20NOV2022 – OCF Update – This’N’That – Of Mice and Math

Sunday, the day of rest.  A good day to regroup and sets things in order for the upcoming week.  Especially this week.  Had a blast with the old grandsons yesterday.  Fun outing, good food.  Got home and skipped dinner.  Skipped all food and drink and maybe that was a mistake.  I was still recovering from that virus that was in the house the last couple of weeks.  But I figured I could skip the cold meds.  Big mistake!  Woke up at 4:30 am with a splitting sinus headache.  So, I beat a hasty retreat to the cold medicine and then sat up for a half hour to let it knock down my sinus inflammation.

But today I’m definitely on the mend.  So, I spent time working on minutia.  I’ve been using the Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Mouse as my pointing device for the last six or so years.  It’s a great device in most ways.  But unfortunately, the switches for the left and right click buttons give out after a couple of years.  So now I have three of these things that double click when they shouldn’t.  I finally looked into the problem and found a YouTube video that shows how to replace the microswitches and eliminate the problem.  Now I’ll have to buy a soldering iron and some other bits of gear and become a technician.  Well, that’s kind of fun.  Plus, I’ll fix the other two mice and become mouse anti-fragile for the foreseeable future.  Yeah me.

The other thing today was about was to delve into vector analysis.  I never had the time back in the day to play around with the more advanced theorems to get a solid handle on the tensor notation.  In the past I’ve been exposed (as if to a disease) to Del Notation, Dyadics, the Laplacian and equally complex concepts.  The Kronecker delta and how to expand the determinant was something I had to memorize in order to solve some problems in physics.  But if I’m being honest there was very little comprehension on my part at the time as to how these manipulations made sense.  Now I’ve got some time I think I’ll take another whack at it.  The question as to whether I still have sufficient brain cells to thread my way around it and whether those brain cells can retain it remains to be seen.  But it might be fun.

So, amid my other occupations I’ve added electronic technician and math student.  That should make Thanksgiving week an interesting time.  Maybe I’ll buy the microswitches and soldering iron on Black Friday and get some huge discount.  I’ll probably also have to buy some kind of giant magnifying glass on a flexible arm just to see the attachment points for the switches.  It’s a pity I can’t purchase new eyes too.  But once again, the future we were promised all those years ago before Blade Runner hasn’t quite materialized yet.  Well, no need to get all whiny about it.  Magnifying glass works too.

So here we go into Thanksgiving Week.  Turkey, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie, old movies and family.  What’s better than that?

String Theorists – The Snake Oil Salesmen of Theoretical Physics

This video is a “debate” between a string theorist and two actual physicists (including a Nobel Laureate) over the legitimacy of the multiverse model of reality.  It’s really quite embarrassing.  The string guy sounds like a penny stock broker trying to hawk his wares by touting the “research” that is just around the corner and right at the edge of proving all the ridiculous tenets of his unprovable or inconsistent or even haphazard concepts.

The other two physicists and the moderator all seem exasperated by repeatedly slapping down both the substance of his argument and the sleight of hand attempts to conflate the standard understanding of quantum mechanics with the string theory basis for the multiverse model.  In fact, these physicists provide arguments against both of these things separately and still the string guy keeps on coming up with cutesy analogies for using space-based probes to look for the equivalent of the “ultrasound image of the gestating baby universe in the first microseconds after the Big Bang.”  He even manages to talk about the umbilical cord of this fetal universe.  It’s beyond silly.

If you’re interested in watching a string theorist getting slapped around this video might be of interest to you.  I know I enjoyed it.  String theory seems to be the physics equivalent of communism.  It’s a theory that has never worked but provides its practitioners with a funhouse version of reality that they can bloviate about and if they manage to get put in charge of resources waste them endlessly until they bankrupt their host.

Highly amusing.  I was especially amused to hear that the string guy works at my alma mater.  Ah, the pride is back.

How Far Out There is Out There?

Have you ever wondered how far away is the farthest visible galaxy?  Or what is the heaviest balck hole so far observed>  How about what is the fastest orbital speed of an object revolving around another stellar object?

Being a life-long nerd I enjoy nothing better than to see the latest high-end astrophotography and reading the highest exponential distances, masses and speeds tacked onto these images.

Well Astronomy Magazine has an article called “The most extreme celestial objects in the universe.” that answers some of those questions with lots of beautiful and intriguing astro-photos and other visuals.

Well, sometimes we have to step back from politics and smell the roses or gawk at the latest eye-candy taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  After all this is Orion’s Cold Fire.

 

 

 

Joe Biden Cures Cancer

Recently the odious fungoid that infests 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was raving about his imaginary “war against cancer.”  Under ordinary circumstances I assume that every pronouncement that emanates from that malignant wretch is a lie.  But when it comes to wars on cancer, I have a special level of scorn.

Since the 1960s America has been bombarded with headlines on how the titanic energies of the federal government and the medical science infrastructure would finally defeat cancer “within twenty years.”  Now this twenty-year estimate is very similar to the one that has been promising us nuclear fusion energy “within fifty years.  We’re currently on the eightieth year of that guesstimate.

The idea that a moron like Joe Biden is going to solve a biological mystery like curing all cancers is truly absurd.  Sure, he’s only talking about funding a research initiative but the scope of what he’s proposing to do dwarfs the resources he’s talking about by a factor of a million to one.

The mistake that people make when they compare biology to something like technology or economics is thinking that there is a linear relation between what you know and what you don’t know.  Everyone was told that once we had decoded the human genome everything else in human biology would be a matter of reverse engineering solutions to every disease and problem.  Boy was that stupid.  The genome gives us the code for figuring out the peptide sequence in all the proteins that the body uses.   But it turns out that understanding how these proteins interact with all the other chemical substances in the body is so complicated that all knowing the compositions of the proteins does is mock us with the actual complexity of our cells.

Even the shape of these protein molecules is a mystery that has to be painstakingly determined with X-ray crystallography and other complicated and exacting techniques.  And even then, we don’t know the shape the molecule assumes in the specialized environment when other molecules are associated during various interactions.  Recently artificial intelligence has been tasked with automating the calculation of the shapes of all the proteins known to man.  And this is surely a boon.  The countless man-hours saved by the machine cataloguing the shape of two hundred million proteins is stunning.  But as is freely admitted by the AI’s creators, these shape estimates are extremely questionable.  They only form the basis for a more through examination of the protein.  Maybe they really only help to narrow a research effort down from an even larger problem down to just an enormous one.

The metabolic pathways associated with the human immune system is one of those areas where protein shape is critical.  An enormous amount of effort has been expended in trying to understand how the human body differentiates between pathogens and self when it tries to protect from viruses, bacteria and other organisms.  When the immune system becomes too active, we end up with auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s Disease where the body attacks its own cells.  And yet that same immune system is also charged with attacking cancer cells.  Tumor necrosis factors exist in the body for this purpose.  These delicate balances and how they fail is the subject of endless research.

Practical results have been made.  Antibodies have been manufactured with the ability to target the exact cancer cells that a patient is producing.  There have been cures.  But failure is the rule, success the exception.  Once again, what we know is still an infinitesimal part of what needs to be learned.

It can be hoped that AI will eventually be an accelerant for the research being done.  But I suspect that what we are looking at is a multi-generational effort that will involve incremental progress.  In fact, it’s possible that fundamental biological research not even aimed at cancer will provide the stepping stones that one day will allow truly effective cancer treatment.

One thing I can guarantee is that Joe Biden will never be thought to have done anything meaningful to help advance cancer research.  In fact, I’ll go one better.  Joe Biden will never be thought to have done anything meaningful to help anyone but himself.

Nuclear Power is Coming Back

Even that animated haircut Gavin Newsom realizes that shutting down the nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon would get him bounced out of his job as governor of the stupidest state in the union.

He’s put the closure on hold until 2030 when he’ll be safely out of politics and doing harm in some other capacity.

And this same realization is coming to all the other geniuses who thought windmills and solar panels could replace the gigawatts of power we currently use to fuel a modern civilization.

“Across the United States, according to the fifth annual ecoAmerica survey, support for nuclear energy has risen to 60% (up from Gallup-reported 51% in 2015. Business Wire says support for nuclear has never been higher, though the survey also reported a majority still harbor fears about nuclear solid waste disposal, health and safety, security and weaponization, and cost.”

And overseas other nations are changing their minds about nuclear power.

” The British – who are even calling for fracking and renewed oil and gas exploration and development in the North Sea – are bullish on nuclear energy today despite plans to close five of its eight old reactors. France, Japan, China, India, Finland and Hungary are also building new nuclear plants, and Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic want to go nuclear.”

Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Austria have still maintained their pledges to shut down their existing nuclear plants but even the Germans with their dominant Green movement, are probably starting to wonder if reality will allow them to do this in the face of the loss of Russian natural gas.

The hippies dealt the US nuclear industry a seemingly lethal wound after Three Mile Island.  But now the hippies are in nursing homes and maybe their just as stupid children may be forced to decide which they hate more fossil fuels or nuclear power.  They’re going to have to choose one.  Tilting at windmills won’t keep the lights on.

Scientists Say Conservatives Happier Than Liberals. Duh!

Apparently believing that dysfunction is normal and good is evil isn’t conducive to peace of mind.  I guess trying to see that two plus two equals five all the time must hurt their brains.  Well there is the consolation that these people are at least scared and miserable.  Now if we can find a way to prevent them from inflicting their madness upon us we’ll be ecstatic.

The ZMan Explains How Gaia Hates Plastic Bags

The ZMan tells the story of how his local Wegman’s has compelled him to honor Gaia and stop using plastic bags.  This amusing tale is the green revolution writ small.  And honestly it’s probably the least crazy part of the whole movement.  Plastic has become so ubiquitous in our lives that we no longer even think about it.  Paper bags or even reusable bags might make sense.  But square this with the behavior that occurred during the COVID crisis when reusable anything was suspected of killing old people.

It’s obvious that “science” is not what’s going on with these decisions.  We’re being ruled by cultists who don’t understand the reality behind the narratives.  But read the story for ZMan’s trademark humor and bile.

The Paper Bag Test

Will America Pass the Test?

We live in troubled times.  Many very strange ideas are loose in the world.  For the last hundred years or so Western Civilization has become increasingly unstable.  And now most of the first world has embraced its own destruction.  The idea of eliminating the majority of humanity from the planet in pursuit of some ecological paradise is a common philosophy among millennials.  And the belief that subsistence conditions that include eating bugs and giving up mobility and things like climate-controlled homes is being promulgated by the government and “thought leaders.”

I think we will find out very soon whether the majority of our countrymen agree with these ideas.  After all we are a “democracy” or something like one.  If the ayes have it, we’ll get bugs and electric cars.  But something leads me to believe that the whole world won’t succumb to this plan.  I have to believe that there remains a substantial group of people that aren’t fools and know that human ingenuity is substantially more capable of overcoming problems than what’s currently on display from the “green revolution” crowd.

I guess the question will be where will that ingenuity be allowed to flourish.  Up till recently the United States was the premiere center of innovation.  And we were also a magnet for entrepreneurs from across the world who were looking for a chance to pioneer new concepts in everything from robotics to medicine.  But now this trend is reversing.  Many innovators are returning home to their own countries to launch new companies and build factories.  Places like China and India are rejecting the green revolution in response to the need to reap the benefits of twentieth century technology that was made possible by fossil fuel powered industry.

Wind mills and solar panels are being deployed in the West but the rest of the world is burning coal, oil and natural gas.  And if things continue in the direction they’re going, eventually nuclear power plants will also become a common sight in the non-Western countries.  When that happens where will the center of innovation be located?

That’s the main question.  Which culture will have the confidence to continue the legacy that the Western World has already bequeathed to humanity?  What a strange thought that maybe in fifty years Europe and North America will be living in some kind of post-modern poverty with a marginal economy based on some socialist model while some currently third world country takes the lead and raises the standard of living of their people even higher than what we currently enjoy.

Strange or not, it might be the future.  I’m far from confident that Americans will come to their senses and demand better for their children than the message of deprivation and mediocrity that we’re being fed by the Democrats and their corporate allies.  We’re currently at a very critical juncture in our history.  We’ve recently been given a vision of energy prices becoming unsustainable while the government is using huge subsidies to convince Americans to buy electric cars.  And at the same time foods like meat and milk are also becoming prohibitively expensive.  This would be the time for angry consumers to lash out at the Democrats and punish them at the polls.  But what if they don’t?

That would tell me that the old America is gone for good and the current crop will be led by the nose to whatever fate the elites have planned for them.  And that will be a good time to start looking around and figure where the new center of human flourishing will end up.

I hope we don’t fail this test.  My whole world is anchored to this country.  All my relatives and especially my descendants are all here.  I want them to be part of the best society on the planet.  And so, I pray there are still enough people with common sense to keep us on the right track and moving into the future.  But from where I’m standing it looks like a fifty-fifty shot.

Honey Bees at the Compound

 

Anyone who has looked at my macro-photographic pictures knows that I like to photograph insects in general and bees in particular.  I find them interesting.

About 25 years ago I established a honey bee hive in my yard.  I did all the things that the books said to do.  I bought the packaged bees with the included queen and installed them in the approved hive with its rack of frames and other accoutrements.  I had the bee suit and the smoker and I fed them syrup and checked on them every once in a while, and they seemed to thrive.  And even though New England winters are awful they survived into the next year and seemed to be thriving.  But after the second winter they were all dead.

This was disappointing.  But I persevered and started all over.  A new hive, new bees and away we went.  But this time they were dead by the next spring.  I read up on what had happened.  Tracheal mites and varroa mites had become the scourge of beekeeping.  Hives were dying off by the thousands.  Eventually chemical treatments became the “solution” for keeping honey bees alive in the Age of Varroa.

But I was unwilling to keep bees that needed to be loaded with poison to survive.  Beyond the question of whether honey produced by semi-poisoned bees was safe or appetizing I just didn’t see the sense in raising creatures that were incapable of surviving on their own.  But I kept an ear open hoping for an announcement of the discovery of bees that were resistant to varroa mite infestation.  Decades passed and I lost track of the whole thing.

But this week I watched a YouTube video by a beekeeper up in Vermont named Kirk Webster (how’s that for a New England name!) who has been raising bees without medication for twenty years.  It was very interesting.  So, this Webster guy lost lots of his bees in the varroa mite plague.  And earlier he lost lots of hives to the previous tracheal mite outbreak.  But apparently, the surviving hives had better genetics and their descendants were able to thrive in the environment that contained these parasites.

And it seemed a big part of the answer had to do with Mr. Webster’s embrace of natural selection.  By allowing the mites to eliminate the weaker hives the stronger bees became the basis of his new stock and they thrived.  And possibly part of that selection was a race of Russian bees that he had adopted during that time.  Possibly bees that had been exposed to the enormous range of climates and fauna found in the vast Eurasian continent gave them a distinct advantage over the European bees.

Well, I warned Camera Girl that sometime in the indeterminate future she might see me walking around the grounds wearing a bee suit.  She shook her head and went back to preparing food for tomorrow’s party while mumbling disparaging remarks about someone or other.  Well, not everyone is as enlightened and innovative as some other people.  But the takeaway is that there are definitely beekeepers who have found success with keeping bees without dousing their hives with insecticides and poisons.  Something for me to think about.

Mummy Envy

I found this tweet about a mummy in South America on my feed. But what made me laugh was a reply. Some guy said “Annoying that a 7000 year old corpse has more hair than me.”