China Expands Neuroscience (Brain) Research with New $746 Million Initiative!

China bets big on brain research with massive cash infusion and openness to  monkey studies | Science | AAAS

Dear Commons Community,

China has announced a new neuroscience initiative that will complement major research projects that have already begun in the United States and the European Union.  As reported by Science (see article below),  after five years of planning, China has launched its China Brain Project (CBP) with an initial investment of $746 million.  The CBP will focus on three main areas:  the neural basis of cognitive functions, diagnosing and treating brain disorders, and brain-inspired computing.

Glad to see this type of investment on the part of China especially if researchers here in America see it as complementary.



Click on to enlarge

Bill Barr Criticizes Letitia James for Including Donald Trump’s Children in Fraud Lawsuit – HOGWASH!

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr doesn’t think the former president’s kids should have been included in the fraud lawsuit filed Wednesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

But his crazy rationale, as he explained it to Fox News on Wednesday, was an oddly patronizing defense that was an insult to Donald Trump Jr., 44, Ivanka Trump, 40, and Eric Trump, 38.

James’ suit accuses Donald Trump and his family of engaging in real estate business practices that routinely undervalued and overvalued assets to avoid paying taxes.

But even though the Trumps’ business practices have been under investigation for years, Barr told Fox News that the charges were a “political hit job” that was without merit.

Barr said he wasn’t sure that James had a good case against Trump, but said the fact she tried to “drag the children into this” was a gross overreach on her part.

Although Barr was referring to three middle-aged executives in the Trump company, the former AG suggested none of them had the smarts to understand things like contracts or real estate documents.

“The children aren’t going to know the details of that, nor are they expected in the real world to do their own due diligence and have it reviewed independently,” Barr said.

Barr continued to insult Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump by likening their involvement in the former president’s business dealings to a billionaire’s version of buying your child a car.

The Trump children might not be Mensa material but they are not innocent babes either. To the contrary, they have been complicit with Donald Trump and his business shenanigans all their lives.


Phil Hill Reviews the State of Online Program Managers!

Dear Commons Community,

Phil Hill, a partner at MindWires, an educational-technology consulting company, reviews the current state of online-program management companies in this morning’s issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.   He comments that colleges are increasingly turning to for-profit companies to develop and manage their online programs and that the value of the online-program-management (OPM) market is now estimated to be more than $4 billion.

However, with growth has come increased scrutiny, not only from higher-education observers but also from the federal government. In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote an open letter, following up on one they sent in 2020, to several ed-tech companies. The letters sought more information about how the businesses operate, specifically highlighting accusations of overly aggressive student-recruitment practices and their role in the student-debt crisis. In May the Government Accountability Office released a report pointing out the lack of available information about the arrangements and recommending how the Education Department should better monitor them.  Here is an excerpt from Hills’s article.

“While the threat of new regulations is sure to affect the future of the OPM market, the current financial picture of the companies themselves might give us more insight into where the sector is heading. Consider what has happened to some of the biggest players since the beginning of the year:

  • Grand Canyon Education said, in a recent quarterly earnings report, that while its services revenue increased year-over-year, enrollment at its partner colleges was down 4.5 percent.
  • Pearson reported in a quarterly update that while its OPM business was growing, next year it will lose its largest customer, Arizona State University. (ASU, by many estimates, represents roughly one-third, or $110 million, of Pearson’s OPM revenue.)
  • Wiley said in its annual report that its OPM business saw decreasing revenue year-over-year, based on an 8-percent drop in online enrollment.
  • Coursera said in its second-quarter report that it had missed its estimates for revenue. It also dropped its estimates for revenue growth, with its OPM business losing 4 percent in year-over-year revenue.
  • Zovio’s finances have declined to the point where it was better for the company to sell its OPM assets to the University of Arizona Global Campus for just $1, in a deal in which Zovio will also send UAGC more than $14 million in cash payments.
  • 2U said in its second-quarter report that its OPM revenue had dropped 2 percent year-over-year, and it lowered full-year 2022 estimates for overall revenue by 10 percent. Total enrollments for degrees also dropped — both from fewer students and from fewer credit hours attempted per student. The company, which acquired edX last year, laid off roughly 20 percent of its staff this summer as part of its strategy to focus on profitability.
  • FutureLearn — the company created by the Open University and acting as a Europe-centric MOOC and OPM — is in a dire financial position and might not survive the next year without a new source of a cash infusion.

It turns out that the OPM business is a difficult one. And colleges with online programs — whether or not they use OPMs — can take a handful of important lessons away from the recent developments.

Good review!


Webb Telescope Captures Clearest View of Neptune’s Rings!

Dear Commons Community,

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows off its capabilities closer to home with its first image of Neptune. Not only has Webb captured the clearest view of this distant planet’s rings in more than 30 years, but its cameras reveal the ice giant in a whole new light.

Most striking in Webb’s new image is the crisp view of the planet’s rings – some of which have not been detected since NASA’s Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to observe Neptune during its flyby in 1989. In addition to several bright, narrow rings, the Webb image clearly shows Neptune’s fainter dust bands.  

“It has been three decades since we last saw these faint, dusty rings, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” notes Heidi Hammel, a Neptune system expert and interdisciplinary scientist for Webb. Webb’s extremely stable and precise image quality permits these very faint rings to be detected so close to Neptune.

Neptune has fascinated researchers since its discovery in 1846. Located 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Neptune orbits in the remote, dark region of the outer solar system. At that extreme distance, the Sun is so small and faint that high noon on Neptune is similar to a dim twilight on Earth.

This planet is characterized as an ice giant due to the chemical make-up of its interior. Compared to the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is much richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. This is readily apparent in Neptune’s signature blue appearance in Hubble Space Telescope images at visible wavelengths, caused by small amounts of gaseous methane.

Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) images objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns, so Neptune does not appear blue to Webb. In fact, the methane gas so strongly absorbs red and infrared light that the planet is quite dark at these near-infrared wavelengths, except where high-altitude clouds are present. Such methane-ice clouds are prominent as bright streaks and spots, which reflect sunlight before it is absorbed by methane gas. Images from other observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, have recorded these rapidly evolving cloud features over the years.

More subtly, a thin line of brightness circling the planet’s equator could be a visual signature of global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune’s winds and storms. The atmosphere descends and warms at the equator, and thus glows at infrared wavelengths more than the surrounding, cooler gases.

Neptune’s 164-year orbit means its northern pole, at the top of this image, is just out of view for astronomers, but the Webb images hint at an intriguing brightness in that area. A previously-known vortex at the southern pole is evident in Webb’s view, but for the first time Webb has revealed a continuous band of high-latitude clouds surrounding it.

Webb also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons. Dominating this Webb portrait of Neptune is a very bright point of light sporting the signature diffraction spikes seen in many of Webb’s images, but this is not a star. Rather, this is Neptune’s large and unusual moon, Triton.

Covered in a frozen sheen of condensed nitrogen, Triton reflects an average of 70 percent of the sunlight that hits it. It far outshines Neptune in this image because the planet’s atmosphere is darkened by methane absorption at these near-infrared wavelengths. Triton orbits Neptune in an unusual backward (retrograde) orbit, leading astronomers to speculate that this moon was originally a Kuiper belt object that was gravitationally captured by Neptune. Additional Webb studies of both Triton and Neptune are planned in the coming year.

A beautiful image of Neptune!



NYS Attorney General Letitia James Dubs Donald Trump “The Art of the Steal” and Sues Him for Vast Fraud!

Dear Commons Community,

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit yesterday against Donald Trump for padding his net worth and habitually misleading banks and others about the value of his assets like golf courses, hotels and his Mar-a-Lago estate.  She dubbed his behavior as “The Art of the Steal.”

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Manhattan, is the culmination of the James’ three-year civil investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization. Trump’s three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, were also named as defendants, along with two longtime company executives. As reported by the Associated Press.

In its 222 pages, the suit struck at the core of what made Trump famous, taking a blacklight to the image of wealth and opulence he’s embraced throughout his career — first as a real estate developer, then as a reality TV host on “The Apprentice” and later as president.

It details dozens of instances of alleged fraud, many involving claims made on annual financial statements that Trump would give to banks, business associates and financial magazines as proof of his riches as he sought loans and deals.

For example, according to the lawsuit, Trump claimed his Trump Tower apartment — a three-story penthouse replete with gold-plated fixtures — was nearly three times its actual size and valued the property at $327 million. No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount, James said.

Trump applied similar fuzzy math to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, the lawsuit alleged, by valuing the private club and residence as high as $739 million — more than 10 times a more reasonable estimate of its worth. Trump’s figure is based on the idea that the property could be developed for residential use, but deed terms prohibit that.

“This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth, to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York,” James said at a news conference.

“Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to the art of the deal. It’s the art of the steal,” she said, referring to the title of Trump’s 1987 memoir, “The Art of the Deal.”

James said the investigation also uncovered evidence of potential criminal violations, including insurance fraud and bank fraud, but that her office was referring those findings to outside authorities for further investigation.

Trump, in a post to his Truth Social platform, decried the lawsuit as “Another Witch Hunt” and denounced James as “a fraud who campaigned on a ‘get Trump’ platform.”

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said the allegations are “meritless” and that the lawsuit “is neither focused on the facts nor the law — rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda.”

In the lawsuit, James asked the court to ban Trump and his three eldest children from ever again running a company based in the state.

She is also seeking payment of at least $250 million, which she said was the estimated worth of benefits derived from the alleged fraud. And she wants to bar Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into commercial real estate acquisitions for five years, among other sanctions.

James’ lawsuit comes amid a whirlwind of unprecedented legal challenges for a former president, including an FBI investigation into Trump’s handling of classified records and inquiries into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

While James’ lawsuit is being pursued in civil court, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been working with James’ office on a parallel criminal investigation.

Trump cited fear of prosecution in August when he refused to answer questions in a deposition with James, invoking his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.

The odds of a criminal prosecution have been seen as falling in recent months after Bragg allowed a grand jury to disband without bringing charges. Bragg said again Wednesday, though, that the criminal investigation was “active and ongoing.”

A criminal prosecution would have a far higher burden of proof than a civil lawsuit. And in a criminal case, prosecutors would have to prove that Trump intended to break the law, something not necessarily required in a civil case.

“Generally in criminal cases you have to prove intent. In civil cases, just negligence or intentional misrepresentation give rise to liability,” said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who now practices law at a Los Angeles firm.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said it was aware of James’ referral of potential criminal violations, but otherwise declined comment. The Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division said it “doesn’t confirm the existence of investigations until court documents are publicly available.”

The Trump Organization is set to go on trial in October in a criminal case alleging that it schemed to give untaxed perks to senior executives, including its longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg, who alone took more than $1.7 million in extras.

Weisselberg, 75, pleaded guilty Aug. 18. His plea agreement requires him to testify at the company’s trial before he starts a five-month jail sentence. If convicted, the Trump Organization could face a fine of double the amount of unpaid taxes.

Weisselberg and another Trump Organization executive, Jeffrey McConney, were also named as defendants in James’ lawsuit.

At the same time, the FBI is continuing to investigate Trump’s storage of sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and a special grand jury in Georgia is investigating whether Trump and others attempted to influence state election officials.

All of the legal drama is playing out ahead of the November midterm elections, where Republicans are trying to win control of one or both houses of Congress.

Trump’s previous refusal to answer questions in testimony could be held against him if a lawsuit ever reaches a jury. In civil cases, courts are allowed to draw negative inference from such Fifth Amendment pleadings.

“If Trump wanted to argue that some accounting decision was harmless instead of malicious, he might have already passed up the opportunity when he decided to stay silent,” said Will Thomas, an assistant professor of business law at the University of Michigan.

In a previous clash, James oversaw the closure of Trump’s charity for alleging misusing its assets to resolve business disputes and boost his run for the White House. A judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million to an array of charities to settle the matter.

James, who campaigned for office as a Trump critic and watchdog, started scrutinizing his business practices in March 2019 after his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that Trump exaggerated his wealth on financial statements provided to Deutsche Bank while trying to obtain financing to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

This lawsuit is long overdue.  Donald Trump has been known as a scam artist in New York City for years. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated it best in 2016 on national television during the Democratic Convention:

“I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one…Throughout his career, Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits, angry shareholders and contractors who feel cheated, and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us.”   


President Biden’s New Student Loan Subsidies Plan Could Have Dangerous, Unintended Side Effects!

Question About For-Profit Colleges and Student Loan Forgiveness - The Money  Coach

Dear Commons Community,

The centerpiece of the student debt-relief plan that President Biden announced last month is his decision to cancel up to $20,000 per borrower in federal loans. But the more far-reaching — and, over time, more expensive — element of the president’s strategy is his blueprint for a revamped income-linked repayment plan, which would sharply reduce what many borrowers pay every month.

It could, however, have unintended consequences. Unscrupulous schools, including for-profit institutions, have long used high-pressure sales tactics, or outright fraud and deception, to saddle students with more debt than they could ever reasonably hope to repay. By offering more-generous educational subsidies, the government may be creating a perverse incentive for both schools and borrowers, who could begin to pay even less attention to the actual price tag of their education — and taxpayers could be left footing more of the bill.  As reported by The New York Times.

“If people are taking out the same or more amount of debt and repaying less of it, then it’s just taxpayers bearing the brunt of it,” said Daniel Zibel, the chief counsel at the National Student Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group.

Experts are particularly concerned about how the new subsidies could be manipulated by for-profit colleges, many of which have a record of persuading people to take on high debt for degrees that often fail to deliver the kind of earnings boost the schools advertise.

The Times article goes on to describe a student’s experience at the University of Phoenix which  is on a list of 150 schools that the Education Department said showed strong signs of “substantial misconduct.” (The list is included in a legal settlement the department reached in June that will, if made final, cancel $6 billion in federal student loan debt for 200,000 borrowers. The school is among more than a dozen on that list that are still operating. It remains eligible for federal student loans, and relies on them for nearly all its revenue.

The entire article is worth a  read and paints a less than rosy picture of what might lie ahead for students lured by unscrupulous colleges.


New Book: Fox News’ Bret Baier Wanted Network to Rescind Arizona Call for Biden – Turns Out He was Unfair, Unbalanced and Afraid!

Fox News' Bret Baier Responds to Book's Portrayal of His 2020 Email

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News host Bret Baier tried to persuade the right-wing network to rescind its decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, according to a new book.

Fox News was the first major network to declare Biden’s victory in Arizona, but the network’s lead evening news anchor “was ready to give into” pressure from then-President Donald Trump’s team to influence the calls in his favor, according to Insider, describing excerpts from “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021” by New York Times reporter Peter Baker and New Yorker writer Susan Glasser.  As reported  by various media.

Baier sent a concerned email about the Arizona call to Fox News President and executive editor Jay Wallace, according to the excerpts.

“The Trump campaign was really pissed,” Baier reportedly wrote in his email to Wallace. “This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air.”

Journalists on the network’s decision desk ― which makes race calls during the election ― thought there was “no serious question about Arizona,” according to the book, but Baier’s email accused the desk of “holding on for pride.”

“It’s hurting us,” Baier wrote to Wallace, the book reportedly said. “The sooner we pull it ― even if it gives us major egg ― and we put it back in his column the better we are in my opinion.”

Biden won Arizona by less than 1 percentage point in 2020, making the state a target of Trump’s election lies and conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

Baier responded to the allegations by telling The Washington Post that the book did not include the full context of his email and that he “fully supported our decision desk’s call.”

“This was an email sent AFTER election night. In the immediate days following the election, the vote margins in Arizona narrowed significantly and I communicated these changes to our team along with what people on the ground were saying and predicting district by district,” the host wrote in a statement to the Post. “I wanted to analyze at what point … would we have to consider pulling the call for Biden.”

While Wallace did not cave to Baier’s reported pleas to change the Arizona call, he did reportedly fire two members of the decision desk. According to the excerpts reported by Insider, the network delayed the firings for months because “executives did not want the embarrassment of publicly owning their decision to push out journalists for making the right call.”

One of the employees, former political editor Chris Stirewalt, has alleged that he was fired from Fox News after the decision desk correctly called Arizona for Biden.

“I’m getting tweets sent to me, and then a U.S. senator is on a radio show calling for me to be fired, and I’m going, ‘What is going on here? What is wrong with you people?’” Stirewalt told Australia’s “Four Corners” news show last year in a documentary that investigated the role Fox News played in promoting Trump’s election lies.

Chris Stirewalt, former Fox News political editor, testifies during a hearing by the House Jan. 6 committee on June 13.Chris Stirewalt testifies during a hearing by the House Jan. 6 committee on June 13. Saul Loeb via Getty Images

“There’s this river of hate over this call, like I made Arizona vote for Biden,” he added.

The ex-employee said the network had an opportunity to use its influential position “to tell the truth for the good of the country and failed to use the power and resources that it had to stand up to Donald Trump.”

Stirewalt said his former employer’s motive for pushing a far-right agenda is more about profit than it is about helping the conservative movement, according to excerpts from his book reported by The New York Times. Trump-friendly hosts like Sean Hannity intentionally overstated the chances of some trailing Republican candidates just to “juice the network’s ratings,” he said.

“They wanted it to be true because they wanted Republicans to win, but keeping viewers keyed up about the epochal victory close at hand was an appealing incentive to exaggerate the G.O.P. chances,” he wrote. “It was good for them to raise expectations, but it wasn’t good for the party they were rooting for.”

Bret Baier has been outed as another one of the Republican lackeys on Fox as unfair, unbalanced, and afraid!


Herschel Walker: “I’m Not That Smart”


Herschel Walker leads Warnock in Georgia Senate race: poll | The Hill

Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock

Dear Commons Community,

Georgia Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Herschel Walker, was quoted as saying: “I’m a country boy. I’m not that smart. He’s a preacher. He [Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.)]  is smart and wears these nice suits,”, according to the Savannah Morning News. “So, he is going to show up and embarrass me at the debate Oct. 14th, and I’m just waiting to show up and I will do my best.”

It’s rare to see a candidate declare openly that they aren’t as smart as their opponent. The comments are likely intended to lower expectations for Walker’s showdown against Warnock, a longtime pastor known for his oratory skills.

The race is one of the key battles in the upcoming election that could determine control of the Senate. Warnock, who won his election bid in a 2021 runoff, is seeking his first full term in office.

Walker has faced numerous negative stories about secret children he has fathered, allegations of domestic violence and questions about his credentials, among other things. His own campaign staffers have reportedly described him as a “pathological liar.”

Walker, who has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, has also made several awkward comments, including his criticism of President Joe Biden’s climate and health law. “Don’t we have enough trees around here?” Walker asked last month.

Despite these gaffes, polls show the former football star trailing only slightly behind Warnock, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average.

Thank you for your honesty, Herschel!




Alec Wilkinson on Math’s Great Secret!

Dear Commons Community,

Mr. Wilkinson, the author of A Divine Language: Learning Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus at the Edge of Old Age, has a guest essay in today’s New York Times, commenting on the mysteries of mathematics and where it came from. He considers questions such as what are numbers and how did they originate.  No one knows!

He concludes: 

“Mathematics is one of the most efficient means of approaching the great secret, of considering what lies past all that we can see or presently imagine. Mathematics doesn’t describe the secret so much as it implies that there is one.

The entire essay is below.

Fun reading!



The New York Times

Math Is the Great Secret

Sept. 18, 2022

By Alec Wilkinson

As a boy in the first weeks of algebra class, I felt confused and then I went sort of numb. Adolescents order the world from fragments of information. In its way, adolescence is a kind of algebra. The unknowns can be determined but doing so requires a special aptitude, not to mention a comfort with having things withheld. Straightforward, logical thinking is required, and a willingness to follow rules, which aren’t evenly distributed adolescent capabilities.

When I thought about mathematics at all as a boy it was to speculate about why I was being made to learn it, since it seemed plainly obvious that there was no need for it in adult life. Balancing a checkbook or drawing up a budget was the answer we were given for how math would prove necessary later, but you don’t need algebra or geometry or calculus to do either of those things.

But if I had understood how deeply mathematics is embedded in the world, how it figures in every gesture we make, whether crossing a crowded street or catching a ball, how it figures in painting and perspective and in architecture and in the natural world and so on, then perhaps I might have seen it the way the ancients had seen it, as a fundamental part of the world’s design, perhaps even the design itself. If I had felt that the world was connected in its parts, I might have been provoked to a kind of wonder and enthusiasm. I might have wanted to learn.

Five years ago, when I was 65, I decided to see if I could learn adolescent mathematics — algebra, geometry and calculus — because I had done poorly at algebra and geometry and I hadn’t taken calculus at all. I didn’t do well at it the second time, either, but I have become a kind of math evangelist.

Mathematics, I now see, is important because it expands the world. It is a point of entry into larger concerns. It teaches reverence. It insists one be receptive to wonder. It requires that a person pay close attention. To be made to consider a problem carefully discourages scattershot and slovenly thinking and encourages systematic thought, an advantage, so far as I can tell, in all endeavors. Abraham Lincoln said he spent a year reading Euclid in order to learn to think logically.

Studying adolescent mathematics, a person is crossing territory on which footprints have been left since antiquity. Some of the trails have been made by distinguished figures, but the bulk of them have been left by ordinary people like me. As a boy, trying to follow a path in a failing light, I never saw the mysteries I was moving among, but on my second pass I began to. Nothing had changed about math, but I had changed. The person I had become was someone whom I couldn’t have imagined as an adolescent. Math was different, because I was different.

The beginner math mystery, available to anyone, concerns the origin of numbers. It’s a simple speculation: Where do numbers come from? No one knows. Were they invented by human beings? Hard to say. They appear to be embedded in the world in ways that we can’t completely comprehend. They began as measurements of quantities and grew into the means for the most precise expressions of the physical world — E = mc², for example.

The second mystery is that of prime numbers, those numbers such as 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and 13 that can be divided cleanly only by one or by themselves. All numbers not prime are called composite numbers, and all composite numbers are the result of a unique arrangement of primes: 2 x 2 = 4. 2 x 3= 6. 2 x 2 x 2 = 8. 3 x 3= 9. 2 x 3 x 3 x 37 = 666. 29 x 31 = 899. 2 x 2 x 2 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 1,000. If human beings invented numbers and counting, then how is it that there are numbers such as primes that have attributes no one gave them? The grand and enfolding mystery is whether mathematics is created by human beings or exists independently of us in a territory adjacent to the actual world, the location of which no one can specify. Plato called it the non-spatiotemporal realm. It is the timeless nowhere that never has and never will exist anywhere but that nevertheless is.

Mathematics is one of the most efficient means of approaching the great secret, of considering what lies past all that we can see or presently imagine. Mathematics doesn’t describe the secret so much as it implies that there is one.

On my second engagement, whenever I encountered a definition of mathematics, I wrote it down. Among those I liked best was that mathematics is a story that has been being written for thousands of years, is always being added to and might never be finished. Such a thought would have appealed to me deeply as a boy and might have made mathematics seem maybe not welcoming, but at least less forbidding than it appeared.


“The Phantom of the Opera” — Broadway’s longest-running show — is scheduled to close in February 2023!

FILE - A poster advertising "The Phantom of the Opera," is displayed on the shuttered Majestic Theatre in New York, March 12, 2020. Broadway's longest-running show will play its final performance on Broadway on Feb. 18, 2023, a spokesperson told The Associated Press on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. The closing will come less than a month after its 35th anniversary. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Dear Commons Community,

“The Phantom of the Opera” — Broadway’s longest-running show — is scheduled to close in February 2023.  It is the biggest victim yet of the post-pandemic softening in theater attendance in New York City.

The musical — a fixture on Broadway since 1988, weathering recessions, war and cultural shifts — will play its final performance on Broadway on Feb. 18, a spokesperson told The Associated Press on Friday. The closing will come less than a month after its 35th anniversary. It will conclude with an eye-popping 13,925 performances.  As reported by the Associated Press.

It is a costly musical to sustain, with elaborate sets and costumes as well as a large cast and orchestra. Box office grosses have fluctuated since the show reopened after the pandemic — going as high as over $1 million a week but also dropping to around $850,000. Last week, it hit $867,997 and producers may have seen the writing on the wall.

Based on a novel by Gaston Leroux, “Phantom” tells the story of a deformed composer who haunts the Paris Opera House and falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lavish songs include “Masquerade,” ″Angel of Music,” ″All I Ask of You” and “The Music of the Night.”

“As a producer you dream that a show will run forever. Indeed, my production of Andrew’s ‘Cats’ proudly declared for decades ‘Now and Forever.’ Yet ‘Phantom’ has surpassed that show’s extraordinary Broadway run. But all shows do finally close,” producer Cameron Mackintosh said in a statement.

The first production opened in London in 1986 and since then the show has been seen by more than 145 million people in 183 cities and performed in 17 languages over 70,000 performances. On Broadway alone, the musical has played more than 13,500 performances to 19 million people at The Majestic Theatre.

The closing of “Phantom” would mean the longest running show crown would go to “Chicago,” which started in 1996. “The Lion King” is next, having begun performances in 1997.

Broadway took a pounding during the pandemic, with all theaters closed for more than 18 months. Some of the most popular shows — “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and “Wicked” — have rebounded well, but other shows have struggled. Breaking even usually requires a steady stream of tourists, especially for “Phantom” and visitors to the city haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels.

We will miss “The Music of the Night”