Brainy Quote of the Day

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hailing Frequencies Open...

On target: artist's impression of a laser beacon. (Courtesy: MIT News)

Topics: Astrobiology, Astrophysics, Laser, SETI, Space Exploration, Star Trek

A bright laser beacon that announces our presence to extraterrestrial civilizations could soon be achievable, new research suggests. Calculations done by James Clark and Kerri Cahoy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest that current and near-future technologies could be used to produce light intense enough to be detectable to extrasolar astronomers as distant as 20,000 light-years away. The duo’s research also sheds light on how we could detect signs of intelligent life in star systems beyond our own.

For decades, some in the astronomy community pondered what would be the best way of communicating with intelligent alien life on distant planets. Once a purely academic question, the desire to communicate has been heighten recently by the ongoing discovery of large numbers of exoplanets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Recently, two nearby exoplanets have proved particularly attractive for such efforts. These are Proxima Centauri b, a planet which lies in the habitable zone of our closest star just 4 light-years away; and the TRAPPIST-1 system, which at a distance of 40 light-years is believed to contain three potentially habitable exoplanets, are currently viewed as our best hopes for receiving replies to our messages.

Megawatt laser beacon could communicate with aliens
James Clark and Kerri Cahoy, Physics World

Monday, November 12, 2018

Swine, Slop and Armistice...

Robert H. Goodwin (June 19, 1925 - August 26, 1999), "Pop"
Third Class Petty Officer, US Navy, WWII veteran. Heavy Gunner, Naval Boxer and cook.
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Diversity, Existentialism, History, Human Rights

As a United States Air Force veteran, I along with a roomful of others from the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard were honored at Providence Baptist Church at their annual Veteran's Day breakfast. My fraternity brother, retired Staff Judge Advocate, US Army was the keynote speaker for the event. The southern breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage; grits, fried apples and biscuits was quite good and filling. Later yesterday evening, my fraternity honored the veterans in attendance with a gift: a 50 caliber bullet made into an ink pen. I laughed, thinking what conversations it would generate at school. I as usual thought of my father, a WWII veteran from the then segregated United States Navy. I posted his youthful photo on social media to commemorate him.
Retired Colonel Paul Jones, US Army Staff Judge Advocate

As far as our current occupant of the presidency in America: There is no low for this man. He attacks three African American female journalists in a not-too-subtle wink at white nationalists and denigrates the firefighting efforts in Southern California via bombast and tweet, respectively. He could not afford to get his Propecia comb over wet during the 100th observance of Veteran's Day, or Armistice in Europe. It was the "war to end all wars" due to its carnage and horrific loss of life. Little did they know human depravity has an alarming tendency to top itself from its last offense, as the second would conscript my father and many other African American men that saw the danger of a worse racist nation actually winning the war to their own lives and their posterity. Since Orange Julius prides himself in not reading anything without his name in it, he's ignorant of the significance of his gaffs, unless they are purposeful to undermining this republic.

There was a desire, a longing for a "presidential pivot." We now see clearly he's a capable of that as a hog of showering off his own slop/feces: he sees no reason to change as the swine is comforted by the warmth of its own shit. Manure is his element: this is him.

The remarkable observation is the support (though dwindling) he still commands, which brings to question the depravity of our fellow citizens.


Macron rebukes nationalism as Trump observes Armistice Day, Kevin Liptak, CNN
Trump condemned for missing Armistice ceremony at US cemetery because of ‘poor weather’, Emma Snaith, The Independent
History: Veteran's Day Facts

Friday, November 9, 2018

Deviant Confederates...

Image source: WREG.com
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Politics

(noun): the fact or state of departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behavior.

This commentary is post the firing of Jeff Sessions, and the unconstitutional appointment of the sketchy Aryan bodybuilder Matthew Whitaker as opined by legal experts Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III (Kellyanne's husband) in the New York Times. My thoughts and articles I've excerpted follows:

Germany after WWII outlawed the public display of the Nazi flag or veneration of Adolph Hitler and other leaders in statues festooned across Europe because that’s what you do when trying to repent of war crimes, and absolve yourselves from crimes against humanity in the extermination of 6 million Jews as well as artists, gypsies, homosexuals and scientists.

There are obviously right wing extremists still in Germany and Europe as here. As a part of human society - manipulated and scammed by the rich that has always profited from such divisions - we likely always will have a deviant element.

We could minimize it however by agreeing on shared reality and not comfortable fables (“alternative facts”), teaching history In its proper context; the rights and responsibility of citizenship (Civics) and universal healthcare.

This is the only planet humans as far as we know have lived on. Since we’re 99% like ever other human in existence, we’d better start cooperating (an evolutionary survival trait) or expect extinction. It would be arrogance and hubris to expect anything else.

Then, there will be no “superior” left on a charred cinder.

The above commentary originally on Facebook (with modifications) is in reference to the article: "Picture showing voter wearing shirt with noose and rebel flag at the polls causes controversy," Troy Washington, WREG.com

What type of president looks at 14 mail bombs sent to public figures and 11 worshipers killed at a synagogue and gripes that these events disrupted his political momentum? Who would echo history’s worst leaders by calling the press “the true enemy of the people” and call migrants walking toward the U.S. an “invasion?” How does a man entrusted with the world’s highest office make 30 false or misleading claims every day?

As author of the most recent Trump biography, I’m repeatedly asked questions like those. In reply I rely on two old-fashioned terms. When it comes to his character, Trump is a deviant. When it comes to his conduct, he is a delinquent.

Even as a child in the 1950s Donald Trump showed a stubborn tendency to deviate from the very principles that underpin civilization. Trump explained to me in an interview that he felt most people are “not worthy of respect,” and this was the attitude he would carry through life. He never felt that the rules applied to him or that he should take responsibility for any harm he caused.

Trump’s deviant personality naturally led to delinquent behavior, including giving a teacher a black eye and continually refusing to comply with basic rules. “I was a very rebellious kid,” Trump told me. “I loved to fight.” More concerning was Trump’s suggestion that he hasn't changed since first grade. “The temperament,” he revealed, “is not that different.”

Fred Trump, his father, became so worried about his behavior that he sent 13-year-old Donald to military school. In those days New York Military Academy was, for kids like Trump, an alternative to a juvenile detention facility.

At the military academy Trump started out as defiant, especially compared with those he described as “normal kids.” When he conformed, he did it to manipulate. His mentor at the school said that Trump was the most “conniving” kid he ever met. After a baseball game, for example, he demanded a younger schoolmate agree that he had hit a home run that never happened. The boy, feeling the pressure, complied.

Who behaves like Trump? Deviants. And delinquents. Michael D'Antonio, The Los Angeles Times

“There have been many monsters in the past, but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for organized human society, not in the distant future -- in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

And it doesn’t end there. The same can be said about the major banks that are increasing investments in fossil fuels, knowing very well what they are doing. Or, for that matter, the regular articles in the major media and business press reporting US success in rapidly increasing oil and gas production, with commentary on energy independence, sometimes local environmental effects, but regularly without a phrase on the impact on global warming – a truly existential threat. Same in the election campaign. Not a word about the issue that is merely the most crucial one in human history.

Hardly a day passes without new information about the severity of the threat. As I’m writing, a new study appeared in Nature showing that retention of heat in the oceans has been greatly underestimated, meaning that the total carbon budget is much less than had been assumed in the recent, and sufficiently ominous, IPCC report. The study calculates that maximum emissions would have to be reduced by 25% to avoid warming of 2 degrees (C), well above the danger point. At the same time polls show that -- doubtless influenced by their leaders who they trust more than the evil media -- half of Republicans deny that global warming is even taking place, and of the rest, almost half reject any human responsibility. Words fail.”


“In the 158th year of the American civil war, also known as 2018, the Confederacy continues its recent resurgence. Its victims include black people, of course, but also immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, trans people, gay people and women who want to exercise jurisdiction over their bodies. The Confederacy battles in favor of uncontrolled guns and poisons, including toxins in streams, mercury from coal plants, carbon emissions into the upper atmosphere, and oil exploitation in previously protected lands and waters.

“Its premise appears to be that protection of others limits the rights of white men, and those rights should be unlimited. The Brazilian philosopher of education Paulo Freire once noted that “the oppressors are afraid of losing the ‘freedom to oppress’”. Of course, not all white men support extending that old domination, but those who do see themselves and their privileges as under threat in a society in which women are gaining powers, and demographic shift is taking us to a US in which white people will be a minority by 2045.

“If you are white, you could consider that the civil war ended in 1865. But the blowback against Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, the myriad forms of segregation and deprivation of rights and freedoms and violence against black people, kept the population subjugated and punished into the present in ways that might as well be called war. It’s worth remembering that the Ku Klux Klan also hated Jews and, back then, Catholics; that the ideal of whiteness was anti-immigrant, anti-diversity, anti-inclusion; that Confederate flags went up not in the immediate post-war period of the 1860s but in the 1960s as a riposte to the civil rights movement.”

The American Civil War Didn't End, and Trump is a Confederate President, Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Petrol, Wastewater and Membranes...

Argonne scientists have invented a membrane (shown here) that, when exposed to sunlight, can clean itself and also actively degrade pollutants. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

Topics: Atomic Layer Deposition, Chemistry, Green Tech, Semiconductor Technology

Argonne scientists have invented a membrane that, when exposed to sunlight, can clean itself and also actively degrade pollutants.

Critical tasks such as treating wastewater and processing petrochemicals rely on porous membranes that filter unwanted materials out of water. Over time, these membranes inevitably become clogged by bacteria or other substances, so they need to be replaced or cleaned with harsh chemicals that shorten their lifespan.

To address this problem, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have invented a membrane that, when exposed to sunlight, can clean itself and also actively degrade pollutants. The advance paves the way for membranes that can last longer and perform better than those in use today, lowering costs.

“Fouling is a longstanding challenge in membrane separations,” said Jeffrey Elam, a chemist in Argonne’s Applied Materials division. ​“This unique, multifunctional membrane is one way to combat that.”

The main ingredient driving this material’s pollutant-fighting abilities is a coating of titanium dioxide, widely studied for the purpose because it can accelerate chemical reactions when exposed to light. Typically for titanium dioxide, that light must be ultraviolet (UV) — a limitation that increases costs and narrows its feasibility.

Argonne researchers took two important steps to achieve sunlight-activated self-cleaning. First, they added small amounts of nitrogen to the titanium dioxide, ​“doping” it so that visible as well as UV light would bring out its photocatalytic properties.

Second, they used atomic layer deposition (ALD), a technique for creating thin films often used in the semiconductor industry, to place the coating on the membrane. Unlike the conventional method of dipping the membrane into a solution, ALD grows the coating one molecular layer at a time. This allows all of the membrane surfaces, including the internal nanopores, to be coated uniformly and precisely.

Sunlight turns membrane into a self-cleaning, pollutant-eating powerhouse
Christina Nunez, Argonne National Laboratory

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Lithium Magic...

Drive for innovation: Electric vehicles are a major target for R&D on novel battery materials. (Image courtesy: imec)

Topics: Battery, Chemical Physics, Green Tech

The batteries we depend on for our mobile phones and computers are based on a technology that is more than a quarter-century old. Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were first introduced in 1991, and their appearance heralded a revolution in consumer electronics. From then on, we could pack enough energy in a small volume to start engineering a whole panoply of portable electronic devices – devices that have given us much more flexibility and comfort in our lives and jobs.

In recent years, Li-ion batteries have also become a staple solution in efforts to solve the interlinked conundrums of climate change and renewable energy. Increasingly, they are being used to power electric vehicles and as the principal components of home-based devices that store energy generated from renewable sources, helping to balance an increasingly diverse and smart electrical grid. The technology has improved too: over the past two and a half decades, battery experts have succeeded in making Li-ion batteries 5–10% more efficient each year, just by further optimizing the existing architecture.

Ultimately, though, getting from where we are now to a truly carbon-free economy will require better-performing batteries than today’s (or even tomorrow’s) Li-ion technology can deliver. In electric vehicles, for example, a key consideration is for batteries to be as small and lightweight as possible. Achieving that goal calls for energy densities that are much higher than the 300 Wh/kg and 800 Wh/L which are seen as the practical limits for today’s Li-ion technology. Another issue holding back the adoption of electric vehicles is cost, which is currently still around 300–200 $/kWh, although that is widely projected to go below 100 $/kWh by 2025 or even earlier. The time required to recharge a battery pack – still in the range of a few hours – will also have to come down, and as batteries move into economically critical applications such as grid storage and grid balancing, very long lifetimes (a decade or more) will become a key consideration too.

There is still some room left to improve existing Li-ion technology, but not enough to meet future requirements. Instead, the process of battery innovation needs a step change: materials-science breakthroughs, new electrode chemistries and architectures that have much higher energy densities, new electrolytes that can deliver the necessary high conductivity – all in a battery that remains safe and is long-lasting as well as economical and sustainable to produce.

Beyond the lithium-ion battery, Jan Provoost, imec/Physics World

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Space Seed...

Interstellar objects like Oumuamua could be the source of life as we know it. ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornme

Topics: Carl Sagan, Exoplanets, SETI, Space Exploration, Star Trek

Note: Star Trek had an episode titled "Space Seed" with Ricardo Montalbán and his portrayal of Khan Noonien Singh. Also, since I've used Panspermia before, that was the rationale for the post title (with proper attribution, of course).

Are we truly earthlings? Is terra firma unequivocally the birthplace of humanity?

Maybe not. A new paper by a trio of Harvard University researchers argues that we all might be immigrants from deep space, brought to Earth via a mechanism called panspermia.

While the conventional wisdom from biologists has long been that life on Earth began on Earth, science fiction isn't so fuddy-duddy. “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s 2012 prequel to the blockbuster “Alien” franchise, is one of many films positing that our planet was seeded by extraterrestrial life.

In the movies, aliens use some sort of engineered transportation system to get here — rockets or wormholes, for example. Panspermia makes no such technical demands. Here’s the basic idea: A meteor slams into a planet where life exists, and the collision lofts into space a microbe-containing dirt clod. The clod eventually slams into another world and infects it with life.


Are germs from outer space the source of life on Earth?
Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute

Monday, November 5, 2018

#VOTE...


"You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change." Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, Inc. Brainy Quote

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Diversity, Existentialism, Human Rights, LGBT Rights, Politics, Women's Rights

I've literally done all that I can do. I've blogged, I've called, I've text messaged, I've given money; I've reminded/nagged/begged. I've also early voted. It's now all up to you millennials tomorrow, and the futures you want for yourselves.

Trust me on this one: you will get older. You won't look as good as you do right now in the mirror. A car accident, a fall, a cancer diagnosis could change your world for the far worse than it is. I don't want you to find out the high cost of healthcare in this country (an oxymoron) and the high price of ignoring signs and "hoping it will go away on its own."

If you've decided not to have kids because of the terrible state of affairs in the world, that's fine too. I know a lot of couples that are childless by choice. Minus refugees fleeing the blow back from our country's debacles in Central America; climate change, minus clean water standards; minus standards of living: we're headed into 15 billion souls that will need food, clothing, healthcare and jobs with no ideas coming from the living fossils tied at the hip to the fossil fuels industry. They get to die before the impact of their blunders turn your golden years into a dystopian nightmare.

Think of it this way: if your "favorite" isn't on the ballot, if your candidate didn't move you to tears with their oratory; if you just think all this fuss is kind of dumb, what isn't is your futures. It's on the ballot tomorrow and every election after that.

It Can't Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis,[1] and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.[2]

Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, a demagogue who is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and "traditional" values. After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS. The novel's plot centers on journalist Doremus Jessup's opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion. Wikipedia

I'm surprised I've not heard any parallels drawn from the plot of this novel and current events.

Like the Neanderthal nincompoop politicians lining their pockets from their 1% paymasters, I'll likely be ashes in a cemetery giving life to a maple tree (or, at least that will be my request).

I would just really appreciate a planet to supply oxygen for and clean water for my roots to drink. I tend to think you would too.