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John Baez

John Baez 

Occupation: I'm a mathematical physicist. (Centre for Quantum Technologies)

Location: Riverside, California

Followers: 57,666

Views: 58,416,917

Cream of the Crop: 11/05/2011

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Most comments: 78

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2016-12-28 17:20:38 (78 comments; 68 reshares; 114 +1s; )Open 

Give the Earth a present: help us save climate data

We've been busy backing up climate data before Trump becomes President. Now you can help too, with some money to pay for servers and storage space.   Please give what you can at our Kickstarter campaign here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/592742410/azimuth-climate-data-backup-project

If we get $5000 by the end of January, we can save this data until we convince bigger organizations to take over.   If we don't get that much, we get nothing.  That's how Kickstarter works.   Also, if you donate now, you won't be billed until January 31st.

So, please help!   It's urgent.

I will make public how we spend this money.  And if we get more than $5000, I'll make sure it's put to good use.  There's a lot of work we could do to make sure the data isauthentica... more »

Most reshares: 193

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2016-12-13 19:34:17 (55 comments; 193 reshares; 192 +1s; )Open 

Saving climate data

The Department of Energy has rejected Trump's demand that it list all employees working on climate change.  But this will change on January 20th.  All signs point to the worst:

The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change.

So, scientists are now backing up large amounts of climate data, just in case the Trump administration tries to delete it.

Of course saving the data publicly available on US government sites is not nearly as good as keeping climate programs fully funded!  New data is coming in all the time from satellites and other sources.  We need it - and we need the experts whounder... more »

Most plusones: 225

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2017-01-21 06:41:47 (0 comments; 17 reshares; 225 +1s; )Open 

A message from North Korea

Latest 50 posts

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2017-01-24 01:42:16 (11 comments; 10 reshares; 188 +1s; )Open 

How Trump plans to gut the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency uses a lot of evidence based science. But Trump hired Myron Ebell to write an "Action Plan" for this agency.

Yes, Ebell - the guy who got his start lobbying for tobacco companies. Yes, Ebell - the guy who secretly watered down EPA reports on climate change under the Bush administration, until he got caught. Ebell - the guy who tried to get Bush's head of the EPA fired.

A bit of Ebell's plan has leaked out in the magazine Axios:

One of the striking aspects of the document was its language about the agency's use of scientific research and economic analysis to justify its actions. A section titled 'Addendum on the problems with EPA science' leads with this paragraph:

EPA does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses... more »

How Trump plans to gut the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency uses a lot of evidence based science. But Trump hired Myron Ebell to write an "Action Plan" for this agency.

Yes, Ebell - the guy who got his start lobbying for tobacco companies. Yes, Ebell - the guy who secretly watered down EPA reports on climate change under the Bush administration, until he got caught. Ebell - the guy who tried to get Bush's head of the EPA fired.

A bit of Ebell's plan has leaked out in the magazine Axios:

One of the striking aspects of the document was its language about the agency's use of scientific research and economic analysis to justify its actions. A section titled 'Addendum on the problems with EPA science' leads with this paragraph:

EPA does not use science to guide regulatory policy as much as it uses regulatory policy to steer the science. This is an old problem at EPA. In 1992, a blue-ribbon panel of EPA science advisers that [sic] 'science should not be adjusted to fit policy.' But rather than heed this advice, EPA has greatly increased its science manipulation.

The document goes on to recommend what can be done to "improve the use of science by EPA":

EPA should not be funding scientific research

If EPA uses scientific data for regulation, that data must be publicly available so independent scientists can review it

EPA's science advisory process needs to be overhauled to eliminate conflicts of interest and inherent bias

Science standards need to be developed and implemented to ensure that science policy decisions and epidemiological practices are based on sound science

Now, a lot of this actually sounds good. But knowing Ebell and his slimy tactics, I can assure you most of this is window dressing and his key goal is this:

EPA should not be funding scientific research

In simple terms: let companies who want to pollute pay for the research, so it's "unbiased".

The Axios article has some discussion of how Ebell's goals will collide with the people who actually work at the EPA:

https://www.axios.com/trumpworld-prepares-to-hammer-the-epa-2209021483.html

The photo below is a charming one from the Women's March on Saturday. In case you don't get the joke, it's based on an old protest song:

What do we want?

(whatever the protestors want)

When do we want it?

Now!

If you don't know Myron Ebell's slimy tactics, try his editorial against Pope Francis:

“Everybody loves Pope Francis” for his “humble ways and inclusive message,” blared the Washington Post Express’ front page headline. That “everybody” includes American progressives, who plan to use the pope’s wild popularity to advance their political agenda during his upcoming visit to the United States. Does that mean progressive policies advance Christian values? Not at all.

In fact, policies that encourage developing countries to invest in the most expensive and unreliable sources of electricity, such as wind and solar, and close down the most affordable — fossil fuels — would negatively effect the world’s poorest by hindering their access to reliable, affordable energy.

Yet, that is precisely what groups like Center for American Progress, NextGen Climate (founded by greener-than-thou hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer), 350.org, and the Sierra Club are advocating. For the environmentalists now rallying around the Pope’s message of fighting global warming, doing so means reducing access to the most reliable and affordable sources of energy generation, while promoting costly, unproven, and unreliable “green” energy policies.

http://dailycaller.com/2015/09/22/misplaced-concern-pope-franciss-energy-agenda/

"Costly, unproven and unreliable "green" energy policies" - sounds scary! Compare this news from April 2016:

India is on track to soar past a goal to deploy more than 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, the country’s energy minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

Speaking at the release of a 15-point action plan for the country’s renewable sector, Goyal said he was now considering looking at “something more” for the fast growing solar sector.

“I think a new coal plant would give you costlier power than a solar plant,” he said.

“Of course there are challenges of 24/7 power. We accept all of that – but we have been able to come up with a solar-based long term vision that is not subsidy based.”

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2016/04/18/solar-is-now-cheaper-than-coal-says-india-energy-minister/___

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2017-01-21 06:41:47 (0 comments; 17 reshares; 225 +1s; )Open 

A message from North Korea

A message from North Korea___

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2017-01-20 18:57:36 (60 comments; 74 reshares; 164 +1s; )Open 

CLIMATE CHANGE? WHAT'S THAT?

At noon today in Washington DC, all mentions of "climate change" and "global warming" were eliminated from the White House website.

Well, not all. The word "climate" still shows up here:

President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan....

Luckily, at the Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project, we've been preparing for exactly this. We've been racing to save publicly available climate data at NASA, NOAA, and other agencies that Trump now controls.

Please visit our Kickstarter page, learn more about what we've done, contribute some money, and help us out!

We plan to make our data publicly available, so we need money for servers and storage. Right now we can afford to hold it for about 3... more »

CLIMATE CHANGE? WHAT'S THAT?

At noon today in Washington DC, all mentions of "climate change" and "global warming" were eliminated from the White House website.

Well, not all. The word "climate" still shows up here:

President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan....

Luckily, at the Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project, we've been preparing for exactly this. We've been racing to save publicly available climate data at NASA, NOAA, and other agencies that Trump now controls.

Please visit our Kickstarter page, learn more about what we've done, contribute some money, and help us out!

We plan to make our data publicly available, so we need money for servers and storage. Right now we can afford to hold it for about 3 years. 8 would be better.

Luckily, this week the head of U. C. Riverside's Computing and Communications department, Danna Gianforte, said they would commit to hosting our data over the long term! So, we will also work to transfer it there and set up a usable interface.

We're part of a larger initiative, ClimateMirror.org. Different teams are saving different databases. For example, the End of Term Archive has saved Obama's White House web pages.

You can read more about these efforts here:

http://climatemirror.org/

In the comments below, I will list some people who have helped the Azimuth Backup Project with their donations. One person contributed $2000, three contributed $1000 and two contributed $500. That's wonderful, and I thank these people immensely! But most of our success is due to large numbers of smaller contributions.

To see how "climate change" has now vanished from White House website, go here:

https://motherboard.vice.com/read/all-references-to-climate-change-have-been-deleted-from-the-white-house-website

Welcome to the new era.___

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2017-01-18 05:52:22 (58 comments; 43 reshares; 215 +1s; )Open 

448 million distracting social media posts per year

No, I'm not talking about Facebook!  I'm talking about posts put out by the Chinese government. 

They're often called 50c posts, since rumors say people are paid 50 cents for each post.  There's a huge army of people writing these posts!   I learned about them from this new paper, which did a lot of experiments to study them:

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument

The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called“50... more »

448 million distracting social media posts per year

No, I'm not talking about Facebook!  I'm talking about posts put out by the Chinese government. 

They're often called 50c posts, since rumors say people are paid 50 cents for each post.  There's a huge army of people writing these posts!   I learned about them from this new paper, which did a lot of experiments to study them:

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument

The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called “50c party” posts vociferously argue for the government’s side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime’s strategic objective in pursuing this activity.

In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime.  We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical understanding of “common knowledge” and information control in authoritarian regimes.

The conclusion is spelled out in more detail near the end:

Distraction is a clever and useful strategy in information control in that an argument in almost any human discussion is rarely an effective way to put an end to an opposing argument. Letting an argument die, or changing the subject, usually works much better than picking an argument and getting someone’s back up (as new parents recognize fast).

It may even be the case that the function of reasoning in human beings is fundamentally about winning arguments rather than resolving them by seeking truth. Distraction even has the advantage of reducing anger compared to ruminating on the same issue. Finally, since censorship alone seems to anger people, the 50c astroturfing program has the additional advantage of enabling the government to actively control opinion without having to censor as much as they might otherwise.

The paper is here:

• Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts, How the Chinese government fabricates social media posts for strategic distraction, not engaged argument, American Political Science Review, 2017. Copy at http://j.mp/1Txxiz1

The people who write these social media posts are often called the 50c army - but I doubt most of them wear uniforms as in this picture!

Thanks to +Lauren Weinstein for pointing this out!___

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2017-01-17 02:01:02 (26 comments; 31 reshares; 144 +1s; )Open 

The President's favorite books

It's nice having a president who reads fiction, including science fiction, and shares books with his children.  Here's part of an interview he did on Friday:

These books that you gave to your daughter Malia on the Kindle, what were they? Some of your favorites?

I think some of them were sort of the usual suspects, so “The Naked and the Dead” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” I think she hadn’t read yet.  Then there were some books I think that are not on everybody’s reading list these days, but I remembered as being interesting, like “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing, for example. Or “The Woman Warrior,” by Maxine Hong Kingston.

Part of what was interesting was me pulling back books that I thought were really powerful, but that might not surface when she goes to college.
Have you had a c... more »

The President's favorite books

It's nice having a president who reads fiction, including science fiction, and shares books with his children.  Here's part of an interview he did on Friday:

These books that you gave to your daughter Malia on the Kindle, what were they? Some of your favorites?

I think some of them were sort of the usual suspects, so “The Naked and the Dead” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” I think she hadn’t read yet.  Then there were some books I think that are not on everybody’s reading list these days, but I remembered as being interesting, like “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing, for example. Or “The Woman Warrior,” by Maxine Hong Kingston.

Part of what was interesting was me pulling back books that I thought were really powerful, but that might not surface when she goes to college.

Have you had a chance to discuss them with her?

I’ve had the chance to discuss some. And she’s interested in being a filmmaker, so storytelling is of great interest to her. She had just read “A Moveable Feast.” I hadn’t included that, and she was just captivated by the idea that Hemingway described his goal of writing one true thing every day.

How has the speechwriting and being at the center of history and dealing with crises affected you as a writer?

I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to see when I start writing the next book. Some of the craft of writing a good speech is identical to any other good writing: Is that word necessary? Is it the right word? Is there a rhythm to it that feels good? How does it sound aloud?

I actually think that one of the useful things about speechwriting is reminding yourself that the original words are spoken, and that there is a sound, a feel to words that, even if you’re reading silently, transmits itself.

So in that sense, I think there will be some consistency.

But this is part of why it was important to pick up the occasional novel during the presidency, because most of my reading every day was briefing books and memos and proposals. And so working that very analytical side of the brain all the time sometimes meant you lost track of not just the poetry of fiction, but also the depth of fiction.

Fiction was useful as a reminder of the truths under the surface of what we argue about every day and was a way of seeing and hearing the voices, the multitudes of this country.

Are there examples of specific novels or writers?

Well, the last novel I read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” And the reminder of the ways in which the pain of slavery transmits itself across generations, not just in overt ways, but how it changes minds and hearts.

It’s what you said in your farewell address about Atticus Finch, where you said people are so isolated in their little bubbles. Fiction can leap —

It bridges them. I struck up a friendship with the novelist Marilynne Robinson, who has become a good friend. And we’ve become sort of pen pals. I started reading her in Iowa, where “Gilead” and some of her best novels are set. And I loved her writing in part because I saw those people every day. And the interior life she was describing that connected them — the people I was shaking hands with and making speeches to — it connected them with my grandparents, who were from Kansas and ended up journeying all the way to Hawaii, but whose foundation had been set in a very similar setting.

And so I think that I found myself better able to imagine what’s going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency because of not just a specific novel but the act of reading fiction. It exercises those muscles, and I think that has been helpful.

And then there’s been the occasion where I just want to get out of my own head. [Laughter] Sometimes you read fiction just because you want to be someplace else.

What are some of those books?

It’s interesting, the stuff I read just to escape ends up being a mix of things — some science fiction. For a while, there was a three-volume science-fiction novel, the “Three-Body Problem” series —

Oh, Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award.

— which was just wildly imaginative, really interesting. It wasn’t so much sort of character studies as it was just this sweeping —

It’s really about the fate of the universe.

Exactly. The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade. [Laughter]

There were books that would blend, I think, really good writing with thriller genres. I mean, I thought “Gone Girl” was a well-constructed, well-written book.

I loved that structure.

Yeah, and it was really well executed. And a similar structure, that I thought was a really powerful novel: “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff.

I like those structures where you actually see different points of view. Which I have to do for this job, too. [Laughter]

Have there been certain books that have been touchstones for you in these eight years?

I would say Shakespeare continues to be a touchstone. Like most teenagers in high school, when we were assigned, I don’t know, “The Tempest” or something, I thought, ‘My God, this is boring.’ And I took this wonderful Shakespeare class in college where I just started to read the tragedies and dig into them. And that, I think, is foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings.

The intervier was Michiko Kakutani, chief book critic for The New York Times, and the whole interview is here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/books/transcript-president-obama-on-what-books-mean-to-him.html___

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2017-01-15 00:34:00 (21 comments; 43 reshares; 168 +1s; )Open 

Good news from the President

Barack Obama just came out with an article in Science!   It's about climate change and clean energy.   Here it is, minus the references, which you can see in the original.

The irreversible momentum of clean energy

The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to human activity is increasing global average surface air temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, and acidifying the ocean. Left unchecked, the continued growth of GHG emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations. Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy — a debate that is very much on displayduring... more »

Good news from the President

Barack Obama just came out with an article in Science!   It's about climate change and clean energy.   Here it is, minus the references, which you can see in the original.

The irreversible momentum of clean energy

The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to human activity is increasing global average surface air temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, and acidifying the ocean. Left unchecked, the continued growth of GHG emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations. Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy — a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition. But putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow. This Policy Forum will focus on the four reasons I believe the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.

ECONOMIES GROW, EMISSIONS FALL

The United States is showing that GHG mitigation need not conflict with economic growth. Rather, it can boost efficiency, productivity, and innovation. Since 2008, the United States has experienced the first sustained period of rapid GHG emissions reductions and simultaneous economic growth on record. Specifically, CO2 emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5% from 2008 to 2015, while the economy grew by more than 10%. In this same period, the amount of energy consumed per dollar of real gross domestic product (GDP) fell by almost 11%, the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of energy consumed declined by 8%, and CO2 emitted per dollar of GDP declined by 18%.

The importance of this trend cannot be overstated. This “decoupling”  of energy sector emissions and economic growth should put to rest the argument that combatting climate change requires accepting lower growth or a lower standard of living. In fact, although this decoupling is most pronounced in the United States, evidence that economies can grow while emissions do not is emerging around the world. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) preliminary estimate of energy related CO2 emissions in 2015 reveals that emissions stayed flat compared with the year before, whereas the global economy grew. The IEA noted that “There have been only four periods in the past 40 years in which CO2 emission levels were flat or fell compared with the previous year, with three of those — the early 1980s, 1992, and 2009 — being associated with global economic weakness. By contrast, the recent halt in emissions growth comes in a period of economic growth.”

At the same time, evidence is mounting that any economic strategy that ignores carbon pollution will impose tremendous costs to the global economy and will result in fewer jobs and less economic growth over the long term. Estimates of the economic damages from warming of 4°C over preindustrial levels range from 1% to 5% of global GDP each year by 2100. One of the most frequently cited economic models pins the estimate of annual damages from warming of 4°C at ~4% of global GDP, which could lead to lost U.S. federal revenue of roughly $340 billion to $690 billion annually.

Moreover, these estimates do not include the possibility of GHG increases triggering catastrophic events, such as the accelerated shrinkage of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, drastic changes in ocean currents, or sizable releases of GHGs from previously frozen soils and sediments that rapidly accelerate warming. In addition, these estimates factor in economic damages but do not address the critical question of whether the underlying rate of economic growth (rather than just the level of GDP) is affected by climate change, so these studies could substantially understate the potential damage of climate change on the global macroeconomy.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly clear that, regardless of the inherent uncertainties in predicting future climate and weather patterns, the investments needed to reduce emissions — and to increase resilience and preparedness for the changes in climate that can no longer be avoided — will be modest in comparison with the benefits from avoided climate-change damages.  This means, in the coming years, states, localities, and businesses will need to continue making these critical investments, in addition to taking common-sense steps to disclose climate risk to taxpayers, homeowners, shareholders, and customers.  Global insurance and reinsurance businesses are already taking such steps as their analytical models reveal growing climate risk.

PRIVATE-SECTOR EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS

Beyond the macroeconomic case, businesses are coming to the conclusion that reducing emissions is not just good for the environment — it can also boost bottom lines, cut costs for consumers, and deliver returns for shareholders.

Perhaps the most compelling example is energy efficiency. Government has played a role in encouraging this kind of investment and innovation.  My Administration has put in place (i) fuel economy standards that are net beneficial and are projected to cut more than 8 billion tons of carbon pollution over the lifetime of new vehicles sold between 2012 and 2029 and (ii) 44 appliance standards and new building codes that are projected to cut 2.4 billion tons of carbon pollution and save $550 billion for consumers by 2030.

But ultimately, these investments are being made by firms that decide to cut their energy waste in order to save money and invest in other areas of their businesses. For example, Alcoa has set a goal of reducing its GHG intensity 30% by 2020 from its 2005 baseline, and General Motors is working to reduce its energy intensity from facilities by 20% from its 2011 baseline over the same timeframe. Investments like these are contributing to what we are seeing take place across the economy: Total energy consumption in 2015 was 2.5% lower than it was in 2008, whereas the economy was 10% larger.

This kind of corporate decision-making can save money, but it also has the potential to create jobs that pay well. A U.S. Department of Energy report released this week found that ~2.2 million Americans are currently employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services. This compares with the roughly 1.1 million Americans who are employed in the production of fossil fuels and their use for electric power generation. Policies that continue to encourage businesses to save money by cutting energy waste could pay a major employment dividend and are based on stronger economic logic than continuing the nearly $5 billion per year in federal fossil-fuel subsidies, a market distortion that should be corrected on its own or in the context of corporate tax reform.

MARKET FORCES IN THE POWER SECTOR

The American electric-power sector — the largest source of GHG emissions in our economy — is being transformed, in large part, because of market dynamics. In 2008, natural gas made up ~21% of U.S. electricity generation. Today, it makes up ~33%, an increase due almost entirely to the shift from higher-emitting coal to lower-emitting natural gas, brought about primarily by the increased availability of low-cost gas due to new production techniques. Because the cost of new electricity generation using natural gas is projected to remain low relative to coal, it is unlikely that utilities will change course and choose to build coal-fired power plants, which would be more expensive than natural gas plants, regardless of any near-term changes in federal policy. Although methane emissions from natural gas production are a serious concern, firms have an economic incentive over the long term to put in place waste-reducing measures consistent with standards my Administration has put in place, and states will continue making important progress toward addressing this issue, irrespective of near-term federal policy.

Renewable electricity costs also fell dramatically between 2008 and 2015: the cost of electricity fell 41% for wind, 54% for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, and 64% for utility-scale PV. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2015 was a record year for clean energy investment, with those energy sources attracting twice as much global capital as fossil fuels.

Public policy — ranging from Recovery Act investments to recent tax credit extensions — has played a crucial role, but technology advances and market forces will continue to drive renewable deployment.  The levelized cost of electricity from new renewables like wind and solar in some parts of the United States is already lower than that for new coal generation, without counting subsidies for renewables.

That is why American businesses are making the move toward renewable energy sources. Google, for example, announced last month that, in 2017, it plans to power 100% of its operations using renewable energy — in large part through large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has set a goal of getting 100% of its energy from renewables in the coming years. And economy-wide, solar and wind firms now employ more than 360,000 Americans, compared with around 160,000 Americans who work in coal electric generation and support.

Beyond market forces, state-level policy will continue to drive clean-energy momentum. States representing 40% of the U.S. population are continuing to move ahead with clean-energy plans, and even outside of those states, clean energy is expanding. For example, wind power alone made up 12% of Texas’s electricity production in 2015 and, at certain points in 2015, that number was >40%, and wind provided 32% of Iowa’s total electricity generation in 2015, up from 8% in 2008 (a higher fraction than in any other state).

GLOBAL MOMENTUM

Outside the United States, countries and their businesses are moving forward, seeking to reap benefits for their countries by being at the front of the clean-energy race.  This has not always been the case. A short time ago, many believed that only a small number of advanced economies should be responsible for reducing GHG emissions and contributing to the fight against climate change. But nations agreed in Paris that all countries should put forward increasingly ambitious climate policies and be subject to consistent transparency and accountability requirements. This was a fundamental shift in the diplomatic landscape, which has already yielded substantial dividends. The Paris Agreement entered into force in less than a year, and, at the follow-up meeting this fall in Marrakesh, countries agreed that, with more than 110 countries representing more than 75% of global emissions having already joined the Paris Agreement, climate action “momentum is irreversible”. Although substantive action over decades will be required to realize the vision of Paris, analysis of countries’ individual contributions suggests that meeting mediumterm respective targets and increasing their ambition in the years ahead — coupled with scaled-up investment in clean-energy technologies — could increase the international community’s probability of limiting warming to 2°C by as much as 50%.

Were the United States to step away from Paris, it would lose its seat at the table to hold other countries to their commitments, demand transparency, and encourage ambition. This does not mean the next Administration needs to follow identical domestic policies to my Administration’s. There are multiple paths and mechanisms by which this country can achieve — efficiently and economically — the targets we embraced in the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement itself is based on a nationally determined structure whereby each country sets and updates its own commitments. Regardless of U.S. domestic policies, it would undermine our economic interests to walk away from the opportunity to hold countries representing two-thirds of global emissions — including China, India, Mexico, European Union members, and others — accountable. This should not be a partisan issue. It is good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends. And it is smart planning to set long term emission-reduction targets and give American companies, entrepreneurs, and investors certainty so they can invest and manufacture the emission-reducing technologies that we can use domestically and export to the rest of the world. That is why hundreds of major companies — including energy-related companies from ExxonMobil and Shell, to DuPont and Rio Tinto, to Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Calpine, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company — have supported the Paris process, and leading investors have committed $1 billion in patient, private capital to support clean-energy breakthroughs that could make even greater climate ambition possible.

CONCLUSION

We have long known, on the basis of a massive scientific record, that the urgency of acting to mitigate climate change is real and cannot be ignored. In recent years, we have also seen that the economic case for action — and against inaction — is just as clear, the business case for clean energy is growing, and the trend toward a cleaner power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies.

Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people, as well as the international community. Prudent U.S. policy over the next several decades would prioritize, among other actions, decarbonizing the U.S. energy system, storing carbon and reducing emissions within U.S. lands, and reducing non-CO2 emissions.

Of course, one of the great advantages of our system of government is that each president is able to chart his or her own policy course. And President-elect Donald Trump will have the opportunity to do so. The latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring, in many cases independent of near-term policy choices, when it comes to combatting climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

-----

The full article with references is here, open-access:

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6321/126.full.pdf+html

The references give sources for all the numbers he mentions.

#climateaction___

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2017-01-12 21:32:38 (27 comments; 51 reshares; 113 +1s; )Open 

Pay attention

The basic trick in stage magic is to distract the audience.  While we were staring at Trump's antics, Republicans in the House of Representatives did something outrageous.  As usual, they passed a rule saying the Congressional Budget Office must estimate the cost of any law.  But they put in an exemption for a law repealing Obamaare. 

Why don't they want the CBO to estimate the cost of repealing Obamacare?

... because the last CBO “cost analysis of repealing Obamacare” (2015) found it would increase the deficit by $353 billion. It is an important point because besides unnecessarily stripping healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans and increasing the deficit, Republicans will use “budget reconciliation” to repeal the healthcare law that requires any legislation that increases the deficit to expire after 10 years. It is preciselywhy the Bus... more »

Pay attention

The basic trick in stage magic is to distract the audience.  While we were staring at Trump's antics, Republicans in the House of Representatives did something outrageous.  As usual, they passed a rule saying the Congressional Budget Office must estimate the cost of any law.  But they put in an exemption for a law repealing Obamaare. 

Why don't they want the CBO to estimate the cost of repealing Obamacare?

... because the last CBO “cost analysis of repealing Obamacare” (2015) found it would increase the deficit by $353 billion. It is an important point because besides unnecessarily stripping healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans and increasing the deficit, Republicans will use “budget reconciliation” to repeal the healthcare law that requires any legislation that increases the deficit to expire after 10 years. It is precisely why the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich had to expire after 10 years; they blew up the deficit and Republicans knew it was going to happen just like they know that repealing the ACA [that is, Obamacare] will.

The article gets it a bit wrong by claiming the CBO is prohibited from estimating the cost of repealing Obamacare.  I'm not sure this makes a difference in practice.

Thanks to +Russ Abbott for pointing out this article.

The rule is here:

http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20170102/BILLS-115hres5-PIH-FINAL.pdf

On page 25 it says:

CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE ANALYSIS OF PROPOSALS

The Director of the Congressional Budget Office shall, to the extent practicable, prepare an estimate of whether a bill or joint resolution reported by a committee (other than the Committee on Appropriations), or amendment thereto or conference report thereon, would cause, relative to current law, a net increase in direct spending in excess of $5,000,000,000 in any of the 4 consecutive 10-fiscal year periods beginning with the first fiscal year that is 10 fiscal years after the current fiscal year.

[... and then...]

LIMITATION

This subsection shall not apply to any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon—

(A) repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010;

(B) reforming the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010; or

(C) for which the chair of the Committee on the Budget has made an adjustment to the allocations, levels, or limits contained in the most recently adopted concurrent resolution on the budget.___

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2017-01-11 16:56:44 (11 comments; 10 reshares; 76 +1s; )Open 

This red nova - brighter than an ordinary nova but not as bright as a supernova - could be the brightest thing in the north hemisphere night sky in 2022... if  it happens in a season when it's in the Earth's night sky.

As Egan said in a comment on the original post:

Given that nobody knows exactly when this will happen, the main thing that determines how many people are likely to be able to see it is the declination, 46° N. So anyone in the northern hemisphere will have a good chance ... while for someone like me, at 31° S, the odds aren't great: it will never rise higher than 13° above the northern horizon, for me.

Right ascension is the celestial equivalent of longitude, but without knowing the season in advance (and the error bars on the current prediction are much too large for that) we can't tell if the sun will be too close to the object,dro... more »

Red nova

A "red nova" due to two stars merging might take place in 2022, and would likely be visible from Earth. (Alas, the linked article illustrates this with a picture of two merging bluish stars.)

The stars have been observed orbiting each other with an exponentially increasing angular velocity over the last three years, and they are believed to already be surrounded by a shared envelope of gas. If they are seen merging, this will be the first case of such an event being predicted in advance, making it possible to study the pre-collision phase.

Thanks to +Peter da Silva

The full paper is here: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/phys/observatory/MergingStar/MolnarEtAl2017.pdf

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/01/colliding-stars-will-light-night-sky-2022___This red nova - brighter than an ordinary nova but not as bright as a supernova - could be the brightest thing in the north hemisphere night sky in 2022... if  it happens in a season when it's in the Earth's night sky.

As Egan said in a comment on the original post:

Given that nobody knows exactly when this will happen, the main thing that determines how many people are likely to be able to see it is the declination, 46° N. So anyone in the northern hemisphere will have a good chance ... while for someone like me, at 31° S, the odds aren't great: it will never rise higher than 13° above the northern horizon, for me.

Right ascension is the celestial equivalent of longitude, but without knowing the season in advance (and the error bars on the current prediction are much too large for that) we can't tell if the sun will be too close to the object, drowning it in daylight to the naked eye.

If that happens, I guess the only comfort is that there are still sure to be telescopes able to make observations, maybe including both Hubble and James Webb.

For more on red novae, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminous_red_nova

where we read:

The luminosity of the explosion occurring in luminous red novae is between that of a supernova (which is brighter) and a nova (dimmer). The visible light lasts for weeks or months, and is distinctively red in colour, becoming dimmer and redder over time. As the visible light dims, the infrared light grows and also lasts for an extended period of time, usually dimming and brightening a number of times.

#astronomy

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2017-01-11 02:01:14 (0 comments; 14 reshares; 76 +1s; )Open 

Why did Putin help Trump?

Here's one possibility: in his many dealings with Russian business, Trump has become compromised in some way, which gives Putin leverage over him.  That would explain why Trump constantly bends over backward to be nice to Putin.  And it would certainly explain why Putin wanted  Trump to be president.

Recently Buzzfeed published a dossier detailing the explosive — but unverified — claim that Russia had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years and held compromising information about him.  You can read that dossier here. 

The passage starting here is where it gets really nasty:

...there were other aspects to TRUMP's engagement with the Russian authorities.  One of them which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP's personal obsessions and sexual perversion to in order to obtain"komprom... more »

Why did Putin help Trump?

Here's one possibility: in his many dealings with Russian business, Trump has become compromised in some way, which gives Putin leverage over him.  That would explain why Trump constantly bends over backward to be nice to Putin.  And it would certainly explain why Putin wanted  Trump to be president.

Recently Buzzfeed published a dossier detailing the explosive — but unverified — claim that Russia had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years and held compromising information about him.  You can read that dossier here. 

The passage starting here is where it gets really nasty:

...there were other aspects to TRUMP's engagement with the Russian authorities.  One of them which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP's personal obsessions and sexual perversion to in order to obtain "kompromat" (compromising material) on him.

Read on at your own risk.

We don't know that these claims are true!   But last week, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the FBI Director James Comey, the CIA Director John Brennan, and the NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers briefed Obama and Trump about these claims:

One reason the nation's intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats.

These last quotes are from CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/10/politics/donald-trump-intelligence-report-russia/index.html

For more on the dossier obtained by Buzzfeed, see:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/kenbensinger/these-reports-allege-trump-has-deep-ties-to-russia?utm_term=.bo87xa47e2#.ek3Xq46Xn0

Trump's lawyer has argued against the dossier:

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/01/trump-lawyer-shoots-down-allegations-of-golden-showers-intel-report/___

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2017-01-10 20:54:05 (21 comments; 8 reshares; 51 +1s; )Open 

Figuring out quantum gravity - it ain't easy!

Read this story by Bob Henderson.  Life as a grad student in theoretical physics can be very tough.  Smarts and hard work are important, but persistence in the face of difficulty is also crucial. 

My own experience - doing mathematical physics in a math department, actually - looks great in hindsight.  But I accomplished much less than I wanted in my thesis, and by the end I almost convinced myself I should switch to music or philosophy.  Only the practical need to find a job made me go on to a postdoc... and I'm very glad that I persisted.  Most of my education came after my PhD.

Of course, persistence in the face of obstacles is not always the right decision.

Here's just a snippet:

That summer, I moved. A fellowship I’d had had run out, so I’d have to start earning my keep as ateaching ... more »

Figuring out quantum gravity - it ain't easy!

Read this story by Bob Henderson.  Life as a grad student in theoretical physics can be very tough.  Smarts and hard work are important, but persistence in the face of difficulty is also crucial. 

My own experience - doing mathematical physics in a math department, actually - looks great in hindsight.  But I accomplished much less than I wanted in my thesis, and by the end I almost convinced myself I should switch to music or philosophy.  Only the practical need to find a job made me go on to a postdoc... and I'm very glad that I persisted.  Most of my education came after my PhD.

Of course, persistence in the face of obstacles is not always the right decision.

Here's just a snippet:

That summer, I moved. A fellowship I’d had had run out, so I’d have to start earning my keep as a teaching assistant and living off a stipend that went from a subsistence wage to a sub-subsistence wage. I left the old woman’s house for the relative bargain of a basement of another house in a seedier neighborhood. Its tiny windows up by the ceiling furnished its one room with feeble light and a bug’s-eye view of weeds. Its concrete walls seeped with damp. The bed was a mattress on the floor, with a plastic tarp under it to keep it dry. I kept a pair of running shoes next to it, for whacking the giant centipedes that regularly wriggled by. Dad, who never seemed bothered by sleeping on the shared cots in his dingy police station, or by nights spent in the rat-infested warehouses where he moonlighted as a security guard, was incredulous the first time he came. “I don’t know how you can live like this,” he rasped in his Bronx accent, looking both concerned and amused.

Eh. Living in squalor was just part of the adventure.

And I’d be spending all my waking hours in [the physics department] anyway, working on quantum gravity with Rajeev, exploring the sort of intellectual frontier that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had called the “high country of the mind.”

What will I find there? I wondered.

Answer: a series of surprises, each more disquieting than the last. The first was how much [my thesis advisor] Rajeev already knew about the problem, even before we started. And I don’t just mean background knowledge, but instead the actual answer to our project’s main question, at least in broad strokes.

If you were to picture Rajeev and me as explorers in the high country, facing some misty mountain range that we needed to cross, Rajeev was the one scanning the landscape, making mental calculations, and pointing the way. What struck me most was how he somehow knew that our ultimate destination, call it a river, lay on the other side. The “river” in our case was a detailed answer to the quantum gravity question Rajeev had posed over dessert at the Faculty Club. Its exact location and shape would remain a mystery until we’d found it, but Rajeev never doubted it was there.

That made me the scout. We’d convene in Rajeev’s little office and, like our first meeting, I’d focus on following his logic and asking questions while he paced back and forth, thought out loud, and banged out equations on the board. At some point, after three or four hours, he might say something like “What else could it be?” that signaled that he was happy enough with the direction he’d found to let me forge ahead on my own, meaning I’d spend the next day or two in my office doing the detailed calculations that he’d speculated would take us to the next landmark. Sometimes I’d find the route clear; other times an obstacle in the way. Either way, I’d report back and then we’d sink back into another session. Thus research advanced, by a system reminiscent of the directions on a shampoo bottle: Meet. Calculate. Repeat.

Thanks to +Peter Woit for pointing out this story.  As a thesis advisor, I would never give a student a problem if I didn't already know the answer in broad strokes.  Otherwise you're throwing them into the pool without a life preserver!  I haven't thought enough about how this can be "disquieting".  But I've certainly noticed how my students perk up when I get completely confused about something!

#physics  ___

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2017-01-09 22:18:12 (23 comments; 13 reshares; 47 +1s; )Open 

Don't say "ox" to your mother-in-law!

The world is full of weirdness.  From Bryant Rousseau:

A geographically widespread practice known as avoidance speech, or “mother-in-law languages,” imposes strict rules on how one speaks — or doesn’t — to the parents of a spouse, with daughters-in-law typically bearing the brunt of such limits.

In parts of Africa, Australia and India, some societies restrict the words a person can say after marriage. Some cultures have even barred all direct communication with parents-in-law.

Some married women who speak the Kambaata language of Ethiopia follow ballishsha, a rule that forbids them from using words that begin with the same syllable as the name of their father-in-law or mother-in-law.

This rule can complicate a conversation, but there are workarounds. Certain basic wordsin the voc... more »

Don't say "ox" to your mother-in-law!

The world is full of weirdness.  From Bryant Rousseau:

A geographically widespread practice known as avoidance speech, or “mother-in-law languages,” imposes strict rules on how one speaks — or doesn’t — to the parents of a spouse, with daughters-in-law typically bearing the brunt of such limits.

In parts of Africa, Australia and India, some societies restrict the words a person can say after marriage. Some cultures have even barred all direct communication with parents-in-law.

Some married women who speak the Kambaata language of Ethiopia follow ballishsha, a rule that forbids them from using words that begin with the same syllable as the name of their father-in-law or mother-in-law.

This rule can complicate a conversation, but there are workarounds. Certain basic words in the vocabulary come in synonymous pairs. “One is the normal term, used by everybody; one is the term used by women who are not allowed to say that word,” said Yvonne Treis, a linguist at a French research institute, Languages and Cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Euphemisms are another frequent solution: If the word “ox” is taboo for a wife to say, she may refer to “the one that plows” instead. The Kambaata language also has a word akin to “whatchamacallit” in English, useful in a pinch as either a noun or verb when no other alternative is available.

Avoidance speech is also practiced by speakers of some of the Bantu languages of southern Africa, including Xhosa and Zulu. Married women are forbidden from using their father-in-law’s name, or any word that has the same root or similar sound.

Bantu speakers often get around this restriction by borrowing synonyms from other languages spoken nearby. Some linguists think that is how click consonants found their way into Bantu speech: in words borrowed from Khoisan languages, which use clicks extensively.

In parts of India, a daughter-in-law is not allowed to use words that begin with the same letters as her in-laws’ names, requiring her to use a parallel vocabulary.

Avoidance speech was a common feature of many aboriginal languages in Australia. The custom has largely faded in some areas, but it is still widely practiced in the Western Desert region and Arnhem Land, according to Claire Bowern, a professor of linguistics at Yale.

For more, see his New York Times article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/world/what-in-the-world/avoidance-speech-mother-in-law-languages.html

and for more, the wonderful Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidance_speech___

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2017-01-08 18:48:00 (56 comments; 15 reshares; 91 +1s; )Open 

How to fairly share a square cake among 5 people

Suppose you have a square cake of arbitrary height and want to divide it into 5 pieces that all have the same amount of cake and the same amount of icing.

The icing makes it hard.  If there were no icing on the cake, or only icing on top, we could cut the cake in 5 strips of equal thickness. 

But let's assume there's icing on the sides of the cake too!  Since we don't know how tall the cake is, we want to slice the cake vertically into pieces that have equal area on top and contain equal amounts of the outside edge. 

This solution by Tim, a math teacher in Wisconsin, is quite impressive.  Divide each side into 5 parts as shown and cut straight to the center of the cake at C. 

Puzzle 1.  But is this solution correct?

You can see other answers here:
http... more »

How to fairly share a square cake among 5 people

Suppose you have a square cake of arbitrary height and want to divide it into 5 pieces that all have the same amount of cake and the same amount of icing.

The icing makes it hard.  If there were no icing on the cake, or only icing on top, we could cut the cake in 5 strips of equal thickness. 

But let's assume there's icing on the sides of the cake too!  Since we don't know how tall the cake is, we want to slice the cake vertically into pieces that have equal area on top and contain equal amounts of the outside edge. 

This solution by Tim, a math teacher in Wisconsin, is quite impressive.  Divide each side into 5 parts as shown and cut straight to the center of the cake at C. 

Puzzle 1.  But is this solution correct?

You can see other answers here:

https://twitter.com/stevenstrogatz/status/817811598211448832

The question was raised by Steven Strogatz on Twitter, and I heard about it from +Alok Tiwari, who heard about it from +Ian Agol.  Some of the answers on the original Twitter thread are really dumb, some are really smart.  It's fun to see them all.

The fun, of course - let's come out and say it! - arises from the gnarly and complicated relationship that the numbers 4 and 5 have with each other.  Squares and regular pentagons don't play nicely, and here Tim is trying to pentisect the square.

Puzzle 2. What's the easiest way to construct a segment of length sqrt(5/4) using ruler and compass?

#geometry  ___

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2017-01-04 23:09:54 (51 comments; 30 reshares; 124 +1s; )Open 

Somebody's beating everyone at go - and nobody knows who!

Except that now we do!  Read the article and click on the "update".

But it's fun to read about the original mystery before reading the solution.  For example:

The account is simply called "Master", and since the start of the new year it has made a habit out of trashing some of the world's best Go professionals. It's already beaten Ke Jie twice, who is currently the highest ranked Go player in the world.

A European professional Go player, Ali Jabarin, wrote on Facebook that Ke Jie was "a bit shocked ... just repeating it's too strong".

....there's been no official confirmation as to the mystery player wrecking online Go. The only thing anybody knows for sure is that the world's best Go players have been getting slappeda... more »

Somebody's beating everyone at go - and nobody knows who!

Except that now we do!  Read the article and click on the "update".

But it's fun to read about the original mystery before reading the solution.  For example:

The account is simply called "Master", and since the start of the new year it has made a habit out of trashing some of the world's best Go professionals. It's already beaten Ke Jie twice, who is currently the highest ranked Go player in the world.

A European professional Go player, Ali Jabarin, wrote on Facebook that Ke Jie was "a bit shocked ... just repeating it's too strong".

....there's been no official confirmation as to the mystery player wrecking online Go. The only thing anybody knows for sure is that the world's best Go players have been getting slapped around by something.

Thanks to +Alexander Kruel for pointing this out.___

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2017-01-02 18:27:49 (21 comments; 34 reshares; 120 +1s; )Open 

My friend Tom Leinster has written a great introduction to that wonderful branch of math called category theory!   It's free:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.09375

It starts with the basics and it leads up to a trio of related concepts, which are all ways of talking about universal properties. 

Huh?  What's a 'universal property'?

In category theory, we try to describe things by saying what they do, not what they're made of.  The reason is that you can often make things out of different ingredients that still do the same thing!  And then, even though they will not be strictly the same, they will be isomorphic: the same in what they do. 

A universal property amounts to a precise description of what an object does.  

Universal properties show up in three closely connected ways in category theory, andTom'... more »

My friend Tom Leinster has written a great introduction to that wonderful branch of math called category theory!   It's free:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.09375

It starts with the basics and it leads up to a trio of related concepts, which are all ways of talking about universal properties. 

Huh?  What's a 'universal property'?

In category theory, we try to describe things by saying what they do, not what they're made of.  The reason is that you can often make things out of different ingredients that still do the same thing!  And then, even though they will not be strictly the same, they will be isomorphic: the same in what they do. 

A universal property amounts to a precise description of what an object does.  

Universal properties show up in three closely connected ways in category theory, and Tom's book explains these in detail:

through representable functors (which are how you actually hand someone a universal property),

through limits (which are ways of building a new object out of a bunch of old ones),

through adjoint functors (which give ways to 'freely' build an object in one category starting from an object in another).

If you want to see this vague wordy mush here transformed into precise, crystalline beauty, read Tom's book!  It's not easy to learn this stuff - but it's good for your brain.  It literally rewires your neurons.

Here's what he wrote, over on the category theory mailing list:

.............................................................................

Dear all,

My introductory textbook "Basic Category Theory" was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.  By arrangement with them, it's now also free online:

   https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.09375

It's also freely editable, under a Creative Commons licence.  For instance, if you want to teach a class from it but some of the examples aren't suitable, you can delete them or add your own.  Or if you don't like the notation (and when have two category theorists ever agreed on that?), you can easily change the Latex macros.  Just go the arXiv, download, and edit to your heart's content.

There are lots of good introductions to category theory out there.  The particular features of this one are:

• It's short.
• It doesn't assume much.
• It sticks to the basics.___

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2017-01-01 18:29:46 (53 comments; 15 reshares; 107 +1s; )Open 

The Chmutov octic surface

You can get some very fancy surfaces using just polynomial equations. Here +Abdelaziz Nait Merzouk drew one using polynomials of degree 8.  That's why it's called an octic.  

Why is it called the Chmutov octic?   Well, that's because it was constructed by V. S. Chmutov as part of an effort to build surfaces with lots of ordinary double points, meaning points that look the place where the tips of two cones meet.  This one has 144 ordinary double points!

That's not the best you can do: the octic with the highest known number of ordinary double points is the Endrass octic, shown here:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/08/01/endrass-octic/

The Endrass octic has 168 ordinary double points.  Nobody knows if that's the best possible.

The Chmutov octic isjust o... more »

The Chmutov octic surface

You can get some very fancy surfaces using just polynomial equations. Here +Abdelaziz Nait Merzouk drew one using polynomials of degree 8.  That's why it's called an octic.  

Why is it called the Chmutov octic?   Well, that's because it was constructed by V. S. Chmutov as part of an effort to build surfaces with lots of ordinary double points, meaning points that look the place where the tips of two cones meet.  This one has 144 ordinary double points!

That's not the best you can do: the octic with the highest known number of ordinary double points is the Endrass octic, shown here:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/08/01/endrass-octic/

The Endrass octic has 168 ordinary double points.  Nobody knows if that's the best possible.

The Chmutov octic is just one of a series of surfaces invented by Chmutov.  There's a Chmutov quadratic, a Chmutov cubic, a Chmutov quartic, a Chmutov quintic,  a Chmutov sextic, a Chmutov septic, a Chmutov octic, a Chmutov nonic, a Chmutov decic, a Chmutov hendecic, a Chmutov duodecic, a Chmutov triskaidecic, a Chmutov tetrakaidecic, a Chmutov pendecic, a Chmutov hexadecic, a Chmutov heptadecic, a Chmutov octadecic, a Chmutov enneadecic, a Chmutov icosic, and so on.  In fact you can see a quick animated gif of all of these - from the quadratic to the icosic - here:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2017/01/01/chmutov-octic/

Again, it was made by +Abdelaziz Nait Merzouk.  You'll notice that most of the Chmutov surfaces of even degree look a lot like the octic here, while those of odd degree extend out to infinity. 

Chmutov made these surfaces to get a lower bound on how many ordinary double points we could cram into a surface of a given degree.  In most cases other people have beaten him by now.  But still, these surfaces are cute!  They're defined using some polynomials invented by the Russian mathematician Chebyshev - also known as Chebychev, Chebysheff, Chebychov, Chebyshov, Tchebychev, Tchebycheff, Tschebyschev, Tschebyschef, or Tschebyscheff.  Apparently he suffered from a rare psychological disorder that made him forget how to spell his name - so each time he wrote another paper, he signed it a different way!

Happy New Year!  (You may not have heard, but this year April Fool's Day has been scheduled on January 1st instead of April 1st.)

#geometry  ___

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2016-12-30 17:25:54 (42 comments; 12 reshares; 157 +1s; )Open 

Creature of nightmares

This is the scariest insect I've ever seen: the giant toothed longhorn beetle from the Amazon basin in Ecuador.   It's not as big as it looks here, but it's big: one of the biggest beetles in the world, up to 17 centimeters long.  (That's half a foot, for you Americans.)  Its larvae are even longer! 

+Gil Wizen, who photographed this monster, writes:

Encountering this species was one of my highlights for the year. I know Macrodontia cervicornis very well from museum insect collections. It is one of the most impressive beetle species in the world, both in size and structure. But I never imagined I would be seeing a live one in the wild! Well let me tell you, it is hard to get over the initial impression. The male beetle that I found was not the biggest specimen, but the way it moved around still made it appear likenot... more »

Creature of nightmares

This is the scariest insect I've ever seen: the giant toothed longhorn beetle from the Amazon basin in Ecuador.   It's not as big as it looks here, but it's big: one of the biggest beetles in the world, up to 17 centimeters long.  (That's half a foot, for you Americans.)  Its larvae are even longer! 

+Gil Wizen, who photographed this monster, writes:

Encountering this species was one of my highlights for the year. I know Macrodontia cervicornis very well from museum insect collections. It is one of the most impressive beetle species in the world, both in size and structure. But I never imagined I would be seeing a live one in the wild! Well let me tell you, it is hard to get over the initial impression. The male beetle that I found was not the biggest specimen, but the way it moved around still made it appear like nothing short of a monster. This species is very defensive, and getting close for the wide angle macro shot was a bit risky. The beetle responds to any approaching object with a swift biting action, and those jaws are powerful enough to cut through thick wooden branches, not to mention fingers!

Check out his favorite photos of the year:

http://gilwizen.com/2016-in-review/

and for more on this beetle, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macrodontia_cervicornis

#biology  ___

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2016-12-29 19:35:16 (27 comments; 29 reshares; 187 +1s; )Open 

Get it done

It's better to do something imperfect that helps than not help at all.  We so easily forget that.  Here's a great story to help us remember: the Hair Dryer Incident, as told by psychatrist Scott Alexander:

The Hair Dryer Incident was probably the biggest dispute I’ve seen in the mental hospital where I work. Most of the time all the psychiatrists get along and have pretty much the same opinion about important things, but people were at each other’s throats about the Hair Dryer Incident.

Basically, this one obsessive compulsive woman would drive to work every morning and worry she had left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house. So she’d drive back home to check that the hair dryer was off, then drive back to work, then worry that maybe she hadn’t really checked well enough, then drive back, and so on ten ortwenty ti... more »

Get it done

It's better to do something imperfect that helps than not help at all.  We so easily forget that.  Here's a great story to help us remember: the Hair Dryer Incident, as told by psychatrist Scott Alexander:

The Hair Dryer Incident was probably the biggest dispute I’ve seen in the mental hospital where I work. Most of the time all the psychiatrists get along and have pretty much the same opinion about important things, but people were at each other’s throats about the Hair Dryer Incident.

Basically, this one obsessive compulsive woman would drive to work every morning and worry she had left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house. So she’d drive back home to check that the hair dryer was off, then drive back to work, then worry that maybe she hadn’t really checked well enough, then drive back, and so on ten or twenty times a day.

It’s a pretty typical case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it was really interfering with her life. She worked some high-powered job – I think a lawyer – and she was constantly late to everything because of this driving back and forth, to the point where her career was in a downspin and she thought she would have to quit and go on disability. She wasn’t able to go out with friends, she wasn’t even able to go to restaurants because she would keep fretting she left the hair dryer on at home and have to rush back. She’d seen countless psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, she’d done all sorts of therapy, she’d taken every medication in the book, and none of them had helped.

So she came to my hospital and was seen by a colleague of mine, who told her “Hey, have you thought about just bringing the hair dryer with you?”

And it worked.

She would be driving to work in the morning, and she’d start worrying she’d left the hair dryer on and it was going to burn down her house, and so she’d look at the seat next to her, and there would be the hair dryer, right there. And she only had the one hair dryer, which was now accounted for. So she would let out a sigh of relief and keep driving to work.

And approximately half the psychiatrists at my hospital thought this was absolutely scandalous, and This Is Not How One Treats Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and what if it got out to the broader psychiatric community that instead of giving all of these high-tech medications and sophisticated therapies we were just telling people to put their hair dryers on the front seat of their car?

I, on the other hand, thought it was the best fricking story I had ever heard and the guy deserved a medal. Here’s someone who was totally untreatable by the normal methods, with a debilitating condition, and a drop-dead simple intervention that nobody else had thought of gave her her life back. If one day I open up my own psychiatric practice, I am half-seriously considering using a picture of a hair dryer as the logo, just to let everyone know where I stand on this issue.

Miyamoto Musashi is quoted as saying:

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.

Likewise, the primary thing in psychiatry is to help the patient, whatever the means. Someone can concern-troll that the hair dryer technique leaves something to be desired in that it might have prevented the patient from seeking a more thorough cure that would prevent her from having to bring the hair dryer with her. But compared to the alternative of “nothing else works” it seems clearly superior.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/the-categories-were-made-for-man-not-man-for-the-categories/

Thanks to Richard Mlynarik for leading me to this, indirectly.  He actually pointed me to an interesting article about psychology and network theory:

http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/12/14/ssc-journal-club-mental-disorders-as-networks/

The idea is that some mental disorders, instead of having a single "root cause", are a network of symptoms that reinforce each.  Some, not all!

That article led me to this tale here.___

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2016-12-28 17:20:38 (78 comments; 68 reshares; 114 +1s; )Open 

Give the Earth a present: help us save climate data

We've been busy backing up climate data before Trump becomes President. Now you can help too, with some money to pay for servers and storage space.   Please give what you can at our Kickstarter campaign here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/592742410/azimuth-climate-data-backup-project

If we get $5000 by the end of January, we can save this data until we convince bigger organizations to take over.   If we don't get that much, we get nothing.  That's how Kickstarter works.   Also, if you donate now, you won't be billed until January 31st.

So, please help!   It's urgent.

I will make public how we spend this money.  And if we get more than $5000, I'll make sure it's put to good use.  There's a lot of work we could do to make sure the data isauthentica... more »

Give the Earth a present: help us save climate data

We've been busy backing up climate data before Trump becomes President. Now you can help too, with some money to pay for servers and storage space.   Please give what you can at our Kickstarter campaign here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/592742410/azimuth-climate-data-backup-project

If we get $5000 by the end of January, we can save this data until we convince bigger organizations to take over.   If we don't get that much, we get nothing.  That's how Kickstarter works.   Also, if you donate now, you won't be billed until January 31st.

So, please help!   It's urgent.

I will make public how we spend this money.  And if we get more than $5000, I'll make sure it's put to good use.  There's a lot of work we could do to make sure the data is authenticated, made easily accessible, and so on.

The idea

The safety of US government climate data is at risk. Trump plans to have climate change deniers running every agency concerned with climate change.  So, scientists are rushing to back up the many climate databases held by US government agencies before he takes office.

We hope he won't be rash enough to delete these precious records. But: better safe than sorry!

The Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project is part of this effort. So far our volunteers have backed up nearly 1 terabyte of climate data from NASA and other agencies. We'll do a lot more!  We just need some funds to pay for storage space and a server until larger institutions take over this task.

The team

• +Jan Galkowski is a statistician with a strong interest in climate science. He works at Akamai Technologies, a company responsible for serving at least 15% of all web traffic. He began downloading climate data on the 11th of December.

• Shortly thereafter +John Baez, a mathematician and science blogger at U. C. Riverside, joined in to publicize the project. He’d already founded an organization called the Azimuth Project, which helps scientists and engineers cooperate on environmental issues.

• When Jan started running out of storage space, +Scott Maxwell  jumped in. He used to work for NASA — driving a Mars rover among other things — and now he works for Google. He set up a 10-terabyte account on Google Drive and started backing up data himself.

• A couple of days later +Sakari Maaranen joined the team. He’s a systems architect at Ubisecure, a Finnish firm, with access to a high-bandwidth connection. He set up a server, he's downloading lots of data, he showed us how to authenticate it with SHA-256 hashes, and he's managing many other technical aspects of this project.

There are other people involved too.  You can watch the nitty-gritty details of our progress here:

Azimuth Backup Project - Issue Tracker:
https://bitbucket.org/azimuth-backup/azimuth-inventory/issues

and you can learn more here:

Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project.
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/azimuth_backup_project/

#climateaction  ___

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2016-12-27 18:09:34 (6 comments; 10 reshares; 59 +1s; )Open 

Metal-Organic Framework 5

I like the look of this thing!   It's a metal-organic framework - a compound made of metal ions connected by organic stuff.   The picture here is just part of a structure that keeps repeating in all directions. 

The blue tetrahedra are made of an oxygen atom surrounded by 4 atoms of zinc.  They're connected by a kind of latticework made of an organic molecule called 1,4-benzodicarboxylic acid. 

The whole thing is called Metal-Organic Framework 5 or MOF5 for short.  There are lots of other kinds.

But what about the huge yellow ball?

That's not a real thing.  It's empty space where you can put something - like a molecule of hydrogen! 

And indeed, metal-organic frameworks are used for storing hydrogen - you can actually pack more hydrogen into a MOF than you caneasily sq... more »

Metal-Organic Framework 5

I like the look of this thing!   It's a metal-organic framework - a compound made of metal ions connected by organic stuff.   The picture here is just part of a structure that keeps repeating in all directions. 

The blue tetrahedra are made of an oxygen atom surrounded by 4 atoms of zinc.  They're connected by a kind of latticework made of an organic molecule called 1,4-benzodicarboxylic acid. 

The whole thing is called Metal-Organic Framework 5 or MOF5 for short.  There are lots of other kinds.

But what about the huge yellow ball?

That's not a real thing.  It's empty space where you can put something - like a molecule of hydrogen! 

And indeed, metal-organic frameworks are used for storing hydrogen - you can actually pack more hydrogen into a MOF than you can easily squeeze into an empty tank!  So they're not only beautiful, they're practical.

For a bigger view of MOF5, go here:

http://www.chemtube3d.com/solidstate/MOF-MOF5.html

For more about metal-organic frameworks, go here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal-organic_framework

Also check out my new chemistry collection:

https://plus.google.com/collection/EtbilB

#chemistry___

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2016-12-26 21:58:10 (13 comments; 19 reshares; 140 +1s; )Open 

Do it yourself

"I'm just a farmer's wife," says Christine Conder, modestly. But for 2,300 members of the rural communities of Lancashire she is also a revolutionary internet pioneer.

Her do-it-yourself solution to a neighbour's internet connectivity problems in 2009 has evolved into B4RN, an internet service provider offering fast one gigabit per second broadband speeds to the parishes which nestle in the picturesque Lune Valley.

That is 35 times faster than the 28.9 Mbps average UK speed internet connection according to Ofcom.

It all began when the trees which separated Chris's neighbouring farm from its nearest wireless mast - their only connection to the internet, provided by Lancaster University - grew too tall.

Something more robust was required, and no alternatives were available in the area, so Chris decided to... more »

Do it yourself

"I'm just a farmer's wife," says Christine Conder, modestly. But for 2,300 members of the rural communities of Lancashire she is also a revolutionary internet pioneer.

Her do-it-yourself solution to a neighbour's internet connectivity problems in 2009 has evolved into B4RN, an internet service provider offering fast one gigabit per second broadband speeds to the parishes which nestle in the picturesque Lune Valley.

That is 35 times faster than the 28.9 Mbps average UK speed internet connection according to Ofcom.

It all began when the trees which separated Chris's neighbouring farm from its nearest wireless mast - their only connection to the internet, provided by Lancaster University - grew too tall.

Something more robust was required, and no alternatives were available in the area, so Chris decided to take matters into her own hands.

She purchased a kilometre of fibre-optic cable and commandeered her farm tractor to dig a trench.

After lighting the cable, the two farms were connected, with hers feeding the one behind the trees.

"We dug it ourselves and we lit [the cable] ourselves and we proved that ordinary people could do it," she says.

"It wasn't rocket science. It was three days of hard work."

Her motto, which she repeats often in conversation, is JFDI. Three of those letters stand for Just Do It. The fourth you can work out for yourself.

And JFDI she has.

B4RN now claims to have laid 2,000 miles (3,218km) of cable and connected a string of local parishes to its network. It won't connect a single household, so the entire parish has to be on board before it will begin to build.

Each household pays £30 per month with a £150 connection fee and larger businesses pay more. Households must also do some of the installation themselves.

The entire infrastructure is fibre-optic cable right to the property, rather than just to the cabinet, with existing copper phone lines running from that to the home, as generally offered by British Telecom.

The service is so popular that the company has work lined up for the next 10 years and people from as far as Sierra Leone have attended the open days it holds a couple of times a year.

The bulk of the work is done by volunteers, although there are now 15 paid staff also on board. Farmers give access to their land and those with equipment like diggers and tractors do the heavy work.

Thanks to +Lisa Raphals for pointing this.  It's from here:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37974267___

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2016-12-25 21:48:39 (49 comments; 55 reshares; 212 +1s; )Open 

Romik's ambidextrous sofa

The ambidextrous moving sofa problem is to find the planar shape with the biggest area that can slide through right-angled turns both to the right and to the left in a hallway of width 1.  

Earlier this year Dan Romik, a mathematician at the University of California Davis, found the best known solution to this problem!   He created this animated gif of it, too.  His shape is bounded by 18 curves, each of which is either part of a circle, or part of a curve described by a polynomial equation of degree 6.   

Nobody has proved his solution is optimal.   We're not even sure that it's locally optimal, meaning that you can't make slight changes in his shape that increase the area and get a shape that still fits down the hallway.  This is an interesting challenge.

For more, including the precisearea of t... more »

Romik's ambidextrous sofa

The ambidextrous moving sofa problem is to find the planar shape with the biggest area that can slide through right-angled turns both to the right and to the left in a hallway of width 1.  

Earlier this year Dan Romik, a mathematician at the University of California Davis, found the best known solution to this problem!   He created this animated gif of it, too.  His shape is bounded by 18 curves, each of which is either part of a circle, or part of a curve described by a polynomial equation of degree 6.   

Nobody has proved his solution is optimal.   We're not even sure that it's locally optimal, meaning that you can't make slight changes in his shape that increase the area and get a shape that still fits down the hallway.  This is an interesting challenge.

For more, including the precise area of this shape, try my blog article on Visual Insight:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/12/15/romiks-ambidextrous-sofa/

I hope you're all having a great holiday!

Each year I try to think of things I can stop doing... so I can do more new stuff.   In 2017, I will try to take a year-long break from posting articles on Visual Insight.  I've been doing two a month for quite a while, I've done 81 of them, and I'm running out of enthusiasm.  Also, right now, a lot of my energy is going into the Azimuth Backup Project.  So, maybe I will save up ideas and restart Visual Insight in 2018.  But perhaps I'll end with a bang on January 1st, 2017.

#geometry  ___

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2016-12-25 02:59:09 (15 comments; 1 reshares; 45 +1s; )Open 

The Inn at Halona

Lisa and I just got back from a little trip.  First we drove through deserts, canyons and pine forests to Flagstaff, Arizona, where despite the icy chill we enjoyed dinner and live music at the Flagstaff Brewing Company.   We liked it so much we had lunch there the next day, and chanced upon a great old-timey folksinger and guitar player, Parker Smith.    Lisa is getting into Navajo arts and crafts, so she checked out the local shops while I worked on the Azimuth Backup Project.

The next day we continued driving east on the I-40 toward our ultimate goal: Gallup, New Mexico.  This is a fascinating city, a meeting-point for Navajo and Anglo culture, right on the southern border of the Navajo Nation.

But shortly after passing the Petrified Forest, we took a detour: at the town of Sanders we cut south to the Zuni Reservation, where weplann... more »

The Inn at Halona

Lisa and I just got back from a little trip.  First we drove through deserts, canyons and pine forests to Flagstaff, Arizona, where despite the icy chill we enjoyed dinner and live music at the Flagstaff Brewing Company.   We liked it so much we had lunch there the next day, and chanced upon a great old-timey folksinger and guitar player, Parker Smith.    Lisa is getting into Navajo arts and crafts, so she checked out the local shops while I worked on the Azimuth Backup Project.

The next day we continued driving east on the I-40 toward our ultimate goal: Gallup, New Mexico.  This is a fascinating city, a meeting-point for Navajo and Anglo culture, right on the southern border of the Navajo Nation.

But shortly after passing the Petrified Forest, we took a detour: at the town of Sanders we cut south to the Zuni Reservation, where we planned to spend a night at The Inn At Halona, shown here.

It was dark when we arrived, and we got quite lost.  There were a lot of lights, but our instructions said only that we had to find a four-way stop near the town of Zuni on Route 53 and head south.  Only after phoning the inn did we realize that there was indeed a unique intersection on this long road that had a a four-way stop sign.... which we had passed.  Once we found that, the rest was easy: we drove south until we saw Halona Plaza.  At back was the inn - a charming little place run by a Frenchman named Roger Thomas who long ago married a Zuni woman.

I'm much more familiar with the Hopi and Navajo than the Zuni, so it was interesting to hear why there were so many lights!    Just as the Navajo believe in evil spirits called chindi, the Zuni believe that nasty things lurk in the dark at night - which, however, can be dispelled, or at least kept under observation, by putting bright lights in front of every house!   And so, their rather small pueblo seemed larger and more populated than it really was.

It's just a tiny bed-and-breakfast, but it's cozy and friendly, and it's the only place I know to spend a night in the Zuni Reservation, so if you're ever in those parts, check it out:
 
https://www.halona.com/

The next day we went to look at the local arts and crafts.... but that's another story.  

Happy holidays to all of you!    Here's a bit about the Zuni, in case you're curious, or bored by the holidays:

The Zuni (or in their own language: A:shiwi) are people federally recognized Native American Pueblo peoples. Most live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in western New Mexico, United States. Zuni is 55 km (34 mi) south of Gallup, New Mexico. In addition to the reservation, the tribe owns trust lands in Catron County, New Mexico and Apache County, Arizona. They call their homeland Shiwinnaqin.

Archaeology suggests that the Zuni have been farmers in their present location for 3,000 to 4,000 years. It is now thought that the Zuni people have inhabited the Zuni River valley since the last millennium B.C., at which time they began using irrigation techniques which allowed for farming maize on at least household sized plots.  More recently, Zuni culture seems related to both the Mogollon and Ancestral Pueblo peoples cultures, who lived in the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and southern Colorado for over two millennia. The "village of the great kiva" near the contemporary Zuni Pueblo was built in the 11th century CE. The Zuni region, however, was probably only sparsely populated by small agricultural settlements until the 12th century when the population and the size of the settlements began to increase. In the 14th century, the Zuni inhabited a dozen pueblos between 180 and 1,400 rooms in size. All of these pueblos, except Zuni, were abandoned by 1400, and over the next 200 years, nine large new pueblos were constructed. These were the "seven cities of Cibola" sought by early Spanish explorers. By 1650, there were only six Zuni villages.

In 1539, the Moorish slave Estevanico led an advance party of Fray Marcos de Niza's Spanish expedition. The Zuni killed him as a spy. This was Spain's first contact with any of the Pueblo peoples. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado traveled through Zuni Pueblo. The Spaniards built a mission at Hawikuh in 1629. The Zunis tried to expel the missionaries in 1632, but the Spanish built another mission in Halona in 1643.

Before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Zuni lived in six different villages. After the revolt, until 1692, they took refuge in a defensible position atop Dowa Yalanne, a steep mesa 5 km (3.1 miles) southeast of the present Pueblo of Zuni; Dowa means "corn", and yalanne means "mountain". After the establishment of peace and the return of the Spanish, the Zuni relocated to their present location, only briefly returning to the mesa top in 1703.

The Zuni were self-sufficient during the mid-19th century, but faced raiding by the Apaches, Navajos, and Plains Indians. Their reservation was officially recognized by the United States federal government in 1877. Gradually the Zuni farmed less and turned to sheep and cattle herding as a means of economic development.

This understates a lot of violence and repression... but interestingly, the Zuni allied themselves with the Spaniards for a time, and together they fought the Navajo... which may partially explain why they weren't forcibly relocated and starved as the Navajo were, later on.  I'm not sure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuni_people___

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2016-12-23 17:40:39 (23 comments; 25 reshares; 105 +1s; )Open 

Hash it, baby!  Hash it now!

You can back up climate data, but how can anyone be sure your backups are accurate?  

Let's suppose the databases you've backed up have been deleted, so that there's no way to directly compare your backup with the original.  

And to make things really tough, let's suppose that faked databases are being promoted as competitors with the real ones! 

What can you do?

This is where computer science comes to the rescue!  You can use a hash function to compute a 'digest' of your backup.  If it matches the digest of the original database, it's more likely your backup is accurate.

But this works best if the people owning the original database were wise enough to compute and publish a digest of the original.  Otherwise it's a matter of comparing digests ofdifferen... more »

Hash it, baby!  Hash it now!

You can back up climate data, but how can anyone be sure your backups are accurate?  

Let's suppose the databases you've backed up have been deleted, so that there's no way to directly compare your backup with the original.  

And to make things really tough, let's suppose that faked databases are being promoted as competitors with the real ones! 

What can you do?

This is where computer science comes to the rescue!  You can use a hash function to compute a 'digest' of your backup.  If it matches the digest of the original database, it's more likely your backup is accurate.

But this works best if the people owning the original database were wise enough to compute and publish a digest of the original.  Otherwise it's a matter of comparing digests of different copies.

So, people who run big government climate databases should take action now!  If you know such a person, please make them read this:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/saving-climate-data-part-3/

As explained there, we've already had a bit of success.   But  we need much more.  +Sakari Maaranen writes:

If you’d like to help further promoting this Best Practice, consider getting it recognized as a standard when you do online publishing of key public information.

1. Publishing these hashes is already a major improvement on its own.

2. Publishing them on a secure website offers people further guarantees that there has not been any man-in-the-middle attack.

3. Digitally signing the checksum files offers the best easily achievable guarantees of data integrity by the person(s) who sign the checksum files.

Please consider having these three steps included in your science organisation’s online publishing training and standard Best Practices.

#climateaction  ___

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2016-12-18 17:40:12 (47 comments; 46 reshares; 140 +1s; )Open 

Please join our band of warriors

It's happening!   The Azimuth Backup Project is backing up climate data held by the US government.  So far the main people involved are:

+Jan Galkowski, a statistician and engineer at Akamai Technologies, a company in Cambridge Massachusetts whose content delivery network is one of the world’s largest distributed computing platforms, responsible for serving at least 15% of all web traffic.   He started downloading data about a week ago.

+Scott Maxwell, a site reliability engineer at Google who works for Google Drive.   Scott lives in Pasadena California and in case you're wondering, he used to work for NASA and had a job driving a Mars rover.  He has set up a 10-terabyte account on Google Drive that the rest of us can use, and he too is downloading data.

+Sakari Maaranen is a systems architect atUbisecur... more »

Please join our band of warriors

It's happening!   The Azimuth Backup Project is backing up climate data held by the US government.  So far the main people involved are:

+Jan Galkowski, a statistician and engineer at Akamai Technologies, a company in Cambridge Massachusetts whose content delivery network is one of the world’s largest distributed computing platforms, responsible for serving at least 15% of all web traffic.   He started downloading data about a week ago.

+Scott Maxwell, a site reliability engineer at Google who works for Google Drive.   Scott lives in Pasadena California and in case you're wondering, he used to work for NASA and had a job driving a Mars rover.  He has set up a 10-terabyte account on Google Drive that the rest of us can use, and he too is downloading data.

+Sakari Maaranen is a systems architect at Ubisecure, a firm in Finland that specializes in identity management, advanced user authentication, authorization, single sign-on, and federation.  He has offered another 10 terabytes of memory and is also downloading data.

So far this team has backed up several major climate databases, and we want to do more.  I hope we will eventually have a server that can provide access to backups to this data, and I hope we can provide proof that these backups correctly match the original data.  

Some people on our team know how all this stuff works; I'm just the dumb figurehead whose job is to help organize things.  My next job will be to do a Kickstarter campaign to get money for the data storage and a server.

If you're curious what we're doing, check out this blog article:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/azimuth-backup-project/

If you've got serious computer skills and want to help save climate data, we could use your help - drop me a line, either here or (better) on that blog page!

#climateaction  ___

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2016-12-16 20:02:09 (31 comments; 30 reshares; 107 +1s; )Open 

Saving climate data

Lots of scientists, librarians, archivists, computer geeks and environmental activists are making backups of US government environmental databases. We’re trying to beat the January 20th deadline just in case you-know-who decides to cause trouble.

Backing up data is always a good thing, so there’s no point in arguing about politics or the likelihood that these backups are needed. The present situation is just a nice reason to hurry up and do some things we should have been doing anyway.

2 days ago the story looked like this:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/saving-climate-data/

A lot has happened since then, but much more needs to be done. Right now you can see a list of 90 databases to be backed up:
h... more »

Saving climate data

Lots of scientists, librarians, archivists, computer geeks and environmental activists are making backups of US government environmental databases. We’re trying to beat the January 20th deadline just in case you-know-who decides to cause trouble.

Backing up data is always a good thing, so there’s no point in arguing about politics or the likelihood that these backups are needed. The present situation is just a nice reason to hurry up and do some things we should have been doing anyway.

2 days ago the story looked like this:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/saving-climate-data/

A lot has happened since then, but much more needs to be done. Right now you can see a list of 90 databases to be backed up:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12-__RqTqQxuxHNOln3H5ciVztsDMJcZ2SVs1BrfqYCc/htmlview?usp=drive_web&sle=true

Click on the tiny word "Datasets" in blue on top of the page!

Despite the word ‘climate’, the scope includes other environmental databases. You can see which have already been backed up: the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), the NASA temperature records (GISTEMP), and others. You can see which are in progress. And you can see dozens that aren’t backed up yet.

By going to here and clicking “Start Here to Help”:

http://climatemirror.org/

you can nominate a dataset for rescue, claim a dataset to rescue, let everyone know about a data rescue event, or help in some other way (which you must specify).

There’s also other useful information on this page, which keeps changing.

The overall effort is being organized by the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities or ‘PPEHLab’ for short. If you want to know what’s going on, it helps to look at their blog:

http://www.ppehlab.org/blogposts/?tag=datarescuepenn

Click the link on top to see their website, which is also very useful
.
However, the people organizing the project are currently overwhelmed with offers of help! People worldwide are proceeding to take action in a decentralzed way! So, everything is quite chaotic and nobody has an overall view of what’s going on.

I can’t overstate this: if you think that ‘they’ have a plan and ‘they’ know what’s going on, you’re wrong. ‘They’ is us. Act accordingly.

Data rescue events

People are getting together to hold 'data rescue events', so that's one way to get involved. There's one in Toronto:

Guerrilla archiving event, 10 am - 4 pm EST, Saturday 17 December 2016.  Location: Bissell Building, 4th Floor, 140 St. George St. University of Toronto.  Info: https://technoscienceunit.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/guerrilla-archiving-event-saving-environmental-data-from-trump/

There will be one in Philadelphia:

DataRescuePenn Data Harvesting, Friday--Saturday 13--14 January 2017.  Location: not determined yet, probably somewhere at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.  Info: http://www.ppehlab.org/events-20162017/2017/1/14/datarescuepenn-data-harvesting

There will also be events in New York City and Los Angeles, but I don't know details yet!  If you do, please tell me!

Internet archive

People are already in contact with the Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/index.php

This archive always tries to save US government websites and databases at the end of each presidential term.   Their efforts are not limited to environmental data, and they save not only webpages but entire databases, e.g. data in ftp sites.   You can nominate sites to be saved here:

• Internet Archive, End of Presidential Term Harvest 2016, http://digital2.library.unt.edu/nomination/eth2016/

The Azimuth Backup Project

People on G+ have already offered help: after my last call for help,+Scott Maxwell and +Sakari Maaranen have each offered 10 terabytes of storage and started downloading databases.  +Jan Galkowski was already doing the same.

So, we're starting to do some good work.   To learn more and help out, go here:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/azimuth-backup-project/

#climateaction  ___

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2016-12-14 20:30:13 (73 comments; 42 reshares; 133 +1s; )Open 

"If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite!"

That's what Governor Jerry Brown just said to 24,000 climate scientists in San Francisco, to thunderous applause.  And:

"We've got the scientists, we've got the lawyers and we're ready to fight."

And to Rick Perry of Texas, newly appointed to lead a department whose name he forgot when listing 3 departments he'd abolish if he were president - oh yeah, the Department of Energy:

"We've got more sun than you've got oil."

Brown is at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  I went there once - it's huge.  They usually meet in San Francisco because it has one of the few conference centers big enough to hold 24,000 people. 

The move to save climate data continues. Righ... more »

"If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite!"

That's what Governor Jerry Brown just said to 24,000 climate scientists in San Francisco, to thunderous applause.  And:

"We've got the scientists, we've got the lawyers and we're ready to fight."

And to Rick Perry of Texas, newly appointed to lead a department whose name he forgot when listing 3 departments he'd abolish if he were president - oh yeah, the Department of Energy:

"We've got more sun than you've got oil."

Brown is at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  I went there once - it's huge.  They usually meet in San Francisco because it has one of the few conference centers big enough to hold 24,000 people. 

The move to save climate data continues.  Right now the main thing we could use is 3 terabytes of storage space; to get that from Google seems to cost $100/month, since they'll give you 1 terabyte for $10/month and then 10 terabytes for $100/month. 

 +Jan Galkowski, a professional statistician and member of the +Azimuth Project, is spending Christmas break downloading data using WebDrive.   He could use 3 terabytes of space.

First we're downloading stuff.  In the longer term we will try to make this stuff publicly available.  And we will try to coordinate with the Climate Mirror project, here:

http://climatemirror.org/

Tomorrow I will talk to someone involved in this project and the head of the Society of American Archivists, since they know a lot about archiving data.  I would like to find more ways for ordinary folks to help, but right now it's a confusing scramble to organize things. 

More news on Brown's speech:

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-we-re-ready-to-fight-says-gov-jerry-1481739836-htmlstory.html

#climateaction___

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2016-12-13 19:34:17 (55 comments; 193 reshares; 192 +1s; )Open 

Saving climate data

The Department of Energy has rejected Trump's demand that it list all employees working on climate change.  But this will change on January 20th.  All signs point to the worst:

The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change.

So, scientists are now backing up large amounts of climate data, just in case the Trump administration tries to delete it.

Of course saving the data publicly available on US government sites is not nearly as good as keeping climate programs fully funded!  New data is coming in all the time from satellites and other sources.  We need it - and we need the experts whounder... more »

Saving climate data

The Department of Energy has rejected Trump's demand that it list all employees working on climate change.  But this will change on January 20th.  All signs point to the worst:

The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change.

So, scientists are now backing up large amounts of climate data, just in case the Trump administration tries to delete it.

Of course saving the data publicly available on US government sites is not nearly as good as keeping climate programs fully funded!  New data is coming in all the time from satellites and other sources.  We need it - and we need the experts who understand it.

Also, it's possible that Trump won't be insane enough to delete big climate science databases.  But as my mother said: better safe than sorry!

“What are the most important .gov climate assets?” Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and self-proclaimed “climate hawk,” tweeted from his Arizona home Saturday evening. “Scientists: Do you have a US .gov climate database that you don’t want to see disappear?”

Within hours, responses flooded in from around the country. Scientists added links to dozens of government databases to a Google spreadsheet. Investors offered to help fund efforts to copy and safeguard key climate data. Lawyers offered pro bono legal help. Database experts offered to help organize mountains of data and to house it with free server space. In California, Santos began building an online repository to “make sure these data sets remain freely and broadly accessible.”

The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.

“Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you’d want to hedge against,” said Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis, who over the weekend began copying government climate data onto a nongovernment server, where it will remain available to the public. “Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”

If you have good computer skills, good understanding of databases, or lots of storage space, please get involved. Efforts are being coordinated by Barbara Wiggin and others at the Data Refuge Project:

http://www.ppehlab.org/datarefuge

You can contact them at DataRefuge@ppehlab.org.  Nick Santos is also involved, and if you want to get “more plugged into the project” you can contact him here:

http://nicksantos.com/about-and-contact/

They are trying to build a climate database mirror website here:

http://climatemirror.org/

At the help form on this website you can nominate a dataset for rescue, claim a dataset to rescue, let them know about a data rescue event, or help in some other way (which you must specify).

PPEHLab and Penn Libraries are organizing a data rescue event on Thursday December 14th:

http://www.ppehlab.org/events-20162017/2016/12/14/ppeh-fellows-meeting-datarefuge

For more updates read Eric Holthaus's tweets and replies here:

https://twitter.com/EricHolthaus/with_replies

And the "guerilla archiving" hackathon in Toronto is on Saturday December 17th.   If you know people with good computer skills there, get them to check it out!   Here are details:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Guerrilla Archiving Hackathon

Date: 10am-4pm, December 17, 2016

Location: Bissell Building, 4th Floor, 140 St. George St. University of Toronto

RSVP and up-to-date information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1828129627464671/

Bring: laptops, power bars, and snacks.  Coffee and pizza provided.

This event collaborates with the Internet Archive’s End of Term 2016 project, which seeks to archive the federal online pages and data that are in danger of disappearing during the Trump administration. Our event is focused on preserving information and data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has programs and data at high risk of being removed from online public access or even deleted. This includes climate change, water, air, toxics programs. This project is urgent because the Trump transition team has identified the EPA and other environmental programs as priorities for the chopping block.

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based nonprofit digital library which aims at preserving and making universally accessible knowledge. Its End of Term web archive captures and saves U.S. Government websites that are at risk of changing or disappearing altogether during government transitions. The Internet Archive has asked volunteers to help select and organize information that will be preserved before the Trump transition.

End of Term web archive: http://eotarchive.cdlib.org/2016.html

New York Times article: “Harvesting Government History, One Web Page at a Time” http://nyti.ms/2gDz5Kj

Activities:

Identifying endangered programs and data
Seeding the End of Term webcrawler with priority URLs
Identifying and mapping the location of inaccessible environmental databases
Hacking scripts to make accessible to the webcrawler hard to reach databases.
Building a toolkit so that other groups can hold similar events
Skills needed: We need all kinds of  people — and that means you!
People who can locate relevant webpages for the Internet Archive’s webcrawler
People who can identify data targeted for deletion by the Trump transition team and the organizations they work with
People with knowledge of government websites and information, including the EPA
People with library and archive skills
People who are good at navigating databases
People interested in mapping where inaccessible data is located at the EPA
Hackers to figure out how to extract data and URLs from databases (in a way that Internet Archive can use)
People with good organization and communication skills
People interested in creating a toolkit for reproducing similar events

Contacts: michelle.murphy@utoronto.ca, p.keilty@utoronto.ca

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first quote in my article is from here - this is full of detailed info:

Oliver Milman, Trump's transition: sceptics guide every agency dealing with climate change, The Guardian, 12 December 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/12/donald-trump-environment-climate-change-skeptics

The second is from here:

Brady Dennis, Scientists are frantically copying U.S. climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump, Washington Post, 13 December 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/scientists-are-frantically-copying-u-s-climate-data-fearing-it-might-vanish-under-trump/

I hope the small "guerilla archiving" efforts will be dwarfed by more systematic work, because it's crucial that databases be copied along with all relevant metadata - and some sort of cryptographic certificate of authenticity, if possible.  However, getting lots of people involved is bound to be a good thing, politically speaking. 

#climateaction  ___

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2016-12-12 17:26:19 (17 comments; 12 reshares; 84 +1s; )Open 

The Eagle Huntress

Otto Bell had never made a feature film.  But when he saw this photo, he flew to Mongolia – and made a movie about a girl’s struggle to capture and tame a golden eagle.   It's called The Eagle Huntress, and now it may get an Oscar.

Otto Bell was surfing the web at work when he saw this photo.  It amazed him: a rosy-cheeked Mongolian girl, perched on a mountain ridge, smiling with delight at a ferocious golden eagle flapping on her arm.  Zoom in and look at her face.

The scene was a world away from the office cubicle in New York where Bell was sitting. The shots were taken in the Altai mountains, “the most remote part of the least-populated country in the world”.   He had no financing and had only ever made short, commercially funded documentaries.  But he was so moved that soon he gathered up a small team and took a flightto Mongolia to... more »

The Eagle Huntress

Otto Bell had never made a feature film.  But when he saw this photo, he flew to Mongolia – and made a movie about a girl’s struggle to capture and tame a golden eagle.   It's called The Eagle Huntress, and now it may get an Oscar.

Otto Bell was surfing the web at work when he saw this photo.  It amazed him: a rosy-cheeked Mongolian girl, perched on a mountain ridge, smiling with delight at a ferocious golden eagle flapping on her arm.  Zoom in and look at her face.

The scene was a world away from the office cubicle in New York where Bell was sitting. The shots were taken in the Altai mountains, “the most remote part of the least-populated country in the world”.   He had no financing and had only ever made short, commercially funded documentaries.  But he was so moved that soon he gathered up a small team and took a flight to Mongolia to track down the girl: a 13-year-old named Aisholpan.

When they finally found her nomadic family, Bell was nervous they might not want to be filmed.  Instead her father Nurgaiv made an extraordinary offer.   "This afternoon we are going down the mountain to steal an eagle for Aisholpan. Do you want to film that?"

Aisholpan had her eye on a fledgling female.  Female eagles are larger, so preferred for hunting.   For days, Aisholpan had been watching this one through her father’s old broken binoculars.  It was the perfect age: able to survive without her mother, but young enough to be trained.

Capturing Aisholpan’s climb down a sheer cliff to an eagle’s nest, with only a rope tied round her waist, posed problems for them all. For a start, the cameraman was afraid of heights so could only film from solid ground below!   The photographer wasn’t well-placed to step in, since he’d never shot moving images. So Bell had to get creative.  He strapped a GoPro inside Aisholpan’s cardigan and climbed with the photographer to a ledge opposite the nest to capture another angle.

It’s a heart-stopping scene: a young girl with plaits jauntily tied with pink ribbons makes a terrifying descent while an angry mother eagle circles menacingly overhead. Some movie reviewers assume the scene is a re-creation. But it's the real thing.

I have got to see this movie!  I haven't yet.  This picture makes me happy.   It makes me, too, want to rush off to the Altai mountains near the borders of Mongolia, China, Russia and Kazakhstan.   Lake Kucherla looks amazing.  But I have to grade finals. 

My writeup above is paraphrased from this review by Homa Khaleeli on the Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/11/the-eagle-huntress-teenage-mongolian-nomad-oscars-otto-bell___

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2016-12-11 19:04:37 (61 comments; 27 reshares; 82 +1s; )Open 

The climate war heats up

It looks like Trump and his cabinet want to completely eliminate climate research and roll back progress on global warming.  In fact, it looks like they want to completely overwhelm and demoralize the opposition - doing so much at once that nobody can stop them! 

First, the guy managing his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team is one of the world's most effective climate change deniers.  His name is Myron Ebell, and under George W. Bush he tried to get the head of the EPA fired:

• John Baez, This man must be stopped, 10 November 2016, https://plus.google.com/u/0/117663015413546257905/posts/1tKE8kik9sx

Second, Trump's planned head of the EPA calls himself a "leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda".  His name is Scott Pruitt, and he led 28 states in a lawsuit againstthe EPA... more »

The climate war heats up

It looks like Trump and his cabinet want to completely eliminate climate research and roll back progress on global warming.  In fact, it looks like they want to completely overwhelm and demoralize the opposition - doing so much at once that nobody can stop them! 

First, the guy managing his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team is one of the world's most effective climate change deniers.  His name is Myron Ebell, and under George W. Bush he tried to get the head of the EPA fired:

• John Baez, This man must be stopped, 10 November 2016, https://plus.google.com/u/0/117663015413546257905/posts/1tKE8kik9sx

Second, Trump's planned head of the EPA calls himself a "leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda".  His name is Scott Pruitt, and he led 28 states in a lawsuit against the EPA to block Obama's Clean Power Plan:

• Matt McGrath, Trump nominee to rekindle climate battle?, BBC, 9 December 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38249208

Third, his favored candidate for Secretary of State was the head of Exxon, the world's biggest funder of climate change denialism.  He's called Rex Tillerson, and he won a medal from Putin for his work on developing Russian oil fields:

• Philip Bump, Who is Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chairman who may become secretary of state?, Washington Post, 10 December 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/10/who-is-rex-tillerson-the-exxonmobil-chairman-who-may-become-secretary-of-state/

Fourth, they may get rid of all NASA climate research:

• Jason Samesnow, Trump adviser proposes dismantling NASA climate research, Washington Post, 23 November 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/11/23/trump-adviser-proposes-dismantling-nasa-climate-research/

Fifth, they're circulating a list of questions to find out, among other things, who in the Energy Department is working on climate change:

• Christopher Dean Hopkins, Trump transition asks Energy Department which employees work on climate change, National Public Radio, 9 December 2016, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/09/505041927/trump-transition-asks-energy-dept-which-employees-work-on-climate-change

It smells like the start of a purge.  Very soon, we'll see.

In the next 4 years, any progress will have to come at the state and local levels - unless Trump gets kicked out.  But we have to at least notice and fight against bad actions at the federal level.

Since I want to discuss "what to do", I will delete comments that argue about the basic science of climate change, or about politics in general.  There are other places to do that.

  #climate___

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2016-12-10 16:46:24 (20 comments; 15 reshares; 35 +1s; )Open 

Brendan Fong on open systems

An open system is one that interacts with the rest of the world.  In reality all systems except the whole universe are open.  But physics focuses on closed systems, since they're easier to understand.

Here at the Simons Institute, my talk on network theory explained how to use decorated cospans as a general model of open systems. These were invented by my student +Brendan Fong, and they're nicely explained in his thesis:

• Brendan Fong, The Algebra of Open and Interconnected Systems.  Blog article and link here: https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/open-and-interconnected-systems/

But he went further!  To understand the externally observable behavior of an open system, we often want to simplify a decorated cospan and get another sort of structure, which he calls a decoratedcorel... more »

Brendan Fong on open systems

An open system is one that interacts with the rest of the world.  In reality all systems except the whole universe are open.  But physics focuses on closed systems, since they're easier to understand.

Here at the Simons Institute, my talk on network theory explained how to use decorated cospans as a general model of open systems. These were invented by my student +Brendan Fong, and they're nicely explained in his thesis:

• Brendan Fong, The Algebra of Open and Interconnected Systems.  Blog article and link here: https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/open-and-interconnected-systems/

But he went further!  To understand the externally observable behavior of an open system, we often want to simplify a decorated cospan and get another sort of structure, which he calls a decorated corelation.  It's a kind of summary, that says what the open system does as seen from the outside.

In this video, Brendan explains decorated corelations and what they’re good for.  The blog article above says more about them, and you can get his talk slides here:

• Brendan Fong, Modelling interconnected systems with decorated corelations, http://brendanfong.com/fcorel.pdf

Puzzle.  I said the only truly closed system is the entire universe, but that's not quite true.  I can think of at least one more example.  Can you?

#networks___

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2016-12-10 05:09:30 (2 comments; 20 reshares; 83 +1s; )Open 

CIA says Russia worked to elect Trump

Clinton won the popular vote: at least 2.6 million more people voted for her than Trump.  If just 80,000 fewer people had voted for that guy in three crucial states, she'd be president.

The CIA is now sure that Russia was working to elect Trump.   Was that enough to get him the necessary 80,000 votes?

Already, House Democrats have begun pushing for something akin to the 9/11 Commission to look into allegations of Russian meddling. During the campaign, they pushed for hearings on the same issue.

Until this week, they'd been unable to get much buy-in from congressional Republicans. But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) voiced support for a probe on Wednesday, and now Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he is working with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr(R-N... more »

CIA says Russia worked to elect Trump

Clinton won the popular vote: at least 2.6 million more people voted for her than Trump.  If just 80,000 fewer people had voted for that guy in three crucial states, she'd be president.

The CIA is now sure that Russia was working to elect Trump.   Was that enough to get him the necessary 80,000 votes?

Already, House Democrats have begun pushing for something akin to the 9/11 Commission to look into allegations of Russian meddling. During the campaign, they pushed for hearings on the same issue.

Until this week, they'd been unable to get much buy-in from congressional Republicans. But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) voiced support for a probe on Wednesday, and now Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he is working with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on a wide-ranging Senate probe, as The Post’s Karoun Demirjian reported Thursday.

“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” Graham said. “I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally to pay the price.”

However, this means that to secure power, Trump will be motivated to decapitate the CIA - that is, eliminate all top-level people who know the extent of Russian involvement in his election, replacing them with his stooges.  This is perfect for Putin.  It's a classic mafia strategy: to control someone, "help" them in a way that makes them complicit in your crimes. 
 
For more, see:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/09/the-cia-concluded-russia-worked-to-elect-trump-republicans-now-face-an-impossible-choice/___

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2016-12-08 18:03:37 (1 comments; 7 reshares; 71 +1s; )Open 

Truncated hexagonal tiling honeycomb

+Roice Nelson has been drawing more honeycombs!  This is one of my favorites.  To get it, you start with the hexagonal tiling honeycomb.  That's is a way of putting lots of sheets tiled by hexagons into hyperbolic space, a curved 3-dimensional space.   It's easier to understand with a picture, so look at the second one here:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/12/01/truncated-633-honeycomb/

Starting from this, you take each place where 4 edges meet and replace it with a little tetrahedron.  That gives you the truncated hexagonal tiling honeycomb, shown here.  Beautiful!

There's a limited collection of structures this nice, and mathematicians have classified them.  A classification theorem lets you survey the options: it's like a mineral collection.

#geometry  ... more »

Truncated hexagonal tiling honeycomb

+Roice Nelson has been drawing more honeycombs!  This is one of my favorites.  To get it, you start with the hexagonal tiling honeycomb.  That's is a way of putting lots of sheets tiled by hexagons into hyperbolic space, a curved 3-dimensional space.   It's easier to understand with a picture, so look at the second one here:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/12/01/truncated-633-honeycomb/

Starting from this, you take each place where 4 edges meet and replace it with a little tetrahedron.  That gives you the truncated hexagonal tiling honeycomb, shown here.  Beautiful!

There's a limited collection of structures this nice, and mathematicians have classified them.  A classification theorem lets you survey the options: it's like a mineral collection.

#geometry  ___

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2016-12-07 19:10:24 (12 comments; 11 reshares; 50 +1s; )Open 

Semantics for physicists

I once complained that my student Brendan Fong said ‘semantics’ too much. You see, I’m in a math department, but he was actually in the computer science department at Oxford: I was his informal supervisor. Theoretical computer scientists love talking about syntax versus semantics—that is, written expressions versus what those expressions actually mean, or programs versus what those programs actually do. So Brendan was very comfortable with that distinction. But I felt my other grad students, coming from a math department didn’t understand it… and he was mentioning it in practically ever other sentence.

In 1963, Bill Lawvere figured out a way to talk about syntax versus semantics that even mathematicians—well, even category theorists—could understand. It’s called ‘functorial semantics’.  The idea is that things you write aremorphisms in a categor... more »

Semantics for physicists

I once complained that my student Brendan Fong said ‘semantics’ too much. You see, I’m in a math department, but he was actually in the computer science department at Oxford: I was his informal supervisor. Theoretical computer scientists love talking about syntax versus semantics—that is, written expressions versus what those expressions actually mean, or programs versus what those programs actually do. So Brendan was very comfortable with that distinction. But I felt my other grad students, coming from a math department didn’t understand it… and he was mentioning it in practically ever other sentence.

In 1963, Bill Lawvere figured out a way to talk about syntax versus semantics that even mathematicians—well, even category theorists—could understand. It’s called ‘functorial semantics’.  The idea is that things you write are morphisms in a category X, while their meanings are morphisms in a category Y.   There's a functor F from X to Y, which sends things you write to their meanings.  This functor sends syntax to semantics!

But physicists may not enjoy this idea unless they see it at work in physics. In physics, too, the distinction is important!  But it takes a while to understand. I hope Prakash Panangaden’s talk at the start of the Simons Institute workshop on compositionality is helpful.  Check it out!___

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2016-12-06 22:22:41 (20 comments; 3 reshares; 59 +1s; )Open 

The fundamental law of biology

The fundamental law of biology is:

In biology, every law has an exception - except this one.

Does this law have an exception?

The fundamental law of biology

The fundamental law of biology is:

In biology, every law has an exception - except this one.

Does this law have an exception?___

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2016-12-05 16:21:42 (29 comments; 20 reshares; 79 +1s; )Open 

The math of networks 

In 2007 Jim Simons, the mathematician who helped invent Chern–Simons theory and then went on to make billions using math to run a hedge fund, founded a research center for geometry and physics on Long Island. More recently he also set up an institute for theoretical computer science in Berkeley. I’ve never been there - until today!

This week a bunch of mathematicians and computer scientists are meeting here to talk about compositionality.  That means: how big complicated things are built from small simple things.

The show starts at 9:00 am today.   We'll begi with talks from Gordon Plotkin (from Edinburgh, an expert on using category theory to study computer science and biology), David Spivak (who is proselytizing for applied category theory at MIT, and whose work on operads helped launch the project I'm working on withMetron)... more »

The math of networks 

In 2007 Jim Simons, the mathematician who helped invent Chern–Simons theory and then went on to make billions using math to run a hedge fund, founded a research center for geometry and physics on Long Island. More recently he also set up an institute for theoretical computer science in Berkeley. I’ve never been there - until today!

This week a bunch of mathematicians and computer scientists are meeting here to talk about compositionality.  That means: how big complicated things are built from small simple things.

The show starts at 9:00 am today.   We'll begi with talks from Gordon Plotkin (from Edinburgh, an expert on using category theory to study computer science and biology), David Spivak (who is proselytizing for applied category theory at MIT, and whose work on operads helped launch the project I'm working on with Metron), and Jamie Vicary (who works on categories, quantum theory and topology at Oxford). 

All three are exactly the sort of people I like to listen to - full of cool ideas.   And they're just the start of this show!   It's gonna be fun.  You can see the talks here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW1C2xOfXsIzPgjXyuhkw9g

The program is here:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/compositionality-workshop/

I'm talking at 9:30 PST Tuesday.  Here are my talk slides:

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/networks_compositionality

I've decided to talk about some new work on 'Petri nets' with Blake Pollard.  We're using categories to study chemical reaction networks... but this is just one example of how categories can be used to study compositionality in network theory.  At the end of my talk I show a network of different examples: a network of different kinds of networks!

Abstract. To describe systems composed of interacting parts, scientists and engineers draw diagrams of networks: flow charts, Petri nets, electrical circuit diagrams, signal-flow graphs, chemical reaction networks, Feynman diagrams and the like. In principle all these different diagrams fit into a common framework: the mathematics of symmetric monoidal categories. This has been known for some time. However, the details are more challenging, and ultimately more rewarding, than this basic insight. Two complementary approaches are presentations of symmetric monoidal categories using generators and relations (which are more algebraic in flavor) and decorated cospan categories (which are more geometrical). In this talk we focus on the latter.

#networktheory #networks  ___

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2016-12-01 17:15:59 (0 comments; 23 reshares; 108 +1s; )Open 

The writing is on the wall

This is the main building of the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, right across from Trump Hotel in Washington DC.   A lot of us are protesting the guy Trump hired to demolish the EPA.  His name is  Myron Ebell.  He's a climate change denier whose work has long been funded by fossil fuel industries.

Join the battle:

http://climatetruth.org/rebelagainstebell
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-myron-ebell-from

George Monbiot provides more detail:

Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal,oil, ... more »

The writing is on the wall

This is the main building of the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA, right across from Trump Hotel in Washington DC.   A lot of us are protesting the guy Trump hired to demolish the EPA.  His name is  Myron Ebell.  He's a climate change denier whose work has long been funded by fossil fuel industries.

Join the battle:

http://climatetruth.org/rebelagainstebell
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-myron-ebell-from

George Monbiot provides more detail:

Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobil, more than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.

For years, Ebell and the CEI have attacked efforts to limit climate change, through lobbying, lawsuits and campaigns. An advertisement released by the institute had the punchline “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it life.”

It has sought to eliminate funding for environmental education, lobbied against the Endangered Species Act, harried climate scientists and campaigned in favour of mountaintop removal by coal companies. In 2004, Ebell sent a memo to one of George W Bush’s staffers calling for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to be sacked. Where is Ebell now? Oh – leading Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

It's not just Ebell: Trump is hiring lots of creatures from the swamp of fake industry-funded "research institutes".  For details, and links providing evidence, go here:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation___

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2016-11-29 18:54:29 (21 comments; 6 reshares; 87 +1s; )Open 

I hate writing grant proposals.  Luckily I don't need to anymore!

I hate writing grant proposals.  Luckily I don't need to anymore!___

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2016-11-27 17:08:04 (25 comments; 19 reshares; 125 +1s; )Open 

Jarzynski on thermodynamics

In the old days, despite its name, thermodynamics was mainly about thermodynamic equilibrium.  Thermodynamic equilibrium is a situation where nothing interesting happens.  For example, if you were in thermodynamic equilibrium right now, you'd be dead.  Not very dynamic!

Sure, there were a few absolutely fundamental results like the second law, which says that entropy cannot decrease as we carry a system from one equilibrium state to another.  But the complications you see when you boil a pot of water... those were largely out of bounds.

This has changed in the last 50 years.  One example is the Jarzynski equality, discovered by Christopher Jarzynski in 1997. 

The second law implies that the change in 'free energy' of a system is less than or equal to the amount of work done on it.  But the Jarzynskiequali... more »

Jarzynski on thermodynamics

In the old days, despite its name, thermodynamics was mainly about thermodynamic equilibrium.  Thermodynamic equilibrium is a situation where nothing interesting happens.  For example, if you were in thermodynamic equilibrium right now, you'd be dead.  Not very dynamic!

Sure, there were a few absolutely fundamental results like the second law, which says that entropy cannot decrease as we carry a system from one equilibrium state to another.  But the complications you see when you boil a pot of water... those were largely out of bounds.

This has changed in the last 50 years.  One example is the Jarzynski equality, discovered by Christopher Jarzynski in 1997. 

The second law implies that the change in 'free energy' of a system is less than or equal to the amount of work done on it.  But the Jarzynski equality gives a precise equation relating these two concepts, which implies that inequality.   I won't explain it here, but it's terse and beautiful.

Last week at the +Santa Fe Institute, Jarzynski gave an incredibly clear hour-long tutorial on thermodynamics, starting with the basics and zipping forward to modern work. With his permission, you can see his slides here:

http://tinyurl.com/jarzynski

along with links to an explanation of the Jarzynski equality, and a proof.

I had a great time in Santa Fe, and this was one of the high points.
 
#physics  ___

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2016-11-26 17:13:28 (19 comments; 24 reshares; 170 +1s; )Open 

Fireflies in bamboo

This photo by Kei Nomiyama shows fireflies just above the ground in a bamboo forest. 

Photographing fireflies is popular in Japan, and this article by Courtney Constable shows some other nice examples:

http://www.thecoolist.com/japan-summer-firefly-phenomenon/

She writes:

Japan is a beautiful country full of breathtaking buildings, landscapes, and scenery any time of year. In the height of summer, however, something particularly magical happens. Throughout the countryside, twinkling fireflies take to the evening skies in search of a mate. This natural phenomenon creates a beautifully ethereal glow through trees and leaves that is nothing short of breathtaking.

Of course, in this phenomenon, Japanese and visiting photographers have found a gorgeous source of inspiration. Capturing the lights of the fireflies,... more »

Fireflies in bamboo

This photo by Kei Nomiyama shows fireflies just above the ground in a bamboo forest. 

Photographing fireflies is popular in Japan, and this article by Courtney Constable shows some other nice examples:

http://www.thecoolist.com/japan-summer-firefly-phenomenon/

She writes:

Japan is a beautiful country full of breathtaking buildings, landscapes, and scenery any time of year. In the height of summer, however, something particularly magical happens. Throughout the countryside, twinkling fireflies take to the evening skies in search of a mate. This natural phenomenon creates a beautifully ethereal glow through trees and leaves that is nothing short of breathtaking.

Of course, in this phenomenon, Japanese and visiting photographers have found a gorgeous source of inspiration. Capturing the lights of the fireflies, however, can be extremely difficult. Fireflies are very sensitive to other sources of light besides themselves, meaning that camera flashes, cell phones, flashlights, and other things that photographers often need to get their equipment set up can drive the little creatures away.

The difficulty of capturing photos of the fireflies, however, hasn’t deterred the most dedicated photographers. They’ve simply adapted their strategy to account for the habits of the fireflies. Photographers often scout an area out days in advance to see where the fireflies congregate and then return very early on the day they want to shoot, setting up in daylight before the twinkling lights begin and lying in still, silent wait for hours.

You can see more of Kei Nomiyama's firefly photos here:

https://keinomiayma.smugmug.com/Firefly/

What puzzles me is this: the glowing fireflies in these photos seem more orange than what I see in the eastern US.  I'm used to firefly light being yellow-green.  So:

Puzzle 1.  Are fireflies in Japan from a different species than US fireflies?

and more importantly:

Puzzle 2. Do they use a different chemical mechanism to make light?

or more generally:

Puzzle 3. How do fireflies make light, and how do they turn the chemical reaction on and off?

#biology  ___

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2016-11-25 00:56:54 (52 comments; 93 reshares; 207 +1s; )Open 

Thanksgiving

Today I give thanks for my childhood.  I grew up on a planet where global warming had just begun — a place your children will never know.  

It was a beautiful planet.  It seems like a long time ago. This was before the drought killed 100 million trees in California, a third of all  trees in the state.   New Orleans had not yet drowned under flood waters.  The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia was still healthy, not yet bleached by the raging heat.

But the biggest difference was near the North Pole.   Back when I started college in 1979, the volume of Arctic sea ice in summer was 4 times what is now!

Last winter was especially shocking.  In February, the climate scientist Peter Gleick wrote:

What is happening in the Arctic now is unprecedented and possibly catastrophic.

The extent of Arctic sea icehad shrunk ... more »

Thanksgiving

Today I give thanks for my childhood.  I grew up on a planet where global warming had just begun — a place your children will never know.  

It was a beautiful planet.  It seems like a long time ago. This was before the drought killed 100 million trees in California, a third of all  trees in the state.   New Orleans had not yet drowned under flood waters.  The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia was still healthy, not yet bleached by the raging heat.

But the biggest difference was near the North Pole.   Back when I started college in 1979, the volume of Arctic sea ice in summer was 4 times what is now!

Last winter was especially shocking.  In February, the climate scientist Peter Gleick wrote:

What is happening in the Arctic now is unprecedented and possibly catastrophic.

The extent of Arctic sea ice had shrunk to record lows, while the temperature hit new record highs for winter.   In December 2015, parts of the North Pole were covered with a lake!

A unique event?  No: this year again scientists are shocked!   Here's what I read today on phys.org:

Freakishly high temperatures in the Arctic driven by heat-packed oceans and northward winds have been reinforced by a "vicious circle" of climate change, scientists said Thursday.

Air above the Polar ice cap has been 9-12 degrees Celsius (16.2 to 21.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average during the last four weeks, according the data from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), which tracks hourly changes in Arctic weather.

And during several days last week, temperatures above the North Pole were a balmy zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), a full 20 C (36 F) above the levels typical for mid-November, said Martin Stendel, a DMI climate researcher based in Copenhagen.

"This is by far the highest recorded" in the era of satellite data, starting in 1979, he told AFP.  "What we are observing is very unusual."

At this time of year, open Arctic ocean exposed by sea ice melted away in summer should be freezing again, with thousands of square kilometres icing over every day.  But that has not been happening, at least not at the same pace, said Stendel.

"Not only was the ice not growing as it would normally, there was further melting due to warm air coming in," he explained by phone.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that sea ice extent in October was the lowest on record, some 6.4 million square kilometres (2.5 million square miles). Ice cover at the top of the globe shrank to its smallest area in 2016 — some 4.14 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles) — on September 16.

Several factors have caused the Arctic to overheat since late October, say scientists.  The most immediate are warm winds sweeping up from western Europe and off the west coast of Africa.

"The winds carrying this heat is a temporary — and fairly unprecedented — weather phenomenon," said Valerie Masson Delmotte, a scientist at the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory in Paris".  Only since Thursday have they abated.

A second contributor is the record-strong Pacific Ocean El Nino that tapered off earlier this year — after pumping a couple tenths of a degree of added warming into the atmosphere.

But reinforcing these periodic, if powerful, drivers is the biggest one of all: global warming, experts agreed.

Two days ago, I read this on LiveScience:

The Arctic Is a Seriously Weird Place Right Now

The sun set on the North Pole more than a month ago, not to rise again until spring. Usually that serves as a cue for sea ice to spread its frozen tentacles across the Arctic Ocean. But in the depths of the polar night, a strange thing started to happen in mid-October. Sea ice growth slowed to a crawl and even started shrinking for a bit.

Intense warmth in both the air and oceans is driving the mini-meltdown at a time when Arctic sea ice should be rapidly growing. This follows last winter, when temperatures saw a huge December spike.

Even in an age where climate change is making outliers — lowest maximum sea ice extent set two years in a row, the hottest year on record set three years in a row, global coral bleaching entering a third year — the norm, what's happening in the Arctic right now stands out for just how outlandish it is.

"I've never seen anything like it this last year and half," Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said.

The latest twist in the Arctic sea ice saga began in mid-October. Temperatures stayed stuck in their September range, pausing sea ice growth. By the end of the month, the Arctic was missing a chunk of ice the size of the eastern U.S.

The oddness continued into November. A large area of the Arctic saw temperatures as much as 36°F above normal, further slowing Arctic sea ice growth and even turning it around for a few days. In other words, it was so warm in the Arctic that despite the lack of sunlight, sea ice actually disappeared.

"​The ridiculously warm temperatures in the Arctic during October and November this year are off the charts over our 68 years of measurements," Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who studies the Arctic, said.

Compounding the warm air is warm water. Sea surface temperatures on the edge of the ice are also running well above normal in many places, further inhibiting sea ice growth.

Things will keep getting stranger — freakishly violent storms in the east and southeast US, droughts and fires in the west, and so on.

I'm thankful I grew up on a different planet.  I remember it fondly, and it makes me want to save what we have now.

Here's the phys.org article:

http://m.phys.org/news/2016-11-overheated-arctic-climate-vicious-circle.html

Here's the LiveScience article:

http://www.livescience.com/56954-arctic-sea-ice-record-low.html

Both of these were mentioned on +Azimuth by +rasha kamel  so make sure to add +Azimuth to your G+ feed — it'll help you keep informed.

This is Peter Gleick's tweet last February, with a graph:

https://twitter.com/PeterGleick/status/702953140853690368

Here's the video showing the Arctic sea ice minimum volume each year:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NP0L1PG9ag___

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2016-11-22 08:09:05 (0 comments; 11 reshares; 71 +1s; )Open 

Hail Trump!

At a meeting of the National Policy Institute in Washington DC this Saturday, neo-Nazis in the so-called 'alt-right' movement raised their hands and cried "Hail Trump!".  Watch the video. 

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless.

In 11 hours of speeches and panel discussions in a federal building named after Ronald Reagan a few blocks from the White House, a succession of speakers had laid out a harsh vision for the future, but had denounced violence and said that Hispanic citizens and black Americans had nothing to fear. Earlier in the day, Mr. Spencer himself had urged the group to start acting less like an undergroundorg... more »

Hail Trump!

At a meeting of the National Policy Institute in Washington DC this Saturday, neo-Nazis in the so-called 'alt-right' movement raised their hands and cried "Hail Trump!".  Watch the video. 

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless.

In 11 hours of speeches and panel discussions in a federal building named after Ronald Reagan a few blocks from the White House, a succession of speakers had laid out a harsh vision for the future, but had denounced violence and said that Hispanic citizens and black Americans had nothing to fear. Earlier in the day, Mr. Spencer himself had urged the group to start acting less like an underground organization and more like the establishment.

But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. When Mr. Spencer, or perhaps another person standing near him at the front of the room — it was not clear who — shouted, “Heil the people! Heil victory,” the room shouted it back.

These are exultant times for the alt-right movement, which was little known until this year, when it embraced Mr. Trump’s campaign and he appeared to embrace it back. He chose as his campaign chairman Stephen K. Bannon, the media executive who ran the alt-right’s most prominent platform, Breitbart News, and then named him as a senior adviser and chief strategist.

Now the movement’s leaders hope to have, if not a seat at the table, at least the ear of the Trump White House.

While many of its racist views are well known — that President Obama is, or may as well be, of foreign birth; that the Black Lives Matter movement is another name for black race rioters; that even the American-born children of undocumented Hispanic immigrants should be deported — the alt-right has been difficult to define. Is it a name for right-wing political provocateurs in the internet era? Or is it a political movement defined by xenophobia and a dislike for political correctness?

At the conference on Saturday, Mr. Spencer, who said he had coined the term, defined the alt-right as a movement with white identity as its core idea.

“We’ve crossed the Rubicon in terms of recognition,” Mr. Spencer said at the conference, which was sponsored by his organization, the National Policy Institute.

And while much of the discourse at the conference was overtly racist and demeaning toward minorities, for much of the day the sentiments were expressed in ways that seemed intended to not sound too menacing. The focus was on how whites were marginalized and beleaguered.

One speaker, Peter Brimelow, the founder of Vdare.com, an anti-immigration website, asked why, if Hispanics had the National Council of La Raza and Jews had the Anti-Defamation League, whites were reluctant to organize for their rights. Some speakers made an effort to distance themselves from more notorious white power organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.

But as the night wore on and most reporters had gone home, the language changed.

Mr. Spencer’s after-dinner speech began with a polemic against the “mainstream media,” before he briefly paused. “Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?” he said.

The audience immediately screamed back, “Lügenpresse,” reviving a Nazi-era word that means “lying press.”

Mr. Spencer suggested that the news media had been critical of Mr. Trump throughout the campaign in order to protect Jewish interests. He mused about the political commentators who gave Mr. Trump little chance of winning.

“One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem,” he said, referring to a Jewish fable about the golem, a clay giant that a rabbi brings to life to protect the Jews.

Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Spencer said, was “the victory of will,” a phrase that echoed the title of the most famous Nazi-era propaganda film. But Mr. Spencer then mentioned, with a smile, Theodor Herzl, the Zionist leader who advocated a Jewish homeland in Israel, quoting his famous pronouncement, “If we will it, it is no dream.”

The United States today, Mr. Spencer said, had been turned into “a sick, corrupted society.” But it was not supposed to be that way.

“America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Mr. Spencer thundered. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

But the white race, he added, is “a race that travels forever on an upward path.”

“To be white is to be a creator, an explorer, a conqueror,” he said. More members of the audience were on their feet as Mr. Spencer described the choice facing white people as to “conquer or die.  Of other races, Mr. Spencer said: “We don’t exploit other groups, we don’t gain anything from their presence. They need us, and not the other way around.”

The ties between the alt-right movement and the Trump team are difficult to define, even by members of the alt-right.

Mr. Bannon was the chief executive of Breitbart, an online news organization that has fed the lie that Mr. Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. As recently as last year, Breitbart published an op-ed article urging that “every tree, every rooftop, every picket fence, every telegraph pole in the South should be festooned with the Confederate battle flag.”

Mr. Bannon told Mother Jones this year that Breitbart was now “the platform for the alt-right.”

And soon Bannon will be the Trump's "senior counselor" in the White House.  

I quoted a lot, but not all, of this article by Joseph Goldstein:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/alt-right-salutes-donald-trump.html___

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2016-11-20 17:44:52 (30 comments; 9 reshares; 66 +1s; )Open 

Completely integrable billiards

Check out +Carlos Scheidegger's great webage that lets you play around with billiards on two tables:

https://cscheid.net/projects/bunimovich_stadium/

The table here is elliptical, and you'll see that the billiards trace out nice patterns - not at all random.  Often there's a region of the table that they never enter!   Not in this particular example, but try others and you'll see what I mean.

Puzzle 1.  What shape is this 'forbidden region', and why? 

It will be easier to answer if you experiment a bit.

The other table is a rectangle with rounded ends, called the Bunimovitch stadium.   For that one the billiards move chaotically.  After a while they seem randomized.

This illustrates two very different kinds of dynamical systems.  The'com... more »

Completely integrable billiards

Check out +Carlos Scheidegger's great webage that lets you play around with billiards on two tables:

https://cscheid.net/projects/bunimovich_stadium/

The table here is elliptical, and you'll see that the billiards trace out nice patterns - not at all random.  Often there's a region of the table that they never enter!   Not in this particular example, but try others and you'll see what I mean.

Puzzle 1.  What shape is this 'forbidden region', and why? 

It will be easier to answer if you experiment a bit.

The other table is a rectangle with rounded ends, called the Bunimovitch stadium.   For that one the billiards move chaotically.  After a while they seem randomized.

This illustrates two very different kinds of dynamical systems.  The 'completely integrable' systems, like the elliptical billiards, do very predictable things.   The 'ergodic' ones seem random. 

With some math, we can make these ideas precise.  I'll be quick: a system whose motion is described by Hamiltonian mechanics is completely integrable if it has the maximum number of conserved quantities.   It's ergodic if it has the minimum number.   All sorts of in-between cases are also possible!

For a particle moving around in n dimensions the maximum number of conserved quantities is n.   More precisely, we can write every conservated quantity as a function of n such quantities.  The minimum number is 1, since energy is always conserved.

So, for a billiard ball, the maximum number is 2 - and that's what we have for the elliptical billiard ball table.   One of them is the energy, or if you prefer, the speed of the billiard ball.  

Puzzle 2. What's the other? 

This is related to puzzle 1, since it's this extra conserved quantity that sometimes forbids the billiard ball from entering certain regions in the ellipse.

For a lot more about the Bunimovitch stadium and ergodicity, see:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/11/15/bunimovich-stadium/

(If you looked at it before: I've added more since then.)   For more on complete integrability versus ergodicity, try these:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrable_system

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergodic_theory

#physics  ___

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2016-11-19 12:29:14 (19 comments; 10 reshares; 108 +1s; )Open 

Mammal-like reptiles

These are Pristerognathus, very ancient mammal-like reptiles.  They lived in the middle Permian, around 260 million years ago.  That's long before the dinosaurs!  

These animals were roughly dog-sized, and had long, narrow skulls and large canine teeth. They probably lived in woodlands, and preyed on smaller animals.

There were many kinds of mammal-liked reptiles back then.  In general they're called therapsids.   Some of them evolved to become mammals - like you and me!   Fur has been found in the fossilized poop of some of these animals.  So, at least some of them had hair.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapsid
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pristerognathus

These particular guys are called Pristerognathus vanderbyli.  This picture is from Wikicommons and was apparently made byУчастник:Д... more »

Mammal-like reptiles

These are Pristerognathus, very ancient mammal-like reptiles.  They lived in the middle Permian, around 260 million years ago.  That's long before the dinosaurs!  

These animals were roughly dog-sized, and had long, narrow skulls and large canine teeth. They probably lived in woodlands, and preyed on smaller animals.

There were many kinds of mammal-liked reptiles back then.  In general they're called therapsids.   Some of them evolved to become mammals - like you and me!   Fur has been found in the fossilized poop of some of these animals.  So, at least some of them had hair.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapsid
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pristerognathus

These particular guys are called Pristerognathus vanderbyli.  This picture is from Wikicommons and was apparently made by Участник:ДиБгд:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pristeroognathus_DB.jpg

The first dinosaurs showed up around 240 million years ago - and they only became common after the great Triassic-Jurassic extinction, 200 million years ago.   Therapsids started around 275 million years ago.  Some of them evolved into mammals 225 million years ago, and all the non-mammalian ones went extinct by the early Cretaceous, 100 million years ago.   Most dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago.  Some, however, are still sold as food at many grocery stores.

#biology___

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2016-11-18 14:34:30 (48 comments; 13 reshares; 91 +1s; )Open 

Fighting climate change in the Trump era

There's some good news and some bad news. 

Read this article and you'll see the bad news - we have our work cut out for us!   Not only Trump but also Republicans in the House and Senate have repeatedly stated they want to:

1) Kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan
2) Withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement
3) Dismantle US environmental rules around coal power
4) Weaken fuel economy standards for cars and trucks
5) Open up new public lands to oil and gas drilling
6) Scale back federal support for wind and solar power
7) Limit the Environmental Protection Agency
8) Reverse the White House’s climate guidance to federal agencies
9) Make the Supreme Court hostile to environmental regulation
10) Pack the executive branch with carbon dioxide lovers

These things aren'tinevit... more »

Fighting climate change in the Trump era

There's some good news and some bad news. 

Read this article and you'll see the bad news - we have our work cut out for us!   Not only Trump but also Republicans in the House and Senate have repeatedly stated they want to:

1) Kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan
2) Withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement
3) Dismantle US environmental rules around coal power
4) Weaken fuel economy standards for cars and trucks
5) Open up new public lands to oil and gas drilling
6) Scale back federal support for wind and solar power
7) Limit the Environmental Protection Agency
8) Reverse the White House’s climate guidance to federal agencies
9) Make the Supreme Court hostile to environmental regulation
10) Pack the executive branch with carbon dioxide lovers

These things aren't inevitable - we can fight them.  So this article is worth reading.  You'll learn a lot about the battle to come.

So what's the good news?

California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have signed onto a spinoff of the Paris Climate Agreement.  It's called the Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding, or Under 2 MOU for short.   

"Under 2" stands for two goals:

under 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, and
under 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per person per year.   

These states have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.  We've also agreed to share technology and scientific research, expand use of zero-emission vehicles, etc., etc.

And the Under 2 MOU Coalition includes more than just US states:

http://under2mou.org/coalition/

It includes regions and cities around the world!   I'll list them, starting with ones near the US.  If you go to the link you can find out exactly what each of these 'sub-national entities' are promising to do.   If you're into politics, maybe you can help get your local region to join.  Or maybe you have a friend who is good at politics!

For more details, go here:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/under2-coalition/

Okay, here's the list:

UNITED STATES
Austin
California
Connecticut
Los Angeles
Massachusetts
Minnesota
New Hampshire
New York City
New York State
Oakland City
Oregon
Portland City
Rhode Island
Sacramento
San Francisco
Seattle
Vermont
Washington

CANADA
British Columbia
Northwest Territories
Ontario
Québec
Vancouver

MEXICO
Baja California
Chiapas
Hidalgo
Jalisco
Mexico City
Mexico State
Michoacán 
Quintana Roo
Tabasco 
Yucatán

BRAZIL
Acre
Amazonas
Mato Grosso
Pernambuco
Rondônia
São Paulo City
São Paulo State
Tocantins

CHILE
Santiago

COLOMBIA
Guainía
Guaviare

PERU
Loreto
San Martín
Ucayali

AUSTRIA
Lower Austria

FRANCE
Alsace
Aquitaine
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Bas-Rhin
Midi-Pyrénées
Pays de la Loire

GERMANY
Baden-Württemberg
Bavaria
Hesse
North Rhine-Westphalia
Schleswig-Holstein
Thuringia

HUNGARY
Budapest

ITALY
Abruzzo
Basilicata
Emilia-Romagna
Lombardy
Piedmont
Sardinia
Veneto

THE NETHERLANDS
Drenthe
North Brabant
North Holland
South Holland

PORTUGAL
Azores
Madeira

SPAIN
Andalusia
Basque Country
Catalonia
Navarra

SWEDEN
Jämtland Härjedalen

SWITZERLAND
Basel-Landschaft
Basel-Stadt

UNITED KINGDOM
Bristol
Greater Manchester
Scotland
Wales

AUSTRALIA
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
South Australia

CHINA
Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities (represents 23 cities)
Jiangsu Province
Sichuan
Zhenjiang City

INDIA
Telangana

INDONESIA
East Kalimantan
South Sumatra
West Kalimantan

JAPAN
Gifu

NEPAL
Kathmandu Valley

KENYA
Laikipia County

IVORY COAST
Assemblée des Régions de Côte d’Ivoire (represents 33 subnationals)

NIGERIA
Cross River State

MOZAMBIQUE
Nampula

SENEGAL
Guédiawaye

There's more good news, but I'll dole it out a little at a time, since you'll probably keep wanting more.___

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2016-11-17 15:17:08 (18 comments; 34 reshares; 75 +1s; )Open 

What is a random string of bits?

Shannon invented a way to measure information, but it doesn't let you measure the information in a specific message.   Shannon's information is really just the entropy of a random source of messages.  Later came Kolmogorov complexity, which gives a concept of how much information is contained in a specific message.  It's basically the length of the shortest program that prints out this message.

But there's a catch: you can't usually compute the Kolmogorov complexity of a message!  In fact there's a complexity barrier: there's a constant C such that you can't prove messages have complexity > C.

The precise statement of this result is a bit more complicated, because what you can prove depends on what system of math you use, but still: there are limits on how muchinfo... more »

What is a random string of bits?

Shannon invented a way to measure information, but it doesn't let you measure the information in a specific message.   Shannon's information is really just the entropy of a random source of messages.  Later came Kolmogorov complexity, which gives a concept of how much information is contained in a specific message.  It's basically the length of the shortest program that prints out this message.

But there's a catch: you can't usually compute the Kolmogorov complexity of a message!  In fact there's a complexity barrier: there's a constant C such that you can't prove messages have complexity > C.

The precise statement of this result is a bit more complicated, because what you can prove depends on what system of math you use, but still: there are limits on how much information you can prove any message contains!

So what should we do?  If you want to know, check out the slides of my talk at the Santa Fe Institute workshop on Statistical Mechanics, Information Processing and Biology:

http://tinyurl.com/alg-thermo

Also make sure to watch the movie of an alien planet... a movie that contains just 4 kilobytes of information.

In my talk, I started out by drawing a Turing machine on the whiteboard.  That's not in these slides.  But if you know what a Turing machine is, you may be able to understand my explanation of recursive functions, the Church-Turing thesis, Kolomogorov complexity, the relation between Kolmogorov complexity and Shannon entropy, the uncomputability of Kolmogorov complexity, the complexity barrier, Levin’s computable version of complexity, and finally my work with Mike Stay on algorithmic thermodynamics.

In short, lots of information about information!

#information #thermodynamics #informationtheory  ___

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2016-11-15 14:00:34 (39 comments; 15 reshares; 94 +1s; )Open 

Chaotic billiards

Nice animation by Phillipe Roux!   Take some balls moving in the same direction and let them bounce around in this shape: a rectangle with ends rounded into semicircles.  They will soon start moving in dramatically different ways.  (To keep things simple we don't let the balls collide - they pass right through each other.)   In a while they will be almost evenly spread over the whole billiard table. 

This is an example of chaos: slightly different initial conditions lead to dramatically different trajectories.

It's also an example of ergodicity:  for almost every choice of initial conditions, the trajectory of a ball will have an equal chance of visiting each tiny little region.  

Puzzle: why did I say "almost" every choice?  Can you find some exceptions?

 Check out more ofPhillipe ... more »

Chaotic billiards

Nice animation by Phillipe Roux!   Take some balls moving in the same direction and let them bounce around in this shape: a rectangle with ends rounded into semicircles.  They will soon start moving in dramatically different ways.  (To keep things simple we don't let the balls collide - they pass right through each other.)   In a while they will be almost evenly spread over the whole billiard table. 

This is an example of chaos: slightly different initial conditions lead to dramatically different trajectories.

It's also an example of ergodicity:  for almost every choice of initial conditions, the trajectory of a ball will have an equal chance of visiting each tiny little region.  

Puzzle: why did I say "almost" every choice?  Can you find some exceptions?

 Check out more of Phillipe Roux's animations here:

https://plus.google.com/+philipperoux/posts/fkbbjvca78J

For the precise definition of ergodicity, and the history of this billiard problem, read my Visual Insight post:

http://blogs.ams.org/visualinsight/2016/11/15/bunimovich-stadium/

This shape is called the Bunimovich stadium, after the Russian mathematician Leonid Bunimovich.

I can't get +phillipe roux to work right now - G+ is only offering me other Phillipe Rouxs.

#physics #geometry  ___

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2016-11-14 15:07:49 (17 comments; 13 reshares; 76 +1s; )Open 

The math of networks

I'm at the +Santa Fe Institute!  I got here just now - it's a beautiful place.  Tomorrow I'll give a talk on the math of networks. 

The idea: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks. People like to draw diagrams of networks: flow charts, electrical circuit diagrams, chemical reaction networks, signal-flow graphs, Bayesian networks, food webs, Feynman diagrams and the like.  People often treat these diagram languages as informal tools - not true mathematics.  But in fact, many of these languages fit into a rigorous framework: monoidal categories. 

Don't be scared if you don't know what a monoidal category is - my talk explains that. Here are the slides:

http://tinyurl.com/santa-fe-network-talk

Eventually a video will be available.

The main new thing here is work withBlake... more »

The math of networks

I'm at the +Santa Fe Institute!  I got here just now - it's a beautiful place.  Tomorrow I'll give a talk on the math of networks. 

The idea: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks. People like to draw diagrams of networks: flow charts, electrical circuit diagrams, chemical reaction networks, signal-flow graphs, Bayesian networks, food webs, Feynman diagrams and the like.  People often treat these diagram languages as informal tools - not true mathematics.  But in fact, many of these languages fit into a rigorous framework: monoidal categories. 

Don't be scared if you don't know what a monoidal category is - my talk explains that. Here are the slides:

http://tinyurl.com/santa-fe-network-talk

Eventually a video will be available.

The main new thing here is work with Blake Pollard on a monoidal category where the morphisms are open Petri nets.  This allows us to describe ‘open’ systems of chemical reactions, where chemical flow in and out. Composing morphisms in this category then corresponds to combining these open systems to form bigger ones.

Right now I'm sitting in on a workshop called "Circumventing Turing's Achilles Heel".   The idea:

Much of the extraordinary success of the computer industry over the last half-century is because the vast majority of computing machines we’ve built are general purpose computers. Subject to the limitations of finite memory, time, and processor speed, general-purpose computers are (near) Turing complete; that is, capable of computing anything that is computable. But it’s exactly that same strategy that makes our computer and network systems so vulnerable to attack: If an outsider can gain control of your general-purpose system, then s/he can in principle use it for whatever purposes s/he is clever enough to trick your system into executing, precisely because the system is (near) Turing complete.

This Working Group will explore strategies for retaining the hardware and software advantages of general purpose computers, while denying those same general purpose capabilities to outside attackers. The focus will be on systems and applications that, by definition, require routine access from the open internet (e.g., webservers, online banking and other financial systems, etc.).

It's a lively place!

#networks  ___

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2016-11-12 23:44:55 (40 comments; 5 reshares; 120 +1s; )Open 

California — heading toward a greener future

Just 8 days ago, the Paris Climate Agreement came into force.  Trump will try to get out of it.  But California has other plans.   And today our Governor, Jerry Brown, told the world we're not backing down.  He made this announcement:

Today we saw the beginning of the transfer of power to the President-elect.

While the prerogatives of victory are clear, so also are the responsibilities to ensure a strong and unified America. As President Lincoln said, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' With the deep divisions in our country, it is incumbent on all of us - especially the new leadership in Washington — to take steps that heal those divisions, not deepen them. In California, we will do our part to find common ground whenever possible.

But as Californians, we will also stay true toour basi... more »

California — heading toward a greener future

Just 8 days ago, the Paris Climate Agreement came into force.  Trump will try to get out of it.  But California has other plans.   And today our Governor, Jerry Brown, told the world we're not backing down.  He made this announcement:

Today we saw the beginning of the transfer of power to the President-elect.

While the prerogatives of victory are clear, so also are the responsibilities to ensure a strong and unified America. As President Lincoln said, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' With the deep divisions in our country, it is incumbent on all of us - especially the new leadership in Washington — to take steps that heal those divisions, not deepen them. In California, we will do our part to find common ground whenever possible.

But as Californians, we will also stay true to our basic principles. We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time — devastating climate change.

E PLURIBUS UNUM.

After Trump won the electoral vote, some have been calling for California to secede.  The Yes California movement wants to put a secession referendum on the ballot.  But a more reasonable thing is for California to pursue its own course within the US. 

We're already different.   We just passed a referendum committing the state to fight the Citizens United ruling.  We also legalized marijuana and banned free plastic bags at grocery stores.  Plastic bags may seem like a small thing, but they wreak havoc in the oceans. 

More importantly, in September we passed a law saying our state will cut carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.    We were already legally committed to hit 1990 levels by 2020.   And we've got a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions!

California is not alone: we're part of the Pacific Coast Collaborative.   This organization represents 54 million people — and it's got officials at the international climate change meeting that's happening in Marrakesh now:

The world's climate leaders are gathering for the twenty-second Conference of Parties (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco from November 7-18. Representatives from the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), a partnership between California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, will join world leaders as we seek to build thriving, sustainable, and low-carbon economies.

Last year in Paris, states, provinces, cities, and other subnational jurisdictions grabbed headlines for their commitments to deep emissions reductions through the Under2MOU, agreeing to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 2 tons per capita, 80-95% below a 1990 benchmark, by 2050. In 2016, the Pacific Coast Collaborative affirmed its commitment to meeting these targets by signing a new Climate Leadership Action Plan and forging a partnership with the leading sustainable cities on the West Coast — Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver — through the Pacific North America Climate Leadership Agreement.

The PCC heads to Marrakesh with the intention of meeting with other subnational leaders to share information about how our region's states and province are working together to drive dramatic transformations in the building, electricity, and transportation sectors while demonstrating that this transformation can happen alongside regional economic and job growth. The PCC is also promoting the recently launched International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance) at COP 22. The OA Alliance will join the PCC and other nations and subnationals, including states, provinces, cities tribes, and nongovernmental members to advance our understanding of ocean acidification, reduce its causes, and protect coastal economies and marine ecosystems. The PCC invites other governments and organizations to join us in taking action by joining this new alliance.

Now that the US has fallen into the hands of Trump, it's all the more important to take action locally.  I need to learn more about the Pacific Coast Collaborative and what a lowly mathematician can do to help  out. 

Here is Jerry Brown's announcement:

https://www.gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=19598

Here's some interesting news about the California secession movement, and how it's gotten fired up thanks to Trump:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/us/california-today-secession-trump.html

#sustainability___

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2016-11-12 03:40:57 (0 comments; 18 reshares; 142 +1s; )Open 

The loser won

Having lost the popular vote, Trump is busy deleting tweets from 2012 in which he falsely claimed that Obama did the same - and argued that therefore "We should have a revolution in this country!" 

http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/11/13596932/trump-protestors-electoral-college-tweets

The loser won

Having lost the popular vote, Trump is busy deleting tweets from 2012 in which he falsely claimed that Obama did the same - and argued that therefore "We should have a revolution in this country!" 

http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/11/13596932/trump-protestors-electoral-college-tweets___

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2016-11-10 15:01:39 (72 comments; 48 reshares; 156 +1s; )Open 

This man must be stopped

Trump has said on Twitter that:

the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

While he later denied saying this, he is now threatening to put Myron Ebell in charge of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team.  "Transition team"?  Yes, apparently Trump wants to weaken or destroy this agency.  And if you don't know Myron Ebell, you'd better learn about him now!

Myron Ebell has said:

I don’t want to say it’s a disaster, but I think it is potentially a disaster for humankind and not necessarily any good for the planet.

What's he talking about?  Global warming?  No, he's talking about the Paris agreement to fight global warming.  He claims global warming is, on the whole, a good thing. Why?
... more »

This man must be stopped

Trump has said on Twitter that:

the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.

While he later denied saying this, he is now threatening to put Myron Ebell in charge of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team.  "Transition team"?  Yes, apparently Trump wants to weaken or destroy this agency.  And if you don't know Myron Ebell, you'd better learn about him now!

Myron Ebell has said:

I don’t want to say it’s a disaster, but I think it is potentially a disaster for humankind and not necessarily any good for the planet.

What's he talking about?  Global warming?  No, he's talking about the Paris agreement to fight global warming.  He claims global warming is, on the whole, a good thing.  Why?

In fact, there is no question that most people prefer less severe winters.

After running an organization devoted to eliminating protection for endangered species, he switched to heading the Global Warming and International Environmental Policy project at an institute funded by Exxon.  His job was to sow doubt and create confusion about climate change.

But he burst into fame in 2002.  That's when he helped Bush's "council on environmental policy" water down a key report on global warming.  He was caught by Greenpeace, and a scandal erupted.  

He also tried to get the head of the Environmental Protection Agency fired.  Back then it was Christine Todd Whitman.   In a secret memo to Philip Cooney, head of Bush's anti-environmental council, Ebell wrote:

It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys, and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible. I have done several interviews and have stressed that the president needs to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Perhaps tomorrow we will call for [Christine Todd Whitman] to be fired. I know that that doesn't sound like much help, but it seems to me that our only leverage to push you in the right direction is to drive a wedge between the President and those in the Administration who think they are serving the president's best interests by publishing this rubbish.

"This rubbish" was a report put out by the EPA warning people of the dangers of climate change.

So, get ready: this guy will be working full-time to cause trouble!  If you want to protest his selection, you can sign this petition:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-myron-ebell-from

Here's a good Scientific American article to get you up to speed:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-picks-top-climate-skeptic-to-lead-epa-transition/

Here's Myron Ebell on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myron_Ebell

Here's Myron Ebell rewriting scientific reports:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2005/jun/09/science.environment

Myron Ebell saying global warming is, on the whole, a good thing:

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2006/1225/038.html

Here's Trump's claim that climate change is a notion invented by the Chinese:

http://www.theverge.com/2016/9/26/13067918/donald-trump-presidential-debate-2016-climate-change-hoax

#savetheplanet___

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