Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"The Peculiar Math that Could Underly the Laws of Nature": how tuples generate string theory, and more



Wired Magazine has published several important articles on the way deep laws of mathematics drive physics and biology.

The most recent, July 28, is by Matalie Wolchover, and is titled “The Peculiar Math that Could Underly the Laws of Nature”.  It’s also in Quanta Magazine here


She is a mathematician from Waterloo University in Ontario, and has worked with Penn State on this issue.

Her argument reminds me of the progression to real variables to complex variable in graduate school in mathematics (in my case, at Kansas University in the 1960s). Complex gives us some beauty, like the Mandelbrot set;  and Liousville Theorem may explain why the Universe seems infinite from any point.

From complex variables you get to quaternions, and from those to octonions. 

Now quaternion field theory doesn’t follow the commutative law, and octernions don’t even follow the associate law.  I remember giving my students quiz questions on those laws when I worked as a graduate student assistant instructor (many of them couldn’t restate the concepts).

From octonion math you can deduce string theory, the 11 dimensions and why time behaves the way it does.  You can also explain the fundamental forces in physics, maybe, and build quarks.
I hope you can’t build a contagious strangelet to make gray goo.

I could wonder, though, wouldn’t these tuples behave like vector spaces? Remember linear independence?

Here are a couple other big Wired (paywall) stories on theoretical mathematics. 

John Rennie on July1, 2018 writes “This Mutation Math Shows How Life Keeps on Evolving.”

And on Dec. 17, 2017, Kevin Hartnett published, “Secret Link Discovered Between Pure Math and Physics” , the work of Minhyong Kim at the University of Oxford, getting into “series of spaces”.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Atlantic Health Issue examines "When the Next Plague Hits"



The July/August issue of The Atlantic is “The Health Report”, has two long articles of particular importance.

Ed Yong’s “When the Next Plague Hits”, pp. 58-72, really is like a short book.  The article particularly notes that Trump, with his diffidence to science, is much less likely to take maintaining public health defenses seriously in the homeland than was Obama.

The article spends some space on the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congos, and notes that today there is a modern road to Uganda along which it can spread.  In 1995, when there was a previous outbreak, a drive would have taken much longer. Therefore Ebola or a similar filiovirus disease like Marburg, might spread much more quickly than even in 2014, when parts of West Africa had a notorious outbreak. The article gives some details as to how care for Ebola patients is provided at a medical center at the University of Nebraska, and the burdens on medical personnel are quite extraordinary.
  

CDC recommends the new Ebola virus vaccine for people going to areas of the Congo now, but not elsewhere.  This could lead to greater risks for people who work or intern today some of the other countries, like Liberia or Sierra Leone or West Africa, than might have been expected.  A new epidemic might spread even more quickly now throughout the continent than it did even a few years ago, ironically because Africa is modernizing econonically so quickly.  
  
The article also covers the science of influenza, including the 1918 pandemic and the reoccurrence of H1N1 in 2009.  We don’t seem very far along with bird flu strains like H5N1 and H7N9. There is a lot of attention to using cellular nanotechnology (an interest of Jack Andraka, also here March 18, 2015) to engineer an immune response to a more stable part of most influenza viruses so that a universal influenza vaccine could be engineered without the time delay of egg manufacture.

There is also some discussion of contact tracing and conventional infection control, as with SARS (2003). Nigeria, normally not known for an efficient government, was successful in stamping out Ebola in 2014.



On p. 74, Olga Khazan provides a long article, “Being Black in America Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”.
  
The article focuses on the Sandtown section of Baltimore, site of the riots in April 2015 after the police shooting of Freddie Gray.  The article suggests a life expectancy less by as much as twenty years because of the cumulative effects of compromised opportunity and toxic environment and dangers in the ghetto.


Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. diagram by Chloe Cryhanand 

Friday, July 27, 2018

"The Birth of a New American Aristocracy" in "The Atlantic"; Matthew Stewart warns us all



Matthew Stewart offers “The Birth of a New American Aristocracy”, p. 48, photographs by Craig Cutler, in rgw June 2015 issue of “The Atlantic”.  This is indeed a booklet, in ten sections. Here is the link

The tagline duly scolds me. “The class divide is already toxic, and is fast becoming unbridgeable. You’re probably part of the problem.”
  
You could say that the article seems like an existential attack on meritocracy as an ideology that stabilizes inequality. “It is one of the delusions of our meritocratic class, however, to assume that if our actions are individually blameless, then the sum of our actions will be good for society.”
The problem is that the actions of the top 0.1% demand nothing from the next 9.9% (I’m probably in the lower portion of that decile)   Instead, us 9.9-crowd plod along as if we were responsible people, and it is the labor or the lower 90% that props us up.  That may sound like Marxism.


There is particularly the case of assertive mating and segmenting of social capital (which should worry Charles Murray).  There is restrictive zoning of housing, occupational licensing (a favorite target of libertarians), and politicized public schools that add to the inequality.

Toward the end, Stewart provides ample warning on how the politics of resentment works – it got Trump elected, and then Trump’s policies started hurting the bottom 90% even more.  But the problem  is that could gradually become the bottom 95% as people like me become politically expendable.

Stewart seems to want federal solutions, like single-payer health care, gun control, much more education assistance, stronger unions, and more identity politics, to solve the problems.

The problem, as good Democrats know, that makes it too easy on us personally.  The question, as his essay ends, is how involved should we (or must we) get personally. “We need to peel our eyes away from the mirror of our own success and think about what we can do in our everyday lives for people who aren’t our neighbors.”  Maybe that does get personal. “We should be fighting for opportunities for other people’s children as if the future of our own children depended on it. It probably does.”  That sounds more conventionally political.

The best way to protect your own freedom, if you got any hand up at all, is to pass the hand up to someone else, individually.  That’s “pay it forward” in reverse gear.  Indeed, I find myself watching my own back, fending off spammy but threatening disruptions from those who can’t make a living in the current setup. It is very difficult to become personal with people who seem hapless and not personally appealing (we get into the issue of drugs – opioids --, obesity, illiteracy – and I do think the correlation to race is overblown).  ';m not someone to make someone else whom I did not think well of "all right."  False meritocracy is self-reinforcing. And probably not sustainable. Personal fascism begets political fascism (as the end result of "purification"). Then, you’re not a victim if what you had gets taken away from you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sean Spicer's "The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President" reportedly talks about Trump's position on LGBTQ rights as a political compromise for the 2016 convention



Sean Spicer’s new book “The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President” reports that a backroom deal was made with Trump before the Republican National Convention in 2016 to modestly back LGBTQ rights in order to defeat a petition to remove Trump from consideration.
  
Sam Gillette reveals the details in a People Magazine interview.  Ironically, it was a Washington DC delegate named Sinners who needed to be won over.

But this has been called a sham, as Trump has surrounded himself with anti-gay appointments, including running mate Mike Pence, who at one time had advocated conversion therapy as a strategy for fighting HIV.  Pence denies he believes that now, but Trump once joked “He want to hang ‘em all”.

However Trump has made very strong statements that foreign enemies -- radical Islam -- have targeted gay people.  I wonder what he thinks of Putin's attitude and Russia's 2013 law. 

Trump has also taken down the LGBT page from the White House site, on the grounds that the White House does not need to recognized special groups.


The book, 256 pages, comes from Regnery Press, a conservative publisher sometimes associated with the Washington Times. 

Spicer gave in to Trump’s demands to misrepresent the crowd size on Inauguration Day.  He settled down to become more temperate in his press conferences.  OANN reporter, Trey Yingst, probably the youngest White House correspondent on record, often asked the most challenging questions, especially about foreign policy, in the briefings.

Spicer was the target of parody on Saturday Night Live in 2017, where he was played with a falsetto voice.

I wouldn't want a career predicated on repeated other people's positions and defending them in public. I state my own.

The book became available on Amazon July 24. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Books that try to explain the rise of Hitler and fascism in Germany, with a warning for us



The Thom Hartmann Program asks “What Is It Going to Take to Stop the Rise of Fascism in America?

The Thom Hartman show on Patreon discusses the book by Milton Mayer and Richard J. Evans, “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45” from the University of Chicago Press, 2017.


Roger Lowenstein reviewsThe Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic”, from Henry Holt, 2018, by Benjamin Carter Hett. 

But I think that Hartmann has it right.  The impulse toward fascism happened so gradually nobody noticed, at least “average Joe” gentile Germans who were employed again.
  
But I think that there is a personal aspect to it, something the gay community sees as “body fascism”, te tip of a moral iceberg, a small personal skin cancer that becomes like a melanoma if it gets into politics, a bad scene.   It has to do with shame, and getting off on it.  And it has to do with not wanting to make something in someone else if we need our own use of the shame associated with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Vox interviews Will Storr: "Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed"


Sean Illing has an important interview on Vox of British author Will Storr, and a sneak preview of the new book “Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It Is Doing to Us”, from the Overlook Press, 416 pages.
  
Storr’s comments seem to follow those of Amy Chua, indicating that social identity is hard-wired in our genes and western hyperindividualism is a bit of an aberration.
  
  
He gave an example of an experiment of western people and tribal people from East Africa on whom they admired in an aquarium of “free fish”.  The western people identify with the big flashy leader, the east with the meek little followers.
   
Westeners get challenged by others when their individual self-expression is seen as at least indirectly trampling on those in disadvantaged groups, and then get mental health problems if they are asked to become “losers” themselves.  Trump has leveraged this problem. It also leads to mental health problems.

Back in 2004, Phillip Longman had written in "The Empty Cradle" that many adults have become too self-absorbed to even have children. And even libertarian Charles Murray has criticized the weaker impulse for social ties in "Coming Apart" (2012)/ 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

GQ has booklet article on David Hogg's early activism, and how even mainstream conservatives have choked on it


Here’s a booklet-length article in GQ (Gentleman’s Quarterly), “The Sliming of David Hogg and Emma Gozalez”, by Mari Uyehari 

It is dated late March, 2018, just before David’s 18th birthday (Aries).

But the article notes how the conspiracy theories on Hogg et al moved from the lunatic fringe to almost the conservative mainstream. 


It also notes that Hogg definitively does not call for repeal of the Second Amendment, which former Justice Stevens called for.

David Hogg has practically “ordered” his followers to get active in political campaigns rather than just pontificate on their own.  That requires social salesmanship, not just intellect and reason. In fact, I have resisted involvement in partisanship, but that’s another discussion.  He’s also very recently taken up the incarceration issue.

There is a recreation in animation of Cruz's movements on YouTube, here

Sunday, July 15, 2018

When children's books become like small alien cities



When you reach something in Dutch (like a tweet from actor/singer Timo Descamps) looks like slightly scrambled English; then even spoken Dutch is almost understandable to English speakers. So Michael Erard offers an opinion, “What Dutch Children’s Books Can Teach Adults”.  

These “zoekboeks” are picture books of whole imaginary kingdoms, circulated through seasons, almost like board game templates. That’s the zoekbook, which invites the reader to go on a low tech Pokemon search. The German counterpart is the Wimmelbuch.


Speaking of board games, there really aren’t that many based on a geographical layout of a place.  I remember vaguely there was a game called Mr. Ree, which was more complicated than Clue. But there was also a game called Star Reporter, which had an imaginary country with a capital called Urbana, and a network of roads, rail, and airplanes.  In this age where Trump calls journalists enemies of the people, we ought to bring it back.

Reid Ewing has been tweeting about working on a graphic novel, and recently posted a work-in-progress  video for “The Winchester Half-Tragedy”, which happens in a high school and environs. The outspoken kids (exploring dysmorphia, fluidity, rebellion) eventually brush up with real tragedy. There is irony (a high school principal becomes a “principle” but that happened to me in 2005 when I worked as a sub.) The video has the text and still hand-drawn images, and some plain text.  An animated film would be interesting (would run about 15 minutes instead of 27). I hope Reid gets somewhere with this commercially.
  
All this reminds me of comics, which I don’t read, but I had at least two coworkers who were fans of Doonsbury (like today’s about delayed brain development in guys).



Monday, July 09, 2018

Malcolm Nance's "The Plot to Destroy America" previewed


Salon, in a long interview article by Chauncey Devega, offers a long and troubling interview with Malcolm Nance, an African-American former Naval intelligence officer and author of “The Plot to Destroy America: How Putin and his Spies are Undermining America and Dismantling the West” (Hachette Books, 2018). 
  
I looked at a preview of the book, and it calls Vladimir Putin the first Russian president of the United States, with Donald Trump as essentially his avatar.
  
The Russians got mad, indeed, of American sanctions and about the tanking of their economy in their early days of capitalism.

But Nance describes a global conspiracy, right out of the James Bond movie world, to control the world for the benefit of the oligarchs and put most ordinary people into obedient submission.
The interview describes the Russian malware hack in detail (with Cozy Bear, as does the opening of the book).


But the Russians infiltrated by looking for the most intellectually weak but gullible segment of the USD population, the less educated white “nationalists”, to organize. They also knew that “elite” American mainstream liberals didn’t care personally about these people or about their own underclass. So they wouldn’t notice if the underclass was persuaded by fake news driven by bots. This was Nietzsche turned upside down. 

Nance thinks we are "on the verge of losing the American constitutional republic forever."

It’s odd, but a lot of intellectual pundits (myself included) took no responsibility for the relative contextual illiteracy of a lot of their readers.

It seems as though maybe the Russians even set up “The Apprentice”, complete with Troy McClain’s leg waxing scene. Why did Trump fall for it?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

"The Perfect Weapon": another book, this times from a NYTimes writer, warns on destruction of the power grid by enemies



Nicholas Kristof has a book preview and warning on p. A19 of the Thursday, July 5, 2018 New York Tines, the opinion article titled “To Hackers, We’reBambi in the Woods.

The book at issue is “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age”, by Kristof’s “Times colleague” David Sanger, from Crown publishers, about 380 pages, somewhat expensive.  I have just ordered it from Amazon.


The book’s premise seems to be that the cyber attacks already launched, such as against Ukraine’s power grid and then Russia’s hack in 2015 of the Democrats, may presage a massive cyber attack against the US power grid, such as Ted Koppel had described in “Lights Out” (Nov. 10, 2015).  North Korea’s attack on Sony in 2014 counts, also.

Of course, I’ve been much more concerned about the possibility of an EMP attack, probably from a high altitude nuclear blast, than a massive cyber attack on facilities that are not supposed to be connected to the public Internet. An E1 (which knocks out electronics) is easier to carry out than an E3 (which knocks out the actual power transformers), and E1 weapons could be non-nuclear. 
  
But the article insists the Russians planted malware in our grid in 2015. Sinclair Broadcasting has also issued such stories.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Curious pitches from these companies: Top Link, Page



I often noticed my smartphone going off at unwelcome times (when driving, when touching it is a no-no, or at the movies): I can feel it despite the silencer.  The only exception is at a chess club, where there is an absolute no cell phones policy (so it stays in the car).
  
So I got a couple of messages from TopLink Publishing.  The claim is that my self-published book retail prices are too high (I agree with that), and that they can take over (for an upfront fee, probably) and republish for lower retail prices.  They also make a comment about supposed appraisal of your books and your work.  
  
Here is the Better Business Bureau website list of reviews.  As you can see, the results are mixed.  I don’t have any further information, but I would investigate (a lot) further before doing anything.  Note that it is not BBB accredited.
  
I’ve also listened to a number of cable TV ads from Page Publishing, with BBB review link here.  I am surprised to hear a pitch on a television ad say, “If we accept your book…”.  Most self-publishing companies seem to accept everything that is lawful, and not obvious hate speech.  But some (as reported in an Oct. 16, 2013 posting) do select only submissions that can “sell” as printed books.  (I don’t know if Page is POD.) 
   
There is a narrow range where an author can self-publish and make money with this sort of publisher.  Normally, when someone already established and well known in a field (may be a politician, or might be a teen science fair winner) trade publishers step in and the books do sell.

There is another company pitching self-publishing for Christian books only.  Again, the limitation sounds odd. 
   
Here’s a quick picture story about a book store in China, “The Infinity Bookstore” with the books arranged in a tunnel.