Category Archives: Social issues ( be civil ! )

A perfect opinion poll

We are about to find out the political persuasions (and perceptions) of a large group of people without spending a cent. National Public Radio (NPR) claims to be unbiased politically. The new budget of the Trump administration proposes to cut out all federal funding. It will be fascinating to see who complains and fights against it. If they’ve established themselves as neutral honest brokers, the complaints should arise equally from left and right, Democrat and Republican.

Note the results are irrelevant to the question of whether NPR is actually unbiased. This is about people’s perceptions of NPR, those liking it finding it agreeable to their world view and more likely to protest its discontinuance.

Did these guys just repeal the second law of thermodynamics and solve the global warming problem?

Did these guys just repeal the second law of thermodynamics and solve the global warming problem to boot? [ Science vol. 355 pp. 1023 – 1024, 1062 -1066 ’17 ] Heady stuff. But they can put a sheet of metamaterial over water during the day in Arizona and cool it by 8 degrees Centigrade in two hours!

How did they do it? Time for a little atmospheric physics. There is nothing in the Earth’s atmosphere which absorbs light of wavelength between 8 and 13 microns (this is called the atmospheric window). So anything radiating energy in this range sends it out into space. This is called radiative cooling. It doesn’t work during the day because most materials absorb sunlight in the visible and near infrared range (.7 -2.5 microns) heating them up. Solar power density overwhelms the room temperature radiation spectrum shorter than 4 microns. So for daytime cooling you need a material reflecting all the light shorter than 4 microns, while being fully emissive for longer wavelengths.

This work describes a metamaterial– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamaterial — in which small (average diameter 4 microns) spheres ofSiO2 (glass) are randomly dispersed in a polymer matrix transparent to visible and infrared light. The matrix is 50 microns thick. The whole shebang is backed by a very thin (.2 micron) silver mirror. So light easily passes through the film and is then bounced back by the mirror without being absorbed.

Chemists have already studied the Carnot cycle, which gives the maximum efficiency of a heat engine. This is always proportional to the temperature difference between phases of the cycle. That’s why the biggest thing about a nuclear power plant is the cooling tower (and almost as important). Well few things are colder than the cosmic microwave background (2.7 degrees Centigrade above absolute zero).

So while the entropy of the universe increases as the heat goes somewhere, locally it looks like the second law of thermodynamics is being violated. No work is done (as far as i can tell) yet the objects spontaneously cool.

Perhaps the physics mavens out there can help. I seem to remember Feynman and Wheeler once saying something to the effect that radiation is impossible without something around to absorb it. If I haven’t totally garbled the physics, it almost sounds like emitter and absorber are entangled.

Anyway beaming heat out into space through the atmospheric window sounds like a good way to combat global warming.

No wonder DARPA supported this research.

A book recommendation

If you’re Irish and your family looks like it’s been at a wake since 8 November or if you’re Jewish and your family has been sitting shiva since Trump won, I’ve got a book for them. They’ll hate it of course and reading it will be painful for them, but if they want to defeat him in the future they’d best buckle up and read it.

The book is called “How Trump Won” by Joel B. Pollak, and Larry Schweikart. Pollak is Breitbart Senior News Editor at Large, and Schweikart is an emeritus American history prof.

Why should the mourners read it? Simply this. If  you want to defeat Trump in the future you should know just how he beat you. The celebrators of his victory will need no urging.

It’s pretty well written, and the chapters alternate between the two with Pollak describing his experiences in the last days of the campaign starting 19 October and Schweikart covering American history starting with Martin van Buren to put things in context. It is disconcerting as Schweikart also covers the Trump campaign from its inception in 2015, so there are jumps in time from chapter to chapter.

Even though a political junkie I was as bamboozled by the press coverage of the election as anyone else, going to bed at 10PM election night because I knew it would be a rout of Trump — “Hispanics surging to the polls” etc. etc.

A few points to whet your interest. Giving the lie to Breitbart’s antisemitism, Pollak is a devout Jew,leaving the campaign trail each Saturday to observe the sabbath. He’s a Harvard Graduate.

The authors knew Trump would win Florida, based on the early voting. They knew how various counties reliably voted, and the panhandle was early voting heavily. They could see that blacks weren’t voting as much — down 3 – 4 % in Florida, 8% in North Carolina (apparently absolute absentee numbers by location are available long before the election, although not WHO the voters were for). So much for the theory that North Carolina was won because it was difficult for blacks to get the polls — there certainly is no obstacle for early voting.

Here’s another — why were the polls so wrong. People were afraid to say they were for Trump (particularly in liberal enclaves). One pollster (Trafalgar) figured out a way around this — they just asked people who they thought their neighbors would vote for.

On election night the media did what they authors expected, calling states for Clinton as soon as possible, and delaying calling any states for Trump for as long as possible.

Well that’s enough. Either you will grit your teeth and read it or you won’t.

A few other points — I’ve never seen the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Nation and the National Review agree on anything. But they were uniformly against Trump slanting the news against him, declaring his campaign imploding at various times. Fascinating that it had no effect. The National Review put out an entire issue in January 2016 titled “Against Trump.”

So if you find a biased article against your favorite politician (assuming you have one) — relax — it no longer matters.

The book is not abstract, filled with interviews by Pollak of those attending Trump rallies (along with interview of those there to protest him).

How diverse are thy articles oh alumni magazines

College Alumni Magazines love to brag about the wonderful things their graduates are doing. The recent Jan/Feb issue of one they send to me bragged about the exploits of two of their business school alums in the sports business, one graduating in 1968 the other in 1997. They also had profiles of 7 alums receiving awards at the 2016 reunions.

I didn’t get one even though attending my 50th medical school reunion. There was a lot of congestion as Donald Trump was attending the graduation of one of his kids while running for president. Our med school classmate and Nobel Laureate addressed the graduation. He didn’t get an award either, they thought he had enough.

The issue also had room for a nice recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies.

There was also an article about the president of the school deciding what US laws the University would and wouldn’t obey, declaring the University to be a “Sanctuary”

In one of the Sherlock Holmes stories the following dialog appears

Gregory (Scotland Yard): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

It wasn’t until I read the letters to the editor in the March/April issue, that I realized just what was curious about the Jan/Feb issue.

They failed to have an article about another graduate of the business school in 1968.

Donald Trump Wharton 1968.

The first US president from the University of Pennsylvania in its 227 years of existence.

To be fair they did have an extremely wimpy note from the editor concerning why they didn’t have an article about Trump.

Ah diversity of thought and opinion in the Ivy League

Res ipsa locquitur

It’s been over 50 years since McLuhan noted “the medium is the message”.  It’s still very true

Go see The Great Wall

There’s a nice weekend coming up in the states. Go see “The Great Wall” at your local multiplex. It isn’t doing that well in the USA and might not be there for long. Apparently it is doing well in China. Netflix just won’t cut it, as the movie must be seen on a big screen to be appreciated.

It is simply a visual feast. It is beautifully shot and many of the scenes could be paintings. The choreography of the action is excellent. It is one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. It is an action picture however, and somewhat brutal and gory.

I find it remarkable that it has been criticized by both left and right. Some call it jingoistic propaganda for China, other saying that it is basically anti-immigrant. They should all calm down and just go and see a great flick.

Although I know more about Chinese culture than most Americans (with a Chinese daughter in law and two grandchildren over there), I’m sure there are tons of cultural references that I’ve missed. The monsters being fought look like much of the statuary in the forbidden city. I remember watching a Chinese movie back in grad school in the 60’s with two Chinese guys, when one of them said — they’re playing the War Song of China (something I couldn’t find on Google).

The New York Times Parodies itself

I have a conservative friend who is becoming increasingly exercised by what he regards as the antiTrump bias of the Times. I’ve told him to calm down as the Times was turning into a parody of its former self. Today the NYT obliged by doing just that.

Here’s what so exercised my friend in today’s Times (19 Feb ’17). “For $200,000, a Chance to Whisper in Trump’s Ear”, Membership at Mar-a-Lago Gives Titans Easier Access to Political Power.” This appeared on the front page taking up the twomost right columns above the fold. All of page 13 inside is devoted to the article.

Here’s how the Times parodied itself “Around the World by Private Jet: Cultures in Transformation ” This took up the entire back page of the Style Section (New England Edition at Least) “Privately chartered Boeing 757 26 day/9 countries/50 travelers/$135,000” You will ride with 5 members of the Times staff (lilywhite) — Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. Alan Riding, Nicholas Kristof, Elaine Sciolino and Elizabeth Bumiller. You will not have to share the air with the Times’ minority editorial contributors, Charles Blow (Black) and Ross Douhat (Conservative). They don’t appear to have a Latino.

Imagine the joy of access for the cut rate price of 135K (who said the Times didn’t care about the little man), while cruising at 35,000 feet exuding both virtue and carbon dioxide.

Here’s part of what my friend had to say about the article (unfortunately he doesn’t blog (he should ) so I can’t supply a link).

Back in the early 18th Century William Congreve wrote:

” Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”

You would think he was talking about the venerable “Gray LADY”, aka New York Times. Indeed the paper has jettisoned any pretense of professional journalistic ethics – any pretense of journalism purpose. A week after the election, after flagrantly shilling for Clinton and smearing Trump in previous months, the editor of the Times issued in writing to the papers readers an apology of sorts by admitting the paper had lost its way and promised to return to reporting news. Evidently atonement to its readers is in the words not the performance. The Gray Lady is profoundly stunned by the rejection by most of the country of the paper’s vision of how the world should be.

—-

Since the election the scorned and enraged Gray Lady has fill page after page , day after day , with disgrace as represented by the article below. The paper has flooded us with conjecture about things that have not happened and gossip of any sort that could denigrate and damage Trump.

The relentless attacks on Trump and his playing golf with dangerous cohorts etc is in marked contrast to how it suppressed any conjecture about Obama’s rise through the notoriously crooked Chicago political machine. Not a whisper of how he was dependent on other graduates of the Chicago cesspool, such as Axelrod and Jarrett. There was dismissal of Obama’s friendship with Ayers, a principal in a murderous urban terrorist group.

The august “paper of record” never conjectured how Obama could spent 20 years listening to Rev. Wright vicious racist rants and kept listening to them, but later said he hardly knew the man.

One final thought — could this be fake news, an ad bought by the Koch brothers to embarrass the Times. Possible, but unlikely.

Back from China

Back from China after an fascinating few weeks there. A few points. Then back to the science in future posts.

#1 Chinese food — don’t judge it by what you find in America. It’s great and non-greasy. The Chinese eat tons of it and remain quite thin — about which more later. It is remarkably INexpensive. Remember that fortune cookies and General Tso’s chicken are American inventions.

#2 Naturally after a great meal (ordered in Chinese by our daughter – in – law) in a restaurant over there, I thank the waitress and the cashier. This invariably makes them uncomfortable. Our son explained that to the Chinese this oversteps a boundary, using as an analogy a professor discussing his personal life (marriage etc. etc.) with a student. Strange but true.

#3 After two + weeks in Hong Kong (and Manila) the prevalence of obesity in the states is simply staggering. I think that under 10% of American adults are trim (at least the groups seen on the MassPike and the Motel). Even the trim by American standards could well lose 10 – 20 pounds. All is not perfect over there, as far more Chinese smoke than we do.

#4 If you are male and 6 feet tall, or female and 5′ 7″ prepare to feel like a giraffe (particularly in Manila). It is quite an experience to be on the excellent Hong Kong subway system (10 cars with an average of 50 people per car) and see over everyone’s head.

#5 If you are a woman who has let your hair go gray, prepare to stand out. By and large 50% of the white haired women I saw in Hong Kong, require wheelchairs or canes. My wife took to counting them — the highest she came up with on a given day was under 10.

#6 If you are a male over 60 and think you’re in good shape, prepare to have your ego diminished, as younger people on the subway get up to offer you their seat — particularly galling when some sweet young thing does it.

#7 Take all this with a grain of salt. Hong Kong is not China, and people living there talk about ‘mainlanders’ the way many Americans talked about blacks 60 years ago.

It all depends on whose ox is being gored

The following article appeared in the New York Times 19 October 2016. The following paragraph begins a direct, continuous, unedited quote from the start of the article. Subsequently, the article discusses other matters brought up in the debate — here’s the link for the whole thing — https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/us/politics/presidential-debate.html?_r=0. The times they are a’changin’ aren’t they?

“In a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy, Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he might not accept the results of next month’s election if he felt it was rigged against him — a stand that Hillary Clinton blasted as “horrifying” at their final and caustic debate on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump, under enormous pressure to halt Mrs. Clinton’s steady rise in opinion polls, came across as repeatedly frustrated as he tried to rally conservative voters with hard-line stands on illegal immigration and abortion rights. But he kept finding himself drawn onto perilous political territory by Mrs. Clinton and the debate’s moderator, Chris Wallace.

He sputtered when Mrs. Clinton charged that he would be “a puppet” of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia if elected. He lashed out repeatedly, saying that “she’s been proven to be a liar on so many different ways” and that “she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime” over her State Department email practices. And by the end of the debate, when Mrs. Clinton needled him over Social Security, Mr. Trump snapped and said, “Such a nasty woman.”

Mrs. Clinton was repeatedly forced to defend her long service in government, which Mr. Trump charged had yielded no real accomplishments. But she was rarely rattled, and made a determined effort to rise above Mr. Trump’s taunts while making overtures to undecided voters.

She particularly sought to appeal to Republicans and independents who have doubts about Mr. Trump, arguing that she was not an opponent of the Second Amendment as he claimed, and promising to be tougher and shrewder on national security than Mr. Trump.

But it was Mr. Trump’s remark about the election results that stood out, even in a race that has been full of astonishing moments.

Every losing presidential candidate in modern times has accepted the will of the voters, even in extraordinarily close races, such as when John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard M. Nixon in 1960 and George W. Bush beat Al Gore in Florida to win the presidency in 2000.

Mr. Trump insisted, without offering evidence, that the general election has been rigged against him, and he twice refused to say that he would accept its result.

“I will look at it at the time,” Mr. Trump said. “I will keep you in suspense.”

“That’s horrifying,” Mrs. Clinton replied. “Let’s be clear about what he is saying and what that means. He is denigrating — he is talking down our democracy. And I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position.”

Mrs. Clinton then ticked off the number of times he had deemed a system rigged when he suffered a setback, noting he had even called the Emmy Awards fixed when his show, “The Apprentice,’’ was passed over.

“It’s funny, but it’s also really troubling,” she said. “That is not the way our democracy works.”

Mrs. Clinton also accused Mr. Trump of extreme coziness with Mr. Putin, criticizing him for failing to condemn Russian espionage against her campaign’s internal email.

When Mr. Trump responded that Mr. Putin had “no respect” for Mrs. Clinton, she shot back, in one of the toughest lines of the night: “That’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”

“No puppet, no puppet,” Mr. Trump sputtered. “You’re the puppet.” He quickly recovered and said, “She has been outsmarted and outplayed worse than anybody I’ve ever seen in any government, whatsoever.”

There’s more — but the above is a direct continuous unedited quote from the article

Another amicus curiae brief

The Soros Open Society Foundation today filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the suit of the Cleveland Indians for an 8th (and hopefully final) game of the 2016 World Series. Attorney Justin Cloaca notes that just as there should be a living Constitution, the rules for baseball and the World Series should change with the times. “Why should the rules of a game established less than 30 years after the U. S. Constitution remain fixed in stone” said Cloaca. For details of the original suit please see — https://luysii.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/cleveland-demands-8th-game-world-series-not-over/

Another amicus curiae brief is said to be in the works by Rancid Fecus, attorney for the Cubs. The President elect is said to be tweeting on the subject.

Cleveland demands 8th game — World series not over

The Cleveland Indians filed a lawsuit in Federal Court today demanding an 8th game, alleging that the World Series was really not over because both teams had scored the same number of runs in the first 7. Attorney Bryce Dyspareunia stated the result was unjust even though the Cubs had won 4 of the first 7 games. To be fair it should be the greatest number of runs scored over time, he said. The Clinton campaign has joined the suit as an amicus curiae