August 15, 2017 in 4,789 words

‘Most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life’: US readies for total eclipse

Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands says eclipse watchers should be prepared for a multi-sensory experience

Millions of Americans will look up toward the sky on Monday 21 August and watch stars shine in the afternoon, feel the day’s heat swapped for an evening chill and hear the sounds of confused birds and animals during the first total eclipse seen in the continental US in 38 years.

The spectacular event in six days’ time will cross a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, with millions more expected to travel to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path, aiming to catch a glimpse of a sight that has captured the imaginations of people for millennia.

“I’ve spent my entire life looking at the sky as an astronomer – at the Milky Way, the stars, meteor showers – and this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life with my own eyes,” Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands, told the Guardian.

Nordgren, who saw the total eclipse in Europe in 1999, said nothing compares to the multisensory experience a solar eclipse offers.

“The shadow of the moon moves over you, day turns to night for half an hour, the stars become visible in the middle of the day, the sun turns black and the most incredible thing – the sun’s corona: that million degree atmosphere that is invisible at all other times – suddenly you see the enormous crown, its rays of pale white spreading outward from the sun,” he said.

Humans have been obsessed with eclipses for centuries. But, what can they actually teach us about our place in the solar system? Total solar eclipses have helped bring about some of the most important astronomic discoveries. Nicolaus Copernicus’ eclipse observations helped him determine that the Earth revolved around the Sun; light spectrums of the sun’s atmosphere – only visible during a total solar eclipse – led to the discovery of helium in the 19th century. In this video we explore what scientific knowledge the few minutes under the moon’s shadow have uncovered over time.


The Anonymous hacktivist collective has declared the launch of a new operation against white supremacists and the alt-right right following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in a video.

In a six-minute video posted on YouTube Tuesday, a narrator speaks over footage of violence at the Charlottesville alt-right protest on Saturday, in which anti-racism activist Heather Heyer was killed.

“Citizens of the world, we are anonymous, and we are angry. Anonymous finds it a sad state of affairs that in 2017 we still have Nazi party flags flying high and terrorists killing for the Nazi cause,” the narrator says.

It goes on to attack President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for failing to single out white supremacists for blame in a statement following the violence.

“And we are angry, angry because there is an administration in the White House that has sold its moral or ethical obligation to represent the citizens of the United States in exchange for individuals who believe themselves to be superior to those who do not look like them or follow their sadistic ideologies.

“Anonymous has made it clear that it will not stand by as this bigotry continues to perpetuate. We are taking a stand against an intolerant evil that must be crushed.

“That is why we chose to engage Operation Domestic Terrorism, where we continue to take down domestic terrorism websites, and out those who share the ideology.”

Wall Street thieves find ‘new way’ to steal from us

We know that millions of American families lost their homes after Wall Street’s 2007 financial crash… but where did all those houses go?

It turns out that Wall Streeters themselves formed profiteering investment groups that rushed out to scoop up tens of thousands of those foreclosed properties, usually grabbing them on the cheap at courthouse auctions in suburban metro areas that were hard-hit by the crash. These moneyed syndicates have deep, deep pockets, so they easily outbid local buyers to take possession of the majority of the single-family homes being sold off in many distressed places.

Why are they buying? To turn the homes into rental properties and become the dominant suburban landlord, controlling the local market and constantly jacking up rents. For example, the Wall Street Journal found that in Nashville’s suburb of Spring Hill, just four of these predatory giants own 700 houses — giving this oligopoly of absentee investors ownership of three-fourths of all rental houses in town. One of these bulk buyers is an arm of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm, another is an equity outfit that was spun out of the housing speculation department of Goldman Sachs, and another is a billionaire whose investors include the Alaska state oil fund.

The real “deep state” sabotage is happening at the Fed

Ongoing war on phantom inflation is hurting America — and Donald Trump.

Trump administration officials are notorious for their suspicion that a “deep state” of career military, intelligence, diplomatic, or civil service professionals is seeking to sabotage their work. But for a clearer example of sabotage — albeit without much in the way of a conspiracy — Trump would do well to cast his gaze at the Federal Reserve, which, dating back to before his inauguration, has been waging war on an inflationary menace that appears not to exist.

Trump’s economy is caught in the crossfire, and growing slower because of it.

With the unemployment rate now low by historical standards, the Fed is steadily raising interest rates — hiking at the beginning of the year and then again at its June meeting.

Yet the inflation numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday show that over the past year, the Consumer Price Index has risen by just 1.7 percent. The so-called “core” CPI that many observers believe is more predictive of future inflation conveniently also increased by just 1.7 percent. The Fed, allegedly, is targeting an inflation rate of 2 percent. As you probably know, 2 percent is higher than 1.7 percent. As you may not know, the Fed’s inflation index of choice — the Personal Consumption Expenditure Deflator — normally rises about 0.5 percentage points faster than CPI over the course of the year.

So inflation isn’t just below the Fed’s danger zone, it’s well below it. Yet the central bank is working to slow the economy. And Trump’s ideological field of vision has been so narrowed by the conservative movement that he doesn’t even seem to see that an alternative course of action is possible.

Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?

The recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white-supremacist rally has stoked some Americans’ fears of a new civil war.

A after the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, “How did we get to this place?” The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, Saint Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.

America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

Are Index Funds Evil?

A growing chorus of experts argue that they’re strangling the economy—and must be stopped.

If you’re like me, you’ve cheered the decades-long rise of index funds—investment vehicles that seem (these days) to be a rare case of financial innovation that actually helps regular people. By trying merely to match the market, not beat it—investing passively in stocks that mimic a published market index, like the S&P 500—they’re able to offer both low fees and peace of mind for people not inclined to try to pick which stocks to buy and sell.

Index funds have grown exponentially since John Bogle founded Vanguard in the mid-1970s. The top three families of index funds each manage trillions of dollars, collectively holding 15 to 20 percent of all the stock of major U.S. corporations. Best of all for their investors, index funds have consistently beaten the performance of stock-pickers and actively managed funds, whose higher fees may support the Manhattan lifestyle of many bankers, but turn out not to deliver much to customers.

It’s a feel-good story—a populist victory, as finance goes. Except there’s a problem, or might be. Over the past year or two, a growing chorus of experts has begun to argue that index funds and shareholder diversification are strangling the economy, and need to be stopped. That’s the maximalist claim, anyway, and it is a strain of thinking that is spreading with surprising speed.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: If investors own a slice of every firm, they will make more money if firms collude to raise prices.

The greatest concentration of volcanoes has been found in Antarctica—and that’s terrifying news

Waking The Giant

Hidden monsters.

Everything about Antarctica is hyperbolic. It is the coldest, highest, driest, and windiest continent. Now, it can add another extreme feather to its cap: Scientists have found the continent to be host to the greatest concentration of volcanoes on Earth.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh came to this conclusion after they found 91 volcanoes that had remained hidden from geological surveys. The results brought the total of identified volcanoes on the continent to 138—all of which are in an area called the West Antarctic Rift System. The finding unseats east Africa as the area of the world with the highest concentration of volcanoes.

The hidden volcanoes were found using a database called Bedmap 2. Scientists looked for conical protrusions across the ice in West Antarctica. The volcanoes are hidden under the Antarctic ice sheet, but the Bedmap 2 survey uses ice-penetrating radar signals to detect the protrusions.

“The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible,” Robert Bingham, one of the author’s of the paper told The Guardian. “Anything that causes the melting of ice—which an eruption certainly would—is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea.”

5 Famous Corpses That Ended Up In Totally Random Places

While some lives are far more remarkable than others, we’re basically all the same boring lumps of scattering atoms in death. Except that some historical figures continued to have amazing adventures long after they ceased living — or parts of them had amazing adventures, at least. For example …

#5. Einstein’s Eyes Are In A Safety Deposit Box In New Jersey

Safety deposit boxes are where you hide the kind of dark secrets alcoholism can’t wash away — your blackmail pictures, your satchel of blood diamonds, the yellowed German document with the eagle on it revealing you were once a member of the Munich bird-watching association. But perhaps the strangest things to have ever seen the inside of a bank vault must be the disembodied eyes of the father of modern physics.

They look like these, but with less body.

Before his death, Albert Einstein stated that he wished for his entire body to be cremated and scattered so that nerds couldn’t use his grave as a shrine — they have more important things to do. But for having been such a genius, he didn’t foresee the lack of agency a corpse has when in the same room as a man with a scalpel. Because a brain like Einstein’s is a terrible thing to waste, pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed his brain without permission, reasoning that future people could unlock what made him so smart. But while the wacky adventures of Einstein’s brain have already been thoroughly logged, people tend to forget that that wasn’t all that Harvey harvested. He also plucked the physicist’s eyes right out of his head. Why? As a party favor for a colleague, of course.

Einstein’s eyes were gifted to Dr. Henry Abrams, the physicist’s former family physician and eye doctor. It was in fact Einstein who had convinced Abrams to become an ophthalmologist in the first place, and the pair had grown quite close. Abrams wanting to keep the eyes of the man who nurtured his career was only natural … if you accept that all doctors are potential serial killers with a support system. Abrams later said: “Having his eyes means the professor’s life has not ended. A part of him is still with me.” His eyes, to be specific.

Little is known about the fate of the eyes, besides that they are safely bobbing around in formaldehyde somewhere inside a New Jerseyan bank vault. Rumors once floated that none other than Michael Jackson offered Abrams $5 million to obtain the peepers. All Abrams wanted was to be left alone. For a man who kept Albert Einstein’s eyes in a jar, the good doctor hated the attention of the media, which he called “sleazy” for being interested in a man who kept Albert Einstein’s eyes in a jar. To Abrams, Einstein’s eyes were a private and intimate affair. “When you look into his eyes, you’re looking into the beauties and mysteries of the world,” he said in a way that makes us suspect that he has done so many, many times.

The Remarkable, War-Torn, Spacefaring History of the Slinky

How a tension spring became a national sensation.

The story of the Slinky begins with a mechanical engineer, a shipbuilding factory, and a mishap.

It was 1943. The U.S. Navy needed ships for World War II as the Battle of the Atlantic raged in the oceans around Europe. The Cramp Shipbuilding Company was operating through all hours of the night to meet the demand. More than 18,000 men and women were working at the shipyard along the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

Mechanical engineer Richard James was trying to develop a new tension spring that could keep a ship’s equipment secure while the vessel rocked at sea. One day he accidentally knocked a spring off his worktable. The spring tumbled to the floor, landing on one of its ends, but instead of jumping back up, the spring flopped end over end, walking across the floor.

The experience gave James an idea: Something as simple as a spring could be a toy. He told his wife, Betty, about the experience, and she decided to come up with a name for the new walking spring. In 1944, when leafing through the dictionary in search of an appropriate term, Betty found a word meaning sinuous and graceful—just the way the spring moved and sounded as it flopped along. The word was “slinky.”

To fill 70,000 jobs, chocolate giant Mars will have to overcome its deeply secretive past

Mars Attracts!

An empire built on chocolate bars.

Few companies have held more secrets than Mars.

The maker of M&Ms, Snickers, and Milky Way chocolate bars is privately owned, and private by nature, with a history of paranoia that borders on legendary. Contractors who repaired candy-making machinery used to be led through factories blindfolded, executives reportedly wore disguises when meeting outsiders, and no one dared attract the spotlight of the media.

That secrecy served the company well in the cut-throat world of confectionery, where the theft of candy-making techniques is rife, and where some of the best-known products were stolen from competitors.

But Mars is realizing that its legacy of privacy comes with a price. Though its brands are exceedingly well known—beyond candy, the rapidly expanding company sells products ranging from Uncle Ben’s rice to Eukanuba pet food—its profile as a workplace is not. That’s a disadvantage for any company competing against employers in far more glamorous fields such as tech or finance, and an especially big hurdle for Mars as it embarks on the biggest workforce expansion of its 100-year history. The company plans to add 70,000 employees over the next decade—it now has about 85,000. Some will come through planned acquisitions, but many more will need to be recruited outright.

Viking hordes dined on frozen Norwegian cod shipped to Germany

High and dry: cold air preserved cod in Viking times

Norwegian cod may have arrived in Germany hundreds of years earlier than we originally thought, thanks to the ingenuity of the Vikings. It seems they worked out 1200 years ago how to freeze-dry fish to keep it fresh on the long voyage from the Arctic.

Bastiaan Star of the University of Oslo, Norway, and his colleagues analysed DNA from 15 samples of ancient cod at five locations across north-west Europe – the southernmost samples coming from Haithabu, a Viking-age village in what is now northern Germany.

By comparing the ancient DNA with genetic material taken from around 170 modern cod tissues, Star and his colleagues confirmed that four cod samples from Haithabu originated in the north-east Arctic, close to the northernmost tip of the Norwegian coast.

The only explanation is that Viking ships transported the cod – a sea journey of 2000 kilometres that would have taken at least a month. Even then, Vikings – renowned for their maritime prowess – had developed a geographically extensive trade in fish, a perishable resource.


This cerebral organoid, or mini-brain, was grown in a laboratory. It contains a diversity of cell types and internal structures that can make it a good stand-in for an actual brain in experiments. Unpredictable variations and deficiencies have hampered the organoids’ usefulness in research, but new techniques for creating mini-brains may change that.

The human brain is routinely described as the most complex object in the known universe. It might therefore seem unlikely that pea-size blobs of brain cells growing in laboratory dishes could be more than fleetingly useful to neuroscientists. Nevertheless, many investigators are now excitedly cultivating these curious biological systems, formally called cerebral organoids and less formally known as mini-brains. With organoids, researchers can run experiments on how living human brains develop—experiments that would be impossible (or unthinkable) with the real thing.

The cerebral organoids in existence today fall far short of earning the “brain” label, mini or otherwise. But a trio of recent publications suggests that cerebral-organoid science may be turning a corner—and that the future of such brain studies may depend less on trying to create tiny perfect replicas of whole brains and more on creating highly replicable modules of developing brain parts that can be snapped together like building blocks. Just as interchangeable parts helped make mass production and the Industrial Revolution possible, organoids that have consistent qualities and can be combined as needed may help to speed a revolution in understanding how the human brain develops.

In 2013 Madeline Lancaster, then of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, created the first true cerebral organoids when she discovered that stem cells growing in a supportive gel could form small spherical masses of organized, functioning brain tissue. Veritable colleges of mini-brains were soon thriving under various protocols in laboratories around the world.

Men, Listen Up: Women Like The Smell Of Guys Who Eat A Certain Diet

Your diet can influence your appearance. You knew that. But did you know that what you eat can also affect your body odor and your attractiveness to the opposite sex?

What we eat can influence more than our waistlines. It turns out, our diets also help determine what we smell like.

A recent study found that women preferred the body odor of men who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, whereas men who ate a lot of refined carbohydrates (think bread, pasta) gave off a smell that was less appealing.

Skeptical? At first, I was, too. I thought this line of inquiry must have been dreamed up by the produce industry. (Makes a good marketing campaign, right?)

But it’s legit. “We’ve known for a while that odor is an important component of attractiveness, especially for women,” says Ian Stephen of Macquarie University in Australia. He studies evolution, genetics and psychology and is an author of the study.

From an evolutionary perspective, scientists say our sweat can help signal our health status and could possibly play a role in helping to attract a mate.

How did scientists evaluate the link between diet and the attractiveness of body odor?

Here’s the healthy way to compare yourself to other people

Watch & Learn

Turn a destructive habit into an instructive and constructive force.

A comparison habit can wreak psychological havoc, generating envy and leading to depression, so common wisdom has long warned against it. Writer Mark Twain once said, “comparison is the death of joy,” and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti told admirers, “I never compare myself with anybody, but I learn from everybody, including presumptuous idiots.”

Yet comparison is cultivated culturally and starts early, in families and at school, continuing through adulthood. It’s a habit that’s particularly hard to break. So if you can’t quit, try turning the habit to your advantage by learning from comparisons.

To become truly incomparable, compare wisely. Do it right. Compare to gain liberating perspective, says Ming Hai, a Zen Buddhist monk and abbot of the Bailin temple near Beijing, China. He believes that when we examine comparisons deeply, we can pierce illusions about relative superiority and inferiority and be more at peace with ourselves and others.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Donald Trump finally spoke–and said virtually nothing.

How is it that a yard accessory company and a hockey team can show more leadership than our president?

On Saturday hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester, and two police officers – and many more injured.

“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counter-protesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.

From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside of Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up close and personal access inside the unrest.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

It took the President two days to utter a direct dismissal of the KKK, neo-Nazis, or white supremacists. Stephen doesn’t even need 15 minutes.

Front-stabber Anthony Scaramucci believes Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has his own motives.

Ex-White House Communication Director Anthony Scaramucci renounces elements within the White House he perceives as encouraging white supremacist ideology.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth Meyers addresses violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia and calls out President Trump for being slow to directly condemn the white supremacist movement.

Seth takes a closer look at Trump finally bending to two days of public pressure to unequivocally denounce white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK in the wake of violent rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

According to research by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups has been increasing rapidly since 2000. Heidi Beirich, director of the Center’s Intelligence Project, links the rise in recruitment to the 2000 census that predicted whites would be a minority by 2042. Beirich says there’s been another spike following the election of Donald Trump, particularly among alt-right organizations who have attached themselves directly to the current president. In an interview filmed at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, Beirich says that Trump’s limited commentary on hate crimes shows his lack of concern.

When four of your Star Wars and Marvel films gross over $5 billion in 2016, you can pull all your movies from Netflix, flip them the proverbial bird, and start your own streaming service. Which is exactly what Disney is doing, but probably without the whole ‘flipping the bird’ thing. Also, the Eclipse!

Thinking of visiting the city that keeps telling you how awesome it is?

“No matter how you slice it, this is a generous gift from an honest and kind leader…”

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on WTF Happened in the month of July 2017. At least the bullet points of what happened ey. Heaps of other things likely happened that I don’t know about.

Max getting his pattern down while playing.


In this cold place
Who will save me?
Who will take the place of God tonight?
Did I believe?
Oh really believe that
I could see light
That’s hopeless and clearer than dawn

I looked so hard
For a savior
But then, I’ve nothing left to save
I would waste their time,
I know, I’ve wasted mine
Cos tonight, I’m hopeless and clearer than dawn

I got no light
I got no hope
I got no will
I got nowhere to go
I lost my soul
I cut my skin
I see my life
At how it all begins

I got no light
I got no hope
You wanted more
I got no more to know
I couldn’t speak
I couldn’t stand
I’m so ashamed
At how it all began

God I’m tired, of feeling like it’s prison without walls
And I’m tired, of feeling so alone and nothing more
And I’m tired, of feeling like my skin just holds me wrong
And I’m tired, I’m tired of all I’ve done.

Can you save me from going down?

Moby Responds to Alt-Right Hate for ‘In This Cold Place’ Video with Another ‘John Miller’ Statement

Moby & the Void Pacific Choir have shared another statement from the fake PR spokesperson.

Moby has long been outspoken on political and environmental matters and he’s made his disdain for President Trump crystal clear. Because of this, his project Moby & the Void Pacific Choir has recently struck a nerve with the alt-right community.

Because of the political undertones of the recent Void Pacific Choir video “In This Cold Place,” a number of conservative outlets including American Thinker and Breitbart have covered the clip. Based on the outrage the DJ received, he has shared an anti-Moby press release from “John Miller,” the pseudonym Donald Trump adopted when he would pretend to be his own publicist.

Originally, on June 12, Moby & the Void Pacific Choir dropped a new album, These Systems Are Falling, accompanied by a parody press release “from the desk of John Miller” speaking out against the electronic artist. Then, following the album’s release on June 19, the DJ released a Steve Cutts animated music video for “In This Cold Place,” which features dystopian versions of cartoons that parallel American politics and a depiction of Trump as a Nazi robot.

In response to the reactions received from the video, Moby & the Void Pacific Choir have shared another statement from “John Miller,” who this time calls the video “terrorist” and Moby and Steve Cutts “fake news.” Read the full release below.

Ed. Got to ride my bike 22.5 miles this morning. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?