The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is the non-binding resolution introduced by representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey to highlight the importance of climate change and the need to find ways to combat global warming as well as providing a better standard of living for most people. A major goal is to achieve a 100% conversion to renewable energy by 2030. You can read the resolution here. Here is a summary of the main points.
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Great moments in nuclear war planning

Daniel Ellsberg is famous now as a strong whistleblower advocate who released the Pentagon Papers that showed that the publicly stated premises on which the US waged its invasion of Vietnam were based on lies. But before that, he was steeped in the Cold War military establishment as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation. In that role, he was asked to evaluate various proposals suggested by the military.
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Universal moral values

One of the arguments that religious people give for their religion is that it provides a basis for morality. Without religion, they say, people will feel that there is nothing wrong in committing even the most vile acts. This has never been a good argument. For one thing, it implies that the only reason religious people behave well is because of the fear of divine retribution, which is hardly a sign of morality. The second is that there is no evidence that people who do not have any religious beliefs act worse than those who do. And finally, most religions came along fairly late in human civilization, long after moral codes had been established. Religions can be seen as codifying and policing the moral standards that were already there rather than creating new ones.
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Encouraging signs on climate change

It has been frustrating to see how climate change denialists cling desperately to their alternative narratives to explain away the scientific data that has led to the consensus that the Earth is warming, that human activity is a major cause, and that we need to take action soon to halt and even reverse the trend if the planet is going to be in decent shape for future generations. But just as creationists are finding it increasingly difficult to discredit evolution despite having support from politicians in the US, there are encouraging signs that the climate science consensus is slowly winning over public support from across the political spectrum. Matthew Nesbitt goes further and argues that the battle for hearts and minds on this issue is in fact over.
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A puzzling Hubble discrepancy

The value of the Hubble constant plays a crucial role in cosmology in calculating the age of the universe. The most direct way to obtain it is to measure the distances to stars and galaxies and galaxy clusters and map them against their speeds. The Hubble-Lemaitre law of cosmic expansion predicts that the resulting data should lie on a straight line and from the slope of that line one gets the value of the constant. But while obtaining the speeds of each stellar object is relatively easy using the red shift of light, measuring distances is a very tedious and painstaking business in which one has to use a ‘ladder method’ involving different techniques, starting with finding the distances to the objects closest to you and using those results to find the distances to the next distance set, often using a different method, and so on. This technique is highly prone to systematic errors because any error at any stage gets magnified as you go to more distant elements. The people who do this kind of work have to pay extremely close attention to detail and I salute them for their diligence.
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Record high temperatures

The sharp cold spell due to the ‘polar vortex’ that we had last week, when temperatures plummeted so low that schools and universities were shut in much of the northeast, brought out the tired old ‘jokes’ about what happened to global warming, with Donald Trump among those thinking it was hilarious. But those cold days were rapidly followed by balmy, spring like weather that reached record highs, as this Plain Dealer report from yesterday stated.

Both the Cleveland and Akron-Canton areas on Monday smashed records for high temperatures. At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, it was 61 degrees, breaking the record of 56 set in 2016. In Akron-Canton, the high of 60 topped the previous record of 55 degrees in 2016. Normal highs for the date are in the 30s.

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The uncertain future of particle physics

The field known as particle physics has as an important goal the search for the fundamental constituents of matter and it has proved very fruitful, leading us to our present understanding of matter being made up of quarks, gluons, and leptons. Pretty much everyone has heard of the Large Hadron Collider, the massive accelerator of radius 27 km near Geneva that was built mainly to search for the Higgs boson, and found it. But as is always the case with physics, immediately after any discovery comes the question: What next? And in this case, the answer is not clear. The Higgs was the last remaining particle in the Standard Model of particle physics so in one sense one can say that that chapter has come to end. But is the end merely that of the chapter or is it the end of that particular physics book, that we have reached the end of particle physics and all that remains are just mopping up operations?
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The danger of rugby

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the day when the Super Bowl is played, when much of America gathers around their TVs to watch the game and/or the commercials and/or the halftime show. I will not be among them, having sworn off the game because of the accumulating evidence of the serious brain damage that the players are risking. I think that while adults can choose to take such risks, it is immoral for schools and universities to encourage young people to do so and they should remove it from the list of activities.
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