Thursday, January 18, 2018

Yes, "Scientist Burnout" Is A Real Condition


It is interesting that when we read of the exploits of star scientists - like recent Physics Nobel Prize winners - few think of the downsides of scientific success and achievement, namely burnout and even mental health breakdown.  But one recent Physics Today contributor who did is Andrea Welsh - in a May 2017 commentary ('It's Time for Physicists to Talk About Mental Health')  Why is there so little attention especially in the popular scientific press? Well, let's face it, speaking or writing publicly about mental health issues - including in science - has powerful stigmas attached.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I have never in my various tenures at different universities seen colleagues actually crack up. I have seen them under stress, especially in regard to completion of special grant projects, but not actually fall apart. What I have seen is mainly overstressed doctoral students suddenly realizing  they can no longer handle the load and just quitting - even within a year of finishing their Physics Ph.D.

My thinking is here is, good on them for realizing early that pursuing a high profile physics or astronomy research career may not be in their best mental health interest.   They preemptively took steps to avoid conditions that have been accurately described in a more recent (September, 2017) Physics Today Commentary, by Luigi Delle Site, who wrote:

"The highly competitive atmosphere in which scientists work leads to an unrelenting daily race to do more and to do it better. That race sets many up for burnout. Sometimes scientists reach their goals, and those successes fuel their recovery from stress. At other times, because of a lack of time and money or because of unrealistic expectations—theirs or others’—they do not meet their goals. Those cases, lacking the positive feedback of success, can, over time, sap their drive to continue.
Scientists’ jobs require that they do continue—to publish, teach, seek research funding, and participate in meetings around the world—when what they really need is time to stop and recharge. They realize that their absence from any of their career activities could lead to the loss of their reputation and standing in the community. Fear and anxiety begin to dominate their actions and thoughts and may increase to unbearable levels.
When scientists reach the end of their stress tolerance, even the minimal performance required for a small lecture or a local meeting can become a nightmare. They may feel unable to explain even a simple formula to a handful of students; struggle to find the right words; develop anxiety symptoms such as trembling, feeling faint, or experiencing fear and shame; or find that body and mind are not working together. By that time, the decrease in both happiness and the ability to function is well under way: Desperation leads to depression and isolation."

Is he serious? Yes, of course! While I've not seen assorted physics or astronomy professors outright crack in front of me, I have beheld incoherent lectures, inability to explain even basic equations or in fact, having to erase whole boards full of plasma physics equations and start over again.  While this may be allowed as an unusual "one off"  when it becomes a regular occurrence it's time for concern. Concern that the scientist in question may be in over his or her head and needs to recharge - or perhaps rethink one's professional commitments.

Two sources of added stress I've seen rear their ugly heads in the past twenty five years or so are first, teacher evaluations - especially in conjunction with ongoing grade inflation - and second the emergence of sites like "Rate My Professor" where every little dweeb can sound off on a prof he may not like, because he's too tough.

I trace most grade inflation to the idiotic teacher evaluations that emerged around the late 80s. A depressing 2013 study by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, and published in the prestigious Teachers College Record  found that three-fourths of all grades awarded at university level are “A”s or “B”s.

Of course, this makes those As and Bs next to useless precisely because of the very commonality.  But any student with more than air between the ears can extort a high grade out of a prof by merely the veiled threat of giving him a lousy evaluation. Since these evaluations are one of the main instruments used to assess a prof  for promotion or even to remain on permanent staff (as opposed to adjunct) they are critical.

Thus, any dedicated physics or astrophysics researcher who also has to teach a certain minimum number of credit hours, will be under the gun to deliver the fake grades.  And speaking as one to whom this happened, it isn't pleasant when you have to say 'NO!' you won't be forced to deliver what a student hasn't actually earned.  (Nor will you contribute to a perversely skewed grading system that posts fraudulent achievements as actual attained standards.)

An equal source of stress for most university level research scientists is the "publish or perish" syndrome.  The author of the recent Physics Today piece cites "truly talented people ...who fail to fulfill the requirements of the modern professional researcher... and even after basically recovering 'disappear' scientifically."   By that he means they "have minimized their workload to a survival level - but the system leaves no provision to return to a full career."

No, it does not. But that in the end may be the only way for these scientists to retain their mental health. It's either sacrifice the publishing impetus, or their psyches. The publishing aspect is especially tragic given we now know only a handful of people read nearly half of all scientific papers. 

One estimate is that  1.8 million articles  are published each year, in about 28,000 journals. This elicits the question: who actually reads those papers?   According to one 2007 study, half of academic papers are read only by their authors and journal editors. This is nothing short of astounding but makes sense if one gets inside what research scientists actually do, which is to narrow their focus almost exclusively to their specific specialty areas.

When you boil it down further it means that all the pressure to publish - driving mental health issues in too many scientists - amounts to an empty exercise in scientific solipsism. It has to if so few peers are actually reading the material for which hundreds of hours of mental energy were invested.

Prof. Delle Site's prescription for the scientific burnout problem is both humane and pragmatic. He insists his solution isn't to pity those affected or remove them from all responsibility. Instead:

"I am asking that accommodation be made to allow a person with burnout to continue to have a respected position where they can fulfill academic duties according to their current capabilities."

For example, a science staff member who is now too stressed to address an audience - say for a seminar or conference - can assist in doing "behind the scenes" writing or research to prepare the lecture or presentation. In addition "the person could work remotely or take on additional tasks that do not involve the highest job stressors, i.e. tasks such as organizing seminars, correcting student exercises, or doing background research for presentations."

All of these suggestions are worthwhile and ought to be seriously considered.  The problem is whether highly competitive universities with a certain name cachet to live up to, will be so generous as to allow these options. As my dad used to say "that's where the bear sits with the buckwheat."

Let us just say, for now the jury is out.

See also:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Selected Questions -Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (Shadow Lengths, Angles And Times)

Question:  I would like to know at what time/Sun angle over a given place on earth
does the shadow of an object becomes the same length of it? How can I
calculate that?


A very basic relation (along with some simple observations) allows one to
make the calculation you reference, and also determine one's latitude.

That is:

  tan (ALT)  =  H/ L(m)

where 'ALT' is the maximum altitude of the Sun at the location of the
observer, H is the height of a vertical object (assumed to be planted on
flat ground), and L(m) is the (minimum) length of the shadow

By example, say H = 0.5 meters, and L(m) is found to be 0.25 meters (which
would occur at or near astronomical NOON or when the Sun is on the
observer's meridian), then:

tan (ALT) = 0.5/ 0.25 =  2

and LAT = tan ^-1(2) (e.g. LAT = arc tan (2) = 63.4 degrees)

[Side note: we can find the observer's LATITUDE from this IF we know the
Sun's declination on the given day. For example, if we are talking about
the day of the winter solstice (Dec. 23), then the Sun's declination angle
 d = -23.5 degrees.

Then the latitude of the observer would be:

LAT  =  90 + ( - ALT)  = 90 + (-23.5 - 63.4)= 3.1 degrees

That is, the observer is at 3.1 deg North latitude or just above the

Now, when the shadow of the object equals its height at the (same)
observer's location, one will have:

tan (X) =  0.5/ 0.5 =  1

and X = arc tan (1)=  45 degrees

The difference in angles (ALT - X) =

63.4  - 45 =   18.4 degrees

And this will give a rough idea of the time at the location, say if one
divides by 15 degrees (the number of degrees corresponding to one hour of
time, e.g. the Earth rotates through 15 degrees in one hour).

For this case:  18.4/ 15  = 1.227 or about 1 hour and 14 minutes past
noon. (e.g. 1:14 p.m. local mean time)

Donnie Dotard Aces The Montreal Assessment Test? SHOW Me The Video!

(Jabin Botsford/Post)
The "Alzheimer's stare" - readily seen in this image, as pointed out to me by my psychologist niece. She says the chances of Dotard scoring 30/ 30 on a Montreal cognitive assessment test are about the same as a poker  player getting four royal flushes in a row.

It appears that Donnie J. Dotard may well be a "stable genius" after all, at least according to the claims of physician Ronny L. Jackson, who gave him the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test "at the president's own insistence".. See e.g.

Not only that,  but the Dotard evidently put all of those questioning his mental fitness for office to shame by notching a 30 out of 30. In other words a perfect score.

And if you believe that codswallop you are sure to believe any other bullshit Trump or his minders and minions tell you, including that he also just passed the Mensa  membership qualification test.  When I discussed this with my psychologist niece Shayl, her response was twofold: a) "Boy, Trump must really have something on Dr. Ronny Jackson to have him cooperate in this medical fraud."  and b) "The probability of this guy,  who certainly displays Alzheimer's symptoms,  scoring that high are about like a poker player getting four royal flushes in a row."

Why would Shayl exhibit such doubt at the doc's performance?  See e.g.

As she put it:   "It's all about body language and facial expression. The guy is clearly under stress almost like a victim of Stockholm syndrome whose captors are watching his every move. His speech is also hurried, nervous.  He also gives himself away by doing what poor liars always do - over embellishing - saying Trump "is always sharp" and  "could live to be 200 years old!"

Watching the whole performance several times (not just the truncated clip above) I believe her and also for my own reasons. I had to take a similar cognitive test back in 2012.  (In my test I had to name as many animals beginning with the letter 'I' as possible in one minute.) This was before receiving a spinal (epidural) in preparation for my high dose radiation  (brachytherapy) treatment at UCSF, for prostate cancer.  The test is done before the administration of the spinal to determine if there is any cognitive regression following the anesthesia wearing off. (It can sometimes cause significant cognitive impairment in a number of patients who are already at risk.),  I scored a 25 out of 30, not bad but not perfect.  Not like Trump's 100% and hey, I believe I have a language command 100 times greater and a vocabulary to match.

But, of course, if one uses Google one quickly learns a high score in the Montreal Assessment doesn't negate cognitive deficiency nor does a low score (usually below 25) mean one is necessarily cognitively challenged. Thus, one must actually take into consideration an array of ancillary factors, including one's day to day communication skills, level of comprehension, verbal coherence and  capacity for sequential thought. None of which Dotard demonstrates to any degree.

For proof you just have to go through his documented "word salads"  such as revealed by Alex Leo of the Daily Beast. He once  transcribed one sentence Trump delivered at a campaign stop in South Carolina last year, manifesting as a series of dead ends, unfinished thoughts and odd ramblings:
"Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you're a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it's true!—but when you're a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that's why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my, like, credentials all the time, because we're a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it's not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what's going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what's going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it's four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it's all in the messenger, fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don't, they haven't figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so you know, it's gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us."
You read that then tell me with a straight face this guy could suddenly score 30 out of 30 on a cognitive assessment test - and one that HE himself asked for!

And if Dr. Ronny Jackson expects me to believe his claim, then I say produce the  video recording  of Trump taking this test so I can actually see and hear his responses, and time them. (I also want to see a seconds hand clock running in the background to ensure there is no hocus pocus.)  Jackson, like other obvious Trump protectors (e.g. Kirstjen Nielsen in her testimony yesterday, insisting that she heard no "shit hole' comment) has to know most of us can tell when someone is running interference for this maggot and when s/he isn't. The very fact Trump could insist Jackson - before his press appearance  "Tell them everything" - informs me something is rotten to the foundation, given this is coming from a pathological liar.

The fact Jackson would then embellish the health of this dyspeptic cheese burger gobbler by asserting he "could live to be two hundred" tells me he is lying too, right through his teeth.  Shayl is one hundred percent certain he is lying as she is one hundred percent certain Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen perjured herself before the Senate committee yesterday. But as former Obama press secretary Josh Earnest pointed out last night on 'Last Word'  the latter's lies are for more serious because:

"This is somebody whose word and integrity matters. And whose word and integrity has life or death consequences. When you have a person who holds that job and is willing to say things that are obviously not true about something so trivial it inserts a seed of doubt whenever we may hear her talk about something important.

Bingo!  That same applies to Jackson, though to be sure his lies about Trump's health aren't as critical - UNLESS - he is covering up for Dotard's cognitive issues.

Why is the Dotard all of a sudden totally honest and forthcoming? Well, because the goddamned test itself was either bogus or cribbed. In either case no sensible person with more than air between the ears would believe it no matter who it's coming from. It simply doesn't comport with the constellation of evidence that show he is in a phase of severe cognitive decline, including Trump not even recognizing people - known friends - at meetings.  As Shayl put it, one wonders what he has on Rear Adm. Jackson to coerce him to cooperate in this medical PR fraud.   What does he have on Kirstjen Nielsen that she'd flat out lie over a trivial matter like Trump's words at a meeting?

Lawrence O'Donnell last night imputed further health lies to Jackson, in particular Trump not being "obese". Jackson claimed Trump's height to be 6' 3" but O'Donnell showed a comparative image of Jeb Bush - who is actually that height - along side Trump, who is clearly shorter. As Lawrence put it "if Trump was even one inch shorter his BMI would show him to be obese".   He noted also the staff was amazed (as reported in Wolff's book) as "he couldn't even button his suit coat."  Point being if Jackson would lie about these minor items there's little doubt he'd also lie about Trump's  cognitive fitness for office. In like manner if Nielsen lied about Trump's scatological comment I believe she'd also lie about a security threat, e.g. tossing up a red code warning when there is none at all.  Why should I believe her if she lied under oath? Jackson wasn't under oath, but was in front of the press corps. Why the hell should I believe him? Because he's an M.D.? Give me a break!

Hell, don't take my word for these cognitive  claims, or simply concur with my suspicions that this cognitive test was a fraud, a lie.Study  the clip below,

in which David Pakman shows how typical Trump bluster could actually be a sign of progressive dementia. Think this is an exaggeration or hype?  Try to recall  when Trump forgot which country he’d just bombed last spring. (He said "Iraq", it was Syria.)  Also how it just slipped his mind to sign a pair of executive orders during an event created for that explicit purpose.

But this leads me to ask (like Shayl)  what Trump also has on those Republican Senators (e.g. Tom Cotton, David Perdue) as well as Kristjen Nielsen, to cooperate in his web of lies. Has he threatened them with visits from the Russian mob? The same mob - along with Felix Sater- who have bankrolled his rise to infamy?

Michael Smerconiish, in a recent Denver Post op-ed ('Speculation About Donald Trump's Mental Health Is Offensive')   e.g.


"Recently an increasing number feel emboldened to discuss the matter because Michael Wolff’s instant bestseller, “Fire and Fury,” quotes Steve Bannon as saying that Trump has “lost his stuff” and claims that every single person around the president questions his fitness.

Wolff’s words follow the recent release of a book by 27 mental health professionals who expressed their concerns about the president, as evidenced by its title, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump....Even if Trump’s behavior is objectionable — and it often is — none of it is sufficient reason to change what has been the 40-year practice of not armchair-diagnosing a president’s mental state."

The problem here is that Smerconish, while well meaning, is unable to distinguish between "objectionable" behavior and that which is cognitively deficient. Let's concede the problem is that Trump displays both.  For example, his praise of  some of the Nazis marching in Charlottesville as "some very fine people" was objectionable. So was his recent comment: "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” 

On the other hand, repeating himself every ten minutes as documented in Michael Wolff's 'Fire and Fury' book, is a sign of serious cognitive decline. I beheld the same repetition in my own mother who had Alzheimer's (and died of it) as well as Janice's cousin Desmond:

By 2010, he was repeating stories he'd already told us every five or ten minutes. This was during our last visit with him at a private, seaside home in Barbados.

In addition, Trump not being able to recall which country he bombed last spring is a serious indicator of mental debility. A president bombing any nation doesn't just forget which one it is, I don't care how "objectionable"  he acts in other areas.

The reason for the concern, as the contributors to the book 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump' note,  is precisely because of Trump's access to the nuclear codes.  If he then cannot recall which country he bombed  within hours of doing it who's to say he may not recall pressing a sequence of nuclear codes because he "thinks" it's called for, owing to an attack? I mean we just had a bogus missile attack scare in Hawaii. Who is to say that the next time Dotard won't respond with an all out strike unless he's immediately restrained?

Hell, we already know that not only are there cognitive impairment issues in play, but hair trigger fear and anger dynamics as well. (Which can also be part of Alzheimer's).  'Art of the Deal' ghost writer Michael T. Schwarz in the anthology 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump' warns:

"His amygdala is repeatedly triggered...and his prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain that makes us capable of rationality and reflection - shuts down. He reacts rather than reflects - and damn the consequences.  This is what makes his access to the nuclear codes so dangerous and frightening."

Lastly, it is important to recall - including by Dr. Ronny Jackson  - that Alzheimer's already runs in Trump's family. His father Fred was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years before his death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “age, family history and heredity” are the most important risk factors in developing the disease.

What we really need, if Dr. Jackson isn't prepared to present us an actual video of his patient taking this cognitive test in real time, is at least doing a PET (positive emission tomography) scan which would reveal the telltale tangles and amyloid plaques that characterize the disease.  

But don't just offer us a PR  favorable or hyped  "optics"  announcement that this guy with his mitts near the nuclear football is A-ok mentally. I for one don't buy it, not without much harder proof.. As Shayl put it:

"Show me the damned video - and the PET scan!"

See also:


"No one could watch a Trump interview from 20 years ago and then a Trump interview from last year and arrive at any conclusion other than that of egregious mental decline. As noted, Who ya gonna believe, your lyin' eyes and ears or Dr. Rufus T. Firefly and the Medical Division of the Ministry of Fake Truth?"

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Obama Was Correct: FOX Watchers Are On "Another Planet"

In an atmosphere wherein leaders toss out lies like party favors it is essential citizens know  to which truthful and objective sources they can turn with confidence. It is critical they know their leaders are lying to them whenever it occurs, and also which pseudo -news sources seek to support the liars. Such has been the case in the past few days where a trifecta of liars - including Trump himself, Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Tom Cotton - tried to claim Donnie Dotard never made the "shithole countries" comment. Not at all, and one major network keeps providing cover for these liars, as surely as Pravda did for the commies in Cold War years, and Nazi radio for Hitler before that. The culprit?   FOX News. Otherwise known as "Trump TV".

In this context it was amusing to watch (at a BK restaurant) the three Fox and Friends trained monkeys  Saturday morning - with heads exploding in indignation -  reporting that Obama had referred to their fans as "living on another planet".   This was on a Friday night interview with David Letterman (on Netflix) where Barack  had come right out and called FOX News the propaganda machine it is. Hence, the nickname "Trump TV"  - because their hacks and cronies defend the maggot in the White House relentlessly  They've also declared the Mueller probe an attempted "coup" on their little idiot master while insisting the Steele Dossier is  "dirty" and being illegally used by Mueller and the FBI to persecute Trump.

Obama, for his part, didn't hold back saying that those who watch FOX news are "living on a different planet from those who get their information from other sources." Of course, any sane and educated person who watches FOX News- even for five minutes - would see whay that remark is spot on.   The complete remark made was:

"One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts.  If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you are listening to NPR.'"

I  have posted on this bifurcation of news- information sources for some time, warning it creates two distinct national perspectives  and no nation can last for long if it contains two populations accepting widely divergent realities. I have also singled out FOX News as the biggest culprit in gutting the febrile and already gullible brains of a segment of the populace,  dividing our nation more with each passing month.

The FOX News role in deforming perceptions was first brought to attention some 12 1/2  years ago by surveys of voter perceptions (in conjunction with the Iraq war) on how many believed al Qaeda was part of Saddam's force. Nearly all those who believed this to be true (nearly 67%) were Fox News viewers, compared to barely 22% who obtained their news from other sources (e.g. CNN, ABC, NBC etc.)

How could there have been such a huge disparity on an issue that really ought to have been a no-brainer, since - whatever Saddam was- he emphatically was NOT a religious Islamic fundie of the type that allied with al Qaeda! One needed only to survey and learn recent Iraqi history to know that, and to understand Saddam was a secularist who consolidated power by ensuring the two Islamic religious factions (Shiites and Sunnis) remained divided. He understood the first rule of control: divide and conquer!

Yet a preponderance of Fox News zombies actually believed he was in league with the Saudi Wahabbi  sect fundies who blew up the Towers on 9-11! What this discloses is that it may only partly be true to say that Fox succeeds in brainwashing educated people. The truer fact may well be that the less well educated are attracted to Fox News. Which elicits the question: Why?

What we know from studying the art of propaganda and the ease with which it is spread, as my late German friend Kurt (formerly a Hitler Youth) pointed out, is that one must appeal to the pre-conceived beliefs of the audience. Thus, to reach his putative audience Hitler appealed to numerous lies about the Jews (already present in the culture via the Völkisch tradition)including that they were less than human, and were usually also communists or at least socialists. He also tied them to bankers, and exploiting people via high interest loans, etc., although how he got so many to buy into this is beyond me! I mean, accepting at once the Jews are in league with bankers, and also commies and socialists? Seems rather disjunctive!

A  2011 example tied into the rancor over the then budget cuts, and Foxites had falsely inflated he role of Planned Parenthood in terms of providing abortions. What you heard from  FOX Newa and the Republican House floor over and over was the lie that more than 90% of Planned Parenthood's services were allocated to abortions. A total, bare-faced lie! The actual data showed that barely 3% were abortion services, the remaining 97% were for health screenings such as mammograms, pap smears, and even prostate exams for males. None of this was disseminated by the Rs, but when one traced the source, he located the lie most often being repeated at Fox

Another endlessly recited FOX News  lie in 2011 had been applied  to  Obama's birth certificate and attacking the legitimacy of his citizenship and hence right to be President.  This slander was fueled by Donald Trump putting in his two cents, including referring to Obama's step-grandmother and  repeatedly claiming Obama was born in Kenya. Not mentioned, and doubtless inciting too much fact for Fox zombies, was that this was debunked in 2008. Evidently, a repuke congress critter had made a long distance phone call to the step-grandmother in Kenya, two years before, and the connection was so bad that her reply was mistranslated. "Lost in translation" anyone? So the Foxite Birthers didn't want to hear it!

The current propaganda push from FOX News has focused on the  alleged "Uranium One" conspiracy, the Steele Dossier as a means to unfairly investigate Trump, and the Mueller Probe as a Democratic concocted effort to oust a duly elected President.  

In the first, the Right's fruitcakes at FOX  claimed   that Hillary Clinton and Obama were behind a plan to allow a Russian nuclear energy agency to  purchase controlling interest in Uranium One - a  Canadian based mining company - with the proceeds to go to the Clinton Foundation.  The warp and woof of this cockeyed conspiracy has been thoroughly exposed by, e.g.

In the case of the Steele dossier  the loony tunes at FOX News  have repeatedly claimed following Trump and his cabal, that it's all a fictional creation of a former British MI-6 spy working on behalf of the Democrat. The object being to blow enough smoke Bob Mueller's way to instigate a full tilt investigation.  At the core of this nonsense is the claim that Fusion GPS worked on behalf of the Dems to conspire against Trump and his campaign doing oppo research via the Steele Dossier.

This claim was first made by Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's outside legal counsel. Corallo - as per Michael Wolff's new book,  has since abandoned the Trumpies as if they were the Black Death (or at least the killer H5 N1 Bird flu).  But what the FOX News cohort ignore is the fact that Fusion GPS was initially hired in October 2015 by unnamed Republican clients (associated with the Washington Free Beacon) in order to develop opposition research on Trump to be used during the GOP primary.  These Republicans were part of the old (e.g. pro-Jeb Bush) order who respected norms and traditions. They detested the fact that a two bit Queens real estate weasel and lowlife like Trump could possibly become President.

That is the hard fact.  Once Trump won the nomination, the research was dropped by the "Never Trump" conservos and continued by Democrats on behalf of Hillary Clinton and the DNC. That proves nothing more than Fusion GPS is a firm that is happy to be employed by either side.  If you want, call them a bipartisan oppo research outfit. But don't call them conspirators. Indeed, Hillary would have been guilty of utter moral negligence to have not used Fusion GPS' oppo on Trump given what we've since learned of his networking with Russian Mafia figures to bankroll his assorted projects.  As noted in The New Republic (Aug./Sept. p. 29):

"A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, or even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money .....Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics....It's entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters."

Of course, this very background helps explain why Trump is hyper paranoid now about Bob Mueller digging into his money trail, including leading right through his family finances.

On the issue of Christopher Steele himself, while the FOX News hacks sought to impugn his character - and two Republican Senators (Grassley, Graham) have even sent a "letter of referral" to the FBI about him- the fact is he has more moral fiber in his pinky finger than the entire Republican Party. This is given the GOP continues to run interference for Trump, even confabulating fake probes to throw attention off and undermine the Mueller investigation.

Truth be told, it was Steele who alerted the FBI to a possible crime in progress, based on his sources and the potential for a hostile foreign power blackmailing an American presidential candidate. Loopy? Lies? Baloney? Not on your life! Steele himself has impeccable character and would be exactly the person you'd want testifying on your behalf in a high profile criminal case - or testifying against the bad guys. As per a Financial  Times account (Feb. 16):

Steele was the "UK intelligence expert on Russia".   James Nixey, the head of Chatham House's Russia and Eurasia program, informed the AP that sections of the dossier document created by Steele "read exactly as reports from the secret services".

In other words 100 percent legit.  Thus, the efforts of the Foxites and the two Repuke Senators to tar and incriminate him are pure propaganda ploys.  But to be expected from a "news" outfit that peddles lies and unsupported conspiracy bunkum 99 percent of the time.

So no surprise either the FOX News bunch is assiduously working overtime to  derail the Mueller Probe. This has been by using a number of tactics - most of which have since been adopted by certain columnists in The Wall Street Journal as well.  In either case the constant mantra blurted out endlessly is “There is NO COLLUSION!”.  Also, the people indicted so far by Mueller are little "nobodies" who don't matter

The classic format of hit job used at FOX News is based on a template offered by the WSJ's William McGurn ('Bob Mueller's sideshow, Oct. 31, p. A15)..  To wit, concerning the Steele Dossier, "the same people who pushed it have now lost all interest in it".    McGurn - like the FOX News hacks - also tries to pump up Devin Nunes' bogus investigation, e.g. writing such codswallop as:

"What has Mr. Nunes' committee  found?  Turns out that in the Obama years, especially in 2016, officials made many requests to unmaks the identities of Americans, including Trump campaign officials who were caught up in foreigsurveillance."

Then there is the tack used by Holman Jenkins ('Trump and the Russia Racket', WSJ)  who tried to dismiss the import of George Papadopoulos by asserting "his name appeared on a  throwaway list of campaign advisers" .  But the kicker was this demonstrable lack of insight:

"Notice the particulars of his case actually belie the theory of meaningful Trump-Russia collusion"

Like their compatriots at FOX News (also owned by Rupert Murdoch)  the WSJ's liar's stable of Jenkins, McGurn, Kim Strassel and Dan Henninger have worked overtime to try to diminish or mock the Mueller investigations as convincingly as their forerunners tried to besmirch and delegitimize Obama based on an imagined lack of American bona fides. 

All of the above in the context of FOX News and its allies, cries out for education in media literacy of the American public.  At the forefront now, lawmakers in several states have introduced or passed bills calling for public school education  to impart media literacy skills they say are critical to democracy. (Denver Post,  'States Push For Media Literacy Classes', Dec. 31, p. 10A).  The effort has been bipartisan but so far has received little attention. One wonders why this is so, but perhaps there are reasons many refuse to accept. Including that most "news" on FOX is absolutely counter to any media literacy or critical thinking.

Noted in the above referenced article was a study by researchers at Stanford which warned that "students from middle school to college were easily duped and ill -equipped to use reason and online information".   Even today in The Denver Post, an article appeared describing how nearly 60 percent of Americans were "confused" about the information and news received and didn't know who or what source to trust. Most also claimed they paid attention to Trump's tweets but this is the worst thing they cold do.  As I pointed out previously these are crude cartoon media that are meant for ten year olds with limited vocabularies than adults. Most importantly, they are the ideal vehicles for the spread of disinformation.

In line with this the Stanford researchers have warned that "democracy is threatened at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish."

Again, this is precisely because people - too many citizens - don't know enough, whether of history, civics, basic science or electoral politics. Too many citizens are unable to even name their two state Senators or their congressional (House) reps.  Many others can't even name 5 of the Bill of Rights. If they can't do the latter then it's little wonder so many fall into Trump's authoritarian trap of wanting to repeal them. Look at Trump's recent bombast about changing the libel laws because he didn't like the Michael Wolff book and its distasteful portrayal of him.

Of course, for those who know our history, Thomas Jefferson conveyed warnings about the erosion of democracy more than two centuries ago if people didn't read and think critically. In his 'Notes on Virginia' he warned:

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. AND TO RENDER THEM SAFE, THEIR MINDS MUST BE IMPROVED."

What Jefferson meant by "their minds must be improved" was continued learning even after one's formal education, and most importantly continued attention to the events of the day and application of critical thinking.  This included the proper questioning of one's leaders and their actions not just accepting them blindly. But, in order to do that, one had to be familiar with the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, the key amendments and certainly our own history. One must not allow fake facts or history to intervene in any of these as occurs regularly now.

See also:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Math Revisited: Algebraic Homology

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Algebraic homology is a branch of topology that is used to analyze higher-dimensional structures. This is accomplished by first converting them into flat, two-dimensional configurations, then assigning algebraic symbols to each 'dimension' (chain). Let's consider a relatively simple example: the basic torus pattern shown above:

If one were now to fold over the left and right sides so they join, ABA-left to ABA-right, s/he would be well on the way to re-forming the torus. Taping the two sides together, for example, would form a cylinder or straight tube. To complete the process, one simply joins the oppositely situated circles, ADA-top to ADA-bottom.

Arrows are used to define consistent directions, and either numbers or Greek letters can be assigned to the box sides. This is for ease of identification of the particular equivalence classes.  For example, arrows assigned to segments AB and BA on both sides of the shape shown above are made to point in the same direction, say top to bottom. The same direction implies two sides have to blend together when connected. A similar consideration applies to the bottom ends (AD + DA) when joined. So that the arrow from A to D on top would match an arrow direction from A to D on the bottom.

Thus, for the ‘top’ side of the torus:

A ---->-----D ----->------ A

and, for the ‘bottom’ side:

A ---->-----D -----> ------ A

One could go one step further, as I indicated, and assign Greek letters to the different segments. For example:

a  : A ---->-----D -----> ------ A

b : A ---->-----D -----> ------ A

We now have a one-dimensional homology space (H1) denoted by:

H1 = ( a +   b )

The same applies to the complementary homology space (H1') that runs vertically so as to join the left and right sides, which we might denote by:

H1' = ( +   g)

These are not just homological spaces but cycles - that are themselves not boundaries. For example, one large cycle would be made by going around the outermost ‘space’ in a clockwise sense, as starting from the ‘A’ in the upper left corner. We would have:

(A-D-A) -> (A-B-A) ->[-(A-D-A)] ->[-(A-B-A)]

where the -(minus) signs precede the last two terms and help to distinguish their direction from opposite the ‘positive’ space- defined above. This could also be written in a shorthand form:

H1 + (H1') - H1 - (H1')

It can clearly be see that the ‘boundary’ vanishes, since both pairs of sides (H1, H1') cancel out (having opposite signs for opposite directions). This can, of course, be written to include the ‘space’ elements:

[( a +   b)] + [( +   g)] - [( a +   b)] - [( +   g)]

whence we clearly see mutually cancelling space elements

Note  that 1-cycles in a triangulated space can be generated by closed curves of the space formed by the edges of the triangulation. One can thereby form the factor group:

H1 = Z1/ B1

which amounts (roughly) to counting the closed curves that appear in the space (which are not there simply by virtue of being the boundary of a 2-dimensional segment)

Re-posing the factor group: dim H1 = dim Z1 - dim B1

where dim Z1 = [b + 1 - n] for any connected complex

And: b = branches, n = nodes

For the torus shown:

b = 4 and n = 4

so: dim Z1 = 4 + 1 - 4 = 1 = dim H1

and dim B1 = dim Z1 - dim H1 = 1 - 1 = 0

Or, the boundary of a boundary is zero.

Well, what does all this gain us? Where might we be going? The beauty of this branch of math is that higher dimensionality can be represented with simpler, lower dimensional configurations.   Consider now the ordered tetrahedron (vertices ordered by number) shown below:

. Call the ordering '1234'. In terms of signage (sign rules - e.g. for (+) or (-) being followed, it's important to note that a segment (1 2) induces orientation (+1) in the associated complex, but a segment (2 1) induces (-1). This is how differing segments acquire negative signage in the complex.    Note the segments here play the same role as the a,    b,  d,    g
etc. in the previous example of the 2D torus.

The boundary of the tetrahedron, in terms of its four faces can than be written:

- (1 2 3) - (1 3 4) + (1 2 4) + (1 3 4)

Leading to the result that the boundary of a boundary is zero, or  D D = 0

By definition, the factor group: H_r = Z_r/ B_r

Then, in our case, B_r = B_2 (for the boundary) while:

H_2 = Z_2


Z_2 = a(1 2 3) + b(1 2 4) + c (1 3 4) + d( 2 3 4)


For the 2D torus we found:  dim B1 = dim Z1 - dim H1 = 1 - 1 = 0

Or the boundary of a boundary is 0.  This was based on knowing the
number of branches b and nodes n, where:

dim Z1 = [b + 1 - n] for any connected complex

Show that the same rule applies to the tetrahedron.