Time to allow banks to be part of the marijuana economy

The Senate introduced a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would prevent criminal prosecution as well as liability and asset forfeiture for banks that do business with a state-sanctioned marijuana business.

Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, both of Colorado, announced the bill in a joint statement.

Joint statement. Har.

Last year, the Treasury Department said banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. Many banks call the guidelines too onerous, resulting in a marijuana industry that still relies heavily on cash. That reliance on cash rather than traditional banking methods has made marijuana dispensary operators robbery targets.

Marijuana advocacy groups lauded the new bill, citing safety issues involved with cash-rich businesses…

Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, a state that legalized marijuana in 2012, praised the Senate bill, saying the federal government has a duty to ensure the safety of people as the marijuana legalization experiment expands in states across the country.

At the community level, banks considered the Treasury statement last year to be nothing more than window dressing. Unless laws and regulations are officially changed no bank executive is going to consider arrest or closure of their bank at the whim of some pissed-off bureaucrat. Laws to protect folks who aren’t breaking reasonable laws should be easy as pie.

The problem, as usual, is Congress. Federal laws passed from sheer stupidity, obstinate sophistry, decades ago.

Robot powered by exploding farts

Harvard uni boffins have 3D printed a robot with a soft butt able to belch hot gases, thus unleashing a remorseless and invincible-ish hopping trouser-cough machine…

The new design offers a fresh solution to the engineering challenge that the Harvard Gazette claims “has plagued soft robotics: the integration of rigid and soft materials.”

“The vision for the field of soft robotics is to create robots that are entirely soft,” said senior author Robert J. Wood. “But for practical reasons, our soft robots typically have some rigid components — things like batteries and control electronics. This robot is a demonstration of a method to integrate the rigid components with the body of the soft robot through a gradient of material properties, eliminating an abrupt hard-to-soft transition that is often a failure point.”…

To initiate movement, the robot inflates its pneumatic legs to tilt its body in the direction it wants to go. Then butane and oxygen are mixed and ignited, exploding the robot into the air.

Perhaps we could design something like this on a smaller scale to hunt grasshoppers. Or something like that.

The exquisite role of dark matter

Click to reach Priyamvada Natarajan’s essay and video

It is definitely the golden age in cosmology because of this unique confluence of ideas and instruments. We live in a very peculiar universe—one that is dominated by dark matter and dark energy—the true nature of both of these remains elusive. Dark matter does not emit radiation in any wavelength and its presence is inferred by its gravitational influence on the motions of stars and gas in its vicinity. Dark Energy, discovered in 1998, meanwhile is believed to be powering the accelerated expansion of the universe. Despite not knowing what the dark matter particle is or what dark energy really is, we still have a very successful theory of how galaxies form and evolve in a universe with these mysterious and invisible dominant components.

Technology has made possible the testing of our cosmological theories at a level that was unprecedented before. All of these experiments have delivered very exciting results, even if they’re null results. For example, the LHC, with the discovery of the Higgs, has given us a lot more comfort in the standard model. The Planck and WMAP satellites probing the leftover hiss from the Big Bang—the cosmic microwave background radiation—have shown us that our theoretical understanding of how the early fluctuations in the universe grew and formed the late universe that we see is pretty secure. Our current theory, despite the embarrassing gap of not knowing the true nature of dark matter or dark energy, has been tested to a pretty high degree of precision.

It’s also consequential that the dark matter direct detection experiments have not found anything. That’s interesting too, because that’s telling us that all these experiments are reaching the limits of their sensitivity, what they were planned for, and they’re still not finding anything. This suggests paradoxically that while the overall theory might be consistent with observational data, something is still fundamentally off and possibly awry in our understanding.

The challenge in the next decade is to figure out which old pieces don’t fit. Is there a pattern that emerges that would tell us, is it a fundamentally new theory of gravity that’s needed, or is it a complete rethink of some aspects of particle physics that are needed? Those are the big open questions.

PRIYAMVADA NATARAJAN is a professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University, whose research is focused on exotica in the universe—dark matter, dark energy, and black holes.

Click here to get to her essay + a half-hour video.