Wednesday, September 17, 2014

IXS Enterprise and Alcubierre...

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953

The central theme of November's "Interstellar" and space exploration in particular...

If we even get 1/10 c (say, via a fusion or antimatter drive - more conceptual for physicists. I suspect the "exotic matter" as the star ship would require is possibly dark matter, and for now hard to define, find or manufacture). That technological leap will be for society energy-liberating, and we'd owe that to Dr. Miguel Alcubierre Moya (see link below).

Images sourced from: Daily Mail Online


Pictured is an illustration of Dr White's IXS Enterprise, an interstellar ship drawn by artist Mark Rademaker that could be an accurate representation of what the first mission beyond the solar system will look like. The IXS Enterprise is a theory-fitting concept for a faster than light (FTL) ship.

Miquel Alcubierre Moya
Speaking of Warp Drive


Source: Gotta Love Science, Dr. Scott B. Goldscher
The University of Washington’s Biology 220 course serves hundreds of students in a massive lecture-hall setting, but a related science-writing course—enhanced by Science in the Classroom resources—helped a subset of those participants better understand core concepts, educator Greg Crowther reported.

By analyzing, annotating, and reviewing two Science papers as part of a Science in the Classroom (SiTC) exercise, Crowther’s students also improved their scientific vocabulary and critical-thinking skills. For their contributions to the growing SiTC stockpile of study materials, they will all get bylines on the Science website, too.

“Working on the Science in the Classroom project was a great opportunity for meta-cognition by the students in my science-writing course,” said Crowther, a faculty member at UW as well as South Seattle College. “It encouraged them to think about how they learn most effectively. With their homework, they had to answer questions like, `How did this aid your understanding of the paper, or not?’ They were prompted to think about how they approach learning, and going forward, that will help them in all of their courses.”

AAAS: Science Offers New Tools for Educators and Students, Ginger Pinholster

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Diversity in STEM...

Mural, 24th. Street, Chicago. (Seth Anderson via Flickr)

What is diversity?

One challenge to conversations about diversity is a lack of precision in language. The word “diversity” is used in many contexts to mean many different things. Often, and unfortunately, diversity is used as the antonym of heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class-to-wealthy white male. This is not what diversity is about. The New Oxford American Dictionary gives us this definition:

diversity |diˈvərsitē, dī-| noun: (a) the state of being diverse; variety: there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports. (b) a range of different things: newspapers were obliged to allow a diversity of views to be printed.

Why does diversity matters in science?

1. Diversity is critical to excellence.
2. Lack of diversity represents a loss of talent.
3. Enhancing diversity is key to long-term economic growth and global competitiveness.

Scientific American: Diversity in STEM, Kenneth (Kenny) Gibbs, Jr., PhD
Cancer Prevention Fellow, National Cancer Institute.

Quantum Physics and Grandfathers...

Entering a closed timelike curve tomorrow means you could end up at today.
Credit: Dmitry Schidlovsky

Applies works pretty well if your "grandfather" is a photon like yourself...Smiley

Closed timelike curves
The source of time travel speculation lies in the fact that our best physical theories seem to contain no prohibitions on traveling backward through time. The feat should be possible based on Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes gravity as the warping of spacetime by energy and matter. An extremely powerful gravitational field, such as that produced by a spinning black hole, could in principle profoundly warp the fabric of existence so that spacetime bends back on itself. This would create a "closed timelike curve," or CTC, a loop that could be traversed to travel back in time.

Experimenting with a curve
Recently Ralph and his PhD student Martin Ringbauer led a team that experimentally simulated Deutsch's model of CTCs for the very first time, testing and confirming many aspects of the two-decades-old theory. Their findings are published in Nature Communications. Much of their simulation revolved around investigating how Deutsch's model deals with the “grandfather paradox,” a hypothetical scenario in which someone uses a CTC to travel back through time to murder her own grandfather, thus preventing her own later birth. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

Deutsch's quantum solution to the grandfather paradox works something like this:

Instead of a human being traversing a CTC to kill her ancestor, imagine that a fundamental particle goes back in time to flip a switch on the particle-generating machine that created it. If the particle flips the switch, the machine emits a particle—the particle—back into the CTC; if the switch isn't flipped, the machine emits nothing. In this scenario there is no a priori deterministic certainty to the particle's emission, only a distribution of probabilities. Deutsch's insight was to postulate self-consistency in the quantum realm, to insist that any particle entering one end of a CTC must emerge at the other end with identical properties. Therefore, a particle emitted by the machine with a probability of one half would enter the CTC and come out the other end to flip the switch with a probability of one half, imbuing itself at birth with a probability of one half of going back to flip the switch. If the particle were a person, she would be born with a one-half probability of killing her grandfather, giving her grandfather a one-half probability of escaping death at her hands—good enough in probabilistic terms to close the causative loop and escape the paradox. Strange though it may be, this solution is in keeping with the known laws of quantum mechanics.

Scientific American: Time Travel Simulation Resolves “Grandfather Paradox”, Lee Billings

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mes de la Herencia Hispana...

The irony: in a country of immigrants, we're becoming "tribal"; somehow E pluribus unum: out of many, one - has lost its original Latin origins and just become a slogan printed on our money - if we ever bother to look at it.

"Self-deportation" and repatriation as some have suggested would be a logistical and political nightmare that the global economy would immediately reject us as incompetent and unstable. Diversity has to be our strength, we have no other choice for continued existence as a nation state. If not, other countries that had neither a "remember the Alamo" nor Civil War will make us look like a byword, an anachronism...a joke on the pages of history.

That devolution does not have to take long...

During National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) we recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture.
PBS "bucket list"

Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community. *
From 2013

* Site: National Hispanic Heritage Month 2014

Peace Dividend...

US President George H.W. Bush (41) and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

"Peace dividend" is a political slogan popularized by US President George H.W. Bush  (41) and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the early 1990s, purporting to describe the economic benefit of a decrease in defense spending. It is used primarily in discussions relating to the guns versus butter theory. The term was frequently used at the end of the Cold War, when many Western nations significantly cut military spending. Wikipedia

Just how did that turn out?

Statistic: Per capita defense expenditure of the United States from 1990 to 2013 (in U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

“By some latent intuition, Fleming was able to peer beyond the Cold War limitations of mere spy fiction and to anticipate the emerging milieu of the Colombian cartels, Osama Bin Laden and indeed the Russian Mafia.”

“It was Fleming who first conjured it and who reached beyond the KGB into our world of the Colombian cartel, the Russian mafia, and other “non-state actors” like al-Qaeda. “SPECTRE,” I noticed recently, is an anagram of “Respect,” the name of a small British party led by a power-drunk micro-megalomaniac called George Galloway, a man with a friendly connection to Saddam Hussein.” Christopher Hitchens

Living here in NY, I got to see the reaction of people who'd lost loved ones on 9-11 in 2011 file in the streets on the announced killing of Bin Laden. Many sang; many cried. For many young people, this was their "Pearl Harbor," the moment int their lives they'll always remember. I would like to think many waited for this political "peace dividend."

I don't know if we really want to know how to do that.

The National Ignition Facility (the "Warp core" on the Star Trek reboot) achieved a milestone last year: "the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel." There was no fanfare, no parades, no endless loop on the daily news talk shows. It was ignored with the exception of the Facility and the article I provide from the BBC: the BRITISH Broadcasting Company. Australia - "a country that gets more solar radiation per square foot than anywhere on the planet" - has gone back to coal. MIT Technology Review notes "clean tech's failure" with 2013's surge in Carbon Dioxide. I have to disagree with that. There is a thread here, a cynical, sinister thread. I think "peace dividend" scares the bejesus out of more than a few people invested in the status quo.

War is essentially a struggle over resources in what we now have: a global scarcity economy.

Wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few. It has been that way since the European Renaissance and Protestant Reformation. Those few know how to make their vast incomes in scarcity resources and are not interested in changing that paradigm. Those few in the US and other countries have taken over governments, hijacking democratic republics' political processes to maximize revenue. Armies are now supplied by design firms and defense contractors that only make profits when we have a "boogie man": Russians (Vlad the ex-KGB bare-chested, horseback-riding impaler is making a comeback); Russian Mafia, Colombian cartels - the "War on Drugs"; Saddam Hussein (deceased); Osama Bin Laden (deceased); now ISIL/ISIS emerges, formless, leaderless and in Toyota trucks. Congress is rediscovering its war powers responsibilities, even while publicly insisting they'd rather watch from the safe sidelines to either cheer or criticize if the president acts alone.

"Non-state actors"...and profit: Iraq 4.0: 41, 42, 43 and 44 - dip, lather, rinse and repeat.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Home to Roost...

Newsflash: there are no major differences in the neoliberalism machinations of "no child's behind left" and "race to the bottom." Middle and high school teachers are tasked to "teach-to-the-test" (and told to lie they are not) if they want continued employment. With that coerced "foundation," it's no wonder today's college graduates are not developing the critical thinking skills and problem-solving acumen necessary for global competitiveness. We are all hostage to the testing-industrial-complex (TIC) that thinks once we've cajoled children in Pavlovian fashion to regurgitate answers, we'll still be the "shining city on a hill" of our own self-deluded mythology and design the next great invention. The faux controversies between evolution, the age of the universe and "intelligent design" only throws gasoline on a glowing funeral pyre that was once our country, and confuses the hell out of a lot of young people. Evidence shows others have moved on and advanced beyond our demented imaginations and fantasies.

Are science and religion doomed to eternal "warfare," or can they just get along? Philosophers, theologians, scientists, and atheists debate this subject endlessly (and often, angrily). We hear a lot less from economists on the matter, however. But in a recent paper, Princeton economist Roland Bénabou and two colleagues unveiled a surprising finding that would at least appear to bolster the "conflict" camp: Both across countries and also across US states, higher levels of religiosity are related to lower levels of scientific innovation.

"Places with higher levels of religiosity have lower rates of scientific and technical innovation, as measured by patents per capita," comments Bénabou. He adds that the pattern persists "when controlling for differences in income per capita, population, and rates of higher education."

That's the most salient finding from the paper by Bénabou and his colleagues, which uses an economic model to explore how scientific innovation, religiosity, and the power of the state interact to form different "regimes." The three kinds of regimes that they identify: a secular, European-style regime in which religion has very little policy influence and science garners great support; a repressive, theocratic regime in which the state and religion merge to suppress science; and a more intermediate, American-style regime in which religion and science both thrive, with the state supporting science and religions (mostly) trying to accommodate themselves to its findings.

Mother Jones: Study: Science and Religion Really Are Enemies After All,
Chris Mooney

Related book links:

Susan Jacoby (see video embed) - The Age of American Unreason:

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson, 1816

The three Great Premises of Idiot America, Charles P. Pierce:

· Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units
· Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough
· Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it

Eric Fromm - Escape From Freedom:

If humanity cannot live with the dangers and responsibilities inherent in freedom, it will probably turn to authoritarianism. This is the central idea of Escape from Freedom, a landmark work by one of the most distinguished thinkers of our time, and a book that is as timely now as when first published in 1941. Few books have thrown such light upon the forces that shape modern society or penetrated so deeply into the causes of authoritarian systems. If the rise of democracy set some people free, at the same time it gave birth to a society in which the individual feels alienated and dehumanized. Using the insights of psychoanalysis as probing agents, Fromm’s work analyzes the illness of contemporary civilization as witnessed by its willingness to submit to totalitarian rule.

Tomorrow: Peace Dividend