FACTS AND TRUTH #FPQ – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #30

From Fandango:

Comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness” a dozen or so years ago. Truthiness, Colbert explains, is the quality of seeming to be true based upon one’s intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic or factual evidence. It’s similar to when Comedian Bill Maher says, “I don’t know it for a fact; I just know it’s true.” These describe a situation when someone feels, believes, or wishes that something is true even when it is not supported by the facts.

American novelist William Faulkner said, “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other.”

So, to today’s question:

First of all both truth and facts matter and if they don’t, then I’m not sure anything matters.

Searching for truth is not identical to searching for facts. Facts are information while Truth is more about “meaning.” Sometimes they are the same and sometimes, they are a bit different. It depends on what you are seeking. But facts are certainly a component of Truth.

I had a brief conversation with a woman with whom I was once friends and she told me that everyone in the media lies. I pointed out that in all my years of living with Garry, never had he leaped out of bed in the middle of the night to stand up in front of a camera and lie to the people.

It doesn’t mean that reporters don’t sometimes get it wrong. They are human. Shit happens. But they make (discounting Fox and friends) their best efforts to get it right and apologize and make corrections when they are wrong. People in media TODAY still get fired for lying. Apparently, lying is okay if you are the president, but not if you’re a reporter.

After I said my piece, she paused a while and then she said: “Does it matter?”


If honesty, facts, and truth don’t matter, then what exactly
does matter?

Above and beyond survival, without truth, facts, evidence, and science, then our last few thousands of years of human development are meaningless.

What you want to be true, what you “feel” is true can have great emotional impact to you, personally, but if you don’t vaccinate your kids and think smallpox was a myth, it matters. When thousands of kids get sick because you and others decided what you erroneously believed was more important than the health of the elderly, the “too young to be vaccinated,” and the immunity-compromised, it matters. Especially to those who die by your choice.

I think everyone is obligated to look for facts, evidence, and the truth of things. Finally, I think one’s intentions to be honest matter even though intentions can go awry.

When William Faulkner said, “Facts and truth really don’t have much to do with each other,” I’m pretty sure he was being ironic.

IT ALL STARTED WITH “FANTASIA” – Marilyn Armstrong

This post began because my husband is not fascinated by dinosaurs. He seemed a bit baffled as to why I’d want to write a story about dinosaurs.

Note: Should a dinosaur wander through my back yard, be assured that I will be out there taking pictures until either the huge reptile ambles away or eats me, whichever comes first.

Unlike many things which have adult origins — technology, philosophy, history — all the “ologies” and “osophies” that attended my education and subsequent research — my passion for dinosaurs goes all the way back, back, back in time to when I was four or five years old and my Aunt Ethel took me to see “Fantasia,” the original, not the later remake.

Who remembers in “Fantasia” the history of the earth, starring the rise and fall of the dinosaurs? It is set to Igor Stravinsky’s brilliant “The Rites of Spring.” The music itself might be enough, but with the Disney artists on their best game, it was something else and embedded itself in my mind for a lifetime.

None of the movie’s graphics were generated by computers. All of them … each frame … was drawn by human artists. The music was played live by an orchestra full of real musicians. Contrary to popular opinion, special effects were not invented by Steven Spielberg.

I was just a little kid and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I had nightmares for years about dinosaurs hiding under the bed, in the hallway, in my closet. I couldn’t sleep without a nightlight because I was sure there was a dinosaur lurking, ready to grab me in giant jaws with teeth 9 feet long. I was a child of great imagination and excessive sensitivity.

As I got older, I began to read books and discovered lots of really cool stuff about dinosaurs, most important (to me) was that North America — what is now the middle of the United States had been giant reptile central, the heartland of the Brontosaurus, Velociraptor and other astonishing creatures. Wyoming was the hot point where Tyrannosaurus Rex ruled. Perhaps their legacy lives on in Washington D.C., but I digress.

When this was made, the whole asteroid thing was yet unknown, so the history of the earth is missing that piece of information, but I’m sure Disney’s artists would have happily included it had they known. Meanwhile, I’m totally whacked at the idea of the earth getting hit by an asteroid. I always have a good laugh when someone in some space lab mentions, casually, that there’s an asteroid headed our way, but not to worry, there’s no better than a 50-50 chance it will really hit us.

That we pathetic creatures, crawling around the surface of the earth, believe we are all-powerful and can control our destiny by technology is funny. Not only has this planet been hit by asteroids — not once but many times — but each time, the event precipitated the extinction of Earth’s dominant species. The dinosaurs lasted a lot longer than we have. Should one of those big hunks of space debris smack into us, I think it unlikely that all the computers, weaponry, technology or prayers we can muster will be of any use at all. Our collective ass will be grass without even the opportunity to text our best buddies about the impending big bang.

We will be gone, quite likely having had even less effect on our planet, in the final analysis, than did the dinosaurs.

Humankind has always suffered above all from the sin of pride. Hubris, as the Greeks called it. We think we are creatures of God and perhaps we are, but who said we are the only creatures of God or that He gave us a permanent free pass from extermination?

map-dinosaurs-1993

And this is what so fascinates me and probably always will. That these creatures, these huge, powerful creatures who ruled this planet for more years than we can comprehend were, in a single calamitous event, exterminated. Eliminated from the earth leaving just their bones by which to remember them. And we think we are so all-powerful. I bet they thought so, too.

INHERIT THE WIND (1960) – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Inherit

I can’t hear the word “Inherit” without thinking of “Inherit the Wind,” the Spencer Tracy – Frederic March classic. The movie, although historical, is not the “real” event. A lot of changes were made to give it the kind of tension a movie needs and which are often lacking in ‘real’ life.

Much of the language used in the movies was taken directly from the court’s transcripts. Despite this, there were also significant changes that are inevitable in making movies. It remains one of the great movies of our past and future. Definitely worth watching today — maybe even more than it was in 1960.

From “Inherit the Wind” 1960, Directed by Stanley Kramer, based on actual transcripts of the 1925 Scopes’ “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, where the teaching of evolution had been banned. As far as I can tell, we are going back there again.

FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #26 – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #26

Like many people, I’ve seen stuff in the sky. Sometimes, I’m sure it’s just some new piece of equipment the military is testing … but not always. So this is a really good question:


“Do you believe that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for these sightings, like unannounced or unauthorized drone flights or space junk falling back into the atmosphere, or do you think that the objects these pilots saw were actual UFOs?”


So there I was standing on my back deck looking vaguely upwards and something really HUGE stopped right overhead. Stopped. And didn’t appear to move. It was big, with a lot of lights and I watched it for at least ten minutes before it moved on. It probably was moving, but so was the earth so it appeared to be still in the sky.

I went back inside and called NASA’s  number on which you can ask: “What is that big thing in the sky?”

It was 2009, so it was probably this version of the space lab.

They asked me where I lived. I told them. They said, “It’s the space lab, and it’s directly over Uxbridge. Right over your head.”

“It’s so big!” I commented. I hadn’t realized the lab was so close to the earth. I suppose I had images of it circling nearer the moon. It looked like it might decide to land at Logan Airport.

As seen over Arizona or …
It could have been this one

Then there was a wedge-shaped plane we saw in the sky in Arizona. I was sure it was some kind of military test aircraft. Recently, they unveiled it. By which time everyone in Arizona had a really good look at it.

On the other hand, there were those flying lights in the sky that were not meteors,  helicopters, or airplanes. I saw them. Garry saw them. Several of my friends saw them. No one has given me an explanation that makes sense. Maybe there is an explanation, but I haven’t heard it. (No, they were NOT weather balloons!)

Did they drop out of the sky and kidnap us? Nope. Just a lot of dashing “sky flyers” lit with various colors. Pretty. Odd. What was that? Something military? Entertainment from the heavens?

Do I think there’s intelligent life elsewhere? Probably.

Where? No idea. But we exist, so why should we be the only ones in this gigantic universe? Will we ever meet the “others”? Maybe yes, maybe no. If they aren’t even in this galaxy and are on some planet millions of light-years away, the odds do not favor a close encounter. Not to mention someone (Star Trek?) would have to be out there looking for them … or they would have to be looking for us.

So I’m not expecting to meet any space aliens in this life, but assuming humans continue to survive the garbage pit they are making out of this earth, maybe they will.

Or maybe not.

OFFICIAL MINUTES FROM THE FIRST “COUNCIL OF THE TOMS” – BY TOM CURLEY

There’s a lot of chatter these days about the Multi-verse. You know, parallel Earths in parallel universes. Different versions of Earth. It’s been a mainstream topic in the world of physics — and in science fiction forever.

And it shows up a lot in movies and TV shows. Spider-Man, Into the
Spider-verse.

Arrow, Flash and Super Girl hop back and forth between multiple Earths all the time.

In one episode of the Flash, one of the main characters brought different versions of himself from different Earths to help him solve the ‘problem of the week’. I thought that was cool.

The Council of Wells

So, I gathered three other versions of myself from three different Earths to talk about what’s going on these days. How did I do this?

Who cares?

Never mind.

Buy the premise, buy the blog.

TOM of EARTH 616: (me) I’d like to welcome all of you to the first Council of the Toms.

TOM of EARTH 17: (Panicked) How did I get here? Where am I?

TOM of EARTH 22: (Laid back) I think we’re on Earth 616.

TOM of EARTH 42: Who came up with these Earth numbers anyway? Earth 616?  Earth 22?  Who makes these decisions?

TOM of EARTH 616: Depends on whether you’re DC or Marvel.  Who cares? Just roll with it. You’re ruining the bit.

So, we’re here today to talk about Donald Trump.

TOM of EARTH 17: AHHH! Never say that name!

TOM of EARTH 22: Why are we talking about Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 42: Who’s Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 616: Well, on my Earth he has been the President of the United States for the last two years. Things are not going well, and I wanted to get your input — and your views — on what to do about it.

TOM of EARTH 17: Two years?? He’s been President for 10 years here!

TOM of EARTH 22: Wait a minute. You mean, the guy who had a bad reality show about 10 years ago? He’s your President? You gotta be shitting me, man!

TOM of EARTH 42: Again, who’s Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 616: 10 years? Oh my God. What’s it like there?

TOM of EARTH 17: Pretty much the dystopian nightmare you’d expect. After his first term, he learned he could do anything he wanted. So he did. He made himself President for life.

TOM of EARTH 22: You can do that on your Earth?

TOM of EARTH 17: OF COURSE YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON MY EARTH!  He did it anyway!

TOM of EARTH 616: How? Congress did nothing to stop him? The Courts did nothing to stop him?

TOM of EARTH 17: The Congress wouldn’t impeach him and he simply ignored the courts! He said, “Fuck you.” And he got away with it!

TOM of EARTH 22: You’re talking about the guy who put his name on buildings and has really weird hair? Right?

TOM of EARTH 616: Yeah, that’s the one. We can’t believe it either.

TOM of EARTH 17: Well, believe it! I live in a world where the global economy is in the third year of a global depression. Disaster relief for all the super-tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and cyclones now cost almost one trillion dollars a year. And there’s no way to get rid of this guy!

TOM of EARTH 616: Well, he’s old, won’t he die soon?

TOM of EARTH 17: Maybe, but so what? He passed a law that when he dies, he gets replaced by … Eric.

TOM of EARTH 616: Fuck.

TOM of EARTH 22: Damn. Wow. Sorry man. It sucks to be you.

TOM of EARTH 42: WHO THE FUCK IS DONALD TRUMP?

(End of minutes.)

GRABBING A LITTLE ANTI-MATTER – Marilyn Armstrong

When I worked with NASA back in the late 1980s, I had to do a large, complicated study on what kind of unit they should design to retrieve satellites in space.

The NASA guys believed anything with fewer than three arms would be worthless. It turns out satellites do interesting things. Not just rolling, but doing a sort of shimmy — like a spitball in space. Despite more than 700-pages of diagrams and explanations, the financial wizards in the government decided on building a unit with only two arms.

Which, as their own scientists had noted, wouldn’t work. They tried it in space. It didn’t work.

Neptune from 1989 Voyager

They were still putting all the space travel stuff on television, so when the “satellite catching” event came up, I had to watch it. “Hey,” I told Garry, “I was the lead writer on the study for this thing.” I really was, too.

The multi-million dollar satellite catcher did not work at all. It was completely useless and could not catch anything. Eventually, the astronaut dumped the “catcher” and grabbed the satellite with his hands.

It turned out, they didn’t need any kind of special catching machinery because even very big things are weightless in outer space.

So much for a lot of scientists, artists, writers, and editors working on this monumental study. I worked 7-days a week for five weeks. Which earned me some really serious overtime money, even though the study was a bust.

1989 shot of earth’s arctic ice

The most interesting thing was I got to talking with my NASA scientist who was in charge of the project.

It was 1988. They already knew about things like anti-matter — something I thought was just science fiction.

My scientist guy said “Oh, no. We know it’s there. We just have to figure out how to get some.”

I said, “What would you do with it?”

Yes, we CAN!

He laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. Destroy the world? Maybe the universe?”

He wasn’t kidding. Even a tiny bit of anti-matter could go a long way towards blowing up the universe. Let’s not wait for climate change to do us in. Let’s grab some anti-matter and blow up the world. Whoopee!

Soon thereafter, I quit that job.

It had begun to make my brain do weird barrel rolls in my head. I had nightmares and helping them find stuff that could not only blow up the earth but all the planets and maybe the sun. Maybe the whole universe.

That’s a lot of blowing up. Every now and then, I still have those nightmares. Sooner or later, those scientists will find a way to get their hands on anti-matter.

A slip of the finger later …

I refer you to this article on Anti-Matter. If you think I’m kidding, really, I’m not.

And finally, a little quote to whet your appetite:

“… when matter and antimatter come into contact, they annihilate – disappearing in a flash of energy. The Big Bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. So why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe?”

Maybe there isn’t more matter than anti-matter. Maybe we just haven’t found the big anti-matter grab bag yet. And if there is an equal amount of anti-matter in the universe, are there also anti-people? Anti-trees? Anti-birds?

Maybe given our human record for destroying everything we get our hands on, we should just skip the whole anti-matter thing and do something positive?

Just a thought.

B+ AND ME: BLOOD TYPES AROUND THE WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

A few years ago, I got to thinking about blood type. I wondered how come I have B+ blood when everyone in my family is O or A. I decided to go hunting on the Internet to see if I could learn something about where I come from using this tidbit of information.

Blood type O: the Americas
Blood type O: the Americas

It turns out, B-type people are universally less common than O and A.

It might mean I have some tidbit of Asian ancestry. Genghis Khan made serious inroads into Europe. Who knows where the seeds of his army were left?

Blood Type A: Central and Eastern Europe
Blood Type A: Central and Eastern Europe

The incidence of type B is low amongst Jews. Low everywhere, but not unheard of, nor so infrequent as to be rare. But low.

My mother was type O, the most common blood group everywhere. Among native peoples in the western hemisphere, type O is close to 100%. Many scientists theorize that “O” was the “original” human blood type and all other types mutated from it.

That’s one theory, anyhow. Blood types do mutate and occasionally even change completely following a transfusion.

This is a bit of a hot topic because some places, blood typing has been used to categorize people as inferior, notably Japan. There are always racists looking for a way to prove they are superior to everyone else. At least one study (I’m not sure I should dignify it with that name) claims people of B-type blood are descendants of Neanderthals while O and A descended from Cro-Magnon.

This is pure speculation. Not research.

Worse, there are pockets of racists who contend that A is the only pure Aryan blood type. What evidence did they base this on? None. Particularly interesting since O is the dominant blood type everywhere.

Blood type B: Asia
Blood type B: Asia

Overall in the world, B is the rarest ABO blood allele. Only 16% of humanity has it. It reaches its highest frequency in Central Asia and Northern India. It’s believed to have been entirely absent from Native American and Australian Aboriginal populations prior to the arrival of Europeans. However, there are relatively high-frequency pockets in Africa too. 

B is not a dominant blood type anywhere. It is highest in the Philippines and Siberia, the lowest in the Americas. Very rare in the British Isles and Scandinavia. The highest percentage it reaches is 38% of the population and that is in the Philippines. In the Middle East, the ultimate melting pot, all the major blood types are more or less evenly divided in the population.

If this shows some kind of migratory pattern for our ancestors, no one can prove it. Not yet, anyway, but they are working on it. The Middle East is the land pathway between Africa, Europe, and Asia, so it makes sense that many types of people might make their homes there.

It turns out there is no universally accepted theory of the origins of man. Scientists and other theorists can’t even agree whether or not we all have the same progenitors.

blood types around the world

So after all this, I don’t know much more than I did when I started. Clearly, there is something to be learned from the distribution of blood types in the world, but no one is certain of exactly what.

One of the possibilities of my “B” blood type is that my father was mistakenly typed and rather than A, was actually AB. But the truth is that blood types do sometimes pop up unexpectedly. There are lots of recessive traits lingering in us. My B+ blood has a number of unique qualities, which is why I have a blood donor card that specifies the unique other qualities of my blood.

In fact, the blood types we know – O, A, AB, B – in both positive and negative forms are not the whole of blood-typing. It gets a lot more complicated than most people realize, which is why there are whole hospitals dedicated to dealing with blood.

I think eventually blood typing will be one of the many ways we trace the movements of our Neolithic ancestors. Maybe even pre-Neolithic.