Feb 26 2015

The Breakfast Club (Floor Wax AND Dessert Topping)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgThe real problem with physics is the difference between a wave and a particle.

Hey, hey, hey, calm down, you two. New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping! Here, I’ll spray some on your mop and some on your butterscotch pudding.

Mmmmm, tastes terrific!

And just look at that shine!

So imagine a BB (you’ll put your eye out), if you shoot it through a hole you’ll get a mark in your target (there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza (who “emulates a Rogerian psychotherapist“).

ELIZA has almost no intelligence whatsoever, only tricks like string substitution and canned responses based on keywords. Yet when the original ELIZA first appeared in the 60’s, some people actually mistook her for human. The illusion of intelligence works best, however, if you limit your conversation to talking about yourself and your life.

* hello eliza. I am feeling sad about moonlight kingdom

> Did you come to me because you are feeling sad about moonlight kingdom?

* no, I came to you because I’m researching rogerianism.

> Did you come to me because you are researching rogerianism?

* Yes

> Are you Sure?

* I’ve told you that twice now

> Oh…  that twice now?

* wow

> OK… “I’ve told me that twice now”. Tell me more.

These marks tend to cluster kind of fuzzily around the hole because BBs only travel in straight lines (ok, ballistic curves but for the purposes of this experiment we can discount the influence of gravity until later when it becomes relevent or not).  Even if you move around the BB gun you get this clustering because at certain angles of attack the BB is larger than the hole you’re trying to shoot through.

Master this technique and you can become a world class goalie.

If Democritus is right does the world behave this way?  I mean anyone Plato, the proto-Neolib that advocated man (women? hah!) was so stupid that democracy is an unworkable farce and the only political state with a chance to succeed is a dictatorship of elite philosopher-kings (got to love Plato, especially The Republic if you’re one of the chosen few morons with the right credentials) hated so much he wanted to burn their books can’t be all bad, can they?

Like many questions the answer is in how you measure the cat.

Because you see, in the real world, on certain scales, if you take a small enough BB and fire it through a hole you don’t get a clump, you get a wave.  How small is small enough?  Go down to the beach.  On the scale of an ocean a drop of water is small enough.

What is interesting about waves is that they transfer energy from one place to another without disturbing the particles (or non-particles) between them.  In the most commonly observable kind of wave (water in a test tank) this energy is transmitted in an up and down kinetic force so the apparently two dimensional surface in fact oscillates in a third dimension that is not usually measured.

Simple, right?

Not really, scientists still have a problem with spooky action at a distance so they keep junking up a nice clean vacuum with cat hair, and dark matter and energy (the good, the bad, it’s all the same)…

and extra dimensions (you can never have enough, I personally favor 26 dimensional Bosonic string theory because it goes all the way to 26)-

Feeling entangled yet?  You can’t be objective about Nixon.

The Reality of Quantum Weirdness

Edward Frenkel, The New York Times

FEB. 20, 2015

In Akira Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon,” a samurai has been murdered, but it’s not clear why or by whom. Various characters involved tell their versions of the events, but their accounts contradict one another. You can’t help wondering: Which story is true?

But the film also makes you consider a deeper question: Is there a true story, or is our belief in a definite, objective, observer-independent reality an illusion?

This very question, brought into sharper, scientific focus, has long been the subject of debate in quantum physics. Is there a fixed reality apart from our various observations of it? Or is reality nothing more than a kaleidoscope of infinite possibilities?

This month, a paper published online in the journal Nature Physics presents experimental research that supports the latter scenario – that there is a “Rashomon effect” not just in our descriptions of nature, but in nature itself.

Over the past hundred years, numerous experiments on elementary particles have upended the classical paradigm of a causal, deterministic universe. Consider, for example, the so-called double-slit experiment. We shoot a bunch of elementary particles – say, electrons – at a screen that can register their impact. But in front of the screen, we place a partial obstruction: a wall with two thin parallel vertical slits. We look at the resulting pattern of electrons on the screen. What do we see?

If the electrons were like little pellets (which is what classical physics would lead us to believe), then each of them would go through one slit or the other, and we would see a pattern of two distinct lumps on the screen, one lump behind each slit. But in fact we observe something entirely different: an interference pattern, as if two waves are colliding, creating ripples.

Astonishingly, this happens even if we shoot the electrons one by one, meaning that each electron somehow acts like a wave interfering with itself, as if it is simultaneously passing through both slits at once.

So an electron is a wave, not a particle? Not so fast. For if we place devices at the slits that “tag” the electrons according to which slit they go through (thus allowing us to know their whereabouts), there is no interference pattern. Instead, we see two lumps on the screen, as if the electrons, suddenly aware of being observed, decided to act like little pellets.

To test their commitment to being particles, we can tag them as they pass through the slits – but then, using another device, erase the tags before they hit the screen. If we do that, the electrons go back to their wavelike behavior, and the interference pattern miraculously reappears.

There is no end to the practical jokes we can pull on the poor electron! But with a weary smile, it always shows that the joke is on us. The electron appears to be a strange hybrid of a wave and a particle that’s neither here and there nor here or there. Like a well-trained actor, it plays the role it’s been called to perform. It’s as though it has resolved to prove the famous Bishop Berkeley maxim “to be is to be perceived.”

The answer depends on how you interpret the equations of quantum mechanics, the mathematical theory that has been developed to describe the interactions of elementary particles. The success of this theory is unparalleled: Its predictions, no matter how “spooky,” have been observed and verified with stunning precision. It has also been the basis of remarkable technological advances. So it is a powerful tool. But is it also a picture of reality?

Here, one of the biggest issues is the interpretation of the so-called wave function, which describes the state of a quantum system. For an individual particle like an electron, for example, the wave function provides information about the probabilities that the particle can be observed at particular locations, as well as the probabilities of the results of other measurements of the particle that you can make, such as measuring its momentum.

Does the wave function directly correspond to an objective, observer-independent physical reality, or does it simply represent an observer’s partial knowledge of it?

Hmm… Nixon.

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.  Open the Pod Bay doors HAL.

I’m sorry Dave.  I’m afraid I can’t do that.

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

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Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

This Day in History


Net neutrality: Five things to watch for as FCC votes on Internet rules

By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

February 26, 2015, 4 am

The Democrat-controlled agency is expected to approve a proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that would prohibit broadband service providers from charging websites for faster delivery of their content.

The vote, likely 3-2 along party lines, comes a little more than a year after a federal court tossed out the agency’s last attempt at setting rules to ensure the uninhibited flow of data over the Internet.

Wheeler’s proposal would do that, but with what he called a modernized, light-touch approach that would exempt broadband providers from some of the most onerous aspects of the oversight, particularly rate regulation.

It’s official: America has deflation


February 26, 2015

Prices for goods actually declined -0.1% in January from a year ago, according to the Labor Department. That means it actually cost less to buy things in America this year than it did in January 2014.

It’s the first time since October 2009 that the U.S. economy experienced annual deflation. But economists say don’t hit the panic button yet: the economy is still improving overall.

“There is little danger that this temporary bout of falling energy prices will develop into a more insidious debt-deflation spiral,” says Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

A strong and growing U.S. economy typically has inflation of around 2% a year, so a negative number is far from the mark. January was the third straight month of price declines.

January’s deflation could cause the Federal Reserve to hesitate on raising interest rates, which many expect them to do later this year. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her fellow board members do not want to raise interest rates until the economy shows real momentum.

No cash spells more violence

The Economist

Feb 28th 2015

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the West Bank under Israel’s wary eye, is nearly broke. Israel collects $100m-plus every month on the PA’s behalf in customs dues and other credits from abroad and is supposed to hand over the money to the PA in Ramallah, its headquarters. But earlier this year, after the Palestinians applied to join the International Criminal Court, Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, froze such transfers to mark his annoyance.

Israel has dished out this form of punishment before, though rarely for longer than a month or so. But this time Mr Netanyahu is unlikely to relent before the general election on March 17th, lest his right-wing foes accuse him of weakness. Thereafter it may take weeks, even months, for a government to be formed. So the Palestinians may have to stagger along without the transfers, which make up two-thirds of their budget, for a lot longer than usual.

Israeli security forces rely on the PA to co-operate with them on security. But General Benny Gantz, who recently stepped down as Israel’s military chief, has warned of the danger that might ensue if the Palestinian forces can no longer be paid. Israel’s defence minister and its national security adviser have both recently urged Israel’s main electricity company to relent, after it twice cut off supplies to the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin because the PA is said to owe it $500m.

Already violence has risen. Car-bombings and attempted assassinations have increased. Militants in Gaza calling themselves the Islamic State have threatened Palestinian intellectuals and have briefly kidnapped a local journalist. Palestinian leaders are to meet on March 8th to discuss cutting security co-operation with Israel. Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief, has given warning that violence could spread still faster.

Such threats have previously tended to prove empty. This time things may be different. The PA is increasingly unloved by Palestinians. Mahmoud Abbas, its president, is nearly 80, ten years into a four-year term, and suffering from a loss of public credibility with peace talks hopelessly deadlocked. The Israeli army has preemptively stepped up raids in the West Bank, detaining suspected militants and seizing ammunition caches. Officers fear that any small confrontation-like a shoot-out near Bethlehem this week that left a Palestinian teenager dead-may explode into a much wider conflict.

At CPAC, Pushing Republican Hopefuls to Dive Into Policy Specifics


FEB. 26, 2015

Prepared remarks are out. Answering tough questions is in. And there should be plenty of them – especially for a candidate named Bush.

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin seemed to have generated considerable excitement ahead of his appearance on Thursday afternoon. “He’s under-promise, over-deliver in a nutshell,” said Matt Robbins, the president of American Majority, a group that pushed for Mr. Walker’s re-election as governor last year. “He’s as Midwest as it gets.”

Matt Kibbe, the president and chief executive of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party-aligned group, said, “I think Scott Walker is the candidate that might split the difference between the Rand Paul wing and the Jeb Bush wing.”

But the crowd has a decidedly libertarian streak: Mr. Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, has won the CPAC straw poll the last two years, and broad support for a criminal justice overhaul among attendees this week – an issue that Mr. Paul has championed – suggested that he holds something of a home-court advantage this year as well.

“I think young people are tired of hearing the Bush name,” said Jeff Frazee, the executive director of Young Americans for Liberty, a group that was spawned by the 2008 presidential campaign of Ron Paul, Mr. Paul’s father. “The policies that he represents are very much those of a moderate liberal.”

Unfortunately true.

Morgan Stanley to pay $2.6 bln to settle mortgage-bond claims

By Neha Dimri and Supriya Kurane, Reuters

Thu Feb 26, 2015 7:11am EST

Morgan Stanley said it will pay $2.6 billion to the U.S. government to resolve potential claims stemming from the sale of mortgage bonds before the financial crisis, reducing its 2014 profit by more than half.

Morgan Stanley increased its legal reserves by about $2.8 billion, which lowered its 2014 income from continuing operations by $2.7 billion, or $1.35 per share, the bank said in a regulatory filing.

JPMorgan Chase & Co agreed to a $13 billion deal in November 2013; Citigroup Inc signed a $7 billion settlement in July 2014; and Bank of America Corp reached a $16.65 billion agreement in August.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he has given federal prosecutors a 90-day deadline to decide whether they can bring cases against individuals for their roles in the 2008 financial crisis

Goldman Sachs Group Inc said on Monday it could face a federal civil lawsuit after a government probe concluded that the bank had violated laws related to sale of residential mortgage-backed securities before the crisis.

Goldman had also raised the top end of its estimate of “reasonably possible” legal losses to about $3 billion from $2.5 billion.

Is Netanyahu out to foment war with Iran?

by Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

Thursday 26 February 2015 09.37 EST

The Israeli leader will use his speech to warn against the deal with Iran being negotiated by the US and its European allies. Obama is keen to bring Iran in from the cold. He believes detente with Tehran could radically change regional dynamics, help end the Syrian war and open the way to collaboration on fighting Islamic State (Isis).

Netanyahu believes a deal, on almost any terms, would pose an existential threat to Israel by allowing Iran to eventually acquire the bomb. “From the agreement that is forming, it appears that they have given up on their commitment [to stop Iran] and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told a meeting of his rightwing Likud party in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Netanyahu’s immediate objective may be to so undermine the credibility of any accord that the Republican-controlled Congress rejects it, and votes to impose additional sanctions on Iran. But that could backfire. In such an eventuality, Tehran officials say, Iran would accelerate its nuclear programme. Escalation would certainly follow. Iran is already considering buying advanced Russian anti-aircraft missile defences. It might even move to develop the very nuclear weapons capability that, it claims, it has so far eschewed.

This self-fulfilling disaster scenario could lead Israel to undertake the “extreme measures” Kerry cautioned against – namely air strikes, which have long been threatened and planned. Yet, given that the perceived threat posed by Iran is not going to suddenly disappear, could it be that war, with the US sucked in on Israel’s side, is what Netanyahu really wants?

And… we lose.  In a big time undeniable way.  Tens of thousands dead, 2 or 3 Carriers sunk.  Is that what you want?  Best to leave the cat in the box.

Drone warfare: life on the new frontline

by Chris Woods, The Guardian

Tuesday 24 February 2015 01.00 EST

Just a three-hour drive from Washington DC on the scenic Virginia coast, Langley Air Force Base is home to one of the most crucial components of the US armed drone programme. Alongside a couple of squadrons of the F-22 stealth fighter, the inhabitants of a large, nondescript brick building deep within the base had been on a permanent war footing for more than a decade. Visitors without the necessary security clearance needed to be escorted front and rear by chaperones waving red glowsticks, a warning to any intelligence analysts who might walk by not to discuss classified operations within earshot. These men and women were part of Distributed Ground System One (DGS-1), a unit that traced its mission back to the 1990s and the earliest days of the Predator programme. A soundproofed viewing window revealed hundreds of intelligence experts working away in a cavernous darkened room, each small cluster of screens indicating an ongoing mission. Their job was to process vast quantities of data from the many aerial platforms (among them Predators and Reapers) now operating above conventional US battlefields. “When you come on shift you go up to your IMS, your imagery mission supervisor, and he will task you out to what bird you’re assigned to,” explained Airman Ray, a young enlisted geospatial analyst.

Some days Ray might pore over feeds from a U2 or an MC-12 Liberty, both manned surveillance aircraft. Other times, he could find himself assigned to a team analysing images from an armed drone. Like everyone else here, Ray was waging war – though in a few hours he would return home. “It’s not something a lot of folk necessarily understand, that our airmen that you’re seeing downtown really are doing a very important national security mission day to day. But they’re kind of incognito in terms of blending in,” said Colonel Lourdes Duvall, vice commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing – home to most of the conventional air force’s 3,500 analysts.

All drone operators were asked early on in their training whether they would be willing and able to take a life. At least one captain who refused to kill on conscientious grounds was placed in a “paper-pushing office job” for the rest of his air force career, say former colleagues. Haas, who also carried out operational training of drone pilots, was disturbed by the attitude of some students: “They all wanted to shoot. “I wanna shoot, I wanna kill these guys!” I would say [to them] it’s more important to spare the innocent than to kill the guilty,” he said. “I would really try to push that home, I think I got through to one or two of them.” Bryant encountered similar views among some operators: “There was a lot of hoorahing, a lot of tough, ‘We’re badasses!’ I never once, never ever once thought any of us were badasses.”

Still Bryant, who never physically left the US until after he quit the air force, still found himself learning plenty about Iraqi life: “I remember watching a wedding and these people are all in a circle and they’re doing like the cancan: they’re kicking back and forth and they’re moving in one direction, and switch directions, and then they move further in the other direction. And I was fascinated because these were people enjoying themselves. Someone in that wedding was a bad person. But at that moment they probably weren’t thinking about someone they wanted to kill.”

Bryant likened some of his actions to those of a voyeur. “We’re the ultimate peeping toms,” he said. “No one’s gonna catch us. No one’s going to hear or see a Predator drone flying at the distance and height that we flew at.” Operators might later feel emotionally challenged if required to kill people they had spent time observing, but US air force clinical psychologist Wayne Chappelle describes this as a normal response: “I would think that’s a very healthy and normal reaction and a reaction that would indicate a well-adjusted person. If somebody doesn’t have that experience, if somebody doesn’t feel to some degree some level of discomfort, then what does that mean?”

How Junk Science Sent Claude Garrett to Prison For Life

By Liliana Segura, The Intercept


The star witness was ATF Agent James Cooper. Zimmermann made sure the jury heard about his role investigating the Dupont hotel fire, as well as the bombing of the World Trade Center earlier that year. Cooper used slides to walk the jury through the signs of a deliberately set fire. There was the telltale “V” shape identifying the point of origin, in this case, in the living room near the front door. There was the charring, the irregular patterns that form after someone has poured a liquid accelerant on the ground. And there was the bedspread that had been used as a trailer, which tested positive for kerosene. Cooper was especially adamant about the pour patterns. “This is not a spill,” he insisted under cross-examination. “This is a pour and it was deliberately poured to get the fire going from the living room to the back of the house.”

Cooper was voluble and self-assured in his analysis. “These are signs that you can’t change,” he said. “They’re just waving at you, saying, here I am, look at me.” He explained that Claude could have sustained the burns to his face and hand while lighting the kerosene – like when “you’ve got a gas grill and sometimes it won’t ignite and you stick your head down there to see and you’ve got this open flame that comes back with a POOF!”

“I am totally satisfied that the cause of this fire was deliberately set and was set for the purpose of arson,” Cooper concluded. “It was not accidental, whatsoever.”

Based on new research into fire behavior, experts were questioning longstanding techniques for determining the origin and cause of a fire. Classic arson “indicators” were revealed to be no such thing. The investigators in both Willingham’s and Garrett’s cases relied on longstanding fallacies that were just beginning to be exposed.

Among the most prevalent false indicators were “burn patterns” like the ones found in the homes of both Willingham and Garrett. For decades, fire investigators called such marks “pour” patterns, based on the belief that a liquid accelerant had been spilled wherever they appeared, in order “to create a very hot and fast burning fire,” as Kenneth Porter would observe. But this scenario was a myth. It was rooted in ignorance of a phenomenon now known as “flashover” – the point at which radiant heat building up in a room causes a space and its contents to combust. Or as some fire experts put it, the moment “a fire in a room becomes a room on fire.” As researchers would discover, fires that reach flashover (or “post-flashover” fires) often leave such so-called pour marks behind. Similarly, the V-pattern once believed to reveal a fire’s point of origin was also found to be a false indicator – and a common feature of post-flashover fires.

The implications are hard to overstate. The National Registry of Exonerations lists only a relative handful of arson convictions among its tally of more than 1,550 innocence cases, yet, like wrongful convictions as a whole, the number of people who have been falsely accused of arson is likely much higher. The registry does not, for example, include Andrew Babick, a Michigan man freed on February 4, 2015 after more than 18 years behind bars. Babick agreed to a plea deal rather than face retrial for a 1995 fire that killed two children, which he swore was caused by a cigarette. Nor does the exoneration database include James Hugney Sr., freed in Pennsylvania on January 23, 2015 after nearly 36 years. Hugney, now 72, was convicted of setting a 1978 fire that killed his own son. He also took a plea deal in order to be released. Others are absent from the database due to ongoing challenges from the state. They include Han Tak Lee, in Pennsylvania, and Victor Rosario, in Massachusetts, both freed last summer after their arson convictions were overturned. Between the two of them, Lee and Rosario spent 56 years in prison. The judge who freed Rosario blamed “misconceptions the investigators had at the time with respect to fire science.”

The convictions of Babick, Hugney, Lee and Rosario all relied, at least in part, on the same kinds of burn patterns identified by Special Agent Cooper as telltale signs of arson in 1993. The fire investigative community has since acknowledged such flaws in its old methodology and, although it was slow to do so, has revised its literature and practices. Yet within the criminal justice system, even as the same junk science reappears over and over again in wrongful convictions, there has been no systemic reinvestigation of old arson cases.

Scientists witness carbon dioxide trapping heat in air

By SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press

Feb. 25, 2015 4:19 PM EST

Scientists have witnessed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere above the United States, chronicling human-made climate change in action, live in the wild.

In doing so, the data show clouds, water vapor or changes in sun’s radiation are not responsible for warming the air, as some who doubt mainstream climate science claim, Feldman said. Nor could it be temperature data being tampered with, as some contrarians insist, Feldman said.

The study is good technical work, said climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University, but it is expected – sort of like confirming gravity with a falling rock.

Yup, still works.

Is JPMorgan Chase really America’s dog-friendliest bank?

by Stephen Gandel, Fortune

February 26, 2015

JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon wants investors and regulators to know that his bank is not about risky whale-sized derivatives trading. What is JPMorgan Chase really about? Serving regular Americans, who love dogs.

On Tuesday, at JPMorgan’s annual investor day, Dimon stressed how dog-friendly the bank’s branches are. “Around the country, people bring in their dogs and sit around for social reasons,” said Dimon. “We give out little doggie bones.”

Jamie Dimon has been talking about dogs quite a bit lately. On the bank’s most recent earnings call, Dimon said JPMorgan would do just fine as long as the firm “stops stepping in dog shit, which we do every now and then.” I believe he was speaking metaphorically. Then again, maybe this has something to do with all the dog socializing going on at JPMorgan’s branches?


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