The Rise (and Fall) of Iron


Only in America do the food conglomerates add iron to all flour and cereals. Why is this relevant? New science shows that supplemental iron is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s. We already get 100 times the amount of iron we need from consuming so much beef. Yet they “fortify” practically everything with iron, and, according to Dr. Preston Estep in THE MINDSPAN DIET, the dosage is toxic. Like lead. (Estep is head of the genetics program at Harvard.) “Fortify” sounds like such a great word. Too bad they didn’t use the word “poison,” because that’s what it actually is to many. Recently, at the grocery store, I saw a vitamin supplement for iron which reads “supports production of red blood cells.” People love iron as a word because it connotes strength, like the Iron Curtain falling, or pumping iron, or the Iron Age when barbarians ruled with an iron fist. There’s also a new video game out called Destiny: The Rise of Iron. Alas, the truth is that too much iron (which you are already getting) makes supplemental iron ill advised, and may make your destiny being unable to remember who your friend is, or what your own name is…until everything shuts down except the propaganda machine of the food and drug companies, who make a profit off human misery. It is only a matter of time when, in stores, packages of flour and cereal will say, “No Added Iron” just like some say “No Gluten” now. Gluten, it turns out, is okay for all but 3% of the population. Surprise, surprise, sur…. Oh, and some supplemental iron (“vitamins”) contain chemicals found in pesticides. Let me be your guardian, and join the fight by reposting or sharing this with others…


The Deplorables

trump-worldOnce upon a time a family of wandering gypsies arrived in America by way of steamer from Istanbul, and later, by banana boat from Costa Rica. The clan was headed by Haggar Deplorable of the Hungarian Deplorables, a stout, red faced man with big hands and a devious heart. His wife Rubellah loved those big hands, and placed her trust in them because they never failed her.  Haggar’s hands were big enough to hide wallet leather, strong enough to force any hinge, and yet delicate enough to carry crystal or fine gold necklaces back across any threshold. Although the knuckles of the right hand were callused from striking the bony jaws of many an interloper, no one could help but admire the stealth and consummate skill with which those hands moved. Legends are born of less.
—Rubellah was just as impressive herself, but with her it was her eyes. Dark, penetrating, almost hypnotic in their effect, Rubellah’s eyes could hold the gaze of any others just long enough. Then, with a swish of long black braids, bound by golden bands, she would be on her way again, a little richer for the encounter. Besides man and matriarch, there were sons and daughters numbering four each. Stone Deplorable was the bald one since birth, but he made up for his unusual genetic condition by growing hair almost everywhere else. His thick, coarse chest hair had, on first sight, an animal attraction to women, and his marital engagements and subsequent disappearances averaged ten a year. Stone was bold, unlike his brother Jacob. Jacob was the one trained to fit through tight openings, late at night. He had to be coaxed early, and later used a penlight. Jacob would not participate in any daylight escapades, such as those perpetrated by Igor and his brother Ahab, who were the identical twins and bungling comics of the clan, and who would often approach a seated mark from either side as Stone moved in from behind with the ether-drenched handkerchief.
—Of the daughters, Ruth was the only homely one. She kept the books, invested the family earnings, and dabbled in the market. Her sister Salome, however, looked like she’d stepped out of a Botticelli painting.  Voluptuous, volcanic, verbose, she exuded despicable passions from every pore, and went through men like a diva goes through chocolates.  Meanwhile, Beulah was merely flirtatious, beguiling by comparison; she posed and accessed while Salome pounced. Finally, Caprice also liked to flirt, but she did not possess Beulah’s detachment, and so often needed to be extricated from amorous situations by Stone’s intervention and wrestling technique.  All four sisters were blessed with their mother’s long dark hair and hypnotic eyes.
—Several years before its demolition the family moved into the projects in Brooklyn just long enough to establish residency, U.S. citizenship, and to play the welfare roles.  Jacob obtained SSI disability payments for his timidity and frail looks, and all the “children” got allowances for food stamps which were later sold on the street at the usual discounts.  As it turned out, they did not need to lie very much, and Haggar even went for worker’s compensation by claiming a fictitious slump in “intrapersonal lifestyle analysis.”  Soon after, they set up a mail drop, scored one final fake drug bust on the building’s pushers, and moved uptown into Trump Tower, which had excellent Hispanic room service.
—“This was a real adjustment for us,” Igor later confided to a cab driver. “Since poppa was getting older, and found it harder to work with his hands, we hired tutors to teach us proper grammar and etiquette.  Hotel employees who’d complained when they heard Hungarian folk music and Liszt Rhapsodies echoing through the cooling ducts decided they could tolerate us when we stopped singing and dancing, and started tipping. Guests were not so sure. Once I was on the elevator during a psychologists convention and got asked if I thought what we were doing was wrong.  After pressing the hold button I explained to a curious shrink what poppa had always taught us, which is that God created us the way we are, so He must rejoice when we do what we do.  Then I asked what he knew, and demanded payment for my session, refusing to release the hold button until I was given a Ulysses S. Grant, although I settled for a Jackson and a Lincoln, which was all the bum had.  After that I started dressing differently too, and began to resemble a politician or a game show host. It never occurred to me to question our family philosophy or moral judgment, whatever that means. Like Popeye or The Donald, I yam what I yam.”
—The Deplorables all began to wear different hats from that point. Beulah and Jacob ascended into high society, attending arts openings and benefits in order to case the patrons’ jewelry. Salome, finally achieving a modicum of self restraint, was able to play the witty rich divorcee just long enough to lure her gentlemen victims to secluded bedrooms where they were seduced and left exhausted and semi-conscious without their dignity, their Rolexes, or their credit cards. Confiding in Stone, Salome scoffed at marriage.  “American millionaires,” she laughed. “No wonder women divorce them.  Besides, the only reason to get married in America is to have kids, and I’m sorry, but I haven’t got eighteen years to spare. What if I have quintuplets, or Siamese twins when all I really wanted was a Siamese cat?  And what will my baby’s first words be?  ‘Wii Wii?’  Get real.  Babies don’t come from heaven anymore, anyway.  Heaven has been out of babies for quite some time.  Then when the kid starts asking Why, what would I tell it?  I don’t know Why.  To top it off, what if my baby is switched at birth, and I don’t find out until nine years later when someone named Galifianakis shows up, and with a basket?”
—Stone responded in kind.  “With me, I find I’m often forced to leave Xerox copies of one dollar bills as tips on dinner dates.  Afterward I send the women flowers with dead insects in them.  If they don’t get the message, I describe my idea of an exciting evening as curling up on the sofa with a book by Kafka while listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations and eating Fruit Loops straight from the box.  If they manage to find me, I disguise our empty refrigerator with plastic roasts purchased from appliance salesmen down on their commissions, and I allow them to discover this while I’m watching Dancing with the Stars and sipping Ovaltine from an elephant-shaped mug.”
—Speaking of politics, Igor and Ahab had some misadventures of their own.  Identical twins on each side of the game, they raised funds which they also skimmed from both Democrats and Republicans.  Their education on the matter was obtained by attending phony real estate seminars run by former televangelists, and taking copious notes on technique.
—Ahab:  “I told them what they wanted to hear.  I defined class envy as something which occurs in people who don’t have any class, liberals as near-sighted people prescribing rose-colored glasses, and high school grads as young punks who can whistle all the top forty tunes but still can’t read their own diplomas.  Was I tough on crime?  Well, for rape I suggested the perp do a stint as playmate for amorous eight hundred pound gorilla. For DUI the stint would be as a bumper in a bumper car concession run by crazed 8 year olds.  For slapping, yelling at, or otherwise preventing a child from learning to speak English and to vote Republican the perp got incarceration for twenty four hours with an abusive life insurance agent suspected of murdering his mother. And just for allowing your kid to watch TMZ on TV as much as he wanted required you to be bound, gagged, and forced to watch House of Cards reruns for two days straight, your eyes stuck open with Crazy Glue.”
—Igor:  “With the Democrats, I tried to cover myself by taking the rich versus poor debate one giant step forward.  I proposed an actual class war by claiming to have inside information that the other side was already mobilizing.  For K rations my lower class battalion would have grits, toast, and powdered milk for breakfast, Spam, Coke, and a slice of government cheese for lunch, and tuna casserole, tea, and a dollop of rocky road ice milk for dinner.  Of course for the rich it was, I admitted, German Sausage Coquettes, fresh squeezed orange juice, and Belgian waffles for breakfast, Tuscan Veal with pine nuts, Amaretto Custard Cake, and cappuccino with chocolate garnish for lunch, and for dinner it was Roast Rack of Lamb Tiffany, Medallions de Trois Viandes aux Trois Poivron, Fresh Mango Sherbet with coulis of raspberries, and Mouton Rothschild 1938.  Unfortunately, I was heckled as any bad stand up comic might be.  This wasn’t the kind of reaction I wanted, so I slipped out the back way with as much slush fund money as I could carry.”
—There were other failures for the twins. For instance, they later infiltrated the gangs, and attempted to convince various gang leaders of certain credentials, much like a national fraternity official might when visiting a local chapter.  They even set up a school, or rather skool, to teach homies the history of gangs which they’d failed to learn.  To qualify for GEDs {Gang Education Diplomas} kids were told that it wasn’t enough just to know how to blow smoke rings, or how to walk around with their belts unbuckled and shirt tails out without dropping their baggy pants, or even the proper way to flash “get stuffed” to other gangs in order to provoke a shooting spree.  They needed to learn how to fail at everything else in life in order to get into ANGER U, of which the twins were admissions coordinators.
—“Unfortunately, we had a high dropout rate,” Igor soon complained. “Many were fascinated at first when we told them CRIPS stood for Class Rebels Immortalizing Paint Spray, but when we said that BLOODS stood for Bitter Lads Objectifying Oppressive Dysfunctional Society no one knew what ‘objectifying’ and ‘dysfunctional’ meant, and then it was too late to change it to Boys Learning Of Oppression, Drugs, and Suicide. So I blurted out something about two splinter groups of the Bloods that went to war–the B Positives and the B Negatives, and who did they think won?  Then Ahab, thinking it a good joke, tried to up me by invoking the LORDS, and asking which faction did they think came out on top, the Legion Of Raging Demented Sociopaths or the Lovers Of Really Delicious Shortcake?  Alas, our humorless would-be subjects suspected we were dissing them then, and we barely made it out of klass by remembering that we needed to attend the funeral of Bloods impressionist graffiti artist Chico Rameriz, who was killed for having a ‘blue’ period.”
—Although the twins did manage to start a gang of their own in Chinatown, that didn’t pan out either.  The short lived Kung Yu Gang followed no particular martial arts code, although they had plenty of black belts, purple belts, and quite a few gold chains.  To the twins fiscal disappointment, the gang’s rumbles became mainly intermural food fights, pitting the Japanese VS. the Vietnamese, or the Chinese Szechuans VS. the Taiwan Mutant Ninja Tenderloins. For fun the upstart youngsters even vandalized price and options tags at American car dealerships.
—Meanwhile Ruth continued to buy Krugerrands, gold stocks, and commodities futures in preparation for the coming economic collapse, which “any fool could see” was inevitable once one of the two candidates set up in the Oval Office.  Such became her acumen in international currency exchange that she had three additional phone lines installed into the Trump casino suite where Rubellah had once sung songs of the old country and cooked goulash for Haggar.
—“They tried to audit me once,” Ruth confessed to a hotel maid, “but I put the kibosh on that and diverted the audit by slipping an herb concoction into the auditor’s tea which had an aphrodisiac effect.  Then I seducing him with what really turned him on–-new ideas for torturing an auditee (or candidate unwilling to release their tax returns for public dissection.)  One suggestion I made was that he strap the evasive taxpayer to a Delco battery and jolt the truth out of him for two hours while his property was sold at auction to a bunch of yard sale junkies.  The auditor was so excited by my concepts that he had to go back to his office to relieve himself with some day trading.”
—For Rubellah’s part, she worked part time as a self employed psychic hotline operator, so she could be near her children.  When the kids were out she told fortunes with her crystal ball in the Marriott ballroom.  Rubellah relished her job, and often repeated a favorite fortune for people she disliked, which was that their ambulance driver would favor the scenic route. But secretly she also longed for the old days, when her family danced and sang with Bollywood stars.
—As for Haggar, he found employment by becoming a reincarnation of The Prophet.  Simply by growing a long gray beard and calling himself Ahred Dustafo he was able to make a video tape dispensing Gibranesque wisdom, and was soon asked to speak at prestigious area colleges.  This, after trying other unsuccessful boasts, like claiming his grandfather was King of Liechtenstein.
—Haggar:  “Before I found this particular niche, I was bragging to everybody I met that granny played gin rummy with Queen Victoria, that our family psychiatrist was Freud himself, and that before I was ten I’d been on eighteen boxes of cereal, including Muselix.  But then I met a shoe salesman who told me his family was so rich once that even their butler drove a 1936 Auburn Speedster and had a winery in the Napa Valley he’d never seen.  I grew tired of my con job after that. And then one day when a hot dog vendor asked me the meaning of life, for some reason I told him I couldn’t tell him or he’d go mad, shave his head, and attack the Pope. Other people asked me even sillier questions, like why I wore a long white robe-–which was better to hide things under–-or why the city of Toledo is considered holy. This was the last straw.  It was time to get back to the old ways, to get on the move again, and to find happiness. So Rubellah bought me some Ben Gay for my hands, some iron-free cereal, and we gathered our children together and hit the road. I can’t tell you how good it felt to laugh and sing again as we danced our way across America, doing what we do best in the land of freebies and the home of the Atlanta Braves.”
—So confessed Haggar Deplorable in a letter to the Trump Tower doorman, explaining why they’d left, and how much they enjoyed trashing the room and insulting everyone.  And to this day it seems that everyone is looking for the clan, because we all need someone to blame. This may also be why politicians on both sides of the debate are suspicious of each other, and why they continue to talk about those despicable Deplorables.


©2016 JLowe

Telescope Science


A universal trait of engineers is their curiosity with how things work, and nothing arouses more curiosity than the laws that govern the universe itself. Such laws seem to break down at the extremes of size, both on a small scale, in particle accelerators, for example, and on the vast scale, as detected by telescopes. In each case, tools designed by engineers now probe these mysteries, discovering the surprising nature of matter and energy.
—A shining example is the new Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) atop Mt. Graham in southeastern Arizona, which enables scientists to study objects like the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. For a personal tour of this revolutionary telescope housed at Mount Graham International Observatory near Safford, I joined Dr. Richard Green, LBT’s director, on a clear, sunny day for the 125-mile drive northeast of Tucson to the remote mountain.
—At 10,700 feet, Mt. Graham rises from the desert like a sky island of unexpected beauty. In contrast to the cactus below, 200-hundred-year-old Douglas fir trees grace the upper reaches of the mountain. Yet by following a final twisting dirt road to the summit, past several security checkpoints, a more unexpected marvel soon appears–the LBT observatory building itself. This $120 million dollar facility is home to the most powerful optical telescope in the world–a 600 metric ton all-steel mount encapsulating two massive 8.4-meter mirrors, each the largest of their kind yet deployed. Indeed, once the mirrors are phased together, this visionary binocular will function as if it was a Cyclops with a single mirror 11.8 meters wide–impossible to produce with today’s technology–and with an angular resolution of 22.8 meters. With a honeycomb design, the mirrors sit on a single mount and are more rigid and lighter weight than conventional solid-glass mirrors. Together they collect more light than any existing single telescope.
—While the telescope’s size is revolutionary, so is its precision, accuracy, and sensitivity. During my visit, I witnessed the lowering of the twin mirrors for scheduled attachment of a red-sensitive camera to a deployment arm and was told that the moveable mount, despite weighing 600 tons, is steered easily under the power of a one-horsepower electric motor. “The structure actually floats on an oil pressure pad, like a rocking chair, thanks to 12,000 PSI,” Dr. Green tells me, “so if you had to move it by hand, you probably could.”
—Added Dr. John Little, LBT’s lead site engineer, “The ride from vertical to horizontal is twelve minutes, or one minute, depending on speed selection of the analog drive.” When I asked if there was any smallest degree to which the telescope could be angled, Little replied, “Not really. With digital feeding, the mirrors will be able to be positioned to resolve one thousandth of an arc-second, or roughly a BB at 32 and a half miles.” Luckily, testing for degradation of positioning at various elevations has revealed almost no deviation. And though counterbalancing is still a problem, considering the heavy instrumentation that will be swung in and out of position, there is a solution coming in the form of a newly designed dynamic fluid system that will pump a water and antifreeze mixture to various tanks within the structure to compensate. “For now we’re using physical weights,” says Little, pointing to what looked like stacked barbell rounds at the ends of the matrix.
The LBT Corporation was established in 1992 to undertake construction and operation of the LBT, which evolved from an international partnership of over 15 institutions from around the world. The University of Arizona (UA), which also represents Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University on the project, holds a quarter partnership in the LBT. The Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, representing observatories in Florence, Bologna, Rome, Padua, Milan and elsewhere in Italy, is also quarter partner in the project. Ohio State University and the Research Corporation each holds a one-eighth share, with Research Corporation providing participation for the University of Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Virginia. Germany is the fourth quarter partner, with contributing science institutions in Heidelberg, Potsdam, Munich, and Bonn. The Research Corporation promotes the advancement of science in the United States and ensured that funding was available at critical stages of the LBT’s development.
—Work on the LBT began with construction of the one-of-a-kind telescope building in 1996, led by UA. The structure consists of 16 stories, and the top ten floors rotate.
As to the massive 8.4-meter dual mirrors themselves, they were spun cast in Tucson, at the UA’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab. In the state-of-the-art facility, housed in the campus football stadium, a huge furnace heated the 20 tons of glass, gently spinning it into a parabolic shape at 2130 F before it was cooled and polished to an accuracy of about 3000 times thinner than a human hair.
—UA engineer Warren Davison developed the telescope’s innovative compact, stiff design in collaboration with other engineers in the United States and Italy. The major mechanical parts for the LBT were fabricated, pre-assembled, and tested at the Ansaldo/Camozzi steel works in Milan, one of Italy’s oldest steel manufacturers. Then the telescope was disassembled and shipped by freighter to Houston, Texas, and overland to Safford. The mirror cell continued to the Mirror Lab, where a team integrated the mirror support system and mirrors into the cell before a heavy equipment moving company hauled the assembly up the mountain. The LBT saw first light in 2005, and the LBT Observatory currently has a staff of approximately 50 scientists, engineers and technicians.
—What type of technical background does it take to work on a telescope like the LBT? Green studied quasars and black holes during his graduate student days, back when he was a member of the science team that built the Hubble Space Telescope instrument that surveyed nearby giant galaxies. He served as director of the nearby Kitt Peak National Observatory before coming to LBT a year ago to handle public relations and scheduling of telescope time. A charming and self deprecating man with wide interests, he engaged me in conversation about many topics, from the mostly private funding of the project and its limited access to scientists (outside the consortium of universities involved), to the latest theories about dark energy, the Big Bang, and even the movie Blade Runner. But he is truly an astronomer first.
—Other career paths to LBT played out differently. Dr. John Little, who worked in medical electronics, industrial controls, and military electronics before coming to the project, wasn’t very familiar with astronomy at all, except as an amateur. “I went to Cal State at Sacramento for a degree in electrical engineering and remote sensing, then to the University of New Mexico for a masters in electromagnetics before some work at Utah State in optics,” he told me, his steady blue eyes focused on days past. “So what’s great about working here is that all these disciplines are involved. On top of that, it’s exciting to see the data come in. When we get our adaptive optics running–taking the ‘twinkle’ out of the stars, so to speak–the clarity will be ten times that of Hubble. And so when we’re pulling in images for the first time here, we’ll be seeing them come right off the camera, and that’ll be a thrill.”
—Also working in controlling the axis to position the telescope accurately, but in software rather than hardware, is Chief Software Engineer Norm Cushing, who told me, “At one point in my career I was working on HDTV set boxes, digital recorders and the like, and I realized right away that just wasn’t as intellectually fulfilling. There was something missing. Call it awe. That’s the missing ingredient which LBT supplies.” Immediately prior to his arrival at LBT, Cushing developed software related to satellite tracking. “That background in image processing married well to what happens here, but it’s been a phenomenal learning experience, too. When I arrived, I learned how little I really knew, especially about astronomy. Some know a lot, like Joar Brynnel, chief hardware engineer, who told me he needs his people to understand the concepts to fix problems in a reasonable time.”
—Members of Cushing’s group write low-level embedded software in assembly language and higher level software modules running in Linux that talk to each other through reflective memory. “Algorithms for right ascension and declination are created to actually steer the telescope and make it move to position and track objects,” Cushing explains. “Lower level commands control the motion of the building to follow the telescope.” And is this software new and as exciting as being an astronomer? “All of it is new, written from scratch for this system,” he replies, then adds, “When I was a boy, running around in my PJs, my sister would call me whenever Carl Sagan was on TV. I’d run out, and it was all fascinating. So it’s been a dream come true for me, too.”
Astronomers as Engineers
Not that engineers can’t be astronomers themselves, or vice versa. Take Roberto Ragazzoni from the Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy, one of the member institutions of LBT. “I would say one in five astronomers also make instrumentation for radio or optical astronomy,” he tells me. As an astronomer, Ragazzoni once studied planetary nebula in an observatory in Chile. He has extensive knowledge of astrophysics, but now he mostly designs and tests the instrumentation used on large telescopes, and he labels the scale of most of the scientific instruments used on LBT as revolutionary.
—“Two interferometers are being made for this telescope,” Roberto tells me over a plate of spaghetti in the observatory’s kitchen. “One at the U of A, and the other in Germany and Italy.” An interferometer combines the signals of two separate telescopes (or mirrors) almost as if they were coming from separate portions of a telescope (or mirror) as big as the distance between the two telescopes. It works on the principle that two waves that coincide with the same phase will add to each other while two waves that have opposite phases will cancel each other out, assuming both have the same amplitude. The instrument provides unprecedented imaging capability at infrared wavelengths and in its “nulling” mode reduces the glare from stars, thereby permitting the detection of orbiting planets or dust disks, which would otherwise be overwhelmed by the star light. “What’s new is the scale to which this technology is being applied, and also, instead of using a laser for alignment, we use a wider field of view, with the light from several faint stars, which are then combined.”
—With such technology, astronomers can use the LBT to find and image the first Earth-sized extra-solar planets, employing the telescope’s astonishing light gathering power accompanied by an array of cameras, spectrometers, and interferometers –some the size of compact cars and weighing a ton. Or it can map the neighborhood of the inner Milky Way, where a monster black hole flings stray stars off on wild eccentric orbits as if they were mere marbles in a child’s game.
—After Roberto ate his plate of spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, I asked him if astronomers like him were not actually providing a microscope for laymen to see themselves as smaller and smaller as the universe they saw got bigger and bigger in their giant lenses. He laughed. Perhaps I reminded him of the children he once talked to about his work in adaptive optics, when one asked how he “made a star, which was so big, look so small.”

© 2009 Progressive Engineer; article by Jonathan Lowe