Posts by thedailyjournalist:

    Archaeologists Find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

    February 16th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.

    The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the collaboration of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia, USA.

    The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

    A piece of parchment to be processed for writing, found rolled up in a jug, in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran excavated by Hebrew University archaeologists.

    Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

    The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

    Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

    Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

    Fault cliff and entrance (on the left) to a cave near the Dead Sea, excavated by Hebrew University archaeologists, who designated it the 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave.
    Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

    “This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) assigned to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

    Dr. Gutfeld added: “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

    The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

    Archaeologists Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia, from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, survey a cave that once contained Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld
    This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

    “The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.

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    Download DVD’s In Seconds: Terahertz Wireless

    February 16th, 2017

    Hiroshima University, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Panasonic Corporation announced the development of a terahertz (THz) transmitter capable of transmitting digital data at a rate exceeding 100 gigabits (= 0.1 terabit) per second over a single channel using the 300-GHz band. This technology enables data rates 10 times or more faster than that offered by the fifth-generation mobile networks (5G), expected to appear around 2020.

    Details of the technology will be presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2017 to be held from February 5 to February 9 in San Francisco, California [1].

    The THz band is a new and vast frequency resource expected to be used for future ultrahigh-speed wireless communications.

    Terahertz wireless links to spaceborne satellites could make gigabit-per-second connection speeds available to anyone anytime, anywhere on the face of the earth, on the ground or in flight.

    Credit: Fujishima et al. (Hiroshima University)

    The research group has developed a transmitter that achieves a communication speed of 105 gigabits per second using the frequency range from 290 GHz to 315 GHz. This range of frequencies are currently unallocated but fall within the frequency range from 275 GHz to 450 GHz, whose usage is to be discussed at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2019 under the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Section (ITU-R). Last year, the group demonstrated that the speed of a wireless link in the 300-GHz band could be greatly enhanced by using quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) [2].

    This year, they showed six times higher per-channel data rate, exceeding 100 gigabits per second for the first time as an integrated-circuit-based transmitter. At this data rate, the whole content on a DVD (digital versatile disk) can be transferred in a fraction of a second.
    “This year, we developed a transmitter with 10 times higher transmission power than the previous version’s. This made the per-channel data rate above 100 Gbit/s at 300 GHz possible,” said Prof. Minoru Fujishima, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University. “We usually talk about wireless data rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But we are now approaching terabits per second using a plain simple single communication channel. Fiber optics realized ultrahigh-speed wired links, and wireless links have been left far behind.
    Terahertz could offer ultrahigh-speed links to satellites as well, which can only be wireless. That could, in turn, significantly boost in-flight network connection speeds, for example. Other possible applications include fast download from contents servers to mobile devices and ultrafast wireless links between base stations,” said Prof. Fujishima. “Another, completely new possibility offered by terahertz wireless is high-data-rate minimum-latency communications. Optical fibers are made of glass and the speed of light slows down in fibers. That makes fiber optics inadequate for applications requiring real-time responses.
    Today, you must make a choice between ‘high data rate’ (fiber optics) and ‘minimum latency’ (microwave links). You can’t have them both. But with terahertz wireless, we could have light-speed minimum-latency links supporting fiber-optic data rates,” he added. The research group plans to further develop 300-GHz ultrahigh-speed wireless circuits.

    This work was supported by the R&D on Wireless Transceiver Systems with CMOS Technology in 300-GHz Band, as part of an R&D program on Key Technology in Terahertz Frequency Bands of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan.

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    Sex, Drugs, And Rock And Roll Chemistry In The Brain

    February 10th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    The same brain-chemical system that mediates feelings of pleasure from sex, recreational drugs, and food is also critical to experiencing musical pleasure, according to a study by McGill University researchers published today in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

    “This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” says cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, senior author of the paper. While previous work by Levitin’s lab and others had used neuroimaging to map areas of the brain that are active during moments of musical pleasure, scientists were able only to infer the involvement of the opioid system.

      Daniel Levitin
    Credit: J. Mogil/McGill University

    In the new study, Levitin’s team at McGill selectively and temporarily blocked opioids in the brain using naltrexone, a widely prescribed drug for treating addiction disorders. The researchers then measured participants’ responses to music, and found that even the participants’ favorite songs no longer elicited feelings of pleasure.

    “The findings, themselves, were what we hypothesized,” Levitin says. “But the anecdotes — the impressions our participants shared with us after the experiment — were fascinating. One said: ‘I know this is my favorite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does.’ Another: ‘It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me.’”

    Things that people enjoy – alcohol, sex, a friendly game of poker, to name a few – can also lead to addictive behaviors that can harm lives and relationships. So understanding the neurochemical roots of pleasure has been an important part of neuroscience research for decades. But scientists only recently developed the tools and methods to do such research in humans.

    Still, this study proved to be “the most involved, difficult and Sisyphean task our lab has undertaken in 20 years of research,” Levitin says. “Anytime you give prescription drugs to college students who don’t need them for health reasons, you have to be very careful to ensure against any possible ill effects.” For example, all 17 participants were required to have had a blood test within the year preceding the experiment, to ensure they didn’t have any conditions that would be made worse by the drug.

    Music’s universality and its ability to deeply affect emotions suggest an evolutionary origin, and the new findings “add to the growing body of evidence for the evolutionary biological substrates of music,” the researchers write.

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    38,000 Year Old Engraved Image Discovered, Earliest Graphic Image Found In Western Europe

    February 1st, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    An international team of anthropologists has uncovered a 38,000-year-old engraved image, above, in a southwestern French rockshelter—a finding that marks some of the earliest known graphic imagery found in Western Eurasia and offers insights into the nature of modern humans during this period.

    “The discovery sheds new light on regional patterning of art and ornamentation across Europe at a time when the first modern humans to enter Europe dispersed westward and northward across the continent,” explains NYU anthropologist Randall White, who led the excavation in France’s Vézère Valley.
    The limestone slab engraved with image of an aurochs, or extinct wild cow, was discovered at Abri Blanchard in 2012
    Credit: Musée national de Préhistoire collections – photo MNP – Ph. Jugie

    The findings, which appear in the journal Quaternary International, center on the early modern humans’ Aurignacian culture, which existed from approximately 43,000 to 33,000 years ago.

    Abri Blanchard, the French site of the recently uncovered engraving, a slab bearing a complex image of an aurochs, or wild cow, surrounded by rows of dots, was previously excavated in the early 20th century. White and his team members began their methodical exploration of remaining deposits at the site in 2011, with the discovery occurring in 2012.

    White contends that Aurignacian art offers a window into the lives and minds of its makers—and into the societies they created.

    “Following their arrival from Africa, groups of modern humans settled into western and Central Europe, showing a broad commonality in graphic expression against which more regionalized characteristics stand out,” he explains. “This pattern fits well with social geography models that see art and personal ornamentation as markers of social identity at regional, group, and individual levels.”

    Abri Blanchard and its sister site, Abri Castanet, previously excavated by White’s team, have long been recognized as being among the oldest sites in Eurasia bearing artifacts of human symbolism. Over time, hundreds of personal ornaments have been discovered, including pierced animal teeth, pierced shells, ivory and soapstone beads, engravings, and paintings on limestone slabs.

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    Nordic Countries Are Bringing About An Energy Transition Worth Copying

    February 1st, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    What can we learn from the Nordic low-carbon energy transition given the new US leadership vacuum on climate change? A new study by Benjamin K Sovacool offers some important lessons.

    The Trump administration’s “First energy plan” criticises the “burdensome” regulations on the energy industry and aims to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan” which was introduced by President Barack Obama. It has also deleted all mentions of climate change and global warming from the White House website.

    Given the American leadership vacuum on energy and climate change, national and local planners looking to bring about energy transitions will need to look elsewhere. Five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – could hold answers for how to make the transition to a more energy efficient society generating energy through renewables. About 83% of electricity generation in Nordic countries is low-carbon, of which 63% comes entirely from renewable sources. The Nordic countries are also facilitating other low-carbon transitions across other sectors including heat, buildings, industry, and transport.

    Samsø, a Danish island, generates all its electricity from wind power and biomass.

    Credit: University of Sussex
    A new study outlines broad lessons for how this transition could be replicated elsewhere.

    The energy transition pays for itself (if you factor in the costs of air pollution)

    The total estimated cost of the Nordic energy transition is roughly $357 billion more than business as usual, which comes to a total of less than 1 percent of cumulative GDP between now and 2050. Almost all of these costs will be offset by fuel savings. Even the external costs associated with the health impacts of air pollution alone in the Nordic countries (about $9 to $14 billion annually) are roughly equal to the additional investment needed to achieve a carbon neutral scenario.

    Trade and interconnection with other countries are key for reaching energy targets

    Trade and interconnection with Europe are instrumental to the Nordic countries reaching their carbon and energy targets. Nordic electricity trade must expand considerably— underscoring the need for paralleled, coordinated grid development and interconnections with Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. “It’s as much a regional governance or European challenge as it is a national priority for individual Nordic states,” says Sovacool, a Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit and Director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand.

    Cities and municipalities take the lead

    Cities and municipalities, or ‘subnational actors’ have taken the lead as key actors driving electricity and heat, energy efficiency, transport and the industry sectors to decarbonise, especially given that urbanization rates across the Nordic region are expected to occur at double the rate of previous decades. It is cities that will need to invest in new buildings, sponsor retrofits, erect electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and optimize heat networks.

    Energy transitions take generations

    Even for the Nordic countries, which are relatively wealthy, small, and committed, the transition will take at least three to four more decades. Its success rests upon a number of compelling technological contingencies or breakthroughs, each of which will take time. A few such breakthroughs include a continued phase out of nuclear power; a rapid ramping up of onshore and offshore wind energy; a spectacular diffusion of electric vehicles; a massive increase in bioenergy production; and the commercialization of industrial scale carbon capture and storage. On top of this, households and consumers must learn to adopt better energy management systems and industrial planners must come to install newer cement kilns, electric arc furnaces, and feedstock switching for chemicals, petrochemicals, and paper and pulping.

    Transitions are contingent on other factors, contested and potentially unjust

    For all of its promise, the Nordic transition is contingent upon and unique to its own sociotechnical environment. All the Nordic countries are endowed with plentiful fossil fuels that they can export to generate revenue that they funnel back into domestic decarbonisation process, coupled with a history of strong energy and climate planning and high fuel and electricity prices.

    While the Nordic low-carbon transition has generally been successful and has benefited most within its society, the paper also identifies losers in the transition, including those set to lose their jobs as fossil fuels are displaced. Other potential obstacles to be overcome are a lack of understanding among some citizens about energy and climate topics, and the outsourcing of embodied carbon emissions overseas.

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    Scientist Finds Advanced Geometry No Secret To Prehistoric Architects In US Southwest

    January 28th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Imagine you are about to plan and construct a building that involves several complicated geometrical shapes, but you aren’t allowed to write down any numbers or notes as you do it. For most of us, this would be impossible.

    Yet, new research from Arizona State University has revealed that the ancient Southwestern Pueblo people, who had no written language or written number system, were able to do just that – and used these skills to build sophisticated architectural complexes.

    Dr. Sherry Towers, a professor with the ASU Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, uncovered these findings while spending several years studying the Sun Temple archaeological site in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, constructed around A.D. 1200.

    This is a satellite photo of Sun Temple archaeological site with illustrations demonstrating its geometrical properties.

    Credit; Dr. Sherry Towers

    “The site is known to have been an important focus of ceremony in the region for the ancestral Pueblo peoples, including solstice observations,” Towers says. “My original interest in the site involved looking at whether it was used for observing stars as well.”

    However, as Towers delved deeper into the site’s layout and architecture, interesting patterns began to emerge.

    “I noticed in my site survey that the same measurements kept popping up over and over again,” she says. “When I saw that the layout of the site’s key features also involved many geometrical shapes, I decided to take a closer look.”

    The geometrical shapes used within this location would be familiar to any high school student: equilateral triangles, squares, 45-degree right triangles, Pythagorean triangles, and the “Golden rectangle,” which was well known to architects in ancient Greece and Egypt and is often used in Western art due to its pleasing proportions.

    This is a satellite photo of Pueblo Bonito archaeological site with illustrations demonstrating its geometrical properties.

    Credit; Dr. Sherry Towers

    With some geometrical know-how, a straight-edge, a compass or cord, and a unit of measurement, all of the shapes are fairly easy to construct. But, unlike the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Maya, the ancestral Pueblo people had no written language or number system to aid them when they built the site. Incredibly, their measurements were still near-perfect, with a relative error of less than one percent.

    “This is what I find especially amazing,” Towers says. “The genius of the site’s architects cannot be underestimated. If you asked someone today to try to reconstruct this site and achieve the same precision that they had using just a stick and a piece of cord, it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to do it, especially if they couldn’t write anything down as they were working.”

    During her research, Towers discovered that the site was laid out using a common unit of measurement just over 30 centimeters in length – equal to about one modern-day foot. She also found evidence that some of the same geometrical constructs from Sun Temple were used in at least one other ancestral Puebloan ceremonial site, Pueblo Bonito, located in New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

    “Further study is needed to see if that site also has the same common unit of measurement,” she says. “It’s a task that will keep us busy for some years to come.”

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    Preserved Fortification, Donkey Stables Dating To King Solomon Discovered

    January 20th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Intact defensive structure, livestock pens provide insight into complexity of Iron Age copper production

    Some believe that the fabled mines of King Solomon were located among copper smelting camps in Israel’s Timna Valley. The arid conditions at Timna have seen the astonishing preservation of 3,000-year-old organic materials, which have provided Tel Aviv University archaeologists with a unique window into the culture and practices of a sophisticated ancient society.

    An advanced military fortification — a well-defined gatehouse complex — unearthed recently at Timna, including donkey stables, points to the community’s highly-organized defense system and significant dependence on long-distance trade. The research was recently published in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

     The entrance complex with a two-room gatehouse flanked by animal pens and piles of dung.

    Courtesy Erez Ben-Yosef et al.

    The fortification dates to the reigns of Kings David and Solomon in the 10th century BCE.

    “While there is no explicit description of ‘King Solomon’s mines’ in the Old Testament, there are references to military conflicts between Israel and the Edomites in the Arava Valley,” says Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU’s Institute of Archaeology and one of the leaders of the Timna research and excavation team, along with his colleagues Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen and Dr. Dafna Langgut. “According to the Bible, David traveled hundreds of miles outside of Jerusalem and engaged in military conflict in the desert — striking down ‘18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.’ Now, having found evidence of defensive measures — a sophisticated fortification — we understand what must have been at stake for him in this remote region: copper.”

    Military threats

    “Copper was a rare product and very challenging to produce,” Dr. Ben-Yosef continues. “Because copper — like oil today, perhaps — was the most coveted commodity, it landed at the very heart of military conflicts. The discovery of the fortification indicates a period of serious instability and military threats at that time in the region.”

    In the remarkably intact two-room fortification, located in one of the largest smelting camps in the Timna Valley, the researchers also found evidence of a complex long-distance trade system that probably included the northern Edomite plateau, the Mediterranean coastal plain and Judea. The complex featured pens for draught animals and other livestock. According to precise pollen, seed, and fauna analyses, they were fed with hay and grape pomace — high-quality sustenance that must have been delivered from the Mediterranean region hundreds of miles away.

    “The gatehouse fortification was apparently a prominent landmark,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef. “It had a cultic or symbolic function in addition to its defensive and administrative roles. The gatehouse was built of sturdy stone to defend against invasion. We found animal bones and dung piles so intact, we could analyze the food the animals were fed with precision. The food suggests special treatment and care, in accordance with the key role of the donkeys in the copper production and in trade in a logistically challenging region.”

    Archaeology and the Old Testament

    The site was discovered in 1934 by the American archaeologist Nelson Glueck. He called the copper smelting site “Slaves’ Hill,” because he believed it bore all the marks of an Iron Age slave camp, complete with fiery furnaces and a formidable stone barrier that seemed designed to prevent escape. But in 2014 Dr. Ben-Yosef and colleagues debunked this theory, revealing that the diets and clothing of the smelters — perfectly preserved by the desert conditions — pointed instead to a hierarchical, sophisticated society.

    “The historical accuracy of the Old Testament accounts is debated, but archaeology can no longer be used to contradict them,” Dr. Ben-Yosef observes. “On the contrary, our new discoveries are in complete accordance with the description of military conflicts against a hierarchical and centralized society located south of the Dead Sea.”

    Dr. Ben-Yosef and his team plan to continue exploring the ancient societies that worked in these remote copper mines. “The unique preservation of organic materials in Timna, coupled with 21st century research methods including ancient DNA and residue analyses, bear the potential for additional significant discoveries in the future,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef.

    The excavations at the ancient mines of Tinma continue every winter as part of the Central Timna Valley (CTV) Project of Tel Aviv University.

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    Too Much Sitting, Too Little Exercise May Accelerate Biological Aging

    January 20th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    Older women with low physical activity and 10 hours of daily sit time had even “older” cells.

    Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells that are biologically older by eight years compared to women who are less sedentary.

    The study, publishing online January 18 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours per day have shorter telomeres — tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands, like the plastic tips of shoelaces, that protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age.

    As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorten and fray, but health and lifestyle factors, such as obesity and smoking, may accelerate that process. Shortened telomeres are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers.

    Sitting and low physical activity may accelerate aging process in older women.

    Credit: N/A

    “Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” said Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, lead author of the study with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

    Shadyab and his research team believe they are the first to objectively measure how the combination of sedentary time and exercise can impact the aging biomarker.

    Nearly 1,500 women, ages 64 to 95, participated in the study. The women are part of the larger Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a national, longitudinal study investigating the determinants of chronic diseases in postmenopausal women. The participants completed questionnaires and wore an accelerometer on their right hip for seven consecutive days during waking and sleeping hours to track their movements.

    “We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline,” said Shadyab. “Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old.”

    Shadyab said future studies will examine how exercise relates to telomere length in younger populations and in men.

    Additional co-authors include: Caroline Macera, Richard Shaffer, Sonia Jain, Linda Gallo, Michael LaMonte, Alexander Reiner, Charles Kooperberg, Cara Carty, Chongzhi Di, Todd Manini, Lifang Hou, and Andrea LaCroix, all at UC San Diego.

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    Could Secession Be Possible In The US?

    January 19th, 2017

     

    The Daily Journalist Community Question.

     

     

     

    A hypothetical map of a divided United States found online. 

    I hate to predict situations because I tend to nail the coffin after much thought…

    The United States is deeply divided as a nation and the division is worsening to historical levels only seen during the US civil war.  Democracy won’t last forever – no system ever does — and historically nations that started democratic shifted to either secession, civil war or military dictatorships. States like New York, Washington, Vermont and California – to name a few traditional democratic states — no longer feel identified with conservative states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas…etc. The media and Celebrities are only making the division steepen and inflaming hate between libertarians, progressives and conservatives with negative rhetoric.   

    If one follows the rise of social media closely and the propaganda brewing inside of it, it is clear that the extreme progressives and many non-religious conservatives blame particularly the Jewish media for manipulating news — Antisemitism is only second to Islamophobia online; the religious conservatives blame the liberals and the progressives for betraying constitutional values and destroying the military core with social Utopian experiments to change American traditionalism. The liberals blame the republicans for the neo-conservative model of franchising American fascist values worldwide by bulldozing other cultures into submission– whether fascism can survive in a non-socialist country like the US, as it once did in Italy and Spain remains to be seen.

    Globalization is a financial facet Democrats and Republican politicians fully embrace and protect, yet a globalized world has stiffen the world economy and hurt employment nationwide by outsourcing jobs in exchange of cheap labor significantly increasing gains to borrowers — particularly big banks. At this point, politicians are look upon as capitalist moguls who only serve Wall Street pundits, and not popular interest – lobbying the hallmark of legal corruption.  The rise of Donald Trump in the right and Socialism in the left might and probably will eventually doom the once indestructible core values of a free market economy into a tightly regulated fiscal system.

    Ultimately, the lack of nationalism and patriotism observed today as compared to the Roosevelt Era – which unified the country to recover from the Great Depression and enter War World Two — might end as the final precursor of secession among states given the actual ideological disunion of the country and downfall of military protectionism.  In the end of the day, Auburn Alabama will never feel like NYC, and California will never become Montana.  

    In Europe the situation will probably end with multiple dictatorships or the rise of new nationalist leaderships that will abandon the European Union like England.  The future doesn’t look very bright despite the multiple attempts to unify it.

    The questions follow, If worst came the worst.

    1)      Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worst?

    2)      Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    3)      If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    4)      Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    5)      Would you approve secession states in the US?

     

    rsz_pic1314_2

    Themistocles Konstantinou.

    (Present Military data Analyst. Hellenic National Defense General Staff, Athens Greece)

    “Despite the fact that I am not an American citizen, I strongly believe that this nation must be united and not separated. I don’t want to express an opinion on this but I know that divided nations collapsed very quickly. I beg US the administration to be a government for all the people. The impact will be a disaster for all over the world not only the US.”

     

    rsz_steven-hansen

    Steven Hansen. 

    (Publisher and Co-founder of Econintersect, is an international business and industrial consultant specializing in turning around troubled business units; consults to governments to optimize process flows; and provides economic indicator analysis based on unadjusted data and process limitations)

    “I consider all five questions the same question.

    The  USA constitution was written in a way that the federal government was not to interfere in states rights. Since WWI there has been a significant interference by the federal government in items which should be states issues – marriage, health care, religion, social security, labor laws, environmental laws …..

    Each state should be different and have different rules. Economically it sets up 50+ state incubators to understand what works and what does not work. Texas does NOT need to have the same laws as California.

    The question becomes should states be able to secede? I believe the only way forward involves chaos – and a state seceding would cause chaos and then the change of the existing system. Nobody can say with any certainty what would happen to the dollar or trade.”

     

    rsz_6-7-sebastian-sarbu_tifet_679806b0f8

    Sebastian Sarbu.

    (He is a military analyst and vice-president of National Academy of Security and Defense Planning. Member of American Diplomatic Mission for International Relations)

    “I don’t believe in a possible secessionist movement. If social America prospers then the integrity of the US will maintain itself united.

    The risk is another. It consist in problematic issues and upset citizens who can generate a social crisis in America.

    The ability of new politically leadership is to combat fake news and any form of extremism and to ensure the public safety, restoring the trust in solid US institutions.”

     

    prp8

    Paul Pillar.

    (He is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Studies of Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution and an Associate Fellow of the Geneva Center for Security Policy. He retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community)

    “America certainly is deeply divided, and it has continued to get worse.  Among the factors reinforcing this trend is the tribal manner of absorbing beliefs, in which things are accepted as true because leaders of one’s political tribe say they are true.  Secession is not a prospect; rather, we will see more of what we have now: political paralysis and dysfunction, and continued erosion of a common civic culture.  History offers numerous examples of nation-states still holding together and appearing as only one country on a map despite major, animosity-laden political divisions.”  

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    Robert A. Slayton. 

    (Professor of History, Chapman University. Research Specialist in Housing, Chicago Urban League Author of seven books, including Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith)

    “I completely agree that we are at a level of tension not seen since the Civil War.

    And it just starting, with a long way to go.  Besides the factors you mentioned, the president is a verbal provocateur and his stated agenda is to disrupt the status quo.

    I do not see secession, but a rising anger of epic proportions, with outbursts of violence growing in scale, intensity, and frequency to record levels.

    There is also one other strand you did not mention.  There is a growing sense of post-war norms being shattered in the West:  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen in France, etc.  This reminds me a lot of Europe on the brink of World War I.  In both cases there was massive disruption because of economic/technological changes (in the early example the first and second wave of the Industrial Revolution, now computers).  In both cases there was massive disruption of society:   jobs, the family, new forms of protest and challenges to the political order.In 1914 an episode in a small place was the spark, and cascaded from there.  I think that is not outside the realm of possibility now.”

     

    Claude Forthomme. 

    (Senior Editor of Impakter Magazine. Passionate traveller (80 countries+) 25 years experience in United Nations: project evaluation specialist; FAO Director for Europe/Central Asia)

    “The idea of the United States falling apart and becoming the Disunited States of America is premature, and, in my opinion, not even realistic. I just don’t believe it. It looks bad because ideas online are taken up by anyone and everyone, and spread around like candies. Anyone and everyone who doesn’t understand anything about how the world really functions has as much say, and is heard as much as people in the know.

    The Internet acts as a megaphone for division, but it doesn’t mean that the division is real or is ever going to happen. Are we going to believe the trolls and the spreaders of fake news?

    Yes, at first, people listen and many may even buy in. At this point in time, as I write (12 January 2017), fakes news are an epidemic. But I have hopes, strong hopes that people are not that stupid. They will catch on. They will learn that they have been taken in by Trump and his 0.1 Percent cabinet. The billionaires in the Federal government will do whatever it takes to shield themselves from the people and make their own businesses thrive. Once middle America realizes it has been taken for a ride, it will rebel.

    But this won’t happen overnight. First Trump must put into action his plans to take on China and Mexico, stop globalization, destroy international trade and health care and pull the US out of the Paris climate Accord. Once everything is destroyed and stuff in supermarkets, groceries and apparel stores start costing twice as much as before, the white middle class that supported Trump will wake up.

    And when they do, nobody will talk of secession, everyone will talk of getting rid of this Tweeting Presidency. I believe in America and American values. And Americans won’t allow Trump to make America small again. ”

     

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    Dale Yeager.

    (He is the CEO of SERAPH and F.L.E.T.C trained Forensic Profiler and U.S. DOJ DOD Federal Law Enforcement SME / Instructor.)

    “1)      Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worst?

     Yes, it is and it has been fueled by the current administration which clearly had an agenda to change social systems within the U.S.

    2)      Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    Americans are Americans. This doomsday idea is unrealistic.

    3)      If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    This will not happen guaranteed.

    4)      Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    That would be treason. We have for over 200 years agreed to be a United States. If they did that they would suffer economic loss and anarchy.

    5)      Would you approve secession states in the US?

    No, it is treason.”

     

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    Paul Winghart.

    (He is an economist. Paul is a two-time nominee (2011, 2012) for selection into the Financial Advisor/Private Wealth magazine’s national Due Diligence/Research Manager All-Star Team)

    “In perhaps the greatest bit of economic irony ever to behold the U.S., it is the dynamic of division that is greatest unifying force right now and it is getting worse. Basically, via the mostly invisible force of surplus productivity, everyone is being further detached from their own personal and unique economic potential.

    Being unable to mental and emotionally frame a pathway to one’s potential. Much less identify the blockage that is surplus productivity, means that people are having a much more difficult time relating to themselves, much less anyone else around even though they are struggling with the same issue.

    Because everyone’s economic potential is unique, you can’t appreciate fully someone else’s issues with surplus productivity just as they can’t appreciate yours. An analogy would be that while everyone is indeed in the same economic boat, the fog is so thick that you can’t even see anyone else who is in the boat with you.

    This situation, festering since 2000, is only likely to get worse as we begin to see surplus productivity encroach on all facets of the U.S. economy. I wrote an article that was published on LinkedIn a few months ago entitled The Greatest American Irony – The Economics That Is Uniting Us Is Dividing Us that goes into this dynamic in much more detail.

    I for one would not be in favor of seccession. However, I do believe  that states should break-up into smaller states. Many economists have argued that the U.S. could/ should be actually somewhere around 75 to 100 states and that can be down by making California, for example, into 6 different states.”

     

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    Jose Luis Chalhoub Naffah.

    (He is a political scientist with a masters in international oil trading and an independent politics consultant on politics and geopolitical risk based in Venezuela focusing on Russia AMD Middle East issues)

    “1.) Certainly the U.S. is going through important Socio-political issues and most of this is related to the rise of racism and xenophobic sentiments fostered by the arrival of Barack Obama to the presidency of the U.S. — and now with the winning of Donald Trump, both related to the rise of anti-black and anti-white anti-Latino and anti-Asian and anti- Muslim action and sentiment, but ironically this has been happening utmost at the best economic moment the US has experienced. Yes, the U.S. is getting importantly divided and could get worse if not properly assessed by the Trump administration and the radical groups not controlled timely.

    2.) Secession as such is now a threat for the union of the U.S. but not for all the states or the majority of the states of the union but for the demographic and economically relevant states like California and Texas, but since the economy in general is going through an important positive momentum, then this issue could be downplayed. Yet, secession also could be importantly played out by foreign players interested in destabilizing the U.S. Certainly not every state has equal representation and interests at the federal level and that’s why not every state has interest in separating from the U.S. just like the lesser resourced country in the EU wont want to see the union vanish.

    4.) Certainly oil states, but mostly Texas given its oil production, reserves and size —-does not only depend on oil and shale oil and gas resources — but also on agriculture and farming, so Texas could be possible be better off and it has had some previous initiatives of separating from the U.S. :I could only bet for this state. California is in no positive economic position to carry out a secessionist strategy from Washington — a political distaste ideologically speaking. I don’t see either Mexico or China making California another state of their own.

    5.) I would never approve such kind of political and geopolitical strategy, but now that we are watching how social and political dynamics in anti-globalization evolve quickly and separatism becoming a rule not the exception, then I would not rule out such a possibility in the general analysis.

     

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    Dr. Christopher Warburton. 

    (He holds a Ph.D in International Economics from Fordham University in New York. He has published several peer-reviewed articles and books on stabilization theory, market failure, monetary policy, exchange rates, international trade law, forensic economics, international crimes, and transitional justice)

    “1. America is deeply divided and the American polarization is nothing new. It  might get worse if a substantial amount of voters continue to be unenlightened,   unemployed, and abandoned. Immigration, income inequality, and poverty have become drivers of xenophobic sentiments. From the foregoing, the adverse socio-economic attributes  have become symptoms of national discontents and alienation.

    2. Secession is unlikely. Historically, States have voted to reflect their interests and confidence in those who aspire to higher office. Democracy is  a political ideology that works reasonably well when it is not susceptible to perversion, subterfuge, and complacence. In effect, it can be subverted from within and without political boundaries. As humans gravitate toward a corruption of the democratic system, because of political biases and self-enrichment, democracy ceases to function as it should. The Founding Fathers were much more diligent in safeguarding the fundamental principles of democracy. A longtime ago, political leaders were more interested in country first. Today, it seems to be pocket first; a perversion of the spirit and intent of democratic principles.

    Obviously, citizens need to exercise their rights in a democracy for a democratic state to function properly. Citizens must vote and be allowed to vote. The infrastructure for voting must be freely accessible and sufficient. The sight of long lines of voters who are expected to vote within a very limited time span is indicative of a blemish on any democratic system.  A system  ceases to be democratic when voting is suppressed. It is needless to say that voting requires a minimum amount of intelligence and civic awareness. When the central pieces of a democratic system are missing , a democratic state can no longer function as a composite whole and  the cohesion of a body politic begins to disintegrate. Yet, the strength of the American system, is that political leaders are judged by their performances even when voters make sentimental choices.

    National leaders who infuriate a substantial amount of the  American electorate  can be rest assured that they will be voted out of office. For these reasons, political parties  have alternated in the roles of leadership without the fear of regional secession even when the American voters are less vigilant. The voters eventually pull themselves by their bootstraps when they are confronted with adversity. Yet, the will of the majority must count in any democratic society. The tyranny of the majority or minority requires  measured rectification to maintain a balance of the expectations of voters in any democratic society.

    3. Apart from the political improbabilities of secession, the economic reasons for cohesion are equally compelling. Once upon a time, US States were using different currencies. It did not work out too well. The very thought of secession presumes the possibility of the multiplicity or duplicity of currencies, which imposes transaction costs and raises the question about the acceptability of State-issued currencies. Trade will ultimately be contingent on the economic resources that are available to each seceding State.

    Obviously, Sates that are not well endowed will have to find resources that will determine their comparative advantage. The paucity of such resources will spell doom, and demographic issues of domestic migration to areas of opportunity will generate unwanted external effects like crime and economic destabilization. States that are less endowed and excluded from the union will not receive federal financial support. These imaginary conditions are highly improbable. The result of a US election cannot be extraordinarily catastrophic. However, the persistence or long-lasting encouragement of economic and political deprivations against the will of voters can become very destabilizing.

    4. Since secession is improbable and counterproductive, Americans are only left with some pointed and very important options: (i) they must safeguard the principles of democracy from corrosive internal and external denigration, (ii) they must ensure that national interest supersedes parochial pecuniary interests, (iii) they must address the issue of  income inequality and poverty, (iv) they must utilize opportunities to exercise their civic responsibilities, ( v) they must ensure that the voting   infrastructure is accessible, sufficient, and uniform, and (vi) American voters who lack knowledge about the principles of government and international relations will do well to educate themselves about such matters to become enlightened citizens. When voters exercise their civic responsibilities and national interest supersedes parochial interests, the body politic will be preserved and discussions about secession will fade away or become moot.”

     

    John Mariotti.

    (He has spoken to thousands of people in the business, professional and university audiences in the US and Europe; he hosted a one-hour talk-radio show on the North American Broadcasting Network, (The Life of Business & the Business of Life); founded & moderated, The Reunion Conference, an annual round table/think-tank for 16 years) 

    “1)      Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worse?

    Yes, America is deeply divided, but it was at its worst in 2016. Strangely enough, the unique coalition of voters who supported Donald Trump are a blend of formerly split groups. There is no way the far left and far right will ever reconcile completely, but that was the same in the days of the Founding Fathers. America’s Constitution actually was designed to force them to find compromises that would hold the country together instead of splitting it apart, while serving the American people’s best interests. Government is intended to work for the American people, not vice versa.

    2)      Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    No. The huge differences between liberal states (NY, CA) and conservative states (TX & Southern tier), cities and rural areas, simply exhibit the diversity of America. As more Americans move South, a natural blending of ideologies will occur. Secession is no answer. It is a great cop-out to avoid reasonable dialogue about the best compromise solutions.

    3)      If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    If it happened, which it won’t, it would totally disrupt how the US$ is viewed globally, and similar disrupt trade. But there is no other viable reserve currency in the world either.

    4)      Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    No. The Federal government needs to cede more power back to the states. Obama’s regime contradicted the Constitution’s intention that the states have as many rights and do as much as possible locally … and the Federal government do as little as possible. That need to be restored. Contrary to Obama and his allies, the Federal government seldom knows best, and does most things poorly. wasting enormous sums of taxpayer money while doing so—to achieve flawed solutions. Continental Europe is proving that right now.

    5)      Would you approve secession states in the US?

    Absolutely not. To even consider it is a lazy, arrogant cop out. Reasonable people can find compromises if they want to and choose to have dialogue over it. The biggest problem in the divisiveness in America is not the people. It is the sensationalism seeking media, which is dominated by liberals to an unhealthy extent (as is education). As long as the American people let media feed them their biased, and politically motivated “news,” this will not improve. What many people dislike about Donald Trump is his intention to “blow up” this untenable situation. It is, however, one of his greatest callings to “Make America Great Again.”  Nobody has to agree with everything. However, every elected official MUST set aside their selfish, biased positions and find positions that represent the will and wishes of the people they were elected to represent.”

     

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    Nick Dranias.

    (He is President & Executive Director of Compact for America Educational Foundation. He is a constitutional scholar and an expert in the law of interstate compacts. He has appeared as a constitutional scholar on Fox News, MSN-NBC, NPR, and many other outlets)

    “1)       Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worst?

    America is deeply divided and if our system of federalism—allowing for state and local control of most policy issues—were working the division would not necessarily be a threat, but a basis for policy competition and persuasion for residents and businesses, with the best state or city winning the competition. The problem has been that the federal government under the outgoing administration did as much as possible to obliterate that safety release for division and healthy policy competition (except in the field of marijuana production), and by consolidating ever more power in a centralized location, transformed such division into a nearly existential political conflict. Perhaps the new administration will reverse course, but if not, further centralization will exacerbate the problem.

    2)       Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    Secession is not a real possibility, nor should it be tried. The effort failed in the civil war and it will certainly fail today. Plus, there is too much division internal to all states to extract an entire state from the union. There are communities within states that have their own policy ideas that need the autonomy to make core policy decisions. That’s why powerful ideas like the Prosperity States Compact should be used whereby states can agree to create autonomous local communities that can robustly restore the constitution and free market policies for those who want them. The vehicle of a compact is recommended because it preserves that policy environment from political interference and with congressional consent can also restore limits on federal power.

    3)       If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    It won’t happen.

    4)       Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    No.

    5)       Would you approve secession states in the US?

    No. The ProsperityStates.org effort is both more politically plausible, more effective and more likely to actually result in greater freedom.”

     

    Halyna Mokrushyna.

    (Holds a doctorate in linguistics and MA degree in communication. She publishes in Counterpunch, Truthout, and  New Cold War on Ukrainian politics, history, and culture. She is also a contributing editor to the New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond and a founder of the Civic group for democracy in Ukraine)

    “Without any doubt, America is divided. The last presidential election showed it very clearly. There is a deep ideological divide between traditionalist, conservative Americans and neoliberal, ‘progressive’ Democrats. I took the ‘progressive’ into brackets not accidentally, because Democrats of Hillary Clinton’s likes are hypocritical demagogues, pretending to be preoccupied with destinies of little people, while in reality serving interests of the elite to which they belong. Real progressives, like Senator Sanders, do not stand a chance in a non-socialist country that the US is, and I do not think that socialism is ever possible in the States.

    What shocked me the most in the aftermath of Trump’s victory in the presidential election is a violent, immature reaction to it of Democratic Party supporters. They launched street protests, called upon members of the Electoral College not to vote for Trump, doubted the results of counting. They are so nice when their representatives sit in the White House, but when somebody else dares to challenge their ideology and power, their politeness and civility suddenly disappear. A quote from Churchill comes to mind: ‘Some people’s idea of [free speech] is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage’. Democracy is a democracy precisely because it allows the multiplicity of voices to be heard and represented politically.

    Neo-liberal rulers even successfully convinced many Americans that Russians hacked the DNC servers and influenced the results of the election. It is ironic how the American spy agencies, without any convincing proof, are accusing Russians of intervening in the U.S domestic affairs. The U.S. has been meddling in other countries’ politics for decades, the last example being the coup d’état in Ukraine, which resulted in the awakening of right-wing nationalism, oppression of the opposition, and the disintegration of the economy.

    Yes, America is divided ideologically, but what country isn’t? American intellectual and political elites are in panic mode because they have finally understood that their country is not exceptional and it is subject to the same fragility as any other. American elites thought self-indulgently and arrogantly that their country is well shielded from the destruction which they have been bringing to other countries. It is very difficult to give up the self-illusion of superpower and self-righteousness and accept the political and intellectual multipolarity. It is easier to blame one’s problems on others, and Russia is the ready-made escape goat for sins of American military industrial moguls.

    In my opinion, we are witnessing the decline of American domination in the world, and this is good. Globalization, promoted by both Republican and Democrat elites, brought cheap products to the masses, but stripped American working class of jobs and is deskilling American workers. The election of Donald Trump who promised to bring back industries into the U.S. is a good thing for America and the rest of the world. Globalization in the current configuration is a very eschewed world system that is not sustainable in the long run, as it serves interests of the transnational elite. Transnational capitalists dislike nationalism precisely because it threatens their freedom to move production anywhere in the world where the labour is cheaper, where taxes are much lower, and where various regulations do not exist. Nationalism as protection of one’s own interests is a positive thing as long as it does not mutate into hatred and exclusion of others.

    We are witnessing the rise of such nationalism in Europe. I disagree with Jaime Ortega that it would lead to the emergence of dictatorships. It might lead to the emergence of nationalist leaders, but coming to power of dictators is highly improbable, given the traumatic and tragic experience of Nazism in Europe.

    Is secession possible in the U.S.? I do not think so. Separatism in any country historically is based on ethnic/cultural cleavages, not on ideological ones, and in that sense, America has a strong unity. Different actors on the margins of mainstream politics might entertain the idea of leaving the confederation, but they will never gather a sufficient support from ordinary citizens and the elites. There is no genuine social movement in the States that would promote the idea of secession. Even if such a movement were present, as it was in Quebec in 1960-1970, the economic reality check would dispel the enchantment of sovereignty. The defeat of Quebec sovereignists in the referendum of 1995 by a close margin of one percent was due to a large extent to fear of economic instability that the separation of Quebec would bring. People think about their basic needs first. It is difficult to lure into an uncertain adventure somebody who already lives in more or less easy circumstances.

    Secession in the States is not viable economically, it does not have the support of the elites and the population at large, and it will not happen. That is why I will not speculate what would happen to the trade and the American dollar.

    As to whether I would approve or disapprove the secession, it would up to American citizens to decide, and I am not one of them.

    Last point: democracy is possible without capitalism. The elites instilled into us the idea that free market and democracy are inseparable twins, but it is a false ideological construct. It is quite possible to have a centrally planned economy and a political system reflecting the interests of diverse population. Entrepreneurship is a very positive phenomenon and a drive of economic development, which should be allowed and encouraged. But any large, nation-wide production units should be under public ownership as it would allow a more transparent and just management and distribution of income across society. It would also prevent the accumulation of excessive riches in the hands of few people. What is needed for the building of such democracy is the political will of the elites, or a revolution, and both seem highly unlikely in the world we currently live in.”

     

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    Jon Kofas. 

    (Retired Indiana University university professor academic writing. International political economy — fiction)

    “Is Secession a Possibility? In case of Secession, what would be its impact on the dollar and trade?

    By 2016, the majority of Americans were angry and dissatisfied with their government led by a neoliberal Cold War Democrat President Obama whose actions did not match his rhetoric when it came to social justice and economic opportunity for all. Two weeks before the presidential election of 2016, a survey indicated that the nation was sharply divided on nearly everything from race relations to health care. The majority of people, 20% more than in 2012, believed the country was headed in the wrong direction and blamed the establishment Democrats and Republicans.

    Polarization was evident when considering evangelical Protestants who associated America’s glory with the Eisenhower administration, an era when institutionalized racism was legal and witch hunts against dissidents entailed absolute conformity in a country that called itself a democracy and castigated totalitarian Russia. Many populist conservatives that voted Trump are not bothered if their president violates the constitution and goes above the law to crush all enemies foreign and domestic, from ISIS in Iraq to illegal aliens and Black Lives Matter in the inner cities. In short, if authoritarianism is what it takes for social integration, then so be it, as far as the populist right wing is concerned. That populist conservatives lump together jihadists, illegal aliens, and minority activists speaks volumes of deep-seated cultural, political and institutional racism.

    Beyond the obvious socioeconomic divisions that tend to be much more evident in southern states and rural areas, coastal states are enjoying higher living standards than the rest of the country and are culturally very different from most states except the larger Midwestern and even some large southern cities. The “Red-state” (Republican) vs. “Blue-state” (Democrat) divide transcends class and reflects more of a cultural and ideological chasm that reflects historic societal conditioning. Although it is true that the social, cultural, religious, financial, and political elites have shaped the ideological/cultural chasm largely to suppress class solidarity which poses a threat to capitalism, this divide is deeply rooted in American history layered with the experiences of the dominant white Western European culture as hegemonic subordinating all others.

    As a political tool of rallying support behind the flag, shifting blame to external enemies has limited staying power, although the US did very well using Communism for half a century to achieve a domestic and international political consensus. Although large segments of the population feel excluded by the institutional structure, indoctrination has them convinced that enemies du jour are to blame, whether they are Russian and WIKILEAKS hackers, illegal immigrants, Muslims, the Chinese, etc. According to Pew Research public opinion data, the US did not become divided in 2016 as a result of the general election. The divisions in fact predate 9/11 and become sharper with the ideological/political gap widening as the income gap widened after the great recession of 2008. The decline in living standards follows a corresponding rise in the phenomenon of culture clashes and various socially excluded and differentiated groups seeking integration by different political means.  https://www.quora.com/HowandwhyhastheUnitedStatesbecomesodividedpoliticallyandsocially

    Considering the US progressive tradition was limited to the trade union movement from the late 19trh century until the Great Depression but thoroughly co-opted, and considering the women’s movement along with all other identity politics issues were also co-opted by the Democrat Party, there is no historical tradition of an effective progressive grassroots movement that takes under its umbrella all socially excluded and differentiated groups.  Given this reality people turn to the right when a populist extreme right wing demagogue like Trump comes along and promises to restore the American Dream, although in practice will deliver more wealth concentration that will lead to even lower social integration levels than what he inherited.

    Is Secession a Good Idea? Would liberal California or conservative Texas be better off as breakaway Republics?

    Considering the polarizing societal conditions, one could imagine how perpetual division, even secession may enter the public discourse. Secession is a deep-seated fear or wish on the part of some Americans who see that country geographically, ideologically, politically, racially, ethnically and culturally divided. It is true that southern states do not reflect the values or lifestyles of the coastal states. It is equally true that the smaller less populated southern states enjoy as many votes in the senate as the larger coastal states, thus determining the national agenda for the majority of the population. Does such a system reflect the will of the people, the social contract, or is it simply a reflection of states’ rights mentality that had relevance during the pre-Civil War slave era?

    Secession was tried in the 1860s and failed miserably despite the considerable confidence of the southern elites who believed that their interests were better served by closer integration with England than the northern states. The secession movement that resulted in the Civil War suggests that secession is beyond the realm of possibility. Of course, people understand politics on the basis of their educational level, their family and local influences, their religious and ideological-political leanings, as well as cultural conditioning.

    Rural Mississippi populist Republicans who link their identity to the Christian faith view New York Democrats as leftist atheists interested in destroying cherished southern traditions and values. In such case, the individual subordinates material self interest to religious faith and culture, as Samuel Huntington argued in “Clash of Civilizations” referring to a Middle East-West conflict rather than a domestic culture clash. Conservatives are spending billions of dollars every year trying to convince the masses to disregard their material self interests and focus on religion, cherished traditions, and loyalty to the nation, even if that means that every year their living standards decline and their prospects and those of their children for social integration diminish. 

    Conclusions

    Not just the mass anti-Trump-inauguration demonstrations estimated at more than 200,000 people, but the media wars, social media and mainstream media ‘fake news’, the political elites’ wars, the struggle for the country’s direction either toward a more authoritarian course or a liberal bourgeois based on pluralism, all provide a glimpse of a polarized society where social integration is the presumptive theoretical goal but exclusion and differentiation are realities. Although dialogue about the issues concerning the lives of the middle class and working people raises conflict in a capitalist society, the question is to what degree and how do the bourgeois political parties deal with social integration to achieve political consensus.

    Under an imaginary scenario of secession, the cultural elites and some people on either side of the cultural divide would be happy if they were not bound by the federal government pursuing an ideological and political agenda with which they disagree sharply. Clearly, there is an ideological, political and cultural chasm between Texas and California, at so many levels, despite similarities especially in the larger cities of both states. It is also the case that while in many southern and rural areas there is convergence of religious dogma and conservative political ideology.

    States have a great deal in common and would not give up the safety and security of the federal umbrella which makes possible US global reach partly because it has military bases around the world, military alliances, and the strong dollar as a reserve currency that is overvalued to the benefit of those holding it. Unless their privileges are taken from them by force as has been the case in revolutions, financial elites always manage to protect, preserve and expand their interests by backing the political status quo even if they have to reform it with a more progressive agenda, or support authoritarian policies, whichever side manages to forge a better popular consensus. 

    The reality of the well-integrated economy with global ties takes precedent over all other issues. California and Texas have economies largely in the primary sector of production but also in banking and high tech. This means that they need markets beyond their state borders and beyond US borders. Not just the costs of running an independent nation-state with sovereign currency, trade and investment policy that is in line with international organizations such as the WTO, World Bank, IMF, but also the reality of a mobile work force would complicate matters and make the breakaway states less competitive.

    In the end, the political, ideological and cultural benefits would be so minor to the breakaway states, and economic costs so high that they would rejoin the union even if they were given the freedom to form their own nation. There is strength in unity and weakness in division. However, human beings are indeed irrational and material interests are not their only motivating factor in political choices. Indoctrinated by “Manifest Destiny” ideology and the American Dream of achieving greatness again even by association with the nation-state, people will sacrifice self-interest as they perceive it so they may satisfy their illusions such as identity with the militarily strong nation.

    One possible scenario for the future of the US amid rapidly changing demographics is that it may resemble some aspects of post-Mandela South Africa. South African blacks have entered the political arena and government bureaucracy, they enjoy political rights and in theory equal protection under the law, but the economy and the entire institutional structure is designed to serve the white capitalist minority. As much as the US criticizes Russia for its authoritarianism and crony capitalism, is it that far off and is it not moving in that direction rather than the direction of the Scandinavian countries?

    As the trend of massive wealth concentration under a corporate welfare state continues to erode the middle class and working class, the struggle against the tide of domestic and global history will keep America at war with itself and tilt it even more toward the road of authoritarianism and militarism after the next inevitable deep recession. Because popular expression of discontent lacks class solidarity owing to cultural divisions and identity politics in America, political leadership will not be under the umbrella of a leftist or even a center-left movement. America’s future is an even more authoritarian regime with roots at the local and state levels financed by wealthy individuals like the Koch brothers among other likeminded billionaires, finding expression at the federal level with populist demagogues like Trump.”

     

    Jaime Ortega-Simo.

    (The Daily Journalist president and founder)

    “It looks very unrealistic to suggest secession today is a viable outcome in the United States. A few riots and a few protest could not possibly pave the way towards separation. But one important concept I learned throughout the history of the world is that looks and appearances can deceive and be undermined by the most avid observers.  What looks like small bumps and modest swells in society end up transforming the nation’s political framework! Geographically speaking, the US is simply too vast size wise to not consider separation. The issues that affect Montana, are just not the issues hurting Florida.

    The United Sates is in real trouble and it’s highly unlikely the current ideological war initiated by the media unites the country. I compare this to a hallow ball which exterior is made out of plastic covered gold with sharp nails impacting the inside.  The gold exterior is the American economy; the air inside represents the lack of values, and the nails represent the political and ideological divisions pinning down the gold exterior as the ball moves and bounces. The ball depends on its gold surface made of plastic, once it blows up, the nails will fly away.

    Financially – for now—the United States remains united under financial prosperity that keeps most people secure without fully embracing ideological revolts despite growing tension among different factions; however, the real problem is that United States is ideologically divided and states like California no longer represent the nationalistic and patriotic values of conservative states like Alabama or Kentucky.  Every state differs financially from one another and in the past few years cities like Chicago and Atlantic City have suffered bankruptcy — it has worsened over the years. In fact, people from Chicago, Michigan, California, Ohio and other financially hit states have started to migrate to the southwest in search for new opportunities!  States that financially prosper don’t want to deal with welfare states that rely on government aid to sustain themselves, and welfare states want to use federal powers to keep their disastrous state policy running at the cost of raising taxes to whatever is left of the middle class.

    As I mentioned earlier, the silent generation and the generation that preceded them, helped reshape America during the Great Depression and united to fight against Nazi Germany; nationalism, military faith and patriotism were on all-time high. Today the opposite is true and after talking to plenty of military colleagues and war vets, I can guarantee they see politicians the same way Julius Caesar saw the Aristocracy in Rome – a cancer of society run by corrupt elites. The Democratic Party is particularly blamed for their incursion on inciting division– a situation never seen before the American Civil war.

    Then the progressive media has initiated a race war vilifying police officers and victimizing criminals to generate more views and incentivize their networks at the cost of inflaming hate among ethnic groups; white versus black media sensationalism generates vast amount of converts, viewership and new subscribers. The media is making local news, national news to create controversy and generate higher ratings to out-rate their competition. Yet, the media won’t cover the ethnic war between Mexicans and blacks in America taking place in the south, west and southwest – and it’s a bad scenario. Such issue is making white Americans despise Blacks and blacks hate whites and other minorities that also reciprocate with violence. The US flag is now viewed as a fascist symbol of worldwide interventionism and genocide, it no longer represents “the home of the brave and the proud”.  The media has created an unrecoverable ethnic war in America to incentivize their networks, at the expense of social divisions. Just wait and see…

    Then we have the growing tension between Wall Street and the millennial generation. The millennials believe in massive conspiracy theories and despise banks and bureaucrats. The millennials have adopted socialism and other far left ideologies to counter the pro-capitalist dogmas run inside Government. Wall Street is completely disconnected with the average Joe and they only care about finding legal loopholes to evade government regulations from interfering with their interest. Companies will purchase robots and hire illegal immigrants to avoid paying more money to low income Americans— never mind outsourcing jobs and its impact on employment. In America corporations and elites have the same leverage as politicians and escape prosecution while the average Joe suffers the full consequences of the law.  Justice exist at insignificant local and state levels, but loses traction at Supreme Court level, when the criminals trialed own large reserves of money.

    The division steepens further between progressives, liberals and conservatives. The rotten relationship is headed toward more divisions constantly impacting the core values of strong nationalism in America. The wealthy baby boomer liberals see the new young progressives like fake democrats, who want to take the party to the far left, diffuse privatization and unjustly distribute their wealth. The conservatives view liberals as the progenitors of the progressive movement and view both ideologies as cancerous to America.  Progressivism has turned nationalism into fascism, and military incursions into interventionism; nationalism, patriotism, traditionalism are all viewed as enemies of Darwinian-democracy.  Even in education, the palpable war between conservatives, liberals and progressives is vicious and unforgiving. A few decades ago the left and the right and the center were united under nationalism and military efficiency, today no longer is the case.

    The Democratic Party challenged the election and took part on the vote recount started by Jill Stein. This is the start of a negative narrative which will make Republicans in the near future contest elections results not satisfied by the results. The left should have accepted the election results and not blame Putin. The CIA’s report shows Russia, China, Iran and many other countries breach government servers on a regular basis. The pentagon was breached over 300 times in the past three years and information has been leaked.

    Also the growing list of politicians skipping Trump’s inauguration is alarming and will send a rancid signal to Trump supporters across the US, who will start to boycott democratic initiatives as a response. The Democratic Party has brought such negativity to itself, and it has lost significant power in congress, now dominated by republicans.

    People underestimate the power of comments on social media and its impact and influence on people’s reactions and opinion.  Conventional ideological battles were traditionally fought with constant revolutions, uprisings and public discontent.  The western world has changed its beat with the rise of technology; ideological battles today are fought online and unlike mainstream media which filters its opinion, the online world is unfiltered.  Such unfiltered system allows hate to spread like wildfire. Just like the health consequences of smoking a cigarette without filters, are the ideological consequences of not filtering forums, comment sections and opinion pieces online.  Now if the government decided to regulate the internet, democracy would cease to exist and it would cluster more coals to the growing hatred between Americans and government. If the Government doesn’t regulate the internet, democracy will pay the consequences regardless. No good options…

    Realistically, I think the only reason why states have not separated in America is because the pillars of the financial system haven’t collapsed and reach the levels of the Great Depression;  Once we reach that level, I not only believe secession is a likely possibility but a new civil war is probable. America is not united and the fact that various high level entrepreneurs and celebs openly express “they don’t feel like Americans anymore” among millions of other people, sparks the start of the problem to arise. Mark my words, secession is closer than what most people think and its sugar coated on hopes that the US economy wont crash.”

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    Researchers Discover Self-Assembling 2D And 3D Materials

    January 16th, 2017

    Self-assembly of matter is one of the fundamental principles of nature, directing the growth of larger ordered and functional systems from smaller building blocks. Self-assembly can be observed in all length scales from molecules to galaxies.

    Now, researchers at the Nanoscience Centre of the University of Jyväskylä and the HYBER Centre of Excellence of Aalto University in Finland report a novel discovery of self-assembling two- and three-dimensional materials that are formed by tiny gold nanoclusters of just a couple of nanometres in size, each having 102 gold atoms and a surface layer of 44 thiol molecules.

    2D hexagonal sheet-like and 3D capsid structures based on atomically precise gold nanoclusters as guided by hydrogen bonding between the ligands. The inset in the top left corner shows the atomic structure of one gold nanocluster.

    Credit; Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)

    The study, conducted with funding from the Academy of Finland and the European Research Council, has been published in Angewandte Chemie (1), one of the world’s leading journals in chemistry.

    The atomic structure of the 102-atom gold nanocluster was first resolved by the group of Roger D Kornberg at Stanford University in 2007 (2). Since then, several further studies of its properties have been conducted in the Jyväskylä Nanoscience Centre, where it has also been used for electron microscopy imaging of virus structures (3). The thiol surface of the nanocluster has a large number of acidic groups that can form directed hydrogen bonds to neighbouring nanoclusters and initiate directed self-assembly.

    The self-assembly of gold nanoclusters took place in a water-methanol mixture and produced two distinctly different superstructures that were imaged in a high-resolution electron microscope at Aalto University. In one of the structures, two-dimensional hexagonally ordered layers of gold nanoclusters were stacked together, each layer being just one nanocluster thick. Modifying the synthesis conditions, also three-dimensional spherical, hollow capsid structures were observed, where the thickness of the capsid wall corresponds again to just one nanocluster size (see figure).

    While the details of the formation mechanisms of these superstructures warrant further systemic investigations, the initial observations open several new views into synthetically made self-assembling nanomaterials.

    “Today, we know of several tens of different types of atomistically precise gold nanoclusters, and I believe they can exhibit a wide variety of self-assembling growth patterns that could produce a range of new meta-materials,” said Academy Professor Hannu Häkkinen, who coordinated the research at the Nanoscience Centre. “In biology, typical examples of self-assembling functional systems are viruses and vesicles. Biological self-assembled structures can also be de-assembled by gentle changes in the surrounding biochemical conditions. It’ll be of great interest to see whether these gold-based materials can be de-assembled and then re-assembled to different structures by changing something in the chemistry of the surrounding solvent.”

    “The free-standing two-dimensional nanosheets will bring opportunities towards new-generation functional materials, and the hollow capsids will pave the way for highly lightweight colloidal framework materials,” Postdoctoral Researcher Nonappa (Aalto University) said.

    Professor Olli Ikkala of Aalto University said: “In a broader framework, it has remained as a grand challenge to master the self-assemblies through all length scales to tune the functional properties of materials in a rational way. So far, it has been commonly considered sufficient to achieve sufficiently narrow size distributions of the constituent nanoscale structural units to achieve well-defined structures. The present findings suggest a paradigm change to pursue strictly defined nanoscale units for self-assemblies.”

    The other researchers involved in the work were Tanja Lahtinen and Tiia-Riikka Tero from the University of Jyväskylä and Johannes Haataja from Aalto University.

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    Northeast US Temperatures Are Decades Ahead Of Global Average

    January 16th, 2017

    Results of a new study by researchers at the Northeast Climate Science Center (NECSC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that temperatures across the northeastern United States will increase much faster than the global average, so that the 2-degrees Celsius warming target adopted in the recent Paris Agreement on climate change will be reached about 20 years earlier for this part of the U.S. compared to the world as a whole.

    NECSC postdoctoral researcher Ambarish Karmalkar and geosciences professor Raymond Bradley’s study explores how climate across the U.S. will be affected by the recent Paris agreement to limit global average temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees C, or 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Details appear in the current issue of PLOS ONE, released today.

    Bradley says that many people have been lulled into a false sense of security with the Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. They think the 2-degree C target is a ‘safe’ limit for climate change. But that is a global average and many regions will warm more, and warm more rapidly, than the earth as a whole.

    Credit: UMass Amherst

    Bradley says, “With the signing of the Paris Agreement to try and limit greenhouse gas emissions, many people have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that the 2-degrees C target is somehow a ‘safe’ limit for climate change. But the 2 C number is a global average, and many regions will warm more, and warm more rapidly, than the earth as a whole. Our study shows that the northeast United States is one of those regions where warming will proceed very rapidly, so that if and when the global target is reached, we will already be experiencing much higher temperatures, with all of the related ecological, hydrological and agricultural consequences.”

    The lower 48 states are projected to cross the 2-degree C warming threshold about 10 to 20 years earlier than the global mean annual temperature, they note. Bradley and Karmalkar write that “the fastest warming region in the contiguous U.S. is the Northeast, which is projected to warm by 3 degrees C when global warming reaches 2 degrees C.” The southwest U.S. also is projected to warm at a “much faster rate” than the southeast or southern Great Plains.

    They also conclude that regional precipitation projections for warming of 1.5 degrees C and 2 degrees C remain uncertain, “but the eastern U.S. is projected to experience wetter winters and the Great Plains and Northwest are projected to experience drier summers in the future.”

    Karmalkar adds, “Policymakers need information that is useful at the local, not global scale. Our study provides this information for several regions in the U.S. in the context of the global temperature targets set in Paris.”

    Their analysis is based on climate model simulations that contributed to the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Among other things, Karmalkar and Bradley address concensus and disagreements among models and discuss the impact of internal variability and model- and scenario-uncertainty on model projections of climate change. They point out that their threshold-based approach identifies timings associated with regional climatic changes and “clearly demonstrates how warming rates are projected to differ across the country.”

    The authors add that “while there is no real scientific basis to why global warming of 2 degrees C should be considered ‘safe,’ it emerged as ‘the least unattractive course of action’ and has been used as an easily understood, politically useful marker to communicate the urgency of the climate change problem and to drive action on a global scale.” Use of the lower 1.5 degree number was proposed by small island nations to call attention to the worst potential impacts of rising sea levels.

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    Divide And Conquer Pattern Searching

    January 12th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    A new data-mining strategy that offers unprecedented pattern search speed could glean new insights from massive datasets.

    Searching for recurring patterns in network systems has become a fundamental part of research and discovery in fields as diverse as biology and social media. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) researchers have developed a pattern or graph-mining framework that promises to significantly speed up searches on massive network data sets.

    “A graph is a data structure that models complex relationships among objects,” explained Panagiotis Kalnis, leader of the research team from the KAUST Extreme Computing Research Center. “Graphs are widely used in many modern applications, including social networks, biological networks like protein-to-protein interactions, and communication networks like the internet.”

    A new data mining strategy that offers unprecedented pattern search speed could lead to new insights from massive data.

    Credit: © Mopic / Alamy Stock Photo DTFTEM

    In these applications, one of the most important operations is the process of finding recurring graphs that reveal how objects tend to connect to each other. The process, which is called frequent subgraph mining (FSM), is an essential building block of many knowledge extraction techniques in social studies, bioinformatics and image processing, as well as in security and fraud detection. However, graphs may contain hundreds of millions of objects and billions of relationships, which means that extracting recurring patterns places huge demands on time and computing resources.”In essence, if we can provide a better algorithm, all the applications that depend on FSM will be able to perform deeper analysis on larger data in less time,” Kalnis noted.

    Kalnis and his colleagues developed a system called ScaleMine that offers a ten-fold acceleration compared with existing methods.

    “FSM involves a vast number of graph operations, each of which is computationally expensive, so the only practical way to support FSM in large graphs is by massively parallel computation,” he said.

    In parallel computing, the graph search is divided into multiple tasks and each is run simultaneously on its own processor. If the tasks are too large, the entire search is held up by waiting for the slowest task to complete; if the tasks are too small, the extra communication needed to coordinate the parallelization becomes a significant additional computational load.

    Kalnis’ team overcame this limitation by performing the search in two steps: a first approximation step to determine the search space and the optimal division of tasks and a second computational step in which large tasks are split dynamically into the optimal number of subtasks. This resulted in search speeds up to ten times faster than previously possible.

    “Hopefully this performance improvement will enable deeper and more accurate analysis of large graph data and the extraction of new knowledge,” Kalnis said.

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    Why High-Dose Vitamin C Kills Cancer Cells

    January 12th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Vitamin C has a patchy history as a cancer therapy, but researchers at the University of Iowa believe that is because it has often been used in a way that guarantees failure.

    Most vitamin C therapies involve taking the substance orally. However, the UI scientists have shown that giving vitamin C intravenously–and bypassing normal gut metabolism and excretion pathways–creates blood levels that are 100 – 500 times higher than levels seen with oral ingestion. It is this super-high concentration in the blood that is crucial to vitamin C’s ability to attack cancer cells.

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    Monster Lurking In The Neighborhood

    January 8th, 2017

    Monster black holes sometimes lurk behind gas and dust, hiding from the gaze of most telescopes. But they give themselves away when material they feed on emits high-energy X-rays that NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission can detect. That’s how NuSTAR recently identified two gas-enshrouded supermassive black holes, located at the centers of nearby galaxies.

    “These black holes are relatively close to the Milky Way, but they have remained hidden from us until now,” said Ady Annuar, a graduate student at Durham University in the United Kingdom, who presented the results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas. “They’re like monsters hiding under your bed.”

    Both of these black holes are the central engines of what astronomers call “active galactic nuclei,” a class of extremely bright objects that includes quasars and blazars. Depending on how these galactic nuclei are oriented and what sort of material surrounds them, they appear very different when examined with telescopes.

    NGC 1448, a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus hidden by gas and dust, is seen in this image.
    Credits: Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey/NASA/JPL-Caltech
    Active galactic nuclei are so bright because particles in the regions around the black hole get very hot and emit radiation across the full electromagnetic spectrum — from low-energy radio waves to high-energy X-rays. However, most active nuclei are believed to be surrounded by a doughnut-shaped region of thick gas and dust that obscures the central regions from certain lines of sight. Both of the active galactic nuclei that NuSTAR recently studied appear to be oriented such that astronomers view them edge-on. That means that instead of seeing the bright central regions, our telescopes primarily see the reflected X-rays from the doughnut-shaped obscuring material.

    “Just as we can’t see the sun on a cloudy day, we can’t directly see how bright these active galactic nuclei really are because of all of the gas and dust surrounding the central engine,” said Peter Boorman, a graduate student at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

    Boorman led the study of an active galaxy called IC 3639, which is 170 million light years away. Researchers analyzed NuSTAR data from this object and compared them with previous observations from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Japan-led Suzaku satellite. The findings from NuSTAR, which is more sensitive to higher energy X-rays than these observatories, confirm the nature of IC 3639 as an active galactic nucleus. NuSTAR also provided the first precise measurement of how much material is obscuring the central engine of IC 3639, allowing researchers to determine how luminous this hidden monster really is.

    More surprising is the spiral galaxy that Annuar focused on: NGC 1448. The black hole in its center was only discovered in 2009, even though it is at the center of one of the nearest large galaxies to our Milky Way. By “near,” astronomers mean NGC 1448 is only 38 million light years away (one light year is about 6 trillion miles).

    Annuar’s study discovered that this galaxy also has a thick column of gas hiding the central black hole, which could be part of a doughnut-shaped region. X-ray emission from NGC 1448, as seen by NuSTAR and Chandra, suggests for the first time that, as with IC 3639, there must be a thick layer of gas and dust hiding the active black hole in this galaxy from our line of sight.

    This galaxy, called IC 3639, also contains an example of an obscured supermassive black hole.

    Credits: ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

    Researchers also found that NGC 1448 has a large population of young (just 5 million year old) stars, suggesting that the galaxy produces new stars at the same time that its black hole feeds on gas and dust. Researchers used the European Southern Observatory New Technology Telescope to image NGC 1448 at optical wavelengths, and identified where exactly in the galaxy the black hole should be. A black hole’s location can be hard to pinpoint because the centers of galaxies are crowded with stars. Large optical and radio telescopes can help detect light from around black holes so that astronomers can find their location and piece together the story of their growth.

    “It is exciting to use the power of NuSTAR to get important, unique information on these beasts, even in our cosmic backyard where they can be studied in detail,” said Daniel Stern, NuSTAR project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

    NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror archive. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

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    Riverless PLatoons: Autonomous Trucks Travelling In Packs Could Save Time And Fuel

    January 8th, 2017

    As driverless cars merge into our transportation system in the coming years, some researchers believe autonomous vehicles may save fuel by trailing each other in large platoons. Like birds and fighter jets flying in formation, or bikers and race car drivers drafting in packs, vehicles experience less aerodynamic drag when they drive close together.

    But assembling a vehicle platoon to deliver packages between distribution centers, or to transport passengers between stations, requires time. The first vehicle to arrive at a station must wait for others to show up before they can all leave as a platoon, creating inevitable delays.

    Now MIT engineers have studied a simple vehicle-platooning scenario and determined the best ways to deploy vehicles in order to save fuel and minimize delays. Their analysis, presented this week at the International Workshop on the Algorithmic Foundations of Robotics, shows that relatively simple, straightforward schedules may be the optimal approach for saving fuel and minimizing delays for autonomous vehicle fleets. The findings may also apply to conventional long-distance trucking and even ride-sharing services.

    MIT engineers have studied a simple vehicle-platooning scenario and determined the best ways to deploy vehicles in order to save fuel and minimize delays.

    Credit; MIT“Ride-sharing and truck platooning, and even flocking birds and formation flight, are similar problems from a systems point of view,” says Sertac Karaman, the Class of 1948 Career Development Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    at MIT. “People who study these systems only look at efficiency metrics like delay and throughput. We look at those same metrics, versus sustainability such as cost, energy, and environmental impact. This line of research might really turn transportation on its head.”

    Karaman is a co-author of the paper, along with Aviv Adler, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and David Miculescu, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

    Pushing through drag

    Karaman says that for truck-driving — particularly over long distances — most of a truck’s fuel is spent on trying to overcome aerodynamic drag, that is, to push the truck through the surrounding air. Scientists have previously calculated that if several trucks were to drive just a few meters apart, one behind the other, those in the middle should experience less drag, saving fuel by as much as 20 percent, while the last truck should save 15 percent — slightly less, due to air currents that drag behind.

    If more vehicles are added to a platoon, more energy can collectively be saved. But there is a cost in terms of the time it takes to assemble a platoon.

    Karaman and his colleagues developed a mathematical model to study the effects of different scheduling policies on fuel consumption and delays. They modeled a simple scenario in which multiple trucks travel between two stations, arriving at each station at random times. The model includes two main components: a formula to represent vehicle arrival times, and another to predict the energy consumption of a vehicle platoon.

    The group looked at how arrival times and energy consumption changed under two general scheduling policies: a time-table policy, in which vehicles assemble and leave as a platoon at set times; and a feedback policy, in which vehicles assemble and leave as a platoon only when a certain number of vehicles are present — a policy that Karaman first experienced in Turkey.

    “I grew up in Turkey, where there are two types of public transportation buses: normal buses that go out at certain time units, and another set where the driver will sit there until the bus is full, and then will go,” Karaman says.

    When to stay, when to go

    In their modeling of vehicle platooning, the researchers analyzed many different scenarios under the two main scheduling policies. For example, to evaluate the effects of time-table scheduling, they modeled scenarios in which platoons were sent out at regular intervals — for instance, every five minutes — versus over more staggered intervals, such as every three and seven minutes. Under the feedback policy, they compared scenarios in which platoons were deployed once a certain number of trucks reached a station, versus sending three trucks out one time, then five trucks out the next time.

    Ultimately, the team found the simplest policies incurred the least delays while saving the most fuel. That is, time tables set to deploy platoons at regular intervals were more sustainable and efficient than those that deployed at more staggered times. Similarly, feedback scenarios that waited for the same number of trucks before deploying every time were more optimal than those that varied the number of trucks in a platoon.

    Overall, feedback policies were just slightly more sustainable than time-table policies, saving only 5 percent more fuel.

    “You’d think a more complicated scheme would save more energy and time,” Karaman says. “But we show in a formal proof that in the long run, it’s the simpler policies that help you.”

    Ahead of the game

    Karaman is currently working with trucking companies in Brazil that are interested in using the group’s model to determine how to deploy truck platoons to save fuel. He hopes to use data from these companies on when trucks enter highways to compute delay and energy tradeoffs with his mathematical model.

    Eventually, he says, the model may suggest that trucks follow each other at very close range, within 3 to 4 meters, which is difficult for a driver to maintain. Ultimately, Karaman says, truck platoons may require autonomous driving systems to kick in during long stretches of driving, to keep the platoon close enough together to save the most fuel.

    “There are already experimental trials testing autonomous trucks [in Europe],” Karaman says. “I imagine truck platooning is something we might see early in the [autonomous transportation] game.”

    The researchers are also applying their simulations to autonomous ride-sharing services. Karaman envisions a system of driverless shuttles that transport passengers between stations, at rates and times that depend on the overall system’s energy capacity and schedule requirements. The team’s simulations could determine, for instance, the optimal number of passengers per shuttle in order to save fuel or prevent gridlock.

    “We believe that ultimately this thinking will allow us to build new transportation systems in which the cost of transportation will be reduced substantially,” Karaman says.

    This research was funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

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    Researchers Discover New Ancient Egyptians Tombs

    January 8th, 2017

    Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham have found “compelling evidence” of new pharaonic tombs at Qubbet el-Hawa in Aswan, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has revealed.

    A two-metre high ancient encroachment wall has been discovered below a visitors’ pathway in the northern part of the West Aswan cemetery at Qubbet el-Hawa.

    It follows and archaeological mission by the University of Birmingham and the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) Qubbet el-Hawa Research Project Group (QHRP), directed by Dr Martin Bommas of the University of Birmingham.

    The newly discovered wall is thought to indicate the architectural support for the known tombs of the first upper terrace, including those of Harkhuf and Heqaib, who were governors of Elephantine Island during the Old Kingdom.

    Credit: University of Birmingham

    Owing to the landscape of Qubbet el-Hawa, the support wall helped to secure the hillside, and thus lower lying tombs, which were accessible by a causeway leading to a second terrace.

    Carl Graves, a PhD student who worked alongside Dr Bommas on the project, said: “The findings are dramatically altering our understanding of the funerary landscape in this area during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period in 2278-2184BC. I don’t think anyone yet knows who the tombs might have belonged to.”

    Nasr Salama, General Director of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities, describes the discovery as “stunning” telling the Egypt Independent that it is now only a matter of time until new tombs are uncovered within the important cemetery.

    Eman Khalifa, director of the pottery project within the QHRP, told the paper that the stone wall was dated by the pottery shreds embedded within the mortar used to build it. She said that the crushed pieces include parts of carinated bowls, executed in a style typical of the reign of King Pepi II from the Sixth Dynasty (circa 2278-2184 BCE).

    The find was part of the project’s successful first field season, which included the recent discovery of the long sought causeway of Sarenput I, thought to have been the first governor of the area at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.

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    The Historical Journey Of Christmas Turkeys

    December 26th, 2016

    Professor Rebecca Earle, food historian at the University of Warwick has been researching the traditional Christmas turkey, in order to find out how this north American bird has become a mainstay of festive food.

    “I was talking with my sister about how to cook turkeys. ‘I have always believed turkeys should be sautéed in a small frying pan’, she opined. Whimsy aside, the best way to guard against the turkey’s proverbial dryness is to brine it. This year, of course, our access to flavourful free-range turkeys is under assault.

    “The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advises that all fowl be kept indoors so they don’t catch avian flu. Turkey farmers rushed to reassure the public that there was no need to cancel Christmas—but since when did the British Christmas require a turkey in the first place?

    Credit: University of Warwick

    “In 1773 the genial curate and gourmande James Woodforde described the Christmas dinner he ordered at New College, Oxford: ‘two fine Codds boiled with fryed Souls [soles] around them and oyster sauce, a fine sirloin of Beef roasted, some peas soup and an orange Pudding for the first course, for the second we had a lease of Wild Ducks roasted, a fork of Lamb and salad and mince pies’. Tasty, and turkey-free. Roast turkey did not become an expected feature of (as Mrs Beeton put it) ‘a Christmas dinner with the middle classes’ until the nineteenth century. In her 1861 Book of Household Management she described flocks of several hundred turkeys being herded from Suffolk to the London market. She listed dozens of recipes, from roasts to fricassées.

    “Turkeys originated in North America, where the wild birds thrived from Canada to Mexico. The Aztec emperor Moctezuma probably ate them in a stew.

    “The Spanish introduced turkeys to Europe, where they spread rapidly, making it as far as Germany before the sixteenth century was out; a 1581 cookbook published in Frankfurt lists over twenty recipes for ‘Indian chicken’. Because they were so grand and festive, turkeys quickly found a place at banquets and holiday meals, including Christmas. A sixteenth century English poem describes a Christmas spread containing ‘Beefe, mutton, and porke, shred pies of the best, pig, veal, goose and capon, and turkey well drest’, along with cheese, apples, nuts and ‘good drink’.

    “The demand for turkeys was such that great herds were driven from Languedoc over the Pyrenees to markets in Spain. That must have been a sight to see. Merchants in Bordeaux were shipping turkeys—stuffed with truffles—to Dublin. When bad weather delayed the crossing in 1757, the anxious turkey-seller advised the captain to wipe the birds regularly with a damp napkin to keep putrefaction at bay.

    “The turkey’s attractive plumage beguiled painters. The Dutch artist Pieter Claesz painted a spectacular, feather-topped turkey pie in 1627. An equally jaunty bird appears in a seventeenth-century map of New England.

    “How were all these turkeys prepared? Hannah Glasse’s bestselling eighteenth-century cookery book described how ‘to roast a turkey in the genteel way’. This entailed removing all the bones, and then stuffing the boneless bird with sausage meat, after which it was sewn back up, ‘that it may look just as it did before’. Glasse recommended serving this culinary tour-de-force with oyster or celery sauce. Or you could eat a your turkey in a pie like the one painted by Claesz.

    “Glasse describes a luxurious Yorkshire Christmas pie that contains turkey, goose, chicken, partridge and pigeon, in a huge crust. She warns it will take four hours to bake. Other British recipes explain how turkey can be roasted and served with chestnuts, parsnips and sausages, boiled and served with gravy, pickled like a sturgeon, chopped into patties, stuffed ‘in the Hamburgh way’, or even, by the nineteenth century, recycled into a leftover turkey curry. But I’ve yet to find a cookbook, historic or modern, that recommends sautéeing in a small pan.”

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    How Safe Is Seafood

    December 26th, 2016

    Seafood is the main component of European Christmas menus. But with rising concern about chemical pollution in the marine environment, is seafood safe to eat?

    Consumption of seafood is regarded as healthy since it contains high quality proteins, vitamins and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. But it might also put us at risk of exposure to environmental pollutants.

    How much do we know about our eating choices? One answer could come from a personal fish calculator designed by European researchers, to understand how much of our diet is healthy. It is very simple; you must select your age range, the amount and species consumed per week.

    Credit: Blayne Chong

    Have you eaten spaghetti with clams and fried sardines? The device will quickly calculate your exposure to methylmercury and other pollutants. The calculator is the brainchild of the ECSafeSEAFOOD project, which has analysed the prevalence of marine toxins, microplastics and other chemical contaminants of growing concern, found in seafood sold in supermarkets across Europe.

    Contaminants of emerging concern are substances for which no maximum levels have been laid down in EU legislation nor require revision.

    “Sensitive, rapid and cost-effective screening methods were validated in a large set of seafood samples. Overall, the levels of contaminants in seafood were low, there are no risks for consumers. The only pollutants that may represent a concern for those who consume a lot of seafood were methylmercury and PBDE99 (industrial contaminants)”, says António Marques from the Portuguese Marine and Atmospheric Institute (IPMA) in Lisbon, Portugal.

    “The exposure to these contaminants through seafood needs to be more finely assessed. Such information is crucial for the European food safety authorities to adjust the legislation”, he adds. For example, no limits have been established for methylmercury in food.

    In the Po estuary in Italy, which is one of the top sites for mollusc farming in Europe, the scientists also found the highest level of pharmaceuticals such as the psychiatric drugs venlafaxine and citalopram, and the antibiotic azithromycin.

    Other contaminants raising concern are endocrine disrupters (EDCs) which are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s hormonal gland system and cause various adverse effects. “Spanish consumers had the highest intake of endocrine disrupting compounds from seafood consumption, though the assessed intake was still below the tolerable weekly intake”, explains Sara Rodriguez-Mozaz, researcher working at the Catalan Institute of Water Research (ICRA) in Girona, Spain, “Methylparaben, triclosan and bisphenol A were the most frequently detected EDCs.”

    Other substances investigated by the researchers are microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5 mm) that may act as a vector for chemical contaminants. The research revealed that up to 36.5% of the fish examined and 83% of crustaceans contained microplastics.

    The main challenges in the project were related to finding the right analytical methods. “Pharmaceutical and EDCs are found at very low levels in seafood, close to the current limits of detection of conventional analytical methodologies,” says Rodriguez-Mozaz.

    The scientists collated their results in a database focusing “on unregulated contaminants that give rise to concern from an environmental and public health point of view”. They invite “policy makers” to use their study “to help inform policy and advisory guidelines” and “authorities to highlight the deficits in seafood contaminant research”.

    However, there is a happy ending. Despite the increase of chemicals in the marine environment, the low levels in seafood so far mean that we can still enjoy seafood during our Christmas holidays without worrying too much.

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    Unknown City Discovered In Greece By Swedish And Greek Archaeologist

    December 20th, 2016

    By Don Irvine.

    An international research team at the Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, is exploring the remains of an ancient city in central Greece. The results can change the view of an area that traditionally has been considered a backwater of the ancient world.

    Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have begun exploring a previously unknown ancient city at a village called Vlochós, five hours north of Athens. The archaeological remains are scattered on and around the Strongilovoúni hill on the great Thessalian plains and can be dated to several historical periods.

    The city’s acropolis is barely visible during a cloudy day on the Thessalian plains.

    Credit: SIA/EFAK/YPPOA
    ‘What used to be considered remains of some irrelevant settlement on a hill can now be upgraded to remains of a city of higher significance than previously thought, and this after only one season,’ says Robin Rönnlund, PhD student in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Gothenburg and leader of the fieldwork.

    ‘A colleague and I came across the site in connection with another project last year, and we realised the great potential right away. The fact that nobody has never explored the hill before is a mystery.’

    Fortress walls, towers and city gates are clearly visible from the air.
    Credit: SIA/EFAK/YPPOA

    In collaboration with the Swedish Institute at Athens and the local archaeological service in Karditsa, the Vlochós Archaeological Project (VLAP) was started with an aim to explore the remains. The project’s research team completed the first field season during two weeks in September 2016.

    Rönnlund says that the hill is hiding many secrets. Remains of towers, walls and city gates can be found on the summit and slopes, but hardly anything is visible on the ground below. The ambition is to avoid excavation and instead use methods such as ground-penetrating radar, which will enable the team to leave the site in the same shape as it was in when they arrived. The success of this approach is evident from the results of the first field season:

    Fragment of red-figure pottery from the late 6th century BC, probably by Attic painter Paseas

    Credit: SIA/EFAK/YPPOA
    ‘We found a town square and a street grid that indicate that we are dealing with quite a large city. The area inside the city wall measures over 40 hectares. We also found ancient pottery and coins that can help to date the city. Our oldest finds are from around 500 BC, but the city seems to have flourished mainly from the fourth to the third century BC before it was abandoned for some reason, maybe in connection with the Roman conquest of the area.

    Rönnlund believes that the Swedish-Greek project can provide important clues as to what happened during this violent period in Greek history.

    ‘Very little is known about ancient cities in the region, and many researchers have previously believed that western Thessaly was somewhat of a backwater during Antiquity. Our project therefore fills an important gap in the knowledge about the area and shows that a lot remains to be discovered in the Greek soil.’

    The Vlochós Archaeological Project (VLAP):

    VLAP is a collaboration between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Karditsa and the Swedish Institute at Athens. In 2016-2017, a team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg and University of Bournemouth is exploring the remains of a city in Vlochós as part of the project. Read more at vlap.se

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    USGS Estimates 20 Billion Barrels Of Oil In Texas

    December 14th, 2016

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    The largest estimate of continuous oil that USGS has ever assessed in the United States is worth hundreds of  billions of dollars.

    The Wolfcamp shale in the Midland Basin portion of Texas’ Permian Basin province contains an estimated mean of 20 billion barrels of oil, 16 trillion cubic feet of associated natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey. This estimate is for continuous (unconventional) oil, and consists of undiscovered, technically recoverable resources.

    The estimate of continuous oil in the Midland Basin Wolfcamp shale assessment is nearly three times larger than that of the 2013 USGS Bakken-Three Forks resource assessment, making this the largest estimated continuous oil accumulation that USGS has assessed in the United States to date.

    “The fact that this is the largest assessment of continuous oil we have ever done just goes to show that, even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program. “Changes in technology and industry practices can have significant effects on what resources are technically recoverable, and that’s why we continue to perform resource assessments throughout the United States and the world.”

    Credit: U.S. Geological Survey.

    Although the USGS has assessed oil and gas resources in the Permian Basin province, this is the first assessment of continuous resources in the Wolfcamp shale in the Midland Basin portion of the Permian.

    Since the 1980s, the Wolfcamp shale in the Midland Basin has been part of the “Wolfberry” play that encompasses Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Lower Permian reservoirs. Oil has been produced using traditional vertical well technology.

    However, more recently, oil and gas companies have been using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and more than 3,000 horizontal wells have been drilled and completed in the Midland Basin Wolfcamp section.

    The Wolfcamp shale is also present in the Delaware Basin portion of the Permian Basin province, but was not included in this assessment. The Permian Basin province includes a series of basins and other geologic formations in West Texas and southern New Mexico. It is one of the most productive areas for oil and gas in the entire United States.

    Continuous oil and gas is dispersed throughout a geologic formation rather than existing as discrete, localized occurrences, such as those in conventional accumulations. Because of that, continuous resources commonly require special technical drilling and recovery methods, such as hydraulic fracturing.

    Undiscovered resources are those that are estimated to exist based on geologic knowledge and theory, while technically recoverable resources are those that can be produced using currently available technology and industry practices. Whether or not it is profitable to produce these resources has not been evaluated.

    USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. The USGS Wolfcamp shale assessment was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol.

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