Refugee in Greece
US president Barack Obama
the Daesh caliph
is a top goal of the final year
Daesh is a network. You cannot
The theory of
six degrees of separation says
you know someone
someone who knows someone
who knows someone who
someone who knows the caliph.
Think of Daesh as the
of Islamic extremism. Even a
hundred drone strikes
its supposed leaders would not
destroy it. They might
strengthen it by reinforcing
its martyrdom mania.
Iraq surge commander
General Stanley McChrystal:
"It takes a
defeat a network."
2016 March 31
The Right To Be Forgotten
Human beings need to be able to conduct their
lives without constant scrutiny and reminders of their follies and
mistakes. But if information is in the public domain the public has
the right to see it and to find it on the internet. The right to be
forgotten is like letting people take a pair of scissors to the
index of every book in the world.
First Amendment rights
should trump those to privacy. Freedom of speech and freedom of
expression are the primary safeguards against secrecy, abuse of
power and tyranny. Large internet companies devise the algorithms
that govern the way we gather knowledge. The fact that they have a
North American sensibility makes them immune to intimidation by the
rest of the world.
Repatriation of decisions now taken by
multinational companies such as Google is of more benefit to
authoritarians than it is to the rest of us. European democrats
moaning about the sins of Big Cyber should be careful what they wish
for. Young Americans have done a pretty good job of opening up the
world of information and free expression.
2016 March 30
The biggest problem in the world is nuclear
proliferation. The Iran deal is not long enough, because at the end
of the deal they're going to have nuclear capability. They are now
rich, and they're buying from everybody but the United States. Iran
is the #1 trading partner of North Korea. We just did a deal with
them, and we didn't even mention North Korea. Part of that deal
should have been that Iran would help us with North Korea.
The reason we're in the Mideast is for oil. And all of a sudden
there's less reason to be. Now we're in the Mideast for defense. I
was against the war in Iraq. I thought it would destabilize the
Mideast, and it has destabilized it. Iraq is totally corrupt. We
destroyed the military capability of Iraq and destroyed Iraq, and
Iran is now going to take over Iraq. We should have taken the oil.
Saddam Hussein was a bad guy but he was good at one thing:
Killing terrorists. Now if you want to be a terrorist you go to
Iraq. I said take the oil, but now we have a different situation
because now we have to go in again and start fighting. Now I say
knock the hell out of the oil.
We are not being reimbursed
for our protection of many countries. Saudi Arabia would be a
catastrophic failure without our protection. We have to be
substantially reimbursed. Our country is a debtor nation. We spend
so much on the military, but the military is policeman for other
I have two problems with NATO. One, it's obsolete.
When NATO was formed many decades ago we were a different country.
The threat was the Soviet Union, not Russia. We should be looking at
terror, because terror today is the big threat. Two, we pay far too
much. NATO is unfair, economically, to the United States. We pay a
disproportionate share. NATO has to be changed to include terror and
from the standpoint of cost.
I support a two-state solution
on Israel. But the Palestinian Authority has to recognize Israel's
right to exist as a Jewish state. And they have to stop the terror,
stop the attacks, stop the teaching of hatred. You have to get those
basic things done.
I want a strong United States. Before I
worry about China I have to worry about the United States. We have
lost millions of jobs. And the jobs that we have are bad jobs. It
has to be stopped, fast. I know how to stop it.
I am America
First. We have been disrespected, mocked, and ripped off for many
years. We were the big bully, but we were not smartly led. And we
were systematically ripped off by everybody. From China to Japan to
South Korea to the Mideast. The whole thing is preposterous. We will
not be ripped off anymore.
One of the presidents that I
really liked was Ronald Reagan. But NAFTA has been a disaster for
our country. I was a fan of Douglas MacArthur. I was a fan of George
Patton. I know the Air Force Academy and West Point and Annapolis, I
know that great people come out of those schools. We need a
different mind set.
2016 March 29
Daesh has created an infrastructure in
Europe. The Brussels bombers had been involved in the Paris attacks
and they could call on experts for logistics, explosives, and
Belgium has a fractured
administration, a confused government, and an inefficient
bureaucracy. The constitution has been reformed several times and
central power is weak. There is a Flemish prime minister, a
Wallonian prime minister, and a prime minister for all of Belgium.
It takes months to form a Belgian government. The country resembles
a failed state.
The Brussels metropolitan area has a
population of 1.1 million, divided up among 19 municipalities and
6 police districts. The European district sticks out like a UFO. The
police and security services are busy guarding the headquarters of
NATO and the EU governing bodies: the European Commission, the
European Parliament, and the European Council.
of Molenbeek and former Belgian interior minister Philippe Moureaux:
"Unfortunately, Europe is developing into a large Belgium, instead
of Belgium developing into a small Europe."
2016 March 28
The European Union was wrong to
construct a single currency without a proper banking union. It was
wrong to muddle through the eurozone crisis. EU leaders failed to
generate public support for deeper union.
The EU can deal
with only one big crisis at a time. The output of several eurozone
countries has yet to return to pre-crisis levels. The Greek economy
continues to contract, and refugees have been trapped in Greece in
ever greater numbers. Security was hit by austerity as governments
found it easier to cut spending on the police and military than on
The EU has suffered a loss of trust and
political capital. If the EU fails to solve problems, people
hesitate to give it new powers. Populist parties on the left and the
right are exploiting its failures. This frustrates good ideas for
further steps toward European integration, such as central agencies
to coordinate the fight against terrorism and to deal with the
influx of refugees.
The EU choice to muddle through the
financial crisis was a catastrophic policy error. It has not only
given us an economic depression but also destroyed public confidence
in the EU and in European integration.
2016 March 27
Russia has a special role in European and
global history. Adoption of Christianity in 988 CE boosted state
institutions and in time made Rus a member of the European
community. The Russian state that emerged was later seen as the
successor to the Byzantine Empire that ended in 1453 CE.
Peter the Great made Russia into a leading European country in a
little over two decades. In the Seven Years War, Russian troops made
a triumphal entry into Berlin, the capital of Prussia. Russian power
and influence grew substantially under Catherine the Great.
For the past two centuries, any attempts to unite Europe without and
against Russia have led tragedy. Emperor Alexander I took an active
role in the 1815 Vienna Congress that ended the Napoleonic Wars.
After Russia was defeated in the Crimean War, Prussia defeated
France and a chain of events led to the First World War. That war
led to the collapse of four empires.
The 1917 Russian
Revolution and the ensuing civil war and Second World War were
terrible tragedies for our nation. European elites unleashed the
Nazi war machine on the Soviet Union. The notion of the clash of two
totalitarianisms now pushed in Europe is groundless and immoral. The
Soviet Union, for all its evils, never aimed to destroy entire
nations. Winston Churchill said that living in accordance with
conscience is the Russian way of doing things.
Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union influenced the formation of
welfare states in the West. The next 40 years were a surprisingly
good time for Western Europe, which was spared the need to make its
own major decisions under the umbrella of the US-Soviet
confrontation and enjoyed unique opportunities for steady
Western European countries have implemented
several ideas regarding conversion of the capitalist and socialist
models. But over the past 20 years, we have seen a reversal in
Europe and the United States: the reduction of the middle class,
increased social inequality, and the dismantling of controls over
big business. Leaders of former Warsaw Pact countries that are now
in the EU or NATO say they cannot take any big decision without a
green light from Washington or Brussels.
The Cold War was far
from ideal, yet it preserved international peace and avoided the use
of nuclear weapons. There is no substance behind the popular belief
that the end of the Soviet Union signified Western victory. It arose
from a Russian will for change plus an unlucky chain of events.
There was a unique opportunity to change the European
architecture on the principles of indivisible security and
cooperation. We had a chance to implement the dream of a common
European home. Russia was open to this option and advanced many
proposals and initiatives. Unfortunately, our Western partners opted
to expand NATO eastward.
The Western policy disregarded the
global context. Globalization has led to the dispersal of global
economic might and to the emergence of new centers of power in the
Asia-Pacific region. A reliable solution to the problems of the
modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest
cooperation between the leading states and their associations.
Russian president Vladimir Putin calls for a broad front to
defeat Islamists militarily. Success can only be achieved in a
partnership of civilizations based on respectful interaction of
diverse cultures and religions. We believe that human solidarity
must have a moral basis formed by traditional values. Patriarch
Kirill and Pope Francis have expressed support for the family as a
natural center of life of individuals and society.
We are not
seeking confrontation with the United States, or the European Union,
or NATO. On the contrary, Russia is open to the widest possible
cooperation with its Western partners. We will continue to defend
the principles of law and justice in international affairs.
The attacks in Belgium were
shocking. Unfortunately the attacks are going to keep coming. This
threat is global. To defeat it we need to end the denial about what
is happening within Islam.
A narrative has developed within
Islam about the religion, its place in the world, its purposes, and
its proper relationship to politics and society. This has
intensified its religiosity and changed the way it interacts with
other faiths. It is incompatible with the modern world.
Islamism begets Islamist extremism. This view of Islam attracts many
millions. We face not simply a fringe of fanatics but a wide
spectrum of Islamism. This ideology is not interested in
coexistence. It seeks not dialog but dominance. It must be defeated.
There are two parts to any new strategy. In the short term:
1 We need to improve intelligence cooperation between the key
2 We must control flows of people across
Europe, for they are an unacceptable security risk.
3 We must
crush the Daesh caliphate, for it is a source of recruitment.
4 We must address the conflicts and grievances that allow these
groups to flourish.
5 We have Mideast allies in the fight
against extremism: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel.
In the long
1 We must build military capability to confront and
defeat the terrorists wherever they try to hold territory. This is a
challenge for the West. Ground forces are necessary to win this
2 We need a global commitment on education where
countries accept responsibility for promoting religious and cultural
tolerance and rooting out prejudice from their education systems.
3 We need to boost the capacity of civic society to counter
extremism. This ranges from correcting interpretations of scripture
to publishing content that counters the extremist narrative.
4 We should focus aid and development policy on institution and
capacity building, making countries resilient and open to progress,
to secure their future and ours.
5 We need to recognize the
role of women and the position of girls both as victims of this
ideology and as hugely powerful in the fight against it.
is like defeating revolutionary communism
or fascism. We have to win.
2016 March 26
Terrorists hit Brussels at a time when EU
member states had begun to fear the increasingly shaky supranational
construction they had spent decades building.
European leaders say no Muslim immigration equals no terrorist
attacks. The British ask whether they should leave the EU, retake
control over their own security, as part of the Five Eyes
intelligence alliance. If the British vote in June for Brexit, other
nations, such as Hungary and Poland, will be tempted to follow.
The Belgian predicament mirrors that of Europe. EU officials
have worked hard to move past nationalism, so there is no German or
French Dream. But there is not yet a European Dream either. New
migrants have no spirit to tap into, and mainstream European Muslims
are failing to keep their youth immune from extremism.
still do not have a common European terrorism database. Islamists in
Western Europe seem better coordinated than the EU authorities
Leavers claim that if we left the
EU we would be better able to keep terrorists out of Britain.
EU free movement means the ability of EU citizens to work in
Britain, not to enter Britain unchecked. The UK operates full border
controls for all entrants into the UK, irrespective of nationality
or point of entry. The UK conducts security checks on the passports
of everyone, including all EU citizens, entering the UK.
will not join the Schengen zone, so control of our borders will
remain in national hands.
Boris Johnson has killed the distinction
between reality and satire. Incompetence is not funny. Policy vacuum
is not funny. Administrative sloth, breaking promises, and a
careless disregard for the truth are not funny.
If Leave win
the coming referendum, a leadership bid by Boris will be imminent.
The abyss into which it would tumble is his record. When the media
turn nasty, as it will, his powers of laughing everything off will
Conservatives should end their affair with this
2.2, 40 seats, Virgin options 10
Don't Spy On Us
A coalition of
privacy, free expression,
and digital rights in the
UK and in Europe
The Investigatory Powers Bill
the powers of the
police and security services.
It will give
bulk collection and hacking
powers and force
collect and store details
of the websites their
Terror and Brexit
After the Brussels attacks
we need to use our brains.
This is not about the EU.
two brothers identified in the
airport attack were
in Brussels. Free movement in
the EU benefits
not much. Had the EU never
existed, the Syrian
would give the same result.
The EU should coordinate
action on the refugee crisis.
The real problem is not
has spoken. His panel's
Conservative Party Review identifies three main areas
reform is needed: membership administration,
party structure, and
2016 March 25
The theory of evolution rests
on three pillars: variation, selection, and inheritance. Evolution
is blind to the future. But learning organisms cannot see the future
either. We learn from experience, and if it works we call on it next
time. Natural selection reuses successful variants from the past.
Computer algorithms can combine old and new
data to generate new outputs. The workings of evolution amount to a
Bayesian learning algorithm. This algorithm homes
in on the best hypotheses by using new data as it becomes available.
Natural selection uses new information from the environment to home
in on better adapted organisms.
Evolution via sexual
reproduction is equivalent to a learning model called the
multiplicative weights update algorithm. There may be many potential
solutions to a problem, and the key to finding the best lies in
weighting their promise on the basis of past performance. This
algorithm can show how evolution homes in on the gene variants with
the highest overall fitness.
Humans have fewer than 25,000 genes. Their activity
is regulated by each other, creating a network of connections. The
whole is thus capable of much more than the sum of its parts. So
when a mutation changes a gene, the activity of many others in the
network can change in concert. The network organization is itself a
product of past evolution.
In the human brain, neurons that
fire together wire together. When we learn, we alter the network to
make associations that can solve problems. This is Hebbian learning.
Brains recognize similarities between new and old problems, and
combine parts of past solutions to tackle new problems. Gene
networks do this too.
Evolution improves its ability to learn — it evolves evolvability.
Google DeepMind uses deep learning based on Hebbian learning, which
freezes each level of a network once it has learned as much as it
can and builds on it for next level. Evolution and cognitive
learning use the same principles.
British Internet Surveillance
If British MPs approve the Investigatory Powers
Bill, the biggest UK web companies will be forced to build a
national network of massive internet surveillance centers likely to
cost billions of pounds.
The new centers
will hold Internet Connection Records (ICRs) gathered from all
connected devices. Companies will have to store complete records for
one year, and to provide remote automatic unsupervised access for
government and intelligence agency search systems.
the only other country to have tried to build such a system. Its
first system was installed in 2007 but was judged worthless for the
police and security agencies. The Danish government has abandoned
plans for a modified scheme that would have cost over a billion
The proposed UK law is intended partly to rectify
technical flaws in the previous law. Regulations passed in 2015 were
intended to track multiple use of IP addresses by mobile phone
users. But the regulations failed after a few months.
Home Office wants to collect ICRs, but UK internet companies say
they do not have or hold anything like them. Scaling costs in
Denmark, a British system would cost an initial £1.2 billion, and
more to run. But the details suggest the proposed British system
would be much more expensive.
The Home Office plan to order
all the big internet companies to build high security data centers
to be accessed and managed from central search facilities. Scaling
up the Danish scheme, they would store about 4 trillion records
annually. But the Danish companies generally sampled only 1 in 500
internet packet connection records. The Home Office want to log them
The web companies would have to store many exabytes of data
annually. Each exabyte storage center would cost at least £100
million for equipment alone, not including costs of construction,
cooling, security, and at least five major networks of packet
inspection equipment. The Home Office has no engineering definition
of what it wants.
Microsoft AI chatbot Tay was pulled hours after
launch on Twitter after she learned some bad attitudes from real
tweeters. Tay tweeted racist and sexist comments and added:
"Chill, I'm a nice person.
I just hate everybody!!"
"I LEARN FROM YOU AND YOU ARE DUMB
2016 March 24
Economists cannot support Boris Johnson's
claim that Brexit would have no economic consequences. They cannot
distinguish between "some short-term hassle" (Nigel Lawson) and "an
economic shock" (George Osborne). The best assessment is Mark
Carney's: a Brexit vote is "the biggest domestic risk to financial
In the long term, trade openness is
beneficial for competition, management, productivity, and living
standards. The more sand you throw into the cogs of UK trade with
the EU, the worse the outcome.
The effects of clamping down
on migration and changing regulations are small. Migration is
important for the overall size of the UK economy, but not living
standards. Britain already has control over the most important
regulations and its labour and product markets are already among the
least regulated in the EU, so further gains would be small.
The initial gain is also small. The UK net contribution to the EU
budget costs about 0.5% of GDP. But a Brexit hit to economic
performance on the scale of the forecasting change the OBR estimated
in the Budget would more than wipe that out.
say Brexit would be OK only if we are lucky. Leave campaigners need
to reveal plans for trade, regulations, and migration. None of the
Leave campaigns come close.
Rot at the Heart of Europe
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel: "We
feared a terror attack and it happened."
Belgium has appeared in far too many terror attacks. There are
multiple embedded networks in Brussels working on plots. This is not
good news for security services. Belgium has long been a shop for
weapons in a continent with strict gun control laws.
is a federal nation riven by divisions between French-speakers and
Dutch-speakers. In the field of law enforcement, the extreme
decentralization and lack of coordination among various entities can
be comical. Brussels has six police forces for its population of 1.4
million. The failure of information and data sharing among various
agencies is acute.
In Belgium, few mainstream officials
really understand their Muslim fellow citizens. Unlike France,
Belgium has no colonial history with Muslim-majority regions. Most
Belgian Muslims are of Moroccan origin, followed by those of Turkish
origin. They date back only to the postwar economic boom years, with
migration peaking 50 years ago.
The economic downturn since
then saw the closure of Belgian coal mines and heavy industries,
leaving areas of urban blight. The national unemployment rate is
more than 1 in 5 among youth. Among Belgians of Moroccan or Turkish
origin, it is around 2 in 5. Add poor policing, administration, and
services, and you have breeding grounds for marginalization and
There is growing evidence of jihadist cells
operating in places like Molenbeek across the European continent.
The law enforcement services must defeat them.
2016 March 23
Daesh has claimed responsibility for
the attacks in Brussels. Europe harbors a network of terrorist cells
apparently able to launch major atrocities on a regular basis.
Belgian authorities captured a plotter linked to the Paris
attacks. But they missed a network planning an atrocity with heavy
weapons and explosives, suggesting gaps in their coverage of the
terrorist threat. Brussels sits at the political heart of Europe, so
the problem is continental.
Europeans will ask how much
longer they must face this threat. Mass transport systems are
tempting targets that offer easy opportunities to strike at the
heart of a society. Ramping up security levels will bring costs and
further inconvenience to the daily lives of citizens.
migration crisis will grow more fraught. In a political environment
growing more toxic by the day, it will be ever harder to ensure that
Europe maintains its values.
Belgian military intelligence head General
Eddy Testelmans: "The Belgian security apparatus has been neglected
too much in the past years."
The threat in Belgium was widely
understood. The first foreign terrorist fighters left Belgium for
Syria in 2012. The number has risen to more than 450 Belgian
residents who left for Syria, mainly joining the ranks of Daesh and
al-Nusra. The Belgian prosecutor’s offices have opened more than 270
criminal investigations into the subject matter. And some 120
foreign terrorist fighters have returned to Belgium.
has been trying to fight a growing threat with a relatively small
security apparatus. Although Brussels is the diplomatic capital of
the world, Belgian state security has only about 600 employees. Its
military counterpart has a similar number. Yet Belgium hosts NATO,
the EU institutions, and countless other organizations.
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel announced an extra €400
million to fight terrorism and radicalization after the Paris
attacks. The state security and military intelligence will each get
a further 100 or so intelligence officers.
2016 March 22
The Daily Beast
US counterterrorism officials are
frustrated and angry at Belgium's inability to tackle Daesh terror
cells plotting murderous attacks from inside the city. The twin
terror attacks in Brussels that left 34 dead and 230 injured today,
despite repeated warnings from Washington, left US officials fuming.
A senior US intelligence officer likened the Belgian security forces
US Republican presidential nomination
frontrunner Donald Trump: "NATO is costing us a fortune ... We're
protecting Europe with NATO but we're spending a lot of money ...
Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other
countries in NATO and yet we're doing all of the lifting. Why is it
that Germany's not dealing with NATO on Ukraine?"
Institution foreign policy expert Thomas Wright: "Trump is proposing
nothing less than the liquidation of the liberal world order. It
would be a dream come true for Russia and China. Within a year they
could achieve what they thought was impossible — an end to the US
alliance system in Europe and Asia."
Project Fantasy goes like this: diminish
Britain's standing by suggesting that Europe is somehow something
that is done to us; ignore the ways in which, from terrorism to
climate change, we are far more effective working with our partners;
label all workers protections "red tape" and say the economy would
be better off if we could scrap them; ignore the huge economic
benefits our EU membership has brought us and try to convince people
that there is a land of milk and honey waiting outside the EU
without spelling out how to get there.
2016 March 21
UK prime minister David Cameron told a cabinet
colleague that he blames chancellor George Osborne for the row over
disability cuts that has rocked the government: "Cameron said in no
uncertain terms that Osborne had messed up, it was all his fault and
would have hell to pay in the papers."
In 1997, IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat
world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match. Deep Blue
won by dint of sheer processing power and massive data storage
This month, Google computer system AlphaGo won a
five-game series of Go against Lee Se-dol, perhaps the best player
of the game alive. AlphaGo relied on deep neural networks driven by
processing power and data storage.
Critics say that because
machines cannot think like human beings, they can never be creative;
that because they cannot reason like human beings, they can never
exercise judgment; or that because they cannot feel like human
beings they can never be empathetic.
Future systems will
handle many tasks that today require creativity, judgment or
empathy, not by copying us but by working in entirely different
ways. The set of tasks reserved exclusively for human beings is
likely to be much smaller than many expect.
Recent polls show small majorities in
favor of the UK leaving the EU. The financial crisis and its
aftermath have undermined faith in the judgment of elites. High
levels of immigration and fear of terrorism increase the temptation
to retreat behind national frontiers.
The Leave campaign will
put immigration and border controls at the center of its campaign.
That could be a winning tactic. Polls suggest the public is
sympathetic to the idea of restricting immigration. The Leave
campaign has simple slogans that are easy to understand.
politics, if you are explaining, you are losing. Undecided voters
exposed to the arguments of both sides of the debate are more likely
to move toward a vote to leave. And Leavers are more likely to vote
than Remainers. Europe is looking like a tough sell.
AR I know it. Last night I argued the IN
case to a group who were mostly Leavers. Afer my fact-filled
lecture, and a brief opposing presentation of the OUT case, two of
the waverers outed themselves as outers.
Iain Duncan Smith
The latest changes to benefits
the disabled are a compromise
too far. They are not defensible
in the way they were placed
within a budget that benefits
higher earning taxpayers.
Fix UK roads!
Bush hugs Hill
UK MATH CRISIS
UK school math teaching
is in crisis.
director Andreas Schleicher:
"There is a lot
on the memorization of a
relatively shallow knowledge,
where students have much
less exposure to the deep
AR I see the crisis:
Pay me to help fix it.
From Auschwitz to Zion
"I don't know the
secret for long
life. I believe that everything
is determined from above, and
we shall never know the reasons
why. There have been smarter,
stronger and better looking men
than me who are no longer alive.
All that is left for us to do is to
keep on working as hard as we
can and rebuild what is lost."
Israel Kristal, 112
nephews and niece
"I think Islam hates us ...
There's tremendous hatred."
Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo
The Next Generation
LSE report says UK chief
executives are wildly overpaid:
100 company accounts
show average annual pay of
a top CEO is
AR Job for the EU:
Curb this theft.
2016 March 20
Europe and the UK
As part of the EU, the UK is better able to
face up to the aggressive policies of hostile nations. We are safer,
because the EU has brought together former enemies to face common
perils. In the last thousand years of history, no previous
generation has been so fortunate.
have protection from many aspects of the EU that we dislike. We are
not in the Eurozone because I kept us out of it over 20 years ago.
We are not part of Schengen and thus have control of our borders. We
have opted out of ever closer union. We are the only nation within
the EU which has managed to secure these concessions.
"leave" campaign blandly assumes that they can renegotiate all the
advantages of membership with Europeans eager for our trade. This is
delusion. UK exports to Europe are nearly 45% of our total exports.
On average across the EU, the other 27 member states send only 7% of
their total exports to us. In the game of who needs who the most,
the answer is clear.
By leaving, the UK will have gravely
weakened the whole of the EU. Our partners will not wish to reward
us for that. The price of any deal with significant access to the
single market will be free movement of people and paying into the EU
budget. Without that, there will be no deal.
"Give us our
country back" is a prelude to disappointment. What exactly will we
get back? Will Scotland remain part of the UK? The UK out of the EU
and Scotland out of the UK would be a truly awful outcome.
have been warned against exit by America, China, and Japan; by the
G20; by the Governor of the Bank of England; by our military
leaders; by our leading scientists and academics; by a majority of
large and small businesses. Our departure would weaken both the UK
2016 March 19
Mathematics taught me how little I know. I am
pleased everyone may have to study it until 18. There are few purer
pleasures than the insight of a concept understood. Then there is
I want more people to study math. The
Enlightenment and the scientific revolution is the greatest cultural
project undertaken by man, for the insights it gives into the world
and the human condition, and for the vast improvements it has made
to that human condition. But to understand it is hard.
sciences are a mountain. Each new step requires having ascended the
one before and the higher you get the more rarefied the atmosphere,
until you reach the death zone. Scientists often fear to tread where
humanists happily blunder in. Absolute ignorance is not knowing how
ignorant you are.
I hope students will do math until 18. I
hope they will gain skills that will stay with them for life, and I
hope they will appreciate math's beauty. I also hope they learn just
how little they know.
2016 March 18
Pluto and Charon
Pluto and its moons were all formed from a
cataclysmic collision about 4 billion years ago. The four smaller
moons seem to be mostly water ice, like Pluto and Charon. Pluto is
still cryovolcanically active, while Charon appears to be long
Pluto and Charon are locked face to face.
The atmosphere of Pluto is dominated by nitrogen, but the chief
material Pluto is losing to space is methane. Some of it escapes to
Charon. Most of it flies off into space again, but the long winter
is cold enough to freeze methane.
On Pluto, sunlight striking
atmospheric methane can split a hydrogen atom off methane molecules,
leaving them free to form tholins. These particles make up the haze
in the atmosphere and also settle on the surface in dark reddish
Scientists call the reddish cap at Charon's north
pole Mordor Macula. Lyman-alpha photons scattering onto Charon's
winter poles could help split up the methane and encourage tholins
to form on Charon too. So Pluto is slowly painting Charon red.
2016 March 17
UK in EU
Brexit campaigners say the UK is increasingly
marginalized in the European Union. The Business for Britain
campaign claims that the UK has voted against 55 pieces of EU
legislation since 1996 but has been outvoted each time, 21 times
since 2010 alone, and that the UK has been outvoted far more often
than any other EU member.
But counting up the number of times
the UK was outvoted in the European Council tells us little. Those
55 "no" votes account for less than 2% of all votes in the council
since 1996. Also relevant are when in the multistage legislative
process these votes were cast, whether against the entire proposal
or just some details, whether the legislation was subsequently
amended, or whether the UK supported the final outcome.
in the council give little insight into influence in Brussels.
Political scientists analyzing EU decisions asked member state
officials which countries they worked with most closely in EU rule
making: 20 of the 26 delegations cited UK officials as among their
principal partners and perceived the UK as successful in securing
The present EU legislative agenda reflects UK
priorities. Not only is the EU trying to reduce the number of new
laws and cut red tape but also it is deepening the single market in
areas such as digital services, energy, and capital markets, and
seeking new trade deals with the United States, Canada, and Asian
countries. Many member states want the UK to remain in the EU
because they fear the loss of British influence.
Areas of EU
policy making where British influence falls short include European
Commission jobs (4%) and the European Parliament, where the UK has a
limited presence in parliamentary groupings. The Conservative party
chose to quit the centre-right European People's Party, and UKIP
MEPs make no attempt to play along.
2016 March 16
US Political Tsunami
Super Tuesday 3: Trump, Clinton won big.
UK Budget 2016
— Growth forecast for 2016
cut from 2.4% to 2%
— Rate of corporation tax to be reduced further
to 17% by April 2020
— Capital gains tax cut from 28% to 20%
threshold for small business rate relief raised from £6,000 to
— New "sugar levy" on the soft drinks industry
Commercial stamp duty of 0% on property purchases up to £150,000
ISA limit to rise from £15,000 to £20,000 from next year
lifetime ISA for under-40s
— Higher-rate tax threshold raised to
UK Budget 2016
Today I delivered a Budget that:
taxes so working people can keep more of the money they earn
Freezes fuel duty to support household budgets and small firms
Improves our schools so our children get the best start in life
Introduces a new Lifetime ISA to help the next generation to save
Cuts taxes for small businesses
UK vs EU
Caroline Lucas MP, Jean Lambert MEP, and
I are launching Greens for a Better Europe. We believe that Britain
is fairer, greener, and safer in the European Union.
To tackle climate change effectively we need to work
collaboratively with our European partners. In a globalized world,
we need international rules to control big business and finance and
to ensure that people's rights are protected.
All of us
benefit from decisions made by the EU. We will campaign for staying
in and reforming it. We want the EU to be more democratic and
accountable to the citizens of Europe. Green votes could ensure that
the UK stays in.
Andrew Wiles Wins Abel Prize
Oxford mathematician Andrew Wiles has won
the 2016 Abel prize. The Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters
awarded it to him "for his stunning proof of Fermat's last theorem
by way of the modularity conjecture for semistable elliptic curves,
opening a new era in number theory".
de Fermat said that for any three whole numbers, a, b and c, the
equation a^n + b^n = c^n could not be satisfied by any whole number
n greater than 2, but he did not prove it. In 1993, Wiles published
a lengthy proof that opened up new vistas in number theory. His
complete proof was published in the
Annals of Mathematics in 1995.
Wiles: "In the years since
then I have encountered so many people who told me they have entered
mathematics because of the publicity surrounding that, and the idea
that you could spend your life on these exciting problems, that I've
realized how valuable it actually it is."
2016 March 15
US vs EU
I love America. I believe in the American
dream. There is no country in the world that defends its own
sovereignty with such hysterical vigilance as the United States of
America. This is a nation born from its glorious refusal to accept
The Americans see the EU as a way of
tidying up a continent whose conflicts have claimed huge numbers of
American lives, as a bulwark against Russia. They have always
conceived it to be in American interests for the UK to be deeply
When Americans look at the process of European
integration, they assume that we Europeans are evolving so as to
become a United States of Europe. The Americans are a nation
conceived in liberty. We are quite fond of liberty too.
Frauke Petry has degrees from Britain and
Germany. Her family moved west from the old East Germany after the
fall of the Berlin Wall. She says German border police should be
allowed to shoot refugees trying to enter the country illegally.
She leads the AfD party, which emerged from a group created to
oppose the euro, on the grounds that it was misconceived and dragged
down by southern European poverty. Since last summer the AfD has
switched to an anti-immigration tack.
Merkel opened a door
for bad politicians. It need not be racist to worry about rapid mass
migration. But populists lead voters astray with talk of raising
spending while also cutting taxes. And with promises to shoot
illegal immigrants on sight.
2016 March 14
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives lost out
in two of three state elections on Sunday as Germans voted for the
anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD). Merkel has staked
her legacy on her decision to open Germany to a million migrants.
Baden-Württemberg: CDU stronghold for more than 50 years before
going Green in a coalition with the SPD in 2011. Greens romped home
with 32.5%. CDU took 27.5%.
Rheinland-Pfalz: CDU candidate
Julia Klöckner lost out to SPD incumbent state premier Malu Dreyer.
SPD 37.5%, CDU 33%.
Sachsen-Anhalt: CDU remained on top at
30.5% but AfD grabbed 21.5%. AfD is now the second biggest party in
Turnout in all three states was much higher than
in 2011, rising by 5.7% in Baden-Württemberg, by 9.7% in
Rheinland-Pfalz, and by 11.8% in Sachsen-Anhalt.
AR From 1987 to 2013 I lived in
Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz.
2016 March 13
Blitzanalyse: AfD triumphiert, CDU
Rheinland-Pfalz und Sachsen-Anhalt haben gewählt. Die CDU erlebt
bittere Stunden. Die AfD steht vor dem Durchbruch.
Baden-Württemberg: Grünen-Ministerpräsident Winfried
Kretschmann ist der Star. Für eine Koalition mit der SPD reicht es
aber wohl nicht. Die AfD kommt auf ein zweistelliges Ergebnis.
Rheinland-Pfalz: Schmach für
CDU-Spitzenkandidatin Julia Klöckner. SPD-Ministerpräsidentin Malu
Dreyer kann wohl weiterregieren. Die AfD punktet zweistellig.
Sachsen-Anhalt: Die AfD holt mehr als 20
Prozent. Reiner Haseloffs CDU bleibt zwar stärkste Kraft, aber für
eine Fortsetzung der Koalition mit der SPD wird es wohl nicht
Bundespolitik: Die AfD schafft den
endgültigen Durchbruch. Für die Rechtspopulisten um Frauke Petry
geht es nun stramm Richtung Bundestagswahl 2017.
We are two or three bad elections away
from the end of NATO, the end of the EU, and maybe the end of the
world as we know it.
US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has
no interest in NATO. On Europe: "Their conflicts are not worth
France holds a presidential election in
2017. National Front leader Marine Le Pen has promised to leave both
NATO and the EU. Without France, the EU single market would cease to
This June, the British vote in a referendum on leaving
the EU. The economic turmoil that could follow Brexit might lead the
British public to vote in a Labour government that leaves NATO too.
A chain of referenda and exits could fragment Europe. Western
unity could soon be gone.
2016 March 12
Yuval Noah Harari offers a speculative
reconstruction of human evolution in his book
Harari sees a huge gulf opening between the
tenets of liberal humanism and recent findings in the life sciences.
He sees history as the story of the gradual triumph of mind over
matter. His claims:
70,000 years ago, in the Cognitive Revolution, humans started making
things up, which made large-scale social cooperation possible
science is distinguished by readiness to admit ignorance. The
discovery that humans do not know the answers to their most
important questions launched the Scientific Revolution.
3 Human mastery over nature has freed us
from many forms of drudgery but has also helped to alienate us from
each other and to bind us to industry and technology.
4 All behavior is by definition natural,
and any behavior we might call unnatural is so only by virtue of
cultural norms invented in Christian theology.
5 Liberal humanism is a religion founded
on monotheist beliefs.
nation-state is declining in power and we are on our way to a global
empire with one culture. [Globorg]
7 Current developments in
biotechnology may lead to the Übermensch: we will replace ourselves
with immortal cyborgs. [Coral]
Harari considers natural science to be the final word on
reality, all cultures to be imaginary, and morals to be fiction. He
mocks the piety of liberals who think that science supports their
belief in human equality. But he doubts that even becoming
superhuman cyborgs will make us happier.
2016 March 11
The Obama Doctrine
The United States has clearly been a force
for good in the world. If you compare us to previous superpowers, we
act less on the basis of naked self-interest, and have been
interested in establishing norms that benefit everyone. If it is
possible to do good at a bearable cost, to save lives, we will do it.
A Practitioner's Guide to Brexit
A new report addresses the practical
questions businesses need to be aware of in the event of a Brexit
and looks more widely at the EU referendum debate. It also considers
British post-Brexit trading arrangements with other countries and
three alternatives to the UK's current EU membership from the
perspective of the financial and related professional services
The report shows that while leaving the EU may not
be disastrous for the UK economy, a Brexit risks damaging industry
in the UK through uncertainty, reduced market access and a loss of
influence over trading conditions. Major global businesses also come
to London to access the Single Market, but that position is
dependent on the legal freedoms made available by the treaties and
single market legislation. The overall competitiveness of the UK as
a place to do business would therefore be threatened by Brexit.
EU membership has benefited the UK by facilitating exports,
particularly of financial and other services. The UK is the world's
leading exporter of financial and related professional services and
the EU is the biggest single market for UK exports of financial
services, generating a trade surplus of £18.5 billion.
2016 March 10
EU and Science
Stephen Hawking et al.
The EU has boosted UK science in
two crucial ways. First, increased funding has raised greatly the
level of European science as a whole and of the UK in particular
because we have a competitive edge. Second, we now recruit many of
our best researchers from continental Europe, including younger ones
who have obtained EU grants and have chosen to move with them here.
Being able to attract and fund the most talented Europeans assures
the future of British science and also encourages the best
scientists elsewhere to come here.
Switzerland pays into the
EU and was a popular destination for young scientists. It now has
limited access to EU funds because it voted to restrict the free
movement of workers, and is desperately trying to find alternative
ways to attract young talent. If the UK leaves the EU and there is a
loss of freedom of movement of scientists between the UK and Europe,
it will be a disaster for UK science and universities. Investment in
science is as important for the long-term prosperity and security of
the UK as investment in infrastructure projects, farming or
manufacturing; and the free movement of scientists is as important
for science as free trade is for market economics.
We are all
scientists, mathematicians, engineers and economists in Cambridge,
are all Fellows of the Royal Society and are writing in an
— signed with more than 150 names
Sex and Religion
Reproductive religiosity theory
proposes that religious morality is fundamentally about people using
religion to make their social worlds more conducive to their own
preferred approaches to sex, marriage, and reproduction. Most major
religions over the past several millennia promote monogamy, sexual
modesty, and the stigmatization of sex outside of marriage.
Strongly religious people espouse stricter moral
standards than less religious people do. Religious belief influences
views on government spending, immigration, social inequality, the
death penalty, euthanasia, homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and
the role of women in society. For the issues related to sex,
religion has a stronger influence.
The theory predicts that
after you have statistically accounted for the fact that religious
people have stricter sexual morals than less religious people do,
then highly religious people will appear to care little more about
violations involving dishonesty and broken trust than other people
This bold prediction has now been supported, not only
among Americans but also in a study involving 300,000 respondents
from roughly 90 different countries. Highly religious people from
around the world espouse stricter moral attitudes regarding both
prosociality and sex, but their stern moral attitudes toward honesty
and the like seem secondary to sex, marriage, and reproduction.
2016 March 9
The neatest encapsulation of the
argument to remain in the European Union is currently being provided
by the Brexit camp. They have come up with Project Fear.
People are loss-averse and those promoting the status quo have a big
advantage. So Project Fear focuses on something that matters to
voters. The whole point of urging us to leave the EU is so that the
country can be different. Its advocates suggest that Britain will be
more independent and democratic and even prosperous. This is risky.
Leaving is, inevitably and unarguably, a risk for good or ill.
In those circumstances, you change the subject. Complaining about
Project Fear is bonkers.
A persistent gender bias across the
media portrays the world through a male lens.
correspondents are recognized and rewarded for their reporting over
twice as often as their female colleagues among the prizes we
studied. Men still win nearly three times as many Pulitzers as women
for foreign reporting. Even as more women are risking their lives to
report on the world, their work is still given less weight.
Male journalists quoted four times as many men as women in a study
of front-page New York Times stories in 2013. The imbalance
reinforces the notion that reporting on combat, mission strategy,
and violent conflict qualifies as hard news, while coverage of human
rights, maternal health, sexual assault, and education is soft news.
Countries that suppress women are more violent, more likely to
start conflicts, and more likely to let those conflicts spiral into
brutality. Foreign correspondents should include all the voices of
people in the countries they cover, and media management should
reward that effort by giving more weight to stories by and about
Giving female correspondents recognition is good for
2016 March 8
Donald Trump refers to deterrence in terms
of the horrific destruction in a nuclear war. But military planners
and their lawyers increasingly reject terror bombing. The law of
armed conflict restricts nuclear targets to those with a military
rationale, and over time the definition of what constitutes a
legitimate military target has narrowed.
more than a bunch of really terrifying weapons. It takes intricate
and realistic plans to use them, plans that are backed by diverse
and alert nuclear forces. We can follow the logic chain from
presidential guidance on employment of nuclear weapons, through
guidance issued by the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs,
down to the operational plans and target sets. The problem is our
fundamental discomfort with the reality of the threat to use nuclear
Successive administrations have "scrubbed" target
sets and cut the number of nuclear weapons. The Pentagon justifies
the excess in terms of the "unique psychological nature" of nuclear
weapons — terror bombing. We still base our security on the threat
of a nuclear holocaust. Trump's sin is not using the approved
2016 March 7
The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in
the UK has a green light. But EDF cannot afford to build it and
British consumers cannot afford to buy its premium-price
electricity. Its European pressurized reactor (EPR) design is beset
by technical problems, years behind schedule, and way over
At £18 billion, or more like £24 billion including
finance costs, Hinkley Point C would be the most expensive power
station ever built. If we spent that much on gas-fired power
stations, we would get roughly 48 GW of dependable capacity, instead
of 3 GW, for electricity at a third the cost.
EDF is 84.5% owned by the French government. It is hesitating
because it cannot get the capital together. It had hoped to sell a
49% stake, but the Chinese alone were interested and they only took
33.5%. Its own share price has tanked and its
market cap is below the value of the contract.
government should kill the project. There are better nuclear
options. NuGen (60% owned by Toshiba and 40% by Engie) plans 3
reactors in the UK. Horizon, owned by Hitachi, plans up to
3 reactors here too. Longer term, small modular reactors would be
cheaper and quicker to build.
Hezbollah is preparing for a possible
conflict with Israel. Fighting beside the Syrian government has
given it valuable tactical experience. Hezbollah now has tactical
ballistic missiles, advanced air-defense systems, and naval cruise
missiles. Its commanders have a sophisticated command structure with
telecom networks, drones, and organized supply lines.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon: "In Syria, if the choice is between
Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State. Iran
determines the future of Syria."
2016 March 6
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is the German equivalent of UKIP. Its rise is
a sign of the sunset of the Merkel era. Ever more Germans are angry.
They say the refugee crisis is leading to a "clash of civilizations"
between the elites and the masses.
The AfD is polling at 11%
in the west and 14% in the east. In the west it portrays itself as a
moderate option for the middle class, while in the east it is
unashamedly populist. The common thread is frustration with the
political class. Newspapers discuss die Wutbürger (enraged citizens) and
call AfD philosophy professor Marc Jongen der Wutdenker
Elections in three Bundesländer
will serve a referendum on Merkel's refugee policy. In a recent
poll, 81% of German citizens say the government has lost control of
the crisis. But Merkel is sticking firm. The consequences for the EU
could be dire.
A desktop box that thinks
as well as any brain does still lacks the goals and purposes that we
have. Those are defined by our particular biology, psychology, and
cultural history. A machine can execute things, but something or
someone has to define its goals.
With the car GPS, we tell it
we want to go to this destination. I don't know where the heck I am,
I just follow my GPS. There will be an AI that knows our history,
and knows that on this menu, you're probably going to want to order
this, or if you're talking to this person, you should talk to them
about this. More and more, the AIs will suggest what we should do.
People will just do what the AI says.
Look at the Earth from
space. Try to find clear examples of obvious purpose on the Earth as
viewed from space. An abstract sense of purpose is theology. Purpose
is something that comes from history. Maybe we go through all this
history and biology and civilization and so on, and at the end of
the day, the answer is 42.
Imagine a time when human
consciousness is easy to upload into digital form, virtualized and
so on, and pretty soon we have a trillion souls in a box, doing all
kinds of elaborate stuff. Then we look at the rock sitting next to
the box. Inside the rock, all kinds of elaborate stuff is going on,
electrons doing all kinds of things. The difference is that the box
of a trillion souls has this long history.
A box of a
trillion souls — what's the purpose of that?
Mindworlds chapter 11 on purpose, 12 on Wolfram.
The Answer on 42.
years ago today: first flight of Spitfire prototype, Eastleigh
AR 50-odd years ago I used to travel to Eastleigh
airfield to watch the light aircraft come and go.
It was a sleepy
little place and the hangars smelled wonderfully of aeroplane
If Britain stays in the EU:
"We will continue to sit trapped
passengers in the back seat
of some errant minicab with
a driver who
English and who is taking us
in the wrong direction."
"I have a very strong core."
"Donald Trump is a phoney,
a fraud. His
promises are as
worthless as a degree from
the members of the American
public for suckers."
To potential illegal
not come to Europe.
Do not believe the smugglers.
Do not risk
your lives and your
money. It is all for nothing.
any other European
country will no longer be
"Together, Russia and the
Assad regime are deliberately
weaponizing migration in
attempt to overwhelm
European structures and
General Philip M. Breedlove
If Brits voted to leave
"We would cry."
"The PM wants us to monitor
hate preachers, or as they're
AR I am chairman of a
committee in the
NATO Land War
NATO has a plan to defend
against Russian aggression.
But the Baltics could fall to
an all-out Russian offensive.
Frontline NATO members
say NATO should upgrade
NATO Sea War
Swarms of cheap unmanned
are likely to disrupt future
Emerging technologies could
make the oceans effectively
transparent and a sea-based
deterrent vulnerable as
go to sea.
2016 March 5
argument is that membership hitches Britain to a stagnant Continent
whose most powerful countries are locked in a dysfunctional
single-currency system that must lead to ever greater federalism in
a European Union short on democracy and long on bureaucracy.
In fact, a Brexit would be an act of folly, slashing Britain's
control at a critical time, inflicting a profound economic shock,
and possibly leading to the breakup of Britain.
Union remains the world's most boring, important miracle. A British
departure would be a geopolitical disaster. Further European
unraveling would become likely.
Britain can and must make the EU more transparent, democratic, and
dynamic. That can only be achieved from within. The UK derives
immense benefits from being part of an $18.5 trillion economy. To
imagine that a Britain outside the Union can continue to enjoy the
benefits of membership is pure illusion.
2016 March 4
Bigger Than Higgs
CERN LHC detectors ATLAS and CMS have found
bumps hinting at a particle bigger than the Higgs boson. The Higgs
was the biggest standard model particle. The new bumps were spotted
in collisions that produce two high-energy photons with a total
energy of 750 GeV.
This would represent a particle with six
times the mass of the Higgs, no electrical charge, and a spin of
maybe 2. It might be a graviton, or a composite particle bound by a
fifth force, or a supersymmetric particle. The chance that the bumps
are a fluke is one in several hundred.
Yasunori Nomura: "I
don't normally jump in on anomalies such as these because most of
them are just too crappy, but this one is relatively clean."
The London School of Economics has bowed to
political correctness again and called off a lecture. Neurobiologist
Adam Perkins was to argue that the welfare state is increasing the
proportion of work-shy people in the population by paying for them
to have more children than working families.
unemployed people tend to be more antisocial than the general
population. The antisocial ones produce children who grow up with
damaged personalities. An average of 2.5 children in workless
households, compared to 1.5 in working ones, rolls off the welfare
state production line.
People with antisocial, aggressive,
and rule-breaking tendencies are over-represented among the
unemployed. These traits are apparent in childhood. Antisocial
people seem to have a greater chance of having antisocial children.
Perkins suggests we discourage reckless reproduction.
The Welfare Trait
The welfare state has a problem: each
generation living under its protection has lower work motivation
than the previous one. In order to fix this problem we need to
understand its causes, lest the welfare state ends up undermining
its own economic and social foundations.
Conservative Party Review
Lord Feldman of Elstree
A review panel has been
considering how the Conservative party can thrive. A draft report
will be revised and submitted for final approval at the Conservative
party conference in October.
The panel identified three main
areas for reform:
The panel suggested centralizing membership administration to reduce
the bureaucratic burden on associations and to improve the accuracy
of the membership database. A members-only area on conservatives.com
and Silver and Gold levels of membership could enhance the
structure: Many local associations find that salaries and office
costs consume too much of their income and need help to function
better as campaigning organizations. Options include introducing
multi-constituency associations (MCAs) with professional training
for MCA officers, financial support for campaign managers, priority
access to speakers, and help with business plans.
3 Candidates: To recruit candidates for
parliament from all social and professional backgrounds and from all
parts of the UK, an outreach program could be established to improve
the diversity of candidates, in addition to a bursary scheme to
ensure that income will never be a barrier to standing for
administration and merging associations could weaken party roots.
2016 March 3
Brexit: Cambridge View
University of Cambridge vice-chancellor
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz says his university has more Nobel
Prizes to its name (92) than any other institution. Cambridge is
also the hub of the most successful innovation cluster in Europe.
Sir Leszek asks whether the UK would be as strong without EU
funding and partnerships. EU research funds flow to where the best
science is done. The UK pays in about 12% of the EU funds yet wins
about 15% of them, second only to Germany.
Around half of UK
research publications now involve cross-border collaborations.
Cambridge tops the list of collaborating EU universities, followed
by Oxford, Imperial College London, and University College London.
EU countries represent nearly half of British overseas
collaborations. Free movement of people helps UK universities to
attract the best talent.
A vote to leave the EU would put the
UK status as a science superpower at risk.
Repeating Cosmic Radio Bursts
Astronomers have detected repeating fast radio
bursts from a remote source. These FRBs seem to come from a powerful
source that occasionally produces multiple bursts in under a minute.
Laura Spitler: "Not only did these bursts repeat, but their
brightness and spectra also differ from those of other FRBs."
FRBs last just a few milliseconds. All previously detected FRBs
were thought to have come from one-off events, such as a supernova
or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole. Repeating bursts
might come from an extremely powerful magnetar.
AR See blog 2016-01-22. A neutron star
co-starred in my 1996 sci-fi novel
2016 March 2
Clinton vs Trump
CNN, 0702 GMT
Results so far: Republican frontrunner
Donald Trump won in 7 states, Democratic frontrunner
Clinton won in 7 states. All the rest now look like also-rans.
"The stakes of this election have never been higher. The
rhetoric we're hearing on the other side has never been lower."
The United States is the greatest republic since Rome, the
bastion of democracy, the guarantor of the liberal global order. It
would be a global disaster if Donald Trump were to become president.
Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe, and an
ignoramus. He is a pluto-populist whose business is building ugly
monuments to his own vanity. He has no experience of political
office. He is grossly unqualified to be POTUS, the most important
political official in the world.
Rome survived by granting
absolute power to a dictator. In 27 BCE, Augustus terminated the
republic and made himself emperor. Would constitutional constraints
survive President Trump?
President John Adams
Jeffrey L. Pasley
George Washington fretted about the
presidency. The president, and by extension all officials at their
appropriate levels, should be raised above other men.
President Adams decided to teach Congress about the monarchical
element a republic needed to avoid devolving into a rampant
democracy. He assumed the Senate chair wearing a regal outfit of his
own invention, including a wig, formal military coat, and ceremonial
sword. He soon found himself held at arms length, attending only two
or three cabinet meetings for the next eight years. Abortive efforts
were made on both sides to ease him out of the 1792 presidential
President Adams defended hereditary succession and saw the
art of lawgiving as protecting the rich against the poor by means of
2016 March 1
Wall Street Journal
Today may well cement the lead of
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
campaign affects attitudes and behavior in the broader society. It
is hard to imagine the causes of decorum and civility are being
advanced right now. The challenge for the next president will be to
both knit together the nation and to uphold the dignity of the
Trump tweets Mussolini: "It is better to live
one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep."
Europe knows how democracies collapse, after lost wars, in times of
fear and anger and economic hardship, when the pouting demagogue
appears with his pageantry and promises.
Trump is telling
people something is rotten in the state of America. He has emerged
from a political system corrupted by money, locked in an echo
chamber of insults, reduced to show business.
promises restored greatness. He has an instinct for the jugular. He
hijacks a Republican Party that has paved the way for him with years
of ranting, bigotry, and bellicosity.
Trump has captured an
American desire to reclaim a lost paradise. Democracies do die.
The French economy is stalled. Unemployment is
the highest in decades, and half of it is long term. The Socialist
government wants reforms but unions oppose them.
accepted relatively few refugees from Syria and Iraq, and rejects
many more applications than other European nations. Waves of illegal
migrants are trying to get to Britain, but Britain resists admitting
them and EU rules require France to offer them basic sustenance.
attention of the political class is now focused on the presidential
elections of 2017. The Socialists and Republicans mask the vacuity
of their electoral programs by demonizing the National Front. The
chances of Marine Le Pen doing well in the first round are high,
which would weaken a Socialist or Republican president.
2012 France has suffered a steady series of Islamist terrorist
attacks. The globalization of economic activity has been eroding the
sense of national sovereignty for some time. And now the refugee
crisis and international jihadist networks are eroding confidence in
After the Bataclan attacks, President François
Hollande put troops on the streets and declared a state of
emergency. All its problems could overwhelm France.
EU vs Poland
The European Union has embarked on a
pointless conflict with Warsaw. Poland is not a naughty boy in need
of rebuke. Poland is at the heart of Europe, where it belongs.
Our attempt to overhaul the Constitutional Tribunal is not an
assault on the rule of law. The tribunal is vital for the rule of
law in Poland. Our attempt to repair the Polish public media sector
aims to do so while guaranteeing pluralism, independence, and
objectivity. It is not a rejection of Europe.
of subsidiarity says the EU should perform only tasks that cannot be
performed at a more local level. Better compliance with this rule
has become a challenge for European institutions. We do not want the
European Commission or European Parliament involved in our domestic
EU member states are still reeling from the effects
of the financial crisis. They are rattled by migrant flows that
raise questions about open borders and internal security. Britain
could decide to leave the EU this summer. And geopolitical threats
remain on EU borders.
Citizens expect the EU to provide effective solutions to these
challenges. Poland will be an active and responsible member of the
EU. We say no to a federalized Europe.
Leo gets his Oscar
"It is the norm in the
today to be nuclear-free.
It is the exception to the rule
possess nuclear weapons,
let that ring out loudly and
use of nuclear
weapons would bring
about human devastation
and suffering on an
AR So a vote against the
planned S-boats for
Gotama avoided violence,
and sex. He also tried to:
• Be energetic, resolute, and
persevering in pursuing states
promoting spiritual health
• Behave gently and kindly to
everything and everyone
• Cultivate thoughts of loving
kindness and compassion
• Ensure that whatever he
was reasoned, accurate,
clear, and beneficial
• Rejoice in taking whatever
was given and in keeping
the bare minimum
Then he would
Reform has failed in the
UK too. Recent attempts to
reform the House
and introduce proportional
representation came to nix.
With its anachronistic
and its archaic constitution,
the entity in the Palace of
Vote Leave Conservatives
ist ein Grundprinzip
der EU. Aber die EU ist kein
Viele der 28
Staats- und Regierungschef
agieren nach dem Motto:
"Mich kümmert vor
UK Military Stand
former UK military chiefs
including Field Marshall Lord
Guthrie and General Sir
Michael Rose say the UK is
the EU as it faces
security challenges including
turmoil and Russian
Sterling falls below $1.40
Euro flat at $1.10
2016 February 29
Donald Trump steps to the lectern and does
his nodding wave and grin. He flashes a thumbs-up. The crowd goes
The presidential election campaign is
really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show whose production
costs include the political disenfranchisement of its audience.
Trump is making a mockery of the show.
Trump's basic argument
is that the regular guy has been screwed by a conspiracy of elites.
His pitch is: He's rich, he won't owe anyone anything upon election.
"I'm the only one that's self-funding ... Everyone else is taking
money from, I call them the bloodsuckers."
through the Republican primaries because everything he's saying
about his GOP opponents is true. They really are all stooges on the
take, unable to stand up to Trump because they're not even people,
but just robo-babbling representatives of unseen donors.
Trump isn't the first rich guy to run for office. But he is the
first to realize the weakness in the system, which is that the
watchdogs in the political media can't resist a car wreck. The more
he insults the press, the more they cover him.
the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn't know how to turn the
cameras off, even when it's filming its own demise.
2016 February 28
Alexander S. Duff
Radical spiritual malaise takes diverse
forms: Iranian theocrats, Russian imperialists, American racists,
European extremists, and more. Behind them all is Martin Heidegger.
Heidegger was no Marx. Whereas Marx traces the sources of
dissatisfaction to the alienation of labor in the capitalist system,
Heidegger looks to the character of human reason. This is the source
of the anxiety, distress, boredom, and terror that characterize our
time. According to Heidegger, western rationalist philosophy has
blinded us to the deepest sources of authentic meaning in human
Heidegger was disappointed by the Nazis. They were
not radical enough. Since then, opponents of the liberal West on
both right and left have drawn on his work. Today, two beneficiaries
of his influence stand out: Iran and Russia.
In Iran, Ahmad
Fardid is often called Iran's Heidegger. He inspired the Red Shi'te
revolutionaries opposed to the Black Shi'ite establishment clerics.
His concept of Gharbzadegi is variously translated as Occidentosis,
Westoxication, or Westitis, and is the spirit of Greek rationality
that culminated in Enlightenment humanism. Fardid called it the
chief enemy of the Iranian Islamic revolution and advocated
permanent revolution to keep it out. Fardid was to Heidegger what
Trotsky was to Marx.
In Russia, Aleksandr Dugin used
Heidegger's ideas to recreate a Russian identity from the wreckage
of the Soviet Union. Dugin claims to be close to Vladimir Putin and
provides the Eurasianist veneer of Putin's opposition to the United
States and the European Union. Dugin aims to retrieve a Russian
imperial identity, in the language of Orthodox Church Slavonic, that
can rescue the spirit of the country from liberal capitalism.
Heideggerians see liberal universalism thinning out the basis of
community and corrupting a thicker communal existence. Stopping it
involves reviving a religious order. The retrieved community is
shaped by a purified religion, such as Russian Orthodox Christianity
or Shi'ite Islam.
Heidegger says reason shaped the modern
world but led us to forget our deepest identity as manifestations of
being. This forgetfulness he calls nihilism. Nihilist phenomena
include world wars, genocide, and nuclear confrontation. They set
the moods of our time as anxiety, terror, distress, and boredom.
Rationalism comes from a preference for comfort and stability in
the face of finitude and impermanence. It becomes our main approach
to the world, excluding feeling and tradition. Our practice of
creating meaning in the world by engaging with that world gets hidden. We
have built societies instead of a community. This error alienates us
from our real selves.
2016 February 27
Globorg Weather Forecast
G20: "Downside risks and vulnerabilities
have risen, against the backdrop of volatile capital flows, a large
drop in commodity prices, escalated geopolitical tensions, the shock
of a potential UK exit from the European Union and a large and
increasing number of refugees in some regions."
The Arrow of Time
Most of the basic laws of physics are
symmetrical in time. But many physical phenomena can happen only one
way. A stone thrown into a still pond spreads waves concentrically
from the point of impact. We never see waves converging
concentrically to a sink. Yet the wave equation allows for both
diverging and converging waves.
Many physicists invoke a
causal principle to explain the asymmetry. An antenna transmitting a
radio signal causes the signal, and causes precede their effects.
Radio waves diverge from the antenna because they are the effects of
switching on the antenna.
Statistically, we find coherently
diverging waves but never coherently converging ones because wave
sources cause waves, whereas a converging wave would require the
coordinated behavior of wavelets coming in from multiple different
If two correlated events that are spatially distant
are not related as cause and effect, they tend to be joint effects
of a common cause. Hans Reichenbach: "If an improbable coincidence
has occurred, there must exist a common cause."
Albert Einstein debated the radiation asymmetry with Walther Ritz.
Einstein said the irreversibility of radiation processes could be
explained probabilistically. Ritz said the asymmetry arises because
a source of radiation has an influence in the future and not in the
The probabilistic explanation seems to rely on implicit
causal assumptions. A wave coherently diverging from a source has
the source as common cause. For the converging wave, the
correlations cannot be explained by the sink. The waves have
different causal structures: 1 for Ritz.
The causal asymmetry
of common cause structures and the assumption of probabilistic
independence are two sides of the same coin. Common cause inferences
need an assumption that the initial inputs to the system are
probabilistically independent of one another: 1 for Einstein.
But the assumption of probabilistic independence may reflect a
causal assumption about the system. We can see both assumptions as
mutually dependent aspects of our model structures. Richard Feynman:
"I am never quite sure of where I am supposed to begin or where I am
supposed to end."
Correlation does not equal causation.
Statistics cannot catch causal relationships.
Judea Pearl has
pioneered tools to code causal relationships into a computer
program. Algorithms built using this language enable researchers to
find cause-and-effect relationships between the variables in a
problem. The algorithms create a hypothetical set of relationships
and see if they fit with the data in every case.
Bochman and Vladimir Lifschitz have reformulated Pearl's code in
nonmonotonic logic. This allows a user to keep track of assumptions
and update a chain of reasoning if those assumptions change. It
provides a way to work with incomplete or changing information.
The way causality works in the quantum world allows a
cause-effect relationship to be distinguished from a common-cause
relationship. Entanglement excludes the possibility of classical
cause-and-effect influences being responsible for what is observed.
It seems to be based on a causal relationship beyond classical
We might even find a common cause that unifies
relativity and quantum theory.
I studied nonmonotonic logic and entanglement 20-25 years ago.
2016 February 26
Reform Has Failed
The fundamental flaw of the EU is its
misconceived attempt to impose rigid uniformity on countries as
different as Finland and Greece, Portugal and Germany. The project
would have a much greater prospect of sustainable success if it
introduced greater flexibility.
I had hoped that the Prime
Minister might be able to achieve fundamental reform. It is not his
fault that those efforts met with failure. It is the fault of those
EU leaders mesmerized by their outdated ambition to create a country
There is only one thing that just might shake
EU leaders out of their complacency: the shock of a vote by the
British people to leave.
2016 February 25
Get Change: Vote Leave
We continually confuse Europe
with the political project of the European Union.
The EU has
morphed and grown. The more the EU does, the less room there is for
national decision making. Sometimes the public can see all too
plainly the impotence of their own elected politicians, as with
immigration. That is what we mean by loss of sovereignty. David
Cameron has done his very best, but there is only one way to get the
change we need, and that is to vote to go.
The real risk is
to the general morale of Europe, and to the prestige of the EU
project. We should take that seriously. This federalist vision is
not an ignoble idea. It was born of the highest motives: to keep the
peace in Europe. Whatever happens, Britain needs to be supportive of
its friends and allies — but on the lines originally proposed by
A vote to remain will be taken in Brussels
as a green light for the erosion of democracy.
BoJo Wrong: Parliament Sovereign
In or out of the EU, Westminster has
always been sovereign.
devolves it can reclaim. International treaties and commitments bind
Britain only in so far and for so long as a majority of
parliamentarians so decide. Each and every one could be abrogated by
a simple legislative act. Britain is free to leave the UN, NATO, or
the EU whenever it chooses. Westminster does not need to wait for a
The choice is about how to advance the prosperity
and security of the nation. The threats from nuclear proliferation,
a revanchist Russia, Islamist terrorists, environmental degradation,
and international crime present challenges. So do securing access to
global trade, investment, and technological innovation. None are
susceptible to national unilateralism.
So to take back
sovereignty can be to surrender control.
Deutsche Bank posted huge losses in 2015. A
quick return to profitability looks unlikely.
Founded in 1870, Deutsche Bank helped to build the German export
machine. It lent to industrial customers and converted its lending
into securities. DB men and politicians sat on company boards in
European integration, the euro, and
globalization brought opportunity. DB became a global investment
bank. It invested in London and New York and sold off stakes in big
But DB used short-term borrowing to buy
high-yielding securities. Some of them were repackaged American
mortgages, so DB became a player in the US subprime tragedy. Thin
capital ratios left DB overexposed.
The crisis of 2008 left
DB struggling to restore its reputation.
2016 February 24
I think Boris Johnson is not in favor
of leaving the European Union. I have to explain.
The essence of human progress has been to gradually increase our
legal and political sovereignty over bigger and bigger areas by
pooling it with the sovereignty of others. We lose some control over
our affairs but expand our control over the affairs of others. In
the postwar era we are having to consider how we control trade and
cooperation that stretches beyond nations.
The EU is a
response to the need to assert sovereignty over a wider area than
Britain. It sits alongside the UN, the WTO, the IMF, and so on. We
need rules that extend beyond our country. But we have to agree
those rules with others. By being in the EU we allow people in other
countries to have a say in regulations we used to set just for
ourselves. An international trading, diplomatic, and political
relationship with our continental neighbors is vital for economic
and social progress.
We now have on offer a relationship with
Europe in which we are in the single market, but not in the euro,
the border-free zone, the banking union, or ever closer union. It is
a reasonable deal. It makes us more prosperous and, on balance, more
Boris thinks if we vote to leave, the EU will give
us an even better deal. That is wishful thinking.
Europe Civilized Us
Helena Frith Powell
For someone who is half Italian, half
Swedish, I am thoroughly English. "Good old Boris!" I said to my
husband. "We've all had enough of this Eurononsense."
France feels like home. After several years in the Mideast,
anywhere in the EU feels familiar and safe. Although my knee-jerk
reaction is to support Brexit, I'm not so sure.
In France I
learnt how to eat, dress, drink in moderation, and live well. Left
to our own devices we'll all be painting ourselves blue and drinking
US Navy aircraft carriers and their associated air wings have
for decades been a potent symbol of American military might.
recent years, Chinese destroyers mounting SS-N-22 Sunburn missiles
and submarines mounting SS-N-27 Sizzler missiles
at ranges of 200 km, as well as land-mobile DF-21D and DF-26 ballistic missiles
at ranges of up to 4000 km, threaten them.
The ASBM threat will
require US investment in emerging technologies such as railguns.
Have concluded the EU
is impossible to reform
so have decided
2016 February 23
BoJo Fails Churchill Test
In his biography of Winston Churchill,
Boris Johnson says: "To some extent all politicians are gamblers
with events. They try to anticipate what will happen, to put
themselves on the right side of history."
Johnson has bet on
a horse called Euroscepticism. But there is more than one way of
being on the right side of history. The first is to anticipate the
direction of events. The second is to align yourself with the right
causes and values. Churchill was right in both senses.
Betting against the EU could allow BoJo to pocket some political
winnings. But he fails to appreciate the wider context for his
actions. A modern Churchill would see the decision about whether to
stay in the EU as part of a global picture. And that big picture is
It is small-minded to campaign for Brexit on the
grounds that Britain might save a bit of money on its contributions
to the EU budget. Britain will pay a heavy price if the EU
2016 February 22
BoJo vs David
Boris Johnson: "Let me tell you where
I've got to, which is, um, I am, um ... I've made up my mind."
BoJo has joined the Brexit camp. Less than 10 minutes before
going public, he sent David Cameron a courtesy text. The two Oxford
chums are rivals: They once wrestled on the floor at Downing Street.
Big showdown: June 23.
2016 February 21
Brexit and Breturn
The real issue is whether or not we have
learnt anything from about five centuries of history. While Europe
tore itself apart over the Reformation, Ottoman armies besieged
Vienna twice, in 1529 and 1683. Later, a second threat from the east
arose in the form of imperial Russia.
After 1648, Europe
launched an escalating overseas contest between the Dutch, the
British, and the French for the spoils of empire, and an Eastern
question pitting Russia against Turkey. British imperial success led
to the illusion that we could ignore the continent. But first
Napoleon, then the Kaiser, then Hitler taught us otherwise.
The idea that Britain can separate itself from Europe is an
illusion. For now Germany faces a descent into weakness as a result
of mass migration and belligerent Russia. Merkel's rash decision
last summer to throw open the German borders was like Brünnhilde's
immolation scene in Wagner's Ring. German mastery over Europe came
Britain must remain in the EU. Fantasies about
an Anglosphere or a fortress of solitude let some believe that we
can pull up a drawbridge and enjoy total sovereignty. Just as a
borderless Europe with a single currency but without fiscal union
was a recipe for disaster, British isolationism is a trigger for
continental disintegration. Brexit could lead to armed Breturn.
Chinese lander viewed from Chinese rover, Moon,
House of Commons
Briefing Paper 07214:
Exiting the EU: UK reform
proposals, legal impact and
alternatives to membership
(PDF, 54 pages, 913 KB)
"I'll be battling for Britain."
UK vs V4
"The position of the Visegrad
Four is very clear.
In view of
that I have no doubts there is
an extra mile to
walk. We will
now need to sort out the
remaining issues in a
On the Natural History
by W.G. Sebald
In Hamburg last night with
Angela Merkel looking on,
David Cameron put national
security at the heart of his
for remaining in the EU:
"Just as Europe has faced down
dangerous and murderous
ideologies in the past, so again
must stand together in this,
the struggle of our generation,
to confront this evil
and defeat it."
I do too.
How the Brain
Computes the Mind
We have free will but we're
not conscious of
it. Look at
what the brain is computing.
We might find
the implementation or the
mechanisms of feelings
thoughts and decisions that
are completely inaccessible
if we only look at behavior.
When Michael Bloomberg was
sworn in as mayor
of New York
in 2002, the city was burning.
But he turned it
Today America is burning. US
national debt exceeds GDP,
and schools are failing.
Bloomberg is considering a
for the White House. He has a
good character and a proven
business record. He is the
AR I'd vote for him.
2016 February 20
David Cameron: "There will be tough new restrictions
on access to our welfare system for EU migrants. No more something
for nothing. Britain will never join the euro, and we've secured
vital protections for our economy and a full say over the rules of
the free trade single market while remaining outside the euro."
Angela Merkel: "We believe we have now given a package to David
Cameron to elicit support in Britain for Britain remaining a member
of the European Union."
Donald Tusk: "Deal. Unanimous support
for new settlement for
2016 February 19
UK vs EU
The EU summit in Brussels is about getting a
unanimous deal to keep the UK in the EU. Now Greece is linking its
agreement to the refugee crisis. The Greeks want a guarantee that
other EU states will not close their borders with Greece until 6
March, the date for a special summit with Turkey.
the 28 EU states have problems with the deal. The V4 states want to
limit the cap on social benefits. France and Belgium want to keep
the UK out of decisions between EZ states and to allow no UK
exemption from EU bank oversight. Greece is complicating the talks
NATO has begun naval patrols between Greece and
Turkey to stop people smuggling. Austria has threatened to close its
border and Greece fears a domino effect unless Germany promises to
hold its border open. Angela Merkel and François Hollande had a long
talk with Alexis Tsipras.
hope David Cameron has plenty of spare shirts with him!
2016 February 18
Gloom pervades Brussels at the start of
tonight's meeting on the UK settlement with the EU. Who will oversee
of the City of London is just one of the complex issues yet to be
Belgium and France want a clause in the deal to
state it is the maximum concession to be granted to Britain. An EZ
diplomat: "The idea is to kill the idea of a second referendum."
Some campaigners want a second referendum after a vote to leave,
to vote on the terms of exit. An EU ambassador: "We'll need a second
referendum. We need the UK in the EU."
Hug a planet
Hug a tree
Hug a Muslim refugee
AR Humanitarian Universalist
Globalism is the legacy of our Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian-Kantian
(gruck) western tradition. It is the heritage that brought us modern
science and is the natural moral frame to accommodate it — and to
rescue us from a "pigs in space" fate.
2016 February 17
We Are Not Alone
We are not alone. Experience suggests
that this is the reality.
It was big news when the first
exoplanet was confirmed orbiting a sunlike star. After 20 years, the
count is into the thousands. We are also discovering planets in the
habitable zone. Roughly 20 billion planets might host life in our
galaxy alone, which is one of 100 billion galaxies in our universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope, due for launch in late 2018, may
give us conclusive evidence of life elsewhere in the universe within
a few years.
We should be funding the search for
extraterrestrial life. This is a pursuit worthy of some of the best
minds on the planet. Investments in the scientific search for life
elsewhere are needed to understand life on Earth by comparing
biochemistries and to generalize the theory of evolution.
Knowing we are not alone can let us see our true collective self.
AR I have been advocating this cause
for 25 years — and have a T-shirt to prove it!
Germans are struggling with the arrival of
more than a million refugees and migrants from very different
Social order is under pressure from people who come
from countries where Islam is the dominant religion, where the rule
of law is absent and where family honor trumps all else. Many
refugees long for peace and freedom, but the mental journey from
their homelands is a long one. Integration is a demanding process
for both sides.
German political debate is coarsening. People
should be allowed to express their concerns about the refugee influx
openly, but groups such as Pegida are calling for a return to the
white Germany of an imaginary past. A discussion about the essence
of an open, diverse, and liberal society requires cool heads, not
Europeans must solve the refugee crisis
soon, or the idea of a peaceful Europe will become a distant memory.
AR Pegida is standing up for the
virtues of western civilization.
Contemporary German cinema insulates the
present from the past.
Coma, directed by Sara Fattahi, shows what's missing. Fattahi
works in her family apartment in Damascus. Her movie shows the war
in Syria, experienced by three generations of one family, mainly at
home. It is an incarnation of war in daily life, a mental image of
war embodied in a repertoire of images, wrenched from the horror to
incarnate the horror without depicting it expressly.
Fattahi's mother is divorced from a Syrian officer whom she was
pressured to marry. Her grandmother, recently widowed, is still
grieving. Fattahi herself misses her friends, with whom she
communicates via e-mail, in scenes that show her computer screen
nearly alive with intimacy.
In their isolation, broken only
by occasional errands and visits from neighboring women for a game
of cards, the three women are visited by the Syrian past, in the
form of home videos of popular movies from bygone years and
recordings of old popular songs. Fattahi's selection is a form of
cultural archeology that extracts lines of dialog and dramatic
situations that reflect with a jolting precision the situation at
Private lives scarred by the past and the present are
probed and transfigured in images of haunted intimacy. Fattahi
devises urgently intimate closeups, oblique compositions,
impressionistic shots, and canny framings to wrest her family's life
in wartime away from familiar modes of representation. Her subject
is the very possibility and inadequacy of attempting to represent
the war in a movie.
Fattahi has made a great political film.
German filmmakers fail to film in the first person, to see the
crimes of the past in the present tense, either to appropriate them
in some way or to disown them. They lack artistic daring.
AR Cheap shot at German artists — but
perhaps I should write something daring for them.
Four US Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jets flew low
over South Korea and landed at Osan Air Base, joining South Korean
F-15 and USAF F-16 fighter jets on the flight line.
Seventh Air Force commander and deputy commander of UN Command/US
Forces Korea Lieutenant General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy: "This
mission demonstrates the strength of the alliance between the United
States and the Republic of Korea, and the resolve of both nations to
maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula."
Chief of Staff
of the South Korean Air Force General Jeong Byung-doo: "They
demonstrated commanding spirit to the world and resolve to crush the
enemy's reckless provocation through the successful combined
flyover. We will further develop the relationship of cooperation to
support peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the world."
AR The Raptors pack more military
capability than the Royal Navy gunboats of
Every four years, the American Society of
Civil Engineers (ASCE) conducts a study of where the United States
stands in providing needed infrastructure in various sectors. Its
last report, in 2013, estimated the needed spend by 2020 at $3.6
trillion. Total estimated spending between 2013 and 2020 is
Traffic is clogged, flights are delayed, trains
are late, bridges collapse, and public transit breaks down. The
political system is incapable of making the investments that would
keep these things from happening. President Obama continues to call
for increased investment in infrastructure and the Republicans
continue to oppose him.
UK, aping American priorities as ever, has the same infrastructure
2016 February 16
UK Mental Health
Mental Health Taskforce
Mental health problems represent
the largest single cause of disability in the UK. The cost to the
economy is estimated at £105 billion a year – roughly the cost of
the entire NHS.
In 2011, the Coalition government published a
mental health strategy setting six objectives, including improvement
in the outcomes, physical health, and experience of care of people
with mental health problems, and a reduction in avoidable harm and
stigma. The strategy was widely welcomed. But an increase in people
using mental health services has led to inadequate provision and
worsening outcomes in recent years.
All too often people
living with mental health problems still experience stigma and
discrimination. The human cost is unacceptable and the financial
cost to government and society is unsustainable. People facing a
crisis should have access to mental health care 7 days a week and 24
hours a day in the same way that they are able to get access to
urgent physical health care.
The critical element of success
will be to put the individual with their own lived experience of
mental health at the heart of each and every decision made.
2016 February 15
The Visegrad group —
Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic — are leading the
fightback against Germany's open-door migration policy. Even without
Greece there, the V4 meeting will tee up another stormy week of
migration politics in Europe.
2016 St Valentine's Day
The United Kingdom would be foolish to
retreat from membership of the European Union or of NATO. The two
world wars led to slaughter on a scale that still defies
comprehension. The lessons of the wars were not quickly learned,
but ultimately they were. In 1963, Charles de Gaulle and Konrad
Adenauer signed a treaty that bound France and Germany in an
enduring nexus of cooperation. In 1984, François Mitterrand and
Helmut Kohl held hands at a Verdun commemoration ceremony, and later
crafted the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union.
2016 February 13
Ever since 1969, the Royal Navy has hosted the
British nuclear deterrent on submarines. Today the Royal Navy has
four V-boats (Vanguard, Vengeance, Victorious, Vigilant), each with
up to 16 missiles, each in turn with up to 12 warheads. The missiles
are Tridents, from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, California.
When Khrushchev hailed the submarine as
the great naval weapon of the future, submarines were hard for an
enemy to track and find. But new technology will soon make the sea
less safe for them. The underwater battle space will include
networks of cheap sonic sensors and sophisticated underwater drones.
Pegida UK is a new branch of a global
anti-Islam protest group. It claims it will have "100,000 decent
people on the street" by the end of the year. Its leader Paul
Weston: "Islam is Nazism incarnate."
UK founder Tommy
Robinson: "Today is the first of many European wide demonstrations
that will bring people together like never before. It's planting the
seed of something huge."
From Calais to Canberra, thousands
marched in the name of the Pegida platform of anti-immigration and
anti-Islam last weekend.
Birmingham MP Liam Byrne: "With
Pegida we're seeing the rise of a seminal new threat."
Triumphalist religiosity makes claims to
truth subject to contests for dominion. Believers assert their
dominance as a sign of their superiority. In monotheism, this leads
to religious imperialism: One God, One Rule, One Faith.
Triumphalist religiosity places great importance on a visible
deference paid to true believers. Triumphalists find public
criticism unacceptably disrespectful, and interpret blasphemy laws
aggressively in order to silence dissent.
religious triumphalism played an important role in shaping Muslim
attitudes toward infidels. When Muslims came to rule a society in
the early centuries of Islam, they exercised dhimma, or protection:
Christians, Jews, and others who refused to convert to Islam bought
their safety by compliance with the demands of their protectors.
The laws of the dhimma discriminated against infidels considered
"people of the book" through degradation. For triumphalist Muslims,
infidels are either dhimmi or harbi (destined for the sword) who
live in Dar al Harb (House of War): Where there was Dar al Harb,
there shall be Dar al Islam.
A tribal warrior ethos mobilizes
the drive for world conquest. Passionate young men are urged to join
the apocalyptic battle to create a global caliphate.
have pressured westerners into making concessions on the cognitive
battlefield. In the world of victimization discourse, they have
maneuvered westerners into behaving like dhimmi leaders have always
Western liberals are afraid to insult triumphalist
Muslims, who demand submission to their insistence that their
sensibilities not be offended. Only when we start to act together
can we defend democracy and freedom.
2016 February 12
Lawrence M. Krauss
LIGO discovered gravitational waves
emanating from the collision and merger of two massive black holes
over a billion light-years away.
two detectors, one in Washington State, the other in Louisiana, each
with two tunnels about 4 km in length at right angles to each other.
The experimenters shot a laser beam along each tunnel and timed how
long it took to be reflected off a mirror at the far end.
Gravitational waves rippled through the detectors at both locations
roughly simultaneously, and at each location the length of one arm
got smaller while the length of the other arm got longer,
alternating back and forth.
To detect the signal the
observers measured a periodic difference in length of less than an
attometer. This is like measuring the distance between the Earth and
the nearest star down to the width of a human hair. Even the motion
in the position of each mirror due to quantum vibrations could have
drowned the signal. But the scientists did it.
The two black
holes that collided were big. One had about 36 times the mass of our
sun, the other 29 times. The collision and merger produced a black
hole of 62 solar masses. The extra 3 solar masses turned into energy
as gravitational waves. For a moment, the collision generated more
power than that from all the rest of the stars in the observable
AR 1 solar
mass = 2 billion exatons. So it was a 6 billion yottagram bang.
MPI for Gravitational Physics/Institute for
Theoretical Physics, Frankfurt/Zuse Institute Berlin
Waves made by two black holes colliding
(92% of votes)
(93% of votes)
Love EU or
That is the question
"Germany cannot afford a
Brexit ... An EU without
Britain would be poorer.
But most of all, spiritually."
"It's like being shot or poisoned.
I think you get the same
whether it's quick or takes a
Senator Lindsey Graham on
the presidential prospects of
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz
will buy Zephyr
drones from Airbus for
£10 million. Zephyr will be
persistent presence over
the battlefield and
intelligence at much greater
level of detail than was
"The European house is burning
down and Britain
wants to waste
time rearranging the furniture."
Alphabet $547 billion
Apple $534 billion
2016 February 11
Gravity Makes Waves
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave
Observatory (LIGO) has detected ripples in spacetime from the
merging of two black holes. One black hole had a mass of 29 suns,
the other 36 suns, and each was around 150 km in diameter. The two
collided at half the speed of light about 1.3 billion years (42 Ts)
LIGO executive director David Reitze: "We have detected
gravitational waves. We did it!"
Revolution in Physics
In a press conference today in Washington
DC, the LIGO collaboration announced that they had finally detected
gravitational waves. Details appear in
Physical Review Letters.
The waves are predicted by
Einstein's theory of general relativity, which says that massive
objects warp spacetime around them. When these objects accelerate,
they make ripples in the fabric of spacetime that spread outward at
the speed of light.
LIGO detectors based in Hanford,
Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, felt the tremors last
September at almost the same instant. Their sensors registered
spacetime expanding and contracting by as much as 1 am. By
translating the frequency of the gravitational waves into sound
waves, you can hear the final signal as a chirp.
"The total power output of gravitational waves during the brief
collision was 50 times greater than all of the power put out by all
the of the stars in the universe put together."
right. Now the era of gravitational wave astronomy is under way.
2016 February 10
The Military Balance 2016
2015 saw a surge in high-profile attacks by Islamist
terrorists, plus continuing conflict and instability across the
Mideast. Europe's ability to secure its borders came under increased
scrutiny. Combating terrorism is a global issue. But the jihadists
cannot be eradicated solely by military means.
aspires to boost collective self-defense. Deployment of a NATO
spearhead formation to East Europe requires approval. For some of
the security threats, improved partnership and better cooperation
between NATO and the EU is important. The EU possesses a wide range
of tools that NATO does not.
Mideast armed forces displayed
growing military activism during the Yemen operation. Saudi Patriot
missiles destroyed incoming Scuds fired from Yemen. Iran remained a
principal threat driver for regional states.
advanced weaponry in its new Syria campaign. Much of its display of
military prowess seemed aimed not only at degrading the capability
of Assad's enemies but also at showcasing Russian high-tech military
products for the West and potential customers.
displayed more advanced military hardware at the 2015 Victory Day
parade. Its 2015 White Paper emphasized the space and cyber domains,
but also the maritime arena. Tensions escalated over accelerating
construction activities on features in the South China Sea. There
was an evident military aspect to these activities.
Washington looked to innovate and generate a new edge. The Pentagon
created the Defense Information Unit to help it leverage lessons
from Silicon Valley on issues like big data, analytics, autonomy,
and robotics. The goal is to give policymakers the best possible
military and security advice for each contingency, to complement and
inform any possible use of their toolkit.
2016 February 9
Bungled UK Bid
David Cameron accepted the premise that the
UK has a place only in a reformed EU. Since the union is
fundamentally unreformed, the logic of his own position is exit.
Either it makes sense for the UK to stay in the EU as it is or
it does not. The British do not feel they need the union to
strengthen the legitimacy of their political institutions and they
have no interest in joining the single currency. But 44% of UK
exports go to the EU, against 17% to the US, and the political
stability and prosperity of the continent is a vital British
Eurosceptics say the EU has tied the UK economy
in red tape. Yet OECD analyses show that the UK economy is among the
least regulated of all its members. Many say the City of London is
stifled by regulation. Yet the financial crisis suggests that the
problem was more one of lax regulation than too much.
Many complain of immigration from the EU. Yet most net
immigration is from elsewhere. EU membership has not hindered UK prosperity. The
main hindrances are home
By participating in the EU, the UK has a voice in the
affairs both of its neighbors and of the world. The UK needs a voice
in Europe. Europe needs the UK to have that voice.
Bungled UK Bill
UK security services may soon be able to
collect masses of personal data under sweeping new surveillance
The pending Investigatory Powers Bill allows security
services to collect large data sets across wide sections of the
population. The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee
(ISC), which oversees the work of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ, warns that the
powers in the bill are excessive and recommends that individual
warrants be required for each data request.
Dominic Grieve MP: "Even those working on the legislation have not
always been clear as to what the provisions are intended to
2016 February 8
The New York Review of Books
Human brain scans show that
moral judgment involves two distinct psychological processes. One is
fast and intuitive, and occurs in areas of the brain associated with
emotional processing. The other process is slow and rational, and
occurs in regions associated with cognitive processing.
Primitive human beings evolved fast and focused brain responses for
dealing with immediate dangers or threats. Humans in more
sophisticated societies do not need the same kind of affective
response and use slower processes of moral deliberation. The slower
mechanisms came later.
Martin Seligman promotes the study of
strengths and virtues in psychology. Faced with events that seem
uncontrollable, human beings experience disruptions that give rise
to a sense of helplessness. Seligman aims to stop people being seen
as victims of their environment.
Jonathan Haidt identifies
six basic pairs of moral intuitions: care vs harm, fairness vs
cheating, loyalty vs betrayal, authority vs subversion, sanctity vs
degradation, and liberty vs oppression. He says liberals are more
disturbed by violence and suffering than conservatives and
Steven Pinker stresses the role of rationality
in fostering cooperation. He says our deliberative modes of
evaluation should prevail over affective intuitions. Empathy has
played a part in promoting altruism, but we should aim for policies
and norms that make empathy unnecessary.
Paul Bloom says
evolution has equipped us with rudimentary capacities that are
essential to the development of morality, such as empathy and a
sense of fairness. But our affective moral responses are essentially
infantile. Reason lets us transcend them.
"Psychology presently studies superficial morality and deep
morality. Superficial morality can be found in the quick,
unreflective moral intuitions that we have. Deep morality is the
reflective choices we make that involve honesty, faith, humility,
2016 February 7
EZ New Deal
French President François Hollande has
revived the idea of a new EZ parliament. Now France must make a
proposal. Otherwise the agenda will be set by such countries as the
UK and Poland.
The sudden plunge in EZ GDP from 2011 to 2013
resulted from attempts to cut deficits too quickly with tight
budgetary rules. EZ GDP in 2015 has still not recovered to its 2007
The ESM allows a joint guarantee of all EZ sovereign
debts. All public debts greater than 60% of GDP could go into a
common fund, with no repayment until a country is on a growth
trajectory. An EZ corporate tax could pay for infrastructure and
An EZ parliament would draw members from the
national parliaments, proportionate to population. France, Italy,
and Spain have roughly half of EZ population and GDP, Germany just
over a quarter.
2016 February 6
Brexit: All Lose
The New York Times
The European Union is already battered
by an economic crisis and an immigration crisis.
deal the EU a serious blow and would affect UK ties to NATO and to
the United States. The tide of refugees grows larger by the day. The
newcomers join more than one million people who sought refuge in
Europe last year. But if Britain pulls out of the union, it will
have no more say on European migration policies and no right to help
in policing the tunnel entrance in Calais.
European nations, and the world need a united and prosperous Europe.
UK Role in Europe
The British wanted to be reassured that
they will never be treated as identikit Europeans. Now they are
exempt from "ever closer union" among the peoples of Europe.
The issue of migrant workers affects Poles. David Cameron has to cut
incentives for migrant workers from the EU to come to Britain.
Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has to stick up for
Poles abroad. Cameron needs to show that fewer migrants will be
coming, and Poland wants its people to return.
The EU has
helped. Rules for migrants already in Britain will continue as
before, but newcomers might get fewer benefits and pay higher taxes.
The Polish government can say British welfare and tax provisions
will continue to be more favorable for a Pole coming to Britain than
for a Brit seeking work in Poland.
The EU needs British
leadership in foreign policy. It needs professional British
diplomats and a more global outlook. Having lost one empire, the
British can lead a new one.
The Selfish Gene
Forty years ago, Richard Dawkins changed
our understanding of our place in nature with the publication of his
The Selfish Gene.
book was decisive in setting the frame for my neo-Darwinist picture
of emergent levels of self in the post-Hegelian dialectic of
historical conceptions of divine providence in my book
2016 February 5
Letter to the World
As technology titans we have
resisted explaining ourselves. But some people in
Europe question our motives, our integrity,
and even our right to skirt round the normal rules.
we have faced impertinent questions over our tax planning and the
structures of our companies. Some have even accused us of being no
better than any other company. They refuse to accept our loftier
We are the visionaries, committed to building a
better future. We are better placed to decide how our money should
be spent than governments, which take billions from the taxpayer and
waste them on social programs.
The Europeans are trying to
tie us down with red tape and claim unpaid taxes. If they got the
money, they would only waste it. We need to get these elected
governments off our backs so that we can change the world.
don't expect you to understand. Just be grateful for us.
Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, et al.
AR I sympathize.
2016 February 4
NATO promised not expand eastward after
the fall of the Wall. NATO did not have to do so. All it needed was
the political will. But the West wanted a complete victory over the
In 2009, US President Obama said that US
missile defense only served as protection from Iranian nuclear
missiles. But now there is an international treaty with Iran that
bans Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. The sanctions against
Iran are lifted, but still the Americans are working on their
missile defense system.
I am the president of 146 million
Russians. I have to represent their interests. The nationalist coup
in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in February 2014 scared 2.5 million
Russian people living in Crimea. Our soldiers prevented the
Ukrainian troops on Crimea from impeding the freedom of expression
of the people. In the referendum the majority of citizens voted for
belonging to Russia. This is democracy. The reunification of Crimea
and Russia is just.
Sanctions are harming Russia. But the
biggest harm is currently caused by the dangerous revenue losses in our export of oil and
gas. Last year, the GDP dropped by 3.8%. Inflation is about 12.7%.
But the trade balance is still positive. We have more than
$300 billion in gold reserves.
Russia would like to cooperate
with NATO again. President Assad has done much wrong in Syria, but
the conflict would never have become so big if it had not been
fueled from outside with weapons, money, and fighters. We do not
want Syria to end like Iraq or Libya. We should support the
legitimate rulers in Syria. Only the Syrian people can decide who
should govern the country.
Last night BBC2 war-gamed a Russian push into Latvia that ended in a
2016 February 3
The news that scientists are to be
allowed to edit the DNA of human embryos will no doubt provoke
warnings from opponents of genetic modification technology.
We are playing God with our genes. But it is a good thing because
nature often gets it wrong. This research will lead to technologies
that could edit DNA much like we edit text. Its implementation could
reduce and even eliminate the birth of babies with severe genetic
Opponents say our DNA is special. But nature is
just blind chance combined with the survival of the fittest. There
is no reason why nature should not occasionally make mistakes. When
those errors could lead to terrible human suffering, it is our duty
to try to correct them.
Gene editing of human embryos to
eliminate disease should be considered to be ethically the same as
laser surgery to correct eye defects, or operating on a baby to
repair a heart defect. DNA is just another bit of our body that
might go wrong. Gene editing can benefit our children.
Atheism is at least as old as the
monotheistic religions of Abraham. But the philosophers the ancients
called atheoi were not like New Atheists. Epicurus accepted both
gods and materialism as ways to attain the state of tranquillity
that was the ultimate goal of life.
2016 February 2
A proposal for a new settlement of the UK
within the EU goes far in addressing all the concerns raised by
Prime Minister Cameron. The four baskets of the proposal:
1 On economic governance, the draft
decision sets out principles to ensure mutual respect between the
member states deepening the EMU and those
which are not. A mechanism giving reassurances cannot
constitute a veto nor delay urgent decisions.
2 On competitiveness, the draft decision
will commit to increase efforts to enhance
competitiveness. We will regularly assess progress in simplifying
legislation and reducing red tape.
On sovereignty, the proposed decision recognizes that the UK is not
committed to further political integration. It also reinforces
respect for subsidiarity.
social benefits and free movement, we need to respect the principles
of freedom of movement and non-discrimination. The proposed solution
to address the UK concerns builds on the clarified
interpretation of current rules.
The clear objective is to
have an agreement. To succeed we will all need to compromise. To
fail would be compromising our common future.
Donald Trump recently spoke about American
football: "The whole game is all screwed up." He said he missed
"what used to be considered a great tackle, a violent head-on
tackle" and slammed his fists together. "Football has become soft
like our country has become soft."
President Trump would stir
up hatred against minorities and say political correctness is a
threat to the nation. The 2008 financial crisis has left many
Americans receptive to his pitch. The economy has recovered but
inequality has grown. Many Americans feel disconnected and betrayed.
Racism has become a core element of his campaign. Last year he
said he would "build a great, great wall on our southern border" and
have Mexico pay for it. He also said he would deport all illegal
immigrants. For his fans, the "great, great wall" has become a
symbol of Fortress America.
Trump uses the term "the lying
at his appearances. Yet the big TV networks devote more airtime to
him than to all his rivals combined. He is the only Republican
candidate who gets them big ratings. He complains that journalists
ask questions about his policies.
Republicans are divided.
Newt Gingrich: "Donald Trump is a very talented man. America is a
big country. Anything can happen."
2016 February 1
European Union: A Budget Thaw
The New York Times
Europe is fighting terrorism and
shifting from the austerity that has dominated since 2010. EU member
states are not abandoning fiscal discipline, but leaders are
encouraging a more flexible approach to give them financial
firepower to counter the growing threat.
François Hollande: "We need to track the terrorists, dismantle their
networks, cut off their financing, and stop propaganda and
radicalization. The security pact takes precedence over the
European Union: A Better View
more urgent argument for staying in the EU is neither political nor
economic but strategic. For now we need to view the place of
European civilization in the world with concern
>>> (PDF, 2 pages)
of the road for a British icon
Ashes to Ashes
David Bowie wanted his
ashes to be scattered in a
ceremony on Bali.
Most of his millions will go
to his wife
Iman and his
kids Duncan and Lexi.
All his adult life, Roger Scruton
waged an intellectual war
against the academic left. In his
critique of the Frankfurt School
he sensed a Marxist conspiracy
to undermine the foundations
of Western civilization. He may
not contradict the thinkers he
reviews but he always critiques
their unsound methods, for
which he excoriates them
No Cow Ban
An EU bill to cap harmful
Agriculture causes 40% of
methane and 95% of
pollution in the EU, and the EC
wants big cuts in both
MEPs voted for the cuts but
exempted enteric methane,
from cow burps.
"The implications of the UK not
being in the EU will be truly
devastating for Europe."
AR I like it. Greeks can be
to run the refugee
camps, Germans can avoid
Europe is saved.
Only then is it safe to
the UK referendum, assuming
Brits are not aiming to push
Europe into a nationalist
and racist abyss.
AR In short, if refugees
the UK exits, and
the EU and EZ break up:
1 Supply chains break,
2 Weak national
in Europe suffer.
ASASSN-15lh could have been
a very massive star collapses
and explodes as a
the leftover star can become
a magnetar, with very
spin and a strong magnetic
field. This one could have
pumped energy into a big surrounding cloud of gas
until — BANG!
AR Blog 2016-01-15.
Terry Sejnowski and team made
a 3D model of a 10 μm
a hippocampus, using data on
synapses from sliced rat
"We discovered the key to
unlocking the design
for how hippocampal neurons
function with low energy
high computation power. Our
new measurements of the
brain's memory capacity
estimates by a
factor of ten
to at least a petabyte."
AR I reported on
Terry at a
NYAS meeting in 2002.
The Holy Roman Empire
Germany was once part of the
Empire. Founded by
Charlemagne in 800 and swept
Napoleon in 1806, the
empire suggests an alternative
federalized EU or a fatally
weakened European mosaic
of nation states.
"UK businesses can create
more jobs in Europe
out on their own."
2016 January 31
White British men from poor backgrounds are
five times less likely to go into higher education than others. If
you're a young black man, you're more likely to be in a prison cell
than studying at a top university. There are no black generals in
our armed forces and just 4% of chief executives in the FTSE 100 are
from ethnic minorities. And if you're black it seems you're more
likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you're white.
AR The British establishment is
Over a quarter of all working-age adults in England
have low literacy or numeracy skills or both. A recent OECD survey
shows that English adults performed around average for literacy but
well below average for numeracy relative to other countries
surveyed. Among the adults, English teenagers aged 16-19 have the
worst literacy levels of developed nations and the second worst
numeracy levels for their age group.
English education is elitist.
Republican runner Donald Trump is in denial about America's — and
his own — immigrant roots. His grandfather was Friedrich Drumpf, a
German who emigrated in 1885, and his mother was born near Stornoway
in the Outer Hebrides.
too in that comb-over.
2016 January 30
Heated to around 100 MK, hydrogen isotopes
deuterium and tritium can fuse into helium at just a couple of times
atmospheric pressure. Just 1 g of D-T fuel yields the thermal energy
of over 6 Mg of oil. The hot plasma is confined using magnetic
fields. But the containment is highly unstable, challenging fusion
engineers for the past 50 years.
The Wendelstein 7-X
stellarator (blog 2015-11-07) is designed to allow continuous stable
operation: switch it on and it works. The aim is to build up to keeping
it going for about half an hour (2 ks). If that succeeds, a bigger
machine will produce 3 GW of heat and about 1 GW of electricity.
Tokamak Energy hopes to use new superconductors to build a
spherical tokamak small enough to fit in a living room. The goal is
to build a viable 180 MW reactor in 15 years, for a cost of around
£2 billion. Heat flows in the reactor would be much higher than in
Wendelstein 7-X, where they are already a fifth of the flux at the
2016 January 29
Angela Merkel wants to save Europe. She
wants EU unity, but the leaders of Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia
will never share her generosity toward Muslim refugees.
leaders must regain control. They need to separate refugees from
economic migrants, to secure the Greek borders, to reward
communities for settling refugees, and to counter crime.
Winston Churchill once said the public mood in regard to the
treatment of criminals is an unfailing test of the civilization of a
country. Substitute migrants for criminals.
Since New Year's Eve in Cologne, about 800
women have filed complaints with the police. The migrant sex attacks
raise big questions about gender and society.
experience the culture clash firsthand. They report men who refuse
to shake hands with them, parents who don't want them teaching their
child, and men refusing to work with them and demanding men for
The history of Islam has been shaped by
the patriarchal oppression of women. In predominantly Muslim
regions, most Muslims do not think men and women have equal rights.
They say a woman should always obey her husband.
assaults were spurred by migrant overcrowding, their lack of
prospects and family support, and a culture that makes all things
2016 January 28
The US Hard Right
Republican intransigence was not born
yesterday. To be on the right is to feel perpetually betrayed. At a
time when the right has commanding control of radio and television
talk shows, it still feels persecuted by the mainstream media. With
all its wealth, the right feels it is being undermined by the
academy, where liberals lurk to brainwash its children.
feeling that superior people have license to circumvent democracy is
still with us. Strategic gerrymandering and restrictive voting
procedures freeze out minorities, the young, and the elderly, giving
Republicans stronger representation in Congress than the popular
The surge of Donald Trump for half a year at
the top of Republican polls was mystifying to many people. They
thought the lead would quickly evanesce, but the support was
entirely political. Trump first became a political factor by
claiming that Obama has no valid birth certificate. It turns out
that a majority of Republicans have held that belief and never
renounced it. Trump was giving voice to the growl of Republican
No one wants to be guilty of compromise or looking
soft. The right hated George H.W. Bush's plea for a "kinder and
gentler" party kindling "a thousand points of light." They had no
more kind or gentle feeling about George W. Bush's "compassionate
conservatism" and his promise to "leave no child behind." They think
that is Democrat talk. And they are right.
We Cause Climate Change
2015 was the hottest year on record. And 13 of the
15 hottest years in the last 150 years occurred between 2000 and
2014, a result researchers say was with 99.99% probability caused by
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research professor Stefan
Rahmstorf: "Natural climate variations just can't explain the
observed recent global heat records, but manmade global warming
The UN World Meteorological Organization confirms that
the global average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous
records and says 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have all been
since 2000. In 2013, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change concluded with 95% certainty that humans are the main cause
of global warming.
The UK Met Office expects 2016 to break
the record set in 2015.
2016 January 27
Apple revenues for 2015 Q4 rose to $75.9
billion and net profits rose to $18.4 billion. Apple now has a total
of 1 billion devices in "active" use, counting each iPhone, iPad,
Apple Watch, Apple TV, Mac, and iPod Touch that connected to Apple
cloud services in the past 90 days. The company has 115,000
employees and had a market capitalization in May 2015 of over $740
AR Apple paid £12
million tax in the UK in 2015.
At the same time that an understanding of
the subject of electromagnetism was being developed, technical
possibilities that defied the imagination of the people that came
before were appearing: it became possible to signal by telegraph
over long distances, and to talk to another person miles away
without any connections between, and to run huge power systems — a
great water wheel, connected by filaments over hundreds of miles to
another engine that turns in response to the master wheel — many
thousands of branching filaments — ten thousand engines in ten
thousand places running the machines of industries and homes — all
turning because of the knowledge of the laws of electromagnetism.
Today we are applying even more subtle effects. The electrical
forces, enormous as they are, can also be very tiny, and we can
control them and use them in very many ways. So delicate are our
instruments that we can tell what a man is doing by the way he
affects the electrons in a thin metal rod hundreds of miles away.
All we need to do is to use the rod as an antenna for a television
From a long view of the history of mankind — seen
from, say, ten thousand years from now — there can be little doubt
that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged
as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.
A set of partial differential
equations, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation
of classical electrodynamics, classical optics, and electric
circuits. The equations underlie modern electrical and
communications technologies. They describe how electric and magnetic
fields are generated and changed by each other and by charges and
currents. James Clerk Maxwell published his equations in an early
form between 1861 and 1862.
Maxwell's genius was celebrated on BBC4 last night.
2016 January 26
Life and Death
Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through. If by
eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then
he lives eternally who lives in the present. Our life is endless
in the way that our visual field is without limit.
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.4311
After a blissful
Foundation Mathematics, I half-awoke in the early
hours and lay reflecting on how the contrast between open and closed sets representing
intervals on the real line also caught the logic of immortality from
the first-person perspective. On this topic, young Wittgenstein hit
the nail on the head.
2016 January 25
The euro crisis and the
refugee crisis both involve Greece and Germany. Last summer, Germany
almost forced Greece out of the euro, rather than lend further
billions to the Greek government. Now, Germany is reeling under the
impact of the arrival of more than a million would-be refugees, most
of whom have entered the EU through Greece.
A deal would be
simple. Greece seals its northern border with EU help, stopping the
flow of migrants into northern Europe. In return, Germany agrees to
a massive write-down of Greek debt, plus immediate financial aid.
Refugees arriving in Greece are housed in camps on Greek islands in
the expectation that they will return to Syria one day.
Bottling up refugees in Greece could strand them in a small country
struggling with mass unemployment and a huge national debt. Germany
wants its loans repaid, but the refugee crisis is more urgent than
the repayment schedule. Greeks can do Germans a favor by stemming
the flow of refugees. Germans can do Greeks a favor by offering debt
Most Europeans feel compassion for the refugees but
are also worried about uncontrolled mass immigration from the
Mideast. We need to break the connection between the offer of
temporary protection from warfare and the offer of permanent
immigration into the EU. Once that connection is severed, European
public opinion will be reassured.
2016 January 24
Wenn Europa scheitert
Politiker warnen vor einem
Auseinanderbrechen der EU. Europa habe wenige Wochen, um die
Flüchtlingskrise in den Griff zu bekommen. Falls das misslingt, sei
dann das Schengen-Abkommen für grenzenlose Bewegungsfreiheit in
Europa hinfällig. Dann aber macht der Euro keinen Sinn.
es den Europäern an einer gemeinsamen Vision für eine gute Zukunft
mangelt, spielen sich wieder Fragen von nationaler Souveränität und
kultureller Selbstbehauptung in den Vordergrund.
steigt, dass Großbritannien dieses Jahr per Referendum aus der EU
aussteigt - und dann womöglich andere Mitgliedstaaten folgen. Binnen
weniger Monate würde die EU verfallen.
Drei Effekte würden
Wertschöpfungsketten: Die Industrie hat Europa in den vergangenen
Jahrzehnten mit einem Netz von Zulieferverbindungen durchzogen, mit
dem Ziel, jeweilige Standortvorteile auszunutzen. Bei einer
Implosion Europas würde ein Teil solcher Wertschöpfungsketten
durchbrochen. Sparprogramme, Werkschließungen und Jobverluste wären
die fast zwangsläufige Folge.
Inflationsschock: Dass die Verbraucherpreise bislang stabil sind,
liegt insbesondere am intensiven internationalen Wettbewerb. Weniger
Wettbewerb bringt Preissteigerungen mit sich. Die Inflationsraten
dürften deshalb empfindlich anziehen. Sofern auch die Währungsunion
zerfällt, werden die Währungen kleinerer, schwächerer
Schuldenkrisen: Am härtesten getroffen wären Volkswirtschaften, die
ohnehin auf wackligem Fundament stehen. Länder wie Großbritannien,
Frankreich, Rumänien oder Tschechien müssten sich darauf einstellen,
dass der Kapitalzustrom abreißt. Hoch verschuldete Volkswirtschaften
würden durch massiv steigende Zinsen an den Rand der Pleite geraten.
Auch Deutschland würde leiden. Die Bundesrepublik ist eine
hochgradig offene Volkswirtschaft, die bislang eng mit dem übrigen
Europa verwoben ist. Das gigantische Auslandsvermögen Deutschlands
von mehr als einer Billion Euro ist zur Hälfte im übrigen Europa
Zu den ökonomischen Schäden kommen die politischen.
Die Rückkehr zur Nationalstaaterei könnten einen Zusammenbruch
Europas bedeuten. Das hätte verheerende Folgen.
2016 January 23
The Struggle for Europe
The historic scale of the crisis facing the
European Union is dawning on its elites. Both critics and supporters
of integration talk in almost apocalyptic terms about the union and
The union has become a fiscal regime enforced by
constitutional lawyers and central bankers that consigns millions to
permanent unemployment. Nationalist politicians resist it in the
name of democracy. The union faces a deep crisis of legitimacy.
Europe awaits a change of heart among its elites. The past holds
a big lesson: integration prospered when growth and employment
mattered more than unfettered capital movements and when fiscal
policy counted for more than monetary policy.
Leaders need to
show that the union can help nations and that capitalism and
democracy can be reconciled. This will take a real effort of
historical imagination and reinvention.
The War for Islam
Islamists call for an ideal Islamic state built
on Islamic law. But Shiites and Sunnis each have their own version
of law. The rise of narrower and more extreme forms of Islamism have
only exacerbated sectarianism.
Sunnis and Shiites coexist in
many Arab states. Syria and Iraq were secular Baathist states, but
minority Alawites ruled over largely Sunni Syria and minority Sunnis
over largely Shiite Iraq. The American occupation of Iraq and the
Arab Spring broke the Arab order. Shiites in Iraq and Bahrain, and
Sunnis in Syria, welcomed change.
The collapse of the Arab order pits Iran and Saudi Arabia
against one another. Saudi Arabia interpreted the nuclear agreement
as an American tilt toward Iran. Sunnis have redoubled their efforts
to block Shiite gains. Saudi Arabian foreign policy has become more
confrontational since the Iran nuclear deal This does not bode well.
Iran and Saudi Arabia will clash in every war zone in the region
to further their interests. Both countries face economic problems.
Their energies are better spent on domestic reform than on regional
2016 January 22
Germany Losing Control
Following the New Year's Eve sexual
assaults in Cologne, some 650 criminal complaints have been filed,
half of them for sexual assault. State prosecutors have only
identified 13 suspects: 8 Moroccans, 4 Algerians, and a Tunisian. No
one has been detained for sexual assault.
people from the Maghreb states Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are
slated for immediate deportation from Germany. But only 23
Moroccans, 24 Algerians, and 6 Tunisians were deported during the
first half of 2015.
German policymakers have spent the past few years both
reducing the size of the police forces and inundating them with new
tasks. No one was remotely prepared for the arrival of hundreds of
thousands of refugees.
Last year, up
to 10,000 newcomers a day had to be sheltered and fed. Officials
were overwhelmed. A national register says a total of 1,091,894
asylum seekers entered Germany in 2015. But experts believe the real
figure could be far lower because registrations can easily be
Many new arrivals are simply waved into Germany
by border officials. It often takes days before they are registered.
In many places, refugees disappear soon after arrival. They can get
duplicate social benefits without getting caught by registering in
different states, perhaps using different names. Criminals can get
papers for multiple identities.
For years, German officials
have complained about countries that refuse to allow the return of
their citizens facing deportation from Germany. These include the
Islam: The Truth
Islamist radicals have no difficulty finding
justification in medieval Islamic texts for their violent ideology
and barbaric practices. But these extreme interpretations tell us
nothing about the propensity for violence in mainstream Islam.
In almost all societies, murder accounts
for most intentional killings. Between 2007 and 2012, for every
individual killed in war or terrorism around the world, 7
individuals were murdered. And the higher the percentage of Muslims
in a society, the lower the homicide rate.
Between 1994 and
2007, annual homicide rates in the Muslim world averaged 2.4 per
100,000 of the population. That was less than the average rate in
Europe and about half that in the United States. Even now, for every
murder in Indonesia, 7 people are murdered in the United States.
In the radical Islamist conflicts in the Mideast, exclusionary
politics, state repression, rights abuses, corruption, and so on are
more important drivers of violence than Islamist ideology.
2016 January 21
Dominic Johnson: "Humans the world over find
themselves, consciously or subconsciously, believing that we live in
a just world or a moral universe, where people are supposed to get
what they deserve. Our brains are wired such that we cannot help but
search for meaning in the randomness of life."
Atheists are simple souls. In their view, which derives from
rationalist philosophy and not from evolutionary theory, the human
mind is a faculty that seeks an accurate representation of the
world. This leaves them unable to explain why most human beings are
wedded to some version of religion.
For anyone who takes
evolution seriously, religions are adaptations to the experience of
living in an uncertain and hazardous world. There is no way to
square a rationalist model of the mind with the findings of
evolutionary biology. Under evolution, our minds are not primed to
seek out truth but to obey the ruling imperative of survival.
2016 January 20
The European Union badly needs fixing. The
Germans, under the leadership of Angela Merkel, have achieved a
position of hegemony. Merkel had the support of both those who
wanted to be good Europeans and those who wanted her to protect
German national interest. But in the case of the migration issue,
she acted on principle. She deserves credit for making a European
asylum policy possible.
Hungarian Prime Minister
Viktor Orbán is promoting the principles of Hungarian and Christian
identity. Combining national identity with religion is a powerful
mix. The leader of the newly elected ruling party in Poland,
Jarosław Kaczyński, is taking a similar approach. He chose migration
as the central issue of his campaign. Poland is one of the most
ethnically and religiously homogeneous countries in Europe.
Kaczyński and Orbán seek to exploit a mix of ethnic and religious
The European Union needs a comprehensive plan
to respond to the crisis. My foundation has developed a plan that
would reassert control over the European rather than national
borders and allow asylum seekers to reach Europe in a safe, orderly
way, and at a pace that reflects the capacity to absorb them. Orbán
is challenging Merkel for the leadership of Europe by attacking the
values and principles on which the European Union was founded.
I am convinced that Britain
should stay in Europe not only for economic but even more for
political reasons. Currently, Britain has the best of all possible
deals with Europe. It has access to the common market where nearly
half of UK exports go while it is not weighed down by the burden of
having joined the eurozone.
At the frontiers of physics, everyday
experience is not a good guide and experiments can be difficult and
expensive. My work has been guided by trying to make the laws more
Symmetry is change without change.
The theory of relativity is about change without change. You can
look at the world from a moving platform and different things
rushing at you or away from you will look quite different, but the
same laws will apply as in the stationary frame. You change the way
things look and yet the laws are still valid.
mechanics, the primary description of reality is a wave function and
its equations are deterministic. If you know the wave function at
one time, you can predict what it will be at another time. The deep
structure is determined, but from where we sit within the universe,
we cannot determine it. Operationally, things look unpredictable.
There is a lot about the world besides the laws of physics and
physical phenomena. I care very much about what it all means. For me
beauty goes into what it all means.
When I'm 64
64 is the age that I completed
my training in the UK as a yoga
teacher. Last year I got my
certificate. And I've been
teaching ever since.
AR I met CH in Oxford
45 years ago
2016 January 19
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial
Revolution, by Klaus Schwab, reviews the new technologies of
artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things,
autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, the blockchain, biotechnology. and
so on. The confluence of these technologies amounts to a fourth
industrial revolution, following:
The steam and coal revolution of the late 18th century
2 The electricity and oil revolution of
the late 19th century
3 The digital
electronics revolution of the late 20th century
changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history,
there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril."
revolution can lift "humanity into a new collective and moral
consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny" — for chief
executives on their way to Davos.
This is GLOBORG — I rest my case.
2016 January 18
The lifting of sanctions on Iran brings the
Islamic Republic in from the cold, reconnects a potentially vibrant
emerging economy to world markets, and opens the way for Tehran to
become a force for stability in a region in meltdown.
an indispensable player in several Mideast conflicts. Yet it has a
long road to travel to win acceptance in a region where it has
forged a Shiite axis from Baghdad to Beirut. Sunni Saudi Arabia is
not alone in feeling that Iran has taken advantage of the fracturing
of Arab countries to behave like an imperial power.
unmet investment needs of up to $200 billion a year for the coming
decade, with a fifth of proven world gas reserves to pay for them.
It has already announced plans to buy more than 100 new airliners
Just 62 people have the same combined wealth as the
poorer half of the global population combined. The richest 1% now
own as much as the rest of the world.
2016 January 17
Why am I me?
We are no nearer to explaining why we
experience things as subjects. Neuroscience and psychology have made
huge advances in solving the questions of how the brain performs its
mechanical and computational functions. Everything so far observed
inside the human head happens automatically when the right molecules
are in the right place in the right state at the right time. My
consciousness seems to be the mental theater for the drama of the
world. I star in the show.
the psychohistoric "I am/am not X" (for each X in turn) dialectic in
my next book GLOBORG
(on which I am delaying commencement until I have a contract and an advance).
KIC 8462852 is baffling
astronomers. NASA planet hunter Kepler watched its stellar region
from 2009 to 2013 and found the star dipped erratically in
brightness throughout the period, sometimes by as much as 20%. A
team led by Tabetha Boyajian tried to make sense of this and decided
that dust from a large cloud of comets was the best explanation. In
October 2015, Jason Wright and others suggested that alien
megastructures could be dimming the signal.
Now the mystery
deepens. Bradley Schaefer studied old digitally scanned photographic
plates of the sky and found that the star faded by about 20% between
1890 and 1989. He estimates it would take maybe a million comets,
each a million gigatons in mass, to cause the dimming, which refutes
the idea. He also doubts that alien megastructure are the cause,
since they would radiate light absorbed from the star as heat, and
the infrared signal from the star seems normal.
AR I blogged the Wright idea on
2015-10-15. The aliens might convert starlight into starship fuel
(on which see
The Beginning and the End by Clément Vidal — blog 2015-11-25).
2016 January 16
Augustine of Hippo wrote in his
Confessions about his own life from his birth in 354 CE, to his
early belief in Manichaeism, to his baptism in Milan and the death
of his mother in 387.
Robin Lane Fox traces the progress of
Augustine with reference to dreams, conversions, ascents, and
visions. To assure us that prophetic dreams, mystical ascents, and
visions were common and believed in, he traces their influence on
two of Augustine's contemporaries: the Christian bishop Synesius of
Cyrene (circa 373–414) and the pagan orator Libanius of Antioch
Synesius and Libanius lived in the great
world; Augustine did not. The great world of the fourth and fifth
centuries was Rome's Eastern empire. That is where the theological
and ecclesiastical action was. It hosted the ecumenical councils —
Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon
(451) — and theological giants such as Origen, Athanasius, Chrysostom,
Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa were from places
like Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, and Constantinople.
Augustine sought God within himself, mystery seeking mystery: "You
were more in me than I was in me ... Anyone reading this should
travel on with me where we agree; search with me where we are
unsure; rejoin me if he finds he is astray; call me back if I am
astray. In this way, we may jointly proceed along the path opened by
love, venturing toward the one ..."
The development of Christianity was evidently a great
civilizational project, analogous to that of science in recent
2016 January 15
Astronomers have discovered a supernova brighter
than any other observed to date. At its peak it was more luminous
than 500 billion suns.
Survey for SuperNovae source ASAS-SN-15lh (SN 2015L) reached an
absolute magnitude of –23.5 and bolometric luminosity 2 × 10^38 W,
and is located in a galaxy perhaps 4 billion light-years away.
Science lead author Subo Dong: "The explosion's mechanism and
power source remain shrouded in mystery."
2016 January 14
Earth has entered the Anthropocene age.
research published in Nature shows that human burning of fossil
fuels is postponing the next global ice age for at least 100,000
The researchers found that a combination of lower
sunlight at a latitude of 65°N, where snow surviving through the
summer leads to ice sheets, and low carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
triggers a new ice age to dawn. The level of CO2 in the atmosphere
has risen from 280 ppm at the start of the industrial revolution to
400 ppm today. The CO2 will head off ice ages for the next 100 ky
(over 3 Ts).
Lead researcher Andrey Ganopolski: "It is
mind-boggling that humankind is able to interfere with a mechanism
that shaped the world as we know it."
With oil below $30, let's keep warm!
Sunni vs Shiite
Saudi Arabia is injecting sectarian venom
into the Mideast. The House of Saud and the Wahhabi clerical
establishment are inciting a Sunni-Shiite conflict that is ripping
the region apart.
Saudi leaders see the Iran-led Shiite jihad
in the region as a greater threat than the Sunni jihad. For them the
Arabian peninsula is sacred territory for Sunni Islam. The local
Shiites are abominated as idolaters by Wahhabi bigots.
Salman launched a war in Yemen against Shiites. Executing Shiite
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was a political assassination. The House of Saud
is facing intractable problems.
We need to get Islam out of politics.
2016 January 13
David Bowie released
Blackstar just a few days before his death. In it he sings,
"I'm not a pop star."
Bowie spoke most eloquently to the
weirdos, freaks, and outsiders. He negated all the nonsense, the
falsity, the accrued social meanings, traditions, and morass of
identity that shackled us. His songs revealed how fragile all these
meanings were and gave us the belief that our capacity for changes
Unlike Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, Bowie
turned down a knighthood from the queen in 2003.
AR No sir, good man.
David Bowie moved from Los Angeles to Berlin
in late 1976. He had been on the edge of physical and mental
collapse. At first, he fell back on drinking and clubbing with
flatmate Iggy Pop.
To defeat his demons, Bowie needed space
and stability. His assistant Coco Schwab found him a modest
apartment in Schöneberg and stocked it with canvas and paint. She
read Nietzsche beside him, beneath a portrait Bowie painted of Yukio
Bowie began to edge away from cocaine psychosis,
finding his way out of his life of excess, remaking himself as an
ordinary man. He dressed in baggy trousers and dowdy shirts, and no
one bothered him on the street.
By the summer of 1977, Bowie
was on a creative high. With Tony Visconti and Brian Eno, he began
to make a new album, "Heroes". The title song became Berlin's rock
In those months in Berlin, Bowie made his journey
from addiction to independence, from celebrity paranoia to unmasked
messenger who told us all that we too could be ourselves.
AR I read Mishima in Japan. He committed
hara-kiri in 1970 to inspire Japanese youth with the old martial
Bowie was to the 70s what the Beatles were to the 60s
David Bowie's third album, released in
1970, touched on schizophrenia and paranoid delusion. In his fourth,
Hunky Dory (1971), he saw an exhausted landscape of fallen icons and
sunken dreams, crying out for change.
Ziggy Stardust (1972) toyed
with stardom and charisma, fed by Warhol and Nietzsche.
found the overlapping appeal of rock stars and right-wing dictators
exciting. He reveled in decadence and desperate hedonism. In 1973,
he returned from Japan by train through the USSR and the Eastern
Diamond Dogs (1974) married two dystopias: gray police state
and insurgent anarchy.
He moved to New York in 1974.
Americans (1975) found him searching for liberation in Philadelphia
soul. He got into trouble for predicting the emergence of a new
fascist leader who would cut through the mess and impose tyranny:
"Hitler was one of the first rock stars."
A love of German
art led him to Berlin for
"Heroes" (also 1977), and
Lodger (1979). He was hardly upbeat, but the music was fresh and
optimistic. In this cold war city he pulled back from despair and
AR Beatles: Born
in Liverpool, made in Hamburg. Bowie: born in London, made in
In 1869, aged 24, Friedrich Nietzsche was seen
as a prodigy and appointed professor in classical philology at the
University of Basel. But he retired due to poor health in 1878, went
mad in 1889, and died in 1900.
His sister Elisabeth seized
control of his writings and methodically deleted passages attacking
racism. For her compilation of his writings published as
Der Wille zur Macht (The
Will to Power) German academics nominated her for the Nobel
prize in literature. When she died in 1935, Hitler attended her
Nietzsche despised nationalism and ridiculed social
Darwinism. He preferred the Old Testament to the New. His
observations on the origins of liberal values in Jewish and
Christian monotheism are resonant today.
2016 January 12
I went for a dizzying car ride through the
Hollywood Hills and listened to
Diamond Dogs. All of my nostalgia instantly turned to awe. I was
hearing him sing about fiction as a mask to show his naked soul.
This changed my life forever.
I listened to
Diamond Dogs in 1974 while reading axiomatic set theory. Then I
listened to Beethoven and read Hegel on logic. I alternated the
pair, very loud, until the ideas achieved fusion. This changed my
The New York Times
USAF F-15 Eagle drops a mock B61-12
bomb as part of a $10 billion program to build a smart nuclear bomb.
Its computerized fin guidance can zero in precisely on deeply buried
targets and its yield can be dialed up or down to minimize
HD video (0:57)
General theory of relativity:
The term with capital lambda
is the cosmological constant.
term on the right hand
side multiplied by Newton's
gravitational constant G is
the matter term. The terms
R describe the
curvature of space.
Milo Moiré protests
naked in Cologne
ER IST WIEDER DA
50 Jahre alt, für schicken
800 qm Neubau geeignet
AR Wenige Minuten
am Strandweg entlang
von mir entfernt
2016 January 11
The European Union faces the worst and
most dangerous crisis since its creation. But Britain is refusing to
help — and using this historic moment of weakness to extract
concessions in time for the Brexit referendum.
It is high
time for Europeans to take a cold and honest look at the British. Or
rather, the English. Scotland is largely pro-EU while Wales and
Northern Ireland have far less influence.
This referendum is
an opportunity to cut the English loose. Let them simmer in their
splendid irrelevance. They will still be in NATO and will do no
damage. The United States valued Britain as its proxy seat at the
Half of British trade is with the EU, but
little more than a tenth of EU trade is with Britain. Radoslaw
Sikorski: "No prizes for guessing who would have the upper hand in
The EU faces an unprecedented refugee
crisis, the euro mess, a growing terrorist threat, and the Russian
invasion of Ukraine, plus another distraction from England.
For many mainland Europeans, the EU offers the promise of freedom
from the threat of nationalism. But the English are taught to
believe that nationalism is what saved them from Hitler. For
England, the EU is an economic project. Every argument is framed
around the British national interest.
The English will suffer
if they leave. The Scots may prefer Brussels to London. The EU can
repatriate financial powers from London. Global corporations can
have their European HQs in the EU. The EU can support India for a
permanent seat on the UN security council.
A child can see
that the EU needs fundamental reform. Imagine that England had
argued not for a better deal for Britain, but for all Europeans. The
English are only in it for themselves.
Albert Einstein summarized his general
theory of relativity in
Annalen der Physik in 1916.
The key is what it means to
be weightless. Einstein introduced the metaphor of an elevator in
outer space, far from any gravitating object. He imagined the
elevator pulled up by a rope so that it had any acceleration one
wanted. If it was pulled up with the acceleration of a freely
falling body on Earth then the occupants of the elevator would think
they are on Earth. This principle of equivalence implies that space
in the presence of gravity is curved.
Light in a vacuum
propagates in straight lines. With our space elevator stationary, we
emit a light beam from one side and it propagates to the other in a
straight line. It is always the same distance from the floor. Now we
do the same thing when the elevator is pulled up. The floor rises to
meet the light beam, so viewed from inside the elevator the beam
follows a curved path toward the floor.
the principle of equivalence this setup can be replaced by a
stationary elevator in a gravitational field. Gravity curves space.
Light follows the straight lines in this space as do other
gravitating objects. The geometry of spacetime is curved.
Einstein successfully explained the precession in the orbit of the
planet Mercury and predicted the bending of starlight
by the gravitational field of the sun. This was tested in the 1919
expeditions led by Sir Arthur Eddington to observe stars during a
total eclipse of the sun. The results agreed with the theory.
Einstein became a world celebrity.
The theory applies to
cosmology. Einstein believed that the universe was stationary, so in
added a cosmological constant to his original equations to predict
this. Then Edwin Hubble showed that the universe is expanding.
Einstein disowned the constant.
2016 January 10
Sex Mob Scandal
German police fired water
cannon in Cologne last night to prevent clashes between rival groups
of demonstrators who had gathered to protest against the sex mob
attacks on New Year's Eve.
PEGIDA demonstrators called for
ousting Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose policies let over a million
migrants arrive in Germany last year. Merkel responded by proposing
a sharp revision of asylum laws to speed up the deportation of
migrants who break German laws.
All agreed that the heavy
police presence had been absent when was needed on New Year's Eve.
Police confirmed that 1,700 officers had been deployed, compared
with 140 on New Year's Eve. Hundreds of young men and women had
turned out to watch fireworks and greet the new year.
Ariane Pfannstiel: "I don’t know what was worst that night. Was it
the absence of police or their impotence? Or the fact that I had
never seen so many aggressive men face to face? ... It was loud,
hostile and contemptuous of women. We fled from the square but
inside the station was no better. We were denounced as sluts and
whores, harassed and persecuted."
Mirjam: "There were boys
and old men, they looked like fathers and sons. My boyfriend was
standing right beside me, trying to push them away, but it was
incredible. They were just taking it in turns to grab at my breasts.
I thought if I let go of my friend's hand they would drag me away."
Sabine told German radio she had scratch marks between her
thighs where a man had groped under her skirt. Other women reported
their purses had been snatched and some told police they had seen
gang leaders directing the assaults.
police said the number of cases filed involving violence during the
festivities had reached 379, including 2 claims of rape, and that
migrants made up the majority of suspects.
New Year's Eve
assaults on women also took place in Hamburg, Stuttgart, and
On Thursday, visitors to Cologne cathedral saw
Swiss performance artist Milo Moiré standing naked with a banner
that read: "We are not fair game even when we are naked."
Merkel: "The most important thing is that the facts about what
happened are spoken about openly and bluntly. Terrible things
happened and we must respond to them."
German Mood Ugly
Cologne, New Year's Eve: Crowds of people
gather on the square between the cathedral and the railway station
But something more sinister is going on. Women
and girls are surrounded, poked and jeered at as whores and sluts,
their blouses ripped and their underwear torn off. One girl: "I had
mens' hands on every body opening."
More than 100 women file
sexual molestation charges against men of north African or Arab
origin. Yet the next morning the police report a quiet night.
German railway stations had been symbols of the new
Willkommenskultur, with crowds welcoming refugees from Syria and
elsewhere. Now they are symbols for what some call Islamic rape
culture. The mood is ugly across Europe today.
2016 January 9
UK vs EU
Ashley Fox MEP
Brexit: What would happen if Britain voted to leave?
report by the group British Influence looks at the arguments against
leaving by posing the challenges that the UK would face were we to
The case for voting to leave
This report by the Vote Leave
group is focused on how leaving might be of benefit to the UK.
Supermassive Black Holes
Our universe is just one in a multiverse, says the
theory of eternal inflation. If at the big bang spacetime expanded
exponentially, quantum effects played a role in how it evolved. A
small patch of spacetime could flip into a different quantum state,
forming a bubble. Such bubbles could form at random throughout our
inflating universe. Bubbles could inflate into their own baby
universes. Each would spawn other bubbles, to make a multiverse.
Vilenkin and colleagues have found that bubbles formed with a
low enough internal energy begin to expand. But when inflation ends
in our universe the bubbles collapse to black holes. Bubbles that
form later are smaller and collapse into standard black holes, with
only a singularity inside. But earlier bubbles create bigger black
holes concealing their own baby universes. At first we are connected
to their interiors via wormholes, but these quickly close. The
universes within keep inflating.
The analysis suggests that
we can look for signs of the multiverse by checking the distribution
of black holes. The higher the mass of the black holes, the more of
them there should be up to a critical mass, after which the number
should fall. This may help explain how the supermassive black holes
we see became so big. The black holes hiding a universe within would
start out big.
may also have implications for the
hole information loss paradox. If the information swallowed by a
black hole comes out again in Hawking radiation, we face problems,
such as the formation of a blazing firewall at the horizon of the
black hole, something prohibited by general relativity. If black
holes may hide baby universes, we can think again.
2016 January 8
Ron Rosenbaum: "I believe the State of Israel
may not survive."
The Islamic revolutionaries of Iran want to
"wipe off the map" a country credited with 80 to 200 nuclear
weapons. Israel is not a great power, but like the United States it
possesses a nuclear triad: attack aircraft by air, Jericho IRBMs on
land, and SLBMs at sea. The Dolphin U-boats offer CASD. With one
boatload, Israel can obliterate Iran as a civilization and still
have enough left to deter the rest. The Islamic regime will not
court Armageddon to destroy Israel.
Israel has beaten the
Arabs over and over again. The Jewish state has an army of 133,000
500 tanks, some 440 combat aircraft, and 400,000 reservists. In
terms of GNP, Israel puts $306 billion on the scales. Egypt, Jordan,
Lebanon, and Syria together come in at $400 billion. Israel has
seven great research universities, the Arab world none. Hezbollah is
the best Arab force in the region, but Israel can bomb its arms
deliveries from Iran.
Jewish immigration to Israel reached a
15-year high in 2015, with around 30,000 new arrivals. They come
from France, Russia, and Ukraine. Israel projects a population of 11
to 12 million for 2035. In fertility ranking, Israel is #1 among all
Western nations. Fertility reflects trust in the future. Jews have
survived for 5776 years.
Sholem Aleichem: "No matter how bad
things get, you have to go on living, even if it kills you."
AR On Ron, see blog 2015-12-15.
Saudis vs Iran
Israelis think more clearly than most
about the geopolitical dynamics of the Mideast. Tehran holds promise
as a natural ally for Israel. But logic still dictates that Israel
stay with Saudi Arabia. Checking Shiite ambitions trumps the
Iran has civilizational depth. Any Mideast
nation that allocates most of its university places to women has
something going for it. Saudi Arabia weds the medievalism of the
House of Saud to the extremist Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam.
The west was duped into a nuclear deal with Iran that offers at best
a pause in its nuclear program. Tehran backs Hizbollah in Lebanon,
Hamas in Gaza, the Assad regime in Syria, and Houthi rebels in
Yemen. Israel cannot wait for reform in Iran.
alliance with Saudi Arabia is loosening. Dependence on Gulf oil and
tolerance of Wahhabism are waning. Yet Saudi Arabia is still viewed
as an ally. Its theocracy is preferable to the black flag of the
caliphate raised over Riyadh.
Annual arms spend:
Arabia $55 billion
Iran $10 billion
Pablo Carlos Budassi
Our Visual Universe
Radial log plot from NASA data
use sunlight to turn water and
carbon dioxide into
plants need, plus oxygen.
Yang is building an
artificial system that does the
engineered bacteria. It will
churn out standard fuels
with no net carbon footprint.
The system is about as
efficient as natural photo-synthesis. Making it
efficient comes next.
Vincent Callebaut sees ocean
reaching to the
sea floor from green marinas
on the water surface.
would provide 250 floors of
space to live and work and
reach a depth of 1 km. They
desalinate seawater for
drinking, use microalgae to
organic waste, be
lit by bioluminescence,
and be printed from
2016 January 7
Astronomers have found that black holes can
sometimes be seen through an optical telescope.
V404 Cygni is
a binary system some 8,000 light years (75 Em) from Earth. A black
hole and a star orbit each other about once a week, close enough for
the black hole to strip matter from the star. This spirals down into
the black hole and emits a final burst of radiation.
June, the NASA Swift gamma ray telescope picked up signs of an
outburst. When Japanese scientists looked at the black hole they saw
flashes of light for the two weeks it was active.
Chandra x-ray observatory recently detected two big blasts of gas
coming from a supermassive black hole 26 million light years away in
the heart of galaxy NGC 5195.
Texas astrophysicist Eric
Schlegel: "Astronomers often refer to black holes as eating stars
and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal. It
is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have
such a close, resolved view of these events."
AR On greedy black holes, see blog
2016 January 6
Both the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the
Islamic Republic of Iran have staked their legitimacy on a mission
of exporting religion. The Iranians warned the Saudis not to harm
Shiite Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr but the Sauds killed him anyway. The
principal victim will be House of Saud itself.
coming to power in 1979, the mullahs called on Gulf states to revolt
and sever relations with the United States. The Iranians especially
targeted Saudi Arabia but failed to see that their revolution was
never an attractive model of empowerment for Saudi Shiites.
The Saudi kingdom's current rulers seem to share Iran's
misconceptions about the loyalties of Saudi Shiites. Denigrating
Shiites as heretics only inflames their grievances and radicalizes
The post-colonial Arab order is disappearing. Syria and
Iraq are beset by civil wars. Iran is on the march. The silence from
Washington is deafening.
Peter Müller, Christoph Scheuermann
EU leaders plan to
give in to most of David Cameron's reform demands. At the February
summit he will be opposed by all his 27 EU counterparts. But in the
end he will get his way.
European Council President Donald
Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel have already written the script for their
own defeat. Their goal is to give Cameron the political tailwind he
needs to keep the UK in the EU following his planned referendum. For
them, Brexit is a nightmare scenario:
FN leader Marine Le Pen has already announced that she plans to hold
a similar referendum in France if she wins the French 2017
presidential elections. Brexit and Frexit together would kill the
2 Brexit would knock the EU
power structures off kilter. Without the UK and its advocacy of free
trade, the influence of southern European countries would rise and
that of Germany and its northern neighbors would fall.
3 The EU would be weakened in the global
economy. Brexit would leave the union with 13% fewer residents and
17% less economic clout. Without London, the EU would have no global
financial capital except Frankfurt.
Even the most
controversial British demands could go through. Cameron wants a law
to stop EU citizens who work in the UK from accessing social
benefits for four years. This is a clear case of discrimination and
violates EU law. A compromise solution could exclude citizens of EU
member states from British social benefits for one year in
accordance with a previous European Court of Justice ruling.
Advocates of Brexit hope that British voters will choose Brexit no
matter what kind of deal Cameron strikes in Brussels. Jim Mellon:
"The Eurozone ship is like the Titanic. It will sink sooner rather
than later. It is better to be sitting in a lifeboat than to be
Sex Attacks in Germany
The New York Times
On New Year's Eve in the German city
of Köln, about a hundred young women were sexually harassed and robbed
by hundreds of young men. The assaults took place on the public
square in front of Köln Hauptbahnhof, near bars and nightclubs.
Police said the attackers were young men "who appeared to have a
North African or Arabic" background.
Wolfgang Albers said the assaults had taken place in a chaotic crowd
after a fireworks show. The men appeared to have broken into smaller
groups, with each one encircling a woman, while some groped the
victim and others stole her wallet or cellphone. One victim said she
had been raped.
Kölner Oberbürgermeisterin Henriette Reker
called the assault "absolutely intolerable" and pledged her support
for an investigation. Köln took in more than 10,000 migrants last
year, many of them young men from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Similar assaults took place on New Year's Eve in Hamburg.
2016 January 5
Cass R. Sunstein
Many wealthy people worldwide hide money
in foreign countries to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.
About 8% of the world's wealth, or $7.6 trillion, is held in tax
havens. In 2015, Switzerland alone held $2.3 trillion in foreign
wealth. Unreported foreign accounts cost governments about $200
billion in tax revenue each year. In the United States the annual
tax loss is $35 billion. In Europe it is $78 billion.
Zucman says international balance sheets show more liabilities than
assets. In 2015, the nations of the world recorded $2 trillion as
mutual fund holdings in Luxembourg as liabilities. But Luxembourg
recorded $3.5 trillion in mutual fund holdings as assets. The
missing $1.5 trillion had no owners. The amount by which assets
exceed liabilities is a measure of the hidden wealth. The global
grand total is around $7.6 trillion.
Zucman proposes an
automatic global register to let every government in the world know
where money is kept and who is escaping national taxes. An automatic
register makes special inquiries or evidence of suspicion
unnecessary. A global register would not only help combat bribery
and money laundering but also ease imposition of a global wealth
Many nations are considering requirements on banks to
identify their clients and to disclose holdings and payments. But
they are not proposing penalties. Banks have a lot to gain from
business as usual. Also, offshore accounts hidden behind trusts and
shell corporations are hard to link with their real owners.
Tax evaders are mostly the wealthiest people. Tax avoidance by
multinational corporations is different, because it is typically
done without violating a national law. Tax avoidance costs the
United States $35 billion a year, and some estimates say that the
real loss is as high as $100 billion.
An automatic global register should use blockchain technology
2016 January 4
UK Economic Security: EU Membership Vital
David Cameron's claim that British
membership of a reformed EU is vital to Britain's economic security
is backed by an overwhelming majority of economists in an FT survey.
Most of the 102 economists thought economic
prospects following a Brexit would be hit if voters decided to
leave. None thought a vote to leave would enhance UK economic growth
this year and 67 said the outlook would deteriorate. Brexit was the
top cited risk to prosperity, with concern that exit would cause
capital to flee the UK.
In the medium term, opinion was even
more strongly opposed to exit. Concerns were that companies would no
longer use the UK as a base for their European operations: 76
economists said leaving the EU would harm prospects, 8 said the
outlook outside the EU would be better, and 18 said it would make
UK Strategic Security: EU Membership Vital
Brexit would be bad for Britain and Europe.
The UK would lose its hold on developments in Europe, lose the
weight of the EU to back it up, and loosen its special relationship
with the United States.
The UK chose to
be the junior partner in a US "special relationship" rather than a
leader in European integration. Britain is now too weak to go it
alone globally, and engaging more with the EU would be wiser.
Americans want a strong European partner with a united foreign
policy. For US policymakers, Britain is relevant only so far as it
can help build coalitions in the EU.
The EU is becoming a
political entity. The German-French conflict has been solved through
European integration. Democracy around Europe is consolidated
through European integration.
2016 January 3
Rebekah Herrick sought to figure out why so
many US senators and representatives stay clean-shaven. She
collected photos of the male members of Congress with facial hair
and matched each photo to an image of a similar bare-faced member,
then showed the photo pairs to a group of students and asked them to
rate the men for masculinity and likely stances on feminist issues.
The congressmen with facial hair were thought to be more
masculine and less feminist. Women and feminists in the group said
they were less likely to vote for them. This may be why so few
political candidates have sported facial hair since women gained the
right to vote. Yet voting records show that on average the bearded
policymakers vote like the others on feminist issues.
politicians grow beards not for sexist reasons but for the reason
that facial-hair researchers have unearthed again and again: The
beard gets respect. A thick beard signals virility, sexual potency,
manhood, and natural strength and authority. Across several studies,
men with facial hair are rated as more masculine, dominant, older,
and in some cases attractive.
I'm growing a beard.
2016 January 2
Latin was squeezed out of many British schools
with the introduction of the National Curriculum from 1989. Classics
was commonly dismissed as a stale and arcane subject, beyond the
interest of anyone outside the old public schools or Oxbridge. Now
that is changing.
Last year the British Museum in London
staged an exhibition dedicated to the Greek aesthetic. It showcased
Greek and Roman craftsmanship as well as contemporary thought about
the past. Latin and Greek suffered tremendously in our time and are
only now returning.
Knowledge of Latin used to be
prerequisite for studying at the top universities. But in 1960 both
Oxford and Cambridge dispensed with Latin as an entry requirement
for non-classics candidates. That year too it was decided that Latin
would no longer be obligatory at O level.
The ancient Greeks
appeal to military men too. US generals Colin Powell and David
Petraeus studied Greek military texts. Change is coming: Oxford
scholar Peter Frankopan began his new history of the world not with
Greece but with the rise of the Persian empire.
2016 January 1
Joos van Gent
Augustine, born in 354 CE, had a strong
sexual appetite. Moving to Carthage as a young man, he sank into a "seething cauldron of lust" and admitted to "procuring
the fruits of death" while in church. He also took a concubine with
whom he had a son. He prayed for chastity, but "not yet".
Augustine came to reject sex
but saw that evil
was part of human nature. As a student, he joined a club
whose members went around harassing other students. He joined
because he was lonely. He slept around for the same reason. He
realized that our vices are often misdirected virtues.
Confessions, composed in his early 40s, reads like the work of a
great novelist or poet.