Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kelly Proves He's Trump's Bitch - Like McMaster

John Kelly said he was ‘broken-hearted’ by the politicization of fallen troops.
John Kelly blabbering in defense of President Dotard A. Pussygrabber  today, and attacking a congresswoman of color.

I once upon a time had respect for Gen. John Kelly, like I did for H.R. McMaster I believed each could truly step into the role of adult in the White House day care center, and bring a measure of control and sanity But it appears - as in the case of McMaster, e.g.

McMaster became just a puppet by virtue of his twisting facts and attacking the media. Kelly, however, became a supine birch for not only disrespecting the widow of a slaughtered vet - but referring to an African-American congresswoman (Fredericka Wilson) as an "empty barrel".  A term, as Lawrence O'Donnell noted, would have been the least objectionable epithet used in Kelly's Boston neighborhood. (Desegregation came late to Boston schools, long after Kelly finished high school.)

Let's bear in mind Ms. Wilson was not alone in her interpretation of the call. Johnson’s mother also took issue with Trump’s tone, telling reporters on Wednesday: “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”

On this basis, and Kelly's sad and sorry high horse moralizing to try to save a turd embodying moral turpitude, Kelly lost all credibility for many of us.  And if he's the only thing between Dotard and the nuclear football we really have much to fear.

Breaking years of silence over the death of his own son in Afghanistan, Kelly said he was “broken-hearted” by the politicization of troops who died on the battlefield.  He went on to babble:

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me,”

No  remote inkling by this dumb shit that Ms. Wilson was not eavesdropping behind a door, but in a car when a car phone speaker sounded Dotard's voice, What was she supposed to do, you holier than thou prick? Put her hands to her ears?

He then went on to whine like the bitch he is, because anyone who'd grovel for Dotard IS a bitch,

I thought at least that was sacred … but it [was] eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.”

Selfish behavior? You mean like YOU putting the interests and ego of Dotard above the interests of the nation/ You ought to be fucking ashamed and as Lawrence O'Donnell stated tonight: "It stuns me that Kelly has played into the worst of the  culture,. As O'Donnell put it:

"I was stunned when Kelly dehumanized Fredericka Wilson and refused to even give her the dignity of a name, calling her an empty barrel. He went out of his way to do it."

One way of looking at that, given his Boston background, is that if he'd had his own wish he'd have maybe used the N  word. Who knows? The level of disrespect and dehumanization was essentially the  same. As  O'Donnell said: "It stuns me that Kelly could so callously echo the worst parts of the culture."

Kelly proved what a useless tool he is when he failed to even acknowledge that this week’s furor began when Dotard himself launched an unprompted attack on his predecessors Barack Obama and George W Bush over their (claimed)  lack of outreach to bereaved military families.

He went on to offer a protracted justification for what he said was Trump’s attempt to offer his condolences to LaDavid Johnson’s wife, Myeshia. Kelly said there was “no perfect way to make that phone call”.  Note that Kelly never once denied that Dotard said what Ms. Wilson claimed, i.e. 'he knew what he was signing up for."

And while there may not be "perfect' ways of expressing sympathy to a grieving military widow there are definite bounds of propriety and that demands at least two attributes: 1) you refer to the deceased by name not as "your guy", and 2) You never EVER say that is what he signed up for.

Doubling down Kelly said "He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1% [who serve in uniform],He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war.”

Yeah, Kelly, Johnson knew that but you do not tell a grieving widow that, for god's sakes. What kind of mutt are you, a mutt like Dotard?

The most mind boggling part of Kelly's incoherent rant? Describing Trump as “brave” for making the call. This about the most cowardly, dishonorable and degenerate president in history.  After hearing this one was left with only two judgment choices of Kelly: either he's a fucking dumbass moron or he is Dotard's bitch. Since I do not believe the first, I have to go with the second.

What Kelly proved today is that the amoral atmosphere of the White House is corrosive and its rot threatens and wears on anyone in that  environment. As one commentator put it:

"The fact the chief of staff went out and confirmed that the president has lied has been lost as far as I can see."

Indeed, and recall Trump said the congresswoman's words were "totally fabricated" while Kelly said "that's  just the way he talks". (Transl. He's a dumb shit what would you expect?)  In a way then he confirmed Trump's dishonesty and added a layer of his own. This was by focusing his moral wrath on Fredericka Wilson, in particular suggesting Wilson was intruding on the conversation between Trump and the Johnson family when Wilson had been invited by Johnson's widow to be in the car.

One generous take has been that Kelly went out to try to be a "good soldier" today. In that case, it's a pity he's actually come off as Trump's bitch.

Yes, Puerto Rico's Debt Needs To Be Forgiven

Image result for images of Puerto Rico damage
Scene of desolation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico the issue of bringing the island territory of the U.S. back to economic viability has come to the fore.  Let's recall one of the issues even before the monster storm (barely 2 mph less than category 5) was Puerto Rico's  debt.  But in the wake of  Maria, which could cost the island up to $95 billion, more than double its current debt, there are few good options available. The most likely of which is that, under the existing law, all debt holders, including PREPA (electric utility) bondholders, will be those left largely footing the bill.

Even econ maven Steve Rattner, who initially inveighed against debt forgiveness,  stated flatly in a CNN interview a week ago that investors will have no choice but to "take a haircut".  There is simply no way it can ever be in a position to repay the debt especially after the hurricane's ravages. Rattner of Willett Advisors, originally told Bloomberg TV  that Congressional action might be needed to wipe out the debt.

But this isn't true. (A realization that may have subsequently caused Rattner to change his tune)

Under the PROMESSA act, according to UN sovereign debt consultant Eric LeCompte, the potential for Puerto Rico's debt to be significantly forgiven is a real possibility that will not take an act of Congress. Under the law, the bankruptcy judicial authority has significant latitude to consider the U.S. territory’s ability to pay the debt. The territory also has $50 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

LeCompte pointed out that the super bankruptcy process includes a key provision that pins debt payments to the economic ability of a sovereign region to pay. The provisions of the PROMESA act are more sweeping in this regard than credit leniency afforded to states or other sovereign governments, he said.  Adding - in one online interview with an investor site (ValueWalk):  "When PROMESA legislation was written, it was very specific to Puerto Rico.  It would be very difficult for other territories to have the same latitude under the law.”

LeCompte also noted that money earmarked to pay bondholders is currently being diverted to hurricane relief.  This in itself makes it incomprehensible why Congress would recently pass - as part of general emergency relief-  a $4.9 b  package for the island territory but via a LOAN with interest attached. WTF?!  With bondholder debt diverted to hurricane relief why on Earth would you add more debt as a component of relief?  It's idiotic, but also passing sadistic.

Basically, what the Repukes in Congress have done is to essentially charge Puerto Rico "a leasing fee for the life raft as they drown", in the words of one commentator. How about, instead of treating the people of Puerto Rico like second class citizens, we treat them like the  hurricane victims of Houston? Give them hurricane relief with NO strings, i.e. no interest-bearing loans attached. This so they can get a head start on rebuilding and get on with their lives.

But the zeitgeist appears to be one of calculated cruelty combined with economic stupidity, such as exemplified in a recent WSJ piece ('Forgiving Debt Would Hurt Puerto Rico') by John Tamny. According to Tamny,  Puerto Rico's debt troubles "were the direct result of policies that hurt growth so forgiving its debt would only free Puerto Rico's politicians from having to address the policies that were suffocating its policies to begin with".

What is Tamny's solution? It is "to allow the government to feel the pain of its debt"  then this would "leave politicians no choice but to adopt pro growth policies".  And what pray tell does this mean? Well "a reduction in income taxes for the highest earners".  So, in the analogy of a foot race, Tamny would have the island cut its legs another foot shorter. 

He clearly is still hostage to the supply side nonsense, which almost brought Barbados to ruin in 1991 thanks to its adoption of Reagan's bunkum in 1986.

The fact is that any drop in revenue from whatever source will not help Puerto Rico, given any island state is already behind the financial 'eight ball' by virtue of its geographical situation - being an ISLAND.  Islands (such as Barbados and Puerto Rico) have to have all resources come in from outside - ship or plane - which naturally increases the cost of living. No surprise then that Puerto Rico's cost of living is some 13 percent higher than any location in the U.S.  Barbados cost of living is even higher than Puerto Rico's - as we relearn each time we visit and go the grocery mart.

Puerto Ricans also can’t claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, which serves to both cushion the blow of living in poverty while enticing people into paid work. Those would be useful in a place where the labor force has fallen by about 20 percent over the last decade.

The territory’s economic struggles -  like those of Barbados -  led it to borrow heavily by issuing bonds in an attempt to keep its budget balanced. But it hasn’t been able to climb out of the hole, and in 2015 its governor announced that it couldn’t keep paying its creditors. Because Puerto Rico isn’t a state, it has been denied the ability to go through municipal bankruptcy. Congress instead set up a Financial Oversight Management Board to come up with a plan. So far, the plan calls for austerity measures that include $25.7 billion in spending cuts. The plan even acknowledges that his will lead to another “lost decade” of economic growth for the island (which could easily end up being worse than their projections).

However, economists Joseph Stiglitz and Martin Guzman have pointed out that if the territory’s economy can’t recover, it will continue to have trouble paying anything to creditors, not to mention prolonging the suffering of its residents. Conversely, if the economy is allowed to regain its health, it will have more revenues that it can use to pay people back.

Another option would be to push for the hedge funds and other firms that own Puerto Rico’s debt to write off large portions of it. Under Congress’s plan, the island can unilaterally reduce its debt with the approval of a federal judge. Doing so could have other ramifications—such as increasing borrowing costs—but it’s also worth remembering that investments are inherently risky. Rattner following his change of heart pointed this out. So the same way a stock investor needs to expect the inevitable losses, so also bond investors need to expect the inevitable "hair cuts" if they happen to invest in places, or products, utilities that go under - for whatever reason.

Let's also bear in mind that allowing Puerto Ricans to  continue to suffer will do no one any good and  - if anything - drive hundreds of thousands to abandon the island to come to the mainland U.S. And, as U.S. citizens, there isn't a god damned thing Trump or his Reich wing cronies can do to stop such a mass migration. Don't like it? Then forgive the damned debt, and offer no strings attached money for relief - to rebuild!

See also:


Was the Cancer Cryotherapy Successful? Good Question (The PCA-3 Test)

On arriving at UC Health in Aurora on Oct. 11 for my 4 month post op assessment, following the prostate salvage cryotherapy treatment in June, see. e.g.

I was optimistic that the  PSA test would reveal a reading lower than  2.0 mg/ dl which was the level one month after the therapy. We had to arrive by 1: 30 so I could first go to the on site Oncology hematology lab for the PSA and % free PSA test.. I had to wait about 30 minutes and this meant the results would be roughly an hour delayed in getting to the urology professional assistant (Kristen) with whom I had to meet by 2:30.  

The test was done expeditiously by a medical tech and she said it would immediately be sent for analysis.  Meanwhile I went up to the 2nd floor Urology center to wait to be called for my appointment with Kristen. 

On being called right on time, I first had to have weight and BP taken by the RN assistant, then turned in a sheet with ratings for different urological -sexual functions, e.g. frequency of urination, retention of urine, erectile quality etc.  This data was then entered by her into a computer for the Urological PA to access.

Ten minutes later, Kristen appeared with her computer screen open and we went through the responses. She remained concerned about the urinary and erectile difficulties but assured me this was often a side effect of the cryotherapy - especially for older patients undergoing a salvage treatment (i.e. a second treatment, usually after a primary radiation treatment).  In my case, the primary treatment - the HDR brachytherapy done in September, 2012 at UCSF.

Again, she reiterated the erectile issues were not merely sexual but the importance of getting blood into the tissues, to remain healthy.  Hence, she prescribed a  low dose (5 mg) PDE inhibitor .  Recall the chemical pathways here: the cavernous nerves close to the prostate gland secrete nitric oxide which stimulates release of an enzyme (cyclic GMP) inside the smooth muscle cells. This promotes relaxation of smooth muscles and erection. An enzyme known as PDE5 prevents this,  else there may be a prolonged erection. Hence, a PDE5 inhibitor works to suppress secretion of the PDE5 enzyme.

About fifteen minutes later after the free PSA and PSA test results arrived on her laptop, she informed me of the results: 2.09 PSA and 4.8 % free PSA.  As she explained to wifey and me these results were not sanguine, especially the latter. In the case of free PSA you want the % as high as possible to indicate most of the prostate specific antigen is bound up with normal prostate cells.  The combination of the two results, she noted - using an on site software program developed by Dr. David Crawford - yielded a 55 percent probability the PSA was due to malignant cells.

This then led to her doing a urine test called the PCA-3, which is well explained by this UK site,


"The test is in two parts. You have a rectal examination and then a urine test. A rectal examination is where the doctor puts a gloved finger into the back passage (rectum). It is possible to feel the prostate gland by doing this. You need to have a rectal examination because this massages the prostate gland and helps the PCA3 to go into the urine. You have to give the urine sample straight after the rectal examination. You normally get the results within a few days"

So with this in mind, she had me prepare and bend over her examination table, warning me in advance this would entail not only the usual DRE but also a prostate massage to force the biomarker into the urine tract.  Hence, there would be a degree of discomfort.  In this she wasn't kidding, and  while the entire procedure lasted just  over three minutes it felt like three hours.  While not painful like a trans-rectal biopsy it was definitely no 'walk in the park' - even a short one.

As she massaged the gland she told me what she felt, including "lumpiness" which was a "result of the cryotherapy".  She said that the process of the massage should also relieve pressure on the nerves as well as pushing fluids into the urinary tract.

Immediately following the procedure she handed me the specially labelled cup to produce a urine sample, using the bathroom across from the exam room. I confess it took seven or eight minutes to produce a stream of urine even adequate to get 1/3 the cup filled.  She later explained this was normal and was a result of the massage.

With the sample delivered, we left - prescription in hand - and booked the next three month visit on the way out. As I mentioned to wifey, I just hoped the numbers - including from the PCA-3 test- would be much better next time. Else, what was the point of going through yet another prostate cancer treatment?

Any positives? Anything? Well, after turning in on the night of the procedure I experienced the first nocturnal emission in nearly fifty years.  While irritated about having to change underwear, sheets, I did consider that the prostate massage -though extremely uncomfortable- did produce at least one  seeming positive "return".  In fact, on four successive nights I also experienced nocturnal erections that had been absent since the cryotherapy on June 20.  As wifey joked, "the trick is to translate them into day time erections".  Well, one step at a time!

See also:
And a detailed published paper on the PCA-3:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Small Asteroid Early Warning And Targeting Just Got Real With Passage of 2012 TC4

Image result for images for Chelyabinsk asteroid
Image of the Chelyabinsk asteroid's exploded trail  over Chelyabinsk in 2013.

Who could forget the passage of the Chelyabinsk small asteroid as it passed over the city by that name in central Russia in February, 2013? The event was energetic enough to injure over  1,000 people by flying debris as the shock wave from the explosion swept across the Russian city, shattering windows and leaving a trail of damage.  The explosion was estimated to have had a force greater than 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs, according to NASA scientists, and the shock wave was so powerful it travelled twice around the world.

As reported in Physics Today (Sept., 2014, p. 32) the object has now gone down in infamy as being 20 m (66 feet)  diameter, entering the Earth's atmosphere at 19 km/s.   Based on a 3-dimensional simulation using a shock code developed at Sandia National Laboratories (originally intended to model nuclear explosions). the Lab's supercomputer showed that the Chelyabinsk blast was at least a half megaton, or comparable to the yield of many U.S. warheads on ICBMs, like the 'Minuteman'.
No automatic alt text available.
Scandia Lab simulation panel for Chelyabinsk event.(From Physics Today, Sept., 2014)

Some of the ancillary information and insights that the Sandia team has assembled with other data:

- The entry at 19 km/s meant that it originated from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter - not from a ballistically launched missile whose velocity would only be about 11.2 km/s or a short period comet with a mean speed of 35 km/s.

-  The altitude of the blast indicated the object was small and weak. The diameter of 20 m (66 feet) was estimated base on the observed velocity factored together with the assumed density of the material.

- The asteroid first felt the presence of Earth's atmosphere while it was thousands of miles above the Pacific Ocean and for a dozen minutes the 10,000 ton rock fell swiftly and unobserved passing at shallow angle through the atmosphere where the molecular mean free path was much greater than the 20 m diameter.

- When it crossed over the border into Russia at 3:20:20 UT and was 100 km in altitude 99.99997 % of the atmosphere still lay beneath it.

- For the better part of 10 seconds the asteroid hurtled through the air as a rigid body moving at a shallow angle, 17 degrees relative to the horizon and descending 1 km for every 3 km of flight.

- At about 45 km altitude the entry dynamics began to change. The dynamic pressure then built up from 0.7 Mpa (millions of Pascals, where 1 Pa = 1 atm equivalent), Within a couple more seconds, below 40 km, pressure on the now fracturing asteroid increased past 1 MPa, breaking it into a number of smaller fragments.

- As the pressure then grew exponentially the process cascaded and formed ever smaller fragments that rapidly increased the surface to volume ratio. As the fragments ablated the hot gas between them built up finally resulting in a chain reaction and a massive explosion converting the asteroid's kinetic energy into heat and pressure (yielding the shock wave that shattered windows).

All of the preceding is again relevant as learned of the recent close passage of the small asteroid 2012 TC4 over Antarctica  at a too close distance of 27, 200 miles. TC4 was estimated to be travelling through space at roughly 16,000 mph - 4.5 miles a second.

Artist's conception of 2012 TC 4 passing in vicinity of Earth.

2012 TC4, was first spotted five years ago by the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory, in Hawaii, before disappearing as it orbits the sun. It then reemerged in July on a trajectory well inside our lunar orbit.  A sketch of the object's trajectory is shown below:
Close approach of asteroid 2012 TC4 poses no danger to Earth
Depiction of the trajectory of 2012 TC 4 on Oct. 12.

Observations reveal that 2012 TC4 is an elongated and rapidly rotating object that has been known to make many close approaches to Earth in the past. The space rock orbits the sun approximately every 1.67 years at a distance of about 1.4 AU. Astronomers estimate that 2012 TC4 has a diameter between 26 to 85 feet (8 to 26 meters).   Note the size which is near the diameter range of the Chelyabinsk object. In other words, had TC 4  entered the Earth's atmosphere it could have delivered a similar air blast to that arising from the Chelyabinsk object.

Thankfully, TC 4's approach was planned for in advance as a test object for an asteroid early warning network - something I've been harping on for over three decades.  Thus, long before it got within a tenth of the Moon's distance NASA had planned to use the flyby to test early warning for incoming space rocks.  Observatories world wide - part of the International Asteroid Warning Network - had been focused in an TC 4 for weeks to test communication and coordination.

Before this close pass, researchers had relied on "tabletop" tests - or computer simulations with no actual asteroids involved.   These sort of simulations make for nice abstract exercises but don't deliver much in terms of real time, actual asteroid threat factors.

What still remains is how one of these beasts might be stopped say if it's trajectory was determined to be headed for New York City, or New Orleans.  Back in March, 2013 I noted the development of  a high-powered 50kW laser by a German firm ( had the power to knock down a drone from two miles away, and cut through a steel girder from 1kilometer away. Yet it was accurate enough to hit a target the size of a mortar round which got me to thinking of using multiple similar lasers in an effort to deflect small (< 50m dia.) asteroids. These would be similar to the Chelyabinsk object that recently exploded over central Russia. The German defense firm Rheinmetall Defence that developed it – could conceivably get its name in lights.

Think then of several Russian and U.S. craft carrying these devices to intercept an oncoming small (‘city buster’) asteroid before it can wreak havoc. If the detailed effects and dynamics can be worked out before hand, I see no reason why the oncoming threat can’t be stopped. Or, would we rather spend $20 billion more on missile “defense” systems that have been shown to be useless?

After the close pass of 2012 TC 4 this becomes much more than an abstract, academic exercise. The recent encounter shows me that it is crucial we not only be able to confidently track small asteroids, but also come up with ways to destroy them - say if one is bearing down on a major population center.

As the hackneyed phrase goes, "if we can send men to the Moon and back......."/

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Heavy Elements Problem May Finally Be Solved By New Gravitational Waves Detection From Colliding Neutron Stars

Neutron star merger seen in gravity and matter

Diagram of laser interferometer such as employed by LIGO (from Wikipedia)

The news that a collision of two neutron stars has precipitated another detection of gravitational waves by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), has the world of astrophysics abuzz and with good reason. It confirms the import of the laser interferometer principle used in gravitational wave detection (see diagram 2) and biw in the setting of another type of collision- between two neutron stars. Recall the original report occurred in February, last year, based on detecting gravitational waves from two colliding black holes in late 2015.

LIGO’s  original discovery, accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters,  is summarized in the  abstract below:

Based on the data cited in the above link, the two black holes were each roughly 30 times the mass of the Sun. They evidently merged some 1.3 billion light years from Earth. The  gravitational waves themselves were generated in the final moments before the black holes merged. The signal was brief but definitive and we on Earth have now received it.

LIGO features 2 L-shaped detectors (one in Hanford, WA, the other in Livingston, LA)  made up of two perpendicular arms totaling 2.5 miles long. Then a laser beam is split and travels along both arms, bouncing off respective mirrors to return to the L-intersection. Normally, the beams are aligned so they balance each other out and hence there's nothing to detect. But if a gravitational wave is intercepted it creates a tiny mismatch which is what LIGO detects. (One of the authors of the paper has referred to it as a "chirp".  The effect of this chirp or ripple changes the arms' lengths by a tiny amount, and that change can be detected by lasers.)

To determine the specific location of the source multiple detectors are used, both to distinguish signals from other "noise" by confirming the signal is not of earthly origin, and also to determine direction by means of triangulation.  In such triangulations a third LIGO site is used, namely one near Pisa, Italy, with a 3 km interferometer. The technique uses the fact that the gravitational waves travel at the speed of light and will reach different detectors at different times depending on their source direction. Although the differences in arrival time may be just a few milliseconds, this is sufficient to identify the direction of the origin of the wave with considerable precision.

In 1915 Albert Einstein, in a remarkable achievement of theoretical physics, used an abstruse form of math known as tensor calculus to predict the existence of gravitational waves. This was by way of showing how gravitational distortions arise when mass or energy warp space-time.  The ground breaking field equation that relates these parameters was summarized:

G mn   =  - ½ g mn  G=  - 8 p T mn   

Where the  T mn    denotes the associated  “stress-energy” tensor which incorporates internal stresses, the density of matter and its component velocities (u, v, w or in some texts: u1, u2 and u3).  

Now, the collision of a pair of neutron stars has again brought gravitational waves front and center given it may finally  resolve how the heaviest elements originated. The collision itself occurred some 130 million years ago when dinosaurs still walked the Earth, but the signal was only detected on August 17, 2016 given light propagates at a finite speed: 300,000 km/s.

Recall that the current theory of stellar evolution postulates that elements are built up in the cores of heavy stars (> 10 solar masses)by nucleosynthesis a la successive fusion reactions.  A key transition point occurs after carbon is formed in the core, and reaches a critical density and temperature to detonate. The resulting deflagration, which includes the core separating from the exploding outer layers, turns the star into an instant nuclear factory. Nickel and iron are formed as well as lighter elements in the imploding shells including of: magnesium, sulphur, silicon, manganese, chromium and a host of lesser atomic weight elements- are evolved.

The problem is that no heavier elements than iron can be envisaged although some theoreticians have postulated they can arise in the context of supernova explositions.  In the latter case a stage is reached whereby differing  neutron fluences  arise. These fluences, if conditions are right,  can then produce the elements known as actinides such as uranium and thorium but no longer containing  the A=130 abundance peak.  This is believed to occur over seconds time scales via the r-(rapid  neutron capture) process.  But the only modern nearby supernova, 1987A, has not revealed r-process enhancements. Modern thinking is that the r-process yield may be ejected from some supernovae but swallowed up in others as part of the residual neutron star.

Note that the neutron star is an ultradense stellar remnant of a  core-collapsed by supernova. The neutron star is the smallest, densest  known to exist with diameter scales typically about 12 miles wide.  One  teaspoon of neutron star material would have a mass of about a billion tons. The core is a soup of pure neutrons, while the crust is smooth, solid and 10 billion times stronger than steel. Basically to achieve neutron star status protons and electrons are forced so closely together that they fuse, merge. e- + p +  ->   n.

So the current excitement is that the gravitational wave data from these colliding neutron stars may finally solve the heavier- than- iron elements origin problem.  Dave Reitze, executive director of LIGO, said in an interview with the Guardian: “What is amazing about this discovery is it is the first time we’ve got a full picture of one of the most violent, cataclysmic events in the universe. This is the most intense observational campaign there has ever been.”

The 100-second hum picked up by LIGO has told the story of how the two neutron stars to be, each slightly heavier than the Sun, approached their demise. Initially separated by 200 miles, they circled each other 30 times a second. As they whirled inwards, accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second, the signal rose in pitch like a train whistle or ambulance alarm approaching. Two seconds later, NASA’s Fermi space telescope picked up an intense burst of gamma rays, emitted as shockwaves propagating through jets of matter funneled out of the poles during the energetic impact of the collision.

  The chief problem here is the estimate of the source volume.  This is facilitated in the neutron star case given we have that the components are separated by less than 300 km and accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second. This necessitates a tiny volume and implies that a lot of mass-energy will be distorting the associated region of space-time, and in this case leading ultimately to a black hole from the collision.  This distortion itself is bound up with the stress-energy tensor T mn.

Note that the most common parameter describing the amplitude  for a gravitational wave is a dimensionless "strain" h = 2 ∫∫ g' dt ². ... Thus h is twice the fractional change in displacement between two nearby masses due to the gravitational wave. 

According to Prof Andreas Freise, a LIGO project scientist at the University of Birmingham: 

Neutron stars are at this sweet spot between a star and a black hole.  When two of them collide, we expect them to immediately collapse into a black hole, leaving behind a bit of dust and stuff.”

David Shoemaker, spokesman for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, said: “It’s [probably] the first observation of a black hole being created where there was none before, which is pretty darn cool.”

The recent observations also herald a new era of rapid-response astronomy, in which transient and unexpected cosmic events can be observed in detail for the first time. When LIGO's software picked up a signal at 13:41  GMT on 17 August, Shoemaker was one of a small team at LIGO to be alerted by a ringtone on his phone reserved for when black holes or neutron stars collide.

Within an hour, the detection had been confirmed by Virgo, a European gravitational wave detector near Pisa, the source of the signal had been triangulated to a small patch of sky and a global alert was triggered.

Prof Stephen Smartt, of Queen’s University Belfast, had been leading a five-day observation run of supernovae on the New Technology Telescope at La Silla, Chile, when the news came in. Smartt’s team, and those on other telescopes, observed the faint new blob and measured its spectrum to assess the chemical composition. The blob was a fireball of radioactive heavy chemical elements, known as a kilonova, that had been blown out from the collision at one fifth of the speed of light shortly after the gamma ray burst.

As I pointed out earlier, previously astrophysicists had speculated that the sheer rapidity of neutron capture (via r-process) would be enough to force extra neutrons into the nuclei of atoms, forging heavy elements like uranium. .  Later the conjecture altered to considering the sheer mega-force of neutron collisions in violent events to forge heavy elements like gold and platinum  But until now this idea was purely theoretical.  After all, what kind of violent cosmic event would be needed to make it work?  In the words of Prof. Freise:

People have been looking for that forever,”


This is the first real confirmation that heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium are either solely or predominantly produced in binary neutron star collisions. The wedding band on your finger or the gold watch you’re wearing was most likely produced a billion years ago by two neutron stars colliding. That’s pretty cool.”

Let's also reference that earlier this month, three U.S. astrophysicists (Rainer, Weiss,  Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne)  who played a crucial role in the development of LIGO were awarded the Nobel prize in physics for the first detection of gravitational waves. Shoemaker pointed out that two of the new laureates – and others – had been working on the project long before it captured the world’s attention.  As he observed:

This kind of thing doesn’t happen because there are suddenly neat instruments. It’s decades of work and people working together in a collaborative way. It’s quite phenomenal.”

Indeed it is. For those interested the findings were published on Monday in a series of papers in journals including Science, Nature and Physics Review Letters.  For an abstract of the work appearing in the latter, see:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Select Questions-Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (2. Variations In Earth's Rotation)

Image result for brane space, Earth slowing down

Question -
I heard that due to friction the Earth’s rotation rate is slowing down.  If so, what
is the source of friction?  How does it slow down the speed?

Answer -

First, the investigation of Earth’s  rotation is not a simple matter. The
reason is that the Earth's shape departs from a perfect sphere. Thus, for example,
one cannot simply calculate ONE moment of inertia - say 0.4MR 2  for a
sphere - but must reckon separate axial and equatorial moments since
the Earth is oblate, e.g. the polar diameter is less than the equatorial.

To be specific, the equatorial moment of inertia is roughly 1/300 of the
axial moment. This may seem like an insignificant difference - but when
one is dealing with extremely small measures, times, it emerges as

Second, the changes in Earth's rotation are not uniform across the board-
though true, there is a general long term trend to slow down - arising
from the tidal breaking of the Moon.

Let's go into this a bit more - prior to me giving examples of how the
Earth's rotation can get faster.

The Earth rotates faster than the Moon moves in its orbit. Because the
tides are linked to the more slowly moving Moon, they act by friction as a
brake on Earth's rotation, gradually slowing it down.
 (It is estimated by 0.0007 seconds per century)

The angular momentum lost by the rotating Earth in this process is
transferred to the Moon's angular momentum. Thus, the Moon is accelerated
in its orbit, causing it to slowly spiral outwards, away from Earth. The
day and month are thus lengthening at different rates.

Calculations have actually been retro-worked to show how the length of
month differed when the Moon was much closer to Earth in the past. For
example, when the Moon was only 16,000 km away (10,000 miles) the month
was approximately seven mean solar days long.

Similar calculations based on the conservation of angular momentum also
allow us to project into the future. Thus, about three billion years
hence the day and month will be equal - about 47 of our present days
long -  and the Earth will always turn the same face towards the Moon.

Now, let's get back to exceptions to day lengthening. These mostly arise
from sporadic tectonic events such as earthquakes- or more recently the
Indian Ocean tsunami, and the massive sea quake that incepted it.

Recent computations of the seismic moment arising from the generating
quake have determined that the length of day briefly decreased by
about 2.68 micro-seconds. (This would be analogous to a spinning ice
skater briefly pulling her arms in closer to herself).

Then too, cumulative earthquakes over magnitude 5 (of which there have
been 21, 600 since 1977) have an overall tendency to make the whole planet
rounder and more compact in all directions, thereby shortening the length
of day.

It is also theorized that mammoth solar flares - by expanding the
atmosphere- can also contribute to a change in the rotation rate. How
exactly remains to be worked out, but no doubt friction (creating drag)
between atmosphere and planetary surface might play a role.

All this is to try to make you aware that variations in the Earth's rotation
arise from multiple sources and can alter in either the positive
or negative direction. Again, the general trend is for slowdown - owing
to the reasons given earlier.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trump's Dereliction And Nuclear Security Risk Shows The Electoral College Needs To Be Scrapped

At the end of last year, I warned that the Electoral College had ceased to be what it was intended for: the final backstop or check against "mischief of faction" and an unqualified,  Queens' real estate  con man getting into the highest office to defile it and ruin the nation.  The electors - members of the  Electoral College - had one chance, and one only, to prove once and for all it wasn't an archaic, useless anachronism and they blew it. That chance occurred on December 19th  last year when electors had the ability (and responsibility) to prevent a totally unqualified nitwit and looneytune from occupying the highest office in the land. And they fucked it up big time, let's not mince words.

Alexander Hamilton himself-  in Federalist #68 -  saw the need to stop such an egomaniacal, autocratic demagogue from becoming President,  so why not an ordinary citizen elector? Especially when, as Kathleen Parker noted in a column days before the Electoral College met:

"Without consulting advisers or “sleeping on it,” for which he is not known, Trump can authorize a nuke upon the slightest provocation — or none. All previous presidents have had the same authority, of course, but all have also been experienced statesmen, nary a reality-show celebrity (nor snake-oil salesman) among them."

Hamilton for his own part was blunt and to the point and his words in The Federalist  #68  bear directly on Trump's entanglements with foreign businesses and diplomats:

"Nothing is more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to a cabal, intrigue or corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?"

Hamilton was particularly emphatic when he wrote:

"the office of President shall never fall to the lot of any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications"

"Shall never fall to any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications". The words could not be any clearer! What has  manifested since Trump's inauguration is that he is the very embodiment of the classless rabble rouser and degenerate the founders feared taking office - which is WHY they established the electoral college.

The mutt not only lacks the requisite qualifications but poses a mortal danger to the Republic, as is becoming ever clearer with time. Especially when the sources inside the White House question whether Jim Mattis or Gen. Kelly will be so brave as to "tackle" Trump if he tries to execute a nuclear all out first strike (a la the fictional character Greg Stillson- who imagined it in the film 'The Dead Zone').

This is something that my Revolutionary War ancestor (Conrad Brumbaugh) would see in a heartbeat, and why he'd also agree Trump needs to be removed from the seat of power now.  He has mutated to the most severe national security risk this country has ever faced. Far exceeding any threat from Iran, North Korea or Russia. Why? Because he has exclusive access to the nuclear codes which he can punch in at any time his ginormous ego  and sufficient pique "demands" it

Don't believe me? Think this is over heated imagination or partisan puffery? Then you need to read conservative columnist Michael Gerson's recent piece in The Washington Post ('Republicans, It's Time To Panic')   In the following passage he puts it perhaps best:

"It is no longer possible to safely ignore the leaked cries for help coming from within the administration. They reveal a president raging against enemies, obsessed by slights, deeply uninformed and incurious, unable to focus, and subject to destructive whims. A main task of the chief of staff seems to be to shield him from dinner guests and telephone calls that might set him off on a foolish or dangerous tangent. Much of the White House senior staff seems bound, not by loyalty to the president, but by a duty to protect the nation from the president. Trump, in turn, is reported to have said: “I hate everyone in the White House.” And also, presumably, in the State Department, headed by a secretary of state who apparently regards his boss as a “moron.”


"The security of our country — and potentially the lives of millions of people abroad — depends on Trump being someone else entirely. It depends on the president being some wise, strategic, restrained leader he has never been.

The time for whispered criticisms and quiet snickering is over. The time for panic and decision is upon us. The thin line of sane, responsible advisers at the White House — such as Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — could break at any moment. Already, Trump’s protests of eternal love for Kelly are a bad sign for the general’s future. The American government now has a dangerous fragility at its very center. Its welfare is as thin as an eggshell — perhaps as thin as Donald Trump’s skin. "

And yes, I've deliberately bolded the words so they stand out. I want them to embed themselves in people's minds.

What it all adds up to - as the nation (including Puerto Rico) unravels on account of Trump and his deranged policies -  is that we are living on borrowed time. It also means that the Electoral College has proven once and for all to have been a useless artifact of the past. It did not live up to the intentions of the founders to prevent an outright fool, fraud and mentally  unfit reprobate from taking office. The electors became mere rubber stamps as opposed to proactively acting in the nation's interest.

Note the poll result in the graphic at the top. What it discloses is that more citizens realize the person holding the highest office lacks the mental capacity and emotional stability to do the job. He is as out of his depth as a sociopath con man would be commanding our armed forces, Wait! That's the situation we have!

Bottom line? You don't just put into office those who appear to have captured the zeitgeist of some deranged notion of populism. We need men or women who are mentally and emotionally capable of taking criticism, of learning on the job (including reading all PDBs, or presidents' daily briefs), and being capable of remaining focused on the security of this nation. By contrast, Dotard has shown himself incapable of even providing security for the American citizens of Puerto Rico - while  insisting "FEMA can't stay there forever". Oblivious that no Puerto Rican wants FEMA or the military to remain there "forever". They just want them there until the island territory of the U.S. is stabilized and in particular to deliver drinkable water and food NOW!

Then there is Dotard's "decertifying" of the Iran Nuclear Accord when that nation has been in technical compliance as even Rex Tillerson admitted. France, Germany and the UK all have repeatedly confirmed Iran's compliance and that 98 percent of nuclear fuels for weapons have been disposed of.  Trump's circus act also alienates all the European signatories to this deal and effectively converts the U.S. to a rogue state on the nuclear scene - and one that can't abide by treaties. (The trope that it needs "Senate confirmation" to be a "real treaty" is codswallop as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists notes,)  John Kerry - then Secretary of State who worked on it - put it bluntly:

"This is a reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology."

As for Gen. John Kelly's boffo spin performance the other day - to squash the source reports Dotard is unravelling-  no one with an IQ over room temperature believes a word of it. In fact, all Kelly has succeeded in doing is proving the opposite: that if a chief of staff has to go out and clean up the doo doo there really is an unfathomable shit storm going on behind the scenes.   As Council Of Foreign Relations member Max Boot put it two nights ago in an MSNBC interview:

"The message is not credible. If you're having to call a press conference to deny that you're leaving the administration and that the president is unstable,  that's kind of like Richard Nixon calling a press conference to say I am not a crook. The very fact that you're denying it seems to confirm it. 

And we see the confirmation with our own eyes. Let's not forget  yesterday the president of the United States said it was crazy that a news outlet can write whatever it wants to say. He is attacking the first amendment. And today he's attacking the people of Puerto Rico 86 percent of whom still have no electricity. This is not normal and lends a lot of credence to these stories that yes, he is spinning out of control."

Make no mistake that is one aspect of  why the founders proposed an Electoral College, i.e.  as a rational check on popular over exuberance, the other being mischief of faction.  Recall the latter was noted by James Madison in The Federalist #10. As Madison described it:

"Mischief of faction is when citizens - whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole - are united and actuated by a common impulse of passion to cast their votes adverse to the rights of other citizens or the permanent and aggregate interests of the community". 

This is exactly what the Trump voters did, motivated by inflamed passions, gullibility and moral recklessness via Trump's often violent rallies to give a middle finger to the rest of the country. They thereby militated against the majority's interests.

The Electoral College was established to pull the plug on such popular recklessness, to prevent its expedient, hastily chosen 'avatar' from assuming power.  This was not achieved because the electors did not do their due diligence. They opted instead to simply rubber stamp the state electoral tallies without question.

But given the parlous pass Dotard has taken us to - which any sane citizen can see- then the dereliction of the electors' actions is self evident in retrospectThus, the Electoral College  never fulfilled its primary directive to halt the assumption of power by an unqualified, mentally unbalanced person defined by breathtaking moral turpitude. Since it did not fulfill that mission then it is clearly useless, and indeed, dangerous to the nation - since we cannot assume that if citizens commit mischief of faction once they won't repeat.