Letters

Letters 11-24-2014

Dangerous Votes You voted for Dr. Dan. Thanks!Rep. Benishek failed to cosponsor H.R. 601. It stops subsidies for big oil companies. He failed to cosponsor H.R. 1084. There is an exemption for hydraulic fracturing written into the Safe Drinking Water Act. H.R. 1084. It would require the contents of fracking fluids to be publicly disclosed to protect the public health.

Solar Is The Answer There have been many excellent letters about the need for our region, state and nation to take action on climate change. Now there is a viable solution to this ever-growing problem: Solar energy is the future.

Real Minimum Wage In 1966, a first class stamp cost 5 cents and minimum wage was $1.25. Today, a first class stamp is 49 cents, so federal minimum wage should be $11.25.

Doesn’t Seem Warmer I enjoy the “environmentalists” twisting themselves into pretzels trying to convince us that it is getting warmer. Sure it is... 

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Harley Sachs

 
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Do-it-yourself Videoconferencing

Features Harley Sachs Back in the 1940s when a ticket to the movies cost 12 cents and Saturday matinees included a cartoon, a newsreel, a double feature and an episode of Flash Gordon, my brother and I chilled at the sight of Ming the Merciless.
Ming the Merciless was an arch space villain with drooping mustachios. He was obviously Oriental, a holdover from the old days of the “Yellow Peril” and the Fu Man Chu mysteries. What we particularly liked about this sci-fi cliffhanging thriller wasn’t just the fake model rocket ship spewing sparks. It was Ming’s sinister, triangular television screen. With a buzzing of electricity, the screen grew cloudy and Ming’s fearsome face appeared. This was better than radio and was long before television.
 
Monday, December 22, 2008

Remember Christmas Clubs

Features Harley Sachs Some readers may remember Christmas Clubs -- a way to save for the holidays all through the year that has disappeared in recent years -- soon to become a forgotten tradition.
When I was a kid my mother set up a little account at our local bank which was called a Christmas Club. Starting in January, each week I made a small deposit of about 50 cents. When December came around I accumulated $25 I could spend on Christmas gifts.
Christmas Clubs have long since disappeared. Obviously, banks found the administrative costs of entering all those 50 cent deposits to be too expensive. Of course, as the year progressed, they had more and more money from savers like me that they could lend out at interest to cover the administrative costs.
 
Monday, December 1, 2008

Twitter, Tweet, Twit

Features Harley Sachs Hold onto your hats! The Oxford English Dictionary is about to be assaulted by a new stream of words which will boggle your mind: twitter, tweet, twit, Twhirl, Tweet Scan, Twemes, Hashtags, Mashups, Twittervision, Twitterfone, Twitterholic and 8ZAP. These are probably just the start of a flood of internet jargon all related to a form of community text messaging called Twitter.
Some readers may remember the old contests, “In 25 words or less, complete the sentence, ‘I like --- product because…’” for which you might win an electric toaster or a year’s supply of Drek laundry detergent. Now with Twitter, it’s “Can you send your whole text message in 140 characters or less?”
 
Thursday, July 6, 2006

Saving the world‘s seed crops

Features Harley Sachs In the science fiction novel “The Death of Grass,” all the world’s grasses are killed by a plant disease. That means no wheat, barley, corn, and other grains. Not only does that mean no bread for humans, it means no grass for animals that feed on it, like cattle. With the disappearance of all grasses comes the death of all herds of ruminating animals. Though no such all-encompassing plant disease exists today, there are others which can be almost as devastating and a threat to our survival.
 
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Beware the new nano sunscreens

Features Harley Sachs Nanotechnology may turn out to be the newest bogeyman of science. Author Michael Crichton made much of this in his thriller, “The Swarm,” in which microscopic nano robots functioned like a colony of intelligent killer bees. He was exploiting a well-known risk in scientific development: the law of unanticipated consequences.
Some of us still remember the unanticipated consequences of thalydomide, a drug then banned in the U.S. by a cautious FDA scientist. Taken by pregnant women who got the drug in Europe, the resulting deformities created a rash of infants with flipper-like vestigial arms. And no one anticipated the consequences of DDT; created as an insecticide, it threatened to become the cause of a world without birds. Is that sort of nightmare likely to happen again?
 
Thursday, May 25, 2006

Norovirus: The Super Virus

Features Harley Sachs It comes on without warning. One minute you feel okay. The next you are
doubled up with nausea, diarrhea, a fever, and unable to keep anything down. You’re laid up for 24 to 72 hours. The result, besides extreme discomfort, is dehydration that can be life threatening. We learned it was the Norovirus.
 
Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hydrosphere

Features Harley Sachs Rick Dickson of Portland, Oregon is having trouble getting his patent for an undersea electric generator approved by the US Patent Office. Dickson, a 54-yea- old software engineer, author, and inventor, has developed a unique idea for generating electricity: an underwater dam that uses hydrostatic water pressure to generate continuous electrical energy.
The device is basically a hollow 50-foot diameter sphere placed on the bottom of the sea or lake at a depth of 100 meters. When a valve is opened the water rushes in and a dynamo is rapidly floated up a shaft, passing a series of magnets to generate electricity which is then used to power a Tesla pump that immediately drains the sphere, pushing the water past a second generator. As air is blown out through a snorkel at the surface it operates a third generator. That’s the theory.
 
Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bird Flu and Intelligent Design

Features Harley Sachs By now readers have been exposed to a massive amount of information about the threat of avian flu. Countries all over the world are alert to the risk that the flu that is so catastrophic to birds will make the leap to humans. Already, many people who work with chickens, ducks, and other poultry have caught the disease and an alarming number -- more than 50% -- have died of it.
The fear is that the virus may evolve to a form that passes not only from bird-to-person but from person-to-person.
Researchers who are haunted by the so-called Spanish flu of 1918, which killed more people worldwide than died in the blood bath of World War I, have probed the samples taken from the bodies of dead soldiers in search of the DNA of the now long-gone Spanish flu. They found only bits and pieces until the frozen corpse of an Eskimo woman, preserved in the tundra, yielded a whole sample for study.
The link has been established: the old Spanish flu was derived from a bird flu, similar to the current avian flu, and knowing about that evolution will make it easier to develop a vaccine for this one.
The problem is not only to develop a vaccine that works on the not-yet-evolved human-to-human strain, but to make enough vaccine to protect billions of people.
Aside from the logistics of that huge problem, there’s another aspect that has not been discussed in the media: the evolution of these diseases is proof of Darwin’s work on the origin of species and may be used to debunk the thinly disguised theology of so-called “intelligent design,” previously called Creationism.
 
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Spy Drones

Features Harley Sachs When we first sent men into orbit they reported that the only man-made object visible from space was the Great Wall of China. Now astronauts report that at their altitude of about 100 miles they can plainly observe the environmental devastation caused by humans. Deforestation, the resulting erosion, and coastal pollution are visible from space.
Unfortunately, satellites to monitor these developments are expensive to launch and they orbit the earth about every 90 minutes. It would be better if observations could be made continuously at a lower altitude. Enter the UAV, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
 
Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Smell of Money: Pumping gas from landfills

Features Harley Sachs Here in the U.P we used to call them
bear pits. They were the open garbage dumps where tourists occasionally would try to
put their kiddies on the backs of hungry
wild bears in the hopes of getting that great souvenir photo, sometimes with unhappy results.
Turns out that calling our dumps bear pits was a misnomer. The proper name for what are
now officially sanitary landfills is money pits. Not only can municipalities reap substantial rewards from tipping fees of $90 a ton,
but they can also mine those mountains
of trash for valuable gasses and turn them into electricity.
That’s what R.G. Engineering Company of Webberville, Michigan is doing for
their clients.
 
Thursday, August 4, 2005

Wikipedia.org---the on-line encyclopedia

Features Harley Sachs There was a time when encyclopedias were a kind of household furniture. A bookcase loaded with World Book or the Encyclopedia Britannica provided a family with a status symbol. That case of handsomely bound books told visitors that here was a household where knowledge mattered. The books might never be opened, but sometimes someone would set out determined to memorize or at least read the whole thing.
The set of bound encyclopedias could be supplemented with a set of the Great Books of the Western World or the Harvard Classics. It was also common to buy sets of complete works of some authors by subscription, such as the works of Dickens or Balzac.
The sets of books were expensive and encyclopedias were sold by sometimes desperate and otherwise unemployed door to door salesmen who worked on commission. A set of the Britannica could cost from $500 up, depending on your choice of binding. Because bound books of current facts are obsolete as soon as they leave the press, buyers could also subscribe to annual yearbooks. We have several yards of shelf space taken up by encyclopedias and yearbooks. That 1953 edition is now of mainly historical interest.
 
Thursday, July 21, 2005

You too could be a cell phone journalist

Features Harley Sachs When the grandson of Vincent Van Gogh was stabbed to death on the streets of Amsterdam for having made a film about the plight of Moslem women, the first picture taken of his body -- theww picture that appeared in the newspapers -- was not taken by a press photographer. It was taken by a passerby with a cell phone.
Today the majority of telephones are no longer hard-wired. They’re portable. Wherever you go you see drivers talking on their cell phones and pedestrians talking into their hands, Now, with some phones capable not only of taking pictures but of making short videos, almost everyone can become part of the world news network.
This was particularly evident in the London bombing episode, People trapped in the subway tunnels, in the disabled trains and on the streets where the bus was blown up were taking pictures and sending them to the press. At least a dozen such videos were passed on to the BBC for rebroadcast.
Before any journalist could get from Fleet Street to the tubes, here was a video clip with the sound of someone trapped in the wreckage and screaming for help. Without the cell phones, this kind of immediacy rarely happens.
Of course, for now the quality of the pictures and the clips is not comparable to what can be shot by those cumbersome cameras lugged on the shoulders of TV crews, but in the news business, immediacy is key. Commentary comes afterwards.
Where would we be without those portable devices? With everyone armed with instant communication like this, no cop should dare beat up on any Rodney King. The British police are no doubt scouring the cell phone pictures for any sign of the perpetrators of those terrorist acts.
Thanks to the cell phones, in case of emergency you need hardly look for a pay phone and fumble in your pocket for change. When I was in the grocery store one day a man had an epileptic seizure. Before I could get to the service desk to tell someone to call an ambulance, a women at the end of the aisle was already dialing 911 on her cell phone.
Commit a crime on a crowded street and you may find your picture flashed immediately to the police and the press.
This makes everyone who might witness a newsworthy event an amateur journalist photographer. No need to think about lugging a traditional Speed Graphic with a pocketful of flash bulbs, or even a 35mm SLR camera. In the hopes of getting a good shot. That all-in-one device, your cell phone, is right there.
If that technology had been available we might have had sound videos and still shots of the hijackers aboard the airplanes on 9-11. No need to retrieve film from the wreckage. The images would already be transmitted. It’s a chilling thought.
Though London public places are under constant surveillance by thousands of TV cameras, with over 2,500 video clips being examined in the wake of the bombings, it was the people themselves who got us the pictures of the events as they happened. Think of the implications, not only for journalists, but for the police. People are notoriously inaccurate witnesses, but their cell phones may catch the true story as it happens.
To facilitate your getting a scoop with your cell phone, why not pre-program the dailer with the numbers of your local newspaper and TV station? If you have instant messaging your on-the-spot report will be only a few clicks away from the headline news.
Perhaps this newspaper will run a “cell phone shot of the week” feature, posting the most newsworthy picture. Think of the opportunities: catching criminals in the act, portraits of babies and puppies, sporting events, parades, festivals. No newspaper can employ a staff large enough to be on-the-spot everywhere. With a cell phone in nearly every pocket, the journalistic opportunities are everywhere.
 
Thursday, July 7, 2005

Star Sailor

Features Harley Sachs There’s a whirligig gadget on my window sill that may have come from a science museum, for it illustrates a power of light that is now being applied to space flight. It resembles a clear glass light bulb, but instead of a filament inside there’s a little windmill -- four black and white paddles that rotate on needle mounted in a pillar of glass. When sunlight strikes the paddles the gadget turns and in bright sunlight it spins. As long as the sun shines on it, it keeps on spinning.
The principle is simple: the pressure of the beams of light striking the blades causes the gadget to spin. This wouldn’t work if the blades were not sealed in a vacuum, for the pressure of the light is not strong enough to turn the blades in the presence of resistant air. This might seem like a perpetual motion machine, were it not for two factors. Eventually the pivot point where the blades rest on the column will wear out. So far, after many years on my window sill, that hasn’t happened. What has prevented this device from running forever is that the glass is not totally impermeable. Atom by atom, air has penetrated the glass so it is not a perfect vacuum and it takes more and more intense sunlight to make it turn.
But what if the same principle were applied to a sail on a space ship? Then, like the marvelous prairie schooner of Pecos Bill sailing across the sea of grass of our Great Plains, a space ship would go on in the vacuum of space, accelerating forever.
 
Thursday, May 26, 2005

Technology... Electronic Waste

Features Harley Sachs The true cost of any product must include the price of preventing or correcting environmental damage. Here in the Copper Country of the Upper Peninsula we live amidst the stamp sand residue of copper mining that took place in the last millennium. But in today’s climate of instant obsolescence there are new hazards: hazards that accumulate in our own households.
Computers seem to be obsolete the day after we buy them. Our household currently has six in two locations. My original 64k CPM computer that cost me $2,700 back in 1983 was soon superceded and when it died it went into the town dumpster. That’s not the best place for electronic waste.
 
Thursday, January 13, 2005

We, Robots: The Japanese are Bringing More ‘Bots our Way

Features Harley Sachs Mention robots and some people think of that old sci-fi situation comedy, “Lost in Space,” with a frantic robot waving its arms and yelling “danger, danger.” What they don’t realize is what a robot really is, how many are already in our lives, and what the next generation may be.
Just what is a robot, anyway? They began in World War II as servo mechanisms, devices that took the effort out of jobs that were strenuous if not impossible for human beings to do, such as controlling the wing and tail surfaces of bombers. A simple “joy stick” like those in the old open cockpit World War I fighters would demand too much strength in a bomber.
 
 
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