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A Charge for all Seasons...

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The new composition for fluorine-containing electrolytes promises to maintain high battery charging performance for future electric vehicles even at sub-zero temperatures. (Image by Shutterstock.)

Topics: Battery, Chemistry, Climate Change, Global Warming, Lithium, Materials Science

Scientists developed a new and safer electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries that work as well in sub-zero conditions as it does at room temperature.

Many owners of electric vehicles worry about how effective their batteries will be in very cold weather. Now new battery chemistry may have solved that problem.

In current lithium-ion batteries, the main problem lies in the liquid electrolyte. This key battery component transfers charge-carrying particles called ions between the battery’s two electrodes, causing the battery to charge and discharge. But the liquid begins to freeze at sub-zero temperatures. This condition severely limits the effectiveness of charging electric vehicles in cold regions and seasons.

To address that problem, a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories developed a fluorine-containing electrolyte that performs well even in sub-zero temperatures.

“Our research thus demonstrated how to tailor the atomic structure of electrolyte solvents to design new electrolytes for sub-zero temperatures.” — John Zhang, Argonne group leader.

“Our team not only found an antifreeze electrolyte whose charging performance does not decline at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, but we also discovered, at the atomic level, what makes it so effective,” said Zhengcheng ​“John” Zhang, a senior chemist and group leader in Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering division.

This low-temperature electrolyte shows promise of working for batteries in electric vehicles, as well as in energy storage for electric grids and consumer electronics like computers and phones.

An electric vehicle battery for all seasons, Joseph E. Harmon, Argonne National Labs

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Fractals are a never-ending pattern that you can zoom in on, and the image doesn’t change. Fractals can occur in two dimensions, like frost on a window, or in three dimensions, like tree limbs. A recent discovery from Purdue University researchers has established that superconducting images, seen above in red and blue, are actually fractals that fill a three-dimensional space and are disorder driven rather than driven by quantum fluctuations as expected. Frost and tree images by Adobe. Superconducting image (center) from "Critical nematic correlations throughout the superconducting doping range in Bi2-xPbzSr2-yLayCuO6+x" in Nature Communications. Credit: Nature Communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38249-3

Topics: Applied Physics, Civilization, Computer Modeling, Condensed Matter Physics, Materials Science, Solid-State Physics, Superconductors

Meeting the world's energy demands is reaching a critical point. Powering the technological age has caused issues globally. It is increasingly important to create superconductors that can operate at ambient pressure and temperature. This would go a long way toward solving the energy crisis.

Advancements with superconductivity hinge on advances in quantum materials. When electrons inside quantum materials undergo a phase transition, the electrons can form intricate patterns, such as fractals. A fractal is a never-ending pattern. When zooming in on a fractal, the image looks the same. Commonly seen fractals can be a tree or frost on a windowpane in winter. Fractals can form in two dimensions, like the frost on a window, or in three-dimensional space, like the limbs of a tree.

Dr. Erica Carlson, a 150th Anniversary Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University, led a team that developed theoretical techniques for characterizing the fractal shapes that these electrons make in order to uncover the underlying physics driving the patterns.

Carlson, a theoretical physicist, has evaluated high-resolution images of the locations of electrons in the superconductor Bi2-xPbzSr2-yLayCuO6+x (BSCO) and determined that these images are indeed fractal and discovered that they extend into the full three-dimensional space occupied by the material, like a tree filling space.

What was once thought of as random dispersions within the fractal images are purposeful and, shockingly, not due to an underlying quantum phase transition as expected but due to a disorder-driven phase transition.

Carlson led a collaborative team of researchers across multiple institutions and published their findings, titled "Critical nematic correlations throughout the superconducting doping range in Bi2-xPbzSr2-yLayCuO6+x," in Nature Communications.

The team includes Purdue scientists and partner institutions. From Purdue, the team includes Carlson, Dr. Forrest Simmons, a recent Ph.D. student, and former Ph.D. students Dr. Shuo Liu and Dr. Benjamin Phillabaum. The Purdue team completed their work within the Purdue Quantum Science and Engineering Institute (PQSEI). The team from partner institutions includes Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, Dr. Can-Li Song, Dr. Elizabeth Main of Harvard University, Dr. Karin Dahmen of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Eric Hudson of Pennsylvania State University.

Researchers discover superconductive images are actually 3D and disorder-driven fractals, Cheryl Pierce, Purdue University, Phys.org.

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Removing the Spookiness...

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Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles. Credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Modern Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Quantum entanglement is a complex phenomenon in physics that is usually poorly described as an invisible link between distant quantum objects that allows one to affect the other instantly. Albert Einstein famously dismissed this idea of entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” Entanglement is better understood as information, but that’s admittedly bland. So nowadays, every news articleexplaineropinion piece, and artistic interpretation of quantum entanglement equates the phenomenon with Einstein’s spookiness. The situation has only worsened with the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics going to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for quantum entanglement experiments. But it’s time to cut this adjective loose. Calling entanglement spooky completely misrepresents how it actually works and hinders our ability to make sense of it.

In 1935, physicist Erwin Schrödinger coined the term entanglement, emphasizing that it was “not one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought.” He was writing in response to a famous paper (known simply to physicists as the EPR argument) by Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen that claimed quantum physics was incomplete. The New York Times headline read, “Einstein attacks quantum theory,” which solidified the widespread perception that Einstein hated quantum physics.

The EPR argument concerns the everyday notion of reality as a collection of things in the world with physical properties waiting to be revealed through measurement. This is how most of us intuitively understand reality. Einstein’s theory of relativity fits into this understanding and says reality must be local, meaning nothing can influence anything else faster than the speed of light. But EPR showed that quantum physics isn’t compatible with these ideas—that it can’t account for a theory of local reality. In other words, quantum physics was missing something. To complete quantum physics, Einstein suggested scientists should look for a “deeper” theory of local reality. Many physicists responded in defense of quantum theory, but the matter remained unresolved until 1964 when physicist John S. Bell proposed an experiment that could rule out the existence of local reality. Clauser was the first to perform the test, which was later improved and perfected by Aspect and Zeilinger.

Quantum Entanglement Isn’t All That Spooky After All, Chris Ferrie, Scientific American

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Rate of Expansion...

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A University of Minnesota Twin Cities-led team used a first-of-its-kind technique to measure the Universe's expansion rate, providing insight that could help more accurately determine the Universe’s age and help physicists and astronomers better understand the cosmos. Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Rodney (JHU) and the FrontierSN team; T. Treu (UCLA), P. Kelly (UC Berkeley), and the GLASS team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields team; M. Postman (STScI) and the CLASH team; and Z. Levay (STScI)

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, General Relativity

Thanks to data from a magnified, multiply-imaged supernova, a team led by University of Minnesota Twin Cities researchers have successfully used a first-of-its-kind technique to measure the universe's expansion rate. Their data provide insight into a longstanding debate in the field and could help scientists more accurately determine the universe's age and better understand the cosmos.

The work is divided into two papers published in Science and The Astrophysical Journal.

In astronomy, there are two precise measurements of the expansion of the universe, also called the "Hubble constant." One is calculated from nearby observations of supernovae, and the second uses the "cosmic microwave background," or radiation that began to stream freely through the universe shortly after the Big Bang.

However, these two measurements differ by about 10 percent, which has caused widespread debate among physicists and astronomers. If both measurements are accurate, that means scientists' current theory about the makeup of the universe is incomplete.

"If new, independent measurements confirm this disagreement between the two measurements of the Hubble constant, it would become a chink in the armor of our understanding of the cosmos," said Patrick Kelly, lead author of both papers and an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy.

First-of-its-kind measurement of the universe's expansion rate weighs in on a longstanding debate. University of Minnesota, Phys.org.

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The Illusion of Perfection...

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Source - Jati: The Caste System in India, Asia Society

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, COVID-19, Democracy, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

“In America, this battle to wipe out whole ethnic groups was fought not by armies with guns nor by hate sects at the margins. Rather, this pernicious white-gloved war was prosecuted by esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists, and government officials colluding in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics. The purpose: create a superior Nordic race.

“To perpetuate the campaign, widespread academic fraud combined with almost unlimited corporate philanthropy to establish the biological rationales for persecution. Employing a hazy amalgam of guesswork, gossip, falsified information, and polysyllabic academic arrogance, the eugenics movement slowly constructed a national bureaucratic and judicial infrastructure to cleanse America of “the unfit.” Specious intelligence tests, colloquially known as IQ tests, were invented to justify the incarceration of a group labeled “the feebleminded.” Often the so-called feebleminded were just shy, too good-natured to be taken seriously, or [simply] spoke the wrong language or were the wrong color. Mandatory sterilization laws were enacted in some twenty-seven states to prevent targeted individuals from reproducing more of their kind. Marriage prohibition laws proliferated throughout the country to stop race mixing. Collusive litigation was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sanctified eugenics and its tactics.”

War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race,” Edwin Black, page xv, Introduction (paperback edition)

I purposely did not watch the coronation of now King Charles and his former mistress Camilla. Many tuned in for the “Pomp and Circumstance” of the ceremony. As a descendant of kidnapped Africans, thus far, uncompensated in the form of reparations, it was antithetical for me to celebrate the origins of the global slave trade that displaced so many for the enrichment of so few.

It was also interesting to see how they managed the public relations fiasco of Harry and Meghan, the former Duke and Duchess of Winsor. Giving their estate to Jeffrey Epstein, associated with Prince Andrew, both virtue-signaled to the intolerant in the United Kingdom and pedophiles that “happy ever after” was always a facade of mind and propaganda.

The illusion of perfection is pursued first by setting up a hierarchy, a societal pyramid that, at its apogee, are the humans who, by political fiat and outright brutality, have set themselves apart from the rabble as the elite, the wealthy, the one-percent: the closest things to gods in the flesh the rabble can think of.

In India, the illusion takes the form of the Caste System:

At the apogee are the Brahmin, the Priest, the closest to the gods; therefore, the closest things to gods the people below the apogee have ever seen.

Below that is the warrior caste, Kyshatriyia. In a human body analogy, the Brahmin is its head, and Kyshatriyia is its arms.

Vaisya is the merchants and landowners – the torso.

Commoners, peasants, and servants are called Sudra – the feet.

Beneath the feet are the outcasts, the untouchables, the unredeemable called Dalets. Their lot is the clean the streets and latrines.

Within the caste system or Jati, individuals cannot raise themselves in the societal pecking order. Still, the entire GROUP can by emulating another group above it (no explanation given at the link as to who, or what judges an entire group rising from mediocrity in the pecking order).

Isabelle Wilkenson based her book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” first on the Indian System, then compared it to the German System during WWII, and finally to the American System that seems self-reinforcing by inertia, almost perpetual.

The illusion of perfection debases the lives of the Indigenous: the Aborigines in Australia and the First Nation Peoples in North, Central, and South America. Continents populated with peoples who have a culture, languages spoken and written, historical records, and civilizations are raized out of existence because if they don’t worship the same as Europeans if they don’t speak like Europeans, if they don’t particularly look like Europeans, they are irrelevant, they are unpersons, Aborigines, African Americans, Dalets. In this case, “black lives don’t matter” because they never did.

As I type this, the illusion of perfection has visited an outlet mall outside of Dallas, Texas, in Allen, where I have close relatives. We now have more gun massacres than we have days in the year, and the only way it will improve is if it suddenly stops tomorrow. Newsflash: It won’t. The illusion of perfection can only be reinforced by violence. Showing facts, history, and scientific data invites backlash and a brutally efficient gaslighting operation through Secretary Clinton’s “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

The illusion of perfection punches down at the weak (fill in the blank for any outgroup you might know or belong to) because it always has. It’s “easy” to punch down on immigrants because the “gang of eight” proposed the only solution before Marco Rubio ran for president. It’s “easy” to lambast the LGBT community because the “solution” they won’t vocalize would sound a lot like German concentration camps or the hanging wall in “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. If the "horse is out of the barn," then the original door was opened by the Brown vs. Board of Education 9-0 decision by the Supreme Court (1954), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Richard and Mildred Loving vs. Virginia, 1967, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Roe vs. Wade, 1973 (repealed in 2023), Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015: if you repeal one part of the 20th and the early part of the 21st Century, you must using the darkest, cynical logic, repeal it all.

In the illusion of perfection, Dr. Edwin Black focuses on eugenics, but isn’t eugenics a form of secular religiosity? Both have an elite, the chosen, the pure: the elect who deserve, and the "others" who are damned. As he pointed out, whole universities and academic tomes devoted themselves to reinforcing what amounted to a lie. Still, like any broadcast on Fox Propaganda, it was a lie that a large swath of people wanted to believe.

The illusion of perfection has the same septuagenarian running against the same (now) octogenarian who repaired the damage post-COVID the septuagenarian caused. The octogenarian is trailing the septuagenarian because the octogenarian – four years senior to the septuagenarian, isn’t “entertaining” (or racist). I guess they never saw the White House Correspondence Dinner the septuagenarian avoided due to a lack of a sense of deprecating humor and an easily bruised ego (the octogenarian killed it, by the way). The octogenarian was VP to the first and only African American president, and his VP is the descendant of an African American father and an Indian mother. I'm glad he's not racist.

In a Washington Post article about the latest sacrifice to American Moloch, the congressional representative for the mall ended with this vapid statement because the gun lobby and NRA made him memorize the script like an automaton:

“Rep. Keith Self (R), who represents the Allen area in Congress, said on CNN that people who were calling for gun control, rather than just thoughts and prayers, ‘don’t believe in an almighty God … who is absolutely in control of our lives.’

“’[People] want to make this political, but prayers are important,’ he said.”

Allen, Texas

© May 7, 2023, the Griot Poet

“Thoughts and prayers” means

I refuse to legislate

While the gun lobby pays!

I have a sneaking suspicion that Representative Keith Self(ish) doesn’t believe in any other almighty God in his particular religion other than Mammon.

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Electrical Wound Care...

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New research from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, shows that wounds on cultured skin cells heal three times faster when stimulated with electric current. The project was recently granted more funding so the research can get one step closer to the market and the benefit of patients. Credit: Science Brush, Hassan A. Tahin

Topics: Applied Physics, Biotechnology, Medicine

Chronic wounds are a major health problem for diabetic patients and the elderly—in extreme cases, they can even lead to amputation. Using electric stimulation, researchers in a project at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and the University of Freiburg, Germany, have developed a method that speeds up healing, making wounds heal three times faster.

There is an old Swedish saying that one should never neglect a small wound or a friend in need. For most people, a small wound does not lead to any serious complications, but many common diagnoses make wound healing far more difficult. People with diabetes, spinal injuries, or poor blood circulation have impaired wound-healing ability. This means a greater risk of infection and chronic wounds—which can lead to serious consequences like amputation in the long run.

Now a group of researchers at Chalmers and the University of Freiburg have developed a method using electric stimulation to speed up the healing process. The study, "Bioelectronic microfluidic wound healing: a platform for investigating direct current stimulation of injured cell collectives," was published in the Lab on a Chip journal.

"Chronic wounds are a huge societal problem that we don't hear much about. Our discovery of a method that may heal wounds up to three times faster can be a game changer for diabetic and elderly people, among others, who often suffer greatly from wounds that won't heal," says Maria Asplund, Associate Professor of Bioelectronics at the Chalmers University of Technology and head of research on the project.

How electricity can heal wounds three times faster, The Chalmers University of Technology

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Einstein Rings...

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Multiple images of a background image created by gravitational lensing can be seen in the system HS 0810+2554. Credit: Hubble Space Telescope / NASA / ESA

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Dark Matter, Einstein, General Relativity

Physicists believe most of the matter in the universe is made up of an invisible substance that we only know about by its indirect effects on the stars and galaxies we can see.

We're not crazy! Without this "dark matter," the universe as we see it would make no sense.

But the nature of dark matter is a longstanding puzzle. However, a new study by Alfred Amruth at the University of Hong Kong and colleagues, published in Nature Astronomy, uses light's gravitational bending to bring us a step closer to understanding.

Invisible but omnipresent

We think dark matter exists because we can see its gravity's effects on galaxies' behavior. Specifically, dark matter seems to make up about 85% of the universe's mass, and most of the distant galaxies we can see appear to be surrounded by a halo of the mystery substance.

But it's called dark matter because it doesn't give off light or absorb or reflect it, which makes it incredibly difficult to detect.

So what is this stuff? We think it must be some kind of unknown fundamental particle, but beyond that, we're not sure. All attempts to detect dark matter particles in laboratory experiments have failed, and physicists have debated its nature for decades.

Scientists have proposed two leading hypothetical candidates for dark matter: relatively heavy characters called weakly interacting massive particles (or WIMPs) and extremely lightweight particles called axions. Theoretically, WIMPs behave like discrete particles, while axions behave more like waves due to quantum interference.

It has been difficult to distinguish between these two possibilities—but now light bent around distant galaxies has offered a clue.

New look at 'Einstein rings' around distant galaxies just got us closer to solving the dark matter debate, Rossana Ruggeri, Phys.org.

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TEG...

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The new self-powered thermoelectric generator device uses an ultra-broadband solar absorber (UBSA) to capture sunlight, which heats the generator. Simultaneously, another component called a planar radiative cooling emitter (RCE) cools part of the device by releasing heat. Credit: Haoyuan Cai, Jimei University

Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Chemistry, Energy, Materials Science, Thermodynamics

Researchers have developed a new thermoelectric generator (TEG) that can continuously generate electricity using heat from the sun and a radiative element that releases heat into the air. Because it works during the day or night and in cloudy conditions, the new self-powered TEG could provide a reliable power source for small electronic devices such as outdoor sensors.

"Traditional power sources like batteries are limited in capacity and require regular replacement or recharging, which can be inconvenient and unsustainable," said research team leader Jing Liu from Jimei University in China. "Our new TEG design could offer a sustainable and continuous energy solution for small devices, addressing the constraints of traditional power sources like batteries."

TEGs are solid-state devices that use temperature differences to generate electricity without moving parts. In the journal Optics Express, Liu and a multi-institutional team of researchers describe and demonstrate a new TEG that can simultaneously generate the heat and cold necessary to create a temperature difference large enough to generate electricity even when the sun isn't out. The passive power source is made of components that can easily be manufactured.

"The unique design of our self-powered thermoelectric generator allows it to work continuously, no matter the weather," said Liu. "With further development, our TEG has the potential to impact a wide range of applications, from remote sensors to wearable electronics, promoting a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to powering our daily lives."

New passive device continuously generates electricity during the day or night, Optica/Tech Explore

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Mice, Men, and Nanoparticles...

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Graphical abstract. Credit: Nanomaterials (2023). DOI: 10.3390/nano13081404

Topics: Biology, Environment, Nanomaterials, Nanotechnology

Among the biggest environmental problems of our time, micro- and nanoplastic particles (MNPs) can enter the body in various ways, including through food. And now, for the first time, research conducted at MedUni Vienna has shown how these minute particles manage to breach the blood-brain barrier and, consequently, penetrate the brain. The newly discovered mechanism provides the basis for further research to protect humans and the environment.

Published in the journal Nanomaterials, the study was carried out in an animal model with oral administration of MNPs, in this case, polystyrene, a widely-used plastic found in food packaging. Led by Lukas Kenner (Department of Pathology at MedUni Vienna and Department of Laboratory Animal Pathology at Vetmeduni) and Oldamur Hollóczki (Department of Physical Chemistry, University of Debrecen, Hungary), the research team was able to determine that tiny polystyrene particles could be detected in the brain just two hours after ingestion.

The mechanism that enabled them to breach the blood-brain barrier was previously unknown to medical science. "With the help of computer models, we discovered that a certain surface structure (biomolecular corona) was crucial in enabling plastic particles to pass into the brain," Oldamur Hollóczki explained.

Study shows how tiny plastic particles manage to breach the blood-brain barrier, Medical University of Vienna, Phys.org

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Strange Metals II...

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Topics: Applied Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Metamaterials, Quantum Mechanics

The behavior of so-called "strange metals" has long puzzled scientists—but a group of researchers at the University of Toronto may be one step closer to understanding these materials.

Electrons are discrete, subatomic particles that flow through wires like molecules of water flowing through a pipe. The flow is known as electricity, and it is harnessed to power and control everything from lightbulbs to the Large Hadron Collider.

In quantum matter, by contrast, electrons don't behave as they do in normal materials. They are much stronger, and the four fundamental properties of electrons—charge, spin, orbit, and lattice—become intertwined, resulting in complex states of matter.

"In quantum matter, electrons shed their particle-like character and exhibit strange collective behavior," says condensed matter physicist Arun Paramekanti, a professor in the U of T's Department of Physics in the Faculty of Arts & Science. "These materials are known as non-Fermi liquids, in which the simple rules break down."

Now, three researchers from the university's Department of Physics and Centre for Quantum Information & Quantum Control (CQIQC) have developed a theoretical model describing the interactions between subatomic particles in non-Fermi liquids. The framework expands on existing models and will help researchers understand the behavior of these "strange metals."

Their research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The lead author is physics Ph.D. student Andrew Hardy, with co-authors Paramekanti and post-doctoral researcher Arijit Haldar.

"We know that the flow of a complex fluid like blood through arteries is much harder to understand than water through pipes," says Paramekanti. "Similarly, the flow of electrons in non-Fermi liquids is much harder to study than that in simple metals."

Hardy adds, "What we've done is construct a model, a tool, to study non-Fermi liquid behavior. And specifically, to deal with what happens when there is symmetry breaking, when there is a phase transition into a new type of system."

"Symmetry breaking" is the term used to describe a fundamental process found in all of nature. Symmetry breaks when a system—whether a droplet of water or the entire universe—loses its symmetry and homogeneity and becomes more complex.

Researchers develop new insight into the enigmatic realm of 'strange metals', Chris Sasaki, University of Toronto, Phys.org

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Caveat Modifier...

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The Biofire Smart Gun. Photographer: James Stukenberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

Topics: Biometrics, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Democracy, Materials Science, Semiconductor Technology

Tech Target (Alyssa Provazza, Editorial Director): "A smartphone is a cellular telephone with an integrated computer and other features not originally associated with telephones, such as an operating system, web browsing, and the ability to run software applications." Smartphones, however, have had a detrimental effect on humans regarding health, critical thinking, and cognitive skills, convenient though they are.

I've seen the idea of "smart guns" for decades. Like the fingerprint scan for biometric safes, it's a safeguard that some will opt for but most likely won't unless compelled by legislation, which in the current "thoughts and prayers" environment (i.e., sloganeering is easier than proposing a law if you continually get away with it), I'm not holding my breath. A recent, late 20th Century example:

In 1974, the federal government passed the National Maximum Speed Law, which restricted the maximum permissible vehicle speed limit to 55 miles per hour (mph) on all interstate roads in the United States.1 The law was a response to the 1973 oil embargo, and its intent was to reduce fuel consumption. In the year after the National Maximum Speed Law was enacted, road fatalities declined 16.4%, from 54,052 in 1973 to 45,196 in 1974.2

In April of 1987, Congress passed the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, which permitted states to raise the legal speed limit on rural interstates to 65 mph.3 Under this legislation, 41 states raised their posted speed limits to 65 mph on segments of rural interstates. On November 28, 1995, Congress passed the National Highway Designation Act, which officially removed all federal speed limit controls. Since 1995, all US states have raised their posted speed limits on rural interstates; many have also raised the posted speed limits on urban interstates and non interstate roads.

Conclusions. Reduced speed limits and improved enforcement with speed camera networks could immediately reduce speeds and save lives, in addition to reducing gas consumption, cutting emissions of air pollutants, saving valuable years of productivity, and reducing the cost of motor vehicle crashes.

Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States, Lee S. Friedman, Ph.D., corresponding author Donald Hedeker, Ph.D., and Elihu D. Richter, MD, MPH, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Homo Sapiens, (Latin) "wise men," don't always do smart things.

In an office parking lot about halfway between Denver and Boulder, a former 50-foot-long shipping container has been converted into a cramped indoor shooting range. Paper targets with torsos printed on them hang from two parallel tracks, and a rubber trap waits at the back of the container to catch the spent bullets. Black acoustic foam padding on the walls softens the gunshot noise to make the experience more bearable for the shooter, while an air filtration system sucks particulates out of the air. It’s a far cry from the gleaming labs of the average James Bond movie, but Q might still be proud.

The weapons being tested at this site are smart guns: They can identify their registered users and won’t fire [for] anyone else. Smart guns have been a notoriously quixotic category for decades. The weapons carry the hope that an extra technological safeguard might prevent a wide range of gun-related accidents and deaths. But making a smart gun that’s good enough to be taken seriously has proved beyond difficult. It’s rare to find engineers with a strong understanding of both ballistics and biometrics whose products can be expected to work perfectly in life-or-death situations.

Some recent attempts have amounted to little more than a sensor or two slapped onto an existing weapon. More promising products have required too many steps and taken too much time to fire compared with the speed of a conventional handgun. What separates the Biofire Smart Gun here in the converted shipping container is that its ID systems, which scan fingerprints and faces, have been thoroughly melded into the firing mechanism. The battery-powered weapon has the sophistication of high-end consumer electronics, but it’s still a gun at its core.

A Smart Gun Is Finally Here, But Does Anyone Want It? Ashlee Vance, Bloomberg Business Week

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Dark Frequencies...

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

Dystopia

© April 12, 2023, the Griot Poet

Gun massacres are so

Frequent now, George Orwell’s

Prophecy banal.

Lamentation

© April 12, 2023, the Griot Poet

Gun massacres are so

Frequent now that Orwell weeps:

[Nightmares] actual.

 

*****

 

The graph is part of an exercise that I do after every shooting. If you’ve got a stock app on your smartphone, it’s easy to track. There is an uptick in any stock that trades with gun manufacturers. It was simple to blame it on the fear of gun control that never materializes, despite the massacres’ gruesomeness or the victims’ innocence. It turns out that terrorizing citizens is public policy. When you get beyond the reflexive “thoughts and prayers,” what do you have left other than the obvious? Terrorized citizens can’t think clearly, don’t read leisurely fiction or historical record, or absorb civics or critical thinking. Voltaire warned about tyranny, but the threat of assassination seems to be as tyrannical as the Kremlin. Putin has eleven time zones, terrified by everybody dropped from a window, every dissident imprisoned in a gulag, or every ex-pat poisoned in another country. America is dangerous to our health inside and outside our homes (see: Breonna Taylor). Where do we go in public that cannot become a crime scene?

It turns out that my “Stop the Bleeding” kit arrived after Easter instead of before, delayed by the likely deluge of other orders from my active shooter class and others around the nation that decided the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King was a GREAT day to do a class! A taser I ordered for my wife came in from Amazon on the same day.

After Tennessee, on April 11, 2023, America had another mass shooting in Louisville, Kentucky. The governor of that state lost two friends, and a third at the time was in critical condition. Five people were killed, and about nine were injured.

April 13, 2023, a 35-year-old English teacher was killed by a lone gunman in the drive-through of a Dunkin Donuts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her eleven-year-old son was unharmed in the backseat, but he saw his mother executed for no reason. His psyche, regarding harm, is another matter. Mother’s Day is next month, and I don’t think the cliché “thoughts and prayers” will cut it.

I now carry pepper spray on my keychain. I have a telescoping baton that makes a metallic “shooshing” sound, a hopeful shock to an assailant. In addition to pepper spray and a taser, I plan to give my wife my 9mm pistol (hopefully without the same glitches as Sig Sauer pistols, shooting when not hitting the trigger) and a purse that will double as a holster: if threatened, she’ll have to shoot through it. We didn’t leave Afghanistan: we brought the war home.

 

*****

 

Jonny Quest” is one of the many cartoons I’ve taken to collecting on DVD. I bought a DVD player that looks like a laptop but only has the drive, screen, controls, and remote. Jonny Quest was about the adventures of Jonny, his friend from Calcutta, Haji, his dog, who looked like a pug mutt, “Race” Bannon (that’s how his name was listed). And Dr. Benton Quest, who had as much of an impact as “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and “Marlin Perkins’ ‘Wild Kingdom.’” The STEM focus of the latter is self-evident. Dr. Benton Quest was a biologist on one Saturday, a physicist on the next Saturday, a Chemist, or an Electrical Engineer on any given Saturday where the situation needed him to be! There were car chases, a Cyclops, spider legged robot spy, dog fights with a Nazi, and LOTS of guns! Dr. Quest was the epitome of a nanotechnologist*, years after Dr. Richard Feynman’s lecture “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” circa 1959 and years before Dr. Norio Taniguchi coined it at a conference in Japan in 1974. Thankfully, neither Jonny nor Haji were involved in gunplay.

“Jonny Quest” is utter fantasy, a cartoon. All of us kids were in on the “gag.” Only the “evil-doers” died, never us “good guys.”

I feel like we’re going to war every day instead of work.

What kind of country or cartoon is this?

 

*****

 

*My “elevator pitch” definition:

Nanotechnology regards biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and physics, all of the major STEM disciplines at the nanoscale. Nano means “billionth,” or 10-9 meters. Nanoscience is the theoretical observation of nanoscale phenomena. Nanoengineering is exploiting that phenomenon towards a practical (engineering) end, as in manufacturing something that can be purchased or consumed. Before I entered the field, Dr. Quest was probably the first nanotechnologist I had ever seen and didn’t recognize because the definition wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now.

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Playing with AI BLUE WILLOW BOT on DISCORD here are a few of the results of my prompts which were:

Prompt #1) Black Modern Ghanaian Woman, getting out of her car, a red Lamborghini Aventador. Outdoor in front of her mansion designed by John Moutossamy background, HD, 8K, Photorealistic, --ar 3:2

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Prompt #2) Black Ethiopian King and Queen overlooking his mid dynasty mariner ships leaving a bay into an ocean from his palace balcony. An evening scene, very detailed, high quality in the style of Lois Mailou Jones.

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Prompt #3) Black Ethiopian King overlooking his mid dynasty mariner ships leaving a bay into an ocean from his palace balcony. An evening scene, very detailed, high quality in the style of Lois Mailou Jones.

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Prompt #4 not originally created by me but I had to create versions) two Robots one on the left with sleek white armor and red LED lines and one on the right with sleek black armor and blue LED lines with their heads touching and one finger touching the others finger with the back of the robots slowly fading away into little cubes 4K FHD cinematic lighting --ar --v2 - @owexiii13
(Thanks @owexiii13 of Discord)

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Green Transition...

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Photo: Getty Images

Topics: Battery, Chemistry, Climate Change, Economics, Global Warming

Welcome back to The Green Era, a weekly newsletter bringing you the news and trends in the world of sustainability. Click subscribe above to be notified of future editions.

The shift to renewable energy has caused consternation over the fate of workers in the fossil fuel industry. Those same concerns are hitting the automotive sector as U.S. demand for electric vehicles grows.

EVs require not just new assembly lines and parts but also factories to build the batteries that power them. The president of one of the biggest unions called the transition the largest in the industry’s history.

The automotive sector and its workers are not new to factory closures. The Great Recession brought the big three automakers to their knees, forcing the federal government to bail them out, leaving cities like Detroit and large swaths of the midwest with car workers out of a job.

This time could be different. Many factories are being converted and are investing in retraining their workers. The batteries and charging infrastructure required present another opportunity. Ford, General Motors, and Volkswagen are all building new battery manufacturing plants or expanding existing ones in Tennessee.

The EV transition is changing workers’ skills and state economies, Jordyn Dahl, LinkedIn

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Catalysis and Energy Savings…

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Topics: Chemistry, Computer Modeling, Environment, Materials Science

In an advance, they consider a breakthrough in computational chemistry research. University of Wisconsin–Madison chemical engineers have developed a model of how catalytic reactions work at the atomic scale. This understanding could allow engineers and chemists to develop more efficient catalysts and tune industrial processes—potentially with enormous energy savings, given that 90% of the products we encounter in our lives are produced, at least partially, via catalysis.

Catalyst materials accelerate chemical reactions without undergoing changes themselves. They are critical for refining petroleum products and for manufacturing pharmaceuticals, plastics, food additives, fertilizers, green fuels, industrial chemicals, and much more.

Scientists and engineers have spent decades fine-tuning catalytic reactions—yet because it's currently impossible to directly observe those reactions at the extreme temperatures and pressures often involved in industrial-scale catalysis, they haven't known exactly what is taking place on the nano and atomic scales. This new research helps unravel that mystery with potentially major ramifications for the industry.

In fact, just three catalytic reactions—steam-methane reforming to produce hydrogen, ammonia synthesis to produce fertilizer, and methanol synthesis—use close to 10% of the world's energy.

"If you decrease the temperatures at which you have to run these reactions by only a few degrees, there will be an enormous decrease in the energy demand that we face as humanity today," says Manos Mavrikakis, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW–Madison who led the research. "By decreasing the energy needed to run all these processes, you are also decreasing their environmental footprint."

New atomic-scale understanding of catalysis could unlock massive energy savings, Jason Daley, University of Madison-Wisconson

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Innocence...

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Topics: African Americans, Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Democracy, Diversity in Science, Environment, Existentialism, Fascism, Global Warming, Human Rights

Trauma at 55

© April 3, 2023, the Griot Poet

 

Graduation day.

No child smiling because we

Lost Martin Thursday.

 

April is National Poetry Month. This photo of five-year-old me inspired my haiku about my kindergarten graduation. It should have been a happy day with parents in the audience.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on Thursday, April 4, 1968. Our graduation was scheduled for Friday at Bethlehem Community Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

All thirty-six students were blissfully unaware of the political earthquake that this was or that it had occurred. As we all aged, we probably learned of the death threats and the near assassination by a deranged woman at a book signing. We were unaware of the "Missiles of October" in 1962, barely scratching the planet's surface or taking our first steps before potential Armageddon. Medgar Evers was assassinated in Mississippi in June of 1963, and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November of the same year in Dallas when we were a little over a year old. Brother Malcolm was assassinated in February 1965 when we were almost three. I don't recall the University of Texas. Clock Tower shooting in 1966, but we were four then. My classmates, like me, probably heard a program on the local radio station, WAAA-AM, on Sundays from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, "Martin Luther King Speaks." At that time, the caveat was that he spoke, addressing his audience directly over AM, the complete analog of today's social media. What are now tapes or YouTube videos for later generations: it was him, alive, breathing, and speaking. Martin, then Robert F. Kennedy, June 6, the president's brother running for president, fell that year.

I recall my mother kissing me profusely, promising to be there for the graduation, and saying "I love you" repeatedly. I had no doubts about that.

I also remember my father's eyes: red with bloodshot, dried tears on his cheeks. To that point in my brief existence, the thought of him crying was alien, foreign.

The kindergarten teachers sat us down. We assumed to prepare us for the costumes we would wear – white shorts, shirts, and bow ties for the boys, and skirts for the girls.

"Children, Dr. Martin Luther King was shot yesterday and died."

Stunned silence.

I am on the front row, the photo's first student on the left. The eighth student on that row is a girl who I recall having a crush on: she has her right knee pointing towards her left leg. She would break the silence before our ceremony with an ear-piercing screech, repetitive, inconsolable grief beyond her years, perhaps mimicked from a funeral. We all knew what "died" meant. In some form or fashion, by five, you have lost beloved pets or relatives that you never thought would leave the Earth.

The seed from her grief cascaded through the graduates like a malignant vine. The time was 9:00. We cried for two hours, during which someone with a pickup truck, a rebel flag flying, drove through the parking lot, yelling over and over so our young ears and teachers could hear him, "Martin Luther Coon's dead! Yahoo! The South will rise again!"

I lay on the linoleum, palm heels in my eye sockets, wailing my [own] notes. The teachers were crying with us, trying to console themselves and us, allowing us our grief. We went down for a nap at 11:00. Perhaps our teachers did too.

We went out for a brief recess, probably to clear the fog from our brains, but as I recall, we moved like zombies, with no one on the seesaw, children sitting, staring numbly on the swings, and no action on the monkey bars. Then we went in and got dressed.

Our parents would be there at 1:30 pm. I have described why not a single child graduating in the photo was smiling. Staring at my unsmiling, well, forced smiling parents, I remember this poignant thought post-grief beyond my brief years:

 

"We're not kids anymore!"

We would all start first grade in the fall without him.

I hugged my big sister tightly that evening, a student activist in the Civil Rights Movement attending Winston-Salem State University, because I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what "died" meant.

*****

Devolution

(Post-Cold War and 9/11)

© April 4, 2023, the Griot Poet

 

I did duck-and-hide

Drills, kids as cold warriors:

Now, active shooter.

 

My employer hosted an Active Shooter/Stop the Bleeding training at my facility on probably the most insensitive date they could pick on the calendar: the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King. As the first haiku eludes, time does not heal trauma. For the first half, both instructors had experience in law enforcement and the military. The second set of three instructors from a local trauma center featured a combat medic, who taught us through a cadaver dummy to stuff gauze from a "stop the bleeding kit" (there is a website to order directly).

I participated in the class vigorously to fight the "sugar crash" from the doughnuts offered.

We saw a lot of videos, one featuring the shooter in the Naval Shipyards gun massacre. The other was the bodycam video from the recent incident in Tennessee at a Christian School where three adults in their early sixties (around my same age) and three nine-year-old children were sacrificed on the altar of American Moloch. The original intent of particularly white evangelical Christian schools was to protect the "innocence" of their children from sitting next to someone like me. Somehow "thoughts and prayers" for a Christian school, no doubt inspired by Brown vs. Board of Education being actualized in the South, seemed oxymoronic.

"Duck-and-hide," or more accurately, duck-and-cover, where drills were part of civilian preparedness in the event World War Three spontaneously broke out. They gave us manuals we should read (I still have mine). The teachers and manual said that getting under the desk was the best way to survive the nuclear fallout if you were not the center of the blast radius. Preconscious and curious, my parents had bought the complete volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Internet of its day. Foreshadowing my eventual STEM majors in Engineering Physics, Microelectronics, and Nanoengineering, I read the "Nu" volume on nuclear weapons. I sadly concluded after my research that the drills were government-sanctioned gaslighting, a word I now use. The word I used then is a two-syllable word with the popular abbreviation "B.S." Plutonium 239, the ore of choice for thermonuclear weapons, has a half-life of 24,100 years, meaning that it would be half as radioactive in about 24 millennia. This drill wasn't to save lives but to reduce panicked stampeding that, I admit, would help no one. The official nuclear doctrine of deterrence is M.A.D.: mutually assured destruction. We'll see if Russia in Ukraine remembers this at all.

The United States has been in some war 93% of the time from 1775 (before its existence) to 2018. This factum is according to Smithsonian Magazine. The article's caveat is how to interpret "war": declared congressionally, unilaterally by the executive, or (in my opinion) upon one's citizens.

I will attend my precocious granddaughter's fourth birthday party this National Poetry Month. She is one year younger than my five-year-old image. After getting her a "Dr. McStuffin's Medical Kit" for Christmas, she immediately assigned herself as her grandparents' doctor. She even does televisits when we chat on Google Hangout.

Yet she grows up in a world of the continuous threat of Armageddon. Add to that designed scarcity, economic Disaster Capitalism cum neoliberalism, rising global temperatures, and active shooter training when she starts kindergarten in the fall, minus the "stop the bleeding kits," even with her Dr. McStuffin credentials. Because of the malaise of government and gun lobbyists, we've reduced her citizenry to becoming a combat medic in the future, whether she wants to or not.

I bought a "stop the bleeding" kit. It should be here before Easter.

"We're not kids anymore!"

None of us are.

 

 

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Zombie CFCs...

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Researchers detected a surprising rise in levels of chlorofluorocarbons between 2010 and 2020 using a monitoring network that includes the Jungfraujoch research station in Switzerland. Credit: Shutterstock

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

From my resume: "I eliminated ozone-depleting materials using Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) and Taguchi Methods of Quality Engineering - using an L16 Orthogonal Array - in the Poly Silicon etch substituting out CFCs in manufacturing processes." How I did it: I substituted our CFC with Sulfur Hexafluoride and Nitrogen (SF6/N2). On the negative photoresist product, the CFC over-etch was 50 seconds. For the positive photoresist, CFC had a 25-second process. I was able to reduce each product line to two seconds, increasing throughput, and the process increased die yields. It is possible to balance the positive impact of product improvement and the environment. I did it in the 90s, so the following report is disappointing.

*****

The Montreal Protocol, which banned most uses of ozone-destroying chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and called for their global phase-out by 2010, has been a great success story: Earth’s ozone layer is projected to recover by the 2060s.

So atmospheric chemists were surprised to see a troubling signal in recent data. They found that the levels of five CFCs rose rapidly in the atmosphere from 2010 to 2020. Their results are published today in Nature Geoscience1.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” says Martin Vollmer, an atmospheric chemist at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology in Dübendorf, who helped to analyze data from an international network of CFC monitors. “We expect the opposite trend. We expect them to slowly go down.”

At current levels, these CFCs do not pose much threat to the ozone layer’s healing, said Luke Western, a chemist at the University of Bristol, UK, at an online press conference on 30 March. CFCs, once used as refrigerants and aerosols, can persist in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Given that they are potent greenhouse gases, eliminating emissions of these CFCs will also have a positive impact on Earth’s climate. The collective annual warming effect of these five chemicals on the planet is equivalent to the emissions produced by a small country like Switzerland.

It’s highly likely that manufacturing plants are accidentally releasing three of the chemicals — CFC-113a, CFC-114a, and CFC-115 — while producing replacements for CFCs. When CFCs were phased out, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were brought in as substitutes. But CFCs can crop up as unintended by-products during HFC manufacture. This accidental production is discouraged by the Montreal Protocol but not prohibited by it.

‘This shouldn’t be happening: levels of banned CFCs rising, Katherine Bourzac, Nature

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Are you a fan of the science fiction anthology Black Mirror? If so, you will be happy to know that there is now an unofficial companion to the series. The Binge Watcher's Guide to Black Mirror is a recap and analysis of all five seasons of the Netflix based science fiction anthology. It is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

 

 

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Originally published on Polite On Society- August 2010

When people hear the term science fiction, it conjures up images of future settings and technology far beyond what can be imagined today. The homicidal robots of Battlestar Galactica and the vast spaceships of Star Trek are some of what typifies this type of entertainment. While sciencefiction is very visible and much of it is popularized, elements of itremain a niche genre. One of those elements is Afro-futurism.

What is that you may ask? Afro-futurism is the exploration of science fiction themes and how technological advances will affect the Black experience. Speculative fiction is the preferred name for it in writer’s circles. Much of it is in the literaryworld, and some proponents of the sub-genre trace it back to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Mainstream science fiction takes inspiration from things that are going on in society, but often does not include the viewpoint of those in the African Diaspora. In the spirit of filling in this gap, the artists and writers in the Afro-futurist tradition seek to include us inthe future settings that we are often left out of.

Unfortunately, not a lot of this tradition is known. Having come across some of the literary people that I have in the past few years has been eye opening. I must admit that my familiarity with science fiction comes from the staples of the genre. Shows like Alien Nation, V, War of the Worlds, Lost in Space, the O.G. Battlestar GalacticaStar Wars, and countless others were my introduction to sci-fi as a young person concerned with the future and what it might hold.

Today, we have the works of people like Walter Mosley and Nalo Hopkinson, and a whole bunch of other authors I need to get caught up on. I am anxiously awaiting my copy of Dark Matter, the first in a series of anthologies of speculative fiction. What I would like to see is more of this type of writing in differentformats. I think it’s a shame that the work of Octavia Butler was neveradapted to film. There is a potential here to introduce people who are fans of science fiction to new concepts and delve into areas untapped by what is currently out there. District 9 was one of the better science fiction films of last year, and it came from outside theover-franchised Hollywood factory. In the era of Youtube and all the short films that come from it, there is no reason this can’t happen. Aslong as we don’t get another Homeboys in Outer Space, we will do just fine.

 

Marc W. Polite

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