Sunday, August 31, 2014

Desperately Dry California Tries to Curb Private Drilling for Water - NYTimes.com

Desperately Dry California Tries to Curb Private Drilling for Water - NYTimes.com:



"FRESNO, Calif. — The small prefab office of Arthur & Orum, a well-drilling outfit hidden in the almond trees and grapevines south of Fresno, has become a magnet for scores of California farmers in desperate need of water to sustain their crops. Looking at binders of dozens of orders for yet-to-be-drilled wells, Steve Arthur, a manager, said, “We’ve got more stacked up than we’ll do before the end of the year.”"



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The Medicare Miracle - NYTimes.com

The Medicare Miracle - NYTimes.com:



"So, what do you think about those Medicare numbers? What, you haven’t heard about them? Well, they haven’t been front-page news. But something remarkable has been happening on the health-spending front, and it should (but probably won’t) transform a lot of our political debate."



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Sutpen and Buendia:Two doomed races

William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez were prophets. Thomas Piketty deciphered them.

Absalom, Absalom!, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, exemplify the cold logic of capitalism. The authors did not have to painstakingly go through the French Tax Records from 1789 to the present to know what they wrote about: They just knew.

The rest of us need proof, just like the Greek mathematicians did, with The Elements of Geometry written by Euclid. Step by step demonstrations, so we  don't lose the argument. We could use a computer, like Thomas Piketty did, but at the end of the day we have to see with our mind's eye, what prophets know without these tools, just like paper, pencil, and eraser, the rest of us need these tools so we can understand. The Scientific Method, is the guide to the unenlightened masses. Knowledge is collective, or it is not knowledge. The human race may be the first conscious species of the Universe.

After finishing Absalom, Absalom! I see the destruction of the Sutpen family. Out of nowhere a Scott-Irish rolls down from the Appalachian Mountains down to the Southern plains. Thomas Sutpen was a half conscious son of a drunk father. He has enough understanding to go to Haiti and father a mixed race son. After the Independence War in that God forsaken land, he leaves with ill gotten wealth, with the intention to start a dynasty in the semi-tropical South of the United States of America.

Sutpen buys land and slaves, with the help of a Methodist Minister, too idealistic to survive that jungle. Eventually he gets a white wife and lets the blind forces of capitalism do the rest.

The story ends like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's, incest and inequality destroy those races.

And Fairly Won - NYTimes.com

And Fairly Won - NYTimes.com: "One hundred fifty years ago today, William Tecumseh Sherman’s corps, which had pulled back from in front of Atlanta — deceiving the Confederates into believing that they were in retreat — were scything around south of the city, cutting the rail lines. Hood’s army got away, but the victory was nonetheless decisive, for political reasons: the fall of Atlanta convinced voters that the war could and would be won, and Lincoln was reelected.



 I’ve written before about my U.S. Grant obsession; Sherman, too. And the friendship between these two men — men who had no illusions about war, who understood the modern world and did what had to be done — is, to my mind, one of the great stories of American history."



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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Central America Hit by Severe Drought - NYTimes.com

Central America Hit by Severe Drought - NYTimes.com:



 "A severe drought has ravaged crops in Central America, and as many as 2.8 million people are struggling to feed themselves, the United Nations World Food Program said Friday. The drought, which is also affecting South America, has been particularly hard on southern Guatemala, northern Honduras and western El Salvador. Guatemala declared a state of emergency after 256,000 families lost their crops. Farmers growing peas, green beans and broccoli estimate that they will lose 30 to 40 percent of their crops. Jesús Samayoa, a farmer in Jutiapa, Guatemala, said, “I am 60 years old, and this is the first time I have seen a crisis like this.”"



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Friday, August 29, 2014

Is Owning Overrated? The Rental Economy Rises - NYTimes.com

Is Owning Overrated? The Rental Economy Rises - NYTimes.com:



"Things that you can now rent instead of buying: a power drill, a song, a tent, an office for an hour, a Prada handbag, a wedding dress, a painting, a dog, your neighbor’s car, a drone."



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Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Study Offers Clues To Swift Arctic Extinction - NYTimes.com

New Study Offers Clues To Swift Arctic Extinction - NYTimes.com:



 "Seven hundred years ago, the Dorset people disappeared from the Arctic. The last of the Paleo-Eskimos, the Dorset culture had dominated eastern Canada and Greenland for centuries, hunting seal and walrus through holes in the ice and practicing shamanistic rituals with ornate carvings and masks."



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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Twitter does not accept this

http://tllg.net/

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty - NYTimes.com

Obama Pursuing Climate Accord in Lieu of Treaty - NYTimes.com:



"WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress."



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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

For Yazidis Betrayed by Arab Neighbors, ‘It Will Never Be the Same’ - NYTimes.com

For Yazidis Betrayed by Arab Neighbors, ‘It Will Never Be the Same’ - NYTimes.com:



"DERA BON, Iraq — The afternoon before his family fled the onslaught of Sunni militants, Dakhil Habash was visited by three of his Arab neighbors. Over tea, his trusted friend Matlul Mare told him not to worry about the advancing fighters and that no harm would come to him or his Yazidi people."



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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Growing, and Growing More Dangerous, Draft of U.N. Report Says - NYTimes.com

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Growing, and Growing More Dangerous, Draft of U.N. Report Says - NYTimes.com:



"Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report."



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Clouding Talks, Ukraine Says It Captured Russian Troops - NYTimes.com

Clouding Talks, Ukraine Says It Captured Russian Troops - NYTimes.com:



"MINSK, Belarus — Ukraine released video clips on Tuesday of what it said were captured Russian soldiers, raising tensions as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Petro O. Poroshenko."



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Hamas and Israel Agree to Extended Gaza Cease-Fire - NYTimes.com

Hamas and Israel Agree to Extended Gaza Cease-Fire - NYTimes.com:



 "GAZA CITY — Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term cease-fire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years — but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict."



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Monday, August 25, 2014

Central Bankers’ New Gospel: Spur Jobs, Wages and Inflation - NYTimes.com

Central Bankers’ New Gospel: Spur Jobs, Wages and Inflation - NYTimes.com:



"JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — The last time the economic policy conference held here every August devoted its agenda to labor markets, it was 1994 and the Federal Reserve’s vice chairman scandalized the audience by suggesting central banks worried too much about reducing inflation and not enough about unemployment."



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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wrong Way Nation - NYTimes.com

Wrong Way Nation - NYTimes.com:



 "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is running for president again. What are his chances? Will he once again become a punch line? I have absolutely no idea. This isn’t a horse-race column."



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Attack of the Crazy Centrists






I’m by no means the only person, or even pundit, who sometimes (often) feels that centrists are the craziest people in our political life. Liberals these days rarely stake out really extreme positions (more on that in a minute); conservatives may denounce Obama as a Muslim atheist communist, but at least they know what they want. The really strange people are those who insist that there is symmetry between left and right, that both are equally far out and equally at fault for polarization, and make up all kinds of strange stories to justify this claim.
Barack Obama is, of course, the biggest target of these delusions; it’s really amazing to see pundits accuse him of being chiefly to blame for Republican scorched-earth opposition — you see, he should have used his mystic powers of persuasion to bring them into the tent. But liberal commentators also get hit — usually via gross misrepresentations of what we said. And of course I get this most of all.
Today Jonathan Bernstein leads me to Andrew Gelman, who catches an assertion that I’m all wrong about the difference in conspiracy theorizing between left and right.
What I said was that conspiracy theories are supported by a lot of influential people on the right, but not on the left. They misrepresent this as a claim that most conspiracy theorists are on the right, and point to evidence that “motivated reasoning” is equally common on left and right as proof that I’m wrong.
This is doubly wrong. For one thing — Gelman doesn’t say this as clearly as I’d like — motivated reasoning isn’t the same thing as conspiracy theorizing. Believing that official inflation numbers understate true inflation, based not on understanding the data but on political leanings, is motivated reasoning. Believing that the BLS is deliberately understating inflation and unemployment as a political favor to the White House is a conspiracy theory.
And there’s a big difference even when it comes to conspiracy theorizing between having something believed by some, maybe even a lot, of people and having it stated by influential politicians and other members of the elite.
So how did my claim about elites and conspiracy theories — which I think is very defensible, even obvious — turn into a supposed claim that isn’t defensible, and can be dismissed as foolish? Well, you know the answer: centrists want to believe that liberals are just as bad as conservatives, so they see shrill partisanship even when it’s not really there.
It is, in short, a classic illustration of politically motivated reasoning.

[1201.0749] There is no 16-Clue Sudoku: Solving the Sudoku Minimum Number of Clues Problem

[1201.0749] There is no 16-Clue Sudoku: Solving the Sudoku Minimum Number of Clues Problem:



 "The sudoku minimum number of clues problem is the following question: what is the smallest number of clues that a sudoku puzzle can have? For several years it had been conjectured that the answer is 17. We have performed an exhaustive computer search for 16-clue sudoku puzzles, and did not find any, thus proving that the answer is indeed 17. In this article we describe our method and the actual search. As a part of this project we developed a novel way for enumerating hitting sets. The hitting set problem is computationally hard; it is one of Karp's 21 classic NP-complete problems. A standard backtracking algorithm for finding hitting sets would not be fast enough to search for a 16-clue sudoku puzzle exhaustively, even at today's supercomputer speeds. To make an exhaustive search possible, we designed an algorithm that allowed us to efficiently enumerate hitting sets of a suitable size."



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Why Interest Rates Need to Stay Low - NYTimes.com

Why Interest Rates Need to Stay Low - NYTimes.com:



"A sharp debate within the Federal Reserve over when to raise interest rates was publicly aired last week at the annual central bankers’ conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo. On one side is a small yet vocal minority of Fed officials who want to head off inflation by raising rates sooner rather than later. On the other is a majority that thinks a near-term rate hike would stifle growth and, with it, any chance of restoring health to the labor market. That group includes Janet Yellen, the Fed’s chairwoman, and most members of the Fed’s policy committee."



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Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Climate Swerve

AMERICANS appear to be undergoing a significant psychological shift in our relation to global warming. I call this shift a climate “swerve,” borrowing the term used recently by the Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe a major historical change in consciousness that is neither predictable nor orderly.
The first thing to say about this swerve is that we are far from clear about just what it is and how it might work. But we can make some beginning observations which suggest, in Bob Dylan’s words, that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.” Experience, economics and ethics are coalescing in new and important ways. Each can be examined as a continuation of my work comparing nuclear and climate threats.
The experiential part has to do with a drumbeat of climate-related disasters around the world, all actively reported by the news media: hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts and wildfires, extreme heat waves and equally extreme cold, rising sea levels and floods. Even when people have doubts about the causal relationship of global warming to these episodes, they cannot help being psychologically affected. Of great importance is the growing recognition that the danger encompasses the entire earth and its inhabitants. We are all vulnerable.
This sense of the climate threat is represented in public opinion polls and attitude studies. A recent Yale survey, for instance, concluded that “Americans’ certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years,” and “those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position.”
Falsification and denial, while still all too extensive, have come to require more defensive psychic energy and political chicanery.
But polls don’t fully capture the complex collective process occurring.
The most important experiential change has to do with global warming and time. Responding to the climate threat — in contrast to the nuclear threat, whose immediate and grotesque destructiveness was recorded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — has been inhibited by the difficulty of imagining catastrophic future events. But climate-related disasters and intense media images are hitting us now, and providing partial models for a devastating climate future.
At the same time, economic concerns about fossil fuels have raised the issue of value. There is a wonderfully evocative term, “stranded assets,” to characterize the oil, coal and gas reserves that are still in the ground. Trillions of dollars in assets could remain “stranded” there. If we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustaining the human habitat, between 60 percent and 80 percent of those assets must remain in the ground, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, an organization that analyzes carbon investment risk. In contrast, renewable energy sources, which only recently have achieved the status of big business, are taking on increasing value, in terms of returns for investors, long-term energy savings and relative harmlessness to surrounding communities.
Pragmatic institutions like insurance companies and the American military have been confronting the consequences of climate change for some time. But now, a number of leading financial authorities are raising questions about the viability of the holdings of giant carbon-based fuel corporations. In a world fueled by oil and coal, it is a truly stunning event when investors are warned that the market may end up devaluing those assets. We are beginning to see a bandwagon effect in which the overall viability of fossil-fuel economics is being questioned.
Can we continue to value, and thereby make use of, the very materials most deeply implicated in what could be the demise of the human habitat? It is a bit like the old Jack Benny joke, in which an armed robber offers a choice, “Your money or your life!” And Benny responds, “I’m thinking it over.” We are beginning to “think over” such choices on a larger scale.
This takes us to the swerve-related significance of ethics. Our reflections on stranded assets reveal our deepest contradictions. Oil and coal company executives focus on the maximum use of their product in order to serve the interests of shareholders, rather than the humane, universal ethics we require to protect the earth. We may well speak of those shareholder-dominated principles as “stranded ethics,” which are better left buried but at present are all too active above ground.
Such ethical contradictions are by no means entirely new in historical experience. Consider the scientists, engineers and strategists in the United States and the Soviet Union who understood their duty as creating, and possibly using, nuclear weapons that could destroy much of the earth. Their conscience could be bound up with a frequently amorphous ethic of “national security.” Over the course of my work I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.
The climate swerve is mostly a matter of deepening awareness. When exploring the nuclear threat I distinguished between fragmentary awareness, consisting of images that come and go but remain tangential, and formed awareness, which is more structured, part of a narrative that can be the basis for individual and collective action.
In the 1980s there was a profound worldwide shift from fragmentary awareness to formed awareness in response to the potential for a nuclear holocaust. Millions of people were affected by that “nuclear swerve.” And even if it is diminished today, the nuclear swerve could well have helped prevent the use of nuclear weapons.
With both the nuclear and climate threats, the swerve in awareness has had a crucial ethical component. People came to feel that it was deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to engage in nuclear war, and are coming to an awareness that it is deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to destroy our habitat and create a legacy of suffering for our children and grandchildren.
Social movements in general are energized by this kind of ethical passion, which enables people to experience the more active knowledge associated with formed awareness. That was the case in the movement against nuclear weapons. Emotions related to individual conscience were pooled into a shared narrative by enormous numbers of people.
In earlier movements there needed to be an overall theme, even a phrase, that could rally people of highly divergent political and intellectual backgrounds. The idea of a “nuclear freeze” mobilized millions of people with the simple and clear demand that the United States and the Soviet Union freeze the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.
Could the climate swerve come to include a “climate freeze,” defined by a transnational demand for cutting back on carbon emissions in steps that could be systematically outlined?
With or without such a rallying phrase, the climate swerve provides no guarantees of more reasonable collective behavior. But with human energies that are experiential, economic and ethical it could at least provide — and may already be providing — the psychological substrate for action on behalf of our vulnerable habitat and the human future.

The Growing Blue-State Diaspora - NYTimes.com

The Growing Blue-State Diaspora - NYTimes.com:



"Californians have moved to Colorado and Nevada. Massachusetts natives have moved to New Hampshire. New Yorkers have moved to North Carolina and Virginia — and, of course, have continued moving to Florida."



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Order vs. Disorder, Part 3 - NYTimes.com

Order vs. Disorder, Part 3 - NYTimes.com:



"THE United States is swamped by refugee children from collapsing Central American countries; efforts to contain the major Ebola outbreak in West Africa are straining governments there; jihadists have carved out a bloodthirsty caliphate inside Iraq and Syria; after having already eaten Crimea, Russia keeps taking more bites out of Ukraine; and the U.N.’s refugee agency just announced that “the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.” If it feels as though the world of disorder is expanding against the world of order, it’s not your imagination. There’s an unfortunate logic to it."



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Friday, August 22, 2014

[1408.4805] Observation of Small-scale Anisotropy in the Arrival Direction Distribution of TeV Cosmic Rays with HAWC

[1408.4805] Observation of Small-scale Anisotropy in the Arrival Direction Distribution of TeV Cosmic Rays with HAWC:



 "The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory is sensitive to gamma rays and charged cosmic rays at TeV energies. The detector is still under construction, but data acquisition with the partially deployed detector started in 2013. An analysis of the cosmic-ray arrival direction distribution based on 4.9×1010 events recorded between June 2013 and February 2014 shows anisotropy at the 10−4 level on angular scales of about 10∘. The HAWC cosmic-ray sky map exhibits three regions of significantly enhanced cosmic-ray flux; two of these regions were first reported by the Milagro experiment. A third region coincides with an excess recently reported by the ARGO-YBJ experiment. An angular power spectrum analysis of the sky shows that all terms up to ℓ=15 contribute significantly to the excesses."



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Russia Moves Artillery Units Into Ukraine, NATO Says - NYTimes.com

Russia Moves Artillery Units Into Ukraine, NATO Says - NYTimes.com:



 "WASHINGTON — The Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and is using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday."



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Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk:

The “caliphate” has some pretty tough theatrical producers. They write a bleak and savage script. Our job is now to respond to each line, and they understand us well enough to know just what we’ll say. So they beheaded James Foley and threatened to do the same to one of his colleagues, and what do we do? Exactly what I predicted 24 hours ago: turn Foley’s murder into a further reason to go on bombing the Isis “caliphate”. And what else did they provoke from us – or at least from America’s vacationing President? A battle on strictly religious terms, which is exactly what they wanted.

Yes, Barack Obama – before he headed back to the golf links – informed the world that “No just God would stand for what they [Isis] did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.” So there you have it: Obama turned the “caliphate’s” savagery into an inter-religious battle of rival Gods, “ours” [ie the West’s] against “theirs” [the Muslim God, of course]. This was the nearest Obama has yet come in rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 in which he said that “we” are going to go on a “Crusade”.

Now of course, Obama didn’t mean the Muslim God, any more than Bush intended to send thousands of horse-mounted Christian warriors to the Biblical lands of the Middle East: indeed, Bush only sent tank-mounted and helicopter-borne warriors to those lands. No, Obama was also announcing that the “caliphate’s” victims are “overwhelmingly Muslim” – ie that the “Caliphate” wasn’t Muslim at all – although his enthusiasm to intervene earlier this month was not caused by his sympathy for these thousands of poor Muslims, but by the persecution of Christians and Yazidis. And of course the danger to potential American victims – a fact which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s men understood all too well.

That’s why they slaughtered poor James Foley. Not because he was a journalist , but because he was an American, indeed one of the Americans Obama was promising to defend in Iraq. Whether or not Obama forgot about US hostages in Syria – the US military’s attempt to rescue them at least proved they knew Foley was in Syria. But why is Isis in Syria? To overthrow the Assad regime, of course, which is what we too are trying to do, is it not?

What on earth made Obama believe he could tell Muslims about what a “just God” would or would not do? For a President who regrets the Bush war in Iraq, does he not realise that millions of Muslims in Iraq believe that “no just God” would stand for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, nor for the tens of thousands of Iraqis massacred because of the lies of Bush and Blair? I was amazed to hear Obama announce that “one thing we [sic] can all agree on” was that “a group like Isil has no place in the 21st century”.

This is the same claptrap which that old scallywag Bill Clinton used when he addressed the Jordanian parliament after King Hussein’s unpopular peace treaty with Israel: that those Muslim groups who opposed it were “yesterday’s men”. For some reason, we really think that the Muslims of the Middle East need us to tell them their history, what is good for them, what is bad for them. Muslims who agreed that Foley’s murder was a revolting crime against humanity will have been insulted by being told by a Christian what a “just God” would approve or disapprove of. And those who supported such a crime will have been further convinced that America was a justified enemy of all Muslims.

As for the sinister British executioner “John”, I rather think he may have lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Gateshead, because – having spent time on Tyneside – I thought he seemed to have just a hint of the Geordie accent. But “John” could have been French or Russian or Spanish. It’s not what went wrong in his mind, but what phenomena have afflicted so many other young men, in their thousands to do the same. How, for example, did an Australian apparently allow his young son to pose with the head of a decapitated Syrian soldier (a soldier serving, of course, in the army of the Assad regime we have all sworn to overthrow)?

And how have our security “services” responded to this? With the usual nonsense about how merely looking at such gruesome execution videotapes may be a terrorist crime. What is this tosh? Personally, I find it equally offensive to film – and show on television – the mass killing of human beings by US aircraft. But we do show them, don’t we? We are repeatedly invited to observe on our television screens the targeting of supposed Isis fighters and imagine their fate in the bubble of fire that consumes their pick-up trucks. Because we can’t see their faces doesn’t make this any less obscene. Of course, their activities are the opposite of what James Foley stood for. But were they all actually fighters? We haven’t yet heard that outrageous linguistic curse “collateral damage”, but I bet we will.

So are our security bosses going to make the viewing of US military target videos a terrorist crime? I doubt it – unless, of course, the film shows us massacring lots of civilians. Then they could claim – rightly – that such viewing might encourage “terrorism”. And we’d all have to give up covering the war.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Drought Said to Claim Trillions of Gallons - NYTimes.com

Drought Said to Claim Trillions of Gallons - NYTimes.com:



 "About 63 trillion gallons of groundwater have been lost across the West since the start of last year because of a severe drought, a study found. The loss is not only forcing farmers to drill deeper wells, it has caused the crust of the earth in the region to rise. A study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, found that the earth’s crust, which is normally weighed down by groundwater, had risen 0.15 inches over the last two years. The rise was most drastic in the California mountains, which have risen more than half an inch. The study was first published in the journal Science on Thursday."



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Hawks Crying Wolf - NYTimes.com

Hawks Crying Wolf - NYTimes.com:



 "According to a recent report in The Times, there is dissent at the Fed: “An increasingly vocal minority of Federal Reserve officials want the central bank to retreat more quickly” from its easy-money policies, which they warn run the risk of causing inflation. And this debate, we are told, is likely to dominate the big economic symposium currently underway in Jackson Hole, Wyo."



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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Clashes Erupt as Liberia Imposes Quarantine to Curb Ebola - NYTimes.com

Clashes Erupt as Liberia Imposes Quarantine to Curb Ebola - NYTimes.com:



"MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberia’s halting efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak spreading across parts of West Africa quickly turned violent on Wednesday when angry young men hurled rocks and stormed barbed-wire barricades, trying to break out of a neighborhood here that had been cordoned off by the government."



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Neanderthals in Europe Died Out Thousands of Years Sooner Than Some Thought, Study Says - NYTimes.com

Neanderthals in Europe Died Out Thousands of Years Sooner Than Some Thought, Study Says - NYTimes.com:



"Neanderthals, our heavy-browed relatives, spread out across Europe and Asia about 200,000 years ago. But when did they die out, giving way to modern humans?"



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Tuberculosis Is Newer Than What Was Thought, Study Says - NYTimes.com

Tuberculosis Is Newer Than What Was Thought, Study Says - NYTimes.com:



"After a remarkable analysis of bacterial DNA from 1,000-year-old mummies, scientists have proposed a new hypothesis for how tuberculosis arose and spread around the world."



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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's Confirmed: Black Holes Do Come in Medium Sizes

It's Confirmed: Black Holes Do Come in Medium Sizes:



"Black holes do indeed come in three sizes: small, medium and extra large, a new study suggests."



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Middle Mass Black Holes

A 400-solar-mass black hole in the galaxy M82 : Nature : Nature Publishing Group

A 400-solar-mass black hole in the galaxy M82 : Nature : Nature Publishing Group:



 "M82 X-1, the brightest X-ray source in the galaxy M82, has been thought to be an intermediate-mass black hole (100 to 10,000 solar masses) because of its extremely high luminosity and variability characteristics1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, although some models suggest that its mass may be only about 20 solar masses3, 7. The previous mass estimates were based on scaling relations that use low-frequency characteristic timescales which have large intrinsic uncertainties8, 9. For stellar-mass black holes, we know that the high-frequency quasi-periodic oscillations (100–450 hertz) in the X-ray emission that occur in a 3:2 frequency ratio are stable and scale in frequency inversely with black hole mass with a reasonably small dispersion10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. The discovery of such stable oscillations thus potentially offers an alternative and less ambiguous means of mass determination for intermediate-mass black holes, but has hitherto not been realized. Here we report stable, twin-peak (3:2 frequency ratio) X-ray quasi-periodic oscillations from M82 X-1 at frequencies of 3.32 ± 0.06 hertz and 5.07 ± 0.06 hertz. Assuming that we can extrapolate the inverse-mass scaling that holds for stellar-mass black holes, we estimate the black hole mass of M82 X-1 to be 428 ± 105 solar masses. In addition, we can estimate the mass using the relativistic precession model, from which we get a value of 415 ± 63 solar masses."



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[1308.1682] Can the 62 day X-ray period of the Ultraluminous X-ray source M82 X-1 be due to a precessing accretion disk?

[1308.1682] Can the 62 day X-ray period of the Ultraluminous X-ray source M82 X-1 be due to a precessing accretion disk?:



 "We have analyzed all archival RXTE/PCA monitoring observations of the ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) M82 X-1 in order to study the properties of its 62 day X-ray period (Kaaret & Feng 2007). Based on its high coherence it has been argued that the observed period is the orbital period of the binary. Utilizing a much longer data set than in previous studies we find: (1) The phase-resolved X-ray (3-15 keV) spectra -- modeled with a thermal accretion disk and a power-law -- suggest that the accretion disk's contribution to the total flux is strongly modulated with phase. (2) Suggestive evidence for a sudden phase shift--of approximately 0.4 in phase (25 days)-- between the first and the second halves of the light curve separated by roughly 1000 days. If confirmed, the implied timescale to change the period is ~ 10 yrs, which is exceptionally fast for an orbital phenomenon. These two independent pieces of evidence are consistent with the periodicity being due to a precessing accretion disk, similar to the super-orbital periods observed in systems like Her X-1, LMC X-4, and SS433. However, the timing evidence for a change in the period needs to be confirmed with additional observations. This should be possible with further monitoring of M82 with instruments such as the Swift X-ray telescope (XRT)."



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[1312.1228] Determination of $|V_{us}|$ from a lattice-QCD calculation of the $K\to\pi\ell\nu$ semileptonic form factor with physical quark masses

[1312.1228] Determination of $|V_{us}|$ from a lattice-QCD calculation of the $K\to\pi\ell\nu$ semileptonic form factor with physical quark masses:



 "We calculate the kaon semileptonic form factor f+(0) from lattice QCD, working, for the first time, at the physical light-quark masses. We use gauge configurations generated by the MILC collaboration with Nf=2+1+1 flavors of sea quarks, which incorporate the effects of dynamical charm quarks as well as those of up, down, and strange. We employ data at three lattice spacings to extrapolate to the continuum limit. Our result, f+(0)=0.9704(32), where the error is the total statistical plus systematic uncertainty added in quadrature, is the most precise determination to date. Combining our result with the latest experimental measurements of K semileptonic decays, one obtains the Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa matrix element |Vus|=0.22290(74)(52), where the first error is from f+(0) and the second one is from experiment. In the first-row test of Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa unitarity, the error stemming from |Vus| is now comparable to that from |Vud|."



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[1401.6298] The Green Function for the BFKL Pomeron and the Transition to DGLAP Evolution

[1401.6298] The Green Function for the BFKL Pomeron and the Transition to DGLAP Evolution:



"We consider the (process-independent) Green function for the BFKL equation in the next-to-leading order approximation, with running coupling, and explain how, within the semi-classical approximation, it is related to Green function of the Airy equation. The unique Green function is obtained from a combination of its required ultraviolet behaviour compatible with asymptotic freedom and an infrared limit phase imposed by the non-perturbative sector of QCD. We show that at sufficiently large gluon transverse momenta the corresponding gluon density matches that of the DGLAP analysis, whereas for relatively small values of the gluon transverse momentum the gluon distribution is sensitive to the Regge poles, whose positions are determined both by the non-pertubative QCD dynamics and physics at large transverse momenta."



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Monday, August 18, 2014

A World of Creatures That Hide in the Open - NYTimes.com

A World of Creatures That Hide in the Open - NYTimes.com:



 "Sönke Johnsen scuba dives in the middle of the ocean, far from land, miles above the seafloor. There are no shipwrecks to explore, no reefs to admire, just a disorienting oasis of blue."



'via Blog this'

Julian Assange Says He Will Leave Embassy ‘Soon’ - NYTimes.com

Julian Assange Says He Will Leave Embassy ‘Soon’ - NYTimes.com:



 "LONDON — Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who was given asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy here two years ago, said Monday that he “will be leaving the embassy soon,” but he provided no specifics."



'via Blog this'

Saturday, August 16, 2014

[1401.7848] Realizing three generations of the Standard Model fermions in the type IIB matrix model

[1401.7848] Realizing three generations of the Standard Model fermions in the type IIB matrix model:



"We discuss how the Standard Model particles appear from the type IIB matrix model, which is considered to be a nonperturbative formulation of superstring theory. In particular, we are concerned with a constructive definition of the theory, in which we start with finite-N matrices and take the large-N limit afterwards. In that case, it was pointed out recently that realizing chiral fermions in the model is more difficult than it had been thought from formal arguments at N=infinity and that introduction of a matrix version of the warp factor is necessary. Based on this new insight, we show that two generations of the Standard Model fermions can be realized by considering a rather generic configuration of fuzzy S^2 and fuzzy S^2 * S^2 in the extra dimensions. We also show that three generations can be obtained by squashing one of the S^2's that appear in the configuration. Chiral fermions appear at the intersections of the fuzzy manifolds with nontrivial Yukawa couplings to the Higgs field, which can be calculated from the overlap of their wave functions."



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Friday, August 15, 2014

Four dimensional supersymmetric Yang-Mills quantum mechanics with three colors

The D=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills quantum mechanics with SU(2) and SU(3) gauge symmetry groups is studied. A numerical method to find finite matrix representation of the Hamiltonian is presented in detail. It is used to find spectrum of the theory. In the SU(2) case there are bound states in all channels with definite total number of fermions and angular momentum. For 2,3,4 fermions continuous and discrete spectra coexist in the same range of energies. These results are confirmation of earlier studies. With SU(3) gauge group, the continuous spectrum is moved to sectors with more fermions. Supersymmetry generators are used to identify supermultiplets and determine the level of restoration of supersymmetry for a finite cutoff. For both theories, with SU(2) and SU(3) symmetry, wavefunctions are studied and different behavior of bound and scattering states is observed.

arXiv

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Forever Slump - NYTimes.com

The Forever Slump - NYTimes.com:



"It’s hard to believe, but almost six years have passed since the fall of Lehman Brothers ushered in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Many people, myself included, would like to move on to other subjects. But we can’t, because the crisis is by no means over. Recovery is far from complete, and the wrong policies could still turn economic weakness into a more or less permanent depression."



'via Blog this'

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Math Prize Has Its First Female Winner - NYTimes.com

Top Math Prize Has Its First Female Winner - NYTimes.com:



 "An Iranian mathematician is the first woman ever to receive a Fields Medal, often considered to be mathematics’ equivalent of the Nobel Prize."



'via Blog this'

Sunday, August 10, 2014

[1106.3942] Gauge bosons at zero and finite temperature

[1106.3942] Gauge bosons at zero and finite temperature:



 "Gauge theories of the Yang-Mills type are the single most important building block of the standard model and beyond. Since Yang-Mills theories are gauge theories their elementary particles, the gauge bosons, cannot be described without fixing a gauge. Beyond perturbation theory, gauge-fixing in non-Abelian gauge theories is obstructed by the Gribov-Singer ambiguity. The construction and implementation of a method-independent gauge-fixing prescription to resolve this ambiguity is the most important step to describe gauge bosons beyond perturbation theory. Proposals for such a procedure, generalizing the perturbative Landau gauge, are described here. Their implementation are discussed for two example methods, lattice gauge theory and the quantum equations of motion. The most direct access to the properties of the gauge bosons is provided by their correlation functions. The corresponding two- and three-point correlation functions are presented at all energy scales. These give access to the properties of the gauge bosons, like their absence from the asymptotic physical state space, the absence of an on-shell mass pole, particle-like properties at high energies, and their running couplings. Furthermore, auxiliary degrees of freedom are introduced during gauge-fixing, and their properties are discussed as well. These results are presented for two, three, and four dimensions, and for various gauge algebras. Finally, the modifications of the properties of gauge bosons at finite temperature are presented. Evidence is provided that these reflect the phase structure of Yang-Mills theory. However, it is found that the phase transition is not deconfining the gauge bosons, although the bulk thermodynamical behavior is of a Stefan-Boltzmann type. The resolution of this apparent contradiction is also presented. This resolution also provides an explicit and constructive solution to the Linde problem."



'via Blog this'

[1309.1957] Analytic and numerical study of the free energy in gauge theory

[1309.1957] Analytic and numerical study of the free energy in gauge theory:



 "We derive some exact bounds on the free energy W(J) in an SU(N) gauge theory, where J_mu^b is a source for the gluon field A_mu^b in the minimal Landau gauge, and W(J) is the generating functional of connected correlators, exp W(J) = . We also provide asymptotic expressions for the free energy W(J) at large J and for the quantum effective action Gamma(A) at large A. We specialize to a source J(x)=h cos(kx) of definite momentum k and source strength h, and study the gluon propagator D(k,h) in the presence of this source. Among other relations, we prove int_0^inf dh D(k,h)<=2^1/2 k, which implies lim_(k->0) D(k,h) = 0, for all positive h>0. Thus the system does not respond to a static color probe, no matter how strong. Recent lattice data in minimal Landau gauge in d =3 and 4 dimensions at h=0 indicate that the gluon propagator in the minimum Landau gauge is finite, lim_(k->0) D(k,0)>0. Thus these lattice data imply a jump in the value of D(k,h) at h=0 and k=0, and the value of D(k,h) at this point depends on the order of limits. We also present numerical evaluations of the free energy W(k,h) and the gluon propagator D(k,h) for the case of SU(2) Yang-Mills theory in various dimensions which support all of these findings."



'via Blog this'

The Libertarian Fantasy - NYTimes.com

The Libertarian Fantasy - NYTimes.com:



 "In the latest Times Magazine, Robert Draper profiled youngish libertarians — roughly speaking, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.” Well, probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders. But I’d like to ask a different question: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?"



'via Blog this'

The Empiricist Strikes Back - NYTimes.com

The Empiricist Strikes Back - NYTimes.com:



"If climate change doesn’t scare you, and our failure to act doesn’t inspire despair, you’re not paying attention. And the great sin of the climate deniers is their role in delaying action, quite possibly until it’s too late.

But there are other, smaller evils; and one that strikes close to home for me is the campaign of personal destruction waged against Michael Mann.

Mann, as some of you may know, is a hard-working scientist who used indirect evidence from tree rings and ice cores in an attempt to create a long-run climate record.



His result was the famous “hockey stick” of sharply rising temperatures in the age of industrialization and fossil fuel consumption. His reward for that hard work was not simply assertions that he was wrong — which he wasn’t — but a concerted effort to destroy his life and career with accusations of professional malpractice, involving the usual suspects on the right but also public officials, like the former Attorney General of Virginia.

As you can imagine, I find it easy to put myself in Mann’s shoes; obviously a lot of people would like to do something similar to me, although they haven’t (yet?) found a suitable line of attack.

Now for the slightly encouraging news: Mann filed suit against National Review for defamation.



 And as D.R. Tucker points out at Washington Monthly, the latest response from NR sounds very much like a publication running scared.

Also encouraging is the evident inability of NR to understand how you defend against a charge of defamation. You don’t repeat the false allegations — sorry, guys, but courts also have access to Google and Nexis, and can find that all the charges have been rejected in repeated inquiries.



You try, instead, to show that you made the allegations in good faith. But of course they didn’t.



 Good for Mann in standing up here; he’s doing all of us a service."



'via Blog this'

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Garry Kasparov, the Man Who Would Be King - NYTimes.com

Garry Kasparov, the Man Who Would Be King - NYTimes.com:



 "Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, put his head down, hunched his shoulders and walked hurriedly down the carpeted corridor of the Sands Cotai Central, a labyrinthine new complex on reclaimed land in Macau. Downstairs were two of the world’s most lucrative casinos and retailers like Saint Laurent Paris and Fabio Caviglia. There were restaurants, spas and an array of theme-park attractions from DreamWorks, including a daily parade through the lobby with characters from “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda.” Here on the fourth floor, though, hundreds of boys and girls from across Asia had just wrapped up their matches in a chess tournament. Spilling into the corridor, many of them gaped at Kasparov barreling by, as if Shrek himself had wandered up to the wrong floor. That was why he was rushing, he explained, when I managed to catch up to him as he turned toward a bank of elevators. “If you stop,” he said, “you’ll be there for 30 minutes.” He did not sound angry, just matter of fact. “Everyone circles around. They want pictures.”"



'via Blog this'

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Why the 3D Writhe of Alternating Knots and Links Is Quantized and Additive

Why the 3D Writhe of Alternating Knots and Links Is Quantized and Additive:



"Besides mathematical interest, knots and knot theory have important applications in physics, chemistry, and biology. Stasiak and colleagues devised a constructive method for a knot "energy" using a Metropolis Monte Carlo algorithm to minimize the length of rope needed to realize a given knot for a rope of fixed diameter. They called the resulting rendering of the knot the "ideal" configuration. They have found (i) that the 3-dimensional (3D) writhe of the ideal configuration of a knot appeared, empirically, to be quantized; (ii) empirically, the 3D writhe of the ideal configuration was additive over composition of knots; and (iii) the 3D writhe of the ideal configuration of alternating knots (which have a projection in which crossings alternate between over and under as one traverses the knot in a fixed direction) seems to be equal, to 1*T + 3/7*(W-B), where T is the "Tait number," and W and B are the number of white and black regions in the checkerboard coloring of the knot. It is still not clear why properties i-iii might be true. Here I show that all these empirical findings can be related to the fact that T and W-B can be proven to be additive over composition of alternating knots. In particular, (1) the 3D writhe of ideal configurations is likely only to be additive for composition of alternating knots, and (2) remarkably, the geometrical structure of all alternating (even prime) knots is determined by the three smallest knots."



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Writhe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Writhe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:



 "In knot theory, there are several competing notions of the quantity writhe, or Wr. In one sense, it is purely a property of an oriented link diagram and assumes integer values. In another sense, it is a quantity that describes the amount of "coiling" of a mathematical knot (or any closed, simple curve) in three-dimensional space and assumes real numbers as values. In both cases, writhe is a geometric quantity, meaning that while deforming a curve (or diagram) in such a way that does not change its topology, one may still change its writhe.[1]"



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Bank of America Offers U.S. Biggest Settlement in History - NYTimes.com

Bank of America Offers U.S. Biggest Settlement in History - NYTimes.com:



"After months of lowball offers and heels dug in, it took only 24 hours for Bank of America to suddenly cave in to the government, agreeing to the largest single federal settlement in the history of corporate America."



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