Groundhog Apologizes

Advertisements

Game Changer? Brewing Fuel

There’s been a lot of crazy talk regarding energy coming from the Golden State, but there are also serious scientists in California, especially at Cal Tech, where Steven Koonin studied, taught and served as Provost.  This recent announcement caught my eye: Scientists breed bacteria that make tiny high-energy carbon rings.  Text below with my bolds

Caltech scientists have created a strain of bacteria that can make small but energy-packed carbon rings that are useful starting materials for creating other chemicals and materials. These rings, which are otherwise particularly difficult to prepare, now can be “brewed” in much the same way as beer.

Brewing equipment. Pike Microbrewery, Seattle. Source: Lonely Planet

The bacteria were created by researchers in the lab of Frances Arnold, Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, using directed evolution, a technique Arnold developed in the 1990s. The technique allows scientists to quickly and easily breed bacteria with the traits that they desire. It has previously been used by Arnold’s lab to evolve bacteria that create carbon-silicon and carbon-boron bonds, neither of which is found among organisms in the natural world. Using this same technique, they set out to build the tiny carbon rings rarely seen in nature.

Familiar energetic organic compounds found in nature.

“Bacteria can now churn out these versatile, energy-rich organic structures,” Arnold says. “With new lab-evolved enzymes, the microbes make precisely configured strained rings that chemists struggle to make.”

In a paper published this month in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they have now coaxed Escherichia coli bacteria into creating bicyclobutanes, a group of chemicals that contain four carbon atoms arranged so they form two triangles that share a side. To visualize its shape, imagine a square piece of paper that’s lightly creased along a diagonal.

Source: Wikipedia

Bicyclobutanes are difficult to make because the bonds between the carbon atoms are bent at angles that put them under a great deal of strain. Bending these bonds away from their natural shape takes a lot of energy and can result in unwanted byproducts if the conditions for their synthesis aren’t just right. But it’s the strain that makes bicyclobutanes so useful. The bent bonds act like tightly wound springs: they pack a lot of energy that can be used to drive chemical reactions, making bicyclobutanes useful precursors to a variety of chemical products, such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and materials. When strained rings, like bicyclobutanes, are incorporated into larger molecules, they can imbue those molecules with interesting properties—for example, the ability to conduct electricity but only when an external force is applied—making them potentially useful for creating smart materials that are responsive to their environments.

Unlike other carbon rings, such as cyclohexanes and cyclopentanes, bicyclobutanes are rarely found in nature. This could be due to their inherit instability or the lack of suitable biological machineries for their assembly. But now, Arnold and her team have shown that bacteria can be genetically reprogrammed to produce bicyclobutanes from simple commercial starting materials. As the E. coli cells go about their bacterial business, they churn out bicyclobutanes. The setup is kind of like putting sugar and letting it ferment into alcohol.

“To our surprise, the enzymes can be engineered to efficiently make such crazy carbon rings under ambient conditions,” says graduate student Kai Chen, lead author on the paper. “This is the first time anyone has introduced a non-native pathway for bacteria to forge these high-energy structures.”

Chen and his colleagues, postdocs Xiongyi Huang, Jennifer Kan, and graduate student Ruijie Zhang, did this by giving the bacteria a copy of a gene that encodes an enzyme called cytochrome P450. The enzyme had previously been modified through directed evolution by the Arnold lab and others to create molecules containing small rings of three carbon atoms—essentially half of a bicyclobutane group.

“The beauty is that a well-defined active-site environment was crafted in the enzyme to greatly facilitate formation of these high-energy molecules,” Huang says.

The precision with which the bacterial enzymes do their work also allows the researchers to efficiently make the exact strained rings they want, with a precise configuration and in a single chiral form. Chirality is a property of molecules in which they can be “right-handed” or “left-handed,” with each form being the mirror image of the other. It matters because living things are selective about which “handedness” of a molecule they use or produce. For instance, all living things exclusively use the right-handed form of the sugar ribose (the backbone of DNA), and many chiral pharmaceutical chemicals are only effective in one handedness; in the other, they can be toxic.

Chiral forms of a molecule are difficult to separate from one another, but by changing the genetic code of the bacteria, the researchers can ensure the enzymes favor one chiral product over another. Mutation in the genes tuned the enzymes to forge a broad range of bicyclobutanes with high precision.

Kan says advancements like theirs are pushing chemistry in a greener direction.

“In the future, instead of building chemical plants for making the products we need to improve lives, wouldn’t it be great if we could just program bacteria to make what we want?” Kan says.

The paper, titled “Enzymatic Construction of Highly Strained Carbocycles,” appears in the April 5 issue of Science.

 

Fools, Idealists and Cynics

As recent posts have shown, the climate movement is mounting a cynical legal maneuver modeled after the tobacco lawsuit strategy decades ago.  This post on April 1 provides some quotations for insight into the linkage between foolishness, idealism and the endpoint of cynicism.

 

4y55jcq

Footnote:

This post was inspired by Pointman’s blog post THE SECOND GREAT EXTINCTION OF THE LIBERAL DREAM.

Some tidbits that resonated:

There was something which happened in the 1980s which was variously labeled the death of the liberal dream or the great extinction of the liberal dream. It was much discussed at the time, but you’ll rarely hear of it in any political discussion nowadays. In essence, it was a seismic and global shift away from the statist, left-wing ideas that had held sway in government circles through most of the 70s. The entire world seemed to be moving towards the right and any surviving liberal ideals became the exclusive province of raggedy assed hippies moving into middle-age or embittered politicians who were also products of the 60s, but were now severely out of touch with the modern Zeitgeist.

By the dawn of the 80s, the world was ready, if not desperate, for practical, effective politicians like Reagan and Thatcher, both of whom never sat well with their own political establishment, but would go on to do a job of societal re-engineering that brought back prosperity and culminated in the political grand slam of the Berlin wall coming down in 89, which marked the effective demise of the Soviet Union and a half century long ideological battle.

If any of that lot sounds familiar, then welcome to 2016 and the supposedly massive surprise of Trump being elected.

It’s a return to respecting traditional values which actually never went away, because without them, any civilisation would implode. Country, family, responsibility and common decency. There’s an old saying – comes the day, comes the man, and America in it’s relatively short history, has been inordinately fortunate in that respect. In its hour of need, it seems to cough up just the right man. Trump is smart, tough and always up for a scrap. I’ve no doubt he has his flaws, but his visceral support for those values and his intention to move them back into the centre of American life is the basis of his appeal to his electorate.

Mueller Indictment Implications

The ramifications of the recent indictments are explored by California attorney Robert Barnes writing Feb. 17 in the journal Law and Crime Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for Chris Steele? Text below with my bolds.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted foreign citizens for trying to influence the American public about an election because those citizens did not register as a foreign agent nor record their financial expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. By that theory, when will Mueller indict Christopher Steele, FusionGPS, PerkinsCoie, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign? Mueller’s indictment against 13 Russian trolls claimed their social media political activity was criminal because: they were foreign citizens; they tried to influence an election; and they neither registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act nor reported their funding to the Federal Elections Commission.

First, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make Steele a criminal: first, he is a foreign citizen; second, he tried to influence an election, which he received payments to do (including from the FBI itself); and third, he neither registered as a foreign agent nor listed his receipts and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Also, according to the FBI, along the way, Steele lied…a lot, while the dossier he disseminated contained its own lies based on bought-and-paid for smears from foreign sources reliant on rumors and innuendo.

Second, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make FusionGPS a criminal co-conspirator: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission.

Third, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make PerkinsCoie a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its receipt of payments from the Clinton campaign as a “legal expense.”

Fourth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make the DNC a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its payments to Steele as laundered legal expenses to a law firm.

Fifth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make the Clinton Campaign a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its funding of payments to Steele laundered through a law firm as a “legal expense.”

Don’t expect such an indictment. Mueller chose his targets because he knows they will never appear in court, never contest the charges, and cannot be arrested or extradited as Russian citizens. Mueller’s unprecedented prosecution raises three novel arguments: first, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act; second, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen list their source and expenditure of funding to the Federal Election Commission; and third, that mistakes on visa applications constitute “fraud” on the State Department. All appear to borrow from the now-discredited “honest services” theories Mueller’s team previously used in corporate and bribery cases, cases the Supreme Court overturned for their unconstitutional vagueness. The indictment raises serious issues under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on Constitutional, criminal and civil rights law.

Summary

Don’t overlook the implication in the final paragraph, namely that expressing opinions about candidates is protected free speech, even for foreigners. Mueller presents indictments he will never have to prove in court to create the appearance of a crime. His circus needs a crime as justification, and to go after targets for conspiring or lying about that “crime”. It is a clever, but flimsy legal fiction, as Barnes shows it could apply to a lot of political discourse.

And social media is an unlikely place to apply some legal standard, since people, robots and puppets say all kinds of things often hiding behind handles.  In case you have forgotten, Dave Chappelle reminds us what the internet is like in the classic video  What if the internet was a real place?

 

 

US Election Rigged, Trump Won Anyway

Details are provided by Ross McKitrick in a background paper: The Nunes Memo and the Horowitz Report: Popcorn  Edition1 Ross McKitrick  January 29, 2018

I find the backstory to be as gripping as any paperback spy thriller. But the plot is
complicated and there are many moving parts. Herein, based on my readings, is my surmise
about what the 4 page Nunes memo contains, and also what a forthcoming report by
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz will conclude. I have included
some source citations but left many out since there are too many to list.

Chapter 1: Benghazi and Hillary’s Emails

Chapter 2: The Clinton Email Investigation

Chapter 3: Steele Visits the FBI

Chapter 4: The DoJ Inspector General Investigation

Chapter 5: The Trump Tower Wiretap

Chapter 6: Mueller Appointed Special Counsel

Final Chapter: The Two Reports

The Onion weighs in:  

FBI Warns Republican Memo Could Undermine Faith In Massive, Unaccountable Government Secret Agencies

WASHINGTON—Stressing that such an action would be highly reckless, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Thursday that releasing the “Nunes Memo” could potentially undermine faith in the massive, unaccountable government secret agencies of the United States. “Making this memo public will almost certainly impede our ability to conduct clandestine activities operating outside any legal or judicial system on an international scale,” said Wray, noting that it was essential that mutual trust exist between the American people and the vast, mysterious cabal given free rein to use any tactics necessary to conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens or subvert religious and political groups. “If we take away the people’s faith in this shadowy monolith exempt from any consequences, all that’s left is an extensive network of rogue, unelected intelligence officers carrying out extrajudicial missions for a variety of subjective, and occasionally personal, reasons.” At press time, Wray confirmed the massive, unaccountable government secret agencies were unaware of any wrongdoing for violating constitutional rights.

 

 

Ocean Climate Ripples

Dr. Arnd Bernaerts is again active with edifying articles on how humans impact upon the oceans and thereby the climate. His recent post is Global Cooling 1940 – 1975 explained for climate change experts

I and others first approach Dr. Bernaerts’ theory relating naval warfare to climate change with a properly skeptical observation. The ocean is so vast, covering 71% of our planet’s surface and up to 11,000 meters deep, with such a storage of solar energy that it counteracts all forcings including human ones.

As an oceanographer, Bernaerts is well aware of that generalization, having named his website Oceans Govern Climate. But his understanding is much more particular and more clear to me in these recent presentations. His information is encyclopedic and his grasp of the details can be intimidating, but I think I get his main point.

When there is intense naval warfare concentrated in a small, shallow basin like the North Sea, the disturbance of the water structure and circulation is profound. The atmosphere responds, resulting in significant regional climate effects. Nearby basins and continents are impacted and eventually it ripples out across the globe.

The North Atlantic example is explained by Bernaerts Cooling of North Sea – 1939 (2_16) Some excerpts below.

Follow the Water

Water, among all solids and liquids, has the highest heat capacity except for liquid ammonia. If water within a water body remained stationary and did not move (which is what it does abundantly and often forcefully for a number of reasons), the uppermost water surface layer would, to a very high percentage, almost stop the transfer of any heat from a water body to the atmosphere.

However, temperature and salt are the biggest internal dynamic factors and they make the water move permanently. How much the ocean can transfer heat to the surface depends on how warm the surface water is relative to atmospheric air. Of no lesser importance is the question, as to how quickly and by what quantities cooled-down surface water is replaced by warmer water from sub-surface level. Wind, cyclones and hurricanes are atmospheric factors that quickly expose new water masses at the sea surface. Another ‘effective’ way to replace surface water is to stir the water body itself. Naval activities are doing just this.

War in the North Sea

Since the day the Second World War had started naval activities moved and turned the water in the North Sea at surface and lower levels at 5, 10, 20 or 30 metres or deeper on a scale that was possibly dozens of times higher than any comparable other external activity over a similar time period before. Presumably only World War One could be named in comparison.

The combatants arrived on the scene when the volume of heat from the sun had reached its annual peak. Impacts on temperatures and icing are listed in the last section: ‘Events’ (see below). The following circumstantial evidences help conclude with a high degree of certainty that the North Sea contributed to the arctic war winter of1939/40.

Climate Change in Response

On the basis of sea surface temperature record at Helgoland Station and subsequent air temperature, developments provide strong indication that the evaporation rate was high. This is confirmed by the following impacts observed:

More wind: As the rate of evaporation over the North Sea has not been measured and recorded, it seems there is little chance to prove that more vapour moved upwards during autumn 1939 than usual. It can be proved that the direction of the inflow of wind had changed from the usually most prevailing SW winds, to winds from the N to E, predominantly from the East. At Kew Observatory (London) general wind direction recorded was north-easterly only three times during 155 winter years; i.e. in 1814, 1841 and 1940[6]. This continental wind could have significantly contributed to the following phenomena of 1939: ‘The Western Front rain’.

More rain: One of the most immediate indicators of evaporation is the excessive rain in an area stretching from Southern England to Saxony, Silesia and Switzerland. Southern Baltic Sea together with Poland and Northern Germany were clearly separated from the generally wet weather conditions only three to four hundred kilometres further south. A demonstration of the dominant weather situation occurred in late October, when a rain section (supplied from Libya) south of the line Middle Germany, Hungary and Romania was completely separated from the rain section at Hamburg – Southern Baltic[7].

More cooling: Further, cooling observed from December 1939 onward can be linked to war activities in two ways. The most immediate effect, as has been explained (above), is the direct result from any excessive evaporation process. The second (at least for the establishment of global conditions in the first war winter) is the deprivation of the Northern atmosphere of its usual amount of water masses, circulating the globe as humidity.

Rippling Effects in Northern Europe and Beyond

Next to the Atlantic Gulf Current, the North Sea (Baltic Sea is discussed in the next chapter) plays a key role in determining the winter weather conditions in Northern Europe. The reason is simple. As long as these seas are warm, they help sustain the supremacy of maritime weather conditions. If their heat capacity turns negative, their feature turns ‘continental’, giving high air pressure bodies an easy opportunity to reign, i.e. to come with cold and dry air. Once that happens, access of warm Atlantic air is severely hampered or even prevented from moving eastwards freely.

The less moist air is circulating the globe south of the Arctic, the more easily cold polar air can travel south. A good piece of evidence is the record lack of rain in the USA from October – December 1939 followed by a colder than average January 1940, a long period of low water temperatures in the North Sea from October-March (see above) and the ‘sudden’ fall of air temperatures to record low in Northern Europe.

The graph above suggests that naval warfare is linked to rapid cooling. The climate system responds with negative feed backs to restore equilibrium. Following WWI, limited to the North Atlantic, the system overshot and the momentum continued upward into the 1930s. Following WWII, with both Pacific and Atlantic theaters, the climate feed backs show several peaks trying to offset the cooling, but the downward trend persisted until about 1975.

Summary

The Oceans Govern Climate. Man influences the ocean governor by means of an expanding fleet of motorized propeller-driven ships. Naval warfare in the two World Wars provide the most dramatic examples of the climate effects.

Neither I nor Dr. Bernaerts claim that shipping and naval activity are the only factors driving climate fluctuations. But it is disturbing that so much attention and money is spent on a bit player CO2, when a much more plausible human influence on climate is ignored and not investigated.

On the Hubris of Climatism

Canadian Michael Hart speaks out on climatism in his new book, Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change (link to interview with Hart at Tallbloke’s Talkshop)

The wide-ranging interview contains many insights, including this one that IMO gets at a deep, underlying motive:

Alarm over a changing climate leading to malign results is in many ways the product of the hunger for stability and direction in a post-Christian world. Humans have a deep, innate need for a transcendent authority. Having rejected the precepts of Christianity, people in the advanced economies of the West are turning to other forms of authority. Putting aside those who cynically exploit the issue for their own gain – from scientists and politicians to UN leaders and green businesses – most activists are deeply committed to a secular, statist, anti-human, earth-centric set of beliefs which drives their claims of a planet in imminent danger from human activity.

To them, a planet with fewer people is the ultimate goal, achievable only through centralized direction and control. As philosopher of science Jeffrey Foss points out, “Environmental science conceives and expresses humankind’s relationship to nature in a manner that is – as a matter of observable fact – religious.” It “prophesies an environmental apocalypse. It tells us that the reason we confront apocalypse is our own environmental sinfulness. Our sin is one of impurity. We have fouled a pure, ‘pristine’ nature with our dirty household and industrial wastes. The apocalypse will take the form of an environmental backlash, a payback for our sins. … environmental scientists tell people what they must do to be blameless before nature.”

Hart says that unfortunately society has gone a long way down the wrong road, but the outcome can be changed.

I remain cautiously optimistic. Popular support for climate change action peaked a few years ago. In Europe, which has gone furthest in implementing climate change policies, politicians are beginning to look for ways to moderate earlier initiatives. In North America, rhetoric has far outstripped actions while the Obama administration has relied on stealth to implement its climate change agenda. At the same time, climate change has added to the momentum of the broader secularization of society and the pursuit of anti-human policies and programs. We are, sadly, farther down that road than we have ever been before.

Again, it will take a determined effort by people of faith and conscience to convince our political leaders that they have been gulled by a political movement exploiting fear of climate change to push a utopian, humanist agenda that most people would find abhorrent. As it now stands, politicians are throwing money that they do not have at a problem that does not exist in order to finance solutions that make no difference. The time has come to call a halt to this nonsense and focus on real issues that pose real dangers. In a world beset by war, terrorism, and continuing third-world poverty, there are far more important things on which political leaders need to focus.

Read the first chapter here: http://compleatdesktops.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Hart-Hubris-ch.-1.pdf

From the Preface:

The world will be a better place

  • when governments agree to tame this monster and refocus their energies on issues within their competence;
  • when religious leaders and other elites accept that they have fallen prey to a movement whose motives are much darker and more damaging than they realize;
  • and when the media adopt a more balanced approach and provide the public with the critical assessment that is often missing from their reporting.

It is time for all three to accept that the UN is pursuing a path that can only result in a less prosperous and more divided world.