Monday, December 05, 2016

Top 25 News Photos of 2016

Some really stunning photos in The Atlantic’s Top 25 News Photos of 2016 “The past twelve months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror in the Middle East and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, ongoing protests demanding racial justice in the U.S., the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and so much more. Today, we present the Top 25 News Photos of 2016—and starting tomorrow will be presenting part one of a more comprehensive three-part series, 2016: The Year in Photos. Warning, some of the photos may contain graphic or objectionable content.”

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Your Periodic Table Is Officially Out of Date

Gizmodo reports Your Periodic Table Is Officially Out of Date

Scientists with the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) have officially approved the names of four new elements, completing the seventh row of the periodic table.

The four elements, discovered between 2002 and 2010, aren’t new per se, but the names are. IUPAC officially recognized the discovery of the super-heavy, highly reactive elements in December of 2015, and announced the suggested names back in June of this year. After a five-month chill-out period for the world to digest the new monikers, the bureau made the names official this week.

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117
  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118

Japanese researchers proposed Nihonium, which means Japan, and a team of scientists from Russia and the US named Moscovium for Moscow and Tennessine for Tennessee. Oganesson was named in honor of Yuri Oganessian, a Russian chemist. The additions replace the current seventh row placeholders, ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium, ununoctium (and good riddance)."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Huge Cracks In the West Antarctic Ice Sheet May Signal Its Collapse

Huge Cracks In the West Antarctic Ice Sheet May Signal Its Collapse

Antarctica Rift 500

Last year, a 225 square-mile chunk of West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier broke off and tumbled into the sea. Now, Earth scientists at Ohio State University have pinpointed the root cause of the iceberg calving event: a crack that started deep below ground and 20 miles inland. It’s like nothing scientists have witnessed in West Antarctica before, and it doesn’t bode well for the ice sheet’s future.

One can’t help but note that NASA’s Earth science program, which makes such data available to scientists and the public, faces the possibility of major cuts under a Trump administration. These cuts would come at the precise moment when our planet is changing in rapid and hard-to-predict ways, which is when Earth science research is needed the most. Like cracks in an ice sheet, the irony runs deep.

It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online

Ars Technica reports It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online “Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies.”

The Consumer Review Fairness Act voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the new law and impose penalties when necessary. The bill also protects reviews that aren’t available via the Internet.

Monday, November 28, 2016

We Did Not Evolve For Microgravity

io9 on Why Spaceflight Ruins Your Eyesight:

The problem, say researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has to do with volume changes in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) found around the brain and spinal cord. Prolonged exposure to microgravity triggers a build-up of this fluid, causing the astronauts’ eyeballs to flatten, which can lead to myopia. A build-up of CSF also causes astronauts’ optic nerves to stick out, which is also not good, as the optic nerve sends signals to the brain from the retina. This is causing nearsightedness among long-duration astronauts, and it’s problem with no clear solution in sight (so to speak).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Continuous Unix commit history from 1970 until today in Git

The Unix History Repository on GitHub is a Continuous Unix commit history from 1970 until today:

The history and evolution of the Unix operating system is made available as a revision management repository, covering the period from its inception in 1970 as a 2.5 thousand line kernel and 26 commands, to 2016 as a widely-used 27 million line system. The 1.1GB repository contains about half a million commits and more than two thousand merges. The repository employs Git system for its storage and is hosted on GitHub. It has been created by synthesizing with custom software 24 snapshots of systems developed at Bell Labs, the University of California at Berkeley, and the 386BSD team, two legacy repositories, and the modern repository of the open source FreeBSD system. In total, about one thousand individual contributors are identified, the early ones through primary research. The data set can be used for empirical research in software engineering, information systems, and software archaeology. The project aims to put in the repository as much metadata as possible, allowing the automated analysis of Unix history.

The files appear to be added in the repository in chronological order according to their modification time, and large parts of the source code have been attributed to their actual authors. Commands like git blame and (sometimes) git log produce the expected results.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Praise for Reince Priebus is another sign of how we’re lowering the bar for Trump

Matthew Yglesias in Vox a few days ago, Praise for Reince Priebus is another sign of how we’re lowering the bar for Trump

Trump landed on Priebus, fairly clearly, because he gets along with him personally and because Priebus also gets along with congressional Republican leaders. That’s nice. But for a president with no relevant experience or qualifications to be picking key staff positions largely on the basis of their ability to be nice to Donald Trump is a disaster. Some are sketching out the Priebus/Bannon relationship as analogous to the dual power structure of Andy Card and Karl Rove in George W Bush’s White House. But the analogy fails entirely.

Priebus, like Rove, is a professional political operative with no experience in government. Card was a veteran elected official who served four years as deputy chief of staff in the George H.W. Bush administration. And Bush himself served six years as governor of a large state. In the Trump/Priebus/Bannon axis that’s running the government, there’s nobody who has any idea how to run the government.

Why Do Marvel's Movies Look Kind of Ugly?

I agree with this is and it’s a good introduction to color correction. In general I’m getting very tired of seeing washed out color palettes.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Britain has passed the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy

This is bad, ZDNet reports Britain has passed the ‘most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy’. “The law forces UK internet providers to store browsing histories – including domains visited – for one year, in case of police investigations.”

The new law, dubbed the “snoopers’ charter”, was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government. Four years and a general election later – May is now prime minister – the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses.

The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer’s top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand – though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch. Not only that, the law also gives the intelligence agencies the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens (known as equipment interference), although some protected professions – such as journalists and medical staff – are layered with marginally better protections.

The Two Americas of 2016

The New York Times made a couple of nice maps The Two Americas of 2016 “To visualize this, we took the election results and created two new imaginary nations by slicing the country along the sharp divide between Republican and Democratic Americas.”

Clintons America

(via kottke)

Democrats Can't Write Off the Last Senate Race

Democrats Can’t Write Off the Last Senate Race. “Louisiana’s unusual electoral system features an ”all comers“ election on Nov. 8, followed by a runoff between the top two finishers, regardless of party. This year, there was no strong favorite for the open senate seat, and Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell wound up in the runoff, despite taking only 25 percent and 17 percent of the vote, respectively.”

National Democrats are apparently playing down the election, which has received practically no attention at all in the national media. I think that’s an odd choice.

This is true. I hadn’t heard of this until this morning.

For one thing, the seat is certainly extremely important just in terms of the Senate balance. Republicans have ambitious plans but a slim margin in the Senate to make them into reality. In the Senate, every seat is important: The chances of passing a major health-insurance-reform bill or anything else – or the ability to eliminate the filibuster – are much stronger with 52 seats (plus the tie-breaker vote from the vice-president) than with 51 seats. And that’s just for now, of course; the chosen candidate in Louisiana receives a six-year term, and we have no way of knowing whether we’ll have a one-seat margin in Senate control at some point within that timeline.

I remember reading a few years ago, probably in 2009–2011 when the Democrats had 51 Senators (or perhaps in 2007–09 when they had 49 with two caucusing independents), it meant that every vote counted and it empowered every Senator to demand stuff for their cooperation. Given how some Republicans feel about Trump, that would be a fun dynamic to watch for the next two years.

The Republican candidate, Kennedy, is a heavy favorite but:

On the other hand … Democrat John Bel Edwards easily won Louisiana’s gubernatorial election just last year. Runoff elections are typically very-low-turnout affairs, where strong passions on one side can produce unusual outcomes – and it’s certainly possible that a reaction for or against Trump’s election could produce an unexpected one-sided turnout surge.

The rest of the article makes the point that there is little downside in the Democrats making a hard push for this seat.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A former Breitbart editor on what Trump's victory means for the alt-right

Sean Illing at Vox interviews A former Breitbart editor on what Trump’s victory means for the alt-right.

“They truly believe that multiethnic democracies cannot succeed.” — former Breitbart editor, Ben Shapiro

The alt-right are people like Richard Spencer who think that Western civilization and Western culture are inseparable from ethnicity. In other words, European ethnicity is the dominant force behind Western culture and Western civilization biologically. So it’s a racist and anti-Semitic movement. They truly believe that multiethnic democracies cannot succeed. This is essentially a white nationalist movement that claims to have intellectual backing for its cause.

They want to destroy the Republican Party from within and take it over. They want the constitutional right destroyed. They actually hate the constitutional right more than they hate the left. They don’t actually hate the left. They think the left is wrong about racism but they don’t object to big government that takes care of people; rather, they think you should have special privileges if you’re of European descent. They want what they call “Christendom” protected from foreign bodies.

In order for the alt-right to achieve its goals, it has to do a few things. The first thing they have to do is make connections with people in power — clearly they’ve done that. The next thing they have to do is obfuscate what the alt-right actually is, so a lot of people think they’re alt-right when they’re not. Rather than say the alt-right is an explicitly white nationalist movement, they say, well, if you’re pissed off at the establishment, you’re probably alt-right. If you’re somebody who lurks online, you’re probably alt-right. If you don’t like Paul Ryan, if you think he’s soft, you’re probably alt-right. And they trap a lot of people in this way. They also need what I call fellow travelers, people who are willing to nod and look the other way about the alt-right’s racism because they think the alt-right is essentially correct about Western civilization being under assault. Someone like Pat Buchanan, for example, falls under this category.

Blue Feed, Red Feed

The Wall Street Journal produced Blue Feed, Red Feed. It shows “Recent posts from sources where the majority of shared articles aligned ‘very liberal’ (blue, on the left) and ‘very conservative’ (red, on the right) in a large Facebook study.”

If a news source appears in the left column, its links were frequently shared by Facebook users whom researchers classified as “very liberal,” based on self-described political leanings. In the right column are sources whose content was widely shared by Facebook users identified as “very conservative.”

The content is being pulled automatically from these sites’ public Facebook pages, once an hour using Facebook’s software developer tools (specifically, the Graph API).

We built this presentation because it’s hard to see these opposing views side by side. Facebook users who are curious about opposing viewpoints may be apprehensive about recording a like for a particular news source—an action which may be seen by other friends. (You can make likes private in Facebook user settings.) This tool gives people anywhere on the political spectrum the ability to see current discussions about newsworthy topics from both very conservative and very liberal viewpoints.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Princeton Team Directly Observes Planets Around Nearby Stars

Universe Today reports Princeton Team Directly Observes Planets Around Nearby Stars

CHARIS allows astronomers to isolate light reflecting from planets. That’s difficult to do, since they are so much dimmer than the stars they orbit. CHARIS is able to isolate the reflective light from planets larger than Jupiter. Then astronomers can analyze that light to learn about the planet’s age, atmospheric composition, and its size."

The spectrograph sits inside a 500 lb case that measures 30x30x12. Inside that case, it’s kept at –223.15 Celsius (50 Kelvin, –369 F.) The CHARIS instrument has nine mirrors, five filters, two prism assemblies and a microlens array. The microlens array is a special optical device with an array of tiny lenses etched into its surface.

CHARIS is designed to capture the light from distant exoplanets, so its field of view is tiny. It’s only 2 arc-seconds, which is a tiny patch of sky. For reference, the full Moon is about 1,800 arc-seconds. But it can take images across a wide band of light wavelengths. The fact that it captures such a wide band of light is what allows such detailed analysis of anything it’s pointed at.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Daily Show Last Night

I think Sam Bee and John Oliver are doing the best work with their weekly format. I also think Seth Meyers is the closest to a Jon Stewart replacement right now, his opening is really good. The Daily Show is still finding it’s way, but Trump has helped it.

First, Michelle Wolf tries to make sense of how Donald Trump won the presidential election, despite his offensive remarks about women.

Second Hasan Minhaj gives his shell-shocked take on Donald Trump’s presidential victory and shares his fears about the rising tide of Islamophobia in America. (3:55)

I didn’t know about Minhaj’s speech in July “at the 2016 Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner, eviscerating Congress for its inaction on gun control.”

Here’s an interview with him, Hasan Minhaj, Of ‘Daily Show’ Fame, Tackles Islamophobia And Cost Of The American Dream.

President Elect Fuckface Von Clownstick

I do have to admit, his victory speech and statement after meeting with Obama were both good. But they are not enough to make up the deficit of his statements during the campaign.

I really want to see a breakdown of Trump voters:

  • How many were the racists I kept seeing interviewed at his rallies
  • How many just hated Hillary (for real or imaginary reasons)
  • How many were voting to burn the whole thing down
  • How many were just voting party line to save the Supreme Court
  • How many really support his immigration, healthcare, trade, etc. "policies"

Nate Silver points out, we're still a really divided country. What A Difference 2 Percentage Points Makes.

Cabinet appointments will be really interesting. Scientific American reports Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic to Lead EPA Transition

Donald Trump has selected one of the best-known climate skeptics to lead his U.S. EPA transition team, according to two sources close to the campaign. Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, is spearheading Trump's transition plans for EPA, the sources said.

This seems pretty speculative but Polico writes Meet Trump's Cabinet-in-waiting. And Vox writes Meet President-elect Trump's economic advisers. Businessmen and just a few academics. Expect corporations to do well. The people and enviornment not so much. And I heard this morning that he's having problems finding National Security people willing to work for him. That's good, but I fear what he may select from.

The next leading indicator is if the Senate suspends the filibuster.

For what it's worth, Here is Donald Trump's plan for his first 100 days based on a speech he gave in October. But it's worth noting, Muslim ban statement disappears from Donald Trump's website. Still Dylan Matthews points out how Donald Trump's presidency is going to be a disaster for the white working class and other Vox articles point out what we can expect from President Trump, a nightmare for LGBTQ, disabled, climate change, and even gun makers.

Update: NPR has annotated his first 100 days plan, FACT CHECK: Donald Trump’s Plan For His First 100 Days As President

So Trump's agenda might not line up with establishment Republicans. E.g., infrastructure spending, Trump wants a lot more, Ryan fought Obama on raising it. A friend suggested that they'll finally have to work together to address the issues in serious ways. I don't see that as a given. So far, almost all of the establishment Republicans have fallen in line behind Trump. House members are up for re-election in just two years, and Trump just won, I don't see them fighting back so hard. Lee Drutman explores this with more expertise than I can muster, How will Donald Trump govern?

Salena Zito wrote in The Atlantic Donald Trump Makes His Case in Pittsburgh The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.

Tons of navel gazing opinion pieces:

So far this is my favorite opinion piece, I'm a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America

We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else's, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

If we pin this election on coastal elites, we are excusing white working-class and rural Americans for voting for a man accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent apartments to black people. If we pin this election on coastal elites, we are excusing white working-class and rural Americans for voting for a man who called Mexicans rapists, drug dealers and criminals. If we pin this election on coastal elites, we are excusing white working-class and rural Americans for voting for a man who called for a complete ban on Muslim immigration.

I have friends and acquaintances who are Trump supporters. They genuinely do not understand today's shock, particularly from minorities. These Trump supporters do not understand that many minorities believe the people who voted for Trump endorse his racism and bigotry -- that those voters care more about sending a message to the political establishment than they do about the rights and welfare of human beings.

And, of course, people on the coasts could stand to meet more rural and exurban people, to understand why they are anxious about a changing world and less economic opportunity. But rural and exurban people need to see more of America. People do not understand the depths of how little rural America travels and sees other people and cultures.

I'm from the Midwest, and I love the Midwest, but it's not representative of modern America. We cannot fetishize it as “real" America. It's part of America -- a great, big, beautiful, messy republic -- but just a part.

Looking forward to 2020 when it's Trump vs Kayne.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Judge Orders RNC To Detail Voter Fraud Pacts With Trump Campaign

Politico reports Judge orders RNC to detail voter fraud pacts with Trump campaign.

A federal judge is ordering the Republican National Committee to detail any agreements it has with Donald Trump’s campaign to engage in ‘ballot security’ efforts in connection with next week’s election — something the national GOP has been banned from doing for decades without court approval.

The order also instructs the RNC to explain by 5 p.m. Tuesday what Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence were talking about in recent comments when they said that Trump’s campaign was working closely with the RNC to make sure there is no fraud at the polls.

Newark, N.J.-based U.S. District Court John Vazquez issued the order Monday after the Democratic National Committee went to court last week to allege that the RNC was violating consent decrees from the 1980s settling a case alleging that GOP pollwatchers sought to intimidate minority voters in a practice then known as ‘caging.’

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Conservative Intellectual Crisis

David Brooks has rarely been right about anything. Now that everyone is wondering what will happen to the Republican party after the election, on Friday he optimistically joined in The Conservative Intellectual Crisis. Zack Beauchamp in Vox wrote about how he completely missed the elephant in the room, David Brooks says conservatism has failed, but he misses the biggest reason: race.

Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K (Ultra HD)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Today's Apple Announcements

I watched the Apple event today and I'm a bit underwhelmed.

They started talking about iPhones which was annoying because even during the recent iPhone event people wanted to hear about new macs. Now the mac event had to share time with iPhones. Then they announced a new TV app for Apple TV which brings a unified TV experience to all your devices because there's also an iPhone and iPad app. All your devices except your macs.

So a half hour into their mac event they finally announced new MacBook Pros which were overdue. So the new model is thinner and lighter, no surprise. The screen is a bit better, so are the speakers, okay. It's got a giant touch pad and I wonder if it leaves enough room to rest your palms. It has replaced all the ports with four Thunderbolt 3 ports (which physically are USB-C ports). It's nice that any of them can be a power connection, but magsafe is gone and you're gonna need a bunch of dongles. Also nice is it's SSD only, no HDs. The 15" comes with a base 512GB SSD and 1TB is $400 more while 2TB is $1,200 more!

The big feature is a new TouchBar which replaces the row of function keys. It's basically an iPod Touch at the top of the keyboard that's half the height of a key. It's retina color screen and it changes functions depending on the app you're using. So it can show emojis or shortcuts, or photos to scroll through, or the old function keys or media keys. I wonder if Safari will have a "Do you want to upgrade Flash Player" button on the TouchBar?

As a touch typist who knows keyboard shortcuts (and also a Quicksilver user) I’m not sure I’d use it. I don't look at keys when I type and these keys always change. I know many people don't learn shortcuts like command-B to bold text and maybe this is for them. But since the keys change with context, how do you change the volume while editing a video? Don’t those buttons just go away?

And do I want to scroll through a small row of emjoi looking at the keyboard instead of looking at a big grid of them on that giant 15" screen right in front of my eyes? Even the space limited iPhone replaces the keyboard with a bigger list of emoji. Why not put a screen on the new double sized Force Touch Pad? The Touch Pad doesn't have taptic feedback, at least the Touch Pad would (and you'd still have a row of physical keys).

And I suspect all the Windows users are saying, well we have a touch screen on our laptops, so we can just touch our video editing controls. I get that for a desktop machine like an iMac a touch screen would be awkward (though Microsoft yesterday announced a neat way to do it), but I'm not sure that's the case in a laptop (given the examples they demo'ed today).

The one really nice addition is that the Touch Bar includes Touch ID so you can do Apple Pay and login to your account with just a fingerprint.

It's rather a huge disappointment that they didn't say anything about new iMacs or MacPros today. I wonder if a TouchBar will come to their keyboards? Apple recently (a year ago?) announced new keyboards for those machines and they didn't even include a number pad. Then again, maybe the real estate restrictions are too much for a desktop. I'd rather have the TouchBar software run on an iPhone or iPad next to the desktop machine. They didn't say anything about that either.

At the end of the event they said the new MacBook Pro supersedes the $999 13" MacBook Air in every way. It's thinner, just as light, faster, has more connectors, etc. It's also starts at $500 more and that's without a TouchBar. And while the 12" MacBook is the modern low end, it's $1299. So Apple is still selling the Air.

They should refresh the MacBook with a faster CPU (though I'm guessing they can't put the Intel i processors in a fanless case) and better screen with their new wide color gamut tech and update to the newest bluetooth and new butterfly keyboard tech. If they made a 14" version I think it would be perfect for a lot of people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Debunking the Patriot Act as It Turns 15

The Electronic Frontier Foundation on Debunking the Patriot Act as It Turns 15. “In honor of the law’s 15th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not know about the Patriot Act.”

House Republicans are already preparing for ‘years’ of investigations of Clinton

The Washington Post reports House Republicans are already preparing for ‘years’ of investigations of Clinton

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“She’s not getting a clean slate,” he said. “It’s not like the State Department was bending over backwards to help us understand what was going on. We’ve got document destruction. We’ve got their own rogue system. We’ve got classified information out the door. We’ve got their foundation doing who knows what. I mean, it took them four years just to release her schedule.”

Sigh. I always get annoyed when I hear things about how Washington doesn’t work and both sides are the problem. After a Senate feels that presidents don’t get to nominate Supreme Court justices for 25% of their term (and McCain suggested maybe not for any of their term), now it seems a Republican House is ready to revestigate stuff they’ve already investigated 8 times.

Look, oversight is important, but these are obviously partisan witch hunts. It’s a demonstration that it’s not just Donald Trump who’s not willing to accept the results of an election but the Republican Congress as well. Sure the parties are supposed to “compete” but they also have to actually govern and every poll and congressional approval rating shows that the American people are sick of Congress not being able to do that.

“Republicans are pretending like they haven’t been investigating Secretary Clinton for years ever since she announced that she was running for president, including everything from Benghazi to emails to the Clinton Foundation,” Cummings said in a statement. “It’s no exaggeration to say that on the first day Secretary Clinton walks into the White House, Republicans will have already investigated her more than any other president in history.”