Insanity Should Not Be a Defense

The insanity defense drives some members of the public insane.  In fact, one of these members of the public, claiming temporary insanity, might run out and shoot a murderer who used this defense.  This example points out the absurdity of the insanity defense.  The problem is that many murderers are, at a minimum, temporarily insane when they kill.

Even though a small percentage of criminals are found not guilty by reason of insanity, this controversial defense needs more scrutiny.  Let’s examine the rules of law that apply to this defense.

There are five tests of criminal responsibility involving insanity:  (1) M’Naghten Rule in 1843, which states that the accused must prove that he didn’t know what he was doing or didn’t know it was wrong, (2) the irresistible impulse in 1897, which means that the charged could not control his conduct, (3) the Durham Rule in 1954, which is mental illness caused the criminal act, (4) the Model Penal Code in 1972, declares the he lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control it, and (5) the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which currently requires showing the lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.

The evolution of the insanity defense has followed the public’s concern that a murderer will get back out on the street because a high-paid psychiatrist told the jury that he was insane.  Prior to 1843, if you proved that when you committed a murder, you did not know what you were doing; you could be released.  When Daniel M’Naghten killed Edward Drummond, M’Naghten claimed he believed that Drummond was the Prime Minister of Great Britian, so he got off.  The public was incensed.  Quite frankly, M’Naghten intentionally killed a man.  It shouldn’t matter whether he mistook Mr. Drummond for the Prime Minister.

The M’Naghten Rule soon came into existence, which is used by several of the states even today.  In short, the rule is that if at the time of the act you are laboring under a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, so as to not know the nature and quality of the act you are doing, or if you do not know the difference between right and wrong, then you could use the defense of insanity.

As we learned more about mental disorders, some professionals have argued that some people may be able to distinguish right from wrong and still be insane.  Some states allowed defendants to argue that even though they knew that what they were doing was wrong, they were unable to control an urge to commit the crime, which was termed the irresistible impulse rule.  This test is problematic because murderers could argue this quite frequently.  It opens up a big exit door for the defense.

Then the Durham Rule came along.  Monte Durham had a long history of both criminal activity and mental illness.  The court held that Durham was not guilty because his criminal acts were the product of a mental disease or defect.  This rule provided that insanity was caused by many factors, not all of which need to be present in each criminal case.  This rule was very controversial since it did little to define mental disease or defect.

All the federal courts and many state courts adopted Model Penal Codes by 1982.  These codes stated that if at the time of the conduct as a result of mental disease or defect, the accused is not responsible if he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.  In effect, this broadened the M’Naghten and Irresistible Impulse rules, by focusing on the individual’s substantial capacity.  This gets away from the black and white of being able to distinguish right from wrong.

When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan, his defense team showed that Hinckley was insane, so he was acquitted.  This created a public backlash, leading to several states abolishing the insanity defense and twelve states changing the law to provide a verdict of “guilty but mentally ill” leading to a prison sentence with psychiatric treatment.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 modified the federal rules regarding the insanity defense, shifting the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the defendant.  The test for insanity was a lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.  This gives a professional psychiatrist plenty of leeway to testify that a murderer was insane.  A person found not guilty by reason of insanity would be committed to a mental hospital until that person would no longer be dangerous to society.

Today, the insanity defense is just too confusing for jurors and they are at the mercy of the psychiatrists who are paid well for their opinions.  The best approach is to allow the case to be prosecuted without the insanity defense.  Then, the court would allow evidence of mental defect or insanity in the sentencing portion of the trial.  The jurors could even require prison with psychiatric assistance during the prisoner’s sentence.  If the prisoner is really bad and needs full time psychiatric care, then that could be arranged.  When the prisoner is better, he would be returned to prison.  There are many possible options under sentencing to deal with insanity, but giving a killer a free pass is not one of them.

What about a murderer who does not have the capacity to defend himself in court?  A friend of the court could be appointed to represent that individual’s interest, separate and apart from his attorney.  It would be similar to a civil court appointing a representative for somebody who is being declared incompetent.

What about the element of intent in murder?  In order for an accused to be charged with murder, there typically has to be malice aforethought.  This requires a deliberate, premeditated, and willful killing of another human being.  Many states determine if the accused knew his behavior had a strong chance of causing death or was reckless in conduct that caused death.

If the accused had a mental defect, such as being a paranoid schizophrenic, then the facts of the case have to be examined.  If the individual was on medications that made them normal, but they stopped taking the medications, then this provides evidence that the accused was criminally negligent and when he stopped taking the medications, he showed indifference to life and recklessly engaged in conduct that caused death.

Each crime must be examined on a case-by-case method to determine whether murder or manslaughter is involved.  Insanity should only be examined as a mitigating factor in the murder trial.  In some cases, it may lead to a manslaughter indictment.  In most cases, it would lead to mitigation in the sentencing phase of the trial.  But the bottom line is that insanity should not be a defense that erases the crime.

Revelation – A Dark Corner of the Bible

My wife and I have been reading the Bible together for years.  We finally reached the last book, Revelation, which I call the dark corner of the Bible.  My wife, who is very religious, was clearly upset as we started reading this book.  Revelation, written by John, is apocalyptic in nature.  It does not paint a pretty picture of the future.  If read literally, it seems to say that only 144,000 people will enter God’s kingdom, Revelation 7:4.  That’s a very, very low percentage of the total of Homo sapiens who have populated earth for thousands of years.  My wife looked at me and was crying when she said, “I don’t have a chance.”

The notion that few people will be permitted to enter the new world is not unique to the Book of Revelation.  Jesus, discussing entrance into the kingdom of heaven, stated in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many true Christians, who reflect on their sins, will draw a similar conclusion as my wife did.  We all have sinned, so obviously never having sinned is not the ticket to God’s universe, so we all thought that we had a pretty good chance of entering heaven.  As it turns out, the odds may be better of winning the lottery.

Actually, the people who believe that they will enter God’s heaven are the ones least likely to receive an invitation.  Typically, they go to church on Sunday, confess their sins, and then go back out Monday and start sinning again, building up their bad behavior to a crescendo on Saturday, so they can return to church on Sunday confessing their sins.

Personally, I was challenged by Revelation.  I want to be a better person because of it, and I will never stop working toward that end.  Even if I do not make the grade or pass Judgment Day, I will do my best and will not be deterred from that goal.  My wife had a different reaction to the darkness of Revelation.  She was depressed and did not want to read the book anymore.

Revelation is depressing to many believers.  These believers will be happily separated from unbelievers in Hades during the first death, with the first judgment based on belief and not works.  But the second death mentioned in Revelation 20:14 may be more problematic for believers.  Revelation 20:12 reveals a second judgment of the dead, “great and small,” which will examine what we have done with our lives.  One interpretation of the “great and small” might mean both believers and non-believers.  Thus, most believers do not want to discuss the second judgment, which may be based on their deeds or misdeeds during their lifetimes.

As I said, all of us have sinned, so we all do not want to be judged on those things that we have done in the past.  We want to believe that Jesus died for our sins, and our sin debt was paid in full.  However, that is just the first death.  Revelation gets into details on the second death and clearly indicates that the judgment on this second death will be based on our works.  This part of Revelation really upset my wife, but I explained to her that there are always consequences for our choices.  But by becoming one with God, we become a better, stronger spirit as we stand before the “great white throne” described in Revelation 20:11.

It is really quite logical.  If you were destroying the universe you had created and were repopulating a new world, you would not offer invitations to those who corrupted the old world.  You would want a fresh start with the best of the best.  Otherwise, the new universe would become just like the old.  Only those who were truly Godly would be invited.  That’s why your best chance may be to unify with God and be like Jesus during your lifetime.

If I do not make the grade, I pray that my spirit will be destroyed along with my body, so that I will not be twisting in my own thoughts for eternity.  I hope that my efforts to unite with God and follow the teachings of Jesus will earn me entry into the kingdom, but if they do not, then I would prefer destruction of my consciousness over eternal hell with my thoughts.

Revelation seems to offer three possible final destinations for all Homo sapiens, past and present:  (1) only 144,000 enter God’s kingdom, Revelation 7:4, also referenced as “the prophets and your saints” in Revelation 11:18, (2) others may be terminated as those “who destroy the earth,” Revelation 11:18, perhaps meaning that they will be in that “lukewarm” group described in Revelation 3:16 which does not take a stand and through omission allows the earth to be destroyed by evil, while (3) a third group listed as “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars” in Revelation 21:8,  will be judged according to what they have done and will be thrown into the “lake of fire,” Revelation 20:14, to reflect on their misgivings forever.

Realistically, I don’t expect to be in the first group, but I am going to work hard to be in the second which will magnanimously be put out of its misery through complete annihilation, which only the Creator can do through His grace.  Remember, nothing can be created or destroyed in our universe, but God can mercifully destroy us, if He so desires, in His universe.  The consequence of being in the third group is an unbelievably horrible punishment of being left behind in a closed universe with your own thoughts forever.  I cannot think of any sentence that would be worse.  The Bible describes this torture as “men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.

John, the Gnostic

John, who is considered to be the author of the Gospel of John, the three books of John, and Revelation at the end of the Bible, is one of a handful of Gnostic writers whose works were not destroyed by the church establishment.  A majority of the books included in the Bible had no Gnostic theology at all, so it is important to examine John’s books to uncover the beliefs of an important Christian sect that was pushed into a dark corner to be hidden from future Christians.

Why were the Gnostics so feared by the church leaders?  Well, it is rather simple.  The Gnostics did not believe that clergy were required to intercede for believers to reach God.  The central thesis for the Gnostics was dualism:  the spirit is entirely good, while matter is entirely evil.  The human body and all material in the universe are bad, while God and the spirit are good.  Separation of your spirit from your body requires special knowledge.  The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, the derivative for Gnosticism.  Thus, Gnostics believed that you unified with God and became one with God through your mind by leaving your body behind.

In the Gospel of John, the author emphasized that God would send down the Holy Spirit to help us become one with God, just like Jesus and God are one, John 17:11.  Jesus said that the Spirit will be in us, John 14:17.  Jesus is in his Father, just like he will be in you and you in him, John 14:20 and 17:22-23.  After Jesus died, he returned to command us to “receive the Holy Spirit,” John 20:22.

John’s books were included in the Bible because he was not an extreme Gnostic.  For example, some Gnostics believed in “docetism,” which meant that Jesus only seemed to have a body.  John believed some Gnostics of his day were false prophets under the influence of spirits alienated from God.  In other words, there were both evil and good spirits, and we should test the spirits, 1 John 4:1-3.  Some Gnostics, who followed Cerinthus, believed that Jesus was not in the spirit form until he was baptized by John the Baptist and then right before he died on the cross.

But John was a Gnostic in the sense that he believed that you must unify with God.  John believed that God must be in you, 1 John 4:4, and living in you, 1 John 4:12.  He stated, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit,” John 4:13.  And John explains that it is important to have God inside you, giving you confidence and driving out any fear we might have on judgment day, 1 John 17-18.  In other words, fear could be disastrous for us in the afterlife, so if we have God inside us, we will lose much of that fear.

John also apparently believed that God’s creation was a closed universe, so that God and Jesus existed before the universe was created, John 17:5 and 17:24.  The creation must have occurred outside our universe, meaning that it has a boundary that separates it from God’s universe.  This comports with the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy, which states that mass and energy cannot be created nor destroyed within our closed universe.  Creation must occur outside the perimeter of our universe.  And God’s universe is outside and separate from our universe.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.

John’s Book of Revelation is perhaps the most intriguing of his works.  If you asked twenty theologians to analyze the meanings, you would hear twenty different interpretations.  However, it is still worthwhile examining the passages.  For example, Jesus said that he was “the Alpha and the Omega,” in Revelation 1:8, meaning that he is the beginning and the end or “the First and the Last,” in Revelation 2:8.  This seems to indicate a closed universe with a beginning and an end.

Does that mean that God will destroy the entire universe?  Does that mean that we will no longer be conscious or aware?  The end of our worldly bodies is something we expect anyway.  The end of the universe is something altogether different.  If God can create our universe outside of its boundaries, He can also end it from outside.  But does that mean that after God destroys the universe that we will no longer be thinking?  Unfortunately, it seems we will not be that fortunate.

A Roman poet, Cornelius Gallus, wrote in the first century B.C., “Worse than any wound is the wish to die and yet not be able to do so.”  Revelation describes the end of times when God will select only 144,000 people to be protected from the torture and agony that is the future.  The remaining people “will seek death, but will not find it; they will want to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.  The 144,000 are described as having God’s name on their foreheads in Revelation 14:1, which because of John’s Gnostic leanings may have meant that these citizens had God inside their thoughts and were one with God.

As mentioned in 1 John 4:1, we should test the spirits because some are evil.  Revelation describes evil spirits working to forge forces to fight in the final battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:13-16.  Revelation does not offer any peace for people unless they unite with God.  Those who oppose God like Satan will be relegated to a fiery lake where they will be tormented for eternity, Revelation 20:10.  These may be allegorical references to torture forever within our own thoughts.  We may torture ourselves more than God ever would.  Nobody knows for certain except the Creator, who also holds the power of Destroyer.  If we were in that fiery lake, we might beg Him to destroy us and put us out of our misery, but apparently that does not happen.

At the conclusion of Revelation, Jesus mentions the Omega or ending again and then describes a new world which is outside the old universe (Alpha and Omega) in Revelation 22:13-15.  It is logical that in order to join Jesus and God in their world, you have to unite with them and become one.

Creativity in Football or War Leads to Winning

I watched the New England Patriots roll over the Indianapolis Colts by 45-7 on their way to the 49th Super Bowl.  You can argue that the Patriots have an outstanding offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels, that they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Tom Brady, that they have one of the best coaches in the league with Bill Bellichick, or that they have one of the best running backs in the game with LeGarrette Blount.  But the real story is that they know how to win as a team, utilizing surprise through creative thinking.  What a novel approach to winning?  And the same creativity results in winning battles during war.

Of course, that never comes without controversy.  Trick plays are not considered fair by the opposition.  Perhaps that is because they didn’t think of them and use them first.  And the public rarely understands or fully appreciates anything that is out of the ordinary.  But if you want to win, then you need to think outside of the normal play books.  And when you are criticized for doing something out of bounds, and you will be, then just be happy that you won the game or the battle.

After the Patriots utilized surprise play-calling to create a lopsided victory over a premier NFL team, Bob Kravitz of WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, said “The NFL was investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated the football Sunday night.” Kravitz, a former Indianapolis Star columnist, tweeted that “at one point the officials took a ball out of play and weighed it.”  NFL spokesman Michael Signora confirmed that the league “is looking into the matter.”

The NFL, according to ESPN, found that 11 out of the 12 footballs that New England provided for Sunday’s AFC championship game were under-inflated by as much as 2 pounds per square inch of pressure.  Each NFL team brings 12 Wilson footballs to the game and uses its own.  As such, the Patriots’ offense used one set of footballs and when possession shifted, the Colts then brought theirs onto the field.

It is not uncommon for teams to alter the poundage for the benefit of their quarterback.  Aaron Rogers likes the footballs overinflated for passing in cold weather in Green Bay.  The acceptable limits are between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds.  That means that New England had 11 footballs that were deflated under 12.5 pounds with at least one close to 10.5 pounds.  A deflated football could be better in rainy conditions like during the game between the Patriots and the Colts.

All game balls are checked by the referee, in the officials’ locker room, two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff.  Rule 2, section 1 of the NFL Rule Book states:  “The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications.  A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.”

Even if the footballs used by the Patriots were checked and approved prior to the game, they could have been deflated during the game. The home team is responsible for providing sideline attendants who supply the refs with balls as on-field action dictates.  But cameras may not have caught this action and referees did not seem to notice any extremely deflated footballs.  However, a deflated football isn’t that much of an advantage.  It seemed to be more that the Patriots’ offensive line bulldozed gaps for the running game.

But “Deflategate” is just one more accusation of skirting the rules that comes down on Belichick, charging the Patriots as cheating in order to win.  Some people will believe the Patriots cheated no matter what because they win so frequently and by large margins.  It might be that they use their brains along with their brawn.  Creativity leads to big wins, but most people do not understand that.

The Patriots won three championships prior to getting busted by the league for videotaping opposing teams’ sideline signals in 2007.  Since that controversy, New England went 18-0 in 2007 and has compiled a 99-28 regular-season record.  They also reached two Super Bowls, so it seems clear that “Spygate” was not the reason why the team has been so successful over the years.

It is human nature to support those who follow the rules.  However, the rules of play that are commonly utilized should never be a part of your strategy in football or war.  You want to surprise the enemy and keep them off balance during the entire engagement.  You want to come up with something different that gives your team the advantage.  You want to ensure that you win.  If you need to deflate the football on a rainy evening to give you an advantage, then you should do that.  That is not to say that you should deflate them below the acceptable limits, but you should deflate them to the lowest possible poundage in order to give you an edge in the game.

But that was not why the Patriots won the game so handily.  It was because they emphasized their strengths and came up with well-designed offensive plans, including some surprise plays like making the tackle eligible for passes.  After the game, most deflated were not footballs, but the egos of the Indianapolis Colts and their fans.

If Nobody LIkes It, It Is Good

I remember a story told by a controversial judge.  He said that when he rendered a decision that neither plaintiff nor defendant liked, he knew he had done the right thing and had provided a just verdict.

Life sometimes seems like a taffy pull with everybody wanting things to go their way, so that they get most of the taffy.  In my law practice, especially in divorce trials, both parties lied or embellished their stories in order to get a better judgment.  When a witness was sworn in, the bailiff asked them to tell “…the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.”  In all my years of working with clients, I never ran into an honest person who told the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  In fact, most of my clients didn’t believe in God.  Perhaps that was a big part of the problem.

When that controversial judge, mentioned above, discounted both accounts provided by the parties and rendered a judgment that neither party liked, he rendered the best possible judgment in a world full of dishonest litigants.

I suppose that since lying has few bad consequences, many people do it.  Nonbelievers have no fear of consequences during life or afterlife.  Police and detectives must be the most negative people in the world since they are lied to around the clock.  These officers, based on their experiences, would have a tendency to believe nobody.  Even when suspects or people of interest provided information about a crime, they would probably not trust it.  This is not a good comment about our society.

One of the rules of evidence that permits hearsay is a dying declaration, which gives more credibility to a comment made just before death.  However, I am not certain that this should be an exception to hearsay anymore.  I think even when they are dying they are lying most of the time.  The old rule was appropriate when the majority of people was religious and would be less likely to lie right before meeting their maker.  However, this is not the case today.  Most people will lie anytime during their life.

I go back to what that judge said, and I use that in any decision process involving analyzing statements of witnesses.  If nobody likes my decision, then it is a good one, probably very fair and impartial.

This also can be applied to speeches, articles, books, or any other form of communication.  If my comments are not well received by anybody, then I know that I am headed down the right path.  In fact when people congratulate me for my reasoned opinion, I go back and look at that decision again.  I reevaluate it because it was probably wrong.

The Universe is as Flat as Our Earth

Thomas L. Friedman wrote a book called, “The World Is Flat.”  His theory appeared to be that globalization is bringing countries together so that the world seemed to have flattened out through communication and technology.  However, a flat world would make everything more distant, not closer together.

The same goes for the expansion theory as the end-game for our universe.  Using that theory, the galaxies in our universe would spread out, moving further away from each other.  Eventually, they would be so far away from each other that they would be in a Deep Freeze with no distant stars in the sky.

This theory reminds me of early man who could see no further than the horizon, so that everything was deemed to be flat.  Most everything in our universe is elliptical.  The electrons circle the nucleus.  The planets circle our sun.  Solar systems probably circle a supermassive black hole in the center of their galaxies.

It might be a mistake to think that galaxies are any different.  It is possible that the supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies have something that they all circle.  Is this something dark energy, which makes up about 74% of our universe?  Dark energy appears to have the strength to force dark matter to circle it.  We don’t have enough information to speculate further, but we can examine the circular mechanism within our universe and wonder why supermassive black holes should be any different.  Wouldn’t dark matter orbit something just like other matter within the rest of our universe?

So, our universe is just as flat as the world is… meaning it probably is not flat at all.  More than likely, our universe is a closed entity that expands and contracts like a balloon.  And if the galaxies remained proportionate to each other, we could never detect whether it was expanding in an open universe or contacting in a closed universe.

The “red shift” detected between galaxies cannot distinguish between expansion in an open universe or contraction in a closed universe either.  If the galaxies were moving away from each other in a flat universe, it would be reflected in a “red shift.”  And if the galaxies were shrinking away from each other in a closed universe, it would also create a “red shift.”  Thus, we do know that the galaxies are not collapsing in a flat universe, nor are expanding in a closed universe.

The bottom line is do you believe the universe is flat and open ended or is it circular and closed?  In the future, I suspect that scientists will view our beliefs that the universe was flat to be no different than when we thought the world was flat.

Why No Afterlife Is Best

It probably seems strange that a Christian, who truly believes in God, would say that no afterlife would be the best case for our species.  It’s really quite simple.  We all have sinned and have led something other than stellar lives, so there are consequences waiting for our poor choices.  If there is no afterlife, then there will be no punishment.  We will die and that will be the end.  This also would be the best ending for us since we would no longer be thinking.  And thinking without the distractions of our five senses could be a nightmare in and of itself.

However, the odds are significantly in favor of there being an afterlife.  The law of conservation of mass and energy states that nothing is created or destroyed in our universe.  Of course, there are many transfers from one form to another.  Water can be heated and turned into steam and energy.  Thus, it is very unlikely that our consciousness will be destroyed.  It is more likely that it will be transformed into something that is aware and thinking, but unlike anything we have been exposed to on earth.  But if we are still thinking, that is “the rub” that Shakespeare wrote about in Hamlet.  What “dreams may come” and what will we be thinking about?

Sensory deprivation is a form of punishment or torture that has been utilized by military and prisons for many years.  Typically, the prisoner starts to hallucinate and have horrible nightmares within minutes.  It would be the worst punishment imaginable to be suspended in this state for eternity.  You would be your own worst enemy.  Your thoughts would turn against you.  That’s why no afterlife is best for mankind, but like I said, “It is not likely.”  And since the consequences to you in that strange environment are significant, I would err on the side of having something to hold onto.

Now, that being said, it will not work for you to say: “Well, I will believe in God if I am placed in that environment.”  Your belief in God has to be unbelievably powerful.  It has to be a stronger faith than most Christians have.  Those Christians who go to church each Sunday and do nothing more probably will not have the belief that is required.  It must be a faith that is unshakeable by the chaotic underworld that awaits us.  If you initially believe in God and drop that faith as soon as the first demon arrives, then you will be lost.

God must be deeply entrenched inside you.  God must be so much a part of you that you are one with God.  Then your thoughts are also the thoughts of God, the creator.  Only He can guide you through the inky surrealistic world of death.  No matter how independent and powerful you think you are, you will not be equipped to handle the afterlife by yourself.  Only God can get you through it.  And that is not to say that it will be easy to navigate through the punishments of the underworld with God inside you.  It will be extremely difficult even with God.  But it will be impossible without Him.

Believing that Jesus died for our sins will give us a clean conscience, so that we will not carry guilt with us on our journey through the underworld.  But there will still be consequences for the choices we made during our lifetimes.  It is called “judgment day.”  Nobody knows what will happen, so it is best to prepare for anything and everything, including getting as close to God as you can.


You are very familiar with earthquakes.  Well, welcome to marsquakes.  Scientists used to believe that Mars died billions of years ago, along with any potential for activity, including seismic activity, deep within its core.  However, they are not so sure anymore.

“It’s likely that there may be marsquakes today, but seismic monitoring will be required to know for sure,” said marsquake study leader David Ferrill of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “Until then, it’s just scientific speculation.”   He continued, “With NASA striving to take humans back to the Moon and onto Mars and beyond, understanding the geologic activity of the planet can aid in future mission planning.”

Ferrill, who has an office at the University of Texas, examined images from satellites orbiting Mars which show strings of depressions lined up in a row.  Scientists wondered if the pit chains were either collapsed lava tubes or sinkholes carved by early water flows.  But they resembled pit chains in Iceland that formed along a fault based on seismic activity.  Scientists asked if these pits on Mars also could be created by seismic activity.

Using the terrestrial observations, along with lab work and mathematical modeling that took into account the different gravity of the two planets, Ferrill’s team found that the pit chains in Iceland and on Mars were likely formed by the same process.

“The general shape of faults is similar on both planets, however the lower Martian gravity produces steeper fault segments that extend down deeper into the crust than they do on Earth,” he said. “This allows for a larger void space near the surface into which loose surface material can collapse.”

Earth has plate tectonics as multiple plates scattered around the world move like glaciers, but over millions of years create significant seismic activity on earth.  Mars, which may have only one plate covering the planet and which is about 30 miles deep, does not have the same mechanism available for volcanic activity, but scientists are starting to wonder if Mars has tectonic activity that differs from earth’s.

“Although tectonically different from Earth, we see extensive evidence of faulting on Mars,” Ferrill said. “That means that when the planet was more tectonically active, faulting could have produced marsquakes similar to the earthquakes here on Earth.”

According to recent studies, Mars does have a core that is mostly iron and is partly molten.  This suggests that the red planet has not fully cooled following its formation about 4.5 billion years ago.  Even though volcanoes on the red planet appear to be dormant, scientists are not certain anymore.

Theorists expect the gradual cooling of Mars would have slowed tectonic activity over the past 3.5 billion years. Yet some think there could still be dozens of temblors a year with a magnitude of 3.5 or greater.  The cooling could cause contraction of the crust, which could cause seismic events at the surface.

“Because Mars is similar to the earth and the moon, both of which have seismic events, it is likely that Mars experiences marsquakes as well,” Ferrill said.


Stromatolites – Our Ancient Ancestors

Our earliest ancestor was a plant, not an animal.  This most ancient ancestor was a stromatolite dating back more than 3.5 billion years ago or about a billion years after our earth was first formed.   Stromatolites consist of blue-green algae that aggregates, creating layers.  Even though most of our early ancestors have gone extinct, stromatolites still exist today.  A large population is located in the Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay in western Australia.

Stromatolites were the most abundant fossils found in rocks dating to the Precambrian era, from the origin of Earth about 4.5 billion years ago to 544 million years ago.  Stromatolites became prolific starting about 2.5 billion years ago, releasing oxygen into the environment which set the stage for animal life.  Both plant and animal kingdoms diversified over the years, but stromatolites remained the same since they were able to adapt to many environments and did not require diversification to survive.  They formerly existed all over the world, but today they are endangered.

Over billions of years, both plants and animals evolved into large trees and dinosaurs, but there were many mass extinctions that cut off the branches in our family tree.  One of the most widely discussed was the death of the dinosaurs, which occurred about 65 million years ago.  The K-T boundary or thin geologic line representing the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Tertiary ages included iridium.  Iridium is found primarily in meteors.  This was strong evidence of when the large mountain of a meteor about six miles wide crashed into the Yucatan Penninsula near the town of Chicxulub in Mexico.

Scientists are fairly confident that this meteor caused significant stress on the dinosaur population, but are not certain if this event could have accounted for the mass extinction by itself.  However, if you examine the effects of the meteor’s impact, it might be sufficient.  The impact set off volcanic eruptions, massive earthquakes, and tsunamis, all sending dust and debris into the atmosphere, where it blocked sunlight for centuries.  This created a nuclear winter with temperatures plummeting.  There were wildfires all over earth, causing acid rain.  This sounds pretty convincing, but there is one more piece to this puzzle.

About this same time, a large volcanic eruption occurred in the Deccan Traps located in the northwestern part of the Deccan Plateau in India.  It may be the largest volcanic province in the world, consisting of more than a 6,600-foot depth of basalt lava flows covering an area of 190,000 square miles.  When the event occurred, some estimates show that 580,000 square miles were impacted.  This would have been a significant event, which when combined with the meteor could have been too much for the dinosaurs.

Some scientists believe that the Deccan Traps eruption occurred first about 66 million years ago, lasting for thousands of years, and then the Yucatan meteor smashed into the earth about 65 million years ago, causing a double whammy which wiped out the dinosaurs.  However, it may be more than a coincidence that the Yucatan impact area is on the opposite side of the world from the Deccan Traps.  If you place your finger of your right hand on the area where the meteor landed and a finger of your left hand on the Deccan Traps on a globe of the earth, these locations are eerily opposed to each other.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  I would argue that the time lines need to be reexamined.  It is more likely that the meteor stuck first, which triggered the great Deccan Flats eruption.  Whether this occurred 66 or 65 million years ago is not known, but it must have been closer in time than scientists believe.

Mammals were able to survive these events and over time, an animal called Homo erectus popped up in the east African rift zone about 2 million years ago.  These hominids were able to stand upright, so we believe that we descended directly from them.  Homo sapiens seem to have entered the scene about 500 thousand years ago, and the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, which is very similar to modern man, can be found about 200 thousand years ago.

Our subspecies just barely hung on after the mega-volcanic eruption at Lake Toba in Indonesia about 75,000 years ago.  This was the biggest eruption that we know about during the history of earth, which caused a nuclear winter just like the Yucatan meteor and Deccan Flats eruption.  Our species came very close to being wiped out.  There were only about a thousand of our species that survived this event, which explains why all humans are so genetically similar.  After surviving the ice age, our species started repopulating the earth about 10,000 years ago.

So the bottom line is that Homo sapiens sapiens has not been king of the earth for very long.  In the great scheme of things, we should examine all our ancestors and realize that we are very insignificant in the great scheme of things, not only in the amount of time that we have occupied the earth, but also in our vulnerability to changes.  We have been very fortunate that we are right in the middle of a warm, moderate period, but will we survive the next ice age or cataclysm?  Time is really not on our side.

Generation Gaps

I remember a song in the movie/play “Bye Bye Birdie” when the father sings, “What’s the matter with kids today?”

Here are the lyrics:

Kids!  I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Kids!  Who can understand anything they say?
Kids!  They a disobedient, disrespectful oafs!
Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers!
While we’re on the subject:
Kids!  You can talk and talk till your face is blue!
Kids!  But they still just do what they want to do!
Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?
Kids!  I’ve tried to raise him the best I could.
Kids! Kids!  Laughing, singing, dancing, grinning, morons!
And while we’re on the subject!
Kids!  They are just impossible to control!
Kids!  With their awful clothes and their rock an’ roll!
Why can’t they dance like we did, what’s wrong with Sammy Caine?
What’s the matter with kids today!

The reference to Sammy Caine was probably a reference to Sammy Kaye, who was an American bandleader and songwriter whose tag line, “Swing and sway with Sammy Kaye” was one of the most famous in the Big Band era.   The classical big band sound contrasted with the rock ‘n roll sounds of the 50’s and 60’s.  It depicted a musical generation gap between the parents and children during those decades.

The song stuck with me all these years because it says a lot about how each generation thinks their children have gone to the dogs, while the parents had a spotless record growing up.  That’s not true, of course.  However, there are differences between generations and sometimes differences noticed in children every four to five years.

I have been watching football games in December and January and find it interesting that some coaches are lamenting that the younger players do not have the same work ethic that the coaches had when they were playing ball.  One coach indicated that he even had a generation gap between his junior and senior players and the freshman and sophomore players.  He stated that the older players were more mature and played as a team, while the younger players played as individuals.

Quarterbacks are a good study because they control much of the offense.  I noticed that some quarterbacks would constantly go for the “long bomb,” always hoping to get the touchdown pass that would bring them glory.  However, the teams fared better when quarterbacks made certain that they made first downs, marching consistently down the field.  This involved play-option passes and screen passes and short slants across the middle, which aren’t as exciting as touchdown passes, but they are best for the team.  It’s really not rocket science.  If you pass within the first two to three seconds of the play, you are more likely to avoid a sack or pressured pass by a three-hundred-pound lineman who is trying to crush you into the ground.  Gambling on a long pass down field may be good for your personal career, but it is not good for the team.

However, these decisions were made by quarterbacks from the same generation.  So why did some quarterbacks choose to take the more difficult passing road in an effort to win the game, while others selected the easier path of throwing photogenic, break-away touchdown passes?  My guess is that those quarterbacks who think about the team before themselves had experiences in life that taught them to share and work with others, while the publicity hounds probably had experiences that made them greedy for individual fame and glory.

Typically, the generation gaps and generation skipping also occur because of differences in how the generations were raised and what they experienced.  The generations that went through the Great Depression and WWII were very conservative because they had gone through tough times during that period.  The Vietnam War generations were less conservative as they broke away from the power of their parents to change the world and do things differently.  The generations today are given much more without having to work as hard, so they do not seem to be as motivated.

Generations will continue to evolve in America.  I believe that immigrants will make our country stronger as long as we have a reasonable system for allowing immigrants into America.  Immigrants will be more motivated to make a better life for themselves and, in some cases, may energize others to work harder through competition for better paying jobs.

I talked to one immigrant from Pakistan and asked him why he came to America.  He didn’t hesitated telling me that he knew that he would work harder than Americans and would be successful because of his work ethic.  I smiled because I knew that he was correct.

So, parents have always been concerned about their children and asking, “Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?  What’s the matter with kids today?”  But sometimes children will try to break away from the mold of their parents, many times creating generation skipping.  And occasionally the children will mature and return to the fold.  Other times, a child will follow in the footsteps of the parent and pattern themselves after that parent.  There is no magic formula that will shorten the generation gaps.  However, generations are representative of their experiences, so that if a generation experienced a common disaster, this would impact the personality of that generation, separating it from other generations that did not have that experience.

I believe that parents will always worry about their children.  But I wish parents would worry about themselves first and clean up their acts.  If parents worked on their marital relationships, that might keep their children from going through a nasty divorce.  If parents stopped smoking, that might keep their kids from smoking.  If parents spent more time with their children instead of focusing entirely on their jobs, that might bring the generations closer together.