Greetings on Wednesday, a Hump Day (“ਹੰਪ ਦਿਵਸ” in Punjabi), June 28, 2023. It’s National Tapioca Day, and I have to admit that I love the stuff. It’s the little balls that distinguish it from plain pudding, and I like them even more when they’re enlarged and put in “Bubble Tea”.
In 2001, Bob Palais published π Is Wrong, where he said pi (π) should not be used for the circle constant—the geometry of a circle expressed in a single number. Instead, he called for tau (τ), which is equal to 2π, or roughly 6.28318, to be used instead. Whereas π compares a circle’s circumference to its diameter, τ is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its radius. This means the measurement of the circumference of any circle is about 6.28318 times its radius. 2π is used quite often in mathematics, and proponents of tau say it would be much easier to simply replace that symbol with τ. In general, mathematicians write equations about circles using its radius as well, not its diameter.
In American date format, today is 6/28, an approximation of τ. Unfortunately, while you can celebrate March 14 as Pi Day by baking a pie, there is no tau to bake.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 28 Wikipedia page.
Wine of the Day: Patricia Green Cellars in Oregon is famous for their Pinot Noirs, but they’re often pricey. And this is one of them, which appears to go at present for about $84, but I didn’t pay anything near that since I bought it at least six years ago. I certainly paid less than half that, but I did want to try one of their high-end pinots.
This was spectacular. And even though it’s 11 years old, the cork crumbled, and I had to decant it through a cloth and a wine funnel to get rid of sediment and bits of cork, it was not by any means over the hill. In fact, I can’t imagine this wine getting better. It’s perfectly balanced, smooth (like a velvet blanket on the tongue) and with a pronounced cherry aroma. It is SO delicious, and improved after one day in the bottle. (I had it with chicken, rice, and broccoli.)
The reviews on the Internet are scarce, but some by amateur wine lovers point out its ability to open up after decanting. (Decanting is an underrated practice!)
What can I say? This is the best American pinot, by far, that I’ve ever had. But it’s gone, and virtually impossible to buy (and at $84 it’s out of reach). Just remember “Patricia Green” when you are looking for pinot noir. Oh, and this one had a wee bit of the “barnyard nose” of great Burgundy.
*The terse legal news From Ken:
SCOTUS just issued its decision in Moore v. Harper rejecting the fringe “independent state legislature” theory.The vote was 6-3, with the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented. You can access the opinions here.
The decision was praised by Democrats and voting rights advocates, more for avoiding what they thought would be a radical change than for establishing new law. But maintaining the status quo has been seen as a victory in a court that has often gone the other way. And just recently, the court agreed that Alabama should draw a second congressional district in which Black voters could be empowered to elect a candidate of their choice.
The case at hand came from North Carolina, and under the theory advanced by its Republican legislative leaders, but rejected by the court, state lawmakers throughout the country would have had exclusive authority to structure federal elections, subject only to intervention by Congress.
The “independent state legislature theory” holds that the U.S. Constitution gives that power to lawmakers even if it results in extreme partisan voting maps for congressional seats and violates voter protections enshrined in state.
. . . If the ruling had gone the other way, the case could have had a major influence on results in the 2024 election. It has drawn attention in part because of the nation’s polarized politics, in which former president Donald Trump and his allies are still advocating to overturn the 2020 election, and the midterms showed that control of Congress can depend on the drawing of congressional district lines.
The Republicans want to gerrymander the hell out of their states so they can keep down non-white voters, and the Court rules that Republican legislatures can’t do that if it violates their states’ laws.
*One thing I think we liberals can count on with this conservative Supreme Court is that it will uphold the speech bit of the First Amendment—though not necessarily the Establishment Clause. And so they have done, by a vote of 7-2, with the regular dissenter Thomas joined by Barrett as the two who lost:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the conviction of a man who made extensive online threats to a stranger, saying free speech protections require prosecutors to prove the stalker was aware of the threatening nature of his communications.In a 7-2 ruling authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the court emphasized that true threats of violence are not protected by the First Amendment. But to guard against a chilling effect on non-threatening speech, the majority said states must prove that a criminal defendant has “disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening violence.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined in part by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, agreed with the outcome but expressed concern about the risk of cracking down on speech that is unintentionally threatening. She worried that the ruling could lead, for instance, to a high school student going to prison for sending another student violent music lyrics.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett dissented from the majority, with Barrett writing that the standard set by the court on Thursday gives “preferential treatment” to a broad range of threatening speech and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to address actual threats.
“A delusional speaker may lack awareness of the threatening nature of her speech; a devious speaker may strategically disclaim such awareness; and a lucky speaker may leave behind no evidence of mental state for the government to use against her,” Barrett wrote. “The Court’s decision thus sweeps much further than it lets on.”
*Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has arrived in Belarus, so there’s no mystery about where he is, but the NYT argues that the man had reached his apogee and is on the way down.
The Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin arrived in Belarus on Tuesday, the Belarusian state news media reported, ending days of speculation over his whereabouts after he called off a weekend uprising that marked the most dramatic challenge to President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in two decades.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Putin praised his security forces in a grandly choreographed speech that portrayed the rebellion as a heroic episode for the Russian state. In a series of appearances three days after the mutiny, Mr. Putin appeared to be trying to seize the initiative, indirectly warning of consequences for officials who helped Mr. Prigozhin enrich himself at the country’s expense. He also thanked the Russian military for having “essentially stopped a civil war,” state media reported.
The Russian authorities dropped an investigation into Mr. Prigozhin and members of his Wagner group over the armed rebellion. The group was preparing to hand over military equipment to the Russian Army, state news media reported, as the Kremlin mounts a concerted effort to move on from the mutiny.
Seriously? Prigozhin is going to give its military equipment to the Russian Army? Forgive me if I have trouble believing that. Without equipment, Prigozhin and the Wagner group are moribund. And that’s what another piece in the NYT says:
Well before Yevgeny V. Prigozhin seized a major Russian military hub and ordered an armed march on Moscow, posing a startling and dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin, the caterer-turned-mercenary boss was losing his own personal war.
Mr. Prigozhin’s private army had been sidelined. His lucrative government catering contracts had come under threat. The commander he most admired in the Russian military had been removed as the top general overseeing Ukraine. And he had lost his most vital recruiting source for fighters: Russia’s prisons.
Then, on June 13, his only hope for a last-minute intervention to spare him a bitter defeat in his long-running power struggle with Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu was dashed.
Mr. Putin sided publicly with Mr. Prigozhin’s adversaries, affirming that all irregular units fighting in Ukraine would have to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. That included Mr. Prigozhin’s private military company, Wagner.
Now, the mercenary chieftain would be subordinated to Mr. Shoigu, an unparalleled political survivor in modern Russia and Mr. Prigozhin’s sworn enemy.
Perhaps he is finished. If he hands over his military equipment to Russia’s army, we’ll know that’s true.
*The Justice Department has ruled that Jeffrey Epstein was able to kill himself in jail because of negligence and misconduct by the jail staff.
A pattern of negligence and misconduct by staff at a federal jail in New York gave disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein a perfect opportunity to kill himself in his cell in August 2019, the Justice Department’s watchdog said in a report pointing to chronic problems within the beleaguered federal prison system.
Despite a suicide attempt by Epstein just weeks earlier, staff at the since-closed Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan in the hours before his death didn’t assign him a cellmate, neglected to search his cell, failed to conduct their rounds and gave him extra bedding that he used to hang himself, the report said. Surveillance cameras around the unit where Epstein was housed were turned on but broken, so they captured no video of the area the night he died.
The jail was short-staffed, poorly managed and ill-equipped to manage suicidal inmates, the report said. One staff member assigned to supervise Epstein had worked 24 hours straight by the time the accused sex trafficker was found dead in his cell.
. . . Epstein’s suicide—a determination made by a medical examiner and confirmed by the inspector general’s probe—laid bare a federal prison system beset by understaffing, leadership issues, inmate violence and other problems. The agency is responsible for running more than 120 facilities with roughly 160,000 inmates.
By all accounts he was guilty as hell, and, at 66, would have been sentenced to up to 45 years in prison: a life sentence accompanied by disgrace. It’s no surprise that he did himself in, but the victims are denied their day in court.
*From Phys.Org, reader Gregory sends a headline that gets the “no shit!” award. I mean, could it have been otherwise given that we’re reading this?
Click to read:
Actually, the headline isn’t as bad as it sounds as there are some non-obvious results. What the authors found was that placental mammals (the group we belong in) were in existence before the Big Asteroid Hit, contradicting others who said that placentals evolved after the hit:
Fossils of placental mammals are only found in rocks younger than 66 million years old, which is when the asteroid hit Earth, suggesting that the group evolved after the mass extinction [the “K-Pg mass extinction“]. However, molecular data has long suggested an older age for placental mammals.
In a new paper published in the journal Current Biology, a team of paleobiologists from the University of Bristol and the University of Fribourg used statistical analysis of the fossil record to determine that placental mammals originated before the mass extinction, meaning they co-existed with dinosaurs for a short time. However, it was only after the asteroid impact that modern lineages of placental mammals began to evolve, suggesting that they were better able to diversify once the dinosaurs were gone.
Primates, the group that includes the human lineage, as well as Lagomorpha (rabbits and hares) and Carnivora (dogs and cats) were shown to have evolved just before the K-Pg mass extinction, which means their ancestors were mingling with dinosaurs. After they survived the asteroid impact, placental mammals rapidly diversified, perhaps spurred on by the loss of competition from the dinosaurs.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is uber cynical:
Hili: Pandemic.A: A new one?Hili: No, as old as the world, a pandemic of absurdity.
Hili: Pandemia.Ja: Jakaś nowa?Hili: Nie, stara jak świat, pandemia absurdu.
From reddit via Peter:
A biology meme from Matthew. Both of these species are supposed to be in the line of descent (or close to it) of whales from artiodactyl ancestors. Indohyus is an earlier form.
Did you know that most recently manufactured Jeeps have a hidden animal on them? It’s true! From Jesus of the Day:
Masih hasn’t tweeted in several days, but Titania is back on Twitter:
This empowering book for young children reminds us that leather fetishists are some of the most oppressed people in society.
If Rosa Parks were alive today, she’d be wearing a gimp suit. ✊🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/hsZtn6HadB
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) June 2, 2023
From Malcolm. Oy, poor kitty!
Cats are so agile 🤩 pic.twitter.com/SddwxwfS95
— Dylan C (@onebiglizard) June 22, 2023
SEE UPDATE: From Barry: Here’s Roseanne Barr, who’s Jewish, unleashing what seems to be of the worst anti-Semitic tirades I’ve heard. HOWEVER, as several readers point out in the comment, she’s making a sarcastic comment about the tendency of social media to engage in censorship. See the longer video posted by Malgorzata in the comments.
“Nobody died in the Holocaust. It SHOULD happen. Six millions Jews SHOULD die right now, because they cause all the problems in the world.”
Is anyone surprised that sicko Roseanne Barr supports Donald Trump?pic.twitter.com/I4szhQmDT1
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) June 27, 2023
From Ana, daughter of reader Jez:
— Tweets of Cats (@TweetsOfCats) June 26, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, one I tweeted. The “selections” always make me feel dreadful:
The "selections": Nazi doctors determine in half a second whether someone will live (for a short while) or go directly to the gas chambers. https://t.co/EB1tXyGuvz
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) June 28, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. First, an obstacle course for a jumping spider (salticid). The reward is a cricket, which it finally gets.
Updated obstacle course for Princess Bouncy-Pants! She technically didn't make it to the finish line since the cricket left his post, but I think she did a good job regardless ❤️🕷️🕸️ pic.twitter.com/SZRpbZG7QS
— Josh Gibson, Ph.D. (@DrStrangeAnt) June 26, 2023
Okay creationists, explain those vestigial wings! (The species description is here.)
What do you call a fly without wings?
OK, it's got little stubby wings, but a fly that can't fly is still pretty cool!
High altitude (>3000m) habitats make for strange adaptations! https://t.co/QwvKVy4P25
— John Midgley (@JohnMMidgley) June 27, 2023
What do you call a group of Nautilus (Nautilii?):
— TheNautilusFiles (@gjbarord) June 26, 2023