Later On

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

Archive for June 26th, 2020

Information from the past, carried by an object

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Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Belt manlift: Anyone else remember these?

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A department store in Ardmore OK had a belt manlift when I was a kid, and we used it. It was better than an elevator because weight time was minimal: it ran continously — you just stepped on as it ascended (or descended: one side went up and the other down) and when you got to the floor you wanted, you just stepped off, much like using an escalator, only vertically instead of at a slant — and it took up much less room than an escalator and even less than an elevator. Of course, if you want to ascend (say) 30 floors, an elevator is faster, but the departments store in question was only three or four stories.

The one in the department store was more polished: wooden step, wooden handle.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says

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And I just started (re)reading Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon. Wonder what Trump thinks of his good buddy Putin now? Charlie SavageEric Schmitt, and report in the NY Times:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.

Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and covert and deniable military operations.

The Kremlin had not been made aware of the accusations, said Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Mr. Peskov said. A Taliban spokesman did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Spokespeople at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and the C.I.A. declined to comment.

The officials familiar with the intelligence did not explain the White House delay in deciding how to respond to the intelligence about Russia.

While some of his closest advisers, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have counseled more hawkish policies toward Russia, Mr. Trump has adopted an accommodating stance toward Moscow.

At a summit in Helsinki in 2018, Mr. Trump strongly suggested that he believed Mr. Putin’s denial that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite broad agreement within the American intelligence establishment that it did. Mr. Trump criticized a bill imposing sanctions on Russia when he signed it into law after Congress passed it by veto-proof majorities. And he has repeatedly made statements that undermined the NATO alliance as a bulwark against Russian aggression in Europe.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the delicate intelligence and internal deliberations. They said the intelligence has been treated as a closely held secret, but the administration expanded briefings about it this week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces are among those said to have been targeted. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 1:09 pm

CRISPR gene editing in human embryos wreaks chromosomal mayhem

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CRISPR is not so precise as we’ve been led to believe. Heidi Ledford writes in Nature:

A suite of experiments that use the gene-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9 to modify human embryos have revealed how the process can make large, unwanted changes to the genome at or near the target site.

The studies were published this month on the preprint server bioRxiv, and have not yet been peer-reviewed1,2,3. But taken together, they give scientists a good look at what some say is an underappreciated risk of CRISPR–Cas9 editing. Previous experiments have revealed that the tool can make ‘off target’ gene mutations far from the target site, but the nearby changes identified in the latest studies can be missed by standard assessment methods.

“The on-target effects are more important and would be much more difficult to eliminate,” says Gaétan Burgio, a geneticist at the Australian National University in Canberra.

These safety concerns are likely to inform the ongoing debate over whether scientists should edit human embryos to prevent genetic diseases — a process that is controversial because it creates a permanent change to the genome that can be passed down for generations. “If human embryo editing for reproductive purposes or germline editing were space flight, the new data are the equivalent of having the rocket explode at the launch pad before take-off,” says Fyodor Urnov, who studies genome editing at the University of California, Berkeley, but was not involved in any of the latest research.

Unwanted effects

Researchers conducted the first experiments using CRISPR to edit human embryos in 2015. Since then, a handful of teams around the world have begun to explore the process, which aims to make precise edits to genes. But such studies are still rare and are generally strictly regulated.

The latest research underscores how little is known about how human embryos repair DNA cut by the genome-editing tools — a key step in CRISPR–Cas9 editing, says reproductive biologist Mary Herbert at Newcastle University, UK. “We need a basic road map of what’s going on in there before we start hitting it with DNA-cutting enzymes,” she says.

The first preprint was posted online on 5 June by developmental biologist Kathy Niakan of the Francis Crick Institute in London and her colleagues. In that study1, the researchers used CRISPR–Cas9 to create mutations in the POU5F1 gene, which is important for embryonic development. Of 18 genome-edited embryos, about 22% contained unwanted changes affecting large swathes of the DNA surrounding POU5F1. They included DNA rearrangements and large deletions of several thousand DNA letters — much greater than typically intended by researchers using this approach.

Another group, led by stem-cell biologist Dieter Egli of Columbia University in New York City, studied embryos created with sperm carrying a blindness-causing mutation in a gene called EYS2. The team used CRISPR–Cas9 to try to correct that mutation, but about half of the embryos tested lost large segments of the chromosome — and sometimes the entire chromosome — on which EYS is situated.

And a third group,

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Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 10:49 am

Posted in Science

And the flood gates open: US Covid-19 deaths jump — UPDATE: False alarm.

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Apparently it doesn’t work to simply deny that Covid-19 is a problem. The denial does allow the US not to address the problem, particularly in states that still believe President Trump and his minions like Mike Pence, but that denial has a price:

Kevin Drum updated the chart to remove the jump. He notes:

UPDATE: I originally showed a sharp uptick in deaths, but it turns out this was because New Jersey reported a whole bunch of “probable” deaths all at once on June 25, which caused the spike. I’ve now corrected for that and the chart shows roughly the same plateau that we’ve had for the past few days.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 9:57 am

Today is Tau Day: Celebrate!

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For more information,

And see also:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 9:34 am

Posted in Math

The inscribed-rectangle problem

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For more about this, see Kevin Hartnett’s article in Quanta.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 8:54 am

Posted in Math

Tallow + Steel Grog and a better razor

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Tallow + Steel’s take on bay rum is always a pleasure, and the Phoenix Artisan Green Ray — like the Solar Flare, just a little large at 24mm — did its usual excellent job. I think it’s a handsome brush, and it feels very nice on the face.

Yesterday’s Feather AS-D1 was the first premium (and premium-priced) razor I got, and it is a first-class instrument all the way, from the packaging to the stainless-steel construction. The Dorco PL602 I used today is flimsy in comparison, and it was packaged in the common cardboard back with a plastic bubble you see in every discount store in the world.

That said, in terms of feel and performance, the Dorco outshines the Feather. Not that the Dorco is better overall — for one thing, the plastic seems to get brittle as it ages and eventually the threaded stub of my earlier one snapped off. But purely in terms of comfort and efficiency, the Dorco is, in my experience, better — not only better than the Feather AS-D1, but better than a great many razors.

A splash of Grog finished the job, and here we are today, after so many years.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2020 at 7:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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