Saturday, June 30, 2018

At first light: Amazing cosmological discoveries

First an announcement or two: 

The Hubble Space Telescope has found the most distant "ordinary" star observed, at 9 billion light-years away, through gravitational lensing. The gravitational lens phenomenon has fast transformed from a cosmic wonder to an almost daily, workman’s tool for deep space astronomers, and no longer are the lenses just giant galactic clusters. "A single star in a foreground lens, if precisely aligned with a background star, can magnify the background star thousands of times." In this case, instead of the usual 50x or so amplification, this event was ballooned 2000+ times.  "There are alignments like this all over the place as background stars or stars in lensing galaxies move around, offering the possibility of studying very distant stars dating from the early universe, just as we have been using gravitational lensing to study distant galaxies."

New estimate: there might be around 10,000 isolated black holes and between 300 and 500 binary black hole systems—two-object star systems in which one of the components is a black hole—within three light-years of the monster-mega BH at the Galactic Center.  It’s starting to look ever more like Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center science fiction universe.

I've been asked to explain the announced discovery of light from among the very earliest stars, and what it implies. Bear with me? As it happens, the light that strikes the Earth (and our telescopes and eyes) comes from a lot of different eras. Only a small amount of it comes from stars. It took light from the nearest stars four years to get here. From the Andromeda Galaxy, it took 2.57 million years. We have photographed galaxies whose light took more than ten billion years to reach us.

But the oldest light isn't even light at all. It has been stretched by the universal expansion, till it is weak stuff... radio waves. And everywhere we point our radio telescopes, we can detect the same thing, a low hum at three degrees above absolute zero... the Cosmic Background Radiation, the oldest remnants of the Big Bang, almost 14 billion years ago.

We cannot see (or hear) the Bang itself because there was an epoch when the still-very-compact universe was too hot for atoms to form out of ions and electrons. No light survived that era. Only then, the electrons and ions joined up -- about 380,000 years after the Bang -- and suddenly light could travel great distances. Much of it is still out there... till it hits our telescopes!

Actually, it's more complicated than that. It seems the universe cooled enough to allow light to travel, then briefly ionized again from the earliest starbursts,-- which blocked much of the light, again -- then cooled again! It is that 2nd cooling event that altered the background light in the sky. That event, about 180 million years after the Bang, is called the Cosmic Dawn. And traces of that event (and perhaps another one, 80 million years later) that Australian scientists are reporting.

This new discovery is about that Transition Era, when stars were just being born for the first time.

"The detection also contained a major surprise. The size of the dip was twice as big as predicted. This suggests the primordial hydrogen gas was absorbing more background radiation than predicted and would suggest the universe was significantly colder than previously thought, at about -270C.... Rennan Barkana, a professor of astrophysics at Tel Aviv University, proposes a potentially groundbreaking explanation: that the hydrogen gas was losing heat to dark matter."

== Seeding solar systems with needs for life? Or disturbing them? ==

Many people first grew aware of our next resource crisis – Phosphorus – on the pages of my novel, EXISTENCE, wherein I posited that Morocco and Iraq (with the biggest deposits) become the OPEC states of a new kind of scarcity. It takes one ton of phosphate-rich rock to make 130 tons of grain, and the U.S. has mostly used-up its once-rich ores in Florida. Of the six most important elements in Life, Phosphorus is by far the least common.

Now astronomers are seeking to discover if this may be an even wider problem. Preliminary indications show that Phosphorus may be scanty in the supernova clouds that seed solar systems.  Might Earth have been exceptionally lucky and rich in the stuff?  Might this help explain the “Fermi Paradox”?  

More to the point of science fiction thrillers, might “P-stealing” propel the next wave of alien invasion plots?

== Extending our vision ==

Europe’s GAIA spacecraft has mapped and done parallax on 1.7 billion stars, giving us  the exact brightness, distances, motions and colors in a huge data set and detailed map of our section of the Milky Way.  The information will yield the best three-dimensional map of our galaxy ever.

Three young protoplanetary suns have been found to have dust rich in nanodiamonds.

Scholz’s Star visited the outer reaches of our Solar System some 70,000 years ago, around the same time our ancestors left Africa. A dim red dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion, it came to within 0.8 light-years of our Sun, possibly perturbing the cometary cloud. It’s now about 20 light-years away. An excellent, detailed article about cosmic sleuthing.

In 2016 a super-flare of Proxima Centauri made the smallest star in the Alpha Centauri system – the nearest visible star to us (that’s not the sun) – brighten many-fold. It likely seared the Earth sized planet that’s been detected there.  The flare was detected by the Evryscope, a nightly sky survey telescope that connects 24 consumer-grade camera lenses to look for transient events and transiting planets.

The Lagoon Nebula is a "colossal object" that's 55 light-years in width and 20 light-years in height. “Even though it is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth, it is three times larger in the sky than the full Moon." Come for an inspiring dive into this marvel, through Hubble imagery. And build a civilization whose descendants will do it for real….

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft took terrific measurements of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014 along with the first real life landing on a comet. (In fiction, Mark Twain did it, then me and Greg Benford, in Heart of the Comet.)  Now see this incredible video of snow and stars and eerie terrain a wee bit more complicated than I predicted in my doctoral thesis… but verifying the main ideas!

These German physicists claim that bending light can have effects on gravitation, an inverse to how gravity can bend light. I am very skeptical! And it will take generations for our instruments to be sensitive enough to detect any effect in experiments. Still, for just a few of you, this nifty video abstract, with animations could be entertaining. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's not futile! We are making progress.

Often I am confronted with hand-wringing jeremiads, like the following: "In today's Panopticon the power equation is weighted on the side of the watchers, not the people."

My reply? Don’t give up too easily.  We already see around us the methods of transparency and reciprocal accountability.  Yes the tools of Big Brother are coalescing.  But counter-examples also abound.  Compare this event - “Florida police officer resigns after using N-word during exchange with 27-year-old man”to page 160 of my nonfiction book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? 

Dig it. It… is… working. More slowly that we’d like, sure. (I predicted that aspect, too.) But it is working, as cities and constabularies around the U.S. desperately seek ways to find and rid themselves of the worst apples, and train the rest of their officers better. Not out of goodness! But because the people are increasingly “armed” with the best of all weapons. Light.

In 2013 we had the best year for civil liberties in this century, so far, when both the U.S. courts (Glik v Cunniffe) and the Obama Administration declared it to be "settled law" that a citizen has the right to record his or her interactions with police in public places. No single matter could have been more important because it established the most basic right of "sousveillance" or looking-back at power, that The Transparent Society is all about. It is also fundamental to freedom, for in altercations with authority, what other recourse can a citizen turn to, than the Truth?

Recently cited in a news article was the following quotation from The Transparent Society. It encapsulates the core concept that (alas) seems so very difficult and non-intuitive, even to some of our finest and smartest paladins of freedom:

"Transparency is not about eliminating privacy. It is about giving us the power to hold accountable those who would violate it." ... (p.334)

The weird thing is that nearly all of those who have snidely derided transparency... and sometimes me, personally, for holding this view... circle back to it, when challenged for an actual solution. The Circle, by Dave Eggers, spends hundreds of pages - and the movie spends 90+minutes - portraying openness and light as bullying fetishisms. Yet, by the end, it turns out that the hypocritical-secretive manipulating moguls get their comeuppance in just one way -- when the people get to apply light upon them.

And not just cheating moguls. Recall the scene in The Circle, where voyeur bullies are aiming cell-cams at a poor, shy fellow who just wants to be left alone? Who are the persons seeking to do harm? Then why isn't the solution to show other folks, aiming cams at the bullies, commenting: "See these assholes ragging that poor fellow who just wants to be left alone? I'm sending this video to his mom!"

Naturally, that doesn't happen in the movie, which is ironic, since that's exactly the reaction the director wants to elicit from members of the audience! Fortunately, it is happening in the real world - as the worst cops are finding out - it is what a rambunctiously fair-minded public will do.

This approach can go bad! If you have a homogenizing society, whose upper clades are immune from light, then yes, the panopticon will destroy all privacy, all freedom and almost all human variability or eccentricity or diversity. Witness the rising "oppression via 'social credit' in China." I know very well the danger!

But there is only one solution that can work. The solution is a rambunctiously fair-minded public, armed with light.

== And here it is again, in action ==

The citizens of Newark gained access to watch through the cameras set up by police.  The Citizen Virtual Patrol, as the program is called, has been hailed by officials as a move toward transparency in a city where a mistrust of the police runs deep, rooted in long-running claims of aggressive enforcement and racial animosity. 

Of course this has provoked alarm among civil liberties groups and privacy advocates.  I’d be disappointed if it didn’t! Ironically, it is only if such systems are constantly dogged by fierce inspection and criticism that it could possibly have more good than bad outcomes. And yes, that, too, is a form of transparency and reciprocal accountability. The deciding factor, I’ve long maintained, is being illustrated here… it all depends on whether people take ownership… and are inclined to use sousveillance for their own community benefit… not against each other.

Moving on... Panda Security created a very informative and useful post about cyber-security. They took nine famous hacking scenes in movies and TV and determined whether they were actually possible or a case of classic Hollywood hacking. For instance Allsafe, the main company in Mr. Robot, uses two factor authentication. Worth a visit.  

How Romans published 'books' just like social media. Or as I am doing right now. Interesting.

A pretty good online article summarizing the case for preventing power-abuse via transparency and accountability, rather than trying (futilely) for concealment.

 == Again and again, trying the futile approach ==

Look, I send money to the ACLU and the Electronic FrontierFoundation. They are crucially important paladins for freedom and responsible development of the digital age.  You should join! They are among the heroes who know very well how close we are skating to an Orwellian future, in which despotic elites will be empowered by technology to impost Big Brother, forever. And yet…

And yet, I remain forever puzzled by the tendency of most such paladins – including every single “privacy advocate” in Europe I have ever met, or even heard-of – to prescribe exactly and diametrically the wrong medicine. A notion that has absolutely zero historical record of ever having worked, ever, even once, across the history of our species. 

Every single time it is tried, it always fails. Yet these sincere freedom fighters always, always double down to prescribe the same “solution,” ever-harder.

The solution of hiding from elites, blinding the mighty, screaming at them “don’t look at us!”  Instead of ever glancing at the method that actually works. The one responsible for all of our freedom. Every last bit of it.

See the latest rave against an unstoppable wave, demanding that the tide… that a tsunami … not come in. When instead we could learn to surf: 

‘Amazon Rekognition is primed for abuse’: ACLU asks Amazon to stop selling facial recognition tech to local governments.  

Um right. That's gonna work. Not.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reshaping Humanity - and Earth

Will signs of human civilization – our unguided plunge into an “Anthropocene era” – be visible and detectable to others millions of years from now, after all surface relics are ground to dust?  This article by Adam Frank - from The Atlantic - explores possible signs, like a layer rich in nitrogen from all the fertilizers we use (I think phosphorus may be a stronger indicator.)  

“Likewise our relentless hunger for the rare-Earth elements used in electronic gizmos. Far more of these atoms are now wandering around the planet’s surface because of us than would otherwise be the case. They might also show up in future sediments, too. Even our creation, and use, of synthetic steroids has now become so pervasive that it too may be detectable in geologic strata 10 million years from now. And then there’s all that plastic. Studies have shown increasing amounts of plastic “marine litter” are being deposited on the seafloor everywhere from coastal areas to deep basins and even in the Arctic,” writes Adam Frank, astrophysicist, NPR blogger and author of the soon-to-be released book - Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth.

Frank continues: “When we burn fossil fuels, we’re releasing carbon back into the atmosphere that was once part of living tissues. This ancient carbon is depleted in one of that element’s three naturally occurring varieties, or isotopes. The more fossil fuels we burn, the more the balance of these carbon isotopes shifts.” 

I might add that there could be signs of our recent fiddling with nuclear fission.  And our cities would leave anomalous ore deposits of patterned and interlaced metals.

Frank's article goes on to discuss how fifty-six million years ago, Earth passed through the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). During the PETM, the planet’s average temperature climbed as high as 15 degrees Fahrenheit above what we experience today, and some ways it resembles what may happen if climate change spins out of control. But it happened slower, then, not at the extreme rate we are driving this process. So no, that likely wasn’t a civilization.  

Many of you know I've pondered this notion fairly deeply, as the most-used pundit on the popular History Channel show: "Life After People."

One wonders if those who follow us will use that word, to describe us. “Civilization.”

== Reshaping Humanity ==

Are we reaching an important turning point?

A recently released book on AI, The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity by Gigaom publisher Byron Reese, delves deeply into the important questions rising from progress in Artificial Intelligence, automation, the end of work and - just what makes us human. Reese makes a case that technological advances have reshaped humanity just three times in history: 

- 100,000 years ago, we harnessed fire, which led to language.

- 10,000 years ago, we developed agriculture, which led to cities and warfare.

- 5,000 years ago, we invented the wheel and writing, which lead to the nation state. And that we are now on the doorstep of a fourth change brought about by two technologies: AI and robotics.

I’d quibble with this timeline, which calls all of those inventive leaps more recent than they actually were. Indeed, in Existence I posit that a huge revolution of thinking must have taken place approximately 40,000 years ago when, within the span of a few centuries, our ancestors vastly expanded their toolkit and made art and religion major facets of their lives. And what’s the Industrial Revolution, exploiting fossil fuels to exponentiate what we could do? Indeed, I can think of at least a dozen accelerations that happened in narrow windows of time, that were probably the bio-human equivalent of sudden operating system upgrades.

We are doing one right now... and old style humans are so terrified that they're clawing at the rest of us, ready to tear it all down, rather than face the inevitability of change.

On Medium, you can read the preface to The Fourth Age, a worthy contributor to the biggest topic /discussion of our era.

Oh, while we're at it.... This article from Big Think lists ten books that explore the future tech of Machine Learning, Robots and Artificial Intelligence -- including Machines of Loving Grace by John Markoff, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark and Our Final Invention by James Barrat.

 == No, scientists weren’t talking “ice age” ==

One of the insidious lies told often about climate change is that“scientists believed back in the 70s that we were heading to an ice age.”  Never mind that surveys have shown that cooling theories constituted a minuscule minority of climate papers, since World War II and they were swiftly debunked. If you offer statistics, confederates blank out.

So let’s go to anecdotes, their prime food.  Like the 1970s film “Soylent Green,” immensely popular, depicting greenhouse broiling in a near future Earth,

Also in the 1970's Steven Spielberg directed a short movie predicated on global warming and air pollution, Los Angeles 2017. It was an episode of the TV show Name of the Game.

One of you, (Jerry E.) cited a science series that became a film shown in schools from Sputnik to the 1980s. The episode of Bell Science program The Unchained Goddess,which was shown on CBS television on February 12, 1958 discussed human-caused global warming. “I remember watching it on television, and I also remember it being shown in my "red state" rural school several times when I was a young child. At that time, Bell Science Series shows were a very big deal to any kid interested in science.” The most relevant two minutes of the program is on YouTube.

And yes, warming was the trend most-widely credited by a vast majority of the scientific community even back then, without satellite data. This is what we are reduced to. The all-out war on every fact profession, from science to the FBI, from journalism to military officers, has reached the point where we cannot deal with our mad uncles with evidence and statistics, only anecdotes.


It’s long been debated whether early humans were responsible for the extinctions of large mammals, all over the globe. Apparently, new data is closing in on confirming the notion. It appears that humans drove North American ground sloths to extinction - along with most large mammals - around 11,000 years ago. More evidence arose in a startling human footprint – apparently running, that was pressed into mud very soon after a sloth pressed his. There are few possibilities other than the drama of a hunter chasing prey.  Wow.

David Christian's Origin Story: A Big History of Everything offers a comprehensive timeline of the universe, from the big bang to the evolution of life on earth....asking what the future may hold. Christian cofounded the Big History Project with Bill Gates.

Another book that delves into the history (and possible future) of life on earth: A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth, by Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink. 

Researchers studying a Bajau community of traditional deep-divers in Sulawesi, Indonesia have found that these families have enlarged spleens that help them handle oxygen better.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Optimists aren't the ingrate betrayers.

I just finished 9 weeks of relentless speechifying around the globe, from the Arctic and Russia to South China to LA, to a dozen events in DC. More than 25 talks! Culminating in last week’s commencement at UC Santa Cruz (Crown College.) Time to get back to writing.

== But first…

Two minutes. Watch this, you Americans. Two minutes for your country. (And you others, learn from this!) As for those cardboard election mailers you were getting, and will get again, come November? Do what you should do with anything received over the web. Start by looking at the return address. (The "paid-by" is usually some made-up shill phrase.) 

There's lots more we need to do, to shred the veil of lies. But that should only be a start. 

It truly is simple. One party wants a return to the campaign accountability laws that worked mostly-well in the past. Ronald Reagan was elected under them, by the way. Vote for that party and against the one that has adopted wholesale cheating supported with acts of war by foreign powers.

Better yet, join Lawrence Lessig's campaign to bring all the funding into the light.

== Is there any protection from the inevitable meltdown? ==

With Paul Ryan announcing his retirement (to spend time with family), and the last professionals leaving a White House in full melt-down mode, talk of a bill to protect Robert Mueller is going nowhere, because GOP pols are desperately afraid of Rupert Murdoch. And yes, just in time, the Murdochs are getting a huge, cash war chest of $70 Billion they can spend on perverting the Enlightenment. Thanks a bunch, Mickey.

What happens when a toddler with presidential powers enters full panic mode? What are the skilled and grownup men and women of the officer corps, the civil service, and adults both in and out of the "deep state" to do, when faced with a life-or-death choice between their duty to all of us, and the chain-of-command?

There is a solution! It can pass, quietly, in a three sentence resolution from both houses. Far less daunting or traumatic than impeachment, it would give our military officers and others a place to turn, if they are ever given "spasm" commands.

Three sentences -- that could be slipped into almost any bill -- that would quietly let us sleep at night. Give it another look... and pass it along to anyone you know who might know someone who knows someone...

== We haven’t lost… yet ==

Long ago I learned something from my friend Ray Bradbury... that people want to be optiminstic, but they are worried about looking naïve or foolish. Still, they can be chided into seeing the advantages of a positive attitude.

Hated on by both the far-left and the entire-right, Steven Pinker dares to beat the drum of optimism in an era of stylish cynicism and self-indulgent gloom. He and I choose different examples, and reasons to feel guarded hope. But first, ponder this Pinker excerpt:

"Consider the U.S. just three decades ago. Our annual homicide rate was 8.5 per 100,000. Eleven percent of us fell below the poverty line (as measured by consumption). And we spewed 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 34.5 million tons of particulate matter into the atmosphere.

"Fast forward to the most recent numbers available today. The homicide rate is 5.3 (a blip up from 4.4 in 2014). Three percent of us fall below the consumption poverty line. And we emit four million tons of sulfur dioxide and 20.6 million tons of particulates, despite generating more wealth and driving more miles.

"Globally, the 30-year scorecard also favors the present. In 1988, 23 wars raged, killing people at a rate of 3.4 per 100,000; today it’s 12 wars killing 1.2 per 100,000. The number of nuclear weapons has fallen from 60,780 to 10,325. In 1988, the world had just 45 democracies, embracing two billion people; today it has 103, embracing 4.1 billion. That year saw 46 oil spills; 2016, just five. And 37% of the population lived in extreme poverty, barely able to feed themselves, compared with 9.6% today. True, 2016 was a bad year for terrorism in Western Europe, with 238 deaths. But 1988 was even worse, with 440."

Pinker has mountains of such examples, enraging those who think that only hand-wringing guilt trips can possibly motivate people to take action to improve things further.

Fools. It's confidence that spurs action, not despair! See his new book: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

Along these lines, famed statistician Hans Rosling's final book (published posthumously): Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, explores the upward trend of human progress, which Bill Gates calls "One of the most important books I've ever read."  As a matter of fact, Bill Gates is giving a free ebook of Factfulness to all 2018 college graduates.

Have things improved? Enjoy this vivid video of Hans Rosling: 200 Countries, 200 years in 4 Minutes -- joyfully detailing statistical progress across the globe, over decades.

Here's an example or two of my own.

If you were around in 1985, when Star Trek IV came out, would you have bet that in 2018 all species of whale would still be around, and in greater numbers than ever? 

Oh, but can they survive long with idiots denying that the oceans are going acid? It's not to late to stop the bad trend and save the good. It's that mix of confidence-building accomplishment with urgency that might empower us to save the world.

Seriously, any of you who would trade places with any generation of our ancestors need to get a grip. Try actually, actually confronting the facts of feudal oppression, inquisitions, and the plain reality that nearly all of those forebears had experienced the smoke, blood, screams and terror of a burning city or village, not once in their lives, but several times. 

Spoiled rotten, do not add ingratitude to your list of faults. Confront your place on the slope of progress! Gaze briefly (with Pinker's help) across how far we've come... then dig in your feet and get to work climbing further.

== Infopacalypse? ==

Which brings us to another big perspective... and what it says about our disruptive era.
A member of our comment community corrected my impression that the American democracy has lasted longer than the Athenian:  

Athenian democracy lasted from around 594 BC when Solon instituted the Ecclesia to when Phillip II conquered Athens in 338 BC, a total of 256 years. It started in revolution because a very small elite had turned all the others into debt slaves. Solon made the very deep reforms thereby avoiding civil war. It lasted for through many existential crises but was eventually brought down by hubris brought about by empire, a lost war and afterwards a general slump into insignificance all in 256 years. Our democracy started in 1788 so if democracies have a lifespan then we will reach our end around the year 2044. In the critical stage Athens produced Pericles, the best of leaders, but it also produced Alcibiades who was brilliant, from the best family and had been a pupil of Socrates but was totally devoid of principles. Who is our Alcibiades these days?” 

Well, yes, sort of. Athens went through wilder swings, across those 256 years, including stretches when the oligarchs resumed control, and others when democracy resembled more a mob than a deliberative assembly of adults. (In fact, the U.S. has gone through swings, as well, which I call "phases of our ongoing/recurring Civil War.")

Much of this came to mind while watching Mark Zuckerberg testify to Congress.  I've been to Facebook twice, in the last year or so, advising one of the teams trying to come up with ways to make facts and reliability more a part of that online roiling stew. (In EARTH (1989) I predicted social media would become a morass of self-reinforcing echo-chambers.) Alas, people keep inviting me to come and consult... and never take my simple advice.

== How to defend Truth ==

Which brings us to this chilling revelation about foreign electoral meddling and our current "Infopocalypse Now.”

Those with less education are more biased by false information - even once they know it's false. Scientific American recently published an excellent analysis of the research on fake news, misinformation, and cognitive ability. The nut of it is this: those with low cognitive ability are more likely to believe false information even after they've been explicitly told it's false.

Cognitive ability also correlates with education, which teaches meta-cognitive skills - the ability to monitor and regulate one's own thinking, which can be used to combat the effects of misinformation on worldview.

Among the disturbing findings:
· The Trump campaign targeted low cognitive-ability voters.
· Repeated exposure is more convincing than one-time exposure.
· Fake news is more viral than real news.

Case in point: "The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now. But now they're setting records. They're at a record level." - Donald Trump, to Reuters, quoted on

You and I find it hard to believe we are members of the same civilization – nay, species – as people who are able to murmur such an incantation, knowing full well that – if they allowed any fact person to speak, the nostrum would prove diametrically opposite to truth. The word “Idiocracy” comes to mind.

But is this surprising? The Confederacy always relied upon this: Aristocrats pay for propaganda to get the most dimwitted whites to march off and fight for the rights of the richest.

And yes, this is using democracy to destroy itself. When the war on all fact professions is done, and the aristocracy is the only power left standing, you can bet that democracy will be curtailed. The one thing puzzling me is how - once all the fact and skill professions are pounded down - the feudal lords expect that strategy to ultimately go well for them.

(Source: Berit Anderson's SCOUT site and the Strategic News Service).

== And finally... ==

Ex-Speaker John Boehner Joins Marijuana Firm's Advisory Board. Seriously. How many times have we seen this? These guys scream at Martin Luther King... then later proclaim themselves to be his heirs. They cry out: "cars don't cause smog!" And "it's okay that rivers catch fire!" And "tobacco is good for you!" And "Russia is our pal!"  And "glaciers are expanding!"... and a jillion other fact-hating nostrums.  Then, when utterly disproved and the delaying tactic is used up?

It's "who, me? I never!" 

The last thing they'll admit it that being always, always, always wrong should affect a jerk's credibility.

Experts and reformers aren't always right! But you troglodytes have such a horrid record that you bear the burden of proof.  And hence your all-out war on every single fact-using profession.

Light-up, John. Inhale. Maybe it will deaden the dull ache in some residual stump of a soul, after a lifetime spent betraying your nation, world and civilization.