Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bernard Lewis Is 100

Bernard Lewis, FBA (born 31 May 1916) is a British-American historian specializing in oriental studies. He is also known as a public intellectual and political commentator. Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Lewis' expertise is in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West. He is also noted in academic circles for his works on the history of the Ottoman Empire.

Lewis served as a soldier in the British Army in the Royal Armoured Corps and Intelligence Corps during the Second World War before being seconded to the Foreign Office. After the war, he returned to the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and was appointed to the new chair in Near and Middle Eastern History.

Lewis is a widely read expert on the Middle East and is regarded as one of the West's leading scholars of that region. His advice has been frequently sought by policymakers, including the Bush administration. In the Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing, Martin Kramer, whose PhD thesis was directed by Lewis, considered that over a 60-year career Lewis has emerged as "the most influential postwar historian of Islam and the Middle East."

Lewis' views on the Armenian Genocide have attracted attention. He acknowledges that massacres against the Armenians occurred but does not believe it meets the definition of genocide. He is also notable for his public debates with the late Edward Said concerning the latter's book Orientalism (1978), which criticized Lewis and other European writers.

Views and Influence on Contemporary Politics

In the mid-1960s, Lewis emerged as a commentator on the issues of the modern Middle East and his analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the rise of militant Islam brought him publicity and aroused significant controversy. American historian Joel Beinin has called him "perhaps the most articulate and learned Zionist advocate in the North American Middle East academic community". Lewis's policy advice has particular weight thanks to this scholarly authority. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney remarked "in this new century, his wisdom is sought daily by policymakers, diplomats, fellow academics, and the news media."

A harsh critic of the Soviet Union, Lewis continued the liberal tradition in Islamic historical studies. Although his early Marxist views had a bearing on his first book The Origins of Ismailism, Lewis subsequently discarded Marxism. His later works are a reaction against the left-wing current of Third-worldism which came to be a significant current in Middle Eastern studies.

Lewis advocated closer Western ties with Israel and Turkey, which he saw as especially important in light of the extension of the Soviet influence in the Middle East. Modern Turkey holds a special place in Lewis's view of the region due to the country's efforts to become a part of the West. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Turkish Studies, an honor which is given "on the basis of generally recognized scholarly distinction and... long and devoted service to the field of Turkish Studies."

Lewis views Christendom and Islam as civilizations that have been in perpetual collision since the advent of Islam in the 7th century. In his essay The Roots of Muslim Rage (1990), he argued that the struggle between the West and Islam was gathering strength. According to one source, this essay (and Lewis' 1990 Jefferson Lecture on which the article was based) first introduced the term "Islamic fundamentalism" to North America. This essay has been credited with coining the phrase "clash of civilizations", which received prominence in the eponymous book by Samuel Huntington. However, another source indicates that Lewis first used the phrase "clash of civilizations" at a 1957 meeting in Washington where it was recorded in the transcript.

In 1998, Lewis read in a London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi a declaration of war on the United States by Osama bin Laden. In his essay "A License to Kill", Lewis indicated he considered bin Laden's language as the "ideology of jihad" and warned that bin Laden would be a danger to the West. The essay was published after the Clinton administration and the US intelligence community had begun its hunt for bin Laden in Sudan and then in Afghanistan.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Resistance to Antibiotics

David Cameron (recently re-elected as UK Prime Minister) picked a former head of Goldman Sachs to chair a group looking into resistant bacteria and possible future pandemics (!).

The banker, trained as an economist, has done a bang-up job.  I agree with every single one of his recommendations, and I’ve been studying and worrying about pandemics for decades.  Brew some coffee and tea and then slurp it down while reading this link below.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

New Alzheimer's and Schizophrenia Research

Malfunctions of the immune system as it performs in the brain itself may spark the beginning of serious brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.  Details are at this link:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Regrets of the Dying

By Bronnie Ware, November 19, 2009

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed, though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fifth Fundamental Force of Nature Found?

Have Scientists Quietly Found a
Fifth Fundamental Force of Nature?
by Chuck Bednar

May 26, 2016 -- Under-the-radar research published earlier this year in the journal Physical Review Letters may have discovered a previously unknown fifth fundamental force of nature: a new boson which is only 34 times heavier than the electron and which does not violate the laws of physics.

The study, which was the topic of reports by Nature and Popular Science this week, was led by Attila Krasznahorkay at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’s Institute for Nuclear Research in Debrecen and went largely unnoticed until a second team of researchers reviewed their results in April and concluded that it was plausible that they had found a fifth fundamental force.

Currently, there are four known fundamental forces of nature: gravity, which holds planets and galaxies together; electromagnetism, which binds our molecules together; strong nuclear forces, which hold atomic nuclei together; and weak nuclear forces, which help some kinds of atoms go through radioactive decay. Together, these forces explain the majority of observable physics.

Over the years, there have been many claims that a fifth fundamental force exists, but as of yet, no researchers have been able to find evidence to substantiate this proposition. The inability of the standard model to explain dark matter, the invisible particles believed to make an estimated three-fourths of the universe, has led scientists to ramp up the search for new forces or particles to help explain this phenomenon, including so-called “dark photons.”

Exact nature of the discovery remains unknown

In fact, Krasznahorkay’s team was searching for evidence of dark photons, but the team which reviewed those earlier findings believe that the group may have discovered something different. The Hungarian scientists fired protons at lithium-7 targets to create unstable beryllium-8 nuclei, which they decayed and emitted pairs of electrons and positrons, according to Nature.

The standard model indicated that they should have seen the number of observed pairs decrease as the angle separating the trajectory of the electron and positron increased, but according to the results of their study, there was an increase of emissions at an angle of approximately 140º, then a decrease again at higher angles. Krasznahorkay believes that this brief uptick is evidence that some of the beryllium-8 nuclei emitted excess energy in the form of a new particle.

This particle, which is estimated to have a mass of about 17 megaelectronvolts (MeV) and which would then decay into an electron–positron pair, may either be a dark photon or a protophobic X boson, the former of which would couple to electrons and protons and the latter of which would couple to electrons and neutrons.

While the investigation continues into exactly what they might have found, Krasznahorkay and his colleagues are confident that it is not simple an anomaly, as they reported that they have been able to repeat the results several times over a three-year span. They added that they had been able to eliminate every possible source of error, which is true, means that the odds of them witnessing such an event without something unusual happening were just one in 200 billion, said Nature.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Northerners Hoarded U.S. Coins


Although the North had the manufacturing facilities and railroads to win the Civil War from 1861-1865, the population was worried about the outcome and engaged in heavy hoarding of coins.  All the silver coins vanished from circulation, and only the penny was used in commerce.  This story of mistrust in the national currency is not part of the popular history of that conflict, but it was an enormous concern to the public at the time.

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The Indian Head cent, also known as an Indian Head penny, was a one-cent coin ($0.01) produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1859 to 1909. It was designed by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.

From 1793 to 1857, the cent was a copper coin about the size of a half dollar. As rising copper prices made it impractical to keep striking them, in 1857 the Mint reduced the size of the cent, issuing a new design, the Flying Eagle cent. The new pieces were identical in diameter to modern cents, though somewhat thicker and made of copper-nickel. The design caused production difficulties, and the Mint soon looked to replace the coin. Mint Director James Ross Snowden selected the Indian Head design, and chose a laurel wreath for the reverse that was replaced in 1860 by an oak wreath with a shield. Cents were hoarded during the economic chaos of the American Civil War, when the metal nickel was in short supply. As Mint officials saw that privately issued bronze tokens were circulating, they induced Congress to pass the Coinage Act of 1864, authorizing a slimmer cent of bronze alloy.

In the postwar period, the cent became very popular and was struck in large numbers in most years. An exception was 1877, when a poor economy and little demand for cents created one of the rarest dates in the series. With the advent of coin-operated machines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, even more cents were produced, reaching 100 million for the first time in 1907. In 1909, the Indian Head cent was replaced by the Lincoln cent, designed by Victor D. Brenner.

Production of the Indian Head cent for commerce began at the start of 1859. As issued for circulation, the pieces differ in some particulars from the pattern 1858 cent of similar design; Longacre sharpened some details. The pattern coin had the laurel leaves in the reverse wreath in bunches of five leaves; the issued 1859 cent has them in bunches of six. Cents dated 1858 with the adopted reverse (with six-leaf bunches) are known, were most likely struck in 1859, and are extremely rare.

In 1860, the reverse of the cent was changed to feature an oak wreath and a narrow shield; such reverses are also known on 1859-dated pieces struck as patterns. According to Richard Snow in his guide book to Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents, this was not due to problems with the "Laurel Wreath" reverse design used in 1859, as full details survive on many extant pieces.  Walter Breen, however, suggested that the feathers and curls on the obverse did not strike as well as they would later, and that "this may account for Snowden's decision to change the design again".  David Lange, in his history of the Mint, states that it was to give the coin, quoting Snowden, "more National character".  All 1859 cents and some from 1860 have the cutoff of Liberty's bust on the obverse end with a point; most 1860 cents and all later issues have it rounded.

Tens of millions of Flying Eagle cents had been issued in exchange for the old American coppers and small Spanish silver. The Spanish silver was still flowing into the Mint in early 1859 and, at Snowden's urging, Congress on March 3 of that year extended the redemption of these foreign coins, legal tender in the US until 1857, for another two years. Neil Carothers, in his work on small-denomination currency, challenged this decision as unnecessary—deprived of legal tender status, the remaining Spanish silver would have been eliminated through sales to banks for their bullion. Those who brought the old coins to the Mint received cents for them, at first Flying Eagle, and then Indian Head. In the year following the renewal, some forty million Indian Head cents were issued, meaning nearly a hundred million copper-nickel cents had entered commerce since 1857. As the coin did not circulate in the South and West due to prejudice against base-metal money, they choked commerce. No one had to take them; no law made them legal tender. At Snowden's urging Congress in June 1860 ended the exchange. Nevertheless, as Snowden admitted in his annual report that year, there were too many cents in circulation.  In October 1860, The Bankers' Magazine and Statistical Register reported that there were ten million cents in commerce in New York City above what was needed, and if anyone wished to order in bulk, they could be purchased at a discount.

Shortage and redesign (1862–1864)

The surplus of cents was relieved by the economic chaos engendered by the American Civil War, which began in 1861. At the end of that year, the banks stopped paying out gold, which thereafter commanded a premium over paper money. These greenbacks, beginning in the following year, were issued in large quantities by the federal government. Silver vanished from commerce in June 1862, as the price of that metal rose, leaving the cent the sole federal coin that had not entirely vanished from commerce through hoarding. The glut of cents had by then abated, as merchants had stored them away in quantity—one New York City floor collapsed beneath the load. There were other means of making change which passed in the emergency, from postage stamps to privately issued tokens, but the public demand was for the cent—the Philadelphia Mint struck record numbers, and set aside part of the production to be transmitted to other cities. Nevertheless, by July 1862, the cent, in quantity, could only be purchased at a premium of 4% in paper money in major cities in the East. The copper-nickel pieces were nicknamed "nickels", or "nicks". Presentation of coins in payment carried with it no obligation to make change in the same. Accordingly, with a small quantity of "nicks", a shopper could make purchases with exact change, without receiving such makeshifts as merchants' credit slips, that others might not accept at the stated value.

By 1863, The Bankers' Magazine reported that the premium for cents in Philadelphia had risen to 20%. Thereafter, the premium decreased as there was a flood of metal tokens issued by merchants, which were widely accepted. Other war expedients, such as fractional currency, lessened the demand for the cent by taking the place of missing silver coinage. Small quantities of cents circulated among them, though many were still hoarded.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Introns and Evolution

Rare Evolutionary Event Detected
in University of Texas Lab
May 23, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas — It took nearly a half trillion tries before researchers at The University of Texas at Austin witnessed a rare event and perhaps solved an evolutionary puzzle about how introns, noncoding sequences of DNA located within genes, multiply in a genome. The results, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, address fundamental questions about the evolution of new species and could expand our understanding of gene expression and the causes of diseases such as cancer.

“Until now, the only way researchers could track the evolution of introns was through phylogenetic analysis, which is examining the evolutionary relationships among sets of related organisms,” says Scott Stevens, associate professor of molecular biosciences. “Our work is the first experimental verification that shows how introns can be transposed into an organism.”

For a long time, scientists have known that much of the DNA within any given organism’s genome does not code for functional molecules or protein. However, recent research has found that these genetic sequences, misnamed “junk” DNA in the past, often do have functional significance.

These introns are no exception. Now known to play a role in gene expression, introns are the portion of gene sequences that are removed or spliced out of RNA before genes are translated into protein. When eukaryotes first diverged from bacteria, there was a massive invasion of introns into the genome. All living eukaryotes — from yeast to mammals — share this common ancestor, and whereas simple organisms such as yeast have eliminated most of their introns, organisms such as mammals have considerably expanded their intron inventory. Humans have more than 200,000 introns that take up about 40 percent of the genome.

In the current paper, Stevens and co-author Sujin Lee, a former graduate student in cellular and molecular biology at UT Austin, used a new reporter assay to directly detect the loss and gain of introns in budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). The team tested nearly a half trillion yeast and found only two instances in which an intron was added to a new gene. The proposed mechanism for this addition is a reversal of a splicing reaction.

Normally, to make proteins, RNA is read from the instructions in DNA, and the introns are spliced out. But in these two instances, the cell allowed the spliced out introns to make it back into a different RNA and was recombined back into the genome, thus creating a permanent genetic change. These are called intron gains, and if these accumulate over time, they can contribute to the development of new species as well as human disease.

“We showed in this project that introns continue to be gained, although infrequently at any point in time,” says Stevens. “But can introns drive evolution? If these sequences give organisms a selective advantage and become fixed in a population, others have shown that it can be a major factor in the creation of new species.”

These evolutionary advances come at a cost, however, because diseases such as cancer correlate with the improper removal of introns from RNA. Stevens adds, “We are continuing this work to further understand how this process impacts our genetic history, our future, and the prospects of curing disease.”

The Department of Molecular Biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin funded this research. Screening was assisted by students in the Vertebrate Interactome Stream of the UT Freshman Research Initiative.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Living Vaudevillian

Rose Marie Mazetta (born August 15, 1923), known professionally as Rose Marie, is an American actress. As a child performer she had a successful singing career as Baby Rose Marie. A veteran of vaudeville and one of its last surviving stars, her career includes film, records, theater, night clubs and television. Her most famous role was television comedy writer Sally Rogers on the CBS situation comedy The Dick Van Dyke Show. She later portrayed Myrna Gibbons on The Doris Day Show and was also a frequent panelist on the game show Hollywood Squares.

                                                                Rose Marie in 1970
Early Years

Rose Marie Mazetta was born in New York City, New York, to Italian-American Frank Mazetta and Polish-American Stella Gluszcak. At the age of three, she started performing under the name "Baby Rose Marie." At five, she became a radio star on NBC and made a series of films. Rose Marie was a nightclub and lounge performer in her teenage years before becoming a radio comedian. She was billed then as "The Darling of the Airwaves". According to her autobiography, Hold the Roses, she was assisted in her career by many members of organized crime, including Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.

She performed at the opening night of the Flamingo Hotel, which was built by Siegel.  At her height of fame as a child singer, from late 1929 to 1934, she had her own radio show, made numerous records, and was featured in a number of Paramount films and shorts.

In 1929, the five- or six-year-old singer made a Vitaphone sound short titled "Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder", now restored and available in the Warner Bros. DVD set of The Jazz Singer. She continued to appear in films through the mid-1930s, making shorts and a feature, International House (1933), with W. C. Fields for Paramount.


Between 1930 and 1938, she made 17 recordings, three of which were unissued. Her first issued record, recorded on March 10, 1932, featured accompaniment by Fletcher Henderson's band, one of the premier black jazz orchestras. According to Hendersonia, the bio-discography by Walter C. Allen, Henderson and the band were in the Victor studios recording the four songs they were intending to produce that day and were asked to accompany Baby Rose Marie, reading from a stock arrangement.

Her recording "Say That You Were Teasing Me" (b/w "Take a Picture of the Moon; Victor 22960) also featured Henderson's orchestra and was a national Top 20 hit, peaking at #19 in May 1932. According to Joel Whitburn, Rose Marie is the only pre-World War II hitmaker still living as of 2016.


In the 1960–61 season, Rose Marie costarred with Shirley Bonne, Elaine Stritch, Jack Weston, Raymond Bailey, and Stubby Kaye in the CBS sitcom My Sister Eileen. She played Bertha, a friend of the Sherwood sisters: Ruth, a magazine writer, played by Stritch, and Eileen, an aspiring actress, Bonne's role.

After five seasons (1961–1966) of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rose Marie costarred in two seasons (1969–1971) of CBS's The Doris Day Show as Doris Martin's friend and coworker, Myrna Gibbons. She also appeared in two episodes of the NBC series The Monkees in the mid-1960s. She later had a semiregular seat in the upper center square on the original version of Hollywood Squares, alongside her friend and longtime Dick Van Dyke co-star, Morey Amsterdam. She also appeared on both the 1986 and 1998 syndicated revivals.

In the early 1990s, she had a recurring role as Frank Fontana's mother on the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown. She appeared as Roy Biggins's domineering mother, Eleanor "Bluto" Biggins, in an episode of the television series Wings. Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam appeared together in an October 1993 episode of Herman's Head and guest-starred in a February 1996 episode of the NBC sitcom Caroline in the City, shortly before Amsterdam's death in October of that same year.

She appeared with the surviving Dick Van Dyke Show cast members in a 2004 reunion special. Rose Marie was especially close to actor Richard Deacon from that show and offered him the suits left behind when her husband died in 1964, as the two men were of similar height and build.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Confabulation Explained

In psychiatry, Confabulation (verb: confabulate) is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. Individuals who confabulate present incorrect memories ranging from "subtle alterations to bizarre fabrications", and are generally very confident about their recollections, despite contradictory evidence.


Confabulation is distinguished from lying as there is no intent to deceive and the person is unaware the information is false. Although individuals can present blatantly false information, confabulation can also seem to be coherent, internally consistent, and relatively normal.

Most known cases of confabulation are symptomatic of brain damage or dementias, such as aneurysm, Alzheimer's disease, or Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (a common manifestation of thiamine deficiency caused by alcoholism). Additionally confabulation often occurs in people who are suffering from anticholinergic toxidrome when interrogated about bizarre or irrational behavior.

Confabulated memories of all types most often occur in autobiographical memory, and are indicative of a complicated and intricate process that can be led astray at any point during encoding, storage, or recall of a memory. This type of confabulation is commonly seen in Korsakoff's syndrome.


Two types of confabulation are often distinguished:

  • Provoked (momentary, or secondary) confabulations represent a normal response to a faulty memory, are common in both amnesia and dementia, and can become apparent during memory tests.
  • Spontaneous (or primary) confabulations do not occur in response to a cue and seem to be involuntary. They are relatively rare, more common in cases of dementia, and may result from the interaction between frontal lobe pathology and organic amnesia.

Another distinction is that between:

  • Verbal confabulations, spoken false memories and are more common, and
  • Behavioral confabulations, occur when an individual acts on their false memories.

Signs and Symptoms

Confabulation is associated with several characteristics:

  1. Typically verbal statements but can also be non-verbal gestures or actions.
  2. Can include autobiographical and non-personal information, such as historical facts, fairytales, or other aspects of semantic memory.
  3. The account can be fantastic or coherent.
  4. Both the premise and the details of the account can be false.
  5. The account is usually drawn from the patient’s memory of actual experiences, including past and current thoughts.
  6. The patient is unaware of the accounts’ distortions or inappropriateness, and is not concerned when errors are pointed out.
  7. There is no hidden motivation behind the account.
  8. The patient’s personality structure may play a role in their readiness to confabulate.

Confidence in False Memories

Confabulation of events or situations may lead to an eventual acceptance of the confabulated information as true. For instance, people who knowingly lie about a situation may eventually come to believe that their lies are truthful with time. In an interview setting, people are more likely to confabulate in situations in which they are presented false information by another person, as opposed to when they self-generate these falsehoods. Further, people are more likely to accept false information as true when they are interviewed at a later time (after the event in question) than those who are interviewed immediately or soon after the event. Affirmative feedback for confabulated responses is also shown to increase the confabulator’s confidence in their response. For instance, in culprit identification, if a witness falsely identifies a member of a line-up, he will be more confident in his identification if the interviewer provides affirmative feedback. This effect of confirmatory feedback appears to last over time, as witnesses will even remember the confabulated information months later.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fuzzy Logic: A Primer

Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic in which the truth values of variables may be any real number between 0 and 1, considered to be "fuzzy". By contrast, in Boolean logic, the truth values of variables may only be 0 or 1, often called "crisp" values. Fuzzy logic has been employed to handle the concept of partial truth, where the truth value may range between completely true and completely false.  Furthermore, when linguistic variables are used, these degrees may be managed by specific (membership) functions.

The term fuzzy logic was introduced with the 1965 proposal of fuzzy set theory by Lotfi Zadeh.  Fuzzy logic had however been studied since the 1920s, as infinite-valued logic—notably by Łukasiewicz and Tarski.

Fuzzy logic has been applied to many fields, from control theory to artificial intelligence.


Classical logic only permits conclusions which are either true or false. For example, the notion that 1+1=2 is a fundamental mathematical truth. However, there are also propositions with variable answers, such as one might find when asking a group of people to identify a colour. In such instances, the truth appears as the result of reasoning from inexact or partial knowledge in which the sampled answers are mapped on a spectrum.

Humans and animals often operate using fuzzy evaluations in many everyday situations. In the case where someone is tossing an object into a container from a distance, the person does not compute exact values for the object weight, density, distance, direction, container height and width, and air resistance to determine the force and angle to toss the object. Instead the person instinctively applies quick “fuzzy” estimates, based upon previous experience, to determine what output values of force, direction and vertical angle to use to make the toss.

Both degrees of truth and probabilities range between 0 and 1 and hence may seem similar at first. For example, let a 100 ml glass contain 30 ml of water. Then we may consider two concepts: empty and full. The meaning of each of them can be represented by a certain fuzzy set. Then one might define the glass as being 0.7 empty and 0.3 full. Note that the concept of emptiness would be subjective and thus would depend on the observer or designer. Another designer might, equally well, design a set membership function where the glass would be considered full for all values down to 50 ml. It is essential to realize that fuzzy logic uses degrees of truth as a mathematical model of vagueness, while probability is a mathematical model of ignorance.

Comparison to Probability

Fuzzy logic and probability address different forms of uncertainty. While both fuzzy logic and probability theory can represent degrees of certain kinds of subjective belief, fuzzy set theory uses the concept of fuzzy set membership, i.e., how much a variable is in a set (there is not necessarily any uncertainty about this degree), and probability theory uses the concept of subjective probability, i.e., how probable is it that a variable is in a set (it either entirely is or entirely is not in the set in reality, but there is uncertainty around whether it is or is not). The technical consequence of this distinction is that fuzzy set theory relaxes the axioms of classical probability, which are themselves derived from adding uncertainty, but not degree, to the crisp true/false distinctions of classical Aristotelian logic.

Bruno de Finetti argues that only one kind of mathematical uncertainty, probability, is needed, and thus fuzzy logic is unnecessary. However, Bart Kosko shows in Fuzziness vs. Probability that probability theory is a subtheory of fuzzy logic, as questions of degrees of belief in mutually-exclusive set membership in probability theory can be represented as certain cases of non-mutually-exclusive graded membership in fuzzy theory. In that context, he also derives Bayes' theorem from the concept of fuzzy subsethood. Lotfi A. Zadeh argues that fuzzy logic is different in character from probability, and is not a replacement for it. He fuzzified probability to fuzzy probability and also generalized it to possibility theory. (cf.)

More generally, fuzzy logic is one of many different extensions to classical logic intended to deal with issues of uncertainty outside of the scope of classical logic, the inapplicability of probability theory in many domains, and the paradoxes of Dempster-Shafer theory.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Brearley, Inventor of Stainless Steel

Harry Brearley (18 February 1871 – 14 July 1948) was an English metallurgist, usually credited with the invention of "rustless steel" (later to be called "stainless steel" in the anglophone world).


Brearley was born on 18 February 1871 in Sheffield, England, the son of John Brearley, a steelworker, and his wife, Jane Brearley née Senior. He left Woodside school at the age of twelve to enter his first employment as a labourer in his father's steelworks, later getting the post of general assistant in the company's chemical laboratory. He married Helen Theresa Crank (1874–1955) on 23 October 1895. For several years, in addition to his laboratory work, he studied at home and later in formal evening classes, to specialize in steel production techniques and associated chemical analysis methods.

By his early thirties, Brearley had earned a reputation as an experienced professional and for being very astute in the resolution of practical, industrial, metallurgical problems. It was in 1908, when two of Sheffield's principal steelmaking companies innovatively agreed to jointly finance a common research laboratory (Brown Firth Laboratories) that Harry Brearley was asked to lead the project.

After leaving Brown Firth, Brearley joined Brown Bayley's Steel Works, also in Sheffield; he became a director of the firm in 1925.

In 1941 Brearley created a charitable trust The Freshgate Trust Foundation, a grantmaking charity operating in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. His aim was to provide a "Fresh Gate" or new opportunity to people like him born into modest circumstances so that they may experience the finer things in life such as travel, education, the arts and music. The foundation is still operating as a registered charity awarding grants for charitable purposes in South Yorkshire.

Brearley died on 14 July 1948, at Torquay, a coastal resort town in Devon, south west England. He was cremated at Efford Crematorium, Efford, near Plymouth on 16 July 1948 and his ashes were scattered in the Efford Crematorium Garden of Remembrance.

In 2013, in the Sheffield University Varsity Brewing Challenge, Sheffield University named their beer – brewed by Thornbridge – Brearleys, to commemorate 100 years since Harry Brearley invented stainless steel.

Stainless Steel

In the troubled years immediately before World War I, arms manufacturing increased significantly in the UK, but practical problems were encountered due to erosion (excessive wear) of the internal surfaces of gun barrels. Brearley began to research new steels which could better resist the erosion caused by high temperatures (rather than corrosion, as is often mentioned in this regard). He began to examine the addition of chromium to steel, which was known to raise the material’s melting point, as compared to the standard carbon steels.

The research concentrated on quantifying the effects of varying the levels of carbon (C, at concentrations around 0.2 weight %) and chromium (Cr, in the range of 6 to 15 weight %).

In order to undertake metallography to study the microstructure of the experimental alloys (the main factor responsible for a steel's mechanical properties) it was necessary to polish and etch the metallic samples produced. For a carbon steel, a dilute solution of nitric acid in alcohol is sufficient to produce the required etching, but Brearley found that the new chromium steels were very resistant to chemical attack.

It was probably Harry Brearley’s increase in Sheffield, a city famous for the manufacture of cutlery since the 16th century, which led him to appreciate the potential of these new steels for applications not only in high-temperature service, as originally envisioned, but also in the mass-production of food-related applications such as cutlery, saucepans and processing equipment etc. Up to that time carbon-steel knives were prone to unhygienic rusting if they were not frequently polished and only expensive sterling silver or EPNS cutlery was generally available to avoid such problems. With this in mind Brearley extended his examinations to include tests with food acids such as vinegar and lemon juice, with very promising results .

Brearley initially called the new alloy "rustless steel"; the more euphonic "stainless steel" was suggested by Ernest Stuart of R.F. Mosley's, a local cutlery manufacturer at Portland Works, and eventually prevailed although Mosley's used the "Rusnorstain" trademark for many years. It is reported that the first true stainless steel, a 0.24wt% C, 12.8wt% Cr ferrous alloy, was produced by Brearley in an electric furnace on 13 August 1913. He was subsequently awarded the Iron and Steel Institute's Bessemer Gold Medal in 1920. The American Society for Metals gives the date for Brearley's creation of casting number 1008 (12.8% chromium, 0.44% manganese, 0.2% silicon, 0.24% carbon and 85.32% iron) as 20 August 1913.

Virtually all research projects into the further development of stainless steels were interrupted by the 1914–18 War, but efforts were renewed in the 1920s. Brearley had left the Brown Firth Laboratories in 1915, following disagreements regarding patent rights, but the research continued under the direction of his successor, Dr. W. H. Hatfield. It is Hatfield who is credited with the development, in 1924, of a stainless steel which even today is probably the widest-used alloy of this type, the so-called "18/8", which in addition to chromium, includes nickel (Ni) in its composition (18wt% Cr, 8wt% Ni).

See also http://nautil.us/issue/36/aging/the-father-of-modern-metal

Friday, May 20, 2016

Feynman on Integrity

CARGO CULT SCIENCE by Richard Feynman
Adapted from the Caltech commencement address given in 1974.
During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such
as that a piece of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a
method was discovered for separating the ideas--which was to try
one to see if it worked, and if it didn't work, to eliminate it.
This method became organized, of course, into science. And it
developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It
is such a scientific age, in fact that we have difficulty in
understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed, when
nothing that they proposed ever really worked--or very little of
it did.
But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me
into a conversation about UFOS, or astrology, or some form of
mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and
so forth. And I've concluded that it's not a scientific world.
Most people believe so many wonderful things that I decided to
investigate why they did. And what has been referred to as my
curiosity for investigation has landed me in a difficulty where I
found so much junk that I'm overwhelmed. First I started out by
investigating various ideas of mysticism, and mystic experiences.
I went into isolation tanks and got many hours of hallucinations,
so I know something about that. Then I went to Esalen, which is a
hotbed of this kind of thought (it's a wonderful place; you should
go visit there). Then I became overwhelmed. I didn't realize how
much there was.
At Esalen there are some large baths fed by hot springs situated
on a ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most
pleasurable experiences has been to sit in one of those baths and
watch the waves crashing onto the rocky shore below, to gaze into
the clear blue sky above, and to study a beautiful nude as she
quietly appears and settles into the bath with me.
One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beautiful girl
sitting with a guy who didn't seem to know her. Right away I began
thinking, "Gee! How am I gonna get started talking to this
beautiful nude babe?"
I'm trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her,
I'm, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?"
"Sure," she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a
massage table nearby.
I think to myself, "What a nifty line! I can never think of
anything like that!" He starts to rub her big toe. "I think I feel
it, "he says. "I feel a kind of dent--is that the pituitary?"
I blurt out, "You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!"
They looked at me, horrified--I had blown my cover--and said, "It's
I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.
That's just an example of the kind of things that overwhelm me. I
also looked into extrasensory perception and PSI phenomena, and the
latest craze there was Uri Geller, a man who is supposed to be able
to bend keys by rubbing them with his finger. So I went to his
hotel room, on his invitation, to see a demonstration of both
mindreading and bending keys. He didn't do any mindreading that
succeeded; nobody can read my mind, I guess. And my boy held a key
and Geller rubbed it, and nothing happened. Then he told us it
works better under water, and so you can picture all of us standing
in the bathroom with the water turned on and the key under it, and
him rubbing the key with his finger. Nothing happened. So I was
unable to investigate that phenomenon.
But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And
I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have
been to cheek on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So
I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have
some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading
methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice,
you'll see the reading scores keep going down--or hardly going up
in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to
improve the methods. There's a witch doctor remedy that doesn't
work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their
method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We
obviously have made no progress--lots of theory, but no progress--
in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to
handle criminals.
Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I
think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by
this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to
teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it
some other way--or is even fooled by the school system into
thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent
of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels
guilty for the rest of her life because she didn't do "the right
thing," according to the experts.
So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and
science that isn't science.
I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are
examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the
South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw
airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same
thing to happen now. So they've arranged to imitate things like
runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a
wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head
like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's
the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're
doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the
way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So
I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the
apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but
they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.
Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing.
But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea
Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some
wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling
them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one
feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science.
That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying
science in school--we never explicitly say what this is, but just
hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific
investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now
and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity,
a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of
utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if
you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you
think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about
it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and
things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other
experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can
tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be
given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know
anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you
make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then
you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well
as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem.
When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate
theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that
those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea
for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else
come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to
help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the
information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or
The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for
example, with advertising. Last night I heard that Wesson oil
doesn't soak through food. Well, that's true. It's not dishonest;
but the thing I'm talking about is not just a matter of not being
dishonest, it's a matter of scientific integrity, which is another
level. The fact that should be added to that advertising statement
is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a certain
temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will--
including Wesson oil. So it's the implication which has been
conveyed, not the fact, which is true, and the difference is what
we have to deal with.
We've learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other
experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you
were wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll
disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some
temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation
as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind
of work. And it's this type of integrity, this kind of care not to
fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the
research in cargo cult science.
A great deal of their difficulty is, of course, the difficulty of
the subject and the inapplicability of the scientific method to the
subject.  Nevertheless it should be remarked that this is not the
only difficulty.  That's why the planes didn't land--but they don't
We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of
the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the
charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and
got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a
little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the
viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of
measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you
plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little
bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than
that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until
finally they settle down to a number which is higher.
Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away?
It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because
it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a
number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something
must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why
something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to
Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated
the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.
We've learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don't have that
kind of a disease.
But this long history of learning how not to fool ourselves--of
having utter scientific integrity--is, I'm sorry to say, something
that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that
I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are
the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about
that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other
scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after
I would like to add something that's not essential to the science,
but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool
the layman when you're talking as a scientist. I am not trying to
tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your
girlfriend, or something like that, when you're not trying to be
a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We'll
leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I'm talking about
a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending
over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to
have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as
scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.
For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a
friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology
and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the
applications of this work were. "Well," I said, "there aren't any."
He said, "Yes, but then we won't get support for more research of
this kind." I think that's kind of dishonest. If you're
representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to
the layman what you're doing--and if they don't want to support you
under those circumstances, then that's their decision.
One example of the principle is this: If you've made up your mind
to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should
always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only
publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look
good. We must publish both kinds of results.
I say that's also important in giving certain types of government
advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether
drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it
would be better in some other state. If you don't publish such a
result, it seems to me you're not giving scientific advice. You're
being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the
government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument
in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don't publish
it at all. That's not giving scientific advice.
Other kinds of errors are more characteristic of poor science. When
I was at Cornell, I often talked to the people in the psychology
department. One of the students told me she wanted to do an
experiment that went something like this--it had been found by
others that under certain circumstances, X, rats did something, A.
She was curious as to whether, if she changed the circumstances to
Y, they would still do A. So her proposal was to do the experiment
under circumstances Y and see if they still did A.
I explained to her that it was necessary first to repeat in her
laboratory the experiment of the other person--to do it under
condition X to see if she could also get result A, and then change
to Y and see if A changed. Then she would know that the real
difference was the thing she thought she had under control.
She was very delighted with this new idea, and went to her
professor. And his reply was, no, you cannot do that, because the
experiment has already been done and you would be wasting time.
This was in about 1947 or so, and it seems to have been the general
policy then to not try to repeat psychological experiments, but
only to change the conditions and see what happens.
Nowadays there's a certain danger of the same thing happening, even
in the famous (?) field of physics. I was shocked to hear of an
experiment done at the big accelerator at the National Accelerator
Laboratory, where a person used deuterium. In order to compare his
heavy hydrogen results to what might happen with light hydrogen"
he had to use data from someone else's experiment on light
hydrogen, which was done on different apparatus. When asked why,
he said it was because he couldn't get time on the program (because
there's so little time and it's such expensive apparatus) to do the
experiment with light hydrogen on this apparatus because there
wouldn't be any new result. And so the men in charge of programs
at NAL are so anxious for new results, in order to get more money
to keep the thing going for public relations purposes, they are
destroying--possibly--the value of the experiments themselves,
which is the whole purpose of the thing. It is often hard for the
experimenters there to complete their work as their scientific
integrity demands.
All experiments in psychology are not of this type, however. For
example, there have been many experiments running rats through all
kinds of mazes, and so on--with little clear result. But in 1937
a man named Young did a very interesting one. He had a long
corridor with doors all along one side where the rats came in, and
doors along the other side where the food was. He wanted to see if
he could train the rats to go in at the third door down from
wherever he started them off. No. The rats went immediately to the
door where the food had been the time before.
The question was, how did the rats know, because the corridor was
so beautifully built and so uniform, that this was the same door
as before? Obviously there was something about the door that was
different from the other doors. So he painted the doors very
carefully, arranging the textures on the faces of the doors exactly
the same. Still the rats could tell. Then he thought maybe the rats
were smelling the food, so he used chemicals to change the smell
after each run. Still the rats could tell. Then he realized the
rats might be able to tell by seeing the lights and the arrangement
in the laboratory like any commonsense person. So he covered the
corridor, and still the rats could tell.
He finally found that they could tell by the way the floor sounded
when they ran over it. And he could only fix that by putting his
corridor in sand. So he covered one after another of all possible
clues and finally was able to fool the rats so that they had to
learn to go in the third door. If he relaxed any of his conditions,
the rats could tell.
Now, from a scientific standpoint, that is an A-number-one
experiment. That is the experiment that makes rat-running
experiments sensible, because it uncovers the clues that the rat
is really using--not what you think it's using. And that is the
experiment that tells exactly what conditions you have to use in
order to be careful and control everything in an experiment with
I looked into the subsequent history of this research. The next
experiment, and the one after that, never referred to Mr. Young.
They never used any of his criteria of putting the corridor on
sand, or being very careful. They just went right on running rats
in the same old way, and paid no attention to the great discoveries
of Mr. Young, and his papers are not referred to, because he didn't
discover anything about the rats. In fact, he discovered all the
things you have to do to discover something about rats. But not
paying attention to experiments like that is a characteristic of
cargo cult science.
Another example is the ESP experiments of Mr. Rhine, and other
people. As various people have made criticisms--and they themselves
have made criticisms of their own experiments--they improve the
techniques so that the effects are smaller, and smaller, and
smaller until they gradually disappear. All the parapsychologists
are looking for some experiment that can be repeated--that you can
do again and get the same effect--statistically, even. They run a
million rats no, it's people this time they do a lot of things and
get a certain statistical effect. Next time they try it they don't
get it any more. And now you find a man saying that it is an
irrelevant demand to expect a repeatable experiment. This is
This man also speaks about a new institution, in a talk in which
he was resigning as Director of the Institute of Parapsychology.
And, in telling people what to do next, he says that one of the
things they have to do is be sure they only train students who have
shown their ability to get PSI results to an acceptable extent--
not to waste their time on those ambitious and interested students
who get only chance results. It is very dangerous to have such a
policy in teaching--to teach students only how to get certain
results, rather than how to do an experiment with scientific
So I have just one wish for you--the good luck to be somewhere
where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have
described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain
your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on,
to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.