Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Heavy Elements Problem May Finally Be Solved By New Gravitational Waves Detection From Colliding Neutron Stars

Neutron star merger seen in gravity and matter

Diagram of laser interferometer such as employed by LIGO (from Wikipedia)

The news that a collision of two neutron stars has precipitated another detection of gravitational waves by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), has the world of astrophysics abuzz and with good reason. It confirms the import of the laser interferometer principle used in gravitational wave detection (see diagram 2) and biw in the setting of another type of collision- between two neutron stars. Recall the original report occurred in February, last year, based on detecting gravitational waves from two colliding black holes in late 2015.

LIGO’s  original discovery, accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters,  is summarized in the  abstract below:

Based on the data cited in the above link, the two black holes were each roughly 30 times the mass of the Sun. They evidently merged some 1.3 billion light years from Earth. The  gravitational waves themselves were generated in the final moments before the black holes merged. The signal was brief but definitive and we on Earth have now received it.

LIGO features 2 L-shaped detectors (one in Hanford, WA, the other in Livingston, LA)  made up of two perpendicular arms totaling 2.5 miles long. Then a laser beam is split and travels along both arms, bouncing off respective mirrors to return to the L-intersection. Normally, the beams are aligned so they balance each other out and hence there's nothing to detect. But if a gravitational wave is intercepted it creates a tiny mismatch which is what LIGO detects. (One of the authors of the paper has referred to it as a "chirp".  The effect of this chirp or ripple changes the arms' lengths by a tiny amount, and that change can be detected by lasers.)

To determine the specific location of the source multiple detectors are used, both to distinguish signals from other "noise" by confirming the signal is not of earthly origin, and also to determine direction by means of triangulation.  In such triangulations a third LIGO site is used, namely one near Pisa, Italy, with a 3 km interferometer. The technique uses the fact that the gravitational waves travel at the speed of light and will reach different detectors at different times depending on their source direction. Although the differences in arrival time may be just a few milliseconds, this is sufficient to identify the direction of the origin of the wave with considerable precision.

In 1915 Albert Einstein, in a remarkable achievement of theoretical physics, used an abstruse form of math known as tensor calculus to predict the existence of gravitational waves. This was by way of showing how gravitational distortions arise when mass or energy warp space-time.  The ground breaking field equation that relates these parameters was summarized:

G mn   =  - ½ g mn  G=  - 8 p T mn   

Where the  T mn    denotes the associated  “stress-energy” tensor which incorporates internal stresses, the density of matter and its component velocities (u, v, w or in some texts: u1, u2 and u3).  

Now, the collision of a pair of neutron stars has again brought gravitational waves front and center given it may finally  resolve how the heaviest elements originated. The collision itself occurred some 130 million years ago when dinosaurs still walked the Earth, but the signal was only detected on August 17, 2016 given light propagates at a finite speed: 300,000 km/s.

Recall that the current theory of stellar evolution postulates that elements are built up in the cores of heavy stars (> 10 solar masses)by nucleosynthesis a la successive fusion reactions.  A key transition point occurs after carbon is formed in the core, and reaches a critical density and temperature to detonate. The resulting deflagration, which includes the core separating from the exploding outer layers, turns the star into an instant nuclear factory. Nickel and iron are formed as well as lighter elements in the imploding shells including of: magnesium, sulphur, silicon, manganese, chromium and a host of lesser atomic weight elements- are evolved.

The problem is that no heavier elements than iron can be envisaged although some theoreticians have postulated they can arise in the context of supernova explositions.  In the latter case a stage is reached whereby differing  neutron fluences  arise. These fluences, if conditions are right,  can then produce the elements known as actinides such as uranium and thorium but no longer containing  the A=130 abundance peak.  This is believed to occur over seconds time scales via the r-(rapid  neutron capture) process.  But the only modern nearby supernova, 1987A, has not revealed r-process enhancements. Modern thinking is that the r-process yield may be ejected from some supernovae but swallowed up in others as part of the residual neutron star.

Note that the neutron star is an ultradense stellar remnant of a  core-collapsed by supernova. The neutron star is the smallest, densest  known to exist with diameter scales typically about 12 miles wide.  One  teaspoon of neutron star material would have a mass of about a billion tons. The core is a soup of pure neutrons, while the crust is smooth, solid and 10 billion times stronger than steel. Basically to achieve neutron star status protons and electrons are forced so closely together that they fuse, merge. e- + p +  ->   n.

So the current excitement is that the gravitational wave data from these colliding neutron stars may finally solve the heavier- than- iron elements origin problem.  Dave Reitze, executive director of LIGO, said in an interview with the Guardian: “What is amazing about this discovery is it is the first time we’ve got a full picture of one of the most violent, cataclysmic events in the universe. This is the most intense observational campaign there has ever been.”

The 100-second hum picked up by LIGO has told the story of how the two neutron stars to be, each slightly heavier than the Sun, approached their demise. Initially separated by 200 miles, they circled each other 30 times a second. As they whirled inwards, accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second, the signal rose in pitch like a train whistle or ambulance alarm approaching. Two seconds later, NASA’s Fermi space telescope picked up an intense burst of gamma rays, emitted as shockwaves propagating through jets of matter funneled out of the poles during the energetic impact of the collision.

  The chief problem here is the estimate of the source volume.  This is facilitated in the neutron star case given we have that the components are separated by less than 300 km and accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second. This necessitates a tiny volume and implies that a lot of mass-energy will be distorting the associated region of space-time, and in this case leading ultimately to a black hole from the collision.  This distortion itself is bound up with the stress-energy tensor T mn.

Note that the most common parameter describing the amplitude  for a gravitational wave is a dimensionless "strain" h = 2 ∫∫ g' dt ². ... Thus h is twice the fractional change in displacement between two nearby masses due to the gravitational wave. 

According to Prof Andreas Freise, a LIGO project scientist at the University of Birmingham: 

Neutron stars are at this sweet spot between a star and a black hole.  When two of them collide, we expect them to immediately collapse into a black hole, leaving behind a bit of dust and stuff.”

David Shoemaker, spokesman for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, said: “It’s [probably] the first observation of a black hole being created where there was none before, which is pretty darn cool.”

The recent observations also herald a new era of rapid-response astronomy, in which transient and unexpected cosmic events can be observed in detail for the first time. When LIGO's software picked up a signal at 13:41  GMT on 17 August, Shoemaker was one of a small team at LIGO to be alerted by a ringtone on his phone reserved for when black holes or neutron stars collide.

Within an hour, the detection had been confirmed by Virgo, a European gravitational wave detector near Pisa, the source of the signal had been triangulated to a small patch of sky and a global alert was triggered.

Prof Stephen Smartt, of Queen’s University Belfast, had been leading a five-day observation run of supernovae on the New Technology Telescope at La Silla, Chile, when the news came in. Smartt’s team, and those on other telescopes, observed the faint new blob and measured its spectrum to assess the chemical composition. The blob was a fireball of radioactive heavy chemical elements, known as a kilonova, that had been blown out from the collision at one fifth of the speed of light shortly after the gamma ray burst.

As I pointed out earlier, previously astrophysicists had speculated that the sheer rapidity of neutron capture (via r-process) would be enough to force extra neutrons into the nuclei of atoms, forging heavy elements like uranium. .  Later the conjecture altered to considering the sheer mega-force of neutron collisions in violent events to forge heavy elements like gold and platinum  But until now this idea was purely theoretical.  After all, what kind of violent cosmic event would be needed to make it work?  In the words of Prof. Freise:

People have been looking for that forever,”


This is the first real confirmation that heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium are either solely or predominantly produced in binary neutron star collisions. The wedding band on your finger or the gold watch you’re wearing was most likely produced a billion years ago by two neutron stars colliding. That’s pretty cool.”

Let's also reference that earlier this month, three U.S. astrophysicists (Rainer, Weiss,  Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne)  who played a crucial role in the development of LIGO were awarded the Nobel prize in physics for the first detection of gravitational waves. Shoemaker pointed out that two of the new laureates – and others – had been working on the project long before it captured the world’s attention.  As he observed:

This kind of thing doesn’t happen because there are suddenly neat instruments. It’s decades of work and people working together in a collaborative way. It’s quite phenomenal.”

Indeed it is. For those interested the findings were published on Monday in a series of papers in journals including Science, Nature and Physics Review Letters.  For an abstract of the work appearing in the latter, see:


Monday, October 16, 2017

Select Questions-Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (2. Variations In Earth's Rotation)

Image result for brane space, Earth slowing down

Question -
I heard that due to friction the Earth’s rotation rate is slowing down.  If so, what
is the source of friction?  How does it slow down the speed?

Answer -

First, the investigation of Earth’s  rotation is not a simple matter. The
reason is that the Earth's shape departs from a perfect sphere. Thus, for example,
one cannot simply calculate ONE moment of inertia - say 0.4MR 2  for a
sphere - but must reckon separate axial and equatorial moments since
the Earth is oblate, e.g. the polar diameter is less than the equatorial.

To be specific, the equatorial moment of inertia is roughly 1/300 of the
axial moment. This may seem like an insignificant difference - but when
one is dealing with extremely small measures, times, it emerges as

Second, the changes in Earth's rotation are not uniform across the board-
though true, there is a general long term trend to slow down - arising
from the tidal breaking of the Moon.

Let's go into this a bit more - prior to me giving examples of how the
Earth's rotation can get faster.

The Earth rotates faster than the Moon moves in its orbit. Because the
tides are linked to the more slowly moving Moon, they act by friction as a
brake on Earth's rotation, gradually slowing it down.
 (It is estimated by 0.0007 seconds per century)

The angular momentum lost by the rotating Earth in this process is
transferred to the Moon's angular momentum. Thus, the Moon is accelerated
in its orbit, causing it to slowly spiral outwards, away from Earth. The
day and month are thus lengthening at different rates.

Calculations have actually been retro-worked to show how the length of
month differed when the Moon was much closer to Earth in the past. For
example, when the Moon was only 16,000 km away (10,000 miles) the month
was approximately seven mean solar days long.

Similar calculations based on the conservation of angular momentum also
allow us to project into the future. Thus, about three billion years
hence the day and month will be equal - about 47 of our present days
long -  and the Earth will always turn the same face towards the Moon.

Now, let's get back to exceptions to day lengthening. These mostly arise
from sporadic tectonic events such as earthquakes- or more recently the
Indian Ocean tsunami, and the massive sea quake that incepted it.

Recent computations of the seismic moment arising from the generating
quake have determined that the length of day briefly decreased by
about 2.68 micro-seconds. (This would be analogous to a spinning ice
skater briefly pulling her arms in closer to herself).

Then too, cumulative earthquakes over magnitude 5 (of which there have
been 21, 600 since 1977) have an overall tendency to make the whole planet
rounder and more compact in all directions, thereby shortening the length
of day.

It is also theorized that mammoth solar flares - by expanding the
atmosphere- can also contribute to a change in the rotation rate. How
exactly remains to be worked out, but no doubt friction (creating drag)
between atmosphere and planetary surface might play a role.

All this is to try to make you aware that variations in the Earth's rotation
arise from multiple sources and can alter in either the positive
or negative direction. Again, the general trend is for slowdown - owing
to the reasons given earlier.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trump's Dereliction And Nuclear Security Risk Shows The Electoral College Needs To Be Scrapped

At the end of last year, I warned that the Electoral College had ceased to be what it was intended for: the final backstop or check against "mischief of faction" and an unqualified,  Queens' real estate  con man getting into the highest office to defile it and ruin the nation.  The electors - members of the  Electoral College - had one chance, and one only, to prove once and for all it wasn't an archaic, useless anachronism and they blew it. That chance occurred on December 19th  last year when electors had the ability (and responsibility) to prevent a totally unqualified nitwit and looneytune from occupying the highest office in the land. And they fucked it up big time, let's not mince words.

Alexander Hamilton himself-  in Federalist #68 -  saw the need to stop such an egomaniacal, autocratic demagogue from becoming President,  so why not an ordinary citizen elector? Especially when, as Kathleen Parker noted in a column days before the Electoral College met:

"Without consulting advisers or “sleeping on it,” for which he is not known, Trump can authorize a nuke upon the slightest provocation — or none. All previous presidents have had the same authority, of course, but all have also been experienced statesmen, nary a reality-show celebrity (nor snake-oil salesman) among them."

Hamilton for his own part was blunt and to the point and his words in The Federalist  #68  bear directly on Trump's entanglements with foreign businesses and diplomats:

"Nothing is more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to a cabal, intrigue or corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?"

Hamilton was particularly emphatic when he wrote:

"the office of President shall never fall to the lot of any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications"

"Shall never fall to any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications". The words could not be any clearer! What has  manifested since Trump's inauguration is that he is the very embodiment of the classless rabble rouser and degenerate the founders feared taking office - which is WHY they established the electoral college.

The mutt not only lacks the requisite qualifications but poses a mortal danger to the Republic, as is becoming ever clearer with time. Especially when the sources inside the White House question whether Jim Mattis or Gen. Kelly will be so brave as to "tackle" Trump if he tries to execute a nuclear all out first strike (a la the fictional character Greg Stillson- who imagined it in the film 'The Dead Zone').

This is something that my Revolutionary War ancestor (Conrad Brumbaugh) would see in a heartbeat, and why he'd also agree Trump needs to be removed from the seat of power now.  He has mutated to the most severe national security risk this country has ever faced. Far exceeding any threat from Iran, North Korea or Russia. Why? Because he has exclusive access to the nuclear codes which he can punch in at any time his ginormous ego  and sufficient pique "demands" it

Don't believe me? Think this is over heated imagination or partisan puffery? Then you need to read conservative columnist Michael Gerson's recent piece in The Washington Post ('Republicans, It's Time To Panic')   In the following passage he puts it perhaps best:

"It is no longer possible to safely ignore the leaked cries for help coming from within the administration. They reveal a president raging against enemies, obsessed by slights, deeply uninformed and incurious, unable to focus, and subject to destructive whims. A main task of the chief of staff seems to be to shield him from dinner guests and telephone calls that might set him off on a foolish or dangerous tangent. Much of the White House senior staff seems bound, not by loyalty to the president, but by a duty to protect the nation from the president. Trump, in turn, is reported to have said: “I hate everyone in the White House.” And also, presumably, in the State Department, headed by a secretary of state who apparently regards his boss as a “moron.”


"The security of our country — and potentially the lives of millions of people abroad — depends on Trump being someone else entirely. It depends on the president being some wise, strategic, restrained leader he has never been.

The time for whispered criticisms and quiet snickering is over. The time for panic and decision is upon us. The thin line of sane, responsible advisers at the White House — such as Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — could break at any moment. Already, Trump’s protests of eternal love for Kelly are a bad sign for the general’s future. The American government now has a dangerous fragility at its very center. Its welfare is as thin as an eggshell — perhaps as thin as Donald Trump’s skin. "

And yes, I've deliberately bolded the words so they stand out. I want them to embed themselves in people's minds.

What it all adds up to - as the nation (including Puerto Rico) unravels on account of Trump and his deranged policies -  is that we are living on borrowed time. It also means that the Electoral College has proven once and for all to have been a useless artifact of the past. It did not live up to the intentions of the founders to prevent an outright fool, fraud and mentally  unfit reprobate from taking office. The electors became mere rubber stamps as opposed to proactively acting in the nation's interest.

Note the poll result in the graphic at the top. What it discloses is that more citizens realize the person holding the highest office lacks the mental capacity and emotional stability to do the job. He is as out of his depth as a sociopath con man would be commanding our armed forces, Wait! That's the situation we have!

Bottom line? You don't just put into office those who appear to have captured the zeitgeist of some deranged notion of populism. We need men or women who are mentally and emotionally capable of taking criticism, of learning on the job (including reading all PDBs, or presidents' daily briefs), and being capable of remaining focused on the security of this nation. By contrast, Dotard has shown himself incapable of even providing security for the American citizens of Puerto Rico - while  insisting "FEMA can't stay there forever". Oblivious that no Puerto Rican wants FEMA or the military to remain there "forever". They just want them there until the island territory of the U.S. is stabilized and in particular to deliver drinkable water and food NOW!

Then there is Dotard's "decertifying" of the Iran Nuclear Accord when that nation has been in technical compliance as even Rex Tillerson admitted. France, Germany and the UK all have repeatedly confirmed Iran's compliance and that 98 percent of nuclear fuels for weapons have been disposed of.  Trump's circus act also alienates all the European signatories to this deal and effectively converts the U.S. to a rogue state on the nuclear scene - and one that can't abide by treaties. (The trope that it needs "Senate confirmation" to be a "real treaty" is codswallop as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists notes,)  John Kerry - then Secretary of State who worked on it - put it bluntly:

"This is a reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology."

As for Gen. John Kelly's boffo spin performance the other day - to squash the source reports Dotard is unravelling-  no one with an IQ over room temperature believes a word of it. In fact, all Kelly has succeeded in doing is proving the opposite: that if a chief of staff has to go out and clean up the doo doo there really is an unfathomable shit storm going on behind the scenes.   As Council Of Foreign Relations member Max Boot put it two nights ago in an MSNBC interview:

"The message is not credible. If you're having to call a press conference to deny that you're leaving the administration and that the president is unstable,  that's kind of like Richard Nixon calling a press conference to say I am not a crook. The very fact that you're denying it seems to confirm it. 

And we see the confirmation with our own eyes. Let's not forget  yesterday the president of the United States said it was crazy that a news outlet can write whatever it wants to say. He is attacking the first amendment. And today he's attacking the people of Puerto Rico 86 percent of whom still have no electricity. This is not normal and lends a lot of credence to these stories that yes, he is spinning out of control."

Make no mistake that is one aspect of  why the founders proposed an Electoral College, i.e.  as a rational check on popular over exuberance, the other being mischief of faction.  Recall the latter was noted by James Madison in The Federalist #10. As Madison described it:

"Mischief of faction is when citizens - whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole - are united and actuated by a common impulse of passion to cast their votes adverse to the rights of other citizens or the permanent and aggregate interests of the community". 

This is exactly what the Trump voters did, motivated by inflamed passions, gullibility and moral recklessness via Trump's often violent rallies to give a middle finger to the rest of the country. They thereby militated against the majority's interests.

The Electoral College was established to pull the plug on such popular recklessness, to prevent its expedient, hastily chosen 'avatar' from assuming power.  This was not achieved because the electors did not do their due diligence. They opted instead to simply rubber stamp the state electoral tallies without question.

But given the parlous pass Dotard has taken us to - which any sane citizen can see- then the dereliction of the electors' actions is self evident in retrospectThus, the Electoral College  never fulfilled its primary directive to halt the assumption of power by an unqualified, mentally unbalanced person defined by breathtaking moral turpitude. Since it did not fulfill that mission then it is clearly useless, and indeed, dangerous to the nation - since we cannot assume that if citizens commit mischief of faction once they won't repeat.

Friday, October 13, 2017

WHO Are The Real "Snow Flakes"? Conservos, Of Course!

Image may contain: 1 person
A trope making the rounds in much of the media is that there is a certain coddled enclave of college kids who are terrified by certain speeches, and go wacko insane with protests. The examples include the responses of University of California, Berkeley students  to Milo Yiannopoulos and Middlebury students to Charles Murray - both  trotted out as evidence.

The term "snow flake" has been used disparagingly to refer to those students who apparently demand quarantines from diverse political opinions .   Thus, just as a snow flake easily melts so too do these Left- leaning students when confronted by hard right positions that some claim elicit "micro aggressions".  But not so fast.

First, there is the massive error of selection bias in the Right's narrative and reporting.  No where is it referenced that literally thousands of on campus lectures occur across the ideological spectrum every year with no kerfuffle or controversy. Millions of students from east coast to west go to their classes, participate in various organizations and attend lectures without incident. Imagine then how many times Murray, Coulter or Shapiro have delivered lectures without controversy.  This indicates the attention to the few explosive protests - especially by the left - distorts the narrative because it takes no note of the thousands of lectures that went off with no issues. Sadly, conservative columnists (like Holman Jenkins, Marc Thiessen and Michelle Malkin) would have us believe raucous protests are the norm when they are the exception.

Second, the selective focus on the snow flake is even more askew than depicted. Is it really true that all the snow flakes exist on the left? I don't believe so. In fact, the bulk of evidence indicates the Right, including Alt-Right, are even more sensitive about bold political speech than the Left.  Any time a call is made for stronger gun regulation - such as after the Vegas massacre-  watch their bonkers reactions.

In the wake of the massive town meeting health care protests - during which "Trump Care" and the abolition of the ACA was being vigorously protested- the Right's gnomes, such as in ND,  even wanted to pass laws making such protests "illegal assemblies".  How snowflake can you get?

Consider also the case of Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker and his rubber stamp lawmakers are considering "campus free speech" legislation to curb the right to free speech on the left. This would be passed in order to protect the tender little ears of conservatives from speech they may not wish to hear. Such as the truth that the denial of contraception access via the ACA will definitely lead to more abortions.  Or the truth that there is absolutely no justifiable use for semi-automatic weapons other than to slaughter other  humans.  Ugh! Can't say that!

Or, consider Donald Trump - perhaps the biggest snow flake of all -  understandable given his unstable, fragile and immature temperament combined with his woeful lack of even basic knowledge. For example, after seeing press reports of Sen. Corker's remarks about the White House being an "adult day care center" (see my Oct. 11  post)  he blurted out on Twitter that he would consider "repealing licenses for the media". He was totally unaware that no such licenses exist nor could he do that even if they did exist. He is not a dictator, after all, though he appears not to grasp even that.

Then there was Dotard's intolerance at the sight of NFL players exercising their free speech rights by not standing for the anthem. Never mind these protests were not about the flag or anthem per se, they were the vehicle for getting attention to uneven racial treatment in the country.  But their use should not have been questioned by a snowflake like the Dotard. (And now even some spineless, wishy- washy owners - like Jerry Jones asserting they will fire or suspend players who refuse to stand.)

So the Right's hurling of the "snow flake" derogatory sounds damned near close to a selective defense of free speech to me.  I.e. you either adhere to OUR version of free speech, e.g. being able to carry guns to ACA protests, OR you are a snow flake!

I  say, if you can't handle NFL players kneeling for the anthem in a protest you can't bitch about college kids ripping into Coulter, Murray and Yiannopoulos .  Also relevant here is what Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber recently conveyed to his entering class:

"The art of disagreement is not only about confrontation, but also about learning. It requires that we defend our views...and, at the same time, consider whether our views might be mistaken."

This is a crucial observation and bears emphasis. It also allows us to question the validity of any speech for which no learning is possible, or  speakers who challenge the values that make such learning possible. Such speakers, say like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos tend to use a university's commitment to free exchange to promote positions that threaten the fabric of society as a whole.  As an extreme example, one can cite the Nazis marching in Charlottesville chanting "Jews will not replace us!"

Or take Ann Coulter's indefensible remark at the CPAC conference in 2002:

"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed."

The Right media columnists' claim that instead of vigorous protesting (including blocking) we are obliged to "argue"  with such hateful dreck is imbecilic. How can I reasonably argue with someone like Coulter who wants to intimidate me with a death threat? It is the intellectual equivalent of saying "Kiss my ass!"

What we have then from Rightist hacks like Marc Thiessen is a rhetorical sleight of hand claiming it is "intolerant" to inveigh aggressively against intolerant speech and essentially disallow it.  We are instead expected to put on our numskull caps and graciously extend equal standing and dignity to hateful claptrap issuing from the likes of Coulter or Yiannopoulos. In other words, we are never ever to sanction a callous disregard of democratic norms via callousness. As I pointed out in previous posts this is nonsense given Hitler used this very idiom to secure power in the Reichstag - then proceeded to destroy democracy in the Enabling Act.

Now, it is true not all conservative speech is hateful speech and we owe it to ourselves to make that distinction. Truth be told most conservos aren't like Coulter, Richard Spencer or Yiannopoulos. But if they DO hold toxic views, in whatever guise, they will have to expect passionate displays and protests given those view are antithetic to free speech itself since they are based on intolerant memes.  This means students have every right to push back aggressively against hateful speech that is itself self-defeating and worthy of no argument or dignity.

Some conservatives like Thiessen want to proselytize their hate without pushback and exact judgment without themselves being judged - but this is a no go. A non-starter.  Why? Because when they are aptly called "racist" or "sexist" or "homophobic" they clutch their pearls and cry 'Foul!'  In such an instance one must question who the real snow flakes are.

The new standard clearly is that if you can't handle aggressive pushback when you come out with hateful and ignorant dreck, then maybe you aren't really about actual speech at all.

See also:


Thursday, October 12, 2017

The California Wildfires - A Preview Of The Runaway Greenhouse

Tim Holmes
Family taking refuge under a bridge  from a firestorm that erupted in Tasmania in January, 2013.

The raging wildfires that swept Tasmania in January, 2013 are still fresh in the mind of many Aussies, even more so now as they behold the outbreak of monstrous wildfires in California wine country. Let's note here the northern California wine country had for long been considered safe from wildfires that ravaged the rest of the state (WSJ, 'Deadly California Wildfires Rip Through Once Safe Areas, yesterday, p. A1)

The wildfire that's erupted and now claimed 21  lives and charred 115,000 acres with 20,000 evacuated has given residents of wine country a wake up call. As of yesterday, as the WSJ piece reported, 15 wineries had been damaged by the fire and at least 2,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. And the toll is mounting as the fire remains uncontained.

Devastated scene near Santa Rosa, California

As usual we hear the standard patter of meteorological factors, i.e. "Diablo winds", dry conditions, high pressure region in place, but little or nothing of the climate related aspect- namely how global warming has enhanced the frequency and intensity of  wildfires which is why they have become much larger, more unpredictable and difficult to control.

The WSJ piece notes (p. A4):

"A recent study from the University of California- Merced found that the fire season in the western U.S. was more than 80 days longer on average - between 2003 and 2012 - than it was between 1973 and 1982. because the climate has grown hotter, "

As if in recognition of this, Ken Pimlott - chief of CAL-FIRE told the Journal:

"These are the fires that we are going to experience into the future."

And he is correct because as we near and then pass the runaway greenhouse threshold we will see such firestorms across the planet and almost continuously.   

At the time of the Tasmanian wildfires, Tim Flannery (author of ‘The Weather Makers’) noted in addition:

Records are broken from time to time but record breaking weather is becoming more common as the climate shifts. Only strong preventative action, with deep and swift cuts in emissions this decade, can stabilize the climate and halt the trend toward more intense and extreme weather.”

Following the Tasmanian fires the report of the Australian  Commission stated  that the number of record hot days in Australia had doubled since the 1980s with the summer of 2012/13 featuring the hottest summer, hottest month and hottest day on record. By comparison, in 2009, Melbourne experienced three days with temperatures of 43 C (109 F)  or higher.

Around the same time, The U.S. projections from  a U.S. Forest Service Report on Climate weren't any better, e.g.  http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/42610

As it notes,

"By the end of the 21st century, forest ecosystems in the United States will differ from those of today as a result of changing climate. Although increases in temperature, changes in precipitation, higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), and higher nitrogen (N) deposition may change ecosystem structure and function, the most rapidly visible and most significant short-term effects on forest ecosystems will be caused by altered disturbance regimes. For example, wildfires, insect infestations, pulses of erosion and flooding, and drought-induced tree mortality are all expected to increase during the 21st century."

As climate scientist James Hansen has observed, rising concentrations of CO2 are at the center of the greenhouse dynamic. The temperature of the planet is currently out of balance by 0.6W/ m2  and this is almost entirely due to the annual rate of CO2 concentrations increasing. (It is now at 409 ppm) Every increase in CO2 concentration by 2 ppm increases the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2.
Go to climate research centers such as at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska- Fairbanks and you will find atmospheric science researchers examining ice core samples dating from nearly 600,000 yrs. ago showing rising CO2 concentrations coinciding with much warmer periods. 

The current concentration of 409 ppm is the highest it's been in some 800,000 years. As it continues to increase with the increasing injection of CO2 into the atmosphere (much of it now from the wildfires themselves) we will reach the point where the temperatures are so hot and conditions so dire that wildfires raging across the planet will be the norm.

What we're seeing now in California is but a preview of what's to come, likely by the first decade of the 22nd century.

Note: Some scientists have argued that no runaway greenhouse effect will ever come into play, and others that a CO2 concentration of at least 30,000 ppm will be necessary. The late Carl Sagan - who first postulated the runaway greenhouse on Venus - had adamantly disputed any such nonsense in his interview with Ted Turner  on CNN in 1990.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Select Questions-Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (1- General Relativity & Mercury's Perihelion Advance)

This series is intended to revisit some of the deeper, more thoughtful questions directed at me during my time serving on All Experts.   Each question will be given, followed by the answer.

Question: I am puzzled by Einstein’s conclusion that Mercury’s advance of perihelion is 43 arc seconds per year. How can that be obtained from the equation he used in The Principle of Relativity?

No automatic alt text available.
Diagram showing (exaggerated) advance of Mercury's perihelion.

 Ans.  What Einstein is really concerned with here is the amount of rotation of 'the planetary ellipse' due to the effects of gravitation in general relativity.  In this case the ellipse is that of the planet Mercury.

The equation used and purported to show the amount of this rotation (i.e. advance of perihelion) is given as:

e = [24 (p)3 a2]/ T2 c2 [1 - e2]

where e is the advance (or rotation) in seconds of arc, T is the period of revolution in seconds, c the velocity of light and e the eccentricity of the orbit.

Einstein, on page 164, states that for Mercury
e= 43 seconds per century

The speed of light c = 3 x 1010 cm/s in the text.

This means if one uses cm/s all other units must be consistent.

In this context, 1 astronomical unit (AU) = 1.5 x 1013 cm. But from a Table of distances, Mercury's semi-major axis = 0.387 AU or:

a = (1.5 x 1013  cm) (0.387) = 5.8 x 1012 cm

The period, T (in seconds) is just the length of Mercury's year (in days = 87.96, again from a Table) multiplied by the seconds-length of an Earth day, or 86,400 s, hence::

T = 7.6 x 106 s

The eccentricity, e from a similar Table is e = 0.205.

Substituting all these values into the given equation yields:

e = 5.036 x 10-7  radian

To get the equivalent seconds of arc (or arcsec) we use 1 rad (radian) = 57.3 degree where  one degree has 3600 seconds. Thus, 1 radian will have:

2.063 x 105 arcsec

So, the associated arcsec for
e will be:

(5.036 x 10- 7   rad) x (2.063 x 105 arcsec/ rad) =

0.104 arcsec

We are still not finished because the quantity is defined per CENTURY

At this point, you need to recall the PERIOD of Mercury is 0.2405 YRS.

So, the number of arcsec of perihelion advance per Earth years is:

0.104 arcsec/ 0.2405 years =  0.432

and over 100 years:

eta = 100 yr x (0.432 arcsec/ yr)   ~  43.2 arcsec or near to what Einstein noted
on the page.

Sen. Corker's "Adult Day Care Center" Remark Is No Laughing Matteer

Senator Bob Corker speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Bob Corker's reference to the White House being an "adult day care center" is no laughing matter. We all ought to be shaking in our waking boots with the madman moron in the WH.

The interview on 'All In' with Gabe Sherman last night sent shivers down the spines of any sentient beings. After collecting material from a number of journalists, as well as sources in the White House, Sherman reported that Gen. John Kelly's time has been monopolized by keeping tab on Trump - aka the Dotard - especially whether he puts his grubby paws on the nuclear football.  The skinny from WH sources is that Dotard is unravelling. He's more and more like a "kettle" and "if he doesn't let off steam" he can "explode". Their worry is that if he ends up defeated on all sides: no legislation to speak of, continued media jabs, prosecutions by Mueller, he will run to the football and punch in the nuclear codes.

As an earlier interviewed  defense strategist put it, "and there will be no way to countermand the orders".  So, in effect, we have the spectacle of Gen. Kelly not only trying to mind the deranged brat in the Oval Office but trying to ensure he doesn't go ape shit and carry out an ego-driven nuclear attack-  like the one envisaged by the fictional character "Greg Stillson" in the scifi flick "The Dead Zone".  (In the case of Stillson, after a muffed assassination attempt, halted when he held a baby aloft to protect himself - and which made the cover of 'Newsweek' - he blew his brains out.)

To the point, after a barrage of Trump insults delivered by his usual kindergarten- level tweets, Sen. Corker let the dolt have it.   In an interview with the New York Times later in the day, Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acted “like he’s on a reality show or something” – a reference to 'The Apprentice'  show Trump had once hosted.

Sen. Corker went on:

He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,”.

Most ominously, Corker warned that Trump’s rhetoric and threats, especially toward North Korea, could set the nation “on the path to World War III”.

According to some sources in the WH cited by Gabe Sherman, Trump is on edge right now just itching to launch World War III to burn all his critics one time as well as the putative enemy Kim Jong Un who he belittles as "little rocket man".

But this is the nature of an unhinged asshole who has no business running a dog pound or landfill much less run a country.   Sen. Corker is among those, along with Rex Tillerson, who now grasp they have a guy in command who really needs to be in a straight jacket.   Tillerson  had called Trump a “fucking moron” and considered resigning,

In response to questions on the matter, Corker said: “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary [of defense Jim] Mattis and Chief of Staff [John] Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Asked if he was referring to Trump, he said: “[Mattis, Kelly and Tillerson] work very well together to make sure the policies we put forth around the world are sound and coherent. There are other people within the administration that don’t. I hope they stay because they’re valuable to the national security of our nation.”

Last week, Corker  made headlines when he implied that Trump was leading the US to the brink of “chaos”.    Then, after Dotard  accused Corker, who is retiring, of “not having the guts” to run for re-election, Corker tweeted: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

Many took this as a yuck yuck joke, but they shouldn't. Corker''s remark may have appeared humorous but was made in deadly earnest.  The White House with Trump in it IS an adult day care center. And while one wouldn't ordinarily have issues this day care center contains a "football" with the nuclear codes- which an unattended brat like Dotard could punch in on impulse if not minded properly.  This is currently Gen. Kelly's job so that Sen. Corker's reference was to him "missing his shift" the morning Dotard unleashed his twitter rant.

This is also why Corker was likely aware of the senior White House source who informed Gabriel Sherman that the Trump residency was now at the "lunge at the nuclear football stage".  If Gen. Kelly is the only one impeding that "lunge" then we are all in deep shit as captive citizens of this lunatic - and Kelly's competence in keeping him at bay.

Let's also bear in mind Dotard is on the verge of scrapping the Iran Nuclear accord.  Senator Corker is an important and supportive voice on the deal between Iran and six major nations including the U.S.,  that restricts Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. It was reported this week that Trump, against the wishes of senior advisers, will not re-certify the deal. That would put it in the hands of Congress, which would decide whether to re-impose sanctions, a move that would threaten the deal’s existence.

If this path is taken, make no mistake the repercussions will be far and wide. In particular it will show North Korea and Kim Jong Un that the U.S. word on any nuclear deals isn't worth an ounce of doggy lickspittle. So why would N. Korea agree to anything proffered by the Dotard administration?

Corker announced his decision to retire last month, saying:  “The most important public service I have to offer our country could well occur over the next 15 months,” he said, hinting at his opposition to the Dotard residency.  If he can help make more people aware of the danger the screwball in office poses, then it will be the most impressive public service he's rendered thus far.

Corker has also said he could oppose moves by Trump and congressional Republicans to pass tax reform, a priority after the repeated failure of attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Corker has insisted that any changes to the tax code must reduce the deficit. Trump’s plan would not only increase it but blow up the federal budget according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That is, the federal debt as a percentage of GDP would explode through the roof - exceeding the size of the entire U.S. economy within ten years.

If Corker and allies can stop that, it will be another major check on this impudent, reckless administration.

See also: