The Breakfast Club (Eclipse)

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All that you touch, all that you see, all that you taste

All you feel

All that you love, all that you hate, all you distrust

All you save

All that you give, all that you deal

All that you buy, beg, borrow or steal

All you create, all you destroy, all that you do

All that you say

All that you eat, everyone you meet, all that you slight

Everyone you fight

All that is now, all that is gone, all that’s to come

And everything under the sun is in tune

But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

There is no dark side of the moon really.

Matter of fact it’s all dark.

Hard for some people to wrap their minds around really (wait until we get to the quantum time machine simulator), but it is a fact that the Dark Side of the Moon gets exactly as much sunlight as the side facing Earth.

What prompts this musing is the new video from NASA showing the Dark Side-

Now no doubt you are familiar by this time with the ‘Big Squash’ theory of Lunar formation which contends that the Moon is the result of an oblique collision between the proto-Earth and a Mars sized planet.  Recent simulations suggest that two bodies formed out of that and their eventual consolidation is responsible for the difference in composition and appearance between the far and near side.

In other related news the next ‘Super Moon‘ (where the Moon is at its closest to Earth) will be Febuary 18th and be a ‘Black’ Moon, a New Moon (meaning all the light is hitting the far side) and the 3rd of 4 New Moons this winter.

Timey Whimey Stuff

On a quantum level there is no particular bias for time to proceed from cause to effect which makes some theoretical physicists (Stephen Hawkings) angry since it goes so much against our perceptions of reality on a macro scale and introduces paradoxes.  Scientists at the University of Queensland have recently simulated a quantum time machine and found that traveling backwards in time is indeed theoretically possible.

Much of their simulation revolved around investigating how Deutsch’s model deals with the “grandfather paradox,” a hypothetical scenario in which someone uses a CTC to travel back through time to murder her own grandfather, thus preventing her own later birth.

Deutsch’s quantum solution to the grandfather paradox works something like this:

Instead of a human being traversing a CTC to kill her ancestor, imagine that a fundamental particle goes back in time to flip a switch on the particle-generating machine that created it. If the particle flips the switch, the machine emits a particle-the particle-back into the CTC; if the switch isn’t flipped, the machine emits nothing. In this scenario there is no a priori deterministic certainty to the particle’s emission, only a distribution of probabilities. Deutsch’s insight was to postulate self-consistency in the quantum realm, to insist that any particle entering one end of a CTC must emerge at the other end with identical properties. Therefore, a particle emitted by the machine with a probability of one half would enter the CTC and come out the other end to flip the switch with a probability of one half, imbuing itself at birth with a probability of one half of going back to flip the switch. If the particle were a person, she would be born with a one-half probability of killing her grandfather, giving her grandfather a one-half probability of escaping death at her hands-good enough in probabilistic terms to close the causative loop and escape the paradox. Strange though it may be, this solution is in keeping with the known laws of quantum mechanics.

In their new simulation Ralph, Ringbauer and their colleagues studied Deutsch’s model using interactions between pairs of polarized photons within a quantum system that they argue is mathematically equivalent to a single photon traversing a CTC. “We encode their polarization so that the second one acts as kind of a past incarnation of the first,” Ringbauer says. So instead of sending a person through a time loop, they created a stunt double of the person and ran him through a time-loop simulator to see if the doppelganger emerging from a CTC exactly resembled the original person as he was in that moment in the past.

By measuring the polarization states of the second photon after its interaction with the first, across multiple trials the team successfully demonstrated Deutsch’s self-consistency in action. “The state we got at our output, the second photon at the simulated exit of the CTC, was the same as that of our input, the first encoded photon at the CTC entrance,” Ralph says. “Of course, we’re not really sending anything back in time but [the simulation] allows us to study weird evolutions normally not allowed in quantum mechanics.”

In essence the paradox is resolved by changing the future to fit the facts of the past.  Once the cat is dead (or alive) the only way forward is the probabilities based on the dead (or live) cat.  No return to a state of quantum uncertainty (in that respect) is possible so if you did indeed succeed in killing your grandfather the only future you could return to is one in which your grandfather is dead.

Nor would you disappear.  Your past self represents the resolution of quantum states that can no longer have any values other than the ones that have been measured.

Tricky eh?

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

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

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

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

This Day in History


Frantic Efforts at NBC to Curb Rising Damage Caused by Brian Williams

By EMILY STEEL, The New York Times

FEB. 11, 2015

On Thursday, Ms. Turness and Mr. Williams addressed the staff of “NBC Nightly News” at an afternoon meeting, and he again apologized for getting the story wrong on the air and bringing an onslaught of scrutiny to NBC News. Tensions continued to build as news accounts and social media posts began to question the way that Mr. Williams portrayed his reporting, not only for the Iraq episode but also for Hurricane Katrina and even in his tales of rescuing puppies as a teenage volunteer firefighter.

Mr. Williams appeared on the air that evening as speculation about his fate continued to swirl. He did not address the controversy, covering the measles outbreak, the online intrusion at Anthem insurance and the New York commuter train crash.

By Friday morning, the media frenzy was escalating. Ms. Turness and Mr. Williams addressed staff members at a broader editorial meeting held in a conference room on the third floor. Mr. Williams, who does not normally attend the meeting, apologized yet again. The mood was somber, as staff members tried to make sense of the controversy. That evening, Mr. Williams delivered what would be his last nightly newscast in six months, with executives unsure about whether he should remain in the anchor chair.

By Saturday morning, NBC executives saw that the story was not going away, the people with knowledge of the proceedings said. At the meeting at Mr. Williams’s apartment that morning, Ms. Turness, Ms. Fili-Krushel and other executives decided, among other issues, that Mr. Williams needed to get off the air. He had become too much a part of the news. Lester Holt, the anchor for “Dateline,” could step in.

On Monday, top NBC officials discussed the issue again and concluded that Mr. Williams should be suspended for six months without pay. They decided to sleep on the decision that night. Mr. Burke contacted Mr. Williams to tell him to come to his apartment the next morning.

By that time, Mr. Esposito’s investigation indicated that Mr. Williams had gotten the Iraq helicopter story wrong on a recent newscast, a conclusion top officials found unacceptable. They also found problems with his portrayal of his Katrina reporting outside the broadcast. Mr. Burke informed Mr. Williams of his suspension. Ms. Turness told the staff of “Nightly News” after the broadcast that evening, with Mr. Williams calling in to tell them to take good care of the program.

The Case for Buying a Powerball Ticket

Neil Irwin, The New York Times

FEB. 11, 2015

(T)he way the Powerball math works, each lottery ticket has a higher present value now than any other time. Looked at as strictly a math problem, you are throwing away less money by buying a ticket when the pot is flush than when it is low.

The way the Powerball works is that when there is a drawing with no jackpot winner, the money is rolled into a new jackpot. In other words, by buying a ticket for a chance at the jackpot, you are getting a chance to win some of the money that earlier buyers of Powerball tickets put in before their tickets expired worthless.

The Multi-State Lottery Association estimates the chances of winning the grand prize at about 1 in 175 million, and the cash value of the prize at $337.8 million. The simplest math points to that $2 ticket having an expected value of about $1.93. It’s actually more complicated than that, because that calculation doesn’t account for the fact that there could be multiple jackpot winners who must split the pot. And it doesn’t account for the income tax you will owe on any winnings.

But the key intuition is that while you are still throwing away money when buying a lottery ticket, you are throwing away less in strictly economic terms when you buy into an unusually large Powerball jackpot.

Congress torn over Obama war power request

By Lesley Clark and William Douglas, McClatchy

February 11, 2015

(T)he White House faces a daunting task of satisfying disparate factions in Congress over the depth and scope of his request. Several Democrats want to further limit the use of U.S. troops on the ground in the Middle East, while some hawkish Republicans say there should be no restriction on the use of U.S. ground forces.

Obama also faces criticism from nearly every side that the White House hasn’t produced a coherent strategy on how to combat the Islamic State.

“I’m not even quite sure what our policy is,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “The question I keep asking is, ‘How does this all end?’ And I can’t seem to get a satisfactory answer. We’ve been at war in the Middle East for a long, long, long time, and I’m not sure we have very much to show for it.”

“The challenge is not just there between people who want to do something and people who want to do nothing,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “It’s between people who want to do more of something and people who want to do less of something.”

Obama’s party threatens alliance against ‘carte blanche’ power to wage Isis war

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 February 2015 15.31 EST

Senior Democrats have vowed to fight Barack Obama’s new plan for what they call a “carte blanche” expansion of military authority, claiming that proposals presented to Congress on Wednesday do almost nothing to constrain the White House’s ability wage war without approval.

The California congressman Adam Schiff and Virginia senator Tim Kaine singled out the lack of any geographic limits in the proposed three-year authorisation for military force (AUMF) – as well as the failure to repeal a 2001 law previously used to justify attacks – as areas of major concern.

Even as Obama said he was not interested in “perpetual” or “endless war”, leaders of his own party threatened to team up with “strange bedfellows” from the Republican opposition to combat sweeping future presidential power.

Arab nations united in fury against Isis but divided on strategy

by Kareem Shaheen and Ian Black, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 February 2015 03.00 EST

Apart from an initial flourish of publicity, none advertised what their pilots were doing out of fear of retaliation or a backlash from jihadi sympathisers at home. “That has been part of the problem,” said one Amman-based western diplomat. “People didn’t even know Jordan was bombing Isis.” Revulsion, however understandable, does not appear to herald significant change to the conduct of the campaign. “Jordan’s anger is justified but in military terms they can’t add very much,” said Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai.

“They are retaliating because of the brutal killing of their pilot but they only have 20 F-16s. And now that fixed targets and infrastructure have been hit, air operations are reaching the limit of their usefulness anyway. Air strikes depend heavily on human as well as electronic intelligence and there’s a huge shortage of accurate intelligence. After six months what has been achieved is very limited.”

Egypt, which no longer calls for Bashar al-Assad to go and is seeking to rebuild its regional influence, is preoccupied with the growing jihadi insurgency in Sinai and wants western help to fight that.

Alani and other analysts say hopes for turning the tide against Isis rest now not with air strikes but with a promised ground offensive in Iraq, specifically the recapture of Mosul, the dramatic fall of which last June shocked the world. Arab ground forces will not take part in that, though the Saudis are said to be signalling readiness to provide financial support.

Still, suspicions persist about the Shia-dominated government of Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, with little discernible progress in efforts to enfranchise a Sunni community that is still smarting from its loss of power since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the 2003 US-led invasion. Sunnis fear “liberation” at the hands of an Iraqi army backed by Shia militias – which work closely with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – that stand accused of carrying out sectarian atrocities in areas recaptured from Isis.

So for all the horror of Kasasbeh’s execution, it does not look like a turning point.

Greece, euro zone fail to agree on debt, to try again on Monday

By Renee Maltezou and Jan Strupczewski, Reuters

Wed Feb 11, 2015 9:11pm EST

Greece would have no further contact with experts from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank before Monday, he said. That was the opposite of how other EU ministers understood they had left matters when they headed home an hour or so earlier.

Looking as casually confident as when he had arrived at his first such talks, Varoufakis said: “Now we are proceeding to the next meeting on Monday. We hope that by the end of that one, there is going to be a conclusion in a manner that is optimal both for the perspective of Greece and our European partners.”

Spelling out how Greek voters had rejected the “toxic” austerity dictated by international lenders that rescued Greece after the global financial crisis, he said he hoped for a “healing deal” on Monday and stressed that, while much remained undone, “not finding a solution is not in our rationale”.

West Coast Labor Dispute Brings Crippling Delays to Seaports

By ERIK ECKHOLM, The New York Times

FEB. 12, 2015

(A) simmering labor dispute between the longshoremen’s union and ship owners has brought crippling delays here and to other West Coast seaports. And the slowdown escalated this week as owners said they would suspend the unloading of container and other cargo ships on four of the next five days because of what they called “a strike with pay.”

The move follows a similar two-day limit on work last weekend that angered many port workers, who saw it as a ploy to punish them and increase pressure to settle on a new labor contract after nine months of negotiations, which continue with the aid of a federal mediator.

It seems certain to worsen the congestion at the West Coast ports, which together handle half the container traffic entering the United States, including at the vast Los Angeles-Long Beach complex here and ports in Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma.

Last weekend, the owners, in a surprise move, also temporarily suspended the unloading of ships. They said they did so because they were tired of paying overtime wages for sluggish work and because they had to focus on clearing out a backlog of containers in overflowing yards.

The union, in turn, hired a small plane and distributed aerial photographs showing empty tracts in the purportedly clogged yards.

“They are trying to create a situation to focus pain on longshoremen,” Richard Montez, a certified crane operator, said when he heard about the latest cutbacks. “They just don’t want to pay overtime dollars.”

“Instead of trying to ease the situation and get back to the norm, they’re causing more grief,” he said. “I have a family, I want to work.”

In the case of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, the owners say a November decision by the union local to stop some 500 experienced, but uncertified, yard-crane operators from filling that linchpin role is to blame for the delays. The union says it made the decision for safety reasons, while the owners call it an indirect slowdown.

Family of North Carolina shooting victims denounce killings as ‘hate crime’

by Lauren Gambino and Nicky Woolf, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 February 2015 17.58 EST

In an emotional press conference, Suzanne Barakat described the killing of her brother as an “execution-style murder”.

Barakat’s comments come as the father of the two women killed in the same attack has said he also believes the killings were a hate crime, perpetrated against his daughters and son-in-law because they were Muslim.

Three Muslim students dead in North Carolina shooting as suspect arrested

Read more

Chapel Hill police said a preliminary investigation revealed that an ongoing dispute between neighbors over a parking space may have led Craig Stephen Hicks to shoot his neighbors Deah Barakat, 23; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

However, the women’s father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, disagrees.

“This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime,” Abu-Salha told the Raleigh News & Observer.

New Hampshire police seek groundhog in connection with eternal mysteries

by Alan Yuhas, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 February 2015 15.32 EST

In a truly desperate gamble to lighten the mood in snowbound Merrimack, New Hampshire, the town’s police department wrote on Facebook that “we have received several complaints from the public that this little varmint is held up in a hole, warm and toasty.” The post continues to say that the groundhog predicted six weeks of winter but “failed to disclose that it would consist of mountains of snow!”

New England has been breaking winter storm records for the last two weeks, and some areas have seen more than 6ft of snow. More snow is forecast before the weekend.

“If you see him, do not approach him as he is armed and dangerous,” the police wrote, apparently referring to the fact that groundhogs have legs and a propensity to bite humans who grab them. “Call Merrimack police, we will certainly take him into custody,” they conclude, seemingly eager for anyone to call at all.

Then they posted a picture of the gopher puppet from the Bill Murray film Caddyshack, which features no groundhogs.

The ritual of Groundhog Day began in the mid-1800s and was attributed to German immigrants in central Pennsylvania, whose fairy tales and traditions came down from Celtic and central European lore about badgers and bears.

Those forebears would likely be glad to see the inexorable march of technology has not dimmed mankind’s enthusiasm for the questions that vexed them. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck? Do animals really tell the future? Statisticians were put to the case, and delivered pronouncements from on high. A woodchuck can chuck “361.9237001 cubic centimeters of wood per day”. A groundhog “is just a groundhog”.

The mystery of Mingering Mike: the soul legend who never existed

by Jon Ronson, The Guardian

Wednesday 11 February 2015 10.33 EST

Hadar was a true soul aficionado, with an encyclopaedic knowledge and 10,000 records at home. Which is why he was so amazed to discover 38 albums by a soul singer he had never heard of. His name was Mingering Mike. Hadar stared at the record covers. He read the liner notes. There was Mingering Mike’s 1968’s debut, Sit’tin by the Window. The cover art was a painting of a young man in a green T-shirt, good-looking, serious. The comedian Jack Benny had written the liner notes, calling him “a bright and intelligent young man with a great, exciting future awaiting him”.

So it transpired. There were greatest hits collections and a Bruce Lee concept album and movie soundtracks – including one for an action film called Stake Out. And there were live albums, like 1972’s Live from Paris, The Mingering Mike Review: ‘Their biggest show ever,’ read the liner notes. ‘What a night that was.’

Most of the song titles were upbeat and optimistic, like There’s Nothing Wrong With You Baby and Play It Cool, Don’t Be No Fool, Get Your Thing Together and Go Back to School. But other records had darker themes, like The Drug Store and Mama Takes Dope. Some were still wrapped in their original cellophane, price tags intact.

Hadar pulled out a few discs to see what condition they were in. Which was when he discovered to his enormous surprise that they weren’t vinyl. They were black-painted cardboard, with fake labels and hand-drawn grooves.

What had begun to dawn on Hadar was now totally apparent: Mingering Mike did not exist. He was somebody’s hugely detailed fantasy.

It’s 11 years later and the artwork to much of Mingering Mike’s vast fictional music career – around 150 records in all – is about to go on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. When I emailed the museum’s public affairs specialist Courtney Rothbard to ask if I could meet Mike (Hadar had apparently managed to track him down), she sounded doubtful. Mike was “media-shy”. She didn’t even know his real name: “I don’t think anyone here does. But I do know it’s not any of the rumoured names out there.”



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