Incidental Art

A thing said in Alamo, Texas today

Mr. President, what is your role in what happened at the Capitol? What is your personal responsibility?

– what I said was totally appropriate –

– my speech and words and my final paragraph, my final sentence –

– everybody, to the T, thought it was totally appropriate.

What he said

He said, You had numbers that nobody has had since Reconstruction. Reconstruction means Civil War. […] They understand it better than anybody, and they want law enforcement to help them […] I only hope and pray that your voice will be heard, honored, heeded, and respected long into the future.”

The names of journalists killed in 2020

Safaa Ghali, killed in Iraq, January 10

Ahmed Abdul Samad, killed in Iraq, January 10

Amjad Anas Aktalati, caught in crossfire in Syria, February 4

Lourenço Veras, murdered in Paraguay, February 12

Abdiwali Ali Hassan, murdered in Somalia, February 16

Abdul Nasser Haj Hamdan, caught in crossfire in Syria, February 20

Maria Elena Ferral Hernández, murdered in Mexico, March 30

Jorge Miguel Armenia Ávalos, murdered in Mexico, May 16

Rex Cornelio Pepino, murdered in Philippines, May 20

Shafiq Amiri, murdered in Afghanistan, May 30

Mir Wahed Shah, murdered in Afghanistan, May 30

Nabil Hasan al-Quaety, murdered in Yemen, June 2

Shubham Mani Tripathi, murdered in India, June 19

Christoff Griffith, killed in Barbados, June 22

German Vallecillo Jr., murdered in Honduras, July 1

Pablo Morrugares Parraguirre, murdered in Mexico, August 2

José Abelardo Liz, killed in Colombia, August 13

Julio Valdivia, murdered in Mexico, September 9

Jobert Bercasio, murdered in Philippines, September 14

Luis Alonzo Almendares, murdered in Honduras, September 27

Iliyas Hossain, murdered in Bangladesh, October 11

Rasheed Bakr, killed in Syria, October 26

Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi, killed in Nigeria, October 30

Israel Vázquez Rangel, killed in Mexico, November 9

Virgilio Maganes, murdered in Philippines, November 10

Elyas Dayee, murdered in Afghanistan, November 12

Rakesh Singh, murdered in India, November 28

Malalai Maiwand, murdered in Afghanistan, December 10

Hussein Khattab, murdered in Syria, December 12

Roohollah Zam, murdered in Iran, December 12

Rahmatullah Nikzad, murdered in Afghanistan, December 21



Hundreds of people have been slaughtered in Mai-Kadra

Approximately one month ago, hundreds of civilians in a market town in the Mi’irabawi Zone of the Tigray Region were murdered with axes, machetes, knives, and ropes.1 Witnesses from the Amhara populated area claim ethnic Tigrayan forces and allies are responsible for the attack. Tigrayan refugees claim Ethiopian federal forces and their allied Amhara groups are responsible. (“Anyone they found, they would kill,” said an ethnic Tigrayan who fled to Sudan.) Witnesses and Ethiopian soldiers found wounded among the dead – mostly day laborers – at the center of town. Survivors have said members of Tigrayan police and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front are responsible.

  1. Witnesses said there were no signs of gunshot wounds.


Significant digits

A good rule of thumb: never claim a level of precision you cannot measure.

  • I am really certain I can measure 1 kg. 
  • I am pretty certain I can measure 1.1 kg.
  • I am fairly certain I can measure 1.11 kg.
  • I am sure I can find a scale somewhere that can tell me 1.111 kg with some certainty after calibration.
  • I know of a couple of labs where I can get them to tell me if something has a mass of 1.1111 kg.
  • Those same labs can probably tell me 1.11111 kg.
  • I am not sure I would trust anyone telling me something is 1.1111111 kg unless they came with the receipts.
  • I am skeptical of anyone claiming to measure 1.111111111 kg.

All this to say, three significant figures is usually fine in most cases, though there might be a few situations where four or more are necessary. You’ll need to justify to yourself and to those you are giving the numbers all of those digits are needed. We want numbers we can trust, not merely more of them.

Questions to ponder on annihilation

  1. Who are you and approximately how long do you think you will be remembered?
  2. How do you know when others are “gone”? How will they know when you are?
  3. Is our current medical determination of death – “brain death” – both a necessary and sufficient description of human death? 
  4. Let us consider a few possible routes we may take after death:
    1. We are reborn into the exact same body and live the exact same life;
    2. We slumber in the grave awaiting the return of a messiah, possibly with violence against good evil;
    3. We live, we die, we live again;
    4. We join the gods in Valhalla;
    5. We disappear into nothingness.
      How would each affect us in life if true?
  5. If oblivion awaits, why mind the fleeting present moment? Why recall the days that disappear as a vapor into the fog of “history”?
  6. One day, the final human being will live and (presumably) perish. Will there be anyone there to watch? What do you think follows? 
  7. Testoni et al. (2015) report they  analyzed the correlation between Testoni Death Representation Scale and Beck Hopelessness Scale, Suicide Resilience Inventory-25, and Reasons for Living Inventory. The results confirm the hypothesis, showing that the representation of death as total annihilation is positively correlated to hopelessness and negatively correlated to resilience.” Given the professional responsibilities of healthcare workers, do they have a corresponding moral obligation to present (at least to possibly dying patients) “positive” views of death?
  8. We will mostly be nonexistent. Whether it is before we’ve arrived or after we’ve left, what surrounds the “being” of every human is a lot of “nonbeing”. Why do you think that scares (some of) us?
  9. The mystery no one knows / where does love go when it goes?
  10. Some hold “selflessness” as a virtue. Transcending the self is intrinsic to many religions. Staring out into the darkness of space can bring about a sense of the numinous. What is it about brushes with self-annihilation that bring about meaningful senses of being?
  11. One day, when we’re long gone, our social media profiles may carry on on servers we’ll never see or agree to. Is this a memorial of us? Can/Should it keep on living without us? (Consider Herman Cain’s Twitter still tweeting long after he took his final breath.)
  12. Of all the times people have predicted the end of the world, who do you think has come the closest? Care to wager when you think the world will end?
  13. Who do you think will be the last person to think of you? (Now’s perhaps your only chance to think of them!)

A philosophy of biofluid mechanics

I thank all of you for being here. Wherever “here” is for you during these days of sickness and distance. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this semester has felt “remote” – distant – as if each of our interactions had a pane of glass between us and the rest of the world. I have heard similar descriptions given for depression. To get here was not easy, to stay here was not easy, to make it to the end was not easy. But it is done. And so are we. So where do we go from here?

The first and simplest answer to that is “wherever you want to go”. I believe in personal freedom and autonomy – call it “liberty” – and as such I think the only thing that should limiting how far a person goes is how willing they are to put one foot in front of the other. We find now that such an answer cannot be wholly satisfying. The world will not allow us to go wherever we want. We can’t just do whatever we want. There are constraints. Impositions. Mandates. Systems in place. There are rules.

The rules of biofluid mechanics are simple: three factors accelerate a particle of fluid – a lonely atom – a gravitational field, a pressure gradient, and stress. The rest is details. The conservations of mass and momentum define all fluid motion. A series of equations helpfully laying those out – considered a jewel in the crown of fluid mechanics research – bears the names of a couple of men – and yes, in fluids, it’s just about always men – you never met, taught at a distance by two by two men you may have never met. We trust those equations – and the men who present them to us – due to myriad factors of history, circumstance, using the tools for ourselves. Typically, it is enough to get us through.

But this year has posed its issues, none of which you need me outlining up here. I know some of us have suffered during all of this. Others know others who have. Our world is depressed. Under glass. It’ll get better I hope.

And but so we must consider then a second, subtler answer to the question, where do we go from here? Recall, the advice of Bruce Lee from the beginning of the semester. “Be “like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Which is to say, we can go where we are needed, where the field takes us, along our own particular particle’s path. It is my hope that you will learn what you have learned here to better our biomedical landscape, wherever you may roam along it.

In this class, we roamed far and wide, establishing both the fundamentals and creatively “peaking outside the frame” of typical content to include things like scientific literature, decades old fluid mechanics demonstration, and our own peers’ understandings of shared material. If I may briefly summarize. We began by introducing physical parameters necessary to understand fluid mechanics including mass, density, and viscosity. Given that fluids can twirl, swirl, and go everywhere we established systems of dimensions. We saw how pressure was measured at a point, how it develops along a field, and how a gradient of pressure can be established by the presence of gravity. Going from static fluids to dynamic fluids, we solved Newton’s Second Law along and across streamlines, expanded our view of motion by considering velocity and acceleration fields in the kinematic behavior of fluids, and constrained ourselves to control volumes and control surfaces by which means we could box in answers via the Reynolds Transport Theorem. We then honed in on the differential presentation of fluids as a system of ODEs that can be simplified and solved. Simplification was expanded into a science once we started to dimensionally analyze situations. Finally we studied the specifics of flow through pipes as blood pumped through our very vessels, as air filled our lungs.

As it turns out, mine and Dr. G.’s weren’t the only lungs to be filled with air to help talk this class along as we walked along that biomedical landscape.

Many students were integral to us establishing the foundations. These included each and every single one of you for participating in a weekly Homework Walkthrough sessions. From the praises I heard sung and the general vibe I got from around the virtual rooms, I think for many of us, this may have been our favorite part of the class. And I get that: learning from your peers is what the University experience is all about. I said the semester before the pandemic that “this University as a place on earth is something special. The halls are hallowed by lofty conversations, the rooms are charged with hope, expectation, ambition (thwarted or otherwise). But that is only be- cause you all attend this fine institution. “The only thing special about this place is the people. And you are the people. Emptied of you, this place has the mere residue of wonder.” That is because you are all smart, talented, capable, driven, even if you don’t think you are, even if you don’t believe you are, even if you’d fight me on the subject! You all are a special lot, and our times here together are special by consequence. “ And, well, I still mean it. The problem is, where has our University gone? Wherever you are, I thank you for bringing yourself here, now, to learn and share with us all. I thank you all for having shared consistently with us all, what you know and how you know it and helping us understand the homework as we could. Together, in parallel, decentralizedly, we solve 100 problems in biofluid mechanics and shared it with one another. At the very least, I am impressed.

I am similarly impressed by the efforts of 

  • E. C., N. G., N. H., E. K., E. L., L. L., R. S., C. S., F. Y., and A., Z. to present our first of six “commentary” discussions on the world renowned NSF Fluid Mechanics video series, this on the subject of Eulerian and Lagrangian Descriptions in Fluid Mechanics. I am always heartened to see intrepid spirits start us off on good paths. Thank you setting the pace.
  • J. A., E. A., M. B., A. G., S. K., B. M., K. S., A. S., Z. S., and T. T. Each commented on Pressure Fields and Fluid Acceleration. This at a time when we were all beginning to feel the pressure and things start to accelerate. For helping keep the pace, thank you.
  • Z. F., L. F., B. L., A. P., A. R., A. R., S. S., A. S., and J. W. facilitated discussions on the Deformation of Continuous Media to 90 other people. The their efforts were diffuse, the message was unified and helped to undergird our core content. Thank you all for your help.
  • M. A., M. B., Y. H., M. J., M. L., F. L., A. M., S. R., B. R., and C. S. demonstrated the Rheological Behavior of Fluids emphasizing the effects of viscous forces in relation to inertial body forces. When stressed, fluids go with the flow. Thank you all for showing us how.
  • R. B., C. H., X. L., J. L., M. P., K. R., J. S., H. T., and Z. Z. slowed things down with some Low-Reynolds-Number Flows. As biological flows are generally in the lower-numbered flow regions, understanding this behavior is critical to our understanding of biofluid flows. Thank you all for providing that critical element.
  • And D. C., E. D., E. D., P. F., S. K., and S. N. taught us the Fundamentals of Boundary Layers, which demarcate the bounds between those spatial regions in flows where viscous effects dominate, and those regions where the inertial thrust of a fluid keeps it going. Thank you for showing us the bounds.

And while these video commentaries were designed to reinforce our fundamentals, about half the class elected to present a commentary on a piece of our scientific literature to showcase how what we learn can be applied and how it can be applied creatively!

  • A. R., D. C., D. D., S. J., J. J., A. K., L. B., P. S., J. T., and P. P. each taught us something inspiring. Whether that was the biofluid mechanics of an artificial lung, an application of computational fluid mechanics to air flow in an infant incubator, a fluid mechanics explanation of the effectiveness of common materials for respiratory masks, or any of the other half dozen explorations of respiratory physiology, on behalf of the class, thank you.
  • E. B., M. B., J. C., E. D., M. D., K. F., P. R., M. W., and D. W., each presented a commentary on cardiovascular flows including but not limited to improving hemodynamics of distal graft anastomoses, computational models of the aortic arch, and a general demystification of computational and clinical methods associated with cardiovascular dynamics. Thank you for that.
  • D. W., L. W., L. W., M. P., H. L., A. K., S. J., E. F., and L. B. Each help us learn a little more about tissue-centric “flows” such as blood flow during bone repair and maintenance, fluid mechanical signaling in organogenesis, and our lymph system. We even explored more far out concepts like brain organoids on a chip, the effects of acupuncture, and bioprinting functional contractual cardiac tissues! For helping us all learn, thank you.
  • M. G., E. C., J. C., S. C., I. H., J. O., S. Z., B. R., and J. L. showed us how the sausage gets made in the disposal of our wastes including showing us the “Magenstrasse” “stomach road” for gastric emptying, a human urodynamic simulator, globular filtration rates for people and lampreys, and even how nano carrier drug delivery systems absorb, distribute, metabolize, and excrete biomaterials. If you’ll pardon me the terrible pun, it turns out, learning about waste, was not a waste of our time.
  • And L. N., A. O., E. B., A. B., E. R., T. E., J. S., L. G., C. C., and R. J. gave us a sense of what lies “beyond” in the the farther reaches of biofluidic research. This included things like bloodstain pattern analysis, altered knee joint mechanics, dynamics of tear films, biofluid flow models incorporating magnetic drug targeting, and modeling disease as a fluid flowing. Thank you all for taking us beyond the bounds.

You all have helped make this class what it is. We might forget the influence of others around us, just as the fish might not know it is help up by water. Whether it is better to see or not see the water around us, I leave to others. My role in this course – my philosophy of this content – is that I have to teach you to see water in a new way. If after this class you do not conceive of a glass of water differently, we haven’t yet done our job. The fluids of life, air, water, blood, bile, bio fluids, surround us, infuse us, are us. And they can be modeled rather useful by conserving mass, conserving momentum, and adhering to the kinematics of the field, all more or less in a handful of equations. The rest, as I said, is details. And it can be hard to see and understand and work with this fluids if simply told. Especially if simply told by a quote “authority”. The old fish doesn’t get the two younger fish to see water simply by asking them about it. But that old fish does get them inquiring. And if the pair of them have learned anything from life, it’s that they can learn from each other. You have done so time and again in this class. You walked through our homeworks together, you shared your thoughts on scientific literature with us, and we all even had a biweekly reading discussion in which examples were gone through and the chapter summarized by a peer of ours. A fellow fish.

Fish do better in school. Maybe I say this as a schoolteacher. Maybe I say this as a lonely atom adrift in empty hallowed halls. All the same, I think we can all agree that this semester has been rough. And the next one is liable to be tough too. You all have done incredible work, regardless of the circumstance. Each week I continued to be impressed by your tenacity and perseverance. You all learned fluid mechanics way better than I did my first time around. And you did it at a distance. Sometimes alone. I view this as both a testament to what we were all able to achieve here together and as a reminder to ourselves and others, just because you don’t get something now doesn’t mean you won’t get it eventually. As another fellow fish reminds us, Just keep swimming.

Sometimes it can be hard to just keep swimming, especially when the waters as viciously viscous and shear against us. Those who model persistence are consistent models of excellence. I want to take a moment to thank those particularly persistent fish who swam to class every day: A. R.; C. C.; D. W.; E. K.; H. L; L. L.; L. W; P. R.; S. K.; and S. J.

Their continued efforts, along with the dozens of others who consistently participated, kept this class going.

But more than any others, our team of IAs kept us going. Whether it was answering Piazza questions, grading homework, hosting dozens of office hours a week, or any of the other critical roles they filled each week, this class simply could not have functioned as well as it did without the dedication of these six individuals. Please join me in an especially thunderous round of applause for C. F., J. G., J. L., G. T., R. W., and A. W.

Thank you thank you thank you for all your efforts here.

Our time is coming to its end. To everything there is a season we are told. What can be said of this season which has not already been lamented? What can be hoped of the next which has not be bewailed? A dark winter. A school of fish, not sharing in the same sea. Our water is similar, but like the lone fish in its tank, we might not really know what surrounds us. Just as critically, it is harder to ask the fish in the next tank over how their water is. And when you cannot ask, you cannot know. 

And while there is plenty more for us to know, for now let us content ourselves with better answering that parabled question: what the hell is water? A fluid whose motion can be characterized by three factors – acceleration due gravity, due to pressure differentials, and viscous shearing forces – critical to sustaining multiple biological systems. Ours included. And while indeed it is great for us each to have our own cup of that knowledge, we have seen time and again that pooling together with others betters all.

With that, I thank you for the opportunity to dismiss this class one final time. I wish I could do so under better circumstances. But happenstance has brought us to this point. Where shall we go from here? Wherever you’re headed, I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming exams and your ever-to-the-horizon journeys. I have done what I can for you here and I trust you dan do more.

Good luck.

Questions to ponder on the coming administration

  1. Do we all agree the next administration will be that of Joseph R. Biden Jr. not donald j. trump?
  2. Do you believe the coming administration will improve healthcare in America, worsen healthcare in America, or keep it about the same?
  3. In what way(s) do you expect the next administration to be different from the current?
  4. In general, Brown (2007) tells us, bioethics has been politicized through three traditional lenses: liberalism, communitarianism, and republicanism. Brown finds “[t]he liberal emphasis on the irreducible plurality of values […] and the communitarian concern with the social dimensions of biotechnology” can be bettered further by the republican tradition “which emphasizes institutional mechanisms” that “enrich but [do] not dominate public deliberation” ensuring public accountability and contestability. Can you imagine other forms of bioethical politicization? Can you imagine a “better” form of politics?
  5. How do we “confront profound moral disagreement” we might have amongst ourselves, such as the ethical status of moral embryos and the positions we take w/r/t them? Put less pointedly, how do approximately 74 million Americans live knowing 80 million Americans disagree (sometimes vehemently! with them and vice versa?
  6. What does a just “public option” look like? How does it function? What does it fix? What comes after it?
  7. How/Shall we revise Obamacare?
  8. Does the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act have a moral dimension which ought to be considered along side its legal one(s)?
  9. A recent Executive Order on Lowering Drug Prices by Putting America First1 (issued on September 13, 2020(, it became “the policy of the United States that the Medicare program should not pay more for costly Part B or Part D prescription drugs or biological products than the most-favored-nation price [… –] the lowest price, after adjusting for volume and differences in national gross domestic product, for a pharmaceutical product that the drug manufacturer sells in a member country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that has a comparable per-capita gross domestic product.” Should the U.S. Federal Government retain this policy in future administrations?
  10. Will the United States ever have “universal healthcare”?
  11. Will reproductive rights be improved, be diminished, or remain about the same with the Biden administration as compared to the trump administration?
  12. Which U.S. administration has done the most to improve the overall health of Americans?
  13. Will Americans live longer over the next four years than they did previously?
  14. When will this pandemic end? How?
  15. How should/can we remember/honor/carry forward the quarter million dead Americans we have lost thus far and those we’ve still yet to lose?

1. Please note this comes from the Executive Order found here This differs from one found at a related URL (found here While substantively the same, the former omits this paragraph in the original justifying the need for the Order:

The need for affordable Medicare Part B drugs is particularly acute now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to historic levels of unemployment in the United States, including the loss of 1.2 million jobs among Americans age 65 or older between March and April of 2020.  The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in food prices, straining budgets for many of America’s seniors, particularly those who live on fixed incomes.  The economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic only increase the burdens placed on America’s seniors and other Medicare Part B beneficiaries.

In the transcript

July 25, 2019, 9:03 – 9:33 a.m. EDT, Residence

– Congratulations on a great victory. We all watched from the United States and you did a terrific.job. The way you came from behind, somebody who wasn’t given much of a chance, and you ended up winning easily. It’s a fantastic achievement. Congratulations. –

– That’s a very good idea. I think your country is very happy about that. –

– Well it it’s very nice of you to say that. I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it’s something that you should really ask them about. When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn’t do anything. A lot of the European countries are the same way so I think it’s something you want to look at but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. –

– I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you say yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible. – 

– Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me. –

– Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything. Your economy is going to get better and better I predict. You have a lot of assets. It’s a great country. I have many Ukrainian friends, their [sic] incredible people. –

– Good. Well, thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call. Thank you. Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date and we’ll work that out. I look forward to seeing you. –

– Okay, we can work that out. I look forward to seeing you in Washington and maybe in Poland because I think we are going to be there at that time. –

– Congratulations on a fantastic job you’ve done. The whole world was watching. I’m not sure it was so much of an upset but congratulations. –

CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion. The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation. The word “inaudible” is used to identify portions of a conversation that the notetaker was unable to hear.