Saturday, November 30, 2019

The "culture war" underlying civil war

== A Growing Gap ==

The gap between the richest and the poorest U.S. households is now the largest it's been in the past 50 years.  The income gap grew wider in nine states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia. “When asked why the rising economic tide has raised some boats more than others, Rodgers lists several factors, including the decline of organized labor and competition for jobs from abroad. He also cites tax policies that favor businesses and higher-income families.” But there are types of inequality. The middle class in California is not in the same collapse seen in many other states. Rather, the disparity rises there because poor folks come to California, and at the other end many people get rich developing actual goods and services that raise up ‘boats.” I wish these statistics parsed out that kind of wealth disparity (which also needs solving!) vs. the gap between parasite professions, inherited wealth, organized crime and cheaters on the one hand and working class folks. That is the much worse disparity that matters and will lead to revolution.

Why do evangelicals support Trump, a man who has bragged about sexual assault, lies perpetually and once admitted he never asks God for forgiveness? Recall the scene where Clintons and Obamas and Bidens and Sunday School teachers Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter all recite the Apostles' Creed largely by memory while the Trumps stand, bored and silent, then leave early. While rich televangelists preach a prosperity/Dominionist gospel that's opposite to Jesus's teachings, they blasphemously extol as "God's Chosen One" a tool of communist and salafist dictators who is the most opposite-to-Jesus human you can find.

“Trump's lack of knowledge of the Bible is also well-known. Nevertheless, many evangelical Christians believe that Trump was chosen by God to usher in a new era, a part of history called the "end times." Read this, if you don’t already know about this monstrously hypocritical and viciously hate-drenched cult, which eagerly supports Israel so that a final war can then ensue in which most Jews will suffer horrible death and eternal damnation… fanatics who pray daily for an end to all democracy, all science, curiosity, human ambition and accomplishment, praying also for events that would end the United States of America. Plus an end to the birth or joy of any new human children. Yes, all of that, explicitly… and Mike Pence avows openly to praying for all of that, daily.  

But back to the question: ‘Why do evangelicals support Trump?” Most fundamentally, it is because he enrages the people they hate most — smartypants, university modernist fact-people plus atheist/agnostics… but  above all those sincere religious folks and Christians who believe in a loving God who is not a viciously sadistic lunatic.

Now let me demur a bit. “Evangelical” is too broad a term and it lumps sincere “red Letter Christians” — those who like Jimmy Carter emphasize  the words of Jesus as printed in red, in many New Testaments, conflating them with the dominionist horrors who emphasize the brutally sadistic Book of Revelation, which is opposite to Jesus’s teachings in every conceivable way. “Fundamentalist works. But the dominionists who want our “stuff” are the true loonies.

== Will resistance turn into rebellion? ==

The 'Reasonable Rebels" by Eve Fairbanks, in The Washington Post, asserts that all of those who claim there is a moderate reasonable right are cloning, almost verbatim, the vernacular of Southern antebellum intellectuals, those proslavery rhetoricians “who talked little of slavery itself. Instead, they anointed themselves the defenders of “reason,” free speech and “civility.” The prevalent line of argument in the antebellum South rested on the supposition that Southerners were simultaneously the keepers of an ancient faith and renegades — made martyrs by their dedication to facts, reason and civil discourse.

“Josiah Nott, a surgeon who laid out the purported science behind black inferiority, held that questions like slavery “should be left open to fair and honest investigation, and made to stand or fall according to the facts.” They claimed that they were the ones who truly had black people’s best interests at heart, thanks to their more realistic understanding of human biology. “No one would be willing to do more for the Negro race than I,” John Wilkes Booth wrote shortly before he assassinated Lincoln.”

“The most important thing to know about them, they held, was that they were not the oppressors. They were the oppressed. They were driven to feelings of isolation and shame purely on the basis of freely held ideas, the right of every thinking man. Rep. Alexander Sims (D-S.C.) claimed that America’s real problem was the way Southerners were made to suffer under “the sneers and fanatic ebullitions of ignorant and wicked pretenders to philanthropy.””  Fairbanks captures the whining tone of persecution that pervaded nearly all Southern writings of the time… and meanwhile she commits a dishonesty of her own, by spreading the tar of that hypocrisy over to sentiments she dislikes, in the modern discourse.

Her parallels with the “reasonable right,” raise interesting questions and I have no problem with poking away at those folks who — nowadays — claim liberals are persecuting them. The problem is that we cannot afford to drive away potential allies in the current fight, even those who have been slow and tepid and unhelpful, till now.

I agree with her far more than I disagree! “One reason slavery was not abolished in America through the political process, as it was in Britain, is that abolitionists were rhetorically straitjacketed by the proposition that they were the hard-liners who sought to curtail freedom. When the Charleston Mercury wrote that it was the “duty” of Northerners to “prove” that they were willing to defend Southerners against “fanatics,” Northern newspapers reprinted the editorial. Northerners, not Southerners, had to watch what they said and strain to compromise so they didn’t confirm the dictatorial notion Southern rhetoricians had implanted in the public mind.”

But today I see what Lincoln feared. Nearly daily, I read some new figure appealing to antebellum reasoning. Joining the 'reasonable right' seems to render these figures desirable contributors to center-left media outlets. That’s because, psychologically, the claim to victimhood can function as a veiled threat. It tricks the listener into entering a world where the speaker is the needy one, fragile, requiring the listener to constantly adjust his behavior to cater to the imperiled person.

== Justifications for repressing us “mud-sill” members of the mob ==

Interesting recent research shed light on both ubiquitous surveillance and some mythologies about basic human behavior, like the “bystander effect,” the notion that neighbors or strangers won’t help, during situations of danger or conflict. A 2019 study in Holland showed that bystanders by and large do step in or engage, in order to resolve problems erupting nearby. at a more heroic level,  Rebecca Solnit, in A Paradise Built in Hell, shows that time and again our fellow citizens show pluck and guts in any crisis, as happened on 9/11, when 80 average folks rose up against hijackers aboard flight UA93. 
I tried to apply this notion of active citizenship in my novel The Postman, a theme that Kevin Costner successfully conveyed in his film adaptation. For all its many faults, Costner’s film kept true to my core message: that civilization’s miracle will never be preserved – or restored after any breakdown – by some lone hero. Its only chance will be a collective and widespread revival of faith in ourselves.

All of this runs counter to the dangerously toxic mythology spread among the dumber members of today’s elite aristocracies, who are encouraged by sycophants to view themselves as inherently superior to the mob of mere citizens out here, a rationalization for cheating power grabs that boringly goes back thousands of years of failed feudalism.

For years, I’ve described how our ‘culture war’ is not about “left-right’ or religion or any other surface issue. Racism is a major part, plus very different attitudes toward symbolism and feudalism. But the real struggle goes back to 1778 and we are in Phase Eight. I’ve also touted novels that starkly depict our current “civil war” going hot. First Sean Smith’s novel, Tears of Abraham and more recently Craig DiLouie’s Our WarSince the latter novel came out, an impeachment inquiry was launched, and right-wing media and militias have labeled it a soft coup by the Deep State, threatening civil war, while even the president himself indirectly threatened he’d refuse to recognize the results if removed from office. This all mirrors the setup of Di Louie’s novel. Beyond that prescience, Our War  portrays a tragic added factor, use by both sides of child soldiers.

And yes, those chapters on Civil War are in POLEMICAL JUDO. Order now.

== And finally ==

As talk spreads of a new American Civil War, you should compare these modern justification to the “mudsill theory” spread by pre-confederate slave holders.  That there must be, and always has been, a lower class for the upper classes to rest upon. 

The term derives from a mudsill, the lowest threshold that supports the foundation for a building. The theory was first used by South Carolina Senator/Governor James Henry Hammond, a wealthy southern plantation owner, in a Senate speech on March 4, 1858, to justify what he saw as the willingness of the lower classes and the duty of non-whites to perform menial work which enabled the higher classes to move civilization forward. "In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. ... It constitutes the very mudsill of society." Efforts to reduce class or racial inequality, under this theory, inevitably run counter to civilization itself. Northern soldiers fighting in the Western Theater of the Civil War turned this derogatory term into one of self pride, as in "Western Mudsill".

Of course very few of the tech billionaires ascribe to this idiocy. As beneficiaries of Enlightenment Civilization, many of them are too busy, working side by side with middle class engineers, to listen to drivel from flatterers. So it's important that we make a distinction between those who got rich helping creators to deliver goods and services and those who are various forms of parasite, from gambling moguls and mafiosi to petro princes and oil-boyars to Wall Street lampreys and inheritance brats and KGB shills. I'll give this to that Steyer guy. An egomaniac? Maybe. But he is fervent on our side.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Space News - is Planet X a black hole? And those Russian rocket explosions... and more...

Planetary Radio gives you an hour-long podcast on solar system news! Especially glimpses of the weird and wonderful projects we’re funding at NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC). Plus a tribute to Alexei Leonov. Matt Kaplan is a terrific and engaging host…. and the projects truly are worth your tax dollars! (Well, most of them ;-)

Separately, at the recent Starship Conference in San Diego, Matt Kaplan, the Voice of the Planetary Society, interviewed me for Planetary Radio.  

Need more Brin-blather about what might be going on out there? Let’s move out from the mere solar system. Should we be revealing ourselves to the cosmos? What if the first aliens to discover us do so thanks to our own transmissions, and, more disturbingly, what if those aliens are less than benevolent?” On StarTalk All-Stars, astrobiologist and host David Grinspoon also tackles METI, or “Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” With co-host Chuck Nice, Dr. FunkySpoon invited David Brin, the Hugo award-winning science fiction author, scientist and NASA consultant who was on the committee that drew up the protocols for what to do if we do make contact with aliens. 

You’ll learn why the “barn door excuse” – that we’ve already sent out radio and television transmissions that may have sealed our fate – is scientifically incorrect, but why new plans to send planetary radar focused beams into space would pump up the volume exponentially. We discuss whether the general public has the right to determine whether we broadcast our presence to the universe, or whether a “scientific elite” gets to decide humanity’s fate. 

One proposed theory explaining the "Fermi Paradox" is that civilizations reach a "competence limit," especially if they do what elites always do in feudal-oligarchic-despotic societies -- crush the corrective light of criticism.  Want a daunting example? Here's an interesting dissection of the kinds of "nuclear rocket that Russians may have been testing in Archangelsk, before that recent, horrific explosion. And yes, such desperation plus incompetence combinations are really scary.

Note also it was one of three disasters just that month! Watch this amazing footage from the munitions dump going off in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. And then ponder how that gangster mafia is on the verge of ruling the world.

== Planet "X"?  Or a hole? ==

A new paper suggests the gravitational pull that we’ve long associated with a missing Planet X could come from a primordial black hole – a type of small singularity that scientists have theorised formed during the Big Bang"We advocate that rather than just looking for it in visible light, maybe look for it in gamma rays. Or cosmic rays."  Or else maybe the distortion of background stars? Or Hawking Radiation? 

On average, the mysterious body is calculated to orbit the Sun 20 times farther than Neptune, every 10,000 to 20,000 years, versus Pluto's 248 years. Far-out!

Another possibility…. A wormhole gateway? For alien lurkers? Or waiting for us, as in the Expanse

More mundane (slightly.) Scientists have discovered what could be the largest neutron star on record.  Starting at  around 1.4 solar masses, more recent measurements have revealed increasingly huge examples.  This one is estimated at 2.14x solar mass and 20 km across. Once a star reaches 2.17 times the mass of the sun, that star is doomed to collapse into a black hole. This suggests that J0740+6620 is "really pushing that" limit, providing an amazing laboratory for gravity radiation and stellar evolution, plus the possibility of something dramatic.
The second verified interstellar visitor object is more active than ‘Oumuamua. It’s cometary activity will be visible for months, allowing analysis of many elemental/chemical traits. Astronomers will attempt to compare C/2019 Q4's shape to the (arguably) cigar-like structure (or even odder) of 'Oumuamua, which looked different from anything we've yet seen in our solar system. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, expected to come online next year, should be able to spot large numbers of interstellar objects as they fly through our solar system.

Another spectacular new ‘eye’ (among many) is , the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) on the Mayall Telescope in Arizona, is a huge leap in our ability to measure galaxy distances – enabling a new era of mapping the structures in the Universe. See the amazing new map of the filamentary nature of our universe.

Dust from a huge asteroid collision out there might have obscured enough sunlight to trigger the Kirschvink or Iceball epochs on Earth, about 466 million years ago.

== A few curiosities ==

The mass of the proposed superheavy gravitino lies in the region of the Planck mass—that is, around a hundred millionth of a kilogram. That’s immense. In comparison, protons and neutrons—the building blocks of the atomic nucleus—are around ten quintillion (ten million trillion) times lighter. Their large mass means that these particles could only occur in very dilute form in the universe – “one actually wouldn't need very many of them to explain the dark matter content in the universe and in our galaxy—one particle per 10,000 cubic kilometres would be sufficient.”  This has another effect. It means these particles needn’t be invisible to EM interactions… they could interact with light and matter relatively normally and still not have been detected till now.

If so, interplanetary space contains them sparsely but everywhere. Might 4.6 billion years of collisions with Earth left ‘tracks’ in old rocks? (Much as my gravity laser beans do, in Earth?) Might these present obstacles to fast ships, and hence help to explain the Fermi Paradox?

And finally... Though almost desperately fluffy, the “In Search of” shows can be amusing and occasionally interesting. Here’s one about aliens where I go along… 

Heh!  NIAC has even funded some Mach Effect studies.  I think just to keep a reputation for openmindedness that keeps the better minds hanging around. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Breaking the "Great Wall of NDAs" and Republican defectors - and more

Below I'll offer on-blog a riff about the "real Kremlin plan" that blew up likes and shares on FB. Plus a suggestion for Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg and other "good billionaires." But first a reminder!

My e-book about our current political/social crises - Polemical Judo -  offers perspectives on our crisis - many that you’ve never seen. Over 100+ tactics to help defend our Great Experiment. Now in both e-book and paperback More ideas, meme-weapons and  perspectives than you could shake a stick at. See the intro and Table of Contents plus Chapters One and Two as well as Chapter 16 posted online.

Verifying what you already know about my ego, I believe we’re more likely to win this fight for the heart, mind and (yes) soul of civilization, moving forward with sapience and sense, if any of the 100+ now-unused tactics in this book get picked up by someone with position and sagacity to wield them well. Tell someone! Thanks and good luck to us all. 

== Electoral Updates ==

“Inventing a right to be a faithless elector invites chaos, elevates formalism over democracy, and shows how indefensible originalism is when applied to evolving norms of democracy.”

Meanwhile voting machines in Texas and Mississippi, where there are no paper audits possible (as in many red states) dry runs for next year's tsunami of cheating are already underway, with machines made by notorious right-and-russia-connected companies blatantly switching votes before the voter's eyes. See videos of it happening - in Missisippi and in Texas! But don't worry. They'll fix the "blatantly" part and hide it from the voter in the booth. Problem solved.  
Spread the word. ONE RICH DUDE could fix this! By offering a $5million whistleblower prize - plus guaranteed protection and hero status - for the employee of any company who brings forth proof of cheating. If proof doesn't appear, you don't pay! (But you'll still instill fear in those bastards.) If you do wind up paying, you become a hero for saving the nation.

See my Henchman posting about how this could work. Or the chapter in Polemical Judo.

== the Bloomberg example ==

If Michael Bloomberg truly wants to fight Trump - and be viewed as a hero, not an egotist - there’s an approach that’s cheaper, more dignified and likely far more effective than running for president. Let him - or any other civilization-loving zillionaire - offer to pay the legal expenses of anyone who’s thinking about breaking a Trump Non Disclosure Agreement. Trump has openly bragged about his Great Wall of NDAs.

Better yet, offer to pay the NDA's disclosure penalty. Yes, many rich dudes have NDAs and might fear the resulting releases aimed at them.  So? Make that a feature, not a bug, by openly embracing transparency and being seen as a hero.

Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal are just the crust we see. Breaking through Trump’s mythology of vengefully-enforced coerced silence just a couple of times might shatter the whole edifice, unleashing a tsunami of revelation.

Or see elsewhere my much broader proposals for subsidies for whistleblowers and or repentant henchmen!

== International tensions ==

Regarding the recent attack on Saudi oil: If this is what some tribesmen can do (possibly with help from Iran and Saudi shiite rebels) can you imagine what will happen when the worldwide oligarchic putsch finally awakens a hundred million "boffins" to the war being waged against them? The one common thread across the Fox-Putin-Trumpist-Saudi right and the Maduro-Kim-Putin left is not racism... it is all out suppression of fact professions, from science, journalism and medicine to the "deep state" civil servants and intel/fbi/military officers, the ones most vested in our Great Enlightenment Experiment.

Yes, those are the ones standing in the way of a return to 10,000 years of inheritance feudalism. But you aristos are doing what your predecessors all did, surrounding yourself with flatterers instead of advisors who can warn you -- that the "boffins" are waking up. And when they do, those who know genetics, electronics, nuclear, bio and cyber won't be limited to tumbrels and guillotines. And they will know where to find those mansion holes in the desert or mountains or under the sea.

The smart rich know better. And if you don't then you should wake up and get better advisors. Here's a hint. If they flatter you, then they are your guides to the guillotine.

== Moscow Mitch “defends minority party rights! ==

Sorry but it just keeps on coming. Now "Moscow Mitch" defends the filibuster... which is great news because it suggests he foresees a collapse in GOP Senate ownership coming! While his op-ed overflows with lies and hypocrisy, I have a special take on one aspect, one of 100+ "agile moves" you'll find in Polemical Judo.

Simple: grant every *individual* member of Congress one compulsory subpoena per term -- the ability to summon testimony from any person before one of the member's sub-committees, for three hours. Think about it. Pelosi and Schumer can afford that. It would not block legislation. Some mad-rightists would use it to annoy. BFD. Most Republicans would hoard theirs for use in some way that impresses the home district.

Above all, if gopper reps used theirs, it could establish a firm precedent for when -- not if -- dems are back in the minority! Think how valuable that would have been, during the 24 out of 26 years the GOP owned Congress. Especially 2017-2019, when that rule would have peeled away Trumpian travesties.

Pelosi could do that now! and demolish forever any accusations that "Democrats run roughshod over minority party rights." (Indeed, has she read my blogs? Because the new impeachment hearings have been generous with minority subpoenas.)

== Where are the GOP defectors? ==

I've been (as you know) tracking signs of an underground movement by retired or retiring GOP figures, simmering and trying to scheme for the "salvation of US conservatism." I doubt Gov. Weld (the only one with guts to step up, so far) is part of it. Nor would be the stand-up Schindler-figure, Justin Amash (resembling Oskar Schindler, a creep who refuses to sink alongside his comrades into outright evil.) Certainly Romney is scheming - that's a given, no matter what else! But the flood of recent Texas retirees? Who knows?

The figure we aren't seeing, who is doubtless talking to desperate zillionaires is - of course - Paul Ryan. (Remember him? You will, soon.)

Deterring all of this, of course, is the 88% approval rating of Trump among Republican voters. Left out of those polls? The plummet in self-identified Republicans, nationwide, threatening the zombie implement that has served Murdoch and Putin so well. (And yes, I deeply worry what will happen when Two Scoops is seen by them as more a liability than asset: Don't eat anything fed to you by your commie pals, Don, lest you be more valuable to them as a martyr.) (God bless the U.S. Secret Service!)

Also, just how *brittle* is that 88% gopper support? I recall Watergate, when Nixon's devoted backing collapsed, like sediment raining from a supersaturated solution, or like sentiment draining from tens of millions of Republican women.

Final thought: the GOP masters should ponder deeply the fate of the Junkers-caste 1930s Prussian oligarchs, who thought they could control a populist beast they helped stir into hydrophobic frenzy. Surprise, surprise! In its froth, the beast threw its riders and a gifted svengali leaped aboard, grabbing the reins. (Remember the line from Cabaret: "Do you still think you can control them?")

The beast is not to be blamed as much as the beastmasters who crafted this outbreak. You who thought you could control this weren't as smart as you thought you were. And the smartaleck "fact-people" you've waged war against are not as stupid as you envisioned.

History would have predicted this. If you bothered to learn any.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Science progress and updates

It's science Wednesday! A report offering proof that we remain a vigorous, exploratory, vividly smart and fact-oriented civilization, despite efforts to crush all of that.

All right, you knew this was coming… if you subscribed to my Psi channel. Scientists Demonstrate Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans, through non-invasive sensors.

News showing all is not hopeless, if we invest (as historian Toynbee demanded) in our “creative castes” –

Better access to hydrogen? Pulsing electric current through a layered molybedenum telluride catalyst has allowed researchers to almost double the amount of hydrogen produced per millivolt of electricity used , helping make clean hydrogen a potentially valid fuel, especially if this can be combined with super-proliferation of things like Elon’s solar roof.

Separately! Another potential game changer – announced last March: solar cells that produce hydrogen as well as electricity.

== What we eat ==

Bear with me – this is all related: Universities starting to ban beef from their campus menus. This is something I’ve long spoken about and portrayed in Earth (1989) And yet, I am actually surprised how quickly the meme is taking hold, this very year. If all of this had come just two years earlier, it might have helped prevent the deliberate fires in the Amazon, this year. 

The campaign will gain steam, faster than any of us expected. Here’s a video denouncing factory farming. And yes, of course I expect to be a convert. Oh, but is a ‘healthy’ diet also better for the planet? It appears so. 

A new algae-based Eos Bioreactor is capable of sucking in as much carbon dioxide as 400 trees. But rather than consuming an acre of forest land, it measures just 63 cubic feet—smaller than a traditional telephone booth. Hypergiant plans to make its design open source, allowing businesses and individuals to build variants for easy integration in homes and offices spaces. The growing algae can be harvested and used as a high-protein food source, biofuel, or textile. Now if this can scale up to use sunlight falling on the south sides of urban buildings, we could see a major game changer!

What could combine all of this? Cities where tall buildings use the sunlight falling upon their entire sunward-facing sides, feeding in CO2 plus agricultural or sanitation effluent, getting hydrogen, algae and clean water. Exactly the technologies we’ll also need in space. If your corporation is planning to build a big edifice soon, consider talking folks into incorporating bio-reactive or urban-farming components along that sunward side.

And meanwhile, despite frenetic assistance from Republicans, the obsolete and poisonous coal industry keeps plummeting as states and power companies find cheaper, cleaner sources. Will Trump’s failure to deliver on this promise hurt him in Appalachia? Not likely. His voters care only about symbolism.

Oh, you cynics who wallow is gloom, will you admit that your snarls are based simply on laziness? How much simpler if there weren’t just tons of good news. Sorry, but there’s kilotons. And if you can’t participate alongside the innovators, at least you can get active politically, and help block the monsters who thwart science at every turn.

Another prediction happening: in Earth (1989), I portrayed Sea State using power-generating kites. Now Google’s “X” team at Makani has moved closer the day when a kite massing far, far less might generate as much power as a massive windmill tower.   One use here is offshore platforms, potentially floating ones, or getting small island nations off diesel generators.  Later, much more.

== Yipe! ==

Remember that nasty nuclear accident in northern Russia, a couple of months back? Here’s an interesting dissection of the kinds of "nuclear rocket” that Russians may have been testing in Archangelsk, before the explosion. And yes, such desperation plus incompetence combinations are really scary.

Note also it was one of three disasters just that month. Watch this amazing footage from the munitions dump going off in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. Mythbusters eat your hearts out. Are we witnessing signs of a “cool war”?  Read the Frederik Pohl novel by that name. Seriously. 

The alternative is that the plague of utter incompetence that brought down the USSR hasn't changed much. Except competence at messing with others... as they are messing with us.

And just as dangerous. More powerful a greenhouse gas than methane, just one kilogram of Sulfur Hexa Flouride SF6 leaking from the electricity industry warms the Earth to the same extent as 24 people flying London to New York return.

== Biology Time! ==

Forget Spider-Man! I want to see Naked-Mole-Rat Queen! These guys (mostly gals)  are… amazing. And what a super-hero title. Say it a few times.

Aaaaand… Scientists in Japan have reported a new method which allows them to separate mouse sperm carrying an X chromosome from those carrying a Y chromosome, meaning that sperm can be selected based on whether they will result in female (XX) or male (XY) offspring when used to fertilize an egg. This is very mixed news. Yes, in culturally macho countries this will exacerbate the male-excess already caused by selective abortion and will be much harder to stop.  The result 20 years later could be a major fertility decline, helping save the planet(?) but also creating a huge pool of frustrated, mateless males. Dangerous… unless technology comes to the rescue. You know what technology I mean.

Bizarrely consistent with the old notion of "recapitulation," anatomists have found one of the oldest, albeit fleeting, remnants of evolution seen in humans -- muscle attachments seen in very early fetuses that we last roughly 250 million years old - a relic from when reptiles transitioned to mammals. Fascinating. And consistent with something else that I theorize may have happened at that same time... speculated in my story "Chrysalis," available in Insistence of Vision.

Why creative experts may be better at imagining the future: Dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC): Involved in social directed thought such as determining or inferring the purpose of others' actions. As part of the default mode network it is primal for “distal” or distant thinking about the future as well as empathy. The medial prefrontal cortex was activated when visualizing proximal  near term events. 

Platinum grains and such support the notion that there was an extraterrestrial impact or comet air burst that caused the Younger Dryas climate event, 12,800 years ago, leading to a mini ice age about the time that giant animals such as mastodons, mammoths, saber-toothed cats and ground sloths disappeared from the Earth. Well, contributed, maybe. But not too long before there had been real ice ages. The suddenness might have amplified the effects. But I still put money on a different kind of stony impacts. Spear-points. 

== Miscellany! ==

From the brilliant Stephen (“Mathematica”) Wolfram -- just published: Adventures of a Computational Explorer (assisted by a blurb from yours truly ;-) “Most of the pieces I wrote in response to some particular situation or event. Their topics are diverse. But it’s remarkable how connected they end up being. And at some level all of them reflect the paradigm for thinking that has defined much of my life.
It all centers around the idea of computation, and the generality of abstraction to which it leads.

One more for the prediction registry? It Slices, It Dices, It Binds, And Stops Bugs: Dental Floss Is Your Secret Multitool.” Yeah. In The Practice Effect, my hero uses dental floss to tear down a wall and escape from prison.