What’s happening to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?

❝ Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is perhaps the most iconic feature of any planet in our Solar System. It’s instantly recognizable, and the massive cyclone has been swirling for so long that we’ve taken for granted that it’ll always be there. Recent observations have shown that, unfortunately, that’s not the case. The storm is dying — the latest data from the Juno spacecraft suggests it might actually be gone within our lifetimes — and a new research paper by scientists at NASA suggests that it’s actually changing in both shape and color as it enters its twilight years…

The Great Red Spot is still great. It can still swallow the entire Earth whole, which is a pretty impressive feat for any weather feature, but it’s definitely less impressive than it once was. As NASA notes, a century and a half ago it was so wide that you could fit four Earths inside of its footprint, so it’s clearly losing a lot of steam…

RTFA. Construct your own fiction; but, take the time to learn fact, as well.

Colorado Legalized Weed — Opioid Deaths Fell

❝ “Marijuana legalization in Colorado led to a “reversal” of opiate overdose deaths in that state, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

“After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years…”…

The authors stress that their results are preliminary, given that their study encompasses only two years of data after the state’s first recreational marijuana shops opened in 2014.”

❝ Pretty clear:

Even if one doesn’t replace the other there is no medical doubt the cannabis effect aids anxiety, withdrawal symptoms of lots of addictive substances. Probably helps rid your mind of political sophistry. 🙂

The US Needs to Invest in Minds – Not Miners

❝ In J.D. Vance’s memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” which recounts the blasted hopes of those left out of the modern economy, grandfather Papaw makes a prescient prediction: “Your generation will make its living with their minds, not their hands.” What Papaw didn’t foresee was that this shift would be far easier for women than for men.

❝ The US economy has long been moving away from “hands” industries such as mining and manufacturing toward “minds” sectors such as finance, health, and education. From 1970 to 2016, the share of workers in the former declined from 38 percent to 16 percent, while the share in the latter increased from 26 to 44 percent. Here’s how that looks:

❝ Less-educated men, who occupy more than three-quarters of “hands” jobs, have felt the sharp swing away from physical labor most acutely. By contrast, women comprised half of the “minds” jobs as far back as 1970, and their share grew in subsequent decades as they increasingly joined the workforce.

❝ The steadiness of the shift from hands to minds suggests that technology is the main driving force. “Minds” jobs became dominant in 1982, well before China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and continued at an unaltered pace during the hyperglobalization of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although increasing trade with China might have contributed to the decline in demand for production workers, it clearly wasn’t the primary force behind the trend.

That’s about half the article. You get the point. And if United States citizens don’t kick the officials they elect into some sort of activity more useful than posing for Faux News interviews, future-proof employment will continue to decline for a significant chunk of our population.

I realize the poseurs in Congress like things the way they are. Not having to worry about an informed electorate is “useful” to hacks unaccustomed to involvement in progress and progressive thought. Sooner or later, the pitchforks and torches brigade will get it right – one would hope – and support someone capable of doing the hard stuff instead of believing in pimps like Trump and his peers.

Samsung opts for permanent solution to Galaxy Note 7 phones in the GOUSA

❝ Samsung is reportedly adopting even harsher methods to prevent people from using the few remaining Galaxy Note 7s in the wild, planning an imminent U.S. software update that will render them useless.

On Dec. 19 Samsung will push out an update preventing the phones from charging, according to a statement to The Verge. The code will be distributed through all major U.S. carriers within 30 days.

❝ Samsung noted that 93 percent of Note 7s sold in the country have already been returned. The update is meant to get people to participate in a long-standing recall offering refunds and exchanges, sometimes with extra financial incentives.

The company has been gradually escalating its software tactics. American Note 7 models are already unable to charge past 60 percent, and in Canada, Samsung will soon be disabling all wireless functions.

❝ Shortly after its launch late this summer, the Note 7 was plagued by a series of battery fires and explosions, possibly owing to an ultra-compact design rushed to beat Apple’s iPhone 7. Samsung attempted to recall and fix the initial batch of units, but this didn’t solve the problem, forcing the company to issue another recall and discontinue the product entirely.

Folks, if you’re part of that 7% solution do yourself a favor and return that bookend.

I trained lab rats to trade – and win – on Wall Street


Michael Marcovici

Rattraders is an experiment in which I trained lab rats to trade in the foreign-exchange and commodity-futures markets. With the help of these rodents, I managed to outperform some of the world’s leading human fund managers. My motivation was to find out what kind of highly paid jobs will eventually be replaced by machines — or, as was the case here, by rats.

Like the work of many in this field, my research indicates that all jobs that do not require human-to-human interaction may be replaceable. I focused on brokers because of their high earnings, but the job itself seems to be based on pattern-recognition capabilities and the ability to avoid distractions. I figured that rats might be up to the task.

Pulling it off would be hard work, so I broke the experiment down into three steps:

STEP 1: LAYING THE TICKER TRACKS

The first part of the experiment was to create the so-called ticker tracks. I gleaned information from various futures and foreign-exchange markets to generate sounds that would correspond to real-time price data. According to research, rats respond especially well to the piano, so I chose this instrument for the audio clips…

STEP 2: TEACHING THE TRADE

To train the rodents, I produced ticker tracks for about 800 different market situations (I restricted these to US$/Euro€ futures, though rats may become experts in any segment of the market)…

After 12 weeks, we had four very reliable rats…

STEP 3: DEVELOPING A PEDIGREE

After extensive training we wanted to learn whether the talent was genetically rooted, so we bred the top traders with each other. After only 20 days, we had 28 new rats (15 males and 13 females), and we soon started to train again (even reducing the training time). The results were astounding: The second generation of top traders had a much better performance than their parents…

RTFA. This researcher is legit, so is his work. Poisonally, I think it’s hilarious. Though I still have no inclination to get into ForEx trading. 🙂

3D-printed skull implanted into woman’s head

A 22-year-old woman has had the whole top of her skull replaced with a customized 3D-printed implant. The patient had been suffering from severe symptoms as a result of a condition that causes a thickening of the skull. It is believed that the procedure was the first of its kind.

Dr. Bon Verweij of University Medical Center Utrecht, whose team carried out the procedure, first had to familiarize himself with reconstructions and 3D printing, in particular of partial skull implants. Implants have often previously been used when part of a skull has been removed to reduce pressure on an patient’s brain. Either the removed piece of skull or an implant is used to fill the gap once the situation has improved.

Verweij says that cement implants are not always a good fit, however, and that 3D printing can now ensure that the required components are an exact fit. “This has major advantages, not only cosmetically but also because patients often have better brain function compared with the old method,” he explained…

“The thickening of the skull puts the brain under increasing pressure,” said Verwei. “Ultimately, she slowly lost her vision and started to suffer from motor coordination impairment. It was only a matter of time before other essential brain functions would have been impaired and she would have died. So intensive surgery was inevitable, but until now there was no effective treatment for such patients.”

The surgery, only just announced, was carried out three months ago and was a success. According to Verweij, the patient has fully regained her vision and has no more complaints, which has allowed her to return to work with almost no trace of any surgery. The work undertaken on the procedure means that UMC Utrecht is now is a position to carry out other similar work.

The wonders of modern medicine truly are becoming wonders. I have a few friends walking around with titanium – or old-fashioned steel – plates in their head for repairs. They’d love something like this, no doubt.

Does civil discourse count for much in the contest to replace Gabby Giffords? UPDATED


Ron Barber and Gabby Giffords

Voters in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District will decide today who will serve out the remainder of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ term in a race seen by politicos as a test for the fall and by observers as taking the temperature of the nation’s political discourse.

On one side is Giffords’ aide Ron Barber, who was wounded in the 2011 shooting that critically injured Giffords and killed six other people. His opponent is Republican Jesse Kelly, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who ran a tea party-fueled campaign against Giffords in 2010 that came up 4,000 votes short…

After the shooting, controversy followed speculation that divisive political rhetoric may be to blame. And at a memorial service, President Barack Obama asked for more civil discourse.

“I don’t think anybody thinks incivility caused the tragedy,” said Kate Kinski, who teaches government and communications at Arizona State University. “Nevertheless, it presented an opening for us to talk about the dissatisfaction with the way we talk about politics…”

If the race to replace Giffords were a test of whether more civil discourse is possible in politics, the jury is still out…Special elections like this one are generally decided by the party faithful, the ones who turn out despite the 100-degree temperatures in June.

The candidates themselves have run a very civil race,” Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers said. He said outsiders like Republican strategist Karl Rove are to blame for any incivility.

“All this outside money that’s come in from Karl Rove’s group and the Republican National Committee and those … Their ads have not been as civil, I would say, and that’s on both sides…”

Kate Kinski said, “Congressional District 8 is a microcosm of the tensions we see in the nation overall. One of the thoughts is, if we can’t get this district right, how can we expect the nation overall to become more civil and to reach conclusions to recognize the other side the best it can?”

Sorry; but, I still wonder how much of this or any election is won through civil discourse in a state like Arizona where ideology most often counts for more than a platform designed to solve problems affecting all the voters. There’s a reason why Arizona has long been called the Mississippi of the West – and a campaign to fill the remaining term of a member of Congress who survived an assassination attempt can’t avoid that question. Even while being polite about it.

UPDATE: Barber defeated Kelly by three times the margin of Gifford’s last victory over the Tea Party mouthpiece. Bravo!

Sunderland confirm Martin O’Neill appointment as manager


Martin O’Neill with Neil Lennon back in the day…

English Premier League club Sunderland have confirmed Martin O’Neill as their new manager.

The former Celtic and Aston Villa boss replaces Steve Bruce who was sacked at the end of November after a string of poor results which has left the club languishing in 16th place in the league.

O’Neill, who has signed a three-year contract, described the appointment as a “big moment” for him. “It’s a very nice feeling to be back in football and to be the manager of Sunderland,” O’Neill said in a statement on the club’s official web site.

“I’d heard about what a good club it was, but coming here, seeing the stadium and training ground, I’ve been bowled over. It’s absolutely fantastic,” O’Neill added.

I hope I can help Sunderland to very successful period. That’s what I’ve come for and that’s my driving ambition.”

The former Northern Ireland international will officially take charge on Monday, but is expected to be in the stands at Molineux for Sunderland’s game against fellow strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.

I’ve always been a fan of Steve Bruce. I think he’s a solid, leading manager. One significant fault – that can afflict any manager with results beyond his control – is that he doesn’t always make the best decisions in who he shifts off to other clubs and who he buys and brings in. Tony Pulis at Stoke City can thank Steve three times over for Kenwynne Jones.

Since I’ve been coming down on the side of Celtic in the Auld Firm Derby since the 1971 season and the first proper football match I ever attended – I have nothing critical to say of Martin O’Neill. Of course I’m such a romantic I’d be as happy to have Roy Keene back.

Aside from that, I make no predictions about today’s match. My wife is a Wolves supporter. 🙂

Tuscan monks ask God to give thief “the shits!”

A group of Franciscan monks furious at the theft of bibles from their church in Florence have taken the unusual step of praying for the thief to be struck down by diarrhoea.

Monks at the 15th century church of San Salvatore al Monte, which was a favourite of Michelangelo, were irritated when a rare and expensive bible disappeared from the lectern, and they flew off the handle when a replacement bible donated by a worshipper also went missing and within a few hours.

In a note, pinned up in full view of worshippers, the monks say they hope the thief sees the error of his ways. But in case he does not, they add: “We pray to God that the thief is struck by a strong bout of the shits.”

This turn of events will, they hope, “encourage him to carry out no further thefts“.

Not your usual biblical punishment; but, it’s the thought that counts, eh?