Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 29th, 2017

It took Toshiba 70 years to reach its peak—and just a decade to fall into an abyss

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Josh Horwitz has a fascinating article on Toshiba’s rise and fall. From the article:

A 334-page report by an investigation committee set up by Toshiba stated that Nishida at times encouraged accountants to fudge the numbers. In January 2009, when an employee told Nishida the PC division would incur an operating profit loss of ¥18 billion (about $203 million then) over a six-month period, Nishida demanded an “improvement” in profit of ¥10 billion, lest the unit face closure. “Do all that you can as if your life depends on it,” Nishida reportedly told subordinates (pdf, p. 245).

While the scandal didn’t lead directly to Toshiba’s downfall, it exposed deeper problems at the company, shared by many tech conglomerates in Japan. Managers accustomed to beating out the competition were afraid to deliver bad news to the leadership, who didn’t want to hear it in the first place. As a consequence, this culture stifled Toshiba’s ability to innovate, at a time when it badly needed to. (Toshiba declined an interview request for this story.)

Professor Ulrike Schaede, who researches Japanese conglomerates at the University of California, San Diego, described Toshiba and its ilk as “full of yes men that do things because they think the boss wants them to do it, rather than what they think is a good idea or the right thing to do.” As a result, “everyone’s moving in lockstep in the direction of the bosses, and you don’t get any new ideas.”

Sound familiar?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Business

Now Trump (or Bannon) is trolling us: Former Director of Anti-Immigration Group Set to Be Named Ombudsman at U.S. Immigration Agency

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Marcelo Rochabrun and Jessica Huseman report in ProPublica:

A former director of an anti-immigration group, Julie Kirchner, is expected to be named as ombudsman to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the pending appointment.

Kirchner was from 2005 to 2015 director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that has advocated for extreme restrictions on immigration.

The ombudsman’s office at USCIS provides assistance to immigrants who run into trouble with the agency, such as immigration applications that take too long to process or applications that may have been improperly rejected. The ombudsman also prepares an annual report for Congress in which they can issue audits and policy recommendations without consulting with USCIS in advance.

As the nation’s immigration agency, USCIS handles a wide range of legal immigration matters, including applications for citizenship and green cards. The agency can also grant legal status to those in extreme circumstances, such as refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, the agency is in charge of adjudicating applications from undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, sometimes referred to as “dreamers” or DACA recipients.

The person with knowledge of Kirchner’s planned appointment is a former USCIS official.

The Department of Homeland Security, which appoints the USCIS ombudsman, declined to comment. USCIS said the agency doesn’t comment “on potential personnel announcements.” Customs and Border Protection, where Kirchner was most recently chief of staff, also declined to comment. FAIR did not respond to a request for comment.

She worked at CBP as a temporary political appointee.

FAIR was founded by John Tanton, a well-known eugenicist who has written papers on the subject and founded a pro-eugenics society. Personal papers he donated to the University of Michigan express his concern at the changing demographics of the United States and his personal interest in the genetic differences between races.

On its website, FAIR says the organization “seeks to reduce overall immigration to a level that is more manageable and which more closely reflects past policy.”

But controversy has surrounded FAIR since its inception, with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 6:42 pm

Well worth watching: The Absurdity of Detecting Gravitational Waves

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That was part 1. Now watch part 2:

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Science, Video

Gluing polypropylene: Superglue by itself doesn’t work, but this does

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Kevin Drum has a good post that includes a 1-minute video on what works.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Milky Way from the cockpit of a plane making a night flight

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Via Jason Kottke, who writes:

Sales Wick is a pilot for SWISS and while working an overnight flight from Zurich to Sao Paulo, he filmed the first segment of the flight from basically the dashboard of the plane and made a timelapse video out of it. At that altitude, without a lot of light and atmospheric interference, the Milky Way is super vivid.

Just as the bright city lights are vanishing behind us, the Milky Way starts to become clearly visible up ahead. Its now us, pacing at almost the speed of sound along the invisible highway and the pitch-black night sky above this surreal landscape. Ahead of us are another eight hours flight time, but we already stopped counting the shooting stars. And we got already to a few hundred. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

A Cosmic-Ray Hunter Takes to the Sky

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NASA successfully launched its football-stadium-sized, heavy-lift super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka, New Zealand, at 10:50 a.m. Tuesday, April 25 (6:50 p.m. April 24 in U.S. Eastern Time), on a mission designed to run 100 or more days floating at 110,000 feet (33.5 km) about the globe in the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitude band.

While validating the super pressure balloon technology is the main flight objective, the International Extreme Universe Space Observatory on a Super Pressure Balloon (EUSO-SPB) payload is flying as a mission of opportunity.

Natalie Wolchover reports in Quanta:

On April 25, at 10:50 a.m. local time, a white helium balloon ascended from Wanaka, New Zealand, and lifted Angela Olinto’s hopes into the stratosphere. The football stadium-size NASA balloon, now floating 20 miles above the Earth, carries a one-ton detector that Olinto helped design and see off the ground. Every moonless night for the next few months, it will peer out at the dark curve of the Earth, hunting for the fluorescent streaks of mystery particles called “ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays” crashing into the sky. The Extreme Universe Space Observatory Super Pressure Balloon (EUSO-SPB) experiment will be the first ever to record the ultraviolet light from these rare events by looking down at the atmosphere instead of up. The wider field of view will allow it to detect the streaks at a faster rate than previous, ground-based experiments, which Olinto hopes will be the key to finally figuring out the particles’ origin.

Olinto, the leader of the seven-country EUSO-SPB experiment, is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Chicago. She grew up in Brazil and recalls that during her “beach days in Rio” she often wondered about nature. Over the 40 years since she was 16, Olinto said, she has remained captivated by the combined power of mathematics and experiments to explain the universe. “Many people think of physics as hard; I find it so elegant, and so simple compared to literature, which is really amazing, but it’s so varied that it’s infinite,” she said. “We have four forces of nature, and everything can be done mathematically. Nobody’s opinions matter, which I like very much!”

Olinto has spent the last 22 years theorizing about ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays. Composed of single protons or heavier atomic nuclei, they pack within quantum proportions as much energy as baseballs or bowling balls, and hurtle through space many millions of times more energetically than particles at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful accelerator. “They’re so energetic that theorists like me have a hard time coming up with something in nature that could reach those energies,” Olinto said. “If we didn’t observe these cosmic rays, we wouldn’t believe they actually would be produced.”

Olinto and her collaborators have proposedthat ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays could be emitted by newly born, rapidly rotating neutron stars, called “pulsars.” She calls these “the little guys,” since their main competitors are “the big guys”: the supermassive black holes that churn at the centers of active galaxies. But no one knows which theory is right, or if it’s something else entirely. Ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays pepper Earth so sparsely and haphazardly — their paths skewed by the galaxy’s magnetic field — that they leave few clues about their origin. In recent years, a hazy “hot spot” of the particles coming from a region in the Northern sky seems to be showing up in data collected by the Telescope Array in Utah. But this potential clue has only compounded the puzzle: Somehow, the alleged hot spot doesn’t spill over at all into the field of view of the much larger and more powerful Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina.

To find out the origin of ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, Olinto and her colleagues need enough data to produce a map of where in the sky the particles come from — a map that can be compared with the locations of known cosmological objects. “In the cosmic ray world, the big dream is to point,” she said during an interview at a January meeting of the American Physical Society in Washington, D.C.

She sees the current balloon flight as a necessary next step. If successful, it will serve as a proof of principle for future space-based ultrahigh-energy cosmic-ray experiments, such as her proposed satellite detector, Poemma (Probe of Extreme Multi-Messenger Astrophysics). While in New Zealand in late March preparing for the balloon launch, Olinto received the good news from NASA that Poemma had been selected for further study.

Olinto wants answers, and she has an ambitious timeline for getting them. An edited and condensed version of our conversations in Washington and on a phone call to New Zealand follows.

QUANTA MAGAZINE: What was your path to astrophysics and ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays?

ANGELA OLINTO: I was really interested in the basic workings of nature: Why three families of quarks? What is the unified theory of everything? But I realized how many easier questions we have in astrophysics: that you could actually take a lifetime and go answer them. Graduate school at MIT showed me the way to astrophysics — how it can be an amazing route to many questions, including how the universe looks, how it functions, and even particle physics questions. I didn’t plan to study ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays; but every step it was, “OK, it looks promising.”

How long have you been trying to answer this particular question?

In 1995, we had a study group at Fermilab for ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, because the AGASA (Akeno Giant Air Shower Array) experiment was seeing these amazing events that were so energetic that the particles broke a predicted energy limit known as the “GZK cutoff.” I was studying magnetic fields at the time, and so Jim Cronin, who just passed away last year in August — he was a brilliant man, charismatic, full of energy, lovely man — he asked that I explain what we know about cosmic magnetic fields. At that time the answer was not very much, but I gave him what we did know. And because he invited me I got to learn what he was up to. And I thought, wow, this is pretty interesting.

Later you helped plan and run Pierre Auger, an array of detectors spread across 3,000 square kilometers of Argentinian grassland. Did you actually go around and persuade farmers to let you put detectors on their land? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Science

100 Days, 100 Horrors

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Nancy LeTourneau writes in the Washington Monthly:

As we approach Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, we are seeing competing narratives. The president and his fan base in the right wing media are pretending that he has made historic accomplishments. In the reality-based world, the consensus is that he has done almost nothing.

Both of those narratives involve the kind of metric we normally use to evaluate presidencies. If this one has been anything, it’s unprecedented. Using an alternative metric – the number of face-plants, falsehoods, flip-flops, etc, – there is no question that Donald Trump and his aides have brought us at least 100 horrors in the last 100 days. We thought that was worth documenting.

1. Gave a dystopian inaugural address that has been titled “American Carnage.”

2. Insisted on a special press conference (the first of his presidency) to claim that his inaugural crowd was the largest in history, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

3. Scrubbed the White House web site of pages related to LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change and health care on the first day.

4. Counselor Kellyanne Conway attempted to justify White House lies about the size of the inaugural crowd by calling them “alternative facts.”

5. Chose the former executive chair of Breitbart News and white nationalist Steve Bannon to be his Senior Counselor and Chief Strategist.

6. Signed an executive order reorganizing the National Security Council, giving Bannon a seat on the “principals committee” while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence. After appointing H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, this executive order was reversed.

7. Issued a travel ban that was incompetently administered, leading to chaos.

8. Repeatedly claimed that 3-4 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

9. Authorized a raid in Yemen in which “everything that could go wrong did.” While the al Qaeda leader who was the target was neither captured nor killed, it resulted in the death of a Navy Seal and dozens of civilians, many of whom were children.

10. Said that the media is the opposition party and tweeted that the press is the enemy of the people.

11. Hired Sebastian Gorka to be his top counter-terrorism aide – a man with long-standing ties to a Hungarian group that the State Department labeled as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II.

12. Nominated Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General – a man that the Senate had previously determined was too racist to serve as a federal judge.

13. Nominated Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education – a billionaire heiress with no experience or training in public education who has focused on advocacy for charter schools and vouchers. . .

Continue reading for the full depressing list.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2017 at 9:49 am

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