Reader letters, April 21

Apr 20, 2017

A quest for truth

To the editor:

Science Science:   What does it do?

Science Science:   How does it work?

Science Science:   Why should I care?

The “March for Science” in Asheville is all about these questions.

So what is science – “Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”

Ouch – that is a mouth full, how about a simpler definition:

Science is the study of everything, dealing in facts not fiction.

In the world of science, investigators (scientists) make an observation about something.  He/she then asks a question about the observation.

Then an answer is proposed, and an experiment is designed to test the proposed answer.   And, finally data/facts are collected to make a determination if the proposed answer was correct.   This is called the dcientific method.

Everyone enjoys the benefits of this scientific approach to the development of usable knowledge:  health care, vaccinations, computers, space exploration, cell phones, cleaner air, safe drinking water, healthy food supply, and a better understanding of how the universe actually works.

Unfortunately, too many of our leaders are attempting to either ignore scientific truths or spin scientific facts to support their own personal beliefs of how things work in the universe.

The development of our nation’s public policies must rely on verifiable facts and not just rhetoric generated for specific political goals.

This is a primary goal of the March for Science, to bring forward the issue that public policy must be based on verifiable truth, generated by the scientific method that embraces facts.

This Saturday, April 22, at 10a.m., there will be a “March for Science” in Asheville.  The march starts at Aston Park.

I will be participating with my local organization, Progressive Nation WNC, in a non-partisan March for Science in Asheville.   Please join us, March for Science, March for Facts.

Thomas Stephen Brooker

Lake Junaluska

Close encounter — with an asteroid

To the editor:

Disclaimer:  This is not the plot of a new apocalypse movie.

On Wednesday, April 19, a large 750-meter asteroid zoomed closely by earth.

The asteroid, identified as 2014 J025, was discovered in May 2014, made a predicted journey, and came within 1.1 million miles of earth (a very small distance in the solar system neighborhood).

The fact that this information exists is the result of work by The Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), a part of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.  The observatory with telescopes and other equipment is near Tucson, Arizona.

We live in a scientifically advanced society with amazing discoveries and magical technology surrounding us and impacting our daily lives.

The knowledge and information of our scientific achievements is easily Googled and continues to expand exponentially.  For example, we know that the world is not flat and is not the center of the universe.  Our science, math and technology has taken us on several visits to the moon and carried robotic rovers to explore the surface of Mars.

Our satellites have mapped and performed a variety of analyses on all the planets and a few of the largest moons that make up our galactic neighborhood.

One of the earliest of these solar system travelers, Voyager 2, launched in 1977, still communicates with the Deep Space Network, receiving commands and returning data from space beyond our solar system.  Our submarines have carried us to the extreme depths of the oceans.

Our medical scientists have stopped deadly plagues such a Smallpox and the Black Death, developed vaccines to prevent viral epidemics like Polio, perfected surgical techniques to replace heart valves, repair cleft palates, and transplant major organs.

They have found drugs to conquer bacteria, organisms so small they can only be seen under a microscope.  They have created new therapies that tackle cancer, manage chronic diseases, and increase life expectancy.

Following the rules of the scientific method, these men and women have designed studies to test the effectiveness of our medicines, determine our impact on our planet home, guarantee the safety of our dams and bridges, and verify educational strategies to improve student outcomes.

Yet, the validity of scientific research and discovery is called into question daily in the social commentary that is underway at this time.

This weekend crowds of people will take to the streets again to support the March for Science in Asheville.  In recognition of Earth Day, festivals and rallies such as “Greening Up the Mountains,” are scheduled in communities in every state.

There will be many local residents from Haywood County who spend an afternoon enjoying a picnic on the Parkway.

We live in a remarkable world, a creation of unrivaled beauty and complex diversity.  We have developed skills and knowledge that make us better stewards and caretakers of this world.

There are probably cures for every disease and medicines for every sickness just waiting for discovery in a remote jungle, or on a mountain creek bank, or in an arctic tundra. Take some time this weekend to celebrate our planet home and support efforts to study and protect it.

Mary Thomas