Brainy Quote of the Day

Monday, December 18, 2017

Seven Words...

Image Source: US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Topics: Commentary, Existentialism, Science, Research

The entrance paragraph on Scientific American couldn't be more stark and foreboding:

Do you want your medical treatment to be based on science? The Trump administration disagrees. It has now banned the top US public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from using seven words or phrases: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” [1]

Vulnerable - 1 : capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; 2 : open to attack or damage : assailable vulnerable to criticism
Entitlement - 1 : a : the state or condition of being entitled : right; b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
Diversity - 1 : the condition of having or being composed of differing elements : variety; especially : the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization programs intended to promote diversity in schools; 2 : an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities : an instance of being diverse a diversity of opinion
Transgender - : of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth; especially : of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth
Fetus - 1 : an unborn or unhatched vertebrate especially after attaining the basic structural plan of its kind; specifically : a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth — compare embryo [2]
Evidence-based - Evidence-based medicine is an approach to medical practice intended to optimize decision-making by emphasizing the use of evidence from well-designed and well-conducted research [3]; Evidence based practice (EBP) is the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care (Sackett, Straus, Richardson, Rosenberg, & Haynes, 2000) [4]
Science-based - Science-Based Medicine is dedicated to evaluating medical treatments and products of interest to the public in a scientific light, and promoting the highest standards and traditions of science in health care. Online information about alternative medicine is overwhelmingly credulous and uncritical, and even mainstream media and some medical schools have bought into the hype and failed to ask the hard questions. [5]

Truth is being burned, or at least objective truth. It is a tearing at what used to be our time-honored political norms, only possible in a republic made insipid by "lowest common denominator programming" - reality television, that slowly conditioned an Idiocracy public with as Sagan opined "critical faculties in decline," to think a former star and faux billionaire with a catch-phrase line could be president. It is slowly, daily being eroded by a mountain of lies that eventually he and his enablers figure we'll all get tired of joking our way through with late night hosts and SNL cold openings; that we'll collectively slump from sheer exhaustion of a Sisyphus resistance, and accept the insane. A relativism has crept into the public zeitgeist for at least citizens whose sanity and rationality I have to question, as they dismantle the critical thinking skills of the developing next generation by burning to ash the foundation of The Enlightenment.

This is the digital version to the 20th Century brute-force method done by Sturmabteilung (SA - assault division). Instead of brownshirts, we get irrational strains of credulity in White House press briefings; insane tweets from septuagenarians that somehow think themselves sex symbols still, throwing out 280-character mental defecations during morning bowel movements. We do have them though, as they occasionally show up at pep rally-styled events designed to pump the ego of a narcissist; with tiki torches or as online trolls, howling at anything that challenges their dogma or conspiracy theories. His presidential daily briefs have to be modified - translation: truth either omitted about Russian intelligence operations against us, else he'll be "upset" and the briefing will "go off the rails." Is that the description of an administration, or managing an inmate at Arkham Insane Asylum?

Seven words - magically shat out without a study, peer review or sign off by an authority at the Center for Disease Control (repeat: the Center for DISEASE Control) that won't STOP them from doing their jobs; just the public's understanding of it to be able to support whatever actions they instruct during a crisis. The reaction to pandemics could be slowed. That results in more (unnecessary) dead bodies. Or maybe that is the point.

Seven words - that could easily apply to the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation et al, any number of Biology, Chemistry, Engineering and Physics organizations that rely on objective EVIDENCE to design experiments, evaluate data from the same and make decisions that could affect the lives of 7.6 BILLION PEOPLE ON THE PLANET.

This is existential. This is Orwellian.

If this is NOT opposed and stopped, I am afraid our continuance is not (as it never was) guaranteed. Our brief "Candle in the Dark" out of ignorance is being snuffed by a tribe of baying nincompoops led by someone beyond human comprehension, enabled by opportunistic cowards that before interference by foreign powers, betrayed this republic to oligarchs awaiting our demise to harvest the mineral riches from our properties and corpses, picking their teeth with the bones of gullible brownshirts.

Seven words - that could easily be the lit match to the funeral pyre for our species.

[2] Merriam-Webster online, from vulnerable to fetus

Friday, December 15, 2017

Pointsman Upgrade...

Image Source: site
Topics: Electromagnetism, Isotopes, James Clerk Maxwell, Mark G. Raizen, Thermodynamics

I've given you the link to The Pointsman Foundation; from its own description:

"The Pointsman Foundation is a not-for-profit 501c(3) organization headquartered in Austin, Texas. Its mission includes the advancement of production and use of stable isotopes and radioisotopes for medical treatments, diagnostics, and research using the patented Magnetically Activated and Guided Isotope Separation (“MAGIS”) process developed by Mark Raizen, Ph.D. (University of Texas at Austin).

"The Pointsman Foundation’s ultimate goal is to make lifesaving therapies available to the global medical community by reducing the currently prohibitive costs of the underlying isotopes. While the MAGIS process has been successfully demonstrated in a lab using Lithium isotopes, additional research and development is now required to produce useful quantities of the most needed isotopes."

Pointsman is now on Facebook: Please like, follow and share. Some of its important work may likely impact you personally, either yourself or a loved one dealing with medical situations where science can really help. Here's a plethora of Pointsman news posts - GOOD news posts for a change, the first on cancer therapy (with absolutely no "alternative facts").

My parents were both affected by cancer - my father succumbed to lung cancer in '99. My mother was a breast cancer survivor. She eventually expired in 2009. Surviving loved ones are also affected: survivors' guilt, warm memories and the awkward posture of earth and your own height separating you from those entombed memories. All tools to extend life should be exploited while you still have time, hugs, memories and "I love yous." It's the best part about being human that makes the pursuit of scientific medical miracles - a pursuit of wonder - in this season worth the effort.

"The most wonderful part of Hanukkah is family and friends. May your season be full of wonder!" Greeting Card Messages dot com

“We all have a thirst for wonder. It's a deeply human quality. Science and religion are both bound up with it. What I'm saying is, you don't have to make stories up, you don't have to exaggerate. There's wonder and awe enough in the real world. Nature's a lot better at inventing wonders than we are.” Carl Sagan, Contact, Good Reads

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Slight Chance of Antimatter...

A Kyoto University-based team has unraveled the mystery of gamma-ray emission cascades caused by lightning strikes. Credit: Kyoto University/Teruaki Enoto

Topics: Modern Physics, Particle Physics, Research, Weather

A storm system approaches: the sky darkens, and the low rumble of thunder echoes from the horizon. Then without warning... Flash! Crash!—lightning has struck.

This scene, while familiar to anyone and repeated constantly across the planet, is not without a feeling of mystery. But now that mystery has deepened, with the discovery that lightning can result in matter-antimatter annihilation.

In a collaborative study appearing in Nature, researchers from Japan describe how gamma rays from lightning react with the air to produce radioisotopes and even positrons—the antimatter equivalent of electrons.

"We already knew that thunderclouds and lightning emit gamma rays, and hypothesized that they would react in some way with the nuclei of environmental elements in the atmosphere," explains Teruaki Enoto from Kyoto University, who leads the project.

Lightning, with a chance of antimatter, Kyoto University, Japan,

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Darkest Black...

Image Source: CNET: Sci-Tech

Topics: Carbon Nanotubes, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, Optics

The Science of Vantablack
The name Vantablack® stands for Vertically Aligned Nanotube Array black.

Vantablack is a free-space coating consisting of a 'forest' of aligned and equally spaced, high aspect-ratio carbon nanotubes (CNTs).

The CNT array is patterned and spaced to allow photons to enter. Most of the light, or radiation arriving at the surface enters the space between the CNTs, and is repeatedly reflected between tubes until it is absorbed and converted to heat. This heat (largely undetectable in most applications) is conducted to the substrate and dissipated. The Vantablack array is very largely free-space; the volume of CNTs only makes up about 0.05% of the coating. Consequently, only a minuscule proportion of the incident radiation is able to hit the tip of a CNT, explaining why such a small amount is reflected back to the observer.

Vantablack's exceptional properties
Ultra low reflectance - Vantablack absorbs 99.965% of light (750nm wavelength)

UV, Visible and IR absorption - Absorption works from UV (200-350 nm wavelength), through the visible (350-700nm) and into the far infrared (>16 microns) spectrum, with no spectral features.

Very high front to back thermal conduction - excellent for Black Body calibration sources

Super hydrophobic - Unlike other black coatings, water has no impact on the optical properties

Very high thermal shock resistance - Repeatedly plunging a Vantablack coated substrate into liquid Nitrogen at -196°C and then transferring to a 300°C hot plate in air does not affect its properties.

Resistant to extreme shock and vibration - Independently tested, Vantablack has been subjected to severe shocks and vibration simulating launch and staging.

Information Source: Surrey Nanosystems

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Arrow of Time...

Schematic of the experimental setup. (A) Heat flows from the hot to the cold spin (at thermal contact) when both are initially uncorrelated. This corresponds to the standard thermodynamic arrow of time. For initially quantum correlated spins, heat is spontaneously transferred from the cold to the hot spin. The arrow of time is here reversed. (B) View of the magnetometer used in our NMR experiment. A superconducting magnet, producing a high intensity magnetic field (B0) in the longitudinal direction, is immersed in a thermally shielded vessel in liquid He, surrounded by liquid N in another vacuum separated chamber. The sample is placed at the center of the magnet within the radio frequency coil of the probe head inside a 5mm glass tube. (C) Experimental pulse sequence for the partial thermalization process. The blue (red) circle represents x (y) rotations by the indicated angle. The orange connections represents a free evolution under the scalar coupling, HJHC = (πh/2)JσzHσzC , between the 1H and 13C nuclear spins during the time indicated above the symbol. We have performed 22 samplings of the interaction time τ in the interval 0 to 2.32 ms. Credit: arXiv:1711.03323 [quant-ph]

Topics: Entropy, Spacetime, Thermodynamics

The second law permits the prediction of the direction of natural processes, thus defining a thermodynamic arrow of time. However, standard thermodynamics presupposes the absence of initial correlations between interacting systems. We here experimentally demonstrate the reversal of the arrow of time for two initially quantum correlated spins-1/2, prepared in local thermal states at different temperatures, employing a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance setup. We observe a spontaneous heat flow from the cold to the hot system. This process is enabled by a trade off between correlations and entropy that we quantify with information-theoretical quantities.

The second law of thermodynamics says that entropy, or disorder, tends to increase over time, which is why everything in the world around us appears to unfold forward in time. But it also explains why hot tea grows cold rather than hot. In this new effort, the researchers found an exception to this rule that works in a way that doesn't violate the rules of physics as they have been defined.

The idea of entangled particles has been in the news a lot lately as researchers around the world attempt to use it for various purposes—but there is another lesser-known property of particles that is similar in nature, but slightly different. It is when particles become correlated, which means they become linked in ways that do not happen in the larger world. Like entanglement, correlated particles share information, though it is not as strong of a bond. In this new experiment, the researchers used this property to change the direction of the arrow of time.

Experiment shows that arrow of time is a relative concept, not an absolute one
Bob Yirka,

Reversing the thermodynamic arrow of time using quantum correlations
Kaonan Micadei,1, ∗ John P. S. Peterson,2, ∗ Alexandre M. Souza,2 Roberto S. Sarthour,2 Ivan S. Oliveira,2 Gabriel T. Landi,3 Tiago B. Batalhão,4, 5 Roberto M. Serra,1, 6, † and Eric Lutz7, ‡
Physics arXiv

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cause and Effect...

Image Source:
Topics: Climate Change, Commentary, Ecology, Politics, Research


Assuredly climate change has something to do with the California fires, but TIME lists it last as one of a number of causes; CNN says "we don't know," but mention several factors like the Santa Ana winds that can spread it in the years-long dry conditions that preceded this tragedy. There's a tendency to leap to the "aha" and go with what happens to be the proclivities of your particular tribal group. Unfortunately, these tend to be the ones that appreciate and understand science, and those that consider it something to fear when it challenges the other tribe's dogma.

We've had fires with lightening strikes since humanity was comprised of hunter-gatherer migrating groups. We've had fires with the advent of agriculture, cities and civilization. What matters is whether we believe in a collective effort to write policies that will protect life and property - now derisively known as government, that some in the human tribe run for, then put themselves in a position to thwart any solutions from it. "Pluck" alone will not solve our problems. We lack, as I've said on posts previous to this one, a depth of understanding in the following:

Civics - the study of the rights and duties of citizens and of how government works,
Source: Merriam-Webster

Epistemology - Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one's own mind? Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry.

Science - a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is also the body of knowledge accumulated through the discoveries about all the things in the universe.

The word "science" is derived from the Latin word scientia, which is knowledge based on demonstrable and reproducible data, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. True to this definition, science aims for measurable results through testing and analysis. Science is based on fact, not opinion or preferences.

Scientific Method - When conducting research, scientists use the scientific method to collect measurable, empirical evidence in an experiment related to a hypothesis (often in the form of an if/then statement), the results aiming to support or contradict a theory.

The steps of the scientific method go something like this:

1. Make an observation or observations.
2. Ask questions about the observations and gather information.
3. Form a hypothesis — a tentative description of what's been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.
4. Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reproduced.
5. Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify the hypothesis if necessary.
6. Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory. "

Science along with its subset engineering deals in the natural sciences, i.e. those things that relate to nature or phenomena that can be observed, defined, measured, calculated, or quantized (quantum mechanics I'm alluding to here). Once the subject goes into the supernatural, whatever the argument, it is no longer science.

That does not mean science is incompatible with wonder:

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

Thomas Jefferson fashioned our federal republic after Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon and Sir John Locke—the creators of physics, inductive reasoning and empiricism. We have to decide as a species what path we're going to follow - belief or rationality. One is a function of culture, and a source of comfort to many in particular groups; the other the natural outcome of our previous hunter-gatherer ancestors. It is a matter of survival. It would be culturally arrogant and supremely stupid to consider after 5 mass extinction events, we could not hurry the next one. As matter-of-fact, we're within and on track for the sixth. It is a dark poetry that lead (Pb) in-then modern plumbing had previously been suspected as ending the world empire of Rome (it didn't). The current one appears being scuttled by enabled Silicon transistors, transmitting 140 (now 280) characters. Little did we know our future epitaph - that will be unearthed by any curious alien archaeologists, assuming they will have survived their own intelligence Entropy for deep space travel - is being written in this daily inanity of "alternative facts."

Related link:
Nobel Week Dialog: Science and Society - the Future of Truth

Friday, December 1, 2017


Image Source: LinkedIn Slide Share

Topics: Commentary, Diversity, Education, Existentialism, Politics

Finals are scheduled next week, so this will be my second announced break before my final year-end break during Christmas-Hanuka-Holidays-Kwanzaa-Saturnalia et al, etc. A few thoughts in alphabetical order:

Birmingham had the euphemism "Bombing-ham" during the spate of 50 dynamite attacks of domestic terrorism that eventually killed 4 black girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. It is no causal observation in this special election power, pedophilia and white supremacy seem the only family values that apparently matter. It also shows the Klan who performed this terrorist act are more revered than the lawyer who held them accountable. I gave $25 to the guy our racist Twitter-in-chief said was "weak" on crime. We'll either find out if the state of "thicket-clearers" is either a sane political actor, or a morally failed one.

When you re-tweet a right-wing racist Britain group that BRITAIN says is right wing and racist - on the heels of calling tiki torch carrying, small penis Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville "fine people," you don't get to call yourself "the least racist person you'll ever know." The manufacturer of the torches got this right. Britain is considering charging him for inciting violence - this is tribalism on racist steroids. Government-of-the-tweet-by-the-tweet has international implications. I just didn't think it would be the fuse that lights Armageddon.

Graduate education
Proto the apocalypse, the first semester was rigorous. There is nothing that quite prepares you for it - undergraduate preparation either months or decades ago. I equated it to "drinking from a fire hose" this summer, and that analogy didn't let up once. You really can't do it alone. You have to form friendships across cultures, ages and literally time zones. I downloaded the book "How to Study" to my Kindle just to have it. It is something I found invaluable when I was an undergraduate, and I found the skills are just how - once I read the analog version 25 editions ago - I take and organize notes. I think it should be a precollege course, but a few of our fellow citizens don't value education in this country. I recommended it to some that liked my class notes. Instead of Xeroxing and producing PDFs for days, I thought it better to teach trawling than feeding small multitudes with loaves and fishes.

This has the budding signs of a movement beyond a hash tag, which seems to be the means any movement starts now in the Social Media age. Icons of entertainment, news and government are either stepping down or getting pressured to step down. It's causing men to introspect, and think over times we've been far too aggressive on past dates. It's triggering survivors of sexual assault, whether at sixteen, adult or our past five-years-old selves (like me). For this to be a pivotal societal change, it has to go from #MeToo to #WhatNow? A generation from now should look better than the patriarchal darkness we've endured so long. Frederick Douglass said "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Prior to 2008, the federal republic could only be occupied by white male "father figures" and ONLY white male father figures. Trolling in the Internet age became a thing as many expressed their bigotry (eventually, their misogyny) in the previous 140-character limit of lunacy. For those insecure with their future and envisioning dystopian annihilation, last year's election was less a repudiation by Russian interference as it was a backlash, racially and sexually. #WhyNot matriarchy? God knows testosterone has screwed the species long enough (pun intended). Emily's List is calling...