A new astrophysics just began — sparked by 2 stars colliding 130 million years ago


The spiral galaxy NGC 4993

❝ Some 130 million years ago, in a galaxy far away, the smoldering cores of two collapsed stars smashed into each other. The resulting explosion sent a burst of gamma rays streaming through space and rippled the very fabric of the universe.

On Aug. 17, those signals reached Earth — and sparked an astronomy revolution.

❝ The distant collision created a “kilonova,” an astronomical marvel that scientists have never seen before. It was the first cosmic event in history to be witnessed via both traditional telescopes, which can observe electromagnetic radiation like gamma rays, and gravitational wave detectors, which sense the wrinkles in space-time produced by distant cataclysms. The detection, which involved thousands of researchers working at more than 70 laboratories and telescopes on every continent, heralds a new era in space research known as “multimessenger astrophysics.”

This is the breakthrough scientists have been waiting for since the initial detection of gravitational waves two years ago. Now, for the first time, they are able to observe the universe using two fundamental forces: light and gravity. By combining traditional visual astronomy with the Nobel Prize-winning work of gravitational wave researchers, astronomers have new means to probe some of their field’s most enduring mysteries: the unknown force that drives the accelerating growth of the universe, the invisible matter that holds galaxies together, and the origins of Earth’s most precious elements…

One of those times I wish I was 60 or 70 years younger, ready to direct my life’s studies. Amazing stuff happening and it’s only going to get more interesting with the kind of growth in computing horsepower we’re looking at.

Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies

❝ Modern conservatives have been lying about taxes pretty much from the beginning of their movement. Made-up sob stories about family farms broken up to pay inheritance taxes, magical claims about self-financing tax cuts, and so on go all the way back to the 1970s. But the selling of tax cuts under Trump has taken things to a whole new level, both in terms of the brazenness of the lies and their sheer number. Both the depth and the breadth of the dishonesty make it hard even for those of us who do this for a living to keep track.

In fact, when I set out to make a list of the bigger lies, I thought there would be six or seven, and was surprised to come up with ten…

Lie #1: America is the most highly-taxed country in the world

This is a Trump special: he’s said it many, many times, most recently just this past week. Each time, fact-checkers have piled on to point out that it’s false. Here’s taxes as a percentage of GDP, from the OECD:

❝ The blue bar is the US; the red bar the average for advanced countries.

Why does Trump keep repeating what even he has to know by now is a flat lie? I suspect it’s a power thing: he enjoys showing that he can lie repeatedly through his teeth, be caught red-handed in his lie again and again, and his followers will still believe him rather than the “fake news” media.

Read ’em and weep, folks. Paul Krugman nails our fake president. The chumps who voted for the Trump simply do not care if he lies. They love his misogyny, racism, broadcast bigotry and unabashed ignorance. He doesn’t have to know more than they do. Little enough is good enough for hypocrites. And losers.

Hertha Berlin Players, Officials Kneel in Solidarity with American Athletes


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Michael Sohn

❝ Players and coaches from Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin kneeled prior to Saturday’s game against Schalke in a stand “for diversity and against violence.”

“Berlin is colourful,” the public address announcer at Olympiastadion Berlin said, according to ESPN FC’s Stephan Uersfeld. “Hertha BSC stands for diversity and against violence. For this reason, we are joining forces with the protest of our fellow American athletes to take a stand against discrimination. For a tolerant Berlin, both now and forevermore.”

❝ …Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou told reporters Hertha Berlin got the idea to kneel from NFL players who have protested social injustice and racial inequality during the American national anthem.

“As Hertha we always fight against racism,” he said, per Uersfeld. “For us, kneeling down is a way of fighting against this kind of behaviour. It should not exist in any kind of sport. Not in NFL, and not in football or soccer, like they call it in the U.S.—it shouldn’t exist in any sport, period. For us, it’s a good example to show.”

Meanwhile, individual gutless owners of American sports teams, NFL officials and candyass politicians kissed Trump butt. They have taken a constitutional symbol of protest and tried to turn it into an act worthy of the sort of pseudo-patriotic witch-hunt we haven’t witnessed since the inglorious days of McCarthyism.

I’ll take constitutional guarantees over quasi-religious breast-beating any day

China’s First Space Station gets to flame out this year

❝ China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, is expected to fall to Earth sometime in late 2017. We’ve known for several months that the orbital demise of the 8-metric ton space station was only a matter of time. But Chinese space agency officials recently confirmed that they have lost telemetry with the space station and can no longer control its orbit. This means its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere will be uncontrolled.

Despite sensational headlines…the risk is quite low that people on Earth will be in danger. Any remaining debris that doesn’t burn up in the atmosphere has a high chance of falling into an ocean, since two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by water…

❝ …throughout the entire history of the space age, there have been no reports of anybody in the world being injured or struck by any re-entering debris. Something of this size re-enters the atmosphere every few years, and many are uncontrolled entries…

Wu Ping, deputy director of China’s Manned Space Engineering office, said at a press conference before the launch of the Tiangong-2 space station last week that based on their calculations and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during its fall through the atmosphere. She added that China has always highly valued the management of space debris, and will continue to monitor Tiangong-1, and will release a forecast of its falling and report it internationally…

❝ “Although Tiangong-1 is no longer functioning, keeping track of where it is not a problem,” said Chris Peat, who developed and maintains Heavens-Above.com, a site that provides orbital information to help people observe and track satellites orbiting the Earth.

Should curiosity get the best of you – and you have moderately capable optics handy – I’d suggest staying in touch with Chris Peat’s Heavens-Above.com site and keep an eye on the critter yourself.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

Fake President has nothing to do with the “Trump” Rally


Another Republican Golden Shower

❝ The other day, President Donald Trump shared a few thoughts about the stock market.

Like so many of the president’s statements, this one is objectively false. Our charge today is to set aside the political debate, and instead use his statement as an opportunity to explore ways to compare markets and rallies…

❝ No. 1. U.S. Presidential Rallies: As Bloomberg News reported the other day, “the ‘unprecedented’ stock market rally since his election right now isn’t big enough to crack the top five in presidential history.” As the accompanying chart shows, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 19 percent since the 2016 election. That rates better than three other post-presidential elections: George W. Bush in 2004 (7 percent), Bill Clinton in 1992 (10 percent), and Barack Obama in 2012 (16 percent).

❝ …The Trump rally clocks in at No. 7. While that is pretty good — remember that markets fell after some presidents won election — it is hardly unprecedented.

Just as an aside — I am on record as reminding people that all presidents get too much credit when things go right and too much blame when they go wrong. Using market performance as a basis of presidential prestige or lack thereof is the refuge of partisan hacks and scoundrels.

❝ No. 2. Global Rallies: As we have discussed before, looking at a market rally in the U.S. while ignoring gains overseas is a foolish approach to performance analysis…

❝ The president seems to be naïvely making absolute performance claims while ignoring the data on relative performance. Imagine a mutual fund or hedge fund manager making similar claims. The disciplinary fines would be enormous.

Either way, the investing public deserves better.

RTFA for a bit more detail and illustration from Barry Ritholtz. No matter, market gains since Election Day simply have been nothing out of the ordinary.

Trump, as usual, lies like a rug. The fake news comes from a fake president.

Trump Wanted [almost] Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal

❝ President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room…

❝ Officials present said that Trump’s comments on a significantly increased arsenal came in response to a briefing slide that outlined America’s nuclear stockpile over the past 70 years. The president referenced the highest number on the chart — about 32,000 in the late 1960s — and told his team he wanted the U.S. to have that many now, officials said.

The U.S. currently has around 4,000 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientists…

❝ It’s unclear which portion of the Pentagon briefing prompted Tillerson to call the president a “moron” after the meeting broke up and some advisers were gathered around. Officials who attended the two-hour session said it included a number of tense exchanges.

The gathering included many of our highest-ranking national security leaders…and the account was confirmed by three officials who were in the room.

The 12 Zeros

❝ To better understand the politics and culture of an unfamiliar country, track the promises its politicians make. We learned this week that rising Japanese political star Yuriko Koike will not represent her party in elections on October 22, but her newly minted “Party of Hope” wants to win as many as possible of the 465 seats in Japan’s lower house of parliament. What is the party offering? Here are the “12 zeros.”

❝ 1. Zero nuclear power (Fukushima lives)
2. Zero corporate coverups (a problem in nearly every country)
3. Zero corporate political donations (many Americans are nodding)
4. Zero children waiting for places in day care (sounds progressive)
5. Zero “passive smoking” (is that “second-hand smoke” or some hipster thing we don’t know about?)
6. Zero packed commuter trains (yes, we’ve seen those photos)
7. Zero putting down of unwanted pets (a humane society)
8. Zero food loss (social justice meets efficiency)
9. Zero violation of labor laws (standing up for the salary-man… and woman)
10. Zero hay fever (wait…what?)
11. Zero disabled and elderly people unable to access transportation (Amen)
12. Zero power poles (an aesthetic thing or environmentalism?)

Keep in mind that Koike is Tokyo governor.

From the semi-weekly newsletter, SIGNAL, from the EurAsia Group. Yes, they can get too cute for their own good. Something I’ve responded to directly.

The most egregious point being #12 which is meaningful and useful. Unless you live somewhere where storms are only a bit windy and never contain much rain or snow. Buried cables have worked fine for decades and save lots of money and even more down time. As long as they are installed up to spec.

Puerto Rico would probably have all their power, etc., restored by now if they had buried cables.