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Holographic Microscopy...

Figure

FIG. 1. (a) Schematic of an inline digital holographic microscope. In a typical setup, a collimated laser (light red) illuminates a sample, which scatters light (dark red wavefronts). The transmitted and scattered light passes through an objective and tube lens, which focuses the light onto a digital camera. (b) A hologram of a polystyrene particle obtained from an inline holographic microscope.

Topics: Holography, Optical Physics, Microscopy, Modern Physics

In the past few years, the venerable field of holographic microscopy has been revitalized by computational data analysis. It is now possible to fit a generative (forward) model of scattering directly to experimentally obtained holograms of complex microscopic objects. This approach enables precision measurements: it allows the motion of colloidal particles and biological organisms to be tracked with nanometer-scale precision and their optical properties to be inferred particle by particle. In this Perspective, we discuss how the model-based inference approach to holographic microscopy has opened up new applications. We also discuss how it must evolve to meet the needs of emerging applications that demand lower systematic uncertainties and higher precision. In this context, we present some new results on how modeling the optical train of the microscope can enable better measurements of the positions of spherical and nonspherical colloidal particles. Finally, we discuss how machine learning might play a role in future advances. Though we do not exhaustively catalog all the developments in this field, we show a few examples and some new results that spotlight open questions and opportunities.

 

Precise measurements in digital holographic microscopy by modeling the optical train, Ronald Alexander, Brian Leahy, Vinothan N. Manoharan, Journal of Applied Physics

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StarJacker's Pride by Gerrence George

Submitted for approval for the Black Science Fiction Society:

 

 

  I take a shot of cheap bourbon and push the ships accelerator lever forward, causing my Class 1 Freighter "Francine" to moan and rattle in protest. The ships know it all AI shines a bright red holographic "WARNING" light across my face, sending a hot flash of pain through my head. Friend of mine used to say that buying cheap liquor was a waste of time cuz you still end up paying for it the morning after anyway. I pour myself another glass out of spite, even though I know the dead bastard is right. He was right up to the point where he caught a laser blast to the chest for drawing down on a faster gun who had insulted his ship. Can’t say I blame his reaction. Some things you just don’t say to a man who’s partial to his spacecraft. The searing red blinking light gets to be too much so I swipe the warning halo message away a little too fast and drop my glass on the hard metal floor of the cockpit, sending it into a thousand pieces. I string together a series of curse words then decide to chug straight from the damn bottle instead. Who’s got time for class anyway?

  As if the strain on the accelerator drive wasn't enough, bright flashes of orange light pepper the edges of my view screen, and the cockpit shakes more violently than before. I clench my jaw to keep my teeth from rattlin out of my head. Laser blasts bounce off my weakened shields from behind. Damn! They caught up to me! Just what I need, Pirates trying to cut me down. They got the nerve to be pissed at me for stealing the minerals they stole in the first place!? Name of the game I say. The next series of blasts that smash against my hull tell me they might not share that opinion. Doesn't matter. Their ships are quick but my babygirl Francine bigger and tougher. Her guns went dry a standard half hour ago, but that's okay too. Dumb ass'd pirates messed up when they let me get too close to the jump gate. A fresh round of flashes and shakes knocks me off my seat in front of the control console. I hit the floor hard and my knees and back burn with a hot flood of agony. Shards from the broken glass slice into my right hand and arm as I land. I yell out with a big grin on my grizzled face as I think back to another saying my brother had.

  "A good jolt of pain'll do ya better than whole damn pot of coffee!" I say it out loud to no one in particular, then steady myself on the edge of the control console.

  "Shields at thirty two percent. Hey could be worse. They could be at thirty one!" The ship AI says in a soothing, chipper female voice.

   "I thought I turned the damn personality settings off." I mumble and try to ignore my aching bones as I climb my old worn out body back into the seat. Just gotta make it to the gate. Don't even bother trying to maneuver. These damn cheap ass after market replacement bio-arms aren't as quick as they need to be on the controls, no matter how hard I will em to be so. Hell, they're even two shades lighter then the rest of me! The cut from the glass has my right had bleeding all over the place. Silver-blue colored liquid seeps from my bio-arm and finds it’s way between the crevices of the main consoles rusted metal. None of that matters though. Just need to keep burning the thrusters. The shields will hold.

  After a few seconds I see a tiny ring in the distance that don't look big enough to fit on my pinky. Hard to believe it’sas big around as all of Old Earth. I press the ship harder. Every warning indicator she has, and one Ididn't even know she had, flashes to life. The engine is overheating, along with central computer. It's working too hard. Doesn't matter. I got the gate in my sights. On the other side is my employer and adozen warships that'll make these pirates piss their pants just before they tuck tail and turn back for the shithole asteroid cluster they came from. In the meantime though, Francine keeps takin a pummeling.

  "I know it hurts baby, but get us through that gate and Daddy's gonna give you a complete systemoverhaul. Promise, just you wait and see." I say to the center console. Starting to get messages about fires starting up in the lower decks and the decreasing of the shields. No problem. She's taken worse punishment and the ore shipment is in a secure nuclear grade container. All that matters is the gate is minutes away. I tip the burbon back and drain the bottle as a fresh round of lasers hits my baby from the left side. Red smoke, colored by the warning lights, begins to seep into the cockpit. I smash the bottle off the side wall and laugh my ass off until the smoke cuts off the laughter and replaces it with a cough.

  "Guess what?! We're four minutes from the jump gate! Wanna know the actual odds of us making it there alive, or would you prefer an optimistic lie?!” The ships AI blared me through the ships speakers.

  "Personality settings off!" I yell out, as I reach under the console and yank out a cluster of wires. As the happy voice fades I look up out the main view window, and see it. From my perspective the gate looks to be a bit bigger around, but its still just a small circle engulfed in a sea of stars. Be there in less than two minutes, tops. As strap into my chairs over the shoulder safely harnesses and grab the controls with both hands I notice that they're trembling. No drug in the Galaxy better than this. The gate grows bigger as it approaches. The pirates have time for one more volley of fire. If it doesn't end me, I'm home free, if not, I'm even more free. HA! This is it baby! The life of a Jacker. Nuthin better. Fortune and glory behind one door and certain death behind the other. Which ever happens might as well be decided by the flip of a coin. Not the life to live if you've got to an ounce of sense in your brain,and I wouldn't have it any other way!

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Dave's Special

 
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Flash Fiction by Thaddeus Howze
500 Words
 
"Are you going to eat that? I'm starving." The voice, like caged thunder, rumbled as Harold held his head in his hands.
 
"Knock yourself out."
 
A pair of twisted tentacles composed of degenerate exotic matter reached across the dimensional divide and hefted the Dave's Special. Surprised by the effort necessary, one tentacle removed the lumpy Kaiser roll to peer into the confines within; heaped with fixings, sporting an array of meats, sauces, twisted slab bacon, with tiny poppy seeds scattered across the top.
 
Amen-mat, with his one enormous eye, grew dizzy staring at the huge sandwich. It took several tugs to drag it across the dimensional boundary into his four-dimensional space. Between bouts of enthusiastic chewing, Amen asked "What's wrong, old man?"
 
Harold sat up. "I can't pay the rent." The corner he was looking into was filled with newspapers. Harold was a hoarder. No, not the kind that lives with fifty cats. He was worse than that. Harold was the neat and reasonable kind. Piles, organized with tabs, dates, and locations; a clean and functional chaos. Yet it still disturbed people when they came to see him. After a while they just stopped.
 
It left more time for him to focus on his conflict with Amen-mat, inter-dimensional invader and game aficionado. The two moved through the apartment engaged in multiple forms of warfare across the centuries; chess, Go, Parcheesi, backgammon and Mastermind. No game was too small or strange. Alone for decades, a shut-in, Harold played chess alone until Amen-mat, during an invasion to subjugate the Earth, manifested in his loft to play chess.
 
"We talked about this a few years ago," Amen offered.
 
"No. I am not coming to live with you."
 
"Why not? You'd have an entire dimension to yourself."
 
"Because I know what you are."
 
"A soul-devouring monster feasting on Human greed and suffering."
 
"Yes. There's that."
 
"That's not the deal-breaker?"
 
"No. People who make deals with monsters get what they deserve."
 
"Then, what's the problem?"
 
"What about my stuff? What about Dave's? You don't have a Dave's there, do you?"
 
"No. And after eating that last one, I understand why you would be slow to leave. But I have an idea. Let's start moving your stuff." Harold twitched involuntarily as multiple tentacles appeared all over the room and began to size up the task.
 
"Don't worry, I won't change a thing. I promise." By the end of the day, the house was empty, walls scrubbed sporting a light lavender scent; security deposit reclaimed, Harold Turner moved out of his flat an into an entire dimension of his own, separate from Amen-Mat's.
 
Meanwhile, at Dave's, a corner light blows and can't be repaired. Sandwiches disappear. Minutes later, money appears to pay for the purloined hoagie. A pragmatic man, Dave never questions. The tentacle was, for all of its strangeness, a generous tipper.
 
On rainy evenings when business is slow, he occasionally hears the word 'checkmate', followed by free-rolling thunder which sounds suspiciously like laughter between old friends.
 
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WRITING PROMPT: HUMOUR/COMEDY
Your story must include a sandwich.
Your story cannot be longer than 500 words
Your story must include the following five words:
DIZZY, EXOTIC, LUMPY, TINY, TWISTED.
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Occam's Razor and Scorched Earth...

 

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

As Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which aims to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries.

At the time of the German parliamentary election, according to Rick Noak of The Washington Post:

In 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friend Schroeder hastily signed the deal just as he was departing the office from which he had been voted out days earlier. Within weeks, he started to oversee the project implementation himself, leading the Nord Stream AG’s shareholder committee.

Wikipedia: Gerhard_Schröder-Relationship_with_Gazprom_and_Rosneft

Occam’s razor, also spelled Ockham’s razor, also called law of economy or law of parsimony, principle stated by the Scholastic philosopher William of Ockham (1285–1347/49) that pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, “plurality should not be posited without necessity.” The principle gives precedence to simplicity: of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred. The principle is also expressed as “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” Source: Britannica online

Occam's razor: Orange Satan spoke two consecutive days to Grand Pooh-Bah Putin; 16 or more private conversations last year (in the current Coronavirus apocalypse, we'll refer to that as the "before times"). He's managed to without fail insult every [former] ally we've had since the end of the Second World War, but not even a nickname for Vlad the Impaler of democracies. What he says in those conversations that like his salary, we're paying is apparently none of our business. We can't see his grades, SAT scores, or his taxes. Al Capone wasn't too keen about the idea of revealing his taxes either, and that ultimately is what landed him in prison. A guy who had "Joey No Socks" at his New Year's bash after Pooh-Bah gifted him the 2016 election and planet is probably a crook. The producers and showrunners of "The Apprentice" was in on the joke, as well as most residents of New York City. He's not a businessman, except of the Keystone Cop variety, every decision is a pratfall and every pronouncement word salad. Case-in-point: you're reading this during a pandemic. His lack of talent in his 74 years of wasting oxygen and producing flatulence at wee tweet hours has been covered by white male privilege, his father, the Mafia, Russian money laundering, and republicans that never once believed their own shtick. Enter Bizarro Capone with a dead Propecia ferret on his head yelling manically "he can fix it."

The "empty vessel" model was introduced by Reagan: as he deteriorated, others like William Barr worked the marionette strings from the shadows as Ronnie "aw shucks" himself into B-movie legend. Mind you, "nature abhors a vacuum," but Donnie just "isn't there." He doesn't say "aw shucks": he might say "oh, fuck," or "oh, I'M fucked."

Nixon - Roger "rat fuck" Stone's back tattoo totem - was unscrupulous, but he was competent: Affirmative Action and the Environmental Protection Agency just two of his accomplishments, other than the whole Watergate Plumber's thing. Simultaneously insulting a landmark and a culture by saying "yo-Semite" ("yo-sim-e-T," idiot!) isn't the "stable genius" his twisted mind and cognitively dissonant followers believes himself to be.

EIGHT republican "patriot" senators were in Moscow on July 4, 2018, months before the midterms. That's strange for patriots (Tom Clancy is confused in the hereafter), especially on the nation's birthday. Probably totally innocent. Good luck with the 2nd Amendment, over there: it doesn't exist.

The Republican Party is shrinking. The Southern Strategy was great for Nixon in 1968, and cool for Reagan in the 80's nostalgic "Back to the Future" decade, when Lee Atwater resurrected the ghoulish grog in "welfare queens", "young bucks", and Willie Horton when Pappy ran in '88, which actually means something to white supremacists. 52 years into the future, any milk left on the shelf that long would be rancid, if not mummified.

So, what do you do when your shtick is shit, your base is melting by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and you just can't win legitimate elections anymore? Domestically, that takes the form of a faux war on faux voter fraud, voter purges and voter suppression of the groups that probably won't vote for endless tax cuts for the 1%, genteel racism and not-so-subtle sexism and homophobia. Internationally, you might "get a little help" from your Russian friends, and make sure they can still help.

Jill Stein, Gary "Aleppo" Johnson, and for God's sake, red hat KANYE are not going to BE president!

And, what if you lose and you don't accept it? A lunatic currently has the nuclear codes and twitchy Twitter fingers.

It's 87 days to the election (yesterday was 88).

It's 165 days to the inauguration of the NEXT president.

Tomorrow is after that.

 
 
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Quantum Dots and Diffusion...

QD tracking

Topics: Biology, Diffusion, Quantum Dots, Quantum Mechanics

Quantum dots diffuse within living cells in a nearly two-dimensional fashion. This result, which was obtained using a new 3D microscopy technique that can track single particles, sheds fresh light on intracellular diffusion – a process that is critical for moving molecules around the cell and for mediating other important activities. According to study leader Hui Li, a biophysicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and Beijing Normal University, the 2D motion he and his colleagues observed is robust and stems from the complex architectures of the flat “adherent” biological cells they studied.

Quantum dots make ideal probes for studying intracellular diffusion in living cells. They are similar in size to intracellular macromolecules and can be made to mimic biological materials relatively easily, by coating their surfaces with organic molecules. Previous studies, however, relied mainly on two-dimensional measurements of their movement, with the assumption that three-dimensional diffusion is an extension of 2D diffusion and is isotropic.</em>

Quantum dots track two-dimensional diffusion in cellsIsabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Blind Mice Seeing...

Figure

Topics: Bioengineering, Optical Physics, Nanorods, Nanotechnology

Even in the dark, rattlesnakes and their fellow pit vipers can strike accurately at small warm-blooded prey from a meter away. Those snakes, and a few others, can see in the IR—but not with their eyes. Rather, they have a pair of specialized sensory organs, called pit organs, located between their eyes and their nostrils and lined with nerve cells rich in temperature-sensitive proteins that cause the neurons to fire when heated.1 The pits work like pinhole cameras to focus incoming thermal radiation onto their heat-sensitive back walls; the thermal images are then superimposed with visual images in the snake’s brain.

Heat-responsive neurons are not unique to snakes. We have them over every inch of our skin, to feel objects warm to the touch, and on our tongues, to taste spicy food. But the snakes’ ability to resolve the source of radiated heat at a distance is unusual.

Inspired by the snakes, Dasha Nelidova and her colleagues at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology in Basel, Switzerland, are developing a new treatment for forms of blindness caused by the degeneration of retinal photoreceptors.2 Using gene therapy, they endow remaining retinal cells with thermoresponsive proteins, thereby compensating for their lost light sensitivity with heat sensitivity. The proteins by themselves aren’t sensitive enough to rival normal vision, so the researchers tether them to gold nanorods, as shown in figure 1. The 80-nm-long nanorods strongly absorb near-IR light at 915 nm and convey the concentrated heat to the attached proteins.

Near-IR nanosensors help blind mice see, Johanna L. Miller, Physics Today

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Gaming This Out...

Because of the recent changes in my previous platform, I am discontinuing https://www.physics4thecool.blogspot.com and continuing on WordPress and BSFS. What follows is the post I meant for Blogger. I will miss it.

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

The current first Tuesday of November came into law in the year 1845, when America was an agrarian society, and it took a day’s travel to get to one’s polling place to exercise the franchise. It was also 15 years before the Civil War that ripped the country apart pitting north against south, industrialists against plantation slavery owners. It was a time when my people were considered 3/5th of a person, and the conception of John Robert Lewis and Barack Hussein Obama never would have entered the mostly white male property owner's thinking.

Orange Satan doesn’t have the power to alter the date of the November 3rd election. His tweet came 16 minutes into the speech above. It was also minutes from the GDP dipping 32.9%, lower than it’s ever dipped in history. The Coronavirus has defied all happy talk, magical thinking and vindictive revenge porn, seeing the initial infection hot spots were in blue states. I probably would have wanted to talk about something else as well.

But, what if it’s something far more sinister entirely? He will sincerely try to steal or cast doubt in the election. He will use Russia, China, Iran; the Abominable Snowman, because “playing by the rules” is something his spoiled brat ass never had to do. He will behave like a cornered rat, he’ll do anything to survive, not excluding refusing to leave the Oval Office. We should have contingency plans for a protracted, dramatic, televised brawl: worthy of reality TV. He’s preparing to do what he does best: tie it up in court to wear down his opponents – the American people – to just quit. “Peaceful transition” means prison time for him, and until January 20, 2021, Mango Mussolini has the nuclear codes.

The hallmark of American Democracy was always the “peaceful transition of power.” This assumed everyone played by the same rules, abide by the same reality, and generally of good character, thinking of the country far above anything they could achieve for themselves. We’re obviously not there now. Orange Satan is the personification of fear: fear of the future and the inevitable change in demographics the passage of time brings. It was the core of right wing AM talk radio that evolved to the airwaves and a certain network owned by an Aussie and Saudi prince (so “American”), spewing nightly feces that amounts to mental propaganda and bullshit.

In yesterday’s final lauding of John Robert Lewis by three presidents that didn’t need foreign help and could actually string coherent sentences together, each took their subtle and not-so-subtle swipes at the current Manchurian Puppet. The Civil Rights Movement only looked at the founding documents of this republic, and asked the simple question: are we Americans? After 400 years, and serving this country in every war since Crispus Attucks first died for the American Revolution, the compound interest from “40 acres and a mule” is astronomical, but the wounds of daily racial hatred; the perpetual knee-on-neck of the body politic is exhausting. 400 years to George Floyd is literally, the “patience of Job” on steroids.

The United States is a democracy because of black people.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Now, that’s the “noble” part.

Peruse down a little further in the document: “He (ahem: King George of England) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” That part wasn’t covered in the Broadway Musical, “Hamilton.”

Reference: U.S. History: Declaration of Independence

Frederick Douglass said: “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” As Joy Reid of MSNBC eluded, we read it. We decided we wanted it. People like Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglass, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and John Robert Lewis struggled and died for it, and their progeny have decided we WANT it.

The United States is nominally a Christian nation because of black people.

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34

I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

We are the 400-year strangers and angels among you, that you hang, shoot, and strangle all day long.

We are either human or not. We are either fully Americans or not.

This is either a democracy, or it’s a modern American Bund.

Or:

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” John Robert Lewis, the Angel that was among us, New York Times

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Good, and Faithful Servant...

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Image Credit: New York Times

 

Topics: Civil Rights, Human Rights, John Robert Lewis

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world, you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
 

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland, and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters, and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up, and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

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Perseverance...

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Image Source: NASA.gov

Topics: Mars, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

After years of anticipation, NASA hopes to launch its latest robotic explorer, Perseverance, to Mars on Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 A.M. EDT. Set to depart Earth atop an Atlas V-541 rocket from historic Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the ambitious rover is the latest in a long lineage of rolling robotic explorers that NASA has sent to the Red Planet.

If Mars 2020 is not able to blast off during its two-hour launch window tomorrow morning — due to hazardous weather or unforeseen technical issues — the space agency will have just two more weeks to get it done. That’s because after August 15, Mars and Earth will no longer be aligned in a way that allows for quick interplanetary travel, meaning NASA would have to store the rover for two years until the next favorable alignment.

“We have four objectives,” Ken Williford, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, told Astronomy earlier this year. “The first three are really our core science objectives. And the fourth is … preparing for human exploration.”

Perseverance’s science objects are: seeking out sites that were potentially habitable in the past, looking for signs of ancient microbes within rocks known to preserve life, and collecting and storing promising rock samples for a future return mission.

Mars 2020 Launch: NASA's Perseverance Rover Ready for Journey to the Red Planet, Jake Parks, Discovery Magazine

NASA: Perseverance

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Quantum Phase Battery...

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The first quantum phase battery, consisting of an indium arsenide (InAs) nanowire in contact with aluminium superconducting leads. (Courtesy: Andrea Iorio)

 

Topics: Battery, Cooper Pairs, Materials Science, Quantum Mechanics, Superconductivity

Researchers in Spain and Italy have constructed the first-ever quantum phase battery – a device that maintains a phase difference between two points in a superconducting circuit. The battery, which consists of an indium arsenide (InAs) nanowire in contact with aluminium (Al) superconducting leads, could be used in quantum computing circuits. It might also find applications in magnetometry and highly sensitive detectors based on superconductors.

In a classical battery (also known as the Volta pile), chemical energy is converted into a voltage difference. The resulting current flow can then be used to power electronic circuits. In quantum circuits and devices based on superconducting materials, however, current may flow without an applied external voltage, thus dispensing with the need for a classical battery.

The concept of a quantum phase battery was studied theoretically in 2015 by Sebastián Bergeret of the Material Physics Center (CFM-CSIC) and Ilya Tokatly at the University of the Basque Country in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain. Their battery design comprised a combination of superconducting and magnetic materials and was based on a Josephson junction – a non-superconducting region through which the Cooper pairs responsible for superconductivity can tunnel. This semiconducting “weak link” provides a persistent phase difference between the superconductors in the circuit, similar to the way that a classical battery provides a persistent voltage drop in an electronic circuit. Thanks to this phase difference, a superconducting current (that is, a current with zero dissipation) flows when the junction is embedded in the superconducting circuit.

Physicists create quantum phase battery, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Splashdowns and Pandemics...

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"Good Trouble"... The Griot Poet, image source Smithsonian Magazine

 

Topics: Civil Rights, International Space Station, John Robert Lewis, NASA, STEM

This will be the first splashdown that's occurred in a while, but particularly during a global pandemic and the internment of a legend. It was germane during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The Space Shuttle brought to mind the CGI and FX ease of take offs and landings in Science Fiction movies, regardless of genre: somehow massive spaceships can magically levitate, and "ease" into orbit without accelerating to escape velocity in a planet's gravity well.

Today, we're laying to rest a civil rights icon, John Robert Lewis. He was BLM before the Internet and hashtag. He was notorious for getting in "good trouble," leading a sit-in on the House floor - breaking rules for twenty children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook, for what he and Dr. King called "The Beloved Community." Like moonshots, that was "conspiracy theorized" away, callously, but revelatory of how depraved this republic was before this current moment. Hopefully, the citizens of Alabama will rename the bridge currently carrying the name of a confederate traitor and Klan grand dragon in HIS distinct honor.

During splashdowns and pandemics: I can dream.

 

*****

NASA will provide live coverage of activities leading up to, during, and following the return of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with the agency’s astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from the International Space Station.

The duo arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 1, for undocking of the Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft from the space station and 2:42 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, for splashdown, which will be the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

Coverage on NASA TV and the agency’s website will begin at 9:10 a.m., Aug. 1, with a short farewell ceremony on station and resume at 5:15 p.m., with departure preparations through splashdown and recovery at one of seven targeted water landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.

All media participation in news conferences and interviews will be remote; no media will be accommodated at any NASA site due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To participate in the briefings by phone or to request a remote interview with the crew members, reporters must contact the newsroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston at 281-483-5111 no later than two hours prior to each event.

NASA to Provide Coverage of Astronauts’ Return from Space Station on SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight

#P4TC link: Dragons and Dystopias...

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The Domestication of the Other

Speculative Flash Fiction By Thaddeus Howze
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Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that…you are free. — Jim Morrison
 
She comes. Today is the day.
 
We will avenge our kin.
 
The morning fog lay over the forest, deadening all sounds even to ears such as his. But he was not using his ears today. Today, her scent told him she was coming. She smelled of her hearth, smoky and bitter, the smell of rushes clung to her feet. The clay dyes, used to color her cloak made her smell of the earth, cool and hard. She has had her winter bath. Water is hard to come by for the two legs, so they bathe sparingly.
 
We are grateful for this. We are able to recognize them long before they can see us.
 
It hasn’t helped us to survive.
 
When she entered the clearing she stopped. Her leather boots squished in the mud and her cloak was pulled over her head. It protected her from the torrent. She stood still and looked into the forest ahead of her. They waited for her. The last two. He told her they would be there. He went into the forest and did not return. He told her he would not. It was time for her to be on her own.
 
“I know you’re there. Come out.”
 
Why would we do that? We have eaten her father. We can just wait.
 
Why should we wait. I think we should devour her now. Her clan has all but killed ours. We can end this today.
 
You don’t understand.
 
What is there to understand? We killed her father. I thought it would be harder. You can wait if you like. I can wait no longer.
 
The large grey wolfen strode forth from the forest, twelve hands at the shoulder. He towered over the child.
 
“I am here. I am your Death child. Why did you call me forth? Do you plan to beg for your life?”
 
“Did my father?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“You lie. He would never beg for his life. You did not know him.”
 
How could she know?
 
“You are not from here. Your look, your color, your scent says you are from far away. You do not know my family at all.”
 
“You are but Men, the Other. Namers of beasts, growers of grass, makers of fire. Of the three, only the making of fire impresses me.”
 
The child looked at the wolfen, stared deeply into its eyes.
 
Why am I so afraid of her? What does she know that she can look at me and I quiver in fear? I have nothing to fear. I will consume her. NOW!
 
“So why don’t you? You’re thinking you should eat me now. I am just a little girl, after all?”
 
The wolfen hesitated. He bared his fangs but it was the baring of indecision not conquest, not domination. It was just shy of fear and submission.
 
“My father killed one hundred of your kind by the time he was twelve years old. Unlike your kind, we grow weaker with age. When he came to you today, he was relinquishing his power to me. In my current state, I could kill a thousand of you as easily as I breathe. I am only nine years old.”
 
It isn’t possible. It defies all that I know to be true. Age is power. Size is strength. The sharpest fang tears the deepest wound. She has none of those things.
 
“I will tell you one more thing. Then you leave or join me. Any other decision is death for you.”
 
“Look up.” The storm had subsided and the sky cleared showing the last stars before sunrise. “See that star right there. The dim one. My family and all like me came from that world. We were the last survivors of a world poisoned by our greed and filth. We were forced to change ourselves to survive there. Then we learned how to travel from our world to yours. But your people were stronger than mine then. We were forced to change ourselves one last time. Now your world will belong to us. The question is, will you be allies or blankets on cold nights.”
 
The wolfen bristled. His fur rose, spiky, hard as steel, he bared his fangs, his decision made. He never saw her move.
 
“Blanket.”
 
The cooling body of the wolfen lay at her feet. Wiping her hands on her blood red cloak, she approached the second wolfen who was too paralyzed to move.
 
No other words were spoken. She handed him a meatpie from her basket. He bent low allowing her to climb on. They would make better time to the next town.
 
Domestication of the Other © Thaddeus Howze, 2013; All Rights Reserved
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An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Surreal Flash Fiction by Thaddeus Howze

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Imagine a modern Universe, with an unremarkable galaxy, where we will highlight a, just under a meaningful-sized, sun. It's an insignificant thing just larger than the average dwarf star. If you blinked you might have flown right by it. There are eight or nine significant bodies in a tangential orbits, where one or two of those objects develops a rudimentary slime-biome which will, in millions of solar years have, said near-organic slime, develop life.
 
One of those planets loses its precious bio-slime and soon goes quiet. No rotating core. No radiation belt. Soon, no life. The other, warmer, brighter, it's nascent slime reaches higher, toward the light of the sun. Suddenly, the sky darkens, hot winds whip across the surface of the planet, the greatest sound ever heard included the fracture of the crust across the entire planet creating the most transformative moments ever.
 
Whoops. I mentioned the potential for life but I guess I was premature. Slime 1.0 is no more. What happened? There was some life forming and then out of nowhere, another planet rips into the third rock from the sun and all life on this budding planetoid was snuffed out.
 
Back to the drawing board.
 
When the third rock cooled and stabilized, the planet had a new moon and a few million cycles later, life restablished itself. Don't ask me how it happened. I am just an Idea waiting for his time to come.
 
We will admit when Slime 2.0 happened again, millions of cycles had passed again and the overall interest in this part of the galaxy was at an all time low. It was a general consensus that Slime 2.0 was as boring as its predecessor.
 
One fateful day, this primordial slime eventually realizes even it is bored with how long it has existed as slime. It strains and does something new. This explosion of new is unheard of in the slime's estimation having been the only significant life on the planet. But, the slime isn't saddened by the company. For the first time in existence it wasn't talking to itself.
 
Super-fecund Life Planet will enter, for the next few billion cycles a boom and bust, sometimes lots of life, other times barely two flash-frozen amoeba to rub together. But as we learned after a runaway planet rammed into the Earth, Life is a persistent infection.
 
I can feel my time drawing near.
 
The life on this planet continues to evolve and when another asteroid collides with the Earth, (that's what the inhabitants will call it one day) I knew I could happen at any time. I watched as those dullards who spent three hundred million years grazing and eating each other vanished overnight and what replaced them wasn't very impressive. At first. But as they grew, I knew there was possibility I could exist if the conditions were just right.
 
And they were. From shrew-like organisms, life exploded again and new life replace the old. Filling in every biome, something was born to fill it. Some existed in harmony, delicately transforming the living to the dead and back to the living in a breathless hum of existence, an explosion of exuberant life. No matter how long I waited I knew I would exist. There would be a need for me. Something my progenitors will have known would be transformative. Something they couldn't live without, a thing thought capable of binding the Universe, itself, in a time of need.
 
I fell in with the flow of Life waiting until I saw my moment. There was a long period of nothing until a small hominid stood up and looked skyward. It reaches for the stars. Enjoying the view, she strides upright, into the future. I could feel her primitive mind scouring Logos for an idea. She chooses a stick instead.
 
So close.
 
I salute the stick and zoom onward into the noosphere. Many other ideas soon start flowing and the realm of Logos is alive with Platonic fire, hurtling Earthward, jumping to a group of primitives discovering Fire, as it rode a lightning bolt to a tree and straight into the mind of a curious onlooker.
 
Fire was such a glory hound. A dynamic entrance, a positive, immediate, life-altering effect, and they were in love with it immediately. Worse, Fire would bring a whole lot of new ideas with it. This species would use Fire for everything. Can it burn? Can you cook it? Can you eat it if you cook it? Will it taste good? How good will it taste? When in doubt burn something and you will learn something.
 
Fire was going to be a superstar. Fire would get all the best questions and ideas for the next 20,000 years.
 
But I could feel it, deep within my metaphorical bones, I would never be related to any idea which had fire in it. Don't ask me how I know.
 
Fire was a destroyer.
 
I was a binder, a fixer of things, I was a way to bring something back to life for a time. I was a maker and Fire and I would never see Idea to Idea. The march of time continues, and I can feel my moment coming. It is clear to me now. I can see myself coming into form, my Platonic shape slowly congealing in the empyrean mists.
 
I am round. A platonic ideal. Several have come close to me. They wrap me around cables, strips of strong cloth, clumsily attempting to bring me to life. They were busy men and it was a hard time. Frustrated, I watch them clumsily try and bring me to life. I scream from the Aether, louder than I ever have before.
 
It would be another thirty years. Yelling didn't help. It was maddening after waiting all these years to watch them fumbling around. In 1925 as they reckon time, I can see my next dimension. My countdown timer is finally activated. A confirmation of my long held belief. I have watched so many other ideas come to fruition, I never thought I would see my own. I had gotten used to watching new ideas go into the world.
 
The Renaissance lit the sky above Logos day and night, a fireworks show of possibility. Today, Jazz is everywhere, so new, so varied, a new form was born every night. I see my birthplace. I thought it would be, I don't know, more momentous. I had hoped my arrival would be in a laboratory by a scientist on the edge of greatness. Instead, my place of birth is dark. Dirty. I can feel the danger in every breath. An ammunition factory. A woman working in the war effort.
 
A woman sees ammunition boxes that once closed, take too long to open. She tells her boss. Her invention will save lives. He laughs. Goes back to smoking. I can see the countdown timer saying at any second I could be born. But she can't figure out how to realize me. Not the kind of woman to accept no, she sends a letter to the War Department.
 
To the President. Roosevelt.
 
I was born through effrontery, through an unquenchable desire to protect and yet to serve.
 
I exist, roughly hewn, a nascent aspect of my Platonic ideal. From this moment onward, my creator's vision transformed the world. I knew I would be big.
 
It was so long in coming, I knew I could improve the lives of humble people everywhere. Plumbers prayers could be answered by my judicious application. Mechanics repaired things with the understanding constant vigilance would be required.
 
I would be used in planes, trains, automobiles, homes, kitchens, basements. I would become clothing. Car doors. Hammocks. Battlefield stretchers. I would be used in war and peace.
 
I've heard it said, I have been used to hold the hinges on the doors of Hell, and the halos to the heads of currently slumming and possibly falling angels.
 
Everyone knows me. Everyone uses me, I like to think they love me. I'm no Fire, but when you have a broken tool, She can't help you. I can.
 
I watch humanity as they ascend into space. Watching from within the world, no longer a Platonic ideal, now a reality, refined, expanded, casually utilitarian; I was made manifest more than a century ago, in a factory, packing ammunition. Now, I hold together part of an computer motherboard mounted inside of a ship headed to the stars minus a necessary screw. There are other places on the ship as well, but it might undermine your trust in the space program.
 
I have been likened to a fundamental force, used to hold everything together. No matter where you live, I am there. I hold all that we know and love together, and a whole lot of things we aren't nearly as fond of but need just the same.
 
I waited a long time to be here. I'm glad you love me. I am Duct Tape and I was an idea whose time had finally come.
 
No. I'm not as beloved as Fire, but even her sweet flames took a back seat to an idea who came just a few years after I got here.
 
They called it the Manhattan Project.
 
Fire is still pissed.
 
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The Bone Fairy

Fantasy Horror Flash Fiction By Thaddeus Howze

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"You have to leave him." The matter of fact tone left nothing to the imagination. It wasn't a command, but it wasn't a request. It had all the finality of the grave.

The captain's black eyes gave no quarter among the remnant of twenty men, of which only five remained. If it meant all of their lives, this mission would be done.

He touched the small box for the hundredth time, again hidden inside his armor, an object worth more than all of their lives, twice. Its dark radiance burned into his chest and a phlegm-filled cough followed as he thought about it.

"But sir," Lon began, "he can still walk." The farm boy staggered a bit under his bigger companion's weight but he wanted to make a case which seemed reasonable.

Alirr, the giant of this group held up the other side of Sdi, the Quick, two of his best warriors saddled with the dead weight of a third.

"Captain. I understand. I would only endanger the mission. I will do my best to hold out here until you can secure passage," Sdi responded cuffing his friends in the process.

They knew they could not stay with him. The two eased him down next to an ironwood tree, a fortune behind his head, if he could survive to get it to the border of the forest. Without an army of men, nothing ever does. The Denetheian Forest, a place of mystery, despair and disappearances. Few who ever entered it, leave.

It was only the desperation of men with nothing but legend to fall upon, came to seek, her. Tylwyth Teg Esgyrn, in the old tongue, fools who lived on the edge of this dire wood, called her the Bone Fairy.

A being so fell, it is claimed to have destroyed an entire army which sought to claim this forest for their own. A fortune in ironwood, they would the most formidable armor and weapons anywhere.

They marched upon the forest, or so the legends went, with pomp and pageantry. The former kingdom of Deneth, for which this forest gained its name, and reputation. The elves and other creatures which lived in this forest became legends that night.

It was said by the few survivors, the battle between the Fey and Men was awe-inspiring, its like having been seen only a few times in recorded history. The Men who survived claimed they were within the reach of victory when their army began to fall.

It was a wind which swept through the ranks, and as it passed, armor rustled, weapons flickered and fell flat to the ground, surrounding skin and twitching organs, which spasmed pitifully, mewling like tortured beasts, before they bubbled and fell silent, moments later, rustling among the grass, until the twitching fell silent.

At first, the men didn't understand what they were seeing, the wind came from the trees, leaves rustling, a sudden burst of movement and wave after wave of the Human army fell, for all intents and purposes dead, boneless.

The army's morale broke in light of this unexpected magic, unlike anything they knew existed. They tried to flee. Only those who made it to the edge of the forest survived. Some were partially affected and lost limbs, with flesh that needed to be cut away, because the bones simply vanished as they were fleeing the forest.

Of ten thousand, less than two hundred returned home. As they fled, they were told to leave the valley and never return. Or the same thing would happen to everyone who remained in three days.

No Man has lived in this valley for a hundred years, and few dared to tread here except in the brightest of days with the boldest of Men. The lure of Ironwood was the one thing men would risk life and limb for. And often did.

Now with three men, The Captain Hathor was to return to this legendary slaughterhouse in search of this mythic horror.

As he turned back to his men setting up camp, he feels a cold wind coming from the direction they are headed. As he turns to his men, he watches them slump, flopping bonelessly to the ground, their moist gurgling their final warning.

Hathor turned back and saw it. A creature of bones and wings, twice the size of a man, a mouth filled with teeth who dreamed of being sharper teeth, the creature floated silently, whispering into and out of sight. Smaller lights fluttered around it.

One of the smaller lights flew to Hathor's face and it appeared to be a tiny woman with flickering wings. It would have been beautiful save its otherworldly aura, its sharp and toothy grin and the more horrifying and larger version which accompanied it.

A tiny voice rang out. "The Queen has accepted your tribute. Make your case and be quick about it, Human."

Reaching into his coat he pulls forth a black diamond, the size of a quail's egg. It shone with a nacreous inner light, and the smaller creatures shied away, vanishing into the forest.

"Are you this desperate you would try to geas me into service?"

"We are. We need your help, your terrible majesty." The captain squeezed the gem and he began to age, weaken and fell to his knees. "We would draft you into our service because what is coming is a thousand times worse than you. We would dare anything."

The Queen, flickered trying to escape the geas forming around her, its black tendrils holding on to her no matter where she shifted, no matter how hard she moved between worlds, the spell found her.

"Go west, your majesty. You will see it. You cannot help but. We geas you to help us, because when they are done with us, they will come for you."

The captain, now an old man, falls over, becoming dust as the spell, the magical compunction now delivered, the Queen had been bound and would go west, whether she wanted to or not.

She screamed, her howl heard across the forest. Then she considered the feast ahead as she sent her minions to blacken the sky before her. Wars were always such good eating.

The Bone Fairy © Thaddeus Howze, 2019

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The Leviathans of Brass

From the travelogue of Josephus Sumner

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High Fantasy By Thaddeus Howze
 
On the edge of Mahatmalaya, the greatest realm, the cynosure of the shadow worlds, the nexus of all there is, was, and ever will be, stand the Leviathans of Brass.
 
When Mahatmalaya was young there were many such realms like it. Each spinning off its own shadows, its hidden realities from which life developed at their own pace, with creatures whose capacities varied widely. Those who developed quickly and mastered fundamental forces learned they could move between shadow realms, laying claim to new territories, mastering new creatures and magics. But sometimes they vanished without a trace. Their armies, machines, beasts, warriors, swallowed whole.
 
Such realms were marked and given wide berth. In that fashion of great systems, each stabilized in its own way and as they did, some entire realms fell to the control of alliances, confederacies, coalitions or federations which plumbed the depths of their core reality until they discovered the unthinkable.
 
They were not alone in the Multiverse. Some went mad discovering there were realities beyond their own. Having mastered shadow travel, they thought nothing was beyond their reach. Laying claim to millions of realms, mastering thousands of species, using every kind of technology imaginable, they were still unable to breach the walls between Multiverses.
 
For many, this destroyed their core reality, the notion they were not at the center of all there is left them unable to understand how the Universe could be so cruel to them, to create them, allow them mastery of their Universe and then leave something beyond their reach.
 
For others, for those cool intellects, driven to know, hungering for their next conquest, they persevered. A million years pass. Two million. Their intensity was gifted with success. They breached the wall between Multiverses.
 
They poured their armies through the splinters of Reality, great powers attempting to reshape the very stuff of this new place they found themselves in.
 
They blackened the skies with their machines, in numbers beyond counting they entered Mahatmalaya. To discover the Leviathans in waiting. Bound to this singular location, a place where the wall between Universes was weakest, the Leviathans were placed in expectation of visitors.
 
For you see, Mahatma was the greatest scientist/mystic of his era. He had pierced the wall between Multiverses millennia ago. His spiritual travels revealed the dangers, the fear, the greed beyond his own dimension and armed with this knowledge created these doomsday machines for just this purpose.
 
To deter visitors. To prevent unwanted invasion. To maintain the peace of Mahatma's realm. His Leviathans were his greatest and last creation.
 
Standing ten thousand meters high, powered by demonic magics, bound djinn, elementals whose energies were akin to stars drove these living machines, who wandered this region of the realm, engaged in intellectual debate, sending pieces of themselves across the Universe ever in exploration and study.
 
Waiting for the day such a visitation feared by their Maker would arrive. Formed of Brass from the Realm of Dis, hard as adamant, capable of holding in and protecting the powerful spirits contained within, each Leviathan held a space within it, an entire world-engine, a bound star whose powers would never die.
 
That day has come. The Leviathans continue their communing with one another as they destroy the nigh limitless invaders, lighting the skies with lightning chains whose thunder was heard in other nearby shadow realms, altering reality, transforming their ships into hunks of lead, which plummet lifelessly to the ground.
 
Their assault was the greatest thing the Leviathans had ever experienced. It was what they were designed for. They never knew it would be so glorious.
 
And so brief. A thousand years later, the Invaders ceased. Their great armies depleted, their war machine drained of vitality, entire worlds wrung dry of life, and the Leviathans stood unmarred, unbroken. Still engaged in philosophical debate as they deconstructed the alien ships, absorbed their crews into themselves, marveling at the psychoses of their new components, re-arming themselves in expectation of new visitation.
 
With their purpose revealed, with their explorations of Mahatma continuing, they realized the value of what they protected. They deemed it precious.
 
Worthy of being protected. There was debate, every century or so, as to consider the one thing Mahatma forbid. Whether they should resolve the threat of enemy visitation by traveling to other Multiverses, first.
 
They ponder it for a century or two, and decide if Mahatma had wanted this, he would have done it himself. It was not their place to go against his final wishes.
 
Resolved, for a time, the Leviathans conversed with a new visitor, someone from Mahatma whose aura was much like the Maker's. They hoped for something unexpected to discuss in the lull between visitors.
 
-- An excerpt from the Travelogue of Josephus Sumner, after a conversation with the Leviathans of Brass.
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