her daughter. This to me was an amazing feeling.Q. Has the line been inspired by something or somebody?A. Our couture displays have been titled, The Azrak collection, The Realm of the Sultan. The collection finds its inspiration from the Ottoman Empire. Azrak in Turkish means ‘rare and uncommon.’ Its a fitting title for this collection as it stands inspired by some exceptional arts from the Ottoman Empire.Q. Any particular aspect of the designs you would like to highlight?A. We do the finest embroideries in the country and this is one of our greatest selling points. I also nurture a great interest in Indian arts and crafts and I want to revive these craft traditions and make it relevant to the modern world.Q What’s your personal fashion style?A. It’s simplistic with a lot of attention to detail. I like neutral colour dresses with an occasional pop of bright coloured accessories.-Sibi ArasuadvertisementQ and A: Manish Arora”Always remember, you are only as good as your last collection.”Q. What led you take up fashion as a career? Did you always know that’s what you wanted or was it something that happened out of the blue?A. Fashion was accidental. I’d never thought I’d end up as a fashion designer. I use fashion as a platform for my art. Moving away from my commerce degree and getting enrolled at NIFT, Delhi in the 90’s was the turning point. From there on in, it has always been about creativity, art and design.Q. What would you consider the one event that was your ‘big break’ into the world of fashion?A. The year I spent working with the Spanish fashion legend, Paco Rabanne was a game changer for me.Q. What’s your personal fashion style?A. My designs are an extension of myself. I put my heart and soul into every collection. But my personal style is completely different. I like to dress neat and crisp and sport black and other dark shades as much as possible.Q. What does the Delhi Couture Week mean to you?A. It is a sort of homecoming for me. This is my first runway show in India after a three year break and it feels good to showcase my Paris collections here. My collections are pret-a-porter but it has consumed as much energy and time as designing couture would do.Q. Has the line been inspired by something or somebody?A. My inspirations are from all over the place. Anything from India POP and Warriors that were the themes behind my work in 08-09 to Graffiti Art and ‘The joy of living in the 60’s,’ which was what motivated my latest designs. Hybrid animals, magic, the circus-all these have been sources of inspirations for my creations over the last few years. The designs I displayed here this time around are a retrospective of my collections which I have showcase in various Paris Fashion Weeks.Q. If you have to have a ‘fashion ideology’ what would it be?A. Always remember, that you are only as good as your last collection. You have to constantly surpass your own capabilities in order to create designs that are of value in today’s competitive market.-Sibi ArasuadvertisementQ and A: Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra”The designers’ fraternity was literally on the street for 6-8 months.”Q. In these 12 years that you’ve been in the fashion world, which moment do you consider as your ‘big break?’A. Well we really feel it’s yet to come. But the one time our work really got recognised was when actor Shilpa Shetty wore one of our gowns at the IIFA awards in 2006. That set off a trend and today women have started wearing gowns for their cocktail functions instead of lehengas.Q. Tell us a bit about the struggles you had to go through to establish yourself?A. Though we haven’t struggled too much, the one time we really had a tough time was when our shop, along with other designer stores got demolished at MG Road. The designers’ fraternity was literally on the street for 6-8 months and had no direction.Q. What does the Delhi Couture Week mean to you?A. It’s a platform to be really creative. It’s the place where you can do anything you want and your opinion really matters. It’s one of those opportunities for us to let people know what we want to say.Q. Tell us something about the collection you showcased at the 3rd Delhi Couture Week concluded recently.A. This collection of ours titled ‘She is the One,’ is an ode to the woman of today. With this collection, we want to portray a strong woman who says ‘there’s a hurricane in me’. This woman has gone through a crazy time but is a survivor. So the silhouettes are hard, the clothes are dark, vintage and not flowery. This is a stark contrast to last time’s Perfume collection which was soft and delicate.Q. What has been your inspiration?A. We get inspired by spaces and places around us. Right now, there’s an undertone of darkness all around us. There’s been a barrage of bad news since the past one year. That affects our work. Especially when we talk about the Indian woman, there’s so much lag-on one hand, we call her bharat mata and on the other, we rape her.Q. Black is not usually a colour associated with Indian weddings. How come you’ve used so much of it in Couture Week, which is all about wedding couture?A. Indian weddings have changed over the years and have become pretty liberal. There’s even a concept of theme weddings. So, even if someone doesn’t want to wear black on the wedding day, it can be worn for a cocktail or a bachelorette party.Q. Talking about the current season, what do you think are the colours and fabrics of this season?A. It’s a pop colour palette this season. You’ll find a bright orange amongst navy blues, gold with greens. And the fabrics are mostly antique like linens and quilts.-Rewati Rauadvertisementlast_img read more