17 August 2017

Gravity waves + airglow


An Astronomy Photo of the Day from NASA.  The source link has details on how the colors form.

Did a "false flag" draw the U.S. into WWII ?

A "false flag" is one type of "black ops":
The contemporary term false flag describes covert operations that are designed to deceive in such a way that activities appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them.
A recent article at the Daily Beast asks whether a terror attack at the World's Fair in 1940 was designed to get the United States involved in WWII.
On June 4, 1940, Nazi Germany shoved the last British troop off the Continent at Dunkirk. Adolf Hitler moved his forces into position for a final cross-Channel invasion and occupation of England. That same month the new British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, dispatched a shadowy figure, Sir William Stephenson—later most famous as the original of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Agent 007—to set up a spy shop for Britain’s MI6 in Midtown Manhattan. A hero of World War One and self-made multi-millionaire, Stephenson was on neutral ground in America, but he and Churchill shared the conviction that nothing was more important to their nation’s chances for survival than winning American support for the war against Hitler. Then, on July 4, 1940, with throngs of holiday visitors at the New York World’s Fair, a time bomb planted in the British Pavilion exploded, instantly killing two New York City policemen and badly mauling five others. Was Stephenson behind the blast in an attempt to frame Nazis and their American sympathizers? Were these officers sacrificed to win American sympathy and draw a reluctant United States into the Second World War?
The article is inconclusive and presents no new evidence.  Posted because we are again in an era where everyone needs to be aware of the possibility of false flags with regard to both international and domestic terrorism.

"Eat! Eat! Eat! & Always Stay Thin"


Photographed during a visit to The House On The Rock.

There is one report of intentional tapeworm ingestion occurring in modern times:
The woman went to her doctor and admitted she’d bought a tapeworm off the Internet and swallowed it, says Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health...

Quinlisk says that the capsules sold in the past by snake oil hucksters, and online today, likely contain the microscopic head of a Taenia saginata.

“When people would order from snake oil medicine kinds of people a weight loss pill, it would be the head of a Taenia saginata … and it would develop into a 30-foot-long tapeworm in your body,” Quinlisk says. “The worm would get into your gut – it’s got little hooks on the head – and it would grab onto your intestine and start growing.”

And, technically, this parasitic infection, called taeniasis, does cause weight loss. 
More at the link.   Sadly, I need to block comments on this post because it will be a magnet for spam.

Also: CDC webpage on cysticercosis.

"Crowdcasting" explained

Pretend for a moment that you’re walking through your neighborhood and notice a line of people wrapped around the block outside a newly opened restaurant. Local food bloggers haven’t written about the venue, so you assume the trendy-looking crowd must be the result of contagious, word-of-mouth buzz.

There was a time when that may have been undoubtedly true — when you could trust that a crowd of people was, in fact, a naturally occurring mass of individuals.

But that time may be passing thanks to Surkus, an emerging app that allowed the restaurant to quickly manufacture its ideal crowd and pay the people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. They’ve even been hand-picked by a casting agent of sorts, an algorithmic one that selects each person according to age, location, style and Facebook “likes.”..
Welcome to the new world of “crowdcasting.” ...
The company’s tagline: “Go out. Have fun. Get paid.”

George said the company has amassed 150,000 members in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. Anyone can download the app. The members are of all ages and backgrounds, George said, noting that people are drawn by the chance to be social and get paid.

After quietly launching two years ago, Surkus members have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, including big-name brands, hospitality groups, live-ticketed shows, movie castings and everyday people who want to throw a party. George said users can be paid as little as $5 and as much as $100, though the average for most events is between $25 and $40. Prolific users, he said, can earn as much as $4,000 a year.
More about the other uses of the app at The Washington Post.

Percentage eclipse


We're looking forward to an 85% eclipse.  We won't get to experience the rush Annie Dillard describes, but it still should be awesome.

Image via.

Buying apartments "en viager"

A story from back in 1995, which I just encountered:
Andre-Francois Raffray thought he had a great deal 30 years ago: He would pay a 90-year-old woman 2,500 francs (about $500) a month until she died, then move into her grand apartment in a town Vincent van Gogh once roamed.

But this Christmas, Mr. Raffray died at age 77, having laid out the equivalent of more than $184,000 for an apartment he never got to live in

On the same day, Jeanne Calment, now listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest person at 120, dined on foie gras, duck thighs, cheese and chocolate cake at her nursing home near the sought-after apartment in Arles, northwest of Marseilles in the south of France...

Buying apartments "en viager," or "for life," is common in France. The elderly owner gets to enjoy a monthly income from the buyer, who gambles on getting a real estate bargain -- provided the owner dies in due time...
Further details at The New York Times.


Republicans should listen to Ronald Reagan


Via Boing Boing, where there is a brief excerpt of the salient points for those in a hurry.

09 August 2017

Blogcation


Back in about a week.

Look at these HORIZONTAL blue bars


Perfectly horizontal.  Really.

Based on the classic "cafe wall" optical illusion.

If you like this, note that the TYWKIWDBI category of optical illusions currently has 60 posts.

Via Boing Boing.

Unrepentant

From a letter written to a newspaper by a death-row inmate:
I wonder if the public is aware that the cost of my first trial was half a million dollars. Are they aware that the state has in place a system that automatically delays my lawful murder for years, so that pieces of the money pie can continue to be passed around? Is the public aware that the chances of my lawful murder taking place in the next twenty years, if ever, are very slim? Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the AC, reading, taking naps at will, eating three well-balanced, hot meals a day? I’m housed in a building that connects to the new $155 million hospital, with round-the-clock free medical care.

There are a lot of good citizens who blogged on various websites, stating their opinions about me and the punishment I deserve. I laugh at you self-righteous clowns, and I spit in the face of your so-called justice system. Kill me if you can, suckers! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Further details at Harper's, which had a better title for this item: "Fulsome Prison."

Definition of fulsome, and basis for the pun.

Tropea, Calabria, Italy


Photo via the Europe subreddit.

Crewless electric cargo ships

Everyone is familiar with driverless cars and driverless long-distance trucks.  Next come crewless ships:
Two Norwegian companies are teaming together to construct a short-range, all-electric coastal container ship that will eventually operate autonomously—eliminating up to 40,000 diesel truck trips per year. The ship, the Yara Birkeland, will begin operations in 2018 with a crew, but it's expected to operate largely autonomously (and crewless) by 2020...

Birkeland will be a relatively small "feeder" cargo ship; its journeys will be short jaunts down a fjord on Norway's Baltic Sea coast from Yara's factory to a larger port. There, containers of fertilizer will be loaded onto larger seagoing ships for international transport. Currently, Yara ships these containers over land.

"Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Yara's Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik," Yara's president and CEO, Svein Tore Holsether, said in a statement issued by the two companies. "With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce nitrous oxide and CO2 emissions."
Naysayers will note that this development also eliminates jobs. 

I read recently (??where???) an interesting commentary on our new robotic world.  The writer noted that we are now reaching the future that was predicted (and lavishly praised) in our childhood - a world where drones and robots do the drudge-jobs, freeing humans from mindless labor and allowing us to redirect our time and energy to more rewarding tasks.  But now, as this future arrives, it seems to be hurting the common man rather than being a benefit. 

I believe the author postulated that the reason for the lack of improvement for ordinary people is that because of the structure of current economic systems, the benefits of automation only accrue to owners and management, not to employees. 

I would like to find that essay, but I may have read it in a paper magazine (Atlantic, Harpers etc) rather than online.

08 August 2017

An excerpt from The Epic of Gilgamesh

"What I had loaded thereon, the whole harvest of life
I caused to embark upon the vessel; all my family and all my relations,
The beasts of the field, the cattle of the field,
   the craftsmen, I made them all embark.
I entered the vessel and closed the door...

When the young dawn gleamed forth,
From the foundations of heaven a black cloud arose...
All that is bright is turned into darkness, The brother seeth his brother no more,
The folk of the skies can no longer recognise each other
The gods feared the flood, They fled, they climbed into the heaven of Anu,
The gods crouched like a dog on the wall, they lay down...

For six days and nights
Wind and flood marched on, the hurricane subdued the land.
When the seventh day dawned, the hurricane was abated, the flood
Which had waged war like an army;
the sea was stilled, the ill wind was calmed, the flood ceased.
I beheld the sea, its voice was silent, And all mankind was turned into mud!
As high as the roofs reached the swamp;...

I beheld the world, the horizon of sea; Twelve measures away an island emerged;
Unto Mount Nitsir came the vessal, Mount Nitsir held the vessal and let it not budge...
When the seventh day came, I sent forth a dove, I released it;
It went the dove, it came back,
As there was no place, it came back.
I sent forth a swallow, I released it;
It went the swallow, it came back,
As there was no place, it came back.
I sent forth a crow, I released it;
It went the crow, and beheld the subsidence of the waters;
It eats, it splashes about, it caws, it comes not back."
Translated by George Smith in 1872.  Via.

Cited in The Aztec Treasure House, where it is noted that the tablets (found in Ninevah) were "from the library of King Ashurbanipal, circa 650 B.C.

The embedded image is the Deluge tablet, via Wikipedia.

Cut paper


Art by Kiri Ken, via Colossal (more examples at the link).

"Total Eclipse" (Annie Dillard, 1982)


Brief excerpts from Annie Dillard's essay "Total Eclipse" -
"You may read that the moon has something to do with eclipses. I have never seen the moon yet. You do not see the moon. So near the sun, it is as completely invisible as the stars are by day. What you see before your eyes is the sun going through phases...

Now the sky to the west deepened to indigo, a color never seen. A dark sky usually loses color. This was a saturated, deep indigo, up in the air... The sun was going, and the world was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. Their every detail of stem, head, and blade shone lightless and artificially distinct as an art photographer’s platinum print. This color has never been seen on Earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte...

From all the hills came screams. A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. It was a loosened circle of evening sky, suddenly lighted from the back. It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place. There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world.

It did not look like a dragon, although it looked more like a dragon than the moon. It looked like a lens cover, or the lid of a pot. It materialized out of thin air—black, and flat, and sliding, outlined in flame... You have seen photographs of the sun taken during a total eclipse. The corona fills the print. All of those photographs were taken through telescopes. The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience... But I pray you will never see anything more awful in the sky... It is one-360th part of the visible sky. The sun we see is less than half the diameter of a dime held at arm’s length...

I have said that I heard screams. (I have since read that screaming, with hysteria, is a common reaction even to expected total eclipses.) People on all the hillsides, including, I think, myself, screamed when the black body of the moon detached from the sky and rolled over the sun. But something else was happening at that same instant, and it was this, I believe, which made us scream.

The second before the sun went out we saw a wall of dark shadow come speeding at us. We no sooner saw it than it was upon us, like thunder. It roared up the valley. It slammed our hill and knocked us out. It was the monstrous swift shadow cone of the moon. I have since read that this wave of shadow moves 1,800 miles an hour. Language can give no sense of this sort of speed—1,800 miles an hour. It was 195 miles wide. No end was in sight—you saw only the edge. It rolled at you across the land at 1,800 miles an hour, hauling darkness like plague behind it. Seeing it, and knowing it was coming straight for you, was like feeling a slug of anesthetic shoot up your arm. If you think very fast, you may have time to think, “Soon it will hit my brain.” You can feel the deadness race up your arm; you can feel the appalling, inhuman speed of your own blood. We saw the wall of shadow coming, and screamed before it hit."
Annie Dillard's essay was originally published in 1982.  It will be available online at The Atlantic from now until August 21.  I encourage you to read it there in toto.  The essay makes me want to drive 5-6 hours to experience the totality in person.

Image credit
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