The ‘secret’ origins of the search for extra-terrestrial life

John Wenz has a fascinating account of a ‘secret’ meeting of scientists held in 1961 at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, which at that time was the biggest telescope available to radio astronomers. The reason it was kept hush-hush was not because they were doing anything nefarious but because these were people who were interested in seeking signs of extra-terrestrial life and that was considered somewhat fringey and they did not want to tarnish their reputations as serious scientists.
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Great moments in Venn diagrams

The Republican war on logic and math continues with this Venn diagram produced by losing governor Scott Walker to try and persuade people that the legislation passed by the lame-duck legislature and signed by him stripping the incoming Democratic governor of some powers was not a blatant anti-democratic act.

This graphic from The Progressive magazine compared Walker’s idea of a Venn diagram with how it should actually be used.

Don’t these people have aides who have at least some basic knowledge and can stop them from embarrassing themselves?

Cracks appear in Israel’s wall of support in the US Congress

The US congress has a good claim to being the most loyal supporters in the US, if not the world, of whatever the Israeli government does. For the longest time the Israel lobby in the US, led by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was able to command the support of Congress for even the most right-wing Israeli government policies, however cruel and unjust towards the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories and Gaza. It managed this by contributing to congressional campaigns and working hard to defeat any congressperson who voiced even the mildest criticisms of Israeli policies.
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You can’t trust your lying eyes

Via David Pescovitz, I came across something called the ‘morph cut’, a video editing technique that can be used to eliminate pauses, stutters, and filler words and provide for smoother-sounding interviews, unlike with a ‘jump cut’ where you can see the abrupt transition. But the catch is that if not done carefully, it can produce unexpected results, like in this clip where a child suddenly materializes behind the speaker.
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High temperature superconductivity record

When current flows in materials, it generates heat because of the resistance it encounters. This causes the materials to get hot and this has to be accounted for when designing electrical systems in order to avoid fires or meltdowns. This heat is also a major source of energy dissipation and loss. Superconductors are materials that do not have any resistance to the flow of current and thus can cut down energy consumption tremendously.
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Ignore rumors about Trump quitting before the end of his term

One of the features of the current administration of Donald Trump is that it has caused the political rumor mill in the US to go into overdrive. There are non-stop speculations about possible personnel changes, squabbling among aides, indictments by the special prosecutor and US attorneys, and so. Most of these speculations can be safely ignored because they are fact-free and largely serve as fillers to meet the needs of the 24/7 cable news channels. But there is one particular speculation that keeps surfacing from time to time that is particularly absurd and that is the one that says the Trump will leave office before his term is over because of the mounting legal troubles involving convictions of his close associates.
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Just what we needed, more Fox News garbage

I had not been aware that Fox News just started a new streaming channel called Fox Nation that features its standard garbage only in a more condensed form. Samantha Bee describes what it consists of. What I found most interesting is that she says that Fox Nation is available during the hours when the supposedly ‘serious’ news programs on Fox News is on and shuts down when the talk shows hosted by the nutcases come on in the evening. In other words, Fox Nation provides an option for those people who think that the afternoon line up on Fox News is not crazy enough.

Challenge to ranked-choice voting in Maine thrown out

The only congressional races to use ranked choice voting are those in Maine and the first time it was used was in last month’s elections and it produced a result in the second Congressional district that illustrated how it works. When the first choice votes were counted, the Republican candidate Bruce Poliquin came in first and the Democrat Jared Golden came second but none of the four candidates got the required 50%+1 votes. So the second choices of those voted for the candidates who came in third and fourth were then tabulated and Golden emerged the winner.
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The ethical dilemma of publishing an unethical study

Megan Molteni has an article in Wired discussing an old problem: What do you do with scientific information that was obtained unethically? This is an old problem that has been seen in stark forms with Nazi scientists experimenting on Jewish captives prior to and during World War II and the US government experimenting on black people for four decades in the infamous Tuskegee experiments.Molteni brings this up in the context of the genetic modification done on two human embryos using the CRISPR technology. As Molteni says:
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