January 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


What's the Cure for Ailing Nations? More Kings and Queens, Monarchists Say (LESLIE WAYNE, JAN. 6, 2018, NY Times)

From the comfort of his country estate in Oxford, a distant relative of the Russian literary giant Tolstoy says he has the perfect solution for what ails the United States.

America, he declares, needs a monarchy.

In fact, Count Nikolai Tolstoy says, more kings, queens and all the frippery that royalty brings would be not just a salve for a superpower in political turmoil, but also a stabilizing force for the world at large.

"I love the monarchy," Count Tolstoy, 82, said as he sat in his lush garden behind an expansive stone house. "Most people think the monarchy is just decorative and filled with splendor and personalities. They do not appreciate the important ideological reasons for a monarchy." [...]

A recent study that examined the economic performance of monarchies versus republics bolsters their views. Led by Mauro F. Guillén, a management professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the study found "robust and quantitatively meaningful evidence" that monarchies outperform other forms of government.

Far from being a dying system, the study said, "monarchies are surprisingly prevalent around the world." They provide a "stability that often translates into economic gains"; they are better at protecting property rights and checking abuses of power by elected officials; and they have higher per-capita national incomes, the study said.

Mr. Guillén says he was "shocked" by the results, which have not yet been published. "Most people think monarchies are something anachronistic," he said. "They think that modern forms of government are superior and have trouble accepting that monarchies have advantages."

When he presents his findings, "there is more skepticism in the room than with the average paper," said Mr. Guillén, who is not a monarchist. "It's been an uphill battle."

His findings come as no surprise, however, to monarchists, who aim to preserve existing monarchies and to support royals who live in exile. They believe that countries with exiled royals should return them to the throne, and that nations without monarchies should consider a switch.

"We support the retention and restoration of monarchies anywhere in the world," Count Tolstoy said. "Our goal is to persuade people."

History books, of course, are replete with examples of monarchies that became symbols of repression and rapacious, cloistered wealth. Some were ousted by bloody rebellions (the American and French Revolutions) or collapsed in ruins (the Hapsburg Empire), and many have ruthlessly marginalized whole classes of people.

But Count Tolstoy insists that monarchists are not pining for the days of absolute rulers and the divine right of kings, when Henry VIII of England could order up the execution of unwanted wives and political foes.

Instead, his group advocates constitutional monarchies, in which a king or queen is head of state and the real power rests with an elected Parliament -- much like those in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain (although demonstrators in 2014 demanded a referendum on the Spanish royal family after King Juan Carlos abdicated).

All of those countries, the monarchists note, have relatively strong economies.

The usefulness of a monarchic republic is obvious in a situation like ours, where the king could dismiss Donald and order a new presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation (Charles C. Mann, January 2018, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

Ehrlich, now 85, told me recently that the book's main contribution was to make population control "acceptable" as "a topic to debate." But the book did far more than that. It gave a huge jolt to the nascent environmental movement and fueled an anti-population-growth crusade that led to human rights abuses around the world. [...]

Consider the opening scene of The Population Bomb. It describes a cab ride that Ehrlich and his family experienced in Delhi. In the "ancient taxi," its seats "hopping with fleas," the Ehr­lichs entered "a crowded slum area."

The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrust their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people. . . . [S]ince that night, I've known the feel of overpopulation.

The Ehrlichs took the cab ride in 1966. How many people lived in Delhi then? A bit more than 2.8 million, according to the United Nations. By comparison, the 1966 population of Paris was about 8 million. No matter how carefully one searches through archives, it is not easy to find expressions of alarm about how the Champs-Élysées was "alive with people." Instead, Paris in 1966 was an emblem of elegance and sophistication.

Parisians were white.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Nikki Haley downplays Trump's suggestion of negotiations with Kim Jong Un (Bonnie Kristian, 1/07/18, The Week)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Sunday downplayed the import of President Trump's Saturday indication he is willing to directly negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if certain prerequisites are met.

"There is no turnaround" in Washington's position on North Korea, Haley said in an interview on ABC's This Week.

Refusing to even acknowledge Donald's existence and staying away from Washington is keeping her the only one untainted by the moral cesspit. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


Negativity is Natural but Life is Amazing : As a species, we are willing to believe in doomsday scenarios that virtually never materialize. (Marian L. Tupy, 1/07/18, FEE)

The Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker has noted that the nature of cognition and nature of news interact in ways that make us think that the world is worse than it really is. News, after all, is about things that happen. Things that did not happen go unreported. As Pinker points out, we "never see a reporter saying to the camera, 'Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out.'" Newspapers and other media, in other words, tend to focus on the negative. As the old journalistic adage goes, "If it bleeds, it leads."

To make matters worse, the arrival of social media makes bad news immediate and more intimate. Until relatively recently, most people knew very little about the countless wars, plagues, famines and natural catastrophes happening in distant parts of the world. Contrast that with the 2011 Japanese tsunami disaster, which people throughout the world watched unfold in real time on their smartphones.

The human brain also tends to overestimate danger due to what psychologists call "the availability heuristic" or a process of estimating the probability of an event based on the ease with which relevant instances come to mind. Unfortunately, human memory recalls events for reasons other than their rate of recurrence. When an event turns up because it is traumatic, the human brain will overestimate how likely it is to reoccur.

Consider our fear of terror. According to John Mueller, a political scientist from the Ohio State University, "In the years since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have managed to kill about seven people a year within the United States. All those deaths are tragic of course, but some comparisons are warranted: lightning kills about 46 people a year, accident-causing deer another 150, and drownings in bathtubs around 300." Yet, Americans continue to fear terror much more than drowning in a bathtub.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


When it comes to walking in a park or down a city street, a study finds not all exercise is created equal (Stephen Schmidt, January 07, 2018, PRI)

New research, though, that was published earlier this month in The Lancelet suggests that, in fact, not all walks may produce the same benefits when factoring where the walk is taking place and the state of health of the participant before he or she went for the walk.

For the study, a team of researchers -- mostly based out of England -- monitored 135 volunteers, all of whom were over the age of 60, between October 2012 and June 2014. Out of those people, 40 were categorized as being healthy, 40 had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 39 had ischaemic heart disease (in which a blockage in the coronary arteries reduces blood supply to the heart muscle).

The participants were then randomly assigned to walk for two hours either in London's highly trafficked Oxford Street or the city's Hyde Park, which would be an equivalent to New York City's Central Park.

By looking at a wide spectrum of physiologic factors -- vascular function, in particular -- the researchers found that those participants who walked in the park all showed increased beneficial effects regarding the function of their arteries from walking. Those who strolled down the busy street, though, had weakened effects. In some cases, the benefits were even reversed.

Posted by orrinj at 11:41 AM


Is everything you think you know about depression wrong? : In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach (Johann Hari, Sun 7 Jan '18, The Guardian)

We all know that when you take selfies, you take 30 pictures, throw away the 29 where you look bleary-eyed or double-chinned, and pick out the best one to be your Tinder profile picture. It turned out that the drug companies - who fund almost all the research into these drugs - were taking this approach to studying chemical antidepressants. They would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success. To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for. Suddenly, Professor Kirsch realised that the 70% figure couldn't be right.

It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year. I had thought that I was freakish for remaining depressed while on these drugs. In fact, Kirsch explained to me in Massachusetts, I was totally typical. These drugs are having a positive effect for some people - but they clearly can't be the main solution for the majority of us, because we're still depressed even when we take them. At the moment, we offer depressed people a menu with only one option on it. I certainly don't want to take anything off the menu - but I realised, as I spent time with him, that we would have to expand the menu.

This led Professor Kirsch to ask a more basic question, one he was surprised to be asking. How do we know depression is even caused by low serotonin at all? When he began to dig, it turned out that the evidence was strikingly shaky. Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is "deeply misleading and unscientific". Dr David Healy told me: "There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy."

I didn't want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldn't ignore it.

So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world - from São Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London - I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we're good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isn't meeting those psychological needs for many - perhaps most - people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Let's look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful - that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. It's a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing - our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are "engaged" in their work - they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are "not engaged", which is defined as "sleepwalking through their workday". And 24% are "actively disengaged": they hate it.

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who don't like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed he'd found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: who's more likely to have a stress-related heart attack - the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: you're wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because he's got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And that's when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed - and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. 

Labor was a punishment from God, and that was productive labor.  Your make-work job in the modern economy is the last place you should look for meaning.

Posted by orrinj at 11:09 AM


Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History (Nicholas Kristof, JAN. 6, 2018, NY Times)

A smaller share of the world's people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell. [...]

Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to calculations by Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water.

Readers often assume that because I cover war, poverty and human rights abuses, I must be gloomy, an Eeyore with a pen. But I'm actually upbeat, because I've witnessed transformational change.

As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone. After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch.

Just since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps.

Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychology professor, explores the gains in a terrific book due out next month, "Enlightenment Now," in which he recounts the progress across a broad array of metrics, from health to wars, the environment to happiness, equal rights to quality of life. "Intellectuals hate progress," he writes, referring to the reluctance to acknowledge gains, and I know it feels uncomfortable to highlight progress at a time of global threats. But this pessimism is counterproductive and simply empowers the forces of backwardness.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


Palestinians in Kufr Aqab: 'We live here just to wait' (Jaclynn Ashly , 1/07/18, Al Jazeera)

Piles of rubbish cover roadsides in Kufr Aqab and overflow from dumpsters, growing larger each day as residents wait for the municipality's infrequent rubbish collection services.

Munir Zaghayer, who heads Kufr Aqab's neighbourhood committee, remembers when Kufr Aqab was a scenic and upscale Jerusalem neighborhood. "We used to have a beautiful life here," he said.

Zaghayer moved to Kufr Aqab from Jerusalem's Old City in 1962. Before the wall was built, the population in Kufr Aqab did not exceed 12,000, he said.

However, when Israel constructed the separation wall, the neighbourhood started transforming. Israel had implemented policies more than a half-century ago that would determine Kufr Aqab's fate.

In 1967, when Israel occupied and subsequently annexed East Jerusalem, Palestinians in East Jerusalem were not granted Israeli citizenship, but were instead issued Jerusalem residency status.

Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs must consistently prove to Israel that Jerusalem is the centre of their life, or else face the revocation of their residency. Almost 15,000 Palestinians have had their Jerusalem IDs revoked since 1967, according to Human Rights Watch.

Following its takeover of East Jerusalem, Israel reduced the land zoned for Palestinian construction to some 13 percent, most of which was already built up. A housing crisis in Palestinian neighbourhoods ensued, followed by routine Israeli demolition campaigns carried out on Palestinian homes and structures, as residents were forced to build without permits.

But in Kufr Aqab, Israel ceased enforcing its municipal regulations once the wall was built, making home demolitions extremely rare. Coupled with the cheaper cost of living, this prompted tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalem residents to flock to the neighbourhood. Since Kufr Aqab is still within Jerusalem's municipal borders, Palestinians moving there can maintain their Jerusalem residency.

Yet the municipality fails to provide basic services to the neighbourhoods beyond the wall, including education, waste removal and road maintenance. The residents receive just two days of running water a week, despite paying municipal and other taxes.

Odeh says Israel's neglect has reached a "discriminatory" level, noting that as of 2015, the entire budget for improving infrastructure in Jerusalem was 880 million shekels ($256m) - but Kufr Aqab and Shuafat refugee camp were allocated just 800,000 shekels ($233,000) between them.

Posted by orrinj at 11:00 AM


Chiefs, somehow, found a new way to break your heart: 'This one's for real' (SAM MELLINGER, JANUARY 06, 2018, Kansas City Star)

Chiefs fans don't deserve this, and that's not really a compliment to Chiefs fans, either. Nobody deserves this. Not the guy who cut you off in traffic, not the lady who wouldn't hold the elevator door for you, not even the punk kid who won't stop kicking your seat on the plane.

Sports are supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be a reason to get together with your family, or call a friend you haven't talked to in a while, or just forget about your bills and your problems and that weird noise your car is making.

They're not supposed to kick you in the teeth. They're not supposed to make you hurt, and make you wonder why the hell you put up with it. They're not supposed to mock you for caring, for investing in a team that's done nothing but let you down for 48 -- wait, nope, make that 49 -- years.

The Chiefs are an original franchise, their founder an irreplaceable part of NFL history, and the one thing they've done better than anyone is find new ways to stomp the joy from your heart.

You have to give them credit, though. Even for the Chiefs, this 22-21 blown ball of shame loss to the mediocre Titans in a wild-card playoff game on Saturday was expert-level teeth kicking.

You never know exactly how the Chiefs will let you down. You just know they will, and it will hurt.

Posted by orrinj at 10:47 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


Taiwan isn't China, and Taiwanese aren't Chinese (Jeff Jacoby, 1/07/18, The Boston Globe)

On the rare occasions when Taiwan attracts media attention in the United States -- for example, when then-president-elect Donald Trump made a point of taking a congratulatory phone call from Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's president -- there is always much talk of the "One-China" policy, the old dogma that Taiwan and the mainland are inextricable elements of a single country.

The Communist regime in Beijing clings fiercely to that claim, in effect maintaining that Taiwan is a renegade Chinese province and not a unique country. During the decades when Taiwan was an authoritarian state under Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Party, Taipei's government echoed the "One-China" fiction, claiming that it was the sole rightful ruler of all China.

Taiwan abandoned that delusion when it became a democracy in the 1980s. But relations with China still cast a giant shadow over Taiwanese politics and society. Beijing goes to great lengths to blackball Taiwan in international forums, reacting menacingly to any suggestion that Taiwan be treated as sovereign. At times China has resorted to naked intimidation: In 1995 and 1996, as Taiwan prepared to hold its first freely contested presidential election, China launched missiles at Taiwan's shores -- a warning to voters not to support the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

At the same time, China and Taiwan are economically intertwined. China is Taiwan's biggest trade partner, absorbing 40 percent of the island's exports. Some 2 million Taiwanese live and work in China, and Taiwan's foreign direct investment in China has surpassed $10 billion a year. Moreover, millions of tourists from the mainland visit Taiwan each year.

But neither China's military threats nor its economic pull -- nor the fact that 95 percent of Taiwan's population is ethnically Han Chinese -- induces my dinner companions to describe themselves as anything but Taiwanese. None feels any emotional affinity for China. None wishes to see China and Taiwan reunited. All three reject the "One China" posture.

There's no such thing as race.

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


50 Reasons We're Living Through the Greatest Period in World History  : Everyone should be thankful for how far we've come. (Morgan Housel,  Jan 29, 2014, Motley Fool)

39. The average American car got 13 miles per gallon in 1975, and more than 26 miles per gallon in 2013, according to the Energy Protection Agency. This has an effect identical to cutting the cost of gasoline in half.

40. Annual inflation in the United States hasn't been above 10% since 1981 and has been below 5% in 77% of years over the past seven decades. When you consider all the hatred directed toward the Federal Reserve, this is astounding.

41. The percentage of Americans age 65 and older who live in poverty has dropped from nearly 30% in 1966 to less than 10% by 2010. For the elderly, the war on poverty has pretty much been won.

42. Adjusted for inflation, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees has increased from $378 in 1940 to $1,277 by 2010. What used to be a safety net is now a proper pension.

43. If you think Americans aren't prepared for retirement today, you should have seen what it was like a century ago. In 1900, 65% of men over age 65 were still in the labor force. By 2010, that figure was down to 22%. The entire concept of retirement is unique to the past few decades. Half a century ago, most Americans worked until they died.

44. From 1920 to 1980, an average of 395 people per 100,000 died from famine worldwide each decade. During the 2000s, that fell to three per 100,000, according to The Economist.

45. The cost of solar panels has declined by 75% since 2008, according to the Department of Energy. Last I checked, the sun is offering its services for free. 

46. As recently as 1950, nearly 40% of American homes didn't have a telephone. Today, there are 500 million Internet-connected devices in America, or enough for 5.7 per household.

47. According to AT&T archives and the Dallas Fed, a three-minute phone call from New York to San Francisco cost $341 in 1915, and $12.66 in 1960, adjusted for inflation. Today, Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $5 a month.

48. In 1990, the American auto industry produced 7.15 vehicles per auto employee. In 2010 it produced 11.2 vehicles per employee. Manufacturing efficiency has improved dramatically.

49. You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic's 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it's $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America's poorest are some of the world's richest. 

50. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you're one of them. We've got it made. Be thankful. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Canada's Unemployment Rate Lowest in 4 Years (Theophilos Argitis, 1/06/18, Bloomberg News)

Canada's unemployment rate plunged to the lowest in more than 40 years, suddenly raising the odds of a Bank of Canada rate hike this month.

The jobless rate fell to 5.7 percent in December, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa, the lowest in the current data series that begins in 1976. The number of jobs rose by 78,600, beating expectations and bringing the full-year employment gain to 422,500. That's the best annual increase since 2002.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


In Winter, More Raccoons Fall Through Ceilings (Karin Brulliard, 1/06/18, The Washington Post)

Nov. 23 was not a typical workday at one Toronto-area office building. When employees showed up, there was a gaping hole in the ceiling above one desk. Underneath the desk, near the legs of a red chair, sat a masked intruder looking remarkably relaxed.

It was a raccoon, and it had crashed through the ceiling.

For Brad Gates and his team, the event was a typical workday. The wildlife control company he's run for three decades fields such a call -- about a raccoon plummeting through a ceiling, stunning the people below -- about every month, making this little fellow a usual suspect, if a bit heftier at 40 pounds. Also, Gates recalled, because it was morning, the nocturnal animal was "fast asleep under the desk."

Such incidents occur year-round. But wildlife professionals say they are a bit more common in the cold of winter, when raccoons, which are adept at locating and squeezing through even small crevices in buildings and houses, cozy down in nooks of human shelters for longer stretches of time. Squirrels love attics, too, but when testing the load-bearing limits of ceilings, raccoons have a weight disadvantage. That is particularly true in commercial buildings, which often feature dropped ceilings meant to hide infrastructure, not serve as raccoon terrain.

"They may have been living in the building for a long period of time and may have found the one tile that wasn't set in as it should be," Gates said. "And everything just comes tumbling down under the raccoon."

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Trump Campaign Digital Director Throws Jared Kushner, Eric Trump Under The Bus (Caroline Orr, January 7, 2018, Shareblue.com

Brad Parscale, digital director for the Trump campaign, took to Twitter Friday to hit back at claims made by author Michael Wolff in the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," an explosive new tell-all about the Trump administration. But while Parscale was trying to defend Donald Trump, he ended up throwing two members of Trump's own family under the bus instead.

"Jared Kushner and Eric Trump were joint deputy campaign managers" whose approval was needed before any decisions were made about the campaign's operations, Parscale said in a tweet.

"Nobody else. Not one person made a decision without their approval," he wrote.

These cats are using this bus at this point:

Image result for mad max bus

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Spinning the hits: quantum radio comes one step closer : How do you communicate in environments that radio waves can't penetrate? By harnessing the power of magnetism. (Andrew P Street , 1/07/18, Cosmos)

We take easy communication for granted in our globally-connected world, but there are plenty of places where the environment hinders the straightforward use of radio signals: under water, for example, or underground, or in areas of high electromagnetic interference. This also poses challenges for mapping the oceans or inside mines, where GPS cannot penetrate.

The issue is that the higher the radio frequency, the less good the signal is at penetrating matter. This is why your phone cuts out while you're driving in tunnels, while the lower frequency FM radio reception gets patchy but the even lower frequency AM radio continues to be reasonably audible.

A solution, however, may be at hand. Researchers at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado, US, have managed a proof-of-concept for "quantum radio", manipulating the magnetic field of rubidium atoms to send digital signals. The work is described in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Suspected alien probe turns out to be lump of rock : An unusual asteroid thought by many to be evidence of ET has been identified as natural in origin. (Andrew Masterson, 1/07/18, Cosmos)

Nup, still not an alien craft. That's the central finding of a review of a near-Earth asteroid first sighted in 1991 and which has been sparking stories of extraterrestrial fly-bys ever since.

The 20 metre-diameter object, dubbed 1991 VG, was first spotted by US astronomer James Scotti in November of that year. It immediately attracted a lot of attention for two reasons. First, it was awfully close to Earth - astronomers calculated that within a few weeks of discovery it would pass just 450,000 kilometres from the planet.

Second, it exhibited a heliocentric orbit very similar to that of Earth, which was unusual, not to say unprecedented. 

At the time, these observations led to a flurry of theories attempting to explain its appearance and behaviour. Some astronomers considered that 1991 VG was simply a newly discovered type of small asteroid, but others weren't convinced.

Scotti himself suggested that based on its orbital pattern it might be a spacecraft returning to Earth. Other researchers looked at its light curve - the way light reflected off it in multiple images - and concluded that it may well possess reflective side panels. It was possibly a tumbling satellite, they suggested.

From there, it was only a short narrative distance from the possibility of a human-made satellite to an alien-made one, and theories that 1991 VG was an extraterrestrial probe emerged. They have proven remarkably resilient.

The object disappeared from earth orbit in 1992. Based on its trajectory, however, astronomers were confident it would return at some point in 2017. When news of its expected arrival surfaced in 2015, all the old alien theories were dusted off and received a surprising amount of coverage in rather a lot of publications, some wackier than others.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM



THE NAVIER-STOKES EQUATIONS capture in a few succinct terms one of the most ubiquitous features of the physical world: the flow of fluids. The equations, which date to the 1820s, are today used to model everything from ocean currents to turbulence in the wake of an airplane to the flow of blood in the heart.

While physicists consider the equations to be as reliable as a hammer, mathematicians eye them warily. To a mathematician, it means little that the equations appear to work. They want proof that the equations are unfailing: that no matter the fluid, and no matter how far into the future you forecast its flow, the mathematics of the equations will still hold.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


The Russia Investigations: Sessions On Edge, Bannon Exiled And Internecine Combat (PHILIP EWING, 1/06/18, NPR)

An explosive New York Times scoop revealed that Sessions tried to smear then-FBI Director James Comey before he was fired. The report, by Michael Schmidt, also said President Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to lean on Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe, and when Sessions did recuse, the president fustigated him. Sessions offered to quit but Trump said no.

So not only is Sessions persona non grata with the president -- that's been the case for months. Now the public and people inside the Justice Department know Sessions was actively trying to undermine his own FBI director, as part of a pattern of conduct directed by Trump -- who himself had asked Comey to lay off then-national security adviser Mike Flynn, then fired Comey, etc.

All this could make life very uncomfortable for Sessions inside DOJ and with the FBI. A small but vocal coterie of House Republicans has already been calling for Sessions' head. (They have no vote but they do keep the anti-Sessions drumbeat going inside the conservative sphere.)

Plus Trump did not invite Sessions to a retreat he's holding over the weekend at Camp David. Plus EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt felt comfortable enough with this state of play to wink and nod to Politico about how he'd be interested in becoming attorney general ... if the job were open.