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The Great Filter...

Image Source: Gizmodo and originally, Wait, But Why

 

Topics: Astrobiology, Carl Sagan, Climate Change, Drake Equation, Existentialism, Fermi Paradox, Nuclear Power


“The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” Carl Sagan

My First Contact scenario doesn't involve Vulcans, warp drive or impossible scenarios: it involves radio transmissions, as communication is a big part of the Drake Equation. Specifically audio, video and digital data (Internet?) of extraterrestrial origin as we would confirm before announcing to the world. Assuming the aliens developed their technology in an oxygen-nitrogen environment, the language we could hear might amount to a lot of "clicking" noises, that mathematicians - specifically specialists in cryptography, and linguists - would dive into deciphering. Eventually after coming up with a Rosetta Stone of syntax, we could translate what would amount to news, drama and sitcoms. Of specific interest might be their political climate and sectarian strife (if any). More particularly, did they successfully translate through their "Great Filter"...

...or, if they did not.
 

*****


I'm a big fan of Jordon Peele's incarnation of The Twilight Zone, particularly the sixth episode: "Six Degrees of Freedom." It is unfortunate that popular show title describes our current political climate.
 

I won't give away the intriguing ending, but Peele has mastered the macabre plot twist of Rod Serling's writing style, and (my opinion) his surreal monologue delivery. It's streaming, so you may have to pay less than you would for a single movie ticket per month to view it. I've enjoyed it andother shows so far, and I get no monetary gain for the endorsement.

"The Great Filter, in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents dead matter from undergoing abiogenesis, in time, to expanding lasting life as measured by the Kardashev scale.[1][2] The concept originates in Robin Hanson's argument that the failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable; this observation is conceptualized in terms of a "Great Filter" which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species with advanced civilizations actually observed (currently just one: human).[3] This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction.[1][4] The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.

The idea was first proposed in an online essay titled "The Great Filter - Are We Almost Past It?", written by economist Robin Hanson. The first version was written in August 1996 and the article was last updated on September 15, 1998. Since that time, Hanson's formulation has received recognition in several published sources discussing the Fermi paradox and its implications.

Using extinct civilizations such as Easter Island as models, a study conducted in 2018 posited that climate change induced by "energy intensive" civilizations may prevent sustainability within such civilizations, thus explaining the lack of evidence for intelligent extraterrestrial life.[5]" Source: Wikipedia/The Great Filter

The Great Filter is alluded to in science fiction with or without warp drive: Star Trek described global wars on Earth and the fictional Vulcan that involved their respective nuclear holocausts. For the Vulcans, recovery involved a relentless embrace of logic, or as I recall reading in a Trek novel, "reality-truth." For Earth, it essentially involved accepting help from the Vulcans after the human species was discovered warp capable through a singular genius with a funny name post self-induced Apocalypse, a Deus ex Machina plot device used since publicly performed Greek and Roman plays. We don't have warp drive, but we do have thermonuclear devices poised for Armageddon. We don't have Vulcans, but we once did have the Easter Islanders, just as once we had the Dodo.

I've often encapsulated The Great Filter in my own dictum: "intelligence is its own Entropy." I think when Carl Sagan was alive, the regressive forces we see now denying science, climate change; verifiable facts and reality were well engaged in his day of the original COSMOS. Slowly, shows like COSMOS lost their appeal to Game Shows cum Reality Shows, and as a country we reveled in our distractions, added as channels on cable and Internet multiplied like E. coli. and measles resurgence as well as our grasp of what is real and verifiable. In fact, we seek distractions in gadgets and online machinations in the constant need to fill "horror vacui."

In the east, nothing meant something, particularly in clarity of thought: Mu Shin No Shin - "the mind without mind" or more colloquially, "no mind." As translated from the martial battlefield to artists both martial and objective; and Zen philosophers, it offers a certain clarity that can be attained when not focused on minutiae detail, but accepted reality "as-is" after diligent practice. A practice like karate forms that takes years of repetition, dedication and study. That is the key to mastering anything, from martial arts to science to civics.

The stars are silent. Intelligence may be rare. Vulcans if existing may not be benevolent, and in the myopic attention span of the erect species of which I am member - "wise men"...fleeting in longevity.

We hope we're past The Great Filter. I'm not sure we are.

 

Related links:

The Great Filter Might Be What's Preventing Aliens from Reaching Us,
Joanie Faletto, Curiosity

The Reason We've Never Found Intelligent Life Might be Because We Are Already Going Extinct,
Climate change might be humanity’s "Great Filter." Karla Lant, Futurism

The Great Filter, a possible explanation for the Fermi Paradox – interview with Robin Hanson
Science, Technology, Future

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Superconductors' never-ending flow of electrical current could provide new options for energy storage and superefficient electrical transmission and generation. But the signature zero electrical resistance of superconductors is reached only below a certain critical temperature and is very expensive to achieve. Physicists in Serbia believe they've found a way to manipulate superthin, waferlike monolayers of superconductors, thus changing the material's properties to create new artificial materials for future devices. This image shows a liquid phase graphene film deposited on PET substrate. Credit: Graphene Laboratory, University of Belgrade

 

Topics: Applied Physics, Superconductors, Thin Films


Superconductors' never-ending flow of electrical current could provide new options for energy storage and superefficient electrical transmission and generation, to name just a few benefits. But the signature zero electrical resistance of superconductors is reached only below a certain critical temperature, hundreds of degrees Celsius below freezing, and is very expensive to achieve.

Physicists from the University of Belgrade in Serbia believe they've found a way to manipulate superthin, waferlike monolayers of superconductors, such as graphene, a monolayer of carbon, thus changing the material's properties to create new artificial materials for future devices. The findings from the group's theoretical calculations and experimental approaches are published in the Journal of Applied Physics.

"The application of tensile biaxial strain leads to an increase of the critical temperature, implying that achieving high temperature superconductivity becomes easier under strain," said the study's first author from the University of Belgrade's LEX Laboratory, Vladan Celebonovic.

 

Strain enables new applications of 2-D materials, Phys.org

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Good Vibes...

Sounding off: theoretical force patterns for an underwater Chladni plate at two different frequencies. The force arrows illustrate why glass beads accumulate at the plate antinodes (shown in yellow and red). (Courtesy: K Latifi, H Wijaya and Q Zhou/Physical Review Letters)

 

Topics: Acoustic Physics, Applied Physics, Research


The behaviour of some particles on the vibrating surfaces of Chladni plates is reversed underwater, a new study reveals. The discovery was made by Kourosh Latifi, Harri Wijaya, and Quan Zhou at Aalto University in Finland. They observed that glass beads on a submerged vibrating plate move towards antinodes, where the plate’s amplitude of vibration is highest. The underwater effect could be useful in a variety of medical and biological applications, including the manipulation of living cells.

In 1787 the German physicist Ernst Chladni put sand on a vibrating plate and observed that the grains settle on the nodal lines where the plate’s amplitude of vibration is zero. In contrast, he observed that finer particles move towards the plate’s antinodes where the amplitude is a local maximum.

A century later, Michael Faraday explained both behaviours. He concluded that the vibrations cause the larger grains to move laterally across the plate until they reach a node – where they no longer get lateral kicks and therefore remain in place. As for why the smaller particles did the opposite, Faraday argued that air currents just above the plates tend to push the lighter particles towards the antinodes – an effect known as acoustic streaming.

 

Vibrations guide tiny glass beads through an underwater maze
Sam Jarman, Physics World

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AfroFuturism, the Term and the Work

Admittedly, I have a thing about names. I’ll correct you as many times as it takes before you say mine correctly. I’ll listen to you say your own and try to match it. My undergrad thesis focused on correctly contextualizing the work of Octavia Butler within genre, subgenre and ‘canon’. You see I just put canon in quotes so it shouldn’t surprise you that I had some of my own thoughts about naming a storybundle I curated, Afrofuturism. If you don’t know, there’s a bit of a discussion about the validity and context of this term as well as the power dynamics and agency of naming artistic moments/movements. Instead of rehashing said discussion, I’ll share what interested me as of late: what other authors in the bundle thought about the term. I asked them to define it and to let me know about alternatives they prefer. So without further ado, peep their responses here:  http://www.teneadjohnson.com/2019/05/afrofuturism-power-challenge-naming/

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Twin Paradox...

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly (left) cracks a slight smile while posing with his identical twin brother, astronaut Scott Kelly (right). As part of NASA's Twins Study, Scott took a long trip to space, while Mark remained on Earth. Researchers then monitored how their bodies reacted to their differing environments. NASA

 

Topics: Astronaut, Astrophysics, Genetics, NASA, Spaceflight


Brothers compete. So in 2016, when astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth after spending a year in space, it must have really annoyed his identical twin brother — retired astronaut Mark Kelly — that Scott was two inches taller than when he left. However, Scott's temporary increase in height was not the only thing that changed during his trip.

As part of NASA's Twins Study, while Scott was in space, Mark went about his daily life on Earth. Over the course of the year-long mission, researchers tracked changes in both brothers' biological markers to pinpoint any variances. Because the twins share the same genetic code, researchers reasoned that any observed differences could tentatively — though not definitively — be linked to Scott's time aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This allowed them to take advantage of a unique opportunity and explore how an extended stay in space may impact the human body.

Based on their results, which were published this week in the journal Science, spaceflight can definitely trigger changes in the human body. But the vast majority of these changes disappear within just a few short months of returning to Earth.

Most notably, the researchers found that living in a microgravity environment can: damage DNA; impact the way thousands of individual genes are expressed; increase the length of telomeres (the shielding caps that protect the ends of our chromosomes); thicken artery walls; modify the microbiome; and increase inflammation — just to name a few.

"This is the dawn of human genomics in space," said Andrew Feinberg, a distinguished professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the lead investigators for the Twins Study, in a press release. "We developed the methods for doing these types of human genomic studies, and we should be doing more research to draw conclusions about what happens to humans in space."

 

NASA's Twins Study: Spaceflight changes the human body, but only temporarily
Jake Parks, Astronomy

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Our Shrinking Moon...

New surface features of the Moon have been discovered in a region called Mare Frigoris, outlined here in teal. NASA
Image: New Republic

 

Topics: Astrophysics, Geophysics, Moon, NASA, Planetary Science


The Moon is shrinking as its interior cools, getting more than about 150 feet (50 meters) skinnier over the last several hundred million years. Just as a grape wrinkles as it shrinks down to a raisin, the Moon gets wrinkles as it shrinks. Unlike the flexible skin on a grape, the Moon’s surface crust is brittle, so it breaks as the Moon shrinks, forming “thrust faults” where one section of crust is pushed up over a neighboring part.

“Our analysis gives the first evidence that these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink,” said Thomas Watters, senior scientist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. “Some of these quakes can be fairly strong, around five on the Richter scale.”

Watters is lead author of a study that analyzed data from four seismometers placed on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts using an algorithm, or mathematical program, developed to pinpoint quake locations detected by a sparse seismic network. The algorithm gave a better estimate of moonquake locations. Seismometers are instruments that measure the shaking produced by quakes, recording the arrival time and strength of various quake waves to get a location estimate, called an epicenter. The study was published May 13 in Nature Geoscience.



Shrinking Moon May Be Generating Moonquakes, NASA

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Relics of Entropy...

 

Topics: Biology, Entropy, Existentialism, Futurism


I've passed all my courses and now have the task of putting my Thesis together. I'm anticipating a successful completion from a good start.

My granddaughter is as well, with a good family (I'm biased) surrounded by a support system of extended friends and close relatives.

I'm understandably concerned by headlines like these:

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.

Without drastic action to conserve habitats, the rate of species extinction — already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average across the past ten million years — will only increase, says the analysis. The findings come from a United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

According to the report, agricultural activities have had the largest impact on ecosystems that people depend on for food, clean water and a stable climate. The loss of species and habitats poses as much a danger to life on Earth as climate change does, says a summary of the work, released on 6 May. [1]

 

*****


Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

 • The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations' projections).

By 2050, my granddaughter will be 31, and I likely a memory to her.

I came of age during the sixties when our Civil Rights leaders became Civil Rights icons and martyrs. I came of age when "duck and cover" drills were the order of the day. I came of age when post Civil Rights, we tried at least to act...civil. Forced busing gave way to De Facto desegregation in the public square in education - until the end of forced busing and re-segregation; malls, sports arenas (especially there) where some modicum of the old "control of black bodies" could be exercised with less bull whip and more paychecks and professional sports contracts.

The seventies would be the last time production kept pace with pay: we've been in a hamster wheel since then, and the gulf between the super rich and everyone else has become an un-crossable chasm. We're more oligarchy than democracy, and the owners would sooner than later transform us into a full dystopian fascistic hell scape than help solve the problems they've created.

The point is, despite all the challenges, I came of age. I lived. I loved. I laughed. I cried. I learned to drive. I married. I had children and they are starting to have children.

It would be lovely for my granddaughter to have a planet on which to have a tea.

Lovelier still for her parents (my children) to become grandparents in my absence on a planet still able to support life and a civilization that could support such an endeavor with minimal environmental impact.

Or...she and I could be relics of entropy, where our ashes will not be discernible from scientist to citizen, layman to philosopher, capitalist to socialist; black to white and prince to pauper. In a blink of an eye on the scale of cosmic time...we would all become irrelevant to an unfeeling universe.

I am again biased. I think my granddaughter (and yours), deserves a little more than that.

 

1. Humans are driving one million species to extinction, Jeff Tollefson, Nature
2. Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050, Drew Hansen, Forbes

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ANN...

Copper free: two Münster researchers compare a prototype optical chip to a one-cent coin. (Courtesy: University of Münster)

 

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Engineering, Neuromorphic Devices


A prototype artificial neural network (ANN) that uses only light to function has been unveiled by researchers at the University of Münster in Germany and the University of Exeter and University of Oxford in the UK. Their system can learn how to recognize simple patterns and its all-optical design could someday be exploited to create ANNs that can process large amounts of information rapidly while consuming relatively small amounts of energy.

ANNs mimic the human brain by using artificial neurons and synapses. A neuron receives one or more input signals and then uses this information to decide whether to output its own signal to the network. Synapses are the connections between neurons and can be “weighted” to favor signal propagation between certain neurons. An ANN can be trained to perform a task such as recognizing a pattern by sending multiple examples of the target pattern through the ANN while tweaking the synaptic weights until all examples of the target pattern elicit the same output from the ANN.

Relatively simple ANNs can be implemented on a computer. However, the conventional computer architecture of having a separate processor and memory makes it very difficult to implement the large numbers of neurons and synapses required to perform practical tasks.

One alternative is to create an ANN in which signals flows in the form of light pulses through an optical network. This is attractive because unlike electronic signals in a silicon chip, large amounts of light-encoded data can move quickly through optical materials without generating much heat. Furthermore, large amounts of information can be sent through an optical system by multiplexing the data using several different colors of light.

 

All-optical network mimics the brain’s neurons and synapses
Hamish Johnston, Physics World

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Open Letter...

Image source: Etsy.com


Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights


To my granddaughter,

You are days old and I am hours from holding you, feeding you, changing your diaper and being in your beautiful presence.

Your grandfather (me) was two months old when the Russians posted missiles in Cuba (back when they weren't meddling in our elections) and the world was on the brink of annihilation. Apparently that's what Homo Sapiens ("wise men") do in their spare time and with the power of the sun. As an infant like yourself, I can't imagine what your great-grandmother and great-grandfather felt about my future. I obviously lived to see you, and for that I am genuinely blessed.

I was about seven or eight when we did "duck and cover" drills, supposedly to protect our lives. In my minimal knowledge of physics principles (nerd even then), I didn't feel the efficacy of a wooden desk protecting us from nuclear fallout. It was disturbing, but we could put it behind ourselves at an ancient, physical practice called "recess."

After Vietnam, Watergate: there was a lull, as the nation was trying to find its "normal." The silliest thing your grandpa led was a game of "air dodge ball" in the quad of North Forsyth High School. My principal, Mr. Gibson looked with the other teachers as my fellow track teammates threw imaginary, energetic rubber invisible missiles at one another: jumping, rolling and laughing as we generated a crowd. Mr. Gibson finally had enough and said "alright everyone, let's go back to class." I have a memory of silliness, abandon and joy. I have not one of active shooter drills.

I pray...this madness for lead missiles will fade away. I pray for a return to a shared reality and facts versus truth and "alternative facts" so you won't be confused by mendacity. I pray the practice of "active shooter drills" become a memory in our now insane, slavish devotion to the gun industry. I pray for you before you enter your first mall, your first movie theater...your first school. I understandably want you to enter kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, college...and a full, safe life.

I will hold you close. I will pray and I will vote for sane gun control; for a future where you can do "silly things" with abandon, too. Especially, when I'm not here anymore. I will try to make the world a little better before Entropy claims me.
 
"If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together...there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, I'll always be with you." Pooh to Piglet

 

Love,

Paw-Paw

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Mars Quake...

Model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander, dedicated to study the deep interior of Mars. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

 

Topics: Geophysics, Mars, NASA, Planetary Exploration


Finals are over. I'll be with our new granddaughter and her parents next week, along with working on my thesis, following up on my PhD application and changing diapers. My posts will be sporadic since I'll be on the road. I'll catch up.

The breakthrough came nearly five months after InSight, the first spacecraft designed specifically to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down on the surface of Mars to begin its two-year seismological mission on the red planet.

The faint rumble characterized by JPL scientists as a likely marsquake, roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude earthquake, was recorded on April 6 - the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol.

It was detected by InSight’s French-built seismometer, an instrument sensitive enough to measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

The lunar and Martian surfaces are extremely quiet compared with Earth, which experiences constant low-level seismic noise from oceans and weather as well as quakes that occur along subterranean fault lines created by shifting tectonic plates in the planet’s crust.

Mars and the moon lack tectonic plates. Their seismic activity is instead driven by a cooling and contracting process that causes stress to build up and become strong enough to rupture the crust.

Three other apparent seismic signals were picked up by InSight on March 14, April 10 and April 11 but were even smaller and more ambiguous in origin, leaving scientists less certain they were actual marsquakes.

 

NASA probe detects likely 'marsquake' - an interplanetary first
Joey Roulette, Reuters Science

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Left, schematics of the apparatus (positron beam, collimators, SiN gratings and emulsion detector. A HpGe detector is used as beam monitor). Right, single-particle interference visibility as a function of the positron energy is in agreement with quantum mechanics (blue) and disagrees with classical physics (orange dashed). Courtesy: Politecnico di Milano

 

Topics: Antimatter, High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics


Researchers in Italy and Switzerland have performed the first ever double-slit-like experiment on antimatter using a Talbot-Lau interferometer and a positron beam.

The classic double-slit experiment confirmed that light and matter have the characteristics of both waves and particles, a duality that was first put forward by de Broglie in 1923. This superposition principle is one of the main postulates of quantum mechanics and researchers have since been able to diffract and interfere matter waves of objects of increasing complexity – from electrons to neutrons and molecules.

The QUPLAS (QUantum Interferometry and Gravitation with Positrons and LAsers) collaboration, which includes researchers from the Politecnico di Milano L-NESS in Como, the Milan unit of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), the Università degli Studi di Milano and the University of Bern, has now performed the first interference experiment on positrons – the antimatter equivalent of electrons.

“The experiment was first proposed for electrons by Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman as a thought experiment and realized by Merli, Missiroli and Pozzi in 1976 and more systematically by Tonomura and colleagues in 1989,” explains QUPLAS spokesman Marco Giammarchi of the INFN. “In this original experiment, which was voted by Physics World as the most beautiful experiment, the researchers demonstrated the specifically quantum effect of single particle interference, which – according to Feynman – is the central ‘mystery’ of quantum theory.”

 

Antimatter quantum interferometry makes its debut, Belle Dumé, Physics World

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Either...Or...

The Mueller Report (CNN.com - read it while you can)


Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, Existentialism, Human Rights, LGBT Rights, Women's Rights


I'll be taking a break for finals, writing my thesis and the birth of our granddaughter. Her entrance to this plane is pending.

For her, it's all hands on deck.

The future belongs to the young, soon born and yet-to-be born. The future is diverse and more tolerant than the Neanderthal mythologized past we're being dragged to. The present is hopefully planning for a future that will be 8.6 billion in 2030 and 9.8 billion in 2050, and the strains on resources that will bring. The present is hopefully planning for a future with a warmer climate, and our strategy towards ameliorating it. The future is being written, with every tweet and malfeasance of a man epitomizing more demon than Christian; more boorish mobster than sophisticated president. He's covered by a complicit evangelical base and a Republican Party that's less diverse, whiter, aging and dying off. Instead of diversifying, they're doubling down on "The Southern Strategy" for one last push for white supremacy, a push that will take the entire country and the world over an existential, unrecoverable cliff.

Either we're a Constitutional, Federal Republic...or, we're not.

This started...on a porch in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a miniscule distances from the site three Civil Rights workers - Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner - were murdered in 1964 for the "crime" (according to the KKK) of registering black voters:

"I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people. I believe in states' rights. I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe we've distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment." Ronald Reagan

1964...the year the Civil Rights Act passed. Followed by 1965...the year the Voting Rights Act passed. Three years later, we lost Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy as the Fair Housing Act passed. It was also the year, finally, Richard M. Nixon after Lyndon B. Johnson refused to run for reelection - was elected "law and order" president, running and winning on The Southern Strategy born of racist fear.

The seventies was a loss of innocence with the shame of "losing" the un-winnable Vietnam War, the near impeachment of Nixon, his pardon and his successor getting beaten by a peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia, himself only serving one term due to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The eighties was muscular, toxic masculinity disguised as action heroes: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis were young then and box office sensations. They were also admittedly as republican as "the gipper." Arnold would become governor of California and his fiscal failures turned what was a large land mass red state to almost reliably blue. After his affair on Maria Shriver, he's redeeming himself as a climate advocate and adversary to the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tom Steyer nor "Auntie Maxine" needs tell us.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Some caveats and perspective: Secretary Clinton in a Washington Post op ed cautioned a rush to impeachment. The historical memory in this country is deliberately brief, as history nor civics is seldom taught in secondary education. There were Watergate hearings on ABC, CBS and NBC. There was daily education on a president that had just won a landslide reelection - 49 out of 50 states - that didn't need burglary or "plumbers" committing. The case was made to the American people over 28 months, and even after the tapes became public, he STILL had a 24% approval rating among his ardent supporters when it was evident he was going to get impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate by members of his own party. This was the foundation for Roger Ailes to form what would become Fox Propaganda.

Impeachment isn't about conviction: it’s about The Constitution.

We’re either “a nation of laws, and not of men,” or we’re a nation of ONE man.

Either “no one is above the law,” or every elected official can “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” and get away with it.

Impeachment isn't about this president: it’s about the NEXT president.

If THIS one gets away with his clear crimes, every nation can pass information to the candidate they would desire for president as a matter of "diplomacy." No president will ever have to divest from their business if they have one. Jimmy Carter gave up his peanut farm, so he would not violate the Emoluments Clause. No presidential candidate will EVER again show their taxes, and thus open to bribes and manipulation by distant actors. Government "of the people, by the people and for the people" will go from Russian handler to Russian roulette.

We either do this, or we’re not a country: we're a kleptocracy.

Either we're a Constitutional, Federal Republic...or, whatever emerges after this Caligula will not resemble our best self-mythology. It will be too stark, too dark: too dystopian.

For our granddaughter, I must fight until my last breath for her future...because it is hers.
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Quantum Robustness...

A study demonstrates that a combination of two materials, aluminum and indium arsenide, forming a device called a Josephson junction could make quantum bits more resilient. Credit: University of Copenhagen image/Antonio Fornieri

 

Topics: Computer Science, Quantum Computing, Quantum Mechanics


Researchers have been trying for many years to build a quantum computer that industry could scale up, but the building blocks of quantum computing, qubits, still aren't robust enough to handle the noisy environment of what would be a quantum computer.

A theory developed only two years ago proposed a way to make qubits more resilient through combining a semiconductor, indium arsenide, with a superconductor, aluminum, into a planar device. Now, this theory has received experimental support in a device that could also aid the scaling of qubits.

This semiconductor-superconductor combination creates a state of "topological superconductivity," which would protect against even slight changes in a qubit's environment that interfere with its quantum nature, a renowned problem called "decoherence."

The device is potentially scalable because of its flat "planar" surface – a platform that industry already uses in the form of silicon wafers for building classical microprocessors.

The work, published in Nature, was led by the Microsoft Quantum lab at the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute, which fabricated and measured the device. The Microsoft Quantum lab at Purdue University grew the semiconductor-superconductor heterostructure using a technique called molecular beam epitaxy, and performed initial characterization measurements.

 

New robust device may scale up quantum tech, researchers say, Kayla Wiles, Purdue University

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Near the Levee...

Credit: Mario Tama Getty Images

 

Topics: Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming


Related spoken word piece: Near the Levee

We cannot exist as a nation without a basic acceptance of common facts. I can't say "2+2=4" and another "2+2=5" and we BOTH be correct!

Abortion: Let's accept hormonal teenagers are likely to do something a little more than "make out" and pet heavily. They have myriad means of gathering information on the sexual act. We can educate them on birth control and responsible sexual behavior as the Netherlands does. Or, we can try "abstinence only" and get abysmal teen pregnancy rates as many red states do.

Climate Change: A sane republican administration accepting the science might use cap and trade policies to make polluting uncomfortable for manufactures financially. Compliance would be a matter of the bottom-line.

A democratic administration did something: The Paris Agreement was landmark policy, involving "an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016. The agreement's language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015.[4][5] As of March 2019, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, and 185 have become party to it.[1] The Paris Agreement's long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change." They might actually spearhead green technologies, spurring economic and job growth.

We're not at a sane point in our republic now.

The $14 billion network of levees and floodwalls that was built to protect greater New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was a seemingly invincible bulwark against flooding.

But now, 11 months after the Army Corps of Engineers completed one of the largest public works projects in world history, the agency says the system will stop providing adequate protection in as little as four years because of rising sea levels and shrinking levees.

The growing vulnerability of the New Orleans area is forcing the Army Corps to begin assessing repair work, including raising hundreds of miles of levees and floodwalls that form a meandering earth and concrete fortress around the city and its adjacent suburbs.

 

After a $14-Billion Upgrade, New Orleans' Levees Are Sinking, Thomas Frank, Scientific American

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Super State...

Super state: three independent groups have caught sight of supersolidity. (Courtesy: iStock/3quarks)

 

Topics: Bose-Einstein Condensate, Condensed Matter Physics, Electromagnetism, Quantum Mechanics


Atomic systems that behave very much like supersolids have been created independently by teams of physicists in Italy, Germany have Austria. The teams have shown that dipolar quantum gases trapped by magnetic fields can spontaneously separate into arrays of coherent droplets, providing a system closer to the original conception of a supersolid.


The supersolid phase is a counterintuitive quantum state of matter that has both crystalline order and frictionless flow at very low temperatures. The phenomenon is related to superfluidity and was predicted 50 years ago by Soviet physicists Alexander Andreev and Ilya Lifschitz. However, supersolidity has proved frustratingly difficult to observe.

In a superfluid, the energy required to create a density modulation generally increases as the modulation’s wavelength gets shorter. At one characteristic wavelength, however, the energy takes a sudden dip – much as waves pass more easily through a crystal when the wavelength equals the separation between the atoms. If the superfluid were cold enough, Andreev and Lifschitz reasoned, the energy required would drop to zero at this wavelength. The superfluid would then spontaneously separate into tiny droplets, effectively forming an ordered crystal.

 

Supersolid behavior spotted in dipolar quantum gases, Tim Wogan, Physics World

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Remnants...

An artist's impression of the planetesimal orbiting on a 2-hour period within the gaseous disc around SDSS J1228+1040 (by Mark Garlick).

 

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Exoplanets, Spectrograph, White Dwarfs


When the hydrogen fuel that keeps a star like our sun burning brightly is exhausted, the star expands into a red giant before collapsing into a hot, dense white dwarf. Although the stellar swelling engulfs nearby planets, theoretical models suggest that some planets and planetary cores up to hundreds of kilometers in diameter can survive the star’s death and fall into closer orbit. But identifying solid bodies around a dim stellar core is difficult. Now Christopher Manser (University of Warwick) and colleagues have used a new spectroscopic method to identify a planetesimal orbiting a white dwarf 400 light-years from our solar system.

Astronomers have discovered most exoplanets—including an asteroid-like body orbiting a white dwarf—via the transit method, identifying periodic dimming as an object passes in front of its host star. But the method requires a lucky geometry of the planetary system’s orbital plane relative to Earth. Manser and his team instead turned to short-cadence optical spectroscopy using data from the 10.4 m Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain. They focused on one of just a few white dwarfs that, based on metal emission lines in the stellar and disk spectra, are suspected to be surrounded by disks of gas and dust. Minute-by-minute observations over several nights in 2017 and 2018 let the researchers deconstruct the light emanating from the disk and determine how much variation had occurred over a year.

 

A glimpse of a planetary system’s final stages, Rachel Berkowitz, Physics Today

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The Insistent Center...

Image Source: Facebook

 

Topics: African Americans, Civics, Existentialism, Extinction


NK Jemisin is an African American author of speculative fiction. She's also the victim of a group of trolls on the Internet referring to themselves as the "sad puppies"/"rabid puppies" because of the lack of Euro-centric main characters in her stories, which for the author IS the point.
 

Sonequa Martin-Green, lead on the CBS All Access Star Trek: Discovery was vilified by the same alt-right, racists that could not see anyone other than the clone of Buck Rogers, James T. Kirk, Jean Luc Picard: White Anglo Saxon Protestant, Cisgender (WASP-C)  males as the central "hero" figure and ruminations of fictional "white genocide."

A man who earned his law degree, passed the (ironically) bar and served the nation as Attorney General for the George H.W. Bush administration was also the architect of pardons for key figures in the Iran-Contra Scandal. His 19-page unsolicited memo/job solicitation born of the effectiveness of Rupert Murdoch propaganda cum Fox "News" as he likely regularly consumed that informed his treatise. He was on point yesterday as he dusted off the 80's play book to try the formula on an international audience viewing on cable, Internet and social media. He was immediately labeled a pitiful hack, a caricature of a country bumpkin lawyer and NOT the nation's attorney, but the current president's* Roy Cohn.

William Barr lied. His boss's staff lied. His boss is a prolific liar, telling 8,718 as tabulated January of this year. The Mueller Report - redacted or not - only confirms what we already know and that the hypocrisy of the white evangelical right rises to the stench of dung hills. The institution is the white-washed sepulcher of white nationalism. It is the spur of the exodus with organized religion in the US.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

There are TEN attempts to obstruct justice in the report. Despite lies told to Mueller by his then deputy press secretary  Sarah Sanders, despite the fact the report did NOT exonerate him, his minions, his staff, his fascist cult base will claim total exoneration, because facts and fascism are not on speaking terms. They never have been.

GONE are the halcyon days of Grey Poupon and Tan Suit scandals breathlessly pursued by Sean Hannity et al. President Obama DID golf during his presidency as did his WASP-C predecessors, but his current successor has taken golfing to steroidal levels, greeted by the same right wing propaganda echo chamber...with crickets.

All these intersect in Venn diagram fashion of centrality: of a 400-year insistence that the stories told about our country has one hue, one type of damsel in distress and one repeating, ad nausem conclusion: the hero is white, heteronormal.

And that hero has to be white because our concepts of god is a white male in the sky, judging and damning every aspect of our existence. Therefore the president in tan suit with Melanin is an aberration from the mental ideal we've been conditioned to respect and accept.

Let me be blunt:

1. The POTUS is a crook. As David Frum points out, it may be a choice of the current presidency*, or rule of law.

2. He is a racist. He doesn't have to wear a swastika; a Klan hood or quote chapter and verse of Mein Kamph. As George Will opined, he's barely on speaking terms with the English language. He's an admitted nationalist. He's tweeted against a sitting congresswoman and Somali immigrant that has increased death threats against her. He's too cowardly to do his own violence, but he's pyromaniac enough to light the fire and run.

3. The AG is a hack and a liar.

We’re not a democratic republic; not even an oligarchy or kleptocracy. We’re a kakistocracy: “government under the control of a nation's worst or least-qualified citizens.”

This is what Rome looked like before it fell.

This is what - for our own survival - we have to fix.
 
Gil Scott-Heron: B-Movie, Genius Lyrics (both insightful analysis and prophecy).
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Wormhole Slow-Mo...

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

 

Topics: Black Holes, Einstein, General Relativity, Science Fiction, Wormholes


“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Good Reads

A Harvard physicist has shown that wormholes can exist: tunnels in curved space-time, connecting two distant places, through which travel is possible.

But don't pack your bags for a trip to other side of the galaxy yet; although it's theoretically possible, it's not useful for humans to travel through, said the author of the study, Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University, written in collaboration with Ping Gao, also from Harvard and Aron Wall from Stanford University.

"It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly, so they are not very useful for space travel," Jafferis said. He will present his findings at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver.

Despite his pessimism for pan-galactic travel, he said that finding a way to construct a wormhole through which light could travel was a boost in the quest to develop a theory of quantum gravity.

 

Travel through wormholes is possible, but slow, American Institute of Physics, Phys.org

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Snow TENG...

A new nanogenerator could harvest energy directly from snow, helping solar panels deal with wintry conditions(Credit: karin59 /Depositphotos)

 

Topics: Alternative Energy, Green Energy, Green Tech, Nanotechnology


Snowy places aren't ideal for harvesting solar energy – panels can't do much if they're buried under blankets of snow, of course. Now a team from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a new device that can produce electricity from snow itself.

The team calls the new device a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or Snow TENG. As the name suggests it works off the triboelectric effect, meaning it uses static electricity to generate a charge through the exchange of electrons. These kinds of devices have been used to make generators that pull energy from body movements, touchscreens, and even footsteps on floors.

Snow is positively charged, so rubbing it against a material with the opposite charge allows energy to be drawn out of it. After a comprehensive series of testing, the team settled on silicone as the most effective material.

The Snow TENG, which is 3D printable, is made with a layer of silicone attached to an electrode. The team says it could be integrated into solar panels, so they can continue generating electricity even when covered with snow, making it similar to an earlier hybrid solar cell that also harvested energy from the movement of raindrops on its surface.

 

Snow-powered nanogenerator works where solar panels don't
Michael Irving, New Atlas

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