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Visualizing BIG Numbers

Millions, Billions, Trillion; we hear these terms used about large values so often people have become numb to their actual meaning. I heard a fellow employee asked one time what he would do if he won a million dollars in the lottery. He replied, “a million isn’t enough to do anything.” He had no clue how much a million is. So, let’s take the most common object and use it to illustrate what these values are.

A dollar bill is .0043 inches thick. A stack of 1000 one-dollar bills would be 4.3 inches which are also 109.2 millimeters. For the sake of mathematical simplicity, I will be using the metric system from here on. I will convert the here and there so people using “Standard” and are not familiar with the metric system can understand. I will also round-up from 109.2 cm to 110 mm because by the time we get to billions, trillion, and beyond that small difference becomes negligible (if you’re picky, you can go back and use the precise value I’m just too lazy to deal with it).

Back to our stack of a thousand one-dollar bills. A 1000 one-dollar bills are 110 mm. A million, which is one thousand, thousand one-dollar bills (1000 x 1000) on top of each other would be 110,000 mm tall, or 110 meters high (see why metric is easy? 1000 mm = 1 meter). 110 meters is approximately 120 yards, longer than the length of a football field. That’s a million one-dollar bills stacked one on top of the other. So much for my fellow employee’s statement.

A billion is one thousand million. 110 meters is .11 kilometers and when you multiply that by a thousand, to get one billion, (.11 kilometers x 1000) you get a stack of one dollar bills 110 kilometers (approximately 68 miles) tall. Mount Everest is 8.85 km (5.5 miles). 110 km is almost 12.5 times the height of Mount Everest. Twelve and a half Mount Everest mountains on top of each other would equal a stack of one billion one-dollar bills. Presently, there are 7.5 billion people in the world. What if each dollar bill represented one person alive today that stack would be 825 km (approximately 513 miles) tall or 93.75 times the height of Mount Everest! This is the height most low orbiting satellites travel at.

 Take a moment to think about this. A stack of one billion one-dollar bills stacked on top of each other representing each person would be tall enough to reach space. I’ll wait.

That’s a lot of people living on Earth today.

This is why I find apocalyptic scenarios that speculate the complete extinction of human being so far-fetched. One billion is a large number and seven and a half, well, you see. Even if you were to kill off 99.99% of the human population there would still be 750,000 people alive. 750,000 is the estimated number of humans alive 10,000 years ago at the dawn of agriculture and city-states. From 750,000 to 7.5 billion in just 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in geological time! Hardly an extinction event in human terms. Nothing human beings have created thus far can kill every man, woman, and child on this planet. Yes, the human loss would be devastating but not complete. We are as indestructible as the worst of any infestation. Considering the number of species that have become extinct by our hands, beginning with the megafauna around 12,000 years ago, animal life on Earth has more to fear by our presence than any other natural event. By the end of the 21st century, if present trends continue, the human population on this planet will reach 10 billion! Not even climate change will kill us all off but the human suffering will be incalculable. Now, let’s take it up a notch and see what a stack of one trillion one-dollar bills would look like. That is if we can.

A trillion of anything is thrown around these days with as little true meaning as a billion was decades ago. A trillion is, in fact, a huge number. We just saw that our stack of one billion one-dollar bills would reach outer space. Doing the math as we have done before, multiplying by one thousand, our stack is now 825,000 km tall (512,630 miles). The distance to the moon is 363,100 km (238,900 miles). That would make our stack a little over two and a quarter-time the distance from the earth to the moon. Another way to think of it would be to make two equal stacks reaching the moon with a lot of change leftover. The stack laid on its side would circle the Earth a little over 33 times! The United States’ national debt is now at $28.3 trillion and growing every year.

I’ll give you another minute to think about that one.

$28 plus trillion dollars is an amount in debt your great, great, great-grandchildren would barely make a dent in paying it off. And like I said, it grows every year. The United States would have to run on a balanced budget up to its quadricentennial to pay it all off. It’s just impossible. Yet, politicians are always talking about how cutting a million here, or a million there makes them fiscally responsible. Who are they kidding if it’s not their constituents? Quibbling over a billion dollars, and cutting vital programs in the process, seems a little like trying to empty an ocean with a teacup.

Now, I’m going to skip a great deal of order of magnitude and discuss another term widely used but little understood by the general public, infinity. Just what does infinity mean? To most people, it means “something that goes on forever”. But can anybody truly picture what “forever’ means? Is it to the end of time? Well, no. Because the universe has a beginning, the Big Bang and, if physicists are correct, there is an end. One theory states that the “End” will come when the universe has expanded so far that star formation will come to a complete halt because the matter will be so thinned out no material could clump to make new stars a quadrillion years in the future. That’s one followed by fifteen zeros. What stars are left would form black holes that would eventually, due to the escape of Hawking radiation, will slowly fade away in ten to hundred quintillion (one followed by nineteen or twenty zeros) years from now. The only thing left at this point is a thin soup of basic particles that too will eventually lose energy and decay after a huge amount of time (1 followed by 200 zeros years from now). At this time, in the far, far future, with no movement, no particles, not even enough energy to register, time cannot be said to have any real meaning, and, so, it can be considered the “End of Time”. But this is not infinity for it goes on forever. This is why physicists hate infinity for to them it means simply “I don’t know”.

There you are, working on equations that will solve the Grand explanation of Everything and after years of work your answer comes out as “infinity”. Talk about frustration. Yet, the general public throws it around like it’s a household word. There are Infinity Stones, infinite multiverses (redundant, really), infinite possibilities (but, really, only a few possibilities). Infinity is, in human terms, an unknown and one that, by definition, can never be known.

-A. M. Holmes

Author’s Note; I’m not going to include any citations for the piece because I went to Google for such things as “how tall is Mount Everest” and “how far is the moon”. If I could do this, so can you if you have any doubts. I do think my math is pretty sound but if I did make mistakes please point them down in the comments along with the correct answer. -A. M. Holmes

Challenge Accepted!

A Pro-Trump Meme from Facebook I couldn’t resist trolling

Challenge accepted. I’ll go down the line of what I love about the Democratic platform (and what the party, Biden, and Harris have committed to) and then any of you Trumpsters can present the Republican’s version (betcha most of you don’t even know). And just like the meme says, INSTEAD OF BASHING DEMOCRATS, WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE REPUBLICANS.

1. Instead of lying to the people of this country and not take responsibility how about acting like a real leader. When 9/11 happened, President Bush took control and mobilized our nation not only militarily but in political solidarity. We need that sort of leadership to get through the pandemic. Unity, not denial and finger-pointing.

2. Our economy is a mess and shoveling more money into big businesses isn’t doing anything but making the rich richer. We need to get our butts out of the 20th century and come up with new and innovative ideas to move forward. FDR did the same and brought our nation out of the Depression.

3. We have the ACA (Obamacare) and for as many times Republicans tried to repeal it, it remains. So, lets compromise and REFINE IT so it works for EVERYONE.

4. Reform, reform, reform. That’s all Washington has talked about concerning our justice system and all it has amounted to is building more prisons and shoving social worker duties onto our already overwhelmed police forces. What’s a “wellness check” going to do if crimes are committed elsewhere? The bottom line in many escalating circumstances is, we must separate mental/social care to those better trained, and the police to do what they do best -protecting people and property.

5. The scenes of the Western coast burn (due to severe drought), the numerous cat 4 hurricanes, weather patterns changing across the country are symptoms of what is happening around the world. You can continue to deny it, but the reality is CLIMATE CHANGE is here. But what can we do? There is an opportunity here that will not only provide jobs but make America the center of a NEW GREEN TECHNOLOGICAL INITIATIVE by investing time, money, and some of the brightest people to work on it. Fossil fuels, and the economies it supports, are like the diabetic eating only cake and ice cream, eventually, he will die soon than later. That’s what we need to avoid to make America TRULY great again.

6. Putting up a wall isn’t working. It never will and will be seen as a boondoggle someday. We have the technology (drones, motion cameras, etc.) that are more efficient than the old tech of “round them up and ship them out”. What about the ones already here? Let’s come up with a way to integrate them into our country. We’ve done it many times before with the Germans, Irish, Asians, Italians why not now? Canada has the largest number of immigrants and they can handle it by just doing that, handling it.

7. If there one thing that this pandemic has proven is that when it comes to wifi, we are a THIRD WORLD COUNTRY. Right now, there are Chinese goat herders in western China that gets better connectivity than most of us. What does this have to do with public education?  How many of you have kids who had to, or now, do online classes? Public education SHOULD BE FREE TO THE PUBLIC AND SO SHOULD THE MEANS IT IS PROVIDED!

8. Leadership. Truman once said, “Leadership is the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do and like it.” Right now, nobody likes doing what needs to be done and avoiding responsibility. We need leadership back in our presidency and as another Truman quote goes, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” If you can’t stand the criticism, the hard work, the advice of others more learned in those areas of concern, then step down and let someone else a try.

Your turn. What’s good about the Republicans? And don’t use single-syllable words and GIFs. Speak up and defend what Trump will do for you. by saying “America will be GREAT and Safe” means absolutely NOTHING if you can’t back it up.

What You Should Remember On November 3rd, 2020

“Trump will attempt to start or buy a media company that can compete with Fox News and do battle with everyone else.” This is what Timothy L. O’Brien wrote in a Bloomberg Opinion article on June 7th, 2020  (https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-07/trump-s-ugly-week-reveals-how-he-wants-to-be-remembered).  I see this as a strong likelihood because if there has been one constant in the Trump administration it’s that everything centers around him. If you have any doubt of this just remember this, he has publicly referred to himself as “the Chosen One”. His arrogance, his megalomaniacal view of self-worth, lacks any justification. Donald J. Trump is a farce of a man with no substance.

This administration has given us no peace treaty with North Korea or Afghanistan. We have no trade agreements with China, Japan, the European Union (though NAFTA has been tweaked it still cannot be called “NAFTA 2”), or OPEC. “Law and Order” President? No reforms in gun control regulation at any time in the foreseeable future despite the school and public mass shootings. On the global scene, North Korea is still a “rogue” nation, the Taliban is leaving peace talks, and we have no SALT Treaty with Russia. Healthcare? Despite the over 50 attempts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act by the GOP, Trump has not come up with a replacement (he does want to make changes to Medicare and Medicaid by allowing coverage through private insurers and cutting government spending). Immigration reform: increase in arrests and still pushing for a costly and mostly inefficient wall (there are alternatives in technology like the use of drones that would be more efficient and less costly).

Then there is what he has done. He has rolled back EPA standards and regulations almost to pre-Obama (even pre-Bush) times benefitting pollution producing industries like coal and petroleum. His Farm Relieve directives he signed to help farmers in the trade tariff war he created with China benefitted mostly the Big Agribusinesses and suppliers than small farms. He has increased funding to the Defense Department which mostly benefitted military manufacturers. Trump has stepped on state’s rights by rolling back interstate commercial transportation taxes. Talking about taxes, he has given tax credits to the wealthy and corporations with the idea that it will get to the regular worker (“trickle-down” has never worked before it will not work now). Oh, and he has bullied, insulted, and threatened everyone who has seen through incredulous scams. I can continue with the other debacles, “Russiagate”, Covid-19, George Floyd Protest, but why? We all saw it. His lack of leadership in any situation is very self-evident.

When November 3rd comes around I want you to remember the last 4 years and ask yourself this, must we allow this petty, shallow, self-gratifying man-child to serve another four more years?  I hope your answer is no and that you vote for Joe Biden.

Donald Trump’s June 1st strolled from the White House to the steps of St. John’s Church for a staged photo-op. Moments before Washington D.C. police tear gassed peaceful George Floyd protesters to make way for the president’s entourage of White House administrators, secret service personnel, and chosen media.

From The Hill: “GOP Woman on Kavanaugh Allegations: ‘What boy hasn’t done this in high school?’”

The Hill on Twitter Republican women defend Kavanaugh What boy hasn_t done this in high school https t co yMLe5bdVSa…

The title of this article almost made me throw-up. The report was about an interview CNN conducted with five women from Florida about Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She says that when they both attended the high school he had pinned her down and “tried to remove her clothes at a high school party in the 1980s and covered her mouth to muffle her screams.” These women defended Judge Kavanaugh because of his impeccable record on the bench and, as one woman put it, “How can we believe the word of a woman of something that happened 36 years ago… There is nobody that has spoken ill will about him.” I just stared at my computer monitor and shook my head. I read the rest, read through the history, the comments from the Democrats and those defending Doctor Ford’s statement and more of what the GOP and these women had to say. It left me deeply disturbed but not totally in disbelief for a good reason.

By now most people following the news knows of the reactions from both political parties and of the President’s comments. On Twitter, one woman commenting on the article said, “Imagine hypothetically if this happened at the school where these women’s had girls attending. What would they tell their daughters? “Boys just do those things.”

My wife, daughter and I don’t have to think hypothetically we know first hand what can happen because it happened in our high school. For reasons that will become apparent to some, or at least its implications, I can not name the school district or the high school where this happened. I can not name the individuals involved nor those who investigated the incident without facing legal retribution. All I can do is relate the basic facts.

5 girls tried to file a complaint against a boy who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. My daughter stepped up to encourage these girls to come forward. What happened next floored us. The girls were interrogated separately by a police officer and school administrator and were repeatedly asked if this was made up. Afterward, the boy was “severely talked to” but no police report was filed, and nothing noted into his school record. We were told “kids will start things and not mean it”, “the boy was just messing around”, and, love this one, “you don’t want to ruin a young man’s reputation just on what a bunch of girls says”. The girls never talked to anyone further about this and my daughter was bullied through social media by the boy and his friends.

My daughter finally had to leave the school district but not before we found out two things. 1. the police officer who took the statements was already criticizing the credibility of the young women BEFORE he talked to them and 2. the boy’s father worked for the school district. I also learned from my oldest two children who had attended this high school, and from others, that it had the reputation of being “The Rape School” of the district.

This is the society we live in and the culture that must change. This is America now where boys will be boys only if you let them.

 

Battles Are Not Won By Skirmishes and Wars Are Not Won Without Wins!

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As President Trump continues to lie, manipulate, and bully his populistic policies his nationalist followers continue to mistaken it for effectiveness and ignore the folly of it. In the meanwhile, our country continues on its chaotic course creating trade wars with stronger economies than our own and alienating allies. To stop Trump the majority that opposes him has to unite under one movement and one party. This could be the Democratic Party. Trump himself today said that if the Democrats wish to determine who becomes Supreme Court Justice they need to win elections.

If that’s the case then let’s do it! Let the “Blue Wave” overwhelm the Republicans in the November Elections! But in order to do that the Democrat Party has to pick their fights skillfully and escape the label of “liberal obstructionist” the Republicans have put on them. They have to embrace those issues the GOP have shown to be least effective and win on issues like immigration; trade; gun control and healthcare.

Let them have their Supreme Court Justice pick, let Trump have Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice. Battles are not won by skirmishes and wars are not won without wins! To win in the 2018 mid-term elections the Democrats must be the Progressive leadership Millennials and Gen-Z are looking for. Only they have the numbers to effectively overwhelm Trump Boomer support.

-A. M. Holmes

 

Racism, a thought.

Although it is widely thought among Americans that racism is a bad thing it seems to be generally tolerated. It’s kind of like a group of the loudest, most obnoxious people you can think of in a crowded room. Some will distance themselves, “If you don’t pay them the attention they’ll quiet down and go away”. Some will pretend they don’t exist, “Nonsense, there’s no one that loud in here and if there were, what of it? EVERYBODY is noisy.” Others will try to rationalize the whole thing, “Maybe they have a reason to be rude?”. None of this really works against racists and their hate so we are often left with only two courses of action. As a majority, we could shout louder and drown them out or, better yet, throw them out of the room altogether.

-A. M. Holmes

Not On Pomp and Circumstance But of the Rights of the People: The True Meaning of the 4th of July

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“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, begins one of Western civilization’s most important documents, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America for independence. Much has already been said about it in the last 242 years since it was written and I’m sure much more will be said today on this July 4th, 2018 especially on social media and Twitter in particular. You’ll hear how this is the work of a people seeking Freedom and Justice from an overbearing dictatorial monarchy, or of how this was the foundation upon which this Great Country was built on, or of how a bunch of privileged White Men got together and for their own purposes created such hypocrisy. You’ll hear all of this and maybe even a little about the history that led to that meeting on July in Philadelphia. Consider this my small contribution for I think it’s the next part of the document that I find relevant to our times and worth a look.

 “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”.

Here we have a group of people who came to the Americas seeking asylum from whatever affected them, war; famine; disease; religious and ethnic persecution and established a new home in a land controlled by a government distant not only geographically, but culturally and ideologically as well. King George III and Great Britain were involved in several conflicts mostly around the issue of trade and with France in opposition. At first, they couldn’t have cared less what a bunch of lower class migrants did if they could still be exploited. The government needed money to fight its wars and taxing the importation of goods was a good and quick way of getting it. The elitist aristocrats in England were not concerned with how this would affect the common people’s livelihood, they thought that the people in the Americas were too uneducated, too easily influenced by sedition, not worth the trouble if they remained loyal to the Monarchy.  But, if they did become rebellious, a swift and powerful show of force was necessary to put them back in line. This King George and Parliament did time and time again with some of its most lethal consequences in places like Boston and Charlestown, Massachusetts. Many people died in the streets, hills, and pastures trying to protest what they thought was an unfair, Godless, merciless dictatorship. And they were not all English for, as I pointed out above, many came from other countries, some willingly and others not so much, looking for the same thing, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. So, when the English government and its King refused to listen to their complaints they took the only option they thought was open to them, they assembled as representatives of the people of the thirteen United States of America and voted to reject that government through a formal Declaration of Independence. As you read it, and I encourage you to do so, you will find that it was not a declaration of armed conflict, no war between England and the Americas, but the last attempt to reach a compromise on a long list of grievances the government refused to address because it thought it as nothing more than the whining of a bunch of malcontents. Here are some of the highlights of those complaints against King George III and His Royalists Tory government:

– He (the King and his government) has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

-He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

-He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

-He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose, obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

-He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

-He has erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

-For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.

-For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s only because those who govern now have forgotten, or more so forsaken, what this country was truly founded on, not Pomp and Circumstance but of the Rights of the People to Govern themselves and when their government opposes them, that government must Abdicate its Power.

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Words to remember on July 4th, 2018 and, better yet, in November.

 

-A. M. Holmes

‘Roseanne’ Cancellation by ABC

roseanne-reboot

ABC canceled the popular ‘Roseanne’ reboot because of the furor caused by the malicious and controversial tweets posted on Twitter by Roseanne Barr and they have rightly done so. I will not dignify the remarks by repeating them here though, by now, we have all read them and know them for the racist comments that they are. Some will say that it’s okay now because she took them down and apologized. Others will say that this is just an overreaction by a “politically correct” liberal-leaning Hollywood-run corporation. But most disturbingly, I think, is that some will say that this is censorship and that it infringes on Ms. Barr’s right to free speech. I say disturbingly because no one person, no one group, especially with as great a following as Ms. Barr has, should make, as ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey put it, the “abhorrent and repugnant” remarks she made without expecting consequences. A “bad joke” she called it. The bad joke is on our society if we believe for one moment that this sort of behavior, especially coming from one so well known, is okay. It is not only wrong it’s morally wrong to even think of condoning it.

Yes, we do live in the world of the MeToo movement and the anti-bullying crusade but why they even exist goes to the heart of what is wrong with our society. We Americans were once known as a people of acceptance and tolerance, of fighting not only for the freedom and rights for ourselves but for others in the world, a giving people when we saw those in need and a righteous and moral nation that based itself on the concept that we can be better than we are. Yes, we have faltered many times through bigotry and ignorance, greed and intemperance, selfishness and indifference. And in the end, we recognize our faults and as one people we correct our mistakes by doing what is right. We don’t do that anymore.

 Instead, we are a nation divided not because of cause or politics, but because some believe it is ideologically correct to abandon our moral conscious, our duty to others, our civic obligation to uphold the basic Rights that founded our country of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. We are rotten with the abscess of hatred that corrupts our soul and gives strength to our neurosis of fear. We build walls to exclude others. We threaten with violence those that do not agree with us. We cheat those less fortunate to “get a better deal”. And most troubling we abuse others because of their gender, race, religion, and place of origin.

Is there a cure for what morally sickens our nation? I don’t know. But, I do think what that the company owned by “The House That Mickey Mouse Built” did today is in the right direction.

-A. M. Holmes

Sunday Thought

Extremist ideology has always used the idea of the “external threat” as a source of their power and “us against them” the reason for abandoning democracy for a dictatorship. Angry White Americans, because of extreme Right-wing ideological demagoguery and rhetoric, perceive themselves as disenfranchised see politically driven lies as truths. The Left is no better but nothing is more insidious than the manner in which populist nationalism brings down a republic from within. Just look at every dictatorial regime in the last 300 years that ended democracy by proclaiming “We will make our nation great again!”

Wow, and I thought I was a Progressive Thinker.

Three female scientists discussing their research

This morning I got a Twitter notification from All Revolutions (@RevolutionsCen) about an article from The Atlantic by Ed Young (@edyong209 ) where, as he tells it in I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in My Stories , “I knew that I care about equality, so I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn’t part of the problem”.  He had seen how a lot of his articles reflected a gender bias he never intended to portray. Reading this opened my eyes to the fact that even though I claim to be “gender-blind” I wasn’t doing any better. Here I’m thinking I’m a progressive thinking person now to find out I’m as dirty as our misogynist President (I wasn’t aware of Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna, and CRISPR). I was fooling myself completely. Now I begin to wonder where else has my supposed “blindness” toward gender, race, or ethnicity has misled me to promote instead the same prejudices I have always felt unjust?  The article is very enlightening. Also, it has good resource information at the end of it.

-A.M. Holmes