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Moments and Metaphors...

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Credit: Pete Saloutos/Getty Images

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Comets, Philosophy, Science Fiction

On a recent morning, in Lower Manhattan, 20 scientists, including me, gathered for a private screening of the new film Don’t Look Up, followed by lunch with the film’s director, Adam McKay.

The film’s plot is simple. An astronomy graduate student, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), and her professor, Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), discover a new comet and realize that it will strike the Earth in six months. It is about nine kilometers across, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The astronomers try to alert the president, played by Meryl Streep, to their impending doom.

“Let’s just sit tight and assess,” she says, and an outrageous, but believable comedy ensues, in which the astronomers wrangle an article in a major newspaper and are mocked on morning TV, with one giddy host asking about aliens and hoping that the comet will kill his ex-spouse.

At last, mainstream Hollywood is taking on the gargantuan task of combatting the rampant denial of scientific research and facts. Funny, yet deadly serious, Don’t Look Up is one of the most important recent contributions to popularizing science. It has the appeal, through an all-star cast and wicked comedy, to reach audiences that have different or fewer experiences with science.

Don’t Look Up isn’t a movie about climate change, but one about planetary defense from errant rocks in space. It handles that real and serious issue effectively and accurately. The true power of this film, though, is in its ferocious, unrelenting lampooning of science deniers.

After the screening, in that basement theater in SoHo, McKay said: “This film is for you, the scientists. We want you to know that some of us do hear you and do want to help fight science denialism.”

Hollywood Can Take On Science Denial: Don’t Look Up Is a Great Example, Rebecca Oppenheimer, curator, and professor of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History/Scientific American

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Strain and Flow...

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Topography of the two-dimensional crystal on top of the microscopically small wire indicated by dashed lines. Excitons freely move along the wire-induced dent, but cannot escape it in the perpendicular direction. (Courtesy: Florian Dirnberger)

Topics: Applied Physics, Condensed Matter Physics, Electrical Engineering

Using a technique known as strain engineering, researchers in the US and Germany have constructed an “excitonic wire” – a one-dimensional channel through which electron-hole pairs (excitons) can flow in a two-dimensional semiconductor like water through a pipe. The work could aid the development of a new generation of transistor-like devices.

In the study, a team led by Vinod Menon at the City College of New York (CCNY) Center for Discovery and Innovation and Alexey Chernikov at the Dresden University of Technology and the University of Regensburg in Germany deposited atomically thin 2D crystals of tungsten diselenide (fully encapsulated in another 2D material, hexagonal boride nitride) atop a 100 nm-thin nanowire. The presence of the nanowire created a small, elongated dent in the tungsten diselenide by slightly pulling apart the atoms in the 2D material and so inducing strain in it. According to the study’s lead authors, Florian Dimberger and Jonas Ziegler, this dent behaves for excitons much like a pipe does for water. Once trapped inside, they explain, the excitons are bound to move along the pipe.

Strain guides the flow of excitons in 2D materials, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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I, Brandon S. Pilcher, would like to announce that I have a new historical-fiction novella out now. It's a romantic, action-packed, and multicultural tale set in southern Africa in the year 1215 AD, during the Middle Ages.

The Slave Prince of Zimbabwe

Hailing from the land known as Ruthenia in eastern Europe, Drazhan Khazanov has found himself forced into bondage and brought all the way to the Sultanate of Kilwa on the southeastern coast of Africa. His master the Sultan has offered him a chance at manumission if he can abduct the fierce and beautiful Mambokadzi of Zimbabwe. But when she foils Drazhan's attempts to capture her and offers him an alternate path to the freedom he craves, they find themselves confronting the wrath of not only his former master but also the mightiest empire in the medieval world.
 
You can read a couple of excerpts from the novella on my official writing blog, or hear them read out loud on Youtube:
 
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Endgame...

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Source: Marvel Disney Plus

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

Happy New Year, of a sort.

This kind of post would appear on a Friday, but it appears today on the one-year anniversary of an insurrection that one party that attempted it, is denying that they did try to overthrow the government.

"Problem 1. Suppose that we use a revolver with six chambers and one bullet. Calculate the probability of death of the first man mathematically.

"Suppose that players A and B play the game, and A is the first player. A takes up the gun in the first round and pulls the trigger. This time the probability of his death is 1/6.

"If A survives, then in the second round, B takes up the gun and does the same, and if B survives, then in the third round, A takes up the gun and does the same thing.

"Let’s calculate the probability of A’s death in the third round. If A is to die in the third round, A must survive the first round. The probability of survival for A in the first round is 5/6. After that, B has to survive in the second round. There are only five chambers and one bullet, so the probability of survival is 4/5. Then there are four chambers and one bullet, and the resulting probability of death is ¼.

"Therefore, the probability of death for A in the third round is 5/6 x 4/5 x ¼.

"As to the probability of A’s death in the fifth round, we can do almost the same calculation, and we get 5/6 x 4/5 x ¾ x 2/3 x ½.

"Finally, the probability of death of the first player A is 1/6 + (5/6 x 4/5 x ¼) + (5/6 x 4/5 x ¾ x 2/3 x ½) = 3/6 = ½."

From: "Elementary Theory of Russian Roulette: interesting patterns of fractions," Satoshi Hashiba, Daisuke Minematsu, Ryohei Miyadera

It's serendipity that the date of the modern attempted overthrow of our Democratic Republic, 1/6/2021, corresponds with "Russian" Roulette.

I've been asking myself this same question over again: "what is the endgame?" The Republican Party in 2016 at the influence of the convicted (and indebted) campaign manager, Paul Manifort, dropped any mention of opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine. In 2020, they opted for the "Seinfeld Platform" of nothing and garnered 7 million MORE votes than the previous attempt to usurp democracy.

In the summer of 2016, McCarthy endorsed Trump for President, but only after the In the summer of 2016, McCarthy endorsed Trump for President, but only after the interloper from New York had sewn up the nomination. A year later, it emerged that, in June of 2016, McCarthy had told some of his fellow members of the House Republican leadership that he believed—“swear to God”—that Trump was in the pay of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. When the Washington Post eventually reported about these comments, McCarthy tried to laugh them off as a joke.

The G.O.P. Can No Longer Be Relied On to Protect Democracy, John Cassidy, December 12, 2020, The New Yorker

The United States is marginally both a democratic republic and so-called "Christian" nation because of its slow expansion of citizenship to the marginalized: African American men, white women with the 19th Amendment, August 18, 1920, and black women finally with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Immigrants, LGBT, refugees are slowly gaining rights only afforded by our "Founding Fathers" (or narcissistic sociopaths) to "propertied white men." The current majority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, has scheduled a vote to debate the Voting Rights Bills in the chamber, and if Moscow Mitch et al elected fascists follow past precedent, they will block the bill with a cowardly email. A workaround could be making the Republican Senators debate it on C-SPAN and explain WHY they DO NOT want the franchise to expand any further. They won't do that of course, essentially making opposition attack ads of themselves acting like buffoons, or mean tweeting Big Bird. It will likely be blocked by the tweedle dee, tweedle dumb dynamic duo of Mazarati Man-Chin, Firebrand liberal-turned-Blue Dog Kirsten Sinema, who seems to miss that "Don't Look UP" is a parody of politicians like herself.

The real answer is, even in the numerical majority in the Senate, republicans represent fewer actual voters than democrats. As of 2019, California registers 39.51 million citizens; Wyoming (Liz Cheney and her father's state) has 578,759. Each state gets two senators. So theoretically would Washington, DC at 692,683, more than Wyoming, but most likely, those senators would not be republicans, but democrats. And Republicans have only won the popular vote under the two Bush's, meaning their policies only appeal to oligarchs.

Tucker Carlson has almost given up the game by softball interviewing the authoritarian dictator Viktor Orbán on his propaganda network, then CPAC is going "full Borat" by hosting an American conservative conference in a foreign country that's NOT a democracy. Projection, much?

So, what's the endgame? Are we "fascism fluid"; "authoritarian curious"? I don't think we have to wait for more than one more round of this existential Russian republic roulette.

What happens to the other world democracies if the largest, most powerful in human history disintegrates into a pile of feces? I don't expect a band of family dysfunctional superheroes is going to save us. Nor do I think Bezos, Branson, or Musk are going to save humanity by cracking the mystery of "warp drive" (don't hold your breath). If they could, do you think they wouldn't CHARGE an exorbitant fee to ride The Enterprise? In this case, Bill Maher has a valid point. It's made us infantile and "Waiting for Godot."

Lastly, cute curtseys won't save us from being a proverb, a byword, and a laughable mistake. Franklin's statement: "A republic, if you can keep it" is currently in doubt.

 

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Martian Windmills...

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Artist's rendition of a future colony on Mars., e71lena via Shutterstock

Topics: Applied Physics, Energy, Mars, Space Exploration

(Inside Science) -- Mars is known for its dust storms, which can cause problems for lander equipment and block out the sun that fuels solar panels. These punishing storms, which can last for weeks, have already caused damage to equipment and even killed NASA’s Opportunity rover. But they could also be dangerous to astronauts on the ground, who would rely on solar power for oxygen, heat, and water cleansing during future missions.

Vera Schorbach, a professor of wind energy at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany, was curious to see whether wind turbines could harness the power of these storms, filling in for solar panels on the Red Planet during times of need.

"I asked myself, 'Why don't they have a wind turbine if they have dust storms,'" said Schorbach, the lead author of a study about the potential for wind power on Mars published recently in the journal Acta Astronautica.

Could martian dust storms help astronauts keep the lights on? Joshua Rapp Leam, Astronomy/Inside Science

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BOOK REVIEW: Infinitum, a graphic novel

9971532478?profile=RESIZE_710xA unique take on the graphic novel, Infinitum by Tim Fielder, is a stunning masterwork of science fiction. A hardcover book with clear and detailed graphics (one panel per page), Infinitum follows the never-ending life of Aja Oba, a king and legend of a man. It begins in his kingdom in Africa, where he longs for an heir, but his Queen is unable to bear children. Knowing that he has a child with one of his lovers, he takes the child from his mother, even as she begs Aja Oba not to. For this act, the lover curses Aja Oba. His fate, he can never truly die.

An outstanding leader and military strategist, Aja Oba is cursed to live a continuous life throughout the ages of humankind. His travels take him from Africa to the new world during the slave passage, to several world wars and into the vast future of humanity. Over the centuries, he watches his lovers and children die, while he is cursed to continue living. The artwork is stunning, the story captivating and Aja Oba intriguing to the end…of his life? You’ll have to read to find out. I highly recommend it.

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OIPCs and Janus...

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Topics: Battery, Energy, Green Tech, Research, Solid-State Physics

Janus, in Roman religion, the animistic spirit of doorways (januae) and archways (Jani). Janus and the nymph Camasene were the parents of Tiberinus, whose death in or by the river Albula caused it to be renamed Tiber. Source: Encylopedia Britannica

Over the past decade, lithium-ion batteries have seen stunning improvements in their size, weight, cost, and overall performance. (See Physics Today, December 2019, page 20.) But they haven’t yet reached their full potential. One of the biggest remaining hurdles has to do with the electrolyte, the material that conducts Li+ ions from anode to cathode inside the battery to drive the equal and opposite flow of charge in the external circuit.

Most commercial lithium-ion batteries use organic liquid electrolytes. The liquids are excellent conductors of Li+ ions, but they’re volatile and flammable, and they offer no defense against the whisker-like Li-metal dendrites that can build up between the electrodes and eventually short-circuit the battery. Because safety comes first, battery designers must sacrifice some performance in favor of not having their batteries catch fire.

A solid-state electrolyte could solve those problems. But what kind of solid conducts ions? An ordered crystal won’t do—when every site is filled in a crystalline lattice, Li+ ions have nowhere to move to. A solid electrolyte, therefore, needs to have a disordered, defect-riddled structure. It must also provide a polar environment to welcome the Li+ ions, but with no negative charges so strong that the Li+ ions stick to them and don’t let go.

For several years, Jenny PringleMaria Forsyth, and colleagues at Deakin University in Australia have been exploring a class of materials, called organic ionic plastic crystals (OIPCs), that could fit the bill. As a mix of positive and negative ions, an OIPC offers the necessary polar environment for conducting Li+. And because the constituent ions are organic, the researchers have lots of chemical leeways to design their shapes so they can’t easily fit together into a regular lattice but are forced to adopt a disordered, Li+-permeable structure.

Two-faced ions form a promising battery material, Johanna L. Miller, Physics Today

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From Redshift to Enlightenment...

Topics: Astrobiology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Carl Sagan, James Webb Space Telescope, SETI

The relief was as deep as the stakes were high. At 7:20 A.M. (ET), the rocket carrying the largest, most ambitious space telescope in history cleared the launchpad in French Guiana, and the members of mission control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore roared their elation.

The suspense was not quite over. Half an hour postlaunch, the telescope still needed to decouple from its host rocket, after which it had to deploy solar panels to partly power its journey. Only after that first deployment proved successful, said a NASA spokesperson in a statement to Scientific American, would “we know we have a mission.”

Astronomers have more riding on the rocket than the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Also at risk is the viability of NASA’s vast space-science portfolio, if not the future of astronomy itself. As the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), JWST is one of those once-in-a-generation scientific projects that can strain the patience of government benefactors, as well as the responsible agency’s credibility, but also define a field for decades to come—and possibly redefine it forever.

The telescope that would become JWST was already under discussion even before HST launched in April 1990. By orbiting Earth, HST would have a line of sight free of the optical distortions endemic to our planet’s atmosphere. It would therefore be able to see farther across the universe (and, given that the speed of light is finite, farther back in time) than any terrestrial telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope Has Launched: Now Comes the Hard Part, Richard Panek, Scientific American

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Tardigrades and Qubits...

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(Credit: Giovanni Cancemi/Shutterstock) 

Topics: Biology, Condensed Matter Physics, Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Note: After presenting my research proposal and acceptance by my committee, I've been taking a well-needed break from blogging. I'll post on and off until the New Year, which isn't too far off. Happy holidays!

In recent years, evidence has emerged that quantum physics seems to play a role in some of life’s fundamental processes. But just how it might do this is something of a mystery.

On the one hand, quantum phenomena are generally so delicate that they can only be observed when all other influences are damped – in other words in carefully controlled systems at temperatures close to absolute zero. By contrast, the conditions for life are generally complex, warm, and damp. Understanding this seemingly contradictory state of affairs is an important goal.

So physicists and biologists are keen to explore the boundaries of these very different regimes—life and quantum mechanics—to better understand where they might overlap.

Now Rainer Dumke at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and colleagues have created an exotic quantum state called entanglement using a superconducting qubit and a microscopic animal called a tardigrade. Along the way, the team has created the most extreme form of suspended animation ever recorded. “The tardigrade itself is shown to be entangled with the remaining subsystems,” they say.

To perform their entanglement experiment, Dumke and co cooled their tardigrade to below 10 millikelvins, almost to absolute zero, while reducing the pressure to a millionth of that in the atmosphere. In these conditions, no chemical reaction can occur so the tardigrade’s metabolism must have entirely halted stopped and the processes of life halted.

“This is to date the most extreme exposure to low temperatures and pressures that a tardigrade has been recorded to survive, clearly demonstrating that the state of cryptobiosis ultimately involves a suspension of all metabolic processes given that all chemical reactions would be prohibited with all its constituent molecules cooled to their ground states,” say the researchers.

In this condition, the tardigrade can be thought of as a purely dielectric element. Indeed, the researchers simulated their experiment by treating the tardigrade as a dielectric cube.

The experimental setup consisted of two superconducting capacitors, which when cooled can exist in a superposition of states called a qubit. They placed the tardigrade between the capacitor plates of one qubit so that it became an integral part of the capacitor. The team was then able to measure the effect of the tardigrade on the qubit’s properties.

How a Tardigrade "Micro Animal" Became Quantum Entangled with Superconducting Qubit, The Physics AriXiv Blog, Discovery Magazine

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Image Source: Facebook

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

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

― Buckminster Fuller, Good Reads, Bio: Wikipedia

What do borders do, mean, and look like in different parts of the world? How are they decided? Who or what might they protect? How might they do harm? How and why might they change?

Countries protect their borders for several reasons. This is especially true in areas where two or more countries have fought over the same land. Cambodia and Thailand are countries in Southeast Asia. They have disputed the territory of the Preah Vihear Temple for more than a century.

Sometimes, borders keep citizens from leaving a country. Nations like North Korea, Myanmar, and Cuba rarely allow their residents to cross their borders.

Many border disputes happen when people fight over natural resources. Natural resources are anything a person can use that comes from the natural environment. The countries of Sudan and Egypt have argued for years over a region called Hala'ib. Hala'ib is rich in the mineral manganese, a natural resource. Manganese is important for making iron and steel.

Border problems often come up when people from other regions take over an area and create borders. During the 1800s and 1900s, European countries colonized much of Africa. In other words, outsiders from Europe moved into Africa. They took control of the people there. They took the land as their own. European colonists created the borders of most African countries. However, the borders they made often did not always consider the different groups living in an area.

Excerpts from "Overview: What Are Borders?" Facing History

The Corporation is a 2003 Canadian documentary film written by University of British Columbia law professor Joel Bakan, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary examines the modern-day corporation. Bakan wrote the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, during the filming of the documentary.

A sequel film, The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, was released in 2020.

The documentary shows the development of the contemporary business corporation, from a legal entity that originated as a government-chartered institution meant to affect specific public functions to the rise of the modern commercial institution entitled to most of the legal rights of a person. The documentary concentrates mostly upon corporations in North America, especially in the United States. One theme is its assessment of corporations as persons, as a result of an 1886 case in the Supreme Court of the United States in which a statement by Chief Justice Morrison Waite led to corporations as "persons" having the same rights as human beings, based on the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Source: The Corporation (2003 film), Wikipedia, related: The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel

In a Google Internet search on "the mythology of race," a book that's in my library is in the upper right-hand corner of my search page: "'The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea' is a book by anthropologist Robert Wald Sussman arguing that race is not, and never has been, a valid biological category in humans." As humans migrated out of Africa, they landed in places that didn't have the direct UV light of the equatorial sun. Lack of sunlight, eating or discovering foods native to their new lands, humans like any other animal adapted, and changed appearances with respect to their environments. In Europe, they didn't require Melanin, their hair straightened in the harsh arctic winters. Over time, all they saw was "them," and as long as everyone looked the same, the only thing that spurred conflict was covetousness: property, livestock, attractive lovers, and wives. Once trinkets, bobbles, and currency replaced barter, that encouraged hoarding, and comparisons between neighbors: who has the most "stuff?" As men explored other parts of the globe and found "them" and their stuff, there had to be a justification for taking their stuff as their own, for "some" having most, and "others" having the least. We are at the tipping point in the struggle to maintain three legal fictions: borders, corporations, and racial categories.

  • You are NOT in our borders: Mecca, 'Murica, "the promised land," the European Union, Wakanda forever. We are "us," and you are "them": you do not count, you are un-people.
  • No Mitt Romney, "corporations are not people." The robber barons used a boondoggle of the 14th Amendment to confer to themselves and their progeny unlimited power. People have lifespans: corporations are practically immortal psychopaths.
  • Until we find evidence of intelligent Martians, there is only ONE race, the human race.

Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù]) is a Nguni Bantu term meaning "humanity". It is sometimes translated as "I am because we are" (also "I am because you are"), or "humanity towards others" (in Zulu, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu). Wikipedia

The aforementioned legal fictions are stifling our development as a species, but enriching the fat pockets of toxic, pathological families that consider themselves royalty, and worthy of worship (and have personality cults to do just that). At our current juncture, world government - genuine cooperation - is laughable. The conned danger of "others" makes us reinforce our borders, erect our walls, intern refugees in Libya, violating human rights with impunity. If there are any vaccines, the so-called First World Nations will receive the jabs first. Our performance during a pandemic has been pitiful. COP26 was whiter than the Oscars due to southern hemisphere nations (i.e., brown people) didn't receive the mRNA vaccines to ARGUE [about] that northern hemisphere nations (i.e., white folks) received first. So for safety reasons, browner nations were placed in political Zoom purgatory as the climate change can is kicked down the road.

The feckless mismanagement of Chief Justice John Roberts over his five radical brethren practically sealed the fate of the former Supreme Court: irrelevance. "Stare decisis is Latin for 'to stand by things decided.' In short, it is the doctrine of precedent. Courts cite stare decisis when an issue has been previously brought to the court and a ruling has already been issued. … Horizontal stare decisis refers to a court adhering to its own precedent" Cornel Law. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, there is no such thing as precedent. Expect same-sex marriage to fall next. After that, voting rights for African Americans, then all women's rights RBG fought for. Avalanches begin with a single snowflake. On the calendar, we barrel to the future; legally we'd be pre-Brown.

Oh, and the "gang of Putin" is chomping at the bit for another government shutdown, because Saint Ronnie saying "government is the problem" started a party grift that hasn't abated in 41 years, managing to "trickle-down" zero dividends, but trickle-up tax cuts without fail. They'd rather do important things like reading Dr. Suess in the well of the Senate or having Twitter battles with Big Bird.

Fear of the Antichrist - a malevolent narcissistic psychopath in a man suit - and the bloodlust for Armageddon fuels our current lunacy. It will not be benevolent aliens, a United Federation of Planets, superluminal space drives, or Heisenberg-defying matter re-sequencers that will spur the elimination of class struggle (and money, apparently). It will be global cooperation heretofore unseen.

"I am because we are." "I am because you are."

Such a world revolves around Ubuntu. We sadly seem bereft of its precepts.

Since it begins with "u" it must be associated with utopia: "nowhere place."

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ACE2 Gum and Covid...

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Visual Abstract

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, COVID-19, Research

To advance a novel concept of debulking virus in the oral cavity, the primary site of viral replication, virus-trapping proteins CTB-ACE2 were expressed in chloroplasts and clinical-grade plant material was developed to meet FDA requirements. Chewing gum (2 g) containing plant cells expressed CTB-ACE2 up to 17.2 mg ACE2/g dry weight (11.7% leaf protein), have physical characteristics and taste/flavor like conventional gums, and no protein was lost during gum compression. CTB-ACE2 gum efficiently (>95%) inhibited entry of lentivirus spike or VSV-spike pseudovirus into Vero/CHO cells when quantified by luciferase or red fluorescence. Incubation of CTB-ACE2 microparticles reduced SARS-CoV-2 virus count in COVID-19 swab/saliva samples by >95% when evaluated by microbubbles (femtomolar concentration) or qPCR, demonstrating both virus trapping and blocking of cellular entry. COVID-19 saliva samples showed low or undetectable ACE2 activity when compared with healthy individuals (2,582 versus 50,126 ΔRFU; 27 versus 225 enzyme units), confirming greater susceptibility of infected patients for viral entry. CTB-ACE2 activity was completely inhibited by pre-incubation with SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain, offering an explanation for reduced saliva ACE2 activity among COVID-19 patients. Chewing gum with virus-trapping proteins offers a generally affordable strategy to protect patients from most oral virus re-infections through debulking or minimizing transmission to others.

Debulking SARS-CoV-2 in saliva using angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 in chewing gum to decrease oral virus transmission and infection, Molecular Therapy: Cell.com

Henry Daniell, Smruti K. Nair, Nardana Esmaeili, Geetanjali Wakade, Naila Shahid, Prem Kumar Ganesan, Md Reyazul Islam, Ariel Shepley-McTaggart, Sheng Feng, Ebony N. Gary, Ali R. Ali, Manunya Nuth, Selene Nunez Cruz, Jevon Graham-Wooten, Stephen J. Streatfield, Ruben Montoya-Lopez, Paul Kaznica, Margaret Mawson, Brian J. Green, Robert Ricciardi, Michael Milone, Ronald N. Harty, Ping Wang, David B. Weiner, Kenneth B. Margulies, Ronald G. Collman

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Cobalt and Caveats...

Video Source: New York Times

Topics: Battery, Chemistry, Climate Change, Environment, Politics

KASULO, Democratic Republic of Congo — A man in a pinstripe suit with a red pocket square walked around the edge of a giant pit one April afternoon where hundreds of workers often toil in flip-flops, burrowing deep into the ground with shovels and pickaxes.

His polished leather shoes crunched on dust the miners had spilled from nylon bags stuffed with cobalt-laden rocks.

The man, Albert Yuma Mulimbi, is a longtime power broker in the Democratic Republic of Congo and chairman of a government agency that works with international mining companies to tap the nation’s copper and cobalt reserves, used in the fight against global warming.

Mr. Yuma’s professed goal is to turn Congo into a reliable supplier of cobalt, a critical metal in electric vehicles, and shed its anything-goes reputation for tolerating an underworld where children are put to work and unskilled and ill-equipped diggers of all ages get injured or killed.

“We have to reorganize the country and take control of the mining sector,” said Mr. Yuma, who had pulled up to the Kasulo site in a fleet of SUVs carrying a high-level delegation to observe the challenges there.

But to many in Congo and the United States, Mr. Yuma himself is a problem. As chairman of Gécamines, Congo’s state-owned mining enterprise, he has been accused of helping to divert billions of dollars in revenues, according to confidential State Department legal filings reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with a dozen current and former officials in both countries.

Hunt for the ‘Blood Diamond of Batteries’ Impedes Green Energy Push, Dionne Searcey, and Eric Lipton, New York Times

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Lithium and Caveats...

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Image Source: Visual Capitalist

Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Biofuels, Chemistry, Climate Change, Environment

California and the Biden administration are pushing incentives to make the United States a global leader in a market that’s beginning to boom: the production of lithium, the lightweight metal needed for the batteries of electric vehicles, and for the storage of renewable energy from power plants.

At the moment nearly all the lithium used in the United States must be imported from China and other nations. But that trend could shift within two years if an efficient method is found to remove lithium from power plant waste in California.

Since the 1970s, California has built power plants that make electricity from geothermal energy—steam from saltwater heated by magma from the molten core of the Earth. It now accounts for 6 percent of California’s power, but it is more expensive to produce than other forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.

But that calculus could change if the wastewater from the process—a whitish, soup-like brine that contains a mixture of dissolved minerals and metals including lithium—can be separated so the lithium could be extracted.

According to a study by the Department of Energy, the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley—one of two large geothermal energy production sites in the state—could produce as much as 600,000 tons of lithium annually.

U.S. Looks to Extract Lithium for Batteries from Geothermal Waste, John Fialka, Scientific American

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Quantum AI...

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Rutgers researchers and their collaborators have found that learning - a universal feature of intelligence in living beings - can be mimicked in synthetic matter, a discovery that in turn could inspire new algorithms for artificial intelligence (AI). (Courtesy: Rutgers University-New Brunswick)

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Materials Science, Quantum Mechanics

Quantum materials known as Mott insulators can “learn” to respond to external stimuli in a way that mimics animal behavior, say researchers at Rutgers University in the US. The discovery of behaviors such as habituation and sensitization in these non-living systems could lead to new algorithms for artificial intelligence (AI).

Neuromorphic, or brain-inspired, computers aim to mimic the neural systems of living species at the physical level of neurons (brain nerve cells) and synapses (the connections between neurons). Each of the 100 billion neurons in the human brain, for example, receives electrical inputs from some of its neighbors and then “fires” an electrical output to others when the sum of the inputs exceeds a certain threshold. This process, also known as “spiking”, can be reproduced in nanoscale devices such as spintronic oscillators. As well as being potentially much faster and energy-efficient than conventional computers, devices based on these neuromorphic principles might be able to learn how to perform new tasks without being directly programmed to accomplish them.

Quantum material ‘learns’ like a living creature, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Willful Ignorance...

 

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

There is a high price for willful ignorance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How well can billions spend on a dystopian planet?

 

 

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Kilonovas and Gold...

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Artist's impression of a neutron-star merger (Courtesy: NASA)

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Chemistry, Materials Science, Neutron Stars

The amounts of heavy elements such as gold created when black holes merge with neutron stars have been calculated and compared with the amounts expected when pairs of neutron stars merge. The calculations were done by Hsin-Yu Chen and Salvatore Vitale at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Francois Foucart at the University of New Hampshire using advanced simulations and gravitational-wave observations made by the LIGO–Virgo collaboration. Their results suggest that merging pairs of neutron stars are likely to be responsible for more heavy elements in the universe than mergers of black holes with neutron stars.

Today, astrophysicists have an incomplete understanding of how elements heavier than iron are made. In this nucleosynthesis process, lighter nuclei must be able to capture neutrons from their surroundings. Astrophysicists believe this can happen in two ways, each producing about half of the heavy elements in the universe. These are the slow process (s-process) that occurs in large stars and the rapid process (r-process), which is believed to occur in extreme conditions such as the explosion of a star in a supernova. However, exactly where the r-process can take place is hotly debated.

One event that could support the r-process is the merger of a pair of neutron stars, which can result in a huge explosion called a kilonova. Indeed, such an event was seen by LIGO–Virgo in 2017, and simultaneous observations using light-based telescopes suggest that heavy elements were created in that event.

Merging neutron stars create more gold than collisions involving black holes, Sam Jarman, Physics World

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Time...

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GIF source: article link below

Topics: Applied Physics, Education, Research, Thermodynamics

Also note the Hyper Physics link on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, particularly "Time's Arrow."

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time," Leo Tolstoy, War, and Peace

The short answer

We can measure time intervals — the duration between two events — most accurately with atomic clocks. These clocks produce electromagnetic radiation, such as microwaves, with a precise frequency that causes atoms in the clock to jump from one energy level to another. Cesium atoms make such quantum jumps by absorbing microwaves with a frequency of 9,192,631,770 cycles per second, which then defines the international scientific unit for time, the second.

The answer to how we measure time may seem obvious. We do so with clocks. However, when we say we’re measuring time, we are speaking loosely. Time has no physical properties to measure. What we are really measuring is time intervals, the duration separating two events.

Throughout history, people have recorded the passage of time in many ways, such as using sunrise and sunset and the phases of the moon. Clocks evolved from sundials and water wheels to more accurate pendulums and quartz crystals. Nowadays when we need to know the current time, we look at our wristwatch or the digital clock on our computer or phone. 

The digital clocks on our computers and phones get their time from atomic clocks, including the ones developed and operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

How Do We Measure Time? NIST

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