March 14, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Moooove over: How single-celled yeasts are doing the work of 1,500-pound cows: Cowless dairy is here, with the potential to shake up the future of animal dairy and plant-based milks (Laura Reiley, March 12, 2023, Washington Post)

The first course was a celery root soup lush with whole milk. The last was a spice cake topped with maple cream cheese frosting, served with a side of ice cream. And then a latte with its fat cap of glossy foam. In all, a delicious lunch. Maybe a little heavy on the dairy.

Only this dairy was different. It was not the product of a cow or soybean or nut. The main ingredient of this milk was made by microbes in a lab, turned into tasty and recognizable food, and then served to a hungry reporter.

Lab-grown meat is coming. But lab-grown dairy has already arrived.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Floating solar panels could provide over a third of global electricity (JOHN TIMMER, 3/13/2023, Ars Technica)

The cost of solar power has dropped dramatically over the past decade, making it the cheapest source of electricity in much of the world. Clearly, that can mean cheaper power. But it also means that we can potentially install panels in places that would otherwise be too expensive and still produce power profitably.

One of the more intriguing options is to place the panels above artificial bodies of water, either floating or suspended on cables. While more expensive than land-based installs, this creates a win-win: the panels limit the evaporation of water, and the water cools the panels, allowing them to operate more efficiently in warm climates.

While the potential of floating solar has been examined in a number of places, a group of researchers has now done a global analysis and find that it's huge. Even if we limit installs to a fraction of the surface of existing reservoirs, floating panels could generate nearly 10,000 TeraWatt-hours per year, while keeping over 100 cubic kilometers of water from evaporating.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Georgia may be turning purple. It's definitely turning green. (Marqus Cole, 3/14/23, RNS)

As Georgia makes moves to become a green giant, the Christian value of "loving your neighbor" could be an animating force for changing the narrative in the state from a divisive political one of "turning purple" to a unifying values-based vision for "transitioning to green."

With the benefits of more local jobs, cleaner air and better health, Georgia's clean energy transition is taking green policies out of the heated political arena and doing what some may deem a miracle -- getting Republicans and Democrats to agree.

Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff reflected recently to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I think there's broad bipartisan support in Georgia ... for securing energy independence, for ensuring that there is a robust supply of affordable energy that's not destroying our environment." 

Meanwhile, the all-Republican Georgia Public Service Commission, with a major push from Republican Commissioner Tim Echols, also recently tripled the budget for Georgia Power's Make Ready Program, putting $53 million toward upgrading electric vehicle charging stations over the next three years.

Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled Georgia House of Representatives passed House Bill 406, expanding EV-charging opportunities across the state, by a vote of 161-0. Imagine finding that kind of bipartisan consensus on anything right now.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


DeSantis Grooms a Cheap Import From Hungary (Robert Tracinski, 3/14/23, The UnPopulist)

Let's take a look at the elements of the Orbán model.

It begins with economic controls, which is one of the things that differentiates the nationalist model from old small-government Reaganism. The key to this model is not to oppose government subsidies and regulations, but to harness them. Orbán, for example, spends a lot of time railing against the European Union--and then makes sure that he gets to distribute billions in EU subsidies on which the Hungarian economy depends, directing the money to his political supporters and, for example, arbitrarily denying energy subsidies to cities run by mayors in the political opposition.

As H. David Baer, a contributor to The UnPopulist, recently pointed out to me, Orbán offers much the same terms Vladimir Putin extended to Russian businessmen 10 to 15 years ago: "You can live a normal life, so long as you keep your head down," either by staying out of politics or by playing along with the regime.

This is precisely the deal DeSantis has been attempting to impose on one of his state's big employers, the Walt Disney Company. It is hard for a governor to squeeze a company that can easily move its economic activity across state lines. But Disney has one big, fixed asset that DeSantis can use as leverage: its giant resort in Orlando. So as Reuters reports, he just appointed his own hand-picked board to control the local district that provides Disney World with its infrastructure:

The bill, which DeSantis signed into law in February, authorizes the governor to appoint five supervisors to operate the quasi-government entity, overseeing municipal services, such as fire protection, public utilities, waste collection, and road maintenance. ...

But DeSantis' agenda reaches beyond operational minutiae. "Leaders must stand up and fight back when big corporations make the mistake, as Disney did, of using their economic might to advance a political agenda," DeSantis wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. "We are making Florida the state where woke goes to die."

By corporations "advancing a political agenda," DeSantis means opposing his agenda. This is a transparent attempt to make businessmen subservient to their political masters, as I have argued elsewhere.

Notably, this is stated very specifically in terms of threatening Disney over the supposedly "woke"--i.e., left-leaning content--of its media enterprises. As one of the new DeSantis-appointed overseers of Disney World put it, "My hope is that Walt Disney's vision will be restored and the woke ideologies will be removed from Disney forever." This echoes another element of Orbánism: control of the media. Orbán used harassment and starvation--depriving independent media of government advertising--to force a takeover of Hungarian mass media by a foundation run by his cronies.

DeSantis' conflict with Disney began with the company's opposition to his so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which harnessed a gay panic to impose broadly worded controls on what can be said in schools and what books can be carried in school libraries. Ditto for Hungary, where Orbán has also passed laws against so-called "homosexual propaganda."

But it doesn't stop with the excuse of protecting children. In Hungary, Orbán has attempted to exert control over higher education as well. Five years ago, the Orbán regime harassed and forced out the Central European University, a world-class academic program. In its place, Orbán has used billions in government funds to prop up the Matthias Corvinus Collegium, an academic program that is less impressive but has a curriculum built around nationalism. All of this is money that is not going into Hungary's existing universities, nor into its notoriously underfunded primary and secondary schools.

DeSantis seems intent on copying this with his takeover of New College, a small liberal arts school within the Florida public university system. He has stacked the board of trustees with conservative culture warriors who quickly fired the university's president and talked about firing much of its faculty. A particularly revealing comment came from trustee Chris Rufo--a conservative activist who made his name crusading against "critical race theory" as a catchall for left-of-center views:

We will be shutting down low-performing, ideologically-captured academic departments and hiring new faculty. The student body will be recomposed over time: some current students will self-select out, others will graduate; we'll recruit new students who are mission-aligned.

It is a frank admission that the college will now have an explicit ideological mission, and students will be expected to align themselves with it.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Is Ron DeSantis Flaming Out Already?: The Florida governor has a plan to win the Fox News primary--and lose everything else. (David Frum, 3/14/23, The Atlantic)

Even his allies found this medley of past hawkishness and present evasiveness worrying--especially because he was on record, in 2014 and 2015, urging the Obama administration to send both "defensive and offensive" weapons to Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea. So last night, DeSantis delivered a more definitive answer on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show.

DeSantis's statement on Ukraine was everything that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his admirers could have wished for from a presumptive candidate for president. The governor began by listing America's "vital interests" in a way that explicitly excluded NATO and the defense of Europe. He accepted the present Russian line that Putin's occupation of Ukraine is a mere "territorial dispute." He endorsed "peace" as the objective without regard to the terms of that peace, another pro-Russian talking point. He conceded the Russian argument that American aid to Ukraine amounts to direct involvement in the conflict. He endorsed and propagated the fantasy--routinely advanced by pro-Putin guests on Fox talk shows--that the Biden administration is somehow plotting "regime change" in Moscow. He denounced as futile the economic embargo against Russia--and baselessly insinuated that Ukraine is squandering U.S. financial assistance. He ended by flirting with the idea of U.S. military operations against Mexico, an idea that originated on the extreme right but has migrated toward the Republican mainstream.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


Why 'MAGA' is so appealing to older Republicans (Philip Bump, March 14, 2023, Washington Post)

The most interesting question in the CNN poll, though, focused on views of American diversity. Here, the divide between younger and older Americans was clear: Younger Republican primary voters were more likely to see the increased diversity of the U.S. -- "having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities in the U.S.," as the question put it -- as enriching American culture rather than as a threat.

Among Republican primary voters 65 and over, a majority said this increased diversity was a threat. Among those under 50, views ran more than 2 to 1 in the opposite direction.

Trump clearly hopes to stoke this sentiment. Here, the chicken-egg situation is more clear. Even in the 2016 primaries, concerns about perceived discrimination against Whites was a better predictor of support for Trump than economic status. Trump unquestionably leveraged this sense; it seems clear that he shares the concern. (Just this week, he declared that he was facing possible indictment in New York because the prosecuting D.A., a Black man, was "racist.")

We can follow the logical chain here. If you think that America is being eroded by increased diversity, you see a less-diverse America as a better America. In that context, what does "making America great again" imply?


Posted by orrinj at 10:50 AM


Researchers Say They've Come Up With a Blueprint for Creating a Wormhole in a Lab (NOOR AL-SIBAI, 3/14/23, Futurism)

Humans may have gotten one step closer to figuring out how to make wormholes thanks to fascinating new research.

That's at least according to Hatim Saleh, a research fellow at the University of Bristol and co-founder of the startup DotQuantum, who claims to have invented what he calls "counterportation," which "provides the first-ever practical blueprint for creating in the lab a wormhole that verifiably bridges space," according to a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scientists transform algae into unique functional perovskites with tunable properties (SPX, Mar 14, 2023)

Perovskites are materials that are increasingly popular for a wide range of applications because of their remarkable electrical, optical, and photonic properties. Perovskite materials have the potential to revolutionize the fields of solar energy, sensing and detecting, photocatalysis, lasers, and others.

The properties of perovskites can be tuned for specific applications by changing their chemical composition and internal architecture, including the distribution and orientation of its crystal structure. At the moment, the ability to influence these properties is massively limited by manufacturing methods. A team of scientists at TU Dresden was able to create perovskites with unique nano-architectures and crystal properties from algae, taking advantage of years of evolution of these single-celled organisms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Westphalia vs. Appomattox: The Problem with the New World's Approach to Geopolitics (Miguel Nunes Silva, March 14, 2023, European Conservative)

Following the Thirty Years War and the Treaties of Westphalia, Europeans were forced to accept the limitations of their topographical realities and abandon their normative aspirations. Catholics and protestants, while representing clear and distinct moral agendas, both failed to consecrate the continent to their normative claims. This, in turn, led to tolerant coexistence under the principle 'cuius regio eius religio,' which holds that the leader of a given state may dictate the religion that the people are to follow. [...]

The Southern Confederacy naïvely chose to wage a European style war, standing their ground against the centralizing offensives of the unionists in an attempt to exhaust the North's morale by attrition. Fatally, neither did the South possess the resources to fight a war of attrition against the industrialised North, nor did the terrain lend itself to a European style secession. It took 2 years for Robert E. Lee's staff to comprehend the strategic reality and decide on a march on the North to compete for the continent as a whole and impose their separatist solution on the North. Nevertheless, in 1863 this incursion resulted in the Gettysburg defeat and the end of the Confederacy's strategic initiative. Carl Schmitt was famously of the view that "the sovereign is he who legislates on the exception," and in the instance of North American federalism the southern states were seeking an exception to the North's moral model; a confederate sovereignty would have allowed the South to legislate autonomously in matters of trade tariffs and slavery. Implicitly, this outcome could only be achieved by defeating Washington, D.C.; New York; and New England, as well as imposing the Union's dismantlement. Yet, the solution of tolerant coexistence was impractical in a territorial continuum without many natural barriers, and General Grant demonstrated precisely this point by overwhelming the South's frontlines with superior military numbers and economic power. He then proceeded to dismantle the South's oligarchic society during Reconstruction, cementing the North's dominion with the support of the newly emancipated former slaves--and under the close surveillance of the federal occupation forces.

The South's capitulation in Appomattox, however, did much more than settle the American Civil War: it aborted the emergence of ethnic territorial divisions in the northernmost New World. Had the Confederacy been successful, the Ohio River would have constituted a sovereign border, not just between between states, but also between Dixie and Yankee--leading potentially to the creation of regional nation states. Conversely, the coercive reunification and the Lincoln-Grant state-building model meant that the issue of civic identity would now be necessarily derived from much more basic common denominators. The original English puritanical republic had transformed into a continental sovereign. Such a space could not possibly base its identity on European ethnic traits, since national cultures were too many in number and too diverse. Nor could it be based on territory since that was massive. As for religion, it was too sensitive to politicise.

The synthesis thus focused on the legal-constitutional system, which was totemised, sacralising the Founding Fathers and the myth of the Revolutionary War for independence. After all, the legal system inherited from the Anglo-Saxon homeland was already institutionalised, it was a common reference for all citizens that could be compared and differentiated from Latin systems to the south and monarchical ones to the north.

Puritanism mattered chiefly, as indeed Tocqueville himself had already remarked, in that the puritanical mentality prevented a true separation between Church and State, since the Law existed as a kind of national sacrament. If, on the one hand, such an obsession guarantees some respect for the founding principles and prevents dramatic regime changes which might disrupt the Rule of Law--as is often the case in the Old World--on the other, the self-perception of the North American people as distinct and predestined gives rise to the idea of American exceptionalism. The 'city upon a hill' following her 'manifest destiny' can never acknowledge horizontal rules of conduct between sovereign states; the extraordinary is incompatible with the ordinary.

This is a misreading of the Founding.  The genius of American exceptionalism is its universalism.  It is precisely because the Anglosphere holds...:

...these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

that we redefined sovereignty.  We made the key component the consent of the governed.  Anywhere that necessary condition does not exist, the regime is not legitimately sovereign and we have a moral obligation--not always realized--to intervene on the behalf of the citizenry. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DeSantis Calls U.S. Support of Ukraine Distraction From More Vital Interests (John McCormick,  March 13, 2023, WSJ)

Mr. DeSantis' statement places him in a position similar to one taken by former President Donald Trump, who called the war "disastrous" during a campaign appearance Monday evening in Davenport, Iowa, and said if re-elected he would work to rapidly negotiate an end. 

Both men have taken positions in contrast to strong support for Ukraine offered by other declared and prospective GOP presidential candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

To be fair, the Trumpists are still upset that America intervened in the Confederacy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The mystery of Alice in Wonderland syndrome (Roberta Angheleanu, 13th March 2023, BBC)

Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS) affects the way people perceive the world around them and can distort how they experience their own bodies and the space it occupies. These can include distortions in vision as well as time. Imagine seeing people's faces change into dragon-like faces all your life. This symptom is only one of the 40 types of visual distortions characteristic of Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Some patients also describe seeing different body parts added to the people in front of them, such as a shortened arm attached to the face of the person sitting in front of them. Other symptoms include seeing people or objects moving in slow motion or moving unnaturally fast or not at all. Their hearing can also be affected - sufferers can hear loved ones speaking oddly slow or unnaturally fast. And they report seeing objects or their own body parts shrinking or swelling in front of their eyes, creating the sensation that they are themselves changing size, just as Josh experienced.

It is this last symptom that led to the disorder's name, after Lewis Carroll's fictional character, who shrinks after drinking a potion and then grows after eating cake. Carroll himself may have even been inspired by perceptual distortions himself, perhaps brought on by migraine auras - temporary visual disturbances that often occur in migraine sufferers. Others have suggested the author could have suffered from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome that was triggered by epilepsy, substance misuse or even an infection.

Oddly, there is not an industry to shorten to their bodies to the size they perceive themselves.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


March 13, 2023  (Heather Cox Richardson, 3/13/23, Letters from an American)

[T]he more important news of the day is likely the meeting in San Diego, California, between President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom.

These three countries make up the new AUKUS security pact, announced on September 15, 2021, designed to provide a military counter to China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. (The Five Eyes alliance of those three countries plus Canada and New Zealand focuses on sharing intelligence.) Today's meeting, and its announcement that AUKUS will create a new fleet of nuclear-powered (but not nuclear-armed) submarines, brings that pact to a new level.

At the meeting today, the U.S. announced it will share its nuclear propulsion technology with Australia and will increase U.S. submarine construction capacity. The U.K. announced it will increase its defense spending. And Australia will buy at least three nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S.

The U.K. and Australia will build new nuclear-powered submarines for their own navies. Sailors from the fleets will train together, and U.S. and U.K. submarines will increase their visits to Australian ports. Eventually, the alliance will create its own nuclear-powered submarines, the SSN-AUKUS.

America is not Nationalist.