Neda Agha Soltan
The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of
their Tehran home, the police did not hand the body back to her family, her
funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know, and
the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, said neighbors.
The government is accusing a BBC correspondent of hiring thugs to shoot her
so he could make a documentary film.
Schiebel Camcopter S-100 UAV
This year the Paris Air Show is grim: gray skies with persistent rain,
pessimistic forecasts for aircraft production and passenger numbers, and the
shadow of the tragic crash of Air France flight 447 on June 1
Electron microscope view of a flu virus
Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute researchers are developing antiviral
compounds to disrupt not only the neuraminidase proteins (the "N" in H1N1),
which allow the virus to escape an infected cell and infect healthy new
cells, but also the hemagglutinin proteins (the "H" in H1N1), which bind to
sialic acid on the healthy cell's surface, helping the virus penetrate the
Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers
Wright is probably best known as a Wittgensteinian philosopher. Aside from
his Wittgensteinian work, Wright's most significant contribution has been
his development of a neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics. Wright's first
book, Wittgenstein on the Foundations of Mathematics, was dense and
disorganized, and drove many reviewers to despair.
read the book after attending Wright's class and studying Wittgenstein's
notes, and still felt despair.
A Decade of Consciousness
2009 June 29
on Robert Wright on the evolution of God
2009 June 28
Iran Power Struggle
Peter Beaumont, The Observer
The power struggle inside Iran is deepening amid reports that Ayatollah
Hashemi Rafsanjani is plotting to undermine the power of Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mass demonstrations on the streets against the
election results have been effectively crushed by a massive police and
militia presence. The speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, has announced
he intends to set up a parliamentary committee to examine the post-election
violence in an "even-handed way". In response, Ahmadinejad supporters have
discussed impeaching Larijani. Rafsanjani has been lobbying the Assembly of
Experts, which he chairs, to replace Khamenei as the supreme leader with a
small committee of senior ayatollahs. The change would shift the balance of
James Buchan on Iran since 1905
2009 June 25
The history of British imperial intervention in Persia does provide some
support for the primitive belief that it is the Anglo-Saxons — more than the
CIA, more even than the Jews — who are the puppet masters of everything that
happens in Iran.
To the Obama administration: Want to take a noninterventionist position?
This would would mean not referring to Khamenei as the supreme leader and
not calling Iran "the Islamic republic." But that will not stop the
theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway. Also try to bear in
mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who
risked their all in the battle and explain to them what you were doing.
2009 June 23
The Capitalist Manifesto
A specter is haunting the world — the return of capitalism. With all its
flaws, capitalism remains the most productive economic engine we have yet
What we are experiencing is not a crisis of capitalism. It is a crisis of
finance, of democracy, of globalization, and ultimately of ethics. Since
Ronald Reagan's presidency, Americans have consumed more than they produced
and have made up the difference by borrowing. A modern democracy cannot
impose short-term pain for long-term gain. The problem goes beyond bad
bankers, lax regulators, and pandering politicians.
Over the past quarter century, the global economy has doubled every 10
years. More than 400 million people across Asia have been lifted out of
poverty. China sits on a war chest of more than $2 trillion. They looked to
the safest investment they could imagine — U.S. government debt. Washington
and Beijing will have to work hard to slowly stabilize their mutual
dependence so that the system is not being set up for another crash.
The crisis we face is of globalization itself. We have globalized the
economies of nations. We are suffering from a moral crisis, too.
2009 June 22
Iran Versus Britain
Robin Oakley, CNN
Why have the voices of the United States and the UK been so muted in their
support of the Iranian protesters? And why is Britain even so being singled
out as a target by the Iranian authorities?
President Barack Obama does not want to be seen meddling in Iran's affairs.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown too has kept his foot off the gas. But Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei singled out the "little Satan" Britain as the "most
treacherous" of the Western powers.
Western leaders like Obama and Brown have a continuing interest in efforts
to restrain Iran's uranium enrichment program. Using tougher language about
the repression of street protests would not help crack the nuclear problem.
The leaders in Tehran are divided on how to respond to President Obama's
offer of a new relationship. Attacking the "little Satan" rather than the
"Great Satan" avoids a propaganda war with the new man in the White House.
What has Khamenei got against Britain?
Boris Johnson, The Daily Telegraph
For the last few months, we British have had the terrible feeling that no
one could conceivably take us seriously. Now up pops a hairy cleric and says
the most amazing thing.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the course of a two-hour rant last Friday at
Tehran university, lashed out at the foreign agencies he believed had a role
in fomenting the pro-democracy protests. "They are showing their true enmity
towards the Islamic state, and the most evil of them all is the British
Fancy that, eh. President Khamenei thinks that we are the most ruthless and
manipulative of all foreign powers. That's right: little old us! Doesn't it
make you almost burst with pride?
2009 June 21
Robert McCrum, The Observer
In a decade in which the consumer feels lost in a blizzard of conflicting
information, there's a huge market for simplified intelligence. If there's
one genre that sells and sells, it is the little book that purports to
Typically, such a book does three things. First, it tells stories. Second,
through analytical parables, it explicates a new and troubling situation.
Third, it says that the perverse and often baffling world in which we find
ourselves can be managed. It's no coincidence that this genre flourishes at
a time of astonishing technological, economic and social innovation.
2009 June 20
Stephen Salter et
We can save the planet from
overheating by launching a fleet of spray ships to make lots of fluffy white
clouds. Or we can pump sulfur dioxide from pipes held aloft by massed
zeppelins until the sky turns red.
AR I know which option I
2009 June 19
Brown: Internet Revolution
Catharine Viner, The Guardian
Gordon Brown said new technology and free access to information mean
"foreign policy can no longer be the province of just a few elites." He
described the internet era as "more tumultuous than any previous economic or
social revolution." He said people are now able "to speak to each other
across continents, to join with each other in communities that are not based
simply on territory, streets, but networks," with "the possibility of people
building alliances right across the world."
Today I delivered my annual guest lecture at the
University of Trier
2009 June 17
Don't Call It an Election
Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the
private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was
originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Under the terms of this edict, the entire
population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state.
Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun,
because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance
who may or may not "run."
At a recent Hezbollah rally in south Beirut, Lebanon, in a large hall that
featured the official attendance of a delegation from the Iranian Embassy, I
saw that the most luridly displayed poster of the pro-Iranian party was a
nuclear mushroom cloud! Underneath this telling symbol was a caption warning
the "Zionists" of what lay in store. We sometimes forget that Iran still
officially denies any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons.
2009 June 16
Did Ahmadinejad Come Third?
Colin Freeman, Daily Telegraph
Iran's reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi won 19.1 million
votes while incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won only 5.7 million, according to
leaked interior ministry statistics. The authenticity of the statistics,
which were circulated on Iranian blogs and websites, could not be confirmed.
Richard Wolin on reason versus faith
2009 June 15
Tom Darling, The Independent
It's March 2009 in England. Each of us must agree to stay for 10 days. In a
short while the course will begin, and with it the Noble Silence that will
last until the penultimate day.
In the meditation hall, dusk has fallen. Together we sit in silence. We are
to think of ourselves as being here alone. This is Vipassana, meaning "to
see things as they really are." It's the technique the Buddha practised.
Set in rolling countryside, Dhamma Dipa is the only dedicated Vipassana
centre in Britain. More than 30 courses are run each year here. All the
courses are free.
At nine o'clock, we file out of the hall. There are new sleeping quarters,
but many share rooms in the old farmhouse or converted stables.
A gong wakes us at 4 am for two hours of meditation before breakfast. Goenka
teaches the course via recordings made 15 years ago in Massachusetts. Aside
from the chanting and the various terminologies, he teaches in English.
Day One is spent focusing the mind by concentrating on our breath. This is
called Anapana. We're instructed to observe our breath as it comes and goes.
This is the beginning of our training.
Each evening Goenka holds a television discourse. Under a neat bonnet of
white hair his eyes twinkle with intelligence and humour. Vipassana is a
technique designed to deal with the reality of every moment as it happens.
Weeks later, I turn on the radio. I hear the Archbishop of Canterbury
talking about the need to "examine ourselves with clarity" as we face the
recession. I think what a perfect description that is of meditation.
AR Ten days well spent?
Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior
Jeremy Lott, The Washington Times
By Geoffrey Miller
Viking, 374 pages
Geoffrey Miller's crisis came in 1999 during a conference in London. The
psychologists thought the economists might enjoy learning about their
"preference experiments," but it became obvious the assembled dismal
scientists believed that consumer preferences were mere "psychological
Miller now believes marketing is "not just one of the most important ideas
in business" but has become "the most dominant force in human culture" as
well. In 2004, the United States had about 37,000 philosophy professors to
212,000 market and survey researchers.
Miller writes that "marketing zealots might even take the view that the
marketing revolution renders most of Marx irrelevant: What meaning could
'alienation' and 'exploitation' have when businesses work so hard to fulfill
our desires as consumers?"
AR So many philosophers?
2009 June 14
Ahmadinejad Defends Poll Result
Farnaz Fassihi, The Wall Street Journal
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said his re-election was "real and
free" and cannot be questioned. He accused foreign media of launching a
"psychological war" against Iran.
When asked about the allegations of voting irregularities, he brushed the
claims off. "Some believed they would win, and then they got angry. It has
no legal credibility. It is like the passions after a football match."
Reverberations in Tehran
Bill Keller, The New York Times
It is impossible to know how much the ostensible re-election of Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad represents the preference of an essentially conservative Iranian
public and how much, as opposition voters passionately believe, it is the
imposed verdict of a fundamentally authoritarian regime.
Iranians who hoped for a bit more freedom, a better managed economy, and a
less reviled image in the world wavered between protest and despair on
Saturday. "Another four years of dictatorship," a voter muttered. "This is a
coup d’état," several others agreed. Some women wept openly. Some talked of
mutiny, others were more cynical.
Back story on Iran — my cut from The
New York Review
"Iran's rulers should not be caricatured as messianic politicians seeking to
implement obscure scriptural dictates for ushering in the end of the world
through conflict and disorder. As with most leaders, they are interested in
staying in power and will recoil from conduct that jeopardizes their
— Ray Takeyh
2009 June 11
God and Tragic Humanism
Mark Vernon, The Guardian
Reason, Faith and Revolution
By Terry Eagleton
Yale, 200 pages
Eagleton argues that the greatest human traditions are those that contain
their own best critique too. Christians in history have undoubtedly
perpetrated many crimes. But their most fearsome judge is the man they claim
Eagleton also thinks the new atheists woefully underestimate the horrors of
which humans are capable. Liberalism champions noble ideals but has little
to draw on when it comes to their "unsavory incarnation" beyond asserting
Eagleton advocates a tragic humanism. Christianity is a form of tragic
humanism: to address the extravagant defects of human nature, it has an
equally extravagant remedy. Roughly, be prepared to love until you die.
By David Bentley Hart
Yale, 272 pages
Bentley Hart believes Christianity's best times are past. He says
Christianity has compromised itself because it has failed to forge a
distinctive response to modernity. He says the only hope is in a revival of
Christianity's prophetic tradition.
Francis Fukuyama on blue and
Roger Scruton on taste and
Robert Wright on God
2009 June 10
Founded by Crispin Wright, the
Northern Institute of Philosophy in Aberdeen is scheduled to open on
September 1, 2009. The remit of the center will include epistemology,
metaphysics, formal logic, and the philosophy of logic, language,
mathematics, and mind.
Crispin Wright, now Global Distinguished Professor at New York
University, will leave his part-time post at the University of St. Andrews
and the Arché Centre there this summer, and take up leadership (again on a
part-time basis) of the new Northern Institute of Philosophy at the
University of Aberdeen.
2009 June 5-8
ASSC XIII, Berlin >>
my souvenir page
2009 June 3
Warum wir am Glück verzweifeln
Thomas Metzinger, Der Spiegel
2009 June 1
Eliminating the Mind
Jane O'Grady, Open Democracy
"Can we really move with ease from the world of atoms to the world
of meanings? Or is there a conceptual confusion involved in applying
neuro-scientific discoveries here, so that in the transition we inevitably
lose essentially human parts of existence? ... So we were wrong all the time
about our memories and our passions? What sort of a world, I wonder, do
these eliminative materialists envisage with their revised vocabulary about
mental (or rather neural) states?"
The new SAP mission statement
Introduced by new SAP CEO Léo Apotheker, this unobjectionable statement is
designed to resonate in the post-crisis business reality
S. N. Goenka
The hemagglutinin (blue spikes) binds to the sialic acid (green chains)
residues on the cell's surface, to gain entry. Once the cell is infected,
the viral neuraminidases (pink pinwheels) cleave the sialic acids to escape.
The sialic acid derivatives (green balls, zoomed) are designed to block the
Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers
Born in 1942, Wright did graduate work at both
Cambridge and Oxford before election to All Souls College, Oxford, in 1969.
He was appointed the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at St. Andrews in 1978.
He is a Fellow of the British Academy (1992) and of the Royal Society of
Edinburgh (1996). In 1998, he founded the
Arché Philosophical Research Centre
at St. Andrews.
AR While he was at All
Souls, Wright supervised my research for a distinguished B.Phil, then let me
The Final Reckoning
A True Story
U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre
The North American Aviation
jet fighter is best known for its Korean War role against the MiG-15. The
Sabre was the first American aircraft to take advantage of captured German
jet flight research data. The swept wing was based on the
Me 262 wing.
The prototype for the F-86 Sabre first flew in October 1947.
Korean War, the MiG-15 outperformed all the aircraft
types assigned to the United Nations in November 1950.
The US Air Force rushed three squadrons of Sabres to the front in December
and they soon achieved air superiority for the United Nations.
IBM Unveils System S
The New York Times
New stream processing software from IBM can suck up huge volumes of data
from many sources and quickly identify correlations within it. System S
harnesses advances in computing and networking in a way that analysts and
customers describe as unprecedented.
Instead of creating separate databases to track complex financial and
economic data, the software can put it all together, then add news of
current events or weather forecasts, to create an integrated global model.
IBM System S software complements the company’s "Smarter Planet" campaign.
IBM has flooded the planet with commercials about using technology to run
things like power grids and hospitals more efficiently.
Awesome — at least
as much so as the analytic
engine that my SAP team
makes. Our engine scales
so far to maybe a thousand
cores and 4 TB of memory.
System S will surely scale
a few times more.
This week Iran successfully tested a Sajil ballistic missile, which burns
solid fuel and has a range of 2000 km
New York Times
China is a creditor country with large current account surpluses, a small
budget deficit, much lower public debt as a share of GDP than the United
States, and solid growth. And it is already taking steps toward challenging
the supremacy of the dollar.
If China and other countries were to diversify their reserve holdings away
from the dollar, the United States would suffer. We have reaped significant
financial benefits from having the dollar as the reserve currency. We have
been able to finance larger deficits for longer and at lower interest rates.
Now, imagine a world in which China could borrow and lend internationally in
its own currency. The renminbi could become a means of payment in trade and
a unit of account in pricing imports and exports, as well as a store of
value for wealth by international investors.
The United States must rein in spending and borrowing, and pursue growth
that is not based on asset and credit bubbles. This will entail investing in
our crumbling infrastructure, alternative and renewable resources and
productive human capital. This is the only way to slow the decline of the
Brits Make Bits of RNA
Scientists in Britain have shown how life may have first evolved on Earth
four billion years ago.
A team led by John Sutherland
at Manchester University have synthesized two of the four building blocks of
self-replicating molecule that
may be the original molecule of life. The work shows how all the building
blocks of RNA can be made from the simple chemicals that were on Earth at
Jane Shilling, Daily Telegraph
In Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro sets himself the challenge of capturing in
language the evanescent qualities of music and dusk. The volume has the
quality of a song cycle, with recurring themes developed in different
guises. The perishability of love and the fragility of talent haunt the
narratives. Ishiguro's reticence and intense, inward, self- containment are
conspicuous in them. Yet the stories resonate long after the book is set
2009 May 31
Kinopolis movie treat: Slumdog Millionaire
AR Despite what Salman
Rushdie said (blog Feb 28), I liked it.
Peter Conrad, The Observer
Tracey Emin, the queen of Britart, now offers us her vulva. For her first
London show in four years, White Cube (Mason's Yard, London SW1) has
transformed its interior into the likeness of a sex shop. In it, Emin shows
that she is a dab hand at self-abuse.
AR The world of fine art
seems to be in some sort of existential crisis, perhaps reflecting the
difficulty of establishing visceral contact with the art patron in an era of
2009 May 27
North Korea Could Work With Iran
Siegfried S. Hecker, Foreign Policy
North Korea has walked away from all previous nuclear agreements and
threatened to conduct more nuclear tests and launch inter- continental
ballistic missiles. But North Korea did not threaten expanded nuclear and
missile cooperation with Iran. Pyongyang lacks uranium centrifuge materials
and technology. Tehran has both. Pyongyang has practical uranium metallurgy
capabilities. Tehran has little. Pyongyang has its own nuclear test data.
Tehran does not. Pyongyang knows all facets of plutonium technology. Tehran
has a breeder reactor under construction. The threat is underscored by North
Korea's extensive ongoing cooperation in missile technology with Iran.
2009 May 26
Martin Rees, The Guardian
The world population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The excess
will almost all be in the developing world where the young hugely outnumber
the old. And the challenge of feeding such a rapidly growing population will
be aggravated by climate change. The world will be warmer than today.
The Apollo program now seems a remote historical episode. The race to the
moon was driven by superpower rivalry. But robotic exploration has
burgeoned. By 2050 the entire solar system may have been explored and mapped
by flotillas of tiny robotic craft.
Each mobile phone today has far more computing power than was available to
the whole of NASA in the 1960s. And advances proceed apace. Some claim that
computers will achieve human capabilities by 2050. Of course, in some
respects they already have.
But will we continue to push out the frontiers? Some aspects of reality — a
unified theory of physics or a theory of consciousness — might elude our
understanding simply because they're beyond the powers of human brains.
By 2050 or soon after, there could be changes to human nature and human
character as mind-enhancing drugs, genetics, and cyborg techniques start to
alter human beings themselves.
American futurologists remind us that a super-intelligent machine may be the
last instrument that humans ever design — the machine will take over.
Another speculation is that the human lifespan could be greatly extended.
There will surely be a widening gulf between what science enables us to do,
and what applications it's prudent or ethical to pursue.
Ever since Darwin, we've been familiar with the stupendous time- spans of
the evolutionary past. But this century is special. It's the first in our
planet's history where one species has Earth's future in its hands, and
could jeopardize not only itself, but life's immense potential.
Suppose some aliens had been watching our planet for its entire history.
Over nearly all that immense time, Earth's appearance would have altered
very gradually. But in the last few thousand years the pace of change
accelerated. What might these aliens witness in the next few decades?
2009 May 25
Faith in the Future
John Gray, New Statesman
God Is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith Is Changing the World
By John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
Allen Lane, 405 pages
Secular rationalists maintain that religion belongs to the infancy of the
species. Say the evangelical atheists: if you want to be modern, say goodbye
to God. But it is a confession of faith that religion is destined to die
The notion that modernity and religion are at odds is a generalization from
the experience of Europe, which is now largely post-Christian. European
thinkers tend to see the United States as lagging in a universal trend
Micklethwait and Wooldridge show that modernization and an increase in
religiosity go together in much of the world. If there is any trend, it is
that secular belief systems are in decline and old faiths are being reborn.
The authors say: "The world is generally moving in the American direction,
where religion and modernity happily coexist." They claim that religions
have done well by adopting modern corporate practices and that the American
model is better adapted than any other to the modern world.
Japan has many new religions, some organized as businesses, yet remains
largely untouched by individualism. Hinduism is now practiced worldwide, but
in India it is linked with nationalism rather than pluralism. The same is
true of Orthodoxy in Russia, and the resurgence of Confucianism in China.
Religion is advancing in many parts of the world, but it is unlikely that a
single dominant model of religious practice will emerge from this process.
Modernity can coexist with religion in many ways.
AR: Religion is a very human
thing, as I shall argue in the revamp of my manuscript
2009 May 24
325 MPs To Go
Jonathan Oliver and Isabel Oakeshott, The Sunday Times
At least half of the 646 MPs in the House of Commons will be swept away at
the general election, as voters take revenge on the political classes for
the expenses scandal. The departure of 325 members of parliament as a result
of forced resignations, retirement, and defeat at the polls would represent
the biggest clear-out of parliament since 1945.
More New York Review pay dirt:
Israel and the Palestinians
Pakistan and the Taliban
2009 May 22
is finally delivered to the publishers
Review copies will soon be available on request
More MPs Quit
Sam Coates and Philip Webster, The Times
MPs caught up in the expenses scandal blamed the public backlash for their
decision to quit Parliament. Ben Chapman and Anthony Steen said that they
would stand down at the next election while maintaining that they had done
nothing wrong. Steen told the BBC: "Do you know what it’s about? Jealousy.
I’ve got a very, very large house." Ian Gibson also offered to stand down.
Douglas Hogg is to stand down over claims he submitted for cleaning his
moat. Sir Peter Viggers was ordered to retire over his claims for the cost
of a duck pond. Elliot Morley and David Chaytor have been suspended over
mortgage claims. Shahid Malik stood down from his role as a Justice minister
over the location of his main home. Up to 100 MPs may be considering
AR: What a wonderful crisis!
This will shake out the selfish pigs.
2009 May 21
U.S. to fund Arrow 3 for Israel
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post
The United States says it will fully fund the development and production of
the Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system. Arrow development costs for
the next year will likely reach some $100 million.
The Arrow 3 will be a longer-range version of the Arrow defense system
currently in IDF operation. It will be capable of intercepting incoming
enemy missiles at higher altitudes and farther away from Israel.
Missile Shield in Europe Ineffective
Joby Warrick and R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post
A planned U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from a possible Iranian
attack would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to
deploy, according to a joint analysis by top U.S. and Russian scientists.
Update: Chinese Communist Party today
Update: ZAMM for a new generation
2009 May 19
Farewell party for retiring SAP co-CEO Henning Kagermann
With a non-stop line-up of sketches, video clips, comedians and performers,
the show was moderated by TV presenter and best-selling author Eckhart von
The first speaker was the Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany,
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who captured the twin poles of Henning's character
in his remark: "You have been ambitious for your company, modest for
SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner said that from 1982 when he hired Henning to
join his company of 100 employees in Walldorf, the self- described
"overqualified" physics professor made his mark at SAP. Hasso tried to
capture what was different about SAP: "We did something better, we had more
harmony than other companies. And we were successful."
SAP co-CEO Léo Apotheker referred to Henning as a "man of trust." The 1700
guests honored Henning with a resounding standing ovation when he finally
took the stage to express his thanks.
AR: I enjoyed the party — it
reflected well on SAP.
2009 May 18
Pakistan Is Rapidly Adding Nuclear Arms, U.S. Says
Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, The New York Times
Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan
is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency.
Bruce Riedel, the Brookings Institution scholar who co-authored President
Obama's review of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, said Pakistan "has more
terrorists per square mile than anyplace else on earth, and it has a nuclear
weapons program that is growing faster than anyplace else on earth."
Billions in proposed American aid, officials admit, could free other money
for Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure. Pakistani officials have expressed
concern that their nuclear program, which employs tens of thousands of
Pakistanis, is facing a budget crunch. ISIS, the
Institute for Science
and International Security, is monitoring Pakistan's continued efforts
to buy materials on the black market, and analyzing photos of two new
plutonium reactors less than 100 miles from where Pakistani forces are
fighting the Taliban.
Israel's Secret War With Iran
Bergman, The Wall Street Journal
The Israeli intelligence community has penetrated enemies like Syria, Iran,
Lebanon, Hezbollah and Hamas. From 2002, General Meir Dagan focused the
Mossad on Iran's nuclear project and its ties to jihadist organizations.
Israel's internal intelligence service, the Shin-Bet, in cooperation with
the military, has made huge strides in its understanding of Palestinian
guerilla organizations. Yet the overall security picture remains grim.
The destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor has not swayed President Assad
from supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and hosting terrorist organizations.
Even worse, attempts to delay the Iranian nuclear project have failed. The
Iranians may possess a nuclear bomb as early as 2010. Hezbollah is now the
leading political force in Lebanon and Hamas's standing among Palestinians
has strengthened. Excellent intelligence is important, but it's tough
decisions by Israeli leaders that ensure the security of the state.
2009 May 17
Norway's Alexander Rybak swept this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow
with a ballad that he wrote himself.
Norway's winner Alexander Rybak / AP
The 23-year-old, a classically trained musician born in Belarus, won a
record number of points at Eurovision for his song "Fairy Tale".
Iceland's entry Yohanna / AFP
Runners up Iceland and Azerbaijan trailed far behind.
2009 May 16
"Pakistan's push against the militants in the Swat valley will produce
massive chaos and instability."
2009 May 14
B-2 Spirit bomber penetrating the
Wonderful graphics: The New York Times interactive guide to the Hubble Space
2009 May 11
Abdullah: Netanyahu-Obama Meeting Decisive
Michael Binyon and Richard Beeston, The Times
President Obama's meeting with Binyamin Netanyahu next week is the acid test
for the Administration's commitment to peace in the Middle East, King
Abdullah of Jordan said yesterday.
If Israel procrastinated on a two-state solution, or if there was no clear
American vision on what to do this year, the credibility that Obama had
built up in the Arab world would evaporate overnight. And if peace
negotiations were delayed, there would be another conflict between Muslims
and Israel in the next 12-18 months.
In a direct appeal to the Israeli public, he said they could either do a
deal that would lead to peace or they could maintain "Fortress Israel" for
another ten years. This was a final opportunity.
2009 May 10
Pakistan's military squares up to the Taliban in Swat valley at last
Recent experiments confirm nonlocality
in quantum entanglement
Robert McCrum interviews novelist Sarah
Robert McCrum on how George Orwell
2009 May 8
Rushdie On Pakistan
The Times of India
Midnight's Diaspora: Critical Encounters with Salman Rushdie
Edited by Ashutosh Varshney and Daniel Herwitz
University of Michigan Press
This collection of essays and interviews brings together a group of critics
and commentators, including Rushdie himself, to explore the political and
cultural contexts of Rushdie's novels. The essays offer distinct and
original takes on Rushdie and his work, and two long interviews with Rushdie
illuminate his thoughts on a series of literary and political subjects.
According to co-editor Varshney, Rushdie argued that Pakistan was
insufficiently imagined and fundamentally flawed.
Amis On Amis
Rob Garratt, Norwich Evening News
In a one-off appearance in the Norwich Playhouse, Martin Amis answered
questions about his life and work from fellow writer Robert McCrum. Then
Amis read from his forthcoming novel, The Pregnant Widow, which he said was
about the sexual revolution. The first few pages were packed with his
typical comic cynicism as an aging narrator looked back on his life. Despite
his grouchy reputation, Amis was all smiles for the autograph session.
2009 May 7
"The Israel I know is mostly secular, raucously democratic, and has a
vibrant left wing. It is intellectually disputatious, multi-ethnic, there is
a great stress on human solidarity, there is due process."
2009 May 5
Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times
Kazuo Ishiguro lives in Golders Green in northwest London. Naomi, his
daughter, is thinking about Oxbridge. In manner, Ish is exact, almost fussy,
and in conversation analytically precise, almost pedantic. In his work, he
is a writer of cool brilliance. His last two novels both sold a million
His prose works without the fireworks of contemporaries such as
Martin Amis and
Nocturnes is a collection of long short stories that emerged from plans
for a novel about the milieu of Broadway music. The unity of Nocturnes is a
unity of tone, tied together by a mood of life lived in the time between the
fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. Nocturnes is published on May 7 by Faber.
My book SAP NetWeaver BI
Accelerator on the hit lists:
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #207,111 in Books
Amazon.de Verkaufsrang: Nr. 54.863 in Englische Bücher
2009 May 4
Padma Lakshmi Jewelry
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Wall Street Journal
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi says: "Jewelry should not upstage you." To avoid
that, Ms Lakshmi has a simple strategy: "I pick one hot point on my body
that I'm going to highlight."
Because her days often stretch from morning meetings to evening events, she
builds ensembles that will take her from day to night, relying on adding
layers of jewelry to make the transition. She'll sometimes wear a dress with
a blazer. Before her evening event, she'll take off the blazer and throw on
one or two more strands of thin gold necklaces: "It creates this beautiful,
drippy, layered, feminine look."
Ms Lakshmi has
launched a jewelry line that started selling at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 5th
Avenue (58th Street), New York, on May 3. She will make a personal
appearance there on May 8.
(born September 1, 1970) is an Indian American cookbook author, actress,
and former model. She has been the host of the US television program Top
Chef since 2006.
Ms Lakshmi's first cookbook,
Easy Exotic, was awarded Best First Book at the 1999 World Cookbook
Awards at Versailles. Her second cookbook,
Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet, was released in 2007.
In April 2004, in New York, Ms Lakshmi married
In July 2007, soon after Rushdie was knighted, the couple filed for divorce.
Ms Lakshmi posed nude for the May
2009 issue of
did you do to prepare for the shoot?
PL: I exercised a little bit extra, but I actually think I look better when
I have a little bit of weight on — my breasts are fuller, and I'm curvier
than when I'm at my thinnest.
you confident about your body?
PL: Yes; I like the way I look. I think I look better now than I did in my
20s, because I'm more confident about my body — and I don't want to look
like anyone but myself.
Allure: Do you
PL: I tend to sleep in the nude. I'm an innately tactile person and a very
sensual-leaning woman. You have to use the word 'leaning' or it sounds like
I'm boasting! When I'm in my own private space, I do spend time with very
AR: Impressive lady — lucky old
North Korean MiG-15bis
Some say the radical design of
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 was based on the Focke-Wulf
183 Huckebein jet fighter. The Soviets captured plans and prototypes for
the Ta 183 in 1945. The MiG-15 engine was the Klimov RD-45 derived from the
Rolls-Royce Nene of 1944 after the UK gave 25 engines to the USSR as a
gesture of goodwill.
The MiG-15bis entered service in early 1950 with a Klimov VK-1 engine, an
improved version of the RD-45.
The F-86 Sabre could out-turn and out-dive the MiG-15, but the MiG-15 was
superior to the F-86 in ceiling, acceleration, rate of climb, and zoom.
The Coming Superbrain
The New York Times
Terminator Salvation comes complete with a malevolent artificial
intelligence dubbed Skynet that gains self-awareness and decides to
exterminate humans. The basic idea goes back to a 1961 story by Arthur C.
Clarke, who described a giant telephone network that starts acting like an
infant and causes global chaos.
The concept of machines with greater than human intelligence was dubbed
The Singularity in 1993 by
Vernor Vinge, who said the acceleration of technological progress had led to
"the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth."
Raymond Kurzweil, in his 2005 book The
Singularity Is Near, predicted that it would occur in 2045, when machine
intelligence would drive technological evolution. Kurzweil is the co-founder
with NASA and Google of Singularity University, due to open in June.
my 1996 novel
Lifeball, where I envisaged
a Singularity brought forward
by an invading ET to 2013.
In April the IAF held its 17th test of the Arrow 2,
shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile
Léo Apotheker, SAP
We need clarity to properly manage the enormous influx of money that is now
being pumped into the global economic system. This is taxpayer money. Talk
of accountability must be backed by hard data and clear facts.
Clarity is necessary not only for banks but for all businesses involved.
Government agencies are struggling. Recipients of the stimulus money are
asking how they can manage the reporting workload, minimize risks, ensure
compliance, and demonstrate clear value.
To manage the recovery effort, government, regulators, and corporations need
to institute smart and comprehensive systems for transparency,
accountability, and control. They must be fully aware of everything that is
coming in and going out. There can be no uncertainty. We need to reestablish
trust in the free market system.
Every organization needs to have a dashboard or cockpit. One of the
conditions for banks to exit government programs should be dashboards that
provide complete visibility into their risks and capitalization in real
time. This would provide the kind of clarity financial institutions need to
restore trust and confidence.
Better Place Battery Demo
Yokohama, Japan, May 12:
Better Place has
achieved a milestone in accelerating the mass-market adoption of electric
vehicles by demonstrating the world's first battery switch technology along
with electric car charging spots. This simple range extension technology
delivers a cleaner, more convenient experience for drivers.
Former SAP board member
Shai Agassi is the founder and
CEO of Better Place.
Allan Massie, The Scotsman
Kazuo Ishiguro is still best known for The Remains of the Day, which won the
Booker Prize and was made into a successful film. Nocturnes will probably
delight those who admired and enjoyed that novel. His manner is so easy and
relaxed that the uncritical reader may be happily lulled by it. However, the
stories here are trivial. They make for easy and pleasant reading, but from
a novelist of Ishiguro's reputation are disappointingly feeble.
A week after jettisoning its protective dust cover, the NASA
telescope has released the first image from its CCD camera (right). For the
next few years, Kepler will focus on this star-rich patch of sky in the
constellations Cygnus and Lyra.
2009 April 27
Blue Brain Beyond Fiction
Jason Palmer, BBC News
The Blue Brain has been put in
a virtual body, and observing it gives the first indications of the
molecular and neural basis of thought and memory. Scaling the simulation to
the human brain is only a matter of money, says Henry Markram, Blue Brain
project lead and founder of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland.
The work was presented at the
European Future Technologies meeting in Prague. The Blue Brain project
reverse-engineered neocortical columns from laboratory data and built up a
computer model down to the level of the molecules that make them up.
The first phase of the project is now complete. Professor Markram told the
Science Beyond Fiction conference that the simulated neocortical column
is being integrated into a simulated animal in a simulated environment, so
that the researchers will be able to observe the activities in the column as
the animal moves around.
The next phase of the project will make use of the latest version of the IBM
Blue Gene supercomputer. "The next phase is beginning with a
molecularization process: we add in all the molecules and biochemical
pathways to move toward gene expression and gene networks. We couldn't do
that on our first supercomputer."
Professor Markram believes that by building up from one neocortical column
to the entire neocortex, the characteristic properties of human thought will
emerge. Such emergent properties lead to the essence of what it is to be
AR: I would like to have been
there in Prague last week.
2009 April 26
Sir Ken Adam
Neil Tweedie, Daily Telegraph
Sir Ken Adam, 88, is arguably cinema's greatest production designer. With a
knighthood, two Oscars and a string of Baftas, he is one of the best-known
names in the film industry. Yet he cannot quite remember when he acquired
his name. Before he was Ken Adam, he was Klaus Adam. He is the only German
to have served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during the Second World
War, when he flew
Martin Amis, The Guardian
Ballard was an unusually lovable man, despite the extraordinary weirdness of
his imagination. His imagination was formed by his wartime experience in
Shanghai, where he was interned by the Japanese. His two most famous novels
were both filmed:
Empire of the
Sun by Steven Spielberg and
Ballard will be remembered as
the most original English writer of the last century.
2009 April 25
Peter Popham, The Independent
Italian scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini this week became the first Nobel
Prize winner to reach the age of 100. Dr Levi-Montalcini was awarded the
1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine jointly with Stanley Cohen for research into
nerve growth factor (NGF) — the proteins and amino acids that enable the
cells of the nervous system to grow and become specialized. Professor
Levi-Montalcini still works every day at the
Brain Research Institute
Sir John Maddox
Sir John Maddox was a pioneer of modern science journalism. He transformed
Nature into a globally
influential scientific journal. He also popularized science as a broadcaster
on the BBC and trained a generation of science writers. Arriving at
Nature in 1966, he introduced peer review, added submission dates to
manuscripts, and edited manuscripts for style, comprehensibility, and
New York Review: US universities
are in deep financial trouble
2009 April 24
explains the origin of the financial crisis in engagingly simple terms.
My latest SDN blog — on telepresence
2009 April 23
reviews research on consolidation and reconsolidation in memory with
reference to the use of propranolol to alleviate the anxiety produced by
2009 April 21
Debra Craine, The Times
J.J. Abrams' stunning prequel is perfectly pitched to satisfy Trekker nerds.
Without sacrificing the majesty of Gene Roddenberry's ideals or humor,
Abrams' film is a rollicking space adventure that makes you fall in love
with the original series all over again.
2009 April 20
A.C. Grayling, Edge
1 Science is the greatest
achievement of human history so far.
How are we going to make more people party to that?
2 How are we going to defend
civil liberties and human rights?
3 Trying to understand the
nature of mind is a big issue.
How do we further that process and what will come of it?
4 How do we keep the best of
the past while staying receptive
to the new world that our technologies are opening to us?
5 Globalization has put
traditional views under pressure.
After 9/11, a polarization occurred. How do we manage this?
We have to try to encourage younger people to think for themselves, not to
accept things on authority, but to work to understand things scientifically.
is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College,
University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's
2009 April 19
Culture and Barbarism
Terry Eagleton, Commonweal
Islamic fundamentalism confronts Western civilization with a foe for whom
absolute truths and foundations pose no problem at all.
If Westerners were to accept the critique of materialism and individualism
made by many devout Muslims, Western civilization would be altered for the
good. This is not multiculturalism.
God has shifted over from the side of civilization to the side of barbarism.
A clash between civilization and barbarism is a conflict between
civilization and culture. For the most part, the Western nations are
civilizations, while the West's former colonies are cultures. Civilizations
kill to protect their material interests, whereas cultures kill to defend
their identity. Civilization can neither dispense with culture nor easily
coexist with it.
Culture tends to substitute for rational debate. Culturalists appeal to
their culture to justify what they do. For many men and women today, culture
forms the heart of a heartless world. Yet culture is too much a matter of
affirming what you are or have been, rather than what you might become.
Theology might provide answers.
AR: Eagleton was ousted from
his Manchester professorship by Martin Amis. His formerly trendy leftism is at risk of turning into an
impotent theistic despair as Islamists trash his shibboleths.
2009 April 18
Israel Ready to Bomb Iran
Sheera Frenkel, The Times
The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault
on Iran's nuclear facilities within days of an okay by its new government.
Two nationwide civil defense drills will help prepare the public for the
retaliation that Israel could face. Israel may need to hit more than 12
targets at a distance of more than 870 miles. The Israeli air force
practiced for such a raid last year. It seems unlikely that Israel would
carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from America
and unlikely that the Americans would approve an attack.
"Israel is directly threatened by the Iranian nuclear program. An attack on
Iran lines up quite well with Israel's rational interests."
David Samuels, Slate
2009 April 16
"Just as the Final Solution itself is now understood
to inform many aspects of Nazi Germany, so too the Germans' knowledge of the
murder of the Jews influenced and altered the history of the Third Reich and
the war it started."
Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic
2009 April 15
The War Against Women
Mantel, The New York Review of Books
From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women, Volumes I-IV
By Marilyn French, with a foreword by Margaret Atwood
Feminist Press, 1822 pages
There was an Eve, Marilyn French tells us, a universal mother born in
Africa. French's attempt to trace her story took fifteen years and
originally ran to ten thousand pages. It is a sorry tale: "These 3000 years
were hard for everyone."
Once the link between coitus and childbirth was understood, French says, men
began to regard children as their property: "Naming children for fathers is
intrinsically an act of force." Sometime before the development of writing,
the shift took place from matrilineal to patrilineal societies, then to
patriarchy. The war against women began.
French shows how "England, Germany, and France accomplished in a few hundred
years what Mesopotamia, China, and India took thousands of years to achieve:
turning women into property." Looking back on the political upheavals of the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, French tells us socialism failed women
"because it could not break with the idea of male superiority."
French's commitment is never in doubt. Her furious haste, her attack, her
very lack of style seem to guarantee her integrity. To live within these
books is to walk through a vast graveyard where the dead are not buried yet.
AR: History is an unquiet
graveyard for most men too.
A former IMF economist offers
crisis advice to the US government
Image: New Scientist
Mindfields by A.C. Grayling
New Scientist — Opinion
Kepler's camera contains 42 charge coupled devices (CCDs) paired in 21
For the image (left), the team oriented the telescope so that the frames
blocked out the brightest stars, to prevent saturation of the camera pixels.
General Motors shows off its
new prototype in London
The Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) is designed to replace
cars in cities. GM is working with Segway to develop the contraption.
AR: Sorry, GM, but this is
way not cool enough to impress
Dow Jones Newswires
The G20 countries agreed to reform the organization of the international
financial system in depth, by regulating hedge funds and registering credit
agencies, overhauling accounting rules and setting guidelines to cap
bankers' pay. They also asked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development to publish a list of tax havens, and promised to enforce
sanctions on noncompliant countries.
2009 April 12
Born to Run
Maywa Montenegro, Seed Magazine
Marathon runners may be using their bodies just as our hominid forbears once
did. The endurance running hypothesis (ER) is that being able to run for
extended lengths of time is an adaptation evolved by Homo erectus.
A study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, by Daniel Lieberman and
Campbell Rolian, provides evidence that short toes suit human feet to lots
of running. In tests, they found that toe length had no effect on walking.
But when running, an increase in toe length of just 20 percent doubled the
energy needed. In 2004, Lieberman and others listed 26 such markers on the
human body, including short toes, a hefty gluteus maximus and Achilles
tendon, springy tendon-loaded legs, and a ligament that stabilizes the head
Lieberman believes that Homo erectus were persistence hunters who ran their
prey to death. He compared humans and various conceivable prey. A deer and a
fit man trot at a similar pace, but to accelerate, a deer goes anaerobic,
while the man remains in an oxygenated jogging zone. The same is true for
horses, antelopes, and many other quadrupeds. Since the prey can run
anaerobically only in short bursts, a human in pursuit has the final
advantage. And because quadrupeds can't pant while they run, they also
ER theory has much on its side. Persistence hunting can be found in cultures
all over the globe, including the Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana, the
Aborigines of Australia, the Masai of Kenya, and the Mexican Tarahumara
2009 April 10
Martin Amis says men are terrible
but they just can't help it
2009 April 8
The Postmodern Financial Crisis
André Glucksmann, City Journal
Great economic crises are crises of the ethos of capitalism. With the
collapse of Communism, the new ethic left all fears behind and embraced a
postmodern credo. Our age is the first to proclaim the power to reduce risk
to zero simply by spreading it around.
The speculative bubble was performative, in the terminology of the
linguistic philosopher John Austin. The performative ideology — "It is true
because we say it is" — has governed the Westernization of the planet since
the end of the Cold War. The financial bubble was contained in its
self-relation, which made it a bubble.
Postmodernism, which places itself beyond good and evil, beyond true and
false, inhabits a cosmic bubble. Let these lines from Plato be inscribed at
the entryway to future G20 meetings: "Is there not one true coin for which
all things ought to be exchanged? — and that is wisdom."
The Way of All Debt
New York Review of Books
Atwood claims that economic activities involving borrowing and lending are
metaphorical extensions of an underlying human sense of indebtedness.
Beliefs about debt are presupposed throughout much of human activity. We may
now be returning to older and simpler practices of thrift and saving. Yet it
looks unlikely that these virtues will be rewarded in the foreseeable
Whether Keynes would approve of the policies that are being applied today
cannot be known. What is clear is that their goal is to encourage people to
borrow more and spend more. These policies risk sparking inflation at some
point in the future. This will involve a transfer of wealth from savers to
borrowers. As Atwood argues, there must eventually be a reckoning.
Roger Scruton on
forgiveness, irony, and Islamic terrorism: my cut
AR: Scruton is not just the
right-wing ideologue I took him to be
35 years ago but a world-class popular philosopher.
2009 April 5
Adam Kirsch sees three recent
European novels as indicating the impending doom of civilization as we have
2009 April 2
Scientists have created a "Eureka machine" that can work out the laws of
nature by observing the world around it. The development could dramatically
speed up the discovery of new scientific truths. The machine took two hours
to come up with the basic laws of motion, a task that occupied Sir Isaac
Newton for years. Scientists at Cornell University in New York are using the
machine to solve problems in biology and plan to to tackle questions in
cosmology and social behavior.
2009 April 1
Tim Palmer presents what may be a
brilliant idea for dispelling the puzzles of quantum theory: he argues that
the phase space of the universe has an invariant set with a filigree fractal
The aquatic ape hypothesis
promoted by Elaine Morgan
and others is that human
history included an extended
period on the shoreline.
The littoral diaspora hypothesis
is that we then spread from
Africa by running along the
shorelines of the world.
Margaret Thatcher as an aspiring young Conservative
Thatcher became Prime Minister 30 years ago in May. She was
the most zealously right-wing European leader since Hitler.
But she saved the economy.
AR: As we said at the time,
only a woman could get away with it
The G20 believe that the International Monetary Fund can add an extra $1
trillion in funding to the world economy. The IMF is the pump-primer of last
resort. Japan and the European Union agreed to put $100 billion each into
the IMF. Rich countries such as America will provide a $500 billion credit
line. The IMF will print $250 billion of its own currency, allocating sums
according to quotas.