history (27)

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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Funny How It's Not Aliens...

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The 3D model of Menga was drawn with AutoCAD, showing the biofacies (microfacies) present in the stones. The fourth pillar, currently missing, has been added, while capstones C-2, C-3, C-4, and C-5 have been removed in order to show the interior of the monument (Lozano Rodríguez et al.25). (a) Pillar P-3 with examples of biofacies (a1a3 observed in hand specimen). (b) Orthostat O-15 with examples of biofacies (b1b4 observed petrographically) and in hand specimen (b5). (c) Orthostat O-8 with examples observed petrographically (crossed polars) (c1,c2). (d) Orthostat O-5 with examples observed through the petrographic microscope (d1,d2). The star-shaped symbol indicates the place where a section was made for the petrographic study—Qtz: Quartz (designations after Kretz,49).

Topics: Applied Physics, Archaeology, Dark Humor, History

Abstract

The technical and intellectual capabilities of past societies are reflected in the monuments they were able to build. Tracking the provenance of the stones utilized to build prehistoric megalithic monuments through geological studies is of utmost interest for interpreting ancient architecture as well as contributing to their protection. According to the scarce information available, most stones used in European prehistoric megaliths originate from locations near the construction sites, which would have made transport easier. The Menga dolmen (Antequera, Malaga, Spain), listed in UNESCO World Heritage since July 2016, was designed and built with stones weighing up to nearly 150 tons, thus becoming the most colossal stone monument built in its time in Europe (c. 3800–3600 BC). Our study (based on high-resolution geological mapping as well as petrographic and stratigraphic analyses) reveals key geological and archaeological evidence to establish the precise provenance of the massive stones used in the construction of this monument. These stones are mostly calcarenites, a poorly cemented detrital sedimentary rock comparable to those known as 'soft stones' in modern civil engineering. They were quarried from a rocky outcrop located at a distance of approximately 1 km. In this study, it can be inferred the use of soft stone in Menga reveals the human application of new wood and stone technologies, enabling the construction of a monument of unprecedented magnitude and complexity.

The provenance of the stones in the Menga dolmen reveals one of the greatest engineering feats of the Neolithic. Scientific Reports, Nature

José Antonio Lozano Rodríguez, Leonardo García Sanjuán, Antonio M. Álvarez-Valero, Francisco Jiménez-Espejo, Jesús María Arrieta, Eugenio Fraile-Nuez, Raquel Montero Artús, Giuseppe Cultrone, Fernando Alonso Muñoz-Carballeda & Francisco Martínez-Sevilla

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Trinity and Consequences...

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(Credit: DoruqpashA/Shutterstock)

Topics: Education, Existentialism, History, Medicine, Nuclear Power

21st-century weather models show how radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests spread more widely than thought across the US

The Trinity Nuclear Test on 16 July 1945 is a key incident in the blockbuster Oppenheimer movie and in the history of humankind. Many scientists think it marks the beginning of the Anthropocene, a new geological era characterized by humanity’s influence on the Earth. That’s because Trinity’s radioactive fallout will forever appear in the geological record, creating a unique signature of human activity that can be precisely dated.

But there’s a problem. In 1945, radioactive monitoring techniques were in their infancy, so there are few direct measurements of fallout beyond the test site. What’s more, weather patterns were also less well understood, so the spread of fallout could not be easily determined.

As a result, nobody really knows how widely Trinity’s fallout spread across the U.S. or, indeed, how the fallout dispersed from other atmospheric nuclear tests on the U.S. mainland.

Nuclear Mystery

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Sébastien Philippe at Princeton University and colleagues. This team used a state-of-the-art weather simulation for the 5 days after each nuclear test to simulate how the fallout would have dispersed.

The result is the highest resolution estimate ever made of the spread of radioactive fallout across the U.S. It marks the start of the Anthropocene with extraordinary precision, and it throws up some significant surprises. Some parts of the U.S. are known to have received high levels of fallout, and the new work is consistent with this. But the research also reveals some parts of the US that received significant fallout without anybody realizing it.

The findings “provide an opportunity for re-evaluating the public health and environmental implications from atmospheric nuclear testing,” said Philippe and co.

Between 1945 and 1962, the U.S. conducted 94 atmospheric nuclear tests that generated yields of up to 74 kilotons of TNT. (Seven other tests were damp squibs.) 93 of these tests took place in Nevada, but the first, the Trinity test in the Oppenheimer film, took place in New Mexico.

How The Trinity Nuclear Test Spread Radioactive Fallout Across America, the Physics arXiv Blog, Discover Magazine

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Lived Well...

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Positive (+): LiMO2 <--> Li1-xMO

Negative (-): xLi+ + xe- + C <--> LixC

M = transition metal

NANO 761: Introduction to Nano Energy, Lecture 4 - Lithium Ion Battery, Cathode to Anode, Spring 2018, JSNN

Topics: Battery, Climate Change, Green Tech, History, Nobel Laureate, Nobel Prize

John B. Goodenough, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin who is known around the world for the development of the lithium-ion battery, died Sunday at the age of 100. Goodenough was a dedicated public servant, a sought-after mentor, and a brilliant yet humble inventor.

His discovery led to the wireless revolution and put electronic devices in the hands of people worldwide. In 2019, Goodenough made national and international headlines after being awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his battery work, an award many of his fans considered a long time coming, especially as he became the oldest person to receive a Nobel Prize.

“John’s legacy as a brilliant scientist is immeasurable — his discoveries improved the lives of billions of people around the world,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “He was a leader at the cutting edge of scientific research throughout the many decades of his career, and he never ceased searching for innovative energy-storage solutions. John’s work and commitment to our mission are the ultimate reflection of our aspiration as Longhorns — that what starts here changes the world — and he will be greatly missed among our UT community.”

UT Mourns Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor and Nobel Prize Recipient John Goodenough, UT News

Until the announcement of his selection as a Nobel laureate, Dr. Goodenough was relatively unknown beyond scientific and academic circles and the commercial titans who exploited his work. He achieved his laboratory breakthrough in 1980 at the University of Oxford, where he created a battery that has populated the planet with smartphones, laptop, and tablet computers, lifesaving medical devices like cardiac defibrillators, and clean, quiet plug-in vehicles, including many Teslas, that can be driven on long trips, lessen the impact of climate change and might someday replace gasoline-powered cars and trucks.

Like most modern technological advances, the powerful, lightweight, rechargeable lithium-ion battery is a product of incremental insights by scientists, lab technicians, and commercial interests over decades. But for those familiar with the battery’s story, Dr. Goodenough’s contribution is regarded as the crucial link in its development, a linchpin of chemistry, physics, and engineering on a molecular scale.

John B. Goodenough, 100, Dies; Nobel-Winning Creator of the Lithium-Ion Battery, Robert D. McFadden, New York Times

Before I met Professor Steve Wienberg, I had read my cousin Wilbur's copy of "The First Three Minutes." Little did I know that he would autograph it for me or that I would meet him, along with his former student (and my friend, Dr. Mark G. Raizen), at the National Society of Black Physicists in the fall of 2011 in Austin, Texas.

I never met John B. Goodenough, but I did study his theories in a class on battery nanomaterials at my graduate school. "Engineering on a molecular scale" is essentially what I studied in Nanoengineering, as batteries will only store charges longer and get better at the nanomaterials level. This is the way we will make the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner, more income-equitable options.

Ph.D. seemed so far away until the Hooding Ceremony. A few things about the tributes struck and moved me deeply:

He and his wife had no children, but Dr. Goodenough was enthusiastic about teaching, mentoring, and giving back. UT said he often donated any honorarium to the university.

He was from a home that, from the NY Times, was neglectful to him and indifferent.

He suffered from dyslexia and overcame it to achieve a Ph.D. in 1952 and a Nobel Prize at 97 in 2019. Everyone has their struggles, but for the love of science, he overcame them without excuses. A HUGE part of obtaining a degree in a STEM field is pure grit. Some of us quit too early from our dreams or debase our abilities before we even try.

The modern age we take for granted is possible because of humble spirits in laboratories, coding software, at dry erase boards full of equations who pushed a little further than any of their self-doubts. We are fortunate they pressed forward.

Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes - First recorded by John of Salisbury in the twelfth century and attributed to Bernard of Chartres. Also commonly known by the letters of Isaac Newton: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

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John B. Goodenough in 2017. Two years later, when he was 97 and still active in research at the University of Texas at Austin, he became the oldest Nobel Prize winner in history. Credit...Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

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Valentina Tereshkova...

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Valentina Tereshkova. Credit: ESA

Topics: Astronautics, ESA, History, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Women in Science

The first female cosmonaut flew years before NASA put a man on the Moon and decades before any other country would send a woman into orbit.

On a drab Sunday in Moscow in November 1963, a dark-suited man stood beside his veiled bride, whose bashful smile betrayed the merest hint of nerves. Despite the extraordinarily lavish surroundings of the capital’s Wedding Palace, it might have been any normal wedding, but for one thing: Both groom and bride were cosmonauts, members of Russia’s elite spacefaring fraternity.

Two years earlier, that bride, Valentina Tereshkova, had been a factory seamstress and amateur parachutist with more than 100 jumps to her name when she’d volunteered for the cosmonaut program. Now, the 26-year-old, whom TIME magazine dubbed “a tough-looking Ingrid Bergman,” was among the most famous women in the world, an accolade she had earned just months ago by becoming the first female to leave the planet.

Sixty years on from her pioneering Vostok 6 mission, more than 70 women from around the globe have followed in Tereshkova’s footsteps, crossing that ethereal boundary between ground and space. Some have commanded space missions, helmed space stations, made spacewalks, spent more than a cumulative year of their lives in orbit, and even flown with a prosthesis. And women from Britain, Iran, and South Korea have become their countries’ first national astronauts, ahead of their male counterparts.

60 years ago today, Valentina Tereshkova launched into space, Ben Evans, Astronomy

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Ancient Astronomy...

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Antikythera mechanism (Image), website, and publisher: Encyclopædia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Antikythera-mechanism#/media/1/1334586/238592, access date: February 20, 2023

Topics: Archaeology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, History

In 1900 diver Elias Stadiatis, clad in a copper and brass helmet and a heavy canvas suit, emerged from the sea shaking in fear and mumbling about a “heap of dead naked people.” He was among a group of Greek divers from the Eastern Mediterranean island of Symi who were searching for natural sponges. They had sheltered from a violent storm near the tiny island of Antikythera, between Crete and mainland Greece. When the storm subsided, they dived for sponges and chanced on a shipwreck full of Greek treasures—the most significant wreck from the ancient world to have been found up to that point. The “dead naked people” were marble sculptures scattered on the seafloor, along with many other artifacts. Soon after, their discovery prompted the first major underwater archaeological dig in history.

One object recovered from the site, a lump the size of a large dictionary, initially escaped notice amid more exciting finds. Months later, however, at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the lump broke apart, revealing bronze precision gearwheels the size of coins. According to historical knowledge at the time, gears like these should not have appeared in ancient Greece or anywhere else in the world until many centuries after the shipwreck. The finding generated huge controversy.

The lump is known as the Antikythera mechanism, an extraordinary object that has befuddled historians and scientists for more than 120 years. Over the decades, the original mass split into 82 fragments, leaving a fiendishly difficult jigsaw puzzle for researchers to put back together. The device appears to be a geared astronomical calculation machine of immense complexity. Today we have a reasonable grasp of some of its workings, but there are still unsolved mysteries. We know it is at least as old as the shipwreck it was found in, which has been dated to between 60 and 70 B.C.E., but other evidence suggests it may have been made around 200 B.C.E.

One of the central researchers in the early years of Antikythera research was German philologist Albert Rehm, the first person to understand the mechanism as a calculating machine. Between 1905 and 1906, he made crucial discoveries that he recorded in his unpublished research notes. He found, for instance, the number 19 inscribed on one of the surviving Antikythera fragments. This figure referenced the 19-year period relation of the moon known as the Metonic cycle, named after Greek astronomer Meton but discovered much earlier by the Babylonians. On the same fragment, Rehm found the numbers 76, a Greek refinement of the 19-year cycle, and 223, for the number of lunar months in a Babylonian eclipse-prediction cycle called the saros cycle. These repeating astronomical cycles were the driving force behind Babylonian predictive astronomy.

The second key figure in the history of Antikythera research was British physicist turned historian of science Derek J. de Solla Price. In 1974, after 20 years of research, he published an important paper, “Gears from the Greeks.” It referred to remarkable quotations by the Roman lawyer, orator, and politician Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.). One of these described a machine made by mathematician and inventor Archimedes (circa 287–212 B.C.E.) “on which were delineated the motions of the sun and moon and of those five stars which are called wanderers ... (the five planets) ... Archimedes ... had thought out a way to represent accurately by a single device for turning the globe those various and divergent movements with their different rates of speed.” This machine sounds just like the Antikythera mechanism. The passage suggests that Archimedes, although he lived before we believe the device was built, might have founded the tradition that led to the Antikythera mechanism. It may well be that the Antikythera mechanism was based on a design by Archimedes.

An Ancient Greek Astronomical Calculation Machine Reveals New Secrets, Tony Freeth, Scientific American

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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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The Apotheosis of Stupidity...

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, History, Human Rights

"Obviously, there are issues with the border and with migration, but these are the kinds of stunts you see from people who don't have a solution,” Buttigieg said in an interview with journalist Evan Smith at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival.

His comments drew applause from the audience.

“Governor DeSantis was in Congress. Where was he when they were debating immigration reform?” Buttigieg asks in the interview. “What have any of these people done to be part of the solution?

"So, you know, I get that if you're after attention...it's one thing to call attention to a problem when you have a course of action … it’s another thing to just call attention to a problem because the problem is actually more useful to you than the solution, and that helps you call attention to yourself. And that’s what’s going on,”

Buttigieg continued, “And the problem is, it’s one thing if it was just people being obnoxious, but human beings are being impacted by that. You flee a communist regime in Venezuela, you come here, and then somebody tricks you — somebody using Florida taxpayer money for some reason — tricks you into going from Texas to Massachusetts.

“It is not just ineffectual, it is hurting people in order to get attention.”

Watch Pete Buttigieg's Devastating Takedown of Fla.'s Ron DeSantis, Alex Cooper, The Advocate/Yahoo News

I watched the pained look on Desantis' face as he had to work for once in his career as Florida's governor and look serious. He couldn't troll the libs in Brandon, Florida to cheers that are both double entendre and vulgar dig at President Biden. It was probably as fun as sending Venezualian asylum seekers to Martha's Vinyard. The migrants and a Florida state senator filed lawsuits. But that doesn't matter to him. After "building the wall" with his toddler son, Mr. "Stunting Like His [fascist] Daddy" is more like him every day: more married to the performance of power than the responsibility of power. When DeSantis was in Congress, he voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy. Now he has to accept help from "Dark Brandon." I was in New York, so his vote affected me and my family, personally. Truly, "karma keeps receipts."

Stupid.

The second Adlai Stevenson was the Pete Buttigieg/Barack Obama of his day.

When Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson was running for president in the 1950s, a supporter purportedly said to him: "Every thinking person in America will be voting for you." Stevenson replied, "I'm afraid that won't do — I need a majority."

When President Donald Trump leaves office, there will still be millions of Americans who think that all Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are taking over the country, and the government is planning to confiscate their guns. Most of us don't think that way, but we do need to vote.

A call to every thinking person, Tom Siebert, Montgomery, Chicago Tribune

Stevenson stopped Russian interference in the 1960 presidential election by not spreading the propaganda given to him. Back in the day, that's what normal politicians did when a foreign power tried to rig an election, not "I love it," or for that matter, use it.

Aileen Cannon, one presumes, went to college, and law school, passed the state bar, and she is a judge. But, because her client, the orange stain in the underwear of the nation, doesn't want to say his lies under oath, she's accommodating that wish. She's overruling the Special Master Stain Man and she wanted. Judge Dearie was appointed by Reagan.

Stupid.

Ginni Thomas, one presumes, went to college, and law school, passed the state bar, and she is a lawyer. She STILL believes the 2020 election was stolen. She told the January 6th committee this, and according to her text to Mark Meadows, she told her "best friend," presumably her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas.

Stupid.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is the new Prime Minister of Italy and a member of the fascist party after the death of Mussolini. She is racist, a conspiracy theorist, so of course, American republicans love her. She isn't unintelligent:

She's stupid.

From the "awe, shucks" of a B-movie actor, a C-average student who needed the [then, and now] not-Supreme Court to 5-4 appoint him in 2000, usurping the popular vote, to a charlatan con artist pretending to be a business success on a non-reality TV show, we have put mediocrity on a pedestal, we have apotheosized stupidity. Collectively, society attacks academics, poets, artists, and scientists as "nerds," "pansies," "wimps," and lightweights. Yet they react to arts and song, they demand the latest gadget, not at all connecting the persons they torment, the groups they loathe and look down on as the source of things that either make their lives easier or give them beauty and meaning. Our news media practices "both sides-ism," and "what about-ism." It used to be flat earthers were those strange people with pamphlets: they have a website. We've democratized the Internet and put a halt on civics and critical thinking. The climate change effects now in Florida, previously in Jackson, Mississippi, can vanish with magical thinking, positive mental attitude mantras, jingoism, and sloganeering. I see why fascism has been, and for the foreseeable future, always will be a temptation: giving allegiance to so-called strongmen (or in Italy's case, a strongwoman) takes the burden of responsibility off the rest of us. We can binge on streaming videos, selective podcasts, and social media newsfeeds. We don't have to venture outside of our self-constructed siloes, since that's where we're the most comfortable.

Fascism is thus for lazy, gaslit people, and it's stupid.

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by the use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplishes anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

 

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Willful Ignorance...

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, Existentialism, History, Human Rights

There is a high price for willful ignorance.

The above is Dr. Carl Sagan, an Astrophysicist, five years fresh off of the success of the original Cosmos series. He’s speaking about mitigating the effects of greenhouse gases, what is now referred to as global warming in 1985. The administration was Reagan and Bush I in the first year of their lame duck, a little before the Iran-Contra scandal.

This address to Congress is thirty-six years before COP26, which because the rich European and wealthy nations have refused to pay climate reparations, we are whistling in the dark towards a climate tipping point that we will not be able to escape by penis rockets, virtual reality, or opiates.

The mitigation ideas he suggested weren’t that radical and could have been put in place before our current crisis of once-in-a-century storms on almost a monthly basis (take, for example, Washington State’s flooding). Each occurrence of “The Day After Tomorrow” is met with a collective, societal shrug as distractions are more alluring than impending disasters, unless it directly affects us, and interrupts our current video streaming, or Orwellian “reality TV.” We elected a narcissist in 2016 because WE are a nation of narcissists.

After a century of wielding extraordinary economic and political power, America’s petroleum giants face a reckoning for driving the greatest existential threat of our lifetimes.

An unprecedented wave of lawsuits, filed by cities and states across the US, aims to hold the oil and gas industry to account for the environmental devastation caused by fossil fuels – and cover up what they knew along the way.

Coastal cities struggling to keep rising sea levels at bay, midwestern states watching “mega-rains” destroy crops and homes, and fishing communities losing catches to warming waters, are now demanding the oil conglomerates pay damages and take urgent action to reduce further harm from burning fossil fuels.

Big oil and gas kept a dirty secret for decades. Now they may pay the price, Chris McGreal, The Guardian.

I read the print version of “O is for Oligarchy” in the Austin Chronicle in 2010. Prescient, as the consensus wouldn’t be reported in Business Insider (originally in The Telegraph by Zachary Davies Boren) until 2014. To be fair, Vox published a rebuttal to the oligarchy thesis two years later. Our collective experience belies the rebuke.

Our performance during this pandemic points to a system that is sluggish to the masses of people that funds its tax base, and lightning-fast for the 400 families in the US to get their needs met in whatever legislation they want to be pushed, and whatever new tax break they wish to receive. Critical thinking isn’t encouraged. Tribal “us, versus them” has been used to divide the masses since the founding of the republic, whether Native Americans, kidnapped Africans, women, LGBT, immigrants, genteel “wink-and-nod” racism cum “Critical Race Theory.” It is a con, passed down from father to scion, reinforced by exclusive gatherings at Bilderberg, the Bohemian Club, and Trilateral Commission. These were once the fodder of myth and conspiracy theories, but they actually have websites. I doubt if they’re discussing supporting the spread of democratic ideals across the globe. More likely, how to maintain the gaslighting of disdained "bewildered herds" of humanity and to continue to line their pockets.

They are, unfortunately, in an Ayn Rand-Atlas-Shrugged-Fountain-Head-Elysium of their own minds. A utopia of their zip codes, blithely unaware that as the poet John Donne stated, they are not gods, but “each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

As Dr. Carl Sagan pointed out to a young Senator Al Gore in 1985, before he rendered his concerns in PowerPoint slides to Nobel laureate and an Oscar for the related documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," and the aptly-named "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," pushing the problem off to future generations isn’t just intellectually lazy, it has in it a perverse and sadistic callousness. “Eat, drink, and be merry” now Epicurus, for indeed “tomorrow we may die.” However, tomorrow should not be one of the casualties in the pursuit of callous, temporal pleasures. For the lack of starships and despite exclusive cul de sacs, scions and serfs cohabit Terra Firma. I have ONE burning question:

How well can billions spend on a dystopian planet?

 

 

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Quantum Exorcism...

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Figure 2. Maxwell’s demon is a hypothetical being that can observe individual molecules in a gas-filled box with a partition in the middle separating chambers A and B. If the demon sees a fast-moving gas molecule, it opens a trapdoor in the partition to let fast-moving molecules into chamber B while leaving slow-moving ones behind. Repeating that action would allow the buildup of a temperature difference between the two sides of the partition. A heat engine could use that temperature difference to perform work, which would contradict the second law of thermodynamics.

Topics: Chemistry, History, Materials Science, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is a strange theory. Although it is fundamental to our understanding of the world, it differs dramatically from other physical theories. For that reason, it has been termed the “village witch” of physics.1 Some of the many oddities of thermodynamics are the bizarre philosophical implications of classical statistical mechanics. Well before relativity theory and quantum mechanics brought the paradoxes of modern physics into the public eye, Ludwig Boltzmann, James Clerk Maxwell, and other pioneers of statistical mechanics wrestled with several thought experiments, or demons, that threatened to undermine thermodynamics.

Despite valiant efforts, Maxwell and Boltzmann were unable to completely vanquish the demons besetting the village witch of physics—largely because they were limited to the classical perspective. Today, experimental and theoretical developments in quantum foundations have granted present-day researchers and philosophers greater insights into thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. They allow us to perform a “quantum exorcism” on the demons haunting thermodynamics and banish them once and for all.

Loschmidt’s demon and time reversibility

Boltzmann, a founder of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, was fascinated by one of the latter field’s seeming paradoxes: How does the irreversible behavior demonstrated by a system reaching thermodynamic equilibrium, such as a cup of coffee cooling down or a gas spreading out, arise from the underlying time-reversible classical mechanics?2 That equilibrating behavior only happens in one direction of time: If you watch a video of a wine glass smashing, you know immediately whether the video was in rewind or not. In contrast, the underlying classical or quantum mechanics are time-reversible: If you were to see a video of lots of billiard balls colliding, you wouldn’t necessarily know whether the video was in rewind or not. Throughout his career, Boltzmann pursued a range of strategies to explain irreversible equilibrating behavior from the underlying reversible dynamics. Boltzmann’s friend Josef Loschmidt famously objected to those attempts. He argued that the underlying classical mechanics allow for the possibility that the momenta are reversed, which would lead to the gas retracing its steps and “anti-equilibrating” to the earlier, lower-entropy state. Boltzmann challenged Loschmidt to try to reverse the momenta, but Loschmidt was unable to do so. Nevertheless, we can envision a demon that could. After all, it is just a matter of practical impossibility—not physical impossibility—that we can’t reach into a box of gas and reverse each molecule’s trajectory.

Technological developments since Loschmidt’s death in 1895 have expanded the horizons of what is practically possible (see figure 1). Although it seemed impossible during his lifetime, Loschmidt’s vision of reversing the momenta was realized by Erwin Hahn in 1950 in the spin-echo experiment, in which atomic spins that have dephased and become disordered are taken back to their earlier state by an RF pulse. If it is practically possible to reverse the momenta, what does that imply about equilibration? Is Loschmidt’s demon triumphant?

The demons haunting thermodynamics, Katie Robertson, Physics Today

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De Facto Secession...

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How We Got Here: A timeline of the removal of the Lee monument, NBC12 on your side.

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Democracy, Fascism, History, Human Rights

 

Fourteenth Amendment
Section 3
No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

 

Constitution.Congress.gov/Amendment 14/Section 3

If Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment had been followed, no statue of a traitorous general would exist on Virginia's Monument Avenue to take down.

The first "Big Lie" was the lost cause narrative that made saints of sinners, heroes of traitors. The unfortunate assassination of President Lincoln left us with his Democrat (the conservative party at the time) successor, Raleigh, North Carolina native Andrew Johnson that pulled the troops protecting newly freed African Americans, gave cover to domestic terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan, and de facto inaugurated Jim Crow.

The first "Big Lie" erected totems in a fever-pitch construction project to NOT face the consequences of losing the Civil War. The "lost cause" was proffered by the Daughters of the Confederacy. The north was "aggressors" that invaded the south because of "their way of life": owning [human] chattel.

Georgia

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years, we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.

Mississippi

A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.

Battlefields.org: The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States (Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia)

"Big Lies" metastasize, mutate: grow. Like the Coronavirus, if a vaccine is not discovered, if the truth does not curse the darkness of willful ignorance, it will find paths of lethality.

According to Battlefields.org, the Civil War cost an estimated 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

The 1918 Flu Pandemic cost 675,000 in the US, and 50 million worldwide.

The current once-in-a-century apocalypse is 4,619,721 worldwide, 674,515 in the US. We have blown past the Civil War. We will exceed the 1918 pandemic before Thanksgiving.

A "march" next Saturday will celebrate a mob hellbent on overturning an election as "patriots." The Capitol Police has monitored, and seen credible online traffic suggesting violence. One point: the Million Man March in 1995, led by Louis Farrakhan did not result in violence, bear spray, deaths, or police officer suicide.

The unvaccinated are the offspring of the first "Big Lie," making possible the second lie, and its afterbirth, insurrection, and likely insurgency. Lies unchallenged lead to death: Fox Propaganda pushed ivermectin - a de-wormer for horses, cattle, dogs, and ironically: sheep - over a safe vaccine that has proven itself to save lives.

The Forty-Sixth President of the United States will commemorate the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 by visiting the sites of the attack in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, and New York in a solemn ceremony. The loser of the 2020 election, lamenting the removal of a traitor's statue on Monument Avenue, so needy of attention that he cannot "fade away" will with his equally nauseous, narcissistic hellspawn, who couldn't stay married to the mother of his five children "comment" on an Evander Holyfield demonstration match. No one can enjoy the performance of a preening popinjay except psychopaths. "Hail to the thief."

I’ve lived 55 years in the South, and I grew up liking the Confederate flag. I haven’t flown one for many decades, but for a reason that might surprise you.

I know the South well. We lived wherever the Marine Corps stationed my father: Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas. As a child, my favorite uncle wasn’t in the military, but he did pack a .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun in his trunk. He was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. Despite my role models, as a kid, I was an inept racist. I got in trouble once in the first grade for calling a classmate the N-word. But he was Hispanic.

As I grew up and acquired the strange sensation called empathy (strange for boys anyway), I learned that for black folks the flutter of that flag felt like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And for the most prideful flag waivers, clearly, that response was the point. I mean, come on. It’s a battle flag.

What the flag symbolizes for blacks is enough reason to take it down. But there’s another reason that white southerners shouldn’t fly it. Or sport it on our state-issued license plates as some do here in North Carolina. The Confederacy – and the slavery that spawned it – was also one big con job on the Southern, white, working class. A con job funded by some of the antebellum one-per-centers continues today in a similar form.

You don’t have to be an economist to see that forcing blacks – a third of the South’s laborers – to work without pay drove down wages for everyone else. And not just in agriculture. A quarter of enslaved blacks worked in the construction, manufacturing, and lumbering trades; cutting wages even for skilled white workers.

The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is. By Frank Hyman

"If you're black, you were born in jail, in the North as well as the South. Stop talking about the South. [As] long as you are south of the Canadian border, you're [in the] south." Malcolm X, "The Ballot or The Bullet (Detroit Version)". Malcolm X's speech at a meeting sponsored by the Congress for Racial Equality in Detroit, Michigan, April 12, 1964.

"Big Lies" metastasize, mutate: grow. "Big Lies" cause secessions, historical, or de facto through denial of history, science, climate change, vaccines, the age of the earth, or the universe. "Big Lies" cause insurrections: 1861, and 2021. "Big Lies" is the result of cowardice in not facing who we have been in our history, and thus be surprised at where we as a nation are going. "Big Lies" drive fearful citizens in Appalachia to alcoholism, obesity, opioid addiction. Fear of an uncertain future leads to fascism in rural America, longing for the "good old days" that for people of color, never existed. "Big Lies" halt the 2020 Census to the chagrin that the demographic time bomb set when this nation needed free, and low-wage workers to practice their especially sadistic, and brutal kind of capitalism are Chaucer and Malcolm's "chickens that have come home to roost."

"Big Lies" drive out-of-work coal miners in West Virginia or Kentucky, and the ever-changing, and diversifying South to put their hopes in a reality show carnival barker, six bankruptcy, five deferments, fake bone spurs, failed fake universities, crumbling real estate empire magnate from New York City. "Big Lies" is suicidal for a republic.

If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: "A republic if you can keep it." The brevity of that response should not cause us to undervalue its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.

Perspectives on The Constitution: "A republic, if you can keep it," By Richard R. Beeman, Ph.D.

 

 

 

 

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The Last Three Minutes...

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My autographed copy from Dr. Weinberg.

 

Topics: History, Nobel Laureate, Nobel Prize, Steven Weinberg

 

AUSTIN, Texas — Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, a professor of physics and astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin, has died. He was 88.

 

One of the most celebrated scientists of his generation, Weinberg was best known for helping to develop a critical part of the Standard Model of particle physics, which significantly advanced humanity’s understanding of how everything in the universe — its various particles and the forces that govern them — relate. A faculty member for nearly four decades at UT Austin, he was a beloved teacher and researcher, revered not only by the scientists who marveled at his concise and elegant theories but also by science enthusiasts everywhere who read his books and sought him out at public appearances and lectures.

 

“The passing of Steven Weinberg is a loss for The University of Texas and for society. Professor Weinberg unlocked the mysteries of the universe for millions of people, enriching humanity’s concept of nature and our relationship to the world,” said Jay Hartzell, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “From his students to science enthusiasts, from astrophysicists to public decision-makers, he made an enormous difference in our understanding. In short, he changed the world.”

 

UT Austin Mourns Death of World-Renowned Physicist Steven Weinberg, UT News

 

I'm sure the University of Texas, the New York Times, US News & World Report among many others will do more justice than a blog post from a doctoral student in Nanoengineering.

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Photo at a banquet for the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP), and National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP) joint meeting, September 22, 2011, University of Texas, Austin.

 

His passing made me take stock of the popular books by physicists in my library (a short list): "The Collapsing Universe" (Asimov); "Ideas, and Opinions," "Relativity: The Special, and the General Theory" (Einstein); "Surely, You're Joking Mr. Feynman," "Six Easy Pieces," "QED: The Strange Theory of Light, and Matter," (Feynman); "Gravity" (Hartle); "Stephen Hawking's Universe," "A Brief History of Time," "The Universe in a Nutshell," (Hawking), "The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?" (Lederman); Warped Passages: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions" (Randall); "The Black Hole Wars: My Battle With Stephen Hawking To Make The World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" (Susskind); "Black Holes, & Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy" (Thorne), following in alphabetical order by author, lastly Professor Steven Weinberg. Some of my humble ruminations of him:

 

The above is from a Joint Conference between the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists in Austin, Texas on September 22, 2011. The photo above as I recall is from the now-defunct Blackberry mobile phone, so please forgive the image quality and pixel density. In my mind, a parallel remembered photo: Einstein lecturing African American physics students at Lincoln University. I cannot say he was going for a double entendre. I remember in the parking lot before I left, holding tightly the steering wheel of the rental, feeling goosebumps, and catching my breath.

 

I met Dr. Weinberg and thanked him for signing my only copy of "The First Three Minutes" when I was a graduate student in Astrophysics at the University of Texas (I have a hardcover copy; the most recent prints are paperback or Kindle). I was quite astonished that he remembered me. I filed my request sheepishly through his Administrative Assistant, but he did remember my request, and me specifically.

 

These were my first thoughts when a friend posted the UT News article on Facebook. Her husband had been a student of Dr. Weinberg, and a physics colleague for almost four decades. I called him to give my personal condolences. We both agreed it was the passing of an age that may never be repeated again. With each passing day, each quote by Dr. Carl Sagan in "A Demon-Haunted World" is becoming prophesy.

 

Though my friend is an accomplished scientist himself, he always felt intimidated by his mentor's presence. He and Professor Weinberg tentatively made a date to resume their lunch meetings, subsumed by the pandemic, until life or the cessation of life inevitably happens. The body wears out, and Entropy eventually has the last say. In the end, our positive impact is our epitaph, it is how we will be remembered.

 

*****

 

It is the loss of a giant in an age ruled by madness. I got to shake hands with Professor Steven Weinberg at the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP), and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP) when they held a joint meeting in Austin, Texas, September 22, 2011.

 

I have both “The First Three Minutes” (he graciously autographed), and “To Explain the World.”

 

His passing should make us all more determined to do just that in a world now ruled by gaslighting, and in the words of Carl Sagan, “thirty-second sound bites” (if they’re even that long). We should shine his passion for scientific inquiry as lights in “this present darkness.”

 

I think he’d want us to remember him that way.

 

At least that’s how I’m consoling myself through the tears.

 

 

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Common Sense...

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Thomas Paine

 

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

Note: This post meant for Friday was delayed by a crashing hard drive. I now have a brand NEW solid state version thanks to Best Buy and the Geek Squad (shameless plug). I now have the dubious and quaint job of finding all of my files on this newer, faster drive.

At a time when statues that honor our past often whitewash that history or honor traitors, Paine’s is a legacy all Americans can be proud of today and which our nation should honor. Paine was a thinker far ahead of his time. Almost uniquely among the Founding Fathers he opposed slavery and favored abolition, called for a progressive income tax to pay for universal education (including for both sexes), a welfare system for poor relief, pensions, women’s rights, and more. He was an eloquent advocate for equality and representative government, writing, “The true and only true basis of representative government is equality of rights.” He added, “the danger arises from exclusions.”

Thomas Paine was one the greatest political writers and philosophers of his time; his best-selling works, Common Sense, The American Crisis, Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason fundamentally altered the political and social landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries and helped forge the United States of America.

Thomas Paine embodies the American Dream in a selfless way, rising from humble origins and penury to become a foremost political figure of his time, a friend to humanity and a foe to tyrants. He never sought personal power or wealth; instead, he championed the rights of the “common” people and believed emphatically in the dignity and rights of humans, which drove him to challenge the traditional authority of kings and dogmas of established churches, forever changing the course of human history.

Thomas Paine helped create America. It’s time America honored his legacy.

Thomas Paine Memorial Association

We saw to our horror a modern insurrection on January 6, 2021. As the battle ensign of Robert E. Lee's North Virginia Regiment paraded the halls of the Capitol during the siege, we discovered later the number of confederate figures venerated at the "Temple of Democracy" as well as state Capitols and cities that were guilty of the first insurrection.

Thomas Paine was as much a Founding Father to the United States of America as any other whose histories have been whitewashed, and mythologized to the point of unrealistic apotheosis. He apparently named the United States (lately, an oxymoron), and penned the lines you've probably heard in one form, or another:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. When we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price on its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

He was a scientist, poet, philosopher, scholar, and best-selling author. He was a deist, as were most of the Founding Fathers, meaning they believed in a God, just not a sovereign one intimately tied into, or interested in human affairs. There is such a thing as the Jeffersonian Bible, where Thomas Jefferson took scissors to every miraculous occurrence in the tome. Yet like the Tulsa Massacre and other vile atrocities masked by state propaganda, Paine’s history is deliberately hidden: unknown except to atheists, agnostics, freethinking societies, historians and theologians who study him, and humanists who revere him.

Despite the artistic flow of his prose that inspired a revolution against the British Empire and birth of its American analogue, there are no statues of him at our Capitol, the seat of our power. It is ironic the vitriol against the District of Columbia becoming the 51st state, existing as the last visible example of literal taxation without representation. “It would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

History is best defined as a study of past events, particularly human events, to learn important lessons from them. History gains insights from the past; science make hypotheses, design experiments, looking for patterns to make predictions that can hopefully improve our futures, extend our lives, and maybe, our civilization.

Thomas Paine, and the Tulsa Massacre: both are sins of omission, both leave a citizenry of a federal republic uninformed. Uninformed citizens don't make decisions using faculties of critical thinking skills, since that part of the brain is unused, if not atrophied. Uninformed citizens cannot manage the responsibilities of a democratic republic. Uninformed citizens are anathema to a democracy. Such citizens are open to conspiracy theories, as nature abhors a vacuum. What would our country be if we faced our past, and planned logically for our futures? Gaslighting history and ignoring science is a disastrous combination that limits our survival runway as a species. Without global cooperation, management of resources, addressing income inequality that exacerbated our response to the pandemic, systemic racism that impoverishes not just BIPOC, but nations, we will crumble, as other empires have. The Mayas sacrificed fellow tribesmen and women to a water god to eliminate drought. New flash: it didn't work out too well for them.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. When we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

It is not the time to tire. We must defeat this evil, or witness the death of democracy.

Our next actions will either save, or doom the republic.

Our next actions will be guided either by apathy, or common sense.

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The Lighthouse...

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Creators Brian Haberlin and David Hine take "Jules Verne's Lighthouse" into the depths of deep space piracy starting this April. (Image credit: Image Comics)

Topics: History, Science Fiction, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Widely considered to be the "Father of Science Fiction," the famed French poet, novelist, and playwright [known] as Jules Verne celebrates what would have been his 193rd birthday this year. 

Born Feb. 8, 1828, Verne ushered in the grand era of speculative fiction with his classic novels, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "From the Earth to the Moon," "Around the World in 80 Days," and "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

Now one of Verne’s lesser-known works from 1905, "The Lighthouse At The End Of The World," is being adapted for the first time into a five-issue comic book miniseries at Image Comics premiering in April. Orchestrated by the veteran creative team of Brian Haberlin and David Hine ("The Marked,'" "Sonata"), "Jules Verne's: Lighthouse" gets a sci-fi twist and casts readers into the high seas of outer space for a swashbuckling cyberpunk saga.

Here's the official synopsis:

"Jules Verne's: Lighthouse" is set at the edge of the galaxy, where there is a giant supercomputer known as the Lighthouse. The only brain powerful enough to navigate ships through a Sargasso of naturally occurring wormholes, potentially cutting months or even years of a spaceship's journey. Three humans, one alien, and a nanny bot have manned the remote station for years in relative peace until the arrival of Captain Kongre and his band of cutthroat pirates threatens the future of civilization and reveals that each of the Lighthouse crew has been hiding a shocking secret. He who controls the Lighthouse controls this part of the galaxy."

Exclusive: A little-known Jules Verne adventure novel scores a sci-fi comic book series with 'Lighthouse', Jeff Spry, Space.com

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40 Years Since STS-1...

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The first mission of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-1, blasts off from launch pad 39A on April 12, 1981, attempting to kick off a new era of rapid access to space.

Topics: History, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Space Shuttle

In April 1981, John Young — America’s premier astronaut and one of only 12 people to ever walk on the Moon — was training with co-pilot Bob Crippen for STS-1, the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Columbia. Though eager, Young harbored no illusions that he might never return from this first mission of the Space Shuttle Program.

After rocketing into space, Columbia aimed to circle our planet 36 times over two days. But then, unlike the previous spacecraft, it would glide back to Earth, landing on a runway like an airplane. NASA hoped its reusable fleet of four shuttles — Atlantis, Challenger, Discovery, and Columbia — would launch weekly with crews of up to seven, allowing more rapid access to space than ever before. The Space Shuttle Program promised to both revolutionize and routinize spaceflight.

But, as with all cutting-edge technologies, the risks were severe. A month before STS-1, as Columbia sat on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, several technicians were asphyxiated by nitrogen fumes while working in the shuttle’s aft fuselage. Two of them later succumbed to their injuries. The accident served as a deadly reminder that spaceflight is a dangerous business, even when still on Earth.

40 years since the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, Ben Evans, Astronomy

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Weather Prediction...

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Observations of clouds, sunbeams, and birds—like those seen in this photo taken in Salisbury, UK—were important elements of classical weather forecasting. (Image courtesy of Peter Lawrence.)

Topics: History, Meteorology, Research

In August 1861 the London-based newspaper The Times published the world’s first “daily weather forecast.” The term itself was created by the enterprising meteorologist Robert FitzRoy, who wanted to distance his work from astrological “prognostications.” That story has led to a widespread assumption that weather forecasting is an entirely modern phenomenon and that in earlier periods only quackery or folklore-based weather signs were available.

However, more recent research has demonstrated that astronomers and astrologers in the medieval Islamic world drew widely on Greek, Indian, Persian, and Roman knowledge to create a new science termed astrometeorology. Central to the new science was the universal belief that the planets and their movements around Earth affected atmospheric conditions and weather. It was enthusiastically received in Christian Latin Europe and was further developed by Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and other astronomers. The drive to produce reliable weather forecasts led scientists to believe that astrometeorological forecasting could be more accurate if they used precise observations and records of weather to refine predictions for specific localities. Such records were kept across Europe beginning in the 13th century and were correlated with astronomical data, which paved the way for the data-driven forecasts produced by FitzRoy.1

Islamicate astrometeorologists were the first to replace the ancient practice of observing only short-term signs, such as clouds and the flight of birds, to predict the weather. They based their action on the hypothesis that weather is caused by the movements of planets and mediated by regional and seasonal climate conditions. Improved calculations of planetary orbits and updated geographical and meteorological information made the new science possible and compelling.

The prospect of acquiring reliable weather forecasts, closely linked to predictions of coming trends in human health and agricultural production, made the new meteorology attractive in Christian Europe too. Considerable pride shines through medieval Christian accounts of the weather questions that they could now start to answer. Central among them was one that classical meteorologists had failed to figure out: How can weather vary so much from one year to the next when the seasons are caused by regular, repeating patterns produced by Earth’s spherical shape and its interactions with the Sun?

Medieval weather prediction, Anne Lawrence-Mathers is a professor of history at the University of Reading in the UK. Physics Today

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The Black Edison...

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Garrett A. Morgan (1877–1963), American inventor and community leader. Credit: Alamy

Topics: African Americans, Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, History

“If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.” Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

*****

Just before midnight at the close of a hot summer day in 1916, a natural gas pocket exploded 120 feet beneath the waves of Lake Erie. It happened during work on Cleveland’s newest waterworks tunnel, a 10-foot-wide underwater artery designed to pull in water from about five miles out, beyond the city’s polluted shoreline. The blast left twisted conduit pipes littering the tunnel floor and tore up railroad tracks inside the corridor, with noxious smoke curling off the rubble. When the dust settled, 11 tunnel workers were dead.

Two rescue parties entered the tunnel searching for survivors. But they lacked proper safety equipment for the smoke and fumes; 11 of the 18 rescuers died. Some 11 hours later, desperate to save anyone still alive, the Cleveland Police turned to Garrett A. Morgan—a local inventor who called himself “the Black Edison”—and the gas mask he had patented two years earlier.

“He rustled his brother Frank,” says the inventor’s granddaughter, Sandra Morgan. “They threw a bunch of gas masks in the car—remember, they were selling these things—and in their pajamas, drove down to the lakefront.”

Some five years later, in the early 1920s, the inventor witnessed a horrific accident between the automobile and a horse-drawn cart at an intersection. Once again, his ingenuity kicked in. Before Morgan, traffic signals only had two positions: stop and go. “My grandfather’s great improvement,” Sandra says, “was the ‘all hold’—what is now the amber light.” Morgan patented the three-position traffic signal in 1923 and soon sold the idea to General Electric for $40,000 (the equivalent of about $610,000 today). He purchased 250 acres later that year in Wakeman, Ohio, and transformed it into an African American country club complete with a party room and dance hall.

*****

“The mere imparting of information is not education. ” Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Black Inventor Garrett Morgan Saved Countless Lives with Gas Mask and Improved Traffic Lights, Leo DeLuca, Scientific American

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The Enlightenment...

 

Topics: Civil Rights, Existentialism, History, Politics

Enlightenment, French siècle des Lumières (literally “century of the Enlightened”), German Aufklärung, a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries in which ideas concerning God, reason, nature, and humanity were synthesized into a worldview that gained wide assent in the West and that instigated revolutionary developments in art, philosophy, and politics. Central to Enlightenment thought were the use and celebration of reason, the power by which humans understand the universe and improve their own condition. The goals of rational humanity were considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness.

A brief treatment of the Enlightenment follows. For full treatment, see Europe, history of: The Enlightenment.

The powers and uses of reason had first been explored by the philosophers of ancient Greece. The Romans adopted and preserved much of Greek culture, notably including the ideas of a rational natural order and natural law. Amid the turmoil of empire, however, a new concern arose for personal salvation, and the way was paved for the triumph of the Christian religion. Christian thinkers gradually found uses for their Greco-Roman heritage. The system of thought known as Scholasticism, culminating in the work of Thomas Aquinas, resurrected reason as a tool of understanding but subordinated it to spiritual revelation and the revealed truths of Christianity.

Encyclopedia Britannica: Enlightenment: European history

Caveat: Only if you're not BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Caveats remove the romanticism, which if you explore the Britannica link, romanticism was associated with emotion as well as art, and the opposite of rationalism.

Dr. Danielle Bainbridge has a Ph.D. in African American Studies and varied interests in "big Broadway musicals to the social and political movements of the last 200 years" according to her show's website. Dr. Bainbridge removes the romanticism and mythology we tell ourselves: the apotheosis we've promoted our flawed, Founding Fathers to, such that any real history that doesn't place their descendants in a good light is ignored, rewritten and propagandized. See: The Lost Cause.

People are in the streets: because 401 years is the patience of Job on steroids, post reconstruction, lynchings and Jim Crow. We've never had the luxury of PTSD: it's ever-present traumatic stress disorder, over-and-over. Necks were stretched with ropes from trees before esophagi constricted with choke holds in New York and knees in Minnesota.

In my 2016 post, Scientism, the point was scientists and the scientific community being human have prejudices. Prejudices are learned from "credible others": usually parents, relatives and authority figures respected. As Bainbridge points out in the video above, science masks racism with "reason," such that structural inequality that was once defined by divine law can be redefined by natural law, so that nothing really changes. It rationalizes low numbers in STEM fields so that no actions are needed until jogging while black: Ahmaund Aubrey; sleeping while black: Breonna Taylor, with a viral George Floyd snuff video as icing on a blood cake. I'm glad the academy is tackling it, but it's long overdue. Jane Elliott says it best: "You are not born racist. You are born into a racist society. And like anything else, if you can learn it, you can unlearn it. But some people choose not to unlearn it, because they're afraid they'll lose power if they share with other people. We are afraid of sharing power. That's what it's all about."

I don't want a "return to normal." Normal was Winthrop's "city on a hill," that might as well be a pile of feces plated with gold and silver: it's still a dressed-up pile of shit.

American mythology teaches that the early United States was founded by men of conscience who came to the "new world" in order to practice their religious convictions in peace and freedom. John Winthrop (1588–1649), the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in particular has been quoted as a source of inspiration by U.S. presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan.

Yet Winthrop did not represent a tradition of either democracy or religious tolerance. He hated democracy with a passion. The state he created did not hesitate to execute people like the Quakers and even brought to the "new" world the very popular tradition of medieval Europe, the trial and execution of witches.

"A Shining City on a Hill": Troubling information about a famous quote. The Puritan tradition of intolerance and John Winthrop, World Future Fund

"United States" is oxymoron - a contradiction in terms. We're 50 warring tribes and unrepresented territories: D.C. Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We were sure adding stars to that flag, complaining about kneeling S.O.B.s protesting police brutality; stealing territory from First Nation peoples and Mexico for the racist "Manifest Destiny." We halted it when the math didn't work for the racists, and the balance of the senate was in play. I count eight more senators for 54 states, that may not vote the way Moscow Mitch might want them to. See Jane Elliott here, and above.

We've moronically made masks a culture war. The European Union consists of 27 nations, and this graph is all you need to know why there is a travel ban to Europe for U.S. citizens. He got his "travel ban," alright: American "exceptionalism" in Bizarro World. Boomerangs work, and karma is a bitch. We're apparently going to see if raking puts out forest fires and COVID spread at Mt. Rushmore. If anything bad happens, he'll blame Obama.

Masks might have stymied the spread of Coronavirus, but we're on the Good Ship Pequod abandoned by surprisingly woke Ahab, once he found out about prosthetic limbs and decided pursuing white whales for revenge was bullshit. In a fit of panic, sheer lucidity and rightfully ignoring Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s death cult ramblings, Governor Greg Abbott implemented a mandatory masks executive order in Texas, likely saving his job for re-election.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams

The ship-of-state is currently being steered by tweeting, orange Captain dumb ass, performing embarrassing, public political fellatio on a KGB agent that obviously has his number to his bank account. He has YET to retaliate to $100,000 bounties against our service members in Afghanistan. His bemoaning dead confederates was a culture war dodge: we need the ban for the safety of the rest of the planet, we're a manifest global pandemic of hate, and because we have NO leader that will protect us now! We are defenseless, and our mad emperor is perpetually naked.

We are isolated from the world. I would like us one day to rejoin it, humanely and sanely. I want us to actually START acting like the mythology we believed ourselves through propaganda (wrongly) to be.

I want us to evolve, mature, finally ...enlightened.

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Majorana qubits...

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Image Source: Link below

 

Topics: History, Modern Physics, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

Soon after Enrico Fermi became a professor of physics at Italy’s University of Rome in 1927, Ettore Majorana joined his research group. Majorana’s colleagues described him as humble because he considered some of his work unexceptional. For example, Majorana correctly predicted in 1932 the existence of the neutron, which he dubbed a neutral proton, based on an atomic-structure experiment by Irène Joliot-Curie and Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Despite Fermi’s urging, Majorana didn’t write a paper. Later that year James Chadwick experimentally confirmed the neutron’s existence and was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery.

Nevertheless, Fermi thought highly of Majorana, as is captured in the following quote: “There are various categories of scientists, people of a secondary or tertiary standing, who do their best but do not go very far. There are also those of high standing, who come to discoveries of great importance, fundamental for the development of science. But then there are geniuses like Galileo and Newton. Well, Ettore was one of them.” Majorana only wrote nine papers, and the last one, about the now-eponymous fermions, was published in 1937 at Fermi’s insistence. A few months later, Majorana took a night boat to Palermo and was never seen again.1

In that final article, Majorana presented an alternative representation of the relativistic Dirac equation in terms of real wavefunctions. The representation has profound consequences because a real wavefunction describes particles that are their own antiparticles, unlike electrons and positrons. Since particles and antiparticles have opposite charges, fermions in his new representation must have zero charge. Majorana postulated that the neutrino could be one of those exotic fermions.

Although physicists have observed neutrinos for more than 60 years, whether Majorana’s hypothesis is true remains unclear. For example, the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which earned Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, demonstrates that neutrinos have mass. But the standard model requires that neutrinos be massless, so various possibilities have been hypothesized to explain the discrepancy. One answer could come from massive neutrinos that do not interact through the weak nuclear force. Such sterile neutrinos could be the particles that Majorana predicted. Whereas conclusive evidence for the existence of Majorana neutrinos remains elusive, researchers are now using Majorana’s idea for other applications, including exotic excitations in superconductors.

Majorana qubits for topological quantum computing, Physics Today

Ramón Aguado is a senior researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Madrid.

Leo Kouwenhoven is a researcher at the Microsoft Quantum Lab Delft and a professor of applied physics at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

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The Talk (re-posted)...

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Topics: African Americans, History, Diaspora, Diversity in Science, Women in Science

Originally published February 27, 2017, during Black History Month. We are reeling from George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaund Aubrey. "I can't breathe" isn't a cliche: it's a statement of continual trauma, perpetual PTSD from 1619 to present day. We can't breathe from the 82 black boys and men killed before, and now during a global pandemic. We can't breathe from armed gunman shouting at police and threatening lawmakers in Michigan, and unarmed, pissed off demonstrators getting maced, rubber bullets and flash bombed after a murder in the same state Philando Castile lost his life in for a concealed handgun licence. It is building a nation, but not taking part of its advantages fully. It is a relationship to a maniacal, misogynistic, patriarchal, racist, sociopathic system that is determined we nonwhite  "stay in our places" - pariah to the rest of the nation founded on genocide, kidnapping and domestic terrorism - in abject fear, all the while masking quite poorly their own stated, pseudoscientific conspiratorial fears of genetic annihilation. Since we all share the same planet, and I see no starships in orbital shipyards under construction, the only thing their inane fears may bring to apocalyptic destruction is the human species.

 

 

*****Re-post with additions*****

 

The talk is painful to do and painful still to recall. My talk was based on being slammed into a wall of plastic model cars and toys at King's Department Store (see: "Old Tapes" below).

 

My boys... didn't take the story well. Though ten years apart, their reactions were the same: they were angry, hurt, confused as to why such a thing could happen to their "Pop." Watching this again, in the modern context brought back painful memories:

 

 

Despite there and my tears, I had to deliver "the talk," the speech that transcends political party affiliations that every black parent has to relay to their children: fathers to sons; mothers to daughters; uncles and aunts to nieces and nephews; "Big Mommas," and Paw-Paws to grand and great-grandchildren. Despite their tears, my oldest son and his wife will have to deliver "the talk" to our granddaughter, now accustomed to a world in which daycare workers must wear masks; a world where she will likely be judged by the color of her skin, her gender and not the content of her character.

 

The Preamble to the US Constitution:

 

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

Posterity (noun): 1: the offspring of one progenitor to the furthest generation, 2: all future generations. Merriam-Webster

 

That's what "the talk" is about. It's probably the purist act of citizenship since 1865, as well as love. It says our children matter to "us"; that like most parents of any generation, we'd like to see them grow, mature and have a life of meaning and children themselves if they want. It does not sound like the realm, attitude or philosophy of thugs: it sounds like the realm of citizens. If indeed "all lives mattered," it would not be necessary.

 

This is the darker history of American exceptionalism. A segment of citizenry - be they democrats or republicans - must give a safety brief to their children for walking out the door into the dominant society to ensure their safe return. Because apparently, that's not guaranteed due to a preponderance of Melanin and an equal preponderance of the assumption guilty-while-black.

 

When the talk becomes a thing we discuss in history books, we'll be a free nation; we'll be America, the Beautiful, definitively.

 

I will consider my life a blessing to have my sons live full lives, and be allowed to do what I had to do with their Grandpa, Robert Harrison Goodwin after August 26, 1999, and their Grandma Mildred Dean Goodwin after May 7, 2009:

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To Robert Harrison Goodwin (Pop/Grandpa), Third Class Petty Officer, United States Navy Veteran, World War II -my first martial arts instructor (boxing). I hope you like what your daughter-in-law and I have done with your grandsons (Real Estate/Civil Engineering), and now, your great-granddaughter. They are, after all, your posterity. We love you and mom always, "Chief."

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Robert H. Goodwin is kneeling, lower left.

Griot Poet blog: "Old Tapes"
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