Recently in Science Category

But of course - China deletes the truth

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Expect nothing less. From the London Daily Mail:

New cover-up fears as Chinese officials delete critical data about the Wuhan lab with details of 300 studies vanishing - including all those carried out by virologist dubbed Batwoman
The Chinese government is facing fresh accusations of a cover-up after officials deleted crucial online data about the laboratory suspected of being the source of Covid-19.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that hundreds of pages of information relating to studies carried out by the top-secret Wuhan Institute of Virology have been wiped.

Details of more than 300 studies, including many investigating diseases that pass from animals to humans, published online by the state-run National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) are no longer available.

The deletion of key evidence has reignited fears that China is trying to whitewash the investigation into the origins of the virus.

It comes after President Xi Jinping last week blocked investigators from the World Health Organisation entering the country in a move that drew international condemnation. Meanwhile, state media outlets have published hundreds of stories claiming that the virus did not even originate in the city of Wuhan.

As part of the NSFC’s purge of online studies, it has deleted all reference to those carried out by Shi Zhengli, the Wuhan-based virologist who has earned the nickname Batwoman for her trips to gather samples in bat caves.

The Daleks were just a bit ahead of their time - EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE

If it does not fit the narrative, DELETE, DELETE, DELETE

I do hope that some brave soul somewhere has a thumb drive and is making plans to get it to WikiLeaks.

Gorgeous photo of the conjunction

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Missed it here yesterday but caught a glimpse this evening as I was driving home. No idea who took this photos but it is gorgeous - great idea and excellent execution:

20201222-conjunction.jpg

New developments in rocket science

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From America's Newspaper of Record - the Babylon Bee:

California To Require All Rockets To Run On Wind Power By 2030
California has announced a bold new initiative: all rockets produced or launched in the state must run on wind power just ten years from now.

Governor Newsom claimed the executive order was guided by SCIENCE and MATH.

"We are following the SCIENCE here!" Newsom said. "We are once again leading the nation with initiatives that other states are too stupid to enact. Those backward hillbillies in states like Texas and Florida say they are pro-business because they have primitive technology like electricity, gasoline, and cars, but really, they just want the world to burn."

Giggles could be heard behind the curtain at the press conference, causing many to suspect it was a practical joke. But Newsom managed to keep a straight face, saying, "With SCIENCE on our side, we can go where no man has gone before, fully powered by green energy like wind and solar."

Early wind rockets have been unsuccessful, as the first one just fell over and then blew into an angry neighbor's yard. Another one got stuck in a tree. But Newsom is confident the technology will be ready in a decade.

Newsom and the state legislature were then shocked as Elon Musk announced SpaceX would be moving to Texas. A spokesperson for Texas said the state is excited to have Musk and that "that rootin-tootin space cowboy can build any kind o' rocket he wants down here, shoot, I tell you what."

Makes perfect sense - because SCIENCE. Absolutely. And don't forget MATH

Just wow - Aricebo collapse

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It turns out that the observatory crew were flying a drone to inspect the cables at the moment they snapped. 
Scott Manley has the video - from his twitter account:

Scott also has an excellent YouTube channel - check it out.

2020: My work here is done

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The final straw. The great telescope at Arecibo collapsed last night - from Florida's Orlando Sentinel:

Massive UCF-managed Arecibo telescope collapses in Puerto Rico
Scientists and Puerto Ricans lamented on Tuesday morning the collapse of one of the most powerful telescopes on the Earth, managed by the University of Central Florida and owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The 1,000-foot wide Arecibo Observatory radio telescope platform collapsed in Puerto Rico ending an era of space exploration, officials told the Associated Press. It was the second largest telescope on the planet.

Yes, the Chinese telescope is bigger but it can not transmit.  Arecibo was unique in that it can operate as a radar.  Perfect for looking for astroids that can potentially impact the Earth. A sad day for Science and proving once again that 2020 has been a horrible year.

We are made of star-stuff

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Fascinating to ponder - from the University of Bologna:

Does the human brain resemble the Universe?
An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies… and surprising similarities emerged.

In their paper published in Frontiers of Physics, Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) investigated the similarities between two of the most challenging and complex systems in nature: the cosmic network of galaxies and the network of neuronal cells in the human brain.

Despite the substantial difference in scale between the two networks (more than 27 orders of magnitude), their quantitative analysis, which sits at the crossroads of cosmology and neurosurgery, suggests that diverse physical processes can build structures characterized by similar levels of complexity and self-organization.

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe.

Starting from the shared features of the two systems, researchers compared a simulation of the network of galaxies to sections of the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum. The goal was to observe how matter fluctuations scatter over such diverse scales.

"We calculated the spectral density of both systems. This is a technique often employed in cosmology for studying the spatial distribution of galaxies", explains Franco Vazza. "Our analysis showed that the distribution of the fluctuation within the cerebellum neuronal network on a scale from 1 micrometre to 0.1 millimetres follows the same progression of the distribution of matter in the cosmic web but, of course, on a larger scale that goes from 5 million to 500 million light-years".

God has zero problem with re-use.  If a design works, try it for something else.
The title of the post? Carl Sagan from 1973

I have no problem believing in God as well as believing in Science - the more we learn, the stranger this shit gets.

An interesting idea - Antifa

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Someone who visits some of the larger Democratic controled cities needs to pony up a couple hundred bucks and start working on this. Portland? Seattle? Lookin' at you. From Gun Free Zone:

Better misery through chemistry
I’ve been mulling over an idea.

Antifa has been spray painting on and posting online “spicy air, don’t care.”

Fine.

I have a background in Chemistry and a total lack of morals.

Allow me to introduce you to a family of chemicals called thiols, also known as mercaptans.

Same chemistry as makes the smell of rotten eggs and skunk spray. Thioacetone is listed as the world's smelliest chemical and Derek Lowe has a wonderful edition of his series "stuff I won’t work with" dedicated to trithioacetone

The post closes with this offering:

So if you are picking up what I am putting down, it’s time to do away with the pepper spray and CS gas.

Start hosing down Antifa with thioacetone.

Absolute, non-stop, uncontrollable crippling, wrenching and vomiting.

Thiols penetrate the skin (anyone who has been sprayed by a skunk knows what I’m talking about) so that smell will stick to them for days and weeks making their life unlivable.

Since the government has decided that Antifa isn’t yet ready to be shot with real bullets, but they’ve developed an immunity to pepper spray, it’s time to go with a bit rougher chemistry.

A fantastic idea - just checked and thioacetone is available with no restriction for under $200 for 25 grams.  Considering its potency, that is more than enough for several large-scale applications. Anyone have a drone they are not using?  The chemicals involved have very low toxicity as well - no poisoning or being overcome by fumes.  Just the smell.

I remember in high school, one of our organic chem labs involved butyric acid - relatively benign chemically but what a vomitous reek.  An oily acid too so it took about a week before I stopped stinking.  Nasal fatigue started in almost immediately so I did not know what was up at first. (And yes, I did get that person back - KMnO4 can leave very dark purple stains on the skin. Fun and epic story.)

Told 'ya - COVID

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It is politics and not public health. From James Delingpole writing at Breitbart:

Nobel Winner Michael Levitt Cancelled for Coronavirus Wrongthink
A Nobel Prize-winning chemist and Stanford professor has been cancelled for wrongthink on coronavirus.

Professor Michael Levitt, who won the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 2013, was due to be the keynote speaker in December at a virtual conference on his areas of special expertise – computational biology and biodesign.

But the First International Biodesign Research Conference withdrew his invitation – according to Levitt because they had received ‘too many calls’ from other speakers ‘threatening to quit’ because of his views on Chinese coronavirus. He has long maintained that the threat is overblown and that ‘we’re going to be fine.’

From Dr. Levitt's twitter account:

A New Dark Age indeed. Science and politics need to be divorced from each other.

From the Low Earth Orbit Tracking Lab twitter account:

Normally, these satellites would fire a rocket, de-orbit and splash down into the ocean but these two birds were built before that was a requirement. The objects are a Parus navigation satellite (Kosmos-2004), launched in 1989, and the Chang Zheng-4C Y4 third stage rocket launched in 2009. They are flying in opposed orbits  so the combined velocity is high.  Kessler syndrome anyone?

Duck...

NEJM is a high-end non-political Scientific Journal devoted to the topic of Medicine and Medical Research.  They are not a partisan organization. Well... Maybe... From The National Pulse:

REVEALED: Anti-Trump New England Journal Of Medicine Is Partnered With A Chinese Communist Publishing House
The medical journal had never involved itself in U.S. presidential elections before, but recently published an op-ed entitled, “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” which implored American voters to remove President Trump office.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), therefore, shares the same election preference as the Chinese Communist Party: a victory for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

NEJM and the Chinese government, however, have considerably more in common.

CCP RUNNING DOGS
NEJM launched a Chinese publication, app, and website in late 2016.

NEJM also partnered with Shanghai Science and Technology Publishing House, a subsidiary of government-approved Shanghai Century Publishing Co.

Shanghai Science and Technology Publishing House boasts on its mission page how it belongs to “the first batch of “National Excellent Publishing Houses named” by the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department and has received a host of awards from the government.

Furthermore, the group describes itself as “under the guidance of the party and the government’s publishing policies.”

Much more at the site.  Science = 0%, Politics = 100% Not surprised.

Sad though. I remember when Scientific American was a relaly good publication - read it regularly growing up.  I used to work with Greenpeace (Seattle office) back when they were a science-based organization. They moved to politics and I quit. Politics and Science do not mix.  Just because you are brilliant in your field does not mean that you have good judgement in other arenas. Paging Messers Dunning and Kruger.  Dr. David Dunning and Dr. Justin Kruger please come to the white courtesy telephone please.

Our quiet sun - a full month

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From Spaceweather:

A MONTH WITHOUT SUNSPOTS
The sun has been without sunspots for 31 straight days--a full month. This interval has pushed the current Solar Minimum into historic territory. Since 2016, there have been 825 spotless days. To find a lull in the solar cycle with more spotless days, you have to go back to the years around 1913 when the sun racked up 1023 spotless days. We are now experiencing a century-class Solar Minimum.

Sunspots are an excellent proxy for solar activity and solar output. Fewer sunspots? A cooler sun. Global warming? More like another cooling period like the Maunder Minimum.

Computer modeling

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A useful tool but it is too often been used to push a narrative. The model that Dr. Michael Mann used for the "hockey stick" graph of global warming is a perfect example. You can feed it completely random numbers and it will churn out more hockey sticks - the model was debunked shortly after publication but the paper still stands and people still quote from it because it promotes the narrative.

This is a perfect truth - from Watts Up With That:

20200918-model.jpg

Twenty eight days

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Our sun is in a quiet period - been 28 days without a sunspot. From Spaceweather:

20200918-sun.jpg

A news item and an editorial. First, from the Pasadena Star-News:

With mammoth Bobcat fire looming, firefighters draw battle lines along Mt. Wilson’s steep slopes
Fire crews stood poised atop Mount Wilson on Tuesday, Sept. 15, strategizing in the shadow of billions of dollars worth of communications infrastructure and history-shaping telescopes. With the Bobcat fire’s various smoky layers dancing as close as 500 feet away, snaking upward toward the complex from various wooded routes, the team’s mission was simple: Protect the familiar towers of the Mount Wilson Observatory.

Already, a fiery tendril from the forest blaze crested a steep ridge around midday and wound toward an observation pathway facing east from the mountaintop. Black smoke poured out from the burning trees and flames climbed dozens of feet into the air. The wildfire sounded more like a waterfall, a din of cracking and popping.

That small, pesky fire, however, was the least of their concerns. It was just a finger off the mammoth blaze ascending from the base of the mountain.

And this from the LA-ist:

What We'll Lose If The Mt. Wilson Observatory Burns
You may not have realized it, but sitting atop one of the highest points in the San Gabriel mountains, looming 5,700 feet over L.A., is arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery: the Mount Wilson Observatory.

The 114-year-old site is covered in equipment that not only helped mankind discover the universe and cement Southern California as an astronomy hub, but still connects normal people to wonders beyond our own world.

Yes, the site is old and yes, there is a lot of light pollution but there is still a lot of really good science being done at the observatory. The place is at the bedrock of our understanding of the universe.

Interesting - Tsar Bomba

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The Russians finally declassified the information about it. Tsar Bomba was the largest (by far) nuclear device ever detonated. A good representation in this graphic:

20200825-bomb.jpg

Much more information at Zero Hedge:

Russia Declassifies Footage Of Biggest Nuke Ever Tested: "Mushroom Cloud 7 Times Higher Than Everest"
Russia has for the first time released full declassified footage of the Soviet Union's monster nuclear bomb known as the 'Tsar Bomba' hydrogen bomb (codenamed “Ivan”).

Widely considered to be the most powerful nuclear weapon ever created and tested, it was detonated 4,000 meters above a sparsely populated archipelago in the Barents Sea on Oct. 30, 1961 as part of a secretive test nevertheless detected by US intelligence.

The bomb had a yield of an estimated 50 megatons, or the equivalent of 50 million tons of TNT, and though poor-quality images had already been released, just days ago the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation published a 40-minute full documentary featuring the new declassified video of the bomb detonation after being dropped by a Tu-95 Bear bomber on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Russia’s nuclear industry.

Much more at the site. The 40 minute documentary can be found at Rosatom - Russian voice-over with English subtitles:

The thought was that it was too large to be delivered as a weapon. Much smaller than expected.

From the New York Times:

Konrad Steffen, Who Sounded Alarm on Greenland Ice, Dies at 68
Konrad Steffen, an Arctic scientist whose work showed that climate change is melting Greenland’s vast ice sheet with increasing speed, died on Saturday in an accident near a research station he created there 30 years ago. He was 68.

And the irony?

A fellow scientist at the station, Jason Box, said the crevasse, or large crack, was a known hazard. But he added that high winds and recent snowfall had made visibility poor and landmarks harder to spot.

Global warming is causing Greenland to lose ice at an unprecidented rate. Oh. Wait.
Our sun is entering a cooling cycle. From Electroverse - August 11th, 2020:

YESTERDAY, IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER, GREENLAND GAINED A RECORD-SMASHING 4 GIGATONS OF SNOW AND ICE
Usually in mid-August, Greenland’s surface mass balance (SMB) is LOSING 4 Gigatons of snow & ice a day. Not yesterday, however — on Aug 10, 2020, the ice sheet GAINED a record-smashing 4 Gigatons of global warming goodness (and just listen to the silence coming from the MSM, it has so much to say).

Before this year, the Greenland ice sheet had never grown anywhere-close to 4 Gigatons in any of the months of June, July, or August, according to DMI records (which go back to 1981). In addition, the DMI record books also reveal that yesterday’s 4 Gt GAIN smashed the previous mid-Aug record by over 2 full Gigatons.

Here are the latest (Aug 10, 2020) measurements:

These are not the climate models. These numbers are coming in from satellites measuring the data. From scientists poking sticks into the ice. From real-world data, not from some computer simulation. It was the record snowfall from the current cooling cycle that caused Dr. Steffen to miss the warnings.

A poke in the eye - Arecibo

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The radio telescope at Arecibo suffered a mechanical malfunction - from University of Central Florida:

Broken Cable Damages Arecibo Observatory

20200812-arecibo.jpgOne of the auxiliary cables that helps support a metal platform in place above the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, broke on Monday (Aug. 10) causing a 100-foot-long gash on the telescope’s reflector dish. Operations at the UCF-managed observatory are stopped until repairs can be made.

The break occurred about 2:45 a.m. When the three-inch cable fell it also damaged about 6-8 panels in the Gregorian Dome and twisted the platform used to access the dome. It is not yet clear what caused the cable to break.

“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” says Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

The 'scope has been in operation for 50 years. Gone through many upgrades and continues to do fantastic science. A treasure.

Pot use while pregnant - from Nature Medicine (the abstract):

Maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and child neurodevelopmental outcomes
Cannabis use in pregnancy has increased, and many women continue to use it throughout pregnancy. With the legalization of recreational cannabis in many jurisdictions, there is concern about potentially adverse childhood outcomes related to prenatal exposure. Using the provincial birth registry containing information on cannabis use during pregnancy, we perform a retrospective analysis of all live births in Ontario, Canada, between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2012. We link pregnancy and birth data to provincial health administrative databases to ascertain child neurodevelopmental outcomes. We use matching techniques to control for confounding and Cox proportional hazards regression models to examine associations between prenatal cannabis use and child neurodevelopment. We find an association between maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in the offspring. The incidence of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis was 4.00 per 1,000 person-years among children with exposure compared to 2.42 among unexposed children, and the fully adjusted hazard ratio was 1.51 (95% confidence interval: 1.17–1.96) in the matched cohort. The incidence of intellectual disability and learning disorders was higher among offspring of mothers who use cannabis in pregnancy, although less statistically robust. We emphasize a cautious interpretation of these findings given the likelihood of residual confounding.

This study has a very large sample size. Almost double the chances of autism? NBC News has a report:

Using marijuana in pregnancy may heighten baby's risk of autism
The risk of autism may be greater in babies born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy, a new study suggests.

In an analysis of data from more than 500,000 Canadian mothers and their children, researchers found a 50 percent increase in the risk of autism spectrum disorder in kids whose mothers had used cannabis while pregnant, according to the report, published Monday in Nature Medicine.

“Cannabis is not a benign drug and any use during pregnancy should be discouraged,” the study’s lead author, Daniel Corsi, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and a scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Ontario Research Institute, said.

No chance of error - sample size to big for any question. Now the question is what else? We do not have a history of studied pot use - what happens to your cognitive facilities after 30 years of toking?

I think I will stick with my beer and wine and an occasional single malt.

Earthquake in North Carolina

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Big 'un too - 5.1 Magnitude and only 3.7km depth   From The Weather Channel:

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee; Roads cracked, dishes broken
A moderate 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook several states in the Southeastern U.S. on Sunday morning.

The earthquake struck at 8:07 a.m.ET about a mile south-southeast of Sparta, North Carolina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Sparta is in Alleghany County on the North Carolina-Virginia border about 90 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was the sixth earthquake in the area in a little more than 24 hours. A series of small quakes began at 7:05 a.m. Saturday. The strongest of those was a 2.6 magnitude tremor that struck about 2 miles south of Sparta at 1:57 a.m. Sunday, the USGS reported.

The USGS reported that the quake was felt as far south as Augusta, Georgia, and as far north as Staunton, Virginia.

And from the South Carolina Department of Emergency Management:

Earthquakes
Many people are unaware of how common earthquakes are in South Carolina. Approximately 10 to 15 earthquakes are recorded annually in South Carolina with 3 to 5 of them felt or noticed by people. About 70 percent of South Carolina earthquakes are located in the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone. The two most significant historical earthquakes to occur in South Carolina were the 1886 Charleston/Summerville earthquake and the 1913 Union County earthquake. The 1886 earthquake in Charleston was the most damaging earthquake to ever occur in the eastern United States. In terms of lives lost, human suffering and devastation, this was the most destructive United States earthquake in the 19th century.

Was not aware that the area was so seismically active. I knew about the New Madrid earthquakes in Missouri but those are quite some distance and a completely different system of faults.

UPDATE at bottom of post

From the National Arrows and Spears Administration:

NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects
Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.

“I support our ongoing reevaluation of the names by which we refer to astronomical objects,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters, Washington. “Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we’ll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”

The administrators that green-lighted this move should be fired. They are not operating in alignment with NASA's founding principles. Astronomy has no need of political correctness and those that seek to inflict it are not benefiting science.

UPDATEAmerica's newspaper of record published this handy infographic:

20200808-nasa.jpg

Seems that they had caches of it around Europe - from The Jerusalem Post:

Hezbollah stockpiled chemical behind Beirut blast in London and Germany
Hezbollah kept three metric tons of ammonium nitrate, the explosive thought to be behind the mega blast in Beirut this week, in a storehouse in London, until MI5 and the London Metropolitan Police found it in 2015.

The Lebanese terrorist group also stored hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate in southern Germany, which were uncovered earlier this year.

More at the site.  There is still too much missing information. NH4NO3 is the oxidizer, it still needs the fuel (such as the fuel oil or diesel in ANFO).

Still way to early to know what really happened.

Beirut explosion - ammonium nitrate

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The official story so far - from gCaptain:

Beirut Blast Blamed on Chemical Cargo Removed From Ship in 2014
The volatile chemical that Lebanese authorities blame for Tuesday’s lethal blast in Beirut had been lying in storage at the city’s port for six years in spite of warnings from customs officials about its hazards, documents show.

The ammonium nitrate arrived as cargo on the ship Rhosus in 2014, according to two letters issued by the director general of Lebanese Customs. For reasons that are unclear, dockworkers unloaded the chemical, which can be used to make fertilizers and explosives, and put it into storage.

Customs officials later asked judicial authorities at least twice to issue orders for the ammonium nitrate to be confiscated or re-exported, according to the letters. In one of the letters, dated May 3, 2016, the director general at that time, Shafik Merhe, warned of “the extreme danger” from storing the chemical in a warehouse “in these unsuitable weather conditions.” The material posed a risk to the staff and the port, he said.

Something does not ring quite right - pure ammonium nitrate does not burn very easily. It is an oxidizer and will not combust or explode unless there is a fuel present and mixed throughout. Once fuel has been mixed in, it still takes an awful lot of effort to discharge - dynamite has been used for this. An open flame is not sufficient.

The most common form of explosive is ANFO - ammonium nitrate + fuel oil. This is used for blasting. It is what was used in Oklahoma 25 years ago. Makes me wonder what the real story is...

Increased sunspots = increased overall activity. From the SpaceWeather site:

SOLAR CYCLE 25 STRENGTHENS
There's no longer any doubt. New Solar Cycle 25 is coming to life. The latest sign came yesterday with the emergence of a new sunspot group, AR2770, inset in this magnetic map of the sun's surface from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):

20200804-sun.jpg

AR2770 has two dark cores (each about the size of Mars) and is crackling with minor B-class solar flares. Its potential for even stronger flares will become clear in the days ahead as the sunspot turns toward Earth, more fully revealing its magnetic complexity.

Active regions from Solar Cycle 25 are now strewn across the sun's northern hemisphere. These are places where magnetic fields are intensifying, creating islands of magnetism on the sun's surface.

And this cautionary note::

The appearance of so many active regions at once is a clear sign that Solar Cycle 25 is gaining steam. However, that doesn't mean Solar Minimum is finished. These are just "starter sunspots," pipsqueaks compared to the behemoths expected when Solar Cycle 25 reaches its peak a few years from now. Solar activity should remain generally low despite this uptick in sunspot counts.

We could still be looking at an overall cooling period.

alt.energy - some numbers

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A good essay on the futility of alternative energy and it outlines just how wasteful and resource intensive most of these scams (wind, solar, etc...) are. From the Manhattan Institute:

Mines, Minerals, and "Green" Energy: A Reality Check
As policymakers have shifted focus from pandemic challenges to economic recovery, infrastructure plans are once more being actively discussed, including those relating to energy. Green energy advocates are doubling down on pressure to continue, or even increase, the use of wind, solar power, and electric cars. Left out of the discussion is any serious consideration of the broad environmental and supply-chain implications of renewable energy.

As I explored in a previous paper, “The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking,” many enthusiasts believe things that are not possible when it comes to the physics of fueling society, not least the magical belief that “clean-tech” energy can echo the velocity of the progress of digital technologies. It cannot.

This is quite a long article, very well footnoted with the data to back up its claims. Here are a few observations:

Among the material realities of green energy:

    • Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity, as well as batteries to fuel electric vehicles, requires, on average, more than 10 times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using hydrocarbons to deliver the same amount of energy to society.
    • A single electric car contains more cobalt than 1,000 smartphone batteries; the blades on a single wind turbine have more plastic than 5 million smartphones; and a solar array that can power one data center uses more glass than 50 million phones.
    • Replacing hydrocarbons with green machines under current plans—never mind aspirations for far greater expansion—will vastly increase the mining of various critical minerals around the world. For example, a single electric car battery weighing 1,000 pounds requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of materials. Averaged over a battery’s life, each mile of driving an electric car “consumes” five pounds of earth. Using an internal combustion engine consumes about 0.2 pounds of liquids per mile.
    • Oil, natural gas, and coal are needed to produce the concrete, steel, plastics, and purified minerals used to build green machines. The energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil is used in the processes to fabricate a single battery that can store the equivalent of one barrel of oil.
    • By 2050, with current plans, the quantity of worn-out solar panels—much of it nonrecyclable—will constitute double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste, along with over 3 million tons per year of unrecyclable plastics from worn-out wind turbine blades. By 2030, more than 10 million tons per year of batteries will become garbage.

Much much more at the site. The papers are available as PDF files for you to download. Lots of links to reference numbers.

alt.energy is an economic rathole. If we spent the same time and money on liquid salt Thorium reactors, our energy problems would be solved for the next 5,000 years.

Cleaning house - China

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Great news from Science:

Fifty-four scientists have lost their jobs as a result of NIH probe into foreign ties
Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. For 93% of the 189 scientists whom NIH has investigated to date, China was the source of their undisclosed support.

The new numbers come from Michael Lauer, NIH’s head of extramural research. Lauer had previously provided some information on the scope of NIH’s investigation, which had targeted 189 scientists at 87 institutions. But his presentation today to a senior advisory panel offered by far the most detailed breakout of an effort NIH launched in August 2018 that has roiled the U.S. biomedical community, and resulted in criminal charges against some prominent researchers, including Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s department of chemistry and chemical biology.

“It’s not what we had hoped, and it’s not a fun task,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in characterizing the ongoing investigation. He called the data “sobering.”

We are distancing ourselves from the evil empire. Communism is antithetical to American values. The sooner it is removed, the better off the whole world will be.

Just wow. Documentary on David Bohm

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Dr. David Bohm is one of my favorite thinkers - a Physicist whose work was on the inter-connectedness of the universe.

The documentary is available here for free for a limited time: Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm

Here is the trailer to give you a taste. The channel has a bunch of other videos - interviews, panel discussions, etc...

Democrats want to have as many COVID cases as possible between now and November so they can keep the Nation locked down. There are all kinds of statistical ways to play the numbers. The classic book on the subject was written in 1954: How to Lie with Statistics

The Ethical Skeptic cautions us about the upcoming COVID numbers - from their twitter account:

Replies would indicate that this process is already being implemented for some states. Follow the link to read for yourself - the facts do not lie. The narrative does. There is a big difference between the two.

Dealing with the pandemic

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We did horribly - the whole world did. Too many people politicized it or told their political masters what they wanted to hear with computer models of the death estimates ranging 100's of times higher than the actual numbers.

Seattle weather guru Cliff Mass takes them to the woodshed:

Weather Forecasting is Fifty Years Ahead of Epidemiological Prediction: That Must Change
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy approached New York from off the Atlantic. Seven days before, a near perfect track forecast was made by the European Center and two days later the U.S. model (the GFS), run by the National Weather Service's Environmental Modeling Center, has locked on as well.

The stunningly accurate prediction of an extremely unusual event, saved countless lives, with only about 100 deaths in a region of tens of millions of people (and most who died made a bad decision to ignore the forecast).

He looks at the factors going in to this and compares it to our dealings with the Wuhan Flu:

Stunningly, U.S. epidemiological modeling has almost NONE of the above components or systems, and the performance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is poor.    Consider:

    • There is no large, permanent epidemiological prediction center in the U.S. government analogous to the NOAA/NWS.   U.S. response to COVID had to depend on a hodgepodge of university forecasting efforts, some spun up for this event.  Untested, unverified, and often very wrong.
    • Unlike weather prediction, U.S. epidemiologists do not have an accurate description of what is happening NOW.  Testing was slow to begin, in fact, the CDC made serious errors in test development.  Even today, six months into the pandemic there are not enough tests.  There is no attempt being made to randomly sample the population to understand how many folks have or were infected.  Unbelievable.
    • Unlike the comprehensive and smoothly running weather observational system, there is poor organization to the data collection by CDC. There are not even standard reporting approaches.
    • The epidemiological models are generally primitive affairs, many of which do not consider the complex, variable transmission properties of a heterogeneous population, and lack clear information of what is occurring right now (called the initialization in weather prediction).
    • Communication by CDC of both the threat and how to deal with the disease has been inconsistent and often wrong.  For example, they initially discouraged the use of masks, before reversing their guidance 180 degrees.  Similarly, CDC downplayed the threat in January and February, before reserving in March.  The NWS works very hard to start with reliable forecasts, to communicate the uncertainties, and not to go back and forth in their warnings.  They are masters at this.

Cliff is not a fan of President Trump but he offers this come-to-Jesus moment for the TDS sufferers:

The Political Opportunists
There are some folks and many media pundits who are claiming this COVID disaster is all the fault of President Trump and that things would have been much better under a Democratic President.

This is either very naive or very cynical.

There is no doubt that the President and his administration has been startlingly misinformed and ineffective. His abysmal leadership has made things much worse.

But the problems noted above are not recent developments and have been allowed to fester in recent administrations, including the 8-years of President Obama. I suspect we would not have been in much better place if Hilary Clinton would have won, because the basic institutional infrastructure was not put in place.

That is what we must do together as a nation, following the example of the weather prediction community. And speaking as one of them, we would be glad to help.

A very wise heads-up. Let us hope that President Trump has some advisers that think along the same lines. This bit of nastiness escaped from the Chinese lab despite their protestations to the contrary. Stuff like this will happen again and the sooner we can mobilize, the better.

Wonderful news - REE mining

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REE? Wheeeee!!!!  Rare Earth Elements - used in technological stuff. From Colorado's Page Two:

Colorado on cutting edge to reduce China’s rare earth element domination
A Colorado city is now home to the tip of the spear in combating China’s domination of the world-market for rare earth elements (REE).  Manipulation of the REE market by China most recently resulted in the shutdown of the Mountain Pass REE mine in California in 2015 after an attempt by Greenwood Village-based Molycorp to reopen what has been the only developed REE mine in the U.S.

A pilot plant, now in operation in Wheat Ridge, which borders Denver to the west, will fine-tune existing technology to extract and purify elements including lithium, scandium, zirconium, beryllium, gallium and hafnium, among others, from domestic ore deposits in Texas.

The plant, built by New York-based USA Rare Earth (USARE) and commissioned June 11, was built to be near the expertise at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, adjacent to Wheat Ridge, during the technology development phase. USARE expects to build a larger plant starting in 2021 at the Round Top REE mine the company is developing near El Paso, Texas.

In a company press release, Pini Althaus, CEO of USARE said, “Our Colorado pilot plant will be the first processing facility outside of China with the ability to separate the full range of rare earths – Lights, Mids and Heavies. Our Wheat Ridge pilot plant is the second piece of a 100% U.S.-based rare earth oxide supply chain, drawing on feedstock from our Round Top heavy rare earth and critical minerals deposit in southwest Texas. Taken together, Round Top and our pilot plant constitute essential links in restoring a domestic U.S. rare earth supply chain, extracting rare earths and processing them into individual REE oxides – without the material ever leaving the United States, thereby alleviating the current dependence on China for the both raw materials and mineral processing.”

Incredible news. Not only for our own use but to export. The enviros started the problem (naturally) 30 years ago and then the Chinese started currency manipulation and price dumping so it was not economical for older mines to compete. Now, there is a new mine coming in that will be able to operate efficiently and compete in the world market.

One huge side-benefit is that you frequently find Thorium ore (Monazite) in with the REEs so Thorium Reactors will become that much cheaper when we start building them. Thorium reactors?

Here: LFTR in five minutes The actual video continues for an hour or more after - it goes into a lot more detail.

The TL;DR part is in the first five minues.

Curious - Russia

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From Reuters:

Russia denies nuclear incident after international body detects isotopes
Russia said on Monday it had detected no sign of a radiation emergency, after an international body reported last week that sensors in Stockholm had picked up unusually high levels of radioactive isotopes produced by nuclear fission.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which monitors the world for evidence of nuclear weapons tests, said last week one of its stations scanning the air for radioactive particles had found unusual, although harmless, levels of caesium-134, caesium-137 and ruthenium-103.

The isotopes were “certainly nuclear fission products, most likely from a civil source”, it said. It tweeted a map showing where the material was likely to have originated, which included parts of several Baltic and Scandinavian countries as well as a swathe of western Russia.

Asked on Monday about reports that Russia could have been the source of a leak, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have an absolutely advanced radiation levels safety monitoring system and there are no any emergency alarms.”

“We do not know the source of this information.”

Hmmm... Cesium isotopes are definitely a result of nuclear fission. Half-lives are in the couple-year range so any "naturally occurring" sources decayed millennia ago.

According to Google?  Here's the thing:  Go to Google.com, type in a random three digit number followed by [space]new[space]cases.  ie: "nnn new cases" and see what comes up. Here are nine of my Google queries - such an unbiased source:

20200627-Google0100.jpg

20200627-Google0101.jpg

20200627-Google0102.jpg

20200627-Google0499.jpg

20200627-Google0500.jpg

20200627-Google0501.jpg

20200627-Google0997.jpg

20200627-Google0998.jpg

20200627-Google0999.jpg

Hmmmmm... Does this look a little bit outside the bounds of statistical normalcy? A little hinky if you ask me.
You try some numbers and let me know.

I love that every one of the searches turned up over 1,000,000 results with some of them turning up numbers in the billions.

Tip of the hat to Vanderleun

A bolt out of the blue - Lightning

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Ho. Li. Crap. Talk about raw power - from phys.org:

700-km Brazil 'megaflash' sets lightning record
The UN's weather agency announced Thursday the longest lightning bolt on record—a single flash in Brazil on October 31, 2018 that cut the sky across more than 700 kilometers.

That is equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington DC in the United States, or between London and Basel, Switzerland, the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement.

WMO's committee of experts on weather and climate extremes also reported a new world record for the duration of a lightning flash, with a single flash that developed continuously over northern Argentina on March 4, 2019 lasting for a full 16.73 seconds.

The new "megaflash" records, which were verified with new satellite lightning imagery technology, were more than double the previous known record-holders, WMO said.

The bolts are not getting bigger, we are getting better detection and wider coverage of the planet.
Amazing power there. I love lightning.

Yikes - earthquake in Mexico

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Got the alert a few minutes ago - 7.4 Mag which will cause substantial building damage. It was a bit deep which will mitigate the damage somewhat but still, not good.

More news as it comes out.

Also known as EMP - from the Washington Examiner:

China develops weapons to fry US electric grid, eyes high-tech ‘Pearl Harbor’ attack
With the help of stolen U.S. technology, China has developed at least three types of high-tech weapons to attack the electric grid and key technologies in a “surprise Pearl Harbor” assault that could send America into a deadly blackout, according to a new analysis.

According to the report from the independent EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, China has built a network of satellites, high-speed missiles, and “super-electromagnetic pulse” weapons that could melt down the U.S. electric network, fry critical communications, and stifle aircraft carrier groups.

EMP is a serious concern. The sun outputs strong solar flares from time to time which have the same effect. We dodged a bullet in 2012 when huge one happened but it was pointed away from Earth at the time. Nine days earlier, things would have been quite a bit different. There was a big one in 1859 - The Carrington Event and we have had other lesser storms in 1921, 1960 and 1989. These events are not uncommon.

What China is trying to do is launch nuclear weapons into orbit (and I am sure we have some up there as well) and detonate them 200+ miles up over the US. The resultant EMP would fry out power grid and kill most modern electronics.

What were they thinking? From the Associated Press:

US: Company provided subpar steel for Navy submarine hulls
For decades, the Navy’s leading supplier of high-strength steel for submarines provided subpar metal because one of the company’s longtime employees falsified lab results — putting sailors at greater risk in the event of collisions or other impacts, federal prosecutors said in court filings Monday.

The supplier, Kansas City-based Bradken Inc., paid $10.9 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the Justice Department said. The company provides steel castings that Navy contractors Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding use to make submarine hulls.

Bradken in 2008 acquired a foundry in Tacoma, Washington, that produced steel castings for the Navy. According to federal prosecutors, Bradken learned in 2017 that the foundry’s director of metallurgy had been falsifying the results of strength tests, indicating that the steel was strong enough to meet the Navy’s requirements when in fact it was not.

And a bit more:

Investigators said the fraud came to light when a metallurgist being groomed to replace Thomas upon her planned 2017 retirement noticed some suspicious results. The company said it immediately fired Thomas.

“While the company acknowledges that it failed to discover and disclose the full scope of the issue during the initial stages of the investigation, the government has recognized Bradken’s cooperation over the last eighteen months to be exceptional,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Bradken has a long history of proudly serving its clients, and this incident is not representative of our organization. We deeply regret that a trusted employee engaged in this conduct.”

Yikes - what was she thinking? There is no graceful exit strategy to a fraud like this. Any accident would trigger an investigation and discovery.

From the Canadian Broadcasting Comany:

Canadian scientist sent deadly viruses to Wuhan lab months before RCMP asked to investigate
Newly-released access-to-information documents reveal details about a shipment of deadly pathogens last year from Canada's National Microbiology Lab to China — confirming for the first time who sent them, what exactly was shipped, and where it went.

CBC News had already reported about the shipment of Ebola and Henipah viruses but there's now confirmation one of the scientists escorted from the lab in Winnipeg amid an RCMP investigation last July was responsible for exporting the pathogens to the Wuhan Institute of Virology four months earlier.

Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, her husband Keding Cheng and her students from China were removed from Canada's only level-4 lab over what's described as a possible "policy breach." The Public Health Agency of Canada had asked the RCMP to get involved several months earlier.

And a bit more - the reaction:

"It is suspicious. It is alarming. It is potentially life-threatening," said Amir Attaran, a law professor and epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa.

"We have a researcher who was removed by the RCMP from the highest security laboratory that Canada has for reasons that government is unwilling to disclose. The intelligence remains secret. But what we know is that before she was removed, she sent one of the deadliest viruses on Earth, and multiple varieties of it to maximize the genetic diversity and maximize what experimenters in China could do with it, to a laboratory in China that does dangerous gain of function experiments. And that has links to the Chinese military."

Gain of function experiments are when a natural pathogen is taken into the lab, made to mutate, and then assessed to see if it has become more deadly or infectious.

Most countries, including Canada, don't do these kinds of experiments — because they're considered too dangerous, Attaran said.

"The Wuhan lab does them and we have now supplied them with Ebola and Nipah viruses. It does not take a genius to understand that this is an unwise decision," he said.

This is chilling - there is only one reason to do an experiment like this. They are trying to weaponize these materials. They do not have the intelligence or wisdom to do this kind of work - this is why China is continually stealing our intellectual property (here, herehereherehere for starters). Those labs that do have the brains, simply do not do these kinds of experiments. Period. Too fscking dangerous. End of story.

From Nature:

A discrete neuronal circuit induces a hibernation-like state in rodents
Hibernating mammals actively lower their body temperature to reduce energy expenditure when facing food scarcity. This ability to induce a hypometabolic state has evoked great interest owing to its potential medical benefits. Here we show that a hypothalamic neuronal circuit in rodents induces a long-lasting hypothermic and hypometabolic state similar to hibernation. In this state, although body temperature and levels of oxygen consumption are kept very low, the ability to regulate metabolism still remains functional, as in hibernation. There was no obvious damage to tissues and organs or abnormalities in behaviour after recovery from this state. Our findings could enable the development of a method to induce a hibernation-like state, which would have potential applications in non-hibernating mammalian species including humans.

Space travel here we come. Also, a good way to deal with the next pandemic lockdown.

Sad that so many people are doing this but great that they are being found out and removed. From Science:

Fifty-four scientists have lost their jobs as a result of NIH probe into foreign ties
Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. In 93% of those cases, the hidden funding came from a Chinese institution.

The new numbers come from Michael Lauer, NIH’s head of extramural research. Lauer had previously provided some information on the scope of NIH’s investigation, which had targeted 189 scientists at 87 institutions. But his presentation today to a senior advisory panel offered by far the most detailed breakout of an effort NIH launched in August 2018 that has roiled the U.S. biomedical community, and resulted in criminal charges against some prominent researchers, including Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s department of chemistry and chemical biology.

China is stealing our intellectual property. We have been too lax for too long.More at the site - some staggering numbers.

Quite the milestone

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Talk about the stories you will be able to tell your grandchildren - from EYOS Expeditions:

Kathy Sullivan becomes first woman to Challenger Deep; EYOS coordinates call between International Space Station and DSSV Pressure Drop
In a world first, EYOS Expeditions today coordinated a call between the International Space Station and the DSSV Pressure Drop, the mothership of submersible DSV Limiting Factor. Limiting Factor ‘LF’ had just returned from a full ocean depth dive in the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the ocean, with pilot Victor Vescovo of Caladan Oceanic and oceanographer/astronaut Dr. Kathy Sullivan onboard. The ISS is in Low Earth orbit at an altitude of 408 kms (254 miles) while the LF operates at a depth of nearly 7 miles.

Kathy Sullivan had just completed her historic dive to become the first woman to reach the deepest point in the ocean and the first human to have been in space and at full ocean depth. In 1983, Dr Sullivan, a veteran of three space shuttle flights, became the first American woman to walk in space. She is the 8th person to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep (The first two were Don Walsh and Jacques Picard in 1960. James Cameron also reached the bottom of Challenger Deep in 2012).

Last year, Victor Vescovo became the fourth person in history to reach Challenger Deep as part of his Five Deeps expedition; over the course of 7 days, his team made 5 dives in the Mariana Trench.

Very very cool - there is so much about Earth that we do not know. Every exploration like this opens new horizons. This is an incredible planet to live on if we could just stop with the political activism and get our shit together. We could do so much more.

An interesting bit of history from the London Daily Mail:

Wuhan virus lab was signed off by EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier in 2004 - despite French intelligence warnings that China's poor bio-security reputation could lead to a catastrophic leak
The construction of the Chinese laboratory at the centre of mounting suspicion over the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was signed off by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier – despite warnings by French intelligence services.

Mr Barnier – currently embroiled in acrimonious negotiations with the UK over a post-Brexit trade deal – was the French foreign minister when he gave the go-ahead for work to start on the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2004, under a joint deal with the Chinese.

The move came despite strong opposition from French diplomatic and security advisers, who argued that the Chinese reputation for poor bio-security could lead to a catastrophic leak.

They also warned that Paris could lose control of the project, and even suggested that Beijing could harness the technology to make biowarfare weapons.

Eleven years later, as the laboratory prepared to open, the French architects of the project complained that they had, as feared, been ousted by the Chinese communist government.

Typical - steal the intellectual property and then do a piss-poor job if running it themselves. China needs to pay and pay big for this.

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