Brainy Quote of the Day

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Moore's Reckoning...

Wiki Chip: 14 nm lithography process

Topics: Electrical Engineering, Moore's Law, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology

It was hard to tell at the time — with the distraction of the Y2K bug, the explosion of reality television, and the popularity of post-grunge music — that the turn of the millennium was also the beginning of the end of easy computing improvements. A golden age of computing, which powered intensive data and computational science for decades, would soon be slowly drawing to a close. Even with novel ways of assembling computing systems, and new algorithms that take advantage of the architecture, the performance gains as predicted by Moore’s law were bound to come to an end — but in a way few people expected.

Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years. Before the turn of the millennium, all a computational scientist needed to do to have more than twice as fast a computer was to wait two years. Calculations that would have been impractical became accessible to desktop users. It was a time of plenty, and many problems could be solved by brute-force computing, from the quantum interactions of particles to the formation of galaxies. Giant lattices could be modeled, and enormous numbers of particles tracked. Improved computers enabled the analysis of genomic variations in entire communities and facilitated the advent of machine-learning techniques in AI.

Fundamental physics limits will ultimately put an end to transistor shrinkage in Moore’s law, and we are close to getting there. Today, chip production creates structures in silicon that are 14 nanometers wide and decreasing, and seven-nanometer elements are coming to market. At these sizes, thousands of these elements would fit in the width of a human hair. Feature sizes of less than five nanometers will probably be impossible because of quantum tunneling, in which electrons undesirably leak out of such narrow gaps.

A Reckoning for Moore’s Law
Why upgrading your computer every two years no longer makes sense.
Ian Fisk, Simon's Foundation

Monday, April 6, 2020

Missing Link...

A cosmic homicide in action, with a wayward star being shredded by the intense gravitational pull of a black hole that contains tens of thousands of solar masses in an artist's impression obtained by Reuters April 2, 2020. NASA-ESA/D. Player/Handout via REUTERS.

Topics: Astrophysics, Black Holes, Cosmology, General Relativity, Hubble

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and two X-ray observatories, the researchers determined that this black hole is more than 50,000 times the mass of our sun and located 740 million light years from Earth in a dwarf galaxy, one containing far fewer stars than our Milky Way.

Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects possessing gravitational pulls so powerful that not even light can escape.

This is one of the few “intermediate-mass” black holes ever identified, being far smaller than the supermassive black holes that reside at the center of large galaxies but far larger than so-called stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of massive individual stars.

“We confirmed that an object that we discovered originally back in 2010 is indeed an intermediate-mass black hole that ripped apart and swallowed a passing star,” said University of Toulouse astrophysicist Natalie Webb, a co-author of the study published this week in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Astronomers spot 'missing link' black hole - not too big and not too small
Will Dunham, Reuters Science

Friday, April 3, 2020

Caveats, Rainbows and Compassionate Capitalism...

New York Times - Where Americans Didn't Stay at Home Even as the Virus Spread

James Glanz, Benedict Carey, Josh Holder, Derek Watkins, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Rick Rojas and Lauren Leatherby

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Only a fascist like William Barr would try to suspend habeas corpus during a global pandemic, as are other strongmen across the globe are using the crisis to seize more dictatorial power over their citizens. Only a sociopath puts in an emergency order through the secret service for carts. Democracy - that fleeting experiment in rationality, and with it: life on Earth hangs in the balance.

While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt.

Normal imperatives like academic credit have been set aside. Online repositories make studies available months ahead of journals. Researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences. More than 200 clinical trials have been launched, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.

“I never hear scientists — true scientists, good quality scientists — speak in terms of nationality,” said Dr. Francesco Perrone, who is leading a coronavirus clinical trial in Italy. “My nation, your nation. My language, your language. My geographic location, your geographic location. This is something that is really distant from true top-level scientists.”

Covid-19 Changed How the World Does Science, Together
Matt Apuzzo and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times

Yes, China and its stupid strongman leader held precious data and allowed the Coronavirus to spread before this cooperation born of survival was established. Calling it "Wuhan" or "Chinese" is as problem-solving as ascribing radical terrorism to a religion. The Klan burns large crosses, and historically, hung and castrated African Americans. They and other white supremacist groups are yet still not classed as terrorists, domestic or otherwise.


A true STEM education should increase students’ understanding of how things work and improve their use of technologies. STEM education should also introduce more engineering during precollege education. Engineering is directly involved in problem solving and innovation, two themes with high priorities on every nation’s agenda…. the creation of high-quality, integrated instruction and materials, as well as the placement of problems associated with grand challenges of society at the center of study. (p. 996).

Whereas there have been initiatives for integrated STEM education in a number of developed countries including South Korea, the mechanisms of integration for STEM disciplines and instructional approaches are largely under theorized (National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, 2014). Given the limited research, instructional design for integrated STEM can be informed by the literature on problem-based learning (PBL). In a number of reviews on integrated STEM programs, researchers found that integrated STEM programs commonly utilize real-world complex problems as instructional contexts in which students apply knowledge and practices from multiple disciplines (Banks & Barlex, 2014; Kelley & Knowles, 2016; Lynn, Moore, Johnson, & Roehrig, 2016; National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, 2014). PBL is a well-researched and widely accepted student-centered instructional approach in which students are given an ill-structured real-world problem to investigate viable solutions for by applying knowledge and skills from various sources (Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Savery, 2006). PBL helps students develop knowledge involved in problem solving and cognitive skills such as critical and analytical thinking. Additional characteristics of PBL such as working in collaborative groups and engaging in self-directed learning lead to learning outcomes such as communication competency and motivation to learn. This approach was succinctly summarized in Hmelo-Silver (2004).

In PBL, student learning centers on a complex problem that does not have a single correct answer. Students work in collaborative groups to identify what they need to learn in order to solve a problem. They engage in self-directed learning (SDL) and then apply their new knowledge to the problem and reflect on what they learned and the effectiveness of the strategies employed.… The goals of PBL include helping students develop 1) flexible knowledge, 2) effective problem-solving skills, 3) SDL skills, 4) effective collaboration skills, and 5) intrinsic motivation. (p.235).

Nam-Hwa Kang, Asia-Pacific Science Education

South Korea is the model the planet needs to pursue. It has a deep respect for STEM, STEAM and has pursued it relentlessly. Such preparation encourages quick reaction to problems and creative solutions. It's shown in drive-through testing. It has NEVER been demonstrated in creationism, "intelligent design" and other magical thinking.

The mapping of the virus spread globally correlates with our frequency in the states. The south and Midwestern states are astonishingly red, and a few of their correlating governors obtuse. This is somewhat simplistic and deceptive, as the northern states have more mass transit, and thus a subway can also carry a novel virus just as easily as an SUV or pickup truck. New York shows no movement, but has the highest infection rates, which globally correlates to where travel and world trade (and humans) meet frequently. A nationwide shutdown would "flatten the curve." Sadly, I'm finding more that "United States" is aspirational, a suggestion and oxymoron.

President George W. Bush coined the term "compassionate conservatism," (Vyse - New Republic) which looks now to have the lift of a lead balloon. What we need instead is a compassionate capitalism. Slavery - the foundation of American capitalism - was far from anything compassionate. It is not compassionate to give sweetheart deals to your son-in-law and his brother's company during a pandemic. It is not compassionate to have governors bidding on the same life-saving equipment like they're in an auction on eBay. It is not compassionate (or, competent) that the Governor of Georgia, literally miles from the Center for Disease Control didn't know asymptomatic persons could transmit the virus. It is not compassionate to house children in cages at the border (after ripping them from their parents, as in slavery). Like the New Republic article above alludes, compassion has given way to callousness, an IDGAF with red caps replacing Klan robes and middle fingers replacing gold crosses. Cruelty and so-called white grievance is the obvious, particular point. It is a primitive instinct, racist, xenophobic and steeped in superstition; a sacrifice to Moloch on cremation pyres of (don't) care. It is a recipe for extinction, and for the gun rights advocates with thousands of rounds of ammo - your strategy is only as good as your last bullet when food supplies run out. Constitutional gun rights alone do not make civil societies: civil societies with functional governments make constitutional gun rights possible. That's not "making America great again": it is the recipe for a failed state.

Cooperation, or extinction. I will say this (sadly) to my last breath.


“China isn’t the problem. Lack of diversification is the problem,” says Belinda Archibong, an assistant professor of economics at Barnard College in New York. In Africa, “lack of regional, intra-Africa trade is the problem.”

That’s a long-standing discussion within the continent. “Maybe this crisis is going to force us to trade more amongst ourselves,” says Blandina Kilama, an economist and senior researcher at Research on Poverty Alleviation, a Tanzanian think tank.

In the U.S., John Melin is an eyewitness to the virtues of trade. Brown & Haley, the candy company where he is president and chief operating officer, has seen a rising share of its Almond Roca sales coming from overseas.

China is a big source of that demand, which helps keep the firm’s 175 employees near Tacoma, Washington, employed. Mr. Melin and his team are working hard to keep the sales flowing and to pin down some alternative suppliers for packaging.

“Part of the health of our country​ and our​ ​high standard of living comes from the fact that people fly on ​B​oeing​ ​airplanes around the world​,​ and people buy i​P​hones around the world​,​ and people a​dm​ire the values and institutions of the ​United ​States,” he says. That integration with the world “brings more good than bad.”

In Germany, Yorck Otto similarly sees globalization as here to stay, and probably for the better.

“No, this wheel cannot be turned back,” says Dr. Otto, president of a business association representing small and medium-sized companies.

“The global supply chain will continue to get better and better every day. This globalization will be refined, and hopefully it will be also covered under new humanitarian laws and regulations so that the world can be a little bit better through globalization,” he says. “I’m not a great fan of kids sitting in Bolivia digging into soil to get materials to make batteries, for example.”

Why COVID-19 is likely to change globalization, not reverse it, The Christian Science Monitor
Can the world’s fabric be undone? Some nationalists point to the coronavirus as a reason to seal borders and bring manufacturing home. But business experts say the benefits of trade are undiminished.

This piece was reported by Patrik Jonsson in Savannah, Georgia; Nick Squires in Rome; Ryan Lenora Brown in Johannesburg; and Lenora Chu in Berlin. It was written by Mr. Trumbull.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

TNOs and Planet Nine...

Over the past decade or so, astronomers have discovered a number of far-flung objects that all have very similar perihelia, meaning they make their closest approaches to the Sun at about the same location in space. One leading theory that attempts to explain the clustering is that a massive and unseen world known as Planet Nine hiding in the outer solar system.

Fauxtoez/WikiMedia Commons

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Exoplanets, Space Exploration

Note: Not an April 1st joke. With the COVID-19 crisis, I literally had to peruse some sites that DIDN'T talk about what we're all living through. It's been rough, thinking about how and when this all ends. I'll try to get my sea legs back to blogging about science. Bear with me. I'm human.

Astronomers have discovered 139 new minor planets orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune by searching through data from the Dark Energy Survey. The new method for spotting small worlds is expected to reveal many thousands of distant objects in coming years — meaning these first hundred or so are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Taken together, the newfound distant objects, as well as those to come, could resolve one of the most fascinating questions of modern astronomy: Is there a massive and mysterious world called Planet Nine lurking in the outskirts of our solar system?

Neptune orbits the Sun at a distance of about 30 astronomical units (AU; where 1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance). Beyond Neptune lies the Kuiper Belt — a comet-rich band of frozen, rocky objects (including Pluto) that holds dozens to hundreds of times more mass than the asteroid belt. Both within the Kuiper Belt and past its outer edge at 50 AU orbit distant bodies called trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Currently, we know of nearly 3,000 TNOs in the solar system, but estimates put the total number closer to 100,000.

As more and more TNOs have been discovered over the years, some astronomers — including Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of Caltech — have noticed a small subset of these objects have peculiar orbits. They seem to bunch up in unexpected ways, as if an unseen object is herding these so-called extreme TNOs (eTNOs) into specific orbits. Batygin and Brown — in addition to other groups, like that led by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science — think these bizarrely orbiting eTNOs point to the existence of a massive, distant world called Planet Nine.

Hypothesized to be five to 15 times the mass of Earth and to orbit some 400 AU (or farther) from the Sun, the proposed Planet Nine would have enough of a gravitational pull that it could orchestrate the orbits of the eTNOs, causing them to cluster together as they make their closest approaches to the Sun.

The problem is that the evidence for Planet Nine is so far indirect and sparse. There could be something else that explains the clumped orbits, or perhaps researchers stumbled on a few objects that just happen to have similar orbits. Discovering more TNOs, particularly beyond the Kuiper Belt, will allow astronomers to find more clues that could point to the location of the proposed Planet Nine — or deny its existence altogether. Of the 139 newly discovered minor planets found in this study, seven are eTNOs, which is a significant addition to a list that numbered around a dozen just a few months ago.

Astronomers find 139 new minor planets in the outer solar system
Erica Naone, Astronomy

Monday, March 30, 2020

Zombies Would be Better...

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Fascism, Human Rights

In dystopian novels and movies, zombies are easy to spot. They're also slow and not very smart.

They're typically not orange and self-admittedly, whiners.

The obligatory press briefing is a ritual I wish the media would give up, totally.

Analysis of what he says is on the major cable networks: CNN, Fox, MSNBC. More people watch local networks because they "trust" them. Any president's message preempts local programming, and thus there's no time or functionality lending to analysis. He gets to spew BS to his cult unfiltered.

He turns it into gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders.

In my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People - and Break Free I detail how gaslighters typically use the following techniques:

1. They tell blatant lies.
2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
4. They wear you down over time.
5. Their actions do not match their words.
6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
7. They know confusion weakens people.
8. They project.
9. They try to align people against you.
10. They tell you or others that you are crazy.
11. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting
Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D., Psychology Today

Malignant Narcissism

I want to explore with you the darker side of narcissistic personality disorder, where aggression, antisocial behaviors, and suspiciousness are as prominent as their poor sense of self, fragility, and egocentricity. (Below is a video clip that explores the symptoms of malignant narcissism.)

A person with malignant narcissism has the potential to destroy families, communities, nations, and work environments. This condition reflects a hybrid or blending of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders. Psychologist Eric Fromm termed the disorder in 1964. Psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg later delineated the symptoms of the condition and presented it as an intermediary between narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders.

Why is the behavior of malignant narcissism often considered dangerous?

Individuals with this profile can form connections with others. However, they process information in ways that can hurt society in general, but also the people who love or depend on them. Family, co-workers, employees, and others in their lives often have to walk on eggshells to appease a fragile ego and minimize the occurrence of their unstable, impulsive, or aggressive behaviors.

They lash out or humiliate others for infractions of even the most frivolous nature (for example, you gave an opinion that differed from theirs; you demonstrated confidence, and it made them look bad; you told a joke that involved poking fun at them).

For some, their grandiosity and protection of their fragile "true self" can be at such extreme levels that they will lie and give the impression that simply because they say it, that makes it reality. Many will become angered if their lies are challenged with truth or facts. Of course, this can create problems for the people close to them, as this pattern of behavior can easily veer into gaslighting.

Malignant narcissism is a blend of two disorders that pose problems interpersonally for their victims — narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders. It is not uncommon for others to feel anxious, intimidated by, and fearful of people with this condition. The combination of poor empathy coupled with aggression, hypersensitivity, and suspiciousness can bring pain to others.

How to Tell You're Dealing with a Malignant Narcissist
Rhonda Freeman Ph.D., Psychology Today

All respect to the Walking Dead: zombies only exist in theatrical presentations. Like Gremlins, there are rules to deal with them. In fictional realms, warp drive and transporters exist, Bifrost is an Einstein-Rosen Bridge and every crisis can be solved in less than an hour, minus commercial breaks without worrying the zombies have the nuclear codes.

Good old undead, regular zombies: way easier, with rules.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lethal Stupidity...

Image source: Reddit
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Fascism, Human Rights

“Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.” Thomas Gray's poem “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1742)
"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." George Orwell, "1984" (1949)

Fascists are obviously dumb as hell.

The city of Greensboro is under a shelter-in-place order until April 16. I'm heartened some republican governors are bucking Tweet Dweeb and following the science. It's ironic to think in 1863, Abraham Lincoln founded the National Academy of Science DURING the Civil War. Republicans used to be rather right-brained dominant before donning tinfoil hats.

“Last night we talked about the governor of Mississippi, announcing that there would not be a statewide stay-at-home order in his state either because he said ‘Mississippi is not China,” said Maddow. “But today … the governor of Mississippi today did something brand new. He issued his own executive order that overrides and overturns any actions that have been taken by cities and towns in his state, even as he is refusing to act statewide.”

Rachel Maddow blasts Mississippi governor for banning cities from coronavirus business closures, Matthew Chapman, Raw Story

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas and Glenn-ever-the-dry-drunk Beck thinks grandparents shouldn't even wait for euthanasia from the lasers of "Logan's Run": they should happily throw themselves into the arms of Moloch for the sake of their real god: Mammon. Ron DeSantis is not wearing the governor's chair well since morphing into a "mini-me" version of his orange god. Headlines calling your decisions during a pandemic "dumbest s---" probably doesn't play well in re-election commercials.

Since both I believe are grandparents, I welcome and look forward to their sacrifice. As a new grandparent of eleven months now, I think I'll pass.

This is the danger of repealing The Fairness Doctrine and allowing one side to frame opinion as fact, or facts as unknowable. It allowed an entire political party - post Watergate - to in the words of Karl Rove, "create their own reality." It gave rise to right wing talk radio and its malcontents, and eventually an entire "news" channel whose license isn't journalistic: but entertainment, like their parent company. They know it is wrong on some level, but know the efficacy of shouting opponents down and wearing down by gaslighting. Without fail, like any other story they propped up and repeated, the pivot from calling Coronavirus "fake news" to taking it seriously wasn't met with protests from supporters, because cults don't question authority. It creates "Ministries of Truth," Fox being the first, pumping out fiction that endangers their own median aged 65-year-old audience. A republic runs on debate of actual facts based on reality, not Ayn Rand notions of the "morality of democratic capitalism," which sounds innocent until you inspect the entire quote:

"Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism." –Paul Ryan, praising the anti-democratic Ayn Rand, who once said, "Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom." The inspiration for a large amount of "ideas" from the gang of Putin was dead broke at the end of her life REQUIRING Social Security before her passing. 1,168 pages of Gordon Gecko worship is a lot to plod through, which I doubt that those who cite her have read completely or understood fully. The basic gist of her works are tooled into talking points and a deification of the market that extends into the current day and this crisis of lethal stupidity that may invariably get a lot of people killed. I know the need to "get back to normal," but think of our last normal day: 9/10/01. Before that, we walked from the ticket counter to boarding where families waved goodbye to their loved ones. A shoe and underwear bomber has us putting our shoes in tubs and being full body scanned. I'm sure my parents wished for "normal" after December 7, 1941.

I hope we start thinking of healthcare as a human right and not a privilege of the well-heeled. That we take a look at income inequality - created by policies that benefit the few on top and we STOP separating into primitive, warring tribes on the mythology of our biological warpaint: we are ONE human species and every one of us is from the continent of Africa. To survive this outbreak, we need to behave as one tribe, one race: the human race, or Moloch's altar will be full of babies and grandparents.

Every time we get a republican president, we go closer to the precipice. We look into the abyss and suddenly get our senses back and place the ship of state right after economic downturns from the cult-reflex of "trickle down economics" (disavowed, mind you by David Stockman).

We have an unhealthy co-dependency. We exist on a political seesaw going from boom to bust; order to chaos. We reflexively change political parties every eight years ...EVERY eight years with the few one-term exceptions that for the sake of that cliff I hope we can replicate November 3, 2020.

Else, inertia with a little momentum push will tilt our luck as a republic over into the darkness, and a virus waiting survivors at landfall.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Intro to Nano Energy: Lecture 5

Topics: Battery, Materials Science, Nanotechnology

What happens in a lithium-ion battery when it first starts running? A complex series of events, it turns out – from electrolytic ion reorganization to a riot of chemical reactions. To explore this early part of a battery’s life, researchers in the US have monitored a battery’s chemical evolution at the electrode surface. Their work could lead to improved battery design by targeting the early stages of device operation.

The solid-electrolyte interphase is the solid gunk that materializes around the anode. Borne from the decomposition of the electrolyte, it is crucial for preventing further electrolyte degradation by blocking electrons while allowing lithium ions to pass through to complete the electrical circuit.

The solid-electrolyte interphase does not appear immediately. When a lithium ion battery first charges up, the anode repels anions and attracts positive lithium ions, separating oppositely charged ions into two distinct layers. This electric double layer dictates the eventual composition and structure of the solid-electrolyte interphase.

Emergence of crucial interphase in lithium-ion batteries is observed by researchers
Shi En Kim, Physics World