Wednesday, August 31, 2016

21st Century Dataism Is Coming

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Review

Homo Deus will shock you. It will entertain you. Above all, it will make you think in ways you had not thought before.” -- Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast, and Slow

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. In Homo Deus, he examines our future with his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between. Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century - from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus. War is obsolete You are more likely to commit suicide than be killed in conflict Famine is disappearing You are at more risk of obesity than starvation Death is just a technical problem Equality is out - but immortality is in What does our future hold?

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Footnote by the Blog Author

Homo Deus also argues that data and algorithms will spell the death of the philosophical concept of free will.  Yet the July 22, 2016, Daily Quiddity blog entry deals with the scientific discovery of actual free will.  Here is the link:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Knowing Shakespeare Well

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom:
Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion 
by Lynn Enterline

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Synopsis from

Shakespeare's Schoolroom places moments of considerable emotional power in Shakespeare's poetry—portraits of what his contemporaries called "the passions"—alongside the discursive and material practices of sixteenth-century English pedagogy. Humanist training in Latin grammar and rhetorical facility was designed to intervene in social reproduction, to sort out which differences between bodies (male and female) and groups (aristocrats, the middling sort, and those below) were necessary to producing proper English "gentlemen." But the method adopted by Lynn Enterline in this book uncovers a rather different story from the one schoolmasters invented to promote the social efficacy of their pedagogical innovations. Beginning with the observation that Shakespeare frequently reengaged school techniques through the voices of those it excluded (particularly women), Enterline shows that when his portraits of "love" and "woe" betray their institutional origins, they reveal both the cost of a Latin education as well as the contradictory conditions of genteel masculinity in sixteenth-century Britain.

In contrast to attempts to explain early modern emotion in relation to medical discourse, Enterline uncovers the crucial role that rhetoric and the texts of the classical past play in Shakespeare's passions. She relies throughout on the axiom that rhetoric has two branches that continuously interact: tropological (requiring formal literary analysis) and transactional (requiring social and historical analysis). Each chapter moves between grammar school archives and literary canon, using linguistic, rhetorical, and literary detail to illustrate the significant difference between what humanists claimed their methods would achieve and what the texts of at least one former schoolboy reveal about the institution's unintended literary and social consequences. When Shakespeare creates the convincing effects of character and emotion for which he is so often singled out as a precursor of "modern" subjectivity, he signals his debt to the Latin institution that granted him the cultural capital of an early modern gentleman precisely when undercutting the socially normative categories schoolmasters invoked as their educational goal.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Zika Virus Research

New Hope for Zika Treatment Found
in Large-Scale Screen of Existing Drugs
Johns Hopkins researchers join collaborative group to screen 6,000 existing drugs in hopes of finding treatments for Zika Virus infection

August 29, 2016 -- Scientists report that a specialized drug screen test using lab-grown human cells has revealed two classes of compounds already in the pharmaceutical arsenal that may work against mosquito-borne Zika virus infections.

In a summary of their work, published in Nature Medicine on Aug. 29, the investigators say they screened 6,000 existing compounds currently in late-stage clinical trials or already approved for human use for other conditions, and identified several compounds that showed the ability to hinder or halt the progress of the Zika virus in lab-grown human neural cells.

The research collaboration includes teams from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and Florida State University.

“It takes years if not decades to develop a new drug,” says Hongjun Song, Ph.D., director of the Stem Cell Program in the Institute of Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins. “In this sort of global health emergency, we don’t have that kind of time.”

“So instead of using new drugs, we chose to screen existing drugs,” adds Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “In this way, we hope to create a therapy much more quickly.”

The new findings are an extension of previous work by the research team, which found that Zika mainly targets specialized stem cells that give rise to neurons in the brain’s outer layer, the cortex. The researchers observed Zika’s effects in two- and three-dimensional cell cultures called “mini-brains,” which share structures with the human brain and allow researchers to study the effects of Zika in a more accurate model for human infection.

In the current study, the research team exposed similar cell cultures to the Zika virus and the drugs one at a time, measuring for indicators of cell death, including caspase-3 activity, a chemical marker of cell death, and ATP, a molecule whose presence is indicative of cell vitality.

Typically, after Zika infection, the damage done to neural cells is “dramatic and irreversible,” says Hengli Tang, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at Florida State University. However, some of the compounds tested allowed the cells to survive longer and, in some cases, fully recover from infections.

Further analysis of the surviving cells, says Ming, showed that the promising drugs could be divided into two classes: neuroprotective drugs, which prevent the activation of mechanisms that cause cell death, and antiviral drugs, which slow or stop viral infection or replication. Overall, Song says, three drugs showed robust enough results to warrant further study: PHA-690509, an investigational compound with antiviral properties; emricasan, now in clinical trials to reduce liver damage from hepatitis C virus and shown to have neuroprotective effects; and niclosamide, a drug already used in humans and livestock to combat parasitic infections, which worked as an antiviral agent in these experiments.

Song cautioned that the three drugs “are very effective against Zika in the dish, but we don’t know if they can work in humans in the same way.” For example, he says, although niclosamide can safely treat parasites in the human gastrointestinal tract, scientists have not yet determined if the drug can even penetrate the central nervous system of adults or a fetus inside a carrier’s womb to treat the brain cells targeted by Zika.

Nor, he says, do they know if the drugs would address the wide range of effects of Zika infection, which include microcephaly in fetuses and temporary paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. 

“To address these questions, additional studies need to be done in animal models as well as humans to demonstrate their ability to treat Zika infection,” says Ming. “So we could still be years away from finding a treatment that works.”

The researchers say their next steps include testing the efficacy of these drugs in animal models to see if they have the ability to combat Zika in vivo.

Zika was first identified in 1947 and garnered little scientific interest until an outbreak began in South America in mid-2015. This outbreak is now known to be responsible for an increase in cases of microcephaly — a severe birth defect in which afflicted infants are born with underdeveloped brains. In the continental United States, there have been a total of 2,260 reported cases of Zika. Though most cases are associated with travel, 43 cases of local transmission have been reported in Florida, in the Miami area. In addition, Puerto Rico has reported 7,855 locally transmitted cases, spurring the Obama administration to declare a public health emergency in the territory on Aug. 12. From these reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 270 babies may be born with microcephaly by 2017. The CDC is advising preventive measures for people in these areas, including eliminating standing water where mosquitos breed and creating a barrier from bites with clothing and wearing insect repellents. The Florida Department of Health has a robust mosquito-borne illness surveillance system. It has partnered with local groups and the CDC to fight Zika infections, and is providing free Zika testing to all pregnant women. The Puerto Rico Department of Health has put an active Zika surveillance system in place to coordinate reporting from health care providers and weekly mosquito spraying in many areas.

The Zika virus is commonly transmitted from mosquito bites or from an infected person to an uninfected person through sexual contact. Despite the potential effects of infection, only one in four infected people will present symptoms if Zika infection, allowing the virus to spread rapidly in areas with local transmission. Because of this, the CDC recommends all pregnant women with ongoing risk of Zika infection, including residence or frequent travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission, receive screening throughout their pregnancy.

Many research groups are fast tracking the development of vaccines, treatments and mosquito control measures to combat further spread of the virus.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fusion Energy Research

Major Next Steps for Fusion Energy
Based on the Spherical Tokamak Design
By John Greenwald, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
August 24, 2016

Among the top puzzles in the development of fusion energy is the best shape for the magnetic facility — or “bottle” — that will provide the next steps in the development of fusion reactors. Leading candidates include spherical tokamaks, compact machines that are shaped like cored apples, compared with the doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks.  The spherical design produces high-pressure plasmas — essential ingredients for fusion reactions — with relatively low and cost-effective magnetic fields.

A possible next step is a device called a Fusion Nuclear Science Facility (FNSF) that could develop the materials and components for a fusion reactor. Such a device could precede a pilot plant that would demonstrate the ability to produce net energy.

Spherical tokamaks as excellent models

Spherical tokamaks could be excellent models for an FNSF, according to a paper published online in the journal Nuclear Fusion on August 16. The two most advanced spherical tokamaks in the world today are the recently completed National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the  Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST), which is being upgraded at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom.

“We are opening up new options for future plants,” said Jonathan Menard, program director for the NSTX-U and lead author of the paper, which discusses the fitness of both spherical tokamaks as possible models. Support for this work comes from the DOE Office of Science.

The 43-page paper considers the spherical design for a combined next-step bottle: an FNSF that could become a pilot plant and serve as a forerunner for a commercial fusion reactor. Such a facility could provide a pathway leading from ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, to a commercial fusion power plant.

A key issue for this bottle is the size of the hole in the center of the tokamak that holds and shapes the plasma. In spherical tokamaks, this hole can be half the size of the hole in conventional tokamaks. These differences, reflected in the shape of the magnetic field that confines the superhot plasma, have a profound effect on how the plasma behaves.

Designs for the Fusion Nuclear Science Facility

First up for a next-step device would be the FNSF. It would test the materials that must face and withstand the neutron bombardment that fusion reactions produce, while also generating a sufficient amount of its own fusion fuel. According to the paper, recent studies have for the first time identified integrated designs that would be up to the task.

These integrated capabilities include:

• A blanket system able to breed tritium, a rare isotope — or form — of hydrogen that fuses with deuterium, another isotope of the atom, to generate the fusion reactions.  The spherical design could breed approximately one isotope of tritium for each isotope consumed in the reaction, producing tritium self-sufficiency. 

• A lengthy configuration of the magnetic field that vents exhaust heat from the tokamak. This configuration, called a “divertor,” would reduce the amount of heat that strikes and could damage the interior wall of the tokamak.

• A vertical maintenance scheme in which the central magnet and the blanket structures that breed tritium can be removed independently from the tokamak for installation, maintenance, and repair. Maintenance of these complex nuclear facilities represents a significant design challenge. Once a tokamak operates with fusion fuel, this maintenance must be done with remote-handling robots; the new paper describes how this can be accomplished.

For pilot plant use, superconducting coils that operate at high temperature would replace the copper coils in the FNSF to reduce power loss. The plant would generate a small amount of net electricity in a facility that would be as compact as possible and could more easily scale to a commercial fusion power station.

High-temperature superconductors

High-temperature superconductors could have both positive and negative effects. While they would reduce power loss, they would require additional shielding to protect the magnets from heating and radiation damage. This would make the machine larger and less compact.

Recent advances in high-temperature superconductors could help overcome this problem. The advances enable higher magnetic fields, using much thinner magnets than are presently achievable, leading to reduction in the refrigeration power needed to cool the magnets. Such superconducting magnets open the possibility that all FNSF and associated pilot plants based on the spherical tokamak design could help minimize the mass and cost of the main confinement magnets.

For now, the increased power of the NSTX-U and the soon-to-be-completed MAST facility moves them closer to the capability of a commercial plant that will create safe, clean and virtually limitless energy. “NSTX-U and MAST-U will push the physics frontier, expand our knowledge of high temperature plasmas, and, if successful, lay the scientific foundation for fusion development paths based on more compact designs,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

Twice the power and five times the pulse length

The NSTX-U has twice the power and five times the pulse length of its predecessor and will explore how plasma confinement and sustainment are influenced by higher plasma pressure in the spherical geometry. The MAST upgrade will have comparable prowess and will explore a new, state-of-the art method for exhausting plasmas that are hotter than the core of the sun without damaging the machine.

“The main reason we research spherical tokamaks is to find a way to produce fusion at much less cost than conventional tokamaks require,” said Ian Chapman, the newly appointed chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and leader of the UK’s magnetic confinement fusion research programme at the Culham Science Centre. 

The ability of these machines to create high plasma performance within their compact geometries demonstrates their fitness as possible models for next-step fusion facilities. The wide range of considerations, calculations and figures detailed in this study strongly support the concept of a combined FNSF and pilot plant based on the spherical design. The NSTX-U and MAST-U devices must now successfully prototype the necessary high-performance scenarios.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Solar Storm of 1859

The Solar Storm of 1859—known as the Carrington Event—was a powerful geomagnetic solar storm during solar cycle 10 (1855–1867). A solar coronal mass ejection hit Earth's magnetosphere and induced one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, September 1–2, 1859. The associated "white light flare" in the solar photosphere was observed and recorded by English astronomers Richard C. Carrington (1826–1875) and Richard Hodgson (1804–1872).

Studies have shown that a solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would likely cause more widespread problems for a modern and technology-dependent society. The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude, but it passed Earth's orbit without striking the planet.

Carrington Flare

From August 28 to September 2, 1859, numerous sunspots were observed on the Sun. On August 29, southern aurorae were observed as far north as Queensland, Australia. Just before noon on September 1, the English amateur astronomers Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson independently made the first observations of a solar flare. The flare was associated with a major coronal mass ejection (CME) that travelled directly toward Earth, taking 17.6 hours to make the 150 million kilometre (93 million mile) journey. It is believed that the relatively high speed of this CME (typical CMEs take several days to arrive at Earth) was made possible by a prior CME, perhaps the cause of the large aurora event on August 29, that "cleared the way" of ambient solar wind plasma for the Carrington event.

On September 1–2, 1859, one of the largest recorded geomagnetic storms (as recorded by ground-based magnetometers) occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, those in the northern hemisphere as far south as the Caribbean; those over the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning. People in the northeastern United States could read a newspaper by the aurora's light. The aurora was visible as far from the poles as Sub-Saharan Africa (Senegal, Mauritania, perhaps Monrovia, Liberia), Monterrey and Tampico in Mexico, Queensland, Cuba, Hawaii, and even at lower latitudes very close to the equator, such as in Colombia.

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, in some cases giving telegraph operators electric shocks. Telegraph pylons threw sparks. Some telegraph operators could continue to send and receive messages despite having disconnected their power supplies.

Less severe storms have occurred in 1921 and 1960, when widespread radio disruption was reported. The March 1989 geomagnetic storm knocked out power across large sections of Quebec. On July 23, 2012 a "Carrington-class" Solar Superstorm (Solar flare, Coronal mass ejection, Solar EMP) was observed; its trajectory missed Earth in orbit. Information about these observations was first shared publicly by NASA on April 28, 2014.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Natural Rubber Summary

Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, as initially produced, consists of polymers of the organic compound isoprene, with minor impurities of other organic compounds plus water. Malaysia is one of the leading producers of rubber. Forms of polyisoprene that are used as natural rubbers are classified as elastomers. Natural rubber is used by many manufacturing companies for the production of rubber products. Currently, rubber is harvested mainly in the form of the latex from the para rubber tree or others. The latex is a sticky, milky colloid drawn off by making incisions into the bark and collecting the fluid in vessels in a process called "tapping". The latex then is refined into rubber ready for commercial processing. Natural rubber is used extensively in many applications and products, either alone or in combination with other materials. In major areas latex is allowed to coagulate in the collection cup. The coagulated lumps are collected and processed into dry forms for marketing. In most of its useful forms, it has a large stretch ratio and high resilience, and is extremely waterproof.

Current Sources

Close to 28 million tons of rubber were produced in 2013, of which approximately 44% was natural. Since the bulk of the rubber produced is of the synthetic variety, which is derived from petroleum, the price of natural rubber is determined, to a large extent, by the prevailing global price of crude oil. Today, Asia is the main source of natural rubber, accounting for about 94% of output in 2005. The three largest producing countries, Thailand, Indonesia (2.4 million tons) and Malaysia, together account for around 72% of all natural rubber production. Natural rubber is not cultivated widely in its native continent of South America due to the existence of South American leaf blight, and other natural predators of the rubber tree.


Rubber latex is extracted from rubber trees. The economic life period of rubber trees in plantations is around 32 years — up to 7 years of immature phase and about 25 years of productive phase.

The soil requirement of the plant is generally well-drained, weathered soil consisting of laterite, lateritic types, sedimentary types, nonlateritic red, or alluvial soils.

The climatic conditions for optimum growth of rubber trees are:

  • Rainfall of around 250 cm evenly distributed without any marked dry season and with at least 100 rainy days per year
  • Temperature range of about 20 to 34 °C, with a monthly mean of 25 to 28 °C
  • High atmospheric humidity of around 80%
  • Bright sunshine, amounting to about 2000 hours per year at the rate of six hours per day throughout the year
  • Absence of strong winds

Many high-yielding clones have been developed for commercial planting. These clones yield more than 2,000 kg of dry rubber per hectare per year, when grown under ideal conditions.


Natural rubber is often vulcanized, a process by which the rubber is heated and sulfur, peroxide or bisphenol are added to improve resistance and elasticity, and to prevent it from perishing. The development of vulcanization is most closely associated with Charles Goodyear in 1839. Before World War II era manufacturing, carbon black was often used as an additive to rubber to improve its strength, especially in vehicle tires.

Alternative Sources

Dandelion milk has long been known to contain latex. The latex exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. Yet in the wild types of dandelion, the latex content is low and varies greatly.

In Nazi Germany, research projects tried to use dandelions as a base for rubber production, but failed.

In 2013, by inhibiting one key enzyme and using modern cultivation methods and optimization techniques, scientists in the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Germany developed a cultivar that is suitable for commercial production of natural rubber. In collaboration with Continental Tires, IME is building a pilot facility. The first prototype test tires made with blends from dandelion-rubber are scheduled to be tested on public roads over the next few years.

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Why Is an Aircraft Tire Mostly Natural Rubber?

How does One Maintain a Tire?      

By Tieux Kiocchio

Natural rubber has better specs, for heat dispertion for instance.
That's why it's preferred on aircraft.

For maintenance, a tire is a bit like having a solid core and rubber around.
So as long as the core isn't damaged, it's possible to put rubber back on the core to go against wear and minor damages.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Misconceptions in Modern History

  • Napoleon Bonaparte was not short. He was actually slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time. After his death in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet, which in English measurements is 5 feet 7 inches (1.69 m). Some believe that he was nicknamed le Petit Caporal (The Little Corporal) as a term of affection. Napoleon was often accompanied by his imperial guard, who were selected for their height—this could have contributed to a perception that he was relatively short.
  • Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, but the celebration of the Mexican Army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Mexico's Declaration of Independence from Spain in 1810 is celebrated on September 16.
  • The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was not caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern. A newspaper reporter invented the story to make colorful copy.
  • The claim that Frederick Remington, on assignment to Cuba, telegraphed William Randolph Hearst that "...There will be no war. I wish to return" and that Hearst responded, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war" is unsubstantiated. Although this claim is included in a book by James Creelman, there is no evidence that the telegraph exchange ever happened, and substantial evidence that it did not.
  • Immigrants' last names were not Americanized (voluntarily, mistakenly, or otherwise) at Ellis Island. Officials there kept no records other than checking ship manifests created at the point of origin, and there was simply no paperwork which would have created such an effect, let alone any law. At the time in New York, anyone could change the spelling of their name simply by using that new spelling.
  • The common image of Santa Claus as a good old man in red robes was not created by The Coca-Cola Company as an advertising gimmick. Despite being historically represented with different characteristics in different colours of robes, Santa Claus had already taken his modern form in popular culture and seen extensive use in other companies' advertisements and other mass media at the time Coca-Cola began using his image in the 1930s.
  • Italian dictator Benito Mussolini did not "make the trains run on time". Much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the Fascists came to power in 1922. Accounts from the era also suggest that the Italian railways' legendary adherence to timetables was more propaganda than reality.
  • There was no widespread outbreak of panic across the United States in response to Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Only a very small share of the radio audience was even listening to it, and isolated reports of scattered incidents and increased call volume to emergency services were played up the next day by newspapers, eager to discredit radio as a competitor for advertising. Both Welles and CBS, which had initially reacted apologetically, later came to realize that the myth benefited them and actively embraced it in their later years.
  • There is no evidence of Polish cavalry mounting a brave but futile charge against German tanks using lances and sabres during the German invasion of Poland in 1939. This story may have originated from German propaganda efforts following the charge at Krojanty, in which a Polish cavalry brigade surprised German infantry in the open, and successfully charged and dispersed them, until driven off by armoured cars. While Polish cavalry still carried the sabre for such opportunities, they were trained to fight as highly mobile, dismounted cavalry (dragoons) and issued with light anti-tank weapons.
  • During the occupation of Denmark by the Nazis during World War II, King Christian X of Denmark did not thwart Nazi attempts to identify Jews by wearing a yellow star himself. Jews in Denmark were never forced to wear the Star of David. The Danish resistance did help most Jews flee the country before the end of the war.
  • Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics at school. Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics classes (never "flunked a math exam") in school. Upon seeing a column making this claim, Einstein said "I never failed in mathematics... Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus." Einstein did however fail his first entrance exam into the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School (ETH) in 1895, when he was two years younger than his fellow students but scored exceedingly well in the mathematics and science sections, then passed on his second attempt.
  • Actor Ronald Reagan was never seriously considered for the role of Rick Blaine in the 1942 film classic Casablanca, eventually played by Humphrey Bogart. This belief came from an early studio press release announcing the film's production that used his name to generate interest in the film. But by the time it had come out, Warner Bros. knew that Reagan was unavailable for any roles in the foreseeable future since he was no longer able to defer his entry into military service. Studio records show that producer Hal B. Wallis had always wanted Bogart for the part.
  • U.S. Senator George Smathers never gave a speech to a rural audience describing his opponent, Claude Pepper, as an "extrovert" whose sister was a "thespian", in the apparent hope they would confuse them with similar-sounding words like "pervert" and "lesbian". Time, which is sometimes cited as the source, described the story of the purported speech as a "yarn" at the time, and no Florida newspaper reported such a speech during the campaign. The leading reporter who covered Smathers said he always gave the same boilerplate speech. Smathers had offered US$10,000 to anyone who could prove he had made the speech; it was never claimed.
  • John F. Kennedy's words "Ich bin ein Berliner" are standard German for "I am a Berliner." An urban legend has it that due to his use of the indefinite article ein, Berliner is translated as jelly doughnut, and that the population of Berlin was amused by the supposed mistake. The word Berliner is not commonly used in Berlin to refer to the Berliner Pfannkuchen; they are usually called ein Pfannkuchen.
  • African American intellectual and activist W.E.B. Du Bois did not renounce his U.S. citizenship while living in Ghana shortly before his death, as is often claimed. In early 1963, due to his membership in the Communist Party and support for the Soviet Union, the U.S. State Department did not renew his passport while he was already in Ghana overseeing the creation of the Encyclopedia Africana. After leaving the embassy, he stated his intention to renounce his citizenship in protest. But while he took Ghanaian citizenship, he never went through the process of renouncing his American citizenship, and may not even have intended to.
  • When bartender Kitty Genovese was murdered outside her Queens apartment in 1964, 37 neighbors did not stand idly by and watch, not calling the police until after she was dead, as The New York Times initially reported to widespread public outrage that persisted for years. Later reporting established that the police report the Times had initially relied on was inaccurate, that Genovese had been attacked twice in different locations, and while the many witnesses heard the attack they only heard brief portions and did not realize what was occurring, with only six or seven actually reporting seeing anything. Some called police; one who did not said "I didn't want to get involved", an attitude which later came to be attributed to all the residents who saw or heard part of the attack.
  • The Rolling Stones were not performing "Sympathy for the Devil" at the 1969 Altamont Free Concert when Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by a member of the local Hells Angels chapter that was serving as security. While the incident that culminated in Hunter's death began while the band was performing the song, prompting a brief interruption before the Stones finished it, it concluded several songs later as the band was performing "Under My Thumb". The misconception arose from mistaken reporting in Rolling Stone.
  • While it was praised by one architectural magazine prior to its construction as "the best high apartment of the year", the Pruitt–Igoe housing project in St. Louis, Missouri, considered to epitomize the failures of urban renewal in American cities after it was demolished in the early 1970s, never won any awards for its design. The architectural firm that designed the buildings did win an award for an earlier St. Louis project, which may have been confused with Pruitt–Igoe.
  • Although popularly known as the "red telephone", the Moscow–Washington hotline was never a telephone line, nor were red phones used. The first implementation of the hotline used teletype equipment, which was replaced by facsimile (fax) machines in 1988. Since 2008, the hotline has been a secure computer link over which the two countries exchange emails. Moreover, the hotline links the Kremlin to the Pentagon, not the White House.
  • Despite common misconception, Benjamin Franklin did not actually propose Daylight saving time. In fact, the 18th-century Europe did not even keep precise schedules.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Toy Wars Are Immoral

This is what happens when you piddle with war -- dip a toe into the water, dither, and care only about the short-term domestic political consequences. As Lyndon Johnson did in Vietnam. As Obama has been doing with Syria and ISIS....

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Misconceptions about Crime, Music and Sports

Legislation and Crime

  • It is rarely necessary to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person report; in instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence, law enforcement agencies in the United States often stress the importance of beginning an investigation promptly.[15] The UK government website says explicitly in large type "You don't have to wait 24 hours before contacting the police".[16]
  • Entrapment law in the United States does not require police officers to identify themselves as police in the case of a sting or other undercover work, and police officers may lie in doing such work.[17] The law is instead specifically concerned with enticing people to commit crimes they would not have considered in the normal course of events.[18]
  • No one ever claimed in court that Twinkies made them commit a crime. In the murder trial of Dan White, the defense attorneys successfully argued diminished capacity as a result of severe depression. While eating Twinkies was given as evidence of depression, it was never claimed to be the cause of the murder. Despite this, people often claim that the attorneys argued that Twinkies made him do it.[19]
  • The Geneva Convention permits the use of the M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun against enemy personnel. The belief that it does not may have arisen from restrictions imposed by the U.S. military during the Korean or Vietnam Wars due to ammunition shortages; a similar tactically-based restriction on the use of the M40 recoilless rifle's .50-caliber spotting rifle may also have been erroneously applied to all weapons of that caliber under a belief it was legally mandated.



  • Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball, nor did it originate in Cooperstown, New York. It is believed to have evolved from other bat-and-ball codes such as cricket and rounders and first taken its modern form in New York City.[62][63] (See Origins of baseball.)
  • The black belt in martial arts does not necessarily indicate expert level or mastery. It was introduced for judo in the 1880s to indicate competency of all of the basic techniques of the sport. Promotion beyond black belt varies among different martial arts. In judo and some other Asian martial arts, holders of higher ranks are awarded belts with alternating red and white panels, and the highest ranks with solid red belts

Monday, August 22, 2016

Common Misconceptions about Food

  • Searing meat may cause it to lose moisture in comparison to an equivalent amount of cooking without searing. Generally, the value in searing meat is that it creates a brown crust with a rich flavor via the Maillard reaction.
  • Food items cooked with wine or liquor retain alcohol according to a study which found that some of the alcohol remains: 25 percent after one hour of baking or simmering, and 10 percent after two hours; in either case, however, the amount consumed while eating a dish prepared with alcohol will rarely if ever contain sufficient alcohol to cause even low levels of intoxication.
  • There is no consistent data supporting monosodium glutamate (MSG) as triggering migraine headache exacerbation or other symptoms of so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome. Although there have been reports of an MSG-sensitive subset of the population, this has not been demonstrated in placebo-controlled trials.
  • Microwave ovens do not cook food from the inside out. Penetration depth of microwaves is dependent on food composition and the frequency, with lower microwave frequencies (longer wavelengths) penetrating further.
  • Placing metal inside a microwave oven does not damage the oven's electronics. There are, however, other safety-related issues: electrical arcing may occur on pieces of metal not designed for use in a microwave oven, and metal objects may become hot enough to damage food, skin, or the interior of the oven. Metallic objects designed for microwave use can be used in a microwave with no danger; examples include the metalized surfaces used in browning sleeves and pizza-cooking platforms. Large metallic objects without spikes or narrow apertures may not cause any problems, e.g. a spoon in a cup.
  • The functional principle of a microwave oven is dielectric heating rather than resonance frequencies of water, and microwave ovens can therefore operate at many frequencies. Water molecules are exposed to intense electromagnetic fields in strong non-resonant microwaves to create heat. The 22 GHz resonant frequency of isolated water molecules has a wavelength too short to penetrate common foodstuffs to useful depths. The typical oven frequency of 2.45 GHz was chosen partly due to its ability to penetrate a food object of reasonable size, and partly to avoid interference with communication frequencies in use when microwave ovens became commercially available.
  • The Twinkie has a finite shelf life, listed as approximately 45 days (25 in its original formulation). They generally remains on a store shelf for only 7 to 10 days.
  • Fortune cookies, despite being associated with Chinese cuisine in the United States, were invented and brought to the U.S. by the Japanese. The cookies are extremely rare in China, where they are seen as symbols of American cuisine.
  • A standard cup of brewed coffee has more caffeine than a single shot of espresso. The belief that the reverse is true results from espresso having a higher concentration of caffeine, which is offset by the much larger volume overall of a regular cup of coffee.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Peter Schickele as P.D.Q. Bach

Peter Schickele (/ˈʃɪkəli/; born July 17, 1935) is an American composer, musical educator, and parodist, best known for comedy albums featuring music written by Schickele, but which he presents as being composed by the fictional P. D. Q. Bach. He also hosted a longrunning weekly radio program called Schickele Mix.

From 1990-1993, Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach recordings earned him four consecutive wins for the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album.

Early Career

Schickele wrote music for a number of folk musicians, most notably Joan Baez, for whom he also orchestrated and arranged three albums during the mid-1960s, Noël (1966), Joan (1967), and Baptism (1968).

Schickele, an accomplished bassoonist, was also a member of the chamber rock trio Open Window, which wrote and performed music for the 1969 revue Oh! Calcutta!.

The humorous aspect of Schickele's musical career came from his early interest in the music of Spike Jones, whose musical ensemble lampooned popular music in the 1940s and 1950s. While at Juilliard (1959) Schickele teamed with conductor Jorge Mester to present a humorous concert, which became an annual event at the college. In 1965, Schickele moved the concept to The Town Hall and invited the public to attend; by 1972, they had become so popular that they were moved to Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. Vanguard Records released an album of that concert, and P. D. Q. Bach's career was launched.

P. D. Q. Bach

Besides composing music under his own name, Schickele has developed an elaborate parodic persona built around his studies of the fictional "youngest and the oddest of the twenty-odd children" of Johann Sebastian Bach, P.D.Q. Bach. Among the fictional composer's "forgotten" repertory supposedly "uncovered" by Schickele are such farcical works as The Abduction of Figaro, Canine Cantata: "Wachet Arf!" (S. K9), Good King Kong Looked Out, the Trite Quintet (S. 6 of 1), "O Little Town of Hackensack", A Little Nightmare Music, the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn, the Concerto for Horn and Hardart, The Art of The Ground Round (S. $1.19/lb.), Blaues Grasse (The Bluegrass Cantata), and perhaps best known of all, the dramatic oratorio, Oedipus Tex, featuring the "O.K. Chorale". Though P.D.Q. Bach is ostensibly a Baroque composer, Schickele extends his repertoire to parody much more modern works such as Einstein on the Fritz, a parody of his Julliard classmate Philip Glass.

His fictitious "home establishment," where he reports having tenure as "Very Full Professor Peter Schickele" of "musicolology" and "musical pathology", is the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, which is described as "a little-known institution which does not normally welcome out-of-state visitors". To illustrate the work of his uncovered composer, Schickele invented a range of rather unusual instruments. The most complicated of these is the Hardart, a variety of tone-generating devices mounted on the frame of an "automat", a coin-operated food dispenser. The modified automat is used in the Concerto for Horn and Hardart, a play on the name of proprietors Horn & Hardart, who pioneered the North American use of the automat in their restaurants.

Schickele also invented the "dill piccolo" for playing sour notes, the "left-handed sewer flute", the “tromboon” ("a cross between a trombone and a bassoon, having all the disadvantages of both"), the "lasso d'amore", the double-reed slide music stand, which he described as having "a range of major third and even less expressiveness," the "tuba mirum", a flexible tube filled with wine, and the "pastaphone", an uncooked tube of manicotti pasta played as a horn. Further invented instruments of his include the "pumpflute" (an instrument that requires two people to play: one to pump, and one to flute) and the "proctophone" (a latex glove attached to a mouthpiece, and "the less said about it, the better"). The überklavier or super piano, with a 15 octave keyboard ranging from sounds which only dogs can hear down to sounds which only whales can make, was invented in 1797 by Klarck Känt, a Munich pianomaker who demonstrated the instrument for P.D.Q. A sample of a piece written for the überklavier, The Trance and Dental Etudes appeared in P.D.Q.'s unauthorized autobiography, published in 1976.  P.D.Q's Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons (1965) demonstrated the inherent musical qualities of everyday objects in ways not equally agreeable to all who listen to them.

To some degree, Schickele's music written as P.D.Q. Bach has overshadowed Schickele's work as a "serious" composer.

For a period of time in the 1970s and early 1980s, performances by Schickele of the works of P.D.Q. Bach often involved guest appearances by the Swarthmore College Choir, often advertised as "fresh from their recent tour of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania."

Mr. Schickele began to curtail his live performances of P.D.Q. Bach due to health reasons, but performed two concerts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first concert at The Town Hall in New York on December 28 and 29, 2015. He continues to have live concert performances scheduled through August 2016.

Other Musical Career Work

Schickele has composed more than 100 original works for symphony orchestra, choral groups, chamber ensemble, voice, television and an animated adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (which he also narrated). He made a brief foray into cinema with the Bruce Dern film Silent Running (1972), for which he composed the musical score and co-wrote the original songs "Silent Running" and "Rejoice in the Sun" with the late Diane Lampert. He has also written music for school bands, as well as a number of musicals, including Oh! Calcutta!, and has organized numerous concert performances as both musical director and performer. Schickele was active on the international and North American concert circuit.

Schickele's musical creations have won him multiple awards. His extensive body of work is marked by a distinctive style which integrates the European classical tradition with an unmistakable American idiom.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

U.S. Indians Are Subject to Federal Law

United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375 (1886), was a United States Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of the Major Crimes Act of 1885. This Congressional act gave the federal courts jurisdiction in certain cases of Indian-on-Indian crimes, even if the crimes were committed on an Indian reservation. Kagama, a Yurok Native American (Indian) accused of murder, was selected as a test case by the Department of Justice to test the constitutionality of the Act.

The importance of the ruling in this case was that it tested the constitutionality of the Act and confirmed Congress' authority over Indian affairs. Plenary power over Indian tribes, supposedly granted to the U.S. Congress by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, was not deemed necessary to support the Supreme Court in this decision; instead, the Court found the power in the tribes' status as dependent domestic nations. This allowed Congress to pass the Dawes Act the following year. The case has been criticized by legal scholars as drawing on powers that are not granted to Congress by the Constitution. It remains good law, despite that criticism.


Crow Dog and the Major Crimes Act of 1885

In 1881, a Brulé Lakota Sioux named Crow Dog killed his government-installed chief. Crow Dog was detained and tried for murder. However, he contended that the United States held no jurisdiction on the reservation. The Supreme Court agreed, confirming Crow Dog's assertion that they lacked jurisdiction because the crime occurred in Indian country between two Indians. In the opinion issued by Justice Stanley Matthews for the Supreme Court in Ex parte Crow Dog in 1883, the Court implied that if Congress intended to exert legislative authority over these tribes they must pass an explicit law granting jurisdiction to the federal courts over Indian-on-Indian crime in Indian country, and then the Court would confirm its constitutionality.

In response, Congress debated the need and importance of teaching Indians regard for the rule of law. Further, it was argued, that if an Indian committed a crime he could be tried under the laws of the United States. Congress ultimately passed an addendum to the Indian Appropriations Act of March 3, 1885, more commonly known as the Major Crimes Act, claiming exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government to prosecute Indians for seven major crimes anywhere in the nation, if the land is in Indian country, including Indian reservations. The seven original crimes included in the 1885 act (the list is now 15 crimes) were murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary, and larceny.

Hoopa Valley Reservation

The Hoopa Valley Reservation was created by executive order in 1864. At the time the reservation was formed, three unique bands of Indian tribes lived on different parts of the Klamath River, each with its own language. The Yurok lived on the Lower Klamath, the Karuk occupied the Upper Klamath and the Hupa lived at the confluence of the Trinity and Klamath Rivers in Humboldt County, California. The reservation was supposed to be a home for other tribes within the region.

The tribes living along the river had long-established rules for property rights and ownership, including how property was to be passed down from one generation to the next. In some cases, families owned lands that were located a substantial distance from their "home" village.

In charge of the reservation was the Indian agent, Major Charles Porter, who by commanding the local military garrison (Fort Gaston) on the reservation was charged with the de facto responsibility for the people on the reservation. Without legal authority and against government policy, Porter allotted small parcels of land to the local Indian people, thus upsetting an age-old property rights system among families in the Klamath River Valley. On several occasions, Agent Porter had been called out to Kagama and Iyouse's homes to mediate their property dispute. Shortly before the murder, Kagama requested title to the land upon which he built his home.

The Crime and the Path to the Supreme Court

On June 24, 1885, three months after the Major Crimes Act was passed, Kagama and his son Mahawaha went to Iyouse's house, where an argument ensued that resulted in the death by stabbing of Iyouse. Mahawaha reportedly held Iyouse's wife while Kagama stabbed Iyouse. Agent Porter moved quickly to detain both Kagama and Mahawaha on murder charges. He informed both federal and state authorities. The local district attorney declined to prosecute, citing a policy of not prosecuting crimes between Indians. The U.S. Attorney for Northern California forcefully prosecuted the case. On October 18, 1885, both Kagama and Mahawaha were taken to San Francisco for trial, after having been indicted for murder. The indictment charged that the crime occurred on the reservation, even though it was later determined at the trial to have occurred outside the reservation boundaries to the north.

Because the crime supposedly occurred on the Hoopa Valley Reservation, the U.S. Attorney and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) fully supported the jurisdictional shift to the federal government and were immediately prepared to prosecute the case in federal courts. Challenges to the subject matter jurisdiction were heard before the circuit court in early October 1885. Circuit Judge Lorenzo Sawyer and District Court Judge George Sabin heard the challenge but disagreed on the law. The case received a "certificate of division" resulting in the case being forwarded to the Supreme Court later in October.

Since this case challenged the authority of the federal courts to try Indian-on-Indian crime, this case was heard as an interlocutory appeal, meaning that the Supreme Court would have to decide the constitutionality of the claimed jurisdiction before Kagama could be tried for the killing of Iyouse in federal court.

The Supreme Court


Kagama was represented by 27-year-old Joseph D. Redding. The United States was represented by George A. Jenks, who was an Assistant United States Secretary of the Interior. Arguments were heard before the Supreme Court on May 2, 1886, only five months after the circuit court delivered a split opinion on the matter of jurisdiction.

Jenks urged the court to look to its earlier ruling in Crow Dog, where the Court commented in dicta that Congress possessed the authority to regulate all commerce with Indian tribes, because of the Indian Commerce Clause of the Constitution. In his listing of precedents, he cited numerous laws passed by Congress regulating Indian commerce; he did not cite any other case law that supported Congress' authority over internal Indian matters, because there was none. Further, Jenks incorporated aspects of the political debate in Congress when the act was passed citing that the U.S. should be able to enforce its laws within its borders, regardless of treaty rights. The prosecution argued that Congress had the absolute authority to regulate Indians and their affairs.

Joseph Redding defended his clients vigorously. His argument was three-fold. First he argued that in one hundred years of Indian policy, Congress had never prosecuted Indian-on-Indian crime. Further, the indictment as stated contained no element of commerce and was therefore outside the purview of Congress to legislate such a law. Finally, he argued that such a profound shift in Indian policy should not be enacted in a law whose heading and body were wholly inconsistent with the intent of the Major Crimes Act. In effect, he argued that such a law governing a people should be debated in full sight of the American public and on its own merits. Redding argued that Congress could not assert power over sovereign people who, when making treaties to cede land, reserved certain rights to themselves. He did not raise the issue that the tribes already did have a system of law that dealt with crimes against another person

Opinion of the Court

In a unanimous decision issued at the end of May 1886, and authored by Justice Samuel Freeman Miller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Major Crimes Act was constitutional, and, therefore, the case was within the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Miller dismissed the argument that the Act was proper under the Indian Commerce Clause, noting that the case did not present a commerce issue. He held instead that it was necessary since Indians were wards of the United States. Justice Miller was known for writing opinions that supported federal power over state's rights. This ruling meant that the federal circuit court's indictment would stand and the case would proceed to trial back in Northern California.

The opinion drew heavily on the language of the Solicitor General's brief, which by today's standards would be considered by many as racially charged. The language in Miller's opinion is infamous for its description of Indian tribes as weak, degraded and dependent on the federal government for support. He adopts language from Cherokee Nation v. Georgia describing each tribe as a "ward" and in a state of "pupilage."

Miller, having dismissed the Indian Commerce Clause as a source of authority, did not cite another constitutional source of the power. In effect, this decision contended that the U.S. government had supreme authority to enforce laws within its borders, but did not mention where this power was outlined in the Constitution. From the time the crime occurred to the Supreme Court decision, eleven months had passed.