TV Review: Death to 2021

The year 2021 started out with some hope and optimism. The Democrats just barely won control of the US Senate and thus supposedly would be able to get some things done. Donald Trump would be out of office in three weeks. Vaccines were going to be available soon that would enable us to emerge from the pandemic.

But things did not work out that way. Trump has gone full bore bonkers with his claim that the election was stolen and enough of his cult believe him to cause problems. Two Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema seem determined to side with Republicans in opposing efforts to improve the lives of many people. And new covid-19 variants have emerged that, coupled with inexplicably stupid resistance to taking them and other pandemic resistance measures, has seen the number of cases rise sharply at the end of the year.

But the eternal optimist in me hopes that this year will surprise me by turning out better than the current signs indicate.

In general, I am not a fan of year-end retrospectives or lists of various things such as best books, best films, and the like. One exception is a list of well-known people who died during the year, many of whom did not get much press attention at the time of their death and so I missed it. For example, I learned from that article that the celebrated Indian sprinter Milkha Singh had died at the age of 91. I remember him because of a very silly joke that I heard at the time when he came to Sri Lanka to compete in a meet. The joke went that as he was sitting by the side of the track after a race, someone came up to him and asked, “Are you relaxing?” To which he replied, “No, I am Milkha Singh.” That shows the kind of juvenile humor that appeals to me and sticks in my mind.
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The coronavirus illustrates evolution on action

The pandemic has given us a crash course on evolution. Evolution deniers must be having a hard time explaining away the evolution-suffused news dealing with mutations, growth rates, and the like. But it also provides an opportunity to explain some of the mathematics of the phenomenon.

You would think that if a mutation had a slight advantage over its predecessor, then it would over time grow in size relative to the other but the older one would still be around. But that is not what happens. We see how some new variant, if it has some advantage over its competitors such as greater transmissibility, rapidly becomes dominant in the population, pushing the previously dominant ones into the background.

This graph shows the different peaks due to the different variants at the current time.


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Leftist easily wins presidency in Chile

In a recent election, a leftist has won the presidency in Chile.

Leftist candidate Gabriel Boric has won Chile’s presidential election to become the country’s youngest ever leader.

In what was expected to be a tight race, the 35-year-old former student protest leader defeated his far-right rival José Antonio Kast by 10 points.

Mr Boric told supporters he would look after democracy, promising curbs on Chile’s neoliberal free market economy.

He will lead a country that has been rocked in recent years by mass protests against inequality and corruption.

Mr Boric’s victory prompted celebrations on the streets of the capital Santiago, with his supporters waving flags and honking car horns.
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Radiation paradoxes 8: The Principle of Equivalence

(Previous posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)

We have now acquired most of the background knowledge needed to start directly addressing the question that this series of posts started with, as to whether an electric charge and a neutral particle dropped from the ceiling will hit the ground at the same time. The first stage of that is what is known as the Principle of Equivalence.

Recall the Postulate #1 we started with that said that all objects falling freely in a gravitational field will fall at the same rate and hit the ground at the same time. We were able to explain this by saying that it followed from the fact that gravitational and inertial masses were equal. But we did not explain why they should be equal. The two masses were arrived at, after all, by distinct methods using different operational definitions. But by considering accelerating frames and the Principle of Equivalence, we have a simple explanation for it.

Consider two objects floating freely in space that are at rest with respect to each other and to an observer S, to signify space. No suppose we enclose the two objects in a closed room and accelerate the room ‘upwards’ (i.e., in the direction from the ‘floor’ to the ‘ceiling’) with a value g. We will call this frame E to signify an elevator or Earth. Then in the frame E, both objects will seem to be accelerated ‘downwards’ (i.e., towards the floor of the room) with a value g, just as if they were falling freely on Earth, and will both hit the floor at the same time. They will behave just as if they were falling down near the surface of the Earth and since they hit the floor at the same time, we can infer that their gravitational and inertial masses are equal, rather than tacitly assuming it to be the case as we did before.
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Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty of sex trafficking

A jury unanimously convicted Jeffrey Epstein’s close associate of all but one count. She faces up to 65 years in prison but a sentencing date has not yet been set.

Maxwell was convicted on five of the six charges she faced. In addition to sex-trafficking, Maxwell was found guilty of conspiracy to entice individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, conspiracy to transport individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of individuals under the age of 18.

Maxwell was found not guilty of one count: enticement of an individual under the age of 17 to travel with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity. Jurors reached their verdict after 40 hours of deliberations over the course of six days.

The verdict marks a dramatic conclusion to an unexpectedly fast-moving trial: proceedings were originally expected to take at least six weeks. Prosecutors called 24 witnesses over 10 days, and defense attorneys called nine witnesses over two days.

Prosecutors said that Maxwell “preyed on vulnerable young girls, manipulated them and served them up to be sexually abused” by Epstein. There were four accusers in this case: Jane, Kate and Carolyn, who did not use their full names, and Annie Farmer.

The verdict means jurors agreed that Maxwell had conspired to lure, and shuttle, girls for illicit sexual activity – and that she had conspired to sex-traffick them. They agreed that Maxwell transported Jane for illegal sexual activity. The sex-trafficking count related specifically to Carolyn.

This article traces Maxwell’s life and her rise and fall.

I still do not understand why she did not flee to France when she had the chance. She must have known that she was being targeted for legal action, especially after Epstein killed himself in prison. Since she has French citizenship as well, it would not have been possible to extradite her to the US to face trial, since France does not allow its citizens to be extradited.

The SARS-CoV-2 variant classification scheme

The virus that causes covid-19 is officially called SARS-CoV-2. This website gives the definition of the various elements of this virus.

Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 continuously evolve as changes in the genetic code (genetic mutations) occur during replication of the genome. A lineage is a genetically closely related group of virus variants derived from a common ancestor. A variant has one or more mutations that differentiate it from other  variants of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses. As expected, multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been documented in the United States and globally throughout this pandemic. To inform local outbreak investigations and understand national trends, scientists compare genetic differences between viruses to identify variants and how they are related to each other.

Key Definitions:

  • Mutation: A mutation refers to a single change in a virus’s genome (genetic code). Mutations happen frequently, but only sometimes change the characteristics of the virus.
  • Lineage: A lineage is a group of closely related viruses with a common ancestor. SARS-CoV-2 has many lineages; all cause COVID-19.
  • Variant: A variant is a viral genome (genetic code) that may contain one or more mutations. In some cases, a group of variants with similar genetic changes, such as a lineage or group of lineages, may be designated by public health organizations as a Variant of Concern (VOC) or a Variant of Interest (VOI) due to shared attributes and characteristics that may require public health action.

When the Omicron was labeled as a ‘variant of concern’, that label is one of four that is used to classify the nature of the danger the variant poses, which are in increasing order: Variant Being Monitored (VBM), Variant of Interest (VOI), Variant of Concern (VOC), and Variant of High Consequence (VOHC), the last being the most alarming. Delta and Omicron are the only two in the VOC category, while there are ten in the VBM category, including the Alpha and other variants with Greek letter labels that did not get much publicity.

There are none as yet that fall into the VOI nor (thankfully) the VOHC categories. One shudders to think what a VOHC variant would do.

Alex Jones may have disappointed some of his followers

Alex Jones is discovering that his appeals for privacy about what happened at his home on Christmas Eve that resulted in the police being called ind his wife arrested are falling on deaf ears. The Daily Beast has obtained the police report of the incident.

Alex Jones’ wife Erika Wulff Jones allegedly struck the far-right conspiracy theorist “over 20 times” and threatened to hit him in the head with a stone ball, causing him to “fear for his life,” according to police documents reviewed by The Daily Beast.
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Monarch butterflies

I wrote earlier about the amazing migration of the monarch butterfly. This tiny creature does the same trek of thousands of miles each year even though their lifetimes are so short that any given butterfly will do it only once.

This website gives more information.

Some monarch butterflies are able to fly for a migration of 2500 miles. Most of them can find their ways to their ancestors’ winter homes when they go there, and then find their ways back to the places they left in spring. This ability made them seem like the strongest, smartest, and toughest of all butterflies. In much of their range they are also the biggest butterflies, with wingspans up to four inches (10cm).

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Film review: Don’t Look Up (2021)

Netflix has just released a new star-studded dark comedy that sends up the current times in which we live. The film is allegorical, particularly of the Trump era.

The story begins with a graduate student (Jennifer Lawrence) who discovers that a 10 km wide comet is headed straight for the Earth and will collide with it in just over six months, destroying the planet. Along with her advisor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a top government scientist (Rob Morgan) they try to alert the Trump-like president (Meryl Streep) but she, along with her idiot son (Jonah Hill, no prizes for guessing who he is based on) who is her chief-of-staff, does not take the threat seriously enough and instead worries more about her poll numbers and how to use the news to her political advantage. The news media represented the form of a happy-talk TV show with co-anchors (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) also make light of the situation.
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Oh, so now he cares about people’s privacy?

On Christmas Eve, the wife of hate monger and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was arrested by police in their home.

The wife of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was arrested on Christmas Eve on a domestic violence charge the rightwing provocateur said stemmed from a “medication imbalance”.

Sheriff’s deputies booked Erika Wulff Jones into an Austin jail around 8.45pm on Friday. Jail records showed the 43-year-old faced misdemeanor charges of assault causing bodily injury to a family member and resisting arrest, search or transport. By the afternoon of Christmas Day, she had not received a bond.

Alex Jones, an Austin resident and founder of the rightwing media group Infowars, declined to say if he had been injured or to elaborate on what happened beyond that he believed it was related to a recent change of medication.

“It’s a private family matter that happened on Christmas Eve,” Jones said. “I love my wife and care about her and it appears to be some kind of medication imbalance.”

A ‘private family matter’? This is rich from a man who hounded the families of the Sandy Hook massacre, claiming that the whole thing was a staged hoax, and that they were paid ‘crisis actors’. His followers took up this lie and made the lives of those bereaved parents, already traumatized by the murder of their children, a living hell. Now he wants people to respect his privacy?

It would serve him right if those parents returned the favor by making up all manner of bizarre and disgusting scenarios about what happened at his house and spreading it all over social media.