Communication…

Topics: Biology, COVID-19, Politics, Research

Living through a pandemic has resulted in phrases like RT-PCR, immune response, and aerosolized droplets becoming part of the regular vocabulary for a portion of the population. It has also underscored the important role that we all have to play as scientists in communicating science to the public. As research related to COVID-19 has moved forward at unprecedented rates, misinformation has also multiplied and spread at a terrifying pace. And no matter where you stand politically, all of this happening in an election year for the US further underscores the ways in which science has become an increasingly partisan issue.

Did I mention that the holidays are also approaching? While gatherings of family and friends may look different this year, you may still be anticipating a challenging conversation over a holiday meal with someone who has different viewpoints from yours.

Our situation comes with innumerable challenges. However, it also provides an opportunity for scientists to make a powerful contribution to society and demonstrate the value of science education. Whether or not you are engaging in research directly related to COVID-19, you can help those around you separate facts from myths, interpret the data that are available, and make better-informed decisions.

This realization occurred to me this spring. As positive cases of COVID-19 were just starting to appear in the US, I found myself talking to my physical therapist about the virus and potential treatments. Although I don’t work in drug development, I understand enough of the chemistry to know how nucleoside analogs such as the drug remdesivir function. I excitedly explained how viruses are sloppier than normal human cells when replicating their genomes and how researchers can capitalize on this to make drugs. A few days later, I found myself having a similar conversation with my mom. I wasn’t in a place to predict the efficacy of any drug, but I could at least explain why antivirals like remdesivir had a shot at working, while hydroxychloroquine was less promising. After these two conversations, it struck me that I could also share this knowledge with a broader population on social media.

Science communication is a skill that takes practice to develop, and I am still learning and growing. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but the important part is that any scientist can build this capability to communicate effectively.

We’re all science communicators. Here’s how to do it better, Jen Heemstra, Chemical & Engineering News

Black Phosphorous…

The black phosphorus composite material connected by carbon-phosphorus covalent bonds has a more stable structure and a higher lithium-ion storage capacity. Credit: DONG Yihan, SHI Qianhui, and LIANG Yan

Topics: Alternative Energy, Applied Physics, Battery, Nanotechnology, Research

A new electrode material could make it possible to construct lithium-ion batteries with a high charging rate and storage capacity. If scaled up, the anode material developed by researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) and colleagues in the US might be used to manufacture batteries with an energy density of more than 350 watt-hours per kilogram – enough for a typical electric vehicle (EV) to travel 600 miles on a single charge.

Lithium ions are the workhorse in many common battery applications, including electric vehicles. During operation, these ions move back and forth between the anode and cathode through an electrolyte as part of the battery’s charge-discharge cycle. A battery’s performance thus depends largely on the materials used in the electrodes and electrolyte, which need to be able to store and transfer many lithium ions in a short period – all while remaining electrochemically stable – so they can be recharged hundreds of times. Maximizing the performance of all these materials at the same time is a longstanding goal of battery research, yet in practice, improvements in one usually come at the expense of the others.

“A typical trade-off lies in the storage capacity and rate capability of the electrode material,” co-team leader Hengxing Ji tells Physics World. “For example, anode materials with high lithium storage capacity, such as silicon, are usually reported as having low lithium-ion conductivity, which hinders fast battery [charging]. As a result, the increase in battery capacity usually leads to a long charging time, which represents a critical roadblock for more widespread adoption of EVs.”

Black phosphorus composite makes a better battery, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

Name It, Claim It and Tomorrow…

Diverse reactions to upside-down flag display in Sarasota, Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Politics

Norman Vincent Peale (May 31, 1898 – December 24, 1993) was an American minister and author who is best known for his work in popularizing the concept of positive thinking, especially through his best-selling book The Power of Positive Thinking. He served as the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, New York, from 1932 until 1984, leading a Reformed Church in America congregation. Peale was a personal friend of President Richard NixonDonald Trump attended Peale’s church while growing up, as well as marrying his first wife Ivana there. Peale’s ideas and techniques were controversial, and he received frequent criticism both from church figures and from the psychiatric profession.

Peale’s works came under criticism from several mental health experts, one of whom directly said that Peale was a con man and a fraud. These critics appeared in the early 1950s after the publication of The Power of Positive Thinking.

One major criticism of The Power of Positive Thinking is that the book is full of anecdotes that are hard to substantiate. Almost all of the experts and many of the testimonials that Peale quotes as supporting his philosophy are unnamed, unknown, and unsourced.

A second major accusation of Peale is that he attempted to conceal that his techniques for giving the reader absolute self-confidence and deliverance from suffering are a well known form of hypnosis, and that he attempts to persuade his readers to follow his beliefs through a combination of false evidence and self-hypnosis (autosuggestion), disguised by the use of terms which may sound more benign from the reader’s point of view (“techniques”, “formulas”, “methods”, “prayers”, and “prescriptions”). One author called Peale’s book “The Bible of American autohypnotism”.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Vincent_Peale

The first critique sounds a lot like “people are saying”: “famous psychologist”, a two-page letter from a “practicing physician”, a “prominent citizen of New York City”, and dozens, if not hundreds, more unverifiable quotations. The second surrounding autosuggestion leads me to think why he’s said the most absurd things on-repetition continuous loop, despite evidence to the contrary: autosuggestion in the hands of a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder is kerosene on a lit fire; autosuggestion on steroids.

The “rounding the corner of the pandemic” is a form of name-it-and-claim-it. It has overwhelmingly not made billionaires out of paupers, but it has lined the pockets of a few charlatans cum “pastors.” It is the same as claiming the election is “rigged” if he loses, legitimate if he wins, or steals it. It might just mean we’re tired of his bullshit.

It’s absurd to “lock her up,” or “fire Fauci,” but the mob mentality he engenders as well as the Fox News feedback loop, in the words of Karl Rove “create their own realities.”

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The quote was chilling because it implied that the most powerful government on earth was confident it could be guided, not by empirical evidence, but by its ideological inclinations. Reality, of course, does matter and Rove and his boss learned, both in Iraq and when the economy collapsed in 2008, that there are costs to denying it. Happily, for them, those costs were primarily borne by those who had little choice but to live in the reality-based community: soldiers and civilians in Iraq; US homeowners, and workers.

The Reality-Based Community And Trump’s Orwellian Dystopia, Milton Mankoff, Ph.D., HuffPost

I want a president I don’t have to think about every day. I want a president that doesn’t pathologically lie. I don’t want a daily dose of adrenalin, clutching onto the rails of society as the rollercoaster, reality TV ride careens off the rails. There are no showrunners or scriptwriters like in “The Apprentice” that can make every bizarre move he did seem in the next episode, thought out cogently, and brilliant. He is revealed a mad king, and an overwhelmed, orange court jester. A Biden bus was attacked in Austin, Texas and African American voters were pepper sprayed in Burlington, NC. Armed terrorists are promising to storm into the streets if their orange god loses, and he has no recovery or theft he can pull to “own the libs,” and flush our democracy down a golden toilet. The 80 days between November 4th and January 20th will be biblically evil.

I am cautiously optimistic.

I don’t want to wear a mask while others following the Orange Troglodyte grin in defiance as they walk in the same stores I do. I don’t want smoke blown in my face by a MAGA enthusiast, that then goes in with his wife (I assume), to hector everyone else in there that were wearing masks to protect their neighbors. I don’t want to mentally review excerpts in my mind of “1984”, or recall “The Handmaid’s Tale” and to equate the fall of empires to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The speculation of civic violence is only satisfying briefly if you’re right, but doomsday’s casualties won’t be a spectator sport. You might find yourself in the middle of the game. Ragnarok typically ends painfully. Armageddon has no second act.

I have voted. I want a boring president. I want news not driven by tweets from a lunatic. I want a president that believes in science. I want a sane administration. I want a life again.

Resource: Election Protection

ENGLISH 866-OUR-VOTE 866-687-8683
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Clusters…

Image Source: Link below

Topics: Biology, COVID-19, Research

Continued: It triggered a big outbreak. At least 97 people who attended the conference, or lived in a household with someone who did, tested positive.

The Biogen meeting had become a superspreading event. Eventually, the virus spread from the meeting across Massachusetts and to other states. A recent study estimates it led to tens of thousands of cases in the Boston area alone.

Superspreading

COVID-19 superspreading events have been reported around the world. They happen in all sorts of places: bars and barbecues, gyms and factories, schools and churches, and on ships.

And even at the White House.

But why do these disease clusters occur—and why are they so important?

The reproduction rate

COVID-19 and many other diseases transmit from person to person. The reproduction rate, R, determines how fast a disease can spread.

R denotes the number of people infected, on average, by a single infected person. If R is 2, the number of cases doubles in every generation: from one infected person, to two, to four, to eight, and so on.

The Science of Superspreading, Martin Enserink, Kai Kupferschmidt, and Nirja Desai, Science Magazine

Q & A…

Environmentalists Against War: Don’t Let Our ‘Hair-trigger President’ Start a Nuclear War
Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan / Democracy Now! and KIng Features Syndicate

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

Why are the republicans behaving so irrationally?

It depends on what you mean by “irrational.” Paul Weyrich gave away the game in the 1980s.

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Well now, they cut cables for online voter registration machines in Virginia, they post fake boxes to harvest absentee votes in California (FOX, pointed this out, no less), they restrict counties to ONE drop-off box and restrict drive-through voting in Texas during a pandemic; they sue to not count, or ironically, segregate mail-in ballots after election day, and only want the votes counted ON election day, as that will favor republicans. For a criminal enterprise masquerading as a political party, everything is consistent with Weyrich’s thesis.

Who is going to win the election?

I know who I voted for, and who I DON’T want to win the election, or in his case: steal it. Allan Lichtman and Rachel Bitecofer both keep me somewhat sane.

Whoever is the next president has about 8 years before there is no hope of dealing with the effects of climate change, that the fossil fuels industry has known about since the late FIFTIES, they just started covering it up in the seventies. There IS no planet B: no world of liberals and world of conservatives, except for the news outlets consumed. Physics is quite limiting on faster-than-light travel. This earth is the only starship we may ever know.

Whoever is the next president will be dealing with a global pandemic, that like most preceding it that have been unleashed by our insistent presence in the world economy, will be eventually contained by masks, rigorous testing, social distancing, and contact tracing. In other words: SCIENCE, not fiction, or propaganda.

Whoever is the next president will make the difference as to how long that actually takes. Letting a virus burn through a population is NOT herd immunity, but the Freudian slip “herd mentality” says a lot about who currently has the nuclear codes and his followers.

Noam Chomsky in an interview with Scientific American, 2018:

Why did you recently call the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in world history”?

Take its leader, who recently applied to the government of Ireland for a permit to build a huge wall to protect his golf course, appealing to the threat of global warming, while at the same time he withdrew from international efforts to address the grim threat and is using every means at his disposal to accelerate it.  Or take his colleagues, the participants in the 2016 Republican primaries.  Without exception, they either denied that what is happening is happening – though any ignorance is self-induced – or said maybe it is but we shouldn’t do anything about it.  The moral depths were reached by the respected “adult in the room,” Ohio governor John Kasich, who agreed that it is happening but added that “we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it.” Or take a recent publication of Trump’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a detailed study recommending an end to regulations on emissions. It presented a rational argument: extrapolating current trends, by the end of the century we’ll be over the cliff and automotive emissions don’t contribute very much to the catastrophe – the assumption being that everyone is as criminally insane as we are and won’t try to avoid the crisis.  In brief, let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows.

This surely qualifies as a contender for the most evil document in history.

There have been many monsters in the past, but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for organized human society, not in the distant future — in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

Noam Chomsky Calls Trump and Republican Allies “Criminally Insane”, John Horgan, Scientific American, November 3, 2018

Related:

Noam Chomsky: The GOP Is Still the Most Dangerous Organization in Human History, Lorraine Chow, Eco Watch, May 12, 2017

Noam Chomsky on Midterms: Republican Party Is the “Most Dangerous Organization in Human History”, Democracy Now! November 5, 2018

“What the hell do you have to lose?”

Well, after Herculean dips in the Stock Market, unemployment nearing Depression-era levels, 234,768 dead Americans, and 9,263,209 infected, I think we have our answer.

Eight Years and Counting…

Topics: Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming

The year 2028 could be one of stunning accomplishment or somber failure, depending on how society at large reacts to the current global warming crisis. An initiative called ClimateClock, created by a pair of activists/artists intends to ensure that we land in the former category. And if they’re not successful, don’t say they didn’t warn you.

In a push reminiscent of the Doomsday Clock, the ClimateClock is a worldwide project dedicated to shining a light on a very serious problem — the amount of time the world has left to prevent global warming effects from turning totally irreversible. At press time, there’s about seven years and 98 days left ticking away on the timer. The clock is based on the carbon clock made by the MercatorResearch Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), using data from the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

NYC ClimateClock Counts Down Deadline to Climate Doomsday, Alia Hoyt, Science: How Stuff Works

Quadrupedal Robots…

Image Source: Link below

Topics: Autonomous Vehicles, Mechanical Engineering, Research, Robotics

Abstract

Legged locomotion can extend the operational domain of robots to some of the most challenging environments on Earth. However, conventional controllers for legged locomotion are based on elaborate state machines that explicitly trigger the execution of motion primitives and reflexes. These designs have increased in complexity but fallen short of the generality and robustness of animal locomotion. Here, we present a robust controller for blind quadrupedal locomotion in challenging natural environments. Our approach incorporates proprioceptive feedback in locomotion control and demonstrates zero-shot generalization from simulation to natural environments. The controller is trained by reinforcement learning in simulation. The controller is driven by a neural network policy that acts on a stream of proprioceptive signals. The controller retains its robustness under conditions that were never encountered during training: deformable terrains such as mud and snow, dynamic footholds such as rubble, and overground impediments such as thick vegetation and gushing water. The presented work indicates that robust locomotion in natural environments can be achieved by training in simple domains.

Learning quadrupedal locomotion over challenging terrain, Joonho Lee1, Jemin Hwangbo 1,2, Lorenz Wellhausen1, Vladlen Koltun3 and Marco Hutter1

Science Robotics  21 Oct 2020:
Vol. 5, Issue 47, eabc5986
DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.abc5986

#BlackInPhysics…

Topics: African Americans, Diversity in Science, Physics

Throughout the week of 25 October, Black physicists, their allies, and the general public are invited to participate in #BlackInPhysics Week, a social media–based event dedicated to celebrating Black physicists and their contributions to the scientific community and to revealing a more complete picture of what a physicist looks like. Programming includes professional panels, a job fair, and an open mic night. If you are interested in learning more and registering for the events, check out blackinphysics.org or @BlackInPhysics on Twitter.

The lead organizers of #BlackInPhysics Week are Charles D. Brown II, an atomic and condensed-matter physicist; Jessica Esquivel, a particle physicist; and Eileen Gonzales, an astronomer studying brown dwarfs and exoplanets. Co-organizers include Jessica Tucker, a quantum information scientist; LaNell Williams, a biophysicist; Vanessa Sanders, a radiochemist; Bryan Ramson, a particle physicist; Xandria Quichocho, a physics education researcher; Marika Edwards, an astrophysicist and engineer; Ashley Walker, an astrochemist; Cheyenne Polius, an astrophysicist; and Ciara Sivels, a nuclear engineer.

Brown, Esquivel, Gonzales, Quichocho, and Polius answered questions about #BlackInPhysics Week and described how physics became their passion.

Meet the organizers of #BlackInPhysics Week, Physics Today

Schrödinger’s Clock…

Credit: Getty Images

Topics: Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Albert Einstein’s twin paradox is one of the most famous thought experiments in physics. It postulates that if you send one of two twins on a return trip to a star at near light speed, they will be younger than their identical sibling when they return home. The age difference is a consequence of something called time dilation, which is described by Einstein’s special theory of relativity: the faster you travel, the slower time appears to pass.

But what if we introduce quantum theory into the problem? Physicists Alexander Smith of Saint Anselm College and Dartmouth College and Mehdi Ahmadi of Santa Clara University tackle this idea in a study published today in the journal Nature Communications. The scientists imagine measuring a quantum atomic clock experiencing two different times while it is placed in superposition—a quirk of quantum mechanics in which something appears to exist in two places at once. “We know from Einstein’s special theory of relativity that when a clock moves relative to another clock, the time shown on it slows down,” Smith says. “But quantum mechanics allows you to start thinking about what happens if this clock were to move in a superposition of two different speeds.”

Superposition is a strange aspect of quantum physics where an object can initially be in multiple locations simultaneously, yet when it is observed, only one of those states becomes true. Particles can be placed in superposition in certain experiments, such as those using a beam splitter to divide photons of light, to show the phenomenon in action. Both of the particles in superposition appear to share information until they are observed, making the phenomenon useful for applications such as encryption and quantum communications.

Quantum Time Twist Offers a Way to Create Schrödinger’s Clock, Jonathan O’Callaghan, Scientific American

Negligent Genocide…

The Snake Handling Churches of Appalachia: Part 1, Texts, Codes and Translations, Experimental Theology blog

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

Under Penal Code 192b PC, California law defines involuntary manslaughter as the unintentional killing of another person, while committing either a crime that is not an inherently dangerous felony or a lawful act that might produce death. A conviction is punishable by up to 4 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.00.

The key feature of involuntary manslaughter is that it does not require intent to kill another person—unlike Penal Code 187 PC murder, which requires “malice aforethought.”

Shouse California Law Group – Penal Code 192b – California Involuntary Manslaughter Law

I didn’t bother watching the debate. I assumed he’d be doing a “kinder, gentler” version of his orange orangutan feces-slinging from the last debacle, but manage to pull in the crazy, while his opponent remained calm, cool, confident, and dare I say: presidential. From the commentary, that appears to be the case, 53% think his opponent won, 39% are still firmly in the apocalyptic cult. That suggests they can be out-voted. I’ve already cast mine for the saner, calmer candidate.

I don’t believe the cult is completely stupid: they know he has little regard for them. He’s reaching for the brass ring of actual billionaire status after myriad business failures that are almost cartoonish, promised him by an ex-KGB agent, and this modern-day Jonestown Guyana is a means to an end. The key to their undying fealty to him is he at least appears to hate the “others” they hate, and share their dread of a demographics future where they are all in the numerical minority, even though like him (or, me) most won’t live to see, experience or if here, perceive it.

He’s been committing crimes since his “American carnage” inauguration on January 20, 2017. His 20,000+ lies are a proportionality to the 220,000+ Americans that have died of the Novel Coronavirus. The report from The National Center for Disaster Preparedness was a punch in the gut: between 130,000 and 210,000 citizens could still be ALIVE were it not for ineptitude, incompetence, obfuscation, arrogance and apathy. Translating: the pandemic’s impact COULD have been a loss of 10,000 to 90,000 Americans. On the upside, that’s still a lot, but the lower number is literally HALF of what we lose each year to the flu.

I’m not sure this is involuntary. It feels like intentional murder. He’s purposely holding another in a series of super spreader klan rallies this weekend. The more Americans he can infect, the less (he thinks, if that’s possible) will be available to vote against him.

He is headed into a raft of lawsuits the NY District Attorney, the Manhattan DA, and the SDNY (formally headed by the Borat 2 crotch-clutching Rudy Giuliani), that no lawyer worth their reputation will volunteer to defend him: his record on not paying his debts are prologue to if they will be able to feed their families. Not even the debauched Rudy “Ghoul-e-ani” is that stupid.

He has no empathy, but expecting empathy from a sociopath is like trying to get “blood from a turnip”: it’s not possible, and we should stop trying.

On her way to work one morning / Down the path alongside the lake / A tender-hearted woman saw a poor half-frozen snake / His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew / “Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”

“Take me in oh tender woman / Take me in, for heaven’s sake / Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk / And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk / Now she hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived / She found that pretty snake she’d taken in had been revived

“Take me in oh tender woman / Take me in, for heaven’s sake / Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried / “But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died” / Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight / But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite

“Take me in oh tender woman / Take me in, for heaven’s sake / Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

“I saved you,” cried that woman / “And you’ve bit me even, why? / You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin / You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in

“Take me in oh tender woman / Take me in, for heaven’s sake / Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake, song by Al Wilson

The Snake in full: Read Donald Trump’s anti immigration poem, Jeremy B. White, The Independent

Read it again. As John Heilemann said: “everything about him is either confession or projection.”

We should have listened (or, at least his MAGA hat followers) not with the jaundiced ear of racism and xenophobia, but the informed ear of insight and revelation.