CAD image of a proposed tower
at the site of my childhood
Is the UN target of limiting global
warming to 2 K enough? Writing in Climate
Change Responses, Petra Tschakert says we need a 1.5 K target.
Hans-Otto Pörtner, an IPCC Fifth
Assessment Report author, said some species would struggle with
2 K warming but most should cope with 1.5 K.
The Body in Ancient Greek Art
2015-03-26 — 2015-07-05
British politics is broken
Electric car for one
with gyro stability
Solar eclipse viewed from
easyJet flight EZY1805 from Manchester to Reykjavik on Friday
Anglo-Saxons in British genes: most white
British people now owe almost 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of
2015 March 31
America Versus Islamic State
"Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of
our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful
about Iraq's future," said Barack Obama in March 2011.
In June 2014, Islamic State militias took Mosul. Its fall
triggered a catastrophic collapse of Iraqi forces across the
country. Huge areas and millions of citizens fell into the clutches
of ISIS, who also captured enormous quantities of US-supplied
A pageant of savagery included crucifixions,
slavery, and beheadings. IS propagandists understood that spectacle
was reality, and that this reality could spread virally across the
globe, summoning the clash of civilizations they sought.
Since then, the US military commitment in Iraq has steadily
escalated. Congress approved a bill to spend $5 billion to fight
Islamic State and now Obama has asked Congress to authorize a new
2015 March 30
Five years ago, Britain was on the brink.
Millions of people were unemployed, there was no economic security
for our families and there were worries about whether our country
could pay its debt.
Five years later,
because of our long-term economic plan and the difficult decisions
we have taken, we have more people in work than at any time in our
history, living standards are on the rise and we are more
Britain is back on its feet again: 1000
jobs are being created every single day and 760,000 more businesses
have started up. Last year our economy grew faster than any other
major advanced economy in the world.
After five years of
effort and sacrifice, Britain is on the right track. This election
is about moving forward. As prime minister, that is what I will
Sunday Times poll: Conservatives 32%, Labour
Observer poll: Conservatives 34%,
The conventional wisdom is that the Conservatives
will overtake Labour in poll share before polling day. One analysis
of the polls puts Cameron ahead of Miliband as a leader and as best
prime minister. Is this the moment when the polls turned for Cameron
and put him on course to beat Miliband?
No. Liam Fox:
"Successful political parties don't pick personalities and hope the
Drift To Brexit
UK prime minister David Cameron looks
marginalized in the European Union. The Germans, the Scandinavians,
the east Europeans, even the French are all keen to keep Britain in
the EU, but their readiness for concessions will be tested if he
wins a second term and gives Europhobia free rein.
EC president Donald Tusk says he wants to help solve the problem
in a "limited and rational way" but rules out a renegotiation of the
Lisbon treaty. In 2012, the UK government ordered a review of the
costs and benefits of EU membership. It found no case for
repatriating powers from Brussels.
2015 March 29
Humans have not left LEO since 1972, when
astronauts last walked on the moon. Robot spacecraft have ventured
to almost every corner of the solar system. When it comes to
science, robots win:
Rosetta is orbiting a comet, waiting for
the Philae lander to wake up.
Dawn is at the icy dwarf planet
Ceres, which might have a subsurface ocean.
New Horizons is set
to become the first spacecraft to visit Pluto.
Juno is scheduled
to arrive at Jupiter next summer.
Cassini has been studying the
Saturnian system for more than a decade.
Curiosity continues to
rove around on the surface of Mars.
Messenger is wrapping up a
mission at Mercury.
The human space program has a purpose. We
humans are perpetually in jeopardy if we stay on Earth, whether from
nuclear war, climate apocalypse, or a killer asteroid. To survive,
we have to spread out.
NASA has started work on a new Orion
spacecraft and the space launch system. But it cannot afford to
visit Mars. Under existing budget constraints, it never will.
2015 March 28
Astronomers have long known SETI, the Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Now some say we should encourage
a response from aliens by transmitting messages. Active SETI is
Advertising our existence could be a mortal
threat to the planet. Stephen Hawking noted that on Earth, when less
advanced societies drew the attention of those more advanced, the
consequences for the former were seldom agreeable.
this concern is overwrought. The nearest intelligent
ETs are likely to be many light years away. Simple
exchanges would take decades. Maybe we should offer the aliens Big
Data. We could transmit the contents of the Internet. A powerful
laser could beam the data in a few days.
Some say we
should choose caution and forbid powerful transmissions to the
skies. But we can do better than to declare that future generations
should endlessly tremble at the sight of the stars.
AR I supported passive SETI but I say no
to an interstellar WikiLeak.
John R. Bolton
President Obama’s approach on Iran has
brought a bad situation to the brink of catastrophe.
steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident. Now
the arms race has begun. Saudi Arabia has long been expected to move
first. No way would the Sunni Saudis allow the Shiite Persians to
outpace them in the quest for dominance within Islam and Mideast
geopolitical hegemony. Analysts believe Saudi Arabia has an option
to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan, allowing it to go nuclear
overnight. Egypt and Turkey would be right behind.
Prince Turki al-Faisal: "Whatever comes out of these talks, we will
want the same."
2015 March 27
President Barack Obama is about to repeat
the mistake of appeasing Iran that President Jimmy Carter
made decades ago.
In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
engineered a revolution in Iran and declared the Islamic Republic of
Iran. On November 4, a mob of students invaded and seized the
American embassy in Tehran and took its employees hostage. The
hostages endured 444 days of captivity.
President Carter responded by
entangling himself in a bewildering web of fruitless negotiations at the UN and the World Court. He should have told the
mullahs that they had 48 hours to release our citizens unharmed, or
else we would bomb the holy city of Qom.
Anyone who wants to
keep his hands clean should stay out of politics. Bombing Iran in
1979 would have given the world proof of US resolve as a global
superpower not to be attacked with impunity.
Churchill rebuked Neville Chamberlain when he
returned from Munich in 1938: "You were given the choice between war
and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war."
President Obama has chosen dishonor.
A hard claim: I hope it proves wrong.
2015 March 26
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Five fundamentals of Islam that need to
be removed or significantly diluted:
The status of the Koran as the last and immutable word of God
emphasis on the afterlife over the here-and-now
3 The concept of jihad or holy war
4 The writ of sharia law in everyday
5 The obligation for Muslims to
command right and forbid wrong
Muslims need to understand
Mohammed as a real man in the context of his times and the Koran as
a historically constructed text, not as a divine instruction manual.
2015 March 25
The United States plans to modernize about
200 B61 nuclear bombs hosted at air bases in five NATO countries.
The upgrade to B61-12 will make it into a precision guided standoff
weapon able to attack the same targets as previous gravity bombs but
more accurately and efficiently, using smaller yields that would
create less collateral damage and less radioactive fallout.
Under current plans, approximately 480 B61-12s are set to be
produced for five different aircraft. In addition to deployment in
Europe, the USAF intends to use the B61-12 to arm not only F-35A but
B-2 and B-52 bombers based in America. Estimated ultimate
cost of the B61 modernization program: over $10 billion.
Countries with nuclear weapons have recently embarked on big
programs to renew the strategic and tactical weapons in their
arsenals. Russia is replacing all its Soviet-era nuclear weapons
systems. The proposed US maintenance and modernization program is
projected to cost some $355 billion over the next decade and $1
trillion or more over 30 years.
The nuclear investments are
designed to make weapons harder to shoot down and more precise and
reliable. With about 16,000 nuclear weapons still on the planet,
nuclear nations have no intention of giving up their nukes anytime
AR The UK Trident is all or
nothing, and could be finessed in a crisis with a skilled opponent.
An air-launched PGM based on F-35 and B61-12 makes more sense for
realistic European scenarios where collateral damage is an issue.
2015 March 24
Slouching Toward Mecca
Michel Houellebecq said a decade ago that whoever
created monotheistic religion was a cretin and that of all the
faiths Islam was the dumbest. His novel Soumission puts us in 2022,
when France elects its first Muslim president.
months, a new social model develops, with the polygamous family at
its center. Men have different wives for sex, childbearing, and
affection. The wives pass through all these stages as they age, but
never have to worry about being abandoned. They are always
surrounded by their children, who have lots of siblings and feel
loved by their parents, who never divorce.
creates a character, Rediger, who writes sophistical books defending
Islamic doctrine. His Islamists idealize the life of piety and
despise modern culture. They believe in hierarchy within the family,
with wives and children there to serve the father. They hate
diversity and see high birthrates as a signs of civilizational
health. And they quiver with the eros of violence. But Europe is
dying and Islam is flourishing. If Europe is to have a future, it
will have to be an Islamic one.
Rediger says the summit of
human happiness is to be found in absolute submission: children to
parents, women to men, and men to God. And in return, one receives
life back in all its splendor. The Koran is an immense mystical poem
in praise of the God who created the perfect world we find ourselves
in, and teaches us how to achieve happiness in it through obedience.
Soumission is a classic novel of European cultural pessimism.
Houellebecq seems to think France has lost its sense of self.
Europeans lost their bet that more freedom would make them happier,
and now they submit to God.
Lilla has interesting views on
Europe and God.
2015 March 22
Is There a Market for Peerages?
A group of Oxford academics claim there is a
significant statistical relationship between political party
donations and nominations for UK peerages. The academics examined
the 303 Lords nominations between 2005 and the third quarter of 2014
and all donations since 2001. They isolated prominent people who
would be expected to be nominated, leaving 92 others, who donated
between them 98% of all the donations coming from nominees to the
Lords. Among those, 27 donated 95% of the total. The 27 came from a
larger pool of 779 big donors who stood out on electoral commission
The academics argue that lifetime appointments to
the UK House of Lords are in effect being sold. Yet constitutional
reform is unlikely to be top of the agenda of any of the major
political parties in the general election. The drive for reform must
come from within Westminster. Those working there are well aware
that something is seriously wrong.
Reform Parliament now!
The problem with conspiracy theorists is
how they interpret and respond to the relevant information at their
disposal. This is fundamentally a question of the way they are.
Intellectual vices are tendencies to think in certain ways.
Differences in intellectual character help to explain why people in
the same situation end up believing different things.
other bad habits, intellectual bad habits can be too deeply
entrenched to change. The only remedy is to try to mitigate the harm
the vices do to their owners and to others.
2015 March 21
We face the dual challenges of a world
view and an economic system that seem to have enormous shortcomings,
together with an environmental crisis which threatens to engulf us
all. Our ability to adapt to the effects of climate change depends
upon us adapting our pursuit of unlimited economic growth to that of
sustainable economic growth. And that depends upon basing our
approach on the fundamental resilience of our ecosystems. Ecosystem
resilience leads to economic resilience.
2015 March 20
Year after year, the software that runs
computers and other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated
and powerful. Machines now account for 10% of all manufacturing
tasks and are likely to perform about 25% of them by 2025.
Algorithms are writing most corporate reports, analyzing
intelligence data, reading mammograms, grading tests, and sniffing
out plagiarism. Computers do drug development.
workforce is subject to automation, technological unemployment must
follow. Technological progress will leave many people behind as it
races ahead. Even where automation does not eliminate jobs, it often
changes the nature of work. Automation dulls the brain, removing the
need to pay attention or master complicated routines or think
creatively and react quickly. Google is making us mindless sloths.
We live in a technophilic age. We love our digital devices and
all that they can do for us. It is naive to believe that government
is competent, let alone in a position, to control the development
and deployment of robots, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.
Government departments have their own visions of the technological
future. Business resists regulation. We, the people, are at risk.
2015 March 19
We have got a plan that is working:
A growing economy
• A record
number of jobs
• Rising living
• The deficit down
National debt starting to fall as a share of the economy
China is now sitting on top of the greatest
accumulation of bad debt and overcapacity in history. More than 1 in
5 homes in urban areas is vacant and millions remain unsold. There
are other red flags. Chinese researchers say China has wasted $6.8
trillion in investment.
Good loans result in GDP growth. When
private loan growth outstrips GDP growth, much of that excess will
be problem loans. China may have $2 trillion to $3 trillion in
problem loans. Chinese banks and shadow lenders are not reporting
bad loans close to this amount.
2015 March 18
Right On, Bibi
Israel opposition leader Isaac Herzog: "A
few minutes ago I spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
congratulated him on his achievement and wished him luck."
2015 March 17
Carbon dioxide is not the most urgent problem
facing humanity. But the next British government will be legally
committed to cutting our CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. About 90% of
our total energy still involves emitting CO2. The expansion of
nuclear and renewables is not going nearly fast enough, because
electricity comprises just one third of our energy use. We will have
to switch to electric cars and heating to cut CO2.
present technology, we cannot decarbonize our power cheaply. We
could extract CO2 from power station exhaust by carbon capture and
storage (CCS), but CCS reduces the efficiency of the power station
from about 35% to maybe 26% and roughly trebles the price to about
the same as power from an offshore wind farm. For now, there is no
way to meet our decarbonization target without bankrupting the
and barons, 1215
— Liberty — Legacy
2015-03-13 — 2015-09-01
"Give a man a fire and he's
warm for a day, but set fire
him and he's warm for
the rest of his life."
AR A little essay
about my childhood
published in Poole
2015 March 16
New US Bomber
The new US Long Range Strike Bomber
(LRS-B, probably a.k.a. B-3) is coming soon. The USAF plans to buy
80-100 of them at $550 million each, with initial fielding in 2025.
1 Have an unrefueled
range of over 5,000 nautical miles (over 9 Mm)
2 Carry less payload than previous
Even at half the payload of the B-2, the B-3 could still
destroy dozens of different targets in a single sortie using
lightweight smart bombs.
more than $550 million per plane
The target price of $550 million
per bomber is expressed in fiscal 2010 dollars. It covers the cost
of manufacture, not amortization of a $20 billion R&D program. The
total bill may look more like $900 million per plane.
4 Not contain breakthrough technologies
The B-2 bomber was designed for penetration of hostile airspace
during a nuclear war. The B-3 is likely to adapt technology from
5 Not be
The USAF will probably opt for more on-board EW gear
rather than a supersonic dash capability.
6 Not be unmanned
The fiscal 2016
budget summary describes the LRS-B as nuclear capable and optionally
manned. The combination sounds so controversial the USAF is likely
to skip it.
7 Look different from
Experts speculate the B-3 will be another flying-wing
design like the B-2. But the B-2 was conceived decades ago and
stealth has moved on.
8 Rely more
on off-board capabilities
The B-3 will be the first
information-age USAF bomber. All the legacy bombers in the current
fleet were designed before networking became central to warfare. The
B-3 will need to stay connected.
More than a hundred strong
The USAF says it wants 80-100 B-3s,
but by the time they are produced, all its current bombers will be
facing retirement. If the B-3 works, the USAF will likely replace
the whole fleet.
10 Built by
AR Another $100 billion.
RAF planners may want a few.
2015 March 15
Violence and War
Some say human beings are becoming less violent
and more altruistic. This has come about largely through the
increasing power of the state. Nuclear weapons keep the peace, and
fear of their use prevents conflict between great powers.
advances in ethics and politics are erratic, discontinuous, and
easily lost. Amid the general drift, peace and freedom alternate
with war and tyranny, eras of increasing wealth with periods of
economic collapse. Civilization remains inherently fragile.
2015 March 14
March 14 is Pi Day — 3.14.15. Pi is irrational
and absurd. It opens a window into the universe of transcendental
numbers, which exclude surds. Out of the totality of numbers, almost
all are transcendental.
Decades ago I got deeply into all this in transfinite set theory.
2015 March 13
Christianity follows changing moral fashions.
The same might be said of atheism. Evangelical atheists today view
liberal values as part of an emerging global civilization. In modern
western contexts, roughly speaking, an atheist is anyone who has no
use for the concept of God.
Sam Harris wants a scientific
morality. He takes for granted that a science of good and evil
cannot be other than liberal in content. His militancy in asserting
these values seems to be largely a reaction to Islamist terrorism.
But the ongoing reversal in secularization is not a peculiarly
Islamic phenomenon. The resurgence of religion is a worldwide
development. For secular thinkers, the continuing vitality of
religion calls into question the belief that history underpins their
values. So secular thinkers look to science for a foundation for
Friedrich Nietzsche exposed the problem atheism
has with morality. He understood that modern liberalism was a
secular incarnation of religious traditions. He was clear that the
chief sources of liberalism were in Jewish and Christian theism. He
was an atheist in large part because he rejected liberal values.
The conviction that tyranny and persecution are aberrations in
human affairs is at the heart of the liberal philosophy that
prevails today. The quintessential illusion of the ruling liberalism
is the belief that all human beings are born loving freedom and
peace and cease to do so only as a result of oppressive
conditioning. But in the larger sweep of history, it is peaceful
coexistence and the practice of toleration that are exceptional.
2015 March 12
Eurozone economic output remains below the
2007 level. The austerity policies have been taken too far.
Europeans have used political instruments to turn the financial
crisis into a debt crisis and a crisis of confidence across Europe.
Each EZ country has a common currency but a different tax
system. Fiscal policy was never harmonized in Europe. In creating
the eurozone, we have created a monster. Countries cannot reduce
their deficits unless the economy grows. Setting fixed deficit rules
for the future cannot work.
• We need to invest more money in
training and in R&D.
• We need a fiscal union and a harmonization
• We need a common EZ debt repayment fund.
Germany and France can no longer manage to tax multinational
companies effectively, because the companies are playing countries
off against each other. Many major corporations pay less in taxes
than small companies. A common EZ corporate tax would help.
We need to beef up our collective defenses on
NATO borders in Poland and the Baltic states.
been upgrading its nuclear weapons and missile systems. We need to
maintain a credible nuclear deterrent to ensure we are able to
prevent the threat of the use of such weapons against ourselves and
our allies. Our Trident deterrent does not come cheap at around £20
billion but that gives us more than 35 years of protection against
As part of our NATO commitment Britain is
expected to spend 2% of UK GDP on defense.
AR The UK Trident force is redundant if
the US commitment to NATO is good. The UK should beef up its forces
with other US purchases such as F-35C, B61-12, P-8, and BGM-109 to
reinforce US solidarity.
2015 March 11
Germany and Israel
The philosopher Kant defined enlightenment as
a process of growing up and finding the courage to think for
oneself. This requires one not only to strive to transcend the
perspective of private commitments and attempt to judge from the
cosmopolitan standpoint of everybody else but also to think aloud by
submitting one's opinions to the judgment of the reading public.
Jürgen Habermas developed discourse ethics in a heroic attempt to salvage
enlightenment thinking from the ruins of the Third Reich. He offered
Kant's ideal of public reasoning in response to Heidegger's idea of
This return to Kant will not be
achieved before German intellectuals find the courage to think and
speak about Israel. German intellectuals who do not speak implicitly
accept that their history as Germans commits them to the Jews and
not to universal humanism. Keeping silent about Israel is not the
right way to do justice to the history of the Holocaust.
Gershom Scholem emigrated from Berlin to
Palestine in 1923 and died in 1982. His life exhibits an
intellectual and cultural dual allegiance to Germany. His choice to
settle in Palestine/Israel included repeated attempts to repatriate
to Europe. He traveled around Europe after WW2 and suffered months
of depression as a result.
In the waning decades of his life,
Scholem became a strange kind of hero among the German
intelligentsia. He wrote his memoir, From Berlin to Jerusalem, in
German and published it in Germany in 1977. He is known for
groundbreaking studies in Kabbalah and Judaica.
AR Years ago I enjoyed a book by Scholem
on Jewish mysticism.
2015 March 10
Anti-Europeans frame the Europe issue as a
basic choice: are you for Britain, or are you for Europe?
Pro-Europeans must tell the truth about the 3 million jobs, 25,000
companies, £200 billion of annual exports, and £450 billion of
inward investment linked to Europe. Britzerland would be subject to
EU rules but denied a vote in shaping them. The Hong Kong option of
leaving Europe to join the world is really the North Korea option.
The true patriotic course for Britain is not just to engage but
to lead in Europe. The Britain that championed tolerance, liberty,
and social responsibility before any other is ready once again to
lead a progressive movement for change. It is a movement to mobilize
Europe to tackle the challenge of making a global economy work for
We are geographically, historically, economically,
and culturally part of Europe.
70 Years On: Tokyo
Soon after midnight,
1945-03-10: About 300 US B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs
filled with jellied gasoline onto Tokyo. The firestorm killed about
100,000 people, most of them old people, women and children. The
raid began an orgy of destruction in the final months of WW2 that
included dozens of similar raids on Japanese cities, and culminated
in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Almost 70 cities
were reduced to rubble and perhaps half a million people killed.
AR The British Trident deterrent is
capable of committing such a megadeath orgy within hours. British
decency would be its first victim.
2015 March 9
The anthropologist is a version of the
writer stripped down to its bare structural essentials. You look at
the world and you report on it. The writer as vanguard ethnographer
is a lovely idea. But it has an almost systematic unworkability
inscribed within it.
Universities have become businesses, and
not very good ones. Businesses have taken over their former role as
prime sites of knowledge generation. The best engineers and so on
end up working in business. More than half of all anthropology
graduates now work for corporations too.
The rise of
corporate capitalism and the astonishing rate of its recent
acceleration present a huge challenge to the writer, forcing him or
her to rethink their whole role and function.
2015 March 8
The New York Times
President Obama said that he and other
world leaders have offered Iran an "extraordinarily reasonable deal"
that will test whether the leadership of the Islamic nation is
serious about at last resolving the dispute over its nuclear
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed
a joint meeting of Congress to warn that the terms as publicly
reported would make it a "bad deal" that would still leave Iran with
a nuclear infrastructure that could make bombs.
Dianne Feinstein: "What Prime Minister Netanyahu did here was
something that no ally of the United States would have done. I find
it humiliating, embarrassing and very arrogant. Because this
agreement is not yet finished."
The Conservatives might fail to win a
majority in the general election. Britain might turn left, it might
turn right, it might leave the European Union, it might break up.
In any case, the British seems to have lost interest in foreign
policy. In 2009, the Conservatives withdrew from the Christian
Democratic mainstream in the European Parliament, a decision that
cut British influence in Germany. Then David Cameron announced his
intention to hold a referendum on British EU membership, cutting
British credibility in Europe. And in 2013, Parliament voted against
supporting US airstrikes in Syria, cutting friends in American too.
The Conservatives are not guaranteed re-election and perhaps
there are no votes in defense. But the UK will be worse off in a
world where it has no influence.
The UK net migration target has been
missed by a mile. Mass immigration poses profound questions about
the nature of citizenship and rights. Today 16% of the British
working age population is foreign born. Pressure on services is
straining some local authorities to breaking point.
Money is the root of all politics. Any
major political movement needs big money to fund it, and rich
business people get access and influence proportionate to their
Politics now is just accountancy. Politicians
feel the need to act as though they run something. So they act like
company directors. But the money men pull their puppet strings.
2015 March 7
Turning Poole Blue
Delivery Day for the latest Poole Town In Touch
AR Over the months I've published about
a dozen In Touch newsletters for the various Poole wards.
2015 March 6
About 4 billion years ago, Mars had enough water
to cover its surface in an ocean about 140 m deep.
NASA and ESO scientists studied Mars with three IR telescopes (Keck
II and the
ITF in Hawaii and the ESO VLT in Chile) to map its atmosphere
over six years. They measured the ratio of H2O and HDO (in which a
hydrogen atom is replaced by heavier deuterium): the greater the
water loss from the planet, the greater the ratio of HDO to H2O in
the water that remains. Atmospheric water in the near-polar region
was enriched in HDO by a factor of 7 relative to Earth ocean water,
implying that Mars lost a volume of water 6.5 times larger than the
present polar caps.
Lead author Geronimo Villanueva: "Our
study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by
determining how much water was lost to space. With this work, we can
better understand the history of water on Mars."
Water isotopic anomalies in martian atmosphere
Maps of atmospheric water and its deuterated form
across the martian globe show isotopic anomalies indicative of great
water loss. Early Mars (4.5 Gy BP) had a global equivalent water
layer at least 137 m deep.
2015 March 5
Life And Death
Yuval Noah Harari
Medicine today is more and more focused
on upgrading the healthy. This opens the possibility of creating
huge gaps between rich and poor. This century, most humans will
likely lose their military and economic value. Then the continuation
of mass medicine is not so certain.
The biggest question in economics and politics of the coming
decades may be what to do with all these useless people. Events in
the Mideast are just a speed bump on the highway of history. People
like Ray Kurzweil are creating new religions that will take over the
Globorg is great!
2015 March 4
People get together in small groups,
and these groups gradually become more extreme. They form an
identity that is resilient to argument and the norms of the outside
world. They accept a narrative that justifies further extremism and
brooks no opposition.
This has happened repeatedly in
history. Now it is Muslim identity and Islamic ideas that have been
co-opted by these groups. The burden of condemning it and
challenging it and exposing it inevitably falls upon Muslims:
Culturally, to ensure greater social integration and prevent these
Politically, to challenge a Muslim identity based upon victimhood;
Intellectually, to expose the weakness of the jihadist view of
AR I say retire Trident, upgrade QE carriers for CATOBAR ops
F-35C (not B) and B61-12, build more Astute SSN and upgrade for
nuclear Tomahawk SLCM, build more frigates, order P-8 MPA, and so on. Save billions and get
more flexible forces with adequate deterrence.
Islamic State executioner
Mohammed Emwazi, is a British computer science graduate from the
University of Westminster. This university is well known for being a
hotbed of extremist activity.
2015 March 3
The Iranian Bomb
The foremost sponsor of international
terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium
for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons.
We must all stand
together to stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
Iran's regime will always be an enemy of America. Don't be fooled;
the battle between Iran and Isis does not turn Iran into a friend of
America. When it comes to Iran and Isis, the enemy of your enemy is
Iran will become even more aggressive when its
economy has been unshackled and it has a clear path to the bomb.
This deal will be a farewell to arms control.
The Great Deceiver
Dallas G. Denery II
Saint Augustine said God cannot sin.
Everything God does, God does well and justly. So why did God send
his only son to redeem mankind? And why did Christ appear on Earth
as the man Jesus?
Well, the Devil had deceived Adam and Eve.
To undo this tangle of despair, God decided to deal with the Devil
much as the Devil had dealt with Adam and Eve. The Devil had
disguised himself as a serpent, so God disguised himself as a
sinless man. He tempted the Devil to crucify the innocent Jesus and
so to lose his grip on humanity. Augustine: "The Lord's cross
was the devil's mousetrap."
During the Scientific Revolution,
the commitment to rational causes for all events robbed God of the
power to deceive or even to interact with the world. God became the
source of universal order.
Thus the great deception was debunked.
2015 March 2
US Army chief of staff General Raymond
Odierno is "very concerned" about British defense cuts.
David Cameron: "Britain has the fifth largest defense budget of any
country in the world and the second largest in NATO. We are a very
strong partner for the US."
1 Russia poses a
threat to some of our NATO allies. Malign Russian activity in the
Baltic, the Balkans, and the Caucasus should remind us that under
Article 5 of the NATO treaty an attack on one member is an attack on
2 Upgrading our nuclear
deterrence and increases in capability will include the training and
manning for the new carriers as well as provision of F-35 joint
spending cuts in public spending should have been deeper and
earlier. Defense took its share of those cuts.
4 For Britain to fall out of the 2% club
would not only be a source of anxiety to the United States but would
undermine British moral authority.
Keep it above 2%, chaps.
Ranking By Truth
Google search currently uses the number of
incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality. A Google
research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness
of a page by tapping into Knowledge Vault. Facts the web unanimously
agrees on are considered a proxy for truth. Web pages that
contradict them are bumped down the rankings.
2015 March 1
For more than a decade, US leaders worked
to prevent Iran from acquiring or developing nuclear weapons
technology. The international community imposed sanctions that would
remain in place until we could rest assured that Iran would not
develop nuclear weaponry.
President Obama now seems prepared
to ink a deal that would put Iran on the cusp of nuclear weaponry.
Yet nothing of late suggests that Tehran will change for the better.
Iran remains an aggressive state sponsor of terrorism across the
region. Its leaders continue to threaten Israel.
View from the rooftop of Hotel A La Carte. My
Khe beach, Da Nang. Image: Thomas Uhlemann/dpa/Corbis
Vietnam 40 years on
End UK tax dodging
Live long and prosper
The first Chinese train to Spain
completed a 26 Mm round trip on a new cargo line through Kazakhstan,
Belarus, Poland, Germany, and France.
View from Russian Bear of
RAF Typhoon off Cornwall
"Marx to the left of
Thatcher to the
Here I am,
stuck in the middle
Photo: Fiona Hanson
"I'm preparing for
my final years."
AR He's younger than me!
Dresden 70 years
left 25,000 dead
2015 February 28
Islamists Versus Christians
Asra Q. Nomani
For Muslims, shirk is equating any being
with God. Various translations define shirk as paganism, idolatry,
or polytheism, and people who practice shirk are mushrikun. The
Quran says shirk is a major sin. In one hadith, shirk is worse than
murder. For most Muslim, Christians and Jews are people of the book,
but they are mushrikun for Islamic State extremists.
Wahhabists accuse Muslims of shirk if they are Shi'ites, visit the
tombs of saints, or celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.
Islamic theologists regard tombs as shirk. Islamic State has
interpreted shirk to put a veneer of ideology and piety on the
kidnapping of women from the Yazidi ethnic minority of Iraq and
Syria by calling the women mushrikun.
Translations of the
Quran by the government of Saudi Arabia feed hatred of Jews and
Christians. One translation adds parenthetical phrases: "Guide us on
the Straight Way, the Way of those whom You have bestowed Your
Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the
Jews), and not of those who went astray (such as the Christians)."
2015 February 27
Jessica T. Mathews
Bret Stephens believes that
international security is skidding downhill. The evidence suggests
otherwise. The number of armed conflicts is down by more than one
third since the end of the cold war. Recent years have also been
ones of declining threat from weapons of mass destruction. There are
now far fewer nuclear weapons in the world and fewer countries with
nuclear programs than there were twenty years ago. Stephens urges a
US global hegemony.
have so pacified Homo sap with nukes that the US Globocop looks
musclebound and Trident like overkill.
An IS militant: "These antiquities and idols behind
me were from people in past centuries and were worshiped instead of
God. When God Almighty orders to us destroy these statues, idols and
antiquities, we must do it, even if they're worth billions of
AR My psychology of
revelation gives such inner compulsion a logical semantics in which
"orders" like these arise from brain states.
2015 February 26
The economic system that we have created has
also created global warming. The system is broken. The lack of
restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.
We are going to experience global warming and far more natural
disasters. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic
warming. We also have time to change our economic system.
have to make some decisions now about what values are important to
us and how we really want to live. As long as we have a chance to
minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.
We need a
dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a
fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we
need to do and our current political reality.
The system in
which we live sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth
that are clearly not good. Emissions are rising and climate change
We need an economic and political transformation,
one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater
regulation, and a departure from this obsession with growth.
2015 February 25
As the only Muslim-led member of NATO, Turkey
has a central role to play in the Mideast. Turks aim to topple
Bashar al-Assad in Syria and to ensure that the Kurds do not exploit
Mideast chaos to carve out their own state. In both these aims,
Islamic State is not so much an enemy as a useful tool.
communicate with IS commanders and help support the IS economy. They
do not let NATO jets bomb Islamic State from Incirlik, the US
airbase in Turkey. Turkish forces went into Syria only to rescue the
holy tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the
Turkey is playing a double game. For now, we
will just have to pretend to be friends.
Well Done, Old Chap!
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
deserves a "pat on the back" for Britain's economic recovery and
should be allowed to "finish the job" of performing a "textbook"
recovery, says OECD secretary-general Ángel Gurría: "The UK has made
tremendous progress exiting from the worst economic crisis of our
lifetime. Job creation is remarkable and growth is strong."
2015 February 24
The New Way of War
Douglas A. Ollivant
Wars today are brutal and manpower
intensive. We encounter professionals who intermingle with the
population, outside national bounds, in spaces that belong to no
state or only tenuously to a state.
The United States must
1 We need to rethink the
way we go about buying our military hardware. The debacles of both
F-35 aircraft and the US Army DCGS intelligence architecture
are well documented.
2 We need
forces that work with allied forces in spaces where the state is
weak or nonexistent. Special forces teams are the capability most
needed for future warfare.
need prepared and ready land power. Indigenous land power supported
by US airpower will continue to be the preferred approach, but the
United States still needs a reliable ground force.
4 The Pentagon should focus on systems
that push power and information to the edge of the system. In our
age the force of choice has had access to centralized information.
The forces of choice for the future will need to have information
pushed out to them.
personnel management systems have defects in recruiting and
development. We need new proposals that increase flexibility and
expand the talent pool without degrading the production of leaders
who can take young men into combat.
Warfare has not changed fundamentally. Wars will continue to be
fought by young men over issues of fear, honor and interest, much
2015 February 23
Islamic State is very Islamic. Virtually
every major decision and law it promulgates adheres to the Prophetic
methodology. The Prophet reportedly said the armies of Rome will set
up camp in the Syrian city of Dabiq. The armies of Islam will meet
them and defeat them there. After that, the caliphate will expand
and sack Istanbul. An Antichrist from Iran will kill vast numbers
until just a few remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Then Jesus will
return to Earth and lead the Muslims to victory.
2015 February 22
Shortly after May 2015, the UK government will decide on
replacing the Trident SLBM force V-boats with Successor-class SSBNs.
A decision to go will lock the UK into capital spending of up to £33
billion by 2032 on the new subs, and this will likely lead to the UK
operating Trident beyond 2050 at a total LCC of about £109 billion.
If the UK scraps plans for Successor-class SSBNs and moves to a
free-fall nuclear capability based on LM F-35C JSF DCA and US B61-12
PGM, an alternative nuclear force based on 100 B61-12s has a capital
cost of less than £17 billion. This includes:
• Associated nuclear storage and C2
• Conversion of both QE-class
aircraft carriers for CATOBAR
5 additional Astute-class SSNs
4 additional Type 26 frigates
6 shipborne AEW&C and 4 COD aircraft
Converting the 14 RAF Voyager for flying boom AAR
• 8 P-8 class MPA/MMA
these investments will enhance UK conventional force projection
capabilities and precision conventional strike capability.
AR The VfM + LCC argument is convincing.
Go for F-35C + B61-12.
2015 February 21
700th Anniversary Lecture by Dr Rowan Williams:
Churches and Holy Societies"
University Church of St Mary the
Virgin, High Street, Oxford
Followed by tea in Exeter College
The Conscious Web
Kevin Kelly says AI will enliven inert
objects in the way that electricity did over 100 years ago.
"Everything that we formerly electrified, we will now cognitize."
The internet of things (IoT) will link countless objects and
people with embedded wireless identifiers that communicate
autonomously, with 50 billion nodes by 2020.
sees the IoT as the biggest online development yet. He thinks we
should "expect our devices to anticipate us in all sorts of ways"
and points to Google Now.
David Chalmers and others speculate
that all things in the universe might be (or potentially be)
conscious. If so, could we in the midst of a conscious web?
Teilhard de Chardin envisioned a global sphere of thought called the
noosphere. He saw it as the evolutionary step beyond our geosphere
AR This scenario
is my Globorg hypothesis — see my books, from
2015 February 20
Germany is not pulling its weight against the
Russian threat. UK defense secretary Michael Fallon says the
Russians pose a "a real and present danger" to the Baltic members of
Every euro for the Greeks is one less for the
Bundeswehr. German disarmament since the fall of the Berlin wall has
been greater than that from the Versailles treaty after World War I.
At the end of the Cold War the army had eight Panzer divisions. Now
it has some 63,000 active soldiers.
NATO is looking thin.
Britain and France have their eyes on other problems. Their armies
are being rebuilt around the concept of agility, meaning
lightweight. German troops played a minor role in Afghanistan, but
in Europe the German army could play to its historic strengths.
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen will overhaul
German strategy in the light of the conflict in Ukraine. A new
approach is needed for when diplomacy fails. Germany could
reinvigorate NATO by reconstituting six Panzer divisions to build up
150,000 armored troops.
Former Polish foreign minister Radek
Sikorsky: "I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in
history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I
am beginning to fear German inactivity."
2015 February 19
Evolution of Eukaryotes
David Baum and Buzz Baum
The evolution of the eukaryotic
cell was a critical event for life on Earth.
eukaryotic cell is an intricate meshwork of membranes called the
endoplasmic reticulum (ER), interspersed with other structures such
as mitochondria. At the core is the nucleus, a large compartment
with a double membrane, within which lies the DNA. This type of
cellular organization distinguishes eukaryotes from prokaryotes.
Perhaps the eukaryotic cell evolved when a prokaryote folded
parts of its outer membrane inwards, pinching off portions to
generate internal compartments. Some membranes then wrapped around
the DNA to make the nuclear membrane, while others morphed into the
ER. Other cells engulfed by the cell went on to become mitochondria.
We propose that eukaryotic cells evolved when a prokaryote
extruded blobs of outer membrane through its cell wall. These then
fused to form the peripheral parts of the eukaryotic cell that
contain the ER and mitochondria. The outer membrane of the
eukaryotic cell is new. The nuclear envelope is the boundary of the
Our model explains features of the ER
and the nuclear membrane.
2015 February 18
In 2008, capitalism had a global spasm.
The financial crisis set off a chain reaction that pushed Europe
into a downward spiral that continues to this day.
crisis of European capitalism is far less likely to give birth to a
better alternative to capitalism than it is to unleash dangerously
regressive forces that have the capacity to cause a humanitarian
bloodbath. We need to arrest the free fall of European capitalism in
order to buy the time we need to formulate its alternative.
Karl Marx created a narrative populated by workers and others who
struggled to harness reason and science in the context of empowering
humanity. Contrary to their intentions, they unleashed demonic
forces that usurped and subverted their own freedom and humanity.
This dialectical perspective on the great contradictions of the
capitalist era dissolved the paradox of an age that generated the
most remarkable wealth and the most conspicuous poverty. Beside the
dialectical relation of debts and surpluses, of growth and
unemployment, of wealth and poverty, indeed of good and evil, Marx
discovered another binary opposition: the contradiction between
human labour as a source of value that can never be quantified in
advance and labour as a quantity that is for sale and comes at a
Economic theory that treats human and other productive
inputs as interchangeable assumes that the dehumanization of human
labour is complete. But if it could ever be completed, the result
would be the end of capitalism as a system of value.
capital ever succeeds in commodifying labour, it will also squeeze
that human freedom from within labour that allows for the generation
of value. The portrayal of human freedom as an economic category is
unique in Marx.
Marx made the greatest contribution any
economist has ever made to our understanding of the contradiction
buried in capitalism. Capital can never win in its struggle to turn
labour into an infinitely elastic input without destroying itself.
Marx argued that wealth is collectively produced and then
privately appropriated through social relations of production and
property rights that rely on false consciousness.
have convinced a large array of people that markets are not just a
useful means to an end but also an end in themselves. The great
objective behind liberalism was to separate the economic sphere from
the political sphere and to confine politics to the latter, leaving
economics to capital.
Margaret Thatcher delivered a shock to
the UK. The recession her government engineered destroyed
progressive politics and the notion of values that transcended
What good will it do today to call for a
dismantling of the eurozone?
We must try to minimize the human
toll from this crisis.
Varoufakis is the Greek minister of finance.
2015 February 17
SAP S/4 HANA
SAP S/4 HANA is the biggest innovation since
R/3. SAP is breaking all limitations of the past, with a completely
Simpler: Complexity is the most
intractable business problem that all companies face today. SAP S/4
HANA will remove complexity from core systems and help companies
return to standard. CIOs will be able to reduce their company data
footprints and show a huge gain in performance. A focus on
parallelism without locking improves throughput. Companies get more
Faster: Custom code and
modifications hinder innovation. Critical modifications we can host
on the SAP HANA cloud platform. By getting back to a standard code
line, we open businesses up to a much faster innovation cycle.
Without long upgrade cycles or waiting for enhancement packs,
businesses can consume innovation frequently. CIOs can become
trusted innovation partners.
will guide SAP S/4 HANA deployment either on premise or via the
cloud. They will have the option to consume innovation packages
delivered either in the public cloud or on the SAP HANA enterprise
cloud. On premise customers can consume updates more frequently.
Companies with SAP S/4 HANA on premise can easily convert to SAP S/4
HANA on the cloud.
With complexity eliminated and innovation
easily adoptable, companies can become faster and better at what
AR I was in the HANA
team. We broke new ground.
2015 February 16
The July 2011, massacre by Anders Breivik was
the worst mass killing in Norwegian history. In a long
Breivik revealed a preoccupation with Islamic colonization abetted
by the ruling Labor Party. He had been in the Progress Party, which
warned about stealth Islamization. In 2013, the Labor Party was
voted out and replaced by the Conservative Party in coalition with
the Progress Party.
Thanks to oil, Norway's GDP per capita is
now more than $100,000. It has low income inequality and leads the
world in gender equality. Its cities are clean, almost every child
gets a public education, the prisons are models of rehabilitation,
and all tax returns are published online. The Norwegian government
sends more humanitarian aid abroad per capita than any country.
After 9/11, opposition to Muslims and Islam entered Norwegian
politics. A community of Islamophobes supported the Eurabia theory
that there was a conspiracy to Islamize Europe. Young Norwegian
Muslims founded Islam Net, an online youth organization with a
Salafist ideology, raising suspicions that it was a pathway to
radicalization. Hostility to Muslims in Norway is growing.
Muhammad began to preach to his fellow
Meccans in 612 CE. His message was based on the Quran, a new
revelation for the people of Arabia. Many believed that their god
Allah was identical with the god of the Jews and Christians. The
bedrock message of the Quran was simply that it was good to share
your wealth with the poor and vulnerable and to treat them with
2015 February 15
Classical and Quantum Gravity
The team responsible for the
visual effects in Interstellar developed new code to generate the
movie images of the wormhole and black hole Gargantua. When a camera
is close up to a rapidly spinning black hole, surfaces known as
caustics create multiple images of individual stars and of the plane
of the galaxy in which the black hole lives. The images are
concentrated along one edge of the black hole shadow and are caused
by the black hole dragging space into a whirling motion and
stretching the caustics around itself many times. The code mapped
the paths of millions of lights beams as they passed through warped
spacetime to make an iconic image for the movie.
hole focuses a light beam emitted from any point on a caustic
surface into a bright cusp of light. All the caustics but one wrap
around the sky many times when the camera is close to the black
hole. As each caustic passes by a star, it either creates two new
images of the star as seen by the camera or annihilates two old
images of the star. The simulations showed the caustics creating and
annihilating a huge number of stellar images. On the opposite side
of the shadow, the multiple images of each star are compressed
inward and are not seen in the images.
Kip Thorne: "This new
approach to making images will be of great value to astrophysicists
like me. We too need smooth images."
2015 February 14
Master of the Universe
Guy Spier read PPE at Brasenose with Dave
Cameron. After Oxford and Harvard Business School, Spier headed
straight to a toxic New York brokerage firm. Eighteen months later,
no one in the financial industry would employ him. He grasped that
the secret to making money is first to turn yourself into the kind
of person who is good at making money.
He renouncing the
excitement of shorting, of bubbles, of vertiginous rises and
headlong falls, in favor of value investing. He learned to spot
which companies are going to do well and then backed them for the
long run, knowing that their value will increase steadily over time.
He realized that the quest for value extends far beyond
financial markets into a whole way of life. He quit the buzz of New
York for the dull life of Zurich. He located his office well away
from the financial center and just ten minutes from home.
philosophy: the happier you are and the better you are at making
others happy, the more easily you generate an environment in which
you thrive not just personally but financially.
Stephen Green: clergyman, banking
executive, then chairman of HSBC from 2003 to 2010, and author of
Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain
After his elevation, Lord Green joined the Coalition
government as a trade minister. Now he has nothing to say on the
aggressive tax avoidance procured by his bank's Swiss subsidiary on
his watch, or on allegations of tax evasion.
AR I once chatted with Stephen at a
college dinner in Zurich (we are old boys of the same Oxford
college). Nice chap, moral and religious. Oops!
2015 February 13
What Putin fears most in this confrontation
is not the introduction of some Western tanks or rockets but a
thriving, prosperous Ukraine. It would be an example to the rest of
the former Soviet republics that a better, richer life can be had
under Western styles of governance and economics than under Putin's
dream of a resuscitated USSR.
Messages to ETI
Douglas Vokoch, of the SETI Institute in
California, advocates beaming powerful radio messages to
hypothetical alien civilizations advanced enough to read them.
Vokoch: "With recent detection of Earth-like planets in the
habitable zones of other stars, we have natural targets for such
transmission projects. Some would argue that we should avoid
powerful transmissions at all costs for fear of an alien invasion.
If this mindset became entrenched, it would signal a guarded vision
for humankind as isolationist, avoiding exploration, trying to
minimize risk at any cost."
2015 February 12
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and
France may be close to agreement following all-night talks in the
Belarus capital Minsk on resolving the Ukraine conflict.
AR Hope it works. We're not ready for
2015 February 11
MIT Technology Review
Power has begun work on a nuclear reactor that would be smaller
and safer than a conventional unit. The design uses molten salt as
its coolant, making it safe from meltdown, and it can burn nuclear
waste without making material for weapons. Based on a
reactor developed and tested 50 years ago at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, the new design uses zirconium hydride as a moderator,
protected from the corrosive molten salts by silicon carbide.
Experiments will test whether the new materials perform as expected.
The work is supported by
2015 February 10
Anglo-American liberalism has never been the
sole version of the tradition. The French tradition treats modern
individualism as a historical product rather than a natural fact.
Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers appealed to the classical
past in order to attack Christian oppression. They encouraged their
heirs to skirt the roots of liberalism in the Christianity that
flourished in the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages were much more
Christian than liberal. We need to explain the move from a refusal
of the relevance of Christian moral beliefs in politics to a
revolution in assumptions about the subordination of individuals to
The monotheists made the divine so otherworldly
that man was liberated. Christianity severed the monotheist promise
from terrestrial fulfillment and inscribed it in the soul. The same
revolution that alienated individuals in relation to the world
inadvertently prepared their independence from the divine and
deprived politics of any sacred meaning.
Axel Honneth: "One of the major weaknesses of contemporary
political philosophy is that it has been decoupled from an analysis
of society, instead becoming fixated on purely normative
2015 February 9
The digital economy does not so much disrupt
what went before as destroy it. We need to ask what kind of world we
want to live in. For most authors, editors, photographers, and
musicians, the 25 years since the birth of the web have been a
disaster. The winners take all, the rest wither and die. The
internet has not been an unmitigated success.
East meets West
Juliet Marine Systems
Math And Sex
Mathematics can be as good
as sex. We are
drawn to math.
Beauty is part of the process.
Brain scans show that
the experience of mathematical
beauty excites the same area of
brain as music or art. Math
prodigy Paul Erdős claimed that
proofs were so perfect
they were divine.
Russian Bear over
Poole Bay last week
2015 February 8
over the Delhi Durbar, the Emperor of India King George V and his
consort Queen Mary announced that the capital of the Raj was to
be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi and laid the foundation stone for
the Viceroy's new residence in Coronation Park.
1931 Construction completed, New
Delhi inaugurated. Viceroy of India Lord Irwin invited Mohandas
Gandhi to his palace for tea. They agreed that the Indian National
Congress would call off civil disobedience and the British would
release political prisoners and move toward participatory
1932 Viceroy Lord
Willingdon invoked emergency powers and imprisoned tens of thousands
of non-violent protesters, including Gandhi, who promptly went on
Singapore, and Burma fell to the Japanese. British power in Asia was
1947 India became
independent and Pakistan was created.
India rejected the King Emperor George VI and declared itself
2015 February 7
East Meets West
A charity evening
featuring Indian cuisine and culture
Newtown Conservative Club, Poole
Half of EU Voters Back Reform
A survey in four major European countries
finds that voters want change in the European Union.
of the people polled believe the EU should be reformed:
46% in Germany
49% in the Netherlands
49% in the
The US Navy is in a revolutionary period of
change. Juliet Marine Systems in Portsmouth, NH, has developed a
supercavitating surface craft as a testbed for technology it plans
to apply in a prototype Unmanned Undersea Vehicle.
rides on twin submerged buoyant tubular foils. It is a combination
of stealth fighter aircraft and attack helicopter technologies
packaged in a marine platform. Systems for integrating its weapons
will be capable of engaging multiple targets while GHOST operates at
very high speed.
AR Reminds me of
Turbinia, the "ocean greyhound" that dazzled onlookers at
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Fleet Review in 1897 (and of the
"bubbleboat" I designed 55 years ago).
2015 February 6
The first stars were born over 100 million
years later than we thought, says ESA Planck data.
The CMB is
the stretched relic of the "Let there be light" epoch 12 Ts after
the big bang. Planck mapped the CMB and the team has analyzed it to
find that the cosmic dark ages lasted longer than we thought. The
Planck predecessor WMAP put the start of the era at about 420 My
ABB. Now Planck sets back the start of reionization to about 550 My
The Planck data rules out the BICEP2 claim to have
detected primordial gravitational waves.
2015 February 5
Drinks and talk with UK transport minister
The Old Vicarage, Bere Regis, Dorset
Last March, cosmologists found apparent
evidence that spacetime rippled during the big bang. Astronomers at
the BICEP2 observatory reported signs of gravitational waves in the
CMB consistent with inflation. Later researchers using ESA Planck
data suggested that the BICEP2 signal could be due to dust in the
galaxy. Now another study shows that the dust can explain the BICEP2
2015 February 4
Convert Railways to Busways
Institute of Economic Affairs
Commuters could pay 40%
less to travel and more passengers could get a seat if some commuter
railways in London were converted into busways:
Commuter railways move a quarter of a million passengers into London
during the morning peak hour, many of whom have to stand, when 150
express coaches could seat them all using one seventh of the
capacity of a one-lane busway.
Journey time: Express coaches
would deliver similar travel speeds but operate more frequently.
Door-to-door time savings for coaches operating from suburbs and
villages would be greater.
Cost: Converting commuter railways
into busways would reduce fares for passengers. Conversion costs
would be high but adding new rail capacity and rail subsidies would
The government spends £6 billion a year on the rail
network. It funds about 40% of spending on the heavy rail network.
Although 90% of passengers and 70% of freight traffic go by road,
state spending on railways is only 30% lower than that on roads.
Policy decisions on rail have reflected political priorities
rather than economic logic.
2015 February 3
The global #1 public health crisis is a
soaring number of motorcycle fatalities. Across Asia, 2 and 3
wheeled vehicles account for about a third of all highway deaths,
with the highest numbers in SE Asia. Road crashes cost SE Asian
economies some 3% of GDP. Governments talk of making roads safer but
see accidents as the price of progress.
2015 February 1
Russia Versus NATO
Western policies have failed to deter Moscow.
President Vladimir Putin has not been dissuaded from his goals in
Ukraine. Sanctions imposed by the European Union and Washington have
imposed a price, but not one high enough to deter Russia from
continuing to carve out a large chunk of Ukraine.
Ukraine, NATO steps to reassure its members in eastern Europe,
primarily Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, are woefully inadequate.
NATO needs a new approach to ensure that deterrence is restored for
the Baltics and eastern Europe, a few hundred miles from the heart
To strengthen NATO, the main step was a
contingency fund to allow increased military exercises. But to
bolster the defense of Poland, instead of the new military base that
the Polish government had offered to host, the United States sent in
a unit of 200 soldiers to rotate in and out of the country during
Western leaders need to take dramatic steps to
show solidarity with new NATO members in the east. The time to worry
about Russian sensibilities is past. Moscow has charted a path of
war. The West must chart a wiser path to peace.
Chandra X-ray observatory image of
Large Magellanic Cloud star remnant SNR 0519-69.0
"Der 8. Mai war ein
Tag der Befreiung."
Richard von Weizsäcker
Globall goes virtual
EZ €1.1T QE
Demo in Hannover
Demo in London
Monday marches by PEGIDA activists have
transformed Dresden into a Mecca for Islamophobes.
2015 January 31
Yuval Noah Harari
Terror is a military strategy that
hopes to change the political situation by spreading fear rather
than by causing material damage. This strategy is almost always
adopted by very weak parties.
Terrorists aim to beat the
rival with the rival's own power. They leave all the important
decisions in the hands of the enemy. People turn to terrorism
because they know they cannot wage war, so they opt instead to
produce a theatrical spectacle.
Like terrorists, those
combating terrorism should also think more like theater producers
and less like army generals. To fight terrorism effectively we must
realize that nothing the terrorists do can defeat us. We are the
only ones who can defeat ourselves, if we overreact in a misguided
way to terrorist provocations.
The legitimacy of the modern
state is based on its promise to keep the public sphere free of
political violence. This is what makes the theater of terrorism so
successful. A huge space empty of political violence acts as a
The most efficient answer to terrorism might
be good intelligence and clandestine action against the networks of
money that feed terrorism. But this is not something citizens can
see on television.
I came into science from the philosophical side of
wanting to understand consciousness and subjectivity. Then I had to know more about the brain in order to be
able to talk about the mind.
When you have certain
experiences in meditation, or with psychedelics, that show you a
very different possibility for your experiences, moment to moment,
those don't tell you anything about the nature of the cosmos. These experiences do entitle you to say something about the
nature of human experience and its possibilities. We can then understand them further by
understanding what's happening in the brain when we have them.
The self is an idea which we know doesn't
actually make sense in terms of what's going on at the level of the
brain. And it also doesn't make sense if you pay close attention to your conscious experience. I think the good life question is the most important
2015 January 30
Great engineers have a passion to improve
life. What drives them is the conviction that they can find a better
way to do things. Instead of complaining, they think of ways to make
things better. Engineering has made a greater positive difference to
human life than almost any other human endeavor.
I am concerned about super intelligence. First
the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super
intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few
decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a
One project I am working on with Microsoft is the
Personal Agent which will remember everything and help you go back
and find things and help you pick what things to pay attention to.
The agent will work across all your devices.
AR Ah yes, absent-minded middle age.
2015 January 29
Gaming was the focus of the original Oculus
Rift VR headset. Oculus was bought by Facebook last year for $2
billion. The $200 Samsung Gear VR headset is built in partnership
Augmented reality lays virtual elements on top
of the real world instead of taking you into an entirely contained
experience. Google has invested more than $500 million in AR company
2015 January 28
A team of Microsoft engineers, designers, and
researchers has toiled to create an augmented reality headset called
HoloLens. The device weaves digital elements into the real world in
a magical merging of the virtual and physical.
I used it to
install a light switch. I put on a headset and looked at a hole in
the wall and a row of tools. An engineer Skyped in on my screen,
introduced himself, and drew a holographic circle around a voltage
tester. Then he walked me through the process of installing the
switch, sketching quick arrows and diagrams that glowed on the wall
in front of me. Five minutes later, I flipped the switch and turned
the light on.
This is the next computing interface. In this
new reality, sensors will be everywhere, producing copious amounts
of data, a layer of ambient intelligence coating every physical
object. The technology will offer a visual computing platform
controlled by speech and gesture that is so intuitive it fades into
HoloLens has three controls, to adjust
volume, to adjust the contrast of the hologram, and to power on or
off, all powered by Windows 10. When it comes to market toward the
end of this year, it will weigh about the same as a bike helmet.
NASA saw its potential to help space explorers collaborate more
closely and to provide presence. A team built a Mars simulation that
works so well that NASA plans to deploy the technology on a mission
by this summer.
AR This is right
for now. Google Glass was a step too far.
2015 January 27
The Moral Arc
When I talk about a moral arc of
progress, I mean an improvement in the survival and flourishing of
individual sentient beings. My argument is one for natural rights.
Social problems such as homicide and violence ought to be
treated as public health issues. If you agree that millions of lives
have been saved over the past couple of centuries by a reduction in
violence due to improved technologies and policies, then you might
well concur that applying the methods of the social sciences to
solving problems such as crime and violence is also something we
ought to do.
The survival and flourishing of sentient beings
is our moral starting point. Most people act in what they consider
to be moral ways. When we can clearly see that they are in fact
behaving in ways that lead to the suffering or death of sentient
beings, it is probably more accurate to say that they are mistaken
in their beliefs than that they are simply immoral or evil. And the
solution is that we need to correct their mistaken beliefs. Science
and reason are the best tools we have for doing that. Ultimately
moral progress comes about from generating better ideas rather than
The moral arc is not a smooth curve, but the
moral progress we have made is real and lasting. The trends are
encouraging. We have good reasons for optimism about the future of
Auschwitz 70 years on
2015 January 25
AR Excellent: a
better cinematic introduction to Chalmers' Hard Problem and the
AGI issue would be hard to imagine.
2015 January 24
In Tucson, Arizona, in 1994, David
Chalmers gave a talk on consciousness. Stuart Hameroff, the Arizona
professor responsible for the event, recalls: "He comes on stage,
hair down to his butt, he's prancing around like Mick Jagger. But
then he speaks. And that's when everyone wakes up."
introduced the Hard Problem of Consciousness: Why should brain
processes feel like anything from the inside? Two decades later, the
field of artificial intelligence has advanced stupendously. But the
Hard Problem remains.
René Descartes identified the dilemma
that would tie scholars in knots for years to come. You are
conscious. But this most certain and familiar of phenomena obeys
none of the usual rules of science. The mind must be made of some
special stuff. Cartesian dualism remained the governing assumption
into the early days of modern brain study.
"Evolution could have produced zombies instead of conscious
creatures ... I can see how you're behaving, I could do a brain
scan, and find out exactly what's going on in your brain, yet it
seems it could be consistent with all that evidence that you have no
consciousness at all."
Chalmers is fond of clambering on
stage to sing The Zombie Blues, a lament about the miseries of
having no consciousness. It would be satisfying if a theory were to
vanquish the Hard Problem. Chalmers has no particular confidence
that a consensus will emerge in the next century.
AR Chalmers' work inspired my book
2015 January 23
Drinks reception with Liam Fox
St Nicolas Church, Corfe Mullen
The New York Times
The HoloLens is wondrous. It suggests
that interacting with holograms could become an important part of
how we use machines in the future. Microsoft has clearly put a great
deal of engineering work into this project. When you put on the
device, which looks like ski goggles, you see 3D digital controls as
well as images from a video game superimposed on the world around
you. The holograms do not have very high resolution, but they are
crisp enough to create the illusion of reality.
draw comparisons with Google Glass. Both devices mix digital images
and daily life, and both make you look silly when you wear them. But
Glass mostly keeps the digital images out of your field of vision
and is thus more suited to be used in public. The HoloLens immerses
you more deeply in a digital environment. Glass is meant to be more
like a replacement for your phone while the HoloLens seems more like
a substitute for the personal computer. It's meant to be useful.
AR See chapter 0001 of my 2010 book
G.O.D. Is Great.
2015 January 22
The billionaires and corporate oligarchs
meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality.
For 35 years, market fundamentalism has ruled. Inequality in
income and wealth has ballooned both between and within the large
majority of countries. Under this regime of privatization,
deregulation, and low taxes on the rich, finance has sucked wealth
from the public realm into the hands of a small minority and laid
waste the rest of the economy. Not only is such appropriation of
wealth a moral and social outrage, but it is fueling social and
climate conflict, wars, mass migration, and political corruption,
stunting health and life chances, increasing poverty, and widening
gender and ethnic divides.
Escalating inequality has been a
crucial factor in the economic crisis of the past 7 years.
2015 January 21
Geert Wilders could become the next prime
minister of Holland. Ten years ago, his proposals were mostly seen
as the ravings of an extremist. Now reporters call him a populist
and no longer dismiss his xenophobic rants.
becoming increasingly hostile to Muslims and immigrants.
Islamophobes are burning mosques in Sweden and marching by the tens
of thousands in Germany. Wilders: "This is war."
he hates Islam, not Muslims: "The biggest disease we have faced in
the last decades in Europe is cultural relativism, the idea by
liberals and leftist politicians that all cultures are equal. They
are not. Our culture, based on Christianity, humanism and Judaism,
is a better culture."
He abjures violence: "We should be
tolerant to people who are tolerant to us. We should be intolerant
to people who are intolerant to us."
Michel Houellebecq is a satirist. The
principal target of his new satire is not French Islam but the
spinelessness of the French intellectual class. The portrait of the
Islamic regime is quite fond. The reform of education, the
reinforcement of the family, even the re-domestication of women are
all held up for admiration.
Like most satirists worth
reading, Houellebecq is a conservative. The Muslim warriors are
inspired by the austere ideal of submission to authority. But the
great majority of Muslim kids will do what kids everywhere do:
pursue their own interests within the system. Sharia law is the last
thing they want.
2015 January 20
Darwinian evolution takes random variation
and sieves it by natural selection. But the landscape that the
evolutionary process explores has a remarkable structure.
computer program can predict the simplest features of an RNA shape
from its sequence. RNA molecules with the same shape can vary very
widely in sequence. You can go from one sequence to another with the
same shape via a succession of small changes called neutral
Any given sequence in the search space has a huge
number of neighboring sequences that have completely different
shapes, yet it can still mutate step by step into a different
sequence with a similar function. So the search space is navigable:
You can change the genotype neutrally, without losing the phenotype.
RNA can evolve.
Proteins have this property too. Different
organisms often possess proteins with the same shape and function,
yet typically these will share no more than a fifth of their amino
acids in common. It seems evolvability is a fundamental feature of
For many organisms, you can obliterate many
of their individual genes to no obvious effect. There are plenty of
similar gene circuits that do much the same job as the original one.
A network that can evolve new features and forms among a vast array
of alternatives must be robust against small changes.
property of biological systems even deeper than evolutionary
processes is the landscape of possible shapes. The landscape has a
topology in which functionally similar combinations of the component
parts are connected into vast webs that stretch throughout a
multidimensional space, each intricately woven amid countless
The structure of these combinatorial landscapes of
biomolecules enables nature to innovate rather than only making
incremental variations on what already exists. Evolution can take a
random walk along a web of neutral mutations. Through neutral drift,
organisms can reach locations in phase space inaccessible by
adaptive mutation from their original starting position.
Evolvability and openness to innovation are features of information.
Darwinian evolution is a result of how information is organized in
AR Evolving now: the AGI God.
Plasticity may play a key role in evolution.
Instead of mutating first and adapting later, animals often adapt
first and mutate later.
A physical feature that began as a
plastic response to an environmental trigger can become a hereditary
feature. Plastic changes occur because an environmental trigger
affects a developmental pathway in some way. Random mutations can
have similar effects. So in an environment in which a particular
plastic response is crucial for survival, only mutations that allow
or reinforce this response can spread. The altered developmental
pathway becomes a permanent hereditary feature.
can determine which mutations spread. Genetic assimilation does not
overturn any fundamental principles of evolution.
2015 January 19
It seems likely that we will one day build
machines that possess superhuman intelligence. A future artificial
general intelligence (AGI) will likely exceed human performance on
every task to which it is assigned.
A superhuman AGI that
behaved exactly as intended would quickly free us from doing most
intellectual work. Absent a willingness to immediately put this new
capital at the service of all humanity, a few of us would enjoy
unimaginable wealth, and the rest would be free to starve. Even in
the presence of a truly benign AGI, we could find ourselves slipping
back to a state of nature, policed by drones.
Chaos seems a
probable outcome even in the case where the AGI remained perfectly
obedient. But the control problem appears quite difficult to solve.
Imagine that we build a computer that is no more intelligent than
the average team of researchers but runs a million times faster than
the minds that built it. What are the chances that such an entity
would remain content to take direction from us?
The fact that
we seem to be hastening toward some sort of digital apocalypse poses
ethical challenges. To have any hope that a superintelligent AGI
would have values commensurate with our own, we would have to
instill those values in it. But whose values should count?
The moment of truth: Picture ten young men in a room — several of
them with undiagnosed Asperger's — drinking Red Bull and wondering
whether to flip a switch. Should any single company or research
group be able to decide the fate of humanity?
And yet the
only thing nearly as scary as building an AGI is the prospect of not
building one. We seem to be in the process of building a God.
Billionaires and politicians gather in
Switzerland this week for the World Economic Forum in Davos. The
charity Oxfam at the gathering will demand action to narrow the gap
between rich and poor. Oxfam finds that on current trends the
richest 1% will own more than 50% of the world's wealth by 2016.
2015 January 18
The British army spent 8 years in Afghanistan.
It was a military and political catastrophe. British troops were
responsible for the deaths of at least 500 Afghan civilians and the
injury of thousands more. From 2001, 453 British forces personnel
were killed in Afghanistan and more than 2600 wounded. The British
operation cost around £40 billion.
Tony Blair was responsible
for the decision to send the army to Helmand in 2006. Senior
American officers in Iraq had become weary of British boasting. The
British high command realized that their American patrons considered
them to have been beaten in Iraq. They decided this disaster made it
even more important to persevere in Afghanistan.
of their arrival, British troops were fighting for their lives. The
initial headline deployment was 3500 British troops. The number of
men trained to go out on patrol with weapons was about 700. The
soldiers were mostly exultant at having survived their battle
initiation. The officers were wary and diplomatic. The corporals and
sergeants understood quickly that the people attacking them were
locals and that the British army was being forced on the defensive.
In 2008 almost half of all attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan
were in Helmand. Eventually the Americans sent in the Marines,
bailing Britain out a second time. This left British troops
effectively subordinate to US plans. The Americans were keen to
implement an aggressive surge in Afghanistan. The British were
obliged to go along with it.
The British were hated in
Helmand. The British army had a history of invading Afghanistan and
the reaction to the British arrival was astonishment. The British
were fighting local men led by local barons. The Taliban provided
money, via their sponsors in the Gulf, and ideas the barons could
franchise. The British and Americans got played.
Friedrich Nietzsche saw Western civilization
moving in the direction of the Last Man, an apathetic creature with
no great passion or commitment. We are the Last Men, immersed in
stupid daily pleasures, while the Muslim radicals are ready to risk
everything, engaged in struggle up to self-destruction.
passionate intensity of the terrorists bears witness to a lack of
true conviction. A belief is fragile if it is threatened by a stupid
caricature in a weekly satirical newspaper. The problem with
fundamentalists is not that we consider them inferior to us, but
rather that they themselves secretly consider themselves inferior.
The rise of radical Islamism is exactly correlative to the
disappearance of the secular Left in Muslim countries. Liberalism is
not strong enough to save its core values against the fundamentalist
onslaught. Fundamentalism is a reaction against a real flaw of
liberalism. The only thing that can save its core values is a
Max Horkheimer said about fascism and
capitalism that those who do not want to talk critically about
capitalism should also keep quiet about fascism. Today those who do
not want to talk critically about liberal democracy should also keep
quiet about religious fundamentalism.
2015 January 15
David Cameron and Barack Obama
Progress and prosperity
are never guaranteed. As we meet today at the White House, we
reaffirm our belief that our ability to defend our freedoms is
rooted in our economic strength and the values that we cherish —
freedom of expression, the rule of law and strong democratic
We need strong and determined leadership to meet the challenges
of our time:
1 We must do all we
can to bolster our economies against another global economic
2 We will continue to stand
together against those who threaten our values and our way of life.
3 We will continue to stand up to
Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine.
European extremists are getting a boost
from the French tragedy. Most Europeans like mobility and migration
within the European Union but dislike immigration from outside the
EU. Most view Islam as incompatible with the Western world and many
see Islam as a threat.
Populist and extreme right parties are
tapping these sentiments:
• Nigel Farage of UKIP blames a
"fifth column" in Europe.
• Geert Wilders of the Freedom
Party says it is time to "de-Islamize" the Netherlands.
• Marine Le Pen of the Front
National says the time is up for denial and hypocrisy.
• Alexander Gauland of the AfD sees
proof it was wrong to ignore the Islamist threat.
pressure on Europeans:
• European Muslims are at risk of
being marginalized in European societies.
• European politicians will push to
restrict immigration and increase security.
• Fortress Europe will become even
more of a reality.
Köln, Mittwochabend: Einer Demonstration von
150 "Kölnern gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes" (Kögida)
standen laut Angaben der Polizei 6500 Gegendemonstranten gegenüber.
Unter die wenigen Kögida-Anhänger hätten sich auch Hogesa-Anhänger
("Hooligans gegen Salafisten") gemischt.
2015 January 14
Wagner and the Jews
The Wagner question concerns the morality of art and of music.
Wagner understood that a myth is also a vehicle of deeper truths. To
Wagner, the Gesamtkunstwerk is a drama of collective salvation.
The God of the Jews, Wagner wrote in Religion and Art, is doomed
by art. Art is the true creation, before which His false one pales.
The end of salvation is to become music, to dissolve into pure
sound, all life's dissonances resolving into the absolute.
2015 January 11
In her New Year address, Chancellor Angela
Merkel gave some motherly advice to German citizens, telling them to
stay away from rallies in Dresden organized by PEGIDA.
divided on immigration. A recent poll found that while most of its 4
million Muslims like democracy, half of all Germans view Islam as a
threat, 60% believe Islam is incompatible with modern life, and 1 in
4 would end Muslim immigration.
The poll found that older
people feel more threatened than younger ones, and that Islamophobia
is greatest where there are the fewest Muslims. In Saxony, where
PEGIDA was born and less than 1 in 1000 is Muslim, 70% feel
Alternative for Germany, AfD, founded in 2013,
opposes the euro and criticizes Merkel for moving too far to the
center. The AfD caucus in Saxony is talking with PEGIDA.
AR European opinion is mobilizing
All communities can do more to help deal with
terrorists. But there is a special burden on
because whether we like it or not these terrorists call themselves
They try to take a great peaceful religion and warp it for
their own means. To say that this has got
nothing to do with Islam
and Muslims would be wrong. These people are taking a peaceful
a billion people around the world and using it as their
tool to carry out their horrible activities.
Photo: Tim Woodcock
2015 January 11
Germany: A Force For Good
Chancellor Merkel arrived in London last week
as the leader of Europe's most successful liberal democracy. Germany
is quietly attempting to anchor Europe in the same successful
combination of liberal democracy, social solidarity, and productive
capitalism that it enjoys. Germany is not living in the past like
today's Britain, hankering to restore lost certainties.
MacGregor says Germany can only face its historical crimes,
genocide, and millions of war dead with a resolve to never again
make the same mistakes. Germany is now freed of imprisoning and
destructive myths. It has become a force for good, too little
recognized in Britain because we still define ourselves as a victor
over Germany when it was evil.
For Germany, the nation state
has been an interlude between the Holy Roman Empire and the European
Union. The union is the only way to conceive of the future and
create a peaceful and productive Europe. Senior German officials
talk privately in these terms, categories that bewilder the British
still locked in fundamentally traditional political categories.
Germans want to see the atrocities in Paris as the acts of a
murderous cult fueled by marginalization rather than join in any
putative clash of civilizations. They would love Britain to recall
that at different times it has fought alongside Germans, to drop its
fixation with old wars and make common cause to build a great
future. Europe could be so much stronger.
2015 January 10
Now is a trick of the mind. We experience a
succession of nows as time passing. Neuroscientists and
psychologists say now lasts on average between 2 and 3 seconds. This
is the window within which the brain fuses experience into a
psychological present. The property of flow emerges from a hierarchy
A functional moment is the timescale at which a
person can distinguish one event from another. This varies for
different senses. The auditory system can distinguish two sounds 2
ms apart, whereas the visual system requires much longer. For the
brain to detect the order of stimuli, two events must be at least 50
ms apart. Even if the asynchrony between audio and visual streams is
up to 200 ms, the brain can adjust the signals to synchronize them.
Our brains integrate stimuli into a cohesive whole within a
window of up to 2.5 s. This is the subjective present. Our sense of
now is a psychological illusion based on the past and a predicted
future. We combine the experienced moments to feel a sense of
continuity. This mental presence underpins the sense of self.
AR This was the key theme in
13 of my 2009 book
2015 January 9
Marine Le Pen
Islamists have declared war on France. The
Charlie Hebdo shooting was a terrorist attack carried out in the
name of radical Islam.
Them and Us
The Charlie Hebdo tragedy is not reducible
to anything as simple as two cultures clashing over the sanctity of
a prophet. Which is not to say that this has nothing to do with
religion. There is far too much cowardice and equivocation when it
comes to such issues. But to engage in war talk is to give in to the
reductionism demanded by terrorists.
Islam means submission to the commands of
Allah. Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of
expression. Their speech and actions are determined by divine
revelation. Muslims consider the honor of the Prophet Muhammad to be
dearer to them than that of their parents or even themselves. To
defend it is an obligation. The Messenger Muhammad: "Whoever insults
a Prophet kill him."
France: Islam Threat
The number of Muslims in France is up to 6
million, about 10% of the population. But 70% of the inmates of
French prisons are Muslims. A recent poll found that 43% of the
French see Islam as a threat to the French national identity. Nearly
70% say Muslims have failed to integrate into French society.
2015 January 8
Fossil Fuel Folly
Nature study reveals the geopolitical and economic implications
of tackling global warming for countries and companies that rely on
fossil fuel wealth. Trillions of dollars of known and extractable
coal, oil and gas cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise
is to be kept under the internationally agreed 2C safety limit.
Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming.
Deadline to seal a global climate deal; December, UN summit,
We must go nuclear.
The Case for Mocking Religion
Christopher Hitchens (2006)
Islam makes very large claims
for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing
the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet is
apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in
some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good
Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right
to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning
and proof of an aggressive intent.
On the question of
1 Suppose that we
all agreed to comport ourselves in order to avoid offending the
believers. How could we ever be sure that we had taken enough
precautions? Those who are determined to be offended will discover a
provocation somewhere. We cannot possibly adjust enough to please
the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.
2 Can the discussion be carried on
without the threat of violence, or the automatic resort to it? There
can be no negotiation under duress or under the threat of blackmail
and assassination. And civil society means that free expression
trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be
Agnès Poirier (2007)
Charlie Hebdo is being sued for
racism by the Paris Grand Mosque, the Union of Islamic Organizations
of France, and the World Islamic League.
We have to stop
mistaking healthy criticism of religion for racism.
Deadly Mutation in the Heart of Islam
Salman Rushdie (2015)
Religion deserves our fearless
Europe in Decline
Arthur C. Brooks
Europe's core problems are demographic,
not economic. Nearly 1 in 5 Western Europeans was 65 years old or
older in 2014. By 2030, this will have risen to 1 in 4. The last
time the countries of the European Union were reproducing at
replacement levels was some 40 years ago. In 2014, the average
number of children per woman was about 1.6.
Europe needs visionary
leaders and a social movement to rediscover that people are assets,