Brainy Quote of the Day

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Stepping Backwards...

Image source: link [1] below

Topics: Civics, NASA, Space Exploration, Star Trek, STEM

The first time I ran into the notion of the moon landing being "faked," a young coworker showed me a grainy amateurish video on YouTube. I encountered it with a co-vendor at the IBM research facility I supported. To neither, both younger than me, did it matter that "I was there" and they weren't on the planet yet. Evidence and eye witness testimony did not move them from their stances.

Neil Armstrong thought he had a 50–50 shot at pulling it off. "There are so many unknowns," the first man to set foot on the moon said in a 2011 interview with an Australian accounting firm. “There was a big chance that there was something in there we didn’t understand properly and we [would have] to abort and come back to Earth without landing.” That he, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins—with the help of thousands of NASA engineers, scientists and mission controllers on Earth—did pull off a moon landing remains one of humanity's most incredible achievements.

Consider that 50 years ago this month a 36-story-tall Saturn V rocket weighing as much as 400 elephants climbed away from Earth atop an explosion more powerful than the output of 85 Hoover Dams. Once in space, the astronauts escaped Earth orbit, traveled to lunar orbit, then undocked part of their spacecraft and steered it down for a soft impact on an alien land. Perhaps even more impressive, after taking a walk around, they climbed back in their lunar lander, launched off the surface of another planetary body (another first), rejoined the command module orbiting roughly 60 miles above the lunar surface, and then flew back to Earth, splashing down safely in the Pacific Ocean two days later. [1]

The spin offs from the space industry technologically benefited America. Not since the king cotton era (fueled by the free, uncompensated slave labor of my ancestors) had the United States enjoyed such dominance in production, productivity and economic expansion. It would go on for decades, many young people inspired by NASA, Star Trek reruns and conventions to pursue STEM careers out of a passion for exploration, and birthing a more egalitarian society post previous sectarian divisions.

Exactly 50 years ago today, a Saturn V rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin would land on the Moon and inspire a generation of young people to become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

The Apollo program's effect of inspiring America's children to pursue careers in STEM fields is one of the most powerful lasting legacies of the Moon race. Unfortunately, this effect seems to be coming to an end.

On the eve of the Apollo 11 anniversary, LEGO asked The Harris Poll to survey a total of 3,000 children in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom about their attitudes toward and knowledge of space. The results reveal that, at least for Western countries, kids today are more interested in YouTube than spaceflight. [2]

Entertainment and ambition looked upward: the notion of a three nacelle starship with a saucer section that could travel impossible speeds fueled imaginations. The notion of defying relativistic time dilation, traversing vast distances in human lifetimes propelled many of us into STEM to “do our parts” in getting at least close to this lofty goal. A fifth or tenth the speed of light to Proxima Centauri would achieve that aim. Any higher level physics class disabused us of attaining “warp speed,” but we could see the technological benefit and spin off of assisting in things that would promote the “Common Good” here on Terra Firma.

We did not count on the divorce of productivity and cost of living wages, stagnant since the 1970s. We did not count on conspiracy theorists masking themselves as serious news pundits and influencing more than clicks or product purchases from their sites. We did not count on the rapidly increasing (and encouraged) income disparity. We did not count on politicians bought by wealthy families and corporations whose only about getting wealthier and more powerful in our lives. We did not count on science denial, climate or otherwise. Such a dysfunctional dystopia depends on selfies, self-centered attitudes and distractions, like supercomputers in our hip pockets sharing our suppers; websites that reinforce our views and cute cat videos. And we did not count on the cultural division encouraged by authoritarians the world over as their best means of controlling the masses.

It is in such a world young people would rather be YouTube personalities than starship captains.

My previous, gob-smacking encounters with my younger coworkers are now explained.

1. One Small Step Back in Time: Relive the Wonder of Apollo 11, Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American
2. American kids would much rather be YouTubers than astronauts, Eric Berger, ArsTechica

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

How We See the Small...

View of cantilever on an atomic force microscope (magnification 1000x).
Credit: SecretDisc GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Topics: Atomic Force Microscopy, Nanotechnology, Optics, Scanning Electron Microscope

Cell reproduction, disease detection and semiconductor optimization are just some of the areas of research that have exploited the atomic force microscope. First invented by Calvin Quate, Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber in the mid 1980s, atomic force microscopy (AFM) brought the atomic resolution recently achieved by the scanning tunnelling microscope to non-conducting samples, and helped to catalyse the avalanche of science and technology based on nanostructures that now permeates all aspects of modern life from smartphones to tennis rackets. On 6 July 2019 Calvin Quate died aged 95 at his home in Menlo Park, California.

Long before the development of AFM, Quate’s research had made waves in microscopy. 1978 had seen the announcement of the scanning acoustic microscope, which achieved the sensitivity of optical microscopy but probed samples so softly that it could image the interiors of living cells without damaging them. The technique uses high frequency sound waves in place of light, which penetrate deep into structures to image internal structures non-destructively. It is widely used in quality control of electronic component assembly among other applications such as printed circuit boards and medical products.

Advanced microscopy pioneer leaves broad ranging legacy
Anna Demming, Physics World

Monday, July 15, 2019

Where You Came From...


Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Politics

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Bronx, NY
Rep. Ilhan Omar - Somali refugee, naturalized in Minnesota
Rep. Ayanna Pressley - Cincinnati, OH
Rep. Rashida Tlaib - Detroit, MI

Donald Trump - not Queens, somewhere between Area 51 and dumb $:#% i-Stan!

I tweeted this at "stable genius" Sunday. I won't mince words.

The president is a racist.

If the video embed invokes the Bard ("What's past is prologue" - William Shakespeare), his racism came from his environment, not reruns of "All in the Family" with Archie Bunker.

He was a racist when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower, railing against Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists and Muslims as terrorists.

He was a rapist as he made "other" the first African American President of the United States in his swiped-from-Orly-Taitz birther campaign that put him in the Oval Office.

He was a racist when he took a full-page ad out in the NY Times calling for (at the time) a return of the death penalty for the Central Park Five. Even after DNA evidence exonerated them and the actual rapist confessed, he still won't admit his error.

He was a racist when the NIXON administration's justice department came after him and his father in the 1970s for discriminating against African Americans and Puerto Ricans in their rental properties in New York.

He was a racist in his rants against Puerto Rico after a natural disaster fueled by climate change (a scientific consensus he denies). He and a lot of Americans aren't even aware Puerto Rico is a US territory and its inhabitants US citizens.

I recall the jarring sight of the Robert E. Lee Battle Flag (NOT the flag of the Confederacy as it is misidentified by the lazy) in the village of Wappingers Falls, NY about 80 miles north of Manhattan. The "stars and bars" were flying high in Boston, Massachusetts as I took a class on Implant Engineering in 2016 at the onset of this poorly-scripted, reality-TV slow-rolling nightmare.

First Nation Peoples who speak native tongues are told to "go back where you came from" when they were here before Europeans.

African Americans are told to "go back where we came from" as IF they leaped on a slave ship sir named "The Good Ship Jesus" packed like sardines, suffering cholera, diarrhea, dysentery and death; the survivors separated, raped and beaten worse than cattle all for a LARK!

Hispanics/Latinos are told to "go back where they came from" when Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Las Vegas and California USED TO BE Mexico. The Alamo - so "bravely fought" for Texas freedom - was started because the Mexicans would not agree to continue slavery!

This nation is a sham, a facade: a fake! It's told itself a line of bullshit so long, it's become accepted history instead of the propaganda used by a well-moneyed oligarchy to maintain control of the masses.

They WON'T do reparations because this "system" needs pariahs. Without them - African Americans, First Nation, Hispanic/Latinos, LGBT; Women - the whole thing crumbles like a house of cards. It needs someone to be under a stamping boot:

"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." O'Brien to Winston in "1984."

It's why the struggle isn't left-right as Robert Reich has stated, but between democracy and oligarchy, who have likely gotten plenty tired of democratic freedoms interfering with the Ayan Rand, Atlas Shrugged invisible hand of the "free market."

Keeping poor whites against people of color is the easiest way for them to keep control and not have accountability for their avarice and nihilism.

Naturalized or birth: we're the American melting pot. We're all from here. We all deserve a country that works for the many, not the moneyed few.

"For years, even before mounting a formal bid for the presidency, Trump regaled television news audiences with racist conspiracy theories about former president Barack Obama. He pledged to send investigators out to prove the nation’s 44th president was not born in the United States. He later derided immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, calling those foreign nations “shit hole countries.” He once said immigrants from Haiti all “have AIDS” and that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts.”

In Trump’s mind, a judge’s Mexican heritage made him incapable of ruling fairly in a civil fraud case against one of his companies and he believes “laziness is a trait in blacks.” Trump, whose real estate company was sued for housing discrimination in the 1970s, went on to place a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for the execution of five innocent black teenagers. Even after the Central Park Five were exonerated, he refused to take it back. After Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville, Virginia, amid a white supremacist protest, he lamented the there were “some very fine people” on “both sides.”

Trump is not a fine person. His words Sunday were not racially “charged,” “fueled,” or “tinged.” They were unapologetically racist.

And, if you support him, so are you."

Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, Trump is a Racist. If You Still Support Him, So Are You.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Beneficent Adversaries...

Petty Officer Third Class Robert H. Goodwin, WWII veteran
Topics: Nanofluidics, Nanotechnology, Research, STEM, Thesis

I passed my Thesis defense in Monday. I have a Masters in Nanoengineering.

After many weeks of running experiments, parsing data and writing preliminary conclusions, I had to stand before my committee: my advisor (chemist) and my nano physics professor, the department chair (mechanical engineering) and defend my research. In hindsight, it was the committee on steroids.

I bought coffee and donuts; water for the committee as is the tradition. That exposed me to 95 degree heat and North Carolina humidity. I ended up defending without my suit jacket.

There is the public defense part where you get questions from either the panel or the audience. Then the grueling begins when the audience is encouraged to leave and you are alone with your committee.

I was challenged on my understanding of the data, not in an accusatory way but to foster a better rewrite when I turn in my written product to the Graduate College. Those are due next Wednesday. I should be able to fulfill that request on review with my advisor. The committee also suggested further experiments I could do to verify what I thought I was seeing. After an intense 40 minutes of questioning, I was asked to leave as the committee conferred. For what seemed like an eternity, my advisor came out and shook my hand: "congratulations." I then went in to the committee to get their final suggestions and signatures for completing the process.

I am also moving...within Greensboro mind you, but to a house we own outright versus a rental apartment we don't.

It reminded me of my father proudly burning the last payment record as we owned our modest home - two bedrooms, one bath and less than a thousand square feet - in East Winston-Salem off Cleveland Avenue.

For the move, I had to parse through memorabilia that traveled with us from Texas to New York to North Carolina. It was time to make some decisions.

I found the program and invitation to my mother's graduation from Practical Nursing School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I imagined the trip for her and my father probably took a lot of back roads and the Green Book during that time period.

I found my parents' invitations sent for my high school graduation as well as my acceptance letter saying I had been accepted to North Carolina A&T State University for the fall semester, 1980. I found my first karate promotion certificates from Dr. Casterlow as part of the A&T Dojo.

I found a short story my father kept I had written for catharsis called "The Decision." It was when Pop left it to me to decide the fate of my dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Fala, named after FDR's dog. He was aged, tired and had stopped eating. The gist of the story was "sometimes as a man, you have to make difficult decisions." I was twelve. I didn't own a dog again until I was an adult with sons of my own. Parting with each four-legged friend has never gotten easier.

I found a lot of family photos that will go in albums and on a flash drive soon.

I also found the corroborating evidence I had read on History.com: the GI Bill like the New Deal before it was discriminatory to African Americans. My father passed a college entrance exam with only a sixth grade education formally, due to the fact he and my uncle Moses, Jr. went to work for my grandmother to help out the household. The GI Bill for white soldiers and sailors paid for a college education and loans encouraging home ownership, building a wealth gap that has persisted for generations. Many white service members went on to become professionals and professors. The GI Bill for my father and his fellow WWII veterans of color only covered vocational training, like barber school. So that's what he learned. Pop often cut my hair in the kitchen of our home  in a segregated neighborhood crafted by redlining legislation. He faced the indignities of working for a textile company - routinely getting passed over for promotions and getting called "boy" or n-word then his name. He smoked in a chair in his bedroom before he engaged with the family every evening after work. That was his way of coping. It eventually led to lung cancer, the contributing cause of his death.

I sadly had to throw away his literature books he bought for me: I read The Iliad and the Odyssey from that collection. I read snippets of Milton and I meant to read Thomas Paine. They alas were molded and mildewed; unrecoverable. I plan to replace the collection once we're settled in.

Announcing the good news on Facebook numbered in the thousands on the Kappa Alpha Psi page; hundreds on my main feed. It was good to see others, near and far, celebrate this achievement with me.

I passed my Masters Thesis defense.

I like to think I redeemed my father's dreams as well.

Friday, June 14, 2019

This Present Darkness...

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Roger Ebert 1988 review

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Politics

Added Note: Writing my Masters Thesis and preparing to defend it 3 July to graduate this summer and be eligible for the PhD program in the fall. I will start posting again after the hurdle and stress is cleared.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12, ESV

I was so incensed Wednesday that a sitting president would accept help from a hostile foreign government if it helped him win, I penned a 5-page letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, six pages with references I cited.

I then emailed it (the memory cut off six of my eleven references). I posted it on Scribd.com. I then tweeted it to her @SpeakerPelosi. I snail mailed it from the local Post Office and bought Marvin Gaye stamps, finally. Tracking has her office getting it on Tuesday of next week.

The grave disappointment came when I called her number in DC: 202-225-4965. You can try, but you're given three options:

Option 1
You could leave a message to "voice your opinion, or pass on a personal story," except her mailbox is full. You're given the option to dial "0" and "someone will assist you." After a LONG radio silence, the call was summarily dropped.

Option 2
This gives you instructions of how to email the Speaker at Speaker.gov/contact. See first statement, second paragraph above.

Option 3
This gives you a guide to go to Speaker.gov to view her latest policy statements as well as her Twitter feed. See first sentence, second paragraph for which I would have had to GO to her website to do in the first place!

My letter, emailed, tweeted and snail mailed is at the link below. Depending on the platform, it either appears as an embed or a link. Each version will likely be read by a staffer and responded to with a form letter, restating the positions she's taken publicly and stamped with her mimeographed signature. Perhaps we've always been like this: instead of a "separation of powers," there's a separation of the people from the representatives we elect to power, No matter the outcome of the 2020 election, Nancy Pelosi will still be, from her service since the first wave of the "year of the woman" that brought her to prominence, quite wealthy - her children and grandchildren in a class mine probably will never enjoy. This is the kind of result that depresses voter turnout, as votes are a "hope" for a better future as well as an expression of desire by the governed. It is not surprising we are not being listened to, that the "mailbox is full."

And I sincerely hope, in my lamentations regarding this post, that I am horribly wrong.

The bottom line: we're the Calvary. Our last real president said: "we're the ones we've been waiting for." Granted, he failed Ferguson quite spectacularly, but he didn't require help from the Chinese et al to win either of his elections, he didn't solicit it publicly on TWO occasions, nor did his party give him cover as he actively subverted democracy.

If we want this republic, one nation, indivisible to stand and survive this present darkness: we may have to actually fight for its very life.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Brine Europa...

Salt-laden water welling up from below gives Europa’s fissures and cracks their distinctive color.
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech and SETI Institute

Topics: Astrobiology, Exoplanets, Planetary Exploration, SETI

The sea sloshing beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa just might be the best incubator for extraterrestrial life in our solar system. And yet it is concealed by the moon’s frozen outer shell—presenting a challenge for astrobiologists who would love nothing more than to peer inside. Luckily they can catch a partial glimpse by analyzing the flavor of the surface. And the results are salty.

A new study published this week in Science Advances suggests that sodium chloride—the stuff of table salt—exists on Europa’s surface. Because the exterior is essentially formed from frozen seawater, the finding suggests that Europa’s hidden sea is drenched in table salt—a crucial fact for constraining the possibilities for life on the alien world.

Not that scientists have tasted a slice of the distant moon. To analyze Europa’s composition, astronomers study the light emanating from its surface, splitting it into a rainbow-like spectrum to search for any telltale absorption or emission lines that reveal the world’s chemistry. There is just one problem: Ordinary table salt is white and thus gives off a featureless spectrum. But harsh radiation—which exists at Europa’s surface in abundance—just might add a dash of color. That much was realized in 2015 when two NASA planetary scientists Kevin Hand and Robert Carlson published a study suggesting the yellowish-brown gunk on Europa might be table salt baked by radiation. To reach that conclusion, Hand and Carlson re-created the conditions on Europa within vacuum chambers—or as Hand calls them, “stainless steel shiny objects that are humming and whizzing.” Next, they placed table salt into those chambers, lowered the pressures and temperatures to simulate Europa’s surface, and blasted the samples with an electron gun to simulate the intense radiation.

Water on Europa—with a Pinch of Salt, Shannon Hall, Scientific American

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Weird...

Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: God Particle, Higgs Boson, Large Hadron Collider, Standard Model, Theoretical Physics

c. 1400, "having power to control fate, from weird (n.), from Old English wyrd "fate, chance, fortune; destiny; the Fates," literally "that which comes," from Proto-Germanic *wurthiz (source also of Old Saxon wurd, Old High German wurt "fate," Old Norse urðr "fate, one of the three Norns"), from PIE *wert- "to turn, to wind," (source also of German werden, Old English weorðan "to become"), from root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend." For sense development from "turning" to "becoming," compare phrase turn into "become."

Etymology online: Weird

We all know and love the Higgs boson — which to physicists' chagrin has been mistakenly tagged in the media as the "God particle" — a subatomic particle first spotted in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) back in 2012. That particle is a piece of a field that permeates all of space-time; it interacts with many particles, like electrons and quarks, providing those particles with mass, which is pretty cool.

But the Higgs that we spotted was surprisingly lightweight. According to our best estimates, it should have been a lot heavier. This opens up an interesting question: Sure, we spotted a Higgs boson, but was that the only Higgs boson? Are there more floating around out there doing their own things?

But the Higgs that we spotted was surprisingly lightweight. According to our best estimates, it should have been a lot heavier. This opens up an interesting question: Sure, we spotted a Higgs boson, but was that the only Higgs boson? Are there more floating around out there doing their own things?

Physicists Search for Monstrous Higgs Particle. It Could Seal the Fate of the Universe.
Paul Sutter, Astrophysicist, Live Science