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Archive for November 9th, 2016

And so it begins: Omarosa hints at a Donald Trump enemies list: “It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear”

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That didn’t take long at all. So they are compiling these lists of people whom Donald Trump considers as “enemies” (e.g., the 11 women who have accused him of sexual assault and whom he has promised to sue). And with his new position, Trump can doubtless get complete electronic surveillance of those people—”Look, if they’re not doing anything wrong, they have no reason to worry.” Later, perhaps, steps will be taken. Boy, those SWAT teams are going to be busy!

Matthew Rozsa starts his Salon post:

Foreshadowing the possibility that the worst fears of Donald Trump’s critics have merit, Omarosa Manigault — who met Trump while competing on “The Apprentice” and has campaigned for him in this election — has discussed how the Republican victor has been keeping an enemies list.

“It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House, we know where we stand,” Manigault told Independent Journal Review at Trump’s election night party on Wednesday.

She also referenced a tweet sent by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday afternoon.

“If [Graham] felt his interests was with that candidate, God bless him,” Manigault remarked. “I would never judge anybody for exercising their right to and the freedom to choose who they want. But let me just tell you, Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list.”

Although Graham has made it clear for months that he would not endorse Trump’s candidacy, voting against Trump broke the pledge that the 17 Republican presidential candidates had signed vowing to support their party’s eventual nominee.

Manigault naturally seized on this as confirmation that Graham, along with the rest of the Washington establishment is simply not honest. . .

Continue reading.

We do know, based on his public record of past behavior, he does think it is extremely important to take revenge. I bet the enemies list was pretty long just from his pre-campaign life, but once his running for public office in general and the presidency in particular, and being as thin-skinned and humorless as he is, the enemies list must be going through a period of rapid inflation.

Pay careful  attention to this statement. She means what she says and she is painting an explicit picture of the future:

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2016 at 3:53 pm

You must listen to Terry Gross interview of James Fallows on Trump and the campaign

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VERY worthwhile. And I don’t listen to podcasts normally, but this one is different. Listen.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2016 at 1:32 pm

Exercise: Think like a terrorist

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Donald Trump talked a lot about “Islamic terrorists” in his campaign and also promised to destroy ISIS (by means he refused to specify). So I imagine that he’s attracted their attention in addition to whatever attention they normally give to the US as a target.

And Trump is the first US President to have extensive real-estate holdings: resorts, golf courses, and hotels. Terrorists have specifically targeted hotels a number of times, but they’ve never had the opportunity before to target a hotel that belongs to a President. And hotels seem like soft targets, with strangers commonly present, coming and going. A hotel’s business is by definition to offer lodging to strangers—those away from home.

I can’t imagine that this thought has not also occurred to terrorists and to the FBI.

And, speaking of his hotels, resorts, and golf courses, you’ll recall how his own companies charged his campaign big fees for services rendered, fees paid by campaign contributions. I have to believe that, under Trump, a great many government conferences, meetings, and retreats will be held at Trump properties.

If I were the property manager, I would look to security precautions, particularly on January 20, 2017: Inauguration Day. The temptation to terrorists is, I imagine, quite great.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2016 at 12:39 pm

A New Spin on the Quantum Brain

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Jennifer Ouelette reports in Quanta:

The mere mention of “quantum consciousness” makes most physicists cringe, as the phrase seems to evoke the vague, insipid musings of a New Age guru. But if a new hypothesis proves to be correct, quantum effects might indeed play some role in human cognition. Matthew Fisher, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, raised eyebrows late last year when he published a paper in Annals of Physics proposing that the nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms could serve as rudimentary “qubits” in the brain — which would essentially enable the brain to function like a quantum computer.

As recently as 10 years ago, Fisher’s hypothesis would have been dismissed by many as nonsense. Physicists have been burned by this sort of thing before, most notably in 1989, when Roger Penrose proposed that mysterious protein structures called “microtubules” played a role in human consciousness by exploiting quantum effects. Few researchers believe such a hypothesis plausible. Patricia Churchland, a neurophilosopher at the University of California, San Diego, memorably opined that one might as well invoke “pixie dust in the synapses” to explain human cognition.

Fisher’s hypothesis faces the same daunting obstacle that has plagued microtubules: a phenomenon called quantum decoherence. To build an operating quantum computer, you need to connect qubits — quantum bits of information — in a process called entanglement. But entangled qubits exist in a fragile state. They must be carefully shielded from any noise in the surrounding environment. Just one photon bumping into your qubit would be enough to make the entire system “decohere,” destroying the entanglement and wiping out the quantum properties of the system. It’s challenging enough to do quantum processing in a carefully controlled laboratory environment, never mind the warm, wet, complicated mess that is human biology, where maintaining coherence for sufficiently long periods of time is well nigh impossible.

Over the past decade, however, growing evidence suggests that certain biological systems might employ quantum mechanics. In photosynthesis, for example, quantum effects help plants turn sunlight into fuel. Scientists have also proposed that migratory birds have a “quantum compass” enabling them to exploit Earth’s magnetic fields for navigation, or that the human sense of smell could be rooted in quantum mechanics.

Fisher’s notion of quantum processing in the brain broadly fits into this emerging field of quantum biology. Call it quantum neuroscience. He has developed a complicated hypothesis, incorporating nuclear and quantum physics, organic chemistry, neuroscience and biology. While his ideas have met with plenty of justifiable skepticism, some researchers are starting to pay attention. “Those who read his paper (as I hope many will) are bound to conclude: This old guy’s not so crazy,” wrote John Preskill, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, after Fisher gave a talk there. “He may be on to something. At least he’s raising some very interesting questions.”

Senthil Todadri, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fisher’s longtime friend and colleague, is skeptical, but he thinks that Fisher has rephrased the central question — is quantum processing happening in the brain? — in such a way that it lays out a road map to test the hypothesis rigorously. “The general assumption has been that of course there is no quantum information processing that’s possible in the brain,” Todadri said. “He makes the case that there’s precisely one loophole. So the next step is to see if that loophole can be closed.” Indeed, Fisher has begun to bring together a team to do laboratory tests to answer this question once and for all.

Finding the Spin

Fisher belongs to something of a physics dynasty: His father, Michael E. Fisher, is a prominent physicist at the University of Maryland, College Park, whose work in statistical physics has garnered numerous honors and awards over the course of his career. His brother, Daniel Fisher, is an applied physicist at Stanford University who specializes in evolutionary dynamics. Matthew Fisher has followed in their footsteps, carving out a highly successful physics career. He shared the prestigious Oliver E. Buckley Prize in 2015 for his research on quantum phase transitions.

So what drove him to move away from mainstream physics and toward the controversial and notoriously messy interface of biology, chemistry, neuroscience and quantum physics? His own struggles with clinical depression.

Fisher vividly remembers that February 1986 day when he woke up feeling numb and jet-lagged, as if he hadn’t slept in a week. “I felt like I had been drugged,” he said. Extra sleep didn’t help. Adjusting his diet and exercise regime proved futile, and blood tests showed nothing amiss. But his condition persisted for two full years. “It felt like a migraine headache over my entire body every waking minute,” he said. It got so bad he contemplated suicide, although the birth of his first daughter gave him a reason to keep fighting through the fog of depression.

Eventually he found a psychiatrist who prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant, and within three weeks his mental state started to lift. “The metaphorical fog that had so enshrouded me that I couldn’t even see the sun — that cloud was a little less dense, and I saw there was a light behind it,” Fisher said. Within nine months he felt reborn, despite some significant side effects from the medication, including soaring blood pressure. He later switched to Prozac and has continuously monitored and tweaked his specific drug regimen ever since.

His experience convinced him that the drugs worked. But Fisher was surprised to discover that neuroscientists understand little about the precise mechanisms behind how they work. That aroused his curiosity, and given his expertise in quantum mechanics, he found himself pondering the possibility of quantum processing in the brain. Five years ago he threw himself into learning more about the subject, drawing on his own experience with antidepressants as a starting point.

Since nearly all psychiatric medications are complicated molecules, he focused on one of the most simple, lithium, which is just one atom — a spherical cow, so to speak, that would be an easier model to study than Prozac, for instance. The analogy is particularly appropriate because a lithium atom is a sphere of electrons surrounding the nucleus, Fisher said. He zeroed in on the fact that the lithium available by prescription from your local pharmacy is mostly a common isotope called lithium-7. Would a different isotope, like the much more rare lithium-6, produce the same results? In theory it should, since the two isotopes are chemically identical. They differ only in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.

When Fisher searched the literature, he found that an experiment comparing the effects of lithium-6 and lithium-7 had been done. In 1986, scientists at Cornell University examined the effects of the two isotopes on the behavior of rats. Pregnant rats were separated into three groups: One group was given lithium-7, one group was given the isotope lithium-6, and the third served as the control group. Once the pups were born, the mother rats that received lithium-6 showed much stronger maternal behaviors, such as grooming, nursing and nest-building, than the rats in either the lithium-7 or control groups.

This floored Fisher. Not only should the chemistry of the two isotopes be the same, the slight difference in atomic mass largely washes out in the watery environment of the body. So what could account for the differences in behavior those researchers observed?

Fisher believes the secret might lie in the nuclear spin, which is a quantum property that affects how long each atom can remain coherent — that is, isolated from its environment. The lower the spin, the less the nucleus interacts with electric and magnetic fields, and the less quickly it decoheres.

Because lithium-7 and lithium-6 have different numbers of neutrons, they also have different spins. As a result, lithium-7 decoheres too quickly for the purposes of quantum cognition, while lithium-6 can remain entangled longer.

Fisher had found two substances, alike in all important respects save for quantum spin, and found that they could have very different effects on behavior. For Fisher, this was a tantalizing hint that quantum processes might indeed play a functional role in cognitive processing.

Quantum Protection Scheme

. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2016 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Science

Elections have consequences: What the coming months may bring

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Trump has not stated any detailed policy positions, and he certainly shows no hesitation in denying that he’s said things that were videotaped so we have a record of him saying them, but some things he’s promised to do that should start to become visible in the next months:

Withdrawing support from NATO – not all support, presumably, but the US will have a much smaller role. Trump clearly intends that Europe see to its own defense, plus Trump seems quite admiring of Putin’s Russia. Perhaps some alliance may emerge.

Withdrawing from South Korea and Japan and SE Asia in general – Trump made it clear that he does not see the US as having a responsibility to protect South Korea and Japan, and he advised those nations to build their own nuclear weapons.

Lawsuits against the women who accused him of sexual assault – At Gettysburg he promised that once the election is over he would sue all women who accused him of sexual assault. He also said, though, that he had never even met any of the women, and yet one of them interviewed him for People magazine, so perhaps it’s folly to rely on the truth of his statements.

Shut down the Environmental Protection Agency – He may not be able to shut it down entirely, but he certainly can defund it and constrain its activities. The environment can look out for itself, apparently. I suspect that Federal lands will be opened for exploitation by private business: grazing, clear-cutting forests, strip-mining, oil-drilling (goodbye Arctic Refuge), fracking, etc.

The Supreme Court will change character quite a bit. He has one vacancy now, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg is not getting any younger. The Court could become quite conservative, with a 6-3 split in favor of conservatives. Given the Courts evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, which perhaps played a role in this election, I think there may be a general rollback of liberal programs.

Ending the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) – Congress remains under the control of the GOP in both houses, and I would expect Trump to sign legislation ending the Affordable Care Act. That will seriously affect many of the poor, but the GOP has never been concerned about that demographic.

Building a wall the entire length of the border between the US and Mexico – Trump promised that repeatedly and it was a mainstay of his campaign. It will be expensive, but it’s a public works program so may help unemployment a little (and will certainly fill the coffers of private corporations—not so good for them as the Iraq War, but not too shabby).

Abrogating trade agreements – Trump has said repeatedly our trade agreements are not to his liking, so he seems ready to back out of those and renegotiate better terms for the US.

Destroying ISIS – Trump repeatedly promised that he would destroy ISIS, but refused to give details. I suppose now we’ll see what those details are, but what he’s described would seem to require a large ground force in the Middle East for quite a while, and another war.

Given his nature, I assume he’ll also look for and find or create ways to benefit his personal finances from his new job (as, for example, his campaign funneled campaign funds to various of his companies). The fact that the Presidency has never before been a commercial enterprise will not, I think, stop him: he has shown he’s quite ready to violate political norms.

It will be an interesting four years. I suspect the US is going to take a sharp turn to an authoritarian model, and our police forces in general seem to be ready for that and are already substantially militarized. The Patriot Act will help in this transition, and of course the GOP controls both the House and Senate, so Patriot Act provisions may be strengthened and extended.

And I expect James Comey will get a very big reward for his efforts on Trump’s behalf.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2016 at 9:50 am

An all-Canadian shave: RazoRock all the way

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SOTD 2016-11-09

Dead Sea is quite a nice soap, and I had no problems at all in getting a thick and long-lived lather using the RazoRock 24mm synthetic shown in the photo. And it was good that it was long lived because after the first pass I got two phone calls, from The Wife and from The Eldest, wanting to talk about the election results.

The RazoRock Old Type is a very comfortable shave while also being very efficient. At $15 it would be an ideal razor for the novice. I believe the current version substitutes a different handle for the original handle shown in the photo, which is a shame: that original handle is exceptionally nice.

Three passes produced a problem-free BBS, to which I applied a good splash of Zi’ Peppino.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2016 at 9:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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