Brainy Quote of the Day

Monday, May 20, 2019

Our Shrinking Moon...

New surface features of the Moon have been discovered in a region called Mare Frigoris, outlined here in teal. NASA
Image: New Republic

Topics: Astrophysics, Geophysics, Moon, NASA, Planetary Science

The Moon is shrinking as its interior cools, getting more than about 150 feet (50 meters) skinnier over the last several hundred million years. Just as a grape wrinkles as it shrinks down to a raisin, the Moon gets wrinkles as it shrinks. Unlike the flexible skin on a grape, the Moon’s surface crust is brittle, so it breaks as the Moon shrinks, forming “thrust faults” where one section of crust is pushed up over a neighboring part.

“Our analysis gives the first evidence that these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink,” said Thomas Watters, senior scientist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. “Some of these quakes can be fairly strong, around five on the Richter scale.”

Watters is lead author of a study that analyzed data from four seismometers placed on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts using an algorithm, or mathematical program, developed to pinpoint quake locations detected by a sparse seismic network. The algorithm gave a better estimate of moonquake locations. Seismometers are instruments that measure the shaking produced by quakes, recording the arrival time and strength of various quake waves to get a location estimate, called an epicenter. The study was published May 13 in Nature Geoscience.

Shrinking Moon May Be Generating Moonquakes, NASA

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Relics of Entropy...


Topics: Biology, Existentialism, Futurism

I've passed all my courses and now have the task of putting my Thesis together. I'm anticipating a successful completion from a good start.

My granddaughter is as well, with a good family (I'm biased) surrounded by a support system of extended friends and close relatives.

I'm understandably concerned by headlines like these:

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.

Without drastic action to conserve habitats, the rate of species extinction — already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average across the past ten million years — will only increase, says the analysis. The findings come from a United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

According to the report, agricultural activities have had the largest impact on ecosystems that people depend on for food, clean water and a stable climate. The loss of species and habitats poses as much a danger to life on Earth as climate change does, says a summary of the work, released on 6 May. [1]

*****

Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

 • The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations' projections).

By 2050, my granddaughter will be 31, and I likely a memory to her.

I came of age during the sixties when our Civil Rights leaders became Civil Rights icons and martyrs. I came of age when "duck and cover" drills were the order of the day. I came of age when post Civil Rights, we tried at least to act...civil. Forced busing gave way to De Facto desegregation in the public square in education - until the end of forced busing and re-segregation; malls, sports arenas (especially there) where some modicum of the old "control of black bodies" could be exercised with less bull whip and more paychecks and professional sports contracts.

The seventies would be the last time production kept pace with pay: we've been in a hamster wheel since then, and the gulf between the super rich and everyone else has become an un-crossable chasm. We're more oligarchy than democracy, and the owners would sooner than later transform us into a full dystopian fascistic hell scape than help solve the problems they've created.

The point is, despite all the challenges, I came of age. I lived. I loved. I laughed. I cried. I learned to drive. I married. I had children and they are starting to have children.

It would be lovely for my granddaughter to have a planet on which to have a tea.

Lovelier still for her parents (my children) to become grandparents in my absence on a planet still able to support life and a civilization that could support such an endeavor with minimal environmental impact.

Or...she and I could be relics of entropy, where our ashes will not be discernible from scientist to citizen, layman to philosopher, capitalist to socialist; black to white and prince to pauper. In a blink of an eye on the scale of cosmic time...we would all become irrelevant to an unfeeling universe.

I am again biased. I think my granddaughter (and yours), deserves a little more than that.

1. Humans are driving one million species to extinction, Jeff Tollefson, Nature
2. Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050, Drew Hansen, Forbes

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

ANN...

Copper free: two Münster researchers compare a prototype optical chip to a one-cent coin. (Courtesy: University of Münster)

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Engineering, Neuromorphic Devices

A prototype artificial neural network (ANN) that uses only light to function has been unveiled by researchers at the University of Münster in Germany and the University of Exeter and University of Oxford in the UK. Their system can learn how to recognize simple patterns and its all-optical design could someday be exploited to create ANNs that can process large amounts of information rapidly while consuming relatively small amounts of energy.

ANNs mimic the human brain by using artificial neurons and synapses. A neuron receives one or more input signals and then uses this information to decide whether to output its own signal to the network. Synapses are the connections between neurons and can be “weighted” to favor signal propagation between certain neurons. An ANN can be trained to perform a task such as recognizing a pattern by sending multiple examples of the target pattern through the ANN while tweaking the synaptic weights until all examples of the target pattern elicit the same output from the ANN.

Relatively simple ANNs can be implemented on a computer. However, the conventional computer architecture of having a separate processor and memory makes it very difficult to implement the large numbers of neurons and synapses required to perform practical tasks.

One alternative is to create an ANN in which signals flows in the form of light pulses through an optical network. This is attractive because unlike electronic signals in a silicon chip, large amounts of light-encoded data can move quickly through optical materials without generating much heat. Furthermore, large amounts of information can be sent through an optical system by multiplexing the data using several different colors of light.

All-optical network mimics the brain’s neurons and synapses
Hamish Johnston, Physics World

Friday, May 10, 2019

Open Letter...

Image source: Etsy.com
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights

To my granddaughter,

You are days old and I am hours from holding you, feeding you, changing your diaper and being in your beautiful presence.

Your grandfather (me) was two months old when the Russians posted missiles in Cuba (back when they weren't meddling in our elections) and the world was on the brink of annihilation. Apparently that's what Homo Sapiens ("wise men") do in their spare time and with the power of the sun. As an infant like yourself, I can't imagine what your great-grandmother and great-grandfather felt about my future. I obviously lived to see you, and for that I am genuinely blessed.

I was about seven or eight when we did "duck and cover" drills, supposedly to protect our lives. In my minimal knowledge of physics principles (nerd even then), I didn't feel the efficacy of a wooden desk protecting us from nuclear fallout. It was disturbing, but we could put it behind ourselves at an ancient, physical practice called "recess."

After Vietnam, Watergate: there was a lull, as the nation was trying to find its "normal." The silliest thing your grandpa led was a game of "air dodge ball" in the quad of North Forsyth High School. My principal, Mr. Gibson looked with the other teachers as my fellow track teammates threw imaginary, energetic rubber invisible missiles at one another: jumping, rolling and laughing as we generated a crowd. Mr. Gibson finally had enough and said "alright everyone, let's go back to class." I have a memory of silliness, abandon and joy. I have not one of active shooter drills.

I pray...this madness for lead missiles will fade away. I pray for a return to a shared reality and facts versus truth and "alternative facts" so you won't be confused by mendacity. I pray the practice of "active shooter drills" become a memory in our now insane, slavish devotion to the gun industry. I pray for you before you enter your first mall, your first movie theater...your first school. I understandably want you to enter kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, college...and a full, safe life.

I will hold you close. I will pray and I will vote for sane gun control; for a future where you can do "silly things" with abandon, too. Especially, when I'm not here anymore. I will try to make the world a little better before Entropy claims me.

"If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together...there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, I'll always be with you." Pooh to Piglet

Love,

Paw-Paw

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mars Quake...

Model of the spaceship Insight, NASA's first robotic lander, dedicated to study the deep interior of Mars. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Topics: Geophysics, Mars, NASA, Planetary Exploration

Finals are over. I'll be with our new granddaughter and her parents next week, along with working on my thesis, following up on my PhD application and changing diapers. My posts will be sporadic since I'll be on the road. I'll catch up.

The breakthrough came nearly five months after InSight, the first spacecraft designed specifically to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down on the surface of Mars to begin its two-year seismological mission on the red planet.

The faint rumble characterized by JPL scientists as a likely marsquake, roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude earthquake, was recorded on April 6 - the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol.

It was detected by InSight’s French-built seismometer, an instrument sensitive enough to measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

The lunar and Martian surfaces are extremely quiet compared with Earth, which experiences constant low-level seismic noise from oceans and weather as well as quakes that occur along subterranean fault lines created by shifting tectonic plates in the planet’s crust.

Mars and the moon lack tectonic plates. Their seismic activity is instead driven by a cooling and contracting process that causes stress to build up and become strong enough to rupture the crust.

Three other apparent seismic signals were picked up by InSight on March 14, April 10 and April 11 but were even smaller and more ambiguous in origin, leaving scientists less certain they were actual marsquakes.

NASA probe detects likely 'marsquake' - an interplanetary first
Joey Roulette, Reuters Science

Monday, May 6, 2019

Antimatter Quantum Interferometry...

Left, schematics of the apparatus (positron beam, collimators, SiN gratings and emulsion detector. A HpGe detector is used as beam monitor). Right, single-particle interference visibility as a function of the positron energy is in agreement with quantum mechanics (blue) and disagrees with classical physics (orange dashed). Courtesy: Politecnico di Milano

Topics: Antimatter, High Energy Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics

Researchers in Italy and Switzerland have performed the first ever double-slit-like experiment on antimatter using a Talbot-Lau interferometer and a positron beam.

The classic double-slit experiment confirmed that light and matter have the characteristics of both waves and particles, a duality that was first put forward by de Broglie in 1923. This superposition principle is one of the main postulates of quantum mechanics and researchers have since been able to diffract and interfere matter waves of objects of increasing complexity – from electrons to neutrons and molecules.

The QUPLAS (QUantum Interferometry and Gravitation with Positrons and LAsers) collaboration, which includes researchers from the Politecnico di Milano L-NESS in Como, the Milan unit of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), the Università degli Studi di Milano and the University of Bern, has now performed the first interference experiment on positrons – the antimatter equivalent of electrons.

“The experiment was first proposed for electrons by Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman as a thought experiment and realized by Merli, Missiroli and Pozzi in 1976 and more systematically by Tonomura and colleagues in 1989,” explains QUPLAS spokesman Marco Giammarchi of the INFN. “In this original experiment, which was voted by Physics World as the most beautiful experiment, the researchers demonstrated the specifically quantum effect of single particle interference, which – according to Feynman – is the central ‘mystery’ of quantum theory.”

Antimatter quantum interferometry makes its debut, Belle Dumé, Physics World

Friday, April 26, 2019

Either...Or...

The Mueller Report (CNN.com - read it while you can)
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, Existentialism, Human Rights, LGBT Rights, Women's Rights

I'll be taking a break for finals, writing my thesis and the birth of our granddaughter. Her entrance to this plane is pending.

For her, it's all hands on deck.

The future belongs to the young, soon born and yet-to-be born. The future is diverse and more tolerant than the Neanderthal mythologized past we're being dragged to. The present is hopefully planning for a future that will be 8.6 billion in 2030 and 9.8 billion in 2050, and the strains on resources that will bring. The present is hopefully planning for a future with a warmer climate, and our strategy towards ameliorating it. The future is being written, with every tweet and malfeasance of a man epitomizing more demon than Christian; more boorish mobster than sophisticated president. He's covered by a complicit evangelical base and a Republican Party that's less diverse, whiter, aging and dying off. Instead of diversifying, they're doubling down on "The Southern Strategy" for one last push for white supremacy, a push that will take the entire country and the world over an existential, unrecoverable cliff.

Either we're a Constitutional, Federal Republic...or, we're not.

This started...on a porch in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a miniscule distances from the site three Civil Rights workers - Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner - were murdered in 1964 for the "crime" (according to the KKK) of registering black voters:

"I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people. I believe in states' rights. I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe we've distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment." Ronald Reagan

1964...the year the Civil Rights Act passed. Followed by 1965...the year the Voting Rights Act passed. Three years later, we lost Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy as the Fair Housing Act passed. It was also the year, finally, Richard M. Nixon after Lyndon B. Johnson refused to run for reelection - was elected "law and order" president, running and winning on The Southern Strategy born of racist fear.

The seventies was a loss of innocence with the shame of "losing" the un-winnable Vietnam War, the near impeachment of Nixon, his pardon and his successor getting beaten by a peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia, himself only serving one term due to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The eighties was muscular, toxic masculinity disguised as action heroes: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis were young then and box office sensations. They were also admittedly as republican as "the gipper." Arnold would become governor of California and his fiscal failures turned what was a large land mass red state to almost reliably blue. After his affair on Maria Shriver, he's redeeming himself as a climate advocate and adversary to the current occupant in Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tom Steyer nor "Auntie Maxine" needs tell us.


All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.


The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Some caveats and perspective: Secretary Clinton in a Washington Post op ed cautioned a rush to impeachment. The historical memory in this country is deliberately brief, as history nor civics is seldom taught in secondary education. There were Watergate hearings on ABC, CBS and NBC. There was daily education on a president that had just won a landslide reelection - 49 out of 50 states - that didn't need burglary or "plumbers" committing. The case was made to the American people over 28 months, and even after the tapes became public, he STILL had a 24% approval rating among his ardent supporters when it was evident he was going to get impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate by members of his own party. This was the foundation for Roger Ailes to form what would become Fox Propaganda.

Impeachment isn't about conviction: it’s about The Constitution.

We’re either “a nation of laws, and not of men,” or we’re a nation of ONE man.

Either “no one is above the law,” or every elected official can “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” and get away with it.

Impeachment isn't about this president: it’s about the NEXT president.

If THIS one gets away with his clear crimes, every nation can pass information to the candidate they would desire for president as a matter of "diplomacy." No president will ever have to divest from their business if they have one. Jimmy Carter gave up his peanut farm, so he would not violate the Emoluments Clause. No presidential candidate will EVER again show their taxes, and thus open to bribes and manipulation by distant actors. Government "of the people, by the people and for the people" will go from Russian handler to Russian roulette.

We either do this, or we’re not a country: we're a kleptocracy.

Either we're a Constitutional, Federal Republic...or, whatever emerges after this Caligula will not resemble our best self-mythology. It will be too stark, too dark: too dystopian.

For our granddaughter, I must fight until my last breath for her future...because it is hers.