Baur au Lac Hotel
2008 September 30
Celebrating Rosh Hashanah 5769 in new apartment
Souvenir Zurich photo
2008 September 29
Umzug nach Schwetzinger Schlossgartenstadt
2008 September 25
Baur au Lac Club, Zurich, Switzerland
Dinner with old "Exonians" from
Exeter College Oxford
College Rector Frances Cairncross
honour and speaker: John Walsh
2008 September 24
Steven Weinberg on science and religion
Quentin Skinner on Hobbes on
2008 September 23
Down with A-levels, vive le bac!
Caroline Haydon, The Independent
schools offering the International Baccalaureate to sixth-form students
received two boosts this week. In a survey by ACS International Schools,
university admissions tutors said the IB was the "best preparation for
university". And consulting company Deloitte says the points system used by
the IB makes it easier to differentiate between candidates.
2008 September 21
"As the GRIN technologies converge — genetics, robotics, internet and
nanotechnology — we might be able to download not only our memories but also
our consciousness into a machine."
2008 September 20
"Suddenly literally hundreds of new Churchill quotes, anecdotes, apercus and
jokes have appeared."
2008 September 19
"The Nazi empire turned out to be the least successful piece of colonisation
ever seen. Launched in 1938, by October 1944 it was gone. Why was the Nazi
empire such a horrible failure?"
2008 September 17
Does the environment change our genes?
Magnus Linklater, The Times
Over the past 60 years in Canada, Australia and parts of Scotland, rates of
multiple sclerosis (MS) have increased, and women form an increasing
majority of the sufferers. In some places, more than three times as many
women are afflicted, and babies born in winter or early spring fare worse.
This female susceptibility differentiates even between close relatives and
is passed on in the female gene. Researchers now suspect that factors in
diet, climate, pollution or the like are affecting the susceptible gene.
Such inheritance of changes caused by environmental factors is called
epigenetic. It seems the environment is constantly altering gene expression
by addng or removing an epigenetic marker in maternal gametic DNA. These
changes can last for multiple generations.
2008 September 16
Oliver Sacks on manic depression
2008 September 13
What's so bad about losing a bit of information inside a black hole?
2008 September 11
"It is the biggest machine ever built. ... Wednesday, they fired this sucker
2008 September 10
Bolero never looked better (sorry Bo U10U): CERN ATLAS video
2008 September 6
Rosetta visits Steins
At 18:58 UT last night, the ESA probe Rosetta
approached to within 800 km of asteroid 2867 Steins. The success of the
encounter was confirmed at 20:14 UT, when ground control at the European
Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, received initial telemetry from the
spacecraft. Asteroid Steins has an irregular shape with a width of 4.6 km
and is 360 Gm from Earth, so the signal lag was 1.2 ks.
2008 September 5
A new way to concentrate sunlight could make solar power competitive with
2008 September 4
Is Google the enabler for Big Brother? A future history
BigDog is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, climbs on rough terrain,
and carries a 150 kg load. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that
drives a hydraulic actuation system. Its legs are articulated like animal
legs and it is the size of a large dog. An on-board computer control system
keep it balanced and on course. Boston Dynamics is developing the robot in a
program funded by DARPA.
Christian de Quincey
2008 August 31
Amis on terror: an update
2008 August 28
Rainbows End: Intelligence Amplification
The New York Times
Vinge is a mathematician and computer scientist in San Diego whose
science fiction has won five Hugo Awards. In 1993, Dr Vinge predicted
the Singularity. His latest novel, Rainbows End, is about the Singularity.
2008 August 26
John Rawls's theory of justice: a critique
2008 August 24
Interoception can explain spiritual experiences
2008 August 23
We will not be next, vows Ukraine
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko urged NATO to respond to the
Russian invasion of Georgia by moving quickly to expand the frontiers of
the alliance eastwards. He said Ukraine must do all it can to ensure it was not next on the Kremlin hitlist.
2008 August 20
US says no to planes for Israel
The United States has refused to sell Israel planes out of concern that
it might be seen as encouraging an Israeli attack on Iran. During his
most recent visit to the US, Defense Minister Ehud Barak requested that
America sell the IAF several Boeing 767 refueling planes. The White
2008 August 17
Do veils improve the
behavior of Islamic men?
2008 August 15
Ross Kemp: "What we tried to show was what the ordinary soldiers are
facing, what they are going through. I have seen incredible bravery from
very young guys, the young generation that people write off. Look what
they are doing in Helmand, and they are doing it for such appallingly
2008 August 14
Frankenbot has biobrain
Gordon has a brain composed of 50,000 to 100,000 active neurons. Removed
from rat foetuses and disentangled from each other with an enzyme bath,
the specialised nerve cells are laid out in a nutrient-rich medium
across an 8x8 cm array of 60 electrodes. This "multi-electrode array"
(MEA) serves as the interface between living tissue and machine. The
brain is housed in a special temperature-controlled unit and
communicates with its "body" via a Bluetooth radio link. Gordon has
several MEA "brains" that the scientists can dock into the robot.
This is the Dan Dennett "brain in a vat" scenario!
2008 August 13
Prince Charles spouts off again
warns that genetically modified crops could cause an environmental
disaster. Des Turner, a Labour MP and member of the Commons science
committee, said: "Prince Charles has got a way of getting things
absolutely wrong." Phil Willis, a Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of
the Commons science committee, said the Prince's "lack of scientific
understanding" would "condemn millions of people to starvation in areas
like sub-Saharan Africa." Ian Gibson, a Labour MP and former lecturer in
Biology, said: "Prince Charles should stick to his royal role rather
than spout off about something which he has clearly got wrong.
Scientists and others who have looked at the problem have found no solid
evidence that GM crops affect people's health."
2008 August 12
The Permission Problem
The New Yorker
In the second decade of the
twentieth century, it was almost impossible to build an airplane in the
United States. That was the result of a chaotic legal battle among the
dozens of companies that held patents on the various components that
made a plane go. No one could manufacture aircraft without fear of being
hauled into court. The situation that grounded the U.S. aircraft
industry is an example of what the Columbia law professor Michael Heller
calls the "anticommons." The commons leads to overuse and destruction;
the anticommons leads to underuse and waste. In the cultural sphere,
ever tighter restrictions on copyright and fair use limit artists'
abilities to sample and build on older works of art. In biotechnology,
the explosion of patenting may be retarding drug development. When
something you own is necessary to the success of a venture, you'll tend
to ask for an amount close to the full value of the venture. And since
everyone in your position also asks for a huge sum, the venture quickly
2008 August 11
A series of explosions in a paint
factory beside my office caused a fire that took 220 firemen two hours
to get under control.
2008 August 8
Christian de Quincey
JCS 15(8), 94-101 (2008)
"Think of reality as made up of countless gazillions of 'bubble
moments,' where each bubble is both physical and mental ...
bubble exists for a moment, then pops! ...
One of the attractions of
Whitehead's panpsychist ontology is that it embraces the core insights
of dualism, materialism, and idealism. ... Combining these multiple
intuitions in an integrated process is the fundamental insight of
AR Christian de Quincey is singing from my hymnal.
2008 August 4
First the Globall, now the Sphere
Cnet, July 28
A group of
academics gathered at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, saw
the Sphere, a computer with a spherical touch screen developed by
Microsoft Research. The spherical multitouch computer is similar to the
tabletop Surface computer that Microsoft announced last year after years
in development. The Sphere remains a Microsoft Research project and the
company has no current plans to bring it to market.
AR Many years ago I
mailed copies of my Globall Hyperatlas article to Bill Gates and
Nathan Myhrvold — is this the result?
2008 August 3
Richard Dawkins believes that many science teachers are selling our
children short by kowtowing to political correctness. "It's fine to
teach children about scientific controversies," Dawkins says. "What is
not fine is to say, 'There are these two theories. One is called
evolution, the other is called Genesis.' If you are going to say that,
then you should talk about the Nigerian tribe who believe the world was
created from the excrement of ants."
2008 August 2
"Although Nietzsche often described himself (and has been described by
others) as an immoralist, his ultimate objection to compassion was an
ethical one. The core of humanity was its ambition to greatness, and all
greatness depended on suffering. The modern project of compassion, then,
taken as the elimination of suffering, was ipso facto a campaign against
humanity as such in favor of a descent into the subhuman."
Orwin, In Character
2008 August 1
The beautifully restored Avro Vulcan flying at Farnborough 2008.
Vulcan was Britain's main nuclear bomber during my youth.
"A universe containing mathematical physicists will at any assigned date be
in the state of maximum disorganization which is not inconsistent with the
existence of such creatures."
Arthur Eddington, quoted by
Sean, Cosmic Variance
Press photo of the mushroom cloud that loomed over my office for two hours
Microsoft researcher Andy Wilson with the Sphere
The Microsoft Sphere is
based on the Magic Planet, a product from
Global Imagination (Los Gatos,
California, founded 2002)
See the Magic Planet in action
2008 July 31
"The Large Hadron Collider at CERN will smash particles together to recreate
the moments after the big bang" — Stephen Hawking
hope I'm not the only one who's at least slightly worried about this mad
scientist Peter Higgs and his Genesis machine" — Worried, Norfolk
is Superduper Fly
2008 July 30
Religions may protect people against disease
Roger Highfield, Daily
2008 July 27
The Universe from Scratch — another wonderful arXiv paper
2008 July 26
Last year J.K. Rowling earned 300 million dollars and the top place in the
Forbes world list of billionaires. Her Harry Potter books have sold 375
million copies worldwide.
2008 July 23
Almost forgot: my vacation reading was
The Origin of Species by Charles
My Panpsychism thread currently has 526 replies and 8792
views. That's a lot. The Sam Harris forum thread with the top stats seems to
be Evolution takes a beating, live coast to coast! which starts:
boy, you should have heard the word today! ... The theory of evolution
cannot be reconciled with science. To do so is folly. You should know this
in your hearts. That great and wonderful will come eventually: every knee
shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Posted 2005-03-15,
this pitiful effluvium has attracted 942 replies and 21067 views.
2008 July 19
Enjoyed final hours of my vacation with the family at the Tippling
Philosopher pub and the Four and Twenty Blackbirds restaurant
Brittany Ferries ship Barfleur from Poole to Cherbourg
2008 July 18
Greatly enjoyed WALL-E at Empire Cinema, Tower Park, Poole
2008 July 10
Visited the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum in Kensington,
2008 July 9
Went shopping for books on physics and philosophy in London
stay at Carleton Mitre Hotel, Hampton Court, London
2008 July 5
Attended Yeovilton International Air Day, RNAS Yeovilton
2008 July 3
Took Brittany Ferries ship Barfleur from Cherbourg to Poole
2008 July 1
On vacation — a sweltering hot day here
WSJ — Global warming as mass
Ended my evenings for a week with this glorious BBC TV series: a
panoramic history of India in six one-hour episodes
Sad to say, I had to pass on the Farnborough Airshow 2008:
to see the F-22