The Real Reason Donald Trump Doesn’t Support Gay Rights Anymore

The politics of the United States are infuriating. Indeed, they have been so infuriating of late, that lately I haven’t written at all about the things that interest me most. Namely science. And so, to titillate your pleasure receptors and inject some endorphins into your neural receptors, I will regale you with a crispy crust of Donald Trump with a creamy science commentary nougat in the center.

First of all, Donald Trump is a chimp. I mean that figuratively in the sense that he is a sub-human form of life. I considered a few animal comparisons before settling on chimp, of course: weasel, skunk, hairless mole-rat, but I think chimp seems to fit my purposes well. Clearly he has mastered some tool use. A comb, for instance. Or is that a toupee that is carefully placed upon his shiny brow each morning by a Guatemalan page-boy? He has a twitter feed, and thus must have managed to learn the use of a smartphone and some of the rudiments of language. Of course even that can be delegated to at least a third-tier authentic human of sinister quality. Speculations abound. It’s a tough nut to crack. We’ll go with chimp.

What I am specifically referring to is the drama surrounding Trump’s “presidential bid” (taste my air quotes of righteous sarcasm!). There is, first and foremost, the fact that he is apparently going to maybe if he feels like it somehow try to run for president. Next, is some rather hilarious commentary by Bill Cosby. Trump’s rebuttal, which is laced with logical fallacies is also pure entertainment. “I can’t run for president until my reality show is done. Jeez, Cosby. Can’t a brother get a break?” And then he called Cosby a liar. Well, actually he accused him of not being honest. It amounts to the same thing.

I don’t think Trump has a chance of really becoming president, so I feel much more comfortable joking about it. That is, until this happened. My first reaction was a kind of “oh come on!” And then it got me thinking. On the one hand, it may very well be a fairly straightforward and un-cunning attempt to curry favor with gay-hating Tea Partiers. The thought process is easy: “The Tea Party hates gays, so if I want to use them to further my infantile political career, I should pretend to hate gays.” Interpret the word “infantile” how you will. I mean, it’s not like you need cunning to manipulate the Tea Party. Sarah Palin does it with her bosoms and her spunkiness.

But it seems much more likely that this is part of some byzantine conspiracy.

Ahem:

A phage is a fast-replicating bacterial virus. Fast-replication means rapid evolution. Now you’ve gotten to the sciencey nougat. New research into biomolecular manipulation has lead to an interesting new technique for manufacturing novel proteins, possibly opening up new avenues for pharmaceutical research, which will in turn, open up new ways for pharmaceutical companies to profit off of human misery. le sigh…

It is called “phage-assisted continuous evolution,” or PACE. The PACE method relies on the fact that these phage viruses have a life cycle in the neighborhood of 10 minutes. This allows for very fast evolution and with the right, artificially-imposed selection pressures, it means that useful proteins can be manufactured very quickly. I wonder when the e. coli rights activists will start busting down their doors.

It is a well-known fact that science happens a long time before people like you and me hear about it. So we can presume that this technique has been around for centuries. Or at least long enough for the Tea Party’s elite brigade of molecular geneticists to get their grubby little mitt-paws on it.

And so here it is: my contention here is that they have manufactured a protein that stimulates growth of the amygdala, which, we know from science, is a brain structure associated with emotion and, in particular, fear. Newly leaked research suggests that conservative brains have enormous amygdalas (adjectives adjusted for rhetorical effect).

And, since Sarah Palin is the evil genius behind the Tea Party and the Tea Party is comprised largely of poor white people, she needed money. Who better to inject her new miracle Tea Party Orientation Protein Drug, or T-POP’d, than a very wealthy white man? Viola! A man that has historically supported gay marriage rights is a raving gay-hater! It makes perfect sense, obviously.

Just as obvious is that fact that he will be the next president. I mean, that’s a given.

Look, I’m just trying to reason this thing out. I refuse to believe that Donald Trump is an autonomous human being, you dig? No self-conscious, bona-fide, tier-one human being is this stupid. As I have said, he is a chimp. And so he must have some sort of handler, or controller, or a new drug called T-POP’d manipulating him. Sort of like how toxoplasmosis makes rats love cats and consequently get theirselves eaten by them. This new drug turns rich white men into gay haters.

Hell, it’s not much more of a stretch to assume that the entire Tea Party movement has been infected with T-POP’d. Too far? I’m just trying to see into the mind of Alex Jones and Glenn Beck here. Perhaps if I can see beyond the Veil of Maya into the reality of the situation, the conspiracy webs of the American political and social elite, then maybe, just maybe, I might get some readers who like to click their mouse pointers on ad banners.

viva sensationnel

Unobtanium a reality!

Unobtanium has been used in sci-fi more than once. And it doesn’t get old. It cracks me up every time. In the James Cameron spectacular Avatar, I believe it was supposed to be a sort of room-temperature superconductor. However, I don’t want to talk about unobtanium in the “Avatar-sense.” And honestly, I think how they used the idea of unobtanium in Avatar was a little silly considering the rest of the film took itself so goddamned seriously.

Instead, I want to talk about unobtanium the way it was envisioned in one of the single worst (and one of my favorite) disaster films: The Core. I’m talking about one of the biggest box office bombs of the last eight years. I’m talking about the movie where, mysteriously, the Earth’s core stops spinning (!) causing the Earth’s magnetosphere to stop…being magnetic. Our intrepid heroes, played by Aaron Eckhart and Hillary Swank drill to the center of the planet to set off a nuclear reaction in order to get the core spinning again.

The reason I like this movie is the fact that the “fi” to this movie’s “sci,” the method whereby the film explains itself, actually gave me the giggles for several days after seeing it. You see, whoever wrote this movie knew that the problems involved in digging through to the Earth’s core were fairly insurmountable. Mainly pressure and heat. Lots of both. And so, where films like Journey to the Center of the Earth solve this problem by ignoring it and pretending the Earth’s interior is actually populated with dinosaurs (etc), The Core does something a little different. It trades one science problem for another. Imagine a vessel capable of drilling through the hardest rock, sort of like the Technodrome, only less cheesy. The reason this vessel is not crushed as it delves ever deeper into the mantle, is unobtanium. This hypothetical mineral becomes harder and stronger the more heat and pressure are applied.

Essentially what the filmmakers did was a little literary sleight of hand. They traded one scientific problem for another, and simply ignored the new one completely. Indeed, they did us one better, they hung a lampshade on it by calling it unobtanium. Unobtanium!

And the reason I didn’t roll my eyes at this movie (while I did at Avatar) is the fact that this movie was never (I assume) intended to be taken all that seriously.

In the interests of full disclosure, today’s image is not my own joke. My wife and I both appreciate The Core quite a bit (despite its obvious terribleness). When my wife was shopping for wedding rings, she told me that she wanted to get the unobtanium rings, but the shelf was too high. I’m pretty sure I came close to crapping my pants when she said that. And so, credit for the joke goes to her.

Obviously, unobtanium is a joke. Can’t possibly be real. Or can it? Researchers at Rice University have created a new synthetic material, an alchemical blend of aligned carbon nanotubes and inert polymers, that, when exposed to repeated stress, actually becomes stiffer. I feel no shame in admitting that I almost crapped my pants when I read this article, too.

I mean, think about it. Something that I laughed at as a joke in 2003 is actually sort of possible? The hows and the whys of it are maybe irrelevant to the layperson. Merely the knowledge that a synthetic material can have properties of this nature is astonishing. I guess I do have a few questions about it, though. For instance, what happens if you stop applying stress? Does it lose some of its accumulated strength? And then if you start applying stress again, does the strength return? Does this material have an unlimited capacity for gaining strength? Will there be a point where you start to experience diminishing returns?

I guess those scientists need to get to work.

I would also like to mention one last thing: Saturn is sending us radio messages. The video is actually somewhat haunting.

bitte schön

Hidden Doorways a Reality?

shanter_prime_web

Click on the image to see it full size. I’m working on a new theme for the blog so that I can include larger format images. It might take some time.

This is pretty much exactly what would happen if William Shatner came ’round to tea at the Prime residence.

So I realized today that I have no really good reason for using Optimus Prime as the subject of so many of these comics (if you can call them that). Perhaps it’s that I see him as the sort of ideal outside observer. An alien not of us, but very sympathetic to us. He likes humans in a way that is not patronizing or insincere. He shows us–the inferior race–a kind of respect that is rare between humans.

Prime is the perfect idealist. His most famous quote (from the comics as well as the various Michael Bay films) was, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” On the one hand, it’s the sort of magnanimous statement that gives a person shivers, especially when uttered by the always earnest Peter Cullen. But it’s also, when one really deconstructs it, astonishingly prejudiced against beings that are less than sentient. Regardless, I’ve always wanted to identify with Optimus Prime and I respected his sage wisdom (and awesome robot-fu) as a child.

Perhaps I use him in so many comics because I happen to own an Optimus Prime action figure myself, which makes it easy to photograph him from any angle I want. Do you know how hard it is to find a photo of William Shatner in the perfect pose?

The subject of ‘Hidden Portals’ was spawned by a headline that I saw on Science Daily. It’s one of those headlines that really plays tricks on a guy like me. I read something like this and I get really excited. I imagine, of course, teleportation (something that would really put GM out of business). And, thus, that’s the idea that I explored in my art project.

But that’s not exactly what’s going on in the article. In fact, the article is further misleading in that, try as I might, it’s difficult to figure out what, exactly, these researchers actually accomplished. Upon further research into the matter, it turns out that what they have created is not an actual, workable prototype of a hidden doorway, but instead have built a functional conceptual model of a doorway that does not permit electromagnetic waves to pass through it, but would allow other entities (say, a person) to pass through. A mirror that you can walk through.

It’s actually really cool. But this is the thing that’s frustrating about science sometimes. They’ve proved that it’s theoretically possible, but they haven’t actually built it yet. My question is, of course, why the hell not?

It’s a curious thing about science. In fact, it’s the critical difference between science and applied science (i.e. technology). What use has a scientist for technology except as a way of furthering our understanding of the world? They’ve proved that it’s possible to build the doorway. In a sense, it doesn’t matter to the pure researcher that it ever actually gets built. For the pure researcher, actually building the device would only be important if it could be used in further research. This might be an oversimplification of the pure researcher, who is, of course, only human, but the point remains.

Technology, like for instance these new metamaterials involved in the creation of the hidden portal is, essentially, a means to an end. And I don’t mean this lightly. “Means to an end” is a concept that bears considerable weight to a philosopher. Technology is a means to an end. And it is nothing more than that. To a scientist, the end is knowledge and understanding. To everyone else, the end is often creature comfort or experiential. We use technology as a means to the end of enhancing our individual lives or the lives of others. Both are perfectly reasonable ways to use technology.

Without letting this become a lecture on ethics, I think I’d like to bring this whole thing full circle.

I’d like to bring this around to what I find so interesting about Optimus Prime. He is, in a sense, a piece of technology. But he is also a sentient being. He is the ideal exemplar of a higher being that treats lower beings with dignity and respect. He is a piece of technology that doesn’t treat humans as a means to an end. They are an end in themselves. To be treated as an end and not a means. That is the true meaning of “freedom,” folks.

Now, if only someone would build some mirror-portals so that I could buy one.

Freiheit ist nicht frei.

Copernicus Joins the Table

carradinium-fu

A month or so ago, I talked a little bit about this new element. Well, they’ve finally settled on a name for it. I must say I’m a little disappointed in Professor Hofmann. I know as well as the next guy the contribution that Copernicus made to science and, more importantly, the importance of questioning everything, but this is ridiculous.

I made a perfectly reasonable suggestion that they name the new element after David Carradine–which is well within the rules of the naming these things since he’s, well, dead–and did they listen? Of course not.

I guess that’s just how it goes. You win some, you lose some. But as far as I’m concerned, mainstream chemistry is on notice until they come up with some really cool shit for my brain to absorb.

Welcome to the periodic table copernicium. Don’t pay any attention to Iron. He’s just irritable. If you need any advice, go talk to Hydrogen. He’s been around for a long, long time.

traurig genannt.

Element 112 Discovered!! … thirteen years ago

carradinium

So a team of scientists first created element 112 back in 1996, but it was only recently that they have been given credit for the discovery.

There are a lot of interesting things to look at here. First of all, it was created by smashing zinc atoms into a target made of lead. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that, when it comes to physics and chemistry, one of our most robust and useful techniques for studying small particles is the simple act of crashing them into one another. Of course, it’s far more sophisticated than a toddler in a sandbox crashing toy cars into each other, but the motivation is largely the same: to see what will happen.

It’s interesting to note here that it took thirteen years for credit to be awarded. That’s thirteen years of data analysis and experiment replication. Thirteen years of deciding whether the data collected constituted clinching proof that one or two atoms of this “unubium” were created. And it’s not like these atoms stick around either. They don’t exist in nature and so, you have to manufacture them.

This is closely linked to what I was talking about just the other day. Pure research. The knowledge that unubium exists has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on life. It’s not like this element is going to find its way into the components of a microwave oven. There is utterly no use for something that has a half-life of a handful of milliseconds–though according to Wikipedia, there’s an isotope of this element which has a half-life of 29 seconds!

Which brings me to my final point about unubium: it’s a stupid name. And, truth be told, it’s apparently a placeholder name while the team that discovered it comes up with a better one. So what is a bunch of scientists going to do? They’re going to name it after a famous scientist. And as good an idea as that is, I think I have a better idea.

As many are aware, a great man has passed away recently. The man who made kung fu a household word. He also died in a way that might be considered classy if you have a certain personality type. And since he had absolutely nothing to do with chemistry or physics, but managed to open many minds up to a wider world of mystery and intrigue and mysticism, and since he managed to die right around the time when this discovery was made official, I propose that this new element be named: Carradinium.

au revoir