May 4, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Some scientists speak of a "crisis in cosmology." They have a good reason (Adam Frank, 5/04/23, Big Think)

Welcome to another installment of our series exploring emerging and potentially serious challenges to the standard model of cosmology -- humanity's best and most expansive scientific understanding of the Universe. In a recent paper, astrophysicist Fulvio Melia articulated a list of problems that, for him, indicate something fundamental is wrong with the standard model. Melia is not alone in wondering whether the standard model's time might be up. The phrase "crisis in cosmology" is finding its way into a growing number of blogs and podcasts. But what is behind this crisis, and how seriously should we take it? 

Today we will take a look at another entry on Melia's list, one that has grabbed a good share of headlines: the problem of galaxies and what is called the age-redshift relation.

The story of cosmology given to us by the standard model says that about 400,000 years after the Big Bang, electrons and protons found each other to create the first hydrogen atoms. Before this, they had been running free along with the photons that would soon become the cosmic microwave background radiation. Once this recombination into hydrogen occurs, the Universe is largely composed of a fairly smooth gas of these atoms -- with some helium around, too -- and the left-over background radiation. 

Now gravity can get to work within perturbations -- small regions of overdensity in the hydrogen gas -- and slowly collapse them to form the first stars. It is inside these first stars, which are formed only of hydrogen and helium, that nuclear fusion begins to forge all the heavy elements we know today. Elements like carbon and nitrogen play an important role in the story of galaxy formation. That is because these are the elements that can absorb heat from surrounding gas and emit photons that cool that gas. This cooling process will be critical in helping gas coalesce into galaxies. 

Eventually these first-generation stars explode, and the resulting supernovae seed the gas that surrounds them with heavy elements. Each supernova, along with black holes which are also forming, pumps ultraviolet radiation into the Universe. This strips electrons from hydrogen atoms, making the Universe more and more transparent to UV radiation. After the Universe has run through a few generations of stars, there are enough heavy elements and UV radiation around to feed the formation of galaxies. Stars and vast quantities of gas collapse into gravitationally bound entities to pull these first galaxies together.

This is a good story, and observations confirm key parts of it. The problem comes when it is placed within the cosmological context of the expanding Universe. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Donald Trump's Rape Trial Goes From One Disaster to Another (Mitchell Epner, May. 04, 2023, Daily Beast)

Carroll's attorneys presented compelling testimony from an expert psychologist, who testified to the mental toll that Carroll has suffered as a result of the alleged rape.

Carroll's attorneys also presented testimony from Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter for People, who testified that Trump sexually assaulted her at Mar-a-Lago. As part of that testimony, attorneys presented the infamous Access Hollywood tape, where Trump bragged that he could "grab [women] by the pussy" without consent because he was "a star." The day ended with Carroll's attorneys playing the worst parts of Trump's deposition, which included numerous obvious lies.

To make matters worse, Trump's attorneys announced to the Court that their lone remaining proposed witness would not testify at trial. This leaves Trump with no witnesses and no evidence that he is offering at the trial. Rather, Trump is relying upon cross-examination of Carroll's witnesses - which (once again) went badly on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


New York Judge Sets Trump Criminal Trial For February Or March (AFP, 5/04/23) 

The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump's criminal case asked the prosecution and defense Thursday to agree a specific trial date for February or March next year.

The instruction means the historic trial over hush-money paid to a porn star will occur in the thick of the Republican primaries for the 2024 presidential race in which Trump is seeking to regain office.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Judge Tosses Trump's Lawsuit Against NY Times, Orders Him to Pay All Legal Fees (Lachlan Cartwright, May. 03, 2023, Daily Beast)

A New York judge has tossed out Donald Trump's lawsuit against The New York Times, and ordered the former president to pay all attorneys fees, legal expenses, and associated costs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Biden's plan to win back Latino voters is built off his 2020 mistakes: After years of Democratic missteps with Latino voters, Biden's 2024 campaign has a plan -- and no excuses left. (Christian Paz, May 4, 2023, Vox)

That voter breakdown depends on what states you examine, but the challenge Biden will face this time remains the same: start your outreach early, fine tune an economic message, and remind voters of your accomplishments.

His campaign struggled with these tasks in 2020. During the 2020 primary, for example, Biden's Latino outreach operation was overshadowed by Bernie Sanders's in states like California, Nevada, and Texas, largely due to scarcity of staffing and funding during that ultra-competitive contest. Meanwhile in the general election, staffing struggles, the coronavirus pandemic, and leadership changes meant the campaign couldn't get out in front of voters themselves until later in the race, contributing to losses in Florida and Texas (which, at the time, were considered to be in play).

"The lessons have been out there for way longer than the last two cycles -- candidates matter, positions matter, and critical outreach is essential," Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at the civil rights group Unidos US, told me. "Generally speaking, we continue to see low and late outreach to Hispanic voters, when and if it happens."

Biden and Democrats faced tremendous criticism throughout the 2020 Democratic primary and into the general election for the state of their Latino voter outreach operations. Martinez de Castro was one of those voices, calling it "political malpractice" for candidates to wait until the last minute to engage them during the primary season. She, like other experts I spoke with, told me that politicians of both parties have no excuses now after the 2020 and 2022 wake-up calls to get serious about persuading these new swing voters.

Martinez de Castro said that Democrats had fallen particularly short in messaging to Latinos about kitchen-table issues. "[Democrats] need to actually reach out to and win over these voters and engage more on economic issues, which continue to be the top of mind issues for the Latino community as they have been for at least a couple of decades," she said.

The predominance of economic concerns in the minds of Latino voters isn't new -- inflation and the state of the economy were frequently the top issues for Latinos in polling throughout the 2020 and 2022 elections. But in both cycles, Democrats had fallback issues that gave them an edge over Republicans: the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the future of abortion rights. On both issues, Latino voters preferred Democrats by about 11 points on abortion and 10 points on the pandemic, according to exit polls. But with inflation still high, rising interest rates, and the looming specter of a recession, it's clear that Biden will have to talk about the economy in a more nuanced way, Latino strategists told me.

That nuance means Democrats need to remind Latinos just how bad the situation Biden inherited was, address fears of inflation and a recession directly, and cast Latino voters as "protagonists" who Biden helped, Kristian Ramos, a Latino political consultant for various Democratic groups and former communications director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told me. The economic message Latino voters are hearing should include that "We know the play," Ramos said, "At this point, are we going to be able to take that head on and be able to say, 'Listen, Democrats, actually, when you were down, we gave you the child tax credit to make sure that your kid was able to thrive, that you could buy groceries, to send your kids to school, and we tried to give you student loan relief but the Republicans tried to get rid of that,'" Ramos said.

Part of that tightrope act will also require Biden to build a better ground operation to understand the diversity of the country's Latino communities and craft messages suited for those places. 

Voters just want their egos massaged.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Donald Trump's dig at Ron DeSantis over Disney wasn't a random attack (Shelby Talcott, May 4, 2023, Semafor)

But the Truth Social post wasn't one of Trump's reflexive, stream-of-consciousness remarks -- in fact, the campaign had been prepping its Disney attack for weeks prior to Trump's post, according to two sources close to the former president. Nor was it a one-off moment: As the DeSantis-Disney war continues to ramp up and move to court, it's expected to be a recurring focus as part of a broader plan to undermine DeSantis' strengths before an expected run.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Americans are richer than ever. Here are 3 reasons why they aren't happier (Ross Pomeroy, 5/02/23, Big Think)

Americans are financially better off than they were 50 years ago. In 1972, the median income (adjusted for inflation) was just over $60,000. Today, it's a little over $70,000. [...]

 The median American home grew from a modest 983 square feet (91 square meters) in 1950 to a voluminous 2,436 feet (226 square meters) in 2018. And they have filled their habitats with a flabbergasting average of over 300,000 items! 

Americans are working fewer hours than before the pandemic (Emily Peck, 4/07/23,  Axios)

The average workweek was 36.9 hours in November 2022, down from 37.5 in January 2020, according to data the authors analyzed from the Labor Department's Current Population Survey.

...are obesity and more affluence for less work...