Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Insistent Center...

Image Source: Facebook

Topics: African Americans, Civics, Existentialism, Extinction

NK Jemisin is an African American author of speculative fiction. She's also the victim of a group of trolls on the Internet referring to themselves as the "sad puppies"/"rabid puppies" because of the lack of Euro-centric main characters in her stories, which for the author IS the point.


Sonequa Martin-Green, lead on the CBS All Access Star Trek: Discovery was vilified by the same alt-right, racists that could not see anyone other than the clone of Buck Rogers, James T. Kirk, Jean Luc Picard: White Anglo Saxon Protestant, Cisgender (WASP-C) males as the central "hero" figure and ruminations of fictional "white genocide."

A man who earned his law degree, passed the (ironically) bar and served the nation as Attorney General for the George H.W. Bush administration was also the architect of pardons for key figures in the Iran-Contra Scandal. His 19-page unsolicited memo/job solicitation born of the effectiveness of Rupert Murdoch propaganda cum Fox "News" as he likely regularly consumed that informed his treatise. He was on point yesterday as he dusted off the 80's play book to try the formula on an international audience viewing on cable, Internet and social media. He was immediately labeled a pitiful hack, a caricature of a country bumpkin lawyer and NOT the nation's attorney, but the current president's* Roy Cohn.

William Barr lied. His boss's staff lied. His boss is a prolific liar, telling 8,718 as tabulated January of this year. The Mueller Report - redacted or not - only confirms what we already know and that the hypocrisy of the white evangelical right rises to the stench of dung hills. The institution is the white-washed sepulcher of white nationalism. It is the spur of the exodus with organized religion in the US.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

There are TEN attempts to obstruct justice in the report. Despite lies told to Mueller by his then deputy press secretary  Sarah Sanders, despite the fact the report did NOT exonerate him, his minions, his staff, his fascist cult base will claim total exoneration, because facts and fascism are not on speaking terms. They never have been.

GONE are the halcyon days of Grey Poupon and Tan Suit scandals breathlessly pursued by Sean Hannity et al. President Obama DID golf during his presidency as did his WASP-C predecessors, but his current successor has taken golfing to steroidal levels, greeted by the same right wing propaganda echo chamber...with crickets.

All these intersect in Venn diagram fashion of centrality: of a 400-year insistence that the stories told about our country has one hue, one type of damsel in distress and one repeating, ad nausem conclusion: the hero is white, heteronormal.

And that hero has to be white because our concepts of god is a white male in the sky, judging and damning every aspect of our existence. Therefore the president in tan suit with Melanin is an aberration from the mental ideal we've been conditioned to respect and accept.

Let me be blunt:

1. The POTUS is a crook. As David Frum points out, it may be a choice of the current presidency*, or rule of law.
2. He is a racist. He doesn't have to wear a swastika; a Klan hood or quote chapter and verse of Mein Kamph. As George Will opined, he's barely on speaking terms with the English language. He's an admitted nationalist. He's tweeted against a sitting congresswoman and Somali immigrant that has increased death threats against her. He's too cowardly to do his own violence, but he's pyromaniac enough to light the fire and run.
3. The AG is a hack and a liar.

We’re not a democratic republic; not even an oligarchy or kleptocracy. We’re a kakistocracy: “government under the control of a nation's worst or least-qualified citizens.”

This is what Rome looked like before it fell.

This is what - for our own survival - we have to fix.

Gil Scott-Heron: B-Movie, Genius Lyrics (both insightful analysis and prophecy).

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Wormhole Slow-Mo...

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Topics: Black Holes, Einstein, General Relativity, Science Fiction, Wormholes

“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Good Reads

A Harvard physicist has shown that wormholes can exist: tunnels in curved space-time, connecting two distant places, through which travel is possible.

But don't pack your bags for a trip to other side of the galaxy yet; although it's theoretically possible, it's not useful for humans to travel through, said the author of the study, Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University, written in collaboration with Ping Gao, also from Harvard and Aron Wall from Stanford University.

"It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly, so they are not very useful for space travel," Jafferis said. He will present his findings at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver.

Despite his pessimism for pan-galactic travel, he said that finding a way to construct a wormhole through which light could travel was a boost in the quest to develop a theory of quantum gravity.

Travel through wormholes is possible, but slow, American Institute of Physics, Phys.org

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Snow TENG...

A new nanogenerator could harvest energy directly from snow, helping solar panels deal with wintry conditions(Credit: karin59 /Depositphotos)

Topics: Alternative Energy, Green Energy, Green Tech, Nanotechnology

Snowy places aren't ideal for harvesting solar energy – panels can't do much if they're buried under blankets of snow, of course. Now a team from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a new device that can produce electricity from snow itself.

The team calls the new device a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or Snow TENG. As the name suggests it works off the triboelectric effect, meaning it uses static electricity to generate a charge through the exchange of electrons. These kinds of devices have been used to make generators that pull energy from body movements, touchscreens, and even footsteps on floors.

Snow is positively charged, so rubbing it against a material with the opposite charge allows energy to be drawn out of it. After a comprehensive series of testing, the team settled on silicone as the most effective material.

The Snow TENG, which is 3D printable, is made with a layer of silicone attached to an electrode. The team says it could be integrated into solar panels, so they can continue generating electricity even when covered with snow, making it similar to an earlier hybrid solar cell that also harvested energy from the movement of raindrops on its surface.

Snow-powered nanogenerator works where solar panels don't
Michael Irving, New Atlas

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Distant Cousins...

Callao Cave, Luzon Island, The Philippines

Image credits:
Callao Cave Archaeology Project

Topics: Biology, DNA, Evolution, History, Research

(Inside Science) -- In a jungle cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered fossils of what may be a new human species they call Homo luzonensis. The newfound teeth and bones combine primitive and modern traits in a way never previously seen together in one species, and suggest much remains to be discovered about human evolution outside Africa.

Image Source: Homo luzonensis

Although modern humans, Homo sapiens, are now the only surviving branch of the genus Homo, other species of humans once roamed across Earth. For example, previous research suggested Homo erectus, the most likely ancestor of modern humans, made its way out of Africa by at least 1.8 million years ago. In contrast, modern humans may have only begun dispersing from Africa roughly 200,000 years ago.

Fifteen years ago, scientists revealed an unusual extinct human species from the Indonesian island of Flores -- Homo floresiensis, often called "the hobbit" due to its diminutive size, which lived on Earth during the same time as modern humans. This finding hinted that other hominins -- any relatives of modern humans dating from after our ancestors split from those of chimpanzees -- might await discovery in Southeast Asia.

Researchers Find a New Ancient Human Species in the Philippines
Charles Q. Choi, Live Science

Monday, April 15, 2019

Ethics of Genesis...

MS. TECH; EVOLUTION: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Topics: Biology, Ethics, Genetics, Science Fiction

Note: The article "went there" before I could.

"Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home, and yours. Shun him... for he is the harbinger of death." Internet Movie Database, Planet of the Apes (1968) Synopsis

*****

Human intelligence is one of evolution’s most consequential inventions. It is the result of a sprint that started millions of years ago, leading to ever bigger brains and new abilities. Eventually, humans stood upright, took up the plow, and created civilization, while our primate cousins stayed in the trees.

Now scientists in southern China report that they've tried to narrow the evolutionary gap, creating several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence.

“This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model,” says Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort.

According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop—as those of human children do. There wasn’t a difference in brain size.

Su’s monkeys raise some unusual questions about animal rights. In 2010, Sikela and three colleagues wrote a paper called “The ethics of using transgenic non-human primates to study what makes us human,” in which they concluded that human brain genes should never be added to apes, such as chimpanzees, because they are too similar to us.

“You just go to the Planet of the Apes immediately in the popular imagination,” says Jacqueline Glover, a University of Colorado bioethicist who was one of the authors. “To humanize them is to cause harm. Where would they live and what would they do? Do not create a being that can’t have a meaningful life in any context.”

*****

Not to go all Cassandra on you, but...

At the story's heart is Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee who gains human-like intelligence and emotions from an experimental drug. Raised like a child by the drug's creator, Will Rodman (James Franco) and a primatologist Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), Caesar ultimately finds himself taken from the humans he loves and imprisoned in an ape sanctuary in San Bruno. Seeking justice for his fellow inmates, Caesar gives the fellow apes the same drug that he inherited. He then assembles a simian army and escapes the sanctuary - putting man and ape on a collision course that could change the planet forever. Internet Movie Database, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Storyline

Chinese scientists have put human brain genes in monkeys—and yes, they may be smarter
Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review

Friday, April 12, 2019

Sunshine Fascism...

Source: Ecosia Images
Topics: Civics, Existentialism, History, Politics

"We are a people of different religions, but we are one. Which faith conquers the other is not the question; rather, the question is whether Christianity stands or falls... We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity … in fact our movement is Christian. We are filled with a desire for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another in the deep distress of our own people." (1928) Wikiquote: Religious views of Adolf Hitler

*****

Fascism is a movement that promotes the idea of a forcibly monolithic, regimented nation under the control of an autocratic ruler. The word fascism comes from fascio, the Italian word for bundle, which in this case represents bundles of people. Its origins go back to Ancient Rome, when the fasces was a bundle of wood with an ax head, carried by leaders.

On March 23, 1919, the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento — a group that grew out of a number of earlier movements that had also used the image of the fascio in their names — met for the first time in Piazza San Sepolcro in Milan. At this rally, Mussolini said that membership in the new group “commits all fascists to sabotaging the candidacies of the neutralists of all parties by any means necessary.”

“Mussolini thought that democracy was a failed system. He thought that liberty of expression and liberty of parties was a sham, and that fascism would organize people under state power,” Ben-Ghiat says. “Their idea was you would be freer because you wouldn't have any class consciousness. You’re just supposed to worship the nation. It’s nation over class.”

The corollary of that belief was the idea that anything that might impede national unity had to be gotten rid of, and violently. In fact, violence was seen as beneficial to society.

And “society” was not a loosely defined idea. Rather, Mussolini and those who came after him had very specific ideas about who got to be part of the nation. It followed that those who did not fit the mold were seen as disruptive to that unity, and thus subject to violence.



To set the tone for a dystopian movie, one typically gets a noir treatment: lighting is dark, air is misty; camera angles are stark and weather is typically overcast. The decision to "go glum" is likely due to only having a few hours to make their point and resolve any plot twists to the denouement and conclusion. An in-your-face theatrical release might involve swastikas, goose stepping and nostalgic, feel-good faux patriotism.

Even though there have been decidedly darker days under authoritarian regimes, every day looks like any other day when ruled by fascism. There are for example, photos of Hitler on holiday at his villa in Bavaria. It looked sunny; he (for a monster) looked happy.

Democracy depends on a shared set of facts that can be debated in discussed either in a court, on a congressional floor or near a coffee machine at work. It's affable and seeks a happy medium: no one gets everything they desire, but it does require compromise.

Fascism is nothing at all like that. Like George Orwell's famous novel, "1984," fascism requires and demands power for its own sake. It wants what it wants for the sake of wanting. History has no meaning to it at all. Logic and reason have no appeal or sway in people who traffic in "alternative facts" or its Karl Rove precursor: "created realities."

- It is why you can justify the outright theft of land from First Nations' peoples and slaughter them at will for "Manifest Destiny."
- It is why you can have the transatlantic slave trade with no moral or monetary compensation (reparations) to its African Diaspora descendants.
- It is why they demonize people of color as "lazy, shiftless, moochers and cheats" on all things, particularly academic, and now the SAT college scandal has blown up the previous myth of meritocracy in their faces that they were desperate to maintain for credentials and supremacy. 
- It is why as presidential Manchurian Candidate, can say "WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks," and on the arrest of Julian Assange can say with a straight, orange face "I know nothing about WikiLeaks."
- It is why the same can incite violence of his followers and deny doing so in the same breath.
- It is why the Attorney General can send an unsolicited 19 page memo campaigning for a job to essentially not be the top cop, but the president's personal Roy Cohn and slow walk the Mueller Report to Congress and the public.
- It is why we insist on telling ourselves comforting fables about American benevolence; about being Winthrop's "shining city on a hill" (who himself had no stomach for "the other") so as to not face our own national depravity...

...our own foundation of racism, sexism, homophobia, genocide and fascism.

Giovanni Gentile (not Mussolini) coined the phrase "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." But this is not what access media conglomerates will say about it. They'll pretend there is still a middle ground that only requires compromise and clever arguments. They will still opine for a former, mythological days where things worked if only (typically) democrats gave concessions to republicans' demands.

During the Great Depression, Marine Major General Smedley Butler narced on what was called the Business Plot to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt and install Butler as a dictator compliant to corporate interests. He wrote the treatise "War is a Racket."

There are quite a few American billionaire families with Nazis ties, starting with Ford, GM, Chrysler, IBM, and JP Morgan Chase. The Koch’s father did business with the Nazis and Russians. The Bush’s and Kennedy’s (Prescott and Papa Joe) were Nazi sympathizers.

Ayn Rand provided the fictional cover: behind every massive fortune, there are likely crimes.

*****

To set the tone for a dystopian movie, one typically gets a noir treatment: lighting is dark, air is misty; camera angles are stark and weather is typically overcast.

When you tell yourself comforting lies, a liar may ascend to power.

Fascism like weather can change its environs and display its power on blithe, sunny days.

Related link:

More Than A Dozen European Billionaires—Linked To BMW, L’OrĂ©al, Bosch—Have Families With Past Nazi Ties
Madeline Berg, Forbes Magazine

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Event Horizon...

Scientists have obtained the first-ever image of a black hole — at center of the galaxy M87. Credit: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, Einstein

(Yesterday) At six simultaneous press conferences around the globe, astronomers on Wednesday announced they had accomplished the seemingly impossible: taking a picture of a black hole, a cosmic monster so voracious that light itself cannot escape its clutches.

This historic feat, performed by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)—a planet-spanning network of radio observatories—required more than a decade of effort. The project’s name refers to a black hole’s most defining characteristic, an “event horizon” set by the object’s mass and spin beyond which no infalling material, including light, can ever return.

“We have taken the first picture of a black hole,” the EHT project’s director, Sheperd Doeleman, said in a news release. “This is an extraordinary scientific feat accomplished by a team of more than 200 researchers.”

The image unveils the shadowy face of a 6.5-billion-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the core of Messier 87 (M87), a large galaxy some 55 million light-years from Earth in the Virgo galaxy cluster. Such objects are a reflection of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which predicts that only so much material can be squeezed into any given volume before the overwhelming force of its accumulated gravity causes a collapse—a warp in the fabric of spacetime that swallows itself. Left behind is an almost featureless nothingness that, for lack of better terms, scientists simply call a black hole.

"Gargantua," special effects from the movie, Interstellar, 2014 (Kip Thorne et al guessed right):
Image Source: HDQ Walls dot com

At Last, a Black Hole’s Image Revealed, Lee Billings, Scientific American