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Ice sheets are large and complex things. Figuring out how quickly—and where—they’ll melt as the world warms is a monumental task. We worry about some portions (like the vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet) collapsing entirely, but we know some other parts will be disappearing in the foreseeable future. Records from past periods of climate change are important guides here. What better way to figure out what will happen than to see what has happened before?

For the Greenland Ice Sheet, there has been some debate about how small it has gotten in past warm periods where we know sea level was higher than it is today. The problem is that Greenland's ice doesn’t go nearly so far back in time as Antarctica’s. Snowfall is greater here, and ice flows more quickly to the edges of the continent where it disappears from the pages of the history we read from ice cores. Few Greenland cores go back more than about 110,000 years, failing to tell us about the last interglacial warm period.

But at the bottom of a couple of ice cores from the thickest parts of the ice sheet, there is some messed up ice we know could be a lot older. Figuring out how old is another matter. Without an orderly stack of annual layers to count back through, there aren’t many reference points preserved in the ice. To make things worse, water can refreeze to the underside of glaciers, so it might not have even been glacial ice in the first place...

How old is mystery ice from the base of Greenland’s ice sheet? | Ars Technica
Although tiny, a proton takes up a finite amount of space, enough to fit three quarks, a host of virtual particles, and their associated gluons. The size of a proton's radius is determined by these particles and their interactions, and so is fundamentally tied in to theories like the Standard Model and quantum chromodynamics.

We can measure the radius because the proton's charge is spread across it, which influences the orbit of any electrons that might be circling it. Measurements with electrons produce a value that's easily in agreement with existing theories. But a few years back, researchers put a heavier version of the electron, called a muon, in orbit around a proton. This formed an exotic, heavier version of the hydrogen atom. And here, measuring the proton's radius produced an entirely different value—something that shouldn't have happened.

This “proton radius puzzle” suggests there may be something fundamentally wrong with our physics models. And the researchers who discovered it have now moved on to put a muon in orbit around deuterium, a heavier isotope of hydrogen. They confirm that the problem still exists, and there's no way of solving it with existing theories...

Researchers orbit a muon around an atom, confirm physics is broken | Ars Technica

Carleton In-Equity

So, yeah, Carleton's Equity Services are pretty useless, as it turns out. 'Could have offered to provide mediation two years ago, before things were escalated; didn't. 'Could have done so a second time, after the first major incident and I approached them; 'didn't. 'Could have done so a third time, after the second major incident and I approached them... etcetera, etcetera.

Instead, the problem alternately got kicked to my department chair (without asking for my consent to disclose the information, and who couldn't do anything anyhow) or to Security, who can only offer to forward on the file to the Ottawa City Police. So instead of helping to de-escalate a situation, Equity has left it to me to either turn the other cheek (again), or to land someone with an unnecessary police record that could permanently damage their careers.

If that isn't Distinctly Carleton, I don't know what is, really...

Unexpected visitations by J.

Cherish that magical moment, friends, when that special person who has repeatedly gone out of their way to provoke traumatic memories of the past, suddenly decides to show up two blocks from your house, just because "It's a free country" and they care enough not to phone it in. Thus did J. show commitment by appearing nary two blocks from my doorstep.

Cherish the moments, for they are few and fleeting...

Actually, screw it, I'm heading to Equity Services on Monday. Clearly J. needs to be forced, against her habits, to act like a decent human being. The dralas have passed that message on, rather officially this evening. Already, I've taken the embarrassing step of letting Lena and Janice know what transpired, as well as venting (in vague terms) to very close friends on Facebook.

Needless to say, I was having an excellent day right-up until the moment that I saw her walking back down Somerset, towards me.

Yare, yare.
July 19, 2016 — Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants...

Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here - Scientific American
There is no doubt that the Heart Sutra is the most frequently used and recited text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition, which still flourishes in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, China, parts of India and Nepal, and, more recently, also in the Americas and Europe. Many people have said many different things about what the Heart Sutra is and what it is not, such as being the heart of wisdom, a statement of how things truly are, the key teaching of the Mahayana, a condensation of all the Prajnaparamita Sutras (the Buddha’s second turning of the wheel of dharma), or an explanation of emptiness in a nutshell. In order to understand the actual words of the Heart Sutra, it’s helpful to first explore its background within the Buddhist tradition as well as the meanings of “prajnaparamita” and “emptiness.”

One thing we can safely say about the Heart Sutra is that it is completely crazy...

The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever - Lion's Roar


Fare thee well Sesame! May you enjoy your new home and excellent adventures, furry clown... :-(

At the very least you are, at least initially going to your Katie's home for next wee while. And maybe, just maybe, you'll rub off on her skittish beau...
I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities...

Losing my religion for equality
Security experts have documented a disturbing spike in a particularly virulent family of Android malware, with more than 10 million handsets infected and more than 286,000 of them in the US.

Researchers from security firm Check Point Software said the malware installs more than 50,000 fraudulent apps each day, displays 20 million malicious advertisements, and generates more than $300,000 per month in revenue. The success is largely the result of the malware's ability to silently root a large percentage of the phones it infects by exploiting vulnerabilities that remain unfixed in older versions of Android. The Check Point researchers have dubbed the malware family "HummingBad," but researchers from mobile security company Lookout say HummingBad is in fact Shedun, a family of auto-rooting malware that came to light last November and had already infected a large number of devices.

For the past five months, Check Point researchers have quietly observed the China-based advertising company behind HummingBad in several ways, including by infiltrating the command and control servers it uses. The researchers say the malware uses the unusually tight control it gains over infected devices to create windfall profits and steadily increase its numbers. HummingBad does this by silently installing promoted apps on infected phones, defrauding legitimate mobile advertisers, and creating fraudulent statistics inside the official Google Play Store.

"Accessing these devices and their sensitive data creates a new and steady stream of revenue for cybercriminals," Check Point researchers wrote in a recently published report. "Emboldened by financial and technological independence, their skillsets will advance–putting end users, enterprises, and government agencies at risk..."

10 million Android phones infected by all-powerful auto-rooting apps | Ars Technica
Like many forms of encryption in use today, HTTPS protections are on the brink of a collapse that could bring down the world as we know it. Hanging in the balance are most encrypted communications sent over the last several decades. On Thursday, Google unveiled an experiment designed to head off, or at least lessen, the catastrophe.

In the coming months, Google servers will add a new, experimental cryptographic algorithm to the more established elliptic curve algorithm it has been using for the past few years to help encrypt HTTPS communications. The algorithm—which goes by the wonky name "Ring Learning With Errors"—is a method of exchanging cryptographic keys that's currently considered one of the great new hopes in the age of quantum computing. Like other forms of public key encryption, it allows two parties who have never met to encrypt their communications, making it ideal for Internet usage.

Virtually all forms of public key encryption in use today are secured by math problems that are so hard that they take millennia for normal computers to solve. In a world with quantum computers, the same problems take seconds to solve. No one knows precisely when this potential doomsday scenario will occur. Forecasts call for anywhere from 20 to 100 years. But one thing is certain: once working quantum computers are a reality, they will be able to decrypt virtually all of today's HTTPS communications. Even more unnerving, eavesdroppers who have stashed away decades' worth of encrypted Internet traffic would suddenly have a way to decrypt all of it.

Unlike today's Diffie-Hellman key-exchange method or the RSA and elliptic curve cryptography crypto systems commonly used to encrypt Internet communications, Ring Learning With Errors, or Ring-LWE for short, has no known weaknesses to quantum computing. So over the next year or so, Google plans to combine it with the current algorithms it uses to see how it performs in real-world environments.

"Our aims with this experiment are to highlight an area of research that Google believes to be important and to gain real-world experience with the larger data structures that post-quantum algorithms will likely require," Google software engineer Matt Braithwaite wrote in a blog post published Thursday...

HTTPS crypto’s days are numbered. Here’s how Google wants to save it | Ars Technica

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