Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, June 14, 2019

This Present Darkness...

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Roger Ebert 1988 review

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Politics

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12, ESV

I was so incensed Wednesday that a sitting president would accept help from a hostile foreign government if it helped him win, I penned a 5-page letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, six pages with references I cited.

I then emailed it (the memory cut off six of my eleven references). I posted it on Scribd.com. I then tweeted it to her @SpeakerPelosi. I snail mailed it from the local Post Office and bought Marvin Gaye stamps, finally. Tracking has her office getting it on Tuesday of next week.

The grave disappointment came when I called her number in DC: 202-225-4965. You can try, but you're given three options:

Option 1
You could leave a message to "voice your opinion, or pass on a personal story," except her mailbox is full. You're given the option to dial "0" and "someone will assist you." After a LONG radio silence, the call was summarily dropped.

Option 2
This gives you instructions of how to email the Speaker at Speaker.gov/contact. See first statement, second paragraph above.

Option 3
This gives you a guide to go to Speaker.gov to view her latest policy statements as well as her Twitter feed. See first sentence, second paragraph for which I would have had to GO to her website to do in the first place!

My letter, emailed, tweeted and snail mailed is at the link below. Depending on the platform, it either appears as an embed or a link. Each version will likely be read by a staffer and responded to with a form letter, restating the positions she's taken publicly and stamped with her mimeographed signature. Perhaps we've always been like this: instead of a "separation of powers," there's a separation of the people from the representatives we elect to power, No matter the outcome of the 2020 election, Nancy Pelosi will still be, from her service since the first wave of the "year of the woman" that brought her to prominence, quite wealthy - her children and grandchildren in a class mine probably will never enjoy. This is the kind of result that depresses voter turnout, as votes are a "hope" for a better future as well as an expression of desire by the governed. It is not surprising we are not being listened to, that the "mailbox is full."

And I sincerely hope, in my lamentations regarding this post, that I am horribly wrong.

The bottom line: we're the Calvary. Our last real president said: "we're the ones we've been waiting for." Granted, he failed Ferguson quite spectacularly, but he didn't require help from the Chinese et al to win either of his elections, he didn't solicit it publicly on TWO occasions, nor did his party give him cover as he actively subverted democracy.

If we want this republic, one nation, indivisible to stand and survive this present darkness: we may have to actually fight for its very life.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Brine Europa...

Salt-laden water welling up from below gives Europa’s fissures and cracks their distinctive color.
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech and SETI Institute

Topics: Astrobiology, Exoplanets, Planetary Exploration, SETI

The sea sloshing beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa just might be the best incubator for extraterrestrial life in our solar system. And yet it is concealed by the moon’s frozen outer shell—presenting a challenge for astrobiologists who would love nothing more than to peer inside. Luckily they can catch a partial glimpse by analyzing the flavor of the surface. And the results are salty.

A new study published this week in Science Advances suggests that sodium chloride—the stuff of table salt—exists on Europa’s surface. Because the exterior is essentially formed from frozen seawater, the finding suggests that Europa’s hidden sea is drenched in table salt—a crucial fact for constraining the possibilities for life on the alien world.

Not that scientists have tasted a slice of the distant moon. To analyze Europa’s composition, astronomers study the light emanating from its surface, splitting it into a rainbow-like spectrum to search for any telltale absorption or emission lines that reveal the world’s chemistry. There is just one problem: Ordinary table salt is white and thus gives off a featureless spectrum. But harsh radiation—which exists at Europa’s surface in abundance—just might add a dash of color. That much was realized in 2015 when two NASA planetary scientists Kevin Hand and Robert Carlson published a study suggesting the yellowish-brown gunk on Europa might be table salt baked by radiation. To reach that conclusion, Hand and Carlson re-created the conditions on Europa within vacuum chambers—or as Hand calls them, “stainless steel shiny objects that are humming and whizzing.” Next, they placed table salt into those chambers, lowered the pressures and temperatures to simulate Europa’s surface, and blasted the samples with an electron gun to simulate the intense radiation.

Water on Europa—with a Pinch of Salt, Shannon Hall, Scientific American

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Weird...

Credit: Shutterstock

Topics: God Particle, Higgs Boson, Large Hadron Collider, Standard Model, Theoretical Physics

c. 1400, "having power to control fate, from weird (n.), from Old English wyrd "fate, chance, fortune; destiny; the Fates," literally "that which comes," from Proto-Germanic *wurthiz (source also of Old Saxon wurd, Old High German wurt "fate," Old Norse urðr "fate, one of the three Norns"), from PIE *wert- "to turn, to wind," (source also of German werden, Old English weorðan "to become"), from root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend." For sense development from "turning" to "becoming," compare phrase turn into "become."

Etymology online: Weird

We all know and love the Higgs boson — which to physicists' chagrin has been mistakenly tagged in the media as the "God particle" — a subatomic particle first spotted in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) back in 2012. That particle is a piece of a field that permeates all of space-time; it interacts with many particles, like electrons and quarks, providing those particles with mass, which is pretty cool.

But the Higgs that we spotted was surprisingly lightweight. According to our best estimates, it should have been a lot heavier. This opens up an interesting question: Sure, we spotted a Higgs boson, but was that the only Higgs boson? Are there more floating around out there doing their own things?

But the Higgs that we spotted was surprisingly lightweight. According to our best estimates, it should have been a lot heavier. This opens up an interesting question: Sure, we spotted a Higgs boson, but was that the only Higgs boson? Are there more floating around out there doing their own things?

Physicists Search for Monstrous Higgs Particle. It Could Seal the Fate of the Universe.
Paul Sutter, Astrophysicist, Live Science

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Your IPhone as Tricorder...

Silicon chips similar to those that would be used in the detection process. Credit: Vanderbilt University/Heidi Hall

Topics: Applied Physics, Medical Physics, Nanotechnology, Star Trek

The simplest home medical tests might look like a deck of various silicon chips coated in special film, one that could detect drugs in the blood, another for proteins in the urine indicating infection, another for bacteria in water and the like. Add the bodily fluid you want to test, take a picture with your smart phone, and a special app lets you know if there's a problem or not.

That's what electrical engineer Sharon Weiss, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering at Vanderbilt University, and her students developed in her lab, combining their research on low-cost, nanostructured thin films with a device most American adults already own. "The novelty lies in the simplicity of the basic idea, and the only costly component is the smart phone," Weiss said.

"Most people are familiar with silicon as being the material inside your computer, but it has endless uses," she said. "With our nanoscale porous silicon, we've created these nanoscale holes that are a thousand times smaller than your hair. Those selectively capture molecules when pre-treated with the appropriate surface coating, darkening the silicon, which the app detects."


iPhone plus nanoscale porous silicon equals cheap, simple home diagnostics
Heidi Hall, Vanderbilt University, Phys.org

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ionic Clock...

Physics World: A brief history of timekeeping
Topics: Atomic Physics, Laser, NIST, Quantum Mechanics, Research

By confining single ions of aluminum and magnesium in an electric trap, cooling them to near absolute zero and probing them with laser beams, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado have built what is in effect the world’s most accurate clock. Having fractionally improved on the performance of another clock at NIST, the researchers have shown that their device would neither gain nor lose a second in 33 billion years (if it could run for that long). Such accurate timekeeping, they say, could boost geodesy and lead to new insights in fundamental physics.

The clocks that currently underpin atomic time rely on precisely measuring the frequency of microwaves emitted during a specific transition in cesium atoms. But such devices are limited by the relatively low frequency of that radiation. To keep time even more accurately, and eventually introduce a new definition of the second, physicists are developing clocks based on higher-frequency optical transitions.

The latest work at NIST features what is known as a quantum-logic clock. Built by Samuel Brewer and colleagues, it uses a positive ion of aluminum-27 as its timekeeper. When exposed to ultraviolet laser light at wavelength 267 nm, the ion undergoes a transition with a very narrow line width – making its frequency very well defined. What is more, that transition is largely immune to sources of external noise – such as blackbody radiation – that in other types of optical clock shift the frequency away from its true value.

A magnesium-25 ion is used to cool the aluminum down to the very low temperatures needed to minimize thermal noise. Cooling involves the absorption of photons at another specific frequency, but practical limitations mean that this cannot be done using the aluminum itself. This is because the required frequency in is too high for any practical laser. By entangling the two ions, the magnesium cools the aluminum via Coulomb interactions. This process also allows the quantum state of the aluminum ion to be read-out following exposure to the clock laser.

Entangled aluminum ion is world’s best timekeeper, Edwin Cartlidge, Physics World

Friday, June 7, 2019

Liar Eschatology...

David Lewicki, Twitter
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Human Rights

The Power of Positive Thinking is a self-help book by Norman Vincent Peale, originally published in 1952. It makes use of positive case histories and practical instructions to propose the method of positive thinking. Peale's work describes how to achieve a permanent and optimistic attitude through unending positive conscious thought, usually through affirmations or visualizations. Peale writes that such techniques will give the reader a higher satisfaction and quality of life. Though negatively reviewed by scholars and health experts, The Power of Positive Thinking became popular in public opinion when first published and continues in popularity today.

Source: Wikipedia

*****

Liars for Jesus debunks many of the historical lies invented and used by the Christian nationalist history revisionists in their efforts to further their far right political agenda and destroy the wall of separation between church and state in America. Liars for Jesus is not a book about religion. It is a history book, presenting and fully documenting the true stories and historical facts that are distorted in the "Christian nation" pseudo-history promoted by the religious right. Chris Rodda, August 10, 2006, Amazon, Volume 1

Liars for Jesus debunks many of the historical lies invented and used by the Christian nationalist history revisionists in their efforts to further their far right political agenda and destroy the wall of separation between church and state in America. Liars for Jesus is not a book about religion. It is a history book, setting the record straight by presenting and fully documenting the true stories and historical facts that are distorted in the "Christian nation" pseudo-history of our country. Chris Rodda, January 6, 2016, Volume 2

*****

Come 1953, this legal prodigy was named McCarthy’s boy-wonder chief counsel, and the news photos told the tale: the sharp-faced, heavy-lidded 26-year-old with cherubic cheeks, whispering intimately into the ear of the bloated McCarthy. Cohn’s special skill as the senator’s henchman was character assassination. Indeed, after testifying in front of him, an engineer with the Voice of America radio news service committed suicide. Cohn never showed a shred of remorse.

You knew when you were in Cohn’s presence you were in the presence of pure evil,” said lawyer Victor A. Kovner, who had known him for years. Cohn’s power derived largely from his ability to scare potential adversaries with hollow threats and spurious lawsuits. And the fee he demanded for his services? Ironclad loyalty.

For author Sam Roberts, the essence of Cohn’s influence on Trump was the triad: “Roy was a master of situational immorality . . . . He worked with a three-dimensional strategy, which was: 1. Never settle, never surrender. 2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately. 3. No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat.” As columnist Liz Smith once observed, “Donald lost his moral compass when he made an alliance with Roy Cohn.”


*****

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. Our national embarrassment managed to be an embarrassment on the world stage. What I thought was missing was any discussion of the African American soldiers and sailors that sacrificed for this nation during that war, specifically to show their worth as citizens and as human beings. We've fought in every war this nation has prosecuted in its history, yet the descendants of the African Diaspora are still fighting for their rights in this country. I found the absence of any discussion ironic and disturbing under current circumstances.

I cannot attest Donald Trump ever HAD a moral compass to lose. His father was arrested at a Klan rally in NY city, 1927; he and his father discriminated against people of color in their rental apartment buildings; the Central Park 5, for which he refuses to apologize: Charlottesville. He has divided the nation with a racist jigsaw. He's more Darth Vader to Emperor Palpatine, Darth Maul to Darth Sidious; under demon to Lucifer. The degree of evil doesn't matter: it's just evil.

Norman Vincent Peale's philosophy has had it's supporters and critics, both in science and clergy. Marble Church - the spiritual descendant of Peale's philosophy - is claimed by the Trumps, the pathological liar referring in the past to Peale as his pastor. A lot of Norman Vincent Peale's method have other names: "name it and claim it"; "new thought" and "positive mental attitude." It's the kind of thing a sales representative reads to pump up their egos to press on. It is the kind of philosophy an urban youth might use to motivate their enthusiasm to overcome their economic circumstances. It is ripe for warping by a demagogue.

Chris Rodda responded to the pseudo-historical polemics published by David Barton, a "historian" who possesses no PhD in the field as most historians do. He is the go-to "expert" for talk show hosts like Glenn Beck et al to tell their audiences kind fables that comfort their angst regarding the changing demographics of America. He tries to rewrite actual history to fulfill the fables of a group he hucksters, where "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." John Adams But those "stubborn things" are of no consequence to Christian fascists.

The only way to see the Venn diagram merger of religion and pathological lying is the nexus formed in the mind of an addled man between these two men: Norman Vincent Peale and Roy Cohn, Yin and Yang; light and darkness. A brain that can only hold onto "Two Corinthians" as a biblical verse he MIGHT have heard in the scant attendance he's logged at the Crystal Cathedral, for his thus far dedicated following, his voluminous tableau of lies doesn't matter. He fulfills what Christian nationalists cum evangelicals and white nationalists the world over want more than eternal salvation - power. The ends justify the means: voter suppression, resistance to "advise and consent" Merrick Garland's appointment to the Supreme Court (a stolen seat); Russian interference so long as white privilege, white supremacy - white power continues to rule. Our bent away from democratic norms predates the Russian attack on our elections in 2016.

The soul of a republic is apparently a small price to pay for this idolatry. It will be the death of our country...and the world.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

There Be Monsters...

Two views of galaxy Markarian 1216. The red image on the left shows X-ray observations conducted by NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the yellowish image on the right is composed of optical observations taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The brighter colors at the center of the Chandra image represent the increased density of hot gas in the galaxy's core.

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology, Dark Matter

X-ray observations of a peculiar galaxy deep within the constellation Hydra (the Sea Serpent) have revealed more dark matter at its core than expected.

The galaxy is almost as old as the universe itself, representatives from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory said in a statement published Monday (June 3). This celestial body, Markarian 1216, went through a different evolution than typical galaxies and is home to stars that are within 10% of the age of the universe.

To study the dark matter within this compact, elliptically shaped galaxy about 295 million light- years from Earth, researchers conducted new observations with the Chandra spacecraft. Markarian 1216 is packed with more dark matter in its core than researchers expected, according to their findings published June 1.

Ancient Galaxy in the 'Sea Serpent' Has More Dark Matter Than Expected, Doris Elin Salazar, Space,com