Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Sing of singularities & supernovae -- And how to do a 'safe inauguration' wonderfully well.

With sighs of tentative-delayed relief, let's turn from politics -- till the end of this post, when I'll propose how the new US administration could hold a huge, celebratory inauguration in a way that's win-win for us all.

Only first... 


== Wowzer goings on up there! ==

Fascinating recent claims that there may be a lot of stellar range black holes out there... perhaps enough to account for dark matter? If it's true, I'd have thought we'd see the effects on perturbed orbits of exoplanetary systems. But most discovered exoplanets so far are close to their primary. One test may be when we can statistically appraise Neptune-distance planets. 

Of course then there's gravitational micro-lensing which would also have observable effects, if some of our NIAC projects bear fruit. This is checkable...

... and if it is true, it might mean that interstellar space is a minefield of MACHO objects, affecting the probabilities that interstellar colonization, even by probes, is even possible.

A strange Research Paper Claims There’s a Black Hole at the Center of the Earth - No, don't get all lathered. The singularities at the Earth's core that I posited as plot devices in EARTH seem almost plausible, compared to this stuff. (And my concept of gravity lasers - or gasers - has passed every test, so far!) 

Most likely this 'article' is a discreditation sting, like the famous "Sokal Semiotics Paper" that revealed the credulous insipidity of postmodernist "scholarship."

An avid and clever and obsessed photographer calculated where to set up… and caught the NG-14 Cygnus mission to the International Space Station passing in front of the Moon on October 2nd, 2020. ‘It's wonderful to see the visible shockwaves emanating outward from the engines, separate from the superheated exhaust plume.’

The unexpected dimming of the supergiant star Betelgeuse was most likely caused by an immense amount of hot material ejected into space, forming a dust cloud that blocked starlight coming from Betelgeuse's surface. So, not an imminent supernova after all. We think. 

The star S62 whips around Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, at an extremely tight orbit. At its closest approach, it can travel faster than eight percent the speed of light, entering a regime where relativistic effects like time dilation become detectable, even at long range. 

Strong evidence that a supernova went off not very far from Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly setting off the era of ice ages. 

Along similar lines… Was the late Devonian extinction event caused by a nearby supernova that shredded Earth’s protective ozone layer and fried early land life and denizens of the sea surface for 100,000 years?

== Weirder space concepts ==

One possible candidate for “dark energy” may be compact analogues to black holes that are repulsive. “Back in the 1960s, physicists suggested that all that elusive dark energy could be hiding in ersatz black holes called Generic Objects of Dark Energy (GEODEs)… The only way that GEODEs could expand the universe without destroying everything around them is if they were isolated in empty pockets of the cosmos…  “ New papers suggest  that GEODEs gradually grow and start rotating so rapidly that they repel each other into those empty expanses, so GEODEs could explain universal expansion without conflicting other models of the universe.

That's a possibility oddly reminiscent of my short story “Bubbles.” published in Lightspeed Magazine, with an Audio version here.

== We are beings who can witness black hole mergers! ==

Seven billion years ago one black hole roughly 66 times the mass of our Sun, and another black hole roughly 85 times the mass of our Sun came close together, rapidly spinning around one another several times per second before eventually crashing together in a violent burst of energy that sent shockwaves now detected by our gravity wave observatories. And while it is fantastic we are a people who now can do such things as this, observing things like this… what stuns me above all is what it says about the sheer magnitude of this universe. I mean think of how short a time LIGO has been tuned well enough to spot such things… and we’ve spotted several. It means such collisions happened all the freaking time, while separated by distances unfathomable to human imagination. As Doug Adams said: The universe is big, possibly even the biggest.

That fine-tuning improvement campaign for gravity wave detectors has been prodigiously successful, allowing detections now more than weekly! "When you look at the catalog, there's one thing all events have in common: They come from mergers of compact objects such as black holes or neutron stars. But if you look more closely, they all are quite different," Frank Ohme, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Germany, said in a statement. "We're getting a richer picture of the population of gravitational-wave sources. The masses of these objects span a very wide mass range from about that of our sun to more than 90 times that, some of them are closer to Earth, some of them are very far away."

Princeton scientists Feinberg and Milekhin (what a name for a physicist!) have a paper suggesting human scale wormholes could exist and allow personally instantaneous travel over great distances almost instantaneously. Long ago (Schwarzchild) wormholes were largely abandoned by General Relativity (gravitation) physicists are likely impossibly microscopic or hard to maintain or survive. It’s the other wing - quantum theoreticians  - who have rescued the concept in ways that are way outside my physicist practicing license!  It involves negative energy which can happen in the quantum world.

Then how to make them macroscopic? Well, let’s start with a FIVE dimensional cow…. and  these wormholes would resemble intermediately-sized, charged black holes that would generate similarly-powerful tidal forces that spacecraft would need to be wary of. (Sounding a lot like some speculations in my novel INFINITY’S SHORE!)

== Even weirder ==

A hypothesized alternative to Black Holes… a “Boson Star” would be compact and massive, but largely transparent. The most familiar bosons are photons, but also gluons, gravitons… the “particles” that mediate forces in the universe. They obey Bose-Einstein statistics letting them bunch together in total unison, as in a laser. The Fermions that make up matter  include protons, neutrons, and electrons, which follow Fermi-Dirac statistics and insist on their own identity being preserved. (Pauli Exclusion.) Though electrons can collectively form boson-like clusters. Phew! So what if some kind of bosonic particles gathered together into a “star”? Would it be something like a compact, self-sustaining laser?

In EARTH I posited a Gravity Wave Laser or GASER or GAZER that could form in the core of our planet and then be manipulated by humans on the surface… and does that qualify as yet another prediction from that novel that came eerily somewhat true? Sigh, let’s not get excited. Boson stars are even more speculative than my Gazers!

In the nearer term, the forecast becoming ever more likely is the Helvetian War, alas. 

== How to hold a BIG inaugural celebration safely and achieve a win-win-win-win! ==

Okay this is a science posting, but my idea for holding a fine, innovative inauguration of the new administration was so popular on FB -- and must be acted-on soon! -- that I will post it now for you blog readers.

New Chief of staff Ron Klain is planning for a minimized inaugural. 

No! Big mistake!

Think this through: 

(1) America and the whole world need a celebration on 1/20/2021! People will show up at the Capitol, no matter what. Vast vistas of flag-waving celebrants would do the nation good, especially in contrast to the recent past, but... 

(2)... sure, we're in a pandemic and responsible distancing is essential

(3) So? Everyone expects a change from tradition, so be creative! 

(4) it is insane for Biden, Harris and Pelosi to be in the same place, given the kind of paranoic jabber spewing across the QAnonsphere.

.... .... Put all that together and a solution comes to mind. One with tasty possible symbolic import.

HAVE KAMALA TAKE HER OATH ON THE STEPS OF THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL! Symbolically, it'd be a huge way to say - with both Lincoln and MLK gazing down - 'we've come a long way, baby!' And the swearing-in by Sonia Sotomayor would be a good offset to spotlighting John Roberts. But there's more...

Picture Harris giving her speech, then waving down the long, long Mall at the Capitol and calling out "Over to you, Joe!" ...

...past a vast crowd that now has plenty of room to spread out! 
Hand out a bazillion flags and flag masks and say:
"Use the flag to make a social distance circle. Let America's flag protect us, as we mean to protect and reclaim the flag!"

The images would be spectacular, denying the fox-o-sphere and Trump any "crowd size yammer rationalizations. It would also establish Kamala as a star and a voice of her own, not just a warmup act!

And then there's an added, somewhat paranoid reason. Keep her away from Joe! At least for most of this vulnerable ceremony in the open, so the 'proud-boogaloo jerks' and their backers won't see any tempting opportunities to violently spoil our day!

And just as desperately timely is this advice to Pelosi and the House dems to pass half a dozen bills that are one or two sentences each, and DARE those Senate GOP candidates in Georgia to support or oppose them!


Like as if any of you are in a position to get their ears... alas.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

If Pelosi pushes these quick bills, they might achieve wonders… even if blocked!

 All eyes turn to Georgia, whose January 6 runoff election will decide if Mitch McConnell's tightly-disciplined* Senate majority will keep blocking any possibility of legislation - even negotiation - in the U.S. Billions are flowing into the Peach State, where Stacey Abrams might achieve wonders, yet again. But the person who might tip the balance is...Nancy Pelosi.

It's all complicated and interesting; will you let me explain? For those too impatient to read, here's a capsule summary:

1-  Those MAGAs yammering that only keeping the two Georgia seats Republican can prevent communism are fools, for many reasons. Above all, there's Joe Manchin, Democrat from deep red West Virginia, who's vowed to block Supreme Court expansion and to keep the filibuster**. So, even if VP Kamala can break 50:50 ties, there will be a 'check on radicalism.' 

Oh, I'd rather things were different. Let's give Bern&Liz more power to reinstate the Roosevelt social contract loved by the Greatest Generation! But Manchin will at least vote for the most-urgent reforms, like anti-cheating measures, and his vote will make democrats the committee chairs and end Mitch's Moscow rule! That is, if Loeffler and Perdue are tossed. 

Meanwhile though the Manchin thing shatters your semi-sane uncle's 'check on communism' argument. So use him that way.

2- Okay so Joe Biden asks Pelosi to rush through a new attempt at a a stimulus bill, just today. Alas, we know it's for show because Mitch will block it. 

So I am about to propose other quickie bills that would have a different effect, altogether! Bills that are so simple and obvious that Perdue and Loeffler would be put in an awkward position of opposing them in the Senate, just before the January 6 run-off!

Okay, capsule is done. If you want the actual ideas, you're gonna have to read.

== Proposed actions BEFORE Inauguration! ==

With the election of Joe Biden and the imminent expulsion of the Liar/Saboteur-in Chief, about one quarter of the tactics and methods proposed in Polemical Judo are rendered obsolete. That is, until Trump’s “Rant n’ Roll” rave rallies and his maniacal Trump TV Network become more than a nuisance. The rest of the book contains many unconventional tactics that could have turned our recent, nailbiter election into the hoped-for rout.

And so we come to suggestion time. As I did in 2008.  

Phase one: Now until January 20 Inauguration Day

Phase two: The first few weeks and months

Phase Three: More legislation to achieve near and mid-term benefits

Today it's all phase one.

Priority #1 for all new legislators and appointees to the new administration is... avoid blackmail traps!  Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I promise you, Putin's agents are all over DC, setting up hotel rooms with one way mirrors, just like in the Borat movie! Blackmail has been standard Russian spy technique, going back to the Czarist Okrahna. And even if you shrug this off... but grow more wary of entrapment, I'll have done some good! And warn all your relatives, especially the male ones, about the story of Anthony Kennedy.

(Seriously, no other explanation than blackmail can explain the behavior of many in DC. Read the explanation.)

Note also, even if you have already been snared, now is the time to contact the FBI! They will likely say you were part of a sting, if you help catch the bastards.

Priority #2 - confront the GOP, especially Loeffler and Perdue with lose-lose choices! The goppers are expert at this tactic, so why can't we use it?  Trap them into publicly opposing things that would be wildly popular with voters! 

Want examples that could be passed super quickly, even in the next two weeks?  Defy Perdue and Loeffler to take a stand and demand immediate votes on these! If they refuse, it could tip a few thousand votes.***

- Imagine a bill putting new limits on Presidential powers -- including Biden's! And with Joe's active support! Seriously, it must be done anyway. Incredible failure modes were revealed by a madman predecessor. Like reasonable limits on war powers, or establishing procedures to rule on emoluments. This needn't be the only such bill, so it needn't be perfect! Just cover the quick-obvious ones that also serve as zingers. Nothing would better slash at the Foxite rants that Dems are power-hungry cheats... like Republicans are.

- A COVID relief bill? Sure, try that. Though I doubt Mitch would face defections there. And others on this list will be more effective because they can be utterly simple! A few sentences. 


- How about a bill immediately giving medicare coverage to all CHILDREN, a move so guaranteed of parental enthusiasm that anyone opposing it would face toasting. It's a win-win, if we demand those Georgia senators decide now, risking ire from either those parents or Moscow Mitch.


How about making it clear that Secret Service agents aren't personal servants!  A few sentences, and suddenly you have all those dedicated men and women eagerly grateful. And the implied slap at all Trumps would be rich! 

- Likewise a quickie-bill requiring up-front payment for political use of Air Force One? A real jab in Trump's eye.

- Or passing rules ending the travesty of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel 'advising' that sitting presidents cannot be sued or indicted or even investigated! Instead, ensure that Presidents can be "slow-indicted" or "slow-sued" without destroying their ability to perform vital functions, and above all they are not totally immune? Would GOP senators dare not to defect, break ranks, to hem in Joe Biden with such rules? 

And with Biden consenting to them, won't this wind up making dems look like non-partisan reformers? And would that also not put those two GA senators (and others like Murkowsk) on the spot, at just the moment we want them to squirm?

- Or here's a clever-tricky one. Pass a few of the promised reforms that gave Newt Gingrich the House in 94, like making Congress subject to the same laws as the rest of us. Those parts of the "Contract With America" - the obviously good parts, that the GOP entirely betrayed - helped win the GOP an undeserved reputation for sober reformism, back then. How tasty if dems actually implemented them!

- Here's one that could be passed in less than an hour, requiring just one sentence! A bill that simply ends the ban on refinancing student debt. It is insane that folks are forbidden to do what anyone with a mortgage can do, taking advantage of low interest rates. Sure, this is not the student debt forgiveness that so many of us want. But it would be a start and matter to millions. So would a second sentence letting student loans be discharged in bankruptcy. (Not available to high earners.) 

Crucially, it can be done quickly in as little as one sentence!  Pelosi/Schiff could do it right now! Making GOP senators choose in what amounts to a lose-lose for Mitch's cabal.

Oh, there are many more of these reforms that don't have to wait for inauguration! Because they'll either get Senate defections to pass with Trump's grudging assent... or else make Republicans look very, very bad and Democrats very good.

Act now (!) and you might get GOP senators (especially Perdue and Loeffler) to either vote yes or else explain why they’d block something so spectacularly positive and simple that any citizen... even a MAGA cultist... should want it.


* There has never been a more tightly disciplined political movement in US history, even including the Confederacy or the Communist Party of America than today's Republican Party. Deviation from party commands might be forgiven once. Never twice. Unless you are from Utah. And democrats are fools not to make overtures there.

**About the filibuster. Even if sanity prevails in Georgia, but Joe Manchin prevents total trashing of the filibuster, there's something Manchin might allow... restore the TALK filibuster! End today's idiocy of requiring 60 votes for all actions. Return to tradition where creaky gopper senators will have to talk all night, for days, to block bills that even MAGAs start to realize make perfect sense. It's very likely Manchin might go along with that. In fact, it might even pass if GA doesn't go our way.

*** A few thousand here and there matter! Take the eminently spreadable meme that many MAGAs in GA plan to write in Trump for the Senate seats. Okaaay> Sounds like a good thing to suggest at Thanksgiving dinner....

Friday, November 13, 2020

Be Afraid Mitch. Be very afraid....

I'll conclude this posting with a reassurance about the U.S. Military (relax, will ya?) plus an attempt at humor -- what if a pathetic, shambling squatter refuses to leave the White House?  But first, far more important political matters about our current fix, starting with this interesting article


"Just two men will decide when the election challenge farce has gone on long enough. Rupert Murdoch and Sheldon Adelson, because are the only two Donald Trump needs to listen to. Sheldon’s campaign money and Fox’s stranglehold on Republican opinion are the mechanisms that made this entire experiment possible. They’re why sitting Republican politicians and the right’s politically ambitious stay in line."

True but incomplete! First, I have no proof that the Beijing politburo is the source of Adelson's many hundreds of millions donated to warping today's GOP into a tool for treason -- almost a billion dollars laundered through his preposterously profitable Macao casinos. But truly, is any other explanation remotely possible? Putin may own Trump's half a billion in older debt, coming due in 2021 and Trump's reason to scam working class donors a bit longer. But that Russian debt is another matter. The core point here is that anyone funded by Adelson is very likely a "Macao-ian Candidate."

Second: while this article sheds valuable insights, it misses the third leg on which foreign control of today's GOP rests. Blackmail. No amount of money can explain the perfect obedience of 75% of the top Republican political caste - the 3/4 who not only vote in disciplined lockstep with Moscow Mitch, or turn their states into cheatocracies, but slavishly toady to Trump to degrees that leave them without even a figleaf of dignity. Mere money and power are insufficient to explain that. Both are satiable - at least a bit. But blackmail is total. You are owned by the blackmail masters of the KGB.


Which leads again (and again!) to the one thing Joe Biden could do that'd make a transforming, seismic difference. The one and only thing. I've said it before and will repeat it till maybe someone passes the idea up the line, at least to Indianapolis's best son, Ron Klain. 



 == The deepest of McConnell's fears ==


Moscow Mitch has to hope that today's Union generals - leading Democrats - remain what they have always been... mere well-meaning betas, unable to see agile tactics. Because McConnell is so-toast if they wake up. For example, it's been suggested that Chuck Schumer approach half a dozen GOP senators - the non-blackmailed ones - with a deal: "We'll throw 49 Democratic votes behind a new Republican Majority Leader, so long as it's anyone but Moscow Mitch. Or Graham or Cruz or Rubio, since they are clearly blackmailed Russian stooges, too. But pick someone sapient and reasonable and we'll do this!"


Would it work? Maybe not. But Mitch fears it.


What he fears far more is about to happen... Their vaunted Senate and Court majorities will do nothing to prevent Joe's appointment of 10,000 skilled grownups to replace 10,000 corrupt lunatics and blackmailed Putin Shills — especially a sane and vigorous and honest Attorney General. 


Consider history. When GW Bush entered office in January 2001, he shifted many agents of the state to opening every Clinton Administration file in search of 'smoking guns' and indictable crimes. In fact, they found (effectively) nothing whatsoever to impugn what was (til Obama) the most honest administration in the history of the Republic. 


To the point: it can be agued that Bush's shift in agency emphasis away from terrorism to a wild goose chase, seeking Clinton dirt, contributed to our blindness before the 9/11 attacks... and hence was at minimum dereliction, or even treason.


In sharp contrast, what do you expect this time, even if Justice and other departments simply become "normal" again? Not even engaging in vendetta. (Though that's what Foxites will howl - and counter-memes must be ready!)


Simply by getting out of the way of stymied FBI, counter-intelligence, grand jury and state prosecutor investigations, such a new Justice Department will unleash a dike-breaking of massive proportions. Just the Deutsche Bank records alone will send scores to jail. 


== An even greater fear ==


Mitch has openly stated that he will never confirm any Biden judgeships or even (yes, he said it) cabinet posts! And yes, this is reason why anyone not helping Democrats take the two remaining Senate seats in Georgia, January 6, is in effect aiding and abetting treason.


Of course odds are Mitch will stay as majority leader of the most tightly disciplined political machine ever, in US history. He no doubt expects Biden to use the technique Trump used, to stymie and effectively kill Congressional Advice & Consent -- "acting" appointments... thus weakening another fundamental of US democracy. 

But there is a way around this, even if Moscow Mitch keeps his caucus blackmailed and terrified and in line.


Next time, as I begin my formal list of suggestions for the Biden transition and first 100 days, I'll go into more detail on what I think is a great idea by a blogger named "Daddy Batholemew." In brief: Biden should put forward two slates. First agency and department heads he wants to see confirmed - consisting of a broadly diverse array of highly competent, honest, decent (hence non-Trumpian) folks, including some best-elements from sane American conservatism (e.g. NASA Administrator Bridenstine). 

The second, separate slate would consist of acting officers, all of them similarly honest and competent… but chosen to be offensive to deep-red mania! 


For instance, I suspect Al Gore would be willing to be Acting Director of the EPA for awhile. I see Robert Mueller as Acting Attorney General? Might Hillary Clinton be Acting Secretary of State? Barrack Obama as Acting Director of National Intelligence? I kind of like Diane Ravitch as Acting Secretary of Education, Paul Krugman as Acting Secretary of Treasury, Anthony Fauci as Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services (although he is probably critically needed in the current Covid battles), Alexander Vindeman as Acting Secretary of Defense…”


Joe can make it explicit: 

"If you go back to traditional Advice & Consent, including judgeships, you can replace these acting heads. I don't want to use the Trump method, nor do any sane Americans. But if you force me to... then take this fait accompli."


== And greater fear, striking past Mitch at Rupert... ==


It is suggested that Biden might restore the old Fairness Doctrine - requiring widely-viewed channels to offer dissenting opinions - and he might do it without legislation, by reversing an executive order issued by Ronald Reagan! Expect the Foxites to howl! But it can be done right. Visibly win-win.


 Now consider if a new president actually created an empowered, Truth and Reconciliation Commission that included all sane interests, with some powers of clemency for testimony, backed by whistle blower rewards offered officially... or by some friendly billionaire… as I suggested in Polemical Judo? Giving the blackmailed a way to retire without jail, if they fess-up? Giving *henchmen* a chance to tattle profitably against some of the electoral cheats we've long (and recently) seen?


Are there Democrats who would have reason to fear light, as well? Sure. And giving such folks a gentle path out of DC would also seem a good idea, though in ways that were proportional and reciprocally fair, not the self-inflicted suicides we saw with Al Franken etc.


Above all, one and only one thing will make the greatest difference. Restoration of belief in the existence and utility of facts. 


Yes that takes priority! Because every other wanted reform - like eliminating racism and fixing wealth disparities and ending treason will all proceed faster after that. Because facts have a liberal bias. See: The Fact Act.


And yes, soon we'll talk about the panicky flight to "Parler."

== Are you worried about a coup? ==

Calm down about the 'coup' thing, already! The US senior military officer corps is the 3rd most educated clade in American life, after University professors and medical doctors. To become a general or admiral you must have at least a PhD or three masters degrees. They are fact oriented and deeply upset over the strategic threat of climate change. There are a few crazy, Dr. Strangelove types, but most are desperately eager to return to respect-worthy civilian rule - it is a religion to them. They dread ever having to engage in politics... until they retire, and even then it is uncomfortable. 

As for the pathetic Trumpian effort to stuff the DoD with shills and traitors? Well, the Officer Corps would not raise arms against legal authority. But they will "work to rule," following procedures with such meticulous slowness that it will drive Trump insane. (They have been doing this vs. his worst orders for 4 years.)

Suppose the mad right summons 'militias' to Washington? Bah. The police will be adequate to deal with those. If necessary, Maryland and Virginia will call up National Guard and we must hope the governors of those states have appointed good commanders. If so, that should be plenty.


Oh, I'm no polyanna, shrugging off all danger! Especially I do not preclude McVeigh type bombings and such. Against those we have to hope the FBI has deep undercover guys and that will at-best be hit or miss! We're still in 2020.

== Finally -- what about a Trump 'squatter'? ==

Okay, now for that "humor" about something pathetic, that I promised you. One unlikely but bathos-plausible path this might all take is not to a coup but to satire, with Trump refusing to go. 


If so, he can't leave the White House to attend the Inaugural, because they'll just lock him out. So... supposing he tries to squat inside... want a fun scenario? Dig it. The Secret Service and White House Police have as TOP priority the sitting President; ex-presidents are secondary. On January 20 at 12:01pm, Biden gets the most and the top agents, while Trump gets a few of those on punishment detail. 


So if Trump tries to squat, Biden marches in and personally frog-marches Trump out! If he does it right - grabbing the back of the collar and belt, then it's a matter of strength and skill, with the USSS guys peering like wrestling umpires to see to it no one is physically injured. And if Trump tries to wail on Joe - even a pathetic attempted punch - then priority sets in. Suddenly, he's a physical threat to the President and must be taken down and sat on, then hauled away. Oh, for that footage!

Of course Joe won't do that! No, instead he and Jill would go bunk with Kamala and Doug at the Naval Observatory while movers and FBI guys sift and then haul away anything Trump, including beds and the horrible curtains, from any room Trump happens not to be in at the moment. While he shambles about screaming, the new staff assembles to get to work in the Eisenhower Building, just fifty feet from the West Wing ... the fumigators move in! Then, one minute before the flea bombs are set off, Trump's USSS detail steps in to protect his life by hauling him away... their job. 

Is that it? Well, no. Strictly speaking, they have to let him go in the driveway, where the fumigation gases don't threaten him with harm. But at that point the Marine guards don't let him back in... so he wanders about outside, screaming. Ivanka and Jared can't drag him away because their fingernails might harm an ex-president, so there he stays, fed and given blankets...

...til Biden has the extra fences taken down from around the People' House and tours resume, with a new feature, the shabby, homeless, wandering ghost. Till he is hemmed in by fenced areas of lawn being fertilized by fresh manure in stages that drive him ever closer to the exit.... which point he is promised a nice airplane ride. And Wendys.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

True or Phos? Science news that makes you ask: "Please back that up?"

Taking somewhat of a break from politics... and how I wish (with all of you) that we could have just sighed relief and moved on by now. But here, as a breather, is a pile of way-cool science news!

Don't get too excited by the titles: "Room-temperature superconductivity in a carbonaceous sulfur hydride." Of course it's a version of the grail we've sought. But it only happens at incredible pressures.

NASA researchers have detected nuclear fusion in metal loaded with deuterium. And yes, it seems a kind of “cold fusion”… though requiring activation by a gamma ray beam. I’ve never been adamant about this, either way. But it has always seemed worth investingin small projects such as this one. Anything to avoid a future either without fusion power, or dependent on insane white elephant tokamaks.

A new theory of causality may be the stuff of science fiction. It suggests that time travelers can do what they want, and paradoxes are not possible, because (as portrayed in some SciFi tales) the universe will have a causal elasticity so that events will always adjust themselves to avoid any inconsistency.

Does TIME itself come in discrete quantum-sized lumps, or even a Higgs-like particle? Those lumps may be large, maybe someday within reach of our atomic clocks to measure.

In a related vein… exquisite laboratory measurements of nature’s weakest force – gravity - showed that the inverse square law holds even for objects separated by a mere 52 microns (0.002 inches), "establishing that any ‘extra dimensions’ under string theory must be curled up with a radius less than 1/3 the diameter of a human hair.”

I assume you’ve heard of Isaac Arthur? His podcast - Science and Futurism - series about space and space exploration is hugely popular. Sample this one: Becoming an Interplanetary Species.

==  True? Or Phos! Predictions!! ==

See page 160 of The Transparent Society - where I predicted (back in 1997) that cops would wear cams... and the folks they pull over would use them, too. Everything recorded. It seems obvious now. It wasn't, then.

Any new predictions? Well, news comes from Venus, a broiling, high pressure hell, down at the ground level. But my colleague Geoff Landis and others have speculated about a shell-level of the dense atmosphere who temperature and pressure (though not gas mixture) could be pleasant to Earth-type life, encouraging thoughts of balloon beings or steam-punk dirigibles… AND NOW a stunning discovery of spectral signs of Phosphine gas - - a molecule made up of one phosphorus atom and three hydrogen atoms - which on Earth is pretty much always (outie of certain factories) a sign of life!

While I'm on a prediction-brag roll (EARTH is on several "10 best predictive novels" lists, including TIME's.) It just occurred to me that in EXISTENCE I forecast what the great resource shortage crisis of the late 2030s would be. Phosphorus. The rarest ingredient of life, a necessary fertilizer. And America's great deposits in Florida are depleting fast, leaving Morocco and Iraq and Iran as the world's richest nations - the next OPEC - in two (or less) decades.

Yes it was brought to mind by the discovery of Phosphine in the Venus atmosphere. Only what's pertinent now is how I depicted my "Michael Crichton character" in EXISTENCE railing against the emergency laws of the 2040s. Laws demanding that citizens conserve phosphorus. 

In my novel Existence, this fictional author pens a book -- PHOS-SCARE CITY -- popular among the MAGAs of that decade -- which fulminates against the requirement that men pee into phos-urinals... or at least into their rose gardens outside... so the precious element doesn't just wash into sewers. Denouncing the laws for sexism(!) he calls it just a 'hoax" aimed at undermining individual freedoms...

... just like today's MAGAs howl against mask wearing in a pandemic... and they earlier screeched against seat belts, or auto mileage standards, or changing our refrigerants to save the planet, or being told to take their stinky tobacco addictions outside. Anyone see a pattern? I sure did!

== Tech Stuff ==

A 2-acre farm packs into a shipping container? Climate-related food shortages? Maybe it's time to purchase a Farm From A Box, which feeds 150 and comes with water-smart irrigation, renewable energy tech, and its own hoes and shovels.

An amazing recent physics experiment appraises what happens when (rarely) a supercooled atom approaches an impassable barrier… and quantum tunnels through it. 

Speaking of cooling… India is building a lot of its solar panels atop irrigation canals, saving land costs, easing evaporation and cooling the panels to increase efficiency. Algae blooms are also lessened And cleaning the panels needn’t waste much water.  

A staple of old sci fi is the nuclear battery that drives your electric stuff for years, never needing recharging. Well guess what. Here it is. Carbon 14 extracted from nuclear waste is a beta emitter, so none of the really bad radioactivity, just electrons, which of course make a batter go. The carbon14 is squished to become a diamond, sealing it tight then surrounded by more diamond and then chipped. If the processing can be made efficient and safe (and that is the one, big "if." then it can also help reduce waste. (Nevada folks are fools to reject Yucca Mountain, which would be a bank vault full of riches.)

== Tech wonders in the air? ==

Might airliners in the future fly ‘in formation’ in order to save fuel?

Paramedics with jetpacks?  A rescue outfit in the UK  providing helicopter emergency services, is testing a jetpack made by Gravity Industries to one day allow paramedics to fly up a mountain to provide first aid. “In a jet pack, what might have taken up to an hour to reach the patient may only take a few minutes, and that could mean the difference between life and death.”

== Simulations! Scary and … attractive? ==

Yipe! Simulation of a Three Gorges Dam collapse. I’m glad they squeaked by the recent heavy rainy season. Now to squeak by our own floods of craziness and viruses…

Robotic, animatronic dolphins?  Uncanny realism! Truly amazing, just $3 million each, in prototype! Less, soon. And did I say uncannily realistic? And what does this do to the tradeoffs to doing a Startide Rising movie?

== Do some on your own! ==

Yes, all this unwanted free time opens some opportunities, like buying and reading fresh copies of favorite sci fi... or exercise or developing hobbies in what I've called the rising "Age of Amateurs." With millions of people trapped at home during the pandemic, citizen science projects are seeing a boom in engagement. While the projects generally have scientific aims, many allow people to also act as amateur sleuths. Some scour satellite images for rural houses across Africa so they can be connected to the electricity grid. Trace Labs runs competitive events in which teams of hackers gather as much information they can to solve missing persons cases, or to put names to the faces of female scientists who appear, uncredited, alongside their male colleagues in historical photographs.

I go into the Age of Amateurs in this PBS interview from a while back, as well as in this YouTube video.

== And yes, politics ==

Fooled ya? Hell yes, there's always some politics. 

In my last blog I offered some ways to corner Republicans - especially the two senators in the January 6 runoff - so they'll be damned if they do or don't. I'll offer more, next time, when we discuss Mitch's nightmares.  I don't expect any of these ideas to even be discussed, any more that the 100+ tactics in Polemical Judo were tried, at all, by anyone... even though some would have made last week's election a blowout. 

But I'll share them with you, at least.  Alack.