Tag Archives: research

Black Scientist Attempts to Create Time Machine

With all the hype about the movie, “Back to the Future”, whose premise was in part, time travel to the year 2015 – it isn’t surprising there is interest in examining the possibility of time travel again. There are several bits of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which have been bent, if not broken by new discoveries. For example, we now know that some particles do travel faster than the speed of light, something which the Theory says can’t happen.Scientists may also have begun fledgling steps toward creating what in Star Trek is called a “Warp Bubble” in research on a new type of propulsion.

You never know what is on the next scientific horizon.

Meet The Physicist Building A Time Machine To See His Dead Father

This is an important day for Ronald L. Mallett, a retired professor of theoretical physics at the University of Connecticut who is trying to invent a machine that will allow him to travel back in time to reunite with his dead father. Of course, this is an important day for many of us. Today, after all, is Oct. 21, 2015, the date on which Marty McFly and Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown, Ph.D., emerged from a time machine of their own into a future world of hoverboards, flying cars and people wearing two ties at once for some reason.

For many of us, this is an opportunity to take stock of the “Back to the Future” franchise’s various predictions and think about the ways in which they have — or, in most cases, haven’t — come true.

Yes, there are hoverboards. No, people don’t have fax machines in their bathrooms. And with the Cubs down 3-0 in their pennant series against the Mets, it looks like it will be at least another year before they win their first World Series since Theodore Roosevelt was president.

But how about time travel itself? Mallett, who considers “Back to the Future” one of his favorite films, acknowledges that the idea of getting into a souped-up DeLorean and zooming into the future is the sort of fantasy that remains relegated to the imaginations of movie producers. But he insists that time travel could, in fact, become a reality, though perhaps on a very limited scale. Whether or not he succeeds, the author of Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality may one day follow “Doc” to Hollywood fame; Spike Lee has reportedly bought the rights to his life story.

Not surprisingly, many of Mallett’s peers do not share his belief that we are anywhere close to building a machine that allows us to travel through time. As Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech, put it in an email to The Huffington Post, “Unfortunately, ‘building a time machine’ here on Earth is not realistic.”

“To the best of our current understanding, we simply can’t build time machines at all,” Carroll continued. “But one thing is clear: if we could build a time machine, it would require an enormously strong gravitational field, similar to that you would experience right next to a black hole. Nothing we can imagine making in a laboratory comes anywhere close.

Still, Mallett is determined to pursue his dream.

Below, he shares his thoughts on the realities of time travel, his favorite time-travel films, and his reception among his fellow physicists. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

“Back to the Future” came out in 1989. How close do you think we now are to being able to travel through time, and do you think this is something that people will ever be able to do?

It’s important to realize that the real science of time travel is based on Einstein’s theories of relativity. In a nutshell, Einstein’s special theory of relativity, published in 1905, states that time slows down for moving clocks. In other words, the faster a clock moves the more time slows down. Your heart is a clock, so this would mean that your heart rate will slow down the faster that you move. So if you were able to travel fast enough, you would not age at the same rate as everyone else, and this would allow you to arrive in the future younger than everyone else. In other words, this is time travel to the future. This form of time travel has actually been achieved on a limited scale using fast-moving planes and high-speed subatomic particles.

An experiment was done at the U.S. Naval Observatory in 1971 using two atomic clocks. One of clocks was kept at rest at the Naval Observatory and the other clock was flown around the world at the speed of sound. When the two clocks were compared at the end of the flight, it was found that the clock that had been on the passenger jet had actually slowed down compared to the clock at rest. This means that the plane and passengers had flown fractions of a second to the future. The effect depends on speed. For rockets traveling close to the speed of light, the effect would be more dramatic. An astronaut traveling close to the speed of light returns to earth only a few years older and finds they have arrived decades into the Earth’s future.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published in 1915, says that time can be altered by gravity. In particular, Einstein showed that the stronger gravity is, the more time slows down. This has actually been observed. Clocks at the surface of the earth where gravity is strong run slower than clocks at high altitude aboard satellites where gravity is weak. This effect of gravity on time has practical consequences for the GPS units in our cars.

How did you get interested in time travel?

My interest in time travel began with a personal tragedy. I was the oldest of four children and grew up in the Bronx. My father, Boyd Mallett, was a television repairman. For me the sun rose and set on him. He was the center of my life. He spent a lot of time with me giving me scientific gifts like a gyroscope and a crystal radio set. My father looked like a healthy man but he had a very weak heart. He died of a massive heart attack at 33 years old. I was 10 years old and his death devastated my world. I was very depressed. Fortunately, I loved to read, and about a year after he died, when I was 11, I came across a Classics Illustrated edition of H.G. Wells’ famous classic, The Time Machine. The quote at the very beginning of the story changed everything for me. It said, “Scientific people know very well that time is just a kind of space and we can move forward and backward in time just as we can in space.” It was at that moment that I decided that I would have to figure out how to build a time machine so that I could see my father again and perhaps save his life.

Has your understanding of the science changed over the years?

After my father died, the family was very poor and I used to go to the Salvation Army for paperback books, which only cost 5 cents. On one of my visits, when I was 12, I came across a popular level book entitled The Universe and Dr. Einstein by Lincoln Barnett. The book implied that Einstein said that time is not fixed, time could be altered. That made me realize that there was real science behind the possibility of time travel. That’s when I also began to realize that I would have to understand Einstein’s work in order to understand how to build a time machine….Read The Rest Here

I am adding Dr Mallett to my “Giant Negroes” category – for no other reason than beating the system which prevents so many aspiring young black folks from entering and succeeding in the STEM Field.


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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Giant Negros


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In the Crosswalk…While Black

Why that implicit bias can kill you just walking across the street…

Drivers Show Signs Of Racial Bias At Crosswalks, Initial Study Finds

Does the race of a pedestrian determine whether a driver will stop to let them cross the street?

A joint preliminary study by researchers at the University of Arizona and Portland State University suggests that it is. The study — which, it should be noted, had an extremely small sample size and was based in one city — found that African-Americans had to wait in a crosswalk about 32 percent longer than white people before drivers stopped. The research also suggests that African-Americans are twice as likely to be passed by multiple vehicles.

The findings, co-authored by a University of Arizona transportation planning expert and two Portland State University students, were published in August in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior. The researchers trained six participants — three white, three black — and had them stand at a crosswalk in downtown Portland, Oregon. Then researchers observed 88 trials, cataloguing how many cars passed without letting the pedestrian cross and how long it took for a driver to finally stop.

“Drivers were clearly displaying behaviors consistent with implicit racial bias,” study co-author Arlie Adkins said. “It was not a very large study, so we weren’t sure the amount of data collected would be enough to reach statistical significance, so we were surprised to see how quickly the significance showed up.”

Tara Goddard, a doctoral candidate in urban studies at Portland State and co-author of the study, said the research has broader implications even though its sample size was so small and it only took place in one city. She, Adkins and co-author Kimberly Kahn received a $30,000 grant from the National Institute for Transportation and Community to expand on the study, and are putting the finishing touches on more comprehensive research on the subject.

The study wasn’t meant to prove that drivers are “overtly racist,” but that they could have implicit bias that leads to danger on the road, researchers said.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that during a period that spanned 2000 to 2012, African-American and Hispanic male pedestrians were more than twice as likely then white men to die in traffic crashes,” they write in the study.

Are those crashes caused by implicit bias?

We’re not saying this is the missing link, but it’s worth exploring,” Goddard told The Huffington Post. “It’s likely happening at a subconscious level.”

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Posted by on October 17, 2015 in The New Jim Crow


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Concussions Likely Cause of Degenerative Brain Disease in Football Players

This one has been stewing for a while. The league began to take things more seriously a few years ago, banning certain types of hits, and upgrading helmets and rules.

What is terrifying about this though is that even people who played Pop Warner football as kids may suffer this level of brain damage.

New: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease

A total of 87 out of 91 former NFL players have tested positive for the brain disease at the center of the debate over concussions in football, according to new figures from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on the study of traumatic head injury.

Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 96 percent of NFL players that they’ve examined and in 79 percent of all football players. The disease is widely believed to stem from repetitive trauma to the head, and can lead to conditions such as memory loss, depression and dementia.

In total, the lab has found CTE in the brain tissue in 131 out of 165 individuals who, before their deaths, played football either professionally, semi-professionally, in college or in high school.

Forty percent of those who tested positive were the offensive and defensive linemen who come into contact with one another on every play of a game, according to numbers shared by the brain bank with FRONTLINE. That finding supports past research suggesting that it’s the repeat, more minor head trauma that occurs regularly in football that may pose the greatest risk to players, as opposed to just the sometimes violent collisions that cause concussions.

But the figures come with several important caveats, as testing for the disease can be an imperfect process. Brain scans have been used to identify signs of CTE in living players, but the disease can only be definitively identified posthumously. As such, many of the players who have donated their brains for testing suspected that they had the disease while still alive, leaving researchers with a skewed population to work with.

Even with those caveats, the latest numbers are “remarkably consistent” with pastresearch from the center suggesting a link between football and long-term brain disease, said Dr. Ann McKee, the facility’s director and chief of neuropathology at the VA Boston Healthcare System.

“People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion, that this is a very rare disease and that we’re sensationalizing it,” said McKee, who runs the lab as part of a collaboration between the VA and BU. “My response is that where I sit, this is a very real disease. We have had no problem identifying it in hundreds of players.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the NFL said, “We are dedicated to making football safer and continue to take steps to protect players, including rule changes, advanced sideline technology, and expanded medical resources. We continue to make significant investments in independent research through our gifts to Boston University, the [National Institutes of Health] and other efforts to accelerate the science and understanding of these issues.”

The latest update from the brain bank, which in 2010 received a $1 million research grant from the NFL, comes at a time when the league is able to boast measurable progress in reducing head injuries. In its 2015 Health & Safety Report, the NFL said that concussions in regular season games fell 35 percent over the past two seasons, from 173 in 2012 to 112 last season. A separate analysis by FRONTLINE that factors in concussions reported by teams during the preseason and the playoffs shows a smaller decrease of 28 percent.

Off the field, the league has revised safety rules to minimize head-to-head hits, and invested millions into research. In April, it also won final approval for a potential $1 billion settlement with roughly 5,000 former players who have sued it over past head injuries.

Still, at the start of a new season of play, the NFL once again finds itself grappling to turn the page on the central argument in the class-action lawsuit: that for years it sought to conceal a link between football and long-term brain disease.

The latest challenge to that effort came two weeks ago with the trailer for a forthcoming Hollywood film about the neuropathologist who first discovered CTE. When the trailer was released, it quickly went viral, leaving the NFL bracing for a new round of scrutiny over past efforts to deny any such connection.

The film, Concussion, starring Will Smith, traces the story of Bennet Omalu, who in 2005 shocked the football establishment with an article in the journal Neurosurgery detailing his discovery of CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. At the VA lab and elsewhere, CTE has since been found in players such as Hall of FamerJunior Seau, former NFL Man of the Year Dave Duerson, and Indianapolis Colts tight end John Mackey, a past head of the player’s union.

While the story is not a new one, for the NFL, it represents a high-profile and potentially embarrassing cinematic interpretation of a period in which the league sought to refute research suggesting football may contribute to brain disease.

From 2003 to 2009, for example, the NFL’s now disbanded Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee concluded in a series of scientific papers that “no NFL player” had experienced chronic brain damage from repeat concussions, and that “Professional football players do not sustain frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis.”

In the case of Omalu, league doctors publicly assailed his research, and in a rare move, demanded a retraction of his study. When Omalu spoke to FRONTLINE about the incident for the 2013 documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, he said, “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you.”

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Posted by on September 19, 2015 in News


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Genetically Inherited Trauma

This one is fascinating. While the basis of the first study is the descendants of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust – I can’t see any reason it wouldn’t apply to black folks experience in America with first, slavery, then Jim Crow Terrorism. It also appears to hold with other groups, such as Native American, and Cambodians who survived Pol Pot’s massacres. Some of the research indicates that the damage is multi-generational. 

Study Suggests Trauma’s Effects Can Register Across Generations

This could be the stuff of a scientific breakthrough: A research team out of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City has published a study that points to the possibility that trauma sustained by one generation can actually be passed down, in a sense, to children and maybe even farther down the genetic chain.

The Guardian posted details of this startling finding on Friday:

The conclusion from a research team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital led by Rachel Yehuda stems from the genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war.

They also analysed the genes of their children, who are known to have increased likelihood of stress disorders, and compared the results with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents,” said Yehuda.

Her team’s work is the clearest example in humans of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance” – the idea that environmental influences such as smoking, diet and stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even grandchildren.

The idea is controversial, as scientific convention states that genes contained in DNA are the only way to transmit biological information between generations. However, our genes are modified by the environment all the time, through chemical tags that attach themselves to our DNA, switching genes on and off. Recent studies suggest that some of these tags might somehow be passed through generations, meaning our environment could have and impact on our children’s health.

More information to massive trauma affecting genetics through multiple generations

The case of Cambodian immigrants…

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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in American Genocide, The Post-Racial Life


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Aircraft Causing Weather Changes

Old folks used to claim that the airplanes flying high in the sky were causing weather changes. For years, scientists laughed at this as preposterous…

Until now. Turns out the Old Folks were right… Again.

Aircraft Induced Cloud Hole in Anartica

Airplanes Can Cause Extra Rainfall

Airplanes flying through super-cooled clouds around airports can cause condensation that actually results in more snow and rain for nearby areas, according to a new study. The perfect conditions for such a freaky weather event occur about 5% of the time—but 10% to 15% in winter—according to the study’s lead author. Aircraft take off into the wind, so if they are generating extra ice particles upwind of an airport, the result can be snow right on the airport. That could mean planes will require more de-icing.

The team was investigating holes or canals that are sometimes seen drilled in clouds after an airplane has passed through. They found that increased snow and rainfall occurs in areas where the unusual cloud holes appear, usually within 60 miles of the airport. The added rain or snowfall occurred when the clouds were made up of water droplets that were colder than freezing, but which had not yet frozen: When an airplane passes through one of these clouds the movement causes a sudden cooling of the air, sometimes down to the critical point where the droplets freeze. They then can fall to earth as snow or rain.

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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in News


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Virginia Historical Society Developing Slave Name Database

The Virginia Historical Society has an extensive digital collection for researchers and History buffs. The following video is from their “An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia” exhibition.

Va. group creating slave name database

The Virginia Historical Society is creating an online database that will contain the names and personal information about formerly enslaved African-Americans.

The project is called “Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names.” It is financed by a $100,000 grant from Dominion Resources and The Dominion Foundation.

The free database will glean its contents from some of the more than 8 million processed manuscripts in the Richmond society’s collections.

The society says the database will be a resource for academic researchers, family historians and genealogists.

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Posted by on March 4, 2011 in Black History


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Short People…

Short People May Have Increased Heart Risk

Short people have a higher risk of heart health problems than tall people, according to a new study.

”The shorter you are, the higher risk you have of developing cardiovascular disease,” says Tuula Paajanen, MD, a researcher at the University of Tampere, Finland.

Short people, she found, also had an increased risk of heart attacks and earlier death than taller people. Overall, she says, the risk of getting heart disease and dying from it early is 1.5 times higher for short people than for tall people.

The report, in which Paajanen analyzes 52 previously published studies, is published in the European Heart Journal.

For nearly 60 years, researchers have debated a potential link between height and heart disease, with the first report finding short people at a health disadvantage published in 1951.

So Paajanen and her team did medical literature searches, selecting the most scientifically sound studies — totaling 52 — from the 1,907 articles she found on the topic. In all, more than 3 million people were included in the 52 studies they reviewed.

What’s Short? What’s Tall?

Short and tall are relative, of course, so for the review Paajanen compared the tallest groups with the shortest groups, defining each.

  • Short men were defined as those less than about 5 feet 5 inches tall, while short women were those below about 5 feet.
  • Tall men were those over about 5 feet 9 and 1/2 inches, and tall women over about 5 feet 5 and 1/2 inches.

After analyzing all 52 studies, Paajanen found an increased risk for health problems and earlier death for the shortest group compared to the tallest.

  • Short stature increased the risk of heart disease illness and death by 1.5 times.
  • Short men had a 37% increased risk for dying from any cause, and short women a 55% increased risk.
  • Both short men and short women had a 52% increased risk of having a heart attack.
  • This one is strange. You would think smaller people would have a lower chance of heart related illness because the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard. Indeed, the Air Force has known though studies for years that the best Fighter Pilots are typically short women. This is due to the stress put on the body’s blood flow due to G forces, where a short person’s blood doesn’t have as far to travel, and thus shorter pilots are more resistant to or recover faster in blackouts caused by the blood being pushed to the extremities by extreme G forces.

    Guys – Please don’t revoke my “Black Card” for the Randy Newman song!

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    Posted by on June 9, 2010 in General, Nawwwwww!


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