Vulcan bomber over
0010 Bod Pods
0011 Virtual Bodies
01 Global Mammon
0100 Starship Enterprise
0110 Greening Policy
1000 Robots Everywhere
Hamas tunnels were dug for a mass terror attack. Hundreds of
Hamas fighters would have spilled out into Israel in the dead of
night for an attack on September 24. The tunnels were stocked
with tranquilizers, handcuffs, syringes, ropes, explosives and
other supplies. Everyone in Gaza knew about them. They cost tens
of millions of dollars.
Israeli tanks near Gaza
German GDP shrank by 0.2% in Q2 and France had 0%
growth in Q1 and Q2. Eurozone GDP was 0% in Q2 after 0.2% in Q1. Year
on year EZ growth was 0.7%.
Eurostat said EZ inflation was its lowest
in 5 years.
Fed VC Stanley Fischer says the weak US recovery
might be fallout from the financial crisis and the recession but might
reflect a more structural shift in the global economy. US growth is held
back by a still anemic housing market, cuts in federal government
spending, and weaker global growth.
Oh happy day!
Leading Oxford University
mathematician Frances Kirwan: "Maths is a hugely rewarding subject, but
sadly many children lose confidence very early and never reap those
AR My first philosophy
at Oxford was her father
A humble ending
Islamic State jihadis
Thousands of refugees
Kurdish Peshmerga forces
CentCom air strikes
The British ruling classes are heroic binge
drinkers. The university drinking clubs of Oxford and Cambridge still
embarrass alumni like David Cameron, George Osborne, and Boris Johnson. The
House of Commons has eight taxpayer-subsidized bars. The bars
served 8,670 bottles of champagne last year.
Amos Oz recalls that in 2005
Israel pulled out of Gaza:
then there have been 10,000 rockets fired from the Gaza strip. ... Europeans
see things in black and white, like a Hollywood movie, with good guys and
bad guys. But it's more complicated than that."
2014 August 31
The World In Flames
Our world order was devised nearly 400
years ago at Westphalia after a century of conflict in Europe. A
system of independent states formed an equilibrium of power.
the Muslim Brotherhood ideologist Sayyid Qutb declared war against
the existing world order. Islam was a universal system offering
freedom from governance by other men, manmade doctrines, or "low
associations based on race and color, language and country, regional
and national interests" and would overthrow them all.
views of Qutb and his followers have rallied radicals and jihadists
in the Mideast and beyond for decades. Purity, not stability, is the
guiding principle of this conception of world order. National
loyalties represent deviations from the true faith and jihadists
feel a duty to transform the world.
The Syrian war is about
deciding which sect will dominate the others. Regional powers poured
arms, money, and logistical support into Syria on behalf of their
preferred sectarian candidates. An uprising has degenerated into a
humanitarian disaster and into an imploding regional order.
Zones of non-governance or jihad now stretch across the Muslim
world, affecting Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mali, Sudan and Somalia. A
significant portion of the world's territory and population is on
the verge of falling out of the international state system
The Mideast is caught in a confrontation akin to
the pre-Westphalian wars of religion. Religion is weaponized in the
service of geopolitical objectives, threatening world stability.
2014 August 30
Bournemouth Air Show
From the Hotel Miramar terrace we
saw a Typhoon, two Lynxes, a Tucano, a Lancaster, two Spitfires,
a Dakota, a Chinook, a Flying Fortress, a Hunter, a Merlin, a
Vulcan, and eight Red Arrows fly by.
UK Security Crackdown
David Cameron is preparing new anti-terrorism
measures after the government raised the official threat level to
Severe. Police will increase visible patrols and boost security
around key buildings and national infrastructure. Threat level
Severe means an attack on British soil is "highly likely".
The government plans to fill "gaps" in the anti-terrorism laws.
Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) will replace
control orders. The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre operates from
Cameron: "This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing
with perceived grievances over western foreign policy. ... The root
cause of this threat to our security is ... a poisonous ideology of
Islamist extremism that is condemned by all faiths and faith
AR Batten down the
hatches, Scottie. Storm ahead for HMS Britannia.
Augustus founded the Roman empire and ruled it
from 27 BCE to 14 CE. He was a stoic. He knew an ideal can destroy
happiness but he never wavered in his commitment to Rome.
Augustus: "Rome is not eternal. It doesn't matter. Rome will fall.
It doesn't matter. The barbarians will conquer. It doesn't matter.
There was a moment of Rome, and it will never die."
AR On stoicism, read
2014 August 29
The New York Times
Matt Rogers and Stefan Heck say new
advances like 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, modular construction
systems, and home automation can improve our lives. Rogers: "What we
haven't yet done is put information technology, biotechnology and
nanotechnology into industrial technology. And once we begin to do
that, we'll open up technologies that are equally large as the
invention of the airplane."
Heck and Rogers say cars are ripe
for improvement because:
1 They waste money. We
drive them for less than an hour a day on average, and often alone.
The engine wastes most of the energy in the gas tank.
2 They waste land. Roads need a lot of
land for a few cars. A freeway is full when only about a tenth of
its space is covered in cars. Above that you get traffic jams.
3 They waste lives. In the United
States, car accidents kill about 33,000 people every year and cost
society at least $300 billion a year.
Technology will cut
these costs. An electric car infrastructure will improve the
efficiency of our vehicles. Cars that drive themselves will pack
roads more efficiently. Robot cars will be safer too. Electric
engines, ride sharing, and robot cars together will bring a big
University of Texas, Austin, Center for
Transportation Research director Chandra R. Bhat:
"What we don't know is how we humans
might change our behavior and our lifestyles in response to these
AR See my 2010
2014 August 28
Google is building the largest store of
knowledge in human history. Knowledge Vault autonomously gathers and
merges information from across the web into a single base of facts.
This gathered knowledge is becoming the foundation of systems
that allow robots and smartphones to understand what people ask
them. It promises to let Google answer questions like an oracle
rather than a search engine, and even to turn a new lens on human
Knowledge Vault uses an algorithm to pull in
information from all over the web, using machine learning to turn
the raw data into usable knowledge. Google researchers presented a
paper on Knowledge Vault at
2014 August 27
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Russia does not consider NATO a
partner. We will adopt readiness action plan to be able to act
swiftly in this new security environment in Europe. We have the NATO
response force and we intend to develop a spearhead within that
response force at very high readiness. Any potential aggressor
should know that if they attack a NATO ally they will meet not only
soldiers from that country but also NATO troops.
can act swiftly to convert a major military exercise into an
offensive military operation. Multiple sources report a lively
Russian involvement in destabilizing eastern Ukraine. We have seen
artillery firing across the border and also inside Ukraine. We have
seen a Russian military buildup along the border. You see a
sophisticated combination of traditional conventional warfare mixed
up with information and disinformation operations.
end of the cold war we have lived in relatively good weather. Now we
are faced with a profound climate change. We are in a completely new
The latest clash between Israel and Gaza
has laid bare the resurgence of an old and hostile obsession with
Jews. The volume of press coverage it drew gave the impression that
the drama of Israel is the most important story on earth.
Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of
Jews. It was never mentioned. The Hamas decision to construct a
military infrastructure beneath Gaza was ignored. What was important
was the Israeli decision to attack them.
Most reporters in
Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at
Palestinian civilians. The fact that Israelis recently elected
moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the
Palestinians was rarely mentioned.
The Israel story is framed
as a quest for a two-state solution. It is accepted that the
conflict is taking place on land that Israel controls — 0.2% of the
Arab world — in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The
conflict is more accurately described as one between the 6 million
Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries.
Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of a volcano. The Mideast
is the volcano and Hamas, Hezbollah, the
Islamic State and so on are streams of lava. The lava is pumped up
by a strain of Islam that is willing to employ
extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control
and confront the West.
2014 August 26
A spiritual practitioner is someone who has
discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no
reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is
synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self.
The Abrahamic religions are incorrigibly dualistic. They
conceive the human soul as separate from the divine reality of God.
The appropriate attitude for a creature that finds itself in this
circumstance is terror, shame, and awe.
The Eastern tradition
at its best transcends dualism. Consciousness is identical to the
reality that one might otherwise mistake for God. The teachings of
Buddhism contain insights about the nature of consciousness that do
not depend upon faith.
The teachings emphasize a connection
between ethical and spiritual life. How we use our attention largely
determines what kind of person we become. Spiritual life consists in
overcoming the illusion of the self by paying close attention to our
experience in the present moment. There is nothing more important to
understand if you want to be happy in this world.
2014 August 25
Sebastian Haffner saw the critical hinge of
the second world war as between November 27 and December 11, 1941.
Hitler, November 27: "If one day the German nation is no longer
sufficiently strong or sufficiently ready for sacrifice to stake its
blood for its existence, then let it perish and be annihilated by
some other stronger power."
By December 6, Hitler had
acknowledged that victory could no longer be won. And on December
11, he declared war on the USA. Haffner said he was coveting defeat
and wanted that defeat to be as complete and disastrous as possible.
I first read Martin Gilbert's classic
The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy in 1987, and I read it with
incredulity; in 2011 I read it again, and my incredulity was wholly
undiminished. Between those dates I had worked my way through scores
of books on the subject; and while I might have gained in knowledge,
I had gained nothing at all in penetration.
"Perhaps one cannot, what is more one must not, understand what
happened, because to understand is almost to justify. … Now, no
normal human being will ever be able to identify with Hitler,
Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann, and endless others. This dismays us,
and at the same time gives us a sense of relief, because perhaps it
is desirable that their words (and also, unfortunately, their deeds)
cannot be comprehensible to us."
I read Haffner's
Anmerkungen zu Hitler a few months ago. A classic. Gilbert's
classic I too read in 1987: It gave me a psychic low that endured
through my entire quarter-century in Germany.
2014 August 24
Britain in 2030: frightened, fractious,
and weary, its economy sunk in depression, its people haunted by
terrorism and war. The headlines: more bloodshed in the Mideast,
more terrorist threats, militant Islamists control local councils,
violent street clashes between Caliphists and British nationalists.
In 2014, the United States, Britain, and France began a series
of air strikes to hold back the extremists. They were much too late.
Iraq collapsed and a civil war of shocking savagery ensued. The new
Caliphate launched a war of conquest into Syria and Lebanon and an
Iranian army advanced into Iraq. Britain and the United States sent
arms to the Saudis and Qataris in vain. Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and
Iraq soon fell to the Caliphate. Israel was next in line.
Inside the Caliphate,
life is hell. All non-Sunni communities have been murdered or
expelled. Cities have been reduced to ghost towns, barter has
replaced a money economy, and millions scavenge in the ruins. Rape,
murder, and kidnapping are common. Female genital mutilation is
rife. Most schools, hospitals, and clinics have been demolished.
Young men sign up for jihad against Israel and NATO.
Zone of Interest is set in Auschwitz, mostly in 1942. The book
positively revels in the bureaucratic euphemisms that shrouded the
genocide. The story appears to be about managerial frustrations and
amorous intrigues among the Germans at the camp.
taken various liberties with the history. He reinvents hell on earth
in his gaudy, insistent, elaborate prose, and uses a lot of German,
which often tips over into absurdity. The book is a nightmare filled
with riffs and general observations on Nazi Germany.
2014 August 23
Zone of Interest focuses on the Nazi officers at Auschwitz and their
increasing difficulty in fulfilling the demands from Berlin.
The blustering KZ Kommandant is a
terrific comic creation. He is off his head, sexually incontinent,
and loathed by his wife. His struggle to process victims is a
personal torment and his struggle to keep head office at bay a
Zionism today is xenophobic and
exclusionary. In the state of Israel, rights for Jews are guaranteed
while rights for Palestinians are curtailed. A Jewish majority in
perpetuity implies policies of exclusion and discrimination. Human,
civil, and political rights must take precedence over religion and
2014 August 22
Caliphate 'Apocalyptic' Threat
US President Barack Obama called the Islamic
State group a cancer and US Secretary of State John Kerry said IS
must be destroyed following the killing of James Foley.
chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Martin Dempsey said of
the militants: "They can be contained, but not in perpetuity. This
is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic
vision which will eventually have to be defeated."
The number of British Muslims to have gone and
fought with Islamic State and other extremist groups in Syria and
Iraq may be between 600 and 1,000. About 560 Muslims serve in the
A swelling group of British jihadists reject the legitimacy of
the British state. The estimated exodus of British jihadists to
Syria is the highest of any European country. If and when they
return, many will have learned bomb making and murder.
radicalization of British Muslims is blamed in the Arab world on
policy failures. A new generation believes that British reluctance
to use force against President Assad has abandoned Sunni Muslims to
a miserable fate. The Islamic State has captured their imagination.
2014 August 21
The Soul of the World
Roger Scruton argues that an acceptance of
death allows us to see the world as making a place for us. He makes
the case for a transcendence founded on our works in a world we make
human by looking for God. He finds hope in our refusal to rest
content with the contingency of nature.
Humans have evolved
from nature and stand at its edge. Scruton sees the "I" of
self-consciousness as poised between freedom and mechanism, subject
and object, nothingness and being. When science makes an account of
the world, it cannot say what it is like to be me.
forever on the edge of things. As do you. I am always looking for
you, trying to attain to that infinite horizon which is your
perspective, your uniqueness. Scruton: "I-you intentionality
projects itself beyond the boundary of the natural world."
The atheist argument that we can find no evidence of God is as
insufficient as attempting to explain love in terms of reproduction
or music in terms of vibration. We cannot expect to encounter God
any more than we can expect to meet the number one.
2014 August 20
The Curse of the Islamic State
The caliphate of the Islamic State is a
nightmarish realm stretching from northeast Syria deep into Iraq.
Thieves have their hands hacked off and opponents are publicly
crucified or beheaded. Women wear
the niqab and pants are banned. Livestock merchants must cover the
rear ends of goats and sheep to spare men lustful thoughts. Girls
are snatched from their families as brides for the warriors.
Journalist Medyan Dairieh made a 45-minute video that provides the
first real view of life inside the caliphate. It shows a world of
fanatical people in which adolescents shout into the camera,
declaring war on infidels. IS spokesman Abu Musa uses his chance to
send a message to America: "Don't be cowards who attack us with
drones. Send your soldiers instead, the ones we already humiliated
Islamic State flags fly at protests in Paris and
Brussels. In London, Islamists hand out leaflets rejoicing that the
caliphate is here and calling for men and women to fly out and fight
for the cause. The Umm Layth blogger is a British immigrant to the
caliphate. She asks women: "How can you not want to produce
offspring who may be, God willing, part of the great Islamic
Another Bloody Shambles
General Sir Michael Rose
There is a powerful case for
intervening now against the Islamic State. But our strategists must
decide with absolute clarity and precision the objective of the
mission. They must also commit sufficient resources to destroy the
terrorist organization now running amok in Iraq.
2014 August 19
The Acropolis still stands. It became
a symbol of Western civilization as the architecture of democracy.
It inspired Sigmund Freud to introspection. His whole frame of
reference was ancient Greece and its myths, archetypes and
tragedies. He excavated like an archeologist through layers of
consciousness, pursuing the secrets of the mind. If the Parthenon
had crumbled, if the works of Greek thinkers were lost, if Freud and
his books were lost, what would our world be like today?
Mesopotamia, a cradle of world civilization, is ravaged today by
psychopaths with armored trucks, swords and genocidal zeal. Living
in an eternal present rooted in an imagined past, the militants are
obsessed with destroying all that is unlike them. It is almost
impossible to reconcile the progress of the past few decades with
the remorseless hatred of the Islamic State. If our symbols are
lost, we will be no better than ignorant armies riding pickup trucks
through the endless dust.
2014 August 18
The Wisdom of the Exile
There are many types of uprooting. But
each person who survives uprooting and finds himself in exile
experiences an existential earthquake of sorts. The world around you
turns into a ruin.
To live is to sink roots. Life is possible
only to the extent that you find a place hospitable enough to
receive you and allow you to settle down. When your old world goes
down it also takes with it all your assumptions, commonplaces,
prejudices and preconceived ideas.
When you lose everything,
you gain something else. What you get is the insight that the world
does not simply exist, but it is something you can dismantle and
piece together again. Uprooting gives you the chance to create not
only the world anew, but also your own self.
2014 August 17
Islamic State Threat
The creation of an extremist caliphate in
the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is our concern. If we do
not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous
terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target
us on the streets of Britain.
We must understand the true
nature of the threat we face. This is a struggle for decency,
tolerance and moderation in our modern world. It is a battle against
a poisonous ideology that is condemned by all faiths and by all
faith leaders, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
witnessing a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who
want to abuse Islam on the other. This threat cannot simply be
removed by airstrikes alone. We need an approach that can defeat the
terrorist threat at source.
The so-called caliphate makes no
secret of its expansionist aims. A terrorist state bordering a NATO
member is a clear danger to Europe and to our security. We must rise
to the challenge.
The Zone of Interest
Martin Amis turns 65 on August 25. His new novel,
The Zone of Interest, is about the
Holocaust. Saul Bellow described the Holocaust as the terminal point
so far in human evil. The novel takes us inside the minds of the
Germans who managed Auschwitz. It is also a love story.
I was about seven, I asked my mother what all this stuff about
railway tracks and smokestacks was all about, and she said, 'Oh,
don't worry about Hitler. You've got blond hair and blue eyes —
Hitler would have loved you.' I felt a kind of ignoble relief that
Hitler would have been on my side. ... Bellow said we must try
to see things with our original eyes. You have to retain your
2014 August 16
MIT Technology Review
Bitcoin is now worth $7.7 billion.
Gavin Andresen, 48, maintains its code base and created the Bitcoin
Foundation in 2013. He says 2014 "is going to be the year of the
Andresen graduated from Princeton in
1988 and took a job with Silicon Graphics. He encountered Bitcoin in
2010 and liked the work of its pseudonymous inventor, Satoshi
Nakamoto. Bitcoins are "mined" by people running software that races
to solve a mathematical puzzle and win a prize of newly minted
bitcoins. The prize shrank over time and now 21 million bitcoins
exist. A "block chain" log serves to verify transactions.
In 2010, Andresen launched a website handing
out free bitcoins to visitors (and shut it down in 2012). He began
sending code tweaks to Nakamoto, who persuaded him to work as
project manager, paid in bitcoins. Andresen: "I am not Satoshi
Nakamoto. I have never met him."
As the price of Bitcoin
soared, its stakeholders have widened from the early enthusiasts to
investors on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Andresen: "I hope in
10 years that Bitcoin is really boring."
AR Trust a company like SAP to bring
Bitcoin to global business.
2014 August 15
Life began around 4 billion years ago. In
all life, a protein pump shunts hydrogen ions out of a cell,
creating a proton gradient across the cell membrane. Protons flow
back into the cell through another protein in the membrane. The cell
uses the energy to produce ATP.
Life comes in three empires:
eukaryotes, bacteria, and archea. Bacteria and archea have
impermeable membranes made of hydrophobic lipids, but their
membranes evolved independently.
Life seems to originated on
the sea floor at alkaline hydrothermal vents. As warm alkaline
fluids well up through cracks in the sea floor and hit the cold
seawater, minerals precipitate out to form rocky chimneys full of
narrow channels and pores. There molecules evolved into lipids and
Cells used energy from the natural proton gradient at
the interface between the alkaline vent fluid and seawater. A
turbine protein in their membranes produced ATP. Lipid membranes
formed a leaky membrane that let protons flow from seawater, through
the cell, and back out into the vent fluid.
proton pumps and the membrane evolved to be less leaky. A protein in
cell membranes swapped protons for sodium ions across the membrane,
to form a sodium ion gradient. Sodium ions re-entered the cell via
the turbine. Better pumps and less leaky membranes evolved together.
Cells learned to generate their own proton gradient and broke
free of the vents. They did this twice, giving rise to bacteria and
2014 August 14
UK Must Bomb IS
Islamic State militants are tightening their
grip on the territory and people they control. They are well funded
and well organized. They are barbaric and savage. They pose a direct
threat to all who oppose their views, they
destabilize the region, and they will create and export young
Allowing an extremist caliphate to extend from
Syria to the borders of Iran would bring further horrors to innocent
people and risk a bigger conflict with global consequences. The
caliphate would be a magnet for jihadists and would export terrorism. The fundamentalists need to be defeated.
US government has decided to use US air power to hit IS bases. We
should be ready to do the same. Sending humanitarian aid is right
but if we leave the vulnerable unprotected from IS terror then our
help is superficial. There are risks, but the cost of failing to act
could be high.
Fox has what it takes to
serve again in government.
Ye Cannae Change the Laws of Physics
A few years ago, Guido P. Fetta developed what he
considered a revolutionary engine technology. His background is in
marketing for pharmaceutical companies, though he studied chemical
engineering in college. He dubbed it the Cannae Drive.
Instead of relying on fuel or nuclear reactors, the engine bounces
microwaves around a carefully shaped container, creating changes in
radiation pressure that ultimately generate thrust. The drive could
potentially cut travel time to Mars from months to mere weeks,
overturning the laws of physics along the way. NASA tested it (blog
August 4). It seemed to work.
Bet on physics.
2014 August 13
Pedro G. Ferreira
Albert Einstein proposed his general
theory of relativity in 1915. His 1905 special theory of relativity
had brought together Newtonian mechanics and Maxwell's theory of
electricity and magnetism. Space and time became intertwined and the
speed of light became invariant. It all worked beautifully, except
for Newton's gravitational force. So Einstein came up with a general formulation including gravity.
The new general theory
of relativity needed a completely different form of mathematics and
a fresh way of thinking about physics. The decade that followed
brought amazing discoveries. Arthur Eddington showed that the light
from distant stars was bent by gravity, as predicted. Karl
Schwarzschild conceived of black holes. Alexander Friedmann
calculated that the universe was expanding. And Einstein predicted
The discovery of
quantum physics pushed
his theory into the long grass. Decades later, a new generation of
mathematical physicists revealed the
inner workings of black holes
in detail, and observational evidence for them started to amass. The
discovery of the cosmic microwave background added weight to the
idea of an expanding universe.
Future big ESA missions
include eLISA to measure the gravitational waves from collisions
between black holes, Euclid to measure universal expansion, and
ATHENA to look at X-rays from a black hole. The advanced
search for the echoes of embryos of black holes. The Event Horizon
Telescope may see the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The
Square Kilometer Array will test Einstein's theory on galactic and
mechanics and general relativity are incompatible. Their union in
quantum gravity is an
unsolved problem. Quantum spacetime will be granular.
Some work here
is really exciting.
Fields Medal 2014
Stanford University professor of mathematics
Maryam Mirzakhani has been award the Fields Medal by the
International Mathematical Union. The other Fields Medal winners
this year are Martin Hairer, Manjul Bhargava, and Artur Avila.
Born and raised in Iran, Mirzakhani completed her PhD at Harvard
in 2004. Her research interests include Teichmüller theory,
hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry. "I
dreamed of becoming a writer," she said in an
interview for Oxford University.
As a graduate student at Oxford I studied, among other
things, the Teichmüller-Tukey lemma, which is equivalent to the
axiom of choice in set theory.
Some SAP customers remain puzzled over
how the SAP HANA platform can fit into their IT strategies.
Three-quarters of respondents to an ASUG survey who hadn't bought
HANA said they had not been able to pin down a business case that
justified the cost.
SAP isn't forcing them. Nearly
three-fourths of those who said they had no current plans to
implement HANA also said they believed SAP would support their
existing environments into the future or for at least five years or
SAP hopes to convince its Business Suite customers to
migrate their environments to HANA. At the last AGM, SAP said it had
more than 3600 HANA customers overall and 1200 for the Suite on
converges database and application platform capabilities in-memory
to transform transactions, analytics, text analysis, predictive and
spatial processing so businesses can operate in real time.
AR I worked in the SAP team that
developed HANA from 2003 to 2009. In those days it was called the
SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence Accelerator and I wrote the SAP
Press book on it.
2014 August 12
There is a huge literature on the
psychology of first impressions. There is not much of a literature
on last impressions. Amid the contemporary frenzy of competing
entertainment and information streams, a writer needs to bring
readers straight into the story.
Every terminus is also a potential beginning.
Not every film opens with someone coming toward the camera or closes
in the opposite fashion, but the technique is common enough to
suggest that it echoes some kind of cognitive process in the real
Our trouble with endings hints at a larger problem:
how it all ends. Martin Rees: "It will not be humans who watch the
sun's demise, six billion years from now. Any creatures that then
exist will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or
2014 August 11
Consciousness as a State of Matter
Consciousness can be described in terms of quantum mechanics and
information theory. Giulio Tononi proposed that a conscious system
must be able to store and process large amounts of information and
to unify this information in a whole that cannot be divided into
Let perceptronium be the most general
substance that feels subjectively self-aware. This substance should
be able to store and process information in a way that forms a
unified whole. We can use this approach to ask why conscious
observers living in a quantum reality perceive a classical world.
Information in a conscious system must be unified. The system
must correct errors to allow any subset of up to half the
information to be reconstructed from the rest. A Hopfield net can do
this, but one with 10^11 neurons can only store 37 bits of
integrated information. Something wrong here!
AR I mentioned this Arxiv paper on
April 11. It is
technical and I don't pretend to follow its details, but a moment of
"now" in consciousness can only reliably hold a few bytes of
information, so the Hopfield limit looks harmless. Our consciousness
is layered in time and we use painfully learned heuristics to reduce
errors. Max needs to study the phenomenology of consciousness more
closely. On the quantum-classical transition and the sense of time
flow, see chapter 13 in my book
2014 August 10
I don't think we're going to solve this
problem in weeks. I think this is going to take some time. American
combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because
there's no American military solution to the larger crisis there.
The Islamic State
Jessica T. Mathews
The Islamic State has swept almost to
the gates of Baghdad. The Sunni insurgency that has risen up against
the government of Nouri al-Maliki includes another jihadi group,
Ansar al-Islam, as well as the military council of the eighty or so
tribes of Iraq, and the army of the Naqshbandi order.
disparate groups will not fight together for long. The Islamic State
and its allies have triumphed because the Sunni populations of
northern Iraq have welcomed and supported them. The Sunnis are more
afraid of what their government may do to them than of the Sunni
The war unfolding in Iraq is scary. The
Islamic State jihadis are killing because they want to live in a
world cleansed of those who do not share their deranged beliefs. By
killing Yazidis and Christians and members of other religious
minorities, they believe they are serving a noble cause. They are
closing in on stranded pockets of people they see as pagans and
slowly starving them to death.
President Obama has decided to
act. He has authorized a limited bombing campaign as well as a
humanitarian effort on behalf of the stranded Yazidis. The decision
to intervene militarily is a thorny one, but the prospect of
genocide changes things. If the jihadis succeed in collapsing the
Iraqi state, there will be no end to the killing. The president is
doing the honorable thing.
United States Central Command forces
conducted four air strikes against Islamic State armored vehicles
and positions to defend Yazidi civilians near Sinjar. Meanwhile
delivery of relief to civilians fleeing the IS continues. Aircraft
from multiple air bases dropped 72 bundles including more than 14 kl
of water and more than 16,000 packaged meals.
Catholics in Irbil say fewer than 40 Christians remained in
northwestern Iraq after a jihadist rampage forced thousands to flee
into Irbil in the Kurdish north. Irbil Archbishop Bashar Warda: "We
did not expect that one day Mosul would be without Christians and
that the Nineveh plains would be emptied of minorities. Trust is
broken between the communities. Especially with the Arabs. For 2,000
years, all these minorities had lived together."
secretary Philip Hammond says air sorties from the UK to northern
Iraq will continue. Two RAF C-130 transport aircraft flew from RAF
Brize Norton to airdrop emergency humanitarian supplies including
reusable filtration containers filled with clean water, tents, and
solar lights that can also recharge mobile phones.
A statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament
Square, London, was announced in July by Chancellor of the Exchequer
George Osborne and then Foreign Secretary William Hague during a
trade mission to India.
Dr Kusoom Vadgama, who is the
founder of the Indo-British Heritage Trust and chairwoman of this
year's 400th anniversary celebrations of Britain's relationship with
India, finds the proposed statue unacceptable: "Gandhi was obsessed
with sex and it has all been hush-hushed for all these years. He had
a habit of sleeping naked with women including his great niece and
other married women to see if he could control himself."
AR He liked women. So what?
2014 August 9
MIT Technology Review
The new IBM SyNapse chip is
designed to work like the brain. It is weak at arithmetic but needs
very little power, and is good at processing images, sound, and
other sensory data. In tests, it can recognize cars, people, and
bicycles in a road traffic video 100 times faster and using 100 000
times less power than a standard laptop.
SyNapse has over 5
billion transistors, but in a video test its power consumption was
63 mW. Its efficiency comes from avoiding the Von Neumann
bottleneck. A conventional processor works through a program by
constantly shuttling data back and forth from memory, wasting time
SyNapse processes information using a network of
just over a million artificial neurons that send electrical spikes
to each other via silicon synapses. Its neurons are organized into
4K identical blocks of 250. It has no separate memory or processor
and no fixed program. Neurons fire when the sum of input spikes
reaches a threshold. It requires a new approach to programming. It
2014 August 8
The House of Lords has been bloated to 850
members by the appointment of 22 new peers. The Electoral Reform
Society says the new peers have donated nearly £7 million to their
parties. ERS chief executive Katie Ghose: "These appointments
further cement the impression that to get into the House of Lords,
all you have to do is write a fat cheque to a political party or be
a party hack. The second chamber is a crucial part of our political
system, with real legislative power. It cannot be right that people
are effectively able to buy a seat at the highest level of
AR This looks corrupt.
Reform the house.
2014 August 7
In December last year, bitcoins were
trading at $1200 a pop. The Winklevoss brothers predicted that the
coins could peak at $40,000 each, but now they are worth under $600
each. Bitcoins are still mainly used to buy and sell illegal goods
Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust SEC portfolio: "As the
sponsor and its management have no history of operating an
investment vehicle like the Trust, their experience may be
inadequate or unsuitable to manage the Trust." The currency has
never been hacked, but the wallets people use to hold their currency
have been. Portfolio: "The loss or destruction of a private key
required to access a bitcoin may be irreversible."
burn my money in a bucket than give it to the Winklevoss brothers to
invest in Bitcoin.
2014 August 6
ESA DG Jean-Jacques Dordain: "After 10 years, 5 months and 4 days
traveling toward our destination, looping around the Sun 5 times and
clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally: we
are here. Europe's Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to
rendezvous with a comet."
Measurements from the Microwave
Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter MIRO suggest the comet is
emitting water vapour into space at about 300 ml/s. The Visible and
Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer VIRTIS measures its average
temperature to be about 200 K, indicating that the surface is
predominantly dark and dusty rather than clean and icy.
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 Gm from Earth and
are speeding toward the inner Solar System. Rosetta is orbiting 100
km from the comet's surface. In the coming weeks, Rosetta will
attempt a close orbit at 30 km and perhaps closer. The final
timeline for deploying Philae will be confirmed in October.