Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, October 19, 2018

Belief in Oneness...

#NuffSaid
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, Diversity, Existentialism, Human Rights, Politics, Star Trek

Dear Millennials,

New York Magazine (the home state of our current orange nightmare) couldn't be more stark: your futures are being determined by ossified, geriatric creatures that KNOW they will not live to see the impact of their disastrous decisions on the environment, stoking wars, cutting taxes for their wealthy benefactors and themselves (ballooning the federal deficit); packing the Supreme Court with right wing, misogynist and sexist ideologues that don't hold your views on fairness, equality and will influence your lives for at least two generations. Along with subverting our electoral process in 2016 with Russia, the cover up of the apparent murder and brutal dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi (15 must be the "magic number" in Saudi Arabia). This may tie to Jared Kushner being in the Saudi prince's "pocket," usually meaning he owes him, likely for a business loan that salvaged his New York property, ominously addressed "666 Fifth Avenue." Whether agnostics, atheists or theists, that's a lot to digest. I list these concerns because you will only get older, and the world they're destroying you will inherit, in whatever condition it's left in, however long it lasts.

Notice the message is fear: I saw a commercial warning of socialism, open borders, MS-13 paid for by a conservative PAC. I saw a bus load of seniors in Georgia getting on a bus to vote being stopped for no crime other than voting. Native Americans in North Dakota are having their votes blocked by legal fiat. Note the distinct dichotomy in the definitions of democracy and fascism - they're obviously leaning towards the latter. Parkland shooting survivors and their activism terrifies them. Since 2015, it's been observed they are getting older and dying off. The heady days of Ronald Reagan taking 61 to 30 voters between 18 to 24 is well-past their better days and jump shots. A lot of things back then aligned with that popularity: nostalgia was "Laverne and Shirley"; "Happy Days" "Back to the Future" and "Family Ties" with Michael J. Fox as a young urban professional - conservatism was "cool" but it's overstayed its shelf life. Democracy only worked for them when they were in the numerical majority - the tables turn circa 2042, and by the blatantly demonstrable voter suppression activities WITHIN the United States, they're panicking early now. The ONLY way they can stay in power is to suppress the youth and minority vote, and maybe collude with a foreign power.

Speaking of the environment: we're losing insects around the world at an alarming rate due to climate change. The meddlesome critters are an important part of our food chain, which if you're capable of reading this post, you're squarely at the top of it. Destroy the foundation - it eventually drives up the price of food, then inhibits the access to it. That is a recipe for starvation, poverty, hyper income inequality, wars...and extinction.

*****

The capitalized term First Contact, in Human context, was used to specifically refer to the first official publicly and globally known contact between Humans and extraterrestrials. The First Contact took place on the evening of April 5, 2063, when a Vulcan survey ship, the T'Plana-Hath, having detected the warp signature of the Phoenix, touched down in Bozeman, central Montana, where they met with the Phoenix's designer and pilot, Zefram Cochrane. This event was generally referred to as the defining moment in Human history, eventually paving the way for a unified world government and, later, the United Federation of Planets. The event also became an annual holiday called First Contact Day. Memory Alpha - First Contact

I've always been dubious about this platitude in Trek mythology, that somehow knowing that we're "not alone" in the universe was some kind of unifying force multiplier to eternal (and secular) Kumbaya and Koinonia. The screaming at immigrant children at the border BEFORE the 2016 elections and kiddie concentration camps now leave my optimism in doubt. Roddenberry was playfully imaginative, but Pollyannish at best.

Star Trek was born in the 1960s as was the Civil Rights movement, which involved hoses, bricks, fire bombings and assassinations. It was during the Cold War with (ironically) Russia, and the notion that "duck and cover" drills wouldn't ultimately save us from extinction. So, it was a brief respite from the existentialism that gripped most in those days. Someone who looked like us might survive our own pride and hubris. There could be life after half-life.

*****

The belief that everything in the universe is part of the same fundamental whole exists throughout many cultures and philosophical, religious, spiritual, and scientific traditions, as captured by the phrase 'all that is.' The Nobel winner Erwin Schrödinger once observed that quantum physics is compatible with the notion that there is indeed a basic oneness of the universe. Therefore, despite it seeming as though the world is full of many divisions, many people throughout the course of human history and even today truly believe that individual things are part of some fundamental entity.

People who believe that everything is fundamentally one differ in crucial ways from those who do not. In general, those who hold a belief in oneness have a more inclusive identity that reflects their sense of connection with other people, nonhuman animals, and aspects of nature that are all thought to be part of the same "one thing." This has some rather broad implications.

First, this finding is relevant to our current fractured political landscape. It is very interesting that those who reported a greater belief in oneness were also more likely to regard other people like members of their own group and to identify with all of humanity. There is an abundance of identity politics these days, with people believing that their own ideology is the best one, and a belief that those who disagree with one's own ideology are evil or somehow less than human.

It might be beneficial for people all across the political spectrum to recognize and hold in mind a belief in oneness even as they are asserting their values and political beliefs. Only having "compassion" for those who are in your in-group, and vilifying or even becoming violent toward those who you perceive as the out-group, is not only antithetical to world peace more broadly, but is also counter-productive to political progress that advances the greater good of all humans on this planet.

Quaint, and for a better time, but until we get there...

65,853,625 voted for the sane (though, maybe not desired) candidate.
62,985,105 voted for the orange fascist tweeting on the loo and defecating from his pie hole in a breathtaking achievement of daily, all-time Olympic-level lying.

"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 NIV (yes, I'm trolling)

This election, I'm asking the "silent majority"...to give a shit. It's literally your futures.


"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not."

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Family Affair...

Credits: Frances Arnold Credit: Caltech

Topics: Chemistry, Diversity, Diversity in Science, NASA, Nobel Prize, Women in Science

Click here to read about Frances Arnold's Nobel Prize.

"What the heck does Mom want? Oh, Mom probably doesn't understand the time difference, she's in Dallas right now and is probably still thinking it's California time…maybe she just wants me to go check on her cats…" A litany of mundane explanations ran through James Bailey's bleary mind at 3:23 a.m. on October 3 when he was awakened from a deep sleep by three phone calls from his mother's cell number. Bailey silenced his phone for the first two, getting grumpier with each ring. Call #3 did the trick. He picked up the phone and said groggily, "What do you want?" With great excitement and maybe a tinge of impatience, his mother said, "I wish you had picked up your phone, but I just won the Nobel Prize."

Bailey bolted upright, thrilled by the news and fueled by adrenaline. "I was overjoyed for her. It's fairly difficult to verbalize how I feel," he said. He never did manage to go back to sleep that night. In a few hours, he'd be able to share the news with his colleagues when he arrived at his job at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Building 179, High Bay 1 -- the clean room where he is a flight technician working on Mars 2020.

Bailey's mother is Frances Arnold, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA. Her 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry honors her pioneering work in creating new, improved enzymes in the laboratory using the principles of evolution. Arnold shares the prize with two other scientists.

Arnold's bio has an abundance of academic milestones and stellar awards. She was the first woman to receive the 2011 Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering. She is also the first woman and one of just a few individuals elected to all three branches of the National Academies: for Medicine, Sciences and Engineering.

Bailey traveled a different path than his mother to his job at JPL. Growing up in Pasadena, he didn't thrive in conventional schools, so he pursued vocational training in welding and machining. After high school, he worked on high-performance cars at a local shop. At 20, he joined the Army, where he was trained as a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic and became part of a flight crew. After wrapping up six years of military service, including crucial work on medical evacuation helicopter teams in Afghanistan, he learned JPL was looking for people with an aviation background to work as flight technicians. Bailey fit the bill, and he was hired.

Caltech Mom Wins Nobel Prize, Son Is JPL Mars Flight Tech
DC Agle / Andrew Good, NASA

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

AI and MEMS...

Image: Guillaume Dion

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Internet of Things, MEMS, Neuromorphic Devices

A single silicon beam (red), along with its drive (yellow) and readout (green and blue) electrodes, implements a MEMS capable of nontrivial computations.

In order to achieve the edge computing that people talk about in a host of applications including 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT), you need to pack a lot of processing power into comparatively small devices.

The way forward for that idea will be to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) computing techniques—for so-called AI at the edge. While some are concerned about how technologists will tackle AI for applications beyond traditional computing—and some are wringing their hands over which country will have the upper hand in this new frontier—the technology is still pretty early in its development cycle.

AI on a MEMS Device Brings Neuromorphic Computing to the Edge
Dexter Johnson, IEEE Spectrum

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Nano Noise...

New noise: researchers have discovered a new type of noise that is associated with differences in temperature. (Courtesy: iStock/Swillklitch)

Topics: Acoustic Physics, Applied Physics, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology, Thermodynamics

A new type of electronic noise has been discovered by a team of physicists and chemists in Israel and Canada. Dubbed “delta-T noise”, the effect occurs when two sides of a tiny electrical junction are at held at different temperatures. As electronic devices become ever smaller, the researchers predict that delta-T noise could become increasingly problematic. The good news is that delta-T noise could be used to measure temperature differences in nanometer-scale objects – something that is extremely difficult to do.

When physicists think of noise it is not the clamor from a pop concert or a busy road, but rather electrical signals that are an intrinsic property of a device. For almost 100 years, physicists have known about two sorts of fundamental noise in electrical signals. Thermal noise is proportional to temperature and is a result of the random motion of electrons. This creates fluctuations in electrical current even if there is no applied voltage and the average current is zero. Thermal noise can have negative consequences in a circuit, but it can also be used to measure the absolute temperature of an object. The second type of noise is called shot noise and does require an applied voltage. Shot noise occurs at very low currents when the discrete nature of electrons causes fluctuations in current.

The idea of delta-T noise first came to Oren Tal of the Weizmann Institute of Science when he was studying the effect of thermal noise on a molecular junction. The junction comprised a single molecule between two electrodes, which were at different temperatures. He realized that in addition to thermal noise, there may also be a noise associated with the temperature difference.

New type of noise found lurking in nanoscale devices, Tim Wogan, Physics World

Monday, October 15, 2018

Moon Moons...

Could Earth's moon have its own moon? Science says: in theory.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Topics: Astrophysics, Exoplanets, NASA, Planetary Science, Space Exploration

I couldn't compound the two words in the post title (as in the article) and keep a straight face. Although, someone will likely write fiction about double system moons (if they haven't already).

True to form, the Internet has endeavored to name an unnamed thing, and the results are hilarious. From the people who brought you Boaty McBoatface— the Arctic research drone that has already returned some very interesting discoveries from the world's coldest abysses — here come moonmoons: moons that orbit other moons.

Moonmoons — also known online as submoons, moonitos, grandmoons, moonettes and moooons — may not exist in our solar system or any other. However, according to a pair of astronomers writing in the preprint journal arXiv.org earlier this week, the concept of a moon hosting its own mini-moon is, at least, plausible.

Abstract
Each of the giant planets within the Solar System has large moons but none of these moons have their own moons (which we call submoons). By analogy with studies of moons around short-period exoplanets, we investigate the dynamical stability of submoons. We find that 10 km-scale submoons can only survive around large (1000 km-scale) moons on wide-separation orbits. Tidal dissipation destabilizes the orbits of submoons around moons that are small or too close to their host planet; this is the case for most of the Solar System’s moons. A handful of known moons are, however, capable of hosting long-lived submoons: Saturn’s moons Titan and Iapetus, Jupiter’s moon Callisto, and Earth’s Moon. Based on its inferred mass and orbital separation, the newly-discovered exomoon candidate Kepler-1625b-I can, in principle, host submoons, although its large orbital inclination may pose a difficulty for dynamical stability. The existence, or lack thereof, of submoons, may yield important constraints on satellite formation and evolution in planetary systems.

Moonmoons (Moons That Orbit Other Moons) Could Exist, Scientists Say
Brandon Specktor, Live Science

Friday, October 12, 2018

Janeway, Nechayev, Sisko and #MeToo...

Image Sources: Memory Alpha Wiki

Topics: Civil Rights, Diversity in Science, Existentialism, Human Rights, Star Trek, Women in Science

Kathryn Janeway was the Captain of the Starship Voyager, lost in the Delta Quadrant that managed to have a seven-year run and eventually get back to Federation space for her promotion to Admiral.

Alyanna Nechayev was introduced at the "top of the pecking order" being Jean Luc Picard's immediate boss, often showing up to give him an assignment, chew him out or give him a disapproving "evil eye" (you've got to admit, those eyes were phasers set way beyond stun).

Benjamin Lafayette Sisko checked all boxes: a black man, single father; Starfleet Commander and widower. I was a fan of Avery Brooks in "Spencer For Hire" and "A Man Called Hawk," introducing my sons to him in Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

To move each story arc along, backgrounds weren't deeply explored, mimicking a lot of the reasons for physics-defying technologies like warp drive, Heisenberg Uncertainty-violating transporters and replicators. There was their fictional World War III before warp drive (unfortunately); there was probably on their story line, an equivalent of #MeToo before Janeway and Nechayev ascendancies; there were Bell Riots and on our actual time line - a Black Lives Matter movement - before a Benjamin Sisko.

Alynna Nechayev was a Human Starfleet flag officer during the late-24th century. She spent much of the 2360s and early 2370s dealing with issues near the Cardassian border. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I", "Journey's End", "Preemptive Strike"; DS9: "The Maquis, Part II")

Nechayev was a significant figure in Starfleet's dealings with the Cardassian Union and a fierce advocate of Federation security. She was Captain Jean-Luc Picard's direct superior, but her working relationship with him was poor.

In 2369, while serving as a Vice Admiral, she ordered Picard to relinquish command of the USS Enterprise-D to Captain Edward Jellico, the latter having experience with Cardassians in the past and having worked to establish the original armistice of the Federation-Cardassian War. She assigned Picard to a special operation to infiltrate a Cardassian installation on Celtris III. After Jellico's negotiations with Gul Lemec worsened, she authorized his actions against the Cardassian warships in the McAllister C-5 Nebula, at the risk of provoking open war and abandoning Picard. (TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I", "Chain of Command, Part II") [1]

*****

Kathryn Janeway was a 24th century Starfleet officer, most noted for her service as captain of the starship USS Voyager. She became the first Federation captain to successfully traverse the Delta Quadrant, encountering dozens of new planets and civilizations over the course of seven years. While there, she and her crew also survived numerous encounters with the Borg. By 2379, she was a Vice Admiral at Starfleet Command. (VOY: "Caretaker", "Endgame", "Friendship One", "Scorpion", "Scorpion, Part II"; Star Trek Nemesis)

Kathryn Janeway was born on May 20 in Bloomington, Indiana, on Earth. (VOY: "Year of Hell", "Imperfection") Her father was Vice Admiral Janeway and she had one sibling, a sister, who she described as the artist of the family. (VOY: "Sacred Ground", "Coda", "The Killing Game") Her mother was still alive as of 2378. (VOY: "Author, Author") [2]

*****

"So you're the commander of Deep Space 9... and the Emissary of the Prophets. Decorated combat officer, widower, father, mentor and... oh, yes, the man who started the war with the Dominion. Somehow I thought you'd be taller..."

– Senator Vreenak, 2374 ("In the Pale Moonlight")

Benjamin Lafayette Sisko was a famous Starfleet officer best remembered for his seven-year assignment commanding station Deep Space 9 in the Bajor sector. After discovering the Bajoran wormhole, he became known to the Bajoran people as the Emissary of the Prophets. He fought the Borg at the Battle of Wolf 359 and played a critical role as a Starfleet strategist and front line commander in the Dominion War. (DS9: "Emissary", "In the Hands of the Prophets", "Accession", "Second Sight", "The Search, Part I", "Favor the Bold", "The Siege of AR-558", "What You Leave Behind")

Sisko was born in 2332 in New Orleans, North America, Earth, to Joseph and Sarah Sisko. Sarah, however, had been possessed by a Prophet – a non-linear alien species which lived in the then-undiscovered Bajoran wormhole – in order to ensure the birth of Benjamin, who would later become the Emissary of the Prophets. A year later, the Prophet returned control of Sarah's body, and she soon left her son and husband. Joseph soon remarried, and his new wife posed as Benjamin's biological mother all the rest of her life. (DS9: "Image in the Sand") She gave birth to his sister, Judith, (DS9: "Homefront") and at least two brothers. (DS9: "Paradise")

By the 2020s, the American government – reacting to serious problems of homelessness and unemployment – created special Sanctuary Districts (essentially walled-off sections of the city grid) in most major cities. Unfortunately – while established with the benevolent intent of providing free housing and food, as well as prospects for future employment – the Sanctuaries quickly degenerated into inhumane internment camps for the poor. Even though people with criminal records were not allowed inside Sanctuaries, it didn't take long for the homeless and unemployed to be joined by the mentally ill and other, more violent, social outcasts. These groups were referred to by their slang terms – Gimmies, Dims, and Ghosts.

By late 2024, the twenty square blocks that made up Sanctuary District A had become overcrowded slums. With the records of people inside the Sanctuaries not uploaded to the planetary computer network (and therefore not accessible using an Interface), the true conditions inside were unknown to the general public. American society believed that, despite the political upheaval affecting Europe at the time, the United States was stable and had found a way to successfully deal with the social problems that had been the genesis of the Sanctuaries. An "out of sight, out of mind" mentality had set in. People in the district started to believe that their needs were forgotten. [3]

*****

To wit, each represented in science fiction what we're seeing today in this existential struggle by aspects of society that have historically been marginalized to say: we are human; #MeToo and the culmination of that struggle in actualized power.

For power to be actualized, it must first be seized. Occupy Wall Street is now a pitiful blog that hasn't been updated since August 2016. It's Reich/Right Wing counterpart - the Tea Party - not only demonstrated in the streets; they GOT elected. The Orwellian "Freedom Caucus" is now on Capital Hill making laws. "Killer Tweets" and witty Snap Chat posts will not change policy: only the grimy, dirty work of politics will accomplish that, and that needs to happen before we see a Nechayev, Janeway or Sisko on relativistic speed starships.

A lot can't be covered in 60 minutes between phasers, impossible spaceship speeds, Grandfather paradox plots and commercial sponsors.


"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not."

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

1. Alynna Nechayev, Memory Alpha
2. Kathryn Janeway, Memory Alpha
3. Benjamin Sisko, Memory Alpha

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Morally Reprehensible...

Delegates at the first workshop on high-energy theory and gender held at CERN last month. (Courtesy: CERN)

Topics: Diversity, Diversity in Science, Women in Science

More than 3000 physicists have so far signed an open statement denouncing a recent talk by theoretical physicist Alessandro Strumia of the University of Pisa. The talk was given on 28 September at an inaugural CERN workshop on high-energy theory and gender in which he claimed that men, not women, face discrimination when seeking jobs in physics. The statement, which has been signed by Nobel laureate David Gross and other prominent scientists, calls Strumia’s arguments “morally reprehensible”.

Strumia’s presentation at CERN included graphs and tables that analyse the citation records of papers written by male and female physicists. In the talk, he stated that these data show that “top authors are man, man,…man”. He also claimed that data related to academic hiring show that women with fewer citations were being hired over men with greater numbers of citations. In one slide, Strumia, who is an associate of the theory department at CERN, claims that he was passed over for a job at Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics, despite having many more citations than the successful female candidate. The woman in question was in the audience at Strumia’s talk.

Preamble of The Open Statement:
We write here first to state, in the strongest possible terms, that the humanity of any person, regardless of ascribed identities such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, gender presentation, or sexual identity is not up for debate. Physics and science are part of the shared inheritance of all people, as much as art, music, and literature, and we should strive to ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity to become a scientist. The question of discrimination based on ascribed identity is a moral one, and we write to affirm that discrimination is not a welcome feature of our field, however pervasive it may be. It is clear that our social environment disparately affects the participation of people with ascribed identities that have been traditionally marginalized, and the fields of women’s and gender studies, science and society studies, physics education research, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and Black studies have had much to say over the years about how this marginalization operates. The thin veneer of scientific rigor with which Strumia’s talk began was followed by open discrimination and personal attacks, which we condemn unconditionally.

Thousands of physicists sign letter condemning ‘disgraceful’ Alessandro Strumia gender talk
Michael Banks, Physics World