Too Late

Attorney General Barr made a real or feigned attempt to assert his independence in an ABC interview.  Way too late for that.

Barr presented his balls to Trump in his employment application and ever since has served as Trump's faithful toady.  Lying for Trump about the Muller probe, covering up the Ukraine scandal for Trump and in general making himself the crooked lawyer Trump always wanted.

Those balls, Billy boy, were deep fried and served in the White House dining room a long time ago.

Organoids and Boltzmann Brains

One of the more fascinating and creepy events in biology over the past twelve years has been the development of cerebral organoids, sometimes called mini-brains, in a petri dish.  Biologists have learned how to transform regular cells, for example skin cells, into pluripotent stem cells and in turn transform these into neural stem cells and grow them in vitro.  

These clumps of grey matter spontaneously organize themselves into something like mini-brains, developing axons and dendrites, developing neural connections, and sending each other electrical neural signals.  These organoids clearly have the potential to teach a lot about brain development, brain function, and brain disease.

They also pose deep ethical questions.  Nobody thinks that these organoids are conscious - yet - but the potential is there.  Experimenters are already plotting to make them more brain like by providing them with blood supplies and sensory inputs.

Quanta takes a look at the nascent ethical concerns: https:/…

Pants on Fire

The big news from Tuesday's debate was the post-debate confrontation where Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of calling her a liar.  So was he lying or she?  I don't know, but my guess is that it was a far more familiar phenomenon, a misunderstanding - she thought he told her a woman couldn't win and he didn't think he told her any such thing.  The fact that this happened a couple of years ago makes it more likely that memories have been reshaped in the meantime.

In any case, I mostly blame Warren.  She is the one who chose to escalate to nuclear weapons, saying Bernie said a "Woman couldn't win."  Pretty clearly, this is an attack that can hardly go unanswered.  If he said it, why is it just coming out now?  If he said it, or some version of it, what was the context?

If you decide to bring a gun to what had previously been a pretty civil conversation, you really shouldn't be surprised if you wind up with a bullet hole.

Advantage Biden.

Book Review: Isaac Newton, by James Gleich

Isaac Newton is arguably the most important physicist and the most important mathematician.  In physics, he discovered his three Laws of Motion, Universal Gravitation and a raft of things in optics and other sciences as well as inventing the reflecting telescope.  In mathematics his great invention was the calculus.

James Gleich wrote a justly popular biography of Richard Feynman, but Feynman was a very charismatic character.  Newton was reclusive, unfriendly, and habitually secretive, so he is a much harder target for a biographer.  Even many of his notebooks disappeared from public view for centuries.

Gleich sketches his childhood.  His father died when he was small, his mother remarried and her husband didn't want him around so he was shipped off for a number of years.  Some of his earliest experimentation was with sundials, which he made many of.  He was always an experimenter and builder of tools.

His years at Cambridge were filled with study but he was all but invisible to c…

Impeachment Hearings

...Off to a soporific start except for Devin Nunes's comic turn as a deranged Putin operative.

Your Next Uber Driver

It seems that they will work for Fruit Loops.

Trump to Ukraine:

Nice country you got there.  Be a shame if you didn't have any Javelin antitank missiles to defend it.

But there is this one favor you could do for me.