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How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival – David Kaiser


How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival

David Kaiser

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 27, 2011

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W. W. Norton

"Meticulously researched and unapologetically romantic, How the Hippies Saved Physics makes the history of science fun again." —Science In the 1970s, an eccentric group of physicists in Berkeley, California, banded together to explore the wilder side of science. Dubbing themselves the "Fundamental Fysiks Group," they pursued an audacious, speculative approach to physics, studying quantum entanglement in terms of Eastern mysticism and psychic mind reading. As David Kaiser reveals, these unlikely heroes spun modern physics in a new direction, forcing mainstream physicists to pay attention to the strange but exciting underpinnings of quantum theory.

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How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival – David Kaiser

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Trump Advisor Accidentally Raises Middle-Class Taxes

Mother Jones

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Here is Gary Cohn—supposedly one of the “smart ones” in the Trump administration—explaining the president’s tax plan:

The median income in the United States today is … about $56,000. You take the $24,000 away from the $56,000, you’ve got taxable income of $32,000. At a 10% rate that’s $3,000 of tax. If you have one or two or three children and we give you $1,000 tax credit, you could end up with a—you know, very marginal, single-digit tax rate to no taxes whatsoever. That, to me, is a middle-income tax cut because you’re going to owe no taxes potentially.

“Potentially” is doing a lot of work here, as David Kamin explains:

Cohn forgot to mention the fact that our tax system, as it is currently written, provides what are called “personal exemptions” to families….The plan Trump presented on the campaign trail would eliminate these personal exemptions….So when you take into account the elimination of personal exemptions, families aren’t actually getting much tax relief after all. In fact, if that family has two or more kids, they’d actually face a tax increase under the Trump plan described by Cohn.

Here this is in chart form:

This should come as no surprise. The problem is that the average family pays most of its taxes at the state and local level, and via payroll taxes. Their federal income tax rate is already “very marginal, single-digit tax rate to no taxes whatsoever,” so it’s all but impossible to cut it. This is from the Tax Policy Center:

The bottom 40 percent pays no federal income tax at all and the average middle-class person pays 6.4 percent of their earnings in federal income taxes. If you focus solely on the federal income tax—as Republicans always do—you can’t help the middle class much. Even in theory, the only people who really benefit are high earners.

Of course, you can still do a little to help middle-class workers—but only if you’re careful. Cohn wasn’t careful, so he ended up increasing middle class taxes. It’s an easy mistake to make.

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Trump Advisor Accidentally Raises Middle-Class Taxes

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After Threats, Time For Talks With North Korea?

Mother Jones

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VP Mike Pence is on the Korean Peninsula today:

David Frum would like to see more than just a few staged visuals::

I was vaguely planning to write a post reminding everyone that we still have only two options regarding North Korea, but the New York Times reminds me that we have three:

a military strike that could ignite a full-blown war;
pressure on China to impose tougher sanctions to persuade the North to change course, an approach that failed for his predecessors;
or a deal that could require significant concessions, with no guarantee that North Korea would fulfill its promises.

I’d forgotten all about the diplomatic option, what with Rex Tillerson insisting that the era of “strategic patience” was over and Pence warning North Korea not to test US “resolve.” But I suppose it might actually be the most likely one. A military strike designed to take out North Korea’s bomb/missile-making capacity would require a lot more than a few dozen cruise missiles. It would probably take weeks and would indeed touch off a real, live hot war that I doubt Trump has any stomach for.1 The China option is currently underway, and I suspect it has a better chance of success than in the past, simply because China is a little more fed up with Kim Jong-un than in the past. But it’s still unlikely to work.

And that leaves diplomacy. This also has close to a zero chance of working, but it might have a decent chance of providing Trump with something he can claim is the greatest treaty ever signed. Maybe that will be enough for him.

1I hope not, anyway.

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After Threats, Time For Talks With North Korea?

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5 Things We’ve Learned About Neil Gorsuch So Far

Mother Jones

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Two days into Neil Gosuch’s confirmation hearings, the proceedings have yielded little insight into the Supreme Court nominee’s views about important legal precedent or landmark cases. In keeping with the tradition of previous nominees, he has declined to give any opinions on past or future cases, or explain his personal views on controversial legal issues from abortion to gay marriage. And he’s sidestepped questions about his work in the Bush Justice Department, which included helping the administration defend torture and denying access to the courts for detainees at Guantanamo. But the hearings have unearthed some more obscure trivia about the 10th Circuit judge. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits that have emerged so far:

He likes David Foster Wallace: Waxing poetic about his view of the law, Gorsuch told the Judiciary Committee: “We’re now like David Foster Wallace’s fish. We’re surrounded by the rule of law. It’s in the fabric of our lives.”

Gorsuch was referring to the story the late writer told in a 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College. “There are these two young fish swimming along,” Wallace told the graduating students, “and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?'”

His confirmation hearing isn’t the first time Gorsuch has referenced Wallace’s fish. He’s invoked it at least once before, in an article for the Harvard Journal of Law and Policy. “If sometimes the cynic in all of us fails to see our Nation’s successes when it comes to the rule of law,” he wrote, “maybe it’s because we are like David Foster Wallace’s fish that’s oblivious to the life-giving water in which it swims.”

He thinks it’s OK for a women to be president even if the founders didn’t: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked Gorsuch about his belief that judges should interpret the Constitution the way the Founders would have written it, better known as originalism, which would seem to make it difficult for the law to adapt to modern life. “I’m not looking to take us back to quill pens and horse and buggies,” Gorsuch told her. But Klobuchar pressed on. She wanted to know how he could square his originalist philosophy with the fact that the Constitution as first written didn’t allow women to vote. “So when the Constitution refers 30-some times to ‘his’ or ‘he’ when describing the president of the United States, you would see that as, ‘Well back then they actually thought a woman could be president even through women couldn’t vote?'” she asked. In response, Gorsuch growled, “Of course women can be president! I’ve got two daughters. I hope one of them grows up to be president.”

He loves The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) opened his questioning of Gorsuch by asking him: “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?” The judge responded with a smile, “42.” Gorsuch explained that the question is a joke he uses to break the ice when swearing in nervous lawyers.

Gorsuch claimed everyone knew the answer to the question because it comes from Douglas Adams’ cult classic novel, The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was clear that aside from Cruz, most of the senators on the Judiciary Committee had not read the book. “If you haven’t read it, you should,” Gorsuch told them. “It may be one of my daughter’s favorite books. And so, that’s a family joke.” Cruz gave Gorsuch a dreamy look and said that he saw Gorsuch’s Hitchhiker joke as “a delightful example of the humanity of a judge that your record has demonstrated.”

He had a pet goat: In his opening statement Monday, Gorsuch gave a shout out to his daughters, who were home in Colorado watching the hearings on TV. He reminisced about “devising ways to keep our determined pet goat out of the garden,” one of his favorite memories with them.

His kids have engaged in “mutton busting”: Cruz got Gorsuch talking about the Denver rodeo, where he takes his law clerks every year. The spectacle finishes up with the prize steer visiting the lobby of the Brown Palace hotel. As part of the festivities, the rodeo features something called mutton busting—a children’s version of bronco riding, done on sheep instead of bulls—which Gorsuch described like this:

You take a poor little kid, you find a sheep, and you attach the one to the other and see how long they can hold on. And you know, it usually works fine when the sheep has got a lot of wool and you tell them to hold on. I tell my kids hold on monkey style. Really get in there, right? Get around it. Because if you sit upright, you go flying right off. Right? You want to get in. The problem when you get in is that you’re so locked in that you don’t want to let go. Right? So then the poor clown has to come and knock you off the sheep. My daughters got knocked around pretty good over the years.”

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5 Things We’ve Learned About Neil Gorsuch So Far

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Here’s the Biggest Revelation From Donald Trump’s Leaked Tax Return

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump earned $150 million and paid $38 million in taxes in 2005, according to the cover page of his tax returns from that year, which were leaked to reporter David Cay Johnston and highlighted on the Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday night. According to an analysis of the returns posted on Johnston’s website, Trump and his wife Melania paid just $5.3 million in income taxes, a rate of about 4 percent. The couple paid another $31 million in the alternative minimum tax.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump called for the elimination of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which is a tax designed to make sure that all taxpayers pay a certain amount even if they manage to reduce their tax liability. In his proposed tax policy, Trump would create just four tax brackets and do away with the AMT.

The White House preemptively announced the top-level tax numbers before Maddow’s broadcast and complained that the publication of Trump’s tax returns is illegal—which is not true.

Appearing on Maddow’s show, Johnston said the cover pages of Trump’s 2005 return were sent to him and he was unsure by whom. The fact that Trump paid little in the way of income taxes—he should have paid a rate of about 35 percent—is what is important, Johnston noted. If not for the AMT, Trump would have paid an extremely low rate.

“On $153 million, almost, of income, he would have paid a little over $5 million,” Johnston said, pointing out that would be a rate of less than 4 percent. Johnston said that rate is less than half of what the lowest tax rate is for Americans who make the least money.

Instead, Johnston said, Trump paid about 24 percent of his income in taxes, which is equivalent to the tax rate of a married couple who earn $400,000 a year.

“In 2005 Donald Trump and his wife made $418,000 a day,” Johnston said.

According to Johnston, Trump was able to claim a variety of deductions and listed a negative income of $103 million, which helped reduce his tax liability.

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Here’s the Biggest Revelation From Donald Trump’s Leaked Tax Return

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Gossip of the Day: What’s the Deal With KT McFarland?

Mother Jones

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It’s a weekend. How about some gossip?

Apparently David Petraeus has withdrawn his name for consideration over the same issue as Robert Harward. He wants control over NSC personnel, but Trump refuses to give up McFarland as deputy. Given the fact that McFarland hasn’t held a government post in over 30 years and is wildly unqualified to be the #2 person on the National Security Council, there must be some strangely tight bond to account for Trump keeping her even though it’s preventing him from appointing his preferred candidates to the #1 spot.

OTOH, we also know that Trump doesn’t like John Bolton’s walrus mustache. Would he demand that Bolton shave it off as a requirement of the job?

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Gossip of the Day: What’s the Deal With KT McFarland?

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Here’s the Entertaining Saga of Donald Trump’s 3-5 Million Illegal Voters

Mother Jones

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I’ve managed to restrain myself from commenting on President Trump’s idiotic claim that 3-5 million noncitizens voted in the 2016 election,1 but I have to admit that I’ve been entertained by the ever-changing cast of studies that have been trotted out to defend this claim:

  1. Trump himself first cited a 2012 Pew study, and became angry when ABC’s David Muir suggested he had misinterpreted it. But he had. The study in question was solely about inefficiencies in voter registration, not fraudulent voting. In fact, at the time the report was released the author specifically said that he had “not seen evidence” of any fraudulent voting.
  2. With that shot down, attention turned to a 2014 study by Jesse Richman and David Earnest. This one used survey responses to construct an estimate of fraudulent voting, and concluded that a maximum of 500 thousand to 1 million noncitizens might have voted in recent federal elections. This is far below Trump’s claim, and anyway it’s virtually certain that the study is massively flawed due to its tiny sample size. Once that’s accounted for, the most likely conclusion from this study is that zero noncitizens voted.
  3. With two studies shot down, Trump tweeted today about an old favorite that he heard about again on CNN this morning. This time it’s a guy named Greg Phillips, an old tea partier who’s now a board member of True the Vote. Remember them from 2012? Phillips is also the author of a smartphone voter-fraud reporting app. I’m not joking about this. Phillips recruited a small army of folks who were worried about the election being rigged, and they all downloaded his app and then sent in reports of fishy-looking voters on Election Day. I’m not being snarky here. Check out his app:

    Phillips combined these reports with his archive of “184 million voting records we’ve collected over time,” and then applied an “enormous amount of analytic capability” to produce a final list of 3 million fraudulent votes. He claims that after everything is verified, which will take a few more months, he will release his full list along with the algorithm he used. You betcha. This is so ridiculous it’s basically self-debunking.

So that’s where we are. Trump burbles something stupid, and then his defenders rush out to dig up evidence to support him, each defense more harebrained than the last. I can hardly wait to see what’s next. Sampling the entire nation’s voting records for names with diacritical marks and then comparing it to a survey of people in Toledo? Claiming the NSA has phone records of voter fraud stored at Area 51? The mind boggles.

1Even without knowing anything, it’s idiotic. There are about 20 million noncitizens in the US. Trump is therefore saying that 15-25 percent of all noncitizens voted. This is fantastically beyond anything even remotely plausible.

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Here’s the Entertaining Saga of Donald Trump’s 3-5 Million Illegal Voters

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Uplifting, Heartbreaking, Enormous Crowds at Women’s Marches Around The World

Mother Jones

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Dramatically larger than expected crowds showed up Saturday at women’s marches in Washington, DC, and more than 600 cities around the world. Mother Jones reporters have been on the scene all day, interviewing protesters and gathering photos and video. In this roundup we’ve collected some of what they saw, as well as highlights from across social media.

10:46 p.m. EST: And with that, we’re signing off for now.

9:00 p.m. EST: Safe travels home everyone!

7:40 p.m. EST: Another large crowd in San Francisco:

5:50 p.m. EST: President Trump, speaking at CIA headquarters in Langley, insisted (falsely) that his inauguration drew the largest crowd ever for such an event. “As you know, I have a running war with the media,” the president noted. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, followed up by warning that the press would be held “accountable.” Neither man mentioned the massive marches around the nation.

4:50 p.m. EST: From the march in Oakland, California:

4:09 p.m. EST:

3:55 p.m. EST: Here’s footage of women marching in five states where Donald Trump won:

3:45 p.m. EST: Even more signs (and chants!):

3:40 p.m. EST:

3:20 p.m. EST: Updates from New York City’s march:

3:16 p.m. EST: Lol.

3:07 p.m. EST: The Associated Press reports that city officials have said that because the planned route for the march in Washington, DC, “is filled with protesters, a formal march is no longer possible.” Marchers have been diverted along a different route.

2:34 p.m. EST: We’re hearing reports that attendance at marches nationwide has far surpassed predictions:

1:30 p.m. EST: Signs, signs, and more signs:

Hair made of Cheetos. Jeremy Schulman

1 p.m. EST: More than 500,000 marchers are now in Washington, DC, according to new estimates:

12:45 p.m. EST: Crowds swell at marches around the world:

12:25 p.m. EST: Well, this happened.

12:15 p.m. EST:

11:29 a.m. EST:

11:05 a.m. EST:

10:04 a.m. EST:

9:57 a.m. EST: The DC Metro is packed with attendees headed to the march.

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Uplifting, Heartbreaking, Enormous Crowds at Women’s Marches Around The World

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Sprint Update: 5,000 New Jobs, But They Still Don’t Know What They’re For

Mother Jones

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Last April, Sprint announced that it planned to hire 5,000 workers to deliver cell phones to customers at their homes. A few days ago it announced it would be hiring 5,000 new workers for…something. I surmised that these were actually the same 5,000 workers, and Sprint wasn’t doing anything new. But apparently I was wrong. Max Ehrenfreund reports:

Representatives of Sprint have said the company will create positions for about 5,000 more people in the United States, counting both new employees and workers at Sprint’s contractors.

….Spokesman David Tovar said that the new positions would be in addition to Sprint’s previously announced plans to expand its presence on the street with 2,500 new stores and a fleet of vehicles for delivering phones. However, he added, the company has not yet determined exactly what the new workers will do or how many of them will work for Sprint as opposed to contractors.

Well…OK. But this is damn peculiar. We’re going to hire 5,000 new people, but we don’t really know what they’re going to do. What kind of company does something like that? It’s nuts. But they do know that a bunch of them will work for contractors. How do they know that? It’s all very mysterious. But I guess Masayoshi Son wanted to suck up to Donald Trump, so he sent down word to hire 5,000 people and find something for them to do. Welcome to free enterprise, Trump style.

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Sprint Update: 5,000 New Jobs, But They Still Don’t Know What They’re For

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A Fresh Start?

Mother Jones

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David Frum is persuading me this morning that the tweetstorm can be a valuable medium after all. He is not buying Michael Smerconish’s suggestion that we should all give Donald Trump a fresh start:

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A Fresh Start?

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