William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Global Thermonuclear War: A Small Price To Pay To Stop Trump

I’m interrupting my e-holiday to write about prospect of global thermonuclear war (which is on the same scale as alien invasion) with Russia.

What is it that Russia has done to us that we need risk the annihilation of tens of millions? More importantly, what has Russian done to threaten the annihilation of you?

One charge is Russia has been supporting Syria, which is bad because the progressives, neo-cons, and “conservatives” in and around our government, and the Noble Peace prize winner in the White House, aren’t fond of Syria. What, then, has Syria done to us? Why, nothing.

Assad, the President of Syria, is, we are told, not a nice man. But many men are not nice, and the state of Assad’s soul, black or white, does not and could not imperil the security of these once United States of America. Even the propagandists at the New York Times would not dare suggest that waves of Syrian troops would, if not checked by our blowing Russian military planes out of the sky, invade Washington DC. As of last count, Syria has zero submarines. That number is not expected to increase.

The frequent rebuttal to this is that Assad is not bad, but he is mean-bad. He kills his own citizens. This is so. But then some of his citizens are trying to kill him, too. Fair is fair. None of this is endearing behavior; however, at least a substantial portion of the folks under Assad’s gunfire are members of ISIS. Hearing reports of dead ISIS soldiers is cheering, one would have expected.

One would be wrong. Why? Because it is Russia who is doing some of the killing. Not only is Russian killing ISIS, but Russia is killing the rebels who are trying to kill Assad. Except for the benefits of dead ISIS members, none of this is our business.

The answer returns that if Russia’s endeavors in Syria are successful, then Syria and perhaps other countries in the Mideast would look with smiles on Russia and so might frown harder on the USA. God bless Russia, say I. If they can make friends in that dispirited land, let them.

Again, what business is it of yours what happens in Syria such that you would risk dying, such that you would risk having your own children killed? Is it our duty to police every dispute everywhere everwhen? If so, why? Because America needs an empire?

Because Israel, say some. Israel shares our nearly defunct system of government, and misery loves company. The Shared Misery theory demands democracies should team to kill those who threaten other democracies, and Israel might be threatened, though nobody knows for sure, if Assad triumphs; thus the USA should risk war with Russia and save Israel. Honestly, now: if you had to choose between yourself and Israel, who would you pick? Anyway, even if you pick the latter and somehow there are people left after the Russian war, we still have to ask our dear leaders why, if they love Israel so dearly, they appeased Iran, a country that has sworn its enmity against Israel.

Maybe you say we don’t have to be the world’s powerful sheriff, intent of having others respect our authoritay. But Russia hacked Hillary’s and the DNC’s emails and showed them up to be the duplicitous, deceitful, people-hating, conspiracy-driven folks everybody already knew them to be (how anybody can trust the media after these leaks is a story in itself). And since Russia hacked our emails, they deserve payback.

Wait. Russia hacked our emails? Does that includes the wedding planning emails on Hillary’s illegal private server which she swore were secure? Let’s ask Comey, see what he says, or get Bill to ask Lynch. Skip it.

Anyway, the charge of Russian hacking is rich, considering that, if true, it has Russia doing less to the DNC than what our own government via NSA did to us.

“But Briggs! The NSA was, and actually still is, conducting unconstitutional warrantless searches to keep us safe. That’s why Yahoo just gave the private emails of millions of citizens to the government. They only want to keep us safe. Don’t you want to be safe from prying eyes?”

No comment.

Anyway, how do we know Russia did the hacking? Guccifer says he did. The only evidence of Russia’s guilt is that senior politicians in government, known for fibbing and stretching points, say they did. Can we trust that Barrack “If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor” Obama isn’t lying to us?

Trust, but verify, to coin phrase. Let’s have real computer geeks known for their hostility to big government independently review the evidence. Part of that evidence must also include proof that we ourselves did not also hack Russian systems. We want to know who started it. Anybody want to venture a guess whether evidence along these lines would be revealed?

Joe “The Groper” Biden thinks Russia guilty. He wants to “send a message“. Meaning we’ll conduct cyber attacks. A.k.a. acts of war.

Yes, acts of war. Acts of war. Why? Because we claim Russian hacking are acts of war, thus so are our return hacks. And, say, do these sort of things ever escalate? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, in terms of souls, to beef up our proven cheesy security rather than start a Global Thermonuclear War?

Last question: where the hell is the anti-war Left? Are there none but hypocrites left?

I now return to the bliss of my e-holiday.

Summary Against Modern Thought: How Our Intellects & Brains Interact

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

All right, if our intellects are not material but our bodies (obviously) are, how the twain meet? The meat starts in paragraph 8.

Chapter 56 In what way an intellectual substance can be united to the body (alternate translation) We are using the alternate translation again this week; the primary is still down.

1 Having shown that an intellectual substance is not a body or a power dependent on a body, it remains for us to inquire whether an intellectual substance can be united to a body.

2 In the first place, it is evident that an intellectual substance cannot be united to a body by way of mixture.

3 For things mixed together are necessarily altered in relation to one another. But such alteration occurs only in things whose matter is the same, and which can be active and passive in relation to one another. But intellectual substances have no matter in common with bodies, since, as shown above, they are immaterial. Hence, they are not combinable with bodies.

4 Moreover, the things that are combined with one another do not themselves, having been combined, remain actually, but only virtually; for, were they to remain actually, it would be not a mixture, but only a collection; that is why a body constituted by a mixture of elements is none of those elements. But this cannot possibly occur in the case of intellectual substances, since, as we have just shown, they are incorruptible.

5 Therefore, an intellectual substance cannot be united to a body by way of mixture.

6 It is likewise evident that an intellectual substance cannot be united to a body by way of contact properly so called. For there is contact only between bodies, since things are in contact when they come together at their extremities, as the points or lines or surfaces which are the extremities of bodies. It is, therefore, impossible for an intellectual substance to be united to a body by way of contact.

7 And from this it follows that neither by continuation nor composition or colligation can union of an intellectual substance with a body be effected. For without contact none of these is possible.

8 There is, however, a certain kind of contact whereby an intellectual substance can be united to a body. For, when they are in contact, natural bodies alter one another, thus being mutually united not only by way of their quantitative extremities, but also by way of likeness in quality or form, as long as the altering body impresses its form upon the body altered.

Now, if the quantitative extremities alone be considered, then in all cases contact must of necessity be mutual. On the other hand, if attention is given to activity and passivity, it will be found that certain things touch others and are not themselves touched, while certain things are themselves touched and touch nothing else. For, indeed, the heavenly bodies touch elemental bodies in this way, inasmuch as they alter them, but they are not touched by the elemental bodies, since they are not acted upon by them.

Consequently, if there are any agents not in contact by their quantitative extremities, they nevertheless will be said to touch, so far as they act; and in this sense we say that a person in sorrow touches us. Hence, it is possible for an intellectual substance to be united to a body by contact, by touching it in this way. For intellectual substances, being immaterial and enjoying a higher degree of actuality than bodies, act on the latter and move them.

Notes “[H]eavenly bodies touch elemental bodies” by gravity and so on. This paragraph only demonstrates the nature of the problem; it does not answer it.

9 This, however, is not contact of quantity, but of power. It therefore differs from bodily contact in three ways.

First, because by this contact the indivisible can touch the divisible. Now, in bodily contact this cannot occur, since only an indivisible thing can be touched by a point. But an intellectual substance, though it is indivisible, can touch divisible quantity, so far as it acts upon it. For, indeed, a point is indivisible in one way and an intellectual substance in another. A point is indivisible as being the terminus of a quantity, and for this reason it occupies a determinate position in a continuous quantity, beyond which it cannot extend. But an intellectual substance is indivisible, as being outside the genus of quantity, and that is why no quantitative indivisible entity with which it can make contact is assigned to it.

Contact of quantity differs from quantity of power, secondly, because the former obtains only with respect to the extremities, whereas the latter regards the whole thing touched. For by contact of power a thing is touched according as it is acted upon and is moved. And this comes about inasmuch as the thing is in potentiality. Now, potentiality regards the whole and not the extremities of the whole; so that it is the whole that is touched.

And from this the third difference emerges, because in contact of quantity, which takes place in respect of extremities, that which touches must be extrinsic to that which is touched; and it cannot penetrate the thing touched, but is obstructed by it. But, since contact of power, which appertains to intellectual substances, extends to the innermost things, it makes the touching substance to be within the thing touched, and to penetrate it without hindrance.

Notes Shades of infinitesimal calculus in the first point! (Get it?) Contact of the intellect with the body is not of quantity, i.e. one material thing touching another, but by a kind of power which is not limited to surface effects. This is what Thomas calls “contact of power.” Notice he is characterizing it, not explaining it wholly.

10 The intellectual substance, then, can be united to a body by contact of power. Now, things united by contact of this kind are not unqualifiedly one. For they are one with respect to acting and being acted upon, but this is not to be unqualifiedly one. Thus, indeed, one is predicated in the same mode as being. But to be acting does not mean to be, without qualification, so that neither is to be one in action to be one without qualification. The next arguments further the characterization.

11 Now, one, in the unqualified sense of the term, has a threefold reference: to the indivisible, to the continuous, and to the one in reason. Now, from the union of an intellectual substance and a body there cannot result a thing indivisibly one, because such a union must consist in a composite of two things; nor a thing continuously one, because the parts of the continuous are parts of quantity. It therefore remains for us to inquire whether from an intellectual substance and a body there can be formed a thing one in reason.

12 Now, from two permanent entities a thing one in reason does not result unless one of them has the character of substantial form and the other of matter. For the joining of subject and accident does not constitute a unity of this kind; the idea of man, for example, is not the same as the idea of white. So, it must be asked whether an intellectual substance can be the substantial form of a body.

13 Now, to those who consider the question reasonably, such a union would seem to be impossible.

14 From two actually existing substances one thing cannot be made, because the act of each thing is that by which it is distinguished from another. Now, an intellectual substance is an actually existing substance, as is clear from what has been said. And so, too, is a body. It therefore seems that from an intellectual substance and a body something one cannot be made.

15 Also, form and matter are contained in the same genus, for every genus is divided by act and potentiality. But intellectual substance and body are diverse genera. Hence, it does not seem possible for one to be the form of the other.

16 Moreover, every thing whose being is in matter must be material. Now, if an intellectual substance is the form of a body, it must have its being in corporeal matter. For the form’s act of being is not outside that of the matter. Hence, it will follow that an intellectual substance is not immaterial, as it was shown to be above.

17 Likewise, it is impossible for a thing that has its being in a body to be separate from the body, It is, however, proved by philosophers that the intellect is separate from the body, and that it is neither a body nor a power in a body. Therefore, an intellectual substance is not the form of a body; if it were, it would have its being in a body.

18 Again a thing having its being in common with a body must have its operation in common with a body, for every thing acts in keeping with its being. Nor can the operative power of a thing be superior to its essence, since power is consequent upon principles of the essence of a thing. Now, if an intellectual substance is the form of a body, its being must be common to it and the body, since from form and matter there results a thing unqualifiedly one, which exists by one act of being. Therefore, an intellectual substance not only will have its operation in common with the body, but also its power will be a power in a body—a conclusion evidently impossible in the light of what has already been said.

Notes You’re going to have to stick with this. We have several weeks left on this subject. It is not easy. And why should it be? How many papers, books are there on the subject of “consciousness” and the mind?

God’s Gift To Molecular Biology: The Hydrogen Bond — Guest Post by Bob Kurland

Editor’s note: a version of this post originally appeared at Reflections of a Catholic Science.

It has been recognized that hydrogen bonds restrain protein molecules to their native configurations, and I believe that as the methods of structural chemistry are further applied to physiological problems it will be found that the significance of the hydrogen bond for physiology is greater than that of any other single structural feature. –Linus Pauling, The Nature of the Chemical Bond

Much has been said of anthropic coincidences, the special values of physical constants and force laws that enable a universe to support carbon-based life. Even more remarkable, I believe, are the wonderful physical-chemical processes that sustain the life of living things, from the simplest one-celled organisms to us, all of which are made possible by hydrogen bonding.

In The Theology of Water, I discussed the marvelous and unusual properties of water, properties that stemmed from the nature of the hydrogen bond, properties that enables an environment friendly to life as we know it on earth. Here I explore in more detail the nature of the hydrogen bond and its significance for molecular biology and physiology. Hydrogen bonding plays a role in biochemical reactions, in anti-body mechanisms, and in all of molecular biology and, most importantly, in how DNA acts as a blueprint for the synthesis of proteins. A book would be needed to explore all this in detail, so I’ll focus on the essentials–the basics of what a hydrogen bond is and its role in the structure of DNA.

Imagine God thinking about his design of nature. He might have said, “Now I want chemistry to have not only strong interactions between atoms, but also gentle ones: so that complicated structures can unfold and rewind easily, and so that big and small molecules can come together and join for reactions and go apart readily–Velcro or a zipper, not glue or nails. What should I use? I have it–a hydrogen bond.

Here’s the basic idea: H (hydrogen) bonded to O (oxygen) as in H-O-H (water) shows a slight positive electrical charge; :O, oxygen with a pair of unbonded (lone) electrons, shows a slight negative charge. Similarly, :N (nitrogen), with a pair of lone electrons shows a slight negative charge, and N-H, hydrogen bonded to nitrogen, show a slight positive charge. There is an electrical attraction between these small positive charges; there is also, as NMR experiments have recently shown, a contribution from chemical bonding (sharing of electrons) to hydrogen bonding, so that it is more than simple electrostatic interaction.

Hydrogen bonds energies are about 1/20 to 1/30 the value of ordinary covalent bonds, so the hydrogen bonds can be broken much more easily than covalent bonds; for example the O-H bond energy is about 430 kJoules/mole, whereas the O-H – – – :O hydrogen bond energy is 21 kJoules / mole (the “- – -” indicates a hydrogen bond).

Watson (or was it Crick?) in a moment of insight noticed that the bases (nitrogen containing molecules bound to sugar pieces in nucleotides such as DNA, RNA) matched each other by hydrogen bonding like pieces in a jig-saw puzzle. They could thus stabilize a helical structure, by links across the spiral. These bases are attached to sugar-type pieces, which in turn have phosphate groups on them that form the links between base units. The hydrogen bonds linking base pairs are strong enough to hold together the two DNA strands in the spiral helix, but weak enough that they can be “unzipped” by mild chemical action, an enzyme RNA polymerase, which yields messenger RNA.

Now the bases are like letters in a word, words which encode which amino acids used as building blocks in the protein. In this process, a linear combination of three bases is used to encode which amino acid is put into a protein. So we can regard the bases as letters and the combination of three bases as a three letter word; the three letter word is called a codon. There are four bases1 so there are 4^3 = 64 possible codons. There are 20 amino acids found in proteins, plus codons for beginning and ending protein synthesis, so that several codons may encode for incorporating the same amino acid, i.e. there is a redundancy. See here and here for tables showing specific codon / amino acid relations.

Here is a brief summary here of gene expression—transcription and translation. More detailed accounts are given in the links.

STEP 1: transcription—RNA polymerase unzips the double strand and attaches complementary bases to single strand RNA. See here and here. Note that the RNA polymerase is a large protein, much bigger than the DNA strand. Also note that one strand of the DNA serves as a “template”—bases complementary to bases in the template strand are linked, e.g. G to C, C to G, A to T, U to A, and as they’re linked they detach to yield mRNA (messenger RNA). See this flash animation for a more detailed description of this process.

STEP 2: translation—mRNA leaves the cell nucleus, goes into the cytoplasm where it attaches to a ribosome, where protein synthesis occurs. In the process transfer RNA molecules are sent by the ribosome to attach specific amino acids, coded by the m-RNA, to form a protein.

The description is extremely concise—a lot is left out and I urge the reader to look at the recommended links, animations and explanations and to explore this fascinating subject. What amazes me is that molecular biologists and those who deal with gene expression, and all the other wonders of molecular biology don’t paraphrase Psalm 19: “DNA declares the glory of God, and gene expression shows forth the work of His hands…” Certainly the hydrogen bond, which is a crucial element in these processes, neither too weak nor too strong, is a marvel in itself. God’s providence in molecular biology is as marvelous as it is in physics.


1Note: uracil replaces thymine in the RNA and is encoded by the complement of thymine, adenine. The presumed explanation for this replacement is greater chemical stability of uracil compared to thymine.

Follow-up to Our New Satanic Moment: Fashion Edition

Chaos magic clothing, from The Guardian (linked below)

Chaos magic clothing, from The Guardian (linked below)

I don’t mean for this to be complete; these are merely notes in one trend in Satanism in American culture. Satanic and pagan fashion. For more, see Our New Satanic Moment. I’ll also soon have another Stream piece.

Salon, a good source of our culture’s relapse into paganism, ran an article “‘Mysticore’ is the new norm: Inside the trend that’s casting its spell over the culture: Magic, mysticism and the occult are moving into the mainstream. Is it just a fad or a sign of spiritual crisis?” A bit of both, it seems.

Welcome to the season of the witch. Recently, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted a Witches Brew film festival, which included the acclaimed new film “The Witch.” Lately it isn’t uncommon to see glossy magazines like Nylon with headlines that start “The Witches’ Guide to…”, while new publications like Sabat, an aesthetically driven magazine that explores contemporary witchcraft, are attracting attention from readers and design snobs alike.

Stores specializing in metaphysical sundries (think ritual candles, blended oils, sacred herbs) like Spellbound Sky and House of Intuition in Los Angeles, while not brand-new, are suddenly crowded. In Brooklyn, Witches of Bushwick has evolved from a venue on the underground party circuit to a social collective that celebrates witchcraft as a feminist art and collaborates with fashion companies like Chromat. Of course, for those who prefer whipping up potions at home, several new witch- and occult-themed subscription boxes deliver the magical arts to the doorstep.

And so on. A point of curiosity is a “hip” New York fashion or “trend-setting” group called “K-Hole“, a firm which busies itself with subjects civilized peoples eschew. K-Hole is also, surely not coincidentally, according to Wikipedia, “a slang term for the subjective state of dissociation from the body commonly experienced after sufficiently high doses of the dissociative anesthetic ketamine.”

K-Hole is known for its coinage “normcore“, which was “a unisex fashion trend characterized by unpretentious, average-looking clothing. ‘Normcore’ is a portmanteau of the words ‘normal’ and ‘hardcore’.” Attitude instead of substance—or sense. Not unheard of in fashion.

Point is, the group is flogging a new “report”, which is composed (if I can use so generous a word) of dumb and incongruous pictures, and vaporous statements in large print. What interests us is its pushing of “chaos magic”. The “magic” portion of the report (as are all portions, really) is thin and platitudinous, but that’s it’s advocated at all is what startles.

Like branding, Chaos Magic is mostly concerned with inception. But where branding is about implanting ideas in the brains of an audience, Chaos Magic is about implanting ideas into your own. Both practices depend heavily on the creation of sigils + mantras. There is a tight homology here:


What follows immediately upon this is a brief recipe for using sex magic to achieve chaos magic for yourself or your “brand”. (A sigil is, of course, a symbol used in magic.)

However seriously this nonsense was meant is one thing, but it was pushed to the fashion industry, which is not known for its high moral fiber or its intellect. Clearly the K-Holes were hoping their suggestion would be taken up, and then conveyed. It bears watching how influential the group is.

It has some influence. A magazine known for manufacturing trends and celebrity tittle-tattle wrote “Is Fashion Entering a Year of Magical Thinking? A Conversation With Pop Culture’s Favorite Trend Forecasters“, by which they meant K-Hole. They say K-Hole’s “findings aren’t your run-of-the-mill witches-and-warlocks stuff—what they’re talking about is a more spiritual, self-contained magic, something akin to mental manifestations.”

Vogue summarizes chaos magic: “It’s a little bit free will, a little bit The Secret, and a little bit about championing personal choice.”

And then there’s England’s version of Salon, The Guardian: “Will chaos magic reign over your wardrobe?

It’s complicated. It isn’t just that you believe in crystals. It’s more that you choose to believe. Soon, they predict, we will believe in ourselves. We will think positively, but not overthink. We will experience the world on a deeper level. We will say “spirituality” without snickering.

The last prediction sounds right. They say “chaos magic will remain just a pleasing little term until we look down and realise: oh, we’re wearing crystal balls on our ankles. It’s already happening.” For example:

Marina Abramovic art-directing Riccardo Tisci’s womenswear show (a woman stood under a stream of running water; a man held tree branches as a symbol of “support and life force”; there was chanting from Tibetan monks). Or the Gentlewoman magazine hosting a magic show during Paris fashion week. Or JW Anderson stitching words like “orbital” and “asteroids” into knits. The mystical does appear to be seeping into the fashion mainstream.

How far this will spread is anybody’s guess. Stay tuned. I’ll have a more detailed article soon at The Stream—in time for Halloween.

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