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Brookhaven and Fake News...

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Climate of fear Anti-science protestors led to the closure of the High Flux Beam Reactor at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US 25 years ago using tactics that are widespread today. (Courtesy: iStock/DanielVilleneuve)

Topics: Biology, Cancer, Carl Sagan, Civilization, Climate Change, Philosophy, Physics

I typically don't comment on articles, but this one resonated with my memories of Carl Sagan desperately trying to raise the critical thinking skills of an entire essential nation with "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark." The host of Cosmos would succumb to pneumonia as a consequence of bone marrow disease. I will be the age Carl was when he passed away this year, 62, but not as accomplished as he did in the six decades we all had access to him.

The framework of our current duress was already here in the form of celebrity worship, gossip columns, and talk shows where sensationalism equaled eyeballs, just as the Internet rouses the primitive lizard portion of our brains to be afraid, get angry, and "buy-purchase-consume" products (a friend who's a sound engineer likes to say that a lot).

Underhand tactics by environmental activists led to the closure of a famous physics facility 25 years ago. We can still learn much from the incident, says Robert P Crease.

Fake facts, conspiracy theories, nuclear fear, science denial, baseless charges of corruption, and the shouting down of reputable health officials. All these things happened 25 years ago, long before the days of social media, in a bipartisan, celebrity-driven episode of science denial.  Yet the story offers valuable lessons for what works and what does not (mostly the latter) for anyone wanting to head off such incidents.

The episode in question concerned one of the more valuable scientific facilities in the US, the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. As I mentioned in a previous column and in my book The Leak, the HFBR was a successful research instrument that was used to make medical isotopes and study everything from superconductors to proteins and metals. “Experimentalists saw the reactor as the place to go,” recalls the physicist William Magwood IV, then at the US Department of Energy.

But in 1997, lab scientists discovered a leak of water from a pool located in the same building as the reactor, where its spent fuel was stored. The leak contained tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that decays with a half-life of about 12 years, releasing low-energy electrons that can be stopped by a few sheets of paper. The total amount of tritium in the leak was about that in typical self-illuminating “EXIT” signs.

The protestors’ tactics are a familiar part of today’s political environment: tell people they are in danger and insist that anyone who says otherwise is lying.

The article goes on to recount the actor Alec Baldwin using his celebrity to put a ten-year-old child on the Montell Williams Show to claim that the tritium and the research facility caused his cancer. It wasn't true, but it was LOUD, drowning out the experts who are used to spirited peer review and erudite discussions of research, not tears and gnashing of teeth.

Montell Williams ended his talk show after announcing that he had multiple sclerosis. Alec Baldwin, though I enjoyed his SNL skits, has other pressing issues.

I have a physicist friend who's using tritium in his research with optical tweezers, separating isotopes to detect and treat cancers, among other applications. I am opting not to give his website as those same elements described in the article about Brookhaven National Labs have metastasized into our current societal mass psychosis. If his research leads to your cancer cure, you can thank him later.

Twenty-five years ago, we weren't as far along in climate disruption as we are now. Twenty-five years ago, CNN was 19 years old, and its clones, Fox and MSNBC, were 3 years old. Five years after the Y2K scare (exquisitely setting us up for election 2000 and 9/11), humanity further siloed itself into warring tribes, first posting on Internet bulletin boards, MySpace. Then, the logical progression was to Facebook, Twitter (now X), and its myriad progeny.

A side note: CERN would go on to discover the Higgs Boson because we, in the spirit of fiscal stewardship, closed the superconducting collider in Waxahachie, Texas, 48 kilometers south of Dallas. Peter Higgs and François Englert owe their 2013 Physics Nobel Prize to Switzerland. U-S-A. U-S-A.

How much further along in cancer research and nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels would we be if, prior to Facebook and the former Twitter, we exercised a little critical thinking and common sense? I'm not talking about tritium, but fission reactors, which we know how to build (fusion, though cleaner and less radioactive, is still far off), but the environmental activists have terrorized anyone from building newer and safer facilities that might have had some positive impact on our warming climate. To paraphrase a famous saying, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Our air quality improved during the pandemic, so the logic leads to upgrading public transportation to something matching other countries that rely on it more than we do, or within our borders, the subway systems in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, or Washington, DC. You end up doing nothing of any importance. We could replace the fission reactors one by one as fusion comes online.

That is what enrages and disappoints me.

The American reactor that was closed by fake news, Robert P Crease, Physics World

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Boltwood Estimate...

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Credit: Public Domain

Topics: Applied Physics, Education, History, Materials Science, Philosophy, Radiation, Research

We take for granted that Earth is very old, almost incomprehensibly so. But for much of human history, estimates of Earth’s age were scattershot at best. In February 1907, a chemist named Bertram Boltwood published a paper in the American Journal of Science detailing a novel method of dating rocks that would radically change these estimates. In mineral samples gathered from around the globe, he compared lead and uranium levels to determine the minerals’ ages. One was a bombshell: A sample of the mineral thorianite from Sri Lanka (known in Boltwood’s day as Ceylon) yielded an age of 2.2 billion years, suggesting that Earth must be at least that old as well. While Boltwood was off by more than 2 billion years (Earth is now estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old), his method undergirds one of today’s best-known radiometric dating techniques.

In the Christian world, Biblical cosmology placed Earth’s age at around 6,000 years, but fossil and geology discoveries began to upend this idea in the 1700s. In 1862, physicist William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin, used Earth’s supposed rate of cooling and the assumption that it had started out hot and molten to estimate that it had formed between 20 and 400 million years ago. He later whittled that down to 20-40 million years, an estimate that rankled Charles Darwin and other “natural philosophers” who believed life’s evolutionary history must be much longer. “Many philosophers are not yet willing to admit that we know enough of the constitution of the universe and of the interior of our globe to speculate with safety on its past duration,” Darwin wrote. Geologists also saw this timeframe as much too short to have shaped Earth’s many layers.

Lord Kelvin and other physicists continued studies of Earth’s heat, but a new concept — radioactivity — was about to topple these pursuits. In the 1890s, Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity, and the Curies discovered the radioactive elements radium and polonium. Still, wrote physicist Alois F. Kovarik in a 1929 biographical sketch of Boltwood, “Radioactivity at that time was not a science as yet, but merely represented a collection of new facts which showed only little connection with each other.”

February 1907: Bertram Boltwood Estimates Earth is at Least 2.2 Billion Years Old, Tess Joosse, American Physical Society

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Limit Shattered...

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TSMC is building Two New Facilities to Accommodate 2nm Chip Production

Topics: Applied Physics, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science, Nanoengineering, Semiconductor Technology

 

Realize that Moore’s “law” isn’t like Newton’s Laws of Gravity or the three laws of Thermodynamics. It’s simply an observation based on experience with manufacturing silicon processors and the desire to make money from the endeavor continually.

 

As a device engineer, I had heard “7 nm, and that’s it” so often that it became colloquial folklore. TSMC has proven itself a powerhouse once again and, in our faltering geopolitical climate, made itself even more desirable to mainland China in its quest to annex the island, sadly by force if necessary.

 

Apple will be the first electronic manufacturer to receive chips built by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) using a two-nanometer process. According to Korea’s DigiTimes Asia, inside sources said that Apple is "widely believed to be the initial client to utilize the process." The report noted that TSMC has been increasing its production capacity in response to “significant customer orders.” Moreover, the report added that the company has recently established a production expansion strategy aimed at producing 2nm chipsets based on the Gate-all-around (GAA) manufacturing process.

 

The GAA process, also known as gate-all-around field-effect transistor (GAA-FET) technology, defies the performance limitations of other chip manufacturing processes by allowing the transistors to carry more current while staying relatively small in size.

 

Apple to jump queue for TSMC's industry-first 2-nanometer chips: Report, Harsh Shivam, New Delhi, Business Standard.

 

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Origin...

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Image source: Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures - Isabel Wilkerson, Livestream (2022)

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Fascism

"While I was at the hotel today, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me, I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion, I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position, the negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman, or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so frequently as to be entirely satisfied with its correctness—and that is the case of Judge Douglas’s old friend, Col. Richard M. Johnson. [Laughter.] I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject) that I have never had the least apprehension that my friends or I would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.] I will add one further word, which is this: [that] I do not understand that there is any place where an alteration of the social and political relations of the negro and the white man can be made except in the State Legislature—not in the Congress of the United States—and as I do not really apprehend the approach of any such thing myself, and as Judge Douglas seems to be in constant horror that some such danger is rapidly approaching, I propose as the best means to prevent it that the Judge be kept at home and placed in the State Legislature to fight the measure. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] I do not propose dwelling longer at this time on this subject."

Teaching History, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, 4th Debate, Part 1.

The man who would be known as "the great emancipator" could turn a phrase at an event at the time that would dwarf our current 1-1/2 hour modern performances: they were hours in duration. People brought lunches and took notes. Old Abe appeared to have been the "George Carlin" of his day. He was exploitative in his digs, not knowing at the time the same people he derided he would need fighting for him to win the war of secession.

Lincoln exploited racist tropes to make Judge Douglas - his Democratic (the conservative party then) opponent, look like a conspiratorial fool. As we look to history, we see the pedestals that our heroes occupy are made of cracked porcelain; their balance isn't steady because human bodies aren't perfectly proportioned, and they often fall from their lofty perches after scrutiny.

Despite this obvious bias Lincoln had towards "his tribe," another Douglass, Frederick Douglass, would petition him for the involvement of our ancestors on the side of the Union in the Civil War as well as make the case for the Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the many docuseries with them briefly onscreen together generally getting along, Frederick Douglass wasn't an initial fan of the 16th president:

Douglass was concerned about the unequal pay of Black soldiers, who received $3 dollars less per month than white privates. He was also incensed by the Union government’s response to the Confederate treatment of Black prisoners of war, who were being tortured, killed, and sometimes sold into slavery. He focused his anger on President Abraham Lincoln. “The slaughter of Blacks taken as captives,” wrote Douglass in his Douglass’ Monthly, “seems to affect him [Lincoln] as little as the slaughter of beeves [cows] for the use of his army.”

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: Inside Their Complicated Relationship, History.com

So, when I hear people saying they're tired of voting for "the lesser of two evils," their naivete seems to reflect back to halcyon days that never existed, not realizing African Americans have voted that way since we were allowed to vote without interference (poll taxes, lynching, cross burnings, voter purges). As long as a caste system of complexion has existed on these shores, there has never been a conservative or liberal "great again."

The following (or a version of this) I posted on Rotten Tomatoes after seeing the movie:

"I read “Caste: The Source of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson before I saw “Origin,” directed by Ava DuVernay. I highly recommend reading the book, seeing the movie, and staying for the after-the-credits discussion by the director. It is POWERFUL and relevant to the times we all find ourselves in. Seeing the reenactment of Nazi book burning has a modern analogy in practice.

"The Caste System in America is based on skin color and the debasement of people who have no control over how they present themselves or how they are perceived. This extends easily to other groups under the boot of patriarchy.

"See it while it is available. It is a threat to patriarchal oligarchy and for the downcast, the Dalits, the under-the-boot marginalized: the relieving breath of being seen.

"I recommend this movie, seen with a group, and a discussion at a coffee shop or a restaurant afterward. You will need to decompress."

*****

A caste system, whether divinely inspired, fueled by American slave codes, black codes, Jim Crow, eugenics, or Europe, Italian and Nazi fascism, in India, Brahmins (priests and teachers), Kshatriyas (rulers, administrators, warriors), Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen, farmers), Shudras (laborers) Dalits (Harijans or Untouchables), propped up by myth, superstition, and pseudoscience, is about resources and power, who "deserves" to have it, and who those deeming themselves deserving, deeming others as not deserving.

We can see the effects of the caste system in everything:

The global south suffered more from the pandemic than the global north.

The deleterious effects of climate change also affect the Global South more than it does the North. Our apathy for solving it lies in arrogance, caste, and xenophobia.

The Nazis plagiarized the South's black codes for the Nurenberg Laws to oppress the Jews.

It would take 500 years for African Americans to catch up to their (currently) majority neighbors. The March on Washington was on the eighth anniversary of the lynching of Emmett Till, but the essence of the assembly was a demand for reparations. We're still cashing a check returned, as Dr. King said, for "insufficient funds."

For Europeans, the outsiders are from the African continent (Akebulan), driven by conflicts supplied by European and American military-industrial complexes, STARTED by European and American business interests for one-sided extraction profits.

There's a scene in Sean Penn's "Superpower" documentary where Volodymyr Zelinzky and Vladimir Putin occupy the same stage. Putin glares at Zelinsky for contradicting him in a question-and-answer session with the press. In the obvious two-tier caste system, Russian pride cannot suffer his Ukrainian lesser upstaging him on camera. The motivation for the war, in a wounded strongman's twisted mind, might be as simple as that.

China is on Akebulan to extract the abundant resources from the continent to fuel what is arguably a communist-capitalist system. Their underdogs are Uygers, and they are treated like Dalits and Dr. Martin Luther King.

In fact, when King visited a local school for Dalit children in the southern Indian state of Kerala in 1959, the principal introduced him thus: "Young people, I would like to present to you a fellow untouchable from the United States of America." Although King was initially shocked by this introduction, he later understood the deeper connections of oppression, exclusion, and exile that African Americans in the US and Dalits in India shared. The broader Black freedom struggle has continued to inspire Dalit struggles in this region, from the formation of the Dalit Panthers in the 1970s to the recent emergence of Dalit Lives Matter groups in Nepal and India.

MLK and the Civil Rights Movement’s Global Perspective, University of Dayton blogs

In Israel-Palestine, the caste system also has only two tiers, as did its WWII analog. There will always be a "two-state solution" in Israel-Palestine because it is never meant as a problem to solve. The two-state solution is meant to sound reasonable because it IS reasonable, but part of a two-state solution would mean returning lands seized since 1948 (or at least 1967). That has another word in America: reparations. If you can do it in the Near East, the fear is the clamor to do it in the United States couldn't justifiably be resisted.

Power and resources, hoarded to the one percent of any nation's pyramid, are imbalanced, and it is a caste system that is unsustainable.

A caste system is a societal pathology, and I don't see such a society lasting long enough to build interplanetary or interstellar vessels. "Fermi's paradox" may have a grim answer.

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Recycling Green Plastics...

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Credit: Cell Reports Physical Science (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.xcrp.2024.101783

Topics: Biochemistry, Chemistry, Polymer Science, Polymers

Scientists at King's College London have developed an innovative solution for recycling single-use bioplastics commonly used in disposable items such as coffee cups and food containers.

The novel method of chemical recycling, published in Cell Reports Physical Science, uses enzymes typically found in biological laundry detergents to "depolymerize"—or break down—landfill-bound bioplastics. Rapidly converting the items into soluble fragments within just 24 hours, the process achieves full degradation of the bioplastic polylactic acid (PLA). The approach is 84 times faster than the 12-week-long industrial composting process used for recycling bioplastic materials.

This discovery offers a widespread recycling solution for single-use PLA plastics, as the team of chemists at King's found that in a further 24 hours at a temperature of 90°C, the bioplastics break down into their chemical building blocks. Once converted into monomers—single molecules—the materials can be turned into equally high-quality plastic for multiple reuse.

The problem with 'green' plastics

Current rates of plastic production outstrip our ability to dispose of it sustainably. According to Environmental Action, it is estimated that in 2023 alone, more than 68 million tons of plastic globally ended up in natural environments due to the imbalance between the huge volumes of plastics produced and our current capacity to manage and recycle plastic at the end of its life. A recent OECD report predicted that the amount of plastic waste produced worldwide will almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfills and less than a fifth recycled.

An enzyme used in laundry detergent can recycle single-use plastics within 24 hours, King's College London.

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Bedlam, Swatting, Terrorism...

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 Image source: CSO online - Swatting

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Fascism, Star Trek

 

Bedlam is a scene of madness, chaos, or great confusion. The term bedlam comes from the name of a hospital in London, “Saint Mary of Bethlehem,” which was devoted to treating the mentally ill in the 1400s. Over time, the pronunciation of “Bethlehem” morphed into bedlam, and the term came to be applied to any situation where pandemonium prevails. Source: Vocabulary.com

 

Swatting is a criminal act that involves making hoax phone calls to emergency services to trick them into sending a response team to a person's address. The goal is to trick the emergency services into sending a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team to a supposed emergency, such as a shooting or hostage situation. Source: Google generative AI

 

According to Dictionary.com, terrorism is the use of violence or threats to intimidate or coerce a government or civilian population. The goal of terrorism is to achieve political, social, or ideological objectives.

 

International terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals or groups inspired by, or associated with, designated foreign terrorist organizations or nations (state-sponsored). Source: FBI.gov

 

Domestic terrorism: Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. Source: FBI.gov

 

I grew up in an era of possibilities, of the struggle for rights by African Americans through Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Hispanic Americans through Casar Chavez, the LGBT community after the attack on Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York. The year after the assassination of three black Civil Rights leaders, we did what John F. Kennedy inspired us to do one year later, and Dr. King, the Star Trek fan who talked Nichele Nichols out of quitting the show, never lived to see.

 

But we live in now, where in the early 2000s, a younger man who wasn't on the planet tried to convince me that my Saturday morning cartoons the day before hadn't been interrupted by an important event: the Moon Landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969 (Sunday). His evidence was, of course, a grainy video on YouTube. I'm certain that the conspiracy theorists are already gearing up for Artemis. "Deep fake" has probably improved the tech for denial.

 

The president who inspired the mission, John F. Kennedy, led the sad cavalcade of assassinations rash in the 1960s. The president who spoke to the astronauts was Richard Nixon, the same who ran on a "law and order" platform, scaring the bejesus out of citizens he wanted to govern because of the bedlam, the chaos, the great confusion on college campuses like Kent State and NC A&T as students protested the Vietnam conflict that nobody understood, and no one wanted, and for the words in our founding documents that stated, "all men are created equal." The president who saluted astronauts would win reelection in a landslide and lose his job due to Watergate larceny.

 

The revered founders were, of course, referencing only themselves and their progeny. They had no concept of descendants of their chattel workforce becoming lawyers, engineers, educators, scientists, astronauts, mayors of towns, governors, state representatives, congressional representatives, senators, presidents of universities that directly benefited from slavery, or President or Vice President of the United States. Some of their jurists would obfuscate this possibility and give the interpretation of The Constitution by grammatically spitballing the pious-sounding, pseudo-academic name of "originalism."

 

We are here now, at the dawn of the second quarter of the 21st century. Nothing like September 11, 2001, was conceivable to a child in 1969 in the last year of a novel science fiction series called "Star Trek" where it seemed, 200 years into the future, we had "figured it out," we had put down the rocks of racism, sexism, silliness and decided to work together towards a common goal of survival on Earth and among the stars. Superluminal speeds and Heisenberg-defying transporters were plot devices; everyone was in on the joke.

 

Nothing like January 6, 2021, twenty years from an international terrorist assault on our shores that domestic terrorism would bring bedlam to the U.S. Capitol, medieval jousting and bludgeoning Capitol and Metro Police officers, tasing them, bear-spraying them, killing them, urinating and spreading feces, which in and of itself is a sign of mental illness Saint Mary of Bethlehem was constructed to mitigate. Then, poof! It would go away, redefined from insurrection to tourists gone bad (when no tours were scheduled during the pandemic), Antifa (ahem: anti-fascists) to finally "a beautiful day, full of love."

 

Towards the end of the second quarter of the 21st Century, we will likely see climate disruption at an irreversible, unpredictable pace. The world population will be increased to ~9.7 billion, and by 2100, ~10.4 billion. There are a few new posts in 2023, but a lot of inoperable links on the 100-year starship website (like "mailing lists" and "contact us"). From here until 2100, it doesn't give us a century to construct a generation's vessel or to solicit and train a crew for a one-way trip on the culturally narcissistic need for humans to survive their hubris expressed on this planet since the dinosaurs were too dumb to have scientists.

 

It would seem, though, even with the scientists and experts, we have allowed the know-it-alls, who know nothing, primacy because they're so loud. They demand attention to feed a narcissistic ego, blustering and ever-terrified that we will realize that they are nincompoops with no applicable skillsets. Conspiracy theories are tailor-made for people who won't read, study, or take the time to comprehend hard subjects and are rewarded lucratively for slavish devotion to bull crap. We have allowed our lizard brains to lead and the blowhard simpletons to rule us to ruin. They alone cannot fix or build a starship.

 

We are here now as the "rule of law" is being tested as it has never been before, to the point that we're being gaslit to ask if such a thing ever existed and if we can get by with WHATABOUTISM instead of democracy, tyranny instead of freedom.

 

Judges, Special Councils, Clerks, and politicians are being swatted doxxed; elected officials are receiving death threats because misinformation is being spread on social media like feces to infect the lizard portion of our brains, where fear and anger dwell, exploited for ratings, votes, and to sell products online and between archaic commercials. The only thing on the other side of bedlam is anarchy. That is a poor substitute for a federal republic that has existed for over 246 years and could easily be gone in a fortnight.

 

June: We have to run.
Luke: What?
June: We waited last time. We waited too long, and we didn't see how much they hated us. I lost you, and then we lost Hannah.
Luke: Are we just gonna forget about her now?
June: We will never ever forget about her, but we cannot help her if we are dead. It's changing, Luke. This country is changing.
Luke: No, Canada's not Gilead.
June: America wasn't Gilead until it was, and then it was too fuckin' late. Luke, we have to go. We have to run. Now.

Source: TV fanatic, "The Handmaid's Tale," by Margaret Atwood on Hulu

 

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Fast Charger...

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Significant Li plating capacity from Si anode. a, Li discharge profile in a battery of Li/graphite–Li5.5PS4.5Cl1.5 (LPSCl1.5)–LGPS–LPSCl1.5–SiG at current density 0.2 mA cm–2 at room temperature. Note that SiG was made by mixing Si and graphite in one composite layer. Inset shows the schematic illustration of stages 1–3 based on SEM and EDS mapping, which illustrate the unique Li–Si anode evolution in solid-state batteries observed experimentally in Figs. 1 and 2. b, FIB–SEM images of the SiG anode at different discharge states (i), (ii), and (iii) corresponding to points 1–3 in a, respectively. c, SEM–EDS mapping of (i), (ii), and (iii), corresponding to SEM images in b, where carbon signal (C) is derived from graphite, oxygen (O) and nitrogen (N) signals are from Li metal reaction with air and fluorine (F) is from the PTFE binder. d, Discharge profile of battery with cell construction Li-1M LiPF6 in EC/DMC–SiG. Schematics illustrate typical Si anode evolution in liquid-electrolyte batteries. e, FIB–SEM image (i) of SiG anode following discharge in the liquid-electrolyte battery shown in d; zoomed-in image (ii). Credit: Nature Materials (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41563-023-01722-x

Topics: Applied Physics, Battery, Chemistry, Climate Change, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new lithium metal battery that can be charged and discharged at least 6,000 times—more than any other pouch battery cell—and can be recharged in a matter of minutes.

The research not only describes a new way to make solid-state batteries with a lithium metal anode but also offers a new understanding of the materials used for these potentially revolutionary batteries.

The research is published in Nature Materials.

"Lithium metal anode batteries are considered the holy grail of batteries because they have ten times the capacity of commercial graphite anodes and could drastically increase the driving distance of electric vehicles," said Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science at SEAS and senior author of the paper. "Our research is an important step toward more practical solid-state batteries for industrial and commercial applications."

One of the biggest challenges in the design of these batteries is the formation of dendrites on the surface of the anode. These structures grow like roots into the electrolyte and pierce the barrier separating the anode and cathode, causing the battery to short or even catch fire.

These dendrites form when lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode during charging, attaching to the surface of the anode in a process called plating. Plating on the anode creates an uneven, non-homogeneous surface, like plaque on teeth, and allows dendrites to take root. When discharged, that plaque-like coating needs to be stripped from the anode, and when plating is uneven, the stripping process can be slow and result in potholes that induce even more uneven plating in the next charge.

Solid-state battery design charges in minutes and lasts for thousands of cycles, Leah Burrows, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Tech Xplore

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Microlenses...

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Chromatic imaging of white light with a single lens (left) and achromatic imaging of white light with a hybrid lens (right). Credit: The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Topics: 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Applied Physics, Materials Science, Optics

Using 3D printing and porous silicon, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed compact, visible wavelength achromats that are essential for miniaturized and lightweight optics. These high-performance hybrid micro-optics achieve high focusing efficiencies while minimizing volume and thickness. Further, these microlenses can be constructed into arrays to form larger area images for achromatic light-field images and displays.

This study was led by materials science and engineering professors Paul Braun and David Cahill, electrical and computer engineering professor Lynford Goddard, and former graduate student Corey Richards. The results of this research were published in Nature Communications.

"We developed a way to create structures exhibiting the functionalities of classical compound optics but in highly miniaturized thin film via non-traditional fabrication approaches," says Braun.

In many imaging applications, multiple wavelengths of light are present, e.g., white light. If a single lens is used to focus this light, different wavelengths focus at different points, resulting in a color-blurred image. To solve this problem, multiple lenses are stacked together to form an achromatic lens. "In white light imaging, if you use a single lens, you have considerable dispersion, and so each constituent color is focused at a different position. With an achromatic lens, however, all the colors focus at the same point," says Braun.

The challenge, however, is that the required stack of lens elements required to make an achromatic lens is relatively thick, which can make a classical achromatic lens unsuitable for newer, scaled-down technological platforms, such as ultracompact visible wavelength cameras, portable microscopes, and even wearable devices.

A new (micro) lens on optics: Researchers develop hybrid achromats with high focusing efficiencies,  Amber Rose, University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering

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Nano Racetracks...

In this image, optical pulses (solitons) can be seen circling through conjoined optical tracks. (Image: Yuan, Bowers, Vahala, et al.) An animated gif is at the original link below.

Topics: Applied Physics, Astronomy, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science, Nanoengineering, Optics

(Nanowerk News) When we last checked in with Caltech's Kerry Vahala three years ago, his lab had recently reported the development of a new optical device called a turnkey frequency microcomb that has applications in digital communications, precision timekeeping, spectroscopy, and even astronomy.

This device, fabricated on a silicon wafer, takes input laser light of one frequency and converts it into an evenly spaced set of many distinct frequencies that form a train of pulses whose length can be as short as 100 femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second). (The comb in the name comes from the frequencies being spaced like the teeth of a hair comb.)

Now Vahala, Caltech's Ted and Ginger Jenkins, Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics and executive officer for applied physics and materials science, along with members of his research group and the group of John Bowers at UC Santa Barbara, have made a breakthrough in the way the short pulses form in an important new material called ultra-low-loss silicon nitride (ULL nitride), a compound formed of silicon and nitrogen. The silicon nitride is prepared to be extremely pure and deposited in a thin film.

In principle, short-pulse microcomb devices made from this material would require very low power to operate. Unfortunately, short light pulses (called solitons) cannot be properly generated in this material because of a property called dispersion, which causes light or other electromagnetic waves to travel at different speeds, depending on their frequency. ULL has what is known as normal dispersion, and this prevents waveguides made of ULL nitride from supporting the short pulses necessary for microcomb operation.

In a paper appearing in Nature Photonics ("Soliton pulse pairs at multiple colors in normal dispersion microresonators"), the researchers discuss their development of the new micro comb, which overcomes the inherent optical limitations of ULL nitride by generating pulses in pairs. This is a significant development because ULL nitride is created with the same technology used for manufacturing computer chips. This kind of manufacturing technique means that these microcombs could one day be integrated into a wide variety of handheld devices similar in form to smartphones.

The most distinctive feature of an ordinary microcomb is a small optical loop that looks a bit like a tiny racetrack. During operation, the solitons automatically form and circulate around it.

"However, when this loop is made of ULL nitride, the dispersion destabilizes the soliton pulses," says co-author Zhiquan Yuan (MS '21), a graduate student in applied physics.

Imagine the loop as a racetrack with cars. If some cars travel faster and some travel slower, then they will spread out as they circle the track instead of staying as a tight pack. Similarly, the normal dispersion of ULL means light pulses spread out in the microcomb waveguides, and the microcomb ceases to work.

The solution devised by the team was to create multiple racetracks, pairing them up so they look a bit like a figure eight. In the middle of that '8,' the two tracks run parallel to each other with only a tiny gap between them.

Conjoined 'racetracks' make new optical devices possible, Nanowerk.

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The "Tiny Ten"...

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Researchers are working to overcome challenges related to nanoscale optoelectronic interconnects, which use light to transmit signals around an integrated circuit. IMAGE: PROVIDED BY NCNST

Topics: Biology, Materials Science, Nanoengineering, Nanomaterials, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics

The promise of nanotechnology, the engineering of machines and systems at the nanoscale, is anything but tiny. Over the past decade alone, there has been an explosion in research on how to design and build components that solve problems across almost every sector, and nanotechnology innovations have led to huge advancements in our quest to address humanity’s grand challenges, from healthcare to water to food security.

Like any area of scholarship, there are still so many unknowns. And yet, there are more talented scientists and engineers endeavoring to better comprehend and harness the power of nanotechnology than ever before. The future is bright for nanotechnology and its applications.

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology, China (NCNST), a subsidiary of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences, partnered with Science Custom Publishing to survey nanoscience experts from the journal and across the globe about the most knotty and fascinating questions that still need to be answered if we are to advance nanotechnology in society.

The Tiny Ten: Experts weigh in on the top 10 challenges remaining for nanoscience & nanotechnology, Science Magazine

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Births, Stats, Mathematics...

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Source: Brookings Institution

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Democracy, Existentialism, Fascism

Cate Cox and Brittany Watts: Their last names rhyme, but their circumstances couldn't be more diametrically different from one another.

Cate Cox is a married suburban mother with two children. She previously lived in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, but due to her condition, she had to flee her state. A complication with her pregnancy put her life at risk and the possibility that she might not be able to conceive again if her pregnancy weren't ended expeditiously through a procedure now outlawed in Texas.

Brittany Watts, an African American woman, had a stillborn, unfortunately, in the toilet. The fetus was found in the drain, and she was charged with abuse.

Mrs. Cox eventually left Texas for the procedure, having the financial means to leave and get the healthcare that she desired.

Ms. Watts was a frightened young woman who had left the hospital twice before her miscarriage. Yet she's charged with felony abuse of a corpse in Ohio.

Abstract

The Effects of the Dobbs Decision on Fertility*

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sparked the most profound transformation of the landscape of abortion access in 50 years. We provide the first estimates of the effects of this decision on fertility using a preregistered synthetic difference-in-differences design applied to newly released provisional natality data for the first half of 2023. The results indicate that states with abortion bans experienced an average increase in births of 2.3 percent relative to states where abortion was not restricted.

Source: The Effects of the Dobbs Decision on Fertility, IZA Institute of Labor Economics

The Dobbs Decision was a strategic salvo shot at the year 2045:

New census population projections confirm the importance of racial minorities as the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth, countering an aging, slow-growing, and soon-to-be-declining white population. The new statistics project that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045. During that year, whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations (see Figure 1).

The shift is the result of two trends. First, between 2018 and 2060, gains will continue in the combined racial minority populations, growing by 74 percent. Second, during this time frame, the aging white population will see a modest immediate gain through 2024 and then experience a long-term decline through 2060, a consequence of more deaths than births (see Figure 2)

Source: Brookings Institution

24.6 (Hispanics) + 13.1 (African Americans) + 7.9 (Asians) + 3.8 (Multiracial) + 0.9 (Other) = 50.3%, which is apparently an existential crisis on the right because "white" supremacy is anxiously numerical.

Excerpt from "Black Labor, White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice," (August 1, 1994) Claude Anderson, Ed. D., Chapter 2: Power and Black Progress:

Chapter 2, page 33, subsection titled:

Numerical Population Power

     In a democratic society, the numerical majority wins, rules, and decides. The theoretical rights of a minority may or may not be respected, especially if they are a planned minority. Numerical population power is the power that comes to those groups that acquire power through their sheer size. The black population peaked in the 1750s when slaves and free blacks accounted for approximately 33 percent of the total population. The high numerical strength of blacks caused fear and concern among whites. They feared the loss of their own numerical power. Word of black Haitians' successful slave revolt in the 1790s had spread across America and reportedly ignited several slave revolts in Southern states.

     The First U.S. Congress enacted the first naturalization law that declared America to be a nation for "whites only." The Naturalization Act and other income incentives attracted a mass influx of legal and illegal European ethnicities, followed by Asian and Hispanic immigrants a century later. The immigration quota for blacks remained zero until their total percentage of the population declined to nine percent. By making blacks a planned numerical minority, white society assured its dominance in a democratic society where the majority always wins. Source: Sample chapter

Hence, a national ban is actually what they want. Fifteen weeks will be sold as a "reasonable" compromise, and then it will be paired down to the goose egg that is the actual target. Hence, the hostility towards mixed-race couples and multiracial children from their union: they're not on the "white" team. Hence, the hostility towards the LGBTQ community and whether or not they conceive by surrogate or artificial insemination, their union does not produce enough "white" babies to maintain a numerical majority for the "white" team. Mrs. Cox and upper-middle-class suburban women like her will always have the means and the money to flee any complications and save future childbearing years. Ms. Watt will have one of two options: either flush her undesired fetus while in a state of shock down a toilet or die from complications that she cannot afford to mitigate.

The American Eugenics Movement, unfortunately, had a boost from prominent scientists who wished to rid the world of the "feebleminded" and the unfit. They did this through forced sterilization and control over who could get married (to procreate in the first place). If you've ever used the terms "well-bred" or "good breeding," those originate from eugenics, now accepted as a pseudoscience, once promoted by one of the founders of the transistor and Nobel laureate in Physics, William Schockley. Coupled with southern Jim Crow, eugenics-on-steroids in the hands of the Nazis led to the Holocaust.

Nazi authorities created the Lebensborn program to increase Germany’s population. Pregnant German women deemed “racially valuable” were encouraged to give birth to their children at Lebensborn homes. During World War II, the program became complicit in the kidnapping of foreign children with physical features considered “Aryan” by the Nazis.

Source: Lebensborn Program/U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

More Than 700,000 Ukrainian Children Taken To Russia Since Full-Scale War Started, Official Says, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty

Dramatic Population Drop in Russia, as War, COVID and Emigration Exacerbate Declining Births, Health Policy Watch

The First U.S. Congress enacted the first naturalization law that declared America to be a nation for "whites only." The Naturalization Act and other income incentives attracted a mass influx of legal and illegal European ethnicities, followed by Asian and Hispanic immigrants a century later. The immigration quota for blacks remained zero until their total percentage of the population declined to nine percent. By making blacks a planned numerical minority, white society assured its dominance in a democratic society where the majority always wins. Source: Sample chapter

If one is desperate to maintain a majority or "goose your numbers," you might be capable of anything to achieve those ends.

Very soon in the founding of a new nation, however, White Christians began to establish their well-being by using the resources, bodies, and lives of others. Through their own "witchcraft," European Christians employed a mysterious and threatening potency that was the practice of using the other for their own gain. In [James W.] Perkinson's description, through the projects of the modern Christian empire, "a witchery" of heretofore unimaginable potency ravaged African and aboriginal cultures...For Perkinson, the witchcraft of White supremacy was conjured through racial discourse as an ideological and practical frame that he identifies as the 'quintessential witchery of modernity.'... In Perkinson's chilling words, "Whiteness, under the veneer of its 'heavenly' pallor, is a great grinding witch tooth, sucking blood and tearing flesh without apology."

Excerpts: The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism & Religious Diversity in America," by Jeanine Hill Fletcher, CH 2: The Witchcraft of White Supremacy, 47, 48.

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A Cult of Ignorance...

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Asimov image: https://karsh.org/isaac-asimov/

 

Sagan image: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0755981/

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Democracy, Existentialism

 

Note: The Nobel Prize will be awarded starting Monday in Physiology, then Physics (my admitted favorite), Chemistry, Literature, Peace, and Economics the following Monday. Thus, the concentration of the postings will be Nobel as they post. I will be “nerding out.”

 

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding [its way] through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

 

Isaac Asimov

 

This is an often-used quote for memes from a longer essay by Isaac Asimov, who was at the time a professor of biochemistry at Boston University and the author of 212 books of science and science fiction (an interesting “side hustle”). I provided the link above and below, highlighted with his name. Dr. Asimov had much to say about the state of affairs as he saw it during my freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University in 1980. It was also the year the New York Times reported more black males in college than in the prison industrial complex. It was an election year and the year for the inaugural of 24-hour news media in Ted Turner’s Cable News Network (CNN), which birthed copycats Fox and MSNBC in 1996. It’s hard to imagine that before Ted’s innovation, television wasn’t a profit-making enterprise as much as a public service. Pundits didn’t wear their party affiliations on their sleeves or give “opinions” on the “news.” Mostly, they did not lie to their audiences to goose ratings either.

 

Asimov’s poignant observation of the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” had to morph to “Don’t trust the experts” since Neverland never existed. The Second Law of Thermodynamics (the “arrow of time”) does, and did, meaning that those who gave that warning eventually would be untrustworthy after the “big 3-0.” Therefore, “Don’t trust the experts” became the foundation for railing against elites, which means anyone who goes to a library, pursues an education up to a terminal degree, or reads a book.

 

Experts created the Internet. Experts like “Hidden Figures” Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan enabled the United States to get to the Moon (there would be no “SpaceX” without them). Experts like Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett were one of many who helped to create the mRNA technology for the vaccines used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

But “Don’t trust the experts,” a vapid slogan or talking point if there ever was one.

 

Sloganeering in the Cambridge Dictionary has a succinct and to-the-point definition: “trying to persuade people by repeating phrases instead of explaining your ideas.” It means the absence of an argument. Thus, there is a deliberate absence and avoidance of thinking or outlining to formulate a cogent framework, relying on volume and repetition so that others will begin following your “lead” from the sheer exhaustion of gaslighting.

 

*****

 

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

 

The dumbing down of Americans is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

 

*****

 

Dr. Sagan published these words in 1995. Both authors’ works are still available years after their deaths.

 

Celebrating ignorance invariably leads to a cult of ignorance.

 

It is a cult of ignorance when expertise is assailed as bullying.

 

It is a cult of ignorance when your side can’t admit to losing the Civil War or a presidential election.

 

It is a cult of ignorance when Dr. Fauci, Senator Romney, the FBI, the CDC, elected officials, and VOLUNTEER election workers must shell out dollars to protect their families from raving lunatics who believe every conspiracy tall tale printed, uttered, tweeted, or truth-ed.

 

Source material: Cult of Ignorance

 

Climate scientists are experts, yet they cannot be believed if the stupefying mantra is to be obeyed. The war against experts has always baffled me. No couple during Braxton Hicks contractions wants an Appalachian folk medicine doctor like Granny from the “Beverly Hillbillies” applying moonshine and a hacksaw or Norm, the mailman from the sitcom “Cheers” to start spitballing and wing it through the full delivery.

 

But, “it’s the weather,” following the “Don’t trust the experts” mantra, despite new Hurricane Katrinas repeated since 2005 across the globe, fire seasons in California and Canada, and women never having complications from ectopic pregnancies, high blood pressure, depression, stillbirths that need intervention by what is now illegal in most neo-confederate states (“conservative” they are not) because of the “sanctity of life” until the children are old enough to be lead-sprayed by psychopaths. Because in terms of climate, some wish to induce the apocalypse, and because in terms of bodily autonomy, the stork brings all babies alive and well as requested to cisgender parents, and no “others.”

 

*****

 

I contend that the slogan “America’s right to know” is [a] meaningless one when we have an ignorant population and that the function of a free press is virtually zero when hardly anyone can read.

 

What shall we do about it?

 

We might begin by asking ourselves whether ignorance is so wonderful after all and whether it makes sense to denounce “elitism.”

 

I believe that every human being with a physically normal brain can learn a great deal and be surprisingly intellectual. I believe that what we badly need is [a] social approval of learning and social rewards for learning.

 

We can all be members of the intellectual elite, and then, will a phrase like “America’s right to know” and, indeed, any true concept of democracy have any meaning.

 

Isaac Asimov

 

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In Medias Res...

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Image source: Link below

Topics: Applied Physics, Astrophysics, Computer Modeling, Einstein, High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Theoretical Physics

In the search for new physics, a new kind of scientist is bridging the gap between theory and experiment.

Traditionally, many physicists have divided themselves into two tussling camps: the theorists and the experimentalists. Albert Einstein theorized general relativity, and Arthur Eddington observed it in action as “bending” starlight; Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig thought up the idea of quarks, and Henry Kendall, Richard Taylor, Jerome Freidman and their teams detected them.

In particle physics especially, the divide is stark. Consider the Higgs boson, proposed in 1964 and discovered in 2012. Since then, physicists have sought to scrutinize its properties, but theorists and experimentalists don’t share Higgs data directly, and they’ve spent years arguing over what to share and how to format it. (There’s now some consensus, although the going was rough.)

But there’s a missing player in this dichotomy. Who, exactly, is facilitating the flow of data between theory and experiment?

Traditionally, the experimentalists filled this role, running the machines and looking at the data — but in high-energy physics and many other subfields, there’s too much data for this to be feasible. Researchers can’t just eyeball a few events in the accelerator and come to conclusions; at the Large Hadron Collider, for instance, about a billion particle collisions happen per second, which sensors detect, process, and store in vast computing systems. And it’s not just quantity. All this data is outrageously complex, made more so by simulation.

In other words, these experiments produce more data than anyone could possibly analyze with traditional tools. And those tools are imperfect anyway, requiring researchers to boil down many complex events into just a handful of attributes — say, the number of photons at a given energy. A lot of science gets left out.

In response to this conundrum, a growing movement in high-energy physics and other subfields, like nuclear physics and astrophysics, seeks to analyze data in its full complexity — to let the data speak for itself. Experts in this area are using cutting-edge data science tools to decide which data to keep and which to discard and to sniff out subtle patterns.


Opinion: The Rise of the Data Physicist, Benjamin Nachman, APS News

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Quantum Slow Down...

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Topics: Chemistry, Computer Science, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

Scientists at the University of Sydney have, for the first time, used a quantum computer to engineer and directly observe a process critical in chemical reactions by slowing it down by a factor of 100 billion times.

Joint lead researcher and Ph.D. student Vanessa Olaya Agudelo said, "It is by understanding these basic processes inside and between molecules that we can open up a new world of possibilities in materials science, drug design, or solar energy harvesting.

"It could also help improve other processes that rely on molecules interacting with light, such as how smog is created or how the ozone layer is damaged."

Specifically, the research team witnessed the interference pattern of a single atom caused by a common geometric structure in chemistry called a "conical intersection."

Conical intersections are known throughout chemistry and are vital to rapid photochemical processes such as light harvesting in human vision or photosynthesis.

Chemists have tried to directly observe such geometric processes in chemical dynamics since the 1950s, but it is not feasible to observe them directly, given the extremely rapid timescales involved.

To get around this problem, quantum researchers in the School of Physics and the School of Chemistry created an experiment using a trapped-ion quantum computer in a completely new way. This allowed them to design and map this very complicated problem onto a relatively small quantum device—and then slow the process down by a factor of 100 billion. Their research findings are published August 28 in Nature Chemistry.

"In nature, the whole process is over within femtoseconds," said Olaya Agudelo from the School of Chemistry. "That's a billionth of a millionth—or one quadrillionth—of a second.

"Using our quantum computer, we built a system that allowed us to slow down the chemical dynamics from femtoseconds to milliseconds. This allowed us to make meaningful observations and measurements.

"This has never been done before."

Joint lead author Dr. Christophe Valahu from the School of Physics said, "Until now, we have been unable to directly observe the dynamics of 'geometric phase'; it happens too fast to probe experimentally.

"Using quantum technologies, we have addressed this problem."

Scientists use a quantum device to slow down simulated chemical reactions 100 billion times. University of Sydney, Phys.org.

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Polluting the Pristine...

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The sea floor near Australia’s Casey station in Antarctica has been found to have levels of pollution comparable to those in Rio de Janeiro’s harbor. Credit: Torsten Blackwood/AFP via Getty

Topics: Antarctica, Biology, Chemistry, Environment, Physics, Research

Antarctica is often described as one of the most pristine places in the world, but it has a dirty secret. Parts of the sea floor near Australia’s Casey research station are as polluted as the harbor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, according to a study published in PLoS ONE in August.

The contamination is likely to be widespread across Antarctica’s older research stations, says study co-author Jonathan Stark, a marine ecologist at the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart. “These contaminants accumulate over long time frames and don’t just go away,” he says.

Stark and his colleagues found high concentrations of hydrocarbons — compounds found in fuels — and heavy metals, such as lead, copper, and zinc. Many of the samples were also loaded with polychlorinated biphenyls, highly carcinogenic chemical compounds that were common before their international ban in 2001.

When the researchers compared some of the samples with data from the World Harbor Project — an international collaboration that tracks large urban waterways — they found that lead, copper, and zinc levels in some cases were similar to those seen in parts of Sydney Harbour and Rio de Janeiro over the past two decades.

Widespread pollution

The problem of pollution is not unique to Casey station, says Ceisha Poirot, manager of policy, environment, and safety at Antarctica New Zealand in Christchurch. “All national programs are dealing with this issue,” she says. At New Zealand’s Scott Base — which is being redeveloped — contamination left from past fuel spills and poor waste management has been detected in soil and marine sediments. More of this historical pollution will emerge as the climate warms, says Poirot. “Things that were once frozen in the soil are now becoming more mobile,” she says.

Most of Antarctica’s contamination is due to historically poor waste management. In the old days, waste was often just dumped a small distance from research stations, says Terence Palmer, a marine scientist at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.

Research stations started to get serious about cleaning up their act in 1991. In that year, an international agreement known as the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, or the Madrid Protocol, was adopted. This designated Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science,” and directed nations to monitor environmental impacts related to their activities. But much of the damage had already been done — roughly two-thirds of Antarctic research stations were built before 1991.

Antarctic research stations have polluted a pristine wilderness, Gemma Conroy, Nature.

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Pines' Demon...

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Lurking for decades: researchers have discovered Pines' demon, a collection of electrons in a metal that behaves like a massless wave. It is illustrated here as an artist’s impression. (Courtesy: The Grainger College of Engineering/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Topics: Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Research, Solid-State Physics, Theoretical Physics

For nearly seven decades, a plasmon known as Pines’ demon has remained a purely hypothetical feature of solid-state systems. Massless, neutral, and unable to interact with light, this unusual quasiparticle is reckoned to play a key role in certain superconductors and semimetals. Now, scientists in the US and Japan say they have finally detected it while using specialized electron spectroscopy to study the material strontium ruthenate.

Plasmons were proposed by the physicists David Pines and David Bohm in 1952 as quanta of collective electron density fluctuations in a plasma. They are analogous to phonons, which are quanta of sound, but unlike phonons, their frequency does not tend to zero when they have no momentum. That’s because finite energy is needed to overcome the Coulomb attraction between electrons and ions in a plasma in order to get oscillations going, which entails a finite oscillation frequency (at zero momentum).

Today, plasmons are routinely studied in metals and semiconductors, which have conduction electrons that behave like a plasma. Plasmons, phonons, and other quantized fluctuations are called quasiparticles because they share properties with fundamental particles such as photons.

In 1956, Pines hypothesized the existence of a plasmon which, like sound, would require no initial burst of energy. He dubbed the new quasiparticle a demon in honor of James Clerk Maxwell’s famous thermodynamic demon. Pines’ demon forms when electrons in different bands of metal move out of phase with one another such that they keep the overall charge static. In effect, a demon is the collective motion of neutral quasiparticles whose charge is screened by electrons from another band.

Demon quasiparticle is detected 67 years after it was first proposed. Edwin Cartlidg, Physics World.

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Cloth Diapers...

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Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Democracy, Existentialism, Fascism

 

This essay is derived from a creative work of the same title, posted on my poetry blog Monday.

 

Happy birthday, mom. I miss you.

 

Sixty years ago, you were thirty-eight years old. I was one year, one month, and one day old. I was apparently potty-trained, which I didn't know until my big sister told me after I bragged that my granddaughter, your great-granddaughter, was potty-trained at two.

 

"We had cloth diapers back then. No one was playing with you, Reggie."

 

I took this to mean the task of changing cloth diapers, flushing the load, and WASHING them was probably unpleasant. It also subtly suggests that disposable diapers stifle our development.

 

Twenty-two years ago this past Monday, a Saudi Sheik, Osama Bin Ladin, trained by the CIA when he was in the Mujahadeen, fighting a proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan, convinced 19 hijackers, 15 from his nation, to plunge top-filled planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon: Flight 93 was supposed to hit the Capitol, except for the passengers who decided to intervene, "let's roll." 3,000+ people died. The nation was terrorized.

 

On your birthday, four little black girls were murdered for the crime of singing in a choir, or, correction, PRACTICING to sing in a choir for a performance. It happened on your thirty-eighth birthday. It was a Sunday.

 

Monday, you and Pop had to go to work like it was "normal." Violence has been normal for African Americans since the 13th Amendment ended enslavement (EXCEPT as a punishment for a crime: "wiggle room" that has been abused), the 14th gave us birthright citizenship, and the 15th gave at least our men, the right to vote. That was immediately thwarted in the aftermath of the antebellum South by naming the number of coins/marbles/soap bubbles in a bottle, poll taxes, tests to recite The Constitution (when civics knowledge for the average citizen - then, and now - would likely fail miserably).

 

You both had to drop me off at the sitter and hope to see me alive again and pretend, like every black person at the time, that this was "normal."

 

"Two medical professionals, Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Dr. Carol W. Greider,
Shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Dr. Jack W. Szostak in 2009 "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase."

 

"The long, thread-like DNA molecules that carry our genes are packed into chromosomes, the telomeres being the caps on their ends. Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak discovered that a unique DNA sequence in the telomeres protects the chromosomes from degradation. Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn identified telomerase, the enzyme that makes telomere DNA. These discoveries explained how the ends of the chromosomes are protected by the telomeres and that they are built by telomerase.

"If the telomeres are shortened, cells age. Conversely, if telomerase activity is high, telomere length is maintained, and cellular senescence is delayed."

Source: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2009/

 

Telomeres are shorter for African Americans, a byproduct of 400 years of racial terrorism.

 

We were, and are, terrorized for being human, for wanting what's in The Constitution, for exercising our birthright citizenship. They want to take that away, too., for undocumented immigrants, then probably selective brown people who won't vote for them. The Growth and Opportunity Project said they should reach out to African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, the LGBT, Women, and Youth to expand the party. They instead engage in "culture wars" that are silly, like fighting the banning of gas stoves (there isn't one), the replacement of incandescent lights with more climate-friendly fluorescent or LED lights, and somehow, it's outrageous to suggest limiting beer consumption (no one did).

 

I'm tired, momma.

 

September 11, 2001, Pop had been dead for two years. The boys were in fourth grade and college. They had questions. I had no answers, and I wanted to talk to Pop, but I couldn't. Now I can't talk to you.

 

As Americans finally experienced, on September 11, 2001, the psychological effects of the horrific fear of not knowing what calamity would end your existence.

 

Living in fear of being killed for the "sin" of being alive shortens your telomeres.

 

As my big sister observed:
This country needs more cloth diapers for our development.

 

Happy Heavenly birthday, momma. I miss you. Love, "Stink."

 

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Pools, Climate Change and Miscegenation...

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Taken at Bethlehem Community Center by the author, spring 2023

© August 30, 2023, the Griot Poet

Too few public pools

“There are more than 10 million private swimming pools in the United States, according to a C.D.C. estimate, compared with just 309,000 public ones. That figure includes pools that belong to condo complexes, hotels, and schools, so the number of pools truly accessible to the public is even smaller. The biggest reason so many Americans can’t swim is that they have too few places to learn to do so.

“Then the expansion stopped. In the 1960s, many towns across the South **filled or destroyed their public pools** rather than allow Black Americans to swim in them. Northern cities, strapped for resources amid suburbanization and white flight, struggled to maintain their pools. This is how public investment in pools withered, one more ghastly sacrifice America has laid at the altar of anti-Black racism and twisted fears about miscegenation.”

Mara Gay, New York Times

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/27/opinion/drowning-public-pools-america.html

I came to Earth via Kate Bitting Hospital,

Now, Reynolds Clinic,

On what used to be Seventh and Cleveland, now Cleveland and Martin Luther King Avenue.

The segregated hospital was named after the wife of RJ Reynolds, the tobacco magnate,

One of 12 hospitals for African Americans,

It’s where my mother worked as a nurse,

It, and all the others, no longer exists.

 

I attended Bethlehem Community Center for preschool and kindergarten.

It was, and is, right up the street from the hospital,

It was, and is, predominantly minority, with some immigrants,

We once had a pool where I learned to swim, to my big sister’s chagrin (she found out abruptly after I dove into the deep end of a then-segregated pool).

That pool is now closed.

On a recent visit to Bethlehem earlier this year, I saw the site where the pool once was now a surface cemented over.

 

My old neighborhood is still De Facto segregated.

I being a rare exception, some have been trapped in “The Racist Matrix” for generations.

A ghetto was brought over from Germany to the US.

After Germany put on steroids, American eugenics.

A place exquisitely designed to sequester possibilities and shatter dreams.

Black children are more likely to die from drowning,

Because if they HAD any pools in their neighborhoods, they’re cemented over.

If you’re lucky, someone’s dad (like mine) erects one of those plastic above-ground, temporary pools and invites your friends to come over, play, and cool off in it.

 

Occam’s razor:

Pair ceiled public pools with climate change,

The fear of water in black children,

The fear of miscegenation with white women,

Society has designed a slow crucifixion.

We’re barreling towards 3 degrees Celsius,

And the need for humans to keep cool in an ever-warming environment.

 

Who wins?

Which group has a survival advantage: 10 million private pools or 309,000 public ones?

Which groups are disadvantaged?

Are pools and universal healthcare inalienable human rights?

Or is this some National Security Study Memorandum 200/Thomas Malthus Eugenics strategy?

Or is their plan to keep a numeric majority to cook us before heaven or hellish eternities?

 

Who knows?

I just know that my granddaughter can swim because her parents can afford her lessons at a swim club [for] it.

It used to be that learning to swim didn’t require a middle-class wallet.

 

I just know that I attended,

Bethlehem Community Center from pre-k to kindergarten,

I learned how to read, how to swim, and how to grieve our loss of Dr. Martin Luther King,

As rifle shots rang out [and] confederate flags in the parking lot passed by our windows.

They were thrilled. We were devastated.

The same flag of insurrection was carried by their grandchildren at the US Capitol on January 6th.

The city of Winston-Salem left a cement surface like it was a marker to a tomb.

 

Even pre-k, to kindergarten:

Even there, in that innocence,

They couldn’t leave us alone...to swim.

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"Boldly Going" Pretty Close...

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Artist's conception of the dwarf planet Sedna in the outer edges of the known solar system. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC))

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Exoplanets, NASA, Space Exploration

Astronomers are racing to explain the peculiar orbits of faraway objects at the edge of our solar system.

Among the many mysteries that make the furthest reaches of our solar system, well, mysterious, is the exceptionally egg-shaped path of a dwarf planet called 90377 Sedna.

Its 11,400-year orbit, one of the longest of any resident of the solar system, ushers the dwarf planet to seven billion miles (11.3 billion km) from the sun, then escorts it out of the solar system and way past the Kuiper Belt to 87 billion miles (140 billion km), and finally takes it within a loose shell of icy objects known as the Oort cloud. Since Sedna's discovery in 2003, astronomers have struggled to explain how such a world could have formed in a seemingly empty region of space, where it is too far to be influenced by giant planets of the solar system and even the Milky Way galaxy itself.

Now, a new study suggests that a thus far undetected Earth-like planet hovering in that region could be deviating orbits of Sedna and a handful of similar trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), which are the countless icy bodies orbiting the sun at gigantic distances. Many TNOs have oddly inclined and egg-shaped orbits, possibly due to being tugged at by a hidden planet, astronomers say.

Could an 'Earth-like' planet be hiding in our solar system's outer reaches? Sharmila Kuthunur, Space.com

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