Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Dark Calculus...

Comic Book dot com: Infinity War, Slide 9/11 (ominously)

Topics: Civil Rights, Commentary, Existentialism, History, Human Rights, Science Fiction

If you haven't read the comic, or seen Avengers: Infinity War, disengage now...


Thanos is a fictional villain in the Marvel Universe. He's a Titan, he apparently has an Infinity Gauntlet to harness the power of magic stones that thankfully don't exist, and from his making Hulk hide in his Bruce Banner persona (as in, not coming out after the EPIC beat down), he's one bad dude, especially with the whole snapping 50% of all life everywhere out of existence (you were warned).

Have no fear: some kismet gumbo-jumbo will bring most of the heroes back (especially the ones without expiring contracts and pending movies on the docks).

He's also apparently an intergalactic economist, as his beef is there are too many people in the universe (HOW he would come to know this is a mystery), and too few resources. It reminded me of a chap in our own terrestrial history.


Thomas Robert Malthus was an English cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. In his 1798 book An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus observed that an increase in a nation's food production improved the well-being of the populace, but the improvement was temporary because it led to population growth, which in turn restored the original per capita production level. In other words, mankind had a propensity to utilize abundance for population growth rather than for maintaining a high standard of living, a view that has become known as the "Malthusian trap" or the "Malthusian spectre". Populations had a tendency to grow until the lower class suffered hardship and want and greater susceptibility to famine and disease, a view that is sometimes referred to as a Malthusian catastrophe. Malthus wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He saw population growth as being inevitable whenever conditions improved, thereby precluding real progress towards a Utopian society: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man". As an Anglican cleric, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behaviour. From Wikipedia

Now note National Security Study Memorandum 200, often cited by anti-abortion rights activists as evidence of a global cabal to sacrifice children on Moloch's altar:

National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests (NSSM200) was completed on December 10, 1974 by the United States National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger.

It was adopted as official US policy by US President Gerald Ford in November 1975. It was classified for a while but was obtained by researchers in the early 1990s.

The basic thesis of the memorandum was that population growth in the least developed countries (LDCs) is a concern to US national security, because it would tend to risk civil unrest and political instability in countries that had a high potential for economic development. The policy gives "paramount importance" to population control measures and the promotion of contraception among 13 populous countries to control rapid population growth which the US deems inimical to the socio-political and economic growth of these countries and to the national interests of the United States since the "U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad" and the countries can produce destabilizing opposition forces against the US.

It recommends for US leadership to "influence national leaders" and that "improved world-wide support for population-related efforts should be sought through increased emphasis on mass media and other population education and motivation programs by the UN, USIA, and USAID."

Thirteen countries are named in the report as particularly problematic with respect to US security interests: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. The countries are projected to create 47 percent of all world population growth. Wikipedia

We have winnowed down from: too many people in the universe, to too many of lower classes - a "Malthusian catastrophe" - to finally, too many of a "certain type" of people (blessed with an abundance of Melanin). And when you've created a canopy economical system, you have to somehow differentiate yourselves from the riffraff on the forest floors of the world, especially when your group has all the diamonds, rubies, gold and land. Physical characteristics are a no-brainer: that gets the bewildered herds acting tribal, and not thinking about how the "system is [actually] rigged"...against them. Infighting, bickering; shouting slogans are all to the benefit of the uber-class that purchase politicians like we do laundry detergent pods, and comfortably get insanely richer than any caricature we've ever had of Scrooge McDuck.

"Occam’s razor, also spelled Ockham’s razor, also called law of economy or law of parsimony, principle stated by the Scholastic philosopher William of Ockham (1285–1347/49) that pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, “plurality should not be posited without necessity.” The principle gives precedence to simplicity: of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred. The principle is also expressed as “Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.”" Britannica online/Occam's razor

It may be why sensible gun control in the US is so elusive, and gun violence in Chicago is thrown in our faces, while gun violence at Parkland et al though tragic, only solicits "thoughts and prayers." It may be why the US invests in for-profit prisons; or now sees opioid dependence as crisis, and crack cocaine as criminal. It may be as simple as faux societal demarcations generated by a psychotic Politburo to manipulate a powerless Proletariat. It may be as simple as a crass, Malthusian distribution of resources upwards, not caring about the rest of the species, and no clear plan "B" when the ecosystem the selfish ones are also a part of, comes apart and reduces their wealth from the Law of Entropy, to meaningless rubble...

** ..."Snap"... **

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Fruits of Their Labors...

Topics: Civics, Commentary, Existentialism, Research

It has finally happened. The inevitable was likely to come. As we've celebrated stupidity as a virtue (hell, we somehow let a foreign power put an imbecile with the attention span of a gnat, and has taken pathological lying to Olympic levels in charge of the nuclear codes), it was most assuredly going to be reflected in the data:

The US’s dominance in scooping Nobel prizes for work in the natural sciences could be nearing an end, according to a new analysis of previous winners. Carried out by physicist Claudius Gros from the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, it also finds that the UK has won the most Nobel prizes per capita, with Germany coming second and the US a close third (R. Soc. Open Sci. 5 180167).

Since they were first awarded in 1901, scientists who are nationals of the US, the UK, Germany and France have won the most Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine. Around 120 laureates have been American, 40 British, 40 German and 20 French. To determine Nobel-prize productivity, however, Gros factored out population size, particularly given that the US population has more than quadrupled from 76 million in 1901 to 327 million today.

Of course, the laborers will deny it, pious and humble in their efforts to denigrate science, scandalize research, question reality, facts, data: try to morally equivocate between evolution and (not) "intelligent design." We have been on this anti-intellectual Primrose Path since the Scopes Monkey trials. A select segment of the species here in America made denial of facts a staple of membership to the cult, and find they have a political voice in a bipolar tweeting, carnival-barking avatar. As Dr. Gros continues:

Gros found that the US’s productivity peaked in 1972 at 0.83 Nobel prizes per year and per 100 million inhabitants. He says that the most striking element of the US data is the continued downward trend. Since 1972 its success rate has fallen by 60% to 0.34 Nobel prizes per year and per 100 million inhabitants, and it is still dropping. “On a per capita basis, the US’s era is definitively coming to an end,” Gros told Physics World. “Within 12 years the US science Nobel prizes productivity should fall by another 50%.”

That will put us down to 0.17 per 100 million inhabitants by 2030, when the population should be: 327,000,000*e0.02*18 = 468,698,719 (from the Growth Formula: N = N0ert, r = growth/death rate of 0.02, t = time).

That's going to be a lot of mouths to feed and employ with fewer and fewer minds to generate new ideas, industries and thus, employment of the masses. Our slide from "exceptionalism" will inevitably follow.

Is the end in sight for US Nobel prize dominance? Culture, History and Society
Michael Allen, Physics World, Bristol, UK

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

58 Years to the Blue Ray...

Bright prospect: the first International Day of Light will be celebrated on 16 May. (Courtesy: iStock/RichLegg)

Topics: Applied Physics, Laser, Optical Physics, Photonics

This month sees the first International Day of Light. Wednesday 16 May was chosen because it is the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser, as demonstrated by the American engineer and physicist Ted Maiman in 1960.

It’s a good choice, because the laser is a perfect example of how a scientific discovery can yield revolutionary benefits to society in all sorts of areas, including communications, healthcare and manufacturing. However, when I read the words “first successful operation of the laser” on the International Day of Light website (, I had to look further, as it sounded like there might be more to the story.

I have spent most of my career working in photonics, optical communications and lighting, so I was already somewhat familiar with the laser’s history. However, the details still interested me. It turns out that although Maiman did indeed demonstrate the first working laser on 16 May 1960, he is not the only person with a reasonable claim to have “invented” the laser. The other is Gordon Gould, another US physicist who described “Some rough calculations on the feasibility of a LASER: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation” in his lab notebook in November 1957.

A day of light, James McKenzie, Physics World

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Clash of Theories...

Each universe in a multiverse contains different levels of dark energy, according to the dominant theory.

Topics: Astrophysics, Cosmology, Dark Energy, Multiverses, Theoretical Physics

A hypothetical multiverse seems less likely after modelling by researchers in Australia and the UK threw one of its key assumptions into doubt.

The multiverse concept suggests that our universe is but one of many. It finds support among some of the world’s most accomplished physicists, including Brian Greene, Max Tegmark, Neil deGrasse Tyson and the late Stephen Hawking.

One of the prime attractions of the idea is that it potentially accounts for an anomaly in calculations for dark energy.

The mysterious force is thought to be responsible for the accelerating expansion of our own universe. Current theories, however, predict there should be rather more of it around than there appears to be. This throws up another set of problems: if the amount of dark energy around was as much as equations require – and that is many trillions of times the level that seems to exist – the universe would expand so rapidly that stars and planets would not form – and life, thus, would not be possible.

The multiverse idea to an extent accounts for and accommodates this oddly small – but life-permitting – dark energy quotient. Essentially it permits a curiously self-serving explanation: there are a vast number of universes all with differing amounts of dark energy. We exist in one that has an amount low enough to permit stars and so on to form, and thus life to exist. (And we find ourselves here, runs the logic, because we couldn’t find ourselves anywhere else.)

So far, so anthropic. But now a group of astronomers, including Luke Barnes from the University of Sydney in Australia and Jaime Salcido from Durham University in the UK, has published two papers in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that show the dark energy and star formation balance isn’t quite as fine as previous estimates have suggested.

Multiverse theory cops a blow after dark energy findings
Andrew Masterson, Cosmos Magazine

Monday, May 14, 2018

Induced Seismicity...

Mechanisms of induced seismicity
Both wastewater injection and gas extraction can cause induced earthquakes. Detailed observations from the midwestern United States and Groningen, Netherlands, show that in both cases, preexisting conditions in Earth's crust are of central importance

Topics: Alternative Energy, Earthquake, Geophysics, Green Energy

Since 2009, the Midwestern United States has seen a dramatic rise in earthquakes induced by human activities. Most of these events were caused by massive reinjection of wastewater produced during oil and gas extraction (1, 2). In February 2016, regulators in Oklahoma called for an injection rate reduction after several major events up to moment magnitude 5.8 (Mw 5.8) occurred. On the other side of the Atlantic, an unprecedented number of earthquakes has followed gas extraction from the Groningen field in the Netherlands (3). The Dutch government imposed production cuts after a Mw 3.6 event in August 2012 caused structural damage to houses. Intensive research of these two instances of induced seismicity points to contrasting mechanisms, but in both cases, the natural conditions prior to subsurface activities play a dominant part.

Fifty years ago, Healy et al. determined that fluid injection at depth causes the pore pressure to rise in a preexisting fault, reducing its strength and potentially leading to its failure (4). In contrast, fluid extraction at depth reduces the pore pressure, leading to compaction of the rock mass; the increased rock stress can drive a preexisting fault to failure. In both settings, the two factors that control induced earthquakes are operational parameters, such as the volume that is injected or produced, and natural conditions, such as the presence of preexisting faults and their ambient stress level. Operational parameters are often assumed to dominate, but that notion may reflect limited knowledge of the locations of preexisting faults and their ambient stress level. For regulatory measures to be effective in mitigating induced seismicity, it is crucial to understand the role of the natural conditions that existed before human activities.

How earthquakes are induced
Thibault Candela, Brecht Wassing, Jan ter Heege, Loes Buijze

Friday, May 11, 2018

Replicators and Mosaddegh...

Mosaddegh shaking hands with Mohammad-Reza Shah in their first meeting after Mossadegh's election as Prime Minister
By Unknown -, Public Domain,

Topics: Commentary, Existentialism, Politics, Star Trek

Star Trek (to me) is a societal metaphor for the perfection we at least see ourselves as a species eventually achieving in civics, equality and technology, an update to Winthrop's "city on a hill." A lot of the scripted claims aren't supported by any known science, the term "technobabble" is now a part of the lexicon. I gave up one night at Motorola trying to explain to a coworker the sound barrier is a lot different than a "light speed barrier" due to the fact we're all composed of matter, which has mass and thus, drag. Some things you just have to let go of.

I do often ask the question in casual Trek conversations: "In the fictional Star Trek universe, what is the most impacting technology?" If you're a Worf-type, it's phasers; if you're a Riker-type, it's warp drive (see my exasperation in the paragraph above).

But no, in this fantastical universe where I'm surprised they haven't yet pulled off a Star Trek/Star Wars crossover, I'd say the technology with the most impact has to be...replicators, those wretched violators of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, right along with transporters that reassemble you just like you started, versus cloning ever-imperfect facsimiles as the physics should work. (See: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly)

The closest thing we have to replicators is 3D printing. Maybe combining that with a phone app would be a facsimile of the classic Picard line: tea, Earl! I know that sounds a lot like Panera Bread...

Wages have been stagnant since the seventies, exacerbating income inequality and leading to not just two Americas, but two societies: one rich, one poor and no middle class bridge in-between. It is a recipe for dystopia. Replicators would be a disturbing disruption to the hierarchical status quo. Suddenly, workers wouldn't have to "work" to feed themselves or their families. Industries would be short of workers that essentially stopped showing up for the Prussian economic model of capitalism. It would scare the piss out of the 1%! They might try to convince everyone of the "dangers" like Edison did AC current by electrocuting an elephant. However, someone's likely to leak the plans to the Internet, then all bets would be off. It would be a middle finger from the Proletariat. It's pure fantasy, but it would essentially eliminate the need for money, economy and thus hierarchies and control of societal "pariahs," which seems - among other things - a consistent critique from the right regarding the Trek franchise. 


Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected leader of Iran. In 1953, oil interests in the United States and United Kingdom orchestrated a coup d'├ętat primarily for the company now known as British Petroleum (BP). The operation was orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency (as new CIA Chief Gina Haspel would opine, "the good guys") and its manipulating British counterpart, MI-6. We then installed the Shah of Iran, by all accounts a brutal dictator that assassinated his enemies until the uprising that started my senior year in high school and solidified the rise of Ronald Reagan, who said to his admirers "our best days are behind us," almost in the same breath as announcing his presidential run blocks away from the site where three Civil Rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi. That eventually had to morph into another slogan born of bigotry, birtherism, jealousy and xenophobia: "make America great again."

From Wikipedia: "An author, administrator, lawyer, and prominent parliamentarian, his administration introduced a range of progressive social and political reforms such as social security and land reforms, including taxation of the rent on land. His government's most notable policy, however, was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC/AIOC) (later British Petroleum and BP)." The CIA cryptonym was Operation Ajax.

Like AC current and replicators, Luddites oppose every single innovation that advances society and decreases inequality because it removes their places at the apogee of the hierarchy, and interferes with their addiction to every-increasing profits. I don't use that term loosely. Charles Ferguson, Academy Award winning director of "Inside Job" alludes to it in the film.

An addiction is defined as "1 : the quality or state of being addicted addiction to reading; 2 : compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful" Merriam-Webster

Addiction: What other definition could be so apropos as a small minority of humanity makes insane amounts of money while harming the environment, exacerbating income inequality, encouraging wars along with arms dealing for-profit within the US (NRA), abroad and skating along the precipice of negative climate outcomes, nuclear annihilation to pump up a portfolio, or a trust fund they may contribute to; purchase of a new yacht on a planet no longer able to sustain life...including theirs?

Replicators and Mosaddegh have several common threads: economies of scarcity or post-scarcity, energy exploitation and distribution; the intervention by moneyed elites in the evolution of societies, scientific research either supported or suppressed into alternatives to fossil fuels and hierarchical, unequal societies bordering on dysfunction...and demise. The most common thread is choice of direction: either one or the other will sustain the species. Replicators are fiction; Mosaddegh, history.

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Tim 6:10

And many feigned any "faith" from the beginning to manipulate a bewildered herd to its avarice bidding. When most rain forests burn to the ground, the higher, greener canopies go crashing down with them. It's physics, not fantasy.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ebola 2.0...

A health worker walks at an Ebola quarantine unit on June 13, 2017 in Muma, Congo.
Credit: John Wessels Getty Images

Topics: Biology, Ebola, Existentialism, Politics

The fact that the erstwhile resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, conman, racist, thug and crook has labeled any countries with shades of Melanin darker than his orange hue as "s-hole countries," don't expect any help from the US anytime soon. As a matter-of-fact, I expect we'll look at Puerto Rico as halcyon days of functionality.

The new Ebola outbreak on the western edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has ignited serious concern at the World Health Organization, with signs pointing to an epidemic that may have been underway for weeks or months.

Though there are only two confirmed cases at this point, preliminary investigations point to cases in several locations that may date back as far as early this year, Dr. Pierre Formenty, the WHO’s top Ebola expert told STAT. There is also fear that two health care workers may be among the infected, which happens often in Ebola outbreaks and can fuel the disease’s spread.

The country’s ministry of health, which declared the outbreak on Tuesday, said then that there are at least 21 people known to have symptoms consistent with Ebola, and 17 of whom have died.

While the outbreak is in a remote area where road travel is taxing and slow, one of the towns where cases may be occurring, Bikoro, is a port on a lake that connects to the Congo River. That opens up the disturbing specter of infected individuals traveling by boat to DRC’s densely populated capital, Kinshasa, or to Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of the Congo.

“If it was only the roads, we know that the roads are very bad and that it’s difficult for people to travel. But if you reach Bikoro and you take a boat … everything could happen,” Formenty said in an interview on Wednesday.

“For us it’s a worrying situation in a bad context in terms of logistics. And we need to go fast.”

WHO Officials Fear Latest Ebola Outbreak in Congo Could Spread to Big Cities
Helen Branswell, Scientific American