A Voyage In Her Lifetime…

Image Source: Link in the article text

Topics: International Space Station, Interstellar, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Star Trek

Light Sails were first mentioned in the year 1610 in a letter by astronomer Johannes Kepler to his friend, Galileo Galilei. “With ships or sails built for heavenly winds, some will venture into that great vastness.” Avery Brooks in his character of Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, used his Starfleet engineering prowess deciphering ancient text to recreate an ancient Bajoran solar sail in the episode “Explorers.” The possibilities have vacillated between science, and fiction ever since.

I’ve enjoyed reading the speculation by Avi Loeb, Chair of Harvard University’s Department of Astronomy on the Oumuamua object in Extraterrestrial. I’ve also enjoyed the healthy counter debate, as that’s how ideas in science are refined before they become laws, doctrine, or accepted universal theorems.

On the “billionaire space race”: Eli Musk started it with his SpaceX rocket system. It would be nice in current geopolitical tensions to not rely so much on Russian Soyuz capsules to get to the ISS. Brian Branson and Jeff Bezos have probably opened up space tourism, but in the foreseeable near-future and exorbitant price tag, it will probably be a dalliance of the wealthy. Desktop computers used to cost between $2,000 – 3,000, cell phones irradiating Gordon Gekko’s skull in the movie, “Wall Street” used to be the size of Canada. Even the fictional Zefram Cochrane needed a financier, Micah Brack, to get Warp One going. Whether that leads to a utopia of limitless energy, the end to poverty, money, life extension, and eliminating inequality is yet to be seen.

The article title, Breakthrough Starshot: A voyage to the stars within our lifetimes, Astronomy Magazine, takes in account the bane of our spacefaring existence: mass, quite literally a “drag,” and cannot be compensated for by technobabble “inertia dampeners” or artificial gravity. We are currently accelerating at 9.8 meters per square second to the Earth’s center, but after living here a while, we’re used to it. Twenty percent of the speed of light would get a nano solar sail craft propelled by a high-energy laser to Alpha Centauri in twenty years but would turn human passengers (if any were that small) into DNA goo against the bulkhead. Starshot launching in 2060 means my granddaughter will be forty-one, her parents might be grandparents, and I would have to be a spry ninety-eight to witness it. “Our lifetimes” must be humankind, that is if we haven’t overextended our resources to make the endeavor fruitless. From the end of the article:

But as award-winning Cosmos writer and producer Ann Druyan, a member of the Breakthrough Starshot advisory board, said during a 2016 press conference announcing the initiative: “Science thinks in timescales of billions of years. And yet, we live in a society that only thinks in terms of, generally, the balance sheet of the next quarter or the next election. … So, this kind of thinking that looks at a horizon that’s 35 years away — possibly 20, possibly 50 — is exactly what’s called for now, because it’s this kind of multigenerational enterprise that nets us such great results.”

Godspeed, “Little Bit.”

The Caveat of Cul De Sacs…

A river snakes its way through the Amazon rain forest in Peru.
Credits: USDA Forest Service

Topics: Climate Change, Economics, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

The finding comes out of an effort to map where vegetation is emitting and soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Earth’s trees and plants pull vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis, incorporating some of that carbon into structures like wood. Areas that absorb more carbon than they emit are called carbon sinks. But plants can also emit the greenhouse gas during processes like respiration, when dead plants decay, or during combustion in the case of fires. Researchers are particularly interested in whether – and how – plants at the scale of an ecosystem like a forest act as sources or sinks in an increasingly warming world.  

A recent study led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California identified whether vegetated areas like forests and savannas around the world were carbon sources or sinks every year from 2000 to 2019. The research found that over the course of those two decades, living woody plants were responsible for more than 80% of the sources and sinks on land, with soil, leaf litter, and decaying organic matter making up the rest. But they also saw that vegetation retained a far smaller fraction of the carbon than the scientists originally thought.

In addition, the researchers found that the total amount of carbon emitted and absorbed in the tropics was four times larger than in temperate regions and boreal areas (the northernmost forests) combined, but that the ability of tropical forests to absorb massive amounts of carbon has waned in recent years. The decline in this ability is because of large-scale deforestation, habitat degradation, and climate change effects, like more frequent droughts and fires. In fact, the study, published in Science Advances, showed that 90% of the carbon that forests around the world absorb from the atmosphere is offset by the amount of carbon released by such disturbances as deforestation and droughts.

The scientists created maps of carbon sources and sinks from land-use changes like deforestation, habitat degradation, and forest planting, as well as forest growth. They did so by analyzing data on global vegetation collected from space using instruments such as NASA’s Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) on board ICESat and the agency’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites, respectively. The analysis used a machine-learning algorithm that the researchers first trained using vegetation data gathered on the ground and in the air using laser-scanning instruments.

NASA Study Finds Tropical Forests’ Ability to Absorb Carbon Dioxide Is Waning, Jane J. Lee / Ian J. O’Neill

MisInfo Wars…

Image Source: Link Below

Topics: COVID-19, Democracy, Economics, Existentialism

Eric Boehlert nailed it on Press Run: the Murdock variant. I alluded to this Friday. True-to-form, the gaslighting led to a selloff on Wall Street of almost 800 points, from fears of the Delta variant conservative news outlets have been sacrificing their own viewers to impact. Question: Didn’t Rupert Murdock, owner of Fox and the Wall Street Journal just lose money? Aren’t all conservative oligarchs with propaganda outlets losing money?

The only thing that makes “sense” is that instead of news organizations, conservative “news” outlets are essentially a congress of sociopaths.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy today issued a public advisory on health misinformation, calling it a “serious threat to public health” and encouraging all Americans to help slow its spread during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. To that end, the National Academies have been addressing misinformation in health and science on multiple fronts and are taking steps to help cultivate a fact- and evidence-based information environment.

“This pandemic has demonstrated as never before how critical it is not only to combat false and misleading claims but also to get clear, understandable, and potentially lifesaving health guidance to the public,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “The National Academies are eager to support the surgeon general in this effort and are committed to working with the research community, health care providers, government agencies, and others to help amplify credible, authoritative health information.”

“Misinformation is worse than an epidemic: It spreads at the speed of light throughout the globe, and can prove deadly when it reinforces misplaced personal bias against all trustworthy evidence,” added National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. “Research is helping us combat this ‘misinfodemic’ through understanding its origins and the aspects of human nature that make it so transmittable.”

The surgeon general’s advisory defines misinformation as “information that is false, inaccurate, or misleading according to the best available evidence at the time,” and notes that, although some knowingly and deliberately share misinformation, many others do so inadvertently because they are unaware of any inaccuracy or they are raising concerns or seeking answers. The rise of social media has also enabled misinformation to be spread more quickly and frequently.

As Surgeon General Urges ‘Whole-of-Society’ Effort to Fight Health Misinformation, the Work of the National Academies Helps Foster an Evidence-Based Information Environment

Molly Galvin, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Smokestacks, and Psychopaths…

Image credit: Daily Kos

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

In the south, you’ll see some lummox proudly spewing black smoke from the back of his pickup truck (it invariably is always “his/he/him”), tricked out with dual black smokestack pipes to “own the libs,” spew smoke in the air, and cause environmental bleeding heart tears over caring about climate change. Indeed, “the cruelty is the point.” Smoky seems to miss the point he’s still on the same planet he’s ruining. I’m down for him shooting his own foot: that would generate first a gasp as his talus explodes through his boot, then a guffaw. I will call 911 and tie you a tourniquet.

For a political party whose membership skews older, it might be surprising that the spirit that most animates Republican politics today is best described with a phrase from the world of video games: “Owning the libs.

Gamers borrowed the term from the nascent world of 1990s computer hacking, using it to describe their conquered opponents: “owned.” To “own the libs” does not require victory so much as a commitment to infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing liberals with one’s awesomely uncompromising conservatism. And its pop-cultural roots and clipped snarkiness are perfectly aligned with a party that sees pouring fuel on the culture wars’ fire as its best shot at surviving an era of Democratic control.

How ‘Owning the Libs’ Became the GOP’s Core Belief, Derek Robertson, Politico

Tennessee wants to halt vaccines – not just COVID, but everything! They fired the health commissioner, because she was doing her job during a pandemic that’s killed almost as many Americans as the 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic. Florida governor Death Santis is selling merch “Don’t Fauci My Florida” after a beachside condo imploded from decaying (say it with me now: “infrastructure”), and he’s second in US COVID numbers for the Delta variant. Luckily, Disney is streaming Loki, because I think the Mouse may have to shut down again. “Kids get long haul COVID too.” Someone needs to Fauci Death Santis’ brain.

Fox Propaganda is pushing vaccine hesitancy as likely every anchor and crew member is fully vaccinated, and following COVID protocols. Meanwhile, they are purposely sowing doubts about the efficacy of a vaccine people are fighting in the streets for overseas. This of course follows a Russian disinformation campaign that every opinion pundit at the Ministry of Pravda on New York’s Avenue of the Americas seems to be parroting. “America’s newsroom” has a Russian accent.

The conclusion of the Kerner Commission was we were “two Americas”: one black, one white; separate, and unequal.

We are two Americas still: one vaccinated, one unvaccinated as a Delta variant spreads in mostly red states. For the most part, African Americans are showing social conservative values: they tend to get vaccines (most, not all), and when I’m in the store, I still see us all wearing masks. The cynical dark calculus is, as more get sick and die (apparently, red-state republicans are cannon fodder on the altar of Moloch), the economy will falter. The party in power always gets the blame, for good, or ill. This is 2022, and 2024, not because the criminal enterprise masquerading as a political party has any “ideas”: it is the political equivalent of a binky for colicky, psychotic children; it is power for power’s sake.

The presidency of George W. Bush may have been the high point of the modern Christian right’s influence in America. White evangelicals were the largest religious faction in the country. “They had a president who claimed to be one of their own, he had a testimony, talked in evangelical terms,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of the 2016 book “The End of White Christian America.”

Back then, much of the public sided with the religious right on the key culture war issue of gay marriage. “In 2004, if you had said, ‘We’re the majority, we oppose gay rights, we oppose marriage equality, and the majority of Americans is with us,’ that would have been true,” Jones told me. Youthful megachurches were thriving. It was common for conservatives to gloat that they were going to outbreed the left.

But the evangelicals who thought they were about to take over America were destined for disappointment. On Thursday, P.R.R.I. released startling new polling data showing just how much ground the religious right has lost. P.R.R.I.’s 2020 Census of American Religion, based on a survey of nearly half a million people, shows a precipitous decline in the share of the population identifying as white evangelical, from 23 percent in 2006 to 14.5 percent last year. (As a category, “white evangelicals” isn’t a perfect proxy for the religious right, but the overlap is substantial.) In 2020, as in every year since 2013, the largest religious group in the United States was the religiously unaffiliated.

In addition to shrinking as a share of the population, white evangelicals were also the oldest religious group in the United States, with a median age of 56. “It’s not just that they are dying off, but it is that they’re losing younger members,” Jones told me. As the group has become older and smaller, Jones said, “a real visceral sense of loss of cultural dominance” has set in.

I was frightened by the religious right in its triumphant phase. But it turns out that the movement is just as dangerous in decline. Maybe more so. It didn’t take long for the cocky optimism of Generation Joshua to give way to the nihilism of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. If they can’t own the country, they’re ready to defile it.

The Christian Right Is in Decline, and It’s Taking America With It, Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

The orangutan increased his margins with African Americans and Hispanic voters, surprisingly. Members of my family voted – insanely – in 2016, and 2020 for him. I don’t tend to support racists who deny rental property to blacks in New York, say the Exonerated Five should still be in jail after DNA evidence, and a confession acquitted them, and over two dozen women accusing him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault are all lying.

I’ll give you a Mulligan for 2016. You believed the public fiction by reality TV he was a business genius (he isn’t even as evidence shows, a “stable genius“). It was for “family values,” so that might mean you’re bizarrely against abortion and same-sex marriage. It’s like television: if you don’t like the channel, you have other options, and if you’re against abortion (and not a woman), or gay marriage (and not LGBT), don’t practice either. Problem solved. You probably believed in cooties as a kid.

After four years of lies, covfefe, mangled/slurred sentences, guttural cursing, saying President Obama SPIED on him, Olympic-level obfuscation, children in cages, white supremacists in Charlottesville, fawning obsequiousness to every dictator from Putin to Kim Jong Un he could find under a rock, the unanswered murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi; rubber bullets and teargas against mostly peaceful protestors (1st Amendment – look it up), haphazardly constructed border wall boondoggles like his six bankrupt businesses, tax cuts for no-one-that-looked-like-YOU, and you STILL voted for him after what is now after “I Alone Can Fix” January 6, 2021, is shaping up to have been an attempted coup, that says a lot more about you than it does about me.

I’m going to have to put some real estate between us for my own mental health.

Five Stages…

Image Source: Link below

Topics: Astrophysics, Cosmology, Einstein, General Relativity, Star Trek

Note: One of the things you find out about sophomore, or junior year in physics is faster-than-light travel violates causality: the arrow of time points forward, not in “loop-de-loop.” Thus, we can suspend belief as every version of Trek did time travel episodes, because superluminal speeds would allow grandfather paradoxes, so why not?

As a lifelong Trekkie, it pains me to critique genuine attempts at warp field mechanics. Just note the five stages of grief I have traveled often as I read such articles: “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance” (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and David Kessler), but based on the post that will appear in the morning, a little diversion might be a good thing.

For Erik Lentz, it all started with Star Trek. Every few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard would raise his hand and order, “Warp one, engage!” Then stars became dashes, and light-years flashed by at impossible speed. And Lentz, still in elementary school, wondered whether warp drive might also work in real life.

“At some point, I realized that the technology didn’t exist,” Lentz says. He studied physics at the University of Washington, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on dark matter, and generally became far too busy to be concerned with science fiction. But then, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Lentz found himself alone in Göttingen, Germany, where he was doing postdoctoral work. He suddenly had plenty of free time on his hands—and childhood fancies in his head.

Lentz read everything he could find on warp drives in the scientific literature, which was not very much. Then he began to think about it for himself. After a few weeks, something occurred to him that everyone else seemed to have overlooked. Lentz put his idea on paper and discussed it with more experienced colleagues. A year later it was published in a physics journal.

It quickly became clear that Lentz was not the only person dreaming about warp drives. Media outlets all over the world picked up the story, and a dozen journalists asked for interviews. A discussion on the online forum Reddit attracted 2,700 comments and 33,000 likes. One Internet user wrote, “Anyone else feels like they were born 300 years too soon?”

Star Trek’s Warp Drive Leads to New Physics, Robert Gast, Scientific American

Gold Anniversary…

Images are from the article, link below

Topics: Electrical Engineering, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, Solid-State Physics

It’s not exactly a wedding anniversary, but it is significant.

Fifty years ago this month, Intel introduced the first commercial microprocessor, the 4004. Microprocessors are tiny, general-purpose chips that use integrated circuits made up of transistors to process data; they are the core of a modern computer. Intel created the 12 mm2 chip for a printing calculator made by the Japanese company Busicom. The 4004 had 2,300 transistors—a number dwarfed by the billions found in today’s chips. But the 4004 was leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors, packing the computing power of the room-sized, vacuum tube–based first computers into a chip the size of a fingernail. In the past 50 years, microprocessors have changed our culture and economy in unimaginable ways.

The microprocessor turns 50, Katherine Bourzac, Chemical & Engineering News

Scrofulous Signaling…


FIG. 1. Schematics of pulse sequences for spin-locking measurement with (a) two π/2 pulses and (b) two composite pulses. (c) Schematics of a SCROFULOUS composite pulse composed of three pulses. (d) Evolution of the spin state in the Bloch sphere. The spin state is initialized to the |0⟩ state by the first laser pulse. (e) The first π/2 pulse rotates the spin by 90∘ to the (−y)-direction. A y-driving microwave field is applied parallel to the spin in the rotation frame. (f) The second π/2 pulse rotates the spin by 90∘ to the (−z)-direction in the pulse sequence pattern A, or (g) the second −π/2 pulse rotates the spin by −90∘ to the z-direction in the pulse sequence pattern B. Finally, the spin state is read out from the PL by applying the second laser pulse. (h) Schematics of the experimental setup.

Topics: Applied Physics, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science, Optics

We present results of near-field radio-frequency (RF) imaging at micrometer resolution using an ensemble of nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond. The spatial resolution of RF imaging is set by the resolution of an optical microscope, which is markedly higher than the existing RF imaging methods. High sensitivity RF field detection is demonstrated through spin locking. SCROFULOUS composite pulse sequence is used for manipulation of the spins in the NV centers for reduced sensitivity to possible microwave pulse amplitude error in the field of view. We present procedures for acquiring an RF field image under spatially inhomogeneous microwave field distribution and demonstrate a near-field RF imaging of an RF field emitted from a photolithographically defined metal wire. The obtained RF field image indicates that the RF field intensity has maxima in the vicinity of the edges of the wire, in accord with a calculated result by a finite-difference time-domain method. Our method is expected to be applied in a broad variety of application areas, such as material characterizations, characterization of RF devices, and medical fields.

Near-field radio-frequency imaging by spin-locking with a nitrogen-vacancy spin sensor, Shintaro Nomura1,a), Koki Kaida1, Hideyuki Watanabe2, and Satoshi Kashiwaya3, Journal of Applied Physics

Smallest Qubit Computer…

Compact system: the new quantum computer fits into two standard server racks. (Courtesy: University of Innsbruck)

Topics: Computer Science, Quantum Computer, Quantum Mechanics

The smallest quantum computer to date has been claimed by a team of researchers in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. Using strings of trapped ions that are addressed using laser pulses, Ivan Pogorelov at the University of Innsbruck and colleagues created a system that contains 24 fully-entangled quantum bits (qubits)  and is housed in two industry-standard server racks.

The teams says that the computer’s performance matches that of existing state-of-the-art systems and believe that their setup could bring the widespread use of practical quantum computers a step closer to reality.

As technology improves, quantum computers are integrating increasing numbers of qubits with the goal of creating devices that can solve certain problems much faster than conventional computers. Existing ways of integrating qubits often require a room full of equipment so researchers have now turned their attention to developing much more compact and practical implementations. These efforts face numerous challenges, however, including how to reliably manufacture large numbers of identical qubits and how to maintain the quantum coherence of qubits during complex operations such as the quantum entanglement of ions.

Quantum computer is smallest ever, claim physicists, Sam Jarman, Physics World

Thirty-Three Point Eight…

Topics: Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming, Politics

Fahrenheit to CelsiusCelsius to Fahrenheit
(5/9)(°F – 32) = °C(9/5) °C + 32 = °F
Handy-Dandy Conversion Table

Even though the Big Think video is informative, my critique is it presumes much regarding the audience, presumably the species.

The assumption is that even with the equivalent of supercomputers on our hips, humans will be motivated beyond the video to know the difference between Fahrenheit, and Celsius. What the average human mind will process is: “two degrees,” which doesn’t sound like much as mathematical dexterity is only encouraged in those interested in STEM.

On Wednesday, when former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, his remarks on the occasion contained some of the usual sentiment about the importance of being a bold and inspiring nation—but they also contained something a bit unusual. “Here’s a bold embrace of internationalism: let’s join the rest of the world and go metric,” he said. “I happened to live in Canada as they completed the process. Believe me, it is easy. It doesn’t take long before 34 degrees is hot. Only Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States aren’t metric and it will help our economy!”

The Long, Tortuous History of the U.S. and the Metric System, Lily Rothman, TIME

The resistance to the Metric System (originally from the French) has to quote Ms. Rothman, “a long, tortuous history” in the United States. Resistance to “change” is inherently political, and we have but one of the two major political parties famous for looking backward, as well as celebration, and apotheosis of a hierarchal status quo.

I’m not saying the video isn’t informative. The above formulas were drilled into me in middle school science class, and since I have made my living, and continue my education in STEM, mental conversion is a familiar exercise.

It should be for average citizens also. The video concerns two degrees Celsius hotter; the title I derived from one degree hotter (in bold below):

(9/5) 0°C + 32 = 32°F

(9/5) 1°C + 32 = 1.8 + 32 = 33.8°F

(9/5) 2°C + 32 = 3.6 + 32 = 35.6°F

(9/5) 3°C + 32 = 5.4 + 32 = 37.4°F

(9/5) 4°C + 32 = 7.2 + 32 = 39.2°F

Add that to whatever is average summer temperatures in the Arctic, California, Texas, or North Carolina, and you can see why Environmental Scientists are hair-on-fire excited.

My critique is the video, well-intentioned, has the Curse of Knowledge Cognitive Bias.

Some of the best science lectures I’ve attended are when the speaker assumes the audience is hearing the information for the first time, provides a primer of about 15 – 20 minutes, and about a thirty-five to forty minute lecture, allowing time for questions. It respects the intelligence, and time of the audience.

The opposite: the lecturer is so excited about their work, they hit Warp Seven after clearing orbital drydock, and head for Andromeda, 2.537 million light-years away. The only time they stop is when the host informs them their time is up, and it’s evident the crowd has tuned out, checking social media, and drooling as they wait for the lecture/torture to end.

To communicate the gravity of the situation, I feel we need to communicate better to the general public for buy-in that: 1. There is a crisis, 2. We have to do something about it.

By logical extension, science communication can mean life or death. Ninety-nine-point-five percent of new COVID deaths are from the unvaccinated, so armchair conspiracy theories are not proving helpful. I took the Moderna vaccine. I did not become magnetic. I did not become the carrier of a variant. I’m a grandfather, so my infertility at this stage is kind of irrelevant. No one started tracking me (for what reason, God only knows).

Please feel free to share my post, and check my calculations. We all need a clear understanding, not fossil fuel industry/corporate lobbyist gaslighting, on where we’re headed if we don’t heed the warnings.

“Science-fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.” Isaac Asimov

Power Density…

Optimal size: wind farm efficiency drops as installations become bigger. (Courtesy: iStock/ssuaphoto)

Topics: Alternate Energy, Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming, Green Tech, Thermodynamics

Optimizing the placement of turbines within a wind farm can significantly increase energy extraction – but only until the installation reaches a certain size, researchers in the US conclude. This is just one finding of a computational study on wind turbines’ effects on the airflow around them, and consequently the ability of nearby turbines – and even nearby wind farms – to extract energy from that airflow.

Wind power could supply more than a third of global energy by 2050, so the researchers hope their analysis will assist in better designs of wind farms.

It is well known that the efficiencies of turbines in a wind farm can be significantly lower than that of a single turbine on its own. While small wind farms can achieve a power density of over 10 W/m2, this can drop to a little as 1 W/m2 in very large installations The first law of thermodynamics dictates that turbines must reduce the energy of the wind that has passed through them. However, turbines also inject turbulence into the flow, which can make it more difficult for downstream turbines to extract energy.

“People were already aware of these issues,” says Enrico Antonini of the Carnegie Institution for Science in California, “but no one had ever defined what controls these numbers.”

Optimal size for wind farms is revealed by computational study, Tim Wogan, Physics World