Later On

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Archive for April 29th, 2021

Taiwan cauliflower and bitter melon

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The sign definitely said “Taiwan cauliflower,” but the actual name seems to be Taishan cauliflower. I’ve made it before, and I liked it. I just got it again:

• 1.5 Tabsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 bunch scallions, chopped (including leaves)
• 1/2 large red onion, chopped
• 1 medium bitter melon, chopped
• 1 large jalapeño, chopped
• pinch of salt.

I used my 12″ Stargazer, which heats up ever so much better with the Max Burton 6600 — the 9″ induction coil makes a big difference.

After cooking the above on medium heat until onion translucent and starting to caramelize, I added:

• 1 head Taiwan/Taishan cauliflower, cored and chopped
• small splash Shaoxing wine

Cook over medium heat, stirring to mix, for a few minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 15-20 minutes, stirring once.

I had a bowl of this with a little salad dressing, and it was so good I had another bowl with mirin, shoyu sauce, and toasted sesame oil.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2021 at 5:01 pm

Rewrite the Laws of Physics in the Language of Impossibility

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Amanda Gefter writes in Quanta:

They say that in art, constraints lead to creativity. The same seems to be true of the universe. By placing limits on nature, the laws of physics squeeze out reality’s most fantastical creations. Limit light’s speed, and suddenly space can shrink, time can slow. Limit the ability to divide energy into infinitely small units, and the full weirdness of quantum mechanics blossoms. “Declaring something impossible leads to more things being possible,” writes the physicist Chiara Marletto. “Bizarre as it may seem, it is commonplace in quantum physics.”

Marletto grew up in Turin, in northern Italy, and studied physical engineering and theoretical physics before completing her doctorate at the University of Oxford, where she became interested in quantum information and theoretical biology. But her life changed when she attended a talk by David Deutsch, another Oxford physicist and a pioneer in the field of quantum computation. It was about what he claimed was a radical new theory of explanations. It was called constructor theory, and according to Deutsch it would serve as a kind of meta-theory more fundamental than even our most foundational physics — deeper than general relativity, subtler than quantum mechanics. To call it ambitious would be a massive understatement.

Marletto, then 22, was hooked. In 2011, she joined forces with Deutsch, and together they have spent the last decade transforming constructor theory into a full-fledged research program.

The goal of constructor theory is to rewrite the laws of physics in terms of general principles that take the form of counterfactuals — statements, that is, about what’s possible and what’s impossible. It is the approach that led Albert Einstein to his theories of relativity. He too started with counterfactual principles: It’s impossible to exceed the speed of light; it’s impossible to tell the difference between gravity and acceleration.

Constructor theory aims for more. It hopes to provide the principles behind a vast class of theories of physics, including the ones we don’t even have yet, like the theory of quantum gravity that would unite quantum mechanics with general relativity. Constructor theory seeks, that is, to provide the mother of all theories — a complete Science of Can and Can’t, the title of Marletto’s new book.

Whether constructor theory can really deliver, and how much it truly differs from physics as usual, remains to be seen. For now, Quanta Magazine caught up with Marletto via Zoom and by email to find out how the theory works and what it might mean for our understanding of the universe, technology, and even life itself. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

At the heart of constructor theory is the feeling that there’s something missing in our usual approach to physics.

The standard laws of physics — such as quantum theory, general relativity, even Newton’s laws — are formulated in terms of trajectories of objects and what happens to them given some initial conditions. But there are some phenomena in nature that you can’t quite capture in terms of trajectories — phenomena like the physics of life or the physics of information. To capture those, you need counterfactuals.

Which are?

The word “counterfactual” is used in various ways, but I mean a specific thing: A counterfactual is a statement about which transformations are possible and which are impossible in a physical system. A transformation is possible when you have a “constructor” that can perform a task and then retain the capacity to perform it again. In biology, we call that a catalyst, but more generally we can call it a constructor.

In the current approach to physics, some laws already have this counterfactual structure — the conservation of energy, for example, is the statement that it is impossible to have a perpetual motion machine.

So the constructor is the perpetual motion machine, and the counterfactual states that this transformation of usable energy to usable energy is not possible?

Yes. Counterfactuals do appear in existing laws, but these laws are regarded as second class. They are not incorporated wholeheartedly. Constructor theory puts counterfactuals at the very foundation of physics, so that the most fundamental laws can be formulated in these terms.

How would this work in practice? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2021 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

The Free Market is Dead: What Will Replace It?

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Chris Hughes, co-chair of the Economic Security Project and a senior advisor at the Roosevelt Institute, is the author of Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn and was a co-founder of Facebook. He writes in TIME magazine:

Big meetings in the Oval Office in the time of Covid-19 are rare, but two weeks into his presidency, President Joe Biden decided to make an exception. It was only a few days after the nation’s coronavirus case count peaked in late January, and Biden sat on a stately beige chair, double masked and flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and newly confirmed Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen.

The leaders of some of the nation’s largest businesses like Wal-Mart and J.P. Morgan Chase had come to the White House that day to talk economic stimulus. But the real surprise attendee was the head of America’s largest business advocacy group, the Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue. Under Donohue’s leadership over the past two decades, the Chamber had effectively become an organ of the Republican party, handsomely rewarding conservatives who worked to dismantle public programs and the regulatory state with campaign donations and support.

Donohue said little, but he didn’t have to. His presence was enough to rock the political landscape. “Washington’s most powerful trade group is having a political identity crisis,” wrote Politico. Two weeks later, a group of 150 CEOs, unaffiliated with the Chamber, followed suit, throwing their weight behind Biden’s COVID relief bill, which sailed through Congress. They have been similarly supportive of the additional $2 trillion the administration has now proposed for infrastructure spending – but they unsurprisingly don’t want corporate tax rates to be the means for paying for it.

But corporate America’s newfound support for more public investment is not a temporary phenomenon. We are witnessing the most profound realignment in American political economy in nearly forty years. President Ronald Reagan summed up the conventional wisdom that reigned from the mid-1970s onward in the United States: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Economists, policymakers, and everyday Americans alike generally accepted that markets, unfettered and free, are the best way to create economic growth.

That ideology began to crack after the Great Recession, and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it has collapsed. The rise of ethno-nationalism on the right and democratic socialism on the left testify to the growing disillusionment with the conventional wisdom of how government and economics are supposed to work.

It’s not just the fringes questioning free market orthodoxy in a time of disease. Cross-partisan supermajorities of Americans want some of the biggest companies of America to be broken up, significantly higher minimum wages, a wealth tax on billionaires, and believe significantly more public investment is required to create economic growth.

We have had regulations, public investment, and macroeconomic management to varying degrees throughout American history. What makes this moment different is that Americans across parties, class, and educational background are using a new framework to think about how we create prosperity.

The new managed market paradigm is bigger than Bidenomics or any particular economic agenda—it is a story about how the economy works.

We went from living in a country where markets couldn’t be touched to one where Americans believe the state has an important role in managing them to create prosperity. What killed off free market mythology, and what will come next?

***

A crisis in confidence in government triggered the last paradigm shift, making way for the rise of free market thinking. In the 1970s,

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s worth reading.

Later in the article:

In the years after the [2008 financial] crisis, scholars and policymakers came to realize that free markets had failed empirically to live up to their promise.

Reduced taxes on capital and fewer regulations were supposed to create more growth by making it easier for investors to invest and entrepreneurs to hire, the orthodoxy said. Yet the economy grew by 3.9 percent on average between 1950 and 1980, the era before free market orthodoxy took hold, and only at 2.6 percent on average in the 40 years since.

Similarly, aggregate growth, fueled by deregulation and free trade, should have boosted incomes for American workers if free market orthodoxy was to be believed. The rich would do well with lower taxes, they promised, but so too would the middle class and poor because of all the additional economic activity. In reality, wages have not meaningfully increased over the past 40 years after accounting for inflation, while income inequality has soared.

This list goes on. Relaxed antitrust enforcement was supposed to enable monolith companies to benefit from economies of scale, reducing costs for Americans. But the cost of living in America has skyrocketed, with housing, healthcare, and education eating up a greater proportion of Americans’ budgets than ever before. Expected investments in productivity-enhancing technologies by such large companies have not materialized.

We were told that policies developed to combat inequality like progressive taxation or public investment were supposed to constrict growth. Studies now show the opposite is true. The work of economists like Raj Chetty and Janet Currie has shown that poorer children lack access to good nutrition, stable neighborhoods, and quality schools and are not able to climb a meritocratic ladder. That hurts them individually and starves the economy of skilled workers that boost growth. The lack of public investment in public programs like affordable childcare means parents are more likely to drop out of the labor force, depriving the economy of workers and growth, as Heather Boushey has shown. And because the wealthy save for more than the poor, growing wealth inequality has muted the largest driver of economic growth, consumer spending, as documented by the economist Karen Dynan. . .

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2021 at 12:11 pm

Vaccine skepticism stems not from ignorance but from beliefs and values

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Sabrina Tavernise reports in the NY Times:

For years, scientists and doctors have treated vaccine skepticism as a knowledge problem. If patients were hesitant to get vaccinated, the thinking went, they simply needed more information.

But as public health officials now work to convince Americans to get Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, new social science research suggests that a set of deeply held beliefs is at the heart of many people’s resistance, complicating efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

“The instinct from the medical community was, ‘If only we could educate them,’” said Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, who studies vaccine skepticism. “It was patronizing and, as it turns out, not true.”

About a third of American adults are still resisting vaccines. Polling shows that Republicans make up a substantial part of that group. Given how deeply the country is divided by politics, it is perhaps not surprising that they have dug in, particularly with a Democrat in the White House. But political polarization is only part of the story.

In recent years, epidemiologists have teamed up with social psychologists to look more deeply into the “why” behind vaccine hesitancy. They wanted to find out whether there was anything that vaccine skeptics had in common, in order to better understand how to persuade them.

They borrowed a concept from social psychology — the idea that a small set of moral intuitions forms the foundations upon which complex moral worldviews are constructed — and applied it to their study of vaccine skepticism.

What they discovered was a clear set of psychological traits offering a new lens through which to understand skepticism — and potentially new tools for public health officials scrambling to try to persuade people to get vaccinated.

Dr. Omer and a team of scientists found that skeptics were much more likely than nonskeptics to have a highly developed sensitivity for liberty — the rights of individuals — and to have less deference to those in positions of power.

Skeptics were also twice as likely to care a lot about the “purity” of their bodies and their minds. They disapprove of things they consider disgusting, and the mind-set defies neat categorization: It could be religious — halal or kosher — or entirely secular, like people who care deeply about toxins in foods or in the environment.

Scientists have found similar patterns among skeptics in Australia and Israel, and in a broad sample of vaccine-hesitant people in 24 countries in 2018.

“At the root are these moral intuitions — these gut feelings — and they are very strong,” said Jeff Huntsinger, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago who studies emotion and decision-making and collaborated with Dr. Omer’s team. “It’s very hard to override them with facts and information. You can’t reason with them in that way.”

These qualities tend to predominate among conservatives but they are present among liberals too. They are also present among people with no politics at all.

Kasheem Delesbore, a warehouse worker in northeastern Pennsylvania, is neither conservative nor liberal. He does not consider himself political and has never voted. But he is skeptical of the vaccines — along with many institutions of American power.

Mr. Delesbore, 26, has seen information online that a vaccine might harm his body. He is not sure what to make of it. But his faith in God gives him confidence: Whatever happens is God’s will. There is little he can do to influence it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2021 at 12:04 pm

Using sailing ships to move cargo again: 90% reduction in emissions

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The Oceanbird’s giant wing sails can retract to a quarter of their length for overhead clearance or safety in storms

Loz Blain writes in New Atlas:

The idea of using sails to power a boat is not exactly a new one; indeed, the earliest known depiction of a ship under sail appears on a painted disc found in Kuwait, dated back to somewhere between 5,000-5,500 BCE. Boats themselves, interestingly, appear to be closer to a million years old, and were used by homo erectus long before neanderthals or homo sapiens ever walked the Earth.

Sails propelled humanity around the globe for thousands of years, before being relegated mainly to recreational use over the last couple of hundred years by the development of steam technology and internal combustion engines, among other things, which developed more reliable propulsion across a wider range of conditions and use cases.

Fuel-burning ships have been phenomenally successful, opening up the global trade network we enjoy today, but we may not have seen the end of sails just yet. In response to the increasingly obvious consequences of climate change, a number of companies are working on ways to bring emissions-free sail propulsion back to the cargo shipping world, taking advantage of advanced materials, computer controls and some interesting new designs to take performance and speed to the next level.

The latest concept is the Oceanbird, a giant Pure Car and Truck Carrier capable of transporting up to 7,000 cars at an average speed of 10 knots on a North Atlantic crossing. That’s not quite as quick as a conventional ship; you’re looking at around 12 days instead of the typical 8, but the Oceanbird’s four colossal 80-meter (260-ft) high extendable wing sails promise to reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent.

The wing sails, built in metal and composites, can be retracted down to around 20 m (66 ft) when required, keeping them safe in stormy conditions and letting the ships get under bridges when they need to. While the Oceanbird project team sees the sails as providing the vast majority of the ship’s power, there will also be engines fitted for maneuvering close to land and ports, and to get the ship out of a pickle in an emergency. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, including more images.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2021 at 11:33 am

A shaving-cream morning: Wholly Kaw’s La Supérieure Dulci Tobacco Shave Cream

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I saw mention of Wholly Kaw’s La Supérieure shaving cream in Sharpologist, and on looking further into it, decided to give it a go. The Dulci Tobacco fragrance sounded good (and it is, as it turns out):

Warm and spicy with Tobacco, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Cacao, Tonka Bean, Plum, Sandalwood, Cashmeran

And the ingredients looked good:

Potassium Cocoate, Sodium Methyl 2-Sulfolaurate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Glycerol Monostearate, Glycerin, Propanediol, Cetyl Betaine, Alkyl Polyglucoside, Decyl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Water, Potassium Hydroxide, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Sulfated Rincinus (Castor) Seed Oil, Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Xanthan Gum, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Sunflower Seed Oil, Beta Carotene, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sucrose Palmitate, Fragrance, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin

I let the brush soak while I showered, then wet it under the hot-water tap, shook it a few times, and twirled the tip in the shaving cream, then moved to my face to work up the lather. The lather does have a very good fragrance, on the light side, and the Fine Marvel razor glided easily through the stubble. I’ve noted that some razors seem more sensitive to Grooming Dept’s pre-shave, and the combination of the pre-shave and this lather — plus doubtless the razor design — made the glide quite pronounced.

Three passes to a smooth face, then rinse, dry, and apply a splash of Valley of Ashes aftershave. A good start for a sunny day.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2021 at 8:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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