civilization (19)

Small Steps, Large Changes...

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A vertical shock tube at Los Alamos National Laboratory is used for turbulence studies. Sulfur hexafluoride is injected at the top of the 5.3-meter tube and allowed to mix with air. The waste is ejected into the environment through the blue hose at the tube tower’s lower left; in the fiscal year 2021, such emissions made up some 16% of the lab’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The inset shows a snapshot of the mixing after a shock has crossed the gas interface; the darker gas is SF6, and the lighter is air. The intensities yield density values.

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Global Warming, Research

Reducing air travel, improving energy efficiency in infrastructure, and installing solar panels are among the obvious actions that individual researchers and their institutions can implement to reduce their carbon footprint. But they can take many other small and large steps, too, from reducing the use of single-use plastics and other consumables and turning off unused instruments to exploiting waste heat and siting computing facilities powered by renewable energy. On a systemic level, measures can encourage behaviors to reduce carbon emissions; for example, valuing in-person invited job talks and remote ones equally could lead to less air travel by scientists.

So far, the steps that scientists are taking to reduce their carbon footprint are largely grassroots, notes Hannah Johnson, a technician in the imaging group at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology in Utrecht and a member of Green Labs Netherlands, a volunteer organization that promotes sustainable science practices. The same goes for the time and effort they put in for the cause. One of the challenges, she says, is to get top-down support from institutions, funding agencies, and other national and international scientific bodies.

At some point, governments are likely to make laws that support climate sustainability, says Astrid Eichhorn, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark whose research is in quantum gravity and who is active on the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities committee for climate sustainability. “We are in a situation to be proactive and change in ways that do not compromise the quality of our research or our collaborations,” she says. “We should take that opportunity now and not wait for external regulations.”

Suppose humanity manages to limit emissions worldwide to 300 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). In that case, there is an 83% chance of not exceeding the 1.5 °C temperature rise above preindustrial levels set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to a 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report. That emissions cap translates to a budget of 1.2 tons of CO2e per person annually through 2050. Estimates for the average emissions by researchers across scientific fields are much higher and range widely in part because of differing and incomplete accounting approaches, says Eichhorn. She cites values from 7 to 18 tons a year for European scientists.

Scientists take steps in the lab toward climate sustainability, Toni Feder, Physics Today.

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Outcomes, Language and Syntax...

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Credit: michaelmjc/Getty Images (chalkboard); Scientific American (words and design)

Topics: Biofuels, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism

Climate change is already disrupting the lives of billions of people. What was once considered a problem for the future is raging all around us right now. This reality has helped convince a majority of the public that we must act to limit suffering. In an August 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of Americans said they had experienced at least one heat wave, flood, drought, or wildfire in the past year. Among those people, more than 80 percent said climate change had contributed. In another 2022 poll, 77 percent of Americans who said they had been affected by extreme weather in the past five years saw climate change as a major crisis.

Yet the response is not meeting the urgency of the crisis. A transition to clean energy is underway, but it is happening too slowly to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The U.S. government finally took long-delayed action by passing the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, much more progress is needed, and entrenched politics hamper it. The partisan divide largely stems from conservatives’ perception that climate change solutions will involve big government controlling people’s choices and imposing sacrifices. Research shows that Republicans’ skepticism about climate change is largely attributable to a conflict between ideological values and often-discussed solutions, particularly government regulations. A 2019 study on Climatic Change found that political and ideological polarization on climate change is particularly acute in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries.

One thing we can all do to ease this gridlock is to alter the language and messages we use about climate change. The words we use and the stories we tell matter. Transforming the way we talk about climate change can engage people and build the political will needed to implement policies strong enough to confront the crisis with the urgency required.

To inspire people, we need to tell a story not of sacrifice and deprivation but of opportunity and improvement in our lives, health, and well-being—a story of humans flourishing in a post-fossil-fuel age.

The Right Words Are Crucial to Solving Climate Change, Susan Joy Hassol, Scientific American

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The New McCarthyism...

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New liberal ad ties presumptive future House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to ‘red scare’ icon Joseph McCarthy, Peter Weber, The Week

Topics: Civics, Civilization, Democracy, Economics, Existentialism, Fascism

Debt Ceiling and Dystopia

The debt limit does not authorize new spending commitments. It simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations – an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans – putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole just as the country is recovering from the recent recession.

Congress has always acted when called upon to raise the debt limit. Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit – 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. Congressional leaders in both parties have recognized that this is necessary.

Source: Treasury.gov

The Old McCarthyism

Elected to the Senate in 1946, Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) did not draw major national attention until 1950. On February 9th of that year, he delivered a Lincoln Day address in Wheeling, West Virginia, blaming failures in American foreign policy on Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. The Wisconsin Republican claimed to have a list of known Communists still working in the Department of State. A special subcommittee investigated McCarthy’s charges and rejected them as “a fraud and a hoax.” Still, the outbreak of the Korean War and the highly publicized conviction of Alger Hiss lent credibility to the charges. When McCarthy became chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953, he launched a series of investigations into alleged subversion and espionage. In 1954 a confrontation with the army led to the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings, which tarnished McCarthy’s public image, undermined his charges, and prompted his censure by the U.S. Senate.

Source: Senate.gov

The New McCarthyism, or the New Testament of the Soulless

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic, and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

This is an excellent definition of the “Big lie,” however, there seems to be no evidence that it was used by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, though it is often attributed to him.

The OSS psychological profile of Hitler described his use of the big lie:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

Source: Jewish Virtual Library/Joseph Goebbels: The Big Lie

"Then if anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their [own] citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind." Plato, The Republic

We tell ourselves lies: E Pluribus Unum - out of many, one, or the "melting pot," Emma Lazarus's poem at the Statue of Liberty, whitewashing the kidnapping of Africans, the indentured servitude of poor whites and Native Americans, the disdain our immigration laws treated immigrants from the Chinese Exclusion Act, Catholics, Italians, Czecholovacians, Russians, to the recently attempted Muslim Ban.

One lie a sizable number of citizens are telling themselves: a demographic shift either isn't happening or can be mitigated by either denying electoral losses or keeping certain people from voting.

America Looks Different

The nation’s demographic changes add to the urgency of recognizing how precarious our position has become.

America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans can grow our appeal the way GOP governors have done, the changes tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction.

In 1980, exit polls tell us that the electorate was 88 percent white. In 2012, it was 72 percent white. Hispanics made up 7 percent of the electorate in 2000, 8 percent in 2004, 9 percent in 2008, and 10 percent in 2012. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2050, whites will be 47 percent of the country, while Hispanics will grow to 29 percent and Asians to 9 percent.

If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we must engage them and show our sincerity.

Source: The Growth and Opportunity Project (the so-called autopsy), page 7, paragraph 2

A functional party would look at this and disseminate it. They might hire consultants to form focus groups. The message would be broadcast from radio stations, television, and the Internet: Republicans want to be a "big tent" party. We (republicans) want to expand to minorities, women, and youth. A function party acting on these practical, fact-based conclusions would look completely different than the fiasco we are currently witnessing. They have shown since this report to be racing in the opposite direction, heading over the proverbial lemming cliff. Maybe they tried, but most of their electorate wasn't receptive to "others" being under their red tent.

Rural Americans reliably votes republican and guaranteed the re-elections of Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, miniatures of Trump showing after higher infection rates and deaths from Covid, gun massacres, faux crusades against asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants - usually coming for construction jobs at American companies paying them cash under the table, and wars against Critical Race Theory (i.e., accurately taught American history), Nazi book bans, and assaulting the beach of Drag Queen story hour with AR15s - all it takes to win elections is the scare and make angry the right number of white people.

The New McCarthyism is based on Goebbels's "Big Lie," the current one given by a septuagenarian that could not accept another septuagenarian who beat him in the 2020 election. So narcissistic and pathological was the loser he fomented a coup in the 21st Century, 20 years after 9-11. Osama Bin Laden is gone, a casualty of Seal Team Six, but his chief aim of destabilizing the west of showing the "Great Satan" to be a paper tiger. To show that the ideals we espoused overseas couldn't even be maintained at home. The Civil Rights Movement, the killing of African Americans: all of this has been televised and broadcast. Osama and Vladimir Putin only pushed on an open sore and poured in salt. The culmination of Osama and Vladimir's wildest dreams was the election of a mop-headed, fake billionaire that has lost more money than he's ever earned. The book I believe he read from cover to cover and emulated in his rallies was "My New Order," a collection of speeches by Adolf Hitler. It is in its original form, 1,008 pages long. At one time, he had an attention span beyond that of a gnat. He seems to have committed it to memory. The only person who would know for sure, Ivana, is buried surreptitiously on his golf course in New Jersey.

Concealed carry devolved to open carry, in many states requiring no registration or training, studies showing the threats to African Americans getting shot elevated by such conditions. The goal of the New McCarthyism is the same as old-time American Klan-robed fascism: it frightens African Americans first, then the general public. Where does anyone feel safe now when schools, malls, and places of worship have become killing fields? The government dysfunction we’ve seen since the Speaker vote debacle and the threat not to raise the debt ceiling (25% of which was accrued during the previous administration) is by design. It is to “wear out” the electorate; it is the proverbial “pox on both houses,” and the convenient discovery of classified documents with former Vice Presidents Biden and Pence is both sides-ism on steroids and textbook gaslighting. It is to give us no reason to believe voting will change anything. It is voter suppression by gaslighting because the Growth and Opportunity Project would take too much work. and change. They are not a serious governing party: they are the comments section on Facebook reading "Green Eggs and Ham."

The Republic is a repudiation of the rights of kings to rule over a country, the lives of peasants, and hoard wealth for themselves. The new world kings/billionaires/oligarchs are trying to reestablish that through means of fear, violence, and terror.

Kevin McCarthy will cement his legacy as this nation's weakest (and likely, short-lived) Speaker of the House. He's given away his power and threatened the default of the full faith and credit of the United States. This would defund the Ukraine war on Ukraine's and Russia's sides. It would raise U.S. unemployment from record lows to third-world levels. It would pitch the world over that same lemming's cliff into the Greatest Depression, possibly the last. It would guarantee an electoral loss for the Grand Old Party that rejected the price of growth and opportunity: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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Wonderful...

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Image Source: MedPage Today

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, Civilization, COVID-19, DNA, Epidemiology

Currently authorized bivalent COVID-19 boosters demonstrated similar protection against symptomatic illness from the XBB/XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariants as from BA.5-related subvariants, according to a CDC study.

From December 2022 to January 2023, the bivalent boosters' vaccine effectiveness (VE) against symptomatic infection was a similar 48% versus XBB/XBB.1.5-related strains and 52% versus BA.5-related sublineages, reported Ruth Link-Gelles, Ph.D., of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and colleagues in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Meanwhile, Pfizer's updated booster demonstrated superior neutralizing antibody activity compared with the company's original product against all the latest Omicron subvariants, including XBB.1, according to Kena Swanson, Ph.D., of Pfizer Vaccine Research and Development in Pearl River, New York and colleagues, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their findings contradict earlier research from other labs that found no significant difference in neutralizing activity with the bivalent over the monovalent vaccine.

According to the latest estimates from the CDC, XBB.1.5 is responsible for 49.1% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., while XBB is responsible for another 3.3%.

CDC: Bivalent COVID Vaccines Stop Illness From XBB.1.5

— And Pfizer lab data show better neutralization against the latest variants with the bivalent shot, Ingrid Hein, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

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Hierarchy, Power, and Resources...

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The Last Kingdom recap: season one, episode three: succession in Wessex, Sarah Hughes, The Guardian

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

The modern martial arts belt ranking system first started emerging in 1907 when the creator of Judo, Jigoro Kano, introduced the iconic Judo uniform and belt. Before that, his students practiced traditional Japanese kimonos. However, back then, there existed only two belt colors: white and black. White belts were those in the process of learning the fundamentals, while black belts were students who mastered the basics, knew how to use them functionally, and were ready to pursue Judo on a more serious and advanced level. The white coloring represented purity, avoidance of ego, and simplicity, while the black symbolized a fuller repertoire of knowledge.

A popular belief within the martial arts community is that every student started off with a white belt, then gradually, it darkened in color from all the blood, sweat, and tears of training. However, there exists no real historical evidence of this practice, and it is generally regarded to be little more than a myth. Source: https://stouttrainpitt.com/

Hierarchy (noun): a system in which people or things are arranged according to their importance. Cambridge Dictionary

Every nation has an arrangement of those who are deemed "important." In the United Kingdom, since Charles ascended after the death of his mother, Elizabeth, they are apparently the beneficiaries of the Norman invasion in 1066, which deposed someone named Harald Godwinson and the House of Wessex. After several centuries of colonization, plunder, and slavery, the "Commonwealth" was born, and the fairytale of Camelot was used to justify plunder. One hierarchy is justified with belt colors, the other with propaganda.

In November 2022, we reached eight billion with something of a shrug. We were 4.4 billion my senior year in high school, 1979 - 1980.

The average human takes up an area of approximately one square meter.

The volume of Earth is about 1,000 billion cubic kilometers, per the World Bank.

4,400,000,000,000/1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = 4.4E-12

8,000,000,000,000/1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = 8.0E-12

Relax. These surface-to-volume ratios only work on the nanoscale. For example, if we were a metal, say gold, the spectrographic analysis would show that due to the S/V ratio being different, the color of a macroscopic (seen) bar of gold would be different on the nanoscale (in many cases, blue or other colors) because the S/Vs are different.

It is a gross and stark illustration that as we exponentially increase in population, we're exponentially decreasing the ability to feed our population. The fraction's denominator did not change, but you can bet feeding the first humans in Africa was a lot simpler math than eight billion. The first thing learned in kindergartens for the 99% is to share. One presumes the first thing learned in nurseries for plutocrats is how to hoard.

Therefore, the castes of royalty, race, and inequality justify hoarding resources in a siphon-up operation (the antonym of "trickledown"). Billionaires, like kings, influence through propaganda the justification of resource theft. To ensure the running of this machine, you need some willing advocates (e.g., Kyrsten Sinema, Boris Johnson, Joe Manchin, Rishi Sunak) in world governments such that the obscenely wealthy will pay little or nothing in taxes in their respective countries. Camouflage the theft with drivel like "free markets" or "God's will." Having a compliant court system to define "money as free speech" helps magnify your megaphone and hides where and from what country your campaign donations are coming [from]. Social media, with the protection of Section 230, can proverbially "shout fire in crowded theaters" without consequences, except the empty "we'll do better" promises. They pay for Members of Parliament, Senators, House Members, and presidents to enact their agendas, despite their nation's constitutions. Democracy is, thus, anathema to avarice.

We have a global hierarchal social construct. Instead of the distribution of resources that ensures the health, safety, and welfare of the human tribe, a justification is given to those more "worthy" of the resources: bloodlines, divine right, "good genes" (eugenics), going to the "right" schools, being born on the "right" side of the tracks, "talented tenths"; secret fraternal orders, and open orgies of oligarch opulence like Davos. It is the justification of high crimes and misdemeanors committed in plain sight. It is the framework of how we justify the "haves" and the "have-nots." It is a form of societal cognitive dissonance. It has justified the grand theft of natural resources, political power, and, thus, wealth over millennia. It has no analog in nature and does not guarantee species survival.

The dinosaurs did not perish from arrogance. They [simply] had no science to tell them that the meteor was coming.

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Tribute to the Trekkie...

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3f_vD6icWk
December 10, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Prize Speech


Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Democracy, Existentialism, History, Human Rights

Note: Sourced from https://physics4thecool.blogspot.com/2011/10/honoring-trekkie.html, my previous blog posting site.

"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am part of a generation that, when we pass, will have the last memories of hearing your voice on the radio, on television, and not be a documentary or a YouTube embed. Small children, that terrible day when we...lost you.

I remember when after the assassination of Martin Luther King, a pickup truck with a confederate flag flying behind it rode past my kindergarten, shouting epithets and gloating at his death (1968).

I saw my first burning cross at the age of fourteen (1976) during my first overnight encampment with JROTC.

This wasn’t that long ago.

Like your support of the idea of us in the future in Star Trek, we tried to embody that hope in every class we tackled, every Calculus, Physics, and Engineering problem we solved: we strove to make you proud of us, despite the fact you were here and then gone so soon.

Happy birthday sir, and THANK YOU!

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https://youtu.be/cLOZxOo5Czo

"At the end of Star Trek's first season, Nichelle was thinking seriously of leaving the show, but a chance and moving meeting with Martin Luther King changed her mind. He told her she couldn't give up...she was a vital role model for young black women in America. Needless to say, Nichelle stayed with the show and has appeared in the first six Star Trek movies. She also provided the voice for Lt. Uhura on the Star Trek animated series in 1974-75."

See Star Trek Database: Nichelle Nichols

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Munchausen by Congress...

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Research Gate dot net: Epidemiology of Munchausen syndrome by proxy in New Zealand

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

Tina Depuy (from her website: tee-nuh doo-pwee) wrote an analysis of the Republican Party when the House of Representatives was under John "weed head" Bohner in 2013:

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, now referred to as Factious Disorder by Proxy or FDbP, is where a parent or caretaker enjoys the attention of having a sick child. Hence, they exaggerate and sometimes induce their victim’s symptoms. Children are made to be sick; parents are given sympathy for their seeming stoicism. It’s adulation-seeking via child abuse.

In this case, the caretaker is Congress (specifically the Republican-controlled House). The thing they’re enjoying making unwell is, well, us: the country, our economy, postal services, meat inspections, air traffic control, infrastructure, law enforcement, military, credit rating, commerce, and every other part of a country [thought] of around the globe as a superpower.

This disorder can sometimes be traced to an early legit emergency, where the caregiver with FDbP first experiences the rush of admiration they’ll later crave. For the GOP, it’s probably September 11, 2001. It was on that day the then-leader of the Republican party (the same dude the GOP no longer acknowledges exists, they’ll even listen to Mitt Romney speak before uttering his name) finally got to do everything he wanted without question – all with an over (and brief) 80 percent approval rating. He pre-emptively invaded Iraq without paying for it, flattened wages, made the rich richer, and transformed higher education into a profit-driven industry. More importantly, he got Democrats to shut up while he pretended drunken-sailor-spending was compassionate conservatism.

Congress has Munchausen by Proxy, Tina Depuy, March 2, 2013, Post Independent.

The above article and its analysis by analog have aged incredibly well.

Unless you've been living under a rock, we now have the weakest Speaker of the House in the history of the republic who "gave away the store" to MAGA extremists and got his authority weakened. Is George Santos’s real name even George Santos? The only reason the pathological liar is tolerated is that it gives Kev a four-vote thin margin. If he removes him, it triggers a special election in a Blue State in a Democratic-leaning district (that somehow woke up from their drunken stupor and is pissed George is their Representative). If he were to survive the primary, the fictional Klingons have a proverb: "revenge is a dish that is best served cold." That would cut Kev down to three and resorting to public self-immolation. The constituents would send another Democrat to the House, increasing Hakeem Jeffries' numbers and steps toward Speaker in 2024. Under "Kev the Spinless," we can look forward to nothing but show trials, no credible laws proposed that could [possibly] pass the Senate, and going over the debt ceiling cliff in September, if Kev makes it that long.

Newton Gingrich started this mess. His philosophy was playing a zero-sum game, political terrorism, and nihilism. It was always a "Contract ON America," never WITH America, as it ignored a sizeable and growing part of the electorate that demographically, the republicans let themselves get caught flatfooted in the 21st Century, so: voter suppression as a Hail Mary. It was under Gingrich we started seeing the debt ceiling being used as a tool for hostage-taking (the entire government). He somehow (creepily) married his high school Geometry teacher, divorced her for his first mistress, then divorced the second wife (the previously-mentioned first mistress) for his second mistress (and now third wife) Calista WHILE trying to impeach Bill Clinton for the same thing!

Gingrich attempted a soft coup by Constitution: he aimed to impeach Bill Clinton and Al Gore and, by default, become President of the United States. He was both hypocritical and shameless, just like the Republican Party now. Zero-sum became the Tea Party under the first (and only) African American president, then the Orwellian "Freedom Caucus," which led inexorably to MAGA, having the same characteristics and number of letters as "Nazi." After midterm losses, he stepped down as Speaker in the face of full rebellion. Bob Livingston challenged him, then had the same "strayed from his marriage" issues as Gingrich and Clinton. That led to wrestling coach pedophile Dennis "the groomer" Hastert before Nancy Pelosi's first run. After that, John Boehner (ran out by the Tea Party), Paul Ryan (Ibid), and Nancy Pelosi for her last go-around, followed by a slimy, whimpering, limp surfer tan in a suit. Newt posing now as a wisened, sage political philosopher, is gaslighting from a windbag.

Do soft coups then become dry run practice coups like storming the Michigan Capitol under Gretchen Whitmore's first term as governor? Her attempted kidnapping and threats to her administration flukes? I guess Charlottesville, August 11 - 12, 2017, and The Insurrection of January 6, 2021, were all Antifa (antifascists) dressed as conservatives and bringing with them the Grand Pooh-Bah of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos?

"The Republican Party is the party for normal Americans." Newt Gingrich.

Unlike Depuy's analysis, this didn't age well.

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Kindred and Us...

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Image source: Carter Matt dot com

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

Note: Apologies for the late and last 2022 blog post. My laptop has had its own mind lately.

My "Rotten Tomatoes" review:

"I've been a fan of Octavia Butler since reading my first novel by her, "Mind of My Mind," about a vampiric telepath named Doro: an immortal from Africa that devours your soul, so he can essentially be immortal at the cost of what makes you "you": your mind and soul. Butler makes us, through fiction, look at race, class, gender, and the impact of a hierarchical society whose behaviors reflect our slavery past in America. Notice that no other nation has our domestic violence problems: the Second Amendment was specifically designed for quelling slave rebellions. The fact that the first African American president was elected re-elected, and the response was a vaudevillian reality TV pretend billionaire, Kindred, could not be more timely. We need more from her, NK Jemison, and other speculative BIPOC writers. It's been a long time coming."

My wife and I watched it on Hulu, and like "The Handmaid's Tale," she was immediately hooked. She had never been a fan of science fiction, but I corrected her by saying that Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler are speculative fiction writers:

A type of story or literature that is set in a world that is different from the one we live in or that deals with magical or imagined future events:She tells readers that she writes "speculative fiction," defined as "fiction in which impossible things happen."Her speculative fiction novel is set in the near future. Cambridge Dictionary

I'm a Trekkie, but in Kindred, the protagonist, Dana, time travels (a popular science fiction trope) to the antebellum south, where she meets two of her ancestors: a black woman and her slave owner obsessed with her. Her technology isn't going at superluminal speeds and whipping around the sun: her tech is the terror of thinking she's going to die, which pulls her back to Rufus Weylan, and Alice, his father's slave. Butler doesn't explain the mechanism of how this is done (like, do we really know how warp drive would work?), but the writing by Butler and the 21st Century adaptors of her fiction pulls you into the story. Dana is going back in time to ensure the (in this case) "grandmother paradox" favors her being born.

Terror as a tech: the United States, the John Winthrop self-professed "shining city on a hill," has been at war 93% of the time since 1776. Assaulting the indigenous inhabitants and kidnapping an uncompensated labor force from the African continent: the only way you can keep such a psychopathic system in some semblance of "functionality" is with violence. That terror pulls Dana through the corridors of time from 2016 to the 19th Century, where her interracial relationship with Kevin could not be seen as possible or desirable. Her travels aren't with Industrial Light and Magic special effects and light shows: it is raw, guttural fear, shrieks, and screams audible to her neighbors that remind you of Mrs. Kravitz and her patient husband Abner from the TV series "Bewitched," which I'm sure inspired Butler when she wrote the characters. Dana is repelled by the rigid codes that don't respect her autonomy and compelled by the need to rescue Rufus at several key epochs where he could have perished, and she would thereby cease to exist.

America prides itself on being E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one people. Yet the stratification of our society into classes, types, and colors frame our politics, our discourse, our understanding of history, our rejection of facts, and our nostalgia for a halcyon era where we were "great": sequestered on reservations, enslaved, segregated, closeted, miserable, except for the dominant culture at the top of the Great Seal Pyramid.

Selfish desires are burning like fires.

Among those who hoard the gold

As they continue to keep the people asleep

And the truth from being told

Racism and greed keep people in need

From getting what's rightfully theirs

Cheating, stealing, and double-dealing

As they exploit the people's fears

Now, Dow Jones owns the people's homes

And all the surrounding land

Buying and selling their humble dwelling

In the name of the Master Plan.

E Pluribus Unum, The Last Poets, Genius Lyrics

And this framework keeps us at each other's throats, clawing for scraps on a planet that surpassed 8 billion humans last month. Every structure of violence has within it the kernel of resource allocation: who gets WHAT. When you define yourselves at the top of the pyramid, you must convince the rest of society that this evolved or divine position is correct, "logical," and "rational." Your progeny inherit this "superiority" in perpetuity. Anyone disagreeing with you is met with violence, even unto death.

The Myth of Race, Robert Wald Sussman; The Emperor's New Clothes, The Race Myth, Joseph L. Graves, Jr.; Racism, Not Race, Alan M. Goodman, Joseph L. Graves, Jr., all give credible, anthropological, biological data pointing to that we are all humans sharing the same planet with 8 billion other humans. Even if we could accelerate a rocket to near-light speed, we're parsecs from anything resembling the current planet on which we've evolved. Climate change is a real dilemma we currently face that threatens our survival. Due to laws of physics and causality, time travel and warp speed have yet to materialize. We can face the future by reconciling with our past. The future is rocky and uncertain if we don't.

Despite the gaslighting, we are Kindred.

I invite you to stream the Hulu series, write a review online, and treat one another like we're related: because, ultimately, we are. This will also support getting a Season 2.

"God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth" - Acts 17:26

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Grievance, Gridlock, Grift...

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Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Democratic Republic, DNA, Existentialism, Fascism

The genesis of grievance

The man who was least deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in history is the beginning of the roots of white fragility. It wasn't that he might have had learning disabilities or wasn't suited for college. He turned his focus outward to "others": immigrants, feminists, the LGBT, and minorities. Once he settled into a syndicated broadcast on AM Talk Radio that proved more lucrative than what his WWII veteran father earned as a fighter pilot, lawyer, and legislator, he founded a cottage industry of handling that fragility by blaming others for personal shortcomings with no sense of hypocrisy in the party he championed labeling itself the "party of personal responsibility and family values."

In 1969 Limbaugh graduated from Cape Girardeau Central High School, where he played football and was a Boys State delegate.[15][16][17][18] At age 16, he worked his first radio job at KGMO, a local radio station. He used the air name Rusty Sharpe having found "Sharpe" in a telephone book.[12][19] Limbaugh later cited Chicago DJ Larry Lujack as a major influence on him, saying Lujack was "the only person I ever copied."[20] In deference to his parents' desire to attend college, he enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University but dropped out after two semesters. According to his mother, "he flunked everything [...] he just didn't seem interested in anything except radio."[12][21] Biographer Zev Chafets asserts that Limbaugh's life was largely dedicated to gaining his father's respect.[22] Source: Wikipedia/Rush_Limbaugh

The high priest of gridlock

In the 1994 campaign season, to offer an alternative to Democratic policies and to unite distant wings of the Republican Party, Gingrich and several other Republicans came up with a Contract with America, which laid out ten policies that Republicans promised to bring to a vote on the House floor during the first 100 days of the new Congress if they won the election.[61] Gingrich and other Republican candidates for the House of Representatives signed the contract. The contract ranged from issues such as welfare reformterm limits, crime, and a balanced budget/tax limitation amendment, to more specialized legislation such as restrictions on American military participation in United Nations missions.[62]

In the November 1994 midterm elections, Republicans gained 54 seats and took control of the House for the first time since 1954. Long-time House Minority LeaderBob Michel of Illinois had not run for re-election, giving Gingrich, the highest-ranking Republican returning to Congress, the inside track at becoming Speaker. The midterm election that turned congressional power over to Republicans "changed the center of gravity" in the nation's capital.[63]Time magazine named Gingrich its 1995 "Man of the Year" for his role in the election.[3] Source: Wikipedia/Newt_Gingrich

The apotheosis of grift

"Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." President Ronald Reagan's inaugural address.

Despite the propaganda from the "Never-Trumper" folks, Saint Ronnie Reagan wasn't: a saint. Reagan had a racist conversation with Richard Nixon, mocking an African delegation as "monkeys." He was famous for referencing African Americans with the terms "young bucks" and "welfare queens." Ironically, the Nixon administration came after Donald and his father for discriminatory housing practices. TO THIS DAY and with DNA evidence, he still wants the Central Park Exonerated Five rearrested and executed. Trump came down that escalator in his Ivory Tower and talked like a racist white man from Queens, famous for attacking black children in the 1970s. Reagan did his racism with winks and nods, plausible denial for any blacks who supported him: Trump was, and is, who he has always been.

After railing before the election about inflation and gas prices, they immediately, on a DIME, switched to Hunter Biden's laptop, A.K.A. Benghazi 2.0, without a SHRED of shame or cognizance of hypocrisy. They had no political platform in 2020 and none in the midterms. They eeked a majority out of gerrymandered districts and refused to campaign about the fifty-year project of overturning Roe vs. Wade. Because when you have no policies or a framework to govern, trolling is what you do. If Elon kills Twitter, that might be the best thing he’s ever done. It’s dumbed down our public discourse and allowed conspiracy theories to run rampant as “free speech.”

The fact that Trumpism is largely a reincarnation of the German American Bund is beyond dispute. To paraphrase Thom Hartmann's latest article, we are in late-stage Reaganism. Lauren Boebert and Matt "pedo" Gaetz refused to stand or applaud during Voldemyr Zelinski's address to Congress (you know, like normal humans), and "Boe" is on the outs with the former Mrs. Marjorie Taylor "Nazi Barbie, Secret Jewish Space Lasers" Greene. There was no "red wave," but elections were razer close: we almost got Herschel Walker as a Senator from Georgia, and the aforementioned mean girls got reelected. We are FAR from out of the authoritarian woods yet. If January 6, 2021, isn't punished, including Trump and other plotters, it was a dry run practice before the next bloody coup.

We went from a B-Movie actor whose film credits included "Bedtime with Bonzo" to a reality television star that was a carefully-crafted public fiction by Jeff Zucker and NBC. Mark Burnett had to replace his office furniture that had long succumbed to Entropy. We as a nation are at the endpoint of the Lewis Powell memo. Before it, lobbyists were rare to nonexistent. The confluence of government and corporations hasn't always been our "normal." We have to decide IF we're a "nation of laws and not of men" or if the only men that will count in the opposite of a democratic republic are wealthy, white, male, cisgender American oligarchs. “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” — Benito Mussolini; however, it's unlikely he ever said this, but what it outlines is disturbing nonetheless. We give far too much attention and power to narcissists with itchy Twitter fingers and deep pockets to corrupt politicians.

We can have either a functioning Constitutional Republic or we can have the Hunger Games. We cannot have both.

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The Apogee of Evil...

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Credit: Erik English.

Topics: Biology, Biosecurity, Civilization, COVID-19, Democracy, Existentialism

Weaponizing a pathogen sounds like something out of an archetype Bond villain, minus the wrapped-up plot twists by the time the credits roll, and the obligatory fawning of a stereotypical bikinied woman over the intrepid MI-6 spy. Real life doesn't conclude so cleanly. Before every student became accustomed to active shooter drills, my generation ducked under wooden desks to shield themselves from nuclear fallout. Life has always been precarious, as we have always had a segment of society that would "go there."

On that high note, I will see you on the 29th of November. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pandemics can begin in many ways. A wild animal could infect a hunter, or a farm animal might spread a pathogen to a market worker. Researchers in a lab or in the field could be exposed to viruses and unwittingly pass them to others. Natural spillovers and accidents have been responsible for every historical plague, each of which spread from a single individual to afflict much of humanity. But the devastation from past outbreaks pales in comparison to the catastrophic harm that could be inflicted by malicious individuals intent on causing new pandemics.

Thousands of people can now assemble infectious viruses from a genome sequence and commercially available synthetic DNA, and numerous projects aim to find and publicly identify new viruses that could cause pandemics by characterizing their growth, transmission, and immune evasion capabilities in the laboratory. Once these projects succeed, the world will face a significant new threat: If a single terrorist with the necessary skills were to release a new virus equivalent to SARS-CoV-2, which has claimed 20 million lives worldwide, that person would have killed more people than if they were to detonate a nuclear warhead in a dense city. If they were to release numerous such viruses across multiple travel hubs, the resulting pandemics could not plausibly be contained and would spread much faster than even the most rapidly produced biomedical countermeasures. And if one of those viruses spread as easily as the omicron variant—which rapidly infected millions of people within weeks of being identified—but had the lethality of smallpox, which killed about 30 percent of those infected, the subsequent loss of essential workers could trigger the collapse of food, water, and power distribution networks—and with them, societies.

To avoid this future, societies need to rethink how they can delay pandemic proliferation, detect all exponentially growing biological threats, and defend humanity by preventing infections. A comprehensive set of directions detailing how we can build a world free from catastrophic biological threats is required. That roadmap now exists.

How a deliberate pandemic could crush societies and what to do about it, Kevin Esvelt, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Dinosaurs and Dodos...

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Credit: Andrzej Puchta/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Asteroids, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Civilization, Computer Modeling

The following article, since it simulated the destruction of my hometown, two days after my sixtieth birthday, is a little personal.

*****

On August 16, 2022, an approximately 70-meter asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. At 2:02:10 P.M. EDT, the space rock exploded eight miles over Winston-Salem, N.C., with the energy of 10 megatons of TNT. The airburst virtually leveled the city and surrounding area. Casualties were in the thousands.

Well, not really. The destruction of Winston-Salem was the storyline of the fourth Planetary Defense Tabletop Exercise, run by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. The exercise was a simulation where academics, scientists, and government officials gathered to practice how the United States would respond to a real planet-threatening asteroid. Held February 23–24, participants were both virtual and in-person, hailing from Washington D.C., the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) campus in Laurel, Md., Raleigh, and Winston-Salem, N.C. The exercise included more than 200 participants from 16 different federal, state, and local organizations. On August 5, the final report came out, and the message was stark: humanity is not yet ready to meet this threat.

On the plus side, the exercise was meant to be hard—practically unwinnable. “We designed it to fall right into the gap in our capabilities,” says Emma Rainey, an APL senior scientist who helped to create the simulation. “The participants could do nothing to prevent the impact.” The main goal was to test the different government and scientific networks that should respond in a real-life planetary defense situation. “We want to see how effective operations and communications are between U.S. government agencies and the other organizations that would be involved, and then identify shortcomings,” says Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA headquarters.

NASA Asteroid Threat Practice Drill Shows We’re Not Ready, Matt Brady, Scientific American

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Death by Whataboutism...

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MODUS TROLLERANDI PART 2: WHATABOUTISM

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

Nikolas Cruz was sentenced in the Parkland Shooting to life without the possibility of parole, torpedoing his request to die by the state executioner.

Alex Jones owes a bucketload of money to the Sandy Hook families who have had to endure his lies by grift of his gullible Internet followers, mocking the verdict in a dual screen that "good luck! Ain't no more money," while petitioning the rubes to go to his site.

The January 6th Committee held what was possibly its last hearing yesterday if past precedent favors republicans in the midterms (except for the unforced error of overturning Roe vs Wade, and the promise if given power, they will make it a nationwide ban). If Nancy Pelosi is Speaker after the elections, the committee issued a subpoena to Generalisimo Insurrectionist. He'll wage a pitched legal battle, raise a lot of money, and hope the other crimes he's guilty of in New York and Georgia don't wind him up in a jumpsuit to match his complexion.  Women are registering for the midterms in record numbers; the unrest in Iran over the "morality police" is a microcosm of a constituency fed up with octogenarians making rules for them.

The person at the center of the January 6th Committee's focus has established a cult of personality for his followers and personal convenience for his enablers. Despite the recordings of Kevin McCarthy expressing abject terror, despite his, Mitch McConnell's, and Lindsey Graham's castigation of him on the House and Senate floors, they read the political tea leaves, realizing the conspiratorial dragon they benefitted from through Reich Wing talk radio, television, websites is a Frankenstein beyond their control. They hope to ride the crazy wave to "power," which at this time means a position with little relation to actual governing power, and hope their violent followers don't retaliate on them if they pick up the wrong salad fork, or select the wrong channel with the remote control.

The person at the center of the January 6th Committee's focus still deludes himself into that he actually won the 2020 election, still denies the loss, confesses to crimes he committed in real-time, and foments open rebellion and uncivil war if he's ever held accountable for his brazenly committed, and admitted crimes. He now demands the return of classified documents he magically declassified by telepathy (not a thing), and that the government "planted them." If you can follow that, there will be a padded cell next to his.

I was not a fan of Seinfeld. The comedy took as its theme the play by William Shakespeare: "Much Ado About Nothing." Norman Lear comedies like "All in the Family," "Good Times," "The Jeffersons," and "One Day at a Time" would often veer into sensitive topics about things like gang violence, rape, racism, and misogyny. Jerry Seinfeld and the cast made a comedy about nothing for ten years. When the final curtain went down on the show, there was "weeping and gnashing of teeth" at my Motorola office in Austin, Texas. Even in syndication where I might see an episode or two, I still don't get the attraction.

The dark side of much ado about nothing is Whataboutism: nothing matters. It makes one's sense of history and strategy for the future be temporally bound by business quarters. It explains why we can't do anything about climate change, George W. Bush summed up the attitude in his thoughts about the future asked by Bob Woodward: "we'll all be dead." I used to think he was the worst president in my lifetime until kismet said "hold my beer." The Republican platform in 2020 was reduced to Seinfeld minimalism, and they don't have one in 2022, save recycled Gingrich jibberish. Sexually assaulting women; grabbing them by the genitals doesn't matter. Railing about the sanctity of the unborn never mattered according to Dana Deloach: she just wants power in the Senate, so Herschel Walker can speak word salad about promiscuous bulls all he wants (to the chagrin of Rick Scott and Tom Cotton) as long as they gain the majority. Winning is all that matters, principle never did. There were several hundred mass shootings before Nikolas Cruz. Alex Jones started his grift before the twenty-six victims were in Rigor Mortis. Donald Trump in "Art of the Deal" explained "truthful hyperbole":

“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”

“I Call It Truthful Hyperbole”: The Most Popular Quotes From Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”, Emily Price, Fast Company, April 4, 2017

In other words, brazen lying.

He played to people's fantasies that he was a successful businessman, despite six bankruptcies and being in hock up to his eyeballs to Deutsche Bank and the Russian Federation. He saw the reaction to the one and only black president and like a wolf, he pounced. He and his father were charged with violating the Fair Housing Act by the NIXON administration. Orly Taitz is a forgotten name and evidence education does not equate to intelligence. He took over the birther issue, poured kerosene, and lit a match. As Michael Cohen said, he never meant to win the election, it was a publicity stunt, which is why he had nothing he was passionate about to improve people's lives other than the rich like himself (richer than he since he's probably not on paper a billionaire). He could have repitched The Apprentice to NBC, still pulled down a check from the network, and still laundered money for Russian oligarchs, but no. Donny got out over his skis, got a taste of real power, and now like an 80s crack addict, can't get enough of it.

He's Pookie in [orange] face.

That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.

It does hurt. It can kill a republic.

On the page where McHenry records the events of the last day of the convention, September 18, 1787, he wrote: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” Then McHenry added: “The Lady here alluded to was Mrs. Powel of Philada.”

“A republic if you can keep it”: Elizabeth Willing Powel, Benjamin Franklin, and the James McHenry Journal
January 6, 2022, by Josh Levy, Library of Congress

44 "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. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:44-47

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Himalayas...

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The Shisper Glacier in April 2018, left, and April 2019, right. The surging ice blocked a river fed by a nearby glacier, forming a new lake. YALE ENVIRONMENT 360 / NASA

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

Everything about Earth and the organization of human civilization is about the control of resources.

We’ve come up with arbitrary “rules” about who is worthy of those resources, and how much they can horde, or obtain. Pharaohs, priests, secret societies, and guilds all have “knowledge” they jealously guard, or it may be as simple as caste or color. Every society with billionaires, emperors, kings, oligarchs, potentates, and sheiks all have a designated group to blame for the ills of poor planning and sadistic resource management: indigenous, or imported servants by force, they are the easy go-to designated pariahs. It is a cynical way to get rich, but a poor method of species survival. A resource we all need, from billionaires to pariahs, is potable water to drink. Jackson, Mississippi is a foreshadowing of what we might expect.

This continual differentiation of mankind by caste, color, station, and monetary wealth has brought us to this rolling train wreck catastrophe. Climate refugees occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Climate refugees occurred after the flooding in Pakistan. Climate refugees will occur in the aftermath of future superstorms. Lest we think ourselves immune, we may all be seeking higher ground, leaving homes and businesses for something we could have solved decades ago except for avarice.

The permafrost is melting, and that will release viruses that haven't seen the light of day for several millennia, and we have no vaccines for what will likely be carried on the wind and zoonotically transferred between animals and humans.

Starships are as real as magic carpets, genies, Yetis, and mermaids.

There is no “planet B,” life, or wealth on a nonfunctional planet.

Warmer air is thinning most of the vast mountain range’s glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain so much ice. The melting could have far-reaching consequences for flood risk and for water security for a billion people who rely on meltwater for their survival.

Spring came early this year in the high mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan, a remote border region of Pakistan. Record temperatures in March and April hastened melting of the Shisper Glacier, creating a lake that swelled and, on May 7, burst through an ice dam. A torrent of water and debris flooded the valley below, damaging fields and houses, wrecking two power plants and washing away parts of the highway and a bridge connecting Pakistan and China.

Pakistan’s climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, tweeted videos of the destruction and highlighted the vulnerability of a region with the largest number of glaciers outside the Earth’s poles. Why were these glaciers losing mass so quickly? Rehman put it succinctly. “High global temperatures,” she said.

Just over a decade, ago, relatively little was known about glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the vast ice mountains that run across Central and South Asia, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. But a step-up in research in the past 10 years — spurred in part by an embarrassing error in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, which predicted that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 — has led to enormous strides in understanding.

Scientists now have data on almost every glacier in high-mountain Asia. They know “how these glaciers have changed not only in area but in mass during the last 20 years,” says Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He adds, “We also know much more about the processes which govern glacial melt. This information will give policymakers some instruments to really plan for the future.”

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, a Water Crisis Looms in South Asia, VAISHNAVI CHANDRASHEKHAR, Yale Environment 360

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Counting in Counties...

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Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: “Political Environment and Mortality Rates in the United States, 2001-19: Population-Based Cross-Sectional Analysis,” by Haider J. Warraich et al., in BMJ, Vol. 377. Published online June 7, 2022

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

Reality literally bites.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the link between politics and health became glaringly obvious. Democrat-leaning “blue” states were more likely to enact mask requirements and vaccine and social distancing mandates. Republican-leaning “red” states were much more resistant to health measures. The consequences of those differences emerged by the end of 2020 when rates of hospitalization and death from COVID rose in conservative counties and dropped in liberal ones. That divergence continued through 2021 when vaccines became widely available. And although the highly transmissible Omicron variant narrowed the gap in infection rates, hospitalization and death rates, which are dramatically reduced by vaccines, remain higher in Republican-leaning parts of the country.

But COVID is only the latest chapter in the story of politics and health. “COVID has really magnified what had already been brewing in American society, which was that, based on where you lived, your risk of death was much different,” says Haider J. Warraich, a physician and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In a study published in June in The BMJ, Warraich and his colleagues showed that over the two decades prior to the pandemic, there was a growing gap in mortality rates for residents of Republican and Democratic counties across the U.S. In 2001, the study’s starting point, the risk of death among red and blue counties (as defined by the results of presidential elections) was similar. Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has decreased in the nearly two decades since then (albeit not as much as in most other high-income countries). But the improvement for those living in Republican counties by 2019 was half that of those in Democratic counties—11 percent lower versus 22 percent lower.

People in Republican Counties Have Higher Death Rates Than Those in Democratic Counties, Lydia Denworth, Scientific American

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Dilemma...

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Animation by Erik English

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Global Warming

Humans can survive up to 108.14 F, or 42.3 C before our brains and constitutions (bodies) start turning to mush. As a species, we're going to have to decide if enriching a handful of global oligarchs is more important than survival. Wealth cannot be measured on a dysfunctional planet.

Nobody in Ashish Agashe’s seven-story apartment building in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai, had air conditioning 20 years ago. Today, his apartment is one of only two of the 28 units without it.

“Once you make peace with sweating,” says Agashe, “it is easy to survive this weather.” He decided against air conditioning because it gives him a “faux feel,” and he doesn’t believe his income should determine his lifestyle choices. Later, he was “chuffed” to learn that his choice is better for the planet.

Unlike Agashe, many Indians are adopting air conditioning to deal with more frequent and more intense heat waves. Earlier this year, temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan surpassed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

At age 37, Agashe hopes temperatures do not rise high enough in his lifetime to require air conditioning in Mumbai, a humid and densely populated city on India’s west coast that today rarely sees temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). But even if the climate stopped changing, he worries that the heat produced by all the air conditioners in his building, which spills in through his open window, may force him to install air conditioning, too.

The cold crunch: How to cool people without overheating the planet, Dawn Stover, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Thanks to Joe Manchin...

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Kayakers and other boaters paddled up to Manchin, who famously lives on a houseboat named “Almost Heaven” when he’s in DC. The subtitle should be “for the rest of you, hell.” Source: Washingtonian, Maya Pottiger, 10/14/21

Topics: Civilization, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

Four more people died that night. In the morning the sun again rose like the blazing furnace of heat it was, blasting the rooftop and its sad cargo of wrapped bodies. Every rooftop and, looking down at the town, every sidewalk was now a morgue. The town was a morgue, and it was as hot as ever, maybe hotter. The thermometer now said 42 degrees (107.6 F), humidity 60 percent.

—Kim Stanley Robinson, from The Ministry for the Future

The first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future takes my breath away. Not just because I can almost feel the heat and humidity dripping off the pages, but because I know that—although the story is fictional—similar scenes are already playing out in real life.

Are cities ready for extreme heat? John Morales, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Martians and Vulcans...

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(Credit: ktsdesign/Shutterstock)

Topics: Astrobiology, Astrophysics, Civilization, Existentialism, Philosophy, Special Relativity

The Cold War was a genesis of angst about the future due to the detonation of the atomic bomb by the Soviet Union in Kazakstan in 1949. After WWII (WWI was originally called, "the war to END all wars," until the sequel), the existential nervousness is understandable. Extraterrestrials, or musings about them, let humans off the hook if the Earth is rendered dystopic, and uninhabitable (with respect to "War of the Worlds" Martians), and some more advanced species to come to save us from our screw-ups (Star Trek Vulcans). Trek aliens that aren't that hospitable are the Gorn and Klingons. Neither of which I'd prefer to see on first contact. However, the vast distance between stars, relativistic speeds, and the drag of mass on even reaching a fraction of the speed of light make that possibility remote.

*****

In September 1961, Barney and Betty Hill were driving late at night in the mountains of New Hampshire when they saw a flying object whizzing in the sky. Barney thought it was a plane until he saw it swiftly switch directions.

According to The Interrupted Journey, the couple nervously continued driving until a spacecraft confronted them. They remembered seeing “humanoid-like” creatures and hearing pinging sounds reverberating off their car trunk. And then, they found themselves 35 miles further along on the highway with almost no memory of what had just transpired. They believed they had been abducted.

Scholars mark 1947 as the start of the UFO fascination. A pilot flying in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state reported seeing disc-shaped objects. In the next decade, aliens were primarily seen as benevolent, intelligent beings who came to Earth to offer advice or warnings.

In 1961, the Hills reported their abduction, and stories about aliens became more sinister. Social scientists, like famed psychologist Carl Jung, analyzed the UFO obsession and found it fit neatly with humans’ long fascination with heavenly ascents. Whereas past societies looked for angels, saints, or Gods to descend from the heavens, modern Americans were looking for “technological angels.”

Starting in the 1960s, aliens were both benign angels and menacing demons, which prompted some religious scholars to see UFO fixation as a modern religious movement.

Our Fascination With Aliens and When it All Started, Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine

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Perovskite and Maxima...

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The effective mass of the electrons can be derived from the curvature around the maxima of the ARPES measurement data (image, detail). (Courtesy: HZB)

Topics: Alternate Energy, Applied Physics, Battery, Chemistry, Civilization, Climate Change

A longstanding explanation for why perovskite materials make such good solar cells has been cast into doubt thanks to new measurements. Previously, physicists ascribed the favorable optoelectronic properties of lead halide perovskites to the behavior of quasiparticles called polarons within the material’s crystal lattice. Now, however, detailed experiments at Germany’s BESSY II synchrotron revealed that no large polarons are present. The work sheds fresh light on how perovskites can be optimized for real-world applications, including light-emitting diodes, semiconductor lasers, and radiation detectors as well as solar cells.

Lead halide perovskites belong to a family of crystalline materials with an ABXstructure, where A is cesium, methylammonium (MA), or formamidinium (FA); B is lead or tin; and X is chlorine, bromine, or iodine. They are promising candidates for thin-film solar cells and other optoelectronic devices because their tuneable bandgaps enable them to absorb light over a broad range of wavelengths in the solar spectrum. Charge carriers (electrons and holes) also diffuse through them over long distances. These excellent properties give perovskite solar cells a power conversion efficiency of more than 18%, placing them on a par with established solar-cell materials such as silicon, gallium arsenide, and cadmium telluride.

Researchers are still unsure, however, exactly why charge carriers travel so well in perovskites, especially since perovskites contain far more defects than established solar-cell materials. One hypothesis is that polarons – composite particles made up of an electron surrounded by a cloud of ionic phonons, or lattice vibrations – act as screens, preventing charge carriers from interacting with the defects.

Charge-transport mystery deepens in promising solar-cell materials, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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The Way It's Supposed To Be...

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Topics: Civilization, International Space Station, Politics, Space Exploration

ALMATY, March 30 (Reuters) - A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts safely landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday after leaving the International Space Station aboard the same capsule despite heightened antagonism between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine.

The flight -- carrying NASA's Mark Vande Hei and Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov back to Earth -- had been closely watched to determine whether escalating strife had spilled over into longtime cooperation in space between the two former Cold War adversaries.

Russian space agency Roscosmos broadcast footage of the landing from the Kazakh steppe and said a group of technical and medical specialists had been dispatched to help the astronauts out of the capsule.

"The crew is feeling good after landing, according to rescuers," Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Telegram messenger.

Vande Hei, who had completed his second ISS mission, logged a U.S. space-endurance record of 355 consecutive days in orbit, surpassing the previous 340-day record set by astronaut Scott Kelly in 2016, according to NASA.

U.S. astronaut, two Russian cosmonauts return home from ISS, Olzhas Auyezov and Steve Gorman, Reuters

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