Clue to matter domination in universe may lie in CP violation detected in neutrinos

A recent news report suggests that time–reversal violation may have been observed in neutrino reactions. (You can read the paper on which the report is based here.) Why is this important? Because it may shed light on a long-standing puzzle and that is why it is that in the universe we inhabit, matter is vastly more abundant than anti-matter.

Why is this a puzzle? Because when matter is created out of pure energy, it seems to be always the case that the amount of matter and anti-matter are identical. So in the Big Bang when energy was transformed into all the matter and anti-matter now in the universe, there should have been equal numbers of both. But since we now see so little anti-matter, it has been argued that this is because of the violation of what is known as ‘time-reversal symmetry’, that causes anti-matter to decay at a different (and faster) rate than matter, leading to its current depleted quantities. [UPDATE: See a correction to this in the comments.]
[Read more…]

Joe Biden wins big in South Carolina

With about 3% of the votes counted, Joe Biden has been projected to win the South Carolina primary. Given that the result was called almost immediately after the polls closed, it looks like he will have a big margin of victory over the currently second Bernie Sanders.

Currently Biden has about 50%, Sanders 19%, Tom Steyer 12%, Pete Buttigieg 8%, Elizabeth Warren 6%, and Amy Klobuchar 4%. Michael Bloomberg was not on the ballot here, staking everything on the 16 contests to be held in three days time on Super Tuesday.

These numbers will change as more votes come in but usually not by more than a few percentage points.

The large margin of victory will undoubtedly give a boost to the flagging Biden campaign going in to Super Tuesday and revive the hopes of the Democratic party establishment that he can stop the rise of Sanders. It will be bad news to those who were hoping to pick up the centrist mantle from him if he should falter.

What to expect in the Democratic debate tonight

The next Democratic debate will take place tonight in Charleston, South Carolina which holds its primary on Saturday. This will also be the last debate before the Super Tuesday primaries next Tuesday, March 3 and so will be the final chance for candidates to make their case to a national audience before those votes are cast. There will be seven people on the stage tonight: Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, and Elizabeth Warren.

Steyer is the new addition from the last debate which means that we will have two billionaires on the stage touting their glorious billionairosity that makes them supremely qualified to take on Trump and become president. After all, phony billionaire and failed businessman Donald Trump became president, so wouldn’t either of them be better positioned to take on Trump than people who are not insanely wealthy? The sad thing is that some people actually buy that argument.
[Read more…]

Does religious identification change as people get older?

Kevin Drum reproduces a chart from the Wall Street Journal that shows the results of a survey in which the percentage of people in the US who identify as Christians decreases as you go to younger age cohorts, while the number who are unaffiliated increases.

He concludes that Christianity is dying out in 21st century America as it finally catches up with Europe that saw a major drop with identification with Christianity in the last century. But such claims can be challenged by the assertion that as the young people of today get older, they will become more religious, so that there will be no long term changes.

So what we need is to compare this chart with a similar chart made decades ago to see if there is an actual drop across all age groups. Maybe the Wall Street Journal article has this information but it is behind a paywall and I cannot access it.

Trump impeached

A few minutes ago, Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, becoming only the third president to be impeached in the history of the US.

On the first article that dealt with abuse of power, the vote was 230-197. A few minutes later the second article that dealt with obstruction of justice, passed by a vote of 229-198. For both votes, one person voted ‘present’. (There are 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one Independent, and four seats vacant. This means that three votes are unaccounted four in the final tally.)

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard was the one who voted ‘present’ for both articles and has explained her reasoning in a tweet.


[Read more…]

Anti-social behavior

These two Pearls Before Swine cartoon strips caught my attention because they were slightly more extreme representations of me.

I too do not find large parties very congenial and sometimes end up wishing I could find a good book instead.

While I am not as bad as Rat, it is the case that I can find social interactions, even with people I really like, exhausting. The difference is that after a couple of hours, I tend to fade out somewhat and seek to leave, rather than becoming hostile.

Book review: Moneyland (2019)

The subtitle of this book by investigative journalist Oliver Bullough pretty much says it all: The inside story of the crooks and kleptocrats who rule the world. If you recall, my review of the film The Laundromat (2019) dealt with how the firm Mossack Fonseca specialized in creating shell companies for people to hide their ill-gotten gains from their victims and governments. This book lays bare how the corrupt system works, providing multiple detailed examples from all over the world.
[Read more…]

Good news: Rikers Island jail to close by 2026

The notorious jail will be replaced by four smaller, more modern jails close to New York’s main courthouses.

The Rikers complex counts 10 jails on an island between Queens and the Bronx that mainly houses inmates awaiting trial. The complex has housed jail inmates since the 1930s and has long been known for brutality. It saw hundreds of stabbings each year during the 1980s and early 1990s. It has been nicknamed Gladiator School, Torture Island, the Guantánamo of New York and, in summertime, the Oven.
[Read more…]

Save the whales, save the planet?

Whales are magnificent creatures and there is always great appeal among people for saving the lives of large mammalian species. But in a paper published by the International Monetary Fund, it turns out that that increasing the whale population might also be a good way of capturing carbon.

Marine biologists have recently discovered that whales-especially the great whales-play a significant role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere (Roman and others 2014).

The carbon capture potential of whales is truly startling. Whales accumulate carbon in their bodies during their long lives. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean; each great whale sequesters 33 tons of CO2 on average, taking that carbon out of the atmosphere for centuries. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year.

Wherever whales, the largest living things on earth, are found, so are populations of some of the smallest, phytoplankton. These microscopic creatures not only contribute at least 50 percent of all oxygen to our atmosphere, they do so by capturing about 37 billion metric tons of CO2, an estimated 40 percent of all CO2 produced. To put things in perspective, we calculate that this is equivalent to the amount of CO2 captured by 1.70 trillion trees-four Amazon forests worth-or 70 times the amount absorbed by all the trees in the US Redwood National and State Parks each year. More phytoplankton means more carbon capture.

[Read more…]

Using big data to help ordinary people

I subscribe to a newsletter from Dick Tofel, the head of the investigate journalism outfit ProPublica, and the latest one featured how they have created easy-to-use databases for people researching or navigating the ghastly health care system in the US.

Last week, we updated our tool tracking the performance of more than 4,700 emergency rooms around the country, which we now call ER Inspector. This news app lets you look up emergency room wait times and problems each facility has encountered since 2015. The underlying data is collected by the federal government, but it’s very hard to find or to sift. You can use ER Inspector to show you results from the facilities nearest to you, sort the data by state and rank all of the emergency rooms included on each of these dimensions. It’s an extraordinary collection of information, and it required about six weeks of news apps developer Lena Groeger’s time to update and extend.
[Read more…]