BLOG 2007


Israeli Air Force F-15
Israeli Air Force F-15

Iranian nuclear facilities

2007 December 31

My holiday reading:
Colossus by Niall Ferguson
Jesus von Nazareth von Joseph Ratzinger
The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein

2007 December 30

Does God Exist?
American Jewish University presents best-selling authors Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe in a debate about the existence of God and the role of religion and faith in society. The debate is moderated by Los Angeles Times religion editor Steve Padilla.
Jewish TV Network (almost 2 hours)

"The place to put our faith is in human conversation."
Sam Harris

2007 December 27

Benazir Bhutto assassinated — the end of hope for Pakistan?

Consciousness: The Grudge Match
"This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad," begins Colin McGinn's review of On Consciousness by Ted Honderich. "It is a cold, calculated attempt to murder a philosopher's reputation," says Honderich.

2007 December 22

A rising tide of opinion in Israel believes that the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran signals American retreat. The report concludes with "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program, even though Washington has concrete evidence of that program, and despite Tehran's brazen pursuit of uranium enrichment.

2007 December 21

Has global warming stopped?

Our Google, who art in cyberspace
Hallowed be thy domain
Thy search to come
Thy results be done
On my computer as it is in the Googleplex
Give us this day our daily searches
And forgive us our spam
As we forgive those who spam against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from Microsoft
For thine is the search engine
And the power
And the glory
Forever and ever

2007 December 19

Twilight of the books

2007 December 18

Warraq on Islam again

2007 December 17

Artificial life is on the way

2007 December 15

Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris talk about the public's reaction to their recent books, their unexpected successes, criticisms and misrepresentations, and tough questions about religion that face to world today.

2007 December 13

Kripke + Wittgenstein = Kripkenstein

2007 December 12

Saul Kripke fondly remembered
Anthony Appiah on philosophy
Robert Kaplan on U.S. warriors

2007 December 11

Making Globalisation Work for All
When the need is urgent and our responsibilities clear; and even when the path ahead is difficult, hard and long, let us not lose hope but have the courage in our shared resolve to find the will to act. And let us say to each other in the words of Isaiah, "though you were wearied by the length of your way, you did not say it was hopeless – you found new life in your strength."
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, 2004

2007 December 10

Do we need a literary canon?
Mitt the Mormon's idea of freedom

2007 December 4

The exceptionally simple theory of Garrett Lisi

2007 December 3

The world of 2030, the Google cloudball
Review: Ibn Warraq on Edward Said

2007 December 2

Everything you nee to know about China
Moez Masoud is a Muslim televangelist

2007 December 1

Numerous robots in Iraq and Afghanistan are showing utility in warfare. More army robots are in development.

Ian McEwan

"The mechanized food industry
is essentially the same as the
manufacture of corpses and
gas chambers"

Martin Heidegger

2007 November 28

Blue Brain Project
Scientists in Switzerland working with IBM researchers have shown that their computer simulation of the neocortical column, arguably the most complex part of a mammal's brain, appears to behave like its biological counterpart.

2007 November 26

Kosmische Doppelgänger
von Alex Vilenkin —
Wirklich eine großartige Lektüre, die meine Erwartungen weit übertroffen hat. Vilenkin hat eine tiefes Verständnis von den hochfliegenden Ambitionen der Kosmologie, weiß diese auch gut zu vermitteln. Hier lässt er seinen Ideen freien Lauf, ohne dabei die Grenze des wissenschaftlich Vertretbaren zu überschreiten. Er begleitet den Leser auf eine beschwingte Tour durch alle relevanten Themen: die Relativitätstheorie, die Urknalltheorie, Inflation, Symmetriebrechung, Vakuumzerfall, String Theorie, kosmische Zyklen usw. In die Erzählung bringt er etliche persönliche Anekdoten ein, die dem Leser einige charmante Vertreter der neueren Geschichte der Kosmologie vorstellen. Er fühlt sich sehr zu Hause in diesem Mileu, und seine Freude, Ideen mit diesen Zeitgenossen auszutauschen, kann man auf jeder Seite des Buches miterleben. Insgesamt erzählt Vilenkin eine faszinierende Geschichte, besser als jeder Science Fiction. Mich hat er oft zum Schmunzeln gebracht — mehr als Stephen Hawking, der mit seiner 'Kurzen Geschichte der Zeit' als schärfster Konkurrent in der Welt der großen Ideen für ein breites Publikum gelten mag.
— J. Andrew Ross

2007 November 24

Freelance physicist A. Garrett Lisi may have figured out the most important shape in the universe.

When we have a nice symmetric manifold, like E8, we can mathematically describe how this shape twists and turns over the four dimensional spacetime we live in. This description is called a principal bundle, and the field describing the twists and turns is called a connection, which determines the curvature. What I'm doing is identifying all the standard model and gravitational fields (everything) as parts of an E8 principal bundle connection, and it's working amazingly well. Each symmetry of E8 is a different part of this connection, and each symmetry manifests itself as a different type of elementary particle that we have in our universe. When someone unifies gravity with the other fields like this, it's called a Theory of Everything.

If we take seriously the idea that fermions may be gauge theory ghosts, there is one gauge theory in particular that stands out: that of a principal E8 bundle. The exceptional group of rank 8 is the largest of the exceptional Lie groups, and perhaps the richest in structure. The 248 dimensional Lie algebra of E8 is described as the special orthogonal group (with 120 elements) acting on the space of 128 dimensional chiral spinors. ...

2007 November 18

A U.S. congressional committee estimated the cost so far of America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at $1.6 trillion: $20,000 for every family of four in the U.S.

"The Anglo-Judaic synthesis remains the despair of our enemies"
Walter Russell Mead

2007 November 16

The nuclear threat from Tehran must be taken with utmost caution and strategic foresight. But not all in Israel are overmuch concerned by Ahmadinejad's speeches. Professor Martin van Crevelt, one of Israel's most prominent military historians, warns: "Jerusalem can quickly turn Tehran into a radioactive desert". Efraim Halevi, former Mossad chief and Israel's National Security Committee, states: "Israel cannot be destroyed for many reasons."

David Shulman's book is a record of his intense involvement with Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews

2007 November 11

Disproof of Bell's Theorem
Oxford quantum theorist Joy Christian has shown that Bell's theorem fails for the Clifford algebra valued local realistic variables. This is made evident by exactly reproducing quantum mechanical expectation value for the EPR-Bohm type spin correlations observable by means of a local, deterministic, Clifford algebra valued variable, without necessitating either remote contextuality or backward causation.
PDF, 4 pages

2007 November 10

The Sydney Morning Herald — Pakistan's military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, this week declared martial law, in effect mounting a coup against himself. For the powerful platoon in uniform, it's the best thing that has happened since the last time General Musharraf mounted a coup in 1999. General Musharraf's comrades in the military control 10—15 percent of the economy, making them the biggest single stakeholder in Pakistan.

2007 November 4

John Polkinghorne, a former Cambridge professor of mathematical physics and now a Church of England priest, has published a rather mild review of two recent books on religion.

2007 November 3

Musharraf Declares State of Emergency
Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency. Consider that India is flourishing and Pakistan is in crisis. The only major difference between India and Pakistan is that Pakistan is an Islamic state. For me, this is evidence that Islam is a disaster. Since both countries are nuclear powers, the disaster could drag us all into an abyss.

Robert Putnam on ethnic heterogeneity

2007 November 2

"Ancient Greek religion gives an account of the world that in many respects is more plausible than that offered by the monotheistic traditions."
Mary Lefkowitz on the Greek gods

2007 November 1, All Saints Day

A young man writes a naive but passionate book about the evils of religion and is met with such a big response that he can hardly bear it. Fawning sycophants, death threats, security guards, the works. What would you do? I'd head straight for a meditative retreat to get some peace and quiet.
More on Sam Harris

Martin must be doing
something right: the
Guardian is shocked!
The awful opinions of
Martin Amis

The absurd world of
Martin Amis

2007 October 28

The problem with atheism: Sam Harris and his critics

2007 October 27

Has Martin Amis lost his marbles?

2007 October 22-25

Three-day workshop at the new SAP building in Berlin

2007 October 20

Mark Lilla on political theology, America and Islam
Can Benazir Bhutto save Pakistan?

2007 October 19

The Deutsch-Wallace theorem adds new credibility to the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics by showing that reasonable subjective probabilities for being in a branch reflect the usual Born probabilities.
Added abstracts and introduction to my Everett page

2007 October 18

Can we do physics with two time dimensions?

2007 October 17

"This president pursues a war without demanding of his generals either success or victory and accepts the sacrifice of our brave young men and women in uniform while asking nothing of our people or the nation at a time of war. Sadly, this president has diminished a great nation and may diminish it further."
Lou Dobbs, CNN
Has General Petraeus let us down?

2007 October 15

In his latest book, Rémi Brague contends that modern societies are made possible only by the Christian experience of a divinity without law. Christianity gave us natural law. Christianity conferred on us the idea of a sovereign state. And Christianity furnished a powerful justification for democracy.

2007 October 12

"The United States suffers from a plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of our constitutional system of checks and balances."
Chalmers Johnson
Reflections on nemesis

2007 October 10

"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."
Alan Greenspan
Jim Holt on the oil war

2007 October 6

Pakistan at sixty

2007 October 5

A death in the family

2007 October 4

Happy anniversary Sputnik!

The European Patent Office tells me I am cited as an inventor in European Patent 07015009-9-1225 "Business object search using multi-join indexes and extended join indexes" filed by SAP AG on July 31, 2007

2007 October 1

Can neuroscience pinpoint the error of fundamentalism?

Baur au Lac, Zurich

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins

2007 September 28

David Deutsch at the University of Oxford and colleagues have shown that key equations of quantum mechanics arise from the mathematics of parallel universes

2007 September 25

Reading James Martin on the 21st century

2007 September 24

Baur au Lac Club, Zurich, Switzerland
Dinner with old boys from Exeter College Oxford
and College Rector Frances Cairncross

2007 September 23

Viewed three Picasso exhibitions in Lucerne
Picasso Museum Lucerne
The Rosengart Collection
Museum of Art Lucerne

2007 September 19

My team's engine works in SAP Business ByDesign

SAP tells me I am cited as an inventor in U.S. Patent 7,263,520 "Fast Aggregation of Compressed Data Using Full Table Scans" issued on August 28, 2007.

2007 September 18

Martin Heidegger wrote his Meisterwerk Sein und Zeit in a hut in the Black Forest

2007 September 17

The new software for mid-sized companies undoubtedly marks the most radical shift in the company's 35-year history.
SAP's Very Big Small Biz Challenge

2007 September 16

"There is no effacing the intellectual distinction between political theology, which appeals at some point to divine revelation, and a political philosophy that tries to understand and attain the political good without such appeals."
Mark Lilla on religion

"I challenge the dominant 'master narrative' of secularization as the inevitable decline of religion with advancing modernity."
Charles Taylor on religion

2007 September 15

Ayn Rand as business guru

2007 September 14

Saudi Arabia: Aramco and Wahhabism

2007 September 12

The Once and Future Christendom

2007 September 11

The Singularity Summit — a report
Norman Podhoretz on World War IV
Al Gore and the assault on reason

2007 September 8-9

The Singularity Summit 2007
AI and the Future of Humanity
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco, CA

2007 September 8

Atonement, the big-screen version of Ian McEwan’s epic novel, is being hailed as the best British film for years

2007 September 7

"How dare you call me a fundamentalist"
Richard Dawkins to his critics
+ the angels reply

2007 September 6

"A splendid, boisterously virile broadside of a book"
Richard Dawkins on God Is Not Great

2D depiction of E8 symmetry, from
Stringscape, Matthew Chalmers, Physics World

2007 September 4

New book on Sigmund Freud
+ footnote on Einstein

2007 September 2

My short take on prophecy, God and angels:
Futurologist Ray Kurzweil prophesies an imminent dawn when robots overtake us. He sees exponential growth in nanotechnology, genetic engineering and robotics. Nanotech supercomputers will give robots superhuman brains. Genetic engineers will build superhumans to achieve convergence with robots. Homo superior will communicate brain to brain, via nanotech implants, in a global web sustaining a collective consciousness. They will live in intelligent pods in a Global Online Dominion and emerge from their pods in robotic exoskeletons. They may see themselves as angelic beings who incarnate daily as robotic cyborgs, and may see predawn humans as dinosaurs.
— new abstract for my JCS 13(12), 97-104 (2006)

Magnetoencephalography for diagnostics
An amazing race for the clinically insane

2007 September 1

Your brain frees you from the everyday tasks of moving about in the world around you, allowing you to concentrate on the things that are important to you. However, the 'you' that is released into this social world is also a construction of your brain.
Chris Frith

The idea that the brain constructs the mind is incomplete, and the quicker we realise that, the quicker we will make progress in understanding both normal and abnormal minds.
Stuart Derbyshire

The birth rate for almost every Western nation has fallen. A transformation in Western military strategy has occurred alongside this demographic transformation. The prospect for greater peace and tranquility abroad is connected to the prospect for greater conflict and violence at home.
James Kurth

The Stillborn God


Henning's hero is Sir Isaac Newton
Henning Kagermann


2007 August 31

SAP is investing a billion dollars in India

2007 August 27

Henry Stapp argues for the quantum brain as a “collection of classically conceived alternative possible states of the brain” all existing as parallel parts of “a potentiality for future additions to a stream of consciousness”

2007 August 26

Qin Shi Huangdi comes to the British Museum >>

2007 August 25

Chris Hitchens preens in Vanity Fair — my cut

2007 August 21

Some notes on the European malaise (Spengler et al.)

2007 August 19

"The current Big Bang paradigm has it that the cosmos is expanding out of an initially dense state and that by looking outward into space, one can, thanks to the finite speed of light, look back to much earlier epochs. ... In its original form, an expanding Einstein model had an attractive, economic elegance. Alas, it has since run into serious difficulties ..."
Modern Cosmology: Science or Folktale?

2007 August 14

Today's atheist polemics ignore the main insight of the anthropology of religion—that religion is not primarily about God, but about the human need for the sacred.
Roger Scruton on René Girard

2007 August 13

"A childhood maths prodigy, Kagermann went on to forge a successful career in both theoretical and practical physics ... Kagermann abandoned his research into nuclear fusion and joined SAP ... Having turned 60 this year, he was due to step down, but his contract was unexpectedly extended until May 2009."
The Daily Telegraph on SAP CEO Henning Kagermann

"Hofstadter expresses disappointment that his 1979 masterpiece Gödel, Escher, Bach was not recognized as explaining the true nature of consciousness. I have to confess that it never occurred to me that it was intended to do so."
David Deutsch in Physics World
My cut

What I missed in Las Vegas this summer
(PDF, 1 page, 111 KB)

2007 August 10

"Why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge? Let us seek to understand the state of science in the contemporary Islamic world."
Pervez Hoodbhoy in Physics Today
My cut

2007 August 8

Current debates about Israel's future indicate a growing rift between liberalism and democracy, says Gadi Taub.
My cut of his argument

2007 August 7

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects.
The review

2007 August 3

<< This is your brain on love

2007 August 2

Article on biotech by the incomparable Freeman Dyson

A strange loop

Photo: Ed Kashi/Corbis
Chris Hitchens (with gun)
in Iraq, 1991

Red Arrows

2007 July 27

See my new literary celebrities page

2007 July 25

Tonight I could have been dining on the Danube with philosopher friends in a Hungarian heatwave.

2007 July 23-26

Toward a Science of Consciousness
Brain, Embodiment, Experience
Roland Eötvös University, Budapest

2007 July 24

Found another fine essay in the Hoover Institution Policy Review, by Robert Kagan, on the return of national rivalries in contemporary history and the looming struggle between democracy and autocracy.
My edition of the essay

2007 July 22

Finished reading Chris Hitchens' polemical book about religion. It is much better than I had feared, much better than my earlier wisecrack comments (blog May 15) betrayed that I presumed, prematurely, on the basis of the reviews. Maybe this is just because I knew his background and milieu (Trotskyite Oxgrad, Fleet Street hack, literary friends like McEwan and Amis and Rushdie ...) almost too well already, and mistrusted his globetrotter glibness. Anyway, the book deserves an extended response, so I shall take my time. Meanwhile, I can say it is more insightful in some respects and more readable in all respects (for me, who knows too well and so on) than the other recent atheist manifestos.

2007 July 19

Digested a fine skeptical essay by David Sloane Wilson on Dawkins on religion. His leading paragraph:
"Richard Dawkins and I share much in common. We are both biologists by training who have written widely about evolutionary theory. We share an interest in culture as an evolutionary process in its own right. We are both atheists in our personal convictions who have written books on religion. In Darwin’s Cathedral I attempted to contribute to the relatively new field of evolutionary religious studies. When Dawkins’ The God Delusion was published I naturally assumed that he was basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise. He has not done any original work on the subject and he has not fairly represented the work of his colleagues. Hence this critique."
My short edition

2007 July 17

I am currently reading Chris Hitchens' polemical bestseller about religion. Today I read a good review of it in The Wall Street Journal.

2007 July 16

Reviewed my recent reading.
Some highlights:
The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown
Love on Campus (American Scholar)
Black Mass by John Gray

2007 July 1-15

Enjoyed a vacation with the family in Poole.
Some highlights:
Sea bathing and running on beach in wet windy weather
Aerobatic display at RNAS Yeovilton international air day
Yoga massage by a gifted professional expert
Eating out in good company at local restaurants
Watching some recent movies in a home cinema
Philosophizing with old friends in and around Oxford
Attending an inspiring choral recital by a local group


Is Kabbalah Kosher?

2007 June 30

Packing for a seaside vacation

2007 June 29

Granted full blogging rights on the SAP Developer Network.
My latest SDN blog:
How far can SAP go beyond the enterprise?

2007 June 27

Richard Rorty was not a philosopher for whom I had any special admiration as a student, but his position is at least refreshingly different from that of his Anglo-American analytic contemporaries, and therefore deserves a passing nod.
My cut of an appreciation

2007 June 25

Delivered my annual guest lecture at the University of Trier.
This year's topic:
Enterprise Service Oriented Architecture

Found a nice review in the Wall Street Journal of a book enquiring into how to stem the tide of girls gone wild.
My short take

"There are some things that are so serious that you can only joke about them"
Niels Bohr

2007 June 22-25

ASSC11 — 11th Annual Meeting of the
Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Palace Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
Sadly, I'm still at home and not there — sorry, guys

2007 June 16

News from the Middle East ... was historian Niall Ferguson right in the article he published exactly 17 months ago?
The Origins of the Great War of 2007

2007 June 15

My work in the SAP NetWeaver EIM TREX team is still fun. This week I was preparing lectures on our work for the Hasso Plattner Institute, University of Potsdam.

2007 June 12

Belatedly read an April review in the TLS by Uriah Kriegel of Douglas Hofstadter's recent book I Am a Strange Loop.
My edition of the review

This review soundly reflects my own take on the book. Strange loops are now respectable entities, which they were not in my characterization in a book I wrote exactly thirty years ago. I blame myself for not having clarified their logic as far as Hofstadter did.

2007 June 10

Sam Harris posted a good review of his last book and others on his website. The key sentence: "The letter that Harris claims is intended for a Christian nation is in fact wholly uninterested in Christianity on any level, is hugely ignorant, and essentially represents his own love letter to himself."
My edition of the review

Mary Eberstadt has published a fine study in religious anthropology arguing that instead of seeing religiosity as determining family size and structure, we should see family values as expressing themselves in religiosity. I find the case persuasive and well supported. Nietzsche's madman saw only the tip of an anthropological iceberg.
My edition of the study

2007 Corpus Christi

Sunny day, went swimming ... herrlich!

2007 June 5

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan: a review and my verdict

2007 June 2

Review by Lee Smolin of Einstein's life and works

AR  Bravo — Lee Smolin (blog 2006 September 17-20) has enlisted Einstein in support of his own views on string theory and loop quantum gravity, and quite rightly too. Anyone in physics now with the sort of temperament Einstein displayed a hundred years ago should be looking at radical approaches to quantum gravity -- such as the topoi approach of Isham and Döring (blog 2007 April 16) and the twistor ideas of Roger Penrose. We need to put Einstein the mythic clown aside and focus on the burning foundational issue in physics before we leave Einstein's ghost to rest in peace.

Josephine Wall
 Josephine Wall is a wonderful artist. She is a former friend from Poole, decades ago. Beautiful website, Joey!

Bede Griffiths
Father Bede Griffiths
was regarded by many as a prophet, a sage, a mystic,
even a saint.
He was open to all paths by
which people might be said
to seek God

2007 May 30

The novel The Islamist reviewed by Martin Amis

2007 May 27

Al Gore and reviews of his new book

2007 May 26

Elaine Pagels is doing pioneering academic work on the foundations of Christianity. She talks about her recent book Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, coauthored with Karen King, on the Edge website.
My edition of the talk

Is there a case for bombing Iran?
The opinion of Norman Podhoretz

2007 May 23

Well, will robots see humans as dinosaurs?
The opinion of Professor Zimmerman

2007 May 22

Read reviews of the pope's new book:
Jesus of Nazareth

2007 May 21

Read a depressing article by Chris Hitchens in Vanity Fair:
Londonistan Calling

2007 May 19

Reduced to my customary short form a fine article on Islam published by the Claremont Institute:
Encountering Islam

2007 May 15

Read a suitably unimpressed review of Chris Hitchens' new book about religion. As the latest in a series of books about religion started by Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, the new polemic by Chris represents a sad nadir in the art of topping all previous efforts. Chris achieves rhetorical effects, sure enough, but not philosophical hits, or at least not when I recall what I know about him and if I can trust what I read in this review.
My edition of the review

2007 May 8

Created a summary page outlining my own philosophical views.
Ross's Integrative Philosophy

2007 May 7

Created a devotional page outlining Bede's philosophical views.
Bede's Perennial Philosophy

2007 May 5

Read an interesting article comparing Islamism to Marxism.
My edition of the article

I need to cultivate inner peace about Islam. Perhaps a dose of Indian mysticism ...

2007 May 4

Read a fine article on historian Niall Ferguson.
My teaser for the article

2007 May 1

Via the improbable activity of writing a comment in an On Faith blog on a new target article by Sam Harris, and inspired by the works of Julian Jaynes and Douglas Hofstadter, I have just found a new way to imagine God.

Andrew Harvey with Bede Griffiths
TV mystic Andrew Harvey
with Bede Griffiths


2007 April 27

Read a weak article by Ian Buruma on Islam in Europe.
My critique of the article

2007 April 23

Arts & Letters Daily is such a good source of stuff. Today I found an anthropological article from Quadrant magazine by Roger Sandall on the sexualization of everyday life.
My edition of the article

2007 April 22

Reading I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. Looking good - a worthy successor to GEB.

2007 April 19

Looking over some old papers, I found a sci-fi story I wrote in early 1999. Pomfoolery, you might call it.

2007 April 16

Thanks to New Scientist, found a wonderful set of articles by Andreas Döring and Christopher Isham exploring a topos foundation for theories of physics. Clue: I encountered topos theory 30 years ago but backed off because the math was too hard.
My teaser for the articles

2007 April 14

Read an article by Francis Fukuyama clarifying his position on the end of history and the policies of George W. Bush.
My edition of the article

2007 April 5

Read the text of the 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture by Bernard Lewis, published online by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. His topic is Europe and Islam.
My edition of the lecture


Einstein by Walter Isaacson

Right: M.C. Escher's
Circle Limit IV
(Angels and Devils)

This graphic presents the Poincaré disk model of the hyperbolic plane, which can be used to illustrate a version of
the Hausdorff paradox, which
in turn is closely related to
the Banach-Tarski result, as Leonard Wapner explains

Image © The M.C. Escher Company, Baarn, Holland

2007 March 30

Read an article by Philip Pullman from The Sunday Times on the movie adaptation of the first volume of his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, then found an earlier article about him from The New Yorker. I read the trilogy about two years ago and thought it was great. Pullman was an undergraduate at Exeter College in Oxford, where both J.R.R. Tolkien and I were too, and is often compared with Tolkien and that other Oxford fantasist C.S. Lewis.
My edition of the story

2007 March 27

Read an excellent review in The New Yorker by John Updike of a biography by Walter Isaacson of Albert Einstein.
My edition of the review

2007 March 26

Read an unsurprising but nevertheless rather troubling review in The Nation of several books about Islam in Europe.
My edition of the review 

2007 March 25

Read book by Leonard M. Wapner called
The Pea and the Sun — A Mathematical Paradox

The book presents the Banach-Tarski theorem. This says a ball can be cut into a finite number of pieces, which can be reassembled to create two balls, each as big as the original, or just as easily to create a vastly bigger ball. The theorem is based on some point set theory I studied many years ago, and requires the axiom of choice. This says that for any collection of nonempty sets, a choice set can be created that contains just one set from each set in the collection. This is trivial in finite domains, but for uncountable collections it is highly non-constructive, and hence suspect. The book proves the theorem and adds some entertaining background.
M.C. Escher: Angels & Devils

2007 March 24

Read another review of the startling book by Mark Steyn of which I read an earlier review a while back. This review is in the Claremont Review of Books. The book still seems execrable, but at least I feel less desire to take it so very seriously.

Read another review of the troubling book by Dinesh D'Souza, this time by Jonah Goldberg, again published on the Claremont Institute website.

2007 March 23

Read a startling review from The New Republic of what seems to be a deeply unpleasant book: "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11" by Dinesh D'Souza.
My edition of the review

2007 March 18

Read Prime Obsession to the end — utterly wonderful and fascinating. Real and serious math presented with both care and passion, plus useful historical background. Five stars.
From Derbyshire's website:
  My literary agent was at first skeptical ...
  I announced, "I'd like to write a book about a great unsolved
  mathematical problem ... the Riemann Hypothesis."
  "I see. And what does it say, this Riemann Hypothesis?"
  "It asserts that all the nontrivial zeros of the Zeta function have
  real part one-half."
  My agent looked at me in silence ...

2007 March 17

Took delivery of three books from Amazon:
Prime Obsession
   Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in
   by John Derbyshire
Second Nature
   Brain Science and Human Knowledge
   by Gerald M. Edelman
Programming the Universe
   A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
   by Seth Lloyd

2007 March 11

Finally read Wider Than The Sky by Nobelist neuroscientist Gerald M. Edelman. It was on my list for a long time. Good book — I should read it again to be sure I got it. Edelman is the inventor of neural Darwinism, which is the idea that neurons in the brains compete with each other to set up the infrastructure of thought. I liked his earlier books enough to read this one. His views are worth taking the time to understand.

2007 March 1

Read an insightful review by M. John Harrison of the Martin Amis novel House of Meetings at Guardian Unlimited.

The Pea And The Sun

Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire

Mohammad Khatami
Mohammad Khatami

Dan Dennett
Dan Dennett

2007 February 25

Read a flattering review of House of Meetings, the latest novel by Martin Amis, in the New York Review of Books.

Took the opportunity to read the novel. My verdict: An impressive piece of work, as good a modern British take on a Russian novel as one could hope for. Why we should want a British Russian novel will be obvious to anyone who reads it. The Russian experience in the twentieth century was remarkable and astonishing, and well worth the depth of feeling Amis brings to the task.

Finally finished The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins: not his best book by any means but a good and useful contribution to a necessary debate. Contra Terry Eagleton, he is quite sufficiently qualified to hold forth as he does.

2007 February 22

Philosophy professor David J. Chalmers attended an ontology conference in Tucson, Arizona in January. His fragments blog reports he presented a 50-page paper: Ontological Anti-Realism

From his introduction: "The basic question of ontology is: What exists? The basic question of metaontology is: Are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no."

2007 February 21

Posted comment on Sally Quinn page:
Eroticism and Celibacy in Hinduism

A strange loop is a phenomenon in which, whenever movement is made upward or downward through the levels of some hierarchical system, the system unexpectedly arrives back where it started. Douglas Hofstadter uses strange loops as a paradigm to interpret paradoxes in logic. His new book has just appeared.

2007 February 19

Posted comment on Jon Meacham page:
Faith In the Public Square

2007 February 13-14

Posted comments on William and Janet Cohen page:
Love Is a Force That Pulls Hearts Together
and on Mohammad Khatami pages:
Prayer Offers Humans Tranquility
Absolute Truth Manifests Itself in Diverse Ways

2007 February 11

Read "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris and "Why I Am Not a Christian" and "What I Believe" by Bertrand Russell, and started reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.

Says Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne: "Theism claims that every other object which exists is caused to exist and kept in existence by just one substance, God."
(Quoted by Richard Dawkins)

2007 February 9

Posted comment on Dan Dennett page:
'God' or 'Allah'?

2007 February 6

Raw draft for next paper:
God and Sam Harris
Abstract: Popular discussions of religion are often dismayingly bereft of logical rigor or scientific clarity, but the recent attack on organized religion spearheaded by Sam Harris has ignited a radical debate that sets new standards of quality. I offer my own logical and scientific perspective on the main points.

2007 February 4

Posted comments on Jon Meacham page:
Believing In Things Unseen Is Not Delusion

2007 February 2

Time to order another company car. Maybe a hot hatch this time,
a BMW 120d, good for the pocket, good for the planet.

BMW 120i

David J. Chalmers
Dave in Tucson

Scott Atran
Scott Atran

"I find it fascinating that brilliant scientists and philosophers have no clue how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence based."

2007 January 31

Reorganized my Sam Harris blog comments

2007 January 21

A story about SAP in Newsweek says this:
When you think of technology visionaries, Hasso Plattner's name probably doesn't spring to mind. But it should. As the founder of the German company SAP, the world's third largest software maker after Microsoft and Oracle, Plattner has been every bit as influential as better-known peers like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. ... Perhaps the most important question is whether SAP can top itself. It is a truism that most technology companies have only one great idea. SAP's genius was to bring the power of the mainframe to the desktop. Whether it can repeat that in the Internet age remains to be seen.

The Ross family
My New Zealand cousin Ross Sellwood and his family

2007 January 13-20

Added yet more to my comments.
Sam has now posted a new blog:
God's Hostages
This one is on repression of women. I shall not comment on it.
I share his indignation but I must win back my own free time.
Sam is hitting the hot buttons here but I want to give Dan Dennett a chance.
Dan's On Faith blogs

2007 January 13-14

Read the report on the Beyond Belief conference on the Edge website. Anthropologist Scott Atran was especially interesting.

2007 January 9

Added yet more to my comments.
The second target article has changed its name:
Selfless Consciousness Without Faith

2007 January 7

Still adding forum comments, including one to a new On Faith target article by Sam Harris:
Consciousness Without Faith

2007 January 5

Received encouragingly thoughtful feedback on my robots article from systems architect/manager Stephen Robbins.

2007 January 1

Started adding a series of comments to a wonderful Washington Post online forum based on a target article by Sam Harris:
God’s Enemies Are More Honest Than His Friends


Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival
Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA
November 5-7, 2006