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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Tidal Wave of Death

The 1918 Spanish flu was a killer of historic proportions.

Michael J. Totten Autumn 2020 @ City Journal, published with permission.  I recommend subscribing, and it's free.

In 1918 and 1919, the novel H1N1 “Spanish flu” virus killed between 50 million and 100 million people—as much as 5 percent of the world’s population—mostly within a few months, making the contemporaneous mass murder of World War I look like a bagatelle. The pandemic was, Laura Spinney writes in her book Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, “the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, perhaps in the whole of human history.”

No one knows for sure where it started. There was no ground zero, no “Wuhan.” It may have begun in Europe or in East Asia, but the first confirmed cases appeared in rural Haskell County, Kansas, with the first large and verified outbreak erupting at an army base there. Soldiers traveling to World War I battlefields then spread it to Europe; and from there, it encircled the globe.

The H1N1 virus of 1918 was roughly 25 times more lethal than the seasonal flu and also more deadly than the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes Covid-19, especially as the latter’s mortality rate is declining now that we’re better able to treat it. It killed an estimated 2.5 percent of its victims. Life expectancy in the United States plunged by more than ten years. This was partly due to the flu itself—at its peak, it killed more people than everything else combined—and partly because it knocked hospitals out of commission almost everywhere, preventing doctors and nurses from treating much else.

“They called the plague of 1918 influenza,” Gina Kolata writes in her book Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, “but it was like no influenza ever seen before. It was more like a biblical prophecy come true, something from Revelations that predicted that first the world was to be struck by war, then famine, and then, with the breaking of the fourth seal of the scroll foretelling the future, the appearance of a horse, ‘deathly pale, and its rider was called Plague, and Hades followed at its heels.’ ”

Coronaviruses emerge from bats, flu viruses from birds. Bats and birds have adapted to these viruses so perfectly that they don’t even get sick when they carry them. The overwhelming majority of the millions of viruses that infect animals around the world have no effect on humans. Before a zoonotic virus can infect a person, it must transform itself either through mutation or, more likely, through genetic recombination that becomes possible when it first jumps to an intermediate species. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), for instance, is caused by a bat coronavirus that can leap to humans after infecting a camel. (It kills 20 percent of its victims; thankfully, it isn’t very contagious.) Novel flu viruses often leap from birds to pigs, whose immune systems closely resemble our own. If a flu virus manages to modify itself well enough to survive in a pig, or if it combines itself inside a pig’s body with an endemic flu virus that can already infect humans, a brand-new virus, to which no one on earth has immunity, can emerge. It has happened repeatedly; it happened in 1918, and it is sure to happen again.

The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is a big bomb with a long fuse. It can take two weeks for a person to test positive for it after exposure and then several more weeks or even another month or longer to die from it. The 1918 flu virus was different. “The strongest, the healthiest, the most robust people in the county,” John Barry writes in The Great Influenza, “were being struck down as suddenly as if they had been shot.” That sounds strange, even impossible. It takes time for any disease to establish a foothold and spread throughout the body after initial exposure. But viruses don’t multiply in the body in a linear fashion—especially not the 1918 virus. Each virus that invaded and hijacked a human cell made hundreds of thousands of copies of itself inside that cell over a ten-hour period. Then each of those hundreds of thousands of viruses burst forth at the same time and went on to hijack more cells and make millions more copies. So every ten hours, the flu became hundreds of thousands of times stronger. The number of viruses produced after several ten-hour generations can stagger the minds even of mathematical geniuses. (How many viruses is five hundred thousand times five hundred thousand?)

So yes, people literally collapsed while walking down the street, as if shot. Some died within hours. Victims were so starved of oxygen that their faces and bodies turned black-and-blue. Blood poured from their noses, mouths, eyes, and even their ears. Lungs were so ravaged that doctors had seen such destruction only in the victims of poison gas attacks in the trenches of Europe and those killed by the pneumonic plague, the respiratory version of the Black Death.

“Although about 20 percent of its victims had a mild disease and recovered without incident,” Kolata writes, “the rest had one of two terrifying illnesses. Some almost immediately became deathly ill, unable to get enough oxygen because their lungs had filled with fluid. They died in days, or even hours, delirious with a high fever, gasping for breath, lapsing at last into unconsciousness. In others, the illness began as an ordinary flu, with chills, fever, and muscle aches, but no untoward symptoms. By the fourth or fifth day of the illness, however, bacteria would swarm into their injured lungs and they would develop pneumonia that would either kill them or lead to a long period of convalescence.” Barry writes of how people were “terrified that, no matter how mild the symptoms seemed at first, within them moved an alien force, a seething, spreading infection, a live thing with a will that was taking over their bodies.”

The staggering 100 million death toll was bad enough, but it came with an especially cruel twist: the disease was especially lethal to young people. Those in their prime, in their twenties and thirties, were by far the most likely to die. And among that group, pregnant women were even more vulnerable. As many as 10 percent of young adults worldwide were cut down. Hospitals strangely reported few extreme cases in elderly people, with the vast majority of those who died younger than 40. Various theories attempt to explain why. The most convincing is that many young adults suffered a “cytokine storm,” the immune system’s hydrogen bomb—a dramatic overreaction to an otherwise moderate infection that kills healthy cells along with the pathogen that it has been unleashed to destroy. Elderly people in 1918 rarely suffered such a cytokine storm. Their aging immune systems weren’t strong enough to mount one. And children often fare better with diseases than adults, anyway, from the so-called childhood diseases like measles and chicken pox to Covid-19. But young adults in 1918 were felled as if that were the pandemic’s purpose.

Flu viruses mutate constantly, especially the antigen, the part of a pathogen that the immune system recognizes and binds to when it fights back. A viral antigen functions almost like a flag or a military uniform identifying it as a known enemy. When the antigen mutates, the immune system no longer recognizes the invader, so it fails to wage an effective defense before the disease can establish a foothold. Flu antigens are unstable and constantly changing, which is why we need a new vaccine every year that includes antigens of the viruses currently circulating.

There’s a difference, though, between “antigenic drift” and “antigenic shift.” If a flu virus antigen mutates a little bit, the immune system can still mount an effective, if belated, defense, reducing the severity of the disease. Antigenic shift is worse—the stuff of an epidemiologist’s nightmares. That’s when the antigen changes so completely that nobody can recognize it, leaving the entire human race exposed and defenseless. This is what makes novel pandemic viruses so much more dangerous than endemic seasonal viruses. With a novel pandemic virus, no herd immunity exists, and the virus can wash over the entire human race like a tsunami.

But there was still some immune-system resistance in some parts of the world to the 1918 virus, mostly among Europeans, Asians, and their descendants, whose ancestors had survived repeated flu pandemics in decades and centuries past. “Survivors of plagues,” Kolata writes, “were the genetically lucky ones who had inherited a resistance to the disease-causing organisms. Even in the most extreme plagues, there are resistant people who either do not become infected, no matter how many times they are exposed to the sickness, or who get only a mild disease and recover. When everyone else is dying, the resistant people will be the ones who remain to propagate. Their genes will begin to predominate. And those who were genetically susceptible to the devastating illnesses would lose out in the great Darwinian struggle.”

People in Africa, the South Pacific, and the Arctic were more vulnerable. And they died in much larger numbers. So while the flu killed “only” 1 percent or 2 percent of its victims in the Western world, 3 percent to 6 percent of Africa’s population died in a few weeks. Some villages were annihilated down to the last child. In Fiji, 14 percent of the entire population was killed in just 16 days. “It was as if the virus were a hunter,” Barry writes. “It was hunting mankind. It found man in the cities easily, but it was not satisfied. It followed him into towns, then villages, then individual homes. It searched for him in the most distant corners of the earth. It hunted him in the forests, tracked him into jungles, pursued him onto the ice. And in those most distant corners of the earth, in those places so inhospitable that they barely allowed man to live, in those places where man was almost wholly innocent of civilization, man was not safer from the virus. He was more vulnerable.”

The virus killed up to one-third of the entire population of Canada’s northern Labrador region. In some Alaska villages, as many as 90 percent of adults perished. Up there especially, it looked and felt like the end of the world. Victor Vaughan at the Council of National Defense wrote that “if the epidemic continues its mathematical rate of acceleration, civilization could easily disappear . . . from the face of the earth within a matter of a few more weeks.”

The pandemic came in three distinct waves. The first, which began in Kansas, was the equivalent of a bad seasonal flu in a normal year. Then it quieted down during the summer, as seasonal flus always do, but it returned in a second wave during the fall, and the second wave was apocalyptic. When it had smoldered largely undetected during the summer, the virus had mutated into a perfect killing machine.

It exploded with the suddenness of a meteor strike and infected staggering numbers of people in a wide area more or less simultaneously. Barry likens it to the process of a pot of water coming to a boil. “First an isolated bubble releases from the bottom and rises to the surface,” he writes. “Then another. Then two or three simultaneously. Then half a dozen. But unless the heat is turned down, soon enough all the water within the pot is in motion, the surface a roiling violent chaos.”

It hit Philadelphia particularly hard. Local officials wouldn’t even consider imposing social distancing recommendations. Ignoring warnings by local doctors, they refused to cancel an upcoming Liberty Loan parade, even after a nearby military base experienced a surge of infections. So tens of thousands of people who had no idea that they were in danger gathered in one place, jam-packed together for hours. Some of them—soldiers from the base, probably—were infected and didn’t know it. 

They spread the disease during their brief pre-symptomatic period, and the pandemic established a foothold in the city. It didn’t relent until it ran out of victims. Three days after the parade, every bed in the city’s hospitals was full. Hundreds of people died daily. Local officials finally closed businesses and schools; but by then, it was too late. Hundreds of thousands were already sick, and they had all fallen ill at the same time. The flu killed 11,000 people in Philadelphia in a single month.


The health-care system collapsed: not only were the hospitals out of beds; there were no tables in morgues and no coffins for the cemeteries. “Corpses,” Barry writes, “had backed up in homes. They lay on porches, in closets, in corners of the floor, on beds. Children would sneak away from adults to stare at them, to touch them; a wife would lie next to a dead husband, unwilling to move him or leave him. The corpses, reminders of death and bringers of terror or grief, lay under ice at Indian-summer temperatures. Their presence was constant, a horror demoralizing the city.” Then the city, he writes, “began to implode in chaos and fear.” Priests drove wagons down residential streets and told the living to bring out their dead. And what happened in Philadelphia was soon happening everywhere, not just in America but around the world.

The pandemic exploded amid World War I, after President Woodrow Wilson had already imposed a Fidel Castro–style censorship regime that suppressed criticism of the government or any other writing or speech that might hurt wartime morale. Wilson’s Sedition Act of 1918 criminalized “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” and punished offenders with up to 20 years in prison. Newspapers and magazines considered “unpatriotic” were canceled, as we would say today. Dissenting civilians were intimidated, and sometimes worse. The government spied on private citizens and arrested them even for casual offhand remarks. These efforts were bolstered by the American Protective League, a secret police network staffed by 250,000 employees who spied on citizens in 600 cities and towns. They implanted themselves as undercover agents in places like factories, where they could listen to conversations. They inspired schoolboys to form their own informant organization, the Anti–Yellow Dog League.

“Everywhere,” Barry writes, the APL “spied on neighbors, investigated ‘slackers’ and ‘food hoarders,’ demanded to know why people didn’t buy—or didn’t buy more—Liberty Bonds.” Government posters and ads encouraged friends and neighbors to turn in their own friends and neighbors. Wilson was a Democrat and a leading light of the progressive movement, but not even his political opposition in the Republican Party complained about any of this. Republicans backed the White House’s police state wholeheartedly.

Newspapers, either terrified of or in league with the White House, lied about the pandemic daily, even as it scythed through the American population. It’s just the flu, the papers said; calm down. Conspiracy theorists accused the Germans of creating the virus in a lab. The same thing happened in Europe. “Further from the theatre of war,” Spinney writes, “people followed the time-honoured rules of epidemic nomenclature and blamed the obvious other. In Senegal it was the Brazilian flu and in Brazil the German flu, while the Danes thought it ‘came from the south.’ The Poles called it the Bolshevik disease, the Persians blamed the British.”

Most European countries likewise imposed wartime censorship regimes no less extreme than Wilson’s. Spain was an exception. A neutral in the war, Spain still had a free press. Spanish journalists were still more or less free to write whatever they wanted. “When the flu arrived in Spain in May,” Spinney writes, “most Spanish people, like most people in general, assumed that it had come from beyond their own borders. In their case, they were right. It had been in America for two months already, and France for a matter of weeks at least. Spaniards didn’t know that, however, because news of the flu was censored in the warring nations.”

So when free Spanish journalists published newspaper articles about a terrifying wave of influenza, it appeared that Spain was the only country on earth suffering from this strange new disease. That’s how what could have been called the Kansas flu became the Spanish flu.

Thanks to Wilson and his censorship regime, American citizens, including government officials, were living deep inside an informational black hole when the pandemic struck. The government did not fill the void. There was no pandemic task force, no press conferences, no trusted medical experts informing the public via newspaper or radio interviews. There was no plan. There was nothing.

Wilson never spoke about the disease publicly. According to Barry, there is no evidence that he even spoke about it privately or asked a single person what might be done about it. He utterly ignored it and abandoned the country, even as the death toll exceeded the number of dead from every war in American history combined. American public health officials hardly did anything to stop the spread in 1918. Some cities closed businesses like movie theaters for a few days, but that was about it. Many cities didn’t even do that much.

The pandemic killed 675,000 Americans, the population-adjusted equivalent of roughly 2 million Americans today, but Rupert Blue, Wilson’s man at the Public Health Service, actively sabotaged research into the disease by refusing to fund it. Some governors begged for assistance, but little help arrived, and most local governments abdicated responsibility, just as the federal government did. Most of them, too, behaved as though the pandemic didn’t exist, including Thomas B. Smith, mayor of Philadelphia, America’s hardest-hit city. Like Wilson, he never mentioned it once.

Journalists failed as spectacularly as the government. “As terrifying as the disease was,” Barry writes, “the press made it more so. They terrified by making little of it, for what officials and the press said bore no relationship to what people saw and touched and smelled and endured. People could not trust what they read. Uncertainty follows distrust, fear follows uncertainty, and, under conditions such as these, terror follows fear.” Officials and journalists who did bother to say anything insisted that the terror sweeping the country was more dangerous than the flu. The more they lied, the more terrified people became.

San Francisco was an exception. It fared better during the brutal second wave than any other major American city—partly, Barry thinks, because of its experience with a historic and devastating earthquake 12 years earlier. The city had already gone through a large-scale disaster that required mass mobilization and the building of a more robust public-health network. Local officials were frank about the threat, and they closed businesses and urged everyone to wear masks. “In San Francisco,” Barry writes, “people felt a sense of control.”

As with Covid-19 a century later, public officials in 1918 closed businesses and urged people to wear masks. (ATOMIC/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)
As with Covid-19 a century later, public officials in 1918 closed businesses and urged people to wear masks. (ATOMIC/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)

The failures in managing the illness were not uniquely American—they were civilization-wide. “The major Italian newspaper the Corriere della Sera took an original stance in reporting daily death tolls from flu,” Spinney writes, “until civil authorities forced it to stop doing so on the grounds that it was stirring up anxiety among the citizenry. . . . The authorities don’t seem to have realised that the paper’s ensuing silence on the matter bred even greater anxiety.”

As Barry wrote in 2004: “Those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”

The Spanish flu pandemic lasted a year and a half, with different parts of the world hardest hit at different times. The virus couldn’t last a year and a half everywhere: it was so ferociously infectious that it exploded throughout a given population until a critical mass of people were either dead or immune. When it ran out of victims in one place, it moved on to pulverize somewhere else.

The third and final wave wasn’t as virulent as the second. The virus had mutated into a somewhat less lethal form, though it was still vicious—if the third wave were treated as its own isolated outbreak, it would have registered as the second-deadliest pandemic in history. Australia managed to avoid the second wave entirely by walling itself off from the rest of the world, but the surprise third wave pierced the country’s defenses, and the terror and death that swept through its cities and towns was described as if it were the bubonic plague. Elsewhere, many who had been infected by the second wave got sick again in the third wave, but the disease was milder for them because they had partial immunity from their earlier exposure. Having been spared the second wave, Australians had no such protection.

Roughly a year and a half after it appeared, the pandemic finally subsided. The virus still lurked, but it infected people far less frequently, and those who did fall ill were more likely to survive. So many had already been infected that a degree of herd immunity had been achieved; there simply weren’t as many potential victims or as many potential spreaders. As American virologist Jeffery Taubenberger explained to Kolata: “A flu that is so freakishly perfect for killing people is far out on the edge of what is possible for influenza viruses, meaning that any mutations will make it less deadly.” It is a virus in “perfect balance,” Taubenberger said, “and it is a balance that will tip toward the more mundane type of flu with the tiniest nudge.” The virus had checkmated itself. That, rather than science and medicine, is what ended the 1918 pandemic.

This is not likely to happen with the novel coronavirus. Unlike flu viruses, it’s relatively stable. It mutates more slowly. And unlike the 1918 flu virus, in particular, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is not the most efficient killer that a coronavirus possibly can be. The original SARS killed roughly 10 percent of its victims before testing, contact tracing, and isolation forced it into extinction, and MERS kills roughly 20 percent. Fortunately for the world, the coronaviruses that cause those diseases are much less transmissible than the youngest member of that murderous family.

While governments in 1918 failed largely through negligence and denial, medical scientists dedicated every waking moment to treating patients and searching for the pathogen so that they could develop a cure or vaccine. They failed heroically. Science simply hadn’t advanced far enough. Doctors weren’t sure if the disease was caused by bacteria or a virus, and viruses are so small that no one ever saw one until more than a decade later, with the invention of the electron microscope. Creating a vaccine back then wasn’t possible. Nature itself saved us—but only after running its course.

The novel coronavirus is not as deadly as the 1918 flu virus, but it could still kill millions of people. The difference is that this time we are willing—and able—to fight back.

Top Photo: Between 50 million and 100 million people—as much as 5 percent of the world’s population at that time—were killed by the 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic. (MCCOOL/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)


Fascinating variations — Weather made (sort of) understandable: Part Two

Weather is nothing more and nothing less than nature trying to equilibrate the balance of all energy transmitted to the Earth by the Sun.

 By , December 16th, 2020 @ CFACT

As we did in Part One of this series of essays on the weather, we shall start with what you may believe is a shocking exclamation. Weather is nothing more and nothing less than nature trying to equilibrate the balance of all energy transmitted to the Earth by the Sun. It is a never-ending multi-level physics show trying to overcome imbalances and irregularities too numerous to quantify accurately. Yet, we try hour after hour, day after day, all across the Earth.

Fascinating variations -- Weather made (sort of) understandable: Part Two


There are significant temperature differences between the air in valleys and air at the top of the mountains. In Figure 1, we see snows on top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. While Mt Kilimanjaro is on the equator, the higher up you go on the mountain, it no longer has equatorial temperatures. It gets very cold. It’s so tall and massive that it creates its own sub-weather system. The top of the mountain is cold enough to snow and accumulate it. The low atmospheric pressure there literally sucks up much of the available water vapor/air from miles around its base. This rising air/ water vapor condenses and becomes clouds. Then it precipitates on the colder northern side of the mountain in the form of rain or snow, depending on temperature and pressure differences.

So, when it’s snowing on top of Kilimanjaro, say it’s 29° F, it

accumulates, but in the valley, below it maybe 80° F. Therefore, the hot air from the valley starts to rush up the mountain quickly, and when it reaches near the top, some of the snow melts in the air, and it rains. But some of the snow does something strange. Because of the lower boiling point at high elevations, the snow is heated so rapidly that it turns directly into water vapor, a process called sublimation. The snow is melting so fast that it does not bother to first liquefy into water. It goes straight to the gas phase, water vapor. As the cold air strips and condenses the water vapor as it’s sucked up the mountain, it’s condensed on the colder mountainside. There it rains or snows, but the other, warmer side of the mountain, is an arid wasteland. Ecologically speaking, the weather system is in a dynamic balance, but the people, animals, and vegetation on the mountain’s wrong side have difficult living conditions. A balanced ecosystem is not necessarily a good” system for all.

An even more prominent example of this extreme temperature/pressure difference and its cycle is in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Here this similar upward rush of air from the western Pacific Ocean to the sky is so fast that it is the primary driver of the now- familiar and periodic El Niño, which creates a temporary atmosphere and is the air/water equivalent to that of Kilimanjaro. After some years, the process reverses, causing the cooling cycle, which we call La Niña. This cycle was only recently discovered, and we still have a lot to learn about it.


Let’s now compare the properties of water and water vapor and see how they affect the weather. Keep in mind that 20-30 percent of the Sun’s’ energy never reaches the land or the oceans. Some is reflected back to outer space by the air and the clouds, and some is absorbed by the atmosphere and clouds.

More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered and filled with water, accounting for about 96 percent of all Earth’s water. The rest of the 4 percent exists as water vapor in the air, flowing in rivers, stored in lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, and in the ground as soil moisture and as groundwater in aquifers.

How water heats up, cools down, loses, and redistributes the Sun’s heat is very different than how the land and air do it. Water, primarily in the oceans, receives the Sun’s rays. Before the rays penetrate the shallow surface water, a significant amount is reflected by the water back through the air, where some is stored in the air and /clouds, which createsthe greenhouse effect.” The seas absorb the rest of the Sun’s rays/heat. But water absorbs the Sun’s energy/heat, mostly from the infrared rays (IR) and the visible wavelengths, and it does so much more slowly than land. The oceans can absorb and store four times more heat than the air. The heated water on top expands, which makes it is less dense than the colder water. As a result, the warmer waters keep rising to the top layers; whereas, the more frigid, denser waters sink and keep sinking to the bottom. At great depths, these colder waters remain for centuries or even many millennia.

The warmer waters generally stay within 100-200 meters from the ocean top, and the temperatures keep declining as we go deeper and deeper. These top 100 meters of warmer waters may move at about one or two miles per hour and may take a decade or more to redistribute and mix with adjacent cooler waters. But they are still generally limited to the top 100-200 meters. The coldest of the cold waters are at the deepest parts of the ocean, and the mixing speeds there may be less than 1 one inch per century. The tiny amount of warmer water that is mixed with the colder waters below is generally limited to conduction. The warmer top layers in the seas are also why ocean ice, icebergs, and coastal glaciers will continue to melt around the waterline, even when the air temperature is below the freezing point.

Fascinating variations -- Weather made (sort of) understandable: Part Two 1 

This also explains why so much fog is over the oceans where the warm waters on the surface 

 continue to evaporate up and then condense as it comes into contact with the colder air on top. The different water temperatures of the oceans redistribute locally and over the planet at very different rates. The best-known example of this temperature redistribution is the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic Ocean. As seen in Figure – 2, the flow speeds of the top layers of the Gulf Stream can reach a breakneck pace of about 5 five miles per /hour. But it gets slower and slower as we go deeper and deeper. All told, it takes about 500 years for these top layers of water to complete the full Gulf Stream cycle.

In Part 3 of this series, we will close with a few more of the weather’s intricacies, which make those who can successfully forecast long-range, like months, not years, real superstars. Remember, most of us have not been taking the Farmer’s Almanac forecasts for the coming year too seriously, yet we actually pay attention to those that tell us the Earth is doomed in a decade or more.

Portions of this article are excerpted from the 2020 book A HITCHHIKER’S JOURNEY THROUGH CLIMATE CHANGE by Terigi Ciccone and Dr. Jay Lehr. The book is the best source for parents and grandparents to explain climate change reality to their children.  It’s especially recommended for young teens and Gen-Z as they will bear the consequences of climate change folly. 

Available from Amazon at In kindle, black and white paperback and large format full-color figures. Or send an email to


  • CFACT Senior Science Analyst Jay Lehr has authored more than 1,000 magazine and journal articles and 36 books. Jay’s new book A Hitchhikers Journey Through Climate Change written with Teri Ciccone is now available on Kindle and Amazon.

  • Engineer, Science Enthusiast and Artist. Loves reading and travel, Naturalist, Author of the new book “A Hitchhiker’s Journey Through Climate Change.”

Hollywood Fights to Free Muggers and Killers - and Lock Up Those Who Steal Their Movie

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Weather made (sort of) understandable: Part One

Weather fluctuates... naturally. 

By , |December 10th, 2020 @ CFACT

Brace yourself.

This is a bit difficult to grasp. Heat is the random motion of atoms, molecules, and other subatomic particles in a system. A system maybe a glass of water or a cloud or the planet Earth and everything else in the universe. Temperature is how we measure the energy of this motion. We measure it in

degrees Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin, or electrically with millivolts or spectral wavelengths and even in more exotic ways. So, if we put more energy into a system, say, like heating a pot of water, the motion and speed of the atoms in the water increases, as does the energy of the molecules colliding at higher speeds. Faster speeds mean more collisions and more powerful collisions. Similarly, the same thing is happening with the water container and the stove rack it sits on, and all connected things start heating as well (Fig. 1).

Conversely, if we chill the same pot, the motions of those same atoms and molecules slow down, and the temperature goes down. If we chill the system, say, a beaker of water to almost absolute zero (-273 degrees C), nearly all that motion stops, and weird things start to happen, like super electrical conductivity and bizarre quantum stuff we can set aside. Currently, we do not know how to chill something to absolute zero. For now, let’s focus on heat as it relates to weather and climate.

Now comes the question, how does heat move? How do we get heat from one thing to another? Like from the sun to the Earth or from the flame to the pot as pictured in Fig. 2?

There are three ways heat moves from hot to cold. They are convection, conduction, and radiation. In addition, you should know that heat never moves to a hotter body from a less hot body.

– Convection is what you experience when holding your hands over a bonfire, where the hotter air near the flame rises to the cooler air and warms your cold hands.

– Conduction is like warming your hands by wrapping them around a hot cup of coffee.

– Radiation happens when I put my hands beside the bonfire, and the infrared portion of the light waves travels from the flame to my hands by electromagnetic waves. Sometimes we get one or more of these methods working at the same time.

Now let’s take a look at the water in the pot and see what happens when we put water at 20 degrees C on a burner and turn on the heat. We look at the thermometer, and the red line starts going up. The question is, how high will it go? You might expect it will go to its boiling point at 100 degrees C. We are then surprised as we keep watching it and see that when it gets to about 90 degrees C, it stops. What happened? The heat from the warmer pot and water moves to the other cooler things in the room because nature does not like any temperature imbalance.

So, when we start the flame, it starts to heat the water, but it also starts heating everything around it. Not all of the heat goes from the flame to the water. Some of the heat goes to the pot, some of the heat from the flame, pot, and water goes to the air, you, the walls, etc. Moreover, if we turn on a fan and blow the warm air away from the container, it will accelerate this heat transfer to the surrounding stuff. Perhaps with the fan on, the water temperature in the container can only get to 70 degrees C. But we can get it back up to 90 degrees C or more if we turn up the flame. Do you recognize now all the variables in nature’s efforts to balance heat on the Earth itself?

We can also flip this heat/motion thing on its head. For example, in Fig. 3, we see that if you take a big hammer and smash it on an anvil hard, then put your hand on the anvil or the hammer, you will feel it has turned hot. Or if you smash it with a little hammer, then it only heats up a bit. So, we can change heat (thermal energy) to kinetic energy (energy of motion) and back the other way. This is called a reversible reaction.

Now comes the fun part. Energy will always move in one direction and never the other way around (high to low, hot to cold, fast to slow). We use this phenomenon in thousands of different ways every day without even knowing it. Engineers and scientists call this the second law of thermodynamics.” If I put an ice cube on top of a hot pan, the pan’s heat moves to the ice cube by one or more of the three means described above until the temperature difference is eliminated. Similarly, in this case, the heat from the pan warms up the ice cube until it melts and keeps heating it until the water turns to steam and vaporizes. With all the water gone, the stove continues to heat all the other stuff in the kitchen until a new higher temperature equilibrium is reached.

In weather and climate, this is a fundamental concept, as it explains many things. It describes how the sun warms the air, sea, and land during the day and why and how it cools at night. It also helps to explain how the oceans store heat and how that heat is redistributed around the planet in a vain effort to eliminate all heat and energy differences. Another thing it explains is how that heat is distributed around the globe in a futile attempt to reduce all heat and energy differences.


How about the Earth itself? There is a considerable scientific debate on how much or how significant this heat is. In a July 19, 2011 article in Physics World, a group of scientists estimated this internal heat to be approximately 50 percent of the total heat that is radiated from the Earth into outer space. Others consider that figure to be only a few percent. The debate will likely continue for a long time because it appears impossible to measure, or even to estimate. Also, what remains a significant unknown is how much of this core heat is generated by the radioactive decay of Uranium and Thorium versus how much is from the primordial energy left from Earth’s formation.

Eons ago, kinetic energy from the asteroids and meteors smashing to the Earth (remember the hammer hitting the anvil?) imparted a lot of energy into the Earth’s core. We know that this internal heat (nuclear plus residual) accounts for the molten core that generates the Earth’s magnetic field and protects us from some of the sun’s solar cosmic rays and solar winds. It’s also the same energy that moves the tectonic plates around the planet and occasionally results in volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. It is also the source of the geothermal power used in countries like Greenland and Iceland to make electricity and entertains us as we watch “Old Faithful” periodically explode at Yellowstone National Park. For climate change purposes, we can’t control this internal heat, which we can’t even measure. Therefore, we’ll treat it as a constant and “ignore it” until better data becomes available. Other sources can be natural

like a forest fire or human-made sources such as factories and automobiles.

Human-made heat comes in two varieties. The first is the direct sources, like the chemical discharge of combustion at power plants, or cars, trucks, and waste heat from electrical power plants. Then there is indirect “heating” by the retention and storing of heat by the greenhouse effect. Note that CO2 does not provide any heat by itself, but it does help the Earth retain some heat by preventing it from escaping to outer space too quickly.

At our visual level, you can see heat as a simple subject. At the Atomic-level it is very complicated. For nature, it is the reason for everything that occurs in our weather and climate.

For more information on the subject, we recommend our book A Hitchhikers Journey Through Climate Change.



  • CFACT Senior Science Analyst Jay Lehr has authored more than 1,000 magazine and journal articles and 36 books. Jay’s new book A Hitchhikers Journey Through Climate Change written with Teri Ciccone is now available on Kindle and Amazon.

  • Engineer, Science Enthusiast and Artist. Loves reading and travel, Naturalist, Author of the new book “A Hitchhiker’s Journey Through Climate Change.”



Cartoon of the Day

America’s New Jacobins

Victor Davis Hanson Tuesday, October 2, 2018 @ Hoover Institute

Maximilien Robespierre and his Jacobin “Committee of Public Safety’ highjacked the late 18th-century French Revolution. As supposedly more authentically radical revolutionaries, Jacobins did away with their supposedly less radical first-generation Girondists, who themselves had helped to liquidate the French monarchy and many of the Ancient Régime.

What followed Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror” were cycles of revolution until the appearance of Napoleon’s military autocracy. The United States, mutatis mutandis, currently seems on the verge of a new cycle of such leftwing radicalism in spirit and substance—as the old Democrat Party appears to be withering away and a new Socialist Democrat Party assumes its place.

We can see the changes in Washington. Emboldened leftwing protestors recently disrupted the Senate Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. A bewildered Majority Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley vainly tried to restore order by insisting on decorum and custom.

Yet it proved hard for an overwhelmed Grassley to distinguish the shouting in the gallery from the even more disruptive antics of the Democrat senators at his side who were vying with the protestors to authenticate their leftwing fides.

After the appearance of Christine Blasey Ford, angry young women cornered Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator, shaking their fingers at him, and screaming in his face. And the melodrama of the mob worked. A shaken and flushed Flake altered his original position and backed away from his earlier vow to confirm Kavanaugh outright. The new radicals had taken the erstwhile advice of Barrack Obama to “get in their faces” and “punish our enemies,” but took it to a new, more literal level. Or in the words of Rep. Maxine Waters, progressives were now to hit the streets: “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

Republican senators in the confirmation hearings were written off by congressional Democrats and the media as “old white men,” illegitimate inquirers due to their age and race. Traditional liberal Democratic fixtures in the Senate like Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer sought to move hard left in the twilight of their careers, and now appeared as aged firebrands mouthing 1960s rhetoric.

Presidential press conferences, always boisterous and messy, have become akin to street theater. Reporters try to hijack the proceedings, as if they were to be both questioners and answerers. Even a loud and often uncouth President Trump seems shaken when told by journalists whom he should call on next.

In Senate hearings, ancient ideas like due process, innocence until guilt is proven, cross-examination, the inadmissibility of hearsay, the need for corroborating testimonies and physical evidence, and statutes of limitations fall by the wayside, dismissed as irrelevant, problematic or counter-revolutionary.

“Fake-news” is a misnomer for partisan journalism when the New York Times falsely claims UN Ambassador Nikki Haley ordered $50,000 drapes for her office, or other media report that a teenage Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman in a boat off the coast of Rhode Island. The media is not merely an extension of the progressive movement, but now proud to affirm why its old professed adherence to disinterested reporting is considered outdated—given that the perceived threats of a Trump presidency deserve overt opposition, not mere coverage.

Senatorial inquisitors with their own questionable backgrounds pose as ethicists in their dismantling of the character of Brett Kavanaugh. Just as Jacobins demolished their opponents for lapses that they themselves had freely shared, so progressive senators went back in time to tag Kavanaugh with alleged teen-aged indiscretions, even while their own adult wrongdoings were forgotten.  Thus Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s made-up Vietnam veteran persona is now a mere indiscretion. Sen. Corey Booker’s yarn of an imaginary friend T-Bone is a long-ago construct. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s fanciful Native American heritage is a slight memory lapse. And Sen. Joe Biden’s fictional coal-mining family and past plagiarism are the stuff of normal exaggeration.

Yet the new radicalism is not just one of style or hypocrisy.

If five years ago Sen. Bernie Sanders was considered an eccentric socialist relic from the 1960s and twenty-something Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was a Manhattan bartender moonlighting as a social activist, today both in popular culture have eclipsed paleo-Democratic functionaries such as Schumer, Feinstein, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi.

They, and others such as Sens, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, are the new faces of a rebranded Democratic Socialist party, whose chief agendas are universal free college tuition, the cancellation of over $1 trillion in student debt, the extension of Medicare to everyone, the abolition of ICE, the rapid end to fossil fuel use, and a vast reduction in the defense budget. When asked how to pay for it all, they do not sheepishly shrug their shoulders, but confidently and boldly promise to take the money from those who have it by far higher taxes on the “rich”. The European Union and the United Nations, not the US Constitution, are more their paradigms of social justice.

What were the conditions that created these new Jacobins?

It was not just the ascendance of the hated Donald Trump, although the election of the first president to have neither political nor military experience both scared and inspired the new socialists.

Trump terrified them, because he sought to craft a conservative populist workers’ movement that threatened to erode the natural Democratic base. And he did so with slash-and-burn tactics, antithetical to the traditional Marquess-of-Queensberry Republican rules that had emasculated past Republican presidential candidates.

But Trump also inspired radical leftists by encouraging them also to ignore precedent, and normal political perquisites. Instead, they should similarly consider their own political elite—especially the old Clinton machine—as being as irrelevant and expendable as the Romney and Bush wing of the Republican Party.

Far more influential than Trump for the Jacobins, however, was the Obama legacy, both its perceive advantages and downsides.

On the plus side for the Jacobins, Obama’s two successful elections encouraged the new radicals to believe that open borders, changing demography, radicalized identity politics, bloc voting and an increasingly self-destructive and shrinking white working class had ensured a new progressive electoral future, based on a permanently different sort of American electorate.  How we appear would now be as important as who we are—especially in a salad-bowl America that had transcended the old melting pot. Black, brown, Asian, female, gay, bisexual, or transgendered were essential clannish concepts that, if properly massaged and aggregated, would result in a 51 percent popular majority. A candidate’s or activist’s political credibility hinged on belonging to one or more of such tribes.

But on the minus side, the Democratic Party undeniably had suffered its greatest setbacks in more than half a century between 2009-2017, even as Obama became a mythical figure in party lore.  Democrats had lost the House, the Senate, the majority of governorships and legislatures, and de facto the Supreme Court. Yet the new Democratic socialists sought to square that circle of Obama’s successes and their own party’s failures by insisting that Obama’s ancestry and leftism had been essential to his success, but that the Democrat Party’s retrograde traditionalism had let Obama down and eventually proved toxic and fatal on down ballots.

More rational observers might have concluded that Obama took the party too far leftward, ignored its alienation from the working classes, and focused instead on his own identity politics; and that, selfishly, he had seen his own transformational candidacy and presidency as something apart from his party’s viability and future. But instead, the Jacobins moved even more radically to the left.

There were also other parents who birthed the new Jacobinism. The campus now led the progressive movement, as everything from identity politics to safe spaces was imported and institutionalized as the new Democratic Socialist party dogma. Again, nowhere was that more apparent than in the Kavanaugh hearings. Democrats more or less appropriated the hearings and turned them into a campus-like inquest into sexual harassment charges—thereby discarding calcified constitutional traditions such as due process and the rights of the accused to a presumption of innocence, rigorous cross-examination, and the protections from hearsay and accusations well beyond any statute of limitations.

The Halls of Congress resembled the campus protests that had met a Ben Shapiro or Charles Murray when they dared give  a campus speech. Protestors bullied senators as enemies of the people and turned the senate gallery into a veritable campus quad. On the theory that both parties were controlled by aging white people soon to be irrelevant (given their spent and tired constituencies), the youth and diversity of the campus also inspired a national radical drift.

The new sectarianism has also inspired the Jacobins. Globalization, open borders, deindustrialization, and red- and blue-state polarization have intensified old political divides into new additional regional animosities. The Democratic Socialists are the party of the coasts and of the cities, where most of the high-tech industries, national politics, and universities are anchored. The hipster profile of a thirty-something, unmarried, childless, urban renter and loft-dweller is the new Democrat icon, not the blue-collar, lunch-pail bloke fighting commuter traffic in his used car to get home to his working wife, kids, and mortgaged tract house. Think of the recent Democrat campaign film, “Life of Julia,” or the “Pajama Boy” Obamacare ad. The new radicals believe that they are not just the future of the Democrat Party, but also are avatars of global culture itself, especially ecumenical ideas such as using the state to replace fossil fuels, subordinating nationalism to continental or world governance, and recalibrating the U.S Constitution as something akin to the looser protocols that govern most other countries.

What is next?

The Jacobins will either overreach and soon rendezvous with something like a Thermidor correction. In American political terms, that would mean that after going off a McGovern cliff and marginalizing the party, Democrats will regroup, and climb back to a Jimmy Carter or Bill Clintonian center. Remember, that until Obama, for 44 years (from 1964 to 2008) no Democrat presidential candidate had ever won the popular vote without a southern accent, the old public stamp of Democratic moderatism.

Or, in contrast to a centrism correction, we may see even more radical street theater: walking out on Senate votes; taking to the streets; mainstreaming Occupy Wall Street, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter; seeking to remove an elected president by weaponizing the FBI, DOJ, and CIA, turning to impeachment, the 25th Amendment and the Emolument Clause, states’ rights nullifications of federal law, or using deep-state Resistance members or liberal courts to subvert executive governance.

If the Democrats do not capture the House, and thus cannot impeach Trump and send him to the Senate for trial, and thereby stall his agendas, then the Jacobins will face their own Thermidor reaction.

But if they prove successful, then everything is imaginable—and nothing is sacred.

Hanson explains the fascinating history of how both factions trace their roots back to Roman times - the urban radicals who favored equality, and the rural traditionalists who favored liberty. You'll learn the important parallels between these ancient movements and their modern counterparts in both progressives and conservative populism.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

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What Will 'Breaking Biden' Bring?

One of the most iconic scenes from the AMC drama “Breaking Bad” was the murder of Hank Schrader. Schrader was a DEA agent lying on the ground as a neo-Nazi gang leader pointed a gun at him. Hank’s brother-in-law, Walter White, a brilliant chemistry teacher turned meth cook, frantically pleaded for Hank’s life. Hank looked at Walter and said with resigned contempt: “You’re the smartest guy I ever met. And you’re too stupid to see he made up his mind 10 minutes ago.” Hank then turned to the neo-Nazi, said “do what you’re going to do,” and immediately received a bullet in the brain.

Hank could have been speaking to America’s Republican, conservative, and libertarian establishment instead of Walter White. So many seem unconcerned—even gleeful—at the theft of the presidential election, even though it means handing over power to people who appear to have little regard—but a fair amount of contempt—for the nation, its laws, its heritage, its uniqueness. They have a false sense of security that “it” can’t happen here. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in the Gulag Archipelago:.......... If Joe Biden is sworn in as president, Jacobins will have grasped control of our government...............To Read More.....



Ohio lawmakers require free speech protection at colleges, universities

The House passed the “Forming Open and Robust University Minds Act,” which would prevent colleges and universities from limiting political speech on campuses or moving that speech into “free speech zones.”

Fourteen other states have passed similar legislation.

“At a time when division in our nation is at an all-time high, it is essential that our university campuses remain a place where open, honest and tough discussions can still happen,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens of Community Values, an Ohio family-values advocacy group. “The Forum Act creates a level playing field on college campuses for ideas, so pro-life, Christian and conservative students are not discriminated against because of their worldview.”...........To Read More....

My Take - Why does a state legislature have to force institutions to do what our Constitution already requires?  What can we glean from this? This substantiates the irrefutable fact that institutions of higher learning, including state sponsored institutions, regularly ignore the Constitutional rights and guarantees of American citizens in order to promote leftist dogma, all the while screaming about their Constitutional rights.  In reality, they're using our own values against us and the Constitution to destroy America and eventually the Constitution itself. 

The left is turning the Constitution into a suicide pact, and its doing it with support from the courts, academia, unions, commercial enterprises, politicians and the media.  That's history and that history is incontestable. 

For Dr. Scott Atlas, not even a routine term-finish is enough to keep the press from acting despicably

December 1, 2020 By Monica Showalter

The press has outdone itself.    

Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump's coronavirus adviser, has resigned from his position, which was a routine event, given that he was a special government employee, with a 130-day term.  Instead, they are claiming it's some kind of scandal or disgrace.  The Associated Press expended 276 words on this man's exit and got around to mentioning that it was a 130-day term and he had reached it only at the very last paragraph, at the 257-word point, of the piece.  The other 257 words were basically pure editorializing about what a supposedly awful, ignorant, anti-science guy he supposedly was, which, he wasn't.

That's called a buried lede.

Atlas was hired as a "special government employee," which limited his service to government to 130 days in a calendar year — a deadline he reached this week.

Unlike a lot of Obama-era holdouts, Atlas departed at the end of his term, and if they wanted to make his exit a story, maybe that could be the news, given that so many Obama operative never left.  But instead of just reporting the news, the press is taking some amazing potshots............More