[syndicated profile] improbable_research_feed

Posted by Martin Gardiner

“Currently, consumers’ concerns and consciousness about safety and nutritiousness of food consumptions are increasing. Fresh and fresh-like products have become more attractive in the market than the same kind of products produced by heat process.”

But heating isn’t the only method to preserve, say, rice pudding – you could pulse 33,000 volts though it instead. A joint US / Turkey / Thai investigation in 2008 did just that – with promising results. The team developed their own rice-pudding recipe (see diagram) and then exposed it to Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) treatment – the results of which showed that the pudding’s shelf life could be considerably extended whilst maintaining its fresh-like appearance.

See: PULSED ELECTRIC FIELD PROCESSING OF FORMULATED RICE PUDDING by P. RATANATRIWONG, G. AKDEMIR EVRENDILEK and Q.H. ZHANG in the Journal of Food Safety, 28, (2008) 126–141.

Notes:

• The diagram above is a pie chart of a rice pudding.

• The research project was funded by the U.S. Army Natick RD&E Center.

Joint statement from AA and the IHEU

Aug. 17th, 2017 11:30 am
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

David Silverman of American Atheists and Andrew Copson of the International Humanist and Ethical Union have issued a statement on the raging racism in America. They’re against it.

That these people feel emboldened to march and protest in 2017 in the United States sickens us. Their views are reprehensible, their actions are abhorrent, and they have no place in our civil society. We stand in solidarity with the targets of the hatred espoused by these white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

As many have said, bigotry in America in 2017 isn’t just people in white hoods and robes. It’s people who are our neighbors, coworkers, and even government officials engaged in subtle acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and religious hated. It is our obligation as humanists and as citizens of this nation—and indeed the world—to fight this bigotry at every turn.

Silence is not an option. Anyone who does not forcefully and unequivocally condemn the bigotry of these people is complicit in their actions.

Our thoughts and support are with those who have been injured in Charlottesville and the families of the people who lost their lives. We must remember that this violence didn’t start and won’t end in Charlottesville. We must be prepared to confront it across the nation wherever we find it.

I’m glad that they condemn not just the angry men and women with clubs and shields, chanting slogans about Jews, but also the silent complicity of the majority. It’s also interesting because many of the alt-right are atheists or agnostics; Richard Spencer, for example, is openly atheist.

I would say it is definitely a young movement. I’d say that it is predominantly white millennial men. It is not sort of stereotypically conservative in its profile. I’d say that probably it is a more secular population than the country overall. That is, there are a lot of agnostics and atheists or people who are just generally indifferent to religion. And I think that it is a fairly well-educated movement on average, that as I think that probably the model alt-right member has at least some college education.

So we like to argue that religion does not instill any sense of morality in people, and it doesn’t. That claim is supported by the fact that while so many corporate people resigned from Trump’s business advisory council over his fascism that he dissolved it, but no one from his evangelical council (here’s a list of some of the most horrible people in America) have taken a similar step. They’re more interested in praising Trump’s appalling responses.

However, that religious leaders are propping up racism does not mean that all believers are racist, nor does the fact that many racists are atheists mean that the atheist organization leaders are racist; it also does not imply that Nazi atheists are not True™ Atheists. What it means is that there is an additional piece of the puzzle of what makes for a good human being beyond their beliefs about a deity, and that many Christians, Muslims, and Nones are lacking that piece…and that one of the roles of any organization that intends to be a lasting, positive contributor to our society’s well being ought to include ethical principles as an essential component.

Keep in mind that while the religiously indifferent showed up in Charlottesville with clubs and shields and anger, many of the nuclei of resistance were centered around religious institutions in the city. It’s great that American Atheists is speaking out in opposition, but we also need to have atheist representatives who travel to these trouble spots and link arms with the principled clergy. We’ve got lines of men and women in funny robes forming barriers to white nationalists, and we need outspoken atheists who stand in solidarity with them. Otherwise, we cede ethical leadership to the religious.

We also need to own the godless folk within the alt-right. We cannot effectively repudiate them if our first response is to deny the fact that there are a great many deplorable atheists, and if we fail to include a moral dimension in our philosophy.

Interesting Links for 17-08-2017

Aug. 17th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Episode 1536: Dropping His Guard

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:11 am
[syndicated profile] darths_and_droids_feed

Episode 1536: Dropping His Guard

aurilee writes:

I wonder how Bria expects K-2 to do her laundry on a desert planet? Sandblasting? Lay the clothes out in the sun and have them disinfected by the UV rays? Some sort of space-dry-cleaning-apparatus that their ship comes equipped with? Maybe they're near a moisture farm?

And how do people on Tatooine typically do their laundry anyway? Dry cleaning is expensive, and I imagine that the moisture from moisture farms is dedicated to things like making alcoholic beverages.

Luke's outift in IV was not nearly dirty enough to have never been laundered... mysteries abound.

K-2, meanwhile, continues to be awesome. I hope he gets to slaughter people soon. Maybe some Jawas will try to ambush the ship.

Of course, since he's a rogue droid... he may not have any particular loyalties to Cassian. Perhaps he'll just decide to head into the city on a rampage.

I do wonder about that "here we go again" line. Is this a Noodle Incident we'll never learn about? Further reason to have a K-2 movie clearly.

— aurilee

Keybounce writes:

Sally, this is turning into one of those plans. You know, a plan where you have to kill everyone? They are not good plans.

Now, exporting sand? Or perhaps a sand by-product. I'm still going with the space navigation spice idea, that would make a good export and that hovering star destroyer probably consumes a lot of it.

And I like how the GM's character has to remind them that the city is not the enemy! No more Episode I plot hijinks. But I love how that same GM character treats a droid so poorly—remember, this is well after Episode I's "We must thank this droid that saved us", "droids are human too" culture—as to treat a PC as an NPC maid/servant.

Oh, wait... It's an NPC treating a PC the way PC's treat NPC's. Ahh. Now it makes sense. How often do your PCs treat important NPCs as little more than scenery to be ordered around?

Now, a technicality to note: Panel 3, the focus is on the droid. The people are out of focus, fuzzy—the droid is the important person in the scene!

The Droid. Is Important. The people are not.

(Not just panel 3. Look at the lovely focus in panel 5, compared to all the others. Heck, panels 7 and 8. Anytime the attention is on the droid, it's well-focused; anytime the attention is on the people, it's poorly focused or out of focus.)

This feels to me like an important "what to expect later in the movie". If we are going to have a TPK, and we see that the droid is important, will the final action be a transmission from one droid to another—Sally's droid sending the data off to Pete's droid just before dying—with Sally's droid being the last man standing? ... Err, K-something or other. What's that droid name again? (check ... #1532 is the last published strip and doesn't have their names. Looking at my old emails ... K-2so. Or is to K-2s0? Letter, or number? And does this name have any significance? Any puns? Keso - isn't that "cheese" in Spanish? Hey, Google "cheese in spanish" - Google knows how to translate, and it's not spelled that way. So much for Spanish being "it's spelled how its sounds" like a teacher insisted... 38 years ago?)

— Keybounce

Transcript

The Blood is the Life for 17-08-2017

Aug. 17th, 2017 11:00 am
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“it’s afraid!”

Aug. 16th, 2017 07:14 pm
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

A big-mouthed bully is afraid!

Oh, sorry. Wrong video.

That’s Christopher Cantwell, an American Nazi, blubbering in fear because there might be a warrant out for his arrest over the mess in Charlottesville. He claims they have done everything in their power to keep things peaceful, by which he means that they went through all the paperwork for their anti-semitic, anti-black hate march…not that their intent was peaceful.

With a sneer in his voice, he whines about Chelsea Manning.

Chelsea Manning, this tranny fanatic, has a picture of himself — herself — talking about curbstomping Nazis, with a picture of this boot coming down on somebody.

You mean this?

Terrifying. Then, weirdly, he goes on and on about his gun.

If I was a violent guy you would have heard about it by now.

Oh, OK, I guess we would have, guy who has a page on his behavior at the SPLC.

[M]y goal here is to normalize racism, he explained to Hatewatch in one of two interviews for this profile. I’m going to make a commercial enterprise out of saying things that people want to make illegal. I’m going to make a whole fucking bunch of money doing it. Anybody who gets in my way is going to find themselves in a very long list of people who regretted underestimating me.

My proposal, and in all honesty, I’m still working out the details, has been to resort to force. For free men and women to forcefully defend themselves against agents of the State. To kill government agents who would otherwise use force against them, until their jobs simply become so dangerous that they seek other lines of work.

It’s the right thing to be concerned about the immigration, because you see these fucking hordes of unwashed religious fanatics pouring across borders with no resources just thinking that they’re going to collect welfare and fuck our women and fucking breed us put of existence. That makes me want to bash people’s skulls open, I understand.

I’m carrying a pistol, I go to the gym all the time, I’m trying to make myself more capable of violence.

And now he’s terrified, as terrified as the black people, the Hispanic people, the gay people, the transgender people, the Jews, all the people he has tried to terrorize.

Feels good. Cry some more.

And do turn yourself in to the police and clear up your status. I don’t think you’ll have any problems, you’re white.

[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

This is just odd. From WorldNewsDailyReport, a clickbait fake news site (hence no link), comes a story a lot of people are repeating.

Petersburg, KY | A leading paleontologist claims he has found evidence linking homosexuality and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Anthony Othman, a renowned paleontologist and leading curator at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, firmly believes homosexuality, and not an asteroid colliding with Earth as is commonly believed, was the main cause of the disappearance of the dinosaurs more than 66 million years ago.

His evidence? He claims to have found a group of velociraptors that are all male, and to have selected for homosexuality in iguanas and found they lost all interest in heterosexuality in 3 or 4 generations. All made-up nonsense.

But here’s what I found odd. There are no leading paleontologists working at the Creation “Museum”. There is no one named Anthony Othman working there. The picture at the top of the page is this one, on the left; the one on the right is a photo of creationist Mark Armitage:

So even Answers in Genesis is targeted by fake news!

Also obviously fake because no AiG spokesperson would say the dinosaurs lived 66 million years ago (the Earth is less than ten thousand years old, silly), and while they might hate homosexuality as much as this imaginary guy, they know the dinosaurs disappeared in The Flood, except for the few that were on the big wooden boat, who went extinct when medieval knights hunted them down.

[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

I have been receiving complaints from readers and other bloggers for months — and recent posts praising Fox News and blaming black Americans for racism were the final straw. We do have an ethos here, laid out plainly.

We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism, and in addition, we recognize that the nonexistence of deities entails a greater commitment to human values, and in particular, an appreciation of human diversity and equality.

We are for feminism, against racism, for diversity, against inequity.

It’s a general sentiment, but if you can’t meet any of it, you don’t belong here. We’ve been agonizing over rejecting Anjuli Pandavar all summer long, and the consensus of the active members of the FtB community was that her continued presence was a betrayal of our principles.

[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Sitting in the middle of our Milky Way galaxy is a monster black hole. And by “middle,” I mean the exact center of the galaxy; it probably formed at the same time as the galaxy, itself, billions of years ago, and grew large as the galaxy did, too. It sits right there at the core, like a drain in the middle of a vast bathtub, mostly minding its own business but occasionally eating the odd star or gas cloud.

We think every big galaxy has one of these supermassive black holes in their hearts. Mostly, those are detected because they have disks of gas swirling madly around them, and observations can detect the motion of the gas via the Doppler shift as it orbits (we don’t usually see the disks themselves, which are too small).

But our galaxy is different. We’re in it, so we’re close to the black hole, and we have a better view. Not too close; we’re still halfway out to the edge of the galaxy, so we’re safe! But there are a few dozen stars that orbit the black hole far more closely, and because of our closer seat we can actually see them move as they do!

As an aside, this is one of the all-time coolest things I know about astronomy. It takes the Sun over two hundred million years to circle the galaxy once, but these stars are so close to the center, so close to the black hole, that they only take decades. That means that we can literally see them move year after year:

 

Scientifically, this is a very big deal. We’ve known for centuries that if you can observe an object orbiting a more massive object, you can calculate the mass of that second object. If you know the first object’s orbital velocity (how fast it’s moving as it goes around) you can also calculate the distance to them.

So, if we observe the stars orbiting that black hole in the center of the Milky Way (astronomers call it Sgr A*, literally pronounced “Sagittarius A star” or “Saj A star” if you feel more informal about it), we can, in principle, figure out the mass of the black hole and our distance from it.

Actual observation showing the central part of our galaxy. The black hole is invisible but marked by a cross. The star S2 is indicated. Credit: ESO/MPE/S. Gillessen et al.

Actual observation showing the central part of our galaxy. The black hole is invisible but marked by a cross. The star S2 is indicated. Credit: ESO/MPE/S. Gillessen et al.

 

 

Not that that’s easy...but it’s been done. Powerful telescopes observing in the infrared (to make it easier to see the stars through all the dust and muck toward the center of the galaxy) have been able to watch these stars in their orbits, and also measure their Doppler shifts. That gives their velocities, too.

Using this method, we’ve been able to measure the mass of the black hole as being around 4 million times that of the Sun, and its distance as about 26,000 light years.

As amazing as that is, a team of astronomers decided they might be able to do more.

One of the stars orbiting the black hole is called S2. Its orbit brings it pretty close to Sgr A*, a hair-raising 18 billion kilometers, the equivalent of four times the distance from the Sun to Neptune. When it’s at that point in its orbit it’s screaming through space at the colossal speed of 6000 kilometers per second, 0.02 times the speed of light.

This is so close to the black hole that Einsteinian relativistic effects can kick in. There are quite a few, but one, in particular, is very interesting. If an object is in an elliptical orbit around something massive, the orientation of that ellipse will rotate over time. In other words, if you draw a line through the long axis of the ellipse, that line will rotate a little bit every time the object orbits. The effect is strongest at periapsis, the point when the orbiting object is closest to the object it orbits.

We actually have measured this effect; Mercury’s orbit does this. The effect is tiny, and difficult to measure, because the Sun isn’t very massive (in the relativistic sense) and mercury doesn’t get that close. But we do see it, and it’s exactly as Einstein’s equations of General Relativity predict.

This new team of astronomers thought that perhaps they could see this effect as the star S2 orbits Sgr A*. They looked at the observational data from 2002 (when S2 was last at periapsis) to 2015 and found that S2 maybe, barely, shows this effect. Their results certainly are at least consistent with what Einstein predicted.

orbits of stars around Sgr A*

The positions of three stars (including S2) orbiting Sgr A* over time (symbols) and the calculated orbits (solid lines; dashed lines are where the orbit has been extrapolated from known data). The black hole is marked by a short line, representing its motion (actually a reflection of the motion of the Sun as it orbits the galaxy). Credit: Parsa et al.

 

That’s amazing. This has never been seen on this scale, before. And while their results are a touch iffy, we’ll know better soon enough: S2 reaches periapsis once again sometime between April and July 2018 (the orbital characteristics aren’t perfectly known, so there’s a bit of uncertainty there). During that time, telescopes will be peering intently at the center of our galaxy, very carefully measuring the position of the star.

...and a few others. S2 is just the nearest bright star to Sgr A*. There’s another that’s closer but fainter, and harder to get accurate positions for it, but quite a few other stars have been seen orbiting the black hole as well. The team looked at them too, and by calculating their orbits were able to narrow down the mass and distance to the black hole: 4.15 million times the mass of the Sun, and at a distance from us of 26,700 light years (with some small uncertainties).

Again being able to do this is, quite simply, incredible, in the awe-inspiring sense of the word. Scientifically, it’s amazing enough; we know that there are characteristics of these supermassive black holes that seem to correlate with the galaxy around them (the way stars orbit the center, for example, seems to scale with the mass of the black hole), so being able to nail down the mass and distance our own local supermassive beastie is stunning.

But the fact of the matter is that it’s astonishing that we can do this at all. This is a ridiculously finicky set of observations coupled with ridiculously complicated mathematics describing the overall shape and character of space itself.

Yet, we can make these observations, and we can apply that math, and we can couple them to discover what a hole in spacetime 260 quadrillion kilometers away is doing as it tosses around multiple-octillion ton stars.

Why do we do this? Because we’re curious. Because we’re smart. Because we want to discover, and, most importantly, to understand.

This has driven us to investigate the Universe, itself...and to know our place in it.

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Artwork depicting three stars and their orbits around Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way. Credit: ESO/M. Parsa/L. Calçada

Way to go, Baltimore

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:55 am
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

Quietly, in the dead of night, the city of Baltimore took down their confederate monuments. A statue of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson was removed, as well as…

Other statues being removed included the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women’s Monument on West University Parkway and the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place.

Wait — they had a monument to Roger Taney? This Roger Taney?

[African Americans] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it.

What took so long, and why was such a slap in the face to American citizens put up in the first place?

Vienna: Tiergarten Schoenbrunn

Aug. 16th, 2017 01:27 pm
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[personal profile] nanila
Fish
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.

The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.

Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.

Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.

It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).

We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!

Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.

Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.

It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.

Further photos beneath the cut.
+++ )

Radio silence

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:10 am
[syndicated profile] charlie_stross_diary_feed

Hi! Apologies for the long hiatus. I've been kind of preoccupied, with a funeral in the family and then a world science fiction convention in Helsinki, but I'm finally home and trying to get back to some semblance of normal.

In the meantime, some news:

If you're in the United States and read ebooks, The Rhesus Chart is currently discounted to $1.99. (The link goes to Amazon.com but it should be the same price on iBooks and the Google Play store and Kobo. It's probably also at this price in Canada, but not in the UK or Europe--different publishers in different territories.) If you haven't tried the Laundry Files, this book isan entrypoint: why not give it a try?

Tonight, August 16th, I'm appearing at the Edinburgh Book festival with Nnedi Okorafor, Jo Walton, and Ken Macleod. We'll be at the Studio Theatre from 7:15pm; it's a ticketed event from the main book festival box office.

And on Friday August 18th, I'll be back at the book festival for a discussion with Nalo Hopkinson, Ken MacLeod, and Ada Palmer: we'll e at Bosco Theatre (on George Street) from 6:30pm, and again, it's a ticketed event.

And finally, the big news: my space opera, Ghost Engine, is being rescheduled for 2019; instead, July 2018 should see publication of The Labyrinth Index, the ninth Laundry Files novel! Publishers will be Orbit in the UK and Tor in the USA (this being the New Normal for the Laundry Files). This change has been in the works for a few months, but I didn't want to pre-announce it until I had it nailed down. (In a nutshell: Ghost Engine was too ambitious to finish on my original schedule, and The Labyrinth Index was growing more and more timely, until they just crossed over.)

Interesting Links for 16-08-2017

Aug. 16th, 2017 12:00 pm
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The Blood is the Life for 16-08-2017

Aug. 16th, 2017 11:00 am
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[personal profile] miss_s_b

Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

Aug. 15th, 2017 09:40 pm
[syndicated profile] feministing_feed

Posted by Juliana Britto Schwartz

A not-so-gentle reminder: white women, this moment is not about your brand.

After failing to condemn violent white nationalists, Trump is ‘seriously considering’ a pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

California’s AB 638 would criminalize immigration consultants who provide accessible immigration services for people filing their immigration papers. Learn more here.

CeCe McDonald and BCRW put together a video on Ky Peterson, “Survived and Punished.” Ky is asking people to join in a letter-writing campaign to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. Sign Ky’s petition, get information about the letter-writing campaign, and follow Ky’s case at freeingky.com.

Everything you need to know about Taylor Swift’s day in court: “Swift’s argument was that by countersuing Mueller, she was making it easier for other, less powerful women to punish the men who think they have a right to their bodies.”

 

 

 

 

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