Mostly Monday Reads: All Things Spiraling in the Dark

M74 shines at its brightest in this combined optical/mid-infrared image, featuring data from both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

For as long as I can remember, Scientists have been dangling the hope that Fusion Power would solve all of our energy problems. The official announcement will come via the Department of Energy tomorrow. We have some of the news already. It appears to be an essential breakthrough that gets us further toward the ultimate goal of carbon-free and nuclear waste-free energy. This is from CNN: 

For the first time ever, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain – a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.

The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

The result of the experiment is a massive step in a decadeslong quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers have for decades attempted to recreate nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will make an announcement Tuesday on a “major scientific breakthrough,” the department announced Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported by the Financial Times.

Nuclear fusion happens when two or more atoms are fused into one larger one, a process that generates a massive amount of energy as heat.

Scientists across the globe have been inching toward the breakthrough; in February, UK scientists announced they had more than doubled the previous record for generating and sustaining nuclear fusion.

In a huge donut-shaped machine called a tokamak outfitted with giant magnets, scientists working near Oxford were able to generate a record-breaking amount of sustained energy. Even so, it only lasted 5 seconds.

The heat sustained by the process of fusing the atoms together holds the key to helping produce energy.

As CNN reported earlier this year, the process of fusion creates helium and neutrons – which are lighter in mass than the parts from which they were originally made.

The missing mass then converts to an enormous amount of energy. The neutrons, which are able to escape the plasma, then hit a “blanket” lining the walls of the tokamak, and their kinetic energy transfers as heat. This heat can then be used to warm water, create steam and power turbines to generate power.

A composite image of M51 with X-rays from Chandra and optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope contains a box that marks the location of the possible planet candidate.
Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/R. DiStefano et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/Grendler

This Washington Post article mentions, “Scientists hit a key milestone in the quest to create abundant zero-carbon power through nuclear fusion. But they still have a long way to go.”

In the decades scientists have been experimenting with fusion reactions, they had not until now been able to create one that produces more energy than it consumes. While the achievement is significant, there are still monumental engineering and scientific challenges ahead.

Creating the net energy gain required engagement of one of the largest lasers in the world, and the resources needed to recreate the reaction on the scale required to make fusion practical for energy production are immense. More importantly, engineers have yet to develop machinery capable of affordably turning that reaction into electricity that can be practically deployed to the power grid.

Building devices that are large enough to create fusion power at scale, scientists say, would require materials that are extraordinarily difficult to produce. At the same time, the reaction creates neutrons that put a tremendous amount of stress on the equipment creating it, such that it can get destroyed in the process.

And then there is the question of whether the technology could be perfected in time to make a dent in climate change.

Even so, researchers and investors in fusion technology hailed the breakthrough as an important advancement.

“There is going to be great pride that this is something that happened in the United States,” said David Edelman, who leads policy and global affairs at TAE, a large private fusion energy company. “This is a very important milestone on the road toward fusion energy.”

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris‎, France.

While most of us want to leave a better world to future generations, there are still those who wish to recreate the past with all its divisiveness, oppression, and intolerance of others. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a frightening report to share. “White Nationalists, Other Republicans Brace for ‘Total War. “A collection of radical right figures including white nationalists and ultranationalist European leaders gathered in Manhattan for the New York Young Republicans Club’s (NYYRC) annual gala Saturday night, where that group’s president declared “total war” on perceived enemies.”

“We want to cross the Rubicon. We want total war. We must be prepared to do battle in every arena. In the media. In the courtroom. At the ballot box. And in the streets,” NYYRC president Gavin Wax declared to a room full of supporters at 583 Park Ave., an event venue on New York’s Upper East side.

“This is the only language the left understands. The language of pure and unadulterated power,” Wax added.

At the five-hour event, which Hatewatch reporters attended, white nationalists Peter and Lydia Brimelow of VDARE hobnobbed with Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser and White House official. Donald Trump Jr. was also in attendance.

Republicans publicly lauded members of an Austrian political party founded by World War II-era German Nazi party members. Racist political operative Jack Posobiec shared jokes across a table with Josh Hammer, the opinion editor of Newsweek. Multiple recently elected GOP congresspeople applauded Marjorie Taylor Greene, who told the NYYRC crowd in the event’s closing remarks that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol would have succeeded if she had planned it and that the insurrectionists would have been armed.

“Then Jan. 6 happened. And next thing you know, I organized the whole thing, along with Steve Bannon,” Greene said, referring to allegations that she had led reconnaissance tours of the Capitol for soon-to-be insurrectionists in the days prior to the violence.

“I will tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I organized that, we would have won,” she said, as attendees erupted in cheers and applause. “Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.”

James Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket, 1875, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA.

The article has more background information on the event’s attendees, groups, and history. It’s not a fun read but a necessary one. I’ve tried hard to understand what makes these people angry and aggrieved. It appears to be raw hatred aimed at anyone who doesn’t fit their mold and might challenge their ability to hog all the power and money.

CBS News reports that Marjorie Taylor Green and Donald Trump, Jr. attended the event. Their speeches were what you would expect. “White House: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s latest Jan. 6 comments a “slap in the face” to law enforcement, victims’ families.”

The White House is reacting sharply to comments made over the weekend by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and how the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, might have gone if she had indeed been its ringleader.

The Georgia Republican spoke Saturday at a dinner hosted by the New York Young Republican Club and recounted how her critics have incorrectly labeled her an organizer of the insurrection that left one person shot dead and led to the deaths of two other police officers.

“I want to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, we would’ve been armed,” she said Saturday, according to the New York Post.

She also criticized ongoing U.S. funding for the war in Ukraine and called on Republicans to back former president Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.

In comments shared first with CBS News, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said it “goes against our fundamental values as a country for a Member of Congress to wish that the carnage of January 6th had been even worse, and to boast that she would have succeeded in an armed insurrection against the United States government. This violent rhetoric is a slap in the face to the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police, the National Guard, and the families who lost loved ones as a result of the attack on the Capitol. All leaders have a responsibility to condemn these dangerous, abhorrent remarks and stand up for our Constitution and the rule of law.”

Tarsila do Amaral, The Moon, 1928, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA. Courtesy of Tarsila do Amaral.

You may read the New York Post article. It has information about Don Jr.

Her appearance followed remarks by Donald Trump, Jr., who similarly bashed the “woke” left while expressing glee about how House Republicans might treat Hunter Biden next year.

With Musk releasing troves of data this week showing how Twitter executives decided to suppress a 2020 exclusive story by The Post about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Trump Jr. said it was one more example of how supposed conspiracy theories can turn out to be true.

“Holy s–t … if that was my laptop, I’d be in trouble,” he said.

“Hunter gets to sell art for 200 grand yesterday. So I was thinking about doing some art. I could do some finger painting like Hunter,” Trump added.

He told the friendly audience they needed to similarly speak out no matter how politically incorrect or offensive rightwing talking points might be.

“We need people to be out there unafraid,” Trump Jr. said.

But, her emails.

René Magritte, The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955, private collection. WikiArt.

Politico reports today on “What the Jan. 6 select committee’s final report will look like. A large executive summary describes former President Donald Trump’s culpability for his extensive and baseless effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to people briefed on its contents.”

The Jan. 6 select committee’s final report will begin with a voluminous executive summary describing former President Donald Trump’s culpability for his extensive and baseless effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to people briefed on its contents.

Drafts of the report, which the people briefed say have been circulating among committee members for weeks, include thousands of footnotes drawn from the panel’s interviews and research over the past 16 months into Trump’s activities in the frenzied final weeks that preceded Jan. 6, 2021 — when a mob of his supporters battered police and stormed the Capitol.

The committee members are expected to formally approve the report at a Dec. 21 public meeting of the panel described by Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). Lawmakers will be able to propose final edits before the draft is expected to be sent to the Government Publishing Office for printing later this week.

The final report, according to those briefed on it, will have eight chapters that align closely with the evidence the panel unveiled during its public hearings in June and July:

  1. Trump’s effort to sow distrust in the results of the election
  2. Trump’s pressure on state governments or legislatures to overturn victories by Joe Biden
  3. Trump campaign efforts to send pro-Trump electors to Washington from states won by Biden
  4. Trump’s push to deploy the Justice Department in service of his election scheme
  5. The pressure campaign by Trump and his lawyers against then-Vice President Mike Pence
  6. Trump’s effort to summon supporters to Washington who later fueled the Jan. 6 mob
  7. The 187 minutes during which Trump refused to tell rioters to leave the Capitol
  8. An analysis of the attack on the Capitol

A person familiar with the drafting of the report emphasized that the report itself may not be limited to an executive summary and the eight chapters and is also expected to include appendices that capture more aspects of the committee’s investigation. The complete report is expected to include investigative findings from all of the select committee’s five investigative teams, which probed Trump’s actions, the mob, the role of extremism in the attack, the money trail behind Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and law enforcement failures on Jan. 6. A committee spokesperson declined to comment.

Harald Sohlberg, Summer Night, 1899, The National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Oslo, Norway.

CNN Politics reports, “Special Counsel Smith speeds ahead on criminal probes surrounding Trump.”

Publicly released court filings have already made clear Trump is under investigation for the mishandling of national security secrets after his presidency.

But the other investigative team, looking at efforts to block the transfer of power from Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election, had even a year ago been given the greenlight by the Justice Department to take a case all the way up to Trump, if the evidence leads them there, according to the sources. Work that’s been led by the DC US Attorney’s Office into political circles around Trump related to January 6 now will move under the special counsel.

Partly led by former Maryland-based federal prosecutor Thomas Windom, DOJ has added prosecutors to the January 6 team from all over the department in recent months. Windom and the rest are also expected to move over to the special counsel’s office. Some, like Mary Dohrmann, a prosecutor who’s worked on several other Capitol riot cases already, appear to be reorienting, according to court records of open Capitol riot cases.

Another top prosecutor, JP Cooney, the former head of public corruption in the DC US Attorney’s Office, is overseeing a significant financial probe that Smith will take on. The probe includes examining the possible misuse of political contributions, according to some of the sources. The DC US Attorney’s Office, before the special counsel’s arrival, had examined potential financial crimes related to the January 6 riot, including possible money laundering and the support of rioters’ hotel stays and bus trips to Washington ahead of January 6.

In recent months, however, the financial investigation has sought information about Trump’s post-election Save America PAC and other funding of people who assisted Trump, according to subpoenas viewed by CNN. The financial investigation picked up steam as DOJ investigators enlisted cooperators months after the 2021 riot, one of the sources said.

In interviews with people in Trump’s orbit over the past several months, some of the DOJ focus has been on the timeline leading up to January 6 and Trump’s involvement and knowledge of potential events that day, according to a source familiar with the questioning.

I will end here since I have an afternoon of doctor appointments and vaccines ahead of me. You may find out more about my art selections today here. 

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


13 Comments on “Mostly Monday Reads: All Things Spiraling in the Dark”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Have a good week!!!

  2. quixote says:

    About fusion: yes, it’s a wonderful form of energy and it’s worked for billions of years in a very good reactor about the right distance away. 93,000,000 miles.

    Seriously, we have everything we need right now to transition to a completely carbon-neutral sustainable energy system. Even an economy-wide hydrogen fuel system would need about one millionth of the technical and scientific breakthroughs that usable practical fusion would.

    As Amory Lovins once said about nuclear fission power: it’s like cutting butter with a chainsaw.

    And the hype about not producing radioactive waste is, unfortunately, hype. The fusion reaction ITSELF, does not produce radioactive byproducts. But you’ll notice it produces free neutrons (“fusion creates helium and neutrons”). Neutrons do what they do, which is tear through everything around them, smashing atoms, and creating … radioactive waste.

    This is NOT clean energy. It’s not even carbon-neutral because you have to build the giant plants producing it, which requires cubic acres of concrete and everything else. And building giant plants takes time. Decades. IF it worked for more than 5 seconds. It solves nothing now. Whereas solar panels are cheap, available now, installable everywhere, and can be a distributed form of energy (which is why the utilities hate them, except as solar “farms.”)

    Fusion power might be quite useful for interstellar probes, if humans start making enough good decisions to survive long enough to live in a Star Trek world. It’s just a distraction for solving energy problems now.