Happy birthday, Albert Einstein! 137 years, March 14

March 14, 2016

How many ways can we say happy birthday to a great scientist born on Pi Day?  So, an encore post.
E=mcc - logo from AIP

E=energy; m=mass; c=speed of light

Happy Einstein Day! to us.  Albert’s been dead since 1955 — sadly for us.  Our celebrations now are more for our own satisfaction and curiosity, and to honor the great man — he’s beyond caring.

Almost fitting that he was born on π Day, no? I mean, is there an E=mc² Day?

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, to Hermann and Pauline Einstein.

26 years later, three days after his birthday, he sent off the paper on the photo-electric effect; that paper would win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In that same year of 1905, he published three other papers, solving the mystery of Brownian motion, describing what became known as the Special Theory of Relativity and solving the mystery of why measurements of the light did not show any effects of motion as Maxwell had predicted, and a final paper that noted a particle emitting light energy loses mass. This final paper amused Einstein because it seemed so ludicrous in its logical extension that energy and matter are really the same stuff at some fundamental point, as expressed in the equation demonstrating an enormous amount of energy stored in atoms, E=mc².

Albert Einstein as a younger man - Nobel Foundation image

Albert Einstein as a younger man – Nobel Foundation image

Any one of the papers would have been a career-capper for any physicist. Einstein dashed them off in just a few months, forever changing the fields of physics. And, you noticed: Einstein did not win a Nobel for the Special Theory of Relativity, nor for E=mc². He won it for the photo electric effect. Irony in history.

106 years later Einstein’s work affects us every day. Relativity theory at some level I don’t understand makes possible the use Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which revolutionized navigation and mundane things like land surveying and microwave dish placement. Development of nuclear power both gives us hope for an energy-rich future, and gives us fear of nuclear war. Sometimes, even the hope of the energy rich future gives us fear, as we watch and hope nuclear engineers can control the piles in nuclear power plants damaged by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

English: Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp

Albert Einstein on a 1966 US stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If Albert Einstein was a genius at physics, he was more dedicated to pacifism. He resigned his German citizenship to avoid military conscription. His pacifism made the German Nazis nervous; Einstein fled Germany in the 1930s, eventually settling in the United States. In the U.S., he was persuaded by Leo Szilard to write to President Franklin Roosevelt to suggest the U.S. start a program to develop an atomic weapon, because Germany most certainly was doing exactly that. But while urging FDR to keep up with the Germans, Einstein refused to participate in the program himself, sticking to his pacifist views. Others could, and would, design and build atomic bombs. (Maybe it’s a virus among nuclear physicists — several of those working on the Manhattan Project were pacifists, and had great difficulty reconciling the idea that the weapon they worked on to beat Germany, was deployed on Japan, which did not have a nuclear weapons program.)

English: USSR stamp dedicated to Albert Einste...

Everybody wanted to claim, and honor Einstein; USSR issued this stamp dedicated to Albert Einstein Русский: Почтовая марка СССР, посвящённая Альберту Эйнштейну (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Einstein was a not-great father, and probably not a terribly faithful husband at first — though he did think to give his first wife, in the divorce settlement, a share of a Nobel Prize should he win it. Einstein was a good violinist, a competent sailor, an incompetent dresser, and a great character. His sister suffered a paralyzing stroke. For many months Albert spent hours a day reading to her the newspapers and books of the day, convinced that though mute and appearing unconscious, she would benefit from hearing the words. He said he did not hold to orthodox religions, but could there be a greater show of faith in human spirit?

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

Einstein in 1950, five years before his death

When people hear clever sayings, but forget to whom the bon mots should be attributed, Einstein is one of about five candidates to whom all sorts of things are attributed, though he never said them. (Others include Lincoln, Jefferson, Mark Twain and Will Rogers). Einstein is the only scientist in that group. So, for example, we can be quite sure Einstein never claimed that compound interest was the best idea of the 20th century. This phenomenon is symbolic of the high regard people have for the man, even though so few understand what his work was, or meant.

A most interesting man. A most important body of work. He deserves more study and regard than he gets.

More, Resources:


How kids get to school: Special refugee edition, Balkans

March 11, 2016

A modest departure from the occasional series on how kids get to school, and the classrooms they get to. Perhaps more accurately, it’s a series on the struggles children face to get to school.

Photo from Dimitar Dilkoff, Agence France Presse:

Tweet from Valerio de Cesaris (@ValerioDeC):

Tweet from Valerio de Cesaris (@ValerioDeC): “#refugees. A child caught in razor wire at the Greek-Macedonia border. #StayHuman” Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP

This young boy is not on his way to school, technically; he’s trying to get to a place where there is a school to which he can safely get.

What will be the results of the education this child gets?

Does anyone know more about this boy? Where is he today?


Are birds smarter than Columbus?

March 8, 2016

Another great find on Twitter, for geography, biology and physics classes.

How do birds navigate, compared to, say, Columbus? Most U.S. history texts make a big deal of Columbus’s navigation, made possible by invention of the magnetic compass and the sextant.

Birds are more accurate, and they have neither. Well, they don’t have external magnetic compasses. See the cartoon.

Neuroscientist and cartoonist team up to talk about birds

Neuroscientist and cartoonist team up to talk about birds “seeing” magnetic lines of the Earth! Information from Dwayne Godwin at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, with drawings by Jorge Cham, who draws Piled Higher and Deeper.

Teachers, have someone in the drafting department make this cartoon into a poster for your classroom.

As usual, the truth is more weird and wonderful than fiction writers could hope to invent.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Columbia University’s Twitter managers.


More Bundy Gang arrests

March 4, 2016

Several perpetrators of the armed assault on federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, April 2014, have been arrested in several states under a formerly sealed indictment handed down by a grand jury in Nevada.

In particular, Eric Parker of Idaho, the man who brazenly prepared to murder BLM cowboys, is in custody and charged with criminal activity.

Would-be sniper Eric Parker of Idaho was arrested on federal charges on March 3, and is being held in custody in Idaho. He is the man pictured here on a road overpass, taking aim at BLM workers and other federal employees and law enforcement officials. (Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Would-be sniper Eric Parker of Idaho was arrested on federal charges on March 3, and is being held in custody in Idaho. He is the man pictured here on a road overpass, taking aim at BLM workers and other federal employees and law enforcement officials. (Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Sometimes the gears of justice work slower than we wish, slower than anticipated. But on the whole, this is a good day for justice. The accused get several days in court to make their case that their actions were justified.

Press release from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fourteen Additional Defendants Charged for Felony Crimes Related to 2014 Standoff in Nevada

The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury in Nevada has charged 14 additional defendants in connection with the armed assault against federal law enforcement officers that occurred in the Bunkerville, Nevada, area on April 12, 2014.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the American people and defending the rule of law,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “Today’s actions make clear that we will not tolerate the use of threats or force against federal agents who are doing their jobs.  We will continue to protect public land on behalf of the American people, uphold federal law, and ensure that those who employ violence to express their grievances with the government will be apprehended and held accountable for their crimes.”

“Our democracy provides lawful ways individuals can respond if they disagree with their government, but if you resort to violence or threats, you will be held accountable under the law,” said FBI Director James B. Comey.

A superseding criminal indictment was returned by the grand jury on March 2 and now charges a total of 19 defendants.  The 14 new defendants are Melvin D. Bundy, 41, of Round Mountain, Nevada; David H. Bundy, 39, of Delta, Utah; Brian D. Cavalier, 44, of Bunkerville; Blaine Cooper, 36, of Humboldt, Arizona; Gerald A. DeLemus, 61, of Rochester, New Hampshire; Eric J. Parker, 32, of Hailey, Idaho; O. Scott Drexler, 44, of Challis, Idaho; Richard R. Lovelien, 52, of Westville, Oklahoma; Steven A. Stewart, 36, of Hailey; Todd C. Engel, 48, of Boundary County, Idaho; Gregory P. Burleson, 52, of Phoenix; Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, 43, of Cottonwood, Arizona; and Micah L. McGuire, 31, and Jason D. Woods, 30, both of Chandler, Arizona.

The newly-added defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, and at least one count of using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer, obstruction of the due administration of justice, interference with interstate commerce by extortion and interstate travel in aid of extortion.  The indictment also alleges five counts of criminal forfeiture which upon conviction would require forfeiture of property derived from the proceeds of the crimes totaling at least $3 million, as well as the firearms and ammunition possessed and used on April 12, 2014.

Twelve defendants were arrested earlier today.  Two defendants, Cavalier and Cooper, were already in federal custody in the District of Oregon.

Charges against the original five defendants, Cliven D. Bundy, 69, of Bunkerville; Ryan C. Bundy, 43, of Mesquite, Nevada; Ammon E. Bundy, 40, of Emmet, Idaho; Ryan W. Payne, 32, of Anaconda, Montana; and Peter T. Santilli Jr., 50, of Cincinnati, remain the same.

The superseding indictment alleges that the charges result from a massive armed assault against federal law enforcement officers that occurred in and around Bunkerville on April 12, 2014.  The defendants are alleged to have planned, organized and led the assault in order to extort the officers into abandoning approximately 400 head of cattle that were in their lawful care and custody.  In addition to conspiring among themselves to plan and execute these crimes, the defendants recruited, organized and led hundreds of other followers in using armed force against law enforcement officers in order to thwart the seizure and removal of Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal public lands.  Bundy had trespassed on the public lands for over 20 years, refusing to obtain the legally-required permits or pay the required fees to keep and graze his cattle on the land.

The superseding indictment charges that Cliven Bundy was the leader, organizer and chief beneficiary of the conspiracy, and possessed ultimate authority over the conspiratorial operations and received the economic benefits of the extortion.  The remaining defendants are charged as leaders and organizers who conspired with Bundy to achieve his criminal objectives.

If convicted, the maximum penalties for the charges are: five years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; six years and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to impede and injure a federal law enforcement officer; 20 years and a $250,000 fine for assault on a federal law enforcement officer; 10 years and a $250,000 fine for threatening a federal law enforcement officer; 10 years and a $250,000 fine for obstruction of the due administration of justice; 20 years and a $250,000 fine for interference with interstate commerce by extortion; and 20 years and a $250,000 fine for interstate travel in aid of extortion.  The use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence charge carries a five year mandatory minimum to be served consecutively.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Bureau of Land Management.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven W. Myhre and Nicholas D. Dickinson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nadia J. Ahmed and Erin M. Creegan of the District of Nevada.

Bundy Superseding Indictment


16-251

Office of the Attorney General
USAO – Nevada

Updated March 3, 2016

Will these arrests deter other would-be domestic terrorists? We can hope.

Will the arrests fuel the ugly hatred driving the campaign of Donald Trump? Probably.

More:


March 4, 1801: Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration as 3rd president

March 4, 2016

Words to be sung at a service honoring the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson as President. Image from the Treasures of the Library of Congress.

Words to be sung at a service honoring the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson as President. Image from the Treasures of the Library of Congress. (If we only knew the music . . .)

Thomas Jefferson ascended the the presidency to save the American Revolution, and to celebrate American arts and sciences, his friends and supporters said. The lyrics to be sung at the service at the German Reformed Church reflect those views.

What joyful prospects rise before!
Peace, Arts, and Science hale our shore
      And thro’ the country spread.
Long may these blessings be preserv’d,
And by a virtuous land deserv’d
      With JEFFERSON our head.

1800’s election campaign was a bitter one. Because balloting was not for president and vice president, but instead with the second-leading vote-getter taking the vice presidency, the Electoral College deadlocked on Jefferson and his vice president running mate, Aaron Burr. The election then went to the House of Representatives — the holdover House, dominated by Federalists who supported the vanquished John Adams. The House had great difficulty choosing between Jefferson and Burr, but at length picked Jefferson when Alexander Hamilton pushed his influence, favoring his once-friend Jefferson, and snubbing his enemy and eventual killer, Burr.

The Library of Congress briefly described Jefferson’s inauguration:

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was the first to be inaugurated in the capital city of Washington, D.C. The ceremonies took place on March 4, 1801, in the Senate wing of the not yet finished Capitol building. Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office to Jefferson, the first of five presidents-elect he would induct. In his speech Jefferson attempted to assuage the bitter rivalry between the Federalist and Republicans that had culminated in a deadlock election broken by Congress’s election of Jefferson on the 36th ballot. Jefferson remarked: “but every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principles. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.” Jefferson’s sentiments notwithstanding, his predecessor, former president John Adams, did not attend the ceremony — the first president to do so.

Mathematicians and scientists celebrate the election of Jefferson as a triumph for reason and science in politics. Jefferson was an accomplished and proud American naturalist, and often turned to scientists for advice on issues. Ironically perhaps, he never did reconcile his belief that rocks could not “fall from the sky,” doubting the provenance of meteoroids; skeptic to the end.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pat’s Blog.


Pi Day countdown widget

March 4, 2016

You may add this countdown timer to your blog.

Pi Day Countdown

From PiDay.org.

FlippyCat offers a video on dominoes, to celebrate Pi Day.


Timpanogos timelapse, a reverse setting sun?

February 25, 2016

Again from Twitter, a series of photographs of Utah’s Mount Timpanogos.

From top to bottom, it looks like a sunrise on the mountain. But Timpanogos faces west; the sun rises from behind this face. Two possible explanations. The more mundane explanation would be that the series starts with the bottom photo, progressing to the top. Shadows support that explanation.

The slightly more colorful explanation would be, as we often see here in Texas, weather moving from west to east; and in the late afternoon a cover of clouds moves far enough east that the setting sun finally is uncovered, peeking out from underneath the clouds to light the land with that wonderful golden hour sun for a few minutes, before setting.

Timpanogos, like the rock it is, sits majestically either way.

Tweet from sofiaaugustineadams (@sofiaaadams): Mountain time #timelapse #timpanogos

Tweet from sofiaaugustineadams (@sofiaaadams): Mountain time #timelapse #timpanogos

I Tweeted Ms. Adams (I’m presuming her name to be Sofia Augustine Adams) to ask which it is. For those who love Timpanogos, it won’t matter much.

My guess is the photo was taken from south of Orem, Utah, probably near Interstate Highway 15 which transects Utah County.

Update: Ms. Adams informs us  (see comments) it is a setting sun, with the bottom photo being the first in the series. Thank you!


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