Brainy Quote of the Day

Monday, July 16, 2018

Intellectual Property...

Image source: Link below
Topics: Applied Physics, Commentary, Economy, Education, Einstein, Research

Did Einstein "own" Special and General Relativity, the photoelectric effect (for which the Nobel Prize was awarded); Brownian Motion or Mass-Energy equivalence? Did Richard Feynman "own" his diagrams? He's also credited for being the father of nanotechnology with his seminal talk: "There's plenty of room at the bottom." Norio Taniguchi, a Tokyo Science University Professor coined the term nanotechnology in 1974: does he, or his descendents "own" it? These things are known and associated with them, but we have never asked the ultimate question of ownership.

I know, for example, any process I changed as an engineer was "owned" by the company I was working for at the time. If I applied for a patent, my name would be on it, but the company "owned" the intellectual property rights. It works the same for universities: whatever inventions you file patents for, your institution "owns" it. It's something in Pavlovian fashion I will admit, I have been conditioned to accept.

That cannot, however, stop you from "thinking" about it even if you've left your notes with the lab you worked on the invention in.

In the era of the Internet and pirating, this question has gotten even thornier.

In the late 1990s, business managers and academic researchers tried to tackle what they saw as an urgent and growing problem: When knowledge workers such as industrial physicists walked out the door in the evening, they inevitably took valuable intellectual property with them. Managers did not fear the theft of patent documents. They feared losing a collection of intangible skills, a deep knowledge of the company’s processes, relationships with other technical workers, and the general know-how that makes an experienced employee more valuable than someone fresh out of college. In other words, businesses were worried that they did not fully own scientists’ minds.

Over the course of centuries, a struggle has been playing out about who gets to own ideas. Is it the person who comes up with them? The employer who funds the research? Or should the ideas be somehow shared between them?

For the most part, that struggle has resulted in scientists slowly losing control of their discoveries, both in private industry and in academia. Patents once went to the inventor by default, but now they belong to the employer. Hands-on skill and experience with the research process—sometimes called know-how or tacit knowledge—was once the most fundamentally personal part of what a worker brought to the table, yet business lawyers have built a variety of legal tools to constrain skilled workers from offering it up on the free market. By the 1990s teams of MBAs and business-school scholars joined forces to see if advances in information technology, management techniques, law, and sociology could allow them to extract workers’ know-how so that the company could store and own it indefinitely. The resulting academic research field and management fad became known as “knowledge management.”

This article traces changes in US law, business practices, and social expectations about research and invention in order to illuminate the history of business control over scientists’ ideas. It will not be the whole history—I skip over huge amounts of history about government sponsorship of research, changing national and international economic conditions, ties between industrial and academic scientists, and many other topics that would be needed for that.1 Still, it is a slice of history that physicists would do well to remember. We live in an age of strong intellectual property rights and relatively weak protections for workers, especially in high-tech fields where unionization is low. Where once an industrial scientist had unquestioned ownership of his or her ideas, that self-determination has eroded in many ways over centuries. Knowing that past might help scientists evaluate what they hope to see in the future.

Who owns a scientist’s mind? Douglas O’Reagan, Physics Today

Friday, July 13, 2018

Freytag's Dénouement...


Topics: Climate Change, Ecology, Existentialism, Global Warming, Octavia Butler

Under Freytag's pyramid, the plot of a story consists of five parts: exposition (originally called introduction), rising action (rise), climax, falling action (return or fall), and dénouement/resolution/revelation/catastrophe. Dramatic structure - Wikipedia

Completely unplanned but apropos that this post appears on the superstitious "Friday the 13th," the reason for many Jason Voorhees movie serials in my youth. Also phonetically, it is akin to Fredo Corleone from The Godfather, insisting beyond all evidence to the contrary of intellectual acumen, heretofore demonstrably non-existent.

*****

The late William T. Kelley, who taught Trump at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddamn student I ever had.” Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal,” says Trump had “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” Source: Steve Chapman, Chicago Times

With their documented disdain of education, Karl Rovian "created realities" to include non-existent Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction; anti-science as entrance to "the club" and the tribal (and corporate-manipulated), lock-step climate denialism, it was inevitable this ideology would eventually birth an orange, sacrilegious personification. Amanda Marcotte, author of Troll Nation succinctly ties the right's absence of logic and reason as raison d'etre for its very existence. Their grifter-in-chief's mullet - well past expiration - has become this generations latest troll doll model. This would be funny if they, and he didn't have power.

*****

Failure to meet the United Nations’ 2ºC warming limits will lead to sea level rise and dire global economic consequences, new research has warned.

Published today in Environmental Research Letters, a study led by the UK National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) found flooding from rising sea levels could cost $14 trillion worldwide annually by 2100 if the target of holding global temperatures below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels is missed.

The researchers also found that upper-middle income countries such as China would see the largest increase in flood costs, whereas the highest income countries would suffer the least, thanks to existing high levels of protection infrastructure.

Svetlana Jevrejeva, from the NOC, is the study’s lead author. She said: “More than 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas, less than 10 meters above sea level. In a warming climate, global sea level will rise due to the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and from the thermal expansion of ocean waters. So, sea level rise is one of the most damaging aspects of our warming climate.”

Sea level projections exist for emissions scenarios and socio-economic scenarios. However, there are no scenarios covering limiting warming below the 2°C and 1.5°C targets during the entire 21st century and beyond. [1]

*****

The ancillary effects of climate change are brain-eating amoeba in Florida and Louisianna. It is playing a role in tick migrations, especially in the south; particularly in the Carolinas, where I now live again. There's only so much OFF we can wear for mosquitoes along with sunscreen for UV. It goes well beyond snowballs in the well of the Senate by representatives well-compensated by the fossil fuel industry that are the pimps to his prostitution. World population in 2100 is estimated to go from its present 7.6 to 11.2 billion; that presumes the Senator's grandchildren will be a part of that population.

Octavia Butler's short Parable Series is worth your time away from thousands of television stations you'll never watch and news feeds on social media that are either questionable or manipulated by Russian troll farms to manipulate you:

The sequel, “Parable of the Talents,” published in 1998, begins in 2032. By then, various forms of indentured servitude and slavery are common, facilitated by high-tech slave collars. The oppression of women has become extreme; those who express their opinion, “nags,” might have their tongues cut out. People are addicted not only to designer drugs but also to “dream masks,” which generate virtual fantasies as guided dreams, allowing wearers to submerge themselves in simpler, happier lives. News comes in the form of disks or “news bullets,” which “purport to tell us all we need to know in flashy pictures and quick, witty, verbal one-two punches. Twenty-five or thirty words are supposed to be enough in a news bullet to explain either a war or an unusual set of Christmas lights.” The Donner Administration has written off science, but a more immediate threat lurks: a violent movement is being whipped up by a new Presidential candidate, Andrew Steele Jarret, a Texas senator and religious zealot who is running on a platform to make American great again.”

In her lifetime, Butler insisted that the Parable series was not intended as an augur. “This was not a book about prophecy,” she said, of “Talents,” in remarks she delivered at M.I.T. “This was a cautionary tale, although people have told me it was prophecy. All I have to say to that is: I certainly hope not. [2]

We miss you, Octavia.

1. Rising sea levels could cost the world $14 trillion a year by 2100, Simon Davies, Physics World
2. Octavia Butler’s Prescient Vision of a Zealot Elected to “Make America Great Again", Abby Aguirre, New Yorker

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Max Planck Institute Bullying...

MLA style: "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1918". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 11 Jul 2018. < http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1918/ >
Topics: Commentary, Diversity, Diversity in Science, Existentialism, Women in Science

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck
Born: 23 April 1858, Kiel, Schleswig (now Germany)
Died: 4 October 1947, Göttingen, West Germany (now Germany)
Affiliation at the time of the award: Berlin University, Berlin, Germany
Prize motivation: "in recognition of the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta"
Field: quantum mechanics
Max Planck received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1919.
Prize share: 1/1

From which we get Planck's constant, Planck length, Planck time and the now infamous institute that bears his name, which I never dreamed I'd associate with bullying.

Women, LGBT, and people of color are typically attracted to STEM fields because of interest, acumen and being the unfortunate victims of bullying, cyber or otherwise.

It is usually what attracts us to science in the first place: a solace from the parts of life that's unpleasant, that results in noses being shoved in lockers (me), harassment or assault, both purely physical or sexual. Surely, this cannot happen in academia.

We convince ourselves of this by the STEM fields being inherently difficult and requiring crosscultural and oftentimes crossgender collaboration to solve complex problems. Utopias like Star Trek are envisioned on this premise: if only the species were more "logical," and not as inclined to the lesser angels of its reptilian cortex.

We were wrong...

Picture the scene: You are an enthusiastic young scientist, with, you think, the world at your feet. You have an exciting offer to join a world-leading research institute in another country. And then, to your dismay, you find yourself in a workplace where everything feels wrong. Your supervisor intimidates you and you receive upsetting e-mails, but the institute leadership seems indifferent. You are alone in a foreign culture, and you don’t know what to do. Your friends tell you to complain, but you are afraid of repercussions — and of losing the opportunity you fought so hard for. And, anyway, you don’t know who to trust.

This has apparently been the situation for years for some young researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany. Details of their struggles with alleged bullying by one of the directors — Guinevere Kauffmann — erupted in the media in the past two weeks.

According to the allegations, problems at the institute have simmered for years. The institute put in place coaching and monitoring for Kauffmann, who says: “I believe I have modified my behavior very substantially in the last 18 months since the complaints were made.” The institute also circulated an anonymous survey to young researchers, asking whether they think the problems are continuing and whether they have enough support. The results are to be presented to the institute this week, but, according to a leaked copy of the report, they show three fresh allegations of bullying against current staff, although it is not known against whom. The institute says it is investigating.

No place for bullies in science, Editorial, Nature

Related link:

Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Society investigates new allegations of abuse, Alison Abbott, Nature

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Don't Leave Home Without It"...

Lockheed Martin’s concept, called Mars Base Camp, would need a way to replenish their fuel and air supplies.
Lockheed Martin
Topics: Astrophysics, Mars, NASA, Photosynthesis, Planetary Science, Space Exploration

Note: From American Express travelers checks ads in 1975 with Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden; it was "them" instead of "it" back then. Yeah, I'm dating myself.

Spaceflight is like backpacking. If you can’t restock supplies like food and water along the way, how far you can travel is limited by how much you can carry. And in space, you also have to worry about having enough fuel for your spacecraft and breathable air for your crew.

That’s why some researchers are looking toward technology that they call artificial photosynthesis — a way of harnessing the sun’s light to generate fuel and breathable air for longer missions. This system would mimic, in a sense, the way plants perform natural photosynthesis by converting light energy into chemical energy and producing oxygen in the process.

Research published Tuesday in Nature Communications brings us one step closer to this goal. For the first time, researchers performed photoelectrochemical experiments — chemical reactions that use light and the electrical properties of chemicals — in an outer space-like microgravity environment.

Using Sunlight To Make Spaceship Fuel And Breathable Air, Erika K. Carlson, Astronomy Magazine

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bottoms Up...

Bottoms up: physicists working on the ATLAS experiment have discovered the most common Higgs decay channel. (Courtesy: Maximilien Brice/CERN)
Topics: Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Quarks

Why "Quark"?
The name "quark" was taken by Murray Gell-Mann from the book "Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce. The line "Three quarks for Muster Mark..." appears in the fanciful book. Gell-Mann received the 1969 Nobel Prize for his work in classifying elementary particles.

Source and primer: Quarks on Hyperphysics

Physicists working on the ATLAS experiment at CERN have confirmed that the Higgs boson decays to two bottom quarks. The discovery was made by combining data from two runs of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and was announced today at the 2018 International Conference on High Energy Physics in Seoul, Korea.

Although this decay channel should account for nearly 60% of all Higgs decays at the LHC, it had proven extremely difficult to spot it amongst the vast number of particles that are produced by proton-proton collisions at the collider.

Predicted in 1964, the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012 at the LHC where it is produced in high-energy proton-proton collisions.

Higgs boson seen decaying to two bottom quarks, Hamish Johnston, Physics World

Monday, July 9, 2018

Slow-Mo Electrons...

Electrons in some oxides can experience an “unconventional slowing down” of their response to a light pulse, according to Argonne material scientists and their collaborators. This surprising behavior may result in useful properties related to magnetism, conductivity or even superconductivity. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)
Topics: Chemistry, Optical Physics, Periodic Table

In a new study, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have determined that electrons in some oxides can experience an “unconventional slowing down” of their response to a light pulse.

The researchers describe the behavior as lasting about a millionth of a second, which is still a million times slower than traditional electronic recovery times.

“It’s as if the electron is spending two years or more dithering between states when normally it could make up its mind in a minute,” said Anand Bhattacharya, an Argonne materials scientist and co-author of the study, published May 4, in Nature Communications.

In a crystal, all the atoms form a periodic structure called a lattice, where the atoms are arranged in a repetitive pattern in three dimensions. The properties of electrons living in this space typically obey the same periodicity.

But below a temperature of about minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the electrons in the study material, lanthanum strontium ferrite, find it more energetically advantageous to cooperate with the lattice and magnetism on the iron atoms, to form a new periodic structure called a magnetically driven, charge-ordered state.

The behavior occurs close to a temperature that marks a phase transition — similar to the way in which 32 degrees Fahrenheit marks the phase transition from water to ice. But the phase transition studied here is peculiar because it marks a transition between a magnetic insulator and a non-magnetic metal. According to Bhattacharya, these sorts of phase transitions are potentially useful as 'switches,' where a material’s 'on' and 'off' states can allow us to toggle between metals, insulators, magnets and superconductors.

However, the material studied — known as La1/3Sr2/3FeO3 — had a surprise in store.

Electrons slowing down at critical moments, Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory

Friday, July 6, 2018

Tails of Distributions...

Source: 5.4 Areas of Tails of Distributions
Topics: Commentary, Civics, Civil Rights, History, Human Rights, Politics

The Southern Strategy

The Southern strategy was Richard Nixon's strategy to *whiteify* the electorate so Republicans could hold onto power in light of demographic changes. It began as a grab for southern states during the 1968 and 1972 elections: a combination of dog-whistle politics as well as a deliberately racist agenda, effectively throwing any social clout the GOP had right out the window.

It resulted in a total party realignment over issues of civil rights and racism. Democrats went from being the party who opposed civil rights to being the party that passed them, and Southerners who were formerly Democrats voted Republican instead, because Republicans opposed progress in those areas to various extents. This was the most significant political realignment in the US since the "New Deal Coalition," and one that still continues to this day. Source: Rational Wiki

The link at Rational Wiki is instructive in its historical context. We're still reeling from the last election that did a lot of digital *whiteification* via social media threads, Russian troll farms and election meddling.

Our US republican senators are meeting with Russian spy Lavrov (one of the same spies this president* revealed classified information to in a meeting not covered by the US press) ahead of the Trump-Putin summit where no one else, press or otherwise is allowed in the meeting, which should probably go as well as his "summit" with Kim Jung Un. Their fidelity to "denuclearize" was laughable, but our possible retreat from the world stage could be actionable by a dim bulb going into a closed door battle-of-wits meeting with a Master KGB spy not even half-armed. That would be at least a 10% improvement from where he currently is: somewhere above amoeba, desperately trying not to drool.

This is an instance of pure, naked guile of what demonic goals they are trying to achieve.

It has always been about the mythological stratification of race: I say myth, because there is no scientific basis for the demarcations. Yet, whole rallies like the tragedy at Charlottesville and one year later (because Heather Hyer's vehicular murder was such a "winner" for "fine people"), a so-called "white" Civil Rights rally at the Washington Mall is approved and being organized. They might as well have a parade over pixie dust; a Loch Ness Monster square dance; a ritual sacrifice for UFOs and a pagan solstice observance for Bigfoot! It has been proven over and again to not exist, yet there are the Alt-Right, Aryan Nation, KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists that insist on it being a "thing," because racism and its kissing, incestuous twin fascism have no basis in rationality.

"Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority," by anti-racist author and activist Tim Wise was an entertaining read, written not in chapters, but as a very long, book-length letter. It is a consoling tome about the eventual majority of this country being people of color, and the numerical minorities so-called "whites." (I detest the term "majority-minority country" as oxymoronic, and insistent of the mythological separation of humanity.)

In the book description on the website:
In America, being white has long meant never having to think about race. Whites have been able to assume that the culture, political leadership and their own neighborhoods would “look like them,” and the economy would work for them, so long as they played by the rules. Now, facing chronic economic insecurity, a multicultural pop culture, a black president and a future in which they will no longer be the majority, whites are growing anxious. This anxiety has helped create the Tea Party phenomenon and is characterized by the call to “take the country back” to a mythologized past. Using racialized nostalgia, the right seeks to enlist fearful whites in a movement for reactionary social and economic policies. But as Tim Wise explains, such an agenda will only further harm the nation’s people, including most whites. Only by embracing a progressive, multicultural future, can the hope of American democracy survive.

This moribund "strategy" has petered out, nearing the end of its eventual shelf life. It was to fetch disgruntled, southern constituents from the Democratic Party - the original slave-trading defender and predominate in confederate states versus the newer, Civil Rights focused Republican Party of that era led by Abraham Lincoln. It was a change in demographics, then as now that caused a seismic shift in focus. The philosophical focus of each party flip-flopped sides after the '64 Civil Rights Act, '65 Voting Rights Act and the '68 Fair Housing Act. "Fear of a Black Planet" by the Hip Hop group Public Enemy might as well have been a political Punnett Square. The people who still want to "take their country back" fear black, brown, Asian, Native and LGBT. In their calculus, if you're not making white babies - as feckless college dropout and congressman Steve King alluded in a racist tweet and public comments, you are of no value. The decline in white birth rates are explained by simply existing in Western nations with better access to birth control, family planning, women deciding to delay childbirth for career advancement and some individuals/couples choosing to go childless. It's not the existential crisis screeds like "white" genocide conclude. But of course, screeds are generally not rational.

This was begun as the Reagan Revolution in Philadelphia, Mississippi where he started his presidential campaign with a "state's rights" speech near the site James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - three Civil Rights workers, an African American and two Jewish men, registering black voters - had been murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, August 4, 1964. It was a "wink-and-nod" to southern Dixiecrats that soon became "Reagan Democrats." This is the tail-end of dog whistle politics and polite "wink-and-nod" verbal Jui-Jitsu advocated by political operative Lee Atwater. It is comical to hear conservative pundits now aghast at this president* and his rhetoric - at his fourth-grade level of vocabulary, purely unsophisticated for the fine art of subtlety. The dog whistle in his tiny fingers is a foghorn on Twitter, Pied Piper calling cockroaches, leeches and rodents from under rocks and out of anal crevices. His lies are simply the metastasis of the ones that got us into Iraq on Weapons of Mass Destruction that were not there, cost us many lives, casualties both of mortal wounds and PTSD for a nation that never attacked us on 9/11. It is not, nor should it be surprising. It is now a choice of white supremacy over national solidarity. It is now a choice being a satellite of Moscow over national sovereignty. It is now a choice of self-governance over a fascist, post-fact manipulated state.

November 6, 2018 (midterms) could decide the fate of democracy globally...of whether we are the best example, or simply another republic on its way to the dustbin of history.

*The usage of the asterisk (*) next to president* I borrow from and attribute to Charles P. Pierce, a writer for Esquire magazine and frequent media commentator on MSNBC. He's also author of the prescient book: "Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free." And so, despite his and other authors' warnings to the contrary, our republic is at the stage-edge of this cliff...