Tag Archives: institution

Knowledge in a Nutshell: Quantum Physics – Sten Odenwald


Knowledge in a Nutshell: Quantum Physics

The complete guide to quantum physics, including wave functions, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and quantum gravity

Sten Odenwald

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: May 1, 2020

Publisher: Arcturus Publishing

Seller: Arcturus Publishing Limited

Quantum theory is at the heart of modern physics, but how does it actually work?  NASA scientist and communicator Sten Odenwald demystifies the subject and makes this crucial topic accessible to everyone. Featuring topics such as Schrodinger's cat, the wave-particle duality and the newly emerging theories of quantum gravity, as well as the personalities behind the science, such as Max Planck, Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Richard Feynman and many more,  Knowledge in a Nutshell: Quantum Physics  provides an essential introduction to cutting edge science.  Presented in an easy-to-understand format, with diagrams, illustrations and simple summary sections at the end of each chapter, this new addition to the 'Knowledge in a Nutshell' series brings clarity to some of the great mysteries of physics. ABOUT THE SERIES:  The 'Knowledge in a Nutshell' series by Arcturus Publishing provides engaging introductions to many fields of knowledge, including philosophy, psychology and physics, and the ways in which human kind has sought to make sense of our world. Sten Odenwald  is the Director of the STEM Resource Development project at NASA, a long-time astronomer and he is passionate about promoting science education. Over the course of his career, he has taught at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution, he has appeared on TV for National Geographic and has written numerous articles for magazines ranging from Astronomy magazine to Scientific American. He also runs the blog 'The Astronomy Café', where he seeks to bring cosmology and astronomy to a wider audience.


Knowledge in a Nutshell: Quantum Physics – Sten Odenwald

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One of the populations most vulnerable to climate change is locked up in the path of Hurricane Florence

Mei Lo attended the Global Climate Action Summit to call attention to the inmates who couldn’t be here. She passed out flyers and asked activists to make phone calls to put pressure on prisons in the path of Hurricane Florence that have refused to evacuate.

“Prisons, jails, detentions centers, and juvenile centers are all on the frontlines of climate change,” the Bloc the Juvi organizer said. “In all the ways we experience climate change out here, [inmates] experience those impacts to a more magnified degree.” Her group is working to stop the construction of a juvenile detention center in Seattle.

During Hurricane Harvey, prisoners who were not evacuated from Beaumont federal prison rode out the storm in cells flooded with sewage water without adequate food, water, or medicine. Grist called MacDougall Correctional Institution Friday afternoon and confirmed that the medium-security prison with a capacity to hold more than 650 men has not evacuated. Despite the South Carolina prison being in evacuated Dorchester County, MacDougall does not have any plans to evacuate.

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Being in the path of a record-breaking hurricane is just one of the dangers inmates face in a warming world. Texas just settled a lawsuit and agreed to install air conditioners in its prisons. During a 2011 heat wave, 10 inmates died from heat stroke. More cases of inmates with heat-related illnesses were reported there this summer.

And inmates are often at the forefront of battling climate change’s worst effects. Thousands of inmate firefighters faced blazes in California for as little as $2 a day plus $1 for every hour they were actively fighting a fire.

A National Prison Strike overlapped with the Peoples’ Climate March and ended just days before the start of the summit in San Francisco. The strike encompassed 10 demands, which included improving conditions inside prisons and calling for prison laborers (such as those who fight fires) to be paid the prevailing wage in their state. Although the national strike was scheduled to end last weekend, inmates have continued to strike in some prisons.

“There are a limited number of things that prisoners have an option to do in regards to addressing the conditions of their confinement,” said Panagioti Tsolkas, an organizer with the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, adding that prisoners are barred from voting in all but two states. “They’re so limited to options that some basic level of disruption in order to attract attention is one of the few things that remain.”

Speaking at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the man widely regarded as the “father of environmental justice” reminded his audience of one of the underpinnings of the movement he spurred. Those who are most impacted by climate change “must be in the room and they must be at the table to speak for themselves” said Robert Bullard, distinguished professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy.

Yet after three decades of uplifting the voices of low-income, indigenous, and communities of color, there’s still so much work to be done, said Bullard. As he spoke, one of the groups facing the greatest danger from climate change — incarcerated people — are far from having a voice at the summit. Instead, they’re sitting ducks literally locked into place in the path of a super storm intensified by climate change.


One of the populations most vulnerable to climate change is locked up in the path of Hurricane Florence

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EPA employees speak out about the agency’s problems under Trump.

Two years ago, a paper came out arguing that America could cheaply power itself on wind, water, and solar energy alone. It was a big deal. Policy makers began relying on the study. A nonprofit launched to make the vision a reality. Celebrities got on board. We named the lead author of the study, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson, one of our Grist 50.

Now that research is under scrutiny. On Monday, 21 scientists published a paper that pointed out unrealistic assumptions in Jacobson’s analysis. For instance, Jacobson’s analysis relies on the country’s dams releasing water “equivalent to about 100 times the flow of the Mississippi River” to meet electricity demand as solar power ramps down in the evening, one of the critique’s lead authors, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, told the New York Times.

Jacobson immediately fired back, calling his critics “nuclear and fossil fuel supporters” and implying the authors had sold out to industry. This is just wrong. These guys aren’t shills.

It’s essentially a family feud, a conflict between people who otherwise share the same goals. Jacobson’s team thinks we can make a clean break from fossil fuels with renewables alone. Those critiquing his study think we need to be weaned off, with the help of nuclear, biofuels, and carbon capture.

Grist intends to take a deeper look at this subject in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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EPA employees speak out about the agency’s problems under Trump.

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CBO Agrees: Trumpcare Wipes Out Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions

Mother Jones

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Earlier this month I passed along a note from Matthew Fiedler of the Brookings Institution. Long story short, he suggested that the Republican health care bill would do more than eliminate community rating only for folks who failed to maintain continuous coverage.1 He theorized that once a separate set of rates was set up, insurers could open it up to anyone. Since this second rate schedule would be medically underwritten—i.e., based on health status—it would be very cheap for young, healthy folks. In the end, healthy consumers would all gravitate to the medically-underwritten rates while unhealthy consumers would be stuck with the higher community-rated prices. Over time, the difference between these rates would grow, which means that anyone with a pre-existing condition would end up paying much higher rates than similar healthy people.

This was an interesting suggestion, but since then I haven’t heard anyone else support Fiedler’s argument. Until today, that is. AHCA allows states to apply for waivers from two provisions of Obamacare. The first is the requirement to provide essential health benefits. The Congressional Budget Office describes the other waiver:

A second type of waiver would allow insurers to set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status if the person had not demonstrated continuous coverage; that is, the waiver would eliminate the requirement for what is termed community rating for premiums charged to such people. CBO and JCT anticipate that most healthy people…would be able to choose between premiums based on their own expected health care costs (medically underwritten premiums) and premiums based on the average health care costs…(community-rated premiums).

….CBO and JCT expect that, as a consequence, the waivers in those states would have another effect: Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all….As a result, the nongroup markets in those states would become unstable for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs.

So the CBO expects precisely the result that Fiedler predicted. This is genuinely big news and deserves wider reporting. For all practical purposes, AHCA eliminates the requirement that insurers charge the same rates to everyone, even those with pre-existing conditions. They still can’t flatly turn you down, but they can do the next best thing: make insurance so expensive for those with pre-existing conditions that most people can’t afford it. That’s especially harmful since the subsidies under AHCA are so skimpy.

This provision of AHCA has no direct budgetary impact, so it ought to get tossed out by the Senate parliamentarian.2 We’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.

1“Community rating” is the requirement that everyone pays the same price for insurance, even if they have a pre-existing condition.

2AHCA is being passed as a reconciliation bill. These bills are only allowed to address issues that directly affect the federal budget.

Original article – 

CBO Agrees: Trumpcare Wipes Out Protections for Pre-Existing Conditions

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How Should We Respond to the Turkish Assault in Washington DC?

Mother Jones

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Last week, a bunch of security goons working for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan waded into a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Washington DC and started beating up the protesters. A few days ago, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump made a pretty good case that Erdogan did more than just watch as this happened. He actually ordered his guards to attack. Rich Lowry has the right response:

This is second offense for the Turks. A year ago, they beat up protesters and disfavored journalists outside an Erdogan talk at the Brookings Institution in Washington. One reporter wrote of that earlier incident, “Never seen anything like this.” If you hang around President Erdogan long enough, though, you’ll see it all.

….The Trump administration is obviously not putting an emphasis on promoting our values abroad. But it’s one thing not to go on a democratizing crusade; it’s another to shrug off an assault on the rights of protesters on our own soil. If nothing else, President Donald Trump’s nationalism and sense of honor should be offended. Not only did the Turks carry out this attack, they are thumbing their noses at us by summoning our ambassador over it.

The Turkish goons who punched and kicked people should be identified and charged with crimes. They are beyond our reach, either because they are back in Turkey or have diplomatic immunity. But we should ask for them to be returned and for their immunity to be waived. When these requests are inevitably refused, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. (heard saying during the incident, “You cannot touch us”) should be expelled.

It’s obvious that Turkey is a delicate problem. On the one hand, they’re a NATO member, and their location makes them a critical player in the war against ISIS. On the other hand, Erdogan is steadily converting Turkey into a totalitarian state. In the real world, sometimes you overlook this because you need allies and you don’t always have the option of choosing someone who’s pure and unsullied. But even if you accept this, Turkey is on thin ice since the Kurds are also our allies and Turkey interferes pretty seriously with our ability to team up with them. Even from a strictly realist/strategic perspective, our alliance with Turkey comes with a price.

I won’t pretend to have the answer. It’s above my pay grade. But ordering your embassy security to attack protesters in the US who are lawfully and peacefully assembled is a whole different thing. That deserves a strong response even if it might cause strategic tension. Enough’s enough.


How Should We Respond to the Turkish Assault in Washington DC?

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

Mother Jones

Someone asked me on Twitter if health care premiums had spiked after Obamacare went into effect. That turns out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. There’s loads of data on premiums in the employer market, where premium growth has slowed down slightly post-Obamacare, but not much in the individual market, which is where Obamacare has its biggest impact. However, a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution rounded up the best evidence for pre-Obamacare premiums and compared it to premiums in 2014-17, when Obamacare was in effect. Here it is:

Premiums dropped in 2014, and are still lower than the trendline from 2009-13. So no, premiums didn’t spike under Obamacare.

Now, there are lots of caveats here. The pre-Obamacare estimates are tricky to get a firm handle on. What’s more, the Obamacare premiums are for the baseline coverage (second-lowest silver plan), while average pre-Obamacare policies might have been more generous in some ways (for example, deductibles and copays).

However, most of the pre/post differences suggest that Obamacare policies are better than the old ones. The old plans had an actuarial value of only 60 percent, while Obamacare silver plans have an actuarial value of 70 percent. The old plans were also limited to very healthy individuals. Obamacare plans are open to everyone. Finally, Obamacare plans mandate a set of essential benefits and place limits on out-of-pocket costs. These and other things suggest that premiums should have gone up under Obamacare.

But even with all these improvements, premiums still went down, and they haven’t caught up yet. Bottom line: Average premiums in the individual market went down after Obamacare took effect, and they’re still lower than they would have been without Obamacare.

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

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Victory! The New York Times called a denier a denier.

That’s according to a new report from the Brookings Institution, which says a decoupling of economic growth from CO2 emissions shows that it is indeed possible to have your cake (aka money) and eat it too (aka less pollution).

Brookings Institute

As Brookings put it: “President-elect Trump’s notion of an opposition between economic growth and environmental stewardship appears to be a false one.”

On average, the states that separated economic growth from emissions saw their GDPs rise by 22 percent while cutting CO2 by 12 percent between 2000 and 2014. States where emissions rose saw GDP rise too, by an average of 32 percent, but that figure might have been lower if Brookings had been able to analyze more recent data, as oil, gas, and coal prices have fallen in the last couple of years, hurting the economies of fossil fuel–producing states.

Going forward, all states need to do better — national emissions must drop 4.3 percent a year from now till 2030 to be on track to avert the worst of global warming. The good news is that even if the federal government isn’t helping, states and cities have a lot of power to cut carbon via renewable energy targets, energy-efficiency efforts, building codes, and more.

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Victory! The New York Times called a denier a denier.

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This Ted Cruz Endorser Would Have Sent Married Gay Couples to Jail

Mother Jones

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One of Ted Cruz’s supporters in Wisconsin once stood up for the idea that gay couples who married in another state should be sent to prison—and be fined hefty sums.

Back in 2008, when California legalized same-sex marriage (before Proposition 8 temporarily ended marriage equality there), same-sex couples in Wisconsin considered heading to California to tie the knot. But there was a hitch. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time, an obscure state law “makes it a crime for Wisconsin residents to enter into marriage in another state if the marriage would be prohibited here.” The law also carried a serious penalty of up to $10,000 and nine months in prison.

And at least one person wanted to see that law enforced against gay Wisconsin couples who married elsewhere. “If it were challenged and the courts decided to basically wink at it, and refused to enforce the law, we have a problem,” Julaine Appling, who led the Wisconsin Family Council, said at the time.

Appling, now president of Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative Christian group, was dubbed “the most important social conservative” by the Capital Times. Her name appears at the top of a list of 50 evangelical and Catholic Cruz supporters that the campaign released Friday ahead of the April 5 primary in the state.

Appling has a long history of fighting marriage equality. She supported passage of a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2006. And in 2009, she was behind a lawsuit to block a Wisconsin domestic partnership law to grant same-sex couples some of the benefits married couples received. Appling called the law “an assault on the people, the state constitution, the democratic process, and the institution of marriage.”

The conservative crusader wants to not only stop gay couples from marrying, but also keep straight couples from separating. In 2014, she told the Capital Times that she wanted the state to pass laws to encourage relationship counseling and discourage divorce by lengthening the waiting period for obtaining a divorce.

And she is no fan of Donald Trump. In February, she signed on to an open letter to the Republican front-runner from social conservatives asking questions like “How will you make America great when you’ve run businesses associated with increased crime, bankruptcies, broken marriages and suicides?” and “What would you say to young girls and women who are concerned about a president who is directly connected with the exploitation of women?”

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This Ted Cruz Endorser Would Have Sent Married Gay Couples to Jail

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It’s True: Smart People Would Prefer You Went Away

Mother Jones

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Most people are happier when they have a lot of social contact. But Christopher Ingraham points to a new paper suggesting an exception to this general rule: smart people, true to stereotype, prefer being left alone. But why?

I posed this question to Carol Graham, a Brookings Institution researcher who studies the economics of happiness. “The findings in here suggest (and it is no surprise) that those with more intelligence and the capacity to use it … are less likely to spend so much time socializing because they are focused on some other longer term objective,” she said.

Think of the really smart people you know. They may include a doctor trying to cure cancer or a writer working on the great American novel or a human rights lawyer working to protect the most vulnerable people in society. To the extent that frequent social interaction detracts from the pursuit of these goals, it may negatively affect their overall satisfaction with life.

To put this a little less nicely, average folks don’t really have anything very interesting or enthralling to do with themselves, so getting interrupted by friends represents a net improvement in their daily lives. Smart people do have enthralling—even obsessive—intellectual interests, and social activities take them away from that. So this represents a net loss in happiness.

(Important note for smart, argumentative people reading this: we’re talking about averages here. There are plenty of extroverted smart people and introverted dumb people. But on average, smart people tend to dislike socializing because it takes them away from work they find more rewarding.)

But back to the paper. The authors, Satoshi Kanazawa and Norman Li, have a different theory about all this: the measured difference in social preferences is all due to the way we evolved way back on the savanna. Back then, they say, you had a much better chance of surviving if you had lots of friends, so we naturally evolved to value having lots of friends. Things have changed since then—cell phones, computers, cities, houses, etc.—and even though evolution hasn’t yet had a chance to adapt to a world where social contact isn’t as important, “extremely intelligent” people can use their sheer brainpower to adapt anyway:

“More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems, may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations,” they write….Smarter people may be better-equipped to jettison that whole hunter-gatherer social network — especially if they’re pursuing some loftier ambition.

This odd thing is that this isn’t really an application of evolutionary psychology, even though the authors are evolutionary psychologists. The hypothesis that humans evolved in hierarchical, medium-sized groups that relied on tight social networks for survival is pretty widely accepted. It’s nothing new. What’s new is the suggestion that smart people can overcome the constraints of cognitive evolution more easily than most people. And that’s not really evolutionary psychology. It’s just regular old psychology, or perhaps regular old neuroscience. It’s pretty likely that this has always been true of smart people, but we just don’t know it. Our social science datasets are shockingly inadequate for dates before 20,000 BCE.

Now, I don’t have access to the paper itself, and it’s possible that the authors address this. The abstract doesn’t give any hint of it, though. For the time being, then, I’ll take this as a fairly banal observation: people with intense intellectual interests value them more highly than social contact, and almost by definition, it’s mostly smart people who have intense intellectual interests. As a refugee from the tech world who dealt with a lot of programmers, and as a blogger who gets annoyed at being interrupted in the middle of writing a post, color me unsurprised.

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It’s True: Smart People Would Prefer You Went Away

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Watch: Obama Rejects GOP Demands, Pledges to Appoint Scalia’s Replacement

Mother Jones

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Defying demands from leading Republicans, President Barack Obama pledged Saturday evening to nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Calling Scalia a “larger than life presence on the bench” and “one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court,” Obama told the nation that “today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy.”

“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” added Obama. “There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They’re bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned.”

Obama’s comments were a thinly veiled rejection of calls by conservative activists and GOP politicians—including presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell (Ky.)—to leave Scalia’s seat vacant until a new president takes office next year.

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Watch: Obama Rejects GOP Demands, Pledges to Appoint Scalia’s Replacement

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