Brainy Quote of the Day

Monday, June 18, 2018

Tears for the Baobab...

GIF image from Nature.
The African baobab is one of the continent’s most recognizable tree species. Credit: Hougaard Malan/

Topics: Biology, Climate Change, Ecology, Existentialism

Africa’s iconic baobab trees are dying, and scientists don’t know why. In a study intended to examine why the trees are so long-living, researchers made the unexpected finding that many of the oldest and largest of the trees have died in the past decade or so.

The African baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) is the oldest living flowering plant, or angiosperm, and is found in the continent’s tropical regions. Individual trees — which can contain up to 500 cubic metres of wood — can live for more than 2,000 years. Their wide trunks often have hollow cavities, and their high branches resemble roots sticking up into the air.

The researchers — who published their findings in Nature Plants on 11 June — set out to use a newly developed radiocarbon-dating technique to study the age and architecture of the species. Usual tree-ring dating methods are not suitable for baobabs, because their trunks do not necessarily grow annual rings.

The trees’ ages were previously attributed to their size, and in local folklore, baobabs are often described as being old, says study author Adrian Patrut, a radiochemist at Babeş-Bolyai University in Romania.

Africa’s majestic baobab trees are mysteriously dying, Sarah Wild, Nature

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Nanomaterials and the Final Frontier...

Nanomaterials take on the many extremes of space. Courtesy: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens
Topics: Applied Physics, Nanotechnology, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Rocket science often seems to typify state-of-the-art technology. The extreme conditions of take-off, landing and space itself, the exacting specifications of the instrumentation required for rocket control and scientific data collection, and the costs per unit mass for launching the rocket would seem to leave no room for mediocrity. With their enhanced multifunctional properties nanomaterials offer a lot of bang per kilo for missions. Physics World Materials looks at what nanomaterials can offer to protect against the elements in space.

To merit incorporation in a billion-dollar space mission, new technologies need to deliver more than just a promise of enhanced functionality. The properties of new materials and the impact of their use on all other aspects of the space equipment need to be reliably defined. As Jamshid A Samareh and Emilie J Siochi from NASA’s Langley Research Center emphasize in a recent review, a key factor preventing greater uptake of nanomaterials in space missions has been a lack of a deep understanding of their behaviour within the complex and sophisticated systems of spacecraft. “The barrier is understanding the measurable benefits over materials that are currently being used – especially when you have to trade risk and cost with current paradigms,” says Emilie Siochi, senior materials scientist in the Advanced Materials and Processing Branch at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, USA. As for the electronics used, Meyya Meyyappan Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology at Ames Research Center points out that making sure the radiation tolerance and packaging meet requirements can preclude adoption of “the state-of-the-art”. Scaling up production from lab levels to the volumes needed for a rocket can also compromise the nanomaterial properties that recommended their use in the first place, deterring uptake.

Despite the overarching caution in space technology the lure remains for harnessing nanomaterials to take on the challenges of blasting free from Earth intact, facing the furnace of take-off and the chill of outer space, as well as the cosmic cocktail of radiation exposure. And there are a growing number of nanomaterials whose manufacture and device application has reached a level of maturity that allows for a valuable contribution in aerospace missions.

Can nanomaterials take on the extremes of space? Anna Demming, Physics World

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Inside the MiniBooNE tank, photodetectors capture the light created when a neutrino interacts with an atomic nucleus. Reidar Hahn / Fermilab
Topics: Neutrinos, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Physicists are both thrilled and baffled by a new report from a neutrino experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. The MiniBooNE experiment has detected far more neutrinos of a particular type than expected, a finding that is most easily explained by the existence of a new elementary particle: a “sterile” neutrino that’s even stranger and more reclusive than the three known neutrino types. The result appears to confirm the anomalous results of a decades-old experiment that MiniBooNE was built specifically to double-check.

The persistence of the neutrino anomaly is extremely exciting, said the physicist Scott Dodelson of Carnegie Mellon University. It “would indicate that something is indeed going on,” added Anže Slosar of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

As for what, no one can say.

The existence of a sterile neutrino would revolutionize physics from the smallest to the largest scales. It would finally break the Standard Model of particle physics that has reigned since the 1970s. It would also demand “a new standard model of cosmology,” Dodelson said. “There are other potential cracks in the standard picture,” he added. “The neutrino paradox could point our way to a new, better model.”

Neutrinos are tiny particles that pass through our bodies by the billions each second but seldom interact. They constantly oscillate between three known types, or “flavors,” called electron, muon and tau. The MiniBooNE experiment shoots a beam of muon neutrinos toward a giant oil tank. On the way to the tank, some of these muon neutrinos should transform into electron neutrinos at a rate determined by the difference in mass between the two. MiniBooNE then monitors the arrival of electron neutrinos, which produce characteristic flashes of radiation on the rare occasions when they interact with oil molecules. In its 15-year run, MiniBooNE has registered a few hundred more electron neutrinos than expected.

The simplest explanation for the surprisingly high number is that some muon neutrinos are oscillating into a different, heavier, fourth kind of neutrino — a sterile one, meaning it never interacts with anything that isn’t a neutrino — and that some of these heavy sterile neutrinos then oscillate into electron neutrinos. The greater mass difference prescribes a higher rate of oscillations and more detections.

Evidence Found for a New Fundamental Particle, Natalie Wolchover, Quanta Magazine

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Martian Molecules...

Self portrait of Curiosity Rover at a drilling site on Mars. The drilled hole can be seen on the Martian surface. This location was not part of this latest study. (Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Topics: Biology, Exoplanet, Mars, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Organic molecules have been found in ancient rocks under the surface of Mars. The discovery was made by NASA’s Curiosity Rover by drilling into mudstone that was laid down 3.5 bn years ago at the bottom of a Martian lake. The molecules found include sulphur-rich thiophenes, aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzene, and aliphatic hydrocarbons such as propane.

While the presence of these molecules does not prove that life once existed on the red planet, the discovery suggests that conditions on Mars could have been like those here on Earth when life first emerged more than 3 bn years ago.

The discovery is reported in the journal Science by NASA’s Jennifer Eigenbrode and an international team of scientists. They used Discovery’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to examine samples that had been gathered from Mars’ Gale crater using a drill that can probe 5 cm below the surface.

SAM works by heating rock samples to release any organic compounds that may be present. The emitted gases are then analysed using a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer and a laser spectrometer.

This is not the first time that Curiosity has detected organic molecules, but previous measurements were considered unreliable because of possible sample contamination and unwanted chemical reactions.

Organic molecules found in ancient Martian rocks, Hamish Johnston, Physics World

#P4TC links:

Martian Blueberries...September 17, 2012
Yesterday, on Mars...December 10, 2013
Mars, Molecules and Methane...December 17, 2014

Friday, June 8, 2018

This Fascism...

Topics: Commentary, Existentialism, History, Politics

Note: Originally planned for next Friday. Due to current circumstance, this post was moved up.

Fascism, political ideology and mass movement that dominated many parts of central, southern, and eastern Europe between 1919 and 1945 and that also had adherents in western Europe, the United States, South Africa, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East. Europe’s first fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, took the name of his party from the Latin word fasces, which referred to a bundle of elm or birch rods (usually containing an ax) used as a symbol of penal authority in ancient Rome. Although fascist parties and movements differed significantly from one another, they had many characteristics in common, including extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a Volksgemeinschaft (German: “people’s community”), in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation. At the end of World War II, the major European fascist parties were broken up, and in some countries (such as Italy and West Germany) they were officially banned. Beginning in the late 1940s, however, many fascist-oriented parties and movements were founded in Europe as well as in Latin America and South Africa. Although some European “neofascist” groups attracted large followings, especially in Italy and France, none were as influential as the major fascist parties of the interwar period. Source: Britannica dot com/fascism

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
― Benito Mussolini (attributed with dispute) Good reads

In his dystopian novel, "The Man in the High Castle," Philip K. Dick (1962 book and current Amazon series) envisioned a world where the Axis powers won WWII. The only mention of Italy is Germany helped them conquest most of North Africa. The new world order seventeen years after the war divided what was America into territories dominated by Germany on the east coast, Japan on the pacific west coast and a lawless, Midwest "no man's land." Each dominant group considers itself the "master race," and contests over possession of "the Heisenberg device," what the atomic bomb might have been called had America not succeeded at the Manhattan Project. Except for a lot of chutzpah and good luck, this was almost the case. The Normandy Invasion almost didn't happen, or could have been a disastrous failure. It shaped the current world that through tweet and tariffs on our allies we see crumbling around us.

Highly esteemed corporations like International Business Machines, Charles and David Koch's father, Fred did business directly with Germany and Russia during and after the conflict. African Americans, Asians, Hispanic/Latinos and Native American "code talkers" fought and died along with their segregated, dominating fellows not for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," but a choice of evils: for people of color, the Second World War was no different than the first. Two racist nations were at war with each other, and POC made a "choice": lynchings, or ovens. Eugenics was born on these shores, and inspired Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists' darkest imaginations. Before the 2016 elections, the US right had given up on democracy and lauded Vladimir Putin. Their fears of being numerically irrelevant circa 2042 might plant the seeds in a fresh soil of feces and collusion. All prior pretense of piety and "values" are gone now.

Ironically, Charlie Chaplin thought Adolf Hitler was one of the greatest actors he’d ever seen.

In 1940, Charlie wrote, directed, and produced The Great Dictator, his first talking movie. Producers didn’t want to rock the boat with Germany and Italy; they tried to keep the movie from being released. Hollywood producers were also afraid Chaplin’s movie might damage foreign relations and hurt the Jewish population in Europe.

On the other hand, President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought it was a very important movie and assured Charlie that he’d see to it that the movie was released.

Chaplin produced the movie entirely with his own money. He created The Great Dictator to instigate laughter at Hitler–to show the world the Nazi party didn’t count. Chaplin discounted the Nazi party while challenging Hitler’s dictatorship, not knowing the atrocities taking place at the hands of Hitler and the Nazi party.

When Chaplin became aware of the death and destruction in Europe, he edited his movie to reflect on issues that were more serious. Charlie thought if he could talk from his heart in his movie, he might have an effect on shortening the war; therefore, he was constantly rewriting the script in order to be able to develop something profound to say to his motion picture viewers.

The Nazi party thought Charlie Chaplin was Jewish though there wasn’t any record that he was, or wasn’t. They created anti-Jewish newsreels based on Chaplin’s visit to Berlin. They called him a ‘disgusting Jewish acrobat.’ Source: Healthy Habits, George Zapo

Sometime monsters are first seen as jokes.

They may master the current medium of the times (radio, Twitter) and gain the attention of millions. Through celebrity, brashness and blatant racism, they may command a cult following. For fear of being numerical minorities, globalization and supposed mediocrity, some have sold their souls to a Russian devil. Election parties post a questionable "election" may include colorful mob characters named Joey No Socks. Democratic norms whither under their ceaseless attacks on the rule of law, PRETENDING to be the rule of law while daily breaking many, along with crimes against humanity.

Sometimes monsters are first seen as jokes.

Before the ovens were fired, the undesirable are sequestered in ghettos, segregated from the rest of "us"; children locked away in an abandoned Walmart.

Sometime monsters are first seen as jokes...until the first ovens are fired.

The only product hate can ultimately death.

Monday, May 28, 2018


Topics: Civil Rights, History, Human Rights, Memorial Day

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2018 occurs on Monday, May 28. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season. Link:

I am a United States Air Force veteran, and a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. as is Colin Kaepernick. A leaked audio revealed why my fraternity brother has effectively been black-balled by NFL owners, cowards all from a charlatan tweeter who's net worth any ONE of them eclipses, and is the living epitome of a studio gangster.

It is befitting to remember why Colin "took a knee." It has nothing to do with disrespect for a flag, itself a symbol of a nation that has disrespected our contributions as citizens from its inception, when we weren't considered full citizens at all:

I'm going to be offline, a week or two to get together a review paper. I will go back online either 5 or 12 June, both Tuesdays, depending on how well my paper progresses.

Friday, May 25, 2018

La Cosa Nostra...

CBS News Almanac: Al Capone
Topics: Commentary, Existentialism, Politics

Cosa nostra is an Italian phrase for 'our thing'. It is exclusively used to describe Italian and Italian-American Mafia organization. It can sometimes be described as La Cosa Nostra. See:

The Sopranos was a ground-breaking HBO series about an Italian-American crime family. Played flawlessly by the late James Gandolfini and set in New Jersey, Tony Soprano tried to be a "good family man" while running "his [Mafia] thing." Unlike our draft-dodging, wimp wanna-be-gangster-in-chief, Tony had the presence of mind to seek psychiatric help to deal with..."job-related stress."

"Our thing"'s the only thing that explains the wise-guy tactics, the implicit loyalty pledges (denied, or not), paying off Playboy centerfolds, adult film stars and 81% of morally righteous, tell-everyone-else-how-to-live white evangelicals (or, evil-gelicals) being OK with "grab 'em by the p." Every "presidential* address" - if you want to call it that - is an intellectual incubus/succubus assault, draining the life out of any modicum of rationality, or common sense you may possess. DNA telomeres and thus human lifespans dwindle by the time he's finished a complete sentence...which is rare!

The last night of the RNC was like “The Dark Knight Returns”: the world was essentially a shit show like Gotham, and Batman screamed for 75 minutes incoherent, semi form, hand-tossed Word Salad anointing himself Bruce-Wayne-Almighty-Cheetos-Jesus savior of the planet by the strength of his will alone (no cool gadgets – just a Galaxy Smart Phone and a twitter handle he misspells as he jacks off on almost daily). The Bat’s bravery was previously demonstrated during his selfless sacrificed Vietnam five deferments to let others more worthy die in his place. See: Party of Apocalypse

His business failures are myriad, but that doesn't stop a good conman, seemingly determined to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for Olympic-level lying. Truth is as flexible as his bowels are loose, the muse for most of his twitter postings, as that can be the only valid reason a septuagenarian is up at wee hours of the morning to electronically defecate his first thoughts from tiny hands and fingers into a cyberspace toilet. The epitome of double entendre.

The North Korean summit - after commemorative plaque, self-congratulation and chants of "Nobel" by his bewildered herd cult following - was canceled. This was likely because the North Korean dictator with a competing bad hairdo was about to say "talk to the hand," and like a prepubescent middle school student with freckles had to "quit him first" before he got dumped. The "Libyan model" was touted by those in his cabinet that have never seen a war they didn't like OTHER people's children fighting for profit. I guess those vast negotiation skills of being a rude prick in New York City doesn't play well on the world stage. Some of his Reddit cult considered him "god emperor" once-upon-a-time. I wonder if they've sobered up now?

This is a buffoon. His narcissism doesn't allow him to admit his ineptitude or incompetence. In his twisted mind, he's a big boss on the level of Al Capone; a dark, political genius equivalent to Hitler or Pol Pot. He's more like a lapdog underling salivating at the Kingpin in Russia he'd one day like to be (and never will). Fredo Corleone has the nuclear codes, and apparently is unraveling from what little grip on sanity he ever had. He's more a poor man's idea of what a rich man looks like after a night chugging Mad Dog 20/20, followed by shots of Tequila. He's only genius on spreading lies, innuendo and birther racist nonsense. His signature "semi form, hand-tossed" signaling of balsa wood stick planes to runways between the Propecia strands on his toupee doesn't make him anymore "tough" looking than his five military deferments. His staffer's crass denigration of Senator John McCain's brush with cancer and wartime sacrifice goes un-apologized, or fired for.

On this auspicious occasion of our "reality TV" president*, with the controversy over NFL players now being fined for kneeling at games - violating their First Amendment Rights to free speech, may I suggest a new, more apropos National Anthem, since the old one does talk about slavery in the third stanza, along with the second, we don't sing? (Hey - it's "our thing"):