Brainy Quote of the Day

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kafkaesque Eugenics...

Image Source: YouTube, see embed
Topics: Commentary, Civil Rights, Diversity, Politics

Franz Kafka[a] (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) was a German-language novelist and short story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic,[3] typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers, and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.[4] His best known works include "Die Verwandlung" ("The Metamorphosis"), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle). The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe situations like those in his writing. Source: Wikipedia

Kafkaesque: of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; especially :having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality - Kafkaesque bureaucratic delays Merriam Webster

Eugenics, the set of beliefs and practices which aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population[2][3] played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States prior to its involvement in World War II.[4]

Eugenics was practiced in the United States many years before eugenics programs in Nazi Germany,[5] which were largely inspired by the previous American work.[6][7][8] Stefan Kühl has documented the consensus between Nazi race policies and those of eugenicists in other countries, including the United States, and points out that eugenicists understood Nazi policies and measures as the realization of their goals and demands.[9]

During the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century, eugenics was considered a method of preserving and improving the dominant groups in the population; it is now generally associated with racist and nativist elements as the movement was to some extent a reaction to a change in immigration from Europe rather than scientific genetics.[10] Source: Wikipedia

I posted on eugenics this year on 13 February featuring "The Myth of Race" by Robert Sussman. His thesis - as I remember the read - is still sound. The previous election was testament to Ta Nehisi Coates' essay observation on our current resident in Washington, that he does have an ideology: old, vile and ugly like grabbing genitals without permission; blatant in-your-face race-baiting, going from wink-and-nod dog whistles to foghorns. The 2016 election - Russian cum Facebook interference - has emboldened the darkest among us, evidenced by Charlottesville and its aftermath and the sympathies of our chief executive.

The repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known only by its pejorative, is in danger of being repealed yet again. It's to repeal, remove, replace any memory of the achievements of our first and only African American president in the history of the federal republic, all while stating the party is "not racist" with a straight faces and monochromatic instagram posts. The individual mandate in the ACA was a conservative idea originated by the Heritage Foundation - an effort  to counter the expansion of Medicare-for-all (at the time called by the pejorative "HillaryCare"). The KGB/FSB saw "conditions and opportunity" that had not existed since the uprisings of the 1960s when the FBI had COINTELPRO violate the Civil Rights of Americans fighting for...their Civil Rights. Racial animus would serve their purposes of western instability far better.

The conditions were and are our own history we tend to whitewash and give "alternative facts" about. Cultural studies - African American, Hispanic/Latino, LGBT, Women - MUST be opposed, as they give a portfolio of researched facts that counters the official Pollyannaish self-delusional narrative. The only thing "conservative" is the status quo of white supremacy. The fact is, colonization results in indigenous peoples getting replaced by violence: murder, disease, "Trails of Tears." Disparate groups join the red trail, blocked from expressing their power at the ballot box and economically segregated for generations. The equivalent of Confederate generals celebrated in a war of treason would be replications on Hitler and swastikas in Germany and Israel. From cultural studies to science, it is why authoritarians oppose facts. Like Wednesday's post, these are the usual signs that points to diminution of democracy in a republic.

"Grandma-will-die-death-panels" as this repeal is a death panel, as millions of the GOP's supporters currently covered by the ACA will die. Like Hurricanes Katrina to Maria, such natural and political disasters illustrate the inequity of our society and how some well-heeled survive such changes - if you can afford healthcare with CASH, that IS your ACA! Those who cannot afford succumb to Darwinian extinction, a crass "survival of the fittest." Eugenics is what this is. It's what it's always been.

It's as clear as which group boards their property before a storm and starts consulting with architects to recover from the storm, to like many in New Orleans, stranded on roofs, figuratively and literally. Someone once told me "when you point one finger, three fingers point back at you," a hark to obvious, demonstrated hypocrisy. This nihilistic, Kafkaesque eugenics that will hurt "the least of these" should forever redefine us as not a "Christian nation," but a heartless and cruel one. Senator Cassidy has violated his Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm"; his party rejecting all claims to human decency.


Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121; 202-225-3121

Related link:

The Republicans Aren't Even Pretending This Is About Healthcare Anymore
Charles P. Pierce, GQ

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Atom by Atom...

Fig. 1 Experimental schematic of the hybrid system and ToF apparatus.
(A) A schematic of the experimental apparatus, including the LQT, the high voltage pulsing scheme (shown as solid and dashed lines), and the ToF. (B) An illustrative experimental time sequence that depicts initialization of a Ba+ crystal, production of BaOCH3+ (visualized as dark ions in the crystal) through reactions with methanol vapor, and subsequent MOT immersion. (C) Sample mass spectra obtained after ejecting the LQT species into the ToF after various MOT immersion times, ti, along with an inset depicting a superimposed fluorescence image of an ion crystal immersed in the Ca MOT. (D) Mass spectra of photofragmentation products collected after inducing photodissociation of BaOCa+. The identified photofragments were used to verify the elemental composition of the product.

Topics: Atomic Physics, Modern Physics, Nanotechnology, Quantum Mechanics

LA physicists have pioneered a method for creating a unique new molecule that could eventually have applications in medicine, food science and other fields. Their research, which also shows how chemical reactions can be studied on a microscopic scale using tools of physics, is reported in the journal Science.

For the past 200 years, scientists have developed rules to describe chemical reactions that they’ve observed, including reactions in food, vitamins, medications and living organisms. One of the most ubiquitous is the “octet rule,” which states that each atom in a molecule that is produced by a chemical reaction will have eight outer orbiting electrons. (Scientists have found exceptions to the rule, but those exceptions are rare.)

But the molecule created by UCLA professor Eric Hudson and colleagues violates that rule. Barium-oxygen-calcium, or BaOCa+, is the first molecule ever observed by scientists that is composed of an oxygen atom bonded to two different metal atoms.

Normally, one metal atom (either barium or calcium) can react with an oxygen atom to produce a stable molecule. However, when the UCLA scientists added a second metal atom to the mix, a new molecule, BaOCa+, which no longer satisfied the octet rule, had been formed. [1]


Hypermetallic alkaline earth (M) oxides of formula MOM have been studied under plasma conditions that preclude insight into their formation mechanism. We present here the application of emerging techniques in ultracold physics to the synthesis of a mixed hypermetallic oxide, BaOCa+. These methods, augmented by high-level electronic structure calculations, permit detailed investigation of the bonding and structure, as well as the mechanism of its formation via the barrierless reaction of Ca (3PJ) with BaOCH3+. Further investigations of the reaction kinetics as a function of collision energy over the range 0.005 K to 30 K and of individual Ca fine-structure levels compare favorably with calculations based on long-range capture theory. [2]

1. In step toward ‘controlling chemistry,’ physicists create a new type of molecule, atom by atom, Stuart Wolpert, UCLA Newsroom
2. Synthesis of mixed hypermetallic oxide BaOCa+ from laser-cooled reagents in an atom-ion hybrid trap
Prateek Puri1, Michael Mills1, Christian Schneider1, Ionel Simbotin2, John A. Montgomery Jr.2, Robin Côté2, Arthur G. Suits3, Eric R. Hudson1,*
1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.
2 Department of Physics, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.
3 Department of Chemistry, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.
*Corresponding author. Email:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Brazil, Reductio Ad Absurdum...

Image Source: See link [2] below
Topics: Commentary, Education, Physics, Research

Scientists in Brazil have protested devastating cuts to science that are threatening to close institutes and funding agencies across the country. Earlier this month about 900 people took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro to protest over budget reductions that have hit science this year. Meanwhile, around 80,000 people in Brazil have signed an online petition, set up in late August, calling on Brazil's president, Michel Temer, to reverse the cuts.

Brazil spent around R$10bn (£2.4bn) on science in 2014, but that figure has been steadily dropping. This year the budget was initially planned to be around R$6bn, but the new government that took over in August 2016 following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff slashed it even further to R$3.4m.

Major scientific agencies are now starting to run out of money. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, for example, may not be able to pay employees and researchers in October, while other major science and research centres such as the National Observatory and the National Institute for Space Research are also facing restrictions on cash flows. [1]

For empirical evidence of the changing mood, consider the chart above, drawn from a survey released in September by Latinobarómetro, a Chilean pollster. Every year, it asks people across the region whether they agree with the statement: “Democracy is preferable to any other form of government.” In 2016, just 32 percent of Brazilians agreed – a whopping 22 percentage point decline compared to 2015, by far the largest drop of any country in the survey. Only Guatemala – a country so plagued by violence and poverty that tens of thousands of its people flee every year – registered less support for democracy in 2016 than Brazil. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilians who agree that “I don’t mind a non-democratic government as long as it solves problems” rose to 55 percent – defying a downward trend across Latin America as a whole.

The reasons for this shift are fairly obvious. In the minds of some Brazilians, the worst recession in at least a century and the discovery of billions of dollars in graft at Petrobras and elsewhere have discredited not just the entire political class, but “democracy” as a whole. This may sound like an overreaction – and it is – but remember that Brazil’s democracy is barely 30 years old. Most of that period has been dominated by center-left governments of varying stripes which during the 1990s and 2000s successfully brought tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty, virtually eliminated hunger, and consolidated many democratic institutions. But in a “What have you done for me lately?” kind of world, they are now collectively blamed for unemployment above 11 percent, some of Latin America’s highest taxes, seemingly daily revelations of corruption, and a horrifying 58,000 homicides per year. [2]

“Austria. Well then. G’day, mate! Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!” — Lloyd, Dumb and Dumber

1. Budget crunch hits Brazilian physics, Henrique Kugler is a science writer based in Brazil, Physics World
2. Brazil’s Authoritarian Side Makes a Comeback, Brian Winter, American Quarterly

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


A new tool in deep learning renders passwords less secure.

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Commentary, Computer Science

"Locks are made for honest people." Robert H. Goodwin, June 19 (Juneteenth), 1925 - August 26, 1999 (Pop)

Last week, the credit reporting agency Equifax announced that malicious hackers had leaked the personal information of 143 million people in their system. That’s reason for concern, of course, but if a hacker wants to access your online data by simply guessing your password, you’re probably toast in less than an hour. Now, there’s more bad news: Scientists have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a program that, combined with existing tools, figured more than a quarter of the passwords from a set of more than 43 million LinkedIn profiles. Yet the researchers say the technology may also be used to beat baddies at their own game.

The work could help average users and companies measure the strength of passwords, says Thomas Ristenpart, a computer scientist who studies computer security at Cornell Tech in New York City but was not involved with the study. “The new technique could also potentially be used to generate decoy passwords to help detect breaches.”

The strongest password guessing programs, John the Ripper and hashCat, use several techniques. One is simple brute force, in which they randomly try lots of combinations of characters until they get the right one. But other approaches involve extrapolating from previously leaked passwords and probability methods to guess each character in a password based on what came before. On some sites, these programs have guessed more than 90% of passwords. But they’ve required many years of manual coding to build up their plans of attack.

The new study aimed to speed this up by applying deep learning, a brain-inspired approach at the cutting edge of AI. Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, started with a so-called generative adversarial network, or GAN, which comprises two artificial neural networks. A “generator” attempts to produce artificial outputs (like images) that resemble real examples (actual photos), while a “discriminator” tries to detect real from fake. They help refine each other until the generator becomes a skilled counterfeiter.

Giuseppe Ateniese, a computer scientist at Stevens and paper co-author, compares the generator and discriminator to a police sketch artist and eye witness, respectively; the sketch artist is trying to produce something that can pass as an accurate portrait of the criminal. GANs have been used to make realistic images, but have not been applied much to text.

The Stevens team created a GAN it called PassGAN and compared it with two versions of hashCat and one version of John the Ripper. The scientists fed each tool tens of millions of leaked passwords from a gaming site called RockYou, and asked them to generate hundreds of millions of new passwords on their own. Then they counted how many of these new passwords matched a set of leaked passwords from LinkedIn, as a measure of how successful they’d be at cracking them.

Artificial intelligence just made guessing your password a whole lot easier
Matthew Hutson, Science Magazine, AAAS

Monday, September 18, 2017

Meanwhile We Are Here...

Image Source: Meanwhile, In America

Topics: Commentary, Politics, Science

A search term "war on science" will bring up several posts (this one now included) that predate our current epoch. We have a chief executive that used to be a reality show host, insisting on meting out his brand of "diplomacy" at 140-character increments - some misspelled. It like many social platforms was created by science, the very science his administration has decided must kowtow to "alternative facts" and unicorns.

The meme seemed apropos the day after "The Handmaid's Tale" won an Emmy for Best Drama series on Hulu (having read the novel, the reason why I purchased a subscription). Again, a venue we all take for granted on our laptops and Amazon fire sticks, also created by science.

An exhaustive list by Science Blogs follows. My Monday gallows humor, but don't lose heart or get exhausted.

The last one of these was in mid-June, so we’re picking up all the summer stories of scientific mayhem in the Trump era. The last couple of months have seemed especially apocalyptic, with Nazis marching in the streets and nuclear war suddenly not so distant a possibility. But along with those macro-level issues, Trump and his cronies are still hammering away at climate change denial, environmental protection, research funding and public health issues. As exhausting as it seems — and this is part of the plan — amongst all of us opposed to Trump, we need to keep track of a wide range of issues.

If I’m missing anything important, please let me know either in the comments or at my email jdupuis at yorku dot ca. If you want to use a non-work email for me, it’s dupuisj at gmail dot com.

The selections are by no means meant to represent a comprehensive account of everything written about science and science-related over the last few months. I’m not aiming for anything than complete or comprehensive. For example, there are probably hundreds of articles written about climate-change related issues over that period, but I’m just picking up what I hope is a representative sample.

Science Blogs: Confessions of a Science Librarian, John Dupuis

Friday, September 15, 2017


NASA's Cassini spacecraft flew through the plumes of Enceladus' geysers several times and gathered information about the particles that may foster life on Saturn's small frigid moon.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cassini, NASA, Space Exploration

For Mildred D. Goodwin, September 15, 1925 - May 7, 2009. Happy birthday, mom. As far as this serendipity, I'd like to think she would have enjoyed it.

Friday morning (Sept. 15), Cassini will complete the orbital pirouettes of its seven-year Solstice Mission and complete a self-destructing descent into Saturn's atmosphere. This fierce ending is dramatic for a purpose: It will prevent Earth microbes from contaminating Saturn's nearby moons.

When NASA's Cassini spacecraft completed its first tour of Saturn in 2008, the mission team had to decide what would come next. [Cassini's Saturn Crash 2017: How to Watch Its 'Grand Finale']

Cassini could have parted ways with the ringed planet. In 2009, studies showed that Cassini had enough fuel to reach Uranus or Neptune. Cassini could have traveled in the other direction, toward Jupiter, or it could have been sent to visit an assembly of asteroids known as the Centaurs in the outer limits of the solar system.

Instead, scientists chose to continue making discoveries about Saturn and its moons — first through a two-year extended mission known as the Cassini Equinox Mission, and then with a second extension in 2010 that would bring the spacecraft to the very limit of the fuel it carried. That made it clear that Cassini's third mission, the Solstice Mission, would be how the spacecraft would end its career. It was during these missions that scientists discovered that two of Saturn's moons, Titan and Enceladus, showed signs that they were well suited to life. But why the fiery plummet?

"The spacecraft will burn up and disintegrate like a meteor in the upper atmosphere of Saturn," Preston Dyches, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told via email. "This was determined to be the best way to ensure the safe disposal of the spacecraft, so that there would be no chance of future contamination of Enceladus by any hardy microbes that might have stowed away on board all these years."

Why the Cassini Mission to Saturn Must End in a Fiery Dive, Doris Elin Salazar, Staff Writer

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Jupiter's Northern Lights...

A complete reconstruction of what the northern and southern auroras looked like to the Juno Ultraviolet Spectograph (UVS) as Juno approached Jupiter, passed over the north pole, rapidly traveled to the southern hemisphere to pass over the southern pole, and receded from Jupiter. Credit: BERTRAND BONFOND.

Topics: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Planetary Science, Space Exploration

Evidence from the Juno probe’s close flights past Jupiter indicate that the gas giant’s dazzling polar light shows are caused by a mysterious mechanism different from the one responsible for intense auroras here on Earth.

On Jupiter, as on Earth, the northern and southern lights are produced by charged particles from the Sun colliding with gas atoms in the atmosphere and releasing energy in flashes of light.

Jupiter’s aurora is the brightest in the solar system, so planetary scientists assumed it was produced by the discrete process.

However, a paper in Nature analyzing data from Juno’s low-altitude passes over Jupiter’s poles shows that, while there are extremely intense electric fields aligned with the magnetic field and signs that electrons are being accelerated downwards, the resulting auroras were much dimmer than those produced by the broadband process.

Why? The authors don’t know, though they speculate that Jupiter’s intense auroras may be started by a discrete process creating a stream of electrons that is then disrupted and diffused by the magnetic field fluctuations that produce the broadband process.

Power supply for Jupiter’s aurora puzzles scientists, Michael Lucy, COSMOS magazine