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.


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


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


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


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 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.

One Small Step…

Topics: Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight, Star Trek

Cultural references: Neil Armstrong’s quote: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” and the title of a Star Trek Voyager episode, season 6, episode 8.

On August 4, 1972, the sun unleashed an incandescent whip of energy from its surface and flung it toward the planets. It was accompanied by a seething cloud of plasma called a coronal mass ejection, which traversed the nearly 150 million kilometers between sun and Earth in just more than half a day—still the fastest-known arrival time for such outbursts—to briefly bathe our planet in cosmic fire.

Earth’s shielding magnetosphere crumpled and shrunk by two thirds, sending powerful geomagnetic currents rippling through the planet. Dazzling displays of “northern lights” stretched down to Spain, and overloaded power lines strained as far south as Texas. Off the southern coast of Haiphong, North Vietnam, the seas churned as the celestial disturbance prematurely detonated some two dozen U.S. Navy seamines. The geomagnetic storm is one of the most violent solar events in recorded history, certainly the most violent of the space age.

The astronauts of Apollo 16 had been home about three months from their lunar foray, and those of Apollo 17 were still preparing for their December launch. The fact that the solar outburst happened between the penultimate and final crewed moon missions was simply a matter of chance. If the members of either crew had been in space during the solar storm, especially if they had been traversing the portion of the “cislunar” region between Earth and the moon that lies outside the magnetosphere, they would have been exposed to a potentially deadly dose of radiation.

We got lucky in 1972. And in terms of space-based hazards, that luck has largely held throughout humanity’s off-world excursions. To date, the only humans to actually die in space were the three cosmonauts of Soyuz 11, who asphyxiated because of faulty hardware as their spacecraft began its descent to Earth. Yet despite what most estimates would seem to consider a near-sterling safety record, today the prospect of venturing back beyond low-Earth orbit somehow seems more daunting—more dangerous—than it did when the Apollo program ended. Equipped with more knowledge than ever about the environs beyond our home, we now seem more reluctant to leave it. Maybe we know too much.

Can a Moon Base be Safe for Astronauts? Rebecca Boyle, Scientific American

NEMS Photothermal Microscopy…

Topics: Microscopy, Nanotechnology, NEMS, Physics, Research

Single-molecule microscopy has become an indispensable tool for biochemical analysis. The capability of characterizing distinct properties of individual molecules without averaging has provided us with a different perspective for the existing scientific issues and phenomena. Recently, super-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques have overcome the optical diffraction limit by the localization of molecule positions. However, the labeling process can potentially modify the intermolecular dynamics. Based on the highly sensitive nanomechanical photothermal microscopy reported previously, we propose optimizations on this label-free microscopy technique toward localization microscopy. A localization precision of 3 Å is achieved with gold nanoparticles, and the detection of polarization-dependent absorption is demonstrated, which opens the door for further improvement with polarization modulation imaging.

FIG. 2. (a) Schematic of the measurement setup. BE: beam expander. M: mirror. WP: waveplate. LP: linear polarizer. BS: beam splitter. PD: photodetector/power meter. DM: dichroic mirror. ID: iris diaphragm. CCD: charge-coupled device camera. APD: avalanche photodiode detector. (b) The transduction scheme of the trampoline resonator. (c) SEM image of the trampoline resonator.

J. Appl. Phys. 128, 134501 (2020);

Nanoelectromechanical photothermal polarization microscopy with 3 Å localization precision, Miao-Hsuan Chien and Silvan Schmid, Journal of Applied Physics

4G on the Moon…

Topics: Cellular Service, Moonbase, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight

Telecom equipment supplier Nokia will use a $14.1 million grant to build the moon’s first wireless network as part of NASA’s plans to establish a human presence there.

NASA is investing the money in Nokia-owned American research company Bell Labs, which will build the 4G-LTE network, it said on Wednesday, October 14.

The improved data transmission will help astronauts control lunar rovers, navigate lunar geography in real time, and stream videos.

The mission ultimately will help show whether it’s possible to have “human habitation on the moon,” Bell Labs said.

NASA gave Nokia $14.1 million to build a 4G network on the moon, Grace Dean, Business Insider