The History of Human Skin Color

This is a fairly interesting and mostly apolitical explanation for the origin of skin color in human populations.  Although at both extremes of the political spectrum I’m sure there would be those unhappy with the editorial exposition at the end.

But the branching and additional mutations that it took to create the different skin colors we see today is interesting.  But none of this explained one of the most important skin colors.

Room Temperature Super Conductivity?

Maybe.  We’ll have to see.  But if it’s true that’s a lot of power not being turned into useless heat.  So what do you folks think, reality or hoax?


Do You Just Put Quantum in Front of Everything?

H/T to Hans G. Schantz.

Is the Universe really all just one thing?  Huh?

“If we do find evidence to support this idea, it would dramatically alter the way we conceive of the cosmos. It would mean we could not only see a world in a grain of sand, as the poet William Blake once said, but we could also quite literally see the entire universe in its tiniest pieces and particles. While this might sound like just a different way of going about physics, it is much more than that. I believe that we are on the way to a completely new understanding of how the universe is put together.”

What will this do to Ant Man?




Fun on a Friday Night

Make a start.  Make a start.  Well, I’ve caught up with my chores.  All the distractions and alarums and excursions have kept me from writing.  Well, what can you do?  Life is like that.

But what to write about?  I’m looking for something upbeat.  I don’t want to talk about the crime epidemic or the 2024 race or even transgender pushback.  I’ve expended enough venom on those to last me awhile.  I’d rather think about something fun.

So, how about asteroid mining?

Until recently talk of this was restricted to science fiction fans.  Heinlein had asteroid miners in his juvenile novel “The Rolling Stones” and it was a staple of many writers in the last century.  But now it’s going from fiction to fact as NASA is talking about sending a mission to an asteroid that is believed to be composed almost entirely of metal.  There’s a mission to send an unmanned mission to reach Psyche 16 in 2026.

Psyche 16 is a small world with a diameter of 140 miles.  Its mass has been estimated at 2.29 ×1019 kg.  That’s about 0.0004% of the Earth’s mass.  But that’s an enormous mass.

Now visiting Psyche 16 is a far cry from actually mining gold and platinum from this worldlet and getting it to Earth where it has value.  But it’s a start.  The actual mechanism for recovering the metals that make up Psyche 16 is an interesting problem.  Depending on how fast it is going relative to Earth, changing its orbit has the potential to be a human existence-ending event for planet Earth.  Remember, the dinosaurs allegedly bit the dust because a fair-sized asteroid crashed into Earth sixty some odd million years ago.  So, diverting large asteroids should be something done with the utmost of careful planning and the least amount of change to our space environment.

The two choices I come up with are moving it into a stable orbit close to Earth or crashing it into the Moon.  Overall, I favor the Moon idea.  Maybe I’ve been influenced by Heinlein’s story, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”  In that tale the Moon colonists uses a rail gun to boost payloads to escape the Moon’s gravity and splash down in the oceans of Earth.  I’m sure that much more careful thought would need to be done to ensure that this kind of logistical method is possible but I’m guessing from a risk perspective where an extinction event is one of the risks it would probably be preferred to leaving that big rock moving close to Earth.

In the article someone did a back of the envelope calculation and came up with $10,000 quadrillion as the value of the metals in Psyche 16.  Of course, why it would be expressed that way instead of as $10 quintillion is unclear to me.  But they bring up the point that this would wreck the Earth’s economy by destabilizing the value of gold and other metals.  Well, this seems like a silly statement.  Extracting even something as valuable as platinum from the Moon and bringing it back to Earth will not be economical unless the price of that metal increases by orders of magnitude.

Digging gold and platinum out of the Earth is the economical choice and will be for the foreseeable future.  But if someday there is a need for metals that can no longer be found on Earth, then maybe asteroid mining might become a thing,

So, wasn’t that more fun than talking about trannies again?  Feel free to comment on my moon crash option.  I assure you I haven’t thought through this option much at all so we can dissect it as an occasion for fun.  Have at it.

Guest Contributor – ArthurinCali – 14APR2023 – Scientific Dark Ages

AI medical imaging potential should not be stifled.


Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

-Marie Curie (1867-1934)


The de facto position concerning new medical discoveries cannot be that it will inevitably be used for sinister purposes. This anti-science viewpoint stifles innovation and progress for humanity, thus stunting potential breakthroughs in medicine. Tools available to researchers and health professionals are just that, tools. The usage and application are dependent on who wields these instruments. It is not hard to imagine the first Neanderthals who discovered fire might have been dubious about its utilization, once one of them tried to touch it.

Recently it was found that Artificial Intelligence (AI) used to screen medical images can detect with near-perfect accuracy the patient’s racial ethnicity without prior knowledge from outside inputs. This ability for AI covered a broad series of image types; from CT scans to chest X-Rays, and persisted over all anatomical regions. This finding was replicated even from images that were cropped, corrupted, or not ideally clear. Even more surprising is that human experts trained to analyze these scans cannot determine the patient’s race, yet AI trained with deep learning developed this ability by itself.

The AI utilizes ‘Deep Learning’ as the machine learning model that imitates the human learning process to a degree with predictive analytics, and complex learning algorithms.

A good analogy describes the process as:

“To understand deep learning, imagine a toddler whose first word is dog. The toddler learns what a dog is — and is not — by pointing to objects and saying the word dog. The parent says, “Yes, that is a dog,” or, “No, that is not a dog.” As the toddler continues to point to objects, he becomes more aware of the features that all dogs possess. What the toddler does, without knowing it, is clarify a complex abstraction — the concept of dog — by building a hierarchy in which each level of abstraction is created with knowledge that was gained from the preceding layer of the hierarchy.”

In this fashion, deep learning differs from traditional linear algorithms that are dictated by the computer programmer. A deep learning model will independently sift through massive data sets to create complex statistical models from large amounts of unstructured data. This represents a new frontier in AI technology. Prior to the 21st century, access to big data sets and cloud computing were out of reach for many computer programmers.

Not everyone in the medical field sees the potential in AI recognition. This article from MIT discounts any benefit to the computer model’s ability to detect race.

“The fact that algorithms ‘see’ race, as the authors convincingly document, can be dangerous. But an important and related fact is that, when used carefully, algorithms can also work to counter bias,” says Ziad Obermeyer, associate professor at the University of California at Berkeley, whose research focuses on AI applied to health.

This understandable caution for bias by AI is the prevailing theme for a significant part of the medical community. Numerous papers and articles sound the alarm for potential abuses of AI racial recognition. However, not one study or opinion piece expanded on the potential uses for AI’s talent to discern race in medical imaging. Remember, no human experts can do this, regardless of experience or training. What if this could unlock new, highly effective therapies tailored to different races depending on the disease? Maybe this leads to discovering distinct correlations that would allow for earlier detections of cancer and other diseases. AI using multivariate analysis would give all patients an edge in their treatment plans. An entirely new realm of possibilities could open up for science, but only if the courage is there to look for it.

This may be of no value in the field of medicine, and possibly even be a feature of AI that needs to be eliminated entirely. Yet to dismiss out of hand the ability for AI to detect racial identity in medical imaging without more research into potential uses would be folly and a discredit to the goal of furthering medical science and artificial intelligence.


AI recognition of patient race in medical imaging: a modelling study

Artificial intelligence predicts patients’ race from their medical images

AI systems can detect patient race, creating new opportunities to perpetuate health disparities

Risks of AI Race Detection in the Medical System

AI Can Detect Race When Clinicians Cannot, Increasing Risk of Bias

AI programs can tell race from X-rays, but scientists don’t know how. Here’s why that’s bad.

Hidden in Plain Sight: If AI Can Detect Race, What About Bias?

Deep Learning

Einstein They Ain’t

“Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,

    As he landed his crew with care;

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

    By a finger entwined in his hair.

“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:

    That alone should encourage the crew.

Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:

    What I tell you three times is true.”

(from “The Hunting of the Snark, An Agony in 8 Fits” by Lewis Carroll)

Sabine Hossenfelder is a German woman with a doctorate in theoretical physics and a YouTube channel full of videos that discuss all manner of scientific and engineering subjects.  Her area of research is “analog models of gravity.”  So, she’s trying to visualize things like black holes and think up tests to add to our understanding of these outlandish phenomena.  And she’s an obvious girl nerd.

What I like about her popular work (YouTube videos) is that she has no fear of exposing just how dysfunctional modern day physics has become.  From dark matter and dark energy to string theory, to futile attempts by particle physicists to invent extraneous particles and then waste untold millions of dollars proving they don’t exist, she exposes the transparent mediocrity and obvious academic make-work that these pseudoscientists are engaging in.  They are the hunters of the that altogether mythical snark.

And that brings me to this video.  Sabine chronicles the last fifty years of mythical particles that have been proposed and have failed to appear.  She describes how the creators of these unicorn particles keep them alive by moving the goal posts whenever the experiments fail to confirm their existence.  And finally, she shows how this form of “science” is basically worthless because it has no chance of asking the right questions needed to extend our knowledge.  She uses a couple of graphs with data and then the extrapolations associated with these junk science predictions to show how truly worthless this half century of make-work particle physics has been.

It is my belief that the only way to bring rigor back to theoretical physics is to use corporal punishment for failures in achieving successful experimental results.  I’m not talking about executions or amputations.  Nothing barbaric.  I’m talking about caning, possibly flogging.  No cat o’nine tails, nothing over five lashes.  Barely enough to draw blood.  All very civilized and calibrated to bring about the desired results.  And I’ll be fair.  The physicists can decide whether he’d prefer losing his tenure or being publicly lashed.  What could be fairer than that?

All kidding aside, scientific research, not only in this country but throughout the western world, has been stagnating and falling into disrepute.  In the social sciences it has degenerated into gobbledygook with the results of the majority of research papers being unreproducible.  Doctorates in sociology and psychology are now essentially worthless.  Even in the “hard” sciences like physics and chemistry but especially in pharmaceutical research progress at answering fundamental problems has ground to a halt.

So, it’s very refreshing for someone in the academic world to be out there declaring that the emperor has no clothes.  Now that’s not to say I agree with every one of her videos.  She had a presentation about hydrogen as a fuel, the conclusions of which I completely disagreed with.  But she at least lays out a lot of the facts and that allows an informed viewer to  judge her opinion based on them.  Kudos to Sabine.

On the more general front of scientific research today, all of this confirms something that has become clear.  Government money, especially in the United States has turned academia into a racket.  Research is a bottomless pit of money that funds unqualified “scientists” to waste resources without any hope of finding the results they are supposedly pursuing.  All they accomplish is creating a bureaucracy of people defending their paychecks via government grants.

Other than weapons research the United States government needs to get out of the research business.  If they want to incentivize scientific progress let them offer large monetary prizes for successful solutions to practical problems in the engineering and science realms, like the fabulous “cure for cancer” we’re always hearing is right around the corner.  Even if the results are more incremental than this at least we would stop incentivizing fraud.  Until then we will continue to hear about the latest search for the particle equivalent of the snark.

Way Too Smart for Their Own Good

I feel it’s time for another physics rant.

Somebody named Paul Sutter wrote an article in Ars Technica called “ Requiem for a string: Charting the rise and fall of a theory of everything.  String theory was supposed to explain all of physics. What went wrong?

I have some excerpts from the article that indicate the thrust of the problem with string theory.

“Like most revolutions, string theory had humble origins. It started in the 1960s as an attempt to understand the workings of the strong nuclear force, which had only recently been discovered.”

“A group of physicists took a mathematical technique developed (and later abandoned) by quantum godfather Werner Heisenberg and expanded it. In that expansion, they found the first strings—mathematical structures that repeated themselves in spacetime. Unfortunately, this proto-string theory made incorrect predictions about the nature of the strong force and also had a variety of troublesome artifacts (like the existence of tachyons, particles that only traveled faster than light). Once another theory was developed to explain the strong force—the one we use today, based on quarks and gluons—string theory faded from the scene.”

So, look at this.  They borrow a technique from someone who was extremely smart.  But it was a technique that was discarded because it doesn’t work.  They ignore the fact that it produces crazy answers and they try to nurse it along by expanding it into more dimensions and other complications.  Shades of Ptolemy’s epicycles!

“Unlike its quantum cousins, when it comes to string theory, we have no fundamental theory—we have only a set of approximation and perturbation methods. We’re not exactly sure if our approximations are good ones or if we’re way off the mark. We have perturbation techniques, but we’re not sure what we’re perturbing from. In other words, there’s no such thing as string theory, just approximations of what we hope string theory could be.”

Wow.  It’s useless and wrong and yet it lives on decade after decade.

“To be clear, our inability to understand string theory isn’t limited by experiment. Even if we could build a super-duper-collider experiment that achieved the energies necessary to unlock quantum gravity, we still wouldn’t be able to test string theory because we have no string theory. We have no mathematical model that can make reliable predictions, only approximations that we hope accurately represent the true physics. We can test those approximations, I guess, but it won’t help us determine the inner workings of the true model.”

They’re paying these people!  No one’s forcing them to pay them but they keep on paying them.

“The beams of the LHC began their first test operations in 2008 with two main science goals in mind: finding the elusive Higgs boson and finding evidence of supersymmetry.  Four years later, the Higgs was found. Supersymmetry was not. It’s now 15 years later, and there are still no signs of supersymmetry.”

Can we get our money back?

“The dearth of evidence has slaughtered so many members of the supersymmetric family that the whole idea is on very shaky ground, with physicists beginning to have conferences with titles like “Beyond Supersymmetry” and “Oh My God, I Think I Wasted My Career.””

You sure have!  And our billions in funding for this clap-trap!

“Most string theorists of the modern era don’t work on string theory directly but instead mostly on the AdS/CFT correspondence and its implications, hoping that continuing to probe that mathematical relationship will unlock some hidden insight into the workings of a theory of everything.  I wish them luck.”

I don’t!

We really need to restrict the funds available to really smart people such that only the one really smartest guy in the field is allowed to waste his whole life doing this kind of mental masturbation.  This is not physics.  It has the same relation to physics as rhythmic gymnastics has to power-lifting.  I mean should I get tenure for coming up with the new variant called string cheese theory?  Does my background in mozzarella qualify me to expound my theory that the universe is really a large amorphous blob of Italian dairy product?  I think not!

The rest of them should be forced to do this crap in their spare time if they want to when no one can see them and during working hours force them to do something that pays the electric bill.  Maybe they can get an engineering degree on the side and design quantum screw drivers or something.

Look at this quote again:

To be clear, our inability to understand string theory isn’t limited by experiment. Even if we could build a super-duper-collider experiment that achieved the energies necessary to unlock quantum gravity, we still wouldn’t be able to test string theory because we have no string theory. We have no mathematical model that can make reliable predictions, only approximations that we hope accurately represent the true physics. We can test those approximations, I guess, but it won’t help us determine the inner workings of the true model.”

These guys have been futzin’ around with this thing for fifty years and they still haven’t got a theory to justify their paychecks.  In China they would have been taken out behind the building and shot and their families would be forced to pay for the bullets they were shot with.  Here they should have been tarred and feathered and ridden out of Princeton on a rail.

Camera Girl has often told me off for being, in her words, “scholastic-asstic.”  By this she means too smart for my own good or more precisely an educated dope.  And often she is exactly right.  I wouldn’t dare tell her about this outrage to common sense because she would hit me for trying to waste her time listening to this nonsense.  She would equate it with ecclesiastical scholars  attempting to calculate the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.  That is if she had ever heard of that concept before, which I’m fairly certain she has not.

So instead, I’m bringing this here for the larger audience to hear.  Albert Einstein figured out relativity while working as a patent clerk.  That should be the model.  When someone figures out anti-gravity or faster than light pizza delivery then we can talk about a cushy office in the physics department at Cal Tech and maybe tenure.  But if they’re going to spend forty years of academic salary and perks for this drivel, we need to break out the Chinese model.  Who knows, maybe we can throw in the cost of the bullets for free.  After all we are reasonable people.

Guest Contributor – TomD – 10JAN2023 – A Civil Engineering Perspective

Tom | Flickr


I’m a Civil Engineer specializing in structural for most of my career. For almost all in-ground concrete installations, the nature and strength of the subgrade is more important than the strength of the concrete. Subgrade means whatever the concrete is sitting on. In other words, no matter how strong the concrete or asphalt, it isn’t any stronger than what it is bearing on.

I’ve never been associated with residential work but in commercial, government,, etc. work, testing the subgrade is very important. It should be to you too. If you’re spending a lot of money on asphalt or concrete in a non-controlled environment, for your own sake. please call a local geotech outftit, explain your circumstance, and get a proposal.

If you’re spending couple to several 10’s of thousands, please spend a couple of hundred ensuring it doesn’t fail in a year or two.

Guest Contributor – Jason M – 10JAN2023 – Ancient Roman Concrete – Continued

Ancient Roman Concrete’s Durability Finally Explained


I actually work for a cement and concrete manufacturer. I was thinking more along the lines of roads and large buildings in my comments above.

For individuals, I completely agree with you that stronger foundations and floors in homes would be a good thing. The problems of energy to generate heat and cost of transporting the materials are still there. But because it is on a much smaller scale it MIGHT be easier to overcome.

Availability of quick lime might be an issue, as well. At least in some locations.

For pouring a driveway or a garage floor though…I’m still not sold on it.

“Strength” for concrete is a measure of compressive force. It’s measured in PSI. Unfortunately, even a very high PSI concrete can break if its support is somehow undermined. The biggest thing for homeowners is making sure that the foundation is done properly with the correct support around the concrete and diverting water away so that it is not washing or damaging the support in some way.

That being said, there are several methods to avoid the kind of cracks you’re talking about. For anyone reading this… make sure your builders include rebar in your foundations. This goes for driveways, too, although it doesn’t have to be rebar in this case… a simple wire mesh or wire fence laid in the concrete (especially if you’re DYIing it) is probably enough. There is also a fiber that can be added to decrease the likelihood of cracks in driveways, etc. but that’s more for if you’re paying someone to do it. I don’t know that you can buy that kind of concrete unless you’re dealing directly with a seller with the mixer trucks and stuff.

You can also increase the thickness of the concrete. This adds significant cost, but a 9 inch thick driveway would be better than a 6 inch thick driveway. There is a diminishing return here though. Once you get to a certain point, the additional cost is not worth the additional “protection.”

For a foundation, especially, make sure they dig deeply enough to get good ground underneath the concrete. This is one thing I had to be careful of when we built our home. We have horrible dirt. I know it sounds funny, but the kind of dirt we have in this area is really bad for settling. It simply compresses too easily so the weight of a house is going to cause it to settle quickly. I had to make sure that the contractor building my foundation dug deeply enough to get past more of the bad stuff before putting in gravel and pouring concrete. I was fortunate in that the contractor was already doing this which made me feel good about using him for some other projects I had associated with the house.

Finally, do anything you can to ensure proper drainage. Water will erode soil even under your home or driveway or cause the soil to settle.

One thing I learned when I joined my current company is that there are hundreds of “recipes” for cement and that many more “recipes” for concrete. (Cement is essentially the “binder” that holds everything together in concrete.) I don’t know that anyone realized exactly how the Romans did it, but I do know that the manufacturers have MANY “levers” they can pull in order to achieve varying strengths and curing times. They are also constantly testing and experimenting with different additives and other cementitious (It’s a real word… honestly) materials in an effort to lower costs without sacrificing strength, etc.

It was more interesting than I thought it would be, honestly.