Good morning on the penultimate day of the month: August 30 2022: National Toasted Marshmallow Day. I like to ignite mine so that it winds up looking like the one on the extreme right (“well done”). Like with fried chicken, the crust is the best part!
It’s also National Beach Day, National Holistic Pet Day, Frankenstein Day (celebrating the birth of author Mary Shelley in 1797), International Day of the Disappeared, and International Whale Shark Day. (Whale sharks are the largest living fish species and the largest living nonmammalian vertebrate.)
Speaking of Mary Shelly, a first edition of her 3-volume Frankenstein, with the original boards, sold last year for $1,170,000: a record for a book written by a woman (it was published anonymously). Here it is; photo courtesy of Christie’s:
Things that happened on August 30 include:
- 1873 – Austrian explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht discover the archipelago of Franz Josef Land in the Arctic Sea.
- 1909 – Burgess Shale fossils are discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott.
Read “Wonderful Life” by Steve Gould for an overview, though many of the taxa Gould said were novel have now been placed within existing groups. Here’s a fossil of Hallucigenia, now recognized as an early lobopodian. (The “spines” are not legs, as they were first thought to be.)
Here’s a reconstruction of the beast:
- 1916 – Ernest Shackleton completes the rescue of all of his men stranded on Elephant Island in Antarctica.
If you like adventure stories do read a good one about Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition. (I recommend Endurance, by Alfred Lansing.) After their ship was crushed in the ice and the men marooned on Elephant Island, Shackleton and five men traveled 720 nautical miles to South Georgia, an island with a whaling station. That they made it was a miracle, and Shackleton ultimately returned to Elephant Island to retrieve his crew. Not a single man perished.
Here’s Shackleton photographed taking off from Elephant Island in the desperate attempt to effect a rescue; he’s in a modified lifeboat called the James Caird:
Here’s a photo of the grim site where the men were marooned for 4½ months, taken on my first Antarctic trip in 2019. The statue is to the tugboat captain who took Shackleton to the island to rescue the men (note the penguins).
- 1918 – Fanni Kaplan shoots and seriously injures Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, which along with the assassination of Bolshevik senior official Moisei Uritsky days earlier, prompts the decree for Red Terror.
Kaplan was executed on September 3. Wikipedia reports the toll of the resulting Terror:
Estimates for the total number of victims of Bolshevik repression vary widely in numbers and scope. One source gives estimates of 28,000 executions per year from December 1917 to February 1922. Estimates for the number of people shot during the initial period of the Red Terror are at least 10,000. Estimates for the whole period go for a low of 50,000 to highs of 140,000 and 200,000 executed. The most reliable estimations for the number of executions in total put the number at about 100,000.
The shooting, in which a bullet passed through Lenin’s neck and the other lodged in his left shoulder. The injuries are thought to have contributed to the stroke that killed Lenin in 1924.
One of the main people justifying this slaughter was Leon Trotsky. Here’s a Polish poster of Trotsky with the caption, “Bolshevik freedom” – Polish propaganda poster with nude caricature of Leon Trotsky from the Polish–Soviet War:
Here’s a photo of Kaplan, looking as if she’s just been beat up by the Cheka:
I’ll show this video again, as it documents the desperation of Afghans to get out before the Taliban took over. Whenever I see this video, I wonder if anybody got hurt.
*Trump is getting deeper and deeper into trouble as the Mar-a-Lago search and affidavit come to light. First, the Justice Department has already set aside those documents seized from Trump’s mansion that might be subject to attorney-client privilege. This is a blow to Trump, because the DOJ isn’t going to use those documents as it moves forward with a criminal investigation, rendering the appointment of a document review “master” (requested by Trump) as moot:
On Saturday, Judge Aileen M. Cannon of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida suggested she was leaning toward the appointment of a special master to look at the materials taken by federal agents from Mar-a-Lago. She ordered the Justice Department to respond by Tuesday and share a complete list of documents, some of them highly classified, taken in the search on Aug. 8.
Mr. Trump’s request for a special master — which was filed far later than is typical — is significant because it could provide his legal team with an opportunity to contest the government’s seizure of specific documents whose ownership, and possibly classification levels, they see as being in dispute.
But the Justice Department’s three-page filing on Monday, noting that its review of the materials was completed, threw up a significant obstacle to that request. In the filing, lawyers at the department disclosed that its privilege review team had finished its assessment of the documents and set aside “a limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client information,” a requirement that was mandated by the original search warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in Florida this month.
While Mr. Trump and his legal team have advanced arguments about executive privilege, most of the cases they cited in their filing asking for a special master concerned independent reviews of seized documents for those shielded by attorney-client privilege.
*Further, the NYT reports that Trump’s legal team is desperately flailing around looking for some good explanation for the purloined classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. And they don’t have one, it seems. Trump’s claims that he can wave his pudgy little hand over the documents, miraculously “de-classifying” them, is simply not going to wash. And of course Trump hasn’t shown particularly good judgment in choosing lawyers. (Giuliani, anyone?)
As the partial release of the search warrant affidavit on Friday, including the May 25 letter, illustrated, Mr. Trump is going into the battle over the documents with a hastily assembled team. The lawyers have offered up a variety of arguments on his behalf that have yet to do much to fend off a Justice Department that has adopted a determined, focused and so far largely successful legal approach.
“He needs a quarterback who’s a real lawyer,” said David I. Schoen, a lawyer who defended Mr. Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial. Mr. Schoen called it “an honor” to represent Mr. Trump, but said it was problematic to keep lawyers “rotating in and out.”
Often tinged with Mr. Trump’s own bombast and sometimes conflating his powers as president with his role as a private citizen, the legal arguments put forth by his team sometimes strike lawyers not involved in the case as more about setting a political narrative than about dealing with the possibility of a federal prosecution.
He didn’t have to take those documents from the White House; what did he have to gain? But Trump being Trump, he dived into the swamp anyway.
*This is some really bad news from the Washington Post. It turns out that human-induced global warming has reached the point that even if we stopped pumping out greenhouse gases right now, 3.3% of the big Greenland ice sheet would still melt (this is from a new paper in Nature Climate Change). Here’s the science lingo from the paper’s abstract (“SLR” is “sea level rise”):
We find that Greenland ice imbalance with the recent (2000–2019) climate commits at least 274 ± 68 mm SLR from 59 ± 15 × 103 km2 ice retreat, equivalent to 3.3 ± 0.9% volume loss, regardless of twenty-first-century climate pathways. This is a result of increasing mass turnover from precipitation, ice flow discharge and meltwater run-off. The high-melt year of 2012 applied in perpetuity yields an ice loss commitment of 782 ± 135 mm SLR, serving as an ominous prognosis for Greenland’s trajectory through a twenty-first century of warming.
274 mm is 274 centimeters, or about 10.7 inches: a much higher rise than predicted by others. And this will probably happen within the lifetime of your newborn children—by 2100.
“Every study has bigger numbers than the last. It’s always faster than forecast,” Colgan said.
One reason that new research appears worse than other findings may just be that it is simpler. It tries to calculate how much ice Greenland must loseas it recalibrates to a warmer climate. In contrast, sophisticated computer simulations of how the ice sheet will behave under future scenarios for global emissionshave produced less alarming predictions.
Well, that’s for the experts to judge. But a one-foot rise in sea level is not innocuous:
A one-foot rise in global sea levels would have severe consequences. If the sea level along the U.S. coasts rose by an average of 10 to 12 inches by 2050, a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found, the most destructive floods would take place five times as often, and moderate floods would become 10 times as frequent.
Other countries — low-lying island nations and developing ones, like Bangladesh — are even more vulnerable. These nations, which have done little to fuel the higher temperatures that are now thawing the Greenland ice sheet, lack the billions of dollars it will take to adapt to rising seas.
*Yesterday I reported on a new study of Doppelgängers—pairs of unrelated people who were so similar in appearance that they could be taken for identical twins. DNA analysis showed that members of a pair shared far more DNA sequence than did other unrelated people, implying that the shared DNA helps produce physical and facial features. And I wondered if they were more behaviorally similar as well. Well, they did assay behavior via questionnaires, and I simply missed it. The answer is in this except from the paper:
Physical traits such as weight and height as well as behavioral traits such as smoking and education were correlated in look-alike pairs, suggesting that shared genetic variation not only relates to shared physical appearance but may also influence common habits and behavior.
So there are similarities in behavior as well as appearance. Why? The only reasons i can think of are a.) the Doppelgängers share blocks of linked genes (small DNA segments) that include genes affecting behavior as well as morphology. Alternatively, some of the genetic variation affecting “looks” could also affect behavior, a phenomenon known as pleiotropy (mutations can affect several traits at once). That seems less likely, since behavior genes are likely to be expressed in the brain and not necessarily the face and body. But who knows? This is an intriguing observation that we can’t yet explain.
*As you noticed if you were watching, the Artemis launch was scrubbed after a problem was detected 40 minutes before launch. The problem was that the system used to cool the engines before takeoff failed. (The fuel is a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and if that fuel were suddenly pumped into ambient-temperature tanks, all hell would break loose.) As CNN reports:
The launch team knew that the bleed test was a risk because they weren’t able to include it in previous wet dress rehearsal tests simulating the launch, and Monday was the first time demonstrating that, Sarafin said. [Mike Sarafin is the Artemis mission manager.]
Currently, the issue doesn’t suggest an engine problem, but rather an issue within the bleed system that is used to cool the engine, he said.
“We need the engine to be at the cryogenically cool temperature such that when it starts, it’s not shocked with all the cold fuel that flows through it. So we needed a little extra time to assess that,” Sarafin said.
It may be a while before we see the rocket take off. The earliest opportunity is this coming Friday:
The next launch window is September 2, opening at 12:48 p.m. ET and closing at 2:48 p.m. ET. The next window after that is September 5, opening at 5:12 p.m. ET and closing at 6:42 p.m. ET.
We shouldn’t regard this as a failure, as glitches are normal when trying out a new vehicle (a Space Shuttle flight was scrubbed four times). “Failure” would have been an explosion. (h/t: Bat)
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, both Hili and Szaron didn’t come in last evening, so, as usual, nests were prepared for them in chairs on the veranda. Here’s Hili sleeping on Malgorzata’s coat:
Hili: I have a serious problem.A: What problem?Hili: Whether to exchange the comfort of the rattan chair for the bed or go into the garden.
Hili: Mam poważny problem.Ja: Jaki?Hili: Czy zmienić komfort wiklinowego fotela na łóżko, czy iść do ogrodu?
From Divy, a Gary Larson cartoon:
From Susan: A sticker on a Davis, California outhouse:
God is really angry these days!
What doesn't kill you makes Me try harder.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) August 28, 2022
Ducklings can do this trick as soon as they’re out of the nest. This is why it was so hard for me to catch the ones for rehab (I got 31, and no losses!)
Duck vs Tiger pic.twitter.com/Foiwsrjmft
— why you should have a duck 🦆 (@shouldhaveaduck) August 29, 2022
From Malcolm, a rescue Amur leopard:
An emaciated Amur leopard cub rescued by the team of @Leopard_land , Far East of Russia; there are only 121 grown up leopards living in the wild, & 14 cubs. Likely the cub’s mother died, so the kit will need to go through rehabilitation before being re-introduced back to the wild pic.twitter.com/PcUGyLNT4R
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) August 8, 2022
From Jez: The Big Race to Dinner:
To the max.. 😂
Sound on pic.twitter.com/tb5BZYM0rJ
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) August 3, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial
30 August 1905 | A Polish woman, Wanda Moraczewska, was born in Winniki. A teacher.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 30, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. This one’s great, though it should be “heroin”:
BBC reporter Quentin Somerville accidentally gets high from pile of burning heroine, fails to report further pic.twitter.com/ozJj8Ttqzs
— A SLICE OF HISTORY (@asIiceofhistory) August 29, 2022
I’ve put the tweet Matthew’s referring to below his own:
Read the thread to convince yourself that these concentric shells are real, and on a massive scale. https://t.co/Fn8eXxTCnA
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) August 29, 2022
Well that’s bonkers 😬
The six-pointed blue structure is an artefact due to optical diffraction from the bright star WR140 in this #JWST MIRI image.
But red curvy-yet-boxy stuff is real, a series of shells around WR140.
Actually in space. Around a star.
— Mark McCaughrean (@markmccaughrean) August 29, 2022
Live And Learn Department:
France's longest shared international border is with Brazil. pic.twitter.com/SWE5HeXE6d
— Incunabula (@incunabula) August 29, 2022
And some history of biology:
On this day in 1884, @Cambridge_Uni scientist William Caldwell sent #zoology's most famous telegram:
‘Monotremes oviparous, ovum meroblastic’.
It meant that the #platypus & echidnas lay eggs – ending an 85-year evolutionary controversy – and that they develop like reptile eggs. pic.twitter.com/lWHoB1GSoC
— Jack Ashby (@JackDAshby) August 29, 2022