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June 23, 2016

From the test tank to the open ocean: Wave energy’s make-or-break moment

Lehmann Pitchfest Berkeley Lab

Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Marcus Lehmann presents the Wave Carpet at Berkeley Lab’s June 1 Pitchfest in San Francisco.

The waves that crash along the Pacific coast are so powerful they produce enough energy to light up 50 million homes. It’s a virtual tsunami of endless, clean energy – but only if the right idea comes along for how to capture it.

Today, wave energy is on par with wind energy decades ago: All sorts of technologies are being tested, but none has emerged as an optimal solution that could sweep the globe.

Yet as populations swell among coastal cities, the potential remains huge. Waves create energy day and night: on a sunny day or during a dark storm, whether it’s breezy or calm.

The Department of Energy is so bullish on wave energy it’s doling out more than $2.5 million in prize money to researchers with the most promising new technology.

Among those who could come out on top is the CalWave team led by Marcus Lehmann, a visiting student-researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who is working to take a unique “wave carpet” technology out of the test tank and into the open ocean.

Based on the technology, Lehmann has launched CalWave Power Technologies, a startup that offers a relatively safe and economically competitive approach to harnessing wave energy from muddy seabeds below the ocean’s surface. Lehmann has a lot riding on the next six months, a period of time in which he will complete his doctorate, graduate CalWave from Berkeley Lab’s inaugural Cyclotron Road incubation platform, and learn if the Wave Carpet will win the DOE’s Wave Energy Prize.

“Magic carpet”

The Wave Carpet – which looks much like its name suggests – was developed by Reza Alam, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of mechanical engineering who in previous research identified the incredible amount of energy that can be extracted from muddy seabeds, the pockets of the shoreline that fishing boats often retreat to during storms. It’s these less choppy waters that absorb more energy underneath the surface.  


Lehmann first learned about Alam’s research in an MIT Technology Review article he read shortly after beginning a master’s program at Technical University of Munich in his native Germany. In 2012, he arrived in Berkeley and joined Alam’s Theoretical and Applied Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Although handed a different assignment, Lehmann gravitated to the wave business. Over the holiday break, Lehmann and fellow researchers built an impromptu Wave Carpet prototype out of scrap materials, including bike tires, a pump and pingpong balls. Eventually, with Alam’s support, he built his masters degree around its proof-of-concept.  

One 30-by-30-foot shallow water modular unit, which Lehmann says could power 180 San Francisco homes, features an elastic composite “magic carpet” stretched across a grid of cylinders and double-action piston pumps.

Placed below the water’s surface near the seafloor, the carpet adopts the wave motion of the ocean, moving the attached pumps to produce hydraulic pressure that is then piped onshore and converted into power.  

Unlike other technologies that often rely on turbines or gadgets at the ocean’s surface to gain higher efficiencies, the Wave Carpet has less interference with shipping lines, fishing operations and marine wildlife, Alam says.  

“There are more than 1,000 patents on different ideas to harness energy from oceanic waves, and believe it or not they are all different,” he says. “And believe it or not, they all work.”  

What sets the Wave Carpet carpet apart is its “survivability,” a common problem among emerging wave energy companies.  

Built with corrosion-resistant materials, the Wave Carpet is submerged and thus unseen, sheltered from collision dangers and violent storm conditions scientists expect will intensify with the continued onset of global warming.  

Lab to market

The Wave Carpet – which has been featured in National Geographic, Fast Company, Reuters, and other media outlets – is among the first technologies incubated by Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road program, which supports new energy breakthroughs by bridging the arduous science-to-product gap.

Cyclotron Road founder and director Ilan Gur, whose track record includes the launch of two former clean-tech startups built on UC intellectual property, describes the program as less of a traditional incubator and more of an “entrepreneurial postdoc.”    

Researchers accepted into the increasingly competitive two-year program receive a $500,000 seed investment, access to Berkeley Lab’s world-class facilities, mentorship, and help with proposal writing, project management, partnerships and strategy.  

“Cyclotron Road helped us to build an ecosystem, know what conferences to attend, advisors to seek out – it really focused our efforts,” Lehmann says. “This is critical because time is limited and we are a small team.”

UC filed a utility patent for the Wave Carpet in 2015, and Alam’s student researcher team secured a permit with UC San Diego to conduct an ocean demo project. But then, Lehmann says, “the prize came up.”  

Eyes on the prize

The CalWave student research team
Credit: UC Berkeley

As an opportunity to prove the Wave Carpet’s prowess among its peers, DOE’s Wave Energy Prize was too good to pass up.  

The two-year competition began in 2015 with 92 teams. CalWave was still standing after judges whittled the initial field down to 20 finalists. Tasked with designing and building 1/50-scale prototypes for testing, the teams were then slashed to nine.

CalWave earned the highest score of the remaining finalists, and it especially stood out in the category of economic viability, which focused on the costs of mass production.  

That’s critical, Lehmann says.  

“What energy utilities are looking at before they even talk to you is, ‘What are your generation costs?’” he says. “A lot of Ph.D. students focus for years on performance, and in the end they have the Formula 1 car. But nobody can afford it.”

Alam asserts the science behind wave energy is very complicated.  

The nine Wave Prize finalists received $125,000 to develop 1/20-scale models to test this summer at the nation’s most advanced wave-making facility, the football field-sized Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin in Maryland. In June, Lehmann and his team deployed to a tank facility in Maine to begin preparations.  

Come autumn, Wave Prize winners will be announced, with first place raking in $1.5 million, second place securing $500,000, and third place taking $250,000.

Lehmann says the cash prizes are key to continuing CalWave’s operations. At about the same time winners are revealed, CalWave’s seed investment from Cyclotron Road will be drying up.

But, quoting author Steven Pressfield, Lehmann says: “The artist doesn’t wait for inspiration, he acts in the anticipation of its apparition.”

June 23, 2016

Euro – Espagne – Doigt d’honneur pendant l’hymne? Piqué se défend

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Football - Euro - Doigt d'honneur de Piqué ? (capture d'écran beIN Sports)

Doigt d’honneur de Piqué ? (capture d’écran beIN Sports)

Pendant l’hymne précédant le match face à la Croatie (défaite 2-1), la caméra passe en revue chacun des joueurs alignés sur le terrain. Piqué se tient à la gauche du gardien David De Gea, sur les épaules duquel il a passé son bras droit.

Lorsque la caméra passe le gardien, Piqué déplie son majeur, ce qui a pu entraîner les réactions sur la volonté ou non de faire un doigt d’honneur.

Interrogé lundi en conférence de presse sur l’hostilité que lui ont value ses convictions indépendantistes, Piqué avait répondu : «J’ai toujours dit que la seule manière pour moi de changer cela était mon rendement sur le terrain (…). Le fait de bien jouer, d’évoluer à très haut niveau permet aux gens de se rendre compte que ce n’est que du football, pas une compétition de patriotisme

L’Espagne a fini deuxième du groupe D, ce qui l’obligera à affronter l’Italie en huitièmes de finale (lundi 27 juin, 18h00).




Gerard Piqué

Gerard Piqué

Club : FC Barcelone

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June 23, 2016

Couchbase 4.5 adds mature performance, tooling

When I first came across NoSQL databases, I was a bit stunned. I appreciated their schema flexibility, fast write capabilities and the ability to scale out through clustering. But with no real query languages, joins or ability to index on anything but a key, the products in this category seemed unusable for the vast majority of business customers and applications.

We’re past that now. Despite the “NoSQL” moniker, many databases in the category have adopted SQL as a query language interface. Indexing is better. And even the rigid division between NoSQL categories (key-value stores, JSON document stores, column family stores and graph databases) is beginning to soften.

Case in point is Couchbase‘s newest release, version 4.5, which hits general availability (GA) today. Assuming this product works as advertised, it’s a poster child in the effort to eliminate unacceptable choices between NoSQL flexibility, on one hand, and the mature performance and functionality of conventional databases, on the other.

Growing toolbox
On the tooling side, this release of Couchbase adds a Query Workbench tool, which features a Web browser-based UI for authoring and executing queries in Couchbase’s dialect of SQL, known as N1QL (pronounced “nickel”). No, this is not cutting edge, given the major relational databases had such tools 20 years ago. The point is that those long-standing expectations from RDBMS users are now being met.

Also read: Couchbase NoSQL Database gets the SQL Religion

New query monitoring and profiling tools similarly fill an erstwhile gap. And auto-schema discovery helps migrate RDBMS data into Couchbase.


Credit: Couchbase

Indexes, JOIN party
Performance is a big focus in the Couchbase 4.5 release. Global indexes can now be optimized for in-memory operation, making them faster and, says Couchbase, lock-free. Array elements in a document can now be indexed as well, which makes the data in them searchable without them having to be extracted and turned into redundant, scalar elements.

Lack of joins was yet another yawning gap between RDBMS and NoSQL databases. But Couchbase supports real joins between document collections, allowing for referential integrity between, say, an orders collection and customers referenced in its documents. And in Couchbase 4.5, N1QL has been extended to handle new query optimizations that make joins more efficient. According to Couchbase’s press release, the extensions “[increase] performance of these queries by orders of magnitude.”

That’s not all
There are a few more nuggets. For example, Couchbase can now make incremental updates to just parts of a document, so that the entire document need not be read or written to, making for faster i/o and requiring lower network utilization. On the security side, Couchbase 4.5 supports X.509 certificates and role-based access controls for admin permissions. There’s also certified support for container platforms, specifically Docker and Red Hat OpenShift.

We are approaching the era when RDBMS and NoSQL databases may be thought of as peers, instead of adversaries. Certainly, the focus on maturity, performance and usability, as well as closing the gap on “entitlements,” like joins, strong indexing and query tooling, show that at least one NoSQL vendor is serious about competing with the RDBMS incumbents.

June 23, 2016

How Quantum Mechanics Could Be Even Weirder

All the same, we’re confronted with the question: why is the quantum world the way it is? Why do fundamental particles dictate this set of rules and not some other? Normally that question carries an implication that quantum particles are being a bit perverse by not behaving like billiard balls, reassuringly solid and definite and thing-like. But that might be the wrong way to think about it. Last December, I spoke with Romanian-British physicist Sandu Popescu of Bristol University in England, who told me that things could have been even stranger than quantum.

In fact, Sandu said, we’re not even completely sure that things aren’t even stranger. Maybe we just haven’t detected this extra strangeness yet.

Scribbling on his whiteboard with infectious enthusiasm, Sandu explained that this hypothetical “super-quantum” world comes into view by thinking about what now seems to be the defining characteristic of quantum theory: nonlocality.

Increasingly, it looks as though we have come at quantum mechanics from the wrong direction. At first it seemed to be about how energy is not continuous but is divided up into discrete chunks (quanta). Then it seemed to be about how quantum objects have to be described by smeared-out, wavelike mathematical entities called wave functions. Then, the question became how all the possible states of an object encapsulated by a wave function get crystallized into just one state when we measure it using classical apparatus. But in 1935, Einstein and two younger colleagues unwittingly stumbled upon what looks like the strangest quantum property of all, by showing that, according to quantum mechanics, two particles can be placed in a state in which making an observation on one of them immediately affects the state of the other—even if they’re allowed to travel light years apart before measuring one of them. Two such particles are said to be entangled, and this apparent instantaneous “action at a distance” is an example of quantum nonlocality.

Erwin Schrödinger, who invented the quantum wave function, discerned at once that what later became known as nonlocality is the central feature of quantum mechanics, the thing that makes it so different from classical physics. Yet it didn’t seem to make sense, which is why it vexed Einstein, who had shown conclusively in the theory of special relativity that no signal can travel faster than light. How, then, were entangled particles apparently able to do it?

June 23, 2016

An angel among us

When Alisha thinks about her mother, she remembers the way she could handle a horse. She recalls the stories her dad told about how he liked to show off her mother, that South Dakota cowgirl who could ride rough stock better than any Wyoming cowboy. Alisha likes to think of her mother diving through kicking horse legs to retrieve a 1-year-old Alisha the day she’d accidentally crawled into the horse pen and managed to get kicked and flung. She still hears the ‘thunk’ of her tiny body hitting bare ground, earning Alisha a permanent crescent scar over her left eye and a metal plate in her head. She likes to remember her mother crocheting chakra lines into rainbow-colored Afghans and the many ways she used her energy healing practice—or Quantum Touch—to heal her various wounds.

She tries to erase the other memories: the coughing, the emphysema or cigarettes her mother refused to give up, or all the times she wasn’t able to help Alisha take care of her quadriplegic sister Sarah after Sarah’s truck flew off the road and rolled down a hill. It was hard, Alisha remembers, that her mother couldn’t help her take care of her sister because she had trouble simply breathing.

Her breath finally gave out altogether when Alisha was just 15.

Instead, Alisha focuses on the good memories and, today, at age 19, caresses her mother’s fingerprint engraved on a silver pendant that she wears on a chain close to her heart. She thinks of all the good things her mother taught her: to be a good person, the importance of treating others like she’d want to be treated, to care.

Most of all, to see the good in people and life and cherish what you have.

These lessons stuck.

Alisha smiles as she talks energetically about her early years growing up around horses. Her parents bred and trained horses in South Dakota, as well as Pine Bluffs and other cities in Wyoming. At one point, they had about 30 horses before they moved to Douglas nearly a decade ago. Now, they have 12. She likes to bend poles and barrel race and just about everything about horses and ranch life in general.

She pauses for a second to let her brain catch up. If personalities came in sizes, Alisha’s would definitely be an extra large. Her hands fly like wild birds as she talks and every other sentence ends with a laugh.

Nothing seems to slow her down, despite her schedule and the many ways she gives of her time.

Starting at 6 a.m. when she drives from her boyfriend’s house out on Chalk Buttes to her family’s home in Lone Tree to get her Sarah out of bed and ready for classes at Eastern Wyoming College, where Sarah also works.

Sarah, who is now 22, has been in a wheelchair for the past six years after her car accident. Sarah was in high school and there was all kinds of gossip that Sarah had been drinking or doing drugs when the accident happened. Those kinds of rumors are really what gets to Alisha the most.

“People just have to talk,” Sarah says, her hands flying in exasperation.

What really happened that day was that Sarah was on her way to move cattle at the Robinson Ranch when her puppy jumped into her lap, she tried to push him off, over-corrected and went flying off the road.

Though the puppy survived the accident, like Sarah, he limped away with a hip injury. Later, Alisha would walk outside to find his tail frozen to the ground. They had to put him down.

Sarah, meanwhile, is confined to the wheelchair and cannot walk, which is where Alisha comes in.

Three days a week, she drives into town to help Sarah. She returns later that night to put her to bed. She and Sarah used to live together but Alisha recently moved out because there was too much sibling rivalry.

“We get along soooo much better now,” Alisha says, tossing her head to the left with a big toothy laugh. “I wasn’t too fond of her before.”

Alisha then heads to work as a CNA at Douglas Care Center where she’s been working since she was 16, first as a Helping Hand until last year when she passed the CNA course.

Getting the job at Douglas Care Center only made sense. Not only did it help her learn techniques to take better care of Sarah but it also gave her some useful skills. Plus, she really likes working with seniors and doesn’t find the work too hard.

As the youngest of five siblings, Alisha has fallen squarely into the caretaker role in her family, both with Sarah and, now, her father, who recently learned his kidneys were failing.

Along with taking care of Sarah three to four days a week and her job at Douglas Care Center, Alisha drives her dad to Casper for dialysis three days a week. She dropped out of her nursing classes at EWC this spring because it was just too much.

Plus, she plans to give her dad one of her kidneys, which is also weighing on her mind.

Her dad didn’t want her to do that at first—he was worried about her—but because of health issues within the family, nobody else fit the bill.

She’s just waiting until later this summer when the surgery can take place.

“I’m a little nervous,” she admits when discussing the surgery and life thereafter with only one kidney. But true to Alisha’s demeanor, she finds a bright spot.

“This will help me take better care of myself, and I’ll have to quit eating all those Butterfinger Bites,” she says with a toss of the head and grin. And she’ll have to watch her weight now, which she sees as a good thing.

Next fall, Alisha would like to maybe move to Torrington or Scottsbluff, Nebraska, with her boyfriend, at which point she plans to go back to nursing school. She likes small towns. She’s comfortable where she knows people and there’s not so much drama. She also dreams of joining the rodeo team, racing barrels and bending poles, like she did in high school. She’d had to give it up in high school; there was simply too much going on.

Those are her dreams.

In all honesty, when it comes down to it, she’s not sure she can leave Sarah. It’s been hard to find other people to help, and she doesn’t feel like anyone takes as good of care Sarah as she does. She’s worried about Sarah getting bed sores, which she’s seen firsthand. She also wants to make sure Sarah keeps up with physical therapy, because, unlike some of the skeptics, Alisha firmly believes Sarah will one day walk again.

Still, Alisha wouldn’t mind trying out a little life on her own.

“We’ll see,” Alisha says, smiling. “I’m still pretty young.”

This day, as she helps maneuver Sarah’s wheelchair into the handicapped accessible van to drive her home from her morning shift at EWC, Alisha bends down to undo a tangle in Sarah’s hair and straighten the back of her shirt. Sarah smiles and gives her a hug.

“She’s the best sister ever,” Sarah says, playfully smacking Alisha on arm as she lifts the chair. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Alisha waves off the compliment and teases her about her wheels being crooked, checking, then double-checking to make sure the chair is safely locked in place.

That is the reality of today.

Her dreams for tomorrow must wait.

June 23, 2016

Atmospheric 1950s home renovated as a school facilitates self-guided education

Scalar Architecture transformed an existing 1950s structure in New York into an educational facility that fosters community and exploration. The renovated West Hills Preschool and Religious Center aims to provide kids with the opportunity to discover their individual interests through a self-guided curriculum.

Scalar Architecture, West Hills Preschool and Religious Center, New York, green renovation, green architecture, building code, solar energy, rainwater harvesting, flexible learning environment

The building sits in a residential neighborhood with strict building regulations that forced the architects to stick to acceptable geometry and materials. It is designed to become a “third teacher” with a flexible learning environment. Using a design strategy that accentuates fluidity, the architects created a variety of spaces and established the connection between interior and exterior spaces.

Related: The Garden School is a New Green-Roofed Learning Facility for China

Scalar Architecture, West Hills Preschool and Religious Center, New York, green renovation, green architecture, building code, solar energy, rainwater harvesting, flexible learning environment

In order to comply with building regulations and still come up with an interesting design solution, the team used standard materials in an interesting way. This attitude resulted in a configuration of different scales and sequences of folds and patterns. They also integrated the existing 1950s pitched roof into the design to facilitate solar energy and rainwater harvesting.

+ Scalar Architecture

Photos by Miguel de Guzmán

June 23, 2016

Banking sector: More bad news expected

The RBI may be going soft on banks in its asset quality review for the March quarter, but there is no respite from burgeoning bad loans for the lenders. The current earning season shows that asset quality-related stress at banks remains very high. Lender after lender, particularly public sector ones, have reported massive losses. Most bank stocks have seen prices tanking. The PSU bank index has fallen 37% in the past year, and lost 11.6% per year for the past five years. Is the worst over for banking stocks?

Last year was particularly bad for the banking sector. Loan book growth for 25 banks (the latest March quarter numbers were declared until 17 May), including private and public sector players, stood at 10.7% in 2015-16—the slowest in two decades. On top of that, these banks nearly doubled their gross non-performing assets (NPAs) to Rs 2.43 lakh crore over the last fiscal.

This sharp ramp-up in NPA was mostly owing to the mandatory asset quality clean-up by the RBI that requires banks to recognise and provide for non-performing loans. Higher provisioning eats into the bank’s profitability. Earlier, the banks maintained profitability by keeping certain stressed assets out of the NPA category. That way they did not have to set aside funds for them. However, the RBI mandated asset quality review has got the skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard.

Banking sector: More bad news expected

The quantum of provisioning and additional slippages in the March quarter has surprised analysts. Punjab National Bank posted the largest quarterly loss ever reported by an Indian lender at Rs 5,367 crore. Its provisioning cost rose three-fold to Rs 10,485 crore, eating away all profits. As a percentage of its loan book, PNB’s gross NPAs now stand at a whopping 12.9%.

Another PSU lender, Bank of Baroda’s continuing asset quality pangs shocked markets too. After reporting a loss of Rs 3,342 crore in the December quarter owing to ‘one-off’ provisioning for bad loans, the lender followed it up with another loss of Rs 3,230 crore in the March quarter. While announcing the numbers for the preceding quarter, the bank’s management had indicated that the worst was over as it had taken the entire provisioning hit in a single quarter, unlike other banks which opted to spread it out over several quarters.

Four other state-run lenders, UCO Bank, Dena Bank, Allahabad Bank and Central Bank of India, have reported a weakening balance sheet in the just concluded quarter. The extent of additional provisioning by these banks indicates higher than anticipated stress in balance sheets. Numbers from the country’s largest lender State Bank of India are still awaited (due on 27 May) and could reveal more. Given how the situation across banks, the country’s biggest lender is not likely to paint a different picture.

Banking sector: More bad news expected

Meanwhile, experts are not sure whether the worst is over for PSU banks. Vikas Gupta, CIO, ArthVeda Capital, says, “We are not comfortable with PSU banking stocks yet. More bad news could be in the offing and prices do not look cheap compared to fundamentals.” Within the PSU banking space, mid-sized entities like Allahabad Bank, Dena Bank, Union Bank of India and Andhra Bank are in particularly bad shape.

Apart from high asset quality stress, they are hampered on the operational front too, points out a Edelweiss Securities report. “We perceive clear demarcation between large and mid-size PSU banks and expect pressure to continue in latter. Given increasing BASEL III (capital adequacy) requirement and limited capital support from the government, dilution risk is imminent at weak multiples, which will be detrimental to shareholders’ returns,” says the report.

Despite ongoing woes, prices of several PSU bank stocks surged around mid-February after the RBI announced that it would go easy in the asset quality review. The passage of the Bankruptcy Bill boosted stocks and the sharp decline in prices earlier also supported the rally. However, once the weak results were announced, prices of most banking stocks took a renewed hammering. Most PSU bank stocks are now trading at a discount to book value, leading some to argue that the downside for these stocks is limited and that they could be great value picks at current prices.

Banking sector: More bad news expected

“The valuations of PSU banks factor in the potential stressed loans and weak core operating performance for 2016-17,” says Alpesh Mehta, Research Analyst, Motilal Oswal Securities. But he prefers private banks over state-owned banks. Ambareesh Baliga, an independent market expert, says the risk-reward is more in favour of PSU banking space now given that the market has mostly discounted continuing asset quality pangs. There is a belief that many of the banks’ books are now cleaner after the hefty NPA provisioning, and that these lenders are now done with most of it. “Public sector banks are not likely to provide any further surprises. However, risks are more prominent in private banking stocks where negative results have come as a surprise,” says Baliga.

Private lenders ICICI Bank and Axis Bank posted weaker than expected numbers in the March quarter and also came out with weak guidance for this fiscal. While ICICI Bank has indicated likely stress in Rs 44,000 crore worth of loans going forward, Axis Bank has put Rs 22,628 worth of loans on watch. A handful of private banking stocks like Yes Bank, IndusInd Bank, HDFC Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank have displayed consistent resilience to the NPA issue. These are considered more retail-centric banks where asset quality issues are under control. Not surprisingly, these stocks have surged over the past few months even as others have stumbled. Most analysts have maintained ‘buy’ rating on these stocks.

Stay away from PSU banking funds
EQUITY FUNDS focused on banking stocks continue to be weighed down by the gloom surrounding the sector. Over the past year, this fund category has tailed international funds as the worst performing category, clocking a negative return of 7.53%. The worst affected funds have been the ones purely focused on the PSU banking segment. Kotak PSU Bank ETF and Goldman Sachs PSU Bank BeES Fund have both seen a 36% drop in their NAV over the past year.

Investors willing to bets on the banking sector should not restrict their exposure to PSU bank focused funds. If at all, opt for funds which invest across banking and financial services stocks. Here the fund manager has the freedom to pick from a basket of private banking as well as non-banking financial services players that boast of better quality loan books, apart from PSBs. These funds have done relatively better in recent times.

Also Read: Cheap valuation makes analysts bullish on South Indian Bank despite NPA concerns

June 22, 2016

BICEP2’s vision wasn’t that strong, Planck says their window was too dusty.

It seems that foreground galactic dust could be responsible for all of the signal observed by the BICEP2 team.  Two more shoes are waiting to drop.  Results of cross correlation and comparison of Planck data and BICEP2 data in the region BICEP2 was able to observe, and Planck’s own  data  on the B modes.  For now there is reason to doubt BICEP2.  This story is so full of twist that this could change. 

This was the big story. Gravitational waves had been detected by their effects on the cosmic microwave background.  The B modes had been observed with such a strong signature that they could only be explained by cosmic inflation.  A big echo of a big bang writ large on the sky.  What’s more, the well financed international collaboration Planck had been beaten to the punch by the plucky underdogs of BICEP who braved the Antarctic cold to take their measurements.   There was talk of Nobel prizes for inflation and for the observations that confirmed it.  
Now this. 

The latest observation with a fit provided by a Lambda CDM model based on Planck's 2013 observations

 An figure showing the power spectrum in the region observed by Planck and BICEP.  The shaded regions are the current 2014 dust polarization data [arXiv:1409.5738.  The solid line is a best fit provided by 2013 Planck data [arXiv:1409.5738.  In 2013 a spokesperson for the Planck collaboration felt comfortable stating at the April APS meeting that the data indicated no strong signal of B Mode polarization at that time, even though more analysis was needed.  It seems his early read may have be proven right. 

Planck intermediate results. XXX. The angular power spectrum of polarized dust emission at intermediate and high Galactic latitudes [arXiv:1409.5738] states these results. (translated into common US English form by myself)

  • The powerspecturm indicates that the uncertainty is  comparable in magnitude to the BICEP2 measurements at these multipoles that correspond to the recombination bump.  (These results can be explained by the recombination of pirmordial electrons and protons to make the first hydrogen atoms. No inflation required.)
  • The frequency dependence of the observation across the Planck bands is consistent with the typical SED of dust polarization (Planck Collaboration Int. XXII 2014).  (The observation is consistent with observing polarized galactic dust.)
  • Assessing the dust contribution to the B-mode power measured by the BICEP2 experiment requires a dedicated joint analysis with Planck, incorporating all pertinent observational details of the two data sets, such as masking, filtering, and color corrections.  (Further analysis is needed to rule out any sign of B-Mode observation by  BICEP2.)
  • We have identified regions in which the dust polarization observation amplitude may be significantly lower, by about a factor of 2, than in the BICEP2 observing region.  (There may be other places to look for the B Mode signal.  Planck’s all sky observations should be able to settle this.) 

The cross comparison of BICEP2 and PLANCK data will tell us if there were any places in BICEPs field of view where they may have seen past the dust.  PLANCK also did a search for B-modes as BICEP did, but they were able to scan the whole sky. Depending on how those two observations pan out, either we will see evidence of B modes of a magnitude which is indicative of inflation or we will not. 

I must state my own COI here.  One of the models I have been working on, one which is to appear in ScienceOpen Research requires inflation.  A model I’ve worked on much much more than the one which has been so controversial for me this last month.  So, if anyone would love to see a good strong inflation signal it would be me. 

That said, it may be that there simply is no strong signal of inflation.  What will we do then? What will be the new standard model of cosmology? Perhaps some cyclic model or some big, bang less Eternal inflation of some sort.  By October or November we should know the answers. 

June 22, 2016

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s distortions on Clinton

by: BRADLEY KLAPPER and JIM DRINKARD, Associated Press
Updated: Jun 22, 2016 – 3:16 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s fierce denunciation of Hillary Clinton on Wednesday was rife with distortion.

He accused Clinton of announcing a withdrawal from Iraq that wasn’t on her watch, pulled numbers out of nowhere on her plan for refugees and went beyond the established facts behind the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in stating starkly that she “left him there to die.” In doing so, he assigned her far more influence in the world than she exercised as secretary of state.

A look at some of his assertions and how they stack up with the facts:

TRUMP: “In just four years, Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East.” He blamed her for an invasion of Libya that “handed the country over to ISIS,” for making Iran the dominant Islamic power in the region and for supporting regime change in Syria that led to a bloody civil war. He charged that her “disastrous strategy” of announcing a departure date from Iraq created another opening for ISIS there.

THE FACTS: These statements make only passing acquaintance with reality.

There was no U.S. invasion of Libya. Clinton initially opposed but then sought credit for the NATO-led air campaign to help rebels overthrow Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. (Trump spoke in support of U.S. intervention at the time.) While the violence destabilized Libya, Islamic State inroads there have been more recent and are largely limited to a small coastal area of the country.

Arguments about Iranian domination of the Middle East predate Clinton’s tenure, going back a decade to the George W. Bush administration’s deposing of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq.

While secretary of state, Clinton supported arming Syria’s moderate rebels, but the Islamic State group only arrived later. It’s unclear what effect such a policy would have had as President Barack Obama rejected the advice at the time.

And she had nothing to do with the “disastrous strategy” of giving a departure date from Iraq. It was the George W. Bush administration that announced the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2008.


TRUMP: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and his staff “made hundreds and hundreds of requests for security. They were desperate. They needed help. Hillary Clinton’s State Department refused them all. She started the war that put them in Libya, denied him the security he asked for, then left him there to die.”

THE FACTS: Trump greatly exaggerates the security requests, not all of which were denied, and gets the history of U.S.-Libyan relations wrong. The reference to security requests appears to reflect the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi’s tally of “requests/concerns” related to the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. For many of those, there’s no record of denials. And some security upgrades did occur before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed Stevens and three other Americans.

Clinton did not start the war in Libya. She supported a NATO intervention well after large-scale violence had broken out between Gadhafi’s forces and rebels. Nor did the conflict put Stevens or any U.S. diplomat in Libya. The U.S. had maintained a full-fledged embassy there since President George W. Bush re-established diplomatic relations with Gadhafi’s government in 2006.

Several congressional investigations have shown that Clinton had no role in military decisions related to Benghazi, and that it would have been impossible for U.S. armed forces to intervene in time to save Stevens.


TRUMP: “Hillary also wants to spend hundreds of billions to resettle Middle Eastern refugees in the United States, on top of the current record level of immigration.”

THE FACTS: For a businessman, Trump is shaky on his numbers. The entire U.S. budget for refugee resettlement is less than $1.2 billion a year — and that includes refugees from Cuba, Bhutan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even including the value of all future public benefits they might receive — and excluding their contribution to the country through taxes — Trump’s assertion about the cost of resettlement is still baffling.


TRUMP: “I started off in Brooklyn, New York, not so long ago, with a small loan and built a business that today is worth well over $10 billion.”

THE FACTS: Trump’s $1 million loan from his father was just the beginning of his family subsidies, which included a far larger inheritance, loan guarantees and even occasional bailouts — one of which was found to be illegal by New Jersey casino regulators. As for the value of Trump’s business, every independent appraisal has found his assets to be worth far less than he says; Forbes says Trump is worth less than half what he claims.


TRUMP: “Hillary Clinton accepted $58,000 in jewelry from the government of Brunei when she was secretary of state — plus millions more for her foundation. The sultan of Brunei has pushed oppressive Sharia law.

THE FACTS: Clinton is not sporting Brunei bling.

In September 2012, she accepted a $58,000 jewelry set with gold, sapphire and diamond earrings, a necklace and bracelet, given by the queen of Brunei when Clinton visited for meetings and to inaugurate an English-language training program, according to the Federal Register. The gift was not to her, but to the United States.

Federal law prohibits officials from keeping such gifts unless they pay the estimated value to the U.S. government. According to the State Department’s protocol office, Clinton chose not to buy the jewelry, and instead turned it over to the General Services Administration — the standard procedure for most gifts from foreign leaders.

It’s true that Brunei is an Islamic nation that observes Sharia law and has been widely criticized for its human rights record, particularly when it comes to gays and lesbians.

But gift exchanges are standard practice. As with almost all gifts to all officials, the Federal Register notice says “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government.”


TRUMP: “Our trade deficit with China soared 40 percent during Clinton’s time as secretary of state.”

THE FACTS: Trump’s claim is more than double the actual increase. From late 2008 through 2012, a period coinciding with Clinton’s tenure, the trade deficit with China rose 17.6 percent. Trump’s campaign may be using data from the end of 2009 through 2013, when the deficit did rise 40 percent, but that does not match up with Clinton’s time in office and leaves out a sharp, recession-induced drop in 2009.

More broadly, the secretary of state is not typically held responsible for the trade deficit, which mostly reflects the health of the U.S. and global economies, the difference in how much the nation spends and saves, and trade policies implemented by the U.S. trade representative.


TRUMP: “We are the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

THE FACTS: Closer to the opposite is true.

The U.S. tax burden is actually one of the lowest among the 34 developed and large emerging-market economies that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Taxes made up 26 percent of the total U.S. economy in 2014, according to the OECD. That’s far below Sweden’s tax burden of 42.7 percent, Britain’s 32.6 percent or Germany’s 36.1 percent. Only three OECD members had a lower figure: Chile, South Korea and Mexico.


TRUMP: “Under her plan, we would admit hundreds of thousands of refugees from the most dangerous countries on Earth, with no way to screen who they are, what they are, what they believe, where they come from.”

THE FACTS: Clinton has called for the United States to continue to accept refugees, including as many as 65,000 from Syria. But Trump is wrong about Clinton’s stance on refugee screening. She’s never said she would scale back the current refugee processing system. Under that system, a person’s beliefs are not generally a disqualifier for entrance into the U.S. Refugees are checked to make sure they don’t have criminal records or have been identified by intelligence agencies as having ties to terrorist organizations.


TRUMP: “She has pledged to grant mass amnesty and in her first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement, and thus create totally open borders in the United States.”

THE FACTS: It’s not true that Clinton’s plan would create open borders. Her plan does call for a pathway to citizenship that would allow people currently in the country illegally to stay, but only after going through a series of steps to become a citizen. On enforcement, Clinton has called for focusing on “detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety,” but not ending enforcement outright.


TRUMP: “We will repeal and replace job-killing Obamacare. It is a total disaster.”

THE FACTS: Job growth has been solid by historical standards since Obama’s health care overhaul took effect in March 2010. Since then, employers have added nearly 14 million jobs and businesses have been on the longest hiring streak in the post-World War II era. And 2014 and 2015 were the two best years of private-sector hiring since the late 1990s. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, has fallen to 4.7 percent, an 8 ½ year low, from 9.9 percent when the law was passed.


TRUMP: “We’ll pass massive tax reform to create millions of new jobs and lower taxes for everyone.”

THE FACTS: Trump’s proposed tax cuts are indeed massive, but most economists conclude they will create a huge amount of government debt. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that Trump’s tax plan would slash government revenue by $9.5 trillion over the next decade. Trump hasn’t specified any offsetting spending cuts or other sources of revenue to make up the difference. That means the tax cuts would balloon the deficit. All that additional government borrowing could push up interest rates, the center concludes, and offset much of the economic benefit of lower taxes.


Associated Press writers Christopher S. Rugaber, Chad Day, Michael Biesecker, Eileen Sullivan, Alicia A. Caldwell, Jeff Horwitz, Nancy Benac, Matthew Lee, Jill Colvin and Cal Woodward contributed to this story.

EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims in the presidential campaign