Thursday, February 28, 2013

Warrantless Internet Snooping Upheld

Supreme Court Says Americans Can't Challenge "Dragnet Surveillance" Law

By Ryan Gallagher as a Slate blog, February 26, 2013

The spies at the National Security Agency must have breathed a major sigh of relief today. The Supreme Court ruled that Americans have no standing to challenge the constitutionality of the NSA’s secret eavesdropping efforts.

The significant decision comes after grappling in the lower courts that began in 2008. Back then, a group of lawyers, human rights groups, journalists, and media organizations challenged in court the legality of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act. A 2008 amendment to the law, they alleged, had authorized sweeping "dragnet surveillance" that could pull in Americans’ international communications in violation of constitutional rights, such as those enshrined by the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The district court for the Southern District of New York rejected the claim in 2009, agreeing with the government that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they could not prove they were subject to surveillance. But then the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in 2011, concluding that the plaintiffs had a "reasonable fear of future injury."

Now, the Supreme Court has weighed in to settle the issue, reversing the 2nd circuit’s judgment on a 5-4 vote and agreeing with the government that the plaintiffs have no standing to challenge the spy law. The Supreme Court said that the plaintiffs’ argument "fails" in part because it "rests on a speculative chain of possibilities that does not establish that their potential injury is certainly impending or is fairly traceable." The ruling states that "it is highly speculative whether the government will imminently target communications to which respondents are parties," adding that "they have no actual knowledge of the government’s [FISA] targeting practices."

The decision will come as a major blow to Americans concerned about the NSA’s secret surveillance programs, which first came to widespread attention in 2005, with a "warrantless wiretapping" scandal involving domestic surveillance of phone calls and emails. However, the ruling does not necessarily shield FISA from future legal challenges. It states explicitly that "the holding in this case by no means insulates [FISA] from judicial review."

It’s also worth noting that the Supreme Court judgement is clear in that it accepts "the government’s interception of a private telephone or e-mail conversation amounts to an injury that is ‘concrete and particularized’." The reason the plaintiffs’ case failed was that they could not prove that they were subject to surveillance—and they could not do so because the government refuses to comment on its surveillance capabilities or divulge details about whom it is targeting. Indeed, in a bizarre piece of circular reasoning, the NSA told lawmakers last year that it could not even so much as provide a rough estimate of how many Americans it has spied on because it argues that providing this information would itself "violate the privacy of U.S. persons." This hammers home the point that the problem is not necessarily the surveillance per se, but the secrecy that surrounds the surveillance.

FISA was recently renewed for a further five years, granting the NSA broad eaves-dropping authorization until 2017. Aside from concerns about the law’s domestic surveillance implications, it has recently attracted attention in Europe, with a report for the European Parliament calling it "a carte blanche for anything that furthers U.S. foreign policy interests" that had legalized "heavy-calibre mass surveillance fire-power aimed at the cloud."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Modern Pandemics Spread

Emily Badger, who writes for the on-line daily version of The Atlantic, called The Atlantic Cities, has some startling insights about the next pandemic to hit worldwide. She notes that past European panedemics were spread by foot travel from city to city.

So she talked to Dick Brockmann, a theoretical physicist and professor of complex systems at Northwestern University. Brockmann has spent about a decade modelling this issue with his colleagues, and he thinks that twenty-first century pandemics will spread based on travellers through the world’s largest airports.

The article is available at:

It has a fascinating map of the large air travel corridors that is worth meditating upon.

Comments by the Blog Author
I like maps. I’ve driven across the entire United States several times with no maps or crude ones. Once as a student Naval Flight Officer, I planned a half-hour flight over several checkpoints (practice bombing targets) and was within seconds of my plan for each flyover, ending the last checkpoint within six seconds of my original planned time (at 300 miles per hour and only 1,200 feet over rural lower Alabama!).

That was fun.

So I got hypnotized by the frequency-of-travel worldwide air map at the above link. Some things fell out of that review that I did. Here they are.


You don’t want to be in the lower 48 states of the USA except rural Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming where there are no commercial airports. You don’t want to be in any of Canada’s large cities. You don’t want to be anywhere in Europe. You don’t want to be where Europeans vacation, especially the Azores, the West Indies, Bermuda or the Seychelles. You don’t want to be in the big cities of India, Brazil, Mexico or South Africa. You don’t want to be along the Pacific Rim from Japan to South Korea down to Singapore. You don’t want to be in a city along the east coast of Australia or in Tasmania. You don’t want to be in Iceland.


The Alexander Archipeligo of Alaska in the villages without an airport (WAA).

Central or eastern Montana, North Dakota or Wyoming (WAA).

Canada north of its big cities and WAA.

Siberia WAA.

The Australian outback WAA.

The Australian islands that are in the Indian Ocean

The Sahara Desert

The Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic

Monday, February 25, 2013

Samuelson's Very Bad Economics

Robert Samuelson, with an article titled "The True National Debt," reported in Newsweek of February 25, 2013, the following five categories of federal debt:


2.  GROSS FEDERAL DEBT: adds securities issued to government trust funds. Samuelson notes that "Economists dislike this debt concept, because the trust-fund Treasury securities represent one part of the government owing another. It's comparable to lending yourself money. Congress could cancel these debts, though it almost certainly won't. The trust-account Treasury securities represent political commitments more than financial obligations." This is an economist talking his usual nonsense. An accountant says that these are reasonable and expected obligations that would only change with unexpected changes in federal law. Unless the issuing agency has a fully-funded sinking fund, and the agencies don’t have that, accrual-based accounting requires the inclusion of these obligations in the gross debt.

3.  FEDERAL LOANS AND LOAN GUARANTEES: $2.9 trillion in 2011

4.  FANNIE AND FREDDIE: $5.1 trillion


This adds up to federal debt of about $33 trillion – not including underfunded entitlement programs.
Samuelson smugly notes:

"So the most expansive measure of national debt ($31 trillion) is nearly three times the conventional estimate ($11 trillion). Almost all the items on my list -- whether Treasury bonds or bank deposits -- are ultimately legal obligations of the federal government. Note: They differ from Social Security and Medicare benefits, which are often called "debts." They aren't. Congress can alter the benefits anytime it chooses."
Samuelson is full of shit. He should know this, he probably does, but his political views trump what little he knows about money, how to count it and how to report it accurately. Social Security and Medicare are what an accountant would call "grossly underfunded." If we take the value of the promises made for these programs over the next 75 years (discounted by present value to the present time) and subtract the tax income expected for these programs (also discounted by present value to the present time), then you get a net present value figure called net unfunded debt. Any corporation reporting annual financial information and listed on any stock exchange in the USA would be required to report this net unfunded debt as part of FASB 86 and FASB 106. The failure to do so would be a federal felony. But the federal government exempts itself from the net unfunded debt of Social Security (above $20 trillion) and Medicare (above $25 trillion). The government – and Congrerss – are intentionally underinforming the public about the unsustainability of these underfunded programs.
Samuelson speciously notes that Congress could act to end Social Security or Medicare and therefore there are no economic consequences of underfunding. Shit. Absolute shit.
Samuelson does not mention federal pensions. A lot of these are military pensions. The unfunded debt for those federal employees is $10 trillion or more.

Samuelson does not mention that the federal government reformed large private pensions (ERISA) in 1972 and set up a pension guarantee program that would bail out the pensions of large private organizations if they go broke. A lot of them will. The underfunded guarantee balance is short about $20 trillion.

We are now at $108 trillion in federal debt and counting.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made about $9 trillion in secret guarantees to corporations, state governments, localities, banks, foreign governments and foreign corporations late in 2008 and early in 2009 to avert a worldwide crisis. The U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats, refuses to audit the Federal Reserve, so I can’t put a reliable figure on the debt value of the guarantees and electronic money involved in Bernanke’s shady deals.

We’ve got about $117 trillion in federal debt and public guarantees based on a GDP of $15.5 trillion annually. We’re broke. We have to freeze Social Security and cut Medicare. Now. The longer we wait the more painful we’re going to have to make the cuts. The failure to act means probable hyperinflation for America.

MORAL: regarding debts and money, always trust a certified public accountant over the hopelessly politicized economics "profession."

Additional references for your information:

The Coming Generational Storm
: What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Scott Burns
Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility
by David M. Walker [a CPA and former Comptroller General of the United States and former head of the Government Accountability Office]
Samuelson’s article is from:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Coming: Computerized Medical Diagnosis


Yesterday’s blog was about the cognitive bias of anchoring (also called focalism), in which the option or figure seen first commands such attention that results are skewed. This bias is particularly important in the medical profession, especially in making an accurate diagnosis.

The March, 2013, issue of The Atlantic discussses the potential for using artificial intelligence to perform patient diagnosis. IBM’s "Watson" supercomputer, the same device that defeated prior champions on the game show Jeopardy, is now being fed case histories to see if it can learn to diagnose medical problems.

It appears that supercomputers are going to have a major part in the future of medicine, perhaps transforming treatment and diagnosis in a manner as radical as automation has effected so many other professions. The link to the complete article is here:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Irrational Bias of Anchoring

Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the "anchor") when making decisions. During decision making, anchoring occurs when individuals use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments. Once an anchor is set, other judgments are made by adjusting away from that anchor, and there is a bias toward interpreting other information around the anchor. For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is really worth.

Focusing Effect
The focusing effect (or focusing illusion) is a cognitive bias that occurs when people place too much importance on one aspect of an event, causing an error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.

People focus on notable differences, excluding those that are less conspicuous, when making predictions about happiness or convenience. For example, when people were asked how much happier they believe Californians are compared to Midwesterners, Californians and Midwesterners both said Californians must be considerably happier, when, in fact, there was no difference between the actual happiness rating of Californians and Midwesterners. The bias lies in that most people asked focused on and overweighed the sunny weather and ostensibly easy-going lifestyle of California and devalued and underrated other aspects of life and determinants of happiness, such as low crime rates and safety from natural disasters like earthquakes (both of which large parts of California lack).

A rise in income has only a small and transient effect on happiness and well-being, but people consistently overestimate this effect. Kahneman et al. proposed that this is a result of a focusing illusion, with people focusing on conventional measures of achievement rather than on everyday routine.

Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic
Anchoring and adjustment
is a psychological heuristic that influences the way people intuitively assess probabilities. According to this heuristic, people start with an implicitly suggested reference point (the "anchor") and make adjustments to it to reach their estimate. A person begins with a first approximation (anchor) and then makes incremental adjustments based on additional information. These adjustments are usually insufficient, giving the initial anchor a great deal of influence over future assessments.
The anchoring and adjustment heuristic was first theorized by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. In one of their first studies, participants were asked to compute the product of the numbers one through eight, either as

1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8

or reversed as

8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1.

The anchor was the number shown first in the sequence, either 1 or 8. When 1 was the anchor, the average estimate was 512; when 8 was the anchor, the average estimate was 2,250. The correct answer was 40,320, indicating that both groups made insufficient adjustments away from the initial anchor. In another study by Tversky and Kahneman, participants observed a roulette wheel that was predetermined to stop on either 10 or 65. Participants were then asked to guess the percentage of the United Nations that were African nations. Participants whose wheel stopped on 10 guessed lower values (25% on average) than participants whose wheel stopped at 65 (45% on average). The pattern has held in other experiments for a wide variety of different subjects of estimation.
As a second example, in a study by Dan Ariely, an audience is first asked to write the last two digits of their social security number and consider whether they would pay this number of dollars for items whose value they did not know, such as wine, chocolate and computer equipment. They were then asked to bid for these items, with the result that the audience members with higher two-digit numbers would submit bids that were between 60 percent and 120 percent higher than those with the lower social security numbers, which had become their anchor.

Difficulty of Avoiding Anchoring

Various studies have shown that anchoring is very difficult to avoid. For example, in one study students were given anchors that were obviously wrong. They were asked whether Mahatma Gandhi died before or after age 9, or before or after age 140. Clearly neither of these anchors can be correct, but the two groups still guessed significantly differently (average age of 50 vs. average age of 67).

Other studies have tried to eliminate anchoring much more directly. In a study exploring the causes and properties of anchoring, participants were exposed to an anchor and asked to guess how many physicians were listed in the local phone book. In addition, they were explicitly informed that anchoring would "contaminate" their responses, and that they should do their best to correct for that. A control group received no anchor and no explanation. Regardless of how they were informed and whether they were informed correctly, all of the experimental groups reported higher estimates than the control group. Thus, despite being expressly aware of the anchoring effect, participants were still unable to avoid it. A later study found that even when offered monetary incentives, people are unable to effectively adjust from an anchor.

Several theories have been put forth to explain what causes anchoring, although some explanations are more popular than others, there is no consensus as to which is best. In a study on possible causes of anchoring, two authors described anchoring as easy to demonstrate, but hard to explain. At least one group of researchers has argued that multiple causes are at play, and that what is called "anchoring" is actually several different effects.

In their original study, Tversky and Kahneman put forth a view later termed anchoring-and-adjusting. According to this theory, once an anchor is set, people adjust away from it to get to their final answer; however, they adjust insufficiently, resulting in their final guess being closer to the anchor than it would be otherwise. Other researchers also found evidence supporting the anchoring-and-adjusting explanation.

However, later researchers criticized this model, saying that it only works when the initial anchor is outside the range of acceptable answers. To use an earlier example, since Mahatma Gandhi obviously did not die at age 9, then people will adjust from there. If a reasonable number were given, though (e.g. age 60), then adjustment would not explain the anchoring effect. Another study found that the anchoring effect holds even when the anchor is subliminal. According to Tversky and Kahneman's theory, this is impossible, since anchoring is only the result of conscious adjustment. Because of arguments like these, anchoring-and-adjusting has fallen out of favor.

     Selective Accessibility
In the same study that criticized anchoring-and-adjusting, the authors proposed an alternate explanation regarding selective accessibility, which is derived from a theory called "confirmatory hypothesis testing". In short, selective accessibility proposes that when given an anchor, a judge (i.e. a person making some judgment) will evaluate the hypothesis that the anchor is a suitable answer. Assuming it is not, the judge moves on to another guess, but not before accessing all the relevant attributes of the anchor itself. Then, when evaluating the new answer, the judge looks for ways in which it is similar to the anchor, resulting in the anchoring effect. Various studies have found empirical support for this hypothesis. This explanation assumes that the judge considers the anchor to be a plausible value so that it is not immediately rejected, which would preclude considering its relevant attributes.

     Attitude Change
More recently, a third explanation of anchoring has been proposed concerning attitude change. According to this theory, providing an anchor changes someone's attitudes to be more favorable to the particular attributes of that anchor, biasing future answers to have similar characteristics as the anchor. Leading proponents of this theory consider it to be an alternate explanation in line with prior research on anchoring-and-adjusting and selective accessibility.

Factors that Influence Anchoring

A wide range of research has linked sad or depressed moods with more extensive and accurate evaluation of problems. As a result of this, earlier studies hypothesized that people with more depressed moods would tend to use anchoring less than those with happier moods. However, more recent studies have shown the opposite effect: sad people are more likely to use anchoring than people with happy or neutral mood.


Early research found that experts (those with high knowledge, experience, or expertise in some field) were more resistant to the anchoring effect. Since then, however, numerous studies have demonstrated that while experience can sometimes reduce the effect, even experts are susceptible to anchoring. In a study concerning the effects of anchoring on judicial decisions, researchers found that even experienced legal professionals were affected by anchoring. This remained true even when the anchors provided were arbitrary and unrelated to the case in question.

Research has correlated susceptibility to anchoring with most of the Big Five personality traits. People high in agreeableness and conscientiousness are more likely to be affected by anchoring, while those high in extroversion are less likely to be affected. Another study found that those high in openness to new experiences were more susceptible to the anchoring effect.

     Cognitive Ability
The impact of cognitive ability on anchoring is contested. A recent study on willingness to pay for consumer goods found that anchoring decreased in those with greater cognitive ability, though it did not disappear. Another study, however, found that cognitive ability had no significant effect on how likely people were to use anchoring.

Anchoring in Negotiations
In negotiations, anchoring refers to the concept of setting a boundary that outlines the basic constraints for a negotiation; subsequently, the anchoring effect is the phenomenon in which we set our estimation for the true value of the item at hand. In addition to the initial research conducted by Tversky and Kahneman, multiple other studies have shown that anchoring can greatly influence the estimated value of an object. For instance, although negotiators can generally appraise an offer based on multiple characteristics, studies have shown that they tend to focus on only one aspect. In this way, a deliberate starting point can strongly affect the range of possible counteroffers. The process of offer and counteroffer results in a mutually beneficial arrangement. However, multiple studies have shown that initial offers have a stronger influence on the outcome of negotiations than subsequent counteroffers.

An example of the power of anchoring has been conducted during the Strategic Negotiation Process Workshops. During the workshop, a group of participants is divided into two sections: buyers and sellers. Each side receives identical information about the other party before going into a one-on-one negotiation.

Following this exercise, both sides debrief about their experiences. The results show that where the participants anchor the negotiation had a significant effect on their success.

Anchoring affects everyone, even people who are highly knowledgeable in a field. Northcraft and Neale conducted a study to measure the difference in the estimated value of a house between students and real-estate agents. In this experiment, both groups were shown a house and then given different listing prices. After making their offer, each group was then asked to discuss what factors influenced their decisions. In the follow-up interviews, the real-estate agents denied being influenced by the initial price, but the results showed that both groups were equally influenced by that anchor.

Anchoring can have more subtle effects on negotiations as well. Janiszewski and Uy investigated the effects of precision of an anchor. Participants read an initial price for a beach house, then gave the price they thought it was worth. They received either a general, seemingly nonspecific anchor (e.g. $800,000) or a more precise and specific anchor (e.g. $799,800). Participants with a general anchor adjusted their estimate more than those given a precise anchor ($751,867 vs $784,671). The authors propose that this effect comes from difference in scale; in other words, the anchor affects not only the starting value, but also the starting scale. When given a general anchor of $20, people will adjust in large increments ($19, $21, etc.), but when given a more specific anchor like $19.85, people will adjust on a lower scale ($19.75, $19.95, etc.). Thus, a more specific initial price will tend to result in a final price closer to the initial one.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Washington Consensus

The term Washington Consensus was coined in 1989 by the economist John Williamson to describe a set of ten relatively specific economic policy prescriptions that he considered constituted the "standard" reform package promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, D.C.-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the US Treasury Department. The prescriptions encompassed policies in such areas as macroeconomic stabilization, economic opening with respect to both trade and investment, and the expansion of market forces within the domestic economy.

Subsequently to Williamson's minting of the phrase, and despite his emphatic opposition, the term Washington Consensus has come to be used fairly widely in a second, broader sense, to refer to a more general orientation towards a strongly market-based approach (sometimes described, typically pejoratively, as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism). In emphasizing the magnitude of the difference between the two alternative definitions, Williamson himself has argued (below) that his ten original, narrowly-defined prescriptions have largely acquired the status of "motherhood and apple pie" (i.e., are broadly taken for granted), whereas the subsequent broader definition, representing a form of neoliberal manifesto, "never enjoyed a consensus [in Washington] or anywhere much else" and can by now reasonably be said to be dead.

Discussion of the Washington Consensus has long been contentious. Partly this reflects a lack of agreement over what is meant by the term, in face of the contrast between the broader and narrower definitions outlined above. But there are also substantive differences involved over the merits and consequences of the various policy prescriptions involved. Some of the critics discussed in this article take issue, for example, with the original Consensus's emphasis on the opening of developing countries to global markets, and/or with what they see as an excessive focus on strengthening the influence of domestic market forces, arguably at the expense of key functions of the state. For other commentators reviewed below, the point at issue is less what is included in the Consensus than what is missing, including such areas as institution-building and targeted efforts to improve opportunities for the weakest in society. Despite these areas of controversy, a great many writers and development institutions would by now accept the more general proposition that strategies need to be tailored to the specific circumstances of individual countries.

Original sense: Williamson's Ten Points

The concept and name of the Washington Consensus were first presented in 1989 by John Williamson, an economist from the Institute for International Economics, an international economic think tank based in Washington, D.C. Williamson used the term to summarize commonly shared themes among policy advice by Washington-based institutions at the time, such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury Department, which were believed to be necessary for the recovery of countries in Latin America from the economic and financial crises of the 1980s.

The consensus as originally stated by Williamson included ten broad sets of relatively specific policy recommendations:

  1. Fiscal policy discipline, with avoidance of large fiscal deficits relative to GDP;
  2. Redirection of public spending from subsidies ("especially indiscriminate subsidies") toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment;
  3. Tax reform, broadening the tax base and adopting moderate marginal tax rates;
  4. Interest rates that are market determined and positive (but moderate) in real terms;
  5. Competitive exchange rates;
  6. Trade liberalizaion: liberalization of imports, with particular emphasis on elimination of quantitative restrictions (licensing, etc.); any trade protection to be provided by low and relatively uniform tariffs;
  7. Liberalization of inward foreign direct investment;
  8. Privatization of state enterprises;
  9. Deregulation: abolition of regulations that impede market entry or restrict competition, except for those justified on safety, environmental and consumer protection grounds, and prudential oversight of financial institutions;
  10. Legal security for property rights.

Afterword by the Blog Author
Perhaps a strong empirical argument can be made in support of Williamson’s ten points of the Washington Consensus. Be that as it may, the American administrations since 1989 (the senior Bush, Clinton, the junior Bush and Obama) have not followed any of these ten points. The increase of debt relative to GDP is particularly anti-neoliberal in America following the publication of the Washington Consensus.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Way to Fight Malaria

Australian Researchers Kill the Malaria Parasite with 'Salt Overload' 15 Feb 2013

The Global Dispatch
In a paper published in the latest edition of Cell Host & Microbe, Dr. Natalie Spillman with the Research School of Biology (RSB) showed that the malaria parasite has at its surface a protein that serves as a molecular salt pump, pushing sodium ions out of the parasite.

By blocking the pump using a potent class of antimalarials, the spiroindolones, researchers believe they can kill the dreaded parasite by causing it to fill rapidly with salt, causing "salt overload".

"The malaria parasite's salt pump would seem to be an Achilles heel for the parasite, particularly vulnerable to attack. Knowing this, we can now look for other drugs that block this pump. We can also start to investigate how the parasite might be able to change the shape of the pump and thereby develop resistance to this class of drugs. Both of these aspects are going to be very important in our ongoing battle with the parasite", according to RSB Director Professor Kiaran Kirk, the senior author on the study.

The spiroindolones are the first genuinely novel class of chemicals to be tested in malaria patients for over 20 years, according to a ANU news release.

"We desperately need new antimalarials and the spiroindolones, now in advanced clinical trials, are looking extremely promising," Professor Kirk said.

this story also covered at:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Is Our Universe Inside a Wormhole?!

Our universe at home within a larger universe? So suggests IU theoretical physicist's wormhole research

April 5, 2010 [and republished by Indiana University]

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.  -- Could our universe be located within the interior of a wormhole which itself is part of a black hole that lies within a much larger universe? 

Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B. The final version of the paper was available online March 29 and will be published in the journal edition April 12 [of 2010].

Poplawski takes advantage of the Euclidean-based coordinate system called isotropic coordinates to describe the gravitational field of a black
hole and to model the radial geodesic motion of a massive particle into a black hole.

In studying the radial motion through the event horizon (a black hole's boundary) of two different types of black holes -- Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen, both of which are mathematically legitimate solutions of general relativity -- Poplawski admits that only experiment or observation can reveal the motion of a particle falling into an actual black hole. But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within.

"This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe," he said. "Because Einstein's general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible. Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe."


Einstein-Rosen bridges like the one visualized above have never been observed in nature, but they provide theoretical physicists and cosmologists with solutions in general relativity by combining models of black holes and white holes.

A white hole is connected to a black hole by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) and is hypothetically the time reversal of a black hole. Poplawski's paper suggests that all astrophysical black holes, not just Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen black holes, may have Einstein-Rosen bridges, each with a new universe inside that formed simultaneously with the black hole.

"From that it follows that our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe," he said.

By continuing to study the gravitational collapse of a sphere of dust in isotropic coordinates, and by applying the current research to other types of black holes, views where the universe is born from the interior of an Einstein-Rosen black hole could avoid problems seen by scientists with
the Big Bang theory and the black hole information loss problem which claims all information about matter is lost as it goes over the event horizon (in turn defying the laws of quantum physics).

This model in isotropic coordinates of the universe as a black hole could explain the origin of cosmic inflation, Poplawski theorizes.

Poplawski is a research associate in the IU Department of Physics. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University and a M.S. in astronomy from the University of Warsaw, Poland.

To speak with Poplawski, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896 or
"Radial motion into an Einstein-Rosen bridge," Physics Letters B, by Nikodem J. Poplawski. (Volume 687, Issues 2-3, 12 April 2010, Pages 110-113.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Recent Speech by Dr Ben Carson

Below is a doctor's speech given ten days ago that is getting a lot of coverage – because – our politicians are so poor these days!
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Speech to the National Prayer Breakfast
February 7, 2013

By Dr. Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson, Sr. (born September 18, 1951)

Thank you so much. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Obama, distinguished guests – which included everybody. Thank you so much for this wonderful honor to be at this stage again. I was here 16 years ago, and the fact that they invited me back means that I didn’t offend too many people, so that was great. [LAUGHTER]

I want to start by reading four texts which will put into I want to start by reading four texts which will put into context what I’m going to say.

Proverbs 11:9 With his mouth the Godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escapes.

Proverbs 11:12 A man who lacks judgement derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue

Proverbs 11:25 A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself, be refreshed.

2nd Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

You know, I have an opportunity to speak in a lot of venues. This is my fourth speech this week. and I have an opportunity to talk to a lot of people. And I’ve been asking people what concerns you? What are you most concerned about in terms of the spirituality and the direction of our nation and our world? And I’ve talked to very prominent democrats, very prominent republicans.

And I was surprised by the uniformity of their answers. And those have informed my comments this morning. now, it’s not my intention to offend anyone. I have discovered, however, in recent years that it’s very difficult to speak to a large group of people these days and not offend someone. [laughter]

And people walk away with their feelings on their shoulders waiting for you to say something, ah, did you hear that? The pc police are out in force at all times. I remember once I was talking about the difference between a human brain and a dog’s brain, and a man — and a dog’s brain, and a man got offended. You can’t talk about dogs like that. [laughter] People focus in on that, completely miss the point of what you’re saying. [laughter] And we’ve reached reach the point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended. People are afraid to say Merry Christmas at Christmas time. Doesn’t matter whether the person you’re talking to is Jewish or, you know, whether they’re any religion. That’s a salutation, a greeting of goodwill. We’ve got to get over this sensitivity. You know, and it keeps people from saying what they really believe.

You know, I’m reminded of a very successful young businessman, and he loved to buy his mother these exotic gifts for mother’s day. And he ran out of ideas, and then he ran across these birds. These birds were cool, you know? They cost $5,000 apiece. They could dance, they could sing, they could talk. He was so excited, he bought two of of them. Sent them to his mother, couldn’t wait to call her up on mother’s day, mother, mother, what’d you think of those birds? And she said, they was good. [laughter] He said, no, no, no! Mother, you didn’t eat those birds? Those birds cost $5,000 apiece! They could dance, they could sing, they could talk! And she said, well, they should have said something. [laughter]

And, you know, that’s where we end up, too, if we don’t speak up for what we believe. [laughter] And, you know, what we need to do — [applause] what we need to do in this PC world is forget about unanimity of speech and unanimity of thought, and we need to concentrate on being respectful to those people with whom we disagree.

And that’s when I believe we begin to make progress. and one last thing about political correctness, which I think is a horrible thing, by the way. I’m very, very compassionate, and I’m not never out to offend anyone. But PC is dangerous. Because, you see, this country one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression. and it muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them. And at the same time, keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed. And we cannot fall for that trick. And what we need to do is start talking about things, talking about things that are important.

Things that were important in the development of our nation. one of those things was education. I’m very passionate about education because it’s made such a big difference in my life. But here we are at a time in the world, the information age, the age of technology, and yet 30% of people who enter high school in this country do not graduate. 44% of people who start a four-year college program do not finish it in four years. What is that about? Think back to a darker time in this our history. Two hundred years ago when slavery was going on it was illegal to educate a slave, particularly to teach them to read. Why do you think that was?

Because when you educate a man, you liberate a man. And there I was as a youngster placing myself in the same situation that a horrible institution did because I wasn’t taking advantage of the education. I was a horrible student. Most of my classmates thought I was the stupidest person in the world. They called me dummy. I was the butt of all the jokes. Now, admittedly, it was a bad environment. single-parent home, you know, my mother and father had gotten divorced early on.

My mother got married when she was 13. She was one of 24 children. Had a horrible life. Discovered that her husband was a bigamist, had another family. And she only had a third grade education. She had to take care of us. Dire poverty. I had a horrible temper, poor self-esteem. All the things that you think would preclude success. But I had something very important, I had a mother who believed in me, and I had a mother who would never allow herself to be a victim no matter what happened.
Never made excuses, and she never accepted an excuse from us. And if we ever came up with an excuse, she always said do you have a brain? And if the answer was, yes, then she said then you could have thought your way out of it. It doesn’t matter what John or Susan or Mary or anybody else did or said. And it was the most important thing she did for my brother and myself. Because if you don’t accept excuse, pretty soon people stop giving them, and they start looking for solutions. And that is a critical issue when it comes to success.

Well, you know, we did live in dire poverty, and one of the things that I hated was poverty. you know, some people hate spiders, some people hate snakes, I hated poverty. I couldn’t stand it. [laughter] But, you know, my mother couldn’t stand the fact that we were doing poorly in school, and she prayed and asked god to give her wisdom, what could she do to to to make her sons understand the importance of wisdom? God gave her wisdom. At least in her opinion. It was to turn off the tv, let us watch only two or three programs during the week, and read two books apiece and submit to her written book reports which she couldn’t read, but we didn’t know that. [laughter] She put check marks and highlights and stuff — [laughter] But, you know, I just hated this. And my friends were out having a good time. her friends would criticize her. they would say you can’t make boys stay in the house reading books, they’ll grow up and hate you. and i would overhear them and say, you know, mother, they’re right. but she didn’t care.

You know. [laughter] after a while, I actually began to enjoy reading those books because we were very poor, but between the covers of those books I could go anywhere, I could be anybody, i could do anything. I began to read about people of great accomplishment, and as I read those stories, I began to see a connecting thread. I began to see that the person who has the most to do with you and what happens to you in life is you.

You make decisions. You decide how much energy you want to put behind that decision. And I came to understand that I had control of my own destiny. And at that point I didn’t hate poverty anymore, because I knew it was only temporary. I knew I could change that. it was incredibly liberating for me, made all the difference.

To continue on that theme of education, in 1831 Alexis de Toqueville came to study America. The Europeans were fascinated. How could a fledgling Nation, barely 50 years old already be competing with them on virtually every level. This was impossible. De Toqueville was going to sort it out and he looked at our government and he was duly impressed by the three branches of government – four now because now we have special interest groups, but it was only three back in those days. He said, WOW, this is really something, but then he said, but let me look at their educational system and he was blown away. See, anybody who had finished the second grade was completely literate. He could find a mountain man on the outskirts of society who could read the newspaper and have a political discussion, could tell him how the government worked.

If you really want to be impressed, take a look at the chapter on education in my latest book, America the Beautiful, which I wrote with my wife – it came out last year, and in that education chapter you will see questions extracted from a sixth grade exit exam from the 1800′s – a test you had to pass to get your sixth grade certificate. I doubt most college graduates today could pass that test. We have dumbed things down to that level and the reason that is so dangerous is because the people who founded this Nation said that our system of government was designed for a well-informed and educated populace, and when they become less informed, they become vulnerable. Think about that. That is why education is so vitally important.

Now some people say, ahhh, you’re over blowing it, things aren’t that bad, and you’re a doctor, a neurosurgeon. Why are you concerned about these things? Got news for you. FIVE doctors signed the Declaration of Independence. Doctors were involved in the framing of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, in a whole bunch of things. It’s only been since recent decades that we’ve extracted ourselves, which I think is a big mistake.

We need doctors, we needs scientists, engineers. We need all those people involved in government, not just lawyers…I don’t have anything against lawyers, but you know, here’s the thing about lawyers…I’m sorry, but I got to be truthful…got to be truthful – what do lawyers learn in law school? To win, by hook or by crook. You gotta win, so you got all these Democrat lawyers, and you got all these Republican lawyers and their sides want to win.

We need to get rid of that. What we need to start thinking about is, how do we solve problems?

Now, before I get shot, let me finish. I don’t like to bring up problems without coming up with solutions. My wife and I started the Carson Scholars Fund 16 years ago after we heard about an international survey looking at the ability of eight graders in 22 countries to solve math and science problems, and we came out No. 21 out of 22. We only barely beat out Number 22 – very concerning.

We went to these schools and we’d see all these trophies: State Basketball, State Wrestling, this, that and the other. The Quarterback was the Big Man on Campus. What about the intellectual Superstar? What did they get? A National Honor Society pin? A pat on the head, there, there little Nerd? Nobody cared about them. And is it any wonder that sometimes the smart kids try to hide? They don’t want anybody to know they are smart? This is not helping us or our Nation, so we started giving out scholarships from all backgrounds for superior academic performance and demonstration of humanitarian qualities. Unless you cared about other people, it didn’t matter how smart you were. We’ve got plenty of people like that. We don’t need smart people who don’t care about other people.

We would give them money. The money would go into a Trust. They would get interest on it. When they would go to college they would get the money, but also the school gets a trophy, every bit as impressive as a sports trophy – right out there with the others. They get a medal. They get to go t a banquet. We try to put them on a pedestal as impressive as we do the All-State athletes. I have nothing against athletics or entertainment.

I’m from Baltimore. The Ravens won. This is great – okay. But, but – what will maintain our position in the world? The ability to shoot a 25 foot jump shot or the ability to solve a quadratic equation? We need to put the things into proper perspective.

Many teachers have told us that when we put a Carson Scholar in their classroom, the GPA of the whole classroom goes up over the next year. It’s been very gratifying. We started 16 years ago with 25 scholarships in Maryland, now we’ve given out more than 5,000 and we are in all 50 states, but we’ve also put in Reading Rooms.
These are fascinating places that no little kid could possibly pass up. And uh, they get points for the amount of time they spend reading, and the number of books they read. They can trade the points for prizes. In the beginning they do it for the prizes, but it doesn’t take long before their academic performance begins to improve.

And we particularly target Title One schools where the kids come from homes with no books and they go to schools with no libraries. Those are the ones who drop out. We need to truncate that process early on because we can’t afford to waste any of those young people. You know, for every one of those people we keep from going down that path – that path of self-destruction and mediocrity, that’s one less person you have to protect yourself and your family from. One less person you have to pay for in the penal or welfare system. One more taxpaying productive member of society who may invent a new energy source or come up with a cure for cancer. They are all important to us and we need every single one of them it makes a difference. And when you go home tonight read about it, carsonscholars,

Why is it so important that we educate our people? Because we don’t want to go down the pathway as so many pinnacle nations that have preceded us. I think particularly about ancient Rome. Very powerful.

Nobody could even challenge them militarily, but what happened to them? They destroyed themselves from within. Moral decay, fiscal irresponsibility. They destroyed themselves. If you don’t think that can happen to America, you get out your books and you start reading, but you know, we can fix it.

Why can we fix it because we’re smart. We have some of the most intellectually gifted people leading our Nation. All we need to do is remember what our real responsibilities are so that we can solve the problems. I think about these problems all the time, and my role, you know, model was Jesus. He used parables to help people understand things. And one of our big problems right now, and like I said, I’m not politically correct, so I’m sorry, but you know – our deficit is a big problem. Think about it. And our National Debt – $16.5 Trillion dollars – you think that’s not a lot of money? I’ll tell you what! Count one number per second, which you can’t even do because once you get to a thousand it will take you longer than a second, but…one number per second. You know how long it would take you to count to 16 Trillion? 507,000 years – more than a half a million years to get there. We have to deal with this.

Here’s a parable: A family falls on hard times. Dad loses his job or is demoted to part time work. He has 5 children. He comes to the 5 children, he says we’re going to have to reduce your allowance. Well, they’re not happy about it but – he says, except for John and Susan. They’re, they’re special. They get to keep their allowance. In fact, we’ll give them more. How do you think that’s going to go down? Not too well. Same thing happens. Enough said.

What about our taxation system? So complex there is no one who can possibly comply with every jot and tittle of our tax system. If I wanted to get you, I could get you on a tax issue. That doesn’t make any sense. What we need to do is come up with something that is simple.

When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the Universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called tithe. Now we don’t necessarily have to do it 10% but it’s principle. He didn’t say, if your crops fail, don’t give me any tithes. He didn’t say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality. You make $10 Billion dollars you put in a Billion. You make $10 you put in $1 – of course, you gotta get rid of the loopholes, but now now some people say, that’s not fair because it doesn’t hurt the guy who made $10 Billion dollars as much as the guy who made $10. Where does it say you have to hurt the guy. He’s just put in a billion in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him.
It’s that kind of thinking – it’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands. That money needs to be back here, building our infrastructure and creating jobs – and we’re smart enough – we’re smart enough to figure out how to do that.

We’ve already started down the path to solving one of the other big problems, health care. We need to have good health care for everybody.

It’s the most important thing that a person can have. Money means nothing, titles mean nothing when you don’t have your health, but we’ve got to figure out efficient ways to do it. We spend a lot of money on health care, twice as much per capita as anybody in else in the world, and yet not very efficient. What can we do?

Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account [HSA], to which money can be contributed, pre-tax from the time you are born, to the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members so that when you’re 85 years old and you’ve got 6 diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and nobody is talking about death panels. That’s number on
e. Also -- For the people who are indigent, who don’t have any money, we can make contributions to their HSA each month because we already have this huge pot of money instead of sending it to bureaucracy – let’s put it into HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care and what do you think they’re going to do? They’re going to learn very quickly how to be responsible. When Mr. Jones gets that diabetic foot ulcer, he’s not going to the Emergency Room and blowing a big chunk of it. He’s going to go to the Clinic. He learns that very quickly – gets the same treatment. In the Emergency Room they send him out. In the Clinic they say, now let’s get your diabetes under control so that you’re not back here in three weeks with another problem. That’s how we begin to solve these kinds of problems. It’s much more complex than that, and I don’t have time to go into it all, but we can do all these things because we are smart people.
And let me begin to close here – another parable: Sea Captain, and he’s out on the sea near the area where the Titanic went down. And they look ahead and there’s a bright light right there – another ship he figures. He tells his signaler to signal that ship: deviate 10 degrees to the South. Back comes the message, no you deviate 10 degrees to the North. Well, he’s a little bit incensed you know. He says, send a message, this is Captain Johnson, deviate 10 degrees to the South. Back comes the message, this is Ensign 4th Class Reilly. Deviate 10 degrees to the North. Now Captain Johnson is really upset. He says send him a message, this is a Naval Destroyer. Back comes the message, this is a Lighthouse. Enough said.

Now, what about the symbol of our Nation? The Eagle. The Bald Eagle. It’s an interesting story how we chose that but a lot of people think we call it the bald eagle because it looks like it has a bald head. That’s not the reason. It comes from the Old English word Piebald, which means crowned with white. And we just shortened it to bald. Now, use that the next time you see somebody who thinks they know everything. You’ll get ‘em on that one.

But, why is that eagle able to fly, high, forward? Because it has two wings: a left wing and a right wing. Enough said.

And I wanna close with this story: two hundred years ago this Nation was involved in a war, the war of 1812. The British, who are now our good friends thought that we were young whippersnappers. It was time for us to become a colony again. They were winning that war and marching up the Eastern Seaboard, destroying city after city, destroying Washington D.C., burned down the White House. Next stop Baltimore. As they came into the Chesapeake Bay, there were armadas of war ships as far as the eye could see. It was looking grim. Fort. McHenry standing right there. General Armisted, who was in charge of Fort. McHenry, had a large American flag commissioned to fly in front of the Fort. The Admiral in charge of the British Fleet was offended, said take that flag down. You have until dusk to take that Flag down. If you don’t take it down, we will reduce you to ashes.

There was a young amateur poet on board by the name of Francis Scott Key, sent by President Madison to try to obtain the release of an American physician who was being held captive. He overheard the British plans. They were not going to let him off the ship. He mourned. As dusk approached he mourned for his fledgling young Nation, and as the sun fell, the bombardment started. Bombs bursting in air. Missiles, so much debris He strained, trying to see, was the flag still there? Couldn’t see a thing. All night long it continued. At the crack of dawn he ran out to the banister He looked straining his eyes all he could only see dust and debris.

Then there was a clearing and he beheld the most beautiful sight he had ever seen – the torn and tattered Stars and Stripes still waving. And many historians say that was the turning point in the war of 1812. We went on to win that war and to retain our freedom and if you had gone onto the grounds of Fort. McHenry that day, you would have seen at the base of that flag, the bodies of soldiers who took turns. Propping up that flag, they would not let that flag go down because they believed in what that flag symbolized. And what did it symbolize? One Nation, under God, [applause] indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you. God Bless.


See also commentary at: 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dismal Retiree Social Norms

Atrophy of social networks is a central feature of retirement. What kind of social network is left for those outside the economic arena?

SPOUSE if coherent, but the spouse is often boresighted on her health and yours, willing to take advantage of any apparent relative power shift toward her. Also will monopolize your time, thinking retirement means talking and reminiscing rather than the ultimately calm and resigned acceptance of one’s own death. For many the spouse is an anchor, but for many others that spouse is regarded as a dead weight.

OFFSPRING if not alienated. A surprisingly large segment of the population has alienated offspring whom the parents don’t communicate with regularly or don’t see frequently or don’t trust when they are all together.

NEW FRIENDS – this is an abysmal concept, almost unheard of in geriatric social situations. The reason is that elderly people are preposterously suspicious of each other.

FORMER CO-WORKERS tend to be whining about their medical problems or desiring to reminisce about how important they were in their old job. As a social network, they constitute a "sink hole" of wasted energy and effort.

FRIENDS MET THROUH JOINT HOBBIES seem to be among the best ways of meeting and getting to know new people. There’s a learning curve, one becomes an acquaintance of those who are at the same skill level as the self. For some reason, it seems to help if the other hobbyists also live independently in another building. Fellow dwellers of the same building tend to be bad friends when acquainted late in life.

THOSE BEING MENTORED BY THE ELDER himself are invaluable social contacts; it appears that respectful relationship across generational lines provide nearly the only valuable people a retiree wants to hear from or get to know more about.

SIBLINGS – don’t know much about these. Can they be trusted?

REUNIONS are a nightmare of misplaced and misremembered nostalgia. "Don’t bother unless you’re strong enough to survive the damage and the dings."

PETS can help a retired person maintain sanity and keep profound loneliness at bay.

THE INTERNET seems to suck lemons socially. Now, to be fair, I’ve known some people who met and married after getting to know each other over the internet. But there is something profoundly creepy and surreal about each of those couples. The internet seems to carry a very high quotient of cooties, very near 100%.

SUMMATION: "Overall, socially, retirement is a demolition derby."

                             --unknown but brilliant author

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Comment by the Blog Author

This is a brilliantly honest analysis, virtually an example of "shock humor" for its candor.

SIBLINGS – I don’t know much about these, either. But! If you have more money than they do, watch it! They will suck up to you and fight each other like demons over your will after you die – and the more money you have the harder they will fight. Even your children may go after each other tooth and nail. "Good" news: if you leave your money to a charity, the siblings will likely all lose their fights against the will.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Music Arranger Marty Gold

Brief Biography of Marty Gold

Space-age pop arranger and composer Marty Gold was born December 26, 1915 in New York City; after spending the early decades of his career as a big-band pianist, during the early 1950s he became a studio arranger at Decca Records, and also authored the Four Aces' 1951 smash "Tell Me Why." Gold later jumped to CA, where he collaborated on a series of LPs by the Three Suns; he also arranged and conducted numerous sessions for Peter Nero. For RCA and its affiliates Vik and X, Gold and his orchestra recorded a series of LPs -- among them Organized for Hi-Fi, Stereo Action Goes Hollywood, Soundpower! Music to the Limits of Audibility and Soundaroundus -- much prized by today's collectors of space-age lounge-pop.

-- Jason Ankeny, Rovi

Read more:

Professional Background
Marty Gold worked as a pianist with several sweet bands in the 1930s, but his first brush with fame came as a member of a comic band known as the Korn Kobblers. Gold played with and did the arrangements for the Kobblers, which brought his work to the attention of Guy Lombardo and other bandleaders. Preferring the sanity of the studio to nightly antics on stage, he returned to New York and settled down as a freelance arranger and composer.

He began recording under his own name in the early 1950s, mainly for Decca, but then switched to RCA and its affiliates Vik and X. He arranged and played on a number of the Three Suns’ mid-50s albums. Gold composed as well, co-authoring "Tell Me Why," a #2 hit for the Four Aces.

Gold was one of the workhorses of RCA Victor's arranging staff through most of the 1950s and 1960s. He worked on hundreds of albums, backing acts ranging from the Rafael Hernandez to Peter Nero. A versatile stylist, he supplied whatever the setting called for: syrupy strings for a singer, rocking walls of sound for Top Ten covers, hale and hearty vocal choruses for his Kapp albums of college songs.

In some ways, he was like the East Coast version of Billy May. He worked fast, covered a wide territory, and never put himself "above" his material. So, like May, you can find his contributions showing up on kids' records, too, and more than a few of them. He provided the background music for dramatizations of Dr Seuss' books and, in the late 1960s and 1970s, recorded numerous albums for the Peter Pan label. Some of these featured a cloying chorus of kids singing covers of such pop hits as "These Boots are Made for Walking."

But his best work can be heard on hi fi and stereo showcase albums he recorded for RCA and its subsidiary, Vik. On these Gold's style is to use every bit of the orchestra, including the kitchen sink. A typical arrangement will have at least five different major instrument types playing part of the melody in as little as eight bars. These albums aren't quite as wild as Esquivel’s, but they're worth looking for if you like music with a big zing, zang, zoom in it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Positive Quiddity: Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from union with the Holy See. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of Royal Supremacy, in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm.

During Cranmer's tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. Under Henry's rule, Cranmer did not make many radical changes in the Church, due to power struggles between religious conservatives and reformers. However, he succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.

When Edward came to the throne, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. With the assistance of several Continental reformers to whom he gave refuge, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer promulgated the new doctrines through the Prayer Book, the Homilies and other publications.

After the accession of the Roman Catholic Mary I, Cranmer was put on trial for treason and heresy. Imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from Church authorities, he made several recantations and apparently reconciled himself with the Roman Catholic Church.

However, on the day of his execution, he withdrew his recantations, to die a heretic to Roman Catholics and a martyr to Protestants. Cranmer's death was immortalised in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and his legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.

When Elizabeth I came to power, she restored the Church of England’s independence from Rome under the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. The church that she re-established was, in effect, a snapshot of the Edwardian Church from September 1552. Thus the Elizabethan Prayer Book was basically Cranmer's 1552 edition but without the "Black Rubric". In the Convocation of 1563, the Forty-Two Articles which were never adopted by the Church were altered in the area of eucharistic doctrine to form the Thirty-Nine Articles. Most of the exiles returned to England and resumed their careers in the Church. To some like Edmund Grindal, an Archbishop of Canterbury during Elizabeth's reign, Cranmer was a shining example whose work needed to be upheld and extended.

Cranmer's greatest concerns were the maintenance of the royal supremacy and the diffusion of reformed theology and practice. But he is best remembered for his contribution to the realm of language and of cultural identity. His prose helped to guide the development of the English language and the Book of Common Prayer is a major contribution to English literature that influenced many lives in the Anglophone world. It was the vehicle that guided Anglican worship for four hundred years. Catholic biographers sometimes depict Cranmer as an unprincipled opportunist, a Nicodemite, and a tool of royal tyranny. For their part, hagiographic Protestant biographers sometimes overlook the times that Cranmer betrayed his own principles. Yet both sides can agree that Cranmer was a committed scholar whose life showed the strengths and weaknesses of a very human and often under-appreciated reformer. He is commemorated in the Anglican Communion as a Reformation Martyr on 21 March, the anniversary of his death.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Neutral Quiddity: Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap or bubble pack is a pliable transparent plastic material commonly used for packing fragile items. Regularly spaced, protruding air-filled hemispheres (bubbles) provide cushioning for fragile items.

The term is also a brand of Sealed Air Corporation (US). In 1957 two inventors named Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes were attempting to create a 3-dimensional plastic wallpaper.

Although the idea was a failure, they found that it did make for great packing material. Sealed Air Corp. was co-founded by Alfred Fielding in 1960.

Some people use the name generically for similar products, often termed air bubble packing or bubble wrapping; Sealed Air denotes its product as a brand of "cushioning material".


The bubbles that provide the cushioning for fragile or sensitive objects are generally available in different sizes, depending on the size of the object being packed, as well as the level of cushioning protection that is needed. Multiple layers might be needed to provide shock and vibration isolation.

A single layer might be used just as a surface protective layer. Bubble wrap is used to form some types of mailing envelopes.

Bubble wrap is most often formed from polyethylene (LDPE) film with a shaped side bonded to a flat side to form air bubbles. Some types of bubble wrap have a lower permeation barrier film to allow longer useful life and resistance to loss of air in vacuums.

The bubbles can be as small as 6 millimeters (1/4 inch) in diameter, to as large as 26 millimeters (1 inch) or more, to provide added levels of shock absorption during transit. In addition to the degree of protection available from the size of the air bubbles in the plastic, the plastic material itself can offer some forms of protection for the object in question. For example, when shipping sensitive electronic parts and components, a type of bubble wrap is used that employs an anti-static plastic that dissipates static charge, thereby protecting the sensitive electronic chips from static which can damage them.

The bubbles can be shaped in any way desired, even heart-shaped, like the Italian company Torninova Corporation did in 1997.

Because bubble wrap makes a recognizable popping sound when compressed and ruptured, it can be used as a source of amusement and to alleviate stress. Acknowledging this alternative use, some websites provide a virtual bubble wrap program which displays a sheet of bubble wrap that users may pop by clicking on the bubbles, while the Mugen Puchipuchi is a compact electronic toy simulating bubble wrap popping.

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day is celebrated on the last Monday of January.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Craziest Movie Dialog Ever

[In the 1956 Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester in which Kaye plays gypsy turned jester Hubert Hawkins], Its most famous sequence was the pre-joust toast (between Hawkins and Sir Griswold), before which Griselda warns Hawkins about the location of poison in the toast vessel, with the famous tongue-twisting "Vessel with the Pestle" dialogue ("The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.") At first, "the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!", but then one of the containers breaks, so now the flagon with the dragon has the pellet with the poison.
Hubert Hawkins: I've got it! I've got it! The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?
Griselda: Right. But there's been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace!
Hubert Hawkins: They broke the chalice from the palace?
Griselda: And replaced it with a flagon.
Hubert Hawkins: A flagon...?
Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.
Hubert Hawkins: Flagon with a dragon.
Griselda: Right.
Hubert Hawkins: But did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?
Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!
Hubert Hawkins: The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
Griselda: Just remember that.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Note from the Blog Author

After seeing The Court Jester as a  child, it was impossible for me, ever, to take Tolkien and his "Middle Earth" folderol seriously.  I just couldn't suspend my disbelief and pretend to respect the medieval notion that a heirarchical world was inherently good.  The chalice from the palace was broken.

The 1969 Bored of the Rings parody finished the job of ruining Tolkien for me.  The map on the inside cover of this book was all I ever needed to see or understand about the middle earth paradise.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Qualities of Great Bosses

Jeff Haden of Inc magazine dug up nine outstanding qualities of great bosses:
  • They forgive... and they forget.
  • They transform company goals into the employees' personal goals.
  • They look past the action to the emotion and motivation.
  • They support without seeking credit.
  • They make fewer public decisions.
  • They don't see control as a reward.
  • They allow employees to learn their own lessons.
  • They let employees have the ideas.
  • They always go home feeling they could have done better.
A full description with details is available at this link:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How US Can Remain Competitive

Nicholas Bloom is an economics professor at Stanford. Rebecca Homkes directs the Management Project at the London School of Economics. The two of them together write the World Management Survey.
In the "economy watch" section of the Christian Science Monitor back in July of 2011, they wrote a short piece dealing with whether US management can stay ahead of China and India. Their answer was yes, but they emphasized three things that had to be done scrupulously.
  • Using metrics with management and following it on employee-by-employee. This means performance boards for each employee as seen at Toyota, Tresco or Walmart.
  • Setting targets and then monitoring and meeting those targets.
  • Offering incentives that reward good employees and push out the laggards.
This shrewd, concise and thoughtful article is available at the link below:

The Ruby Slippers

The ruby slippers are the shoes worn by Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) in the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz. Because of their iconic stature, they are now among the most treasured and valuable of film memorabilia. As was customary for important props, a number of pairs were made for the film, though the exact number of pairs made is unknown. Five pairs are known to have survived; one pair was stolen in 2005 and has never been recovered.

In L. Frank Baum’s original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore Silver Shoes. The movie's creators changed them to ruby to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process.

The Wizard of Oz

Dorothy's house falls on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny. Glinda the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke) magically puts the dead woman's ruby slippers on Dorothy's feet to protect her from the Witch's vengeful sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy (Judy Garland) knows the slippers are magical, but she is not told of their specific powers. At the end of the film, Glinda reveals one of the slippers' abilities: Dorothy can return home to Kansas by simply clicking her heels three times and repeating, "There's no place like home."

The slippers were designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM's chief costume designer. Initially, two pairs were made in different styles. The so-called "Arabian test pair" was "a wildly jeweled, Arabian motif, with curling toes and heels." This pair was used in costume tests, but was rejected as unsuitable for Dorothy's Kansas farmgirl image. The second design was approved, with one modification. The red bugle beads used to simulate rubies proved too heavy, so they were mostly replaced with sequins, about 2300 for each shoe. According to Rhys Thomas in his Los Angeles Times article, "all the ruby slippers are between Size 5 and 6, varying between B and D widths."

It is speculated that at least six or seven pairs of the final design were made. The wardrobe woman who worked on the film claimed "six identical pairs" had been made. Four pairs used in the movie have been accounted for. Rhys Thomas speculates that they were likely made by Joe Napoli of the Western Costume Company, and not all at once, but as the need arose. Judy Garland requested one pair a half-size larger, so that she would be more comfortable in the afternoon when her feet were slightly swollen from the rigors of the morning rehearsals and filming.

These four surviving pairs were made from white silk pumps from the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles. There is an embossed gold or silver stamp or an embroidered cloth label bearing the name of the company inside each right shoe. At the time, many movie studios used plain white silk shoes because they were inexpensive and easily dyed. It is likely that most of the shoes worn by female characters in The Wizard of Oz were plain Innes shoes with varying heel heights, dyed to match each costume.

To create the ruby slippers, the shoes were dyed red, then burgundy sequined organza overlays were attached to each shoe's upper and heel. The film's early three-strip Technicolor process required the sequins to be darker than most red sequins found today; bright red sequins would have appeared orange on screen.
Two weeks before the start of shooting of the film, Adrian added butterfly-shaped red strap leather bows. Each of the Art Deco-inspired bows had three large, rectangular, red-glass jewels with dark red bugle beads, outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings. The stones and beads were sewn to the bows, then to the organza-covered shoe. Three pairs of the surviving slippers had orange felt glued to their soles to deaden the sound of Garland dancing on the Yellow Brick Road.

It is theorized that Garland wore one primary pair during shooting. This may be the pair known as "the People's Shoes" available for public viewing at the Smithsonian Institution. The "sister set" to this pair was owned by Michael Shaw. This pair can clearly be seen when Dorothy shows them to the Emerald City doorman.

Another pair, the close-up or insert shoes, is in best shape of all, appears to be better made, and has no orange felt on the soles, with "#7 Judy Garland" written in the lining. According to the Library of Congress, "it is widely believed that they were used primarily for close-ups and possibly the climactic scene where Dorothy taps her heels together." Circular scuff marks on the soles support the theory that they were the ones Garland had on when she clicked her heels together. The lack of felt indicates these were likely also the shoes taken from the feet of the dead Wicked Witch of the East (since the soles are visible in the film), hence their nickname: the "Witch's slippers".

The last known pair was, some believe, made for Bobbie Koshay, Garland's stunt double. This is most likely the size 6B pair (owned first by Roberta Bauman, then Anthony Landini, and currently by David Elkouby) whose lining says "Double" instead of "Judy Garland". However, some believe this pair may have been the second pair created, therefore explaining the "Double" in the lining, but still used by Garland and Koshay.

Several pairs of Garland's own shoes are size 612. Also, Garland may have worn this pair for photos and publicity appearances after the film's primary shooting was finished in 1939.

In one film sequence, Garland is not wearing the ruby slippers (an apparent blunder). As the trees pelt the Scarecrow with apples, Garland can be briefly glimpsed wearing a black shoe on her right foot.

Pop Culture
The progressive band Electric Light Orchestra used a frame from the 1939 film on the cover of their fourth studio album, released in 1974, Eldorado. This cover was laid out by Sharon Osbourne (then known as Sharon Arden).

Friday, February 8, 2013

See Mercury at Sunset

By Dr. Tony Phillips, NASA

Feb. 8, 2013: NASA has recently discovered a very strange planet. Its days are twice as long as its years. It has a tail like a comet. It is hot enough to melt lead, yet capped by deposits of ice. And to top it all off ... it appears to be pink.

The planet is Mercury.

Of course, astronomers have known about Mercury for thousands of years, but since NASA's MESSENGER probe went into orbit around Mercury in 2011, researchers feel like they've been discovering the innermost planet all over again. One finding after another has confirmed the alien character of this speedy little world, which you can see this week with your own eyes.
Mercury is emerging from the glare of the sun for a beautiful two-week apparition during the month of February 2013. The show begins about a half hour after sunset. Scan the horizon where the sun's glow is strongest and, if the sky is clear, Mercury should pop out of the twilight, a bright pink pinprick of light. Mercury itself is not actually pink, but it is often colored so by the rosy hues of the setting sun.

If you're looking on the evenings of February 8th and 9th, scan the sky around Mercury with binoculars. A second planet is there, too. Glowing faintly red, Mars is barely a degree from Mercury. In binocular optics, Mercury and Mars form a charming little double-planet.

As February unfolds, Mercury will rise higher in the sunset sky, brightening as it ascends. From February 11th through 21st, the "pink planet" will be visible for as much as an hour after sunset. February 11th is a date of special interest: a slender crescent Moon will appear straight above Mercury, providing guidance for novice sky watchers.

Mercury circles the sun about three times closer than Earth does, rotating just three times on its axis every two Mercury-years. This slow-spin under the solar inferno bakes Mercury's surface bone-dry and raises its daytime temperature to 425 degrees Celsius, hot enough to melt lead. This would seem an unlikely place to find deposits of ice, yet that is what the MESSENGER probe recently confirmed: Mercury has enough ice at its poles to encase Washington DC with a layer of frozen water two miles thick.

Ice on Mercury is possible because the tilt of planet's spin axis is almost zero -- less than one degree -- so there are pockets at the planet's poles that never see sunlight. Shadowed areas at each end of the heavily-cratered planet turn out to be cold enough to freeze and hold water.

MESSENGER found something else: Much of Mercury's ice is coated with a mysterious dark substance. Researchers don't know exactly what it is, but they suspect it is a mix of complex organic compounds delivered to Mercury by the impacts of asteroids and comets.

In some ways, Mercury itself resembles a comet with a long tail. NASA's twin STEREO probes, on a mission to observe the sun, spotted Mercury's tail in 2008. The MESSENGER probe has since flown through it. The tail appears to be made of material blown off Mercury's surface by exposure to solar flares and the solar wind at point-blank range. The pressure of sunlight pushes the tail in the anti-sunward direction, just like the tail of a comet.

With the sun currently approaching the maximum of its 11-year activity cycle, Mercury is getting hit by the stormiest space weather in years. This is a great time for MESSENGER to study the processes that turn Mercury into a "comet-planet."

Mercury is a strange planet, indeed. When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and see for yourself.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Obama Cripples Due Process

Glenn Greenwald at the UK Guardian has written a blistering piece about Eric Holder’s Justice Department and its recent legal memo announcing that the President can call for the assassination o US citizens before any trial.

There are six main points Greenwald makes about this power-grabbing finding:
  1. A government accusation is equated with guilt
  2. The legal opinion creates a ceiling but not a floor
  3. The finding relies on the Bush/Cheney theory of a global battlefield
  4. The concept of "imminent" attack is expanded beyond recognition
  5. Obama subordinates effectively become secret courts
  6. The legal opinion makes a mockery of due process
The entire article is online at:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are lubricant eye drops used to treat the dryness and irritation associated with deficient tear production in keratoconjunctivigis sicca (dry eyes). They are also used to moisten contact lenses and in eye examinations
Artificial tears are available over-the-counter. Artificial tears are supplemented with other treatments in moderate to severe forms of dry eyes.

Preparations contain carboxymethyl cellulose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (a.k.a. HPMC or hypromellose), hydroxypropyl cellulose and hyaluronic acid (a.k.a. hyaluronan, HA). They contain water, salts and polymers but lack the proteins found in natural tears. Patients who use them more frequently than once every three hours should choose a brand without preservatives or one with special non-irritating preservatives.

Application of artificial tears every few hours can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of dry eyes. Hydroxypropyl cellulose stabilizes and thickens the precorneal tear film, and prolongs the tear film breakup time.


Artificial tears usually are the first line of treatment for dry eyes. While mild cases require application of lubricant drops four times a day, severe cases require more aggressive treatment, such as ten to twelve times a day. Thicker artificial tears can be used in severe cases, although these may temporarily blur vision.
Drops for red eyes can make the eyes even drier. If wearing contact lenses, rewetting or lubricating drops specifically for contact lenses should be used. Other types of drops may contain ingredients that damage the lens.
Adverse Effects
Possible adverse effects of carboxymethyl cellulose and other similar lubricants include eye pain, irritation, continued redness, or vision changes. Use should be discontinued if any of them occur. Those of hydroxypropyl cellulose include hyperaemia, photophobia, stickiness of eyelashes, discomfort, and irritation. Long term use of preservatives present in some artificial tears may harm the eye.

Artificial tears have no reported interactions. A documented contraindication of artificial tears is hypersensitivity.

Veterinary Uses
Artificial tears are a part of the topical therapy for keratoconjunctivitis sicca for animals such as dogs, cats and horses.