I put up an earlier post on the launching of the Orion module; go check here to see if the launch is still on. When I looked a while back they were having leakage problems with the hydrogen.
Top o’ the week to you; it’s Monday, August 29, 2022, and National Chop Suey Day, celebrating a dish that isn’t Chinese, but still culturally appropriated because it’s a dreadful mockery of real Chinese food. Unfortunately, that’s the only Chinese food I knew as a kid, as my mom made it all the time, sprinkling those dreadful canned dry noodles over the top comme ça:
Yesterday I found the copy of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam given to me by my Uncle Moe; I thought I had lost it. I must have been in my early teens, or even earlier when I got it. It made a big impression on me as a reminder of life’s priorities, and I can still quote from it. This is the Fitzgerald translation—the best one.
And here’s Uncle Bernie (left) and Uncle Moe (right) at the links (naturally at a Jewish country club).
Stuff that happened on August 29 includes:
- 1756 – Frederick the Great attacks Saxony, beginning the Seven Years’ War in Europe.
- 1786 – Shays’ Rebellion, an armed uprising of Massachusetts farmers, begins in response to high debt and tax burdens.
- 1831 – Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction.
A photo of Faraday with the caption, “Faraday holding a type of glass bar he used in 1845 to show magnetism affects light in dielectric material.”
Here’s a Reitwagen from that year. It doesn’t look comfortable, what with its wooden wheels:
- 1911 – Ishi, considered the last Native American to make contact with European Americans, emerges from the wilderness of northeastern California.
Ishi, of the Yahi people, was taken in by anthropologists at Stanford and worked as a janitor. Lacking immunity to diseases of European origin, he was often ill and died of TB in 1916. (In college, the well known book Ishi in Two Worlds was required reading.) Here he is demonstrating how the Yahi made fire:
- 1930 – The last 36 remaining inhabitants of St Kilda are voluntarily evacuated to other parts of Scotland.
A short video about the evacuation of St Kilda, whose inhabitants asked to be moved:
- 1949 – Soviet atomic bomb project: The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb, known as First Lightning or Joe 1, at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan.
Here’s the RDS-1 “fat-man type Soviet bomb exploded in 1949):
- 1966 – The Beatles perform their last concert before paying fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
- 1966 – Leading Egyptian thinker Sayyid Qutb is executed for plotting the assassination of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
- 1997 – Netflix is launched as an internet DVD rental service.
*According to the Washington Post, a new covid vaccine will be here soon, so get ready to roll up your sleeves for shot #5. Like the others, it will be an mRNA vaccine, it will arrive soon after Labor Day, and it will be available to Americans over the age of 12—or, for the Moderna vaccine, over 18. But there are two problems. The first is that new variants are arising all the time, and, like the flu vaccine, the boosters are designed using predictions:
Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have asked the government for emergency use authorization for a bivalent booster that would be based on the earlier vaccine as well as target the now-prevalent BA.4/5 subvariants. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to give a green light in coming days. The Pfizer dose is for those 12 years and older; Moderna’s for 18 and older. In both cases, before the booster, a patient must have taken the two primary doses. But the new booster will be administered to anyone who has none, one or two of the previous booster shots.
The advantage of the bivalent booster is that it has a better chance of protecting against the variant that dominates today. No one knows how much better, but experts say it could boost the levels of protection, as well as the duration and the breadth. Unfortunately, it is still a booster, and there might need to be more. Science is still chasing the goal of a pan-coronavirus vaccine that will last a long time.
And here’s the second problem:
What’s different this time is that this booster is being rolled out before human clinical trials are complete. (The trials are getting underway.) This is a bit of a gamble that past is prologue — that the experience with billions of doses of the earlier vaccines shows they are safe and effective. Also, tests in mice show that the boosters work, and this testing method has been used often in the past with the seasonal influenza vaccine.
Well, if my doctor says to get one, I will, since he looks at the literature on boosters. My guess is that a yearly covid vaccine will be something we have to expect, like a flu vaccine. We will not lick covid like we licked polio. Oh, and this might be the last free vaccination; the government has ordered 175 million doses, but Congress hasn’t approved any more pandemic funding.
*The Associated Press has an article and a video interpreting the redactions (and non-redactions) in the government’s affidavit against Trump (the video is below). Here are the four “takeaway lessons” from the affidavit as given by the AP:
1.) THE RECORDS INCLUDED TOP INTELLIGENCE SECRETS
Agents who inspected the boxes found special markings suggesting they included information from highly sensitive human sources or the collection of electronic “signals” authorized by a court under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
. . . The affidavit lists several markings, including ORCON, or “Originator Controlled.” That means officials at the intelligence agency responsible for the report did not want it distributed to other agencies without their permission.
2.) CLASSIFIED RECORDS WERE MIXED WITH OTHER PAPERS
Some of those classified records were mixed with other documents, the affidavit says, citing a letter from the Archives.
. . . Of most significant concern: “highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly (sic) identified.”
3.) TRUMP HAD REPEATED OPPORTUNITIES TO RETURN THE DOCUMENTS
The affidavit makes clear yet again that Trump had numerous opportunities to return the documents to the government, but simply chose not to.
A lengthy process to retrieve the documents had been underway essentially since Trump left the White House. The document states that on or about May 6, 2021, the Archives made a request for the missing records “and continued to make requests until approximately late December 2021,” when it was informed 12 boxes were found and ready for retrieval from the club.
4.) TRUMP SAYS HE DID ‘NOTHING WRONG’
Trump has long insisted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that he fully cooperated with government officials and had every right to have the documents on site. On his social media site, he responded to the unsealing by continuing to vilify law enforcement.
He called it a “total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ” and said “WE GAVE THEM MUCH.” In another post, he offered just two words: “WITCH HUNT!!!”
And here’s a 2½-minute interpretive video from the AP:
*You’ve probably heard of the project to find doppelgängers—unrelated people that look so much alike that they could pass for identical twins. It’s been publicized, according to the NYT,
in a photography project by François Brunelle, a Canadian artist. The picture series, “I’m not a look-alike!,” was inspired by Mr. Brunelle’s discovery of his own look-alike, the English actor Rowan Atkinson.
Here are two pair of unrelated doppelgängers:
But the really interesting thing is the genetic analysis. As the NYT says
In a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports, Dr. Esteller and his team recruited 32 pairs of look-alikes from Mr. Brunelle’s photographs to take DNA tests and complete questionnaires about their lifestyles. The researchers used facial recognition software to quantify the similarities between the participants’ faces. Sixteen of those 32 pairs achieved similar overall scores to identical twins analyzed by the same software. The researchers then compared the DNA of these 16 pairs of doppelgängers to see if their DNA was as similar as their faces.
Dr. Esteller found that the 16 pairs who were “true” look-alikes shared significantly more of their genes than the other 16 pairs that the software deemed less similar. “These people really look alike because they share important parts of the genome, or the DNA sequence,” he said. That people who look more alike have more genes in common “would seem like common sense, but never had been shown,” he added.
Now a lot of those genes are surely involved in producing facial configuration and body type, accounting for the resemblance, but could those genes have other effects, like on behavior, or could they be physically linked on chromosome with genes affecting variation in behavior? In both cases one would expect that the physical similarity would be paralleled by behavioral similarities, though perhaps not as striking. We will know soon!
In plain language, this means that from now on, the journal will reject articles that might potentially harm (even “inadvertently”) those individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.” Since it is already standard practice to reject false or poorly argued work, it is safe to assume that these new guidelines have been designed to reject any article deemed to pose a threat to disadvantaged groups, irrespective of whether or not its central claims are true, or at least well-supported. Within a few sentences, we have moved from a banal statement of the obvious to draconian and censorious editorial discretion. Editors will now enjoy unprecedented power to reject articles on the basis of nebulous moral concerns and anticipated harms.
. . . Imagine for a moment that this editorial were written, not by political progressives, but by conservative Catholics, who announced that any research promoting (even “inadvertently”) promiscuous sex, the breakdown of the nuclear family, agnosticism and atheism, or the decline of the nation state would be suppressed or rejected lest it inflict unspecified “harm” on vaguely defined groups or individuals. Many of those presently nodding along with Nature’s editors would have no difficulty identifying the subordination of science to a political agenda. One need not argue that opposing racism or promoting the nuclear family are dubious goals in order to also worry about elevating them over free inquiry and the dispassionate pursuit of understanding.
. . . Science is a human activity, and like all human activities, it is influenced by human values, human biases, and human imperfections. Those will never be eliminated. The banner of science has undoubtedly been waved to justify, excuse, or otherwise rationalize appalling crimes and atrocities, from the racial pseudoscience of the Nazis to the blank slatism (and Lysenkoism) of the communists. But the correct response to these distortions is not to endorse a highly partisan vision of science that promotes a progressive worldview, alienating all those who disagree and further encouraging doubt about the objectivity of scientific endeavor. The correct response is to preserve an adversarial vision of science that promotes debate, disagreement, and free inquiry as the best way to reach the truth.
*And an absorbing piece from the NYT: “How to do everything,” which gives 63 life hacks of varying utility. They include (I’ll take one from each of the nine rows) “how to knot a cherry stem with your tongue,” “how to become less angry,” “how to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s,” “how to forget something,” “how to tell a joke,” “how to escape a burning building,” “how to get someone out of a cult,” “how to write a love letter” (having written my share, I think this particular advice is worthless), and “how to pose for a photograph.”
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is supervising the Collecting of the Apples:
Hili: May I help you?Małgorzata: I don’t think so.Hili: So I will just watch.
Hili: Czy mogę ci pomóc?Małgorzata: Nie sądzę.Hili: To tylko popatrzę.
And a photo by Paulina of Szaron and Kukla cuddling:
From Things With Faces:
From Jean: a New Yorker cartoon by Mick Stevens:
From Stash Krod. I wondered why all those ketchup memes were appearing on the Internet!
Here’s the meme that originally got me puzzled:
The Tweet of God. The Big Guy is irascible these days (well, actually, he’s always been that way):
Anyone who says 'God is love' is unfamiliar with My work.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) August 27, 2022
A bald eagle goes through TSA on a plane flight. The explanation is here: it’s a rescue eagle on its way to help celebrate a graduation (but was that necessary?)
That’s Clark! 🦅 We loved having him fly over the heads of our 1,600 freshmen this past Sunday at our Convocation Ceremony, our official welcome ceremony for our our newest students. 💜 pic.twitter.com/oRz1FE1hdc
— HighPointUniversity (@HighPointU) August 25, 2022
From Malcolm; be sure to watch until the end:
The ending.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/AaVOUAXCdw
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) August 27, 2022
From Simon: a list of stuff Trump could be tried for:
Also bank fraud, insurance fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of official proceedings, obstruction of justice, theft of official documents, and racketeering. https://t.co/PQT718NYnO
— George Conway🌻 (@gtconway3d) August 28, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial:
29 August 1922 | A Slovak Jewish woman, Rozalia Reiss, was born.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 29, 2022
From Matthew Cobb, who has a piece in today’s Sunday Post: an excerpt from his new book, The Genetic Age: Our Perilous Quest To Edit Life. The book is out in the UK, and will be out Nov. 15 in the U.S,, but with the title As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age (as usual, the UK title is better).
Be afraid, be very afraid. https://t.co/X1MwSQhyqw
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) August 28, 2022
I’ll feature this on an upcoming Caturday, but at least look at the “cat” in the tweet. It has a willy in its mouth, and a woman’s trying to swap that for a sardine:
Enjoy this collection of bizarre-looking cats in medieval paintings https://t.co/x2fcQfZHSc
— Jennifer Ouellette (@JenLucPiquant) August 28, 2022
Matthew says, “This show that cats understand how mirrors work. Do they know they are in them?” I’m not sure I agree, as the cat could simply be seeking solace from its staff when it sees a weird cat face in the mirror.
Cats reacting to face filters
— Tansu YEĞEN (@TansuYegen) August 27, 2022
This is one of the rare ones that I understand more readily than Matthew:
Bit late to give advice. pic.twitter.com/ZVMICmM3be
— june lewins (@joonloons) August 29, 2020