Sunday, July 30, 2017
Concrete, modern style, craps out within 30-50 years, depending on the weather, while concrete, Roman style, lasts millennia, even when submerged, thanks to a secret sauce just beginning to be understood thanks to esoteric tech of the sophisticated kind.
He (Pliny the elder) might be pleased, then, to see an ancient technology that he himself admired taking on a modern relevance and novelty. Who, Pliny wondered, could help but be surprised at the way the Roman harbor infrastructure, made from a mix of lime and volcanic ash, overcomes entropy, “forming a barrier against the waves of the sea, becoming changed into stone the moment of its immersion, and increasing in hardness from day to day—more particularly when mixed with the cement of Cumae,” an ancient city in Naples?
The geologist and geophysicist Marie Jackson, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, shares Pliny’s admiration for these still-standing structures, and has scoured ancient Roman texts in hopes of uncovering the recipe that makes them so durable. The goal would be to revive Roman concrete, and their building techniques, for the modern age—but, alas, her efforts were to no avail.
So she’s been working backwards. In “Unlocking the secrets of Al-tobermorite in Roman seawater concrete,” a study she and her colleagues published in 2013, they confirmed, via trace element analyses at the Advanced Light Source, an X-ray synchrotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, that drill cores of a 2000-year-old block submerged in the Bay of Pozzuoli near Naples came “from Flegrean Fields volcanic district, as described in ancient Roman texts.” The samples contained aluminum tobermorite, a rare mineral and not an ingredient in conventional concrete, which accounted for their great durability and strength. In another study published this month, the researchers found that the aluminum tobermorite grew out of a silicate mineral common to volcanic ash, called phillipsite, spurred by ocean contact. “We’re looking at a system that thrives in open chemical exchange with seawater,” Jackson said.
The tobermorite’s long plate-like crystals grant the concrete an unusual flexibility under stress that increases with time submerged. “It’s a very rare occurrence in nature,” Jackson said. By contrast, modern concrete, made from a mix of Portland cement and coarse aggregate, corrodes in seawater within decades, making the application of Roman concrete, Jackson noted, an enticing option for steel reinforcement-free seawalls that guard against rising sea levels.
Pliny the Elder would be pleased.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation.
Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author,—its promulgator,—its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man. For his crime he must endure the severest penalties hereafter, even if he avoid the usual misfortunes of the present life.
BRT has criticised the foreign policy of America for years as the P&L of same has been a financial and humanitarian disaster for this country beginning with the CIA assassination of Iran's democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh back in 1953. With that being said, the insane trajectory toward war with Russia to maintain the monies to the US version of the Deep State and it's minions is disquieting to say the least. This is not a liberal or conservative issue but rather an existential one for every human being living on planet Earth.
Russia threatened to retaliate against new sanctions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, saying they made it all but impossible to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of improved relations.
The measures push U.S.-Russia ties into uncharted territory and “don’t leave room for the normalization of relations” in the foreseeable future, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday, according to the Interfax news service.
Hope “is dying” for improved relations because the scale of “the anti-Russian consensus in Congress makes dialogue impossible and for a long time,” Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said on Facebook. Russia should prepare a response to the sanctions that’s “painful for the Americans,” he said.
The bill, passed by a vote of 419-3 on Tuesday, would strengthen sanctions against Russia less than three weeks after President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held their first official meeting at the Group of 20 summit. The measure, which now goes to the Senate, would let Congress block any effort by Trump to unilaterally weaken sanctions imposed under the Obama administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections and its support for separatists in Ukraine. The White House has sent mixed signals about whether Trump will sign the bill.
To summarize, the entire House of Representatives other than three Republicans, Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and John Duncan of Tennessee, voted for this thing. Not a single Democrat voted against the sanctions.
We supposedly live in a “representative democracy,” but 99% of our so-called representatives voted for this bill. Does this really represent the will of 99% of the public? These are the kind of numbers you’d expect to see in totalitarian states, and the ironic thing is the vote was driven by a desire to put a stop to supposedly fascist Trump. We’ve got much bigger problems than Trump.
Lastly II - Robert Parry - An Orwellian Future.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Cassini's Grand Finale never ceases to amaze, this time with Titan and precursors to life totally unexpected in a place as cold and remote as Saturn's largest moon.
Titan boasts a thick nitrogen and methane atmosphere with some of the most complex chemistry seen in the Solar System. It is even thought to mimic the atmosphere of early Earth, before the build-up of oxygen. As such, Titan can be seen as a planet-scale laboratory that can be studied to understand the chemical reactions that may have led to life on Earth, and that could be occurring on planets around other stars.
These large molecules drift down towards the lower atmosphere, forming a thick haze of organic aerosols, and are thought to eventually reach the surface. But the process by which simple molecules in the upper atmosphere are transformed into the complex organic haze at lower altitudes is complicated and difficult to determine.
One surprising outcome of the Cassini mission was the discovery of a particular type of negatively charged molecule at Titan. Negatively charged species – or ‘anions’ – were not something scientists expected to find, because they are highly reactive and should not last long in Titan’s atmosphere before combining with other materials. Their detection is completely reshaping current understanding of the hazy moon’s atmosphere.
In a new study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, scientists identified some of the negatively charged species as what are known as ‘carbon chain anions’. These linear molecules are understood to be building blocks towards more complex molecules, and may have acted as the basis for the earliest forms of life on Earth.
Addendum: Another Titan surprise, this time regarding cellular membranes.
Nature finds a way, always.
"The ability to form a stable membrane to separate the internal environment from the external one is important because it provides a means to contain chemicals long enough to allow them to interact," said Michael Mumma, director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, which is funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. "If membrane-like structures could be formed by vinyl cyanide, it would be an important step on the pathway to life on Saturn's moon Titan."
NASA scientists have definitively detected the chemical acrylonitrile in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan, a place that has long intrigued scientists investigating the chemical precursors of life. On Earth, acrylonitrile, also known as vinyl cyanide, is useful in the manufacture of plastics. Under the harsh conditions of Saturn's largest moon, this chemical is thought to be capable of forming stable, flexible structures similar to cell membranes.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
An existential crisis looms ever nearer as we move further into the Anthropocene.
It was a freakishly warm evening last October when a maintenance worker first discovered the water — torrents of it, rushing into the entrance tunnel of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a storage facility dug some 400 feet into the side of a mountain on a Norwegian island near the North Pole. A storm was dumping rain at a time of year when the temperature was usually well below freezing; because the water had short-circuited the electrical system, the electric pumps on site were useless. This subterranean safe house holds more than 5,000 species of essential food crops, including hundreds of thousands of varieties of wheat and rice. It was supposed to be an impenetrable, modern-day Noah’s ark for plants, a life raft against climate change and catastrophe. Local firefighters helped pump out the tunnel until the temperature dropped and the water froze. Townspeople from the village at the mountain’s base then brought their own shovels and axes and broke apart the ice sheet by hand.
A few Norwegian radio stations and newspapers reported the incident at the time, but it received little international attention until May, when it was becoming clear that President Trump was likely to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Suddenly the tidings from Svalbard were everywhere, in multiple languages, with headlines like “World’s ‘Doomsday’ Seed Vault Has Been Breached by Climate Change.” It didn’t matter that the flood happened seven months earlier, or that the seeds remained safe and dry. We had just lived through the third consecutive year of the highest global temperatures on record and the lowest levels of Arctic ice; vast swaths of permafrost were melting; scientists had recently announced that some 60 percent of primate species were threatened with extinction. All these facts felt like signposts to an increasingly hopeless future for the planet. And now, here was a minifable suggesting that our attempts to preserve even mere traces of the bounty around us might fall apart, too.
Sadness comes to mind on our sorry stewardship of the planet we call home.
Trinity site, New Mexico, on July 16th 1945, 05:29:21 MDT,
16 milliseconds after the proposed start of the Anthropocene.
16 milliseconds after the proposed start of the Anthropocene.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
How little we know about nature's inner workings, particularly with systems as complex as that of the Amazonian Rainforest and it's unique approach to manufacturing it's own rainy season as needs warrant.
A new study gives the first observational evidence that the southern Amazon rainforest triggers its own rainy season using water vapor from plant leaves. The finding helps explain why deforestation in this region is linked with reduced rainfall.
The finding highlights how closely connected the rainforest ecosystem is with climate, Fu said. "The fate of the southern Amazon rainforest depends on the length of the dry season, but the length of the dry season also depends on the rainforest."
The finding raises another question: Why do plants start to grow and transpire more during the dry season, before there's an increase in rain? That's still a subject of research, Fu said. "This may be the way the forests optimize their growth. In the late dry season, plants still get sunshine, and they could anticipate the coming rainy season because they are adapted to the seasonality of the rain."
That seasonality has been changing in recent decades, however. The rainy season in the southern Amazon now starts almost a month later than it did in the 1970s. There's evidence that if the Amazon dry season becomes longer than five to seven months, the forest will no longer receive enough rain each year to keep trees alive, and the region will transition from forest to grassy plains. Over a large fraction of the southern Amazon, the dry season is now only a few weeks shorter on average than this transitional threshold. There has already been some irreversible damage to the forest. The loss of a major Amazonian forest ecosystem could increase Brazilian droughts and potentially disrupt rainfall patterns as far away as Texas.
The Anthropocene Epoch aka the 6th Great Dying continues unabated due to greed, stupidity and disregard for the long term consequences of destroying irreplaceable treasures like the rain forests of South America.
Seen below is the time span of humans on earth vs life on earth. Astounding says it all.
Yours truly loves crank, aka java, aka coffee, aka the caffeine fix that never disappoints as long as it's fresh and unadulterated with sugar and recently, thanks to my son's encouragement, cream as coffee is like tea, a distilled beverage filled with goodies that actually keeps one healthy in more ways than one can count.
People who drink around three cups of coffee a day may live longer than non-coffee drinkers, a landmark study has found.
“We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases,” said lead author Marc Gunter of the IARC and formerly at Imperial’s School of Public Health. “Importantly, these results were similar across all of the 10 European countries, with variable coffee drinking habits and customs. Our study also offers important insights into the possible mechanisms for the beneficial health effects of coffee.”
Using data from the EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), the group analysed data from 521,330 people from over the age of 35 from 10 EU countries, including the UK, France, Denmark and Italy. People’s diets were assessed using questionnaires and interviews, with the highest level of coffee consumption (by volume) reported in Denmark (900 mL per day) and lowest in Italy (approximately 92 mL per day). Those who drank more coffee were also more likely to be younger, to be smokers, drinkers, eat more meat and less fruit and vegetables.
After 16 years of follow up, almost 42,000 people in the study had died from a range of conditions including cancer, circulatory diseases, heart failure and stroke. Following careful statistical adjustments for lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking, the researchers found that the group with the highest consumption of coffee had a lower risk for all causes of death, compared to those who did not drink coffee.
My wife will like the last line without question.
Monday, July 17, 2017
A wonderful diagram detailing the hierarchy of power in China is most illuminating, especially when a rising star gets purged Soviet style. To whit.
The fall from grace of a rising star in China’s Communist Party sheds light on how a reshuffle of the country’s top officials may play out under the leadership of President Xi Jinping later this year.
Sun Zhengcai, 53, the youngest member of the ruling Politburo, was replaced Saturday as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. He is under investigation for violating party regulations, according to four officials with knowledge of the matter.
The officials said they attended a municipal meeting in Chongqing on Sunday, where they were told by a senior local party member that Sun severely damaged the party’s interests. The officials, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private, said they were urged to eliminate Sun’s influence and were told that senior local officials committed serious mistakes under Sun’s guidance. The officials said they were also exhorted to follow the instructions of the central leadership and President Xi’s teachings.
Love the party's interest bit.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
In the future, with a 2 meter rise in water and a temperature increase of 4 degrees centigrade, the world will look like this.
Polynesia is gone – sunk beneath the waves. Pakistan and South India have been abandoned. And Europe is slowly turning into a desert. This is the world, 4°C warmer than it is now.
But there is also good news: Western Antarctica is no longer icy and uninhabitable. Smart cities thrive in newly green and pleasant lands. And Northern Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia produce bountiful harvests to feed the hundreds of millions of climate refugees who now call those regions home.
I would rather not see this scenario unfold and chances are, given this rube's age, will not unless immortality or an expanded lifespan comes to pass before yours truly goes to the great beyond as we all do as everyone knows, at least in the year of our lord 2017. :)
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
BRT did a study on how many boxcars would $15 billion and $12.8 trillion dollars fill and how much said money would weigh in a blurb titled Just a Follow Up. Now comes Visual Capitalist showing, in 3D, how much space $1 trillion (seen above) and $20 trillion (see below), the size of the US debt, would occupy. Interesting to say the least but ... because dollars are now bits and not paper, weight and size drops to nothing, something akin to the fact money is created from nothing and is backed by nothing, an irony that makes one laugh and cry at the same time while our once great nation slowly goes into the poor house. BRT
This is where things start to get dodgy. Once numbers get beyond the millions, we don’t really have any intuition, tactile familiarity, or comprehension of what they mean.
One million seconds = 12 days
One billion seconds = 32 years
One trillion seconds = 32,000 years
Going back in time a trillion seconds would place you well before written history, the building of the pyramids, and 10,000 years before the first cave wall paintings in France.
Our monkey brains don’t really know what to do with these giant abstractions, and so it helps to think about them in different ways, especially visually.
Interesting is it not?
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
BRT has talked about climate change for years as this is the one sure existential threat (beside nukes) man will be facing in the years and decades ahead thanks to fossil fuel burning, the livestock industry, resource depletion and environmental degradation but this great dying is different from the other five as it's happening in a time span shorter by tens of thousands of years due to just how much damage we are doing to the planet we call earth in such a short amount of time.
The population extinction pulse we describe here shows, from a quantitative viewpoint, that Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe than perceived when looking exclusively at species extinctions. Therefore, humanity needs to address anthropogenic population extirpation and decimation immediately. That conclusion is based on analyses of the numbers and degrees of range contraction (indicative of population shrinkage and/or population extinctions according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature) using a sample of 27,600 vertebrate species, and on a more detailed analysis documenting the population extinctions between 1900 and 2015 in 177 mammal species. We find that the rate of population loss in terrestrial vertebrates is extremely high—even in “species of low concern.” In our sample, comprising nearly half of known vertebrate species, 32% (8,851/27,600) are decreasing; that is, they have decreased in population size and range. In the 177 mammals for which we have detailed data, all have lost 30% or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40% of the species have experienced severe population declines (>80% range shrinkage). Our data indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations, which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.
The clock is ticking.
Click here for the PDF
Sunday, July 09, 2017
Friday, July 07, 2017
Thumbs up or rather, an extra thumb is something else altogether and the altogether is really cool tech without question. :)
(Tech Xplore)—Dani Clode, a grad student at the Royal College of Art in London, has created what she calls the "Third Thumb"—a system that adds a mechanical thumb to the opposite side of a natural thumb on a human hand. She showcased her invention at this year's RCA graduate exhibition.
What is perhaps most intriguing about the prosthesis are the reactions of the people trying it in the video Clode made to demonstrate how people can use it—everyone smiles in delight, as if suddenly realizing they have been missing that extra thumb their entire lives. As she notes, people adapt to it rather quickly and soon use it to hold extra playing cards, eggs when cooking or for making up new chords when playing guitar.
Perhaps just as interesting is how simple the system is. It is made of a bracelet to hold the servo motors, tiny ropes that connect to the thumb that control its movement, the thumb, and sensors that sit in the user's shoes. The user exerts different amounts of pressure with either foot to activate the thumb. Signals are sent from the sensors to the bracelet via Bluetooth. The thumb was made via 3-D printing, which allows for customization—users can print one to fit the size of their hand. The material is a type of plastic called Ninjaflex.
Something else altogether indeed.
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
Trumpcare, the republican HC beast from hell, is temporarily in stasis but it could still be passed given just how determined the repugs want Obamacare gone no matter what the cost may be. More interesting is the opposition to single payer from the dems side even though a very strong majority of Americans want it now because lives are at stake, including my own.
"Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, replied with a flat 'no' when asked if Democrats should make single-payer a central theme in 2018," the Times reported. "The comfort level with the broader base of the American people is not there yet," Pelosi said.
The House minority leader, however, is wrong. Polls show the public supports "Medicare for all," and has for years. A recent Economist/YouGov poll, for instance, shows 60 percent support for the policy, including 75 percent of Democrats. Even a plurality of Republicans supports single payer: 46 percent support Medicare for All, compared with 38 percent opposed. (Seventeen percent are not sure.)
This begs the questions: If Medicare for All has popular support why do power brokers like Pelosi claim it isn't viable? What constituency is not "comfortable" with a more efficient system that would provide universal health care? It is an especially relevant question now when we see Republicans go full bore trying to pass a bill that has only 12 percent support from the public, according to a USA Today poll.
The fact is that a very small and powerful group of rich people would be a little less rich if single-payer became a reality. "Insurance and pharmaceutical firms are the most important opponents of single payer," said Dr. David Himmelstein, a founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, in an interview with Truthout. For-profit hospitals and manufacturers of medical devices oppose single-payer for the same reasons, he added.
These industries, and not the public, are the constituency who are not "comfortable," with Medicare for All. This group might represent a very small number of people, but it is disproportionately powerful. In fact, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Pelosi gets more money from health services than from any other industry -- more than double the amount she receives from public-sector unions and investment firms combined:
It matters not what party as it's all about the money.
Tuesday, July 04, 2017
BRT has talked about the cost of raising Bessie for making burgers. Cowspiracy shows just how environmentally devastating our taste for meat truly is. See Cowspiracy on Netflix as the stats for producing or harvesting meat (water/ocean/land use/pollution/resource depletion/degradation) will blow your mind.
Sunday, July 02, 2017
BRT has talked about extraterrestrial civilizations quite often as the chances of intelligent life residing in the vastness of the multiverse, from this rube's perspective, is a lock unless all advanced societies are suicidal to the max, thus leaving us all alone as the one chosen species, a notion rather questionable at best as the number of planets orbiting the trillions of stars out there is just too great to consider that our young and primitive civilization is the only option to a vast reality that extends far beyond the ken of man.
The anti-METI movement is predicated on a grim statistical likelihood: If we do ever manage to make contact with another intelligent life-form, then almost by definition, our new pen pals will be far more advanced than we are. The best way to understand this is to consider, on a percentage basis, just how young our own high-tech civilization actually is. We have been sending structured radio signals from Earth for only the last 100 years. If the universe were exactly 14 billion years old, then it would have taken 13,999,999,900 years for radio communication to be harnessed on our planet. The odds that our message would reach a society that had been tinkering with radio for a shorter, or even similar, period of time would be staggeringly long. Imagine another planet that deviates from our timetable by just a tenth of 1 percent: If they are more advanced than us, then they will have been using radio (and successor technologies) for 14 million years. Of course, depending on where they live in the universe, their signals might take millions of years to reach us. But even if you factor in that transmission lag, if we pick up a signal from another galaxy, we will almost certainly find ourselves in conversation with a more advanced civilization.
A civilization 5000 years more advanced would be gods without question. Something to think about don't you think?