Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How Did Lightning Kill More Than 300 Reindeer?


Lightning Kills More Than 300 Reindeer

A herd of reindeer was struck by lightning in Norway, killing at least 323 of the animals, officials say. Reindeer are known to huddle together during storms.
 By TV2, VIA REUTERS on Publish DateAugust 29, 2016. Photo by Havard Kjotvedt//Norwegian Environment Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency.Watch in Times Video »
Somewhere Santa is mourning.
More than 300 reindeer were found dead in Norway on Friday, their bodies sprawled across a hillside on the Hardangervidda mountain plateau.
Experts say that lightning most likely caused the grisly sight. But for many people who have seen images and video of the eerie scene that answer has raised some suspicion.
Electrical current from a lightning strike killed more than 300 reindeer in Norway. CreditNtb Scanpix/Reuters
How could a lightning strike create so many casualties?
“Lightning does not strike a point, it strikes an area,” said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service. “The physical flash you see strikes a point, but that lightning is radiating out as ground current and it’s very deadly.”
It’s possible that a single bolt could have hit one or two reindeer directly, he said, but the majority of the carnage was caused by ground current. When the electric discharge touches down it spreads out in search of places to travel. The reindeer, with their four hooves on the grass, presented potential pathways where that current could flow.
The majority of the deaths were caused by ground current, not direct lightning strikes.CreditNtb Scanpix/Reuters
“The electricity would go up one leg of the body and stop the heart and go down and out another leg,” he said. “In an instant, of course.”
The same thing can and does happen to humans, Mr. Jensenius said, but animals are particularly vulnerable because they have more legs and their legs are further apart. The greater the distance between two legs, the greater the chance that electricity will try to flow through them, and the stronger that charge will be.

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Though the reindeer were in a herd when they died they did not have to be touching to get electrocuted. They only had to be touching the ground within an area about 160 to 260 feet in diameter from where the strike or strikes hit. The 323 reindeer most likely dropped dead from cardiac arrest where they stood and did not go flying in the air, like in some movies. Mr. Jensenius said that it’s likely the lightning would have struck that location whether the reindeer were there or not.
He added that this case is unusual because of the large number of reindeer that were killed, but that it isn’t uncommon for livestock to be felled by lightning. The most cattle ever killed by lightning is 68 according to the Guinness World Record. There are also reports of lightning apparently striking many types of animals, including 53 pigs and 143 goats in China, 16 bulls in Scotland, a giraffe at Disney World, and even one historical account of two bolts killing 654 sheep in Utah.
Lightning is dangerous to people as well, and in June of this year more than 70 people in India were killed by lightning.
Mr. Jensenius said that we can learn from the reindeer’s misfortune.
“It should be a lesson to the people as to what can happen in a thunderstorm,” he said. “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

How Did Lightning Kill More Than 300 Reindeer? - The New York Times

How Did Lightning Kill More Than 300 Reindeer? - The New York Times:

 "Somewhere Santa is mourning."

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Win, Lose, but No Compromise - The New York Times

Win, Lose, but No Compromise - The New York Times:

"Anyone who says it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins this election needs their head examined. The damage that Trump could do to our nation with his blend of intellectual laziness, towering policy ignorance and reckless impulsiveness is in a league of its own. Hillary has some real personal ethics issues she needs to confront, but she’s got the chops to be president."

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Does North America Exist?

In the early 70s, when I was a graduate student at UCSB, I was appalled at the level of ignorance of  Americans about Mexico. Tijuana was there just a few miles away, and all I could hear from the students was how interesting Europe was.

Then came NAFTA, and I got all teary eyed about my future as a Mexican  with an American PhD degree.

That treaty was only good for Wall Street types on both side of the border, o yeah we have those types in Mexico.

So, is there such a thing as North America?

Obviously geographically the answer is yes, but mentally Mexico does not exist in Many Americans eyes.


Live Briefing: Uproar Over Donald Trump’s Trip to Mexico


Donald J. Trump held a campaign rally in Everett, Wash., on Tuesday night.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Donald J. Trump heads to Mexico on Wednesday for what is expected to be the most frenzied — and perhaps the most important — day of his campaign. Mr. Trump will visit Mexico City for a meeting with President Enrique Peña Nietowho is being criticized by many Mexicans for his willingess to meet with Mr. Trump, who started the day by feuding with a former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, on Twitter. Mr. Trump then will fly to Arizona to deliver a speech on immigration.

Trump and Fox go head-to-head on Twitter

Mr. Trump pre-empted his meeting with one president of Mexico by feuding with another, bickering on Twitter with Mr. Fox, the former head of state, after Mr. Fox criticized him in scathing language on television.
“Former President Vicente Fox, who is railing against my visit to Mexico today, also invited me when he apologized for using the ‘f bomb,’” Mr. Trump wrote Wednesday morning, alluding to a profane remark Mr. Fox made in February about Mr. Trump’s proposed border wall.
Mr. Fox, a voluble presence on Twitter in his own right, retorted that he had urged Mr. Trump to visit Mexico to apologize for disrespecting the country. “Stop lying!” Mr. Fox shot back. “Mexico is not yours to play with, show some respect.”
Mr. Fox has been a persistent critic of Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign, and his sharp rebukes of Mr. Trump and the current Mexican president, Mr. Peña Nieto, may cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s visit on Wednesday. Already, Mr. Fox has plainly tested the Republican nominee’s ability to stay on message and maintain a statesmanlike pose on a brief foreign trip.


Vicente Fox, the former Mexican president, answered questions during a news conference in 2013.CreditElaine Thompson/Associated Press

Peña Nieto faces criticism from the public

There’s a sense of betrayal among Mexicans today, a feeling that their president sold them out to the worst possible person. Historians, academics and analysts have spoken out against Mr. Trump, who they characterize as xenophobic.
By Wednesday morning, those same individuals, and many, many more, were re-directing their Trump-focused anger toward Mr. Peña Nieto. Fearful the Republican nominee will use their president, and by extension their country, as a pawn in his political efforts, they also are worried that their own president could provide boost a man they revile in the polls.
But there is a more quiet group of analysts who support Mr. Pena Nieto’s decision, however out of sync it is with public sentiment.

”He is opening a channel of communications with the person who might become the president of the United States,” said RafaelFernández de Castro, a professor at Syracuse University and former foreign policy adviser to president Felipe Calderon. “In that sense, you cannot criticize him – he is playing it safe for the national security of Mexico.” “In foreign policy, it is not always about public opinion,” he added. “It is about securing the country.”
There was a sense among some Mexicans, however, that Mr. Peña Nieto had invited the candidates in an effort to cut deals that would somehow salvage the rest of his term.
Here are some of the questions we will be looking to answer:

Does the trip signal a policy shift, or is it merely for publicity?

Mr. Trump’s gift for showmanship has helped him define the terms of the 2016 election, and a surprise visit to Mexico is precisely the kind of spectacle on which he has thrived. But the symbolism-laden trip comes at a moment of real political peril, as Mr. Trump seeks to tiptoe away from some of his most hotly debated proposals on immigration, which he outlined during the Republican primaries.
In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has said he may soften his hard-line approach to illegal immigration and repeatedly stressed that he wants to have a “humane” policy. But he has not renounced his pledge to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States, and his aides have struggled to articulate his current position.
Campaign officials have promised that his speech in Arizona on Wednesday night would bring some clarity. But whether Mr. Trump is poised to announce a meaningful change in his views or is merely seeking to distract from his current political travails with a series of extravagant gestures remains to be seen.

Can Trump restrain himself on foreign soil?

Mr. Trump has never before made a trip of this political importance or met with a foreign head of state as a candidate. His only previous foreign trip since announcing his presidential bid was to visit his golf course in Scotland. On that excursion, Mr. Trump did not meet with any senior government leaders, and he stumbled badly by hailing the plunging value of the British pound as helpful to his business.
And there is no country riskier for Mr. Trump to visit than Mexico, where loose talk of a border wall or a trade war could have disastrous consequences. Mr. Trump’s campaign has promoted his recent campaign activities as evidence of new seriousness: Visiting Mexico may be the ultimate measure of just how disciplined Mr. Trump can really be.

Will Peña Nieto challenge his guest?

The Mexican president, who is struggling with low approval ratings and a string of scandals, has spoken out sharply against Mr. Trump in the past. He said in a television interview last month that there was “no way” Mexico would pay for a border wall, as Mr. Trump has demanded. Earlier, Mr. Peña Nieto compared Mr. Trump’s campaign to the rise of Hitler.
So Mr. Peña Nieto will face considerable pressure to protest Mr. Trump’s oratory and policies face to face. Vicente Fox, the former Mexican president, said on CNN on Wednesday that his successor would be perceived as a traitor if he did not go after Mr. Trump.
And while Mr. Trump’s core supporters are unlikely to be put off by criticism from the president of Mexico, any perceived provocation from Mr. Peña Nieto would test Mr. Trump’s ability to carry off his visit with dignity.


President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico during a July news conference at the White House with President Obama. CreditErik S. Lesser/European Pressphoto Agency

How does Trump manage the split screen and his most demanding day as a candidate?

In the space of a few hours, Mr. Trump will visit with Mexico’s head of state, then deliver a speech in Arizona, where border hawks like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Gov. Jan Brewer rank among his top supporters. The trip will take him from the country he has antagonized most during the 2016 campaign, to a state where Republican primary voters rewarded Mr. Trump handsomely for his hostility to Mexico.
For any politician, navigating the contrast between these events and audiences would be challenging. But it may be an even more delicate task for Mr. Trump, with his penchant for improvisation and playing to the gallery. Can he avoid a jarring contrast between images of a sober meeting in Mexico City, and raucous build-the-wall chants in Arizona?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

James Cronin, Who Explained Why Matter Survived the Big Bang, Dies at 84

James W. Cronin at the University of Chicago, where he taught physics, astronomy and astrophysics. With Val Fitch, he found “a fundamental asymmetry between matter and antimatter.” Credit University of Chicago News Office
James W. Cronin, a physicist who shared a Nobel Prize for repudiating a fundamental principle of physics and explaining why the universe survived the Big Bang with anything in it, died on Thursday in St. Paul. He was 84.
His death was confirmed by the University of Chicago, where he was a professor emeritus. No cause was given.
In 1964, Dr. Cronin and Val Fitch of Princeton University were conducting experiments at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island involving matter and antimatter: particles that have the same mass but hold opposite (though equal) charges, either positive or negative, compelling them to destroy each other on contact.
The researchers found that for all their similarities, the particles obeyed slightly different laws of physics: that there was, as Dr. Cronin put it, “a fundamental asymmetry between matter and antimatter.”
This contradicted a bedrock scientific principle known as charge-parity invariance, which had assumed that the same laws of physics would apply if the charges of particles were reversed from positive to negative or vice versa.
The finding, known as the Fitch-Cronin effect, bolstered the Big Bang theory, mainly by explaining why the matter and antimatter produced by the explosion did not annihilate each other, leaving nothing but light instead of a residue that evolved into stars, planets and people.
“We now believe this tiny difference led to us,” Michael S. Turner, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago, said last year after Dr. Fitch died at 91.
Dr. Cronin and Dr. Fitch were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1980 for demonstrating charge-parity violation, which is brought about by decaying subatomic particles called kaons. But Dr. Cronin acknowledged that they had not completely solved a riddle of the universe.
“We know that improvements in detector technology and quality of accelerators will permit even more sensitive experiments in the coming decades,” he said at the time. “We are hopeful, then, that at some epoch, perhaps distant, this cryptic message from nature will be deciphered.”
Since then, scientists working at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California and at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva have made further strides in decoding the different laws that govern matter and antimatter.
Dr. Cronin “inspired us all to reach further into the unknown with deep intuition, solid scientific backing and poetic vision,” Angela V. Olinto, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics, said in a statement released by the University of Chicago.
James Watson Cronin was born in Chicago on Sept. 29, 1931. His father, also named James, met Dr. Cronin’s mother, the former Dorothy Watson, in a Greek class at Northwestern University. The elder James Cronin became a professor of Latin and Greek at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Dr. Cronin’s infatuation with physics began in high school. He graduated in 1951 from Southern Methodist, where he majored in physics and mathematics. He received a doctoral degree from the University of Chicago, where he studied under Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller and Murray Gell-Mann. His thesis was on experimental nuclear physics.
Dr. Cronin’s first wife, the former Annette Martin, died in 2005. He is survived by their children, Emily Grothe and Daniel Cronin; his second wife, the former Carol Champlin McDonald; and six grandchildren.
After collaborating with Dr. Cronin at Brookhaven, Dr. Fitch, the son of a Nebraska rancher, recruited him to Princeton. Dr. Cronin was lured back to the University of Chicago in 1971, attracted in part by one of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators, which was being built at what is now known as the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, operated by the university in partnership with a consortium of other educational institutions. He was offered a post teaching physics, astronomy and astrophysics.
Dr. Cronin was later a leader of the Pierre Auger Observatory, a global consortium of scientists studying the cosmic rays that bombard Earth. He also edited a book, “Fermi Remembered,” inspired by a symposium in 2001 to commemorate the centennial of Mr. Fermi’s birth. (The two shared the same birth date, Sept. 29.)
“What’s significant about Fermi is if you look through his career, he never just did the same thing,” Dr. Cronin once said. “He kept moving on to new scientific challenges.”
Dr. Cronin became a professor emeritus in 1997.
Working with Dr. Fitch and using instruments they had devised, Dr. Cronin conducted his groundbreaking experiments when he was in his early 30s, less than a decade after he had received his doctorate. Why did it take the Nobel Committee 16 years to recognize their achievement?
“I don’t think that people recognized that this had something to do with one of the most fundamental aspects of nature, with the origin of the universe,” Dr. Cronin said in the 2006 book “Candid Science VI: More Conversations With Famous Scientists,” by Istvan Hargittai and Magdolna Hargittai. “I think that it took a while to realize this.”
He added: “For me, this was actually a good thing. I was much too young at that time to deal with such a thing as the Nobel Prize.”

Donald Trump to Visit Mexico After More Than a Year of Mocking It

Donald J. Trump will visit Mexico on Wednesday to speak with President Enrique Peña Nieto, a trip that will take him to a nation he has repeatedly scorned as a candidate.


Monday, August 29, 2016

States of Cruelty

Anti-abortion activists rallied against funding Planned Parenthood in Austin, Tex., last year. Credit Eric Gay/Associated Press
Something terrible has happened to pregnant women in Texas: their mortality rate has doubled in recent years, and is now comparable to rates in places like Russia or Ukraine. Although researchers into this disaster are careful to say that it can’t be attributed to any one cause, the death surge does coincide with the state’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which led to the closing of many clinics. And all of this should be seen against the general background of Texas policy, which is extremely hostile toward anything that helps low-income residents.
There’s an important civics lesson here. While many people are focused on national politics, with reason — one sociopath in the White House can ruin your whole day — many crucial decisions are taken at the state and local levels. If the people we elect to these offices are irresponsible, cruel, or both, they can do a lot of damage.
This is especially true when it comes to health care. Even before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, there was wide variation in state policies, especially toward the poor and near-poor. Medicaid has always been a joint federal-state program, in which states have considerable leeway about whom to cover. States with consistently conservative governments generally offered benefits to as few people as the law allowed, sometimes only to adults with children in truly dire poverty. States with more liberal governments extended benefits much more widely. These policy differences were one main reason for a huge divergence in the percentage of the population without insurance, with Texas consistently coming in first in that dismal ranking.
And the gaps have only grown wider since Obamacare went into effect, for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court made the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid, a crucial part of the reform, optional at the state level. This should be a no-brainer: If Washington is willing to provide health insurance to many of your state’s residents — and in so doing pump dollars into your state’s economy — why wouldn’t you say yes? But 19 states, Texas among them, are still refusing free money, denying health care to millions.
Beyond this is the question of whether states are trying to make health reform succeed. California — where Democrats are firmly in control, thanks to the GOP’s alienation of minority voters — shows how it’s supposed to work: The state established its own health exchange, carefully promoting and regulating competition, and engaged in outreach to inform the public and encourage enrollment. The result has been dramatic success in holding down costs and reducing the number of uninsured.
Needless to say, nothing like this has happened in red states. And while the number of uninsured has declined even in these states, thanks to the federal exchanges, the gap between red and blue states has widened.
But why are states like Texas so dead-set against helping the unfortunate, even if the feds are willing to pick up the tab?
You still hear claims that it’s all about economics, that small government and free markets are the key to prosperity. And it’s true that Texas has long led the nation in employment growth. But there are other reasons for that growth, especially energy and cheap housing.
And we’ve lately seen strong evidence from the states that refutes this small-government ideology. On one side, there’s the Kansas experiment — the governor’s own term for it — in which sharp tax cuts were supposed to cause dramatic job growth, but have in practice been a complete bust. On the other side there’s California’s turn to the left under Jerry Brown, which conservatives predicted would ruin the state but which has actually been accompanied by an employment boom.
So the economic case for being cruel to the unfortunate has lost whatever slight credibility it may once have had. Yet the cruelty goes on. Why?
A large part of the answer, surely, is the usual one: It’s about race. Medicaid expansion disproportionately benefits nonwhite Americans; so does spending on public health more generally. And opposition to these programs is concentrated in states where voters in local elections don’t like the idea of helping neighbors who don’t look like them.
In the specific case of Planned Parenthood, this usual answer is overlaid with other, equally nasty issues, including — or so I’d say — a substantial infusion of misogyny.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Most Americans are, I believe, far more generous than the politicians leading many of our states. The problem is that too many of us don’t vote in state and local elections, or realize how much cruelty is being carried out in our name. The point is that America would become a better place if more of us started paying attention to politics beyond the presidential race.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Spain: A Country With No Government

MADRID — On Jan. 2, 1492, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon — known as the Catholic Monarchs — occupied Granada, completing their conquest of Moorish Spain. Ever since, Spain has always had a government — and occasionally two, when Napoleon invaded in 1808, and during the 1936 to 1939 civil war that split it. But never during those more than five centuries was it ever without any. That is, until Dec. 20 last year, when elections failed to give any party the majority needed to form a government and all attempts at a coalition failed.


Juan Gabriel, Mexican Superstar Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 66 - The New York Times

Juan Gabriel, Mexican Superstar Singer-Songwriter, Dies at 66 - The New York Times:

"MEXICO CITY — Juan Gabriel, a superstar Mexican songwriter and singer who was an icon in the Latin music world, died Sunday at his home in California at age 66, his publicist said."

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Appendix to Chapter 5 from The Physics of Life by Adrian Bejan

Animal weight moves rhythmically, in such a way that it achieves a balance
between two expenditures of useful energy: lifting weight on the vertical, and
overcoming drag while progressing on the horizontal.

If the animal is modeled as a body with a single length scale( L ), then its
mass is of order of  . During each cycle the body performs work in
the vertical direction (  ) and in the horizontal direction (  ). The vertical
work is necessary to lift the body to a height of order L .


The horizontal work is necessary so that the body penetrates the surrounding medium.

 ≈  ,      (2)

where  is the drag force,  is the density of the medium and  is
the distance traveled during one cycle. The drag coefficient  is essentially
constant, and is comparable with 1 . The work spent per distance traveled is


The timescale of the cycle is the time of free fall from a height of order L , namely  . The horizontal travel during the cycle is , and Eq. (3)


This sum is minimal when V reaches the speed


Equation (5) is valid as a scale, i.e. in an order of magnitude sense. It is
obtained most directly by using the method of intersecting the asymptotes,
which means to set the two terms of Eq. (4) equal to each other. It can
also be obtained by differentiatig the right side of Eq. (4) with respect to V ,
setting the resulting expression equal to zero, solving for V and neglecting
factors of order 1 , in accord with the method of scale analysis. The frequency
of body movement is  , or


The body force is determined by the work done vertically,  ,
which is the same as the potential energy at the end of the lifting motion,
 , therefore

     F ≈ Mg   (7)

The work per distance traveled is obtained by substituting Eq. (5) and
 into Eq. (4),

The modifying factor  plays a role similar to the friction coefficient
μ during sliding or rolling, and depends on the medium. For flying, the air
density  is roughly equal to  , and the factor  is close to 1/10 .
For swimming, the medium density (water) is essentially the same as the body
density, and the factor is one. For running,  is between 1/10
and 1 , and depends on the running surface and  air drag. Running through
snow, mud and sand is represented by a  value close to 1 . Running
fast on a dry surface is represented more closely by a factor  that is
similar to flying.

In summary,  is of order 1 , and can be omitted in Eqs. (5), (6)
and (8). Important is that  differentiates between locomotion media
in a certain, unmistakable direction:

(a) If M is fixed, the speeds (5) increase in the direction sea → land → air.

(b) The work requirement (8) decreases in the same direction.

The history of the spreading of animal movement on earth points in the
same time direction: both time sequences, (a) and (b), are in accord with
the constructal law. The animal speeds collected over the 
(cf. figure 4.6) confirm the differentiating effect that the surrounding medium
had on the spreading of animal movement.

All these discoveries of design in animal movement can be expressed in
terms of the body length scale


instead of the body mass M , or body weight M g . For example, by eliminating M between Eqs. (5) and (9) we obtain


A larger animal or athlete ( M ) means a taller body ( L ), and a taller body means a faster body. Because the leading factor  is of order 1 for
swimming and running, the speed-height formula becomes


This is the same as Galileo Galilei's formula for the speed of an object
that hits the ground after falling from the height  . Stones dropped from
the Tower of Pisa hit the ground faster than stones dropped from my hand.
Equation (11) is the same as the formula for the speed of a water wave of
length scale (height) L . Bigger waves move horizontally faster. Compare the
speed of the waves in your teacup with the speed of a tsunami.

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