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A BFD...

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This one map shows the mounting tensions between NATO and Russia, Jeremy Bender, Business Insider, July 7, 2016

Topics: Existentialism, Fascism, Politics

I have been working on my dissertation, so I have understandably been missing from blogging. Now, I don't know if I will be able to give my final defense. One needs a functional planet for that.

Information bubbles are a big problem here in America. People sink themselves into warm, soothing cocoons of agreeable media and opinions until they lose touch with reality. It’s how we end up with stuff like Republicans admiring Vladimir Putin more than President Joe Biden.

Now imagine you took somebody who lived in such a bubble and gave them control of the world’s largest country by landmass and all of the vast natural resources that came with it, along with an enormous army. Oh, and also nuclear weapons. So many nuclear weapons. Do this, and you get the aforementioned Putin, whom Andreas Kluth describes as someone who not only lives in a bubble, but also has the power to reinforce it with quivering toadies attesting to the reality in Putin’s brain, that he is a stable genius with history, public opinion and international law on his side, and also a snappy dresser and the best at judo.

Putin’s Secret Weapon Is a Bubble Made of Toadies, Oil, and Nukes, Mark Gongloff, Bloomberg Opinion

Abstract

This paper presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon.

Psychodiagnostically relevant data regarding Putin were extracted from open-source intelligence and synthesized into a personality profile using the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM-IV.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Putin’s primary personality patterns were found to be Dominant/controlling (a measure of aggression or hostility), Ambitious/self-serving (a measure of narcissism), and Conscientious/dutiful, with secondary Retiring/reserved (introverted) and Dauntless/adventurous (risk-taking) tendencies and lesser Distrusting/suspicious features. The blend of primary patterns in Putin’s profile constitutes a composite personality type aptly described as an "expansionist hostile enforcer."

Dominant individuals enjoy the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect; they are tough and unsentimental and often make effective leaders. This personality pattern defines the “hostile” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Ambitious individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and often act as though entitled. This personality pattern delineates the “expansionist” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Conscientious individuals are dutiful and diligent, with a strong work ethic and careful attention to detail; they are adept at crafting public policy but often lack the retail political skills required to consummate their policy objectives and are more technocratic than visionary. This personality pattern fashions the “enforcer” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Retiring (introverted) individuals tend not to develop strong ties to others, are somewhat deficient in the ability to recognize the needs or feelings of others, and may lack spontaneity and interpersonal vitality.

Dauntless individuals are adventurous, individualistic, daring personalities resistant to deterrence and inclined to take calculated risks.

Putin’s major personality-based strengths in a political role are his commanding demeanor and confident assertiveness. His major personality-based shortcomings are his uncompromising intransigence, lack of empathy and congeniality, and cognitive inflexibility.

The Political Personality of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, Aubrey Immelman, and Joseph V. Trenzeluk, Department of Psychology, Saint John's University

At a joint German-Russian cabinet meeting in Siberia in 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel unsuccessfully tried to persuade President Vladimir Putin that cabinet ministers should be treated with respect rather than contempt. Resentment is the emotion for superiors while anger is reserved for equals. But contempt is the emotion reserved for those we regard as inferiors.

Now, Putin’s contempt for others is spreading far beyond his cabinet to include the entire western leadership, from Cameron to Obama. Putin’s personality and thinking have become grossly distorted by the effects of enormous, largely unfettered power on his brain. Since then, Putin has invaded Crimea and engineered the swift dissolution of a country.

Interpreting political behavior in psychological terms is always a risk: Ukraine’s ethnic balance is a fragile one and there is the scent of possible Crimean oil reserves as a juicy incentive for Putin’s political adventurism. But perhaps most politically useful of all is the whipped-up nationalist fervor to bolster Putin’s hold over a decaying Russian economy with its aging workforce and corrupt institutions.

But, after 15 years in power, psychological factors have to be taken into consideration in analyzing Putin’s actions and, more importantly, in deciding how to respond to them. And contempt must be considered as one of the most important elements of his psychology. It is not only contempt for what he almost regards as weak—and, possibly in his macho world view, effeminate—Western leaders. More important is his contempt for their institutions such as international treaties and laws.

The Danger That Lurks Inside Vladimir Putin's Brain: Contempt is key to Putin's troubling psychological profile. Ian H. Robertson Ph.D., Psychology Today

In this country, we have an entire party, and Reich Wing echo chamber "rooting for Putin." If anything, this lack of patriotism doesn't "flatter" him: he would regard them with contempt.

If you're NOT willing to fight for your country, and its ideals, let's replay "Red Dawn," with Patrick Swayze not fighting for the Wolverines, but with the Russians.

Or, more close to home: maybe these Confederate and Nazi flag-carrying "patriots" instead of fighting for the homefront, join the Warsaw Pact as they roll over the Ottawa border into the United States? Hey, a white Russian country is coming to save white supremacy? Who gives a damn about a Constitution, the "rule of law," or democracy? Why would Putin bother keeping such traitors ALIVE?

Here's a formula for starting World War III:

1. Install a useful idiot in a contested election (America, 2016 - 2020, they tried in France, and the UK, maybe).

2. Get everyone in the country tired of the complexities of citizenship, and democracy (just leave me alone, and let me stream Netflix).

3. Put undesirables like ethnic minorities, LGBT, activists, and artists on "kill lists" (so NOT like Adolf Hitler, and the Nazis, o_9). White evangelicals should hereby be called "evilgelicals" for supporting a psychopath (they've had practice in America with Orange Satan).

4. Threaten the world with nuclear weapons, and Armageddon.

5. Run the world, or, what's LEFT of it, like Dr. Evil.

Biden said the incident occurred while he was touring Putin’s office in the Kremlin.

“I had an interpreter, and when he was showing me his office I said, ‘It’s amazing what capitalism will do, won’t it? A magnificent office!’ And he laughed. As I turned, I was this close to him,” Biden said, signaling that the two leaders were standing just inches apart. “I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’”

“And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’” Biden said. “This is who this guy is!”

Biden to Putin: I don't think 'you have a soul', Justin Sink, The Hill

By extension and relation, I'm not sure the American Reich has a soul.

Ukraine had a Russian puppet put in place by Paul Manafort, who mysteriously worked pro bono as campaign manager for Dumbo Gambino, voted out by the people of Ukraine in 2014. Putin has a new puppet ready to go once he kills all on his list.

Ukraine came into focus over the "perfect phone call" that led to the first of two impeachments, the second for an insurrection by our former head of state.

Ukraine has vast mineral wealth: "manganese, bituminous and anthracite coal used for coke"; "titanium ore, bauxite, nepheline (a source of soda), alunite (a source of potash), and mercury (cinnabar, or mercuric sulfide) ores." Source: Britinnica.com. China controls over sixty percent of lithium and nickel refining (you need that for those "Green New Deal" car batteries). Wars over resources are as old as human civilization. Expect the cyber warfare in Ukraine to extend to Europe, and other countries, like America.

"This is the way the world ends.

"This is the way the world ends.

"This is the way the world ends."

The stanza is from TS Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men." The traditional ending is "not with a bang, but a whimper."

The bangs (plural) may precede the whimpers, screams, gnashing of teeth, and the eternal silence of extinction.

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Happy New Year!
 
I hope all is well!
 
As you all know, the past 2 years have been tumultuous.
So much so that we are behind one whole year w/ our Glyph Comic Awards (GCA).
The 2021 GCA Winners have only just been announced this year.
However, we are still missing our GCA Fan Award, which is a public voting for one's favorite comic book (2021).
 
I am not sure whether we have been locked out of the voting per se, but I am reaching out to you to ask that you send us your Fan Award nominee for 2021.
 
FYI - 100 Comic Fans are being asked to send a nominee.
 
This is time-sensitive (Deadline: Monday, Feb. 21st / 5p.m.), and we will make some allowances.
 
NO STRESS
Thank YOU!
 
YUMY ODOM
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Things We've Lost...

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At CERN in 1973, John Bell (left), who was working there at the time, interacts with Martinus Veltman (right), who was then a professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Since early 2020, COVID-19 has hindered physicists’ ability to travel and discuss physics in person. (Courtesy of CERN.)

Topics: COVID-19, Existentialism, Physics, Research

An excerpt. The longer article piece is at the link following.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only killed a large number of people—approximately 5.5 million worldwide at the time Physics Today went to press in mid-January—it has also disrupted life in a fundamental, nonperturbative manner, forcing large-scale changes in human behavior from without.

It was difficult at the beginning of 2020 to anticipate the great COVID-19 calamity awaiting the world. In February of that year, I was apparently among the first people to have urged the leadership of the American Physical Society to cancel its upcoming March Meeting in Denver, which APS finally did at the last moment after considerable hesitancy.

The logistics of canceling a meeting of 10 000 people right before the event are not trivial. But given the crowd density in APS March Meetings, it is reasonable to assume that the 2020 event would have led to a few thousand COVID-19 cases just among the physicist attendees. Overall, it may have led to many tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of cases, if not more. That estimate is based on research related to the now-infamous Boston Biogen superspreader conference in late February 2020. Within a month, roughly 100 people in Massachusetts who either went to the conference or were a household contact of someone who went tested positive. The genetic-code-based investigation estimated that the event led to 300 000 COVID-19 cases worldwide by the beginning of the following November. APS made the right call in canceling the meeting.

Commentary: A physicist’s perspective on COVID-19, Sankar Das Sarma, Physics Today

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ABYSSINIA MEDIA GROUP® will be participating in the

BLACK NERDS EXPO VIRTUAL CONVENTION

being held on FEBRUARY 26, 2022 from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM PST.

For more information hit this link to: BLACKNERDSEXPO.COM


AMG will be a featured VIRTUAL STORE /EXHIBITOR

at this ONLINE BLACK NERD HISTORICAL EVENT!

The nice part is it’s ALL FREEEEEE!

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ABYSSINIA MEDIA GROUP® will ALSO be participating in the

BLACK NERDS EXPO VIRTUAL FILM VIDEO, & ANIMATION CONTEST!

Above is the FLYER calling for more entries with a deadline on the DAY OF SHOW

held on FEBRUARY 26, 2022 DEALINE is 10:00 AM that day PST.

For more information hit this link to: BLACKNERDSEXPO.COM

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ALSO featured at the BLACK NERDS EXPO,

A VIRTUAL SHORT WRITING CONTEST!

Below is the FLYER calling for more entries with a

DEADLINE on the DAY OF SHOW held on FEBRUARY 26, 2022 AT 12:00 PM.

For more information hit this link to: 

BLACKNERDSEXPO.COM

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What would the BLACK NERDS VIRTUAL EXPO

be without a FREE ONLINE VIRTUAL COSPLAY CONTEST!

Above is the FLYER calling for more entries with a DEADLINE

on the DAY OF SHOW held on FEBRUARY 26, 2022 before 2:00 PM.

For more information hit this link to:

BLACKNERDSEXPO.COM

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Fantastic Plastic...

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Plastic fantastic: this perovskite-based device can be reconfigured and could play an important role in artificial intelligence systems. (Courtesy: Purdue University/Rebecca McElhoe)

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Biology, Computer Science, Materials Science

Researchers in the US have developed a perovskite-based device that could be used to create a high-plasticity architecture for artificial intelligence. The team, led by Shriram Ramanathan at Purdue University, has shown that the material’s electronic properties can be easily reconfigured, allowing the devices to function like artificial neurons and other components. Their results could lead to more flexible artificial-intelligence hardware that could learn much like the brain.

Artificial intelligence systems can be trained to perform a task such as voice recognition using real-world data. Today this is usually done in software, which can adapt when additional training data are provided. However, machine learning systems that are based on hardware are much more efficient and researchers have already created electronic circuits that behave like artificial neurons and synapses.

However, unlike the circuits in our brains, these electronics are not able to reconfigure themselves when presented with new training information. What is needed is a system with high plasticity, which can alter its architecture to respond efficiently to new information.

Device can transform into four components for artificial intelligence systems, Sam Jarman, Physics World

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Proxima Oceans...

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An artist’s impression of the newly discovered planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

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

Astronomers have discovered a third planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the Sun. Called Proxima Centauri d, the newly spotted world is probably smaller than Earth and could have oceans of liquid water.

“It’s showing that the nearest star probably has a very rich planetary system,” says Guillem Anglada-Escudé, an astronomer at the Institute of Space Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, who led the team that, in 2016, discovered the first planet to be seen orbiting Proxima Centauri.

Astronomer João Faria and his collaborators detected Proxima Centauri d by measuring tiny shifts in the spectrum of light from the star as the planet’s gravity pulled at it during orbit. The team used a state-of-the-art instrument called the Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) at the Very Large Telescope, a system of four 8.2-meter telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Cerro Paranal, Chile. The results were published on 10 February in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Earth-like planet spotted orbiting Sun’s closest star, Davide Castelvecchi, Nature

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BOOK REVIEW: Encyclopedia of Black Comics

10071223266?profile=RESIZE_710xFor anyone with a love of comics, graphic novels and webcomics produced by Black, African American and African artists, writers and illustrators, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena C. Howard is an amazing trove of knowledge and insight. The information is thorough, well written and packed with history of where and when Black artists and writers began making comics, many times without acknowledgement of the publishing community.

              With names familiar and unfamiliar, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics list entries alphabetically by last name, along with birth and death dates, colleges and universities attended, what their talents are/were and their comics and titles.

              Examples of entries are: Dawud Anyabwile, co-creator of Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline; Jabaar L. Brown, founder of Underground Comixxx; Mat Johnson, author of Incognegro; Ajuan Mance, author of 1001 Black Men; and Jackie Ormes, "creator of Torchy Brown, and the first published female African American cartoonist."

              Whether you love comics, graphic novels and webcomics, have an interest in them or even just a curiosity, the Encyclopedia of Black Comics will satisfy your level of interest and more. The graphics and illustrations don’t disappoint either.

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Fifth-Column Fascists...

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

Note: I will be attending the funeral of my brother-in-law. I will take a blog break to mourn.

[A] fifth column, clandestine group or faction of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation’s solidarity by any means at their disposal. The term is conventionally credited to Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). As four of his army columns moved on Madrid, the general referred to his militant supporters within the capital as his “fifth column,” intent on undermining the loyalist government from within.

A cardinal technique of the fifth column is the infiltration of sympathizers into the entire fabric of the nation under attack and, particularly, into positions of policy decision and national defense. From such key posts, fifth-column activists exploit the fears of a people by spreading rumors and misinformation, as well as by employing the more standard techniques of espionage and sabotage. Source: Britannica.com

When I saw this, it was usually on a UHF channel after school. The subtle racist trope against Japan happens at the 2:42 mark, tarnishing its brilliance. (In light of our current appeal to diversity, equity, and inclusion, I'm preparing you for the shock.) The cartoon was produced in 1943, and the stated Axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Inclusivity wasn't the point: rage to continue the fight, then, and now, delivers a potent message. The cartoon served as a simple illustration of what a fifth column infiltrator, or in this case, internal grey-colored collaborator mouse, A.K.A. Tucker Carlson, looks like.

Tucker Carlson again questions why the US would side with Ukraine over Russia, Sinéad Baker, Insider.com

"My office is now getting calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we're not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia's 'reasonable' positions," Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) said in a tweet on Monday afternoon.

Democrat says Tucker Carlson viewers telling his office the US should side with Russia, Dominick Mastrangelo, TheHill.com

Do you know whose parents immigrated from Ukraine? Leonard Nimoy, who gave us the "live long and prosper" Mr. Spock salute from his Jewish synagogue traditions.

Public-opinion polling shows that Trump’s low opinion of American elections has practically become Republican Party orthodoxy. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday, Republicans have an “unprecedented” level of “concern and mistrust in the system.” Roughly 70 percent of Republican voters believe that if Hillary Clinton wins the election, it’ll be due to fraud. In both this poll and an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, only half of Republicans say they’d accept a Clinton victory. (In the latter poll, by contrast, 82 percent of Democrats said they would accept a Trump victory.)

This suspicious Republican electorate is joined by growing ranks of conservative politicians, pundits, and intellectuals. They’re all increasingly willing to say that the existing American political system is hopelessly flawed and needs to be rolled back to the days before blacks and women could vote. On the most obvious level, this can be seen in moves by Republican governors all over America to make voting more difficult, through stringent voting ID laws, new hurdles to registration, and the curtailment of early-voting options. Equally significant has been the gutting of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act by conservative Supreme Court justices in the 2013 Shelby Country v. Holder ruling.

The Right Is Giving Up on Democracy, Jeet Heer, The New Republic, October 24, 2016

Speaking of mice: Tennessee is blocking the graphic novel, Maus (I ordered it). 1/27/2022 yesterday was the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The 1619 Project by Nicole Hannah-Jones is being referred to BY name and blocked. Reich Wing governments in red states are blocking Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved." "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee can hurt fragile feelings, this sentiment from people who mocked the left, and wore t-shirts to tell us: "F Your Feelings." Yeah.

On Wednesday, the Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. appeared on Oprah Winfrey's celebratory post-election special. After learning the news, Gates says, "we jumped up, we wept, we hooped and hollered." It is hard to overestimate the historical significance of the election of the first black U.S. President. For many blacks, and certainly, for much of the country and world, Obama's victory is an extraordinary step toward the redemption of America's original 400-year-old sin. It is astonishing not least for its quickness, coming just 145 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation effectively ending slavery and four decades after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. And it is even more astonishing for its decisiveness — Obama carried Virginia, once the home of the Confederacy, a place whose laws just five decades ago would have made the interracial union of his parents illegal. (See pictures of Barack Obama's family tree.)

What Obama's Election Really Means to Black America, Steven Gray, TIME, November 6, 2008

What Obama's election meant to White America was the eruption of racist tropes in the form of Obama-as-Hitler, Obama-as-Medicine-Man-Voodoo-Mystic, Obama-hung-in-effigy. The right-Reich-wing echo chamber kicked into high gear on television, podcasts, the Internet, and AM talk radio. White America was telling Black America precisely what they thought of having a black president. We weren't in "post-racial America," and the years of detente between the cultures was a smokescreen, a strong delusion.

Despite the fact that the 46th president has appointed more judges than any other president, despite the fact that the economy has grown faster than my senior year in college as an undergrad (1984), the Orwellian programming has his numbers in the statistical toilet. My theory is because 1. he's competent, 2. he's boring, which is largely what he promised after four years of 140-character COVFEFE-misspelled rage tweeting and genuflecting to Vladimir Putin from his megalomaniacal predecessor. What matters in our entertainment-first-news-later fourth estate of "journalism" is rage viewing, ratings, and clicks. We have forgotten what "normal" looks like if we ever knew.

We are ignoring the fifth column among us. They are armed. They want to "take their country back," as Glenn Beck (unvaccinated, caught covid TWO times) led chants at the Lincoln Memorial on August 27, 2010. "In 2012, a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey reported that Fox News viewers were less informed about current events than people who didn't follow the news at all." (This is FORBES! Read that again at the link.) The fifth column is pissed that they have to now share with "others": African Americans, Asian Americans, First Nation Peoples, Hispanics, Immigrants, LGBT, women, and haven't shared well since kindergarten. Sharing power is what happens when a democracy diversifies, and they have shown - from their electorate, their elected officials, their contrived laws to block votes, their propaganda outlets, and their brown shirts, to have little interest in doing that.

Watch what you're watching

Fox keeps feeding us toxins

Stop sleepingStart thinking outside of the box

And unplug from the Matrix doctrine

But watch what you say,

Big Brother is watching

Watch what you're watching

Fox keeps feeding us toxins
Stop sleeping
Start thinking outside of the box
And unplug from the Matrix doctrine
But watch what you say,

Fox Five is watching

"Sly Fox," by Nas, Genius Lyrics, and YouTube

We are whistling in the dark on the road to fascism.

2 Thessalonians 2:11 "And for this, cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had to pleasure in unrighteousness."

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire

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RNA and Covid-19...

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NIST researcher Megan Cleveland uses a PCR machine to amplify DNA sequences by copying them numerous times through a series of chemical reactions.
Credit: M. Cleveland/NIST

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, COVID-19, Diversity in Science, NIST, Research, Women in Science

Scientists track and monitor the circulation of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, using methods based on a laboratory technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Also used as the “gold standard” test to diagnose COVID-19 in individuals, PCR amplifies pieces of DNA by copying them numerous times through a series of chemical reactions. The number of cycles it takes to amplify DNA sequences of interest so that they are detectable by the PCR machine, known as the cycle threshold (Ct), is what researchers and medical professionals look at to detect the virus.

However, not all labs get the same Ct values (sometimes also called “Cq” values). In efforts to make the results more comparable between labs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) contributed to a multiorganizational study that looked at anchoring these Ct values to a reference sample with known amounts of the virus.

Researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS One.

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus: Its genetic material is single-stranded instead of double-stranded like DNA and contains some different molecular building blocks, namely uracil in place of thymine. But the PCR test only works with DNA, and labs first must convert the RNA to DNA to screen for COVID-19. For the test, RNA is isolated from a patient’s sample and combined with other ingredients, including short DNA sequences are known as primers, to transform the RNA into DNA.

RNA Reference Materials Are Useful for Standardizing COVID-19 Tests, Study Shows, NIST

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Aharonov-Bohm Effect

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A quantum probe for gravity: Physicists have detected a tiny phase shift in atomic wave packets due to gravity-induced relativistic time dilation – an example of the Aharonov-Bohm effect in action. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/Evgenia Fux)

Topics: General Relativity, Gravity, Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics

The idea that particles can feel the influence of potentials even without being exposed to a force field may seem counterintuitive, but it has long been accepted in physics thanks to experimental demonstrations involving electromagnetic interactions. Now physicists in the US have shown that this so-called Aharonov-Bohm effect also holds true for a much weaker force: gravity. The physicists based their conclusion on the behavior of freefalling atomic wave packets, and they say the result suggests a new way of measuring Newton’s gravitational constant with far greater precision than was previously possible.

Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm proposed the effect that now bears their name in 1959, arguing that while classical potentials have no physical reality apart from the fields they represent, the same is not true in the quantum world. To make their case, the pair proposed a thought experiment in which an electron beam in a superposition of two wave packets is exposed to a time-varying electrical potential (but no field) when passing through a pair of metal tubes. They argued that the potential would introduce a phase difference between the wave packets and therefore lead to a measurable physical effect – a set of interference fringes – when the wave packets are recombined.

Seeking a gravitational counterpart

In the latest research, Mark Kasevich and colleagues at Stanford University show that the same effect also holds true for gravity. The platform for their experiment is an atom interferometer, which uses a series of laser pulses to split, guide and recombine atomic wave packets. The interference from these wave packets then reveals any change in the relative phase experienced along the two arms.

Physicists detect an Aharonov-Bohm effect for gravity, Edwin Cartlidge, Physics World

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DUNE...

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Image Source: Fermilab, and link below

Topics: Fermilab, High Energy Physics, Modern Physics, Neutrinos, Particle Physics

Solving big mysteries

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment is an international flagship experiment to unlock the mysteries of neutrinos. DUNE will be installed in the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, under construction in the United States. DUNE scientists will paint a clearer picture of the universe and how it works. Their research may even give us the key to understanding why we live in a matter-dominated universe — in other words, why we are here at all.

DUNE will pursue three major science goals: find out whether neutrinos could be the reason the universe is made of matter; look for subatomic phenomena that could help realize Einstein’s dream of the unification of forces; and watch for neutrinos emerging from an exploding star, perhaps witnessing the birth of a neutron star or a black hole.

DUNE at LBNF, Fermilab

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Cosmic Existentialism...

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An illustration of a black hole and its event horizon. (Image credit: Nicholas Forder/Future Publishing)

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity

"Small" black holes are estimated to make up 1% of the universe's matter.

Scientists have estimated the number of "small" black holes in the universe. And no surprise: It's a lot.

This number might seem impossible to calculate; after all, spotting black holes is not exactly the simplest task. Because there are as pitch-black as the space they lurk in, the light swallowing cosmic goliaths can be detected only under the most extraordinary circumstances — like when they're bending the light around them, snacking on the unfortunate gases and stars that stray too close, or spiraling toward enormous collisions that unleash gravitational waves.

But that hasn't stopped scientists from finding some ingenious ways to guess the number. Using a new method, outlined Jan. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal, a team of astrophysicists has produced a fresh estimate for the number of stellar-mass black holes — those with masses 5 to 10 times that of the sun — in the universe.

And it's astonishing: 40,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 40 quintillions, stellar-mass black holes populate the observable universe, making up approximately 1% of all normal matter, according to the new estimate.

So how did the scientists arrive at that number? By tracking the evolution of stars in our universe they estimated how often the stars — either on their own or paired into binary systems — would transform into black holes, said first author Alex Sicilia, an astrophysicist at the International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy.

40 quintillion stellar-mass black holes are lurking in the universe, a new study finds, Ben Turner, Space.com

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Dyson Sphere Feedback...

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Image: Artist’s impression of a Dyson sphere under construction. Credit: Steve Bowers.

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Dyson Sphere, SETI

Although the so-called Dysonian SETI has been much in the air in recent times, its origins date back to the birth of SETI itself. It was in 1960 – the same year that Frank Drake used the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia to study Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti – that Freeman Dyson proposed the Dyson sphere. In fiction, Olaf Stapledon had considered such structures in his novel Star Maker in 1937. As Macy Huston and Jason Wright (both at Penn State) remind us in a recent paper, Dyson’s idea of energy-gathering structures around an entire star evolved toward numerous satellites around the star rather than a (likely unstable) single spherical shell.

We can’t put the brakes on what a highly advanced technological civilization might do, so both solid sphere and ‘swarm’ models can be searched for, and indeed have been, for in SETI terms we’re looking for infrared waste heat. And if we stick with Dyson (often a good idea!), we would be looking for structures orbiting in a zone where temperatures would range in the 200-300 K range, which translates into searching at about 10 microns, the wavelength of choice. But Huston and Wright introduce a new factor, the irradiation from the interior of the sphere onto the surface of the star.

This is intriguing because it extends our notions of Dyson spheres well beyond the habitable zone as we consider just what an advanced civilization might do with them. It also offers up the possibility of new observables. So just how does such a Dyson sphere return light back to a star, affecting its structure and evolution? If we can determine that, we will have a better way to predict these potential observables. As we adjust the variables in the model, we can also ponder the purposes of such engineering.

Think of irradiation as Dyson shell ‘feedback.’ We immediately run into the interesting fact that adding energy to a star causes it to expand and cool. The authors explain this by noting that total stellar energy is a sum of thermal and gravitational energies. Let’s go straight to the paper on this. In the clip below, E* refers to the star’s total energy, with Etherm being thermal energy:

When energy is added to a star (E increases), gravitational energy increases and thermal energy decreases, so we see the star expand and cool both overall (because Etherm is lower) and on its surface (because being larger at the same or a lower luminosity its effective temperature must drop). A larger star should also result in less pressure on a cooler core, so we also expect its luminosity to decrease.

Dyson Sphere ‘Feedback’: A Clue to New Observables? Paul Gilster, Centauri Dreams

Evolutionary and Observational Consequences of Dyson Sphere Feedback, Macy Huston, Jason Wright, Astrophysical Journal

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Exomoon Two...

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Artist’s impression of an exomoon (left) orbiting a giant planet around a distant star. Credit: Helena Valenzuela Widerström

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Exomoon, Exoplanets

And then there were two—maybe. Astronomers say they have found a second plausible candidate for a moon beyond our solar system, an exomoon, orbiting a world nearly 6,000 light-years from Earth. Called Kepler-1708 b-i, the moon appears to be a gas-dominated object, slightly smaller than Neptune, orbiting a Jupiter-sized planet around a sunlike star—an unusual but not wholly unprecedented planet-moon configuration. The findings appear in Nature Astronomy. Confirming or refuting the result may not be immediately possible, but given the expected abundance of moons in our galaxy and beyond, it could further herald the tentative beginnings of an exciting new era of extrasolar astronomy—one focused not on alien planets but on the natural satellites that orbit them and the possibilities of life therein.

There are more than 200 moons in our solar system, and they have an impressive array of variations. Saturn’s moon Titan possesses a thick atmosphere and frigid hydrocarbon seas on its surface, possibly an analog of early Earth. Icy moons such as Jupiter’s Europa are frozen balls that hide subsurface oceans, and they may be prime habitats for life to arise. Others still, such as our own moon, are apparently barren wastelands but could have water ice in their shadowed craters and maze-like networks of tunnels running underground. An important shared trait among these worlds, however, is their mere existence: six of the eight major planets of our solar system have moons. Logic would suggest the same should be true elsewhere. “Moons are common,” says Jessie Christiansen of the California Institute of Technology. “In our solar system, almost everything has a moon. I am very confident that moons are everywhere in the galaxy.”

Astronomers Have Found Another Possible ‘Exomoon’ beyond Our Solar System, Jonathan O'Callaghan, Scientific American

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I am happy to announce that I have a new short story posted on my official writing blog. It's a tale of adventure on the high seas, set in the Red Sea between Africa and Arabia around 100 AD. The protagonist is a Kushite admiral hunting down Arabian pirates to avenge the loss of her brother, but little is she prepared for what really happened to him...

You can read the full story here. But allow me to give you a tasty sample of it below:

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100 AD

A commotion buzzed at the edge of the trading souq next to the harbor of al-Mukha on the southwestern coast of Arabia. All eyes of the spectators followed a slender galley of ebony fringed with gold and inlaid ivory as it slid and anchored beside one of the earthen quays. On its billowing crimson sail glowered the gold face of a ram supporting the sun on its horns, the royal insignia of Kush.

It was by no means unusual for a Kushite vessel to dock at al-Mukha. Plenty of merchants from all sides of the Red Sea and beyond would flock to the Himyarite port to sell their wares and restock for the next trip. Yet the black galley that had come in was a rare giant that would have dwarfed the typical merchantman, never mind the puny native dhows. Above the deck glimmered the iron-bladed spears, axes, and swords of the soldiers aboard.

Once they laid the gangplank down, there descended a svelte woman whose skin was dark as the galley itself, with her short ringlets of frizzy hair reddened with ocher. The black-spotted red sash around her bosom bound a bow and quiver to her back while a slim sword rested along her white linen skirt. From her neck hung a string of ivory fly-shaped medals that honored her as a fighting champion of Kush.

After the woman followed her entourage of spearmen with oval cowhide shields. As she and her bodyguards advanced up the quay, the audience that had watched their arrival parted to give them as broad a berth as they could, with nervous murmurs in Himyarite Arabic passing between the spectators.

Placing both hands on her hip, the woman cleared her throat with her head held up. “I am Nensela, Admiral of Kush. You need not fear anything, for we mean you no harm. We come to al-Mukha with only two purposes: to resupply and to find information.”

From the ranks of the crowd, a white-bearded local shot his bony hand up. “What do you mean by ‘information’, my lady?”

Nensela pulled out a scroll of papyrus from her belt and unfolded it, revealing a painted illustration of a blue scorpion with claws serrated like a lobster’s. “Have any of you ever heard of the Scorpions of the Sea?”

Most of the people dispersed back to the souq while the old man squinted at the scroll, his tawny face blanching a shade paler. “By Rahmanan, who in al-Mukha hasn’t? They come here every season. Are they wanted?”

Nensela marched to him with her hand clenched on her sword’s hilt. “I hope you are not feigning ignorance with me, old man. You ought to know they’ve been a menace for generations. Why, I lost my little brother to them! So, please, tell me everything you know!”

The old Himyarite scratched the back of his keffiyeh and shook his head. “The truth is, I recall not when they last dropped by. But Hussein the pot merchant may know. He’s done business with them more than once. I’d look for him in the northeast part of the souq, over there.”

He pointed his walking stick in the direction of the souq‘s far corner.

Nensela tossed him a bag of silver. “May Amun bless you for your aid, then.”

The souq of al-Mukha was a bustling maze of people thronging between rows of stalls that were shaded with awnings of sagging cloth. Most of the traders and their customers were native Himyarites and other Arabs, along with similar-looking peoples such as Judaeans, Phoenicians, and Mesopotamians. Yet speckled amid the bronze-faced majority were darker-skinned nationalities such as Kemetians, Aksumites, and even a few Kushites, the latter of whom saluted Nensela and her men as they passed. The fragrances of perfume, fresh fruit, and cooked meat mixed in the air with the less pleasant odors of fish, musty cloth, and camels being dragged about on rope leashes.

Over the chatter of the customers and the music of trilling flutes, twanging lyres, and banging drums, Nensela heard a man yell about having the finest collection of ceramics along the Red Sea. That must have been the pot merchant the old man at the docks had cited.

Taking advantage of her feminine wile, she smiled and swayed her hips as she sauntered towards his stall. “You wouldn’t happen to be a handsome gentleman by the name of Hussein, would you?”

A toothy grin spread across the man’s pudgy face as he nodded. “Well, aren’t you a welcome sight around here! Of course, it is I, Hussein bin Abdullah. Why, did someone recommend my wares to you?”

All over his stall and beside it stood stacks of almost every ceramic form that could be found all over the known world. Wide-topped Kemetian jars inscribed with hieroglyphic texts sat beside orange-and-black Greek vases, Chinese porcelain, and native Arabian oil lamps with elongated nozzles. Nensela noticed there were also some Kushite bowls on display, distinguished from the rest by their black tops grading to red towards the bottom. She could not help but pick one of them up, for it had reminded her of the bowls her mother would make for her and her brother Akhraten to eat from when they were children.

Those were simpler, happier times. But they had fallen into the past. With them had gone Akhraten, all courtesy of the vile Sea Scorpions.

“My mother made pots like this,” Nensela said. “Where do you get these, my dear Hussein?”

Hussein’s eyes twitched sideways. “I’m afraid my suppliers wish to remain anonymous.”

“Oh, is that so? Because I’ve been informed that you have connections with those known as the Sea Scorpions…”

“What? Don’t be silly, woman!”

Nensela slammed her hands onto the stall, shaking the stacks of pottery until some of it fell and shattered on the ground. “Tell me the truth, Hussein bin Abdullah. When did you last deal with them?”

“I can’t say, but it isn’t them! I swear by Rahmanan, I would never profit from piracy!”

Nensela grabbed him by the collar of his tunic and hauled him off his feet. “Do not lie to me anymore! Tell me, for the safety of all around the Red Sea, whom you get your goods from. Do you hear me? Talk!”

Hands clapped as loud as the crack of thunder, and then the whole souq fell silent.

The one who had clapped was a stout Himyarite man, robed in black, with a white keffiyeh draped over the sides of his head. Everyone else in the souq stepped back to make way for him as he hurried towards Nensela and Hussein with a gentle smile under his gray-streaked mustache.

“There is no need for violence, my child,” he said. “Please put him down.”

Nensela obeyed with a grumble. “Please, do not call me ‘child’, for I am the Admiral of Kush. And I’ve good reason to believe this Hussein character is collaborating with pirates!”

“It is a lie, I assure you!” Hussein yelped.

“I will assess the truth of the matter later, Hussein bin Abdullah,” the black-robed man said. “Pardon me for my condescension there, O Admiral of Kush, but I am the Sheikh of al-Mukha. These are all my people, so I must implore you that you treat them with care while you are here.”

“You are the Sheikh?” Nensela bowed at the waist before him. “Then I must apologize for my behavior. I must admit I have little love for pirates, or those I am told are involved with their crimes.”

From the corner of her eye, she cast a glare at Hussein while he was picking up pieces of broken pottery. He repaid with a rude look of his own.

“You speak of pirates, Admiral? It so happens that I have information of my own on them,” the Sheikh of al-Mukha said. “And unlike that gentleman over there, I’ll be more than willing to share it…within the privacy of my own home, mind you. Why don’t you and your men come over for some refreshment after your long voyage?”

To be continued...

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