Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Long Walk...

Black Panther Costumer Designer Ruth E. Carter on Three Decades of Dressing Superheroes
Topics: African Americans, Afrofuturism, Black Panther, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, History, Martin Luther King, Speculative Fiction, Star Trek, Women in Science

I was proudly part of the online record-breaking purchase on Fandango. I started a Facebook group for the movie. Sadly, there are groups formed to boycott it, by people of color uncomfortable with the idea the Black Panther, like Pharaoh in ancient Egypt would be considered a god. There will be the sad/mad/pound puppies that foam at the mouth and howl at the moon at any speculative fiction that doesn't look like a spliced clone of James T. Kirk and Han Solo. They're the same group of spoiled narcissists that had something to say about Voyager's Captain Janeway; Deep Space 9's Commander, then Captain Benjamin Sisko and Michael Berman on Discovery. It's old, it's long and tiresome. But this is a movie I've been waiting for my entire life. Black Panther came out when I was barely out on the planet in 1966 - I was four years old. I am 55 now.

“Wakanda is a small country in Africa notable for never having been conquered in its entire history. When you consider the history of the region, the fact that the French, the English, the Belgians or any number of Christian or Islamic invaders were never able to defeat them in battle…well it’s unprecedented.” The Black Panther - Marvel Knights DVD limited series.

I don't have a vivid memory of Medgar Evers or Malcolm X - just what people told me, what I read and documentaries or dramas that I've viewed.

I do have a vivid memory of the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. I recall he was a Trekkie and talked Nichelle Nicholes out of quitting the show. I have a memory of Nichelle Nicholes and William Shatner sharing the first interracial kiss on Plato's Stepchildren, and how like in many markets in the south it was blocked in North Carolina (I wouldn't see it until I was an adult when it went into syndication reruns). I have a memory of the hot tears of five-year-olds in a segregated kindergarten that felt like we'd lost our favorite grandfather or uncle at the news he was no more from teachers that shared our grief. I have a vivid recollection of Confederate flags that paraded on pickup trucks in East Winston-Salem, NC... in celebration of Dr. King's assassination. For those of us in my age group, we resolved to not make his death in vein. If he would look upon our lives, we were determined to make him proud.

I recall the tears my wife shed on the election of the country's first African American president and the memory of her grandparents. Her grandfather "Paw-Paw" almost died in Shreveport, Louisiana at the hands of two white Klansmen for ATTEMPTING to vote. Serendipitously, it was two other white males that sped him to the hospital and saved his life. He, nor his bride "Mother Dear" lived to see the fruition of their labors in the personification of the country's first black president. The republic had existed 232 years, and with the exception of changing parties, managed to keep the office of Chief Executive distinctly white and (so far) exclusively male. Barack Obama was the seventh candidate we had all seen. Running for president as a black candidate was a running joke: you could run, you just couldn't WIN. The death threats and secret service protection he needed as a candidate said something was different this time.

The white backlash was immediate, as if a membrane had been jostled on a sensitized nerve. The rumble started with birtherism, "praying for the president" (reference Psalm 109:8-10); witch doctor effigies during the debates on affordable healthcare (that in hindsight benefited the complainers); screaming citizens at the border in the direction of brown children (the mortar for mythical border walls); and a beautiful, bright and loving African American family - the personification of the Huxtables before the downfall of Bill Cosby - routinely compared to animals and gorillas by people who haven't looked in the mirror, lately.

So, it is in this juxtaposition of previous, audacious hope; the resurgence of overt, de facto nationalistic, white supremacy racism, and a future in the hands of rank incompetents and xenophobes that we look forward to this movie. I don't know what will occur in the aftermath. I can only hope for a good, UPLIFTING and entertaining film.

The photo above says everything we've endured in our long walk. We'll do so as always, going forward in dashikis and "straight outta Wakanda" t-shirts with our backs rod straight. I'd like to think - like Star Trek - Dr. King would have loved it.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." Martin Luther King, Jr.

#P4TC: Slow-Walking Wakanda... August 16, 2015

Related links:

Box Office: 'Black Panther' Is Still Tracking For Record-Crushing Opening, Scott Mendelson, Forbes
Black Panther Set to Break Barriers, MSN video
Will ‘Black Panther’ Smash the ‘Deadpool’ February Box Office Record? MSN

To Be, or Not to Be...

Stephanie Wehner is part of the team trying to build a true quantum network across Europe. Credit: Marcel Wogram for Nature

Topics: Internet, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics, Schrödinger’s cat, Theoretical Physics, Women in Science

Cultural reference: Hamlet, Act III, scene I.

The sobering part is, Europe will likely build a quantum Internet before us, China will commercialize clean energy; everywhere else will have MAGLEV (magnetic levitation) bullet trains that go 200 mph (while we're stuck with the ones that fatally crash at 80), our bridges, railroads and general infrastructure crumbling (toll road taxed to death) from a malignant narcissist, political amateur conman's claim of being "great again."

Before she became a theoretical physicist, Stephanie Wehner was a hacker. Like most people in that arena, she taught herself from an early age. At 15, she spent her savings on her first dial-up modem, to use at her parents’ home in Würzburg, Germany. And by 20, she had gained enough street cred to land a job in Amsterdam, at a Dutch Internet provider started by fellow hackers.

A few years later, while working as a network-security specialist, Wehner went to university. There, she learnt that quantum mechanics offers something that today’s networks are sorely lacking — the potential for unhackable communications. Now she is turning her old obsession towards a new aspiration. She wants to reinvent the Internet.

The ability of quantum particles to live in undefined states — like Schrödinger’s proverbial cat, both alive and dead — has been used for years to enhance data encryption. But Wehner, now at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and other researchers argue that they could use quantum mechanics to do much more, by harnessing nature’s uncanny ability to link, or entangle, distant objects, and teleporting information between them. At first, it all sounded very theoretical, Wehner says. Now, “one has the hope of realizing it”.

The quantum internet has arrived (and it hasn’t), Davide Castelvecchi, Nature

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Topics: African Americans, Afrofuturism, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, History, Speculative Fiction, Women in Science

Originally posted on #P4TC as Speculative Futures #7... February 17, 2015.

Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

In this hip, accessible primer to the music, literature, and art of Afrofuturism, author Ytasha Womack introduces readers to the burgeoning community of artists creating Afrofuturist works, the innovators from the past, and the wide range of subjects they explore. From the sci-fi literature of Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and N. K. Jemisin to the musical cosmos of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and the Black Eyed Peas’, to the visual and multimedia artists inspired by African Dogon myths and Egyptian deities, the book’s topics range from the “alien” experience of blacks in America to the “wake up” cry that peppers sci-fi literature, sermons, and activism. With a twofold aim to entertain and enlighten, Afrofuturists strive to break down racial, ethnic, and social limitations to empower and free individuals to be themselves.

"The Day We Surrender to the Air" by Antonio Jose Guzman
An article that appears on by Jess Nevins, 9/27/12. I include a link below to a remarkable, mentioned and available book "Light Ahead for the Negro," by Edward A. Johnson

Africans, and those of African descent, have not been treated well by speculative fiction, both inside its texts and in real life. Anti-African racism is a fact of life in Western culture, and was even more pronounced before 1945. Not surprisingly, the number of works of speculative fiction written by black writers is low. But that number is not zero, and it's worth taking a look at the fantasy and science fiction stories that black writers produced before 1945. The Black Fantastic, Jess Nevins

Light Ahead for the Negro, Edward A. Johnson

We, Terrans...

Image Source: Fan Art Central dot net

Topics: Commentary, Existentialism, Politics, Star Trek

Yesterday at a high school in Parkland, Florida was the 18th shooting in 2018. It's only been 45 days. There were 345 mass shootings in 2017 alone. We've been chugging along since January 1. This will be remembered as a Valentine's Day massacre.

My sister-in-law and nephew live near this neighborhood. She describes it as affluent, well-off enough for someone to purchase an AR-15 and ammunition. We'll get the obligatory "thoughts and prayers" that will amount to legislatively, nothing. Pew Research reports most gun owners happen to be white and male, many paranoid, delusional and prepping for a race war. Many work with a fellow classmate, a high-level GS engineer. They tell him this, my friend relays to me...another African American his FACE. I, like him, believe them at least in as far as his safety.

The gun industry is failing under their preferred president*, who himself probably doesn't own a single firearm. Remington ironically has filed for bankruptcy, since their business model hinges on making the handful of gun enthusiasts nervous about the "gov-mint coming to take your guns" and "jackbooted thugs" (whatever that means). Just 3% of American citizens own 133 million guns. This is the business model, warped though it is. We are all cannon fodder.

"Terran strength is born out of pure necessity. Because they live in constant fear, always looking for the next knife aimed at their back. Their strength is painted rust. It's a facade."

– Michael Burnham, 2256 ("Despite Yourself")

The Terran Empire was a repressive interstellar government dominated by the Terrans from Earth in the mirror universe. The Empire ruled by terror, its Imperial Starfleet acting as its iron fist. In Starfleet, officers promoted themselves by killing superiors that did not follow the rules of the Empire. Torture was a common form of interrogation. (ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly"; TOS: "Mirror, Mirror")

The precise historical origin of the Empire is a subject of much debate and speculation among fans. If the opening credits of the two Enterprise mirror universe episodes are any indication, the time of the Empire's formation can be pushed back at least to the age of sail (roughly 1571 - 1862 in our universe).

A scene cut from ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly" had Archer invoking the blessings of "the gods", hinting that the Empire may be a continuation of or successor to the Roman Empire. Marlena Moreau mentioning Kirk becoming a "Caesar" would add support to this notion, as may the fact that "Terra" is the Latin word for "Earth".

The salute used by officers (closing the fist over the heart and then extending the arm in front, saying, "Long live the Empire") is also reminiscent of the Roman soldiers' and gladiators' salute to Caesar.

Indirect support for the idea that the Empire had a relatively "ancient" origin may be found in a statement made by the mirror Phlox in "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II". In that episode, he revealed that, although he had found significant differences between the great historical works of literature in the mirror universe and those of the prime universe, he had discovered an exception in Shakespeare, Phlox expressing that the works of Shakespeare were "equally grim in both universes."

Additionally, the mirror Philippa Georgiou in the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Vaulting Ambition" stated that the ideals of equality, freedom, and compassion were "delusions Terrans shed millenia ago."

Memory Alpha: Terran Empire

Insightful as ever, Trek peered through the facade of our existence with a clearly focused lens, like a magnifier in sunlight. The original Star Trek, Enterprise, Deep Space 9 and Discovery had their swings at plot lines in the mirror replicate of our supposedly civilized home. When Gene Roddenberry envisioned the mirror universe, it was through a transporter accident that Kirk, "Bones," Uhura and Scotty ended up in a universe to diametrically opposite of what they'd left. The Federation was all about inclusion and equality; the Terran Empire was all about fascism and fear. Change the Terran motto in the emblem above from "force" to "fear" and it encapsulates the zeitgeist we're being driven to by every obfuscatory statement and tweet.

Instead of thinking "that's them," we may want to look more closely in our own mirror, after a treatment of Windex...this isn't them at some mythical "over there."


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Frederick Douglass...

Image Source: Wikiquote
"Once you have learned to read you will forever be free."
"Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave."
More at

Topics: African Americans, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, History, Women in Science

Originally posted as "The Meaning..." #P4TC, July 5, 2015.

Today is Valentine's Day and Frederick Douglass's 200th birthday, or at least the day he assigned for himself. One of my favorite quotes by him (that I use) is "The soul that is within me, no man can degrade."

Frederick Douglass was known well for being an escaped slave, committed republican (at that time in our history, the progressive party) and abolitionist. He was a staunch advocate of equality (an early one for women) and education, seeing his own personal emancipation centered on something slaves were banned from doing: reading. His former master chastised his wife, saying teaching Frederick how to read would "ruin him" and make him unfit for the peculiar institution. He couldn't have agreed more.

In his uniquely bellicose manner, Mr. Douglass tackles this in a long soliloquy given July 5, 1852 in Rochester, NY. I have thought of Charleston, South Carolina and how the narrative of our nation had been determined by a defeated foe to the point of redefining the narrative and main rationale (if you can call it that) behind the Civil War: the continued indentured servitude of a kidnapped people in perpetuity. In light of the debate sparked by the assassination of nine innocents in Mother Emanuel AME, and the symbol the terrorist so revered; the possibility on that symbol's removal in the bloody aftermath, I give you Frederick Douglass' apropos speech on its 163rd anniversary in excerpt, read by the accomplished actor and voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones.

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to he overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, as what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot's heart might be sadder, and the reformer's brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.-Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

History is a Weapon: The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro, Frederick Douglass
Related link: What the Civil War Can Teach us About Patriotism, Jarret Ruminski, PhD Historian, "That Devil History" blog

Atomically Precise Manufacturing...

Credit: University of Texas at Dallas

Topics: Instrumentation, Modern Physics, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics, Scanning Tunneling Microscopy

A University of Texas at Dallas graduate student, his advisor and industry collaborators believe they have addressed a long-standing problem troubling scientists and engineers for more than 35 years: How to prevent the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope from crashing into the surface of a material during imaging or lithography.

Details of the group's solution appeared in the January issue of the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, which is published by the American Institute of Physics.

Scanning tunneling microscopes (STMs) operate in an ultra-high vacuum, bringing a fine-tipped probe with a single atom at its apex very close to the surface of a sample. When voltage is applied to the surface, electrons can jump or tunnel across the gap between the tip and sample.

"Think of it as a needle that is very sharp, atomically sharp," said Farid Tajaddodianfar, a mechanical engineering graduate student in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "The microscope is like a robotic arm, able to reach atoms on the sample surface and manipulate them."

The problem is, sometimes the tungsten tip crashes into the sample. If it physically touches the sample surface, it may inadvertently rearrange the atoms or create a "crater," which could damage the sample. Such a "tip crash" often forces operators to replace the tip many times, forfeiting valuable time.

Dr. John Randall is an adjunct professor at UT Dallas and president of Zyvex Labs, a Richardson, Texas-based nanotechnology company specializing in developing tools and products that fabricate structures atom by atom. Zyvex reached out to Dr. Reza Moheimani, a professor of mechanical engineering, to help address STMs' tip crash problem. Moheimani's endowed chair was a gift from Zyvex founder James Von Ehr MS'81, who was honored as a distinguished UTD alumnus in 2004.

"What they're trying to do is help bring atomically precise manufacturing into reality," said Randall, who co-authored the article with Tajaddodianfar, Moheimani and Zyvex Labs' James Owens. "This is considered the future of nanotechnology, and it is extremely important work."

Microscopy breakthrough paves the way for atomically precise manufacturing, The University of Texas at Dallas

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Greensboro Medical Society...

Image Source: Simkins et al vs. Cone
Topics: African Americans, Diaspora, Diversity, Diversity in Science, History, Women in Science

The scholarship gala for the Greensboro Medical Society used as its theme Egypt, specifically Imhotep, the original father of medicine, despite Hippocrates holding that distinction in the west. The presentation was to honor Dr. Otis E. Tillman, Sr., who delivered babies at then segregated hospitals in High Point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. It was with chills that I had an epiphany: this gentle giant of medicine, who had himself endured many indignities of racism and segregation, may have delivered me at Kate Bitting Reynolds Hospital. It was possible. I didn't ask, but it did send chills to hear his clear enunciation, mental acuity and stirring story. I also met my new dentist, who I'll likely be under his care as of this posting. It was a wondrous evening.

The Greensboro Medical Society (GMS) was formed several years after the opening of L. Richardson Memorial Hospital which opened on May 4, 1927. Early accounts indicate that the society was not active during the late 1920's and 1930's. In the mid 1940's; however, the GMS was re-activated. During this time, Drs. G.H. Evans, C.C. Stewart, J.P. Sebastian, J.C. Waddy, J.R. Hawkins, W.J. Hughes, Sr., G.C. Simkins, Sr., B.W. Barnes, M.S. Jenkins, W. Murrow, and Hargraves were the physicians, dentists and pharmacists who composed the Society and staffed L. Richardson Hospital. All members were also affiliated with the Old North State Society and National Medical Association. They came together during this time for the purpose of education, fellowship, networking and socialization.

Because of the policy of segregation, which was prevalent in America during this time, these doctors were denied staff privileges at the majority hospitals and membership in the mainstream majority health professional organizations. These included the American Medical Association, American Dental Association and their regional and local affiliates. The Greensboro Medical Society therefore served as an outlet to temper the ill-effects of the isolation of these times.

​After World War II, leaders in the black community were determined to improve health care for black persons by ending discrimination in hospital policies and practices. Leaders of professional organizations developed a collaborative strategy that involved the court system, federal legislation, and research and education of the public and health professionals to integrate the hospital system rather than to expand the existing separate-but-equal system. Efforts culminated in the case of Simkins v Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital; this case became the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and led to the elimination of segregated health care.

Greensboro Medical Society, Our History