Alternatives to Dams for hydroelectric power? 

I wonder if use of flumes to construct rapids to drive turbines would be less environmentally damaging than dam construction. I'm way out of my field of expertise here, but that's one reason I started this blog. That is so I can ask stupid, but hopefully ultimately instructive questions. Anyway, it seems to me that beside the drowning of large areas, that Dams also seriously influence downstream transport of suspended sediments. This can have dire consequences for many riverine systems and associated fringing ecosystems and deltas (see for example issues surrounding the Narmada River in India. But what if we just diverted part of the river to a series of large flumes that created rapids sufficient to drive turbines? Seems that this would have less of an impact on sediment transport. I realize that these might be somewhat less efficient, but that could be largely overcome by building more of them. It might help out many of our anadromous fishes too.
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The Parable of the Roots 

Three young farmers received grape vines from their fathers. They were all eager to raise vines with prize grapes. They carefully tended their vines, providing water and weeding as necessary. But one farmer considered only the branches and stems of the vine. He did not think about its roots which were hurt as he dug around the vine and pulled the weeds. The second farmer knew the importance of the root. He was careful not to damage them and to provide them with mulch and fertilizer. Unfortunately, the third farmer received a vine with no roots. Undaunted she said to herself “I will pray for God’s help and trust in him.” And so she planted the vine and cared for it as best she could. Despite his unwitting carelessness the first farmer’s vine did grow and bear fruit, but the second farmer’s vine grew better and produced more fruit. Likewise, because of her faith in God, the third farmer’s vine also put down strong roots and grew as well as the second farmer’s did. After a time, there was a great storm. The winds blew hard and uprooted many vines. Though the first farmer tried to protect his vine, it was lost. The strong roots of the other farmer’s vines anchored them against the storm and they lived. The farmers’ are like three Christians seeking to grow in faith and spirit. The vines are their faith and the roots are the Church and the Bible. Although it is possible to grow in faith and spirit without roots (with God as your anchor), for most of us it’s better to start with good roots!
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The Parable of Things in Common 

A Minister brought several things to the altar during service: an apple, and orange, a ball, a coin, and a hula hoop. Then she asked the congregation “How are these things all the same?” One person suggested “They are all round." “That’s true” said the Minister. “Now how are they all the same, and yet also a symbol of God?” Well, that had them stumped for a few minutes, then one perceptive person said “I know, they are all circles and the circle, being without end, represents God.” “Very good” said the Minister as the crowd murmured to themselves. “I have given you a puzzle to teach you a small lesson, but God has given you a puzzle to teach you a great lesson” the Minister said. Then the Minister went out among the congregation and asked each person she touched to go stand before the altar. First an elderly lady went to the altar, then a young boy. A black man, a short woman, a tall man, a big boy, and a young woman in a wheelchair soon followed. The Minister went back to her podium and looked over the persons assembled before the altar for a long moment. Then she turned to the congregation and asked “How are these all the same and in the image of God?” There was much murmuring and talking among the people. “They are all children of God” said one uncertainly. “Of course that is true” said the Minister, “but that’s not quite it.” Finally, one offered “they all have a soul?” “Yes!” said the Minister. “To paraphrase a popular movie character” she said. “Luminous beings are we. Not this crude mater!” And then she explained “It is our souls, not our bodies that are made in God’s image. Hence we are all equal in his eyes.”
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The Parable of the Parable 

A teacher sought to help her children learn that it is wrong to lie. She could have simply told them that lying is wrong and that they would be punished if they were caught. Instead she told them this story.

Two kittens were each given a sardine as a special treat by their mother. When the mother left, one kitten ate his sardine while another went to get a drink. While she was away, the first kitten finished his sardine and, still being hungry, ate his sister’s sardine too. When his sister returned, she asked her brother where her sardine was. The brother was ashamed that he ate her sardine and was afraid he would be punished, so he lied. “A big dog came and stole it” he exclaimed! His sister cried and ran to tell her mother. The terrified mother came running back with the father. “Where is the dog” they exclaimed? “Are you all right?” Well the little kitten did not know what to say. Now he was really frightened. “He, he ran over to the neighbor’s yard” he finally stammered. “Stay here,” the father said. “I’ll go warn the others and check on the neighbors.” Soon the little kitten was surrounded by worried adults with lots of questions. “What did the dog look like? Have you seen him before?” It was all too much for the little kitten and he finally admitted the truth. “There was no dog” he cried in anguish. “I made it up because I ate my sister’s sardine”. Of course the parents were upset with their kitten. They explained to him that he had done a bad thing and had him say he was sorry to his sister, to them, and to all the neighbors. But of course, they told him they still loved him and said it was brave of him to admit the truth.

After the teacher finished telling the story, she asked the children what they thought, and they discussed why the kitten lied and what the consequences were. In this way, each child learned for themselves why lying is wrong. And they remembered it.

{editorial comment: this parable is a little tongue-n-cheek, but a lot of people ask why Jesus taught using parables. I think this illustrates one of the main reasons he did}
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The Parable of the Teacher 

A class of young children were taught about the atom by a good teacher. “An atom is made up of a nucleus and an electron. The nucleus is like a planet, while the electron is like a moon spinning around it” said the teacher. The students wrote down what the teacher said so that they would remember it. As time when on the children grew and learned many things. One day the teacher said to the children “Remember when I told you about atoms? Well now that you are older, I can explain that the nucleus is not exactly like a planet. Instead it’s composed of one or more neutrons and protons. The protons have a positive charge and attract the electrons which have a negative charge, kind of like the earth attracts the moon by gravity. Some students listened to the teacher and learned, while others did not. Instead when asked what an atom was they repeated the first description they had learned and when others argued with them, they pointed to the book and said that’s what the teacher taught them. When the children protested that the teacher had taught them a new definition, the stubborn children refused to believe them. As time went on, the teacher taught the students more and more complicated things about atoms until they were learning of things way beyond quantum mechanics, yet some still refused to listen and believed only what they were first taught. “You are all wrong” they said to the more learned children. “The teacher taught us this” they would say, “and teacher is always right, never changes and would never lie. We wrote it all down, so only what we wrote is right.”
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The Parable of the Good Devil 

The Devil stood by a lake watching a child drown. A Christian happened along and the Devil said “Look a child is drowning, jump in and save him.” But the Christian was filled with fear and said to himself “If the Devil is telling me this, it must be a trap. If I jump in to save the child I will be eaten by a monster” and he ran off. Next another Christian came by and the Devil said to her “Look. A child is drowning. Jump in and save him.” But she too, reasoned that the Devil sought to trick her. “He wants me to save an evil demon and I will not” she said as she ran off. Next another Christian came along and the Devil repeated his request. This time the Christian said to himself “I know this is the Devil, but a child may be drowning.” And so he jumped in to save the child. Yet again, the Devil stood by a lake watching a drowning child. This time an atheist came by and the Devil said to her “Look. A child is drowning. Jump in and save him.” Not knowing it was the Devil who spoke, she jumped in to save the child. Which of these have done the work of the Lord?
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The Learning Soul 

I was just reading an article in U.S. News and World Report about the science of consciousness ( Science and the Soul, by Jay Tolson, Oct. 2006, ). My thoughts are that our spirits can grow and learn based on what happens to them in the physical world. Otherwise, what's the point of life on earth (to the religious minded that is)? Philosophers and science fiction writers have long asked questions about consciousness and soul. E.g., "Am I a man dreaming I'm a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming I'm a man" (chuang tzu circa 500 BC). In the Sci Fi movie - Total Recall, a man gradually recovers his memory after a mind-wipe only to find he is now a completely different person and does not like the person he was. In the Harrison Ford movie "Regarding Henry", Ford plays an unscrupulous lawyer who undergoes a dramatic change in personality after he is shot in the head and suffers major brain damage. These stories and other like them ask the question of who we are. I suspect that many of the scientists studying consciousness now would use this type of evidence (if real) to suggest that consciousness and the soul are merely products of physical processes. But what if they just represent the soul responding to a major physical learning event? Is the soul separate from consciousness? Are both separate from the physical body? (Ask Edgar Allen Poe, or read his story the Fall of the House of Usher, which is about the tripartite man, the narrator who suffers a nervous breakdown, but who recovers in the end as a whole person when the house falls into the tarn. Well that's a high school term paper in a nutshell!). I don't see how these scientists can distinguish between purely physical processes (e.g., "fame in the Brain") and a responsive soul.

Related links, pro and con:
Prospero's Books
Jackson Library
Classical Anglican
My Case Agains God soul and consciousness
aboveallthings.org
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The Parable of the Rule 

A parent taught two children to be careful crossing the street with the following rules: always look both ways to see that it is safe, only cross when the light is red, only cross in the crosswalk. The children were obedient and always followed the rules. They even wrote them down in a book so as not to forget them. As time went on, they received many other rules, which they also wrote down. Much time passed and the children grew in strength, stature and wisdom. One day, the parent said to the children. "You have done well and have learned much. From now on, I trust that you will always look both ways and be careful when you cross the street. You do not have to cross in the crosswalk only, but wherever it is safe". One child heard the parent and did accordingly, but the other refused to change the rules in his book and kept fast to them always. The children argued and each chastised each other for disobeying. Who then is obedient to the parent?



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The Parable of the Good Cake 

Many people sat around a large table in a big kitchen. A delicious looking cake sat at the center of the table. In front of each person was a small plate. Some plates held half-eaten slices of cake, but many held untouched slices. Still others had not yet taken a slice and their plates were still clean. The Chef stood off to the side quietly watching. The room was noisy because most of the people were arguing. Some argued that the cake was magic and the Chef created it out of thin air. Some said the Chief used a box mix, while others said the cake was made from scratch. One vigorously exclaimed that the Chef had nothing to do with the cake and tried to explain the intricate chemical processes by which the cake was formed. Others argued that the cake was made by the oven that sat still warm in one corner of the kitchen. They described how all the primordial ingredients were baked when the oven turned on. Another learned person interjected that of course the cake formed by those well-known processes, but that the Chief had placed the cake in the oven and turned it on. Many denied the oven had anything to do with the cake. The debate raged on. But amidst the din, one person sat quietly eating the cake. When finished the person leaned back and smiled, then thanked the Chef for such a delicious cake before leaving. The Chef smiled and was pleased.

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Call to establish an undersea research colony 

Development of a major undersea laboratory

Consider: Does it make sense to propose a lunar base as a stepping stone to a mars base, when we can't even establish a similar base in our own planet's oceans? Isn’t it incredible that in this day and age when politicians and scientists are seriously talking about lunar and mars space stations, that we don’t even have a serious “base” in our oceans? For years NASA has used undersea training to prepare astronauts for space because an underwater environment shares many operational similarities with an outer space environment. Why not call for the development of a full scale “space station” under the sea in preparation for lunar and mars space stations? But even more importantly we need just such a facility to conduct undersea research. True, a small undersea laboratory was established decades ago in the Carribean (the NOAA Tektite project), but that program ended long ago. Today, one of the only manned undersea research laboratory in the world is the Aquarius lab in Florida run by the NOAA National Undersea Research Program. But as worthy as that program is, it is just an after-thought to the space program. A token undersea laboratory. And even there, the National Undersea Research Program has received only very limited funding in recent years, and a zero dollar budget this year (fy2006)! For more on undersea laboratories go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwater_habitat

Action: Challenge the world to develop a full scale undersea laboratory capable of housing up to 100 persons 24/7 year round. It would be placed in relatively shallow water (<100 ft) with satellite stations at intermediate (>1000 ft) and deep depths (>3000 ft). Don't be timid, write your local, state, and federal politicians today.

Benefits: Technology Transfer

Consider: We all know about the wonderful developments in technology that were generated by the race to the moon and subsequent research at NASA and other space programs. Imagine the technologies that could be developed if a serious attempt were made to establish a real undersea research base!

Action: Promote transfer of undersea technology developed for the “Ocean base” to provide new jobs and grow the economy.


What About Windfarms and Other Offshore Development?

Consider: This begs the question of how are we to avoid further destruction of our fragile ocean ecosystems? Already we have thousands of offshore oil platforms, undersea cables, dumping grounds, etc. In recent years there has been heated debate over the merits of establishing offshore windfarms. In the next few years I expect we will see an explosion of proposals for offshore wind, tidal and wave energy projects. Why keep our heads in the sand? We know that some of these developments will take place eventually. Lets develop the guidelines for prudent use of our resources NOW before its too late. And when these developments are approved, lets insure that industry mitigates their impacts by requiring mandatory research and monitoring components. Take for example, the proposed windfarm development off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. If only 1% of the construction cost were allocated to supporting research, that would provide over 8 million dollars in funds. We should also require these companies to provide the infrastructure and equipment needed by marine scientists. Currently, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and various other regional and national institutions spend considerable research dollars to establish offshore observatories for the collection of oceanographic data. A large chunk of the funds are spent on the platform and data transmission infrastructure. As a result, only a small number of offshore observatories have been established to date (e.g., the Leo-15 and Martha's Vineyard sites, see http://www.whoi.edu/coastalresearch/res ... tgers.html). However, this one windfarm project, could provide a vast, ready-made, infrastructure for undersea research. Imagine, over 100 instrumented platforms providing real-time data free to public schools and colleges, all for one or two percent increase in construction costs. Nothing remotely like that has been done before. It would provide an unprecedented view of underwater life to scientists and the public.

Action: Promote ocean stewardship while allowing prudent ocean development and insuring the highest quality science through mandatory research. Contact your local, state and federal politicians and let them know that you want ocean development to give back to the public.

A Champion for Undersea Research?

Consider: I believe our country, and the world, needs a champion for undersea research in Congress and in the White House. Despite recent government and academic reports that call for increased research on our marine natural resources, funding continues to be cut. Although it may be a cliche, its still true that 75% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, yet we have hardly begun to explore our oceans and have relatively little understanding of their complex ecology. We need a champion in our government who will galvanize undersea research, just as President Kennedy galvanized our space program. Wouldn’t that be an interesting, and different, component of a Presidential campaign platform?

Action: Be the Champion. Write your representatives.

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