1500 PS, 420 km/h,
8,0 Liter Hubraum,
Gewicht 2240 kg,
sollte das VK schämen.
My sister Helen Ross
in Dorset yesterday
2017 March 31
America v China
Graham Allison: "China and the United
States are currently on a collision course for war ... If Hollywood
were to make a movie pitting China against the United States,
central casting could not find two better leading actors than Xi
Jinping and Donald Trump."
Xi seeks to return China
to its traditional role as the dominant regional power. The primary
target of Chinese ambition is Japan. The current focus of
territorial disputes between Japan and China is the set of islands
known as the Senkakus to the Japanese and the Diaoyu to the Chinese.
Michael Green: "If there is one central theme in American
strategic culture as it has applied to the Far East over time, it is
that the United States will not tolerate any other power
establishing exclusive hegemonic control over Asia and the Pacific."
The differing views of China and the United States on how to
deal with the North Korean nuclear threat are likely to be aired in the summit next week in Florida. Both America
and China would likely be involved in any war that broke out on the
Das Europaparlament stellt harte
Großbritannien soll seine Rechnungen bezahlen
und nach dem Brexit schlechter gestellt sein als zuvor.
werde man das Austrittsabkommen blockieren.
2017 March 30
Nach 42 Jahren Mitgliedschaft verlässt
Großbritannien die Europäische Union. Die Hoffnung Großbritanniens
hat sich nie erfüllt, die EU als stetige Quelle lukrativer Deals zu
nutzen. Daher ist die Abkehr von der EU folgerichtig.
Industrie und dem Handwerk fehlen die Facharbeiter. Anspruchsvolle
Dienstleistungsjobs werden hauptsächlich in
London angeboten. Auf dem britischen
Arbeitsmarkt sind zero hour contracts erlaubt, Scheinbeschäftigung
von Selbstständigen und extrem kurze Kündigungszeiten. Reale
Lohnsteigerungen gibt es seit Jahren nicht mehr.
Großbritannien soll der Handel mit dem ehemaligen Commonwealth alles
wieder wettmachen. Dabei macht derzeit der Import Großbritanniens
aus den fünf größten Commonwealth-Ländern zusammen nicht einmal
soviel aus wie der Import aus Holland. Beim Export macht der
britische Handel mit dem Commonwealth nur so viel aus wie die
Ausfuhren nach Frankreich.
Großbritannien hat den Weg für den Brexit
beschritten. Noch gibt man sich zivilisiert. Bald wird man knallhart
ringen. Heikle Fragen:
Satte 60 Milliarden Euro ist angeblich die
Summe, die London vor dem Austritt zahlen soll. Premier Theresa May
hat sich zuletzt konzilianter gegeben. Trotzdem birgt der erste
Klotz auf der Brexit-Agenda Sprengstoff.
2 Die EU-Ausländer
Auf dem Verhandlungstisch liegt auch die Zukunft von mindestens
vier Millionen EU-Bürgern dies- und jenseits des Ärmelkanals. Bietet
London keine unbürokratischen Zusagen für die EU-Ausländer im Land,
hinterlässt es gleich zu Beginn verbrannte Erde.
Großbritannien ist Atommacht und Ständiges Mitglied im
UN-Sicherheitsrat. Seine Geheimdienste gelten als die besten in
Europa. Es gibt im Osten der EU Befürchtungen, London könne die an
Russland grenzenden Länder erpressen wollen.
4 Rolle des EuGH
Die harten Brexiter wollen mit dem Tag des Austritts nichts mehr
mit dem Europäischen Gerichtshof (EuGH) zu tun haben. Das
EU-Parlament besteht darauf, dass der EuGH in einer Übergangsperiode
weiterhin das Sagen hat.
Die Briten wollten die wirtschaftlichen
Vorteile des Binnenmarktes. Sie wollte den Euro nie und zog die
eigene Landesgrenze dem Schengenraum vor. Die Vorstellung einer
immer engeren Union der Völker Europas entsprach nicht dem
Nun treiben die Briten die
politische Desintegration voran. Als Wirtschaftsmacht ist
Großbritannien als nach Deutschland stärkstes Land für die EU
unverzichtbar. Wirtschaftlich ist das Königreich für die Union so
wichtig wie die zwanzig kleinsten Länder zusammen.
Deutschland ist Großbritannien der drittwichtigste Handelspartner,
die Verflechtungen zwischen den Unternehmen sind eng. Gibt es kein
Abkommen mit gegenseitigem Marktzutritt, wären gegenseitige
Wertschöpfungsketten und Geschäftsmodelle bedroht.
sind vorbei, in denen der erfolgreiche Binnenmarkt neue Mitglieder
anzog, weil er Wachstum und Wohlstand schuf. Die EU hat ihn
überreguliert und mit politischen Zielen überfrachtet. Deutschland
könnte zum Hauptverlierer des Brexits werden.
2017 March 29
Today the British government notifies the EU
of its intention to leave. This is a tragedy for the UK and a
tragedy for Europe. It is an appalling way to celebrate the EU's
Even if the exit negotiations go well,
the decision to leave the EU will have huge consequences for the UK.
Economically, it will lose favorable access to by far its biggest
market. Politically, it will create great stresses inside the UK and
Ireland. Strategically, it will eject the UK from its role in EU
councils. The UK will be poorer, more divided and less influential.
End of the Beginning
Theresa May's letter giving notice of
Brexit is a declaration of intent to embark on mission
impossible. She must fight on five fronts:
EU has already demanded a payment of up to €60 billion for existing
commitments. For the EU, this comes first. Then come thousands of
The Scottish Parliament voted yesterday to hold a new independence
referendum when the terms of Brexit are clear. May: "Now is not the
3 Northern Ireland
The Northern Irish also voted to remain in the EU. Brexit could
endanger the fragile peace between Protestants and Catholics. The
open border between north and south would close if the UK left the
customs union and the single market. A reunified Ireland could stay
in the EU.
Brexit boom? The UK is still in the
EU and benefits from the single market, especially given the
devaluation of the pound following the referendum. May: "No deal is
better than a bad deal." A reversion to WTO rules would be
5 British Domestic Politics
There is still an opposition in London. Parliament must agree
the terms of a Brexit deal with the EU. Advocates of a hard Brexit
are pressing May too — within two years or no deal.
2017 March 28
End Times in the Anglosphere
When Donald Trump met Angela Merkel earlier
this month, he put on one of his most truculent and ignorant
performances. He told Merkel that Germany owes the United States
hundreds of billions of dollars for defending it through NATO. He
showed no interest in the European Union.
The European Union
has provided peace and stability to hundreds of millions of people
for 60 years. In myriad ways it has improved life for Europeans
whose forebears lived in a charnel house. Truculent Trump has
abdicated responsibility — Europe must step into the void.
"Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in
three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS!
Fortunately, European civilization is deeper than its AA part.
2017 March 27
The End of History
Francis Fukuyama said the collapse of
communism and the US victory in the cold war showed liberal
capitalist democracy was the end of History. He recalled Georg
Hegel, who said History is a process of resolving social
contradictions via conflict to achieve higher integration, and Karl
Marx, who predicted communism.
For Fukuyama, humanity
developed in an upward arc from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment,
paving the way for democratic liberal capitalism. Modern science and
technology, alongside market capitalism, explained our path to the
top. Now History had ended — but critics see all this as no more
plausible than Hegel or Marx.
Fukuyama noted the human need
for recognition and respect, affirmed if necessary by force. People
exhibit "megalothymia" — a desire not only to enjoy respect and
recognition but also to dominate others in ostentatious and
spectacular ways. If not channeled this can turn vicious, finding an
outlet in domination and oppression.
Fukuyama said people who
had lost greatness might lose patience with comforts that failed to
feed megalothymia. He said their resentment would find a political
outlet. He feared the emergence of demagogic strongmen promising
mastery and domination. He cited an archetype of megalothymia: "a developer like Donald Trump."
2017 March 26
Special relativity has a symmetry
called Lorentz invariance: The laws of physics are the same for any
two observers moving at a constant speed relative to each other. So
they observe each other's clocks running at different rates. Each
observer feels stationary and see the other clock as ticking slowly
— time dilation.
General relativity says clocks run
differently if they experience different gravitational forces.
Comparing atomic clocks aboard GPS satellites with those on Earth
confirm the effect.
Most atomic clocks rely on the frequency
of the microwaves emitted by electrons in caesium 133 atoms. New
clocks using strontium atoms have at least three times the
precision, barely gaining or losing a second over 15 billion years.
In a new test of time dilation, two optical fiber links, one
between London and Paris and another between Paris and Braunschweig
were used to compare strontium clocks in these locations. These
clocks are moving at different velocities because of their position
on the Earth. After one day, clocks in Paris and London should show
a difference of 5 ns.
To compare them, the team synchronized
lasers to the frequency of the radiation from each of the clocks,
transmitted the laser beams over the fiber links, and superimposed
the beams to detect any differences in frequency. They confirmed
Lorentz invariance to less than 10 parts in a billion — the best
Vor 90 Jahren gelang
Werner Heisenberg eine
"Prayer is often just a jolly
good excuse to shut up
while and think."
5 dead, 40 injured
tried to save a stabbed
Global Military Spending
United States $596 billion
Next 7 countries $567 billion
Rest of world $514 billion
"Oh, Donald. The ratings are in,
got swamped. Wow.
Now you're in the thirties?"
"If this were TV, you'd be fired.
tell it like it is:
Donald, you're fired!"
Vicente Fox Quesada
British troops deploy to Estonia
Erdogan Calls Merkel Nazi
Islamist Turkish president
Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses
Angela Merkel of using
AR That will boost her
2017 March 25
For 60 years, astrophysicists have thought
supernova explosions make gold, along with dozens of other heavy
elements on the bottom few rows of the periodic table. Now computer
models of supernovas show this is unlikely. Perhaps colliding
neutron stars forge heavy elements.
In 1957, physicists
explained how exploding stars could make heavy elements. The Big
Bang made hydrogen, helium, and lithium. Stars then cooked up
progressively heavier elements up to iron.
To make nuclei
bigger than iron, you can bombard iron nuclei with neutrons, which
can be absorbed and decay into protons. Slow neutron capture, the s
process, makes elements such as strontium, barium, and lead. Rapid
neutron capture, the r process, beefs up nuclei to form heavy
elements including uranium and gold.
A supernova occurs when
a star collapses onto an iron core. Protons and electrons in the
core are forced together, making neutrons. Textbooks say supernovas
fuel the r process.
Supernovas make neutron stars. In a
binary neutron star system, the stars lose energy and eventually
collide. In the last few orbits, gravitational tides eject enormous
amounts of material. Heavy nuclei form in about a second, but they
are unstable. They decay to things like gold and platinum.
supernova makes perhaps a Moon mass of gold. Neutron star mergers
are rarer, but each one makes a Jupiter mass of gold. Think of
r-process elements as chocolate. A universe enriched by supernovas
would be like a cookie with an even glaze of chocolate. Neutron star
mergers would form nuggets, as in chocolate chip cookies.
LIGO should soon be sensitive enough to detect neutron star mergers
in distant galaxies.
AR See blog
French mathematician Yves Meyer has won the 2017
Abel Prize for his pivotal role in the development of the
mathematical theory of wavelets.
In signal processing, sound
or image signals can be represented by specifying wavelet amplitudes
in an orthonormal basis. Meyer developed a way to create wavelet
bases and wavelet transforms tailored to a given application.
Wavelet transforms are now used everywhere from JPEG compression to
processing gravitational wave signals detected by LIGO.
Meyer: "You must dig deeply into your own self in order to do
something as difficult as research in mathematics. You need to
believe that you possess a treasure hidden in the depths of your
mind, a treasure which has to be unveiled."
AR Good advice.
2017 March 24
Humans Have Bodies
Yuval Noah Harari
Mark Zuckerberg has published a
manifesto on the need to build a global community. To implement his
vision, he might have to jump headlong into a political minefield.
But his willingness to formulate a political vision deserves praise.
Any effort to build a global community must go together with
protecting and strengthening local ones. No nation, corporation, or
global network can replace communities of people who know each other
intimately. Without these groups, humans feel lonely and alienated.
Technology has been distancing us from our bodies. What people
might really need are the tools to connect to their own experiences.
In the name of sharing experiences, people let what they feel be
determined by online reactions rather than by their own experience.
The current Facebook business model values time spent online
over time spent offline. The best solutions for improving discourse
may come from getting to know each other as whole people instead of
just opinions. Humans have bodies.
My cut of the manifesto: blog February 21.
The state has the primary function of providing
security. By creating failed states, the West cleared zones of
anarchy in which Daesh thrived. European governments are now
adopting policies that will end mass migration into Europe.
Controlling the flows of people cannot neutralize Daesh militants
who are already here. Some will have entered Europe years ago, or
been born in a European country and then learned terrorist skills in
war zones. A major terrorist threat can be created by very few
The European Union is weak in this regard because of
freedom of movement. As a borderless zone, it can control the
movement of people only at its perimeters. The result is an
institution that cannot meet the primary and overriding need for
safety that states exist to serve.
Daesh joins guerrilla
warfare and spectacular acts of terror in its strategy. Daesh
militants are possessed by faith. Their attacks are moves in a
methodical strategy of savagery that serves an Islamist apocalyptic
AR My new cut from a 2015
British citizen Khalid Masood, 52, born in the UK, was a Muslim
convert, known to MI5, who had a range of previous convictions for
assault, possession of offensive weapons, and public order offences,
before committing the Westminster atrocity.
AR The UK is as infected as
France or Germany. Brexit is no cure.
2017 March 23
World leaders condemned the attack on Westminster as they
reacted with horror and sympathy.
French president François Hollande: "We are all concerned with
terrorism. France, which has been struck so hard lately, knows what
the British people are suffering today. It is clear that it is at
the European level, and even beyond that, that we must organise
German chancellor Angela Merkel: "Although the
background to these acts is not yet clear, I reaffirm that Germany
and its citizens stand firmly and resolutely alongside Britons in
the struggle against all forms of terrorism."
minister Mariano Rajoy: "Spain is with the British people. I condemn
the attacks, solidarity with the victims."
minister Mark Rutte: "Horrible images from London. The very heart of
the city has been struck. Our thoughts are with the British people."
Europe at 60
British prime minister Theresa May will
not attend celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty
The Germans and the French have argued from the
outset about the shape of Europe. For France, integration was about
building a firebreak against the power of America. For Germany,
Europe was a route to national reunification and from the demons of
Shortly before the Benelux nations came up with a
blueprint for a European Economic Community, France had scuppered
German plans for a European defense association. In the decades
since the Rome treaty, German federalists have frequently collided
with French nationalists.
The recent deluge of crises has drained confidence. A breakdown of the Brexit talks could
destabilize the union.
The price of greatness is responsibility.
When a country leaves the union, there is no punishment. There is no
price to pay to leave, but we must settle the accounts.
We will tell the truth to our citizens about
what Brexit means. We must do serious legal work with the United
Kingdom on the long-term rights of EU citizens in the UK and British
citizens living in the rest of the EU. But we can and we should
agree, as soon as possible, on the principles of continuity,
reciprocity, and non-discrimination so as not to leave these
citizens in a situation of uncertainty.
I want to say this to
our British partners. At the end of the day we both need a united
Europe to reach a deal.
2017 March 22
His Wish Came True
Donald Trump has stumbled into an Aesop's
fable of his own making. Having received what he so fervently wished
for, he's now found that leading the free world is a miserable
chore. As a candidate, he got to accuse the establishment of
trashing the country. He played hype-man for a future in which he'd
refresh our ideals. Now he's accountable in the present to all the
men and women whose lives haven't become fairy tales since he took
office. That's not fun. That's a full-time job, and that's the one
thing Donald Trump has never wanted.
Trump No Care
We have trouble believing what we see
coming out of the Trump White House. Just a few weeks into this
administration, it already seems clear that historians years from
now will be asking how the Republicans could have let this happen.
Trump is not fit to be president.
Republicans will support
Trump, let him deport Muslims and crack down on undocumented
Latinos, let him depart from party orthodoxy on trade, let him
pursue risky policies with Vladimir Putin, turn a collective blind
eye to the manifold ways in which he dishonors the office, as long
as he signs legislation that rips up the liberal state. They just
hope he doesn't start World War 3.
The American Health Care
Act is an awkward hybrid of Obamacare and conservative talking
points against Obamacare. It was immediately attacked by both
Democrats and the most conservative Republicans. The GOP goal on
Medicaid is simply to vastly reduce the amount of money the federal
government sends to the states.
On Social Security, a plan
was unveiled to eliminate a tax that high-income benefit recipients
currently pay and would in turn cut benefits for most other
recipients. Efforts to move on these fronts will require investments
of political capital the Republican leaders no longer have.
On taxes, Trump wants to lower the corporate tax rate. Congressional
Republicans will be for that but they will also want to push lower
personal income tax rates. The trick will be to pass this off as
revenue neutral. One recent GOP tax plan could add $2.4 trillion to
the deficit over ten years.
If congressional Republicans find
that Trump is no use in enabling them to undo all these liberal
entitlements and slashing taxes again on the top 1%, the romance
might be brief.
Republicans will hold ranks against
political attacks against Trump. Over the years they have excused
mountains of hypocrisy in their own leaders. It will be interesting
to see how they defend a president who may owe his election in part
The EU Dublin rules dictate that asylum
seekers must be processed in the first member state they enter. So
the UK exports hundreds of asylum seekers to other EU member states
if they have already been registered elsewhere.
Isles are rarely the first port of call for an asylum seeker, so the
UK is a net beneficiary of the rules. But this cushy status quo
might not last after Brexit. Other countries are already annoyed at
2017 March 21
The President Lies
US president Donald Trump has repeatedly
accused Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones. FBI director James
Comey says there is no information that supports the claim.
Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign was an
attack on the United States. Yet now it has become the subject of an
escalating series of lies by the president and the people who work
for him. The big question now is what really happened and who can
uncover the truth.
The Republican House members questioning
Comey acted like Trump staff members, decrying leaks about Russia's
attack rather than the attack itself.
Democrat Adam Schiff:
"Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely
unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?
Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than
possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not
unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt
US persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We
simply don't know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find
2017 March 20
The IT revolution was largely a US achievement. Google and
Facebook are expected to have a combined share of all digital
advertising worldwide this year of 60%. Google is valued at $590
billion, Facebook about $400 billion. Google is essentially a vast
global library, Amazon is a vast global bazaar, and Facebook is a
vast global club.
Confronted with this revolution, the
Europeans capitulated. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (Fang)
have got their teeth into the EU. Yet British and German politicians
want social networks to censor the web. As if these companies were
not already mighty enough, European politicians want to give them
China fought back. Baidu (the Chinese search
engine), Alibaba (the Chinese answer to Amazon), and Tencent (the
nearest thing in China to Facebook) give Big Brother the big data to
keep close tabs on Chinese netizens. Good luck to the US National
Security Agency as it tries to get through the Great Firewall of
AR Globorg is the child of
the IT revolution — Long live
Making America Safe Again
President Trump is giving the war hawks
the money they want. This does not mean he is endorsing their global
strategy. Sealing the borders is supposed to reduce the risk of
The most serious threat is China, but its goals
appear to be about reclaiming bordering territories it says are its
own. Russia remains a military paper tiger, and its conventional
capabilities are limited. The UK has shown that domestic terror
threats can be beaten by infiltration, data gathering and shared
intelligence, and that working sensitively with Islamic communities
Trump wants to make America great again. He
is demanding huge sums of money to rearm. His opponents must prevent
Fortress USA from becoming a launchpad for new conflicts.
Anglo-German Defense Cooperation
Britain and Germany are set to sign a new
defense cooperation deal after the UK launches Brexit. The UK
defense ministry said it was working with Germany "on a joint vision
statement on future cooperation" while the German defense ministry
confirmed it was working on joint projects.
London and Berlin
defend a common front in eastern Europe. Britain is leading a new
NATO deployment in Estonia and Germany is leading one in Lithuania.
AR Glad to hear it.
2017 March 19
American Protectionism: The Price
G20 finance ministers meeting in
Baden-Baden failed to promote free trade thanks to US opposition.
American Protection: The Bill
Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I
had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United
States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive,
defense it provides to Germany!
American Protection: The Facts
Sorry, Mr President, that's not how NATO works.
The US decides for itself how much it contributes to defending NATO.
This is not a financial transaction, where NATO countries pay
the US to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment. All NATO
countries, including Germany, have committed to spend 2% of GDP on
defense by 2024. Those who currently don't spend 2% of their GDP on
defense are now increasing their defense budgets.
funds will be paid to the US. They are meant to increase NATO
defense capabilities, given the growing Russian threat. Europe must
spend more on defense, not as a favor (or payment) to the US but
because their security requires it.
The US does provide a large
military commitment to NATO. But this is not a favor to Europe. It
is vital for our own security. We fought two world wars in Europe,
and one cold war. Keeping Europe whole, free, and at peace, is a vital
A strong, united NATO, in which all contribute
their fair share to defense, will secure that peace for all Alliance
AR The reign of POTUS 45
is an insult to the world.
2017 March 18
Trump and Merkel
The New York Times
German chancellor Angela Merkel and US
president Donald Trump endured an awkward encounter — the great
disrupter confronts the last defender of the liberal world order.
Worlds apart in style and policy, they made a show of working
together, but they could not disguise the gulf that separates them
on trade, immigration, and a host of other thorny issues.
Trump went further on the need for burden sharing in NATO, demanding
not only that members increase their military spending as a
percentage of GDP but also that they make reparations for past
American contributions. He also said he believed that Germany, like
China and other trading partners, had taken advantage of the United
Merkel drove home the point that trade with Germany
benefits American workers by bringing a delegation of chief
executives from BMW, Siemens, and other German companies with
extensive American operations. Trump brought in his own contingent
of chief executives from Dow Chemical, IBM, and Salesforce.com and
used the round table to promote apprenticeships.
Germany and the United States must find a way.
AR If the way is for Germany to spend
endless billions on arms that only ratchet up tensions on the
Eastern Front, perhaps we need a rethink.
Sir Isaac Newton said the strength of
gravity follows an inverse square law. Albert Einstein explained
gravity in terms of massive objects curving spacetime. Mordehai
Milgrom accounted for anomalous stellar motions in galaxies with his
modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) — when field strength drops below
a particular (nano-g) value, gravity follows a new law. But MOND is
Astronomers took a fresh look at more than 150 spiral
galaxies and found their stars had anomalously high speeds farther
out from the center. Stacy McGaugh found a tight correlation between
galactic rotation speeds and their distribution of visible matter,
suggesting a new law, not mere dark matter.
John Moffat has
modified MOND so that gravitational field strength follows an
inverse square law closer in, only to peter out at galactic
distances, where gravity behaves as in MOND. He says he can account
for the rotations of galaxies and the odd dynamics of the Bullet
Cluster. He also predicts potentially testable effects near black
Erik Verlinde suggests gravity emerges from entangled
qubits. Physicists can already show that, but only for anti-de-Sitter space (AdS). The
vacuum seems to contain dark energy that accelerates the expansion
of spacetime. Verlinde says dark energy acts like an elastic medium,
which matter deforms, boosting gravity at long range, as in MOND.
We still need an underlying theory. Lee Smolin seeks to derive
the MOND predictions from first principles in quantum gravity. No
one is done yet.
AR It seems
feasible to me that a theory of quantum gravity will predict fields
stronger than in Newton or Einstein gravity for weak fields where
the Planck limit is not far down and dimensional instability looms.
Given dark energy, even nano-g variations seem possible. Without a
theory, who knows? See blog February 2.
Theresa May will separate two great unions, the UK and the EU. The
EU is a union of 28 states with over 500 million people, modern
in its institutions and diverse in its appurtenances, and beloved by
many of its members. The UK is a union of 4 states with some
million people, antique in its institutions and ancient in its
traditions, and also beloved by many of its citizens.
The EU might not survive 2017, given ongoing debt and
immigration crises, new Brexit and defense spending crises, and
and Germany. The UK might not survive Brexit, given the risk of a
hard divorce with no trade deal, acrimony over alimony,
and separatists in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If England
and Wales were left alone, the UK would be gone.
May will recall the first two years in office
of her illustrious predecessor Winston Churchill, who led a Britain
that against all odds
defied Nazi Europe and survived, albeit as a
junior member of the victorious Allies. Perhaps she imagines the UK
something similar today with the help of the
Anglosphere. I think this is a historic blunder.
Centrist prime minister
sees off threat from
People Power: Fighting for Peace
Imperial War Museum, London
2017-03-23 — 2017-08-28
Solar Protest Event
Republican National Convention
Cleveland, July 2016
The End Is Nigh
parliament clears path for
government to trigger Brexit
"British unionist anti-Europeans,
having chosen to relinquish
UK's principal export market and
a say on the laws that
will now advise Scotland not to
market and a say on the
laws that govern it."
"A united Ireland is not only
credible but inevitable."
The House of Lords blocks
the UK government again:
Peers vote for a "meaningful"
parliamentary vote on the
terms of withdrawal.
2017 March 17
Yesterday the EU Withdrawal Bill received royal assent. Within
the next two weeks, we will begin the negotiations to secure the UK
departure from the EU. We will forge a more global Britain, securing
a new partnership with Europe and reaching out to old friends and
new allies alike.
The SNP is trying to force the UK
government to agree to something that is fundamentally unfair to the
Scottish people. It wants to ask them to make a crucial decision
without the necessary information. They would not know what the new
partnership with the EU would look like.
AR A vote for Brexit is OK but a vote
for Scottish independence is not?
Brexit puts Northern Ireland up for
discussion given that a majority there voted to remain in the EU.
On a practical level there are two massive problems. One is the
€10 billion a year subsidy from the British exchequer to Northern
Ireland and how that is going to be replaced without wrecking the
economy of the entire island. The other is that there would still be
resistance and possibly violent resistance from a loyalist minority.
The only united Ireland worth having is one that comes about
because the people of the North want it.
Brexit creates new challenges for UK and
— EU defense spending and industry
and EU research and innovation
— European defense integration
— Future agreements on international sanctions
— Scotland and the
— Northern Ireland and border security
Continued UK-EU collaboration on security
2017 March 16
Recent space entrepreneurs have
accomplished amazing technical feats. And China may put crews on the
Moon within 20 years. But these achievements are not in the same
league as visiting Mars, and landing to stay is even further off.
Space radiation and the health hazards of weightlessness put
destinations other than the Moon out of reach with current
technology. The risk to passengers is too high. We need much faster
spacecraft and much more knowledge of space travel.
a safe mode of travel, moving many people to another planet would
cost an enormous amount, far more than the passengers themselves
could afford. No one has identified a space resource that would
compensate for that investment.
A mission to send a few
astronauts to Mars for a brief visit could cost a trillion dollars.
Scant opportunities for a self-sustaining space colony exist in our
celestial neighborhood. No place in our solar system is as
hospitable to life as Earth.
Some exoplanets circling another
star could harbor pleasant human habitats. But they are so far away
that getting there would take something like a Star Trek warp drive.
Saving this planet will have to come before sending colonists into
AR Quite right. First
priority: Head off WW3.
World War 3
Three fronts are emerging as the loci
Europe-Russia front triggered by the Ukrainian conflict
The Ukrainian crisis was preceded by two decades of NATO
expansion up to the borders of Russia, with increasing deployments
of troops by both NATO and Russia, dangerous confrontations, and
massive war games.
Mideast cauldron centered on Daesh and the Syrian war
US Mideast geopolitical strategy is directed against Iran
extending its influence through Syria and Lebanon. The Syrian war
has seen Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey arming and funding radical
jihadist groups. Daesh is aiding the strategy.
3 The Asia-Pacific front with
the United States versus China
America and China are
on a dangerous collision course. Trump has threatened a trade war
with China. A war economy with militarization, mobilization, full
employment, and jingoism is a solution to economic woes and social
AR A solution? This
pundit is too pessimistic.
2017 March 15
The sun is the most reliable, plentiful source of energy we have. As solar panel costs continue to fall, they are
becoming a growing source of clean energy around the world. But we
need to find efficient ways to store the energy from sunlight to
make it available on demand.
Batteries are one solution.
Even better would be a solar fuel. Fuels have a much higher energy
density than batteries, making them far easier to use for storage and
transportation. One ton of gasoline stores the same amount of energy
as 60 tons of batteries.
Making solar fuel would solve the
energy storage problem for solar energy. And it would provide a
power source for our existing transportation infrastructure. We
could continue to drive the cars we have now. They would be powered
by fuel made from sunlight.
At Caltech, Nate Lewis and his
team have reason to be optimistic. Green plants combine sunlight,
water, and carbon dioxide to store solar energy in chemical bonds.
Nate's team is working with the same ingredients. They need to
figure out how to do it better.
A group of investors and I
recently launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that will
invest more than $1 billion in scientific discoveries that have the
potential to deliver cheap and reliable clean energy to the world.
Nate's team is looking good.
House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee:
Hard Brexit would be "a very destructive outcome leading to mutually assured damage for the EU and the UK."
Theresa May: "One of the
driving forces behind the union's creation was the remorseless
logic that greater economic strength and security come from
She was talking about the UK but the same logic applies to the
2017 Pi Day
The interpretation of quantum
physics remains as up for grabs as ever. When calculations are done
with the Schrödinger equation, the wave function gives you only
probabilities at the root level of reality. The act of making a
measurement is said to collapse the wave function.
multiple interpretations of the the measurement problem. The
Copenhagen interpretation says it highlights a barrier between
epistemology and ontology by making explicit the role of the
observer. In the multiverse interpretation, measurements make the
universe split off into many parallel versions. Quantum Bayesianism
takes the probabilities in quantum mechanics at face value to
include the observing subject.
Putting the perceiving
subject back into physics undermines the whole materialist
perspective. Rather than trying to explain the mystery of mind by
appeal to the mechanisms of matter, we must grapple with the
intertwined nature of the two. We can move forward by acknowledging
the multiple interpretations of quantum mechanics.
AR I am currently writing a paper
proposing a new perspective on quantum theory.
String Theory and Loop Theory
Quantum theory and general
relativity are fundamentally incompatible. String theory and loop
quantum gravity are two distinct attempts to reconcile them. They might
turn out to be equivalent.
says matter and energy are made of vibrating strings. Their
vibration patterns appear as different particles. Among their
oscillation modes is something that looks like a graviton. Strings
vibrate in 11 dimensions and the theory predicts supersymmetry, but
we have so far seen no supersymmetric partners.
gravity says spacetime comes in tiny loops, which evolve into a
spinfoam. But spinfoams are too rigid to allow warped spacetime.
Years ago, Gerard
't Hooft and Leonard Susskind proposed that
our 3D world could be a projection of information on its 2D
boundary. Juan Maldacena conjectured an AdS/CFT duality that builds
on their proposal. The holographic principle has matured into a major research
area in string theory.
A calculation of holographic gravity
done in the context of string theory can also be done using loop
quantum gravity, with the same result. String and loop theorists now
think of the holographic boundary as being anywhere in space. The
part-loop, part-string physics that emerges can appear on the finest
scales at a random slice through spacetime.
String theory and
loop quantum gravity look different in the bulk, but they may cast
the same shadow at the boundary. A reconciliation could reveal a
AR My paper suggests
a new way to build a quantum theory of spacetime.
2017 March 13
Europe Fights Back
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
responded to the Dutch ban on a Turkish election rally in the
Netherlands with anger, calling the Netherlands a "banana republic"
and saying it would "pay the price" for its actions — "Nazism is
alive in the west."
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte described
the comments as bizarre and completely unacceptable. The diplomatic
spat comes just days before the Dutch general election. Rutte has
taken a tough stance to fend off a challenge from Geert Wilders.
Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen canceled a meeting
with his Turkish counterpart: "With the current Turkish attacks on
Holland the meeting cannot be seen separated from that."
Austria, Switzerland, and Germany have also canceled Turkish
campaign events in recent days.
Europe is reacting correctly to a serious threat. It would be
folly to make a habit of letting politicians from Islamic countries
hold election rallies in European countries which only incite
Islamic immigrants to back political movements that have no place in
European Civil Rights
Sir, We write to urge MPs to support the House of Lords
amendment guaranteeing the right of EU citizens who live in Britain
to remain here after Brexit. Oxford University relies on EU citizens
as lecturers, researchers and support staff. If they lost their
right to work here, our university would suffer enormous damage
which, given our role in research, would have reverberations across
Our EU colleagues are not reassured by a government
which tells them that deportation is not going to happen but
declines to convert that assurance into law; some are worried, some
are already making plans to leave. Many of our staff do not know
whether absences abroad on research contracts will count against
them. Others do not know, however longstanding their work and
residence, whether their children will be able to remain in the UK.
These are real and immediate concerns. There is no public or
parliamentary intent to harm our EU colleagues: that can be
translated into reassurance by accepting the Lords amendment. We ask
MPs to vote accordingly and join us in pressing for reciprocal
arrangements for UK nationals in the EU.
University vice-chancellor Louise Richardson and the heads of 35
AR I would have
signed it too.
2017 March 12
Mathematics becomes beautiful through the
power and elegance of its arguments and formulas, through the
bridges it builds between previously unconnected worlds, when it
surprises. For those who learn the language, maths has the same
capacity for beauty as art, music, or stars on a dark night.
Paul Dirac: "It is more important to have beauty in one's equations
than to have them fit experiment. It seems that if one is working
from the point of view of getting beauty in one's equations, and if
one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress."
Michael Atiyah: "Truth and beauty are closely related but not
the same. You are never sure that you have the truth. All you are
doing is striving towards better and better truths and the light
that guides you is beauty. Beauty is the torch you hold up and
follow in the belief that it will lead you to truth in the end."
British Interplanetary Society members
are looking at how humans could start living in space in large
numbers. Jerry Stone says we are now close to the point where such
colonies could be built using material from the Moon and asteroids.
The space colonists would initially build and maintain solar
panels that would be used to provide power on Earth. Other
industries might later move into space to take advantage of the
microgravity and cheap solar power.
Colonists could live on
the inside surfaces of vast hollow cylinders, which would rotate to
provide gravity. Gerard O'Neill once suggested the cylinders could
be 4 miles in diameter and 20 miles long, to hold up to 10 million
AR We could sail to the
stars in such cylinders.
2017 March 11
Germans are debating whether Germany
should acquire nuclear weapons.
During the Cold War, US
military strategists stationed vast numbers of nukes in Western
Europe. In 1956, the US Strategic Air Command kept 91 nuclear bombs
for East Berlin alone. The Soviet side amassed similar nuclear
Germany was home to the Pershing II, which could
hit Moscow in 15 minutes. Neither side had time to think through an
evolving situation rationally. The only certainty was that Germany
would be Ground Zero for nuclear war.
During the Cold War,
most of the borderlands between West and East Germany were sown with
nuclear mines. If the Red Army attacked, NATO would turn the country
into an apocalyptic mass of rubble to halt the advance of the
Germany must stick to its hard-learned principles as
a peaceful nation.
AR Britain and
France must dedicate their nuclear forces to defending Europe.
In 2007, an astrophysicist detected a fast
radio burst (FRB) in archival data from a telescope in Australia.
The burst lasted less than 5 ms and was extragalactic in origin. The
power behind it was over 10^35 W. Astrophysicists have detected only
25 other FRBs since then.
The unknown source of FRBs prompted
intense speculation. Some scientists say they come from massive
neutron stars or maybe vanishing black holes.
The latest idea is sailing aliens.
Avi Loeb and Manasvi
Lingam say FRBs could be traced back to aliens who cruise through
space on the wings of light sail technology. FRBs could be
artificial beams for driving light sails. Alien traffic controllers
would keep the beam aimed at the sail and distant observers would
see only a flash as the beam pivoted across the universe.
Solar sailing has been a science-fiction concept for decades. Arthur
C. Clarke described it in 1964. In 2018, the NASA
NEA Scout will use a reflective sail to travel toward a lump of
Loeb and Lingam calculate that an FRB transmitter
would beam sunlight at an area roughly twice the diameter of Earth.
A solar sail big enough to catch these rays could propel a
AR On FRBs
see blog 2017-01-05, 2016-03-03, 2016-01-22, 2016-01-15.
2017 March 10
Pyongyang is developing an offensive
doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons in the early stages of a
conflict. Last year, North Korea fired a No-dong missile to a point
at sea at the same range as the SK port city of Busan. This time, NK
launched four extended-range Scud missiles to a point at sea at the
same range as the US Marine Corps Air Station near Iwakuni, Japan.
The United States and South Korea are currently holding the
military exercise Foal Eagle. This latest annual joint exercise
lasts two months and involves tens of thousands of US and SK
military personnel, as well as an aircraft carrier, bombers, and
F-35 aircraft based out of Iwakuni. Foal Eagle rehearses war plan
OPLAN 5015 for a pre-emptive strike against NK.
plans to use nuclear weapons against US forces throughout Japan and
SK to blunt an invasion. NK strategy depends on using nuclear
weapons before the US can destroy them. NK ICBMs are intended to
deter Donald Trump after Kim Jong Un obliterates Seoul and Tokyo.
Both Kim and Trump will face enormous pressure to hit first or be
beaten to the punch.
2017 March 9
US — NK
North Korea has ignored international opposition and
insisted on advancing its nuclear and missile programs in violation
of UN Security Council resolutions.
The United States and the
Republic of Korea are conducting military exercises on an enormous
scale and putting more military pressure on North Korea.
two sides are like two accelerating trains coming toward each other
with neither side willing to give way. Are they really ready for a
UK — EU
Later this month, Theresa May will repudiate
UK membership of the EU by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon
These are going to be difficult negotiations, with a
high chance of a calamitous outcome, with poisonous results.
The UK needs to achieve the best possible deal on trade. But the UK
has a weak hand. The UK does far more of its trade with the rest of
the EU than the rest of the EU does with the UK.
Major: "The most successful results are obtained when talks are
conducted with goodwill: it is much easier to reach agreement with a
friend than a quarrelsome neighbour. But, behind the diplomatic
civilities, the atmosphere is already sour."
should not quibble over the terms of the divorce. The EU intends to
ask for €60 billion, roughly 3% of UK GDP. Over a decade, 0.3% of
GDP annually is petty cash. The future UK relationship with the EU
is worth more than that.
2017 March 8
The Next War
William D. Hartung
President Trump loves generals. He has
assembled the most military foreign policy team in memory, if not in
American history. Everything is likely to be viewed through a
Trump also relies on a small circle of White
House advisers led by Steve Bannon. In a best case scenario, the
generals wrest control of presidential attention from Bannon and his
minions when it comes to foreign policy decision making — assuming
the generals have a saner perspective than an ideological
The true test may come if Trump and Bannon push
for military action against Iran. Another Mideast war is unlikely to
be any more successful than the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts.
This is what it is to live in the realm of
the Big Man. His drama perforce is ours — relentless political
struggle, permanent revolution, shattering of norms, scandal and
controversy, the capital deep in broken crockery.
Trump is determined to change the office. We can be grateful that his need for
continual disruption, constant outrage, maintaining an iron grip on
the news cycle, and sheer winning without ever retreating means he
has a grand proclivity for stepping on his own dick.
is the vital springboard of his presidency. The lower his poll
numbers, the more outlandish his lies, the greater the resistance
from opponents, the thicker his scandals
and chaos, and the likelier he will be to seek to use a crisis to lever himself to
a position of dominating power.
A terrorist attack
on American soil would put Trump in a perfect position to act
aggressively and comprehensively. His political drama will have been
elevated from a battle against elites and the status quo to a heroic
struggle for the survival of the nation.
Marine Le Pen
FN presidential candidate Marine Le Pen:
"It's time we finished with the European Union."
Nouvelle Droite have left their imprint on the FN. These thinkers
propose to bind Europe together by the irrefutable and irresistible
claims of race and ethnicity.
FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen
says France must work with Russia "to save boreal [northern] Europe
and the white world" from the threats of immigration and
Marine Le Pen shares with her father an
apocalyptic and racialist vision of global conflict.
Richard J. Evans
Hitler was appointed as Reich chancellor
in 1933. He had won mass support following an economic crisis.
Whereas other politicians looked like mere administrators, he would
put Germany first.
Hitler got the armed forces on his side by
giving them massive increases in funding and a huge new armaments
program. The Nazis reorganized education and culture to instill
was a media figure who gained popularity and controlled his country
through speeches and publicity. He was temperamental, volatile,
insecure, allergic to criticism, and often indecisive.
"Those of us who appreciate
the power of science have
science deniers as an
important annoyance ... but
NK to US: Please nuke
"Bad (or sick) guy!"
AR A tweet too far
A House of Lords report says
could walk away from
the EU in 2019 without paying
a penny of
€60 billion Brexit bill.
AR Correct EU response:
PDF: 32 pages, 5.8 MB
"Handle leverages our
the quadruped and
2017 March 7
Daniel Dennett assumes we are physical
objects and any appearance to the contrary must be accounted for in
a way that is consistent with this truth.
Dennett says most
of what we and our fellow organisms do to stay alive, cope with the
world and one another, and reproduce is not understood by us or
them. It is competence without comprehension.
He says that
the manifest image of each species is a user illusion designed by
evolution to fit the needs of its users. The underlying reality is
accurately represented only by the scientific image.
illusions are the products of bottom-up design, understandable
through evolution by natural selection, a mindless process of
accidental variation, replication, and differential survival.
Alan Turing saw how a machine could do arithmetic perfectly
without knowing what it was doing. This competence does not depend
on comprehension. Dennett says all the brilliance and comprehension
in the world arises ultimately out of uncomprehending competences
compounded over time.
Much of cultural evolution is as
uncomprehending as biological evolution. All our capacities for
understanding, all the values, perceptions, and thoughts that
present us with the manifest image and allow us to form the
scientific image, have their real existence as systems of
representation in the central nervous system.
image of the world and ourselves includes as a prominent part not
only the physical body and central nervous system but the
consciousness of ourselves and others. Dennett holds that
consciousness is not part of reality in the way the brain is.
Rather, it is a user illusion.
You may well ask how
consciousness can be an illusion, since every illusion is itself a
conscious experience. It seems the reality of my own consciousness
is the one thing I cannot be deluded about. Dennett denies the
authority of the first-person perspective with regard to
According to Dennett, the representations that
underlie human behavior are found in neural structures of which we
know very little. The same is true of the similar conception we have
of our own minds. That conception does not capture an inner reality.
Dennett concludes that we are not immediately aware of real
subjective experiences because the reality of such phenomena is
incompatible with scientific materialism.
We Are Not Just Animals
We distinguish people from the rest of
nature. Human beings live in mutual accountability — on this fact is
built the edifice of rights and duties.
Morality is like a
field of flowers beneath which the corpses are piled in a thousand
layers. It is an evolved mechanism whereby the human organism
proceeds through life sustained on every side by bonds of mutual
We human beings relate to one another not as
objects but as subjects, as creatures who address one another as I
to you — as Martin Buber said in his meditation I and Thou.
We understand ourselves in the first person. By speaking in the
first person we can participate in dialogues founded on the
assurance that, when you and I both speak sincerely, we are speaking
Philosophy has the task of describing the world in
which we live — not the world as science describes it — in which we
meet one another I to I.
2017 March 6
North Korea fired four ballistic missiles toward
Japan early today. Military authorities in South Korea, Japan, and
the United States say the four projectiles traveled almost 1,000 km
toward the Sea of Japan. Prime minister Shinzo Abe said three landed
inside Japan's exclusive economic zone. The firing is a response to
joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.
AR Let the historic mission of
Donald Trump be to take down the NK regime before a tweetstorm
flushes him away.
My most dreaded chore this year will be
to fill out an 85-page UK government application form that will give
me, I hope, permanent residence in the UK after Brexit. The
amendment to the Brexit bill voted by the House of Lords last week
in support of a unilateral guarantee to EU nationals is a symbolic
goodwill gesture, for which we will be eternally grateful.
AR Inexplicably, the UK has declared a
kind of war against Europe. Voters fed a diet of mendacious
propaganda decided by a narrow majority in a botched referendum to
instruct their leaders to do this scurrilous deed, and no one more
eminent than two former prime ministers has emerged to seek to stem
the rush toward the abyss. This is a historic tragedy.
2017 March 5
Politics is being reshaped in the United
States and in Europe. At stake in the forthcoming elections in
France and Germany will be the future of Europe.
populists are intent on blowing up traditional conservative
politics. They believe that traditional culture is at risk from
immigration and political correctness. Traditional conservatives are
unsure whether to play along or to fight back.
occurring both economically and culturally. Jobs are displaced and
communities fractured as the force of globalization blurs old
boundaries of nation, race and culture. The politicians
of the center have become the managers of the status quo in an era
when people want change.
For the progressive wing of
politics, the correct strategy is build a new coalition out from the
center. The center needs a new policy agenda. At its heart has to be
an alliance between those driving the technological revolution and
those responsible for public policy in government.
agenda has to focus on these opportunities for radical change in the
way that government and services like health care serve people. This
must include how we prepare our work forces for the future,
reform tax and welfare systems, and rebuild infrastructure
and invest in communities.
Progressives must make the case
for staying in a reformed European Union.
AR Technoglobalism (blog February 21)
Theresa May is the stealth prime minister.
Her course through Brexit is still unknown. The only coherent
alternative to her strategy of putting immigration controls ahead of
prosperity and walking out of the single market is to deny that the
referendum settled the matter.
May has placed the value of
identity and community ahead of the needs of the economy. In the
face of every grim economic forecast, she has remained unflinchingly
true to tighter border controls. Her traditional emphasis on
community over commerce is more closely aligned to ordinary voters
than to any theoretical construct.
When May was growing up,
her father was always on call for his parishioners. Her ambition was
to be the first woman prime minister. She went up to Oxford to read
geography, met Philip at a student Conservative Association disco,
and married him in 1980.
In 2016, at the age of 59, May
became prime minister. She had been home secretary since 2010. She
has been prime minister for an extraordinary six months.
AR Traditionalism (blog February 12)
2017 March 4
Friendship with Russia
US president Donald Trump says he likes
Russian president Vladimir Putin and wants to get on with him. Those
who feel the western approach to Russia since 1990 has been
provocative and counterproductive might cheer at all
this. We could stop fatuous sanctions, establish red lines around
areas of aggression, and find areas of agreement and cooperation.
Trump is naive and lacking in executive competence. If he really
intends a seismic shift in western policy toward Russia, the more we
know about the backstory the better. Congress has set up a hue and
cry, and tends to work thoroughly, so Trump would be well
advised to come clean.
A rapprochement between America and
Russia is a truly worthwhile objective. Its capacity to relieve
tension, release resources, combat poverty, and save lives is
colossal. A few lies and stumbles along the way would be a price
AR We should cut
Trump some slack on Russia.
Future of Europe
The European Commission white paper Future of
Europe offers reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has decided to
hand responsibility for what happens next to the member states.
The five options to be debated over the coming months range from
stripping the EU back to the single market on through to a scenario
under which Brussels would speak for Europe on foreign policy and
trade and raise its own taxes. In between are the choices of doing
nothing and ignoring the crises that threaten to engulf the EU,
creating a multi-speed Europe in which member states choose how far
to participate in common policies, and doing less more efficiently.
The EU27 member states must decide their own future. British
Conservative MEPs will work alongside colleagues in the European
Parliament to push for solutions they believe will leave the Union
best placed to meet the challenges of the future.
AR Remain in the EU and shape the
2017 March 3
NATO and EU
NATO cannot deter Russia alone and must
formulate a grand strategy for security in Europe with the EU, says
NATO Deputy SACEUR Sir Adrian Bradshaw:
responsibility of NATO ... not only to be the architect and executor
of military strategy, but to understand clearly how military
strategy is integrated with the other arms of national power ...
We need to move in the direction of the ability to formulate in the
old-fashioned terms, grand strategy ... I think it has quite serious
implications regarding the relationship between NATO and the EU."
He says NATO has made effective changes since 2014 including
rapid response war games involving tens of thousands of troops in
eastern Europe. But conventional military tools are insufficient —
the west needs to develop hybrid deterrence.
2017 March 2
The US-UK Special Relationship
Anthony R. Wells
Dr Wells spoke at a seminar in Exeter College Oxford. Our
discussion was animated and fruitful. He is the only living
person to have worked for British intelligence and served in the
Royal Navy as a British citizen and to have worked for US
intelligence and the US Navy as a US citizen.
2017 March 1
What we are witnessing today is the Renewal
of the American Spirit. America is strong, America is proud, and
America is free.
America must put its own citizens
first. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders.
Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should
support this country and love its people and its values. We cannot
allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America.
promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to
demolish and destroy Daesh — a network of lawless savages that have
slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of
all faiths and beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our
friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile
enemy from our planet.
According to the National Academy of
Sciences, our current immigration system costs American taxpayers
many billions of dollars a year. Switching away from this current
system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a
merit-based system, will have many benefits.
spent approximately $6 trillion in the Mideast, all this while our
infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this $6 trillion we could
have rebuilt our country. To launch our national rebuilding, I will
be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1
trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling
upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds
school choice for disadvantaged youth.
America Safe we must provide the men and women of the United States
military with the tools they need to prevent war and — if they must
— to fight and to win. I am sending the Congress a budget that calls
for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in
We strongly support NATO. But our partners
must meet their financial obligations. We expect our partners,
whether in NATO, in the Mideast, or the Pacific, to take a direct
and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations, and
pay their fair share of the cost.
My job is to represent the
United States of America. We want harmony and stability, not war and
conflict. We want peace, wherever peace can be found.
celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on
tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.
AR Much better!
USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)
President Trump will propose raising military spending by $54
billion — a nearly 10% increase
— and reducing spending by the same
amount across much of the rest of the government.
Trump: "We have to
start winning wars again."
Brilliant movie for
all NASA fans
Last night's episode of
distinguished the Wehrmacht
and the aristocratic Junckers
Himmler and his racist
SS, so the plot is saved and
nightmare can be
savored — AR
Resistance is futile
Our book in Polish
Con win, Lab hold
Lib Dem 7%
Oxford PPE graduates
quite a lock on
"The country does not know
where it is
going. We are on
this bus heading for Heathrow
— mendacious slogans
side — and we have no idea
what the destination is."
The Prophet of
My review of
two books by
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster
Presidência do México
2017 February 28
I have watched with growing concern as the
British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be
unreal and over-optimistic. Obstacles are brushed aside as of no
consequence, whilst opportunities are inflated beyond any reasonable
expectation of delivery.
Behind the diplomatic civilities,
the atmosphere is already sour. A little more charm, and a lot less
cheap rhetoric, would do much to protect the UK's interests.
There is a choice to be made, a price to be paid. We cannot move to
a radical enterprise economy without moving away from a welfare
state. Such a direction of policy, once understood by the public,
would never command support. It would make all previous rows over
social policy seem a minor distraction.
I caution everyone to
be wary of this kind of populism. It seems to be a mixture of
bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. It scapegoats minorities. Here
in the UK we should give it short shrift.
European Union, we become far more dependent upon the United States
and upon a president less predictable, less reliable, and less
attuned to our free-market and socially liberal instincts than any
of his predecessors.
Freedom of speech is absolute in our
country. It's not arrogant or brazen or elitist, or remotely
delusional to express concern about our future after Brexit. Nor, by
doing so, is this group undermining the will of the people; they are
2017 February 27
The Reichstag Warning
On February 27, 1933 the Reichstag
parliament building burned, Adolf Hitler rejoiced, and the Nazi era
began. A week later, the Nazi party, having claimed that the fire
was the beginning of a major terror campaign by the Left, won a
decisive victory in parliamentary elections.
American Founding Fathers knew that the democracy they were creating
was vulnerable to an aspiring tyrant who might seize upon some
dramatic event as grounds for the suspension of US rights. The
Reichstag fire created the occasion for a leader to eliminate all
Donald Trump once wrote that "civil liberties end
when an attack on our safety begins" and now speaks unfavorably of
democracy. After the next terrorist attack — or what seems to be a
terrorist attack — US citizens must hold the Trump administration
responsible for their security.
84 years ago today.
2017 February 26
Why I am a Muslim
As a scholar of religions, I am often asked
how I can still call myself a Muslim.
Religion and faith are
not the same thing. Faith is mysterious and ineffable. It is an
emotional, not necessarily a rational, experience. Religion is a
fairly recent human invention.
Faith is a choice. You either
believe there is something beyond the physical world (as I do), or
you don't. You either believe you are more than the sum of your
material parts (as I do), or you don't. You either believe in the
existence of a soul (as I do), or you don't.
Religion is the
language we use to express faith. It is a language made up of
symbols and metaphors that allows people to express to each other
(and to themselves) what is, almost by definition, inexpressible.
As the Sufi mystics say, religion is a "signpost to God."
A parable by the great Sufi master Jalal ad-Din Rumi:
Persian, a Turk, an Arab and a Greek are traveling to a distant land
when they begin arguing over how to spend the single coin they share
in common. The Persian wants to spend the coin on angur; the Turk,
on uzum; the Arab, on inab; and the Greek, on stafil.
passing by overhears the argument. "Give the coin to me," he says.
Taking the coin, the linguist goes to a nearby shop and buys the
travelers four small bunches of grapes.
"This is my angur!" cries
"But this is what I call uzum," replies the Turk.
"You have brought me my inab," the Arab says.
"No! This in my
language is stafil," says the Greek.
The travelers realize that
they were all asking for the same thing, but in different languages.
Having drunk from many wells in my spiritual journey, I say, no
matter the well, the water tastes just as sweet.
Sounds good to me.
2017 February 25
Yuval Noah Harari
Evolution through intelligent design is
already beginning to make inroads against evolution through natural
selection, and will ultimately take its place.
replace natural selection with intelligent design, and might even
start creating non-organic life forms. People are already merging
with their smartphones and their Facebook accounts. These are
intelligent machines that constantly study us, adapt to our unique
personality, and shape our worldview and our innermost desires. In
the coming decades, we are likely to proceed much faster along this
In 2050, our smartphones will likely be embedded in our
bodies via biometric sensors, monitoring our heart rates, blood
pressure and brain activity 24 hours a day and analyzing this data
to get to know our bodies better than we know them ourselves.
By 2100, humans and machines might merge so completely that
humans will not survive if they are disconnected from the network.
We are learning how to use AI and biotechnology to design animals
and to upgrade humans into superhumans.
All our major
problems are global in nature. To solve them, we need global
cooperation. The current wave of nationalism is a kind of escapism.
I hope people will wake up in time — but never under-estimate human
AR This presages the
Globorg mind merge of my
Konstantin von Hammerstein
German foreign minister and
former SPD head Sigmar Gabriel is using the battle over increased
defense spending as a symbol of resistance against US president
A recent report paints a dark picture of the
Bundeswehr. A tank battalion chosen as spearhead of the NATO
Response Force had to borrow 15,000 pieces of equipment from 56
other army units. An artillery training battalion was supposed to
have 24 Panzerhaubitzer but in fact it had just 7, all reserved for
NATO, and had done no training for years. There is an endless list
of such examples.
From the end of the Cold War to 2011, the
Bundeswehr shrank from more than half a million soldiers to just
205,000. The number of Leopard 2 battle tanks in service fell from
2,000 to 225. Additional cuts announced in 2010 were a step too far.
There is now a huge need for new equipment.
Ursula von der Leyen says that in future defense needs, not budgets,
will again determine spending — so 2% of GDP might not be
Brexit: Blair Right
Tony Blair calls for voters to think
again about leaving the EU. His voice is loud enough to carry above
the cabal of flatterers around Theresa May who consider his call an
The Brexit referendum subverted British
democracy in two ways. First, the leave vote was inspired mainly by
resentments unconnected with Europe. Second, the government has
exploited this confusion of issues to claim a mandate to do anything
May now claims the referendum as a mandate for
controversial Conservative policies as necessary conditions for a
successful Brexit. This has become a matter of national survival.
Even proposals for a vote to guarantee rights for EU citizens
already living in Britain are painted as treason.
priority should be to restart a rational debate about Britain's
relationship with Europe. This means challenging the idea that a
referendum permanently outweighs all other mechanisms of democratic
politics. Voters should be allowed to change their minds.
Amendments to the Brexit legislation now passing through parliament
should prevent any new relationship between Britain and the EU from
taking effect unless approved by a parliamentary vote that allows
for the possibility of continuing EU membership.
AR May may not like it, but I agree.
2017 February 24
Top of the Pack
President Donald Trump: "I am the first one that
would like to see ... nobody have nukes, but we're never going to
fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never
going to fall behind on nuclear power. It would be wonderful, a
dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries
are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack."
The United States is in the midst of a $1 trillion, 30-year
modernization of its aging triad of nuclear weapon systems. Trump is
pressing NATO allies to pay more for their own defense: "They owe a
lot of money."
The New START treaty between the United States
and Russia requires that by February 5, 2018, both countries must
limit their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels
for 10 years. They may each have no more than 800 deployed and
non-deployed land-based intercontinental and submarine-launched
ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers equipped to carry
nuclear weapons, with equal limits too on other nuclear weapons.
Trump calls it "a one-sided deal."
Trump says China could
solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea "very
easily if they want to" — China opposes North Korean nuclear and
missile programs and wants a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. He will
push a missile defense system for US allies Japan and South Korea.
On the European Union: "I'm totally in favor of it. I think it's
wonderful. If they're happy, I'm in favor of it."
World Economic League
World trade is likely to grow more slowly. New technologies are
likely to reduce cross-border trade.
China overtakes the US
to become #1 in 2029. Although President Trump will impact China and
boost the US economy, China continues to grow much faster than the
India overtakes the UK and France in 2018, Germany in
2021 and Japan in 2024 to become #3. Later this century the Indian
economy will be #1.
Korea overtakes the UK and France to
become #7 by 2030. The sterling fall following the Brexit vote has
pushed the UK down from #5 to #6, below France.
World Economic Growth
In 2014, world GDP was €59 trillion. G20 members
accounted for 85%, EU28 for 24%, US for 22%, China for 13.4%.
From 2004 to 2014, China and India had the highest GDP growth
and the Chinese share of world GDP trebled.
The UK road network is ranked 27th in the world, behind all our
main competitors. British drivers pay the world's highest rates of
tax on diesel and the fifth highest on petrol, amounting to £33
billion each year, yet British roads are the most congested in
Roads account for 89% of travel distance in
the UK. Rail investment is almost nine times that of road investment
per mile, but road upgrades deliver economic benefits that are 50%
higher. The government is now investing £23 billion to improve the
AR Not enough — double it,
now, and maybe the roads will become fit for purpose before I get
too old to drive.
2017 February 23
Nearby Star Has Seven Earthlike Planets
A nearby star has seven temperate
Earth-size planets near each other.
small, dim star some 40 light years away, was observed by the
Spitzer Space Telescope for weeks to find the planets.
The planets b-h are all larger than Mars and less than 20% bigger
than Earth, and probably range from 0.4 to 1.4 times Earth mass. All
orbit close to the star and take just days to circle it. Earlier
studies suggested planets b-d were close enough to lose their water
to space, but the same models show planets e-g could still host
The retinue of planets is arranged like
the large moons of Jupiter, and their gravitational dance has nudged
them into harmonies. For every 8 times planet b circles the star,
planet c orbits 5 times, planet d orbits 3 times, and planet e
Hubble Space Telescope, a team has looked for puffy atmospheres
around the planets, and the
James Webb Space Telescope may be able to analyze their
atmospheric chemistry in 2019.
Seven temperate terrestrial planets around TRAPPIST-1
Recently, three Earth-sized planets were detected that transit a
star with a mass 8% that of the Sun, located 12 parsecs away.
Photometric monitoring reveals that at least seven planets with
sizes and masses similar to those of Earth revolve around
TRAPPIST-1. The six inner planets form a near-resonant chain and the
seven planets have equilibrium temperatures low enough to make
possible the presence of liquid water on their surfaces.
Water loss from terrestrial planets orbiting ultracool dwarfs
Ultracool dwarfs settle on the main sequence after about 1 Gyr.
For brown dwarfs, this cooling never stops. Their habitable zones
(HZ) thus sweep inward and their planets experience a runaway
greenhouse phase too hot for liquid water prior to entering the HZ.
The planets around the utracool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 may have retained
some water in the HZ. Depending on their initial water contents,
they could have enough water to remain habitable.
Strong XUV irradiation of the exoplanets orbiting TRAPPIST-1
TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star hosting transiting and
temperate Earth-sized planets. We find its XUV irradiation of the
planets to be many times stronger than experienced by Earth today.
We show that the relatively close-in Earth-sized planets are
subjected to sufficient XUV irradiation to significantly alter their
atmospheres. Understanding whether this irradiation makes the
planets more or less habitable is a complex question.
2017 February 22
Habitable Planets Found
NASA Announces Major Space Discovery
NASA TV, 1 pm ET
Dataism is a new ethical system that says
humans were special and important because up until now they were the
most sophisticated data processing system in the universe, but this
is no longer the case. An external algorithm that understands you
better than you understand them yourself is the switch from
amplifying humans to making them redundant.
People will be
willing to give up privacy in exchange for medical services that
tell you the first day cancer cells start spreading in your body. In
a few years the hundreds of millions of people who have no health
care will have access to AI doctors on their mobile phones offering
better care than anyone gets now. Driverless cars will drastically
Humanity has proven its ability to rise
to the challenge posed by dangerous new technologies. After
thousands of years in which war seemed to be an inevitable part of
human nature, we changed how international politics functioned. I
hope we can also rise to the challenge of technologies like AI and
US National Security
The New York Times
New US national security adviser Lt.
Gen. H. R. McMaster is a widely respected military strategist known
for challenging conventional thinking and helping to turn around the
McMaster, 54, is a West Point graduate. He
commanded a unit that helped win one of the biggest tank battles of the
Gulf war, earning him the Silver Star. Then he earned a doctorate in
military history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel
In 1997 he published a searing critique of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff for their performance during the Vietnam war in his
Dereliction of Duty.
In 2005 he led the Third Armored
Cavalry Regiment in regaining control of Tal Afar. The operation was
cited as a textbook example in a manual on counterinsurgency
doctrine prepared by General David Petraeus.
look forward to joining the national security team and doing
everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the
Senator John McCain: "I could not imagine a
better, more capable national security team than the one we have
Caliphate in Decline
Daesh has often been described as the richest
terrorist organization in the world. Estimated revenues based on
open source information about Daesh in its core territory in Syria
and Iraq show that its revenue comes from taxes and fees; oil; and
looting, confiscations, and fines.
Since 2014, Daesh annual
revenue its down by over 50% to at most $870 million in 2016. Daesh
has now lost most of its conquered territory in Iraq and much of
that in Syria. But it can still carry out terrorist attacks outside
its territory and wider efforts are still needed to defeat it.
2017 February 21
Building Global Community
Our greatest opportunities are now
global. Progress requires humanity coming together as a global
community. Facebook stands for bringing us closer together and
building a global community.
● Building a global community
that works for everyone starts with millions of smaller communities
and intimate social structures. Our goal is to strengthen existing
communities by helping us come together online. A healthy society
needs these communities to support our personal, emotional, and
● Problems like terrorism,
natural disasters, disease, refugee crises, and climate change need
coordinated responses. For some of these problems, the Facebook
community is in a unique position to help. Artificial intelligence
can help us understand more quickly and accurately what is happening
across our community.
● We need ways to share new
ideas and common understanding to work together. Social media
provide more diverse viewpoints than traditional media. By
increasing the diversity of our ideas and strengthening our common
understanding, our community can have the greatest positive impact
on the world.
● Our society will reflect our
collective values only if we engage in the civic process. The
starting point for civic engagement is to support voting across the
world. As we look ahead to building the social infrastructure for a
global community, we will work on building new tools that encourage
thoughtful civic engagement.
● Facebook is a community of
people. We need community standards that reflect our collective
values for what should and should not be allowed. The community
standards should reflect the cultural norms of our community. The
approach combines a democratic process to determine standards with
AI to help enforce them.
This is an important time in the
development of our global community. I hope we take the long view
and build the new social infrastructure to create the world we want
for generations to come.
AR A bit
long in the original, but practically a
Pak Green Eagles
Islamic Republic of Pakistan nuclear missile
got it wrong in the first
few seconds as a late-war Spit
D-Day stripes landed on
the Mall in 1941.
mood was superb. But the plot
is doomed to
descend into a
tired tale of plucky Brits
versus evil Krauts.
"Wir dürfen gegenüber
"It's all fake news"
AR I watched some of his
press conference yesterday.
It was insufferable,
for the Advancement
James Mattis says America
could moderate its NATO
commitment if member
states fail to
the 2% target
"I condemn the launch of a
ballistic missile by the DPRK"
Penrose expounded his
twistor ideas in his book
Road to Reality.
In 2004 I was impressed
and wrote a long
(chapter 12, Mindworlds).
Here is my shorter cut:
12(2), 78-83 (2005)
I want to study twistors
again once I've buffed
up my math skills.
wird neuer Bundespräsident.
nennt Deutschland "Anker
der Hoffnung" in der Welt.
AR Deutschland vertritt
Daesh in Pakistan
Last week, a Daesh supporter struck a
crowd of Sufi dancers celebrating in the great Pakistani shrine of
Sehwan Sharif, killing almost 90. The attack demonstrated the reach
of Daesh in Pakistan.
The wild and ecstatic night-long
celebrations marking the Sufi saint's anniversary were almost
everything Islamic puritans most disapprove of: loud music and love
poetry, men dancing with women, hashish being smoked, Hindus and
Christians welcome to join in.
Saudi oil wealth has been used
to spread intolerant beliefs across the globe. Many Muslims have
been taught a form of Islam from which Sufism is excluded. Hardline
Wahhabi and Salafi fundamentalism advanced in Pakistan when the
Saudis financed madrasas following the collapse of state education.
Sufism was an antidote to fundamentalist radicalism. One old
fakir in the Sehwan shrine said of the Wahhabi mullahs: "Without
love, they distort the true meaning of the teaching of the prophet."
AR Our new crusade will need to deal with
2017 February 20
EU Brexit negotiators expect to spend
until Christmas on the divorce. This stalls trade talks until the
€60 billion exit bill and expatriate citizen rights are resolved.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier favors a narrow divorce-first
approach. UK Brexit secretary David Davis wants all elements of
Brexit to be handled in parallel.
The Barnier plan
anticipates deals on principles around money and citizen rights in
time for EU-27 leaders to okay trade talks at their December summit.
There are good reasons to question the
2% target. It measures only expenditure, not efficiency. And it
narrows the concept of security to the military when in fact we need
to link diplomatic, developmental, and military efforts.
Germans should have said all this before accepting the target. Now
Berlin will have to pay out and try to get value for money. German
armed forces — both personnel and equipment — are indeed in a
Sweden Calm Friday
The Swedish government demands that the
White House clarifies what US President Donald Trump meant while
speaking at a Florida rally on Saturday during which he referred to
what appeared to be a serious incident "last night in Sweden" —
nothing spectacular happened in Sweden on Friday.
Enemy of the People
French revolutionary Robespierre: "The
revolutionary government ... owes nothing to the Enemies of the
People but death."
For Lenin and Stalin, enemies of the
people included clergy, intellectuals, monarchists, Trotskyists,
rootless cosmopolitans, and prosperous farmers. To be branded an
enemy of the people was to face a knock on the door in the middle of
the night, a prison cell, the Gulag, an icy ditch ...
Trump may not hear every historical
echo in his "enemy of the American People" tweet. But the attacks on
the legitimacy of the courts, on the intentions of the intelligence
agencies, and on the patriotism of the press have become too
repulsive to be discounted as mere sideshow.
AR Demagogue Trump is becoming an enemy
of the people.
2017 February 19
The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes,
@NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the
POTUS Donald Trump
"We need a free press. We must have
it. It's vital ... if you want to preserve democracy as we know it,
you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And
without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual
liberties over time. That's how dictators get started."
Senator John McCain
2017 February 18
Munich Security Conference
"The United States of America strongly supports NATO
and will be unwavering in our commitment to our transatlantic
alliance ... We will stand by Europe today and every day."
VPOTUS Mike Pence
Konstantin von Hammerstein, Peter Müller
US secretary of
defense James Mattis: "I owe it to you to give clarity on the
political reality in the United States and to state the fair demand
from my country's people in concrete terms. America will meet its
responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America
moderate its commitment to this Alliance, each of your capitals
needs to show support for our common defense."
Germany is the
economic powerhouse of Europe, with a big budget surplus in 2016.
Berlin wants to take on more responsibility for global security. The
Pentagon sees Germany as the most important country in Europe, and
the pressure from Washington is only going to grow in intensity.
Politicians in Berlin are aware that their neighbors fear a
militarily powerful Germany. That helps explain why German military
spending in real terms ranks only third in Europe, behind the UK and
France. Were Germany to spend 2% of GDP on defense, its annual
defense budget would rise from its current level of €37 billion to
over €60 billion. That would make Germany by far the largest
military power on the continent.
Peace is best served by ensuring that European defense
spending has a more integrated character. A race of nations to the
2% line would only exacerbate international tensions.
NATO — EU
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker: "I do not
like our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to
the military. If you look at what Europe is doing in defense, plus
development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the US
looks rather different."
German foreign minister Sigmar
Gabriel: "We in Europe will have to take on more responsibility but
security policy should not be reduced to the size of defense
budgets. If we do that we will not be able to fight climate change,
or water shortages, or poverty, or the crises that lead to violent
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen:
"Our American friends know well that their tone on Europe and NATO
has a direct influence on the cohesion of our continent. A stable
European Union is just as much in the American interest as a united
Tony Blair: "The British people voted to leave Europe,
and I agree the will of the people should prevail. I accept right
now there is no widespread appetite to rethink. But the people voted
without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit."
AR With Brexit the UK is endangering the
stability of the EU and hence weakening NATO too, so UK defense
spending must be discounted accordingly. The German commitment to
reducing the refugee problem counts for quite a few pro mille points
of GDP. Do the math!
Trump — Nixon
Alarming events surrounding the presidency
of Donald Trump remind me of Watergate.
The events around
Richard Nixon in 1973 and 1974 ended in a president having to leave
office before the end of his term. Nixon used the instruments of
government against his opponents, whom he defined as enemies.
Watergate was a constitutional crisis.
Donald Trump is
becoming more and more obsessed with leaks. Nixon hired burglars to
stop leaks that enraged him. Nixon and Trump both assumed government
workers were out to get them. As Nixon did, Trump views the press
with hostility. Nixon refused to obey a court ruling, and Trump
attacks the integrity of a federal judge who ruled against his
Trump might quit — or his presidency might meet an
ending not of his choosing.
2017 February 17
Unfit to Serve
E.J. Dionne Jr.
The man serving as POTUS 45 plainly has
no business being POTUS.
Questions about his relationship with
Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away.
It is only a matter
of time — Americans need to face the truth.
It looks as if Donald Trump is not up to
US intelligence service employees apparently gave
the press incriminating material against Trump and his team. But
anyone who sees the leaks as proof of the checks and balances of the
US Constitution should think again. Trump seems to want an American
autocracy, and the services are fighting back with autocratic
America has become an unstable state.
Donald Trump imagined he could do as he
pleased in the White House. The opening weeks of his presidency have
His hopes of a grand bargain with Vladimir
Putin have dissolved. Firing Michael Flynn for lying to Mike Pence
about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in Washington
will not put things right. What did the president know and when?
The smiles in Moscow are turning to scowls. Putin hoped for a
deal that would see the US president lift sanctions and acquiesce in
Russian revanchism in return for notional cooperation in fighting
Daesh. Such an agreement now looks impossible.
alt-facts. Flynn said that in three weeks the president had restored
"America's leadership position" in the world.
Concerns About Science
Researchers are concerned at unprecedented levels
about how a new presidential administration may undermine scientific
work and delay its benefits.
AAAS CEO Rush Holt: "It used to
be when someone would say they were concerned about the state of
science, they were talking about funding for research ... What I
hear now are concerns about what I would call an ongoing trend that
goes back many years, even decades, where ideology and ideological
assertions have been crowding out evidence in public and private
debates and policymaking. It's reaching a place where people are
truly troubled about what this means for the practice of science and
the ability of science to bring its benefits to the population at
AAAS President Barbara Schaal: "This is not so that
we can have our research grants, this is for the well-being of our
nations and our global citizenry. The things that stimulate
well-being, that give us a better life — adequate food, excellent
health care, jobs — many of those things have basic science as an
underpinning ... our concern is that the government won't have the
scientific expertise that it will need to make the kind of standard
policies that are going to be coming through Congress and by
2017 February 16
Donald Trump wrote in 2000 about defending
Europe: "Their conflicts are not worth American lives."
American political commitment to European security is waning
rapidly. Britain, France, Germany and others should launch a new
European security pact that reflects political reality.
Europe is at a major political turning point. A new organization
could involve major new armaments, shared between countries.
European countries can only gain from cooperating in cyber security
and in procurement and operations.
NATO is poorly designed to
confront terrorism and chaos in the south and hybrid warfare from
Russia. A new European security pact is needed. Britain can take the
Boiling water is an example of a phase
transition. Hot water molecules jostle about vigorously and the
fastest ones escape as steam. If you raise the pressure, you reach a
critical point where it is hard to tell liquid and gas apart. The
critical point is another phase transition.
are common. Ernst Ising imagined a magnetic material as made up tiny
atomic magnets that can align N-S or S-N. Each tends to line up with
its neighbors but can also flip randomly. The higher the
temperature, the more likely a flip. But Ising could only build a 1D
Lars Onsager solved the 2D Ising model to show how a
magnetic material above a critical temperature loses its magnetism.
The 2D Ising model can simulate other phenomena that flip between
Alexander Polyakov saw that strongly coupled systems
of fundamental particles could undergo phase transitions. For
example, quarks are usually bound in nucleons by the strong nuclear
force but at high energies they can reach a critical point and break
The 2D Ising model and the equations for elementary
particles at their critical points share conformal symmetry. If the
same were true of the 3D Ising model, its mathematical description
might describe any strongly coupled system with the same symmetries.
Polyakov worked backwards to the equations. The more symmetries
he had, the more he constrained the underlying equations. His
technique is now known as the bootstrap method.
physicists are using the method to constrain the 3D Ising model more
tightly and build a rigorous mathematical foundation. The Simons
Foundation awarded them $10 million for the work.
AR Conformal symmetries are big for
Road to Reality, §8.2, §27.12)
2017 February 15
The War for Civilization
Donald Trump's ban on migrants and
refugees from seven mainly Muslim countries may be just the
beginning of repeated efforts in the US and Europe to restrict
migration from the Muslim world.
White House chief strategist
Steve Bannon said at a Vatican seminar in 2014 that Judeo-Christian
civilization is at the "beginning stages
of a global war against Islamic fascism" — this is key to
his role in the Trump administration.
In France, Marine Le
Pen believes the West is engaged in a mortal
struggle with radical Islam: "Washington, Paris and Moscow must form
a strategic alliance against Islamic fundamentalism."
Netherlands, the Freedom party led by Geert Wilders is set to top
the polls in next month's elections. In Germany, the AfD party is
likely to become the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag
Further jihadist attacks in the US and Europe
will feed this fear and hostility. Demographic trends create
pressure for migration from Muslim countries. The polemic is a
foretaste of the future.
The Military Balance 2017 calculates that only two
NATO member states met the 2% defense spending target in 2016.
Greece spent 2.4%, Estonia 2.2%, and the UK only 1.98%.
2% target is now a political constraint for government leaders. The
UK had committed in its 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review
(SDSR) to clear the 2% bar. In the United States, the 2% figure
became a symbol when Donald Trump hinted that US support could
require NATO states to meet it.
There is no shared definition
of defense budgets. NATO includes pensions, spending on peacekeeping
and humanitarian operations, and research and development costs. The
UN uses another definition. The UK reported £36.9 billion to the UN
but £39.8 billion to NATO in 2013.
There is also no agreed
source for calculating GDP share. The IISS collects GDP figures from
the IMF World Economic Outlook database in US dollar terms.
Different GDP figures will change the results, and whether or not
states hit the 2% target depends on the sources and definitions.
European NATO member states increased real defense spending from
US $255.7 billion in 2015 to US $256.5 billion in 2016, a 0.3% rise.
Their overall GDP growth was 1.8%.
NATO says UK clears 2% bar.
2017 February 14
The Way of Love
Arnold Toynbee compared the crisis of Islam
with that of the Jews two millennia ago. The Jews were a proud
people defeated by a foreign empire. This ordeal bred two groups:
Herodians (collaborators with Rome) and Zealots (militants against
Toynbee said modern Muslims have their own Herodians
(such as Turkish founder Ataturk) and Zealots (like the Arabian
Wahhabis). He predicted defeat for the Zealots. He forgot the third
Jewish way, that of Jesus.
Muslims are going through a
crisis very similar to the one Jesus addressed. The Muslim world has
lost its early tolerance and suffocated in dogmatism. Jesus found a
way out of a fixation on the letter of the law by looking instead at its purpose.
Muslims can learn from
British mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose
represents a generation who launched themselves into the universe
armed only with their wits and imagination.
Penrose studied algebraic geometry. While an undergraduate, he heard
Fred Hoyle lecture on cosmology. Hoyle believed in a steady state
universe and coined the term Big Bang in derision. Penrose: "I drew
little pictures and convinced myself that what he said couldn't be
While a graduate student, Penrose saw an exhibition of
art by M.C. Escher: "I was quite blown over. I came away and drew
pictures of bridges and roads, which gradually simplified into the
Dennis Sciama prompted Penrose to a lecture by David
Finkelstein, who was working on general relativity, black holes, and
singularities. Penrose was hooked. In 1959 he travelled to Princeton
to work with John Wheeler, who invented the term black hole.
Penrose showed that black holes could be real. Stephen Hawking saw
the work and the pair began collaborating on gravitational
singularities. But the concept of a singularity conflicts with
Penrose began in physics with quantum
mechanics. A fundamental property of quantum particles is spin, but
quantum spin seems to need objects to be spinning in twisted space.
Their motion can be described using spinors.
developed a theory that adds a new twist to spinors. His twistors
reveal deep connections between quantum theory and the shapes of
spacetime. Penrose thinks twistors might lead to a theory of quantum
gravity reconciling quantum theory and general relativity.
Penrose is 85. His ideas are still guided by an uninhibited spirit
2017 February 13
Philosophy has not covered itself in
glory. Sometimes, views can have terrifying consequences that might
actually come true. I think what the postmodernists did was evil.
They are responsible for the intellectual fad that made it
respectable to be cynical about truth and facts.
activism is not my favourite activity but sometimes one has to
engage in it. I begrudge every hour that I have to spend worrying
about political issues. Every Republican senator has an opportunity
to grow a spine and stand up for truth and justice and the rule of
The view of things getting better is the view of those who
survive. The fact that we now understand more about how evolution
works exposes the fragility of some features of our modern world. We
now have to take care not to run off the cliff with our new
No sooner do we develop the hardware to give the
globe a nervous system than we spoil it. One danger of AI tools is
that we become too dependent on them and give them more authority
than they warrant. Technological oracles give very accurate results
that we have no other way of getting. We get black box science.
Philosophers talk about the limits of comprehension.
The only way we can make progress is by division of labor and
specialization. Papers come out of CERN with 500 authors, not one of
whom understands the whole paper or the whole science behind it.
This is going to become more and more the meme. More and more, the
unit of comprehension is going to be group comprehension.
2017 Darwin Day
Life emerges naturally through the laws of
physics and information theory. Information is physical and
randomness is entropy. A demon using knowledge and intent to defy
the laws of thermodynamics pays a penalty because it cannot
have unlimited memory. When it clears its memory and erases
information, it dissipates energy and increases entropy.
Living organisms have collectively been avoiding equilibrium since
the origin of life. They harvest energy from their surroundings to
capture and store information. Their genes are instructions for
reaping negative entropy. An organism and its environment share
information that helps the organism stay out of equilibrium.
Life is a computation that aims to optimize the storage and use of
meaningful information. A lower limit on the energy used in
computation is set by the cost of forgetting. The efficiency of the
total computation done by a living cell is only a few times more
than the thermodynamic limit.
Complex systems can absorb and
dissipate energy in a fluctuating environment. As they do so, they
generate entropy and tend to settle into well adapted and highly
organized states. To use energy efficiently they can become
prediction machines. Storing information with no predictive value
has a cost, so they selectively harvest meaningful information.
Nonequilibrium systems maximize entropy. A system can maximize
entropy over a time window into the future by comparing paths and
taking the path of most entropy, with most options later. This drive
to preserve freedom of future action creates outcomes that suggest
AR This is the
— Buckingham Palace, 1941
One, 19 February, 9-10 pm, Ep 1/5
Nostalgia with a twist of "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet"
UK ranks 24th out
of 28 EU states
Marine Le Pen will
pull France out
of € if she
2017 February 12
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon
referred to the Italian philosopher Julius Evola in a Vatican speech
Baron Giulio Cesare Andrea "Julius" Evola, who died
in 1974, wrote on everything from Eastern religions to sex to alchemy. But he is best known as a leading
proponent of Traditionalism.
Evola became a darling of
Italian Fascists, and later Italian terrorists called themselves
Children of the Sun after his vision of a Solar Civilization. He
also inspired the Greek party Golden Dawn and the Hungarian party
Evola caught on in the United States with alt-right
leaders, including US white supremacist Richard Spencer, who in the
days after the presidential election led a crowd in chants of "Hail
Born in 1898, Evola was a talented artist, who after
fighting in World War I became a leading Dadaist. This gave way to a
love for German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
The Revolt Against the Modern World cast materialism as eroding
ancient values and saw the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation,
the French Revolution, and humanism all as historical disasters that
took man further away from the perennial truth.
dictator Benito Mussolini really liked Evola's 1941 book on racial
doctrine. Evola eventually broke with the Italian Fascists because
he considered them too tame. He preferred the Nazi SS as closer to
his mythic ideal.
In his Vatican talk, Bannon also discussed
Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is influenced by Aleksandr
Dugin, a Russian Traditionalist who advocates
Eurasianism to defend Europeans from democracy, liberty, and
Bannon on Evola: "We, the Judeo-Christian West,
really have to look at what he's talking about as far as
2017 February 11
When I think of human flourishing, I think of
virtue. If you have a playful mind or a playful spirit, or you seek
truth, or pursue beauty, or fight for justice, or love another human
being, these are activities that line up with certain virtues.
If I learn mathematics and become a better thinker, I develop
perseverance and hopefulness. Some people experience transcendent
wonder at seeing something true about the universe, which is a
source of joy and flourishing.
When we talk about teaching
mathematics, sometimes we forget these larger virtues we are seeking
to cultivate in our students. We are really training habits of mind,
and those habits of mind allow people to flourish no matter what
profession they go into.
Connect with people in a deep way
and you will draw more people into mathematics. Being a
mathematician lets us see things more for what they are. Having a
mathematical background helps people to be less governed by their
Many of the people at research universities would
never consider taking students from an undergraduate college. They
miss a lot of talent.
US — China
US President Donald Trump had a long phone
call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi said adhering to the
one-China principle is the political cornerstone of China-US
relations. Trump now understands the importance of US adherence to
the one-China policy, and his administration will honor it.
The two leaders also agreed to cooperate in trade, investment, and
When two quantum particles interact
they can become entangled, with a single probability function
describing both particles together. If two entangled photons are
polarized in perpendicular directions, there is some probability
that photon A is vertically polarized and photon B is horizontally
polarized, and some chance of the opposite. However far apart they
are, measure photon A to be vertically polarized and you know photon
B is horizontally polarized.
In 1964, John Bell showed that
if particles have definite states even when no one is looking
(realism) and if no signal travels faster than light (locality),
then there is an upper limit to the amount of correlation between
the measured states of two particles. Experiments show that
entangled particles are more correlated than the Bell limit,
favoring quantum theory.
In a Bell test, entangled photons A
and B fly apart to remote optical modulators that either block or
pass photons, depending on the polarization angles. Bell assumed
that the modulator settings are independent of the states of the
photons. But if the modulators were not independent, this reduced
freedom could explain apparent entanglement.
measuring devices have two possible settings (say 1 or 0), so two
bits specify their settings when they are independent. In 2010,
Michael Hall showed that if only one bit does so once in every 22
runs, this halves the number of possible measurement settings
available in the 22 runs. This reduced freedom lets measurement
outcomes exceed the Bell limit.
In a cosmic Bell test
experiment, a team of researchers sent pairs of photons a long
distance into optical modulators and tallied coincident detections.
They attempted to maximize freedom by viewing a bright (but
otherwise random) star, and, before each measurement, using the
color of an incoming photon from the star to set the angle of a
modulator. The photon colors were decided long ago, when they left
The team found that the measurement outcomes
still exceeded the Bell limit. Nature would have had to restrict the
possible measurement settings at least 600 years before the
measurements occurred. Next, the team plans to use light from
distant quasars to push further back in time, but most scientists
bet on entanglement.
AR I do too.
In my view, measurement that breaks entanglement reflects popping
out of spacetime in a
mindworld jump. This is an epistemic leap forward to reflect an
ontic pop. The epistemo-ontic dialectic of successive temporal
popouts has a model in axiomatic set theory.
2017 February 10
Brexit Deckchairs, Trump Titanic
While Leavers and Remainers argue with
Lilliputian ferocity about hypothetical trading scenarios and
legislative technicalities and putative deals, the UK faces its
gravest national security threat since the second world war.
President Trump wants to bring about a Russian-American axis that
would enfeeble NATO, destroy the European Union, and dominate a
continent reduced to national fragments. He has instantly turned the
US into a rogue state.
His impulsive actions as president add
up to an agenda of unhinged belligerence and international
lawlessness. He has shrunk the executive branch of government into a
private dictatorial clique. He has excluded from his decision making
process all the officials who would ordinarily be consulted. He has
ridiculed countless respectable citizens.
Trumpism is a
lethal, highly infectious political disease. Fight it or succumb to
The Brexit referendum took place in a world that no
longer exists. Everybody assumed that the UK could negotiate its new
trade and security arrangements in a geopolitically stable world.
Everybody assumed the presence of a sane and friendly US president.
The new Brexit white paper cites the National Security Risk
Assessment of 2015: "Our democratic and inclusive values are the
foundation of our security and prosperity. We will continue to
uphold these values against those who are intent on undermining
To get the US trade deal that the UK needs, Theresa
May will be forced to align Britain geopolitically with Trump. She
will have to let Trumpism become the foundation of UK security.
If the UK rushes ahead with article 50 notification next month,
it will face a choice: either side with Europe in opposition to the
Trump-Putin axis but get no US trade deal or make that trade deal
but become a Trumpist American client state.
stand together against Trump. Brexit is deckchairs and Trump is
AR My cooler shrink-wrap
of a bravura source text. Audacious metaphor!
In 2010, Steve Bannon made the documentary
Generation Zero. From the text on the DVD case: "The current
economic crisis is not a failure of capitalism, but a failure of
Bannon says the culture wars and the financial
crisis both share the same villain: the bad values that supposedly
infected the 60s. That decade apparently introduced Americans to
irresponsibility and self-indulgence. Blame is offloaded from Wall
Street to the hippies.
Generation Zero is profoundly irresponsible. Once upon a time,
there was a dreadful decade, then four decades later a terrible
financial crisis, and the one somehow caused the other. Voiceover:
"In history, there are four turnings. The crisis. The high. The
awakening. The unravelling. History repeats itself. The untold story
about the financial meltdown."
The theory is ridiculous. But
it is a way to get casino capitalism out of the shadow for the
financial crisis and blame instead the forces the family values
crowd has been complaining about for years. Generation Zero connects
the dots by means of a vast looping diagram of fantastic confusion.
AR My view too (February 5).
2017 February 9
Alternative for Germany
Patriotism is based on having a healthy
attitude toward your own country and your own history. My parents
taught us to be critical. And being a scientist makes you very
critical because you have to analyze everything.
governments in the past have proven that the relationship to Israel
is very important. Israel has already experienced what Europe is
starting to experience now in terms of illegal migration and
terrorism. Germany and Israel have a special relationship.
We separate religion from the state in Europe. Islam has not
accepted that yet. In the Mideast, you even see a rollback to a
more conservative model of society where religion dominates public life. And that is something we seriously criticize,
because we see many of the migrants and asylum seekers coming to
Germany importing this model of society to Germany.
It is too
easy to compare what happened to Jews in Germany with our present
criticism of Islam. Muslims who have
lived in Germany for a long time and accept that their own religion
has problems belong to Germany. Without forgetting what happened to
the Jews, we are concerned about Muslims coming from Africa or the
Mideast, who do not even want to integrate or assimilate.
Someone asked thousands of Muslim immigrants to Europe for their
views on whether Sharia law or national legislation dominated how
they behave toward ethnic and religious minorities. Most of them
said that Sharia was more important to them than national
legislation. They also revealed very little tolerance for the Jews.
They arrive with attitudes that are so
alien to our common behavior and European attitudes that we have to
say there is a problem.
In many ways Islam is stuck in the
Middle Ages. Medieval views do not fit in a democratic context. Many
Jews in Israel are faced with this problem in everyday life. They
need not fear AfD. I understand the sensitivity in the
Jewish community on these questions.
Hot Chips on Venus
Venus has a surface temperature of 750
K and an atmospheric pressure of 9 MPa — and boiling sulfuric acid
rain. This is hard on normal digital computers. But electronics
based on silicon carbide (SiC) can take it. NASA crafted a chip and
ran it in a test rig at 1.26 MHz for almost 2 Ms:
further technology maturation, such SiC IC electronics could
drastically improve Venus lander designs and mission concepts,
fundamentally enabling long-duration enhanced missions to the
surface of Venus."
AR I still
fancy living in a sunlit city floating above the Venusian clouds (blog
The House of Commons has approved the EU (now) bill
and passed it to the Lords for further debate. If all goes to plan,
Theresa May will be able to pull the trigger in March.
AR Then bang — game over.
2017 February 8
US v Rising Reds
The ambition and activism of Russia and
China are rising as the confidence and capacity of the United States
declines. As they cross, we will see the existing order collapse and
the world descend into a phase of brutal anarchy. The cost of that
descent will be staggering.
check on Chinese and Russian ambitions has been the military and
economic power of the United States and its allies. For decades,
this global dominance has discouraged any serious challenge. Chinese
and Russian leaders feared that aggressive moves would backfire.
In recent years, the democratic order has weakened and fractured
at its core. Difficult economic conditions, the recrudescence of
nationalism and tribalism, weak and uncertain political leadership,
and new media have together produced a crisis of confidence in the
Whether the United States is willing to
continue upholding the strategic order has been in doubt for some
time. American patience with the difficulties and costs of playing
that global role have worn thin. The weakness and withdrawal
encourage a bolder stance by the dissatisfied powers.
powers produce the insecurity they claim to want to redress. The
United States cannot and should not prevent China from being an
economic powerhouse, nor should it wish for the collapse of Russia.
As for military and strategic competition, security comes first.
AR My guess — US will squander its
strength against Iran.
UK v Five Facts
HM Government white paper:
"Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership
of the EU, it has not always felt like that."
The UK parliament has always been
sovereign. Its ability to trigger Brexit proves it. Yet, driven by
the presumed will of the people, HMG plans to leave the single
market and the customs union.
Article 50 states that the EU treaties shall cease to apply two
years after the notification. The European Council can extend this
period but the chances are slim. Businesses will need clarity well
before the end, so UK leverage will rapidly dwindle.
battle plan survives contact with the enemy. The UK team is negotiating
with the European Commission, 27 member states, and the European
Parliament. They feel no urgent need to reach an agreement.
The European Commission wants to start with the terms of the divorce
before starting talks on a future framework and a transition. The UK
team says nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Disagreement can halt progress.
4 The commission calculates
that Britain owes €60 billion. This demand could prove to be the
decisive stumbling block.
5 The divorce will cover
outstanding commitments, civil rights and housekeeping issues,
complex trading arrangements, and perhaps sectoral customs unions
and "enhanced equivalence" for finance. The complexity could prove
The path on which the UK is launched is deeply
against its interests.
government admits the sovereignty argument for Brexit is invalid. Parliamentarians
failed yesterday to deplore the push for Brexit in view of this
admission during the second reading of the EU Notification of
THAAD — Terminal High Altitude Area
Defense — is a Missile Defense Agency (MDA) ABM system designed to
SRBM/MRBM/IRBM in their terminal phase using a kinetic
interceptor. Prime contractor:
AR China and Russia released a joint statement in January
opposing plans to deploy THAAD —
German humor is alive
and funny. Stay cool during
the great bulk is in English.
to be second?
Arabella sings a song for
Come back Obama!
Obama as Prez
UK parliament gives
Theresa May OK to
The United Kingdom's exit
from and new
with the European Union
PDF: 77 pages, 1.7 MB
US Grand Strategy
in the Trump Era
Colin Kahl, Hal Brands
God and war — a gory story
AR When will we ever learn?
2017 February 7
Trump as Antichine
Since January 20, Trump has hit out on
different fronts. He has lashed out at Germany, Japan and Mexico and
issued a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries,
but he is clear that China will certainly take retaliatory measures
against his provocations. Hitting out against China will be a risky
move, for which Trump needs to find a good reason and be certain
about the benefits.
Will be suicidal for his historical reputation.
Trump as Thor
The New York Times
The Doomsday Clock stands at 150
seconds before midnight — the closest since 1953 after the United
States and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.
has spoken about nuking terrorists and expanding US nuclear
capabilities. He wants to keep other nations on edge about whether
he will go nuclear. Republican and Democratic presidents have long
sought to ensure that these weapons are not used lightly.
Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu propose
legislation to prohibit any president from launching a first-strike
nuclear weapon without a declaration of war from Congress. The bill
would not undercut the president's ability to respond on his own
authority to a nuclear attack.
A Pentagon board recently
proposed that the United States consider building more lower-yield
nuclear weapons to provide an option for limited use in a regional
conflict. The only legitimate role for nuclear weapons is
deterrence. The absurd notion of a limited nuclear war needs to be
Trump commands about 4,000 nukes that he alone is
empowered to launch. Any decision to do so would have to be made
quickly. The president has yet to put together a nuclear strategy
and has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert
Trump has assumed office at a difficult time, a time
for restraint and careful deliberation. Nuclear weapons are too
dangerous to be brandished as a cudgel.
AR POTUS tweets while world burns.
Trump as Nero
The United States president is becoming
a danger to the world.
Germany must stand up in opposition to
POTUS 45 and his administration. Americans gave us our liberal
democracy, but we will now have to build an alliance against Donald
The president of the United States is a liar and a
racist. He is attempting a coup from the top. He fired an attorney
general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of
betrayal. This is the way of the tyrant.
Donald Trump and
Stephen Bannon hold science and education in contempt. We need
organizations like the UN, the WTO, the IPCC, NATO, and the EU.
Bannon wants to wipe them away.
President Trump fuses public
concerns with nationalism and xenophobia. Demagogues work that way.
The fact that he is calling for "America first" and trying to force
the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd.
The German economy is a target of American trade policy and
German democracy is antithetical to nationalism. It is high time to
stand up for democracy, freedom, and western alliances.
Europe must start planning its political and economic defenses.
AR Germans are sensitive to echoes
2017 February 6
Bump and Trexit
You cannot put new trading barriers between
yourself and the giant free trade area upon which we have been
dependent for the past 30 years without making yourself poorer. I
think Brexit will make us poorer. If it turns out to be at some
enormous cost and it brings an end to international investment in
quite a lot of sectors of the economy, then it could be a disaster.
Every US president until the present one has found us more
valuable because we are the leading bridge into the EU. We carry
clout because we are one of the two or three big members of the EU.
We are giving all that up as well. We are a trading nation and we
have political interests in all parts of the world, where we will
find our voice and our clout substantially diminished.
government have got this slogan about a global Britain and want to
illustrate this by having good photo opportunities with leading
figures around the world. So I suppose they thought it was quite a
political coup to finally land this first meeting with Donald Trump.
But we happen to have a rather unpleasant and highly unpredictable
American president. Perhaps he wants to have a trade deal with us
while he's busy repudiating deals with everybody else but I don't
I have never seen anything as mad or chaotic as
During the EZ crisis, Germany insisted
on fiscal austerity for the bloc as a whole. It also gave itself a
constitutional balanced budget rule. This stops the German public
sector from running a deficit that could offset the surplus of the
private sector. The German structural surplus grows from tough
fiscal rules and a weak currency.
US NTC head Peter Navarro:
"The German structural imbalance in trade with the rest of the EU
and the US underscores the economic heterogeneity within the EU."
AR The € would be stronger if UK
rode EZ too.
2017 February 5
A City on a Hill
America, born with the aspiration of
becoming a city on a hill, is in danger of becoming a fortress.
America is witnessing a new wave of nativist populism claiming to
have the solutions for fighting Islamist extremists who claim to
offer an alternative to globalization and American hegemony.
Trump aims to defeat radical Islamists. In fact, the incompetent
text of his executive order and the ethnocentric texture of the
narrative that has accompanied it are bound to fail at achieving
this objective. The ban not only weakens moderates in the Muslim
world, but also gives a huge propaganda victory to radical
Only an America that is open, free, and true to
its values can summon the understanding, forge the alliances, and
win the broad cooperation necessary to defeat radical Islamist
extremism. Only an America that welcomes immigrants and refugees
will continue to innovate and prosper.
AR If Salt Lake City is a Mormon Masada, the rest is toast.
White House chief strategist Stephen
Bannon negotiated a seat for himself on the National Security
Council. Donald Trump is not one to cede authority, but after the
first days at 1600 Pennsylvania, as one veteran Republican said,
"It's already over, and Bannon won."
Bannon noted repeatedly
on his radio show that "we're at war" with radical jihadis around
the world. This is "a global existential war" that likely will
become "a major shooting war" in the Mideast.
Born in 1953,
Bannon came from a blue collar, Irish-Catholic family of Democrats.
In the US Navy he earned a master's degree in national security
studies from Georgetown, followed by an MBA from Harvard. From there
he went to Goldman Sachs, then left to run his own firm in
Bannon was captivated by
The Fourth Turning, by William Strauss and Neil Howe, and made a
film based on it,
Generation Zero (2010, 2:02:35).
Bannon took command at
Breitbart in 2012 and made it a home for the alt right: "Our big
belief, one of our central organizing principles at the site, is
that we're at war."
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro: "He
regularly abuses people. He sees everything as a war. Every time he
feels crossed, he makes it his business to destroy his opponent."
AR Generation Zero is terrible,
dump-quality war porn.
2017 February 4
President Trump's first fortnight in the White House has pleased
the voters who put him there:
● "He's been outstanding" — Fred
● "I feel safer" — Sally Armstrong
● "He's done what he
promised" — Ron Syme
Pollster Tony Fabrizio: "The average
American is tired of America being taken advantage of."
Trump has already blown it
Stephen M. Walt
Trump has squandered a genuine
opportunity to put American foreign policy on a more solid footing
and has managed to unite and empower opposition at home and abroad.
Trump picked several fights with China while undercutting the US
position in Asia, badgered Australian Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull in an acrimonious phone call, picked another pointless
fight with Mexico, announced an unlawful ban on Muslim immigrants,
and shut the door on hundreds of extensively vetted refugees on
Holocaust Remembrance Day — and then deliberately excluded any
mention of Jews from the official statement on the day itself.
Meanwhile, he is openly flirting with a trade war that would
damage the entire world economy and continuing to destabilize
relations with America's closest allies.
Kanzlerin Angela Merkel in
Malta: "Wir haben es als EU der 27 in der Hand, wie stark, wie gut,
wie schnell, wie präzise Europa ist und wie wir unsere Probleme
Trump beschert Merkel in der Flüchtlingskrise ein
doppeltes Problem: Seine Politik beflügelt Europas Rechtspopulisten.
Doch in der Flüchtlingspolitik ist die EU näher an Trump, als manche
es wahrhaben wollen. Denn ähnlich wie der US-Präsident hat auch die
EU nun beschlossen, an ihrer Südgrenze eine Mauer hochzuziehen — aus
Sicherheitskräften, Auffanglagern und Küstenwachbooten.
AR EU builds southern border "wall"
with security forces, collection camps, and coastguard boats.
Consider the facts:
● Trump intends to do
everything he said during the campaign, and more.
● The regime's main
organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to
inner circle. Departments are being
reorganized or purged to effect this.
● The inner circle is actively
probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power.
● Crushing various groups are
primary aims of the regime, and are likely to be acted on with
greater speed than was earlier suspected.
Things can go wrong
AR Some Jewish paranoia there, but the
echoes of 1933 are serious and chilling. Houston —
we have a problem!
2017 February 3
A Dark View of Islam
The New York Times
President Trump has unveiled a dark
vision of an America under siege by radical Islam. His suspicious
view of Islam borrows from the clash of civilizations thesis of
Samuel Huntington. Rejected by most serious scholars of religion and
shunned by US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, this dark
view of Islam has flourished on the fringes of the American right.
White House Islam critic Steve Bannon says the Judeo-Christian
West is at war with Islam: "There is a major war brewing, a war
that's already global. Every day that we refuse to look at this as
what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it,
will be a day where you will rue that we didn't act ... To be
brutally frank, Christianity is dying in Europe and Islam is on the
AR This crusade against
Islam is as ill-starred as the Nazi crusade against Communism.
Lacking is due appreciation of the inner integrity of the opponent.
A Dark View of Politics
The New York Times
Donald Trump named Stephen Bannon to
the NSC principals committee and downgraded the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence. The
chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national
intelligence will in future attend the principals committee meetings
only where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise
Trump has no grounding in national security
decision making, no sophistication in governance, and little
apparent grasp of how to lead a great diverse nation. Bannon has
positioned himself as a trusted aide, shutting out other voices that
might offer alternative views. Trump's first spasms of policy making
supply ample evidence that he needs advisers who can think
AR Trump is a weak
man if he cannot take moral guidance from Obama.
A New View of Computing
W. K. Hensinger et al.
A large quantum computer may best
be constructed using a modular approach. A trapped ion based
scalable quantum computer module could be based on microwave quantum
gates constructed using silicon fabrication techniques. A proposed
design makes use of ion transport between modules. An error
correction code can be implemented in the architecture and the
modules could be used in alternative architectures.
AR This is a good step forward.
2017 February 2
Quantum theory treats forces as coming
in quanta, but general relativity treats gravity as a smooth and
continuous force. All efforts to quantize gravity have so far
Juan Maldacena showed that, for a given volume of
spacetime, a string theory describing gravity inside can be
mathematically equivalent to a set of quantum equations describing
the boundary of the volume without gravity. Maldacena duality hinted
at a connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics.
Mark Van Raamsdonk looked at how the size of wormholes between
two black holes reflects the entanglement of the black holes, as
seen from the outside. He found that changing the amount of
entanglement between the black holes changed the width of the
wormhole, as if entanglement could create spacetime.
Susskind thinks spacetime in general is created by entanglement, but
complexity is an issue. Quantum systems can be in a superposition of
many states, and complexity grows exponentially with the number of
states. The growth of black hole quantum complexity might be
connected to the growth of spacetime inside them.
Carroll and his team looked at Hilbert spaces. A Hilbert space
represents all the possible states of a quantum system. Any Hilbert
space can be broken into smaller such spaces. Carroll worked out the
entanglement between the smaller constituent spaces. His team drew
graphs in which the more entangled the parts, the closer they are
together, and found some graphs for which moving from one position
to another was relatively smooth, suggesting the smooth geometry of
space could emerge from a quantum basis.
generalized Maldacena duality from anti-de Sitter space, which has a
well defined boundary and volume, to our spacetime by seeing our
cosmic horizon as a boundary. He showed how spacetime and gravity
can emerge from entanglement and explain away dark energy.
Entanglement is information: the greater the entanglement between
two systems, the more information they share. Quantum information
underlying spacetime is not of or about anything. Qubits might be
the foundation of real reality.
Continuing my own speculation (blog January 7), our growing
spacetime bubble has a Maldacena boundary that we picture as a
transparent threshold into a potentially infinite further spacetime. We
can also see it as a firewall to uncountably many entangled qubits. With duality my bubble idea becomes a fruitful image rather
than an odd fantasy.
2017 February 1
US v China
China remains far less powerful than the
United States. But it has come a long way. Its economic progress and
its ambitions, plus the size of its population, mean that China has
become the only other potential global superpower.
Donald Trump pulled the United States out
of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The pact was always more about
geopolitics than economics. Much of the Pacific Rim, including
Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia, welcomed it as a way to offset
Chinese power in Asia.
China is now trying to put together a
different trade pact with some of the same countries. If China
succeeds, it will gain more sway in Asia. Beijing will be able to
say the United States has only a transactional interest in Asia.
AR Scrapping TPP — US own goal.
Tusk v Trump
European Council President Donald Tusk warns
that "worrying declarations" from US President Donald Trump
challenge the EU.
In a letter to EU-27 leaders, Tusk said the
new US administration was part of an external threat that also
included an assertive China, an aggressive Russia, and radical
Tusk: "We cannot surrender to those who want to weaken
or invalidate the Transatlantic bond, without which global order and
peace cannot survive. We should remind our American friends of their
own motto: United we stand, divided we fall."
AR US v EU — a tale of two Donalds.
Bannon v National Security
President Trump has appointed Stephen
Bannon to the National Security Council. Bannon served seven years in the US Navy
several decades ago and made his name in the private sector,
Hollywood, and politics. He is obsessed with military history
and the art of war.
A former Hollywood associate: "He
constantly used military terms ... always spoke in terms of
aggression. It was always on-the-attack, double down ... macho
Bannon: "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and
that's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and
destroy all of today's establishment."
Hollywood writing partner and former
close friend Julia Jones: "Steve is a strong militarist, he's in
love with war — it's almost poetry to him. He's studied it down
through the ages, from Greece, through Rome ... every battle, every
war ... Never back down, never apologize, never show weakness ...
He talked a lot about Sparta — how Sparta defeated Athens, he loved
Bannon for NSC?
The National Security Council is a
Cabinet-level group of agencies focused on national security that
was established by President George H. W. Bush in 1989.
Former acting CIA chief
Michael Morell: "Having somebody like Bannon in the room brings
politics into a room where there should be no politics."
Senator Bernie Sanders: "Steve Bannon sitting on the National
Security Council is dangerous and unprecedented. He must be
Senator John McCain: "I am worried about the
National Security Council ... The appointment of Mr. Bannon is
... a radical departure from any National Security
Council in history."
AR Bannon —
the hammer for Trump's Thor.
USN photo # N-1841C-042
Ohio-class boomer USS Georgia
(commissioned as SSBN-729 in 1984, redesignated to SSGN-729 in 2004).
Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines are set to replace them
This is not what greatness
The world rejects your fear,
As citizens of the world,
we stand united
your brand of division.
More than 18,000 scientists
including 50 Nobel prizewinners
and 82 other awardees have
petition and the
AAAS and the
against the ban
Charles stay cool when
Trump visits Queen?
US bans Iran citizens
bans US citizens
Theresa May and Donald Trump
renew US-UK marriage vows
The probability of global
catastrophe is very high, and
the actions needed to reduce
risks of disaster must
be taken very soon.
2016 marks three
years of record warmth
for the globe
Trump is emotionally invested
in Brexit. He feels
that it and
his own victory are part of the
same movement. He wants
to get personally involved in
negotiating a trade deal
with the UK.
critical of NATO
and wants better
with Russia. He acts like he
wants the EU to fall apart.
His hostility rattles
Credit: Kevin Dietsch
Churchill bust returns
to the Oval Office
2017 January 31
Donald Trump seems to offer Britain an
exciting escape route from Europe. The UK can leap off the rotting
raft of the EU and onto the gleaming battleship HMS Anglosphere.
Wrong. The election of Trump transforms Brexit
from a risk into a disaster:
Theresa May forged a special relationship last Friday based on US-UK
values. But on Saturday Trump dropped his "Muslim ban" bomb.
● May wants the UK to champion global free trade. But Trump is the
most protectionist US president since Hoover and could soon start
slapping big tariffs on foreign goods.
● May is a firm believer in the importance of
NATO and the UN. But Trump has twice called NATO obsolete and is
threatening to slash US funding of the UN.
● May say Britain
wants to work with a strong EU. But Trump is openly contemptuous of
the EU and his aides have speculated that it might break up.
May sees an increased threat from a resurgent Russia. But Trump is
already flirting with lifting sanctions.
UK foreign minister
Boris Johnson talks up the prospects of a trade deal with Trump. Yet
only a few months ago Boris was saying Trump was "clearly out of his
mind" and betrayed a "stupefying ignorance" of the world.
strong UK in the EU would keep its distance from Trump. Britain
could defend free trade with the EU bulk behind it. Brexit Britain
has embraced a US president Boris once called a madman.
AR Brexit Britain — not the EU bulldog
but the US poodle.
The "Muslim Ban"
President Trump has had a busy first week in
office. Christian fundamentalism has become the least of our
concerns. Our democracy has been engulfed by a hurricane of lies.
● I think Trump's "Muslim ban" is unethical toward
refugees and doomed to be ineffective in stopping the spread of
● Most of the opposition to his order is
contaminated by identity politics and liberal delusion. The
opponents continue to lie about the problem of Islamism.
One can speak about the ideological roots of Islamism and jihadism
and about the need for reform in Islam without lapsing into bigotry
or disregarding the suffering of refugees.
● If liberals who
refuse to speak honestly on these topics continue to march with
Islamists, denigrate free speech, and oppose the work of reformers
in the Muslim community, they will only further provoke and empower
The next acts of jihadist terrorism in America will
most likely be met with terrifying countermeasures by the Trump
administration. If liberals continue to lie about the causes of
terrorism and lock arms with Islamists, we have some rough times
We need to defend secularism, science, and free speech
against their enemies. We must choose between civilization or chaos.
AR Trump — the anti-Islamist golem.
2017 January 30
The Germans are ready to take on more
responsibility worldwide. With the Federal Republic, they have
created a thoroughly civilized state. This fact gives
The German interest in Europe is to shape it
in a way that corresponds to its own goals, and to equip what
remains of it politically, economically, and militarily so that it
is not controlled by foreign powers. This in turn requires resolute
Europe needs to be led by a state that is first
among equals, strong, secure, firmly western, and aware of its own
limits. Germany can be first only in partnership with allies.
AR The German original text was long
Trump Economic Plan
Peter Navarro, Wilbur Ross
Donald Trump's economic plan
proposes tax cuts, reduced regulation, lower energy costs, and
eliminating the chronic US trade deficit. His goal is to increase US
real GDP growth rate and create millions of additional new jobs and
trillions of dollars of additional income and tax revenues.
We provide a transparent scoring of the Trump economic plan in the
areas of trade, regulatory, and energy policy reforms based on
conservative assumptions. Along with tax reform, these areas
represent the four main points of the Trump policy compass. Each
works with the others and in conjunction with proposed spending
Our analysis indicates that the Trump trade,
regulatory, and energy policy reforms would collectively increase
Federal tax revenues by $2.4 trillion. In a separate analysis, the
Tax Foundation has reported a dynamically scored $2.6 trillion
revenue reduction from the Trump tax cuts assuming guardrails to
The Trump economic plan is fiscally
conservative. When properly scored, it approaches revenue neutrality
and, with proposed budget savings are taken into account, it
achieves revenue neutrality. The challenge is to fix the underlying
structural problems facing the US economy.
AR The plan might rely on a few
2017 January 29
The New York Times
Donald Trump talked for an hour with
Vladimir Putin and vowed to repair US-Russian relations.
White House: "Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful
that after today's call, the two sides can move quickly to tackle
terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern."
Kremlin: "Donald Trump asked to convey a desire for happiness and
prosperity for the Russian people, noting that the people in America
relate with sympathy to Russia and its citizens."
Der neue US-Präsident wird Deutschland spüren
lassen, dass die NATO mehr Geld und Einsatz im Kampf gegen Daesh
erwartet. Im Bundeshaushalt werden Milliarden-Verschiebungen
Die beiden Politiker verständigten sich in dem
Telefonat auch auf eine enge Zusammenarbeit gegen den Terrorismus —
trotz Merkels Kritik an dem neuen US-Einreiseverbot.
Dutch Boy Wonder
Dutch Forum for Democracy party leader and former
university professor Thierry Baudet, 34, shares with Geert "Dutch
Trump" Wilders a desire to lead Holland out of the EU as the only
way to win back control over its borders.
Baudet: "The forces
that produced Brexit in Britain and the election of Donald Trump in
America are being unleashed in Holland as well."
AR Baudet is a
friend of Sir Roger Scruton.
I Am American
When I was 7, my family fled a violent
revolution in Iran. We arrived in the United States with nothing but
a suitcase each. We chose America.
Donald Trump has signed an
executive order that effectively bars citizens of a number of Muslim
countries including Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Syria from
entering the United States. This follows his promise to ban all
No president has ever attempted to
implement a religious test on migration for the simple reason that a
ban based on religion violates the establishment clause of
Constitution. But that is what Trump is planning on doing. His
executive order is a Muslim ban by another name.
the restrictions focus on countries whose migrants could pose a
threat to Americans. But then it should restrict citizens from Saudi
Arabia. This executive order is an assault on the civil rights of
Muslim citizens in the United States.
I am an American. If
the President of the United States can threaten my rights as a
citizen, then he can do the same for any one of us.
AR Aslan is the author of
The Trump Inauguration
You know you're going to see the Trump
inauguration a thousand times, in documentaries, for the rest of
your life. But you don't know how it will be remembered.
voice-over will tell the story of what happened next, after this
angry man walked on to the stage — fist aloft, under a low grey sky,
to the half-empty Mall — and made his vows.
It looked like
the end. America is suddenly the kind of country that tells crazy
lies. In his dark, angry speech — carnage, tombstones, bleeding —
Trump did not herald a new era.
The future voice-overs will
tell us he is the impossible president. Impossible things tend not
to last very long. They are mutated ends — not beginnings.
2017 January 28
Eclipse of the West
Before Donald Trump, Washington insiders
believed that America was the indispensable nation. The cost of US
hegemony was an issue during the primaries. Republican foreign
policy experts were alarmed by the prospect of a Trump presidency.
The crisis of the West has been tied to repeated failures in
foreign policy. In this century, the limits of Western power have
been illustrated time and again, nowhere more so than in the
Mideast. There has been a loss of appetite for lengthy and
complicated foreign entanglements.
The Western way of war has
become discredited. The fashion for counterinsurgency partly grew
out of a desire to evolve towards a more sophisticated and more
politically palatable use of force. Even when it works, the
political and financial costs of such lengthy campaigns are
Blessed with decades of relative security, we
have lost the custom of thinking strategically. Having enjoyed a
preponderance of force and wealth, we have failed to grasp the
changes in international affairs. Behind all of this is a loss of
confidence in the merits of Western civilization.
carved out a privileged place for itselfin the slipstream of US
foreign policy. Its greatest strategic nightmare has been the
prospect of an American retreat from its global responsibilities.
A rebalancing of the international system is about to begin.
The America of today has lost faith in its
own superiority. It has become a regressive country that is turning
its back on the world. From Alabama to Alaska, you will find that
the American Dream has been lost.
American streets are full
of holes, US airports look old, and falling trees regularly cause
power outages. Over the last 30 years, mainstream politicians have
worked tirelessly to destroy the state, which they see as a form of
imposed socialist administration. They have made America weak.
A new understanding of the state is long overdue in America. In
a globalized world the protective identity of a state is necessary.
Donald Trump is one of the few conservatives to have recognized
Create Defense Union
EU military spending is the second highest in
the world, at roughly half that of the United States, but the
spending is inefficient. A more secure European Union can only be
created if we act together by:
Building partnerships, promoting reconciliation, and strengthening
resilience, in order to react more quickly, coordinate our civilian
and military missions better, and use our financial resources more
2 Cooperating more
closely with our most important security partners and with NATO;
3 Investing in the expansion of
research and other capacities to exploit the internal market for
defense procurement, where lack of cooperation between member states
costs an estimated €100 billion annually.
We should develop
the EU into a real defensive organization.
AR Without duplicating or bypassing
NATO, we trust.
2017 January 27
The entire senior level of US State
Department management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an
ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers. Outgoing
State Department chief of staff David Wade: "It's the single biggest
simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can
remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate. Department
expertise in security, management, administrative and consular
positions in particular are very difficult to replicate and
particularly difficult to find in the private sector."
"Donald Trump has sounded the retreat. Whether under his America
First view, his willingness to let other powers take the lead, his
distrust of international institutions, or pure ignorance, he has
ushered in a blight befalling the world as a consequence of
mean-spirited, ill-considered, short-sighted US foreign policy."
UK to US: Resist Eclipse of the West
The days when the UK and US invaded
countries to engage in nation building are over. In a foreign policy
speech to congressional Republicans in Philadelphia, Theresa May
said the decline of the West was not inevitable: "We — our two
countries together — have a joint responsibility to lead. Because
when others step up as we step back, it is bad for America, for
Britain and the world."
Beware of the Donald
Voice of the Mirror
Theresa May needs to be on her guard
today as the first world leader to meet Donald Trump in Washington.
She needs to tread a fine line between maintaining our relationship
with an ally and establishing lines of communication with a volatile
Trump, while staying true to British values of fairness and decency.
2017 January 26
Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet
into Sydney Cove in 1788, a date mourned by many indigenous people.
Indigenous Advisory Council chairman Warren Mundine: "We see it
as Invasion Day. The 26th of January is the day that the British
came to invade, which led to massacres, the loss of land and the
destruction of Aboriginal societies."
Royal Navy Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Britain
in 1770. I am descended from him on my mother's side.
The America First Committee was founded in
1940. The five young men behind it built a movement more than
850,000 strong, with branches all over the country. The movement
made life hard for President Franklin Roosevelt until the Pearl
Harbor attack put an end to it.
The man who revived it was
Pat Buchanan, former adviser to Presidents Nixon and Reagan. In
1992, he launched his own protectionist, isolationist, moralist
version of America First and sought the Republican nomination as
presidential candidate but was rejected.
In 2000, Buchanan
ran for the Reform Party. Donald Trump had also sought the
nomination, but he quit the party over Buchanan: "He's a
Hitler-lover; I guess he is an antisemite. He doesn't like the
blacks, he doesn't like the gays ... That's not company I want to
The original America First campaigners said America
cannot be the world's policeman. Trump on Inauguration Day 2017:
"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this
day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first."
AR Women and children first (when
the ship goes down)
2017 January 25
Mind and World
An Edge Conversation
David Chalmers —
intelligence is an artificial mind. Virtual reality is an artificial
world. Thinking about AI and VR can shed light on deep philosophical
Virtual reality is a technology for creating and
interacting with artificial worlds. When one inhabits a virtual
reality one is interacting with a genuine digital reality. We
perceive virtual objects, and those objects really exist.
it turns out we are living in a digital virtual reality, we should
not say that none of the stuff around us exists. We should say we
are living in a world where everything is grounded in information.
The hypothesis that physics might be grounded in the interplay of
information does not make reality some kind of illusion.
Virtual objects have certain possibilities for motion and
interaction, and this grounds a sort of space that they inhabit.
This is not the same as nonvirtual space, but it is a genuine sort
of space. What matters for a physical world is the pattern of
You can see the hypothesis that we live in a
simulation as a version of the multiverse idea. Our universe would
be a local universe that is a simulation, and perhaps its creator
made other simulations with different parameters to watch them run
and see what happens. Some people have even proposed that we should
be forming religions around the idea that our simulator is our god.
Augmented reality technology lets you see not only the
physical world, but also virtual objects and entities that you
perceive in the middle of them. Everything is going to be in our
AR glasses, and AI will start to become an
extension of my mind. This mixing of the natural, the physical, and
the artificial both on the side of the mind and on the side of the
world is in our future.
Sean Carroll —
A virtual world is just as real as a physical world. Virtual
worlds are simply different ways of organizing and talking about the
world. Modern physics helps underwrite this view.
mechanics, the world is described by a quantum state. Anything above
and beyond that is just a convenient way of talking, an emergent
approximation applicable in a certain regime. A single quantum state
may be interpreted as representing very different things.
Informatic concepts bring the world to life. Perhaps spacetime
emerges out of the mutual information and entanglement between
different quantum degrees of freedom. Information is physical.
Thomas Metzinger —
four central conditions for any artificial system to become capable
of suffering are consciousness, a self-model, negative subjective
preferences, and transparency. Synthetic phenomenology may sound
like a long shot today, but so did synthetic biology two decades
Avatars will become more and more intelligent. We will
soon use them as flexible anthropomorphic interfaces to communicate
with AI systems. When AI becomes integrated with VR, avatars will
become like models of selves.
On avatars, see chapter 0000 of my 2010 book
G.O.D. Is Great. On AR
glasses, see chapter 0001. On VR, see chapters 0010 and 1011. The
book has 16 chapters, from 0000 to 1111, and I gave David and Thomas
copies in 2010.
2017 January 24
The Battle for Europe
Donald Trump wants to divide and conquer the
European Union for America. His only goal is US profitability, and
he sees global trade as a brutal fight for survival. Emissaries from
Berlin are trying to build contacts with his team.
In a March
1990 Playboy magazine interview Trump cited Japan and West Germany:
"Their products are better because they have so much subsidy ... Our
'allies' are making billions screwing us ... I'd throw a tax on
every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country and on all Japanese
The Trump team looked at statistics showing which
countries export more to the US than they import. In first place is
China, followed by Japan and then Germany. Trump sees the EU as an
alliance aimed at weakening the US economy.
The United States
is the biggest export market for Germany. In 2015, Germany delivered
goods worth €114 billion to the US, whereas the US only exported
goods worth around €60 billion to Germany. Worldwide, German goods
exports came to €1.2 trillion but imports to €1 trillion.
German carmakers built factories in America. BMW, Daimler Benz, and
Volkswagen did so in US states, then Mexico lured them south with
low wages and free access to the US market by way of NAFTA. Now
Audi, BMW, Daimler Benz, and Volkswagen makes vehicles in Mexico.
Angela Merkel desperately needs a plan for how to react to the
Trump presidency. German export strength is key to the EZ economy,
but it is also a target for US protectionist rhetoric. Germans need
to stand up to Trump.
2017 January 23
The Origin of Life
Scientists in Germany have discovered
how liquid droplets may have evolved into living cells. David
Zwicker and collaborators in Dresden studied chemically active
droplets and discovered that they tend to grow to some size and
divide, just like living cells.
The researchers are now
studying the growth and division of active droplets made of
synthetic polymers modeled after the droplets found in living cells.
After that, they hope to observe biological droplets dividing in the
Zwicker modeled centrosomes as chemically active
droplets, continuously cycling constituent proteins into and out of
the surrounding liquid cytoplasm. This chemical flux balances when
an active droplet reaches some volume, and the droplet stops
growing. Typical droplets grow to that size, elongate and pinch in
at the middle, and split into a pair of droplets, which then grow to
the same size.
Protocell droplets could have acquired
membranes. Droplets naturally collect crusts of lipids at their
interface with the surrounding liquid, and the crusts could evolve
into membranes. A stroke of luck formed the first droplet.
AR This is another welcome but small
step in filling out the story.
Hard Brexit Could Damage EU
Brexit could end up permanently damaging
the EU. Three effects of a sudden
1 The eurozone
remains dependent on the City of London for financial services.
There would be a bigger risk of a financial crisis in the EU than in
the UK. There is a potential for blackmail here.
2 Britain has a smaller weight in
EZ trade than the eurozone has in UK trade. But manufacturing supply
chains work in both directions. A sudden break could disrupt
The UK is a member of the UN Security Council, the G20, and the G7.
If EU countries want to fight tax avoidance by multinational
companies, manage globalization in a fairer way, reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, or come up with policies to combat terrorism, they
will need the UK.
A hard Brexit would push Britain toward
becoming another tax haven — a threat to the
AR Hard Brexit would be a
declaration of economic war. Mutual assured destruction could
2017 January 22
UK Nuke Malfunction
The UK government covered up a nuclear deterrent malfunction in
June last year during a Trident II D5 missile test launch from the
Royal Navy submarine HMS Vengeance at sea off Florida.
cause of the failure remains top secret but the missile apparently
shot off in the wrong direction toward America after launch.
A source: "Downing Street decided to cover up the failed test. If
the information was made public, they knew how damaging it would be
to the credibility of our nuclear deterrent."
expert said that if the launch had not been a test and the missile
had been armed, the result could have been "collateral damage on
AR Imagine the
headline — "Awfully sorry! We seem to have nuked Washington"
Donald Trump ist vereidigt,
Amerika zieht sich auf sich selbst zurück:
First = Everybody else last
ist, dass die Deutschen diesen "wake-up call" ernst nehmen und sich
die große Koalition in Berlin schnell erholen.
AR Deutschland, Frankreich und
Großbritannien sollten alle militärisch aufwachen.
2017 January 21
US Foreign Policy
Jessica T. Mathews
Donald Trump has taken all previous US
foreign policy and thrown it out the window.
His national security adviser Michael Flynn says the United States
is facing an "international alliance of evil countries and movements
that is working to destroy us" and it must "energize every element
of national power in a cohesive synchronized manner — similar to the
effort during World War II" to fight this new global war.
Flynn says the goal of US policy should be regime change in Iran. He
says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought in a "half-assed"
manner with "token" forces and without the resolution "to crush our
enemies" in the war against radical Islam.
University professor of strategic studies Eliot Cohen cites the
Ledeen Doctrine: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to
pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the
wall, just to show the world we mean business."
recovery of American credibility "will probably occur only when the
United States actually does something to someone — wiping out a
flotilla of Iranian gunboats," for example. He was among the first
to advocate invading Iraq and Iran as part of
World War IV: "The
heart of Iran's emerging military potential lies in its nuclear
Cohen believes China is America's greatest threat.
He sees a Chinese desire to establish hegemony in east Asia and
calls Chinese actions in the South and East China Seas a potential
trigger of global war. He argues for a substantially larger US
Trump thinks America does too much in the world and
cares too much about others. He thinks money spent to strengthen
other nations is wasted. Some of this is surely posturing.
AR Even as posturing it looks bad.
Credit: Toby Melville
Credit: Marvin Joseph
"form a wall of meat"
USAF B-2 Spirit
Germany and France will
not reward the UK for
the EU and abandoning the
dream of European
By the end of the week,
Donald Trump will
He will have his moment,
for sure. But when things
wrong he will be chased
2017 January 20
Brexit — Blame Blair
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that
the decision by Tony Blair to keep UK borders open in 2004 fuelled
the anti-immigration feeling that led to the Brexit vote:
"There was a strong strand of feeling
against uncontrolled migration and I lay the responsibility for that
squarely at the door of prime minister Blair, who failed to impose a transitional regime in the UK
in 2004. That created a public perception
which we still haven't shaken off to this day."
EU leaders, Blair waived the UK right to impose
transitional controls on the free movement of citizens when eight
eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004.
AR Hmm — a new idea but an interesting one.
Populism — Fool's Paradise
Philip Hammond called populism a
fool's paradise in a speech at Davos:
"Politicians who take the populist route will find it a very
short road. There is no sustainable future for a developed economy
in protectionism, subsidy, and high debt ... Populism is a fool's
paradise. I hope I have already demonstrated that I welcome
suggestions from business and will act on them where I can."
AR I say Hammond for PM if May falters.
Energy — New Look
Former Texas governor Rick Perry once famously forgot
that the Energy Department was on the list of US government agencies
he'd like to shut down. Now he asks senators to approve his leading
"My past statements made over five years ago about
abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current
thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital
functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its
AR I bet he hadn't
realized its main job is making nuclear bombs!
Being — Alone Or Not Alone
Science fiction is doomed to profundity,
unable to avoid philosophical dilemmas. Existentialism is always
likely to appear when the theme is either our aloneness in the
universe or the encounter with the other. Being alone or not alone —
that is a question.
Passengers shows engineer Jim Preston woken from suspended
animation nearly a century ahead of schedule on interstellar cruise
liner Avalon heading for a colony planet. As the only wakeful person
in a world of sleepers, he finds he is living a nightmare.
Jim comes across a working bar aboard the Avalon, whose android
bartender is programmed to engage in convincing banter and
philosophizing. Jim then gazes at the hibernating journalist Aurora
Lane, a Sleeping Beauty played by Jennifer Lawrence. And so on.
Arrival is different: the alien visitors may be bringing a
message but at first what they offer is a written language. The
language is delicate, sharing with Chinese the ability to hold
elements in poetic tension as well as an affinity with Japanese
AR See my review
of the same movies (blog 2016-12-27).
2017 January 19
French Presidential Election
is in two rounds, the first on April 23, the second on May 7. The
campaign has not yet started and the final slate of candidates is
France 24 — Frontrunner François
Fillon vowed to take back control of immigration, in part by
imposing quotas on non-EU nationals: "France is generous, but it is
not a mosaic and a territory without limits. It is one nation that
has a right to choose who can join it and a right that foreigners
accept its rules and customs."
Marine Le Pen
Paris Match — FN candidate Marine Le Pen has
launched her campaign: "I had ants in my paws! ... François Fillon
shows great firmness, but he is entangled in a brutal program that
he does not assume ... Since his victory in November, the deputy of
Paris has been as tetanized, lying on the ball." (Google
Le Pen was seen last week in Trump Tower. She
was in New York on a private trip.
Robert Zaretsky — Emmanuel Macron, 39, has been a philosophy
student, an investment banker, and a French government economic
minister. As an independent candidate for the presidency, he
may be the best bet for a European future based on a common market
and a common morality, a single currency and a singular commitment
to the EU core values.
Macron is convinced that the French
and the Germans can still be rallied to the European project. He
praises Merkel on her refugee policy and warns that the euro will be
saved only if the European Union acts like a truly sovereign body.
Chassany — Emmanuel Macron is the third man in the race, behind Marine Le Pen and François Fillon in polls. Macron,
an École nationale d'administration (ENA) graduate and a former
Rothschild banker, became popular after taking on the left and
deregulating the economy. Now he has created his own party,
2017 January 18
The problems troubling the world are not caused
Countries should view their own interest in
the broader context and refrain from pursuing their own interests at
the expense of others. We should not retreat into the harbor
whenever we encounter a storm or we will never reach the opposite
China will keep its doors wide open. We hope that
other countries will also keep their doors open to Chinese investors
and maintain a level playing field for us.
Our careful attention to building and
sustaining the international world order, with the US and Europe at
its core, was the bedrock of the success that the world enjoyed in
the second half of the 20th century.
Globalization has not
been an unalloyed good. I am a free trader and a supporter of
globalization, but it has deepened the rift between those racing
ahead at the top and those struggling to hang on in the middle, or
falling to the bottom.
Popular movements on both the left and
the right have demonstrated a dangerous willingness to revert to
political small-mindedness — to the same nationalist, protectionist,
and isolationist agendas that led the world to consume itself in war
during the last century.
The impulse to hunker down, shut the
gates, build walls, and exit at this moment is precisely the wrong
Meritocracy is a system in which the most
talented and capable, the best educated, those who score highest on
the tests, are put in leading positions. From the start it was clear
that a meritocratic society would be a disaster. It would create a
society of selfish and arrogant winners versus angry and desperate
What makes meritocrats so unbearable to their critics
is not so much their success but their insistence that they have
succeeded because they worked harder than others, because they
happened to be more qualified than others, and because they passed
the tests that others failed.
In Europe today, the Brussels
elites are blamed for their cosmopolitanism, their resistance to
public pressure, and their mobility. The European meritocratic elite
is like a team of star footballers. When their teams start to lose,
their fans abandon them.
People trust leaders who show not
only competence but also courage and commitment. They want their
leaders to hang on in times of crisis rather than being helicoptered
out. People fear that in times of trouble the
meritocrats will opt to leave instead of sharing the cost of
The new European populists promise solidarity over
justice. They promise to nationalize the elites, not to save the
people but to stay with them, to rebuild the walls removed by
globalization. Many Europeans find this promise appealing.
John Rawls argued that being a loser in a meritocratic society was
not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. He said
the fairness of the game would reconcile people with failure. He may
have been wrong.
Heidegger's appeal to the Volk community in his defense of National
Socialism against a cosmopolitan Jewish elite.
2017 January 17
UK prime minister Theresa May: "We seek a new and equal partnership
between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our
friends and allies in the EU. Not partial membership of the European
Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that
leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already
enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of
membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European
A Global Britain
I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead:
1 We will provide certainty wherever we can.
put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a
vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force.
2 We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the
jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.
We will ensure that as we leave the European Union no new barriers
to living and doing business within our own Union are created.
4 The United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and
maintaining that common travel area with the Republic of Ireland
will be an important priority for the UK.
5 We will ensure we
can control immigration to Britain from Europe. You cannot control
immigration overall when there is free movement to Britain from
6 We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who
are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals
in other member states, as early as we can.
7 We will ensure
that workers rights are fully protected and maintained. We will make
sure legal protection for workers keeps pace with the changing
8 We will pursue a bold and ambitious free
trade agreement with the European Union. We do not seek membership
of the single market. We seek the greatest possible access to it
through a new free trade agreement.
9 We will negotiate our
own trade agreements. I want us to have a customs agreement with the
EU and I want Britain to be free to establish our own tariff
schedules at the WTO.
10 We will welcome
agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on
major science, research, and technology initiatives.
will continue to cooperate with our European partners in important
areas such as crime, terrorism, and foreign affairs.
believe a phased process of implementation will give businesses
enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements.
This is the framework of a deal.
Theresa May says from the deck of a Royal Navy ship
in the Persian Gulf: "I want a red, white and blue Brexit."
She plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
Sterling has depreciated significantly since last June and the
government is expecting a budget deficit of £122 billion over the
next five years. Yet in Westminster a state of strange calm prevails
behind a united front of unshakeable optimism.
steeling herself for a hard Brexit. This steely resolve is damaging
her in the rest of Europe. A clean break is unlikely,
and the UK will need the goodwill of other EU states to exit in
Brexit minister David Davis has no plan and an
easygoing approach. A Brexit committee meets behind closed doors and
has an equal number of Brexit supporters and opponents. A committee
member: "Everyone chips in, the PM sums up and everyone staggers out
saying how difficult it is."
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan
is a pioneer of the Brexit movement. He seems to think Brexit is as
good for Britain as victory in World War II. He says the EU can
either give Britain limited access to the internal market or get a
cold, hard Brexit.
If you have two strong arguments, the
surest way to lose a debate is to add a third one. The third
argument of our time is a warning of economic doom.
Brexit is terrible because it deprives young Britons of the
right to choose where to live, study and work, and it deprives them
of a European identity.
Remainers let their campaign be
hijacked by a third argument about the loss of the single European
passport for banks. It cost them the referendum.
The curse of
our time is fake maths, used to peddle a political prejudice.
Economic models have better uses. Nobody can see the future.
There seems to be a prevailing impression
among some people that the European Union will soon fall apart, that
after the UK others will go too. That is a false picture of the EU
and of what it offers.
Trump On Europe
Donald Trump supports Brexit: "People,
countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity
but, I do believe this, if they hadn't been forced to take in all of
the refugees ..."
German chancellor Angela Merkel came in for
special mention for her refugee policy: "I think it was a big
mistake for Germany."
US secretary of state John Kerry: "I
thought frankly it was inappropriate for a president elect of the
United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in
a quite direct manner."
BMW plans to open a facility in
Mexico in 2019. Trump: "I would tell BMW if they think they're gonna
build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35% tax,
it's not gonna happen ..."
German deputy chancellor Sigmar
Gabriel: "The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the
supply parts that aren't being built in the US were to suddenly come
with a 35% tariff."
Trump said the car trade was unfair
because on Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes-Benz. Gabriel:
"Build better cars."
Progress iff global supply chains iff free trade iff no tariff wars.
Photo: Daniel Biskup
PEOTUS USSOS pick
Rex Tillerson calls the Russian
annexation of Crimea illegal,
says the United States should
have provided more aid to
Ukraine, supports NATO, and
Putin knew of any
cyberattacks against the
Jared and Ivanka
Chinese work on Mischief
Chinese DF-21D carrier
The happy couple:
to keeping the magic alive is finding ways to promote
If policy is going to be made
characters on Twitter,
and every reasonable measure
accountability is being bypassed, and people
don't care about it,
we have a problem.
Star Ate Planet
Tabby's star KIC 8462852
series of big dips
in brightness after dimming
by 14% in 100
years. Now a
Columbia team explain all.
They say the star
a planet in the past, so it
brightened and dimmed
Every time the debris passes
between us and the star,
the image blinks.
AR Blog 2016-01-17
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit
fellow at All Souls. Until
his death on 1 January, he was widely
regarded as the most
important living moral
partly for his work
on personal identity: We are psychological
memories, inclinations, and
intentions. In the
will go by my name, share many
of my memories,
and act on
some of my intentions. The
AR I met him at seminars.
2017 January 16
When we talked last Friday, Donald Trump had nothing but kind
words and generous sentiments for a nation he believes will be his
On the UK:
"I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing ... I'm a big
fan of the UK, we're gonna work very hard to get [a new trade deal]
done quickly and done properly."
On the EU: "People,
countries, want their own identity and the UK wanted its own
identity ... if they hadn't been forced to take in all of the
refugees ... I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit."
"You look at the European Union and it's Germany. Basically a
vehicle for Germany. That's why I thought the UK was so smart in
On NATO: "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number
one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.
Number two the countries aren't paying what they're supposed to pay
... With that being said, NATO is very important to me."
Russia: "Let's see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For
one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced
very substantially, that's part of it. But Russia's hurting very
badly right now because of sanctions."
Trump has no intention
of abandoning Twitter because he believes it gives him a direct
connection to the American people.
Trump: "Ich mag Stärke. Ich mag Ordnung."
Erstmals erklärt ein angehender US-Präsident offen
und ohne Rücksicht, was er über Deutschland und Europa denkt.
2017 January 15
Adam and Eve
Jared Kushner and Ivanka
Trump are getting ready for the new US administration. They have
stepped down from their respective businesses in preparation for
their roles in Washington. The two are set to become the most
powerful couple in Washington.
In August, Ivanka got her
father to unveil policy proposals to lower child care costs. In
December she called members of Congress about child care legislation
and tax deductions. Her expected work on climate change was also
widely noted in the press.
Jared Kushner may have won the
presidency for Donald Trump. He is expected to be the presidential
policy person on the Mideast. Trump even says he believes Kushner
could broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Ivanka and Jared are perfectly positioned to become the powers
behind the throne. Melania and Donald Trump are adamant on spending
as little time in Washington as possible, so Ivanka and Jared will
effectively be the de facto first couple. They almost make you
forget that the Donald is about to become president.
AR First couple — would you "Adam and
Eve" [believe] it.
Catarina Dutilh Novaes + AR
In Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781), Immanuel Kant stated
that no progress in logic had been made since Aristotle. Today we
see three golden periods for logic: the ancient Greek period, the
medieval scholastic period, and the mathematical period of the last
two hundred years. Kant had disregarded the scholastic tradition.
In the classical Greek period, Plato wrote dialogues and
Aristotle discussed techniques useful in debating. The prominence of
dialectics continued through late antiquity. By the Latin medieval
period, this led to the emergence of scholastic disputation, which
continued to Summa Theologica (1265-1274) by Thomas
After Kant, logic turned toward mathematics. In
1847, George Boole inaugurated a new approach. He launched
algebraic logic and pushed the idea of using mathematical symbolism
Gottlob Frege was inspired by Kant and by Gottfried
Leibniz. He aimed to provide mathematics with logical foundations.
He used the mathematical notion of a function to represent predicate
logic and devised a new logical notation in his book
Frege saw that not only the
axioms but also the rules of inference required a rigorous
reformulation. His work established the idea that ordinary language
is expressively inadequate to account for mathematical or logical
reasoning. Parallel projects for axiomatizing parts of mathematics
were led by other distinguished mathematicians.
Unfortunately, Bertrand Russell discovered a paradox lurking in the
foundations of Frege's system. The goal of recovering and further
developing his program led Russell and his collaborator Alfred North
Whitehead to develop the system presented in their Principia
Mathematica (1910–13). Much of the work in logic in the last
century grew from their work.
Logic has become a
foundational branch of mathematics. The change reflects the fall
from grace of scholastic disputation. Only traces of the dialectical
origins of logic persist in recent developments in mathematics.
AR My trilogy Dialectical Logic
(1975, 1977, 1979) modeled mathematics in a dialectic defined in set
theory — each layer of the cumulative hierarchy was a metatheory for
the previous layers conceived as steps in an epistemo-ontic dynamic
inspired by the Hegelian dialectic. Essentially, Hegel wrapped up
all of scholastic logic in a discursive form that defied further
progress, forcing Frege to make a new start in mathematics. I found
the thread of continuity and rescued the dynamic that prevents logic
from freezing in an illusory absolutism (in fact Gödel had already
done so — I built on his work). See my 2014 essay
2017 January 14
Humanists, Moordown Community Centre, Bournemouth
AR Cambridge philosopher Ahmed presented
an individualist political philosophy (based on the views of John
Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Friedrich Hayek) that would abandon
much of the power of the state as we now understand it. I raised
objections from the floor, citing the 2008 financial crisis, the
rise of Donald Trump, and the critique of rationality due to Daniel
English-speaking countries are easier to hack
because their enemies understand what they are saying. Being an
English-speaking society makes you transparent, whereas foreign
countries are opaque to mostly monolingual Britons and Americans.
Chinese and Russian elites sent their children to study in the
US and UK. From 1990 to about 2010, Anglo-American media and films
gained huge global influence. And most AAs stopped bothering to
learn foreign languages.
The new weapon is cyber warfare. But
hacking foreign files is worthwhile only if you can use the
information. Russia and China can read English documents and
foreigners can make up fake news in English.
Britain has its
own problems with English. Westminster and the tabloid newspapers
are almost entirely monolingual. Brits therefore voted for Brexit
blithely unaware of how other European countries would respond.
The UK Foreign Office has been sidelined ahead of the Brexit
negotiations. The boss of the new department for exiting the EU,
David Davis, says the Germans will give the UK a good deal because
they sell cars in Britain. His European counterparts understand Britain rather
AR Stellen Sie sich vor,
Sie überhören ein Gespräch:
Merkel: Halten Sie durch — Ordnung muß sein!
Auto-Hersteller: Jawohl, Frau Bundeskanzlerin!
2017 January 13
China to US: Keep Out
Nominee for US secretary of state Rex
Tillerson uttered astonishing statements during his confirmation
hearing with the Senate. He had better bone up on
nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to
withdraw from its own territories.
South China Sea countries
will accelerate their negotiations on a Code of Conduct. They have
the ability to solve divergences by themselves without US
US to China: Threat
PEOTUS pick for US SOS Rex Tillerson compares Chinese
fortification of its manmade islands in the South China Sea to
Russian annexation of Crimea and threatens a major confrontation.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China
Sea and has backed up its position by expanding small islets and
building airstrips and harbors.
China foreign ministry
spokesman Lu Kang: "We hope non-regional countries can respect this
consensus that is in the fundamental interest of the whole world."
Tillerson: "This is a threat to the entire global economy if
China is allowed to somehow dictate the terms of passage through
China warns that "no effort to
internationalize and judicialize the South China Sea issue will be
of any avail" and will only make it harder to resolve the issue.
US Air Power
The US Marine Corps is sending 16 F-35B Lightning II
stealth fighters to Japan. At over $100 million each, the jets
showcase US "commitment to the defense of Japan with the most
capable and modern equipment in the US inventory," says the USMC.
"It will be the cornerstone of a multi-mission joint force
possessing improved mission flexibility and unprecedented
effectiveness to engage and destroy both air and ground threats."
China: Sea Power
President Xi Jinping will turn China into
a maritime superpower. One Belt One Road is his plan to boost
investment and commerce in over 60 countries in Asia, the Mideast,
Africa, and Europe.
Since 2010, Chinese and Hong Kong
companies have completed or announced deals involving at least
40 port projects worth a total of over $45 billion. The Pakistani
port of Gwadar is owned, financed, and built by China as the core
element in a $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
2015, the five big Chinese cargo carriers together controlled almost
a fifth of all container shipping handled by the global top 20
companies. By then, nearly two-thirds of the top 50 container ports
worldwide had some Chinese investment, handling over two-thirds of
global container volumes.
Chinese port operators are world
leaders and Chinese shipping companies carry more cargo than those
of any other nation. In Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Greece, and Djibouti,
Chinese investment in civilian ports has been followed by navy
deployments or visits or construction of a naval base.
aims to deny US aircraft carrier battle groups access to the seas
within a string of archipelagos from Japan to Vietnam — the first
AR China aims to
keep US carrier groups outside the first island chain with its
DF-21D missiles (blog 2010-12-29).
2017 January 12
By blaming them for leaking a dossier on
efforts by the Kremlin to cultivate and compromise him, Donald Trump
has declared war on US intelligence officials.
tweet and press conference took aim at the BuzzFeed release of a
35-page dossier that carries unverified allegations of collusion
between the Trump camp and the Kremlin. Trump calls the entire
Former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey says the
tweet "reads as if Trump is trying to deflect focus from these
devastating, though unverified allegations, by attempting additional
smears vilifying intelligence professionals."
Trump Nailed It
Trump has two big priorities: building
the wall and repealing and replacing Obamacare. He compared the
behavior of some within the intelligence community to Nazis. He
signaled that speculation on his relationship with Vladimir Putin
will not shift his position toward Russia. And he concluded that
Russia was probably guilty of hacking, but that will cease once
Trump is in charge.
Trainwreck Press Conference
The Trump presidency is already in
shambles. Team Trump seems happy to shine a bright light on its own
monumental mistakes. The president-elect celebrated the Russian
hacking of the DNC and all those leaked emails. Now he even brags
about his Russian connection: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess
what folks, that is called an asset, not a liability. Do you
honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?
Give me a break."
2017 January 11
After my election, there was talk of a
post-racial America. Such a vision, however well intended, was never
realistic. ... For every two steps forward, it often feels we take
one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by
forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace
We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialog
to become so corrosive that people of good character aren't even
willing to enter into public service, so coarse with rancor that we
see Americans with whom we disagree as not just misguided but as
We weaken those ties when we define some of us as
more American than others, when we write off the whole system as
inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we
elect without examining our own role in electing them.
AR He always set a good tone.
White House Advice
The New York Times
Jared Kushner will become a senior
White House adviser to his father-in-law, Donald Trump. Kushner, 35,
married Ivanka Trump in 2009. Some ethics experts question whether
his appointment is legal under federal anti-nepotism laws.
Transition staff members describe Kushner as the first among equals
in the Trump high command. He is said to have a calming effect on
his father-in-law. He became the de facto campaign manager in the
spring and his influence expanded rapidly.
Kushner is an
orthodox Jew, a Harvard graduate, and a lifelong Democrat. Liberals
greeted his appointment with relief. He will resign as chief
executive of Kushner Companies and divest himself of assets
including 666 Fifth Avenue and his holdings in
The New York Observer.
AR So far so good ...
is the son of real estate developer and Democratic party donor
Charles Kushner. Charles made a $2.5 million donation to Harvard
University in 1998. Jared was accepted there in 1999 and earned a
degree in sociology in 2003.
While at Harvard, Jared made
money buying and selling buildings, supported by the family fortune.
His net worth is estimated at $200 million. At age 25, he bought the
New York Observer for $10 million.
In 2005, Charles Kushner
was convicted on 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax
evasion, and witness tampering. He served time in a federal prison.
Jared practises Orthodox Judaism, and Ivanka Trump*
converted before they wed in 2009. His grandparents escaped the
Nazis, and his grandmother Rae was a founder of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Trump was born in 1981 as the daughter of Donald and Ivana Trump**.
in economics from the University of
Pennsylvania in 2004, then joined the family business.
**Ivana Trump was born in Czechoslovakia
and moved to Canada, where she worked as a model.
moved to New York, married Donald Trump in 1977, and divorced him in
In October 2016,
The New York Observer asked its
proprietor a question: Hillary or Donald? Jared: "Family first."
AR A new twist on the first family.
2017 January 10
Once Donald Trump is inaugurated as
POTUS, the United States will make its own rules. Trump aims to
repudiate TPP, renegotiate NAFTA, and impose hefty duties on Chinese
imports. Yet he is happy to side with Russian president Vladimir
Trump wants to make America great again. His ideas are
a jumble of economic nationalism, antipathy to globalism, hostility
to immigrants, hatred of Islamist extremism, and a dim view of great
power relations. He disdains NATO and equivocates with East Asian
Trump has promised to renounce US climate
obligations. He could strike a deal with Putin over the heads of
Europe, disavow the nuclear agreement with Iran, build a wall
against Mexican immigrants, and shut the US border to Muslims. All
this is isolationist swagger.
US allies have already
concluded that Trump is neither predictable nor reliable. China is
determined to translate its economic power into geopolitical clout
despite provocative tweets. And Putin doubtless thinks he will get
the better of Trump.
Detaching US national interests from its
international commitments is impossible. Economic interdependence
cannot be wished away and military might has its limits. The new
president will find most of his goals out of reach to America Alone.
2017 January 9
UK prime minister Theresa May: "Often people
talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want
to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU. We are leaving. We are
coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer. We
will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws."
On January 20, Donald Trump takes the oath of office
and becomes the POTUS. For the first time in his life, he will be
employed outside his family business. At age 70, he will become
accountable to the American people.
Trump has never had to
reboot himself in anything like the manner now required. But when
his companies ran out of money to pay their lenders and filed for
bankruptcy in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, he had to accept the strict
terms and oversight required by bankruptcy agreements.
Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump wrote a lot of
books about business: "They all seem to end at Chapter 11. He
bankrupted his companies, not once, not twice, but four times."
Wrong: Trump actually has six bankruptcies.
Researchers hacked ion channels to alter
bioelectric signaling in tadpoles engineered to develop cancer. They
reduced the incidence of tumor formation and made tumor cells return
to a healthy state.
Researchers increased the bioelectric
traffic between cells in froglets past the age at which they can
regenerate full limbs and made them do so anyway.
regenerative capabilities too.
2017 January 8
Deutschland bedeutet für die
Deutschen nicht mehr eine Frage ihrer politischen Identität. Heute
geht es um die Frage nach dem kulturellen Kern.
Was es heute
heißt, deutsch zu sein — darüber können sich die Deutschen, die mit
einer furchtbaren Geschichte, einer rauen Zuwanderungsgegenwart und
einem schwer angekratzten Ego konfrontiert sind, am ehesten noch im
In den Augen vieler Beobachter ist das
deutsche Problem die Gründlichkeit, mit der viele Deutsche die
Migranten zur endgültigen Säuberung der befleckten Nationalhistorie
und zur Umerziehung der eigenen Bevölkerung nutzen wollen.
schlägt die Verleugnung allen Deutschseins in einen Chauvinismus der
Vaterlandslosigkeit um. Schwer ist es, anderen Europäern die
Abgründe solch moralischen Großreinemachens zu erklären.
Vielleicht wenn die Deutschen sich selbst sympathischer wären und
sie sich zugleich weniger ernst nähmen, dann wäre nicht nur den
Deutschen, sondern auch unseren Nachbarn gleich viel wohler mit
diesem sonderbaren Gebilde.
Als Europäer sind die Deutschen bestens aufgenommen, die Briten eher
Britain turned down the chance to buy a fleet of second-hand
German tanks. Leopard manufacturer
KMW offered to sell 100 to 400
old Leopard 2 tanks to the Ministry of Defence in 2015. They would
have been upgraded to new A7V standard.
The UK government has instead selected two other companies — BAE
Systems and Rheinmetall — as the final bidders for the Challenger 2
Defense industry source: "They made that
offer to us and we should have taken it but there was an arrogance:
we invented the tank, we have to have a British tank."
the idea is not yet dead: "If it turns out that buying second-hand
would work out cheaper overall then finance is king. If it is
cheaper they will go that way."
Buy Leopards. Our NATO boys on the Eastern Front will need
US Army Abrams tanks on
maneuvers in Latvia, summer 2016.
A shipload of Abrams tanks
was unloaded Friday in Bremerhaven for
forward deployment in
Poland as part of operation Atlantic Resolve.
President Trump could
launch 140 warheads
in the time it takes to
Wings Over Illawarra
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
(Werk-Nr. 173056) to fly at
Illawarra Air Show
2017-05-06 — 2017-05-07
Orion on SLS
Arnie for Prez!
Celebrity Apprentice made
Trump a reality TV star.
The new 2017 season stars
AR But he was
2017 January 7
The Baltic states are in the EU and NATO but
Russia is boosting its military presence in Kaliningrad. Estonian
foreign minister Sven Mikser: "We have always seen the US as our
strongest ally. US participation has given NATO its credibility."
AR Past performance is no guarantee
of future results.
Physicists are at odds about measurement
in quantum mechanics.
Suppose you measure
the spin of an electron in an arbitrarily chosen direction. There
are only two possible results, namely plus or minus a certain
number, up or down, corresponding to an electron that is spinning
either clockwise or counter-clockwise in the chosen direction.
Before you measure it, the spin is a superposition of up and down,
each with its own amplitude. The act of measuring the spin somehow
collapses the superposition to up or down.
If we disregard
everything about an electron but its spin, its wave function is a
pair of amplitudes, one number for each sign of the spin in any
chosen direction. The wave function of an electron whose spin has
not been measured generally has nonzero values for spins of both
signs. The probabilities of finding either up or down for the spin
in a chosen direction are proportional to the squares of the
amplitudes in that direction.
A measurement puts the spin in
an interaction with a macroscopic environment that causes the
superposition of states in the wave function to collapse to one
state, unpredictably. But the Schrödinger equation is deterministic.
Given the wave function at any moment, the equation will tell you
precisely what the wave function will be at any future time.
The realist approach to quantum mechanics implies a multiverse. When
you measure the spin of an electron in some direction, the wave
function of the electron and your measuring apparatus becomes a
superposition of two terms, in one of which the electron spin is up
and you see it is up, and in the other of which the spin is down and
you see it is down. The history of the world splits every time a big
body becomes entangled with a superposition of states. The set of
all histories is the multiverse, and its wave function evolves
An entangled state involves correlations
between parts of the system. Suppose we have a pair of electrons
whose total spin in any direction is zero and whose wave function
(ignoring everything but spin) is a sum of two terms: in one term,
electron A is up and electron B is down in some direction, while in
the other term up and down are reversed. The spins are entangled,
and this entangled state can persist even if the electrons fly apart
to a great distance.
All data so far agree with ordinary
My suggested approach (2006):
Each of us lives in a phenomenal world with its own bubble of
spacetime, which is growing in qubit increments. At any
moment of phenomenal now, our reality is bounded by our past light
cone. Whenever we collapse an entanglement, we pop out spacetime by
another qubit (or more, depending on the granularity of quantized
spacetime). Entangled states are local until we collapse or pop them. Decoherence is the phenomenal manifestation of
popping qubits, and corresponds to spontaneous symmetry
breaking at the Planck scale. The Everett multiverse replaces the
Einstein block universe as background for all our phenomenal worlds.
My proximal inspiration for this epiphany was the book
Quo Vadis Quantum Mechanics? (ed. Elitzur et al., Springer
2005). This is the sort of vision I was hoping for in Richard
Muller's 2016 book
Now — but I was disappointed. Sadly, I lack the mathematical
skill to work out the technical details in a
preprint for arXiv.
2017 January 6
We are living at the end of the era of US
It has been a huge overall success. Global average
real incomes per head rose by 460% between 1950 and 2015. The
proportion of the global population in extreme poverty has fallen
from 72% in 1950 to 10% in 2015, and life expectancy at birth has
risen from 48 years in 1950 to 71 in 2015.
generation of relative economic decline, the US, the EU, and Japan
still produce over half of global output measured at market prices
and over a third measured at PPP. They host the biggest global
companies, dominant financial markets, leading universities, and
strongest cultures. The US military will remain global top dog for
But across the West, slow growth and aging
populations have taken their toll. Politicians can longer promise
more for everybody and have to take from some to give to others. The
winners have been the rich, making those in the middle and lower
incomes more fearful and more prone to racism and xenophobia.
If the West fails, China might find greatness thrust upon it.
AR Hegel conceived global history as
the steady march of the Weltgeist through the millennia from China
to India to the Mideast and Mediterranean to Europe and then to
America. Now we see the Weltgeist complete its world tour and start
a new orbit from China.
A man born in London to German parents has
been told he cannot get a British passport unless he takes a UK
citizenship test. Dom Wolf, 32, said his parents came to Britain in
1974 when his mother started work as an LSE lecturer. He has now
been told he needs to prove they were in the UK legally — yet they
moved under EU law.
AR Makes me
feel like doing a personal Brexit.
2017 January 5
Moon or Mars?
European Space Agency director general Jan
Woerner says a lunar village is the natural successor to the ISS.
The United States is the obvious partner to fund and spearhead such
an effort. But to land humans on the Moon, let alone build a
village, will take a program as big as Apollo.
A Moon base
lets you dig mines and make money. The Moon is only a few days away
from Earth and it has lots of helium 3. The isotope is rare on Earth
but the Moon has collected it for billions of years. There is an
estimated 1.1 Tg of He 3 on the moon, and just 40 Mg of He 3 in
fusion reactors could power the United States for a year.
NASA is focused on its Journey to Mars program. But it will use the
space between the Earth and the Moon to test life support and
propulsion systems for any Mars expedition. The Space Launch System
and the Orion spacecraft, holdovers from the Mars space exploration
initiative canceled in 2009, are ready for moonshots.
Americans cannot afford both a Moon base and a Mars colony. Building
either is the cheap part — the operational costs are what add up. A
Moon base delays Mars until after the lunar base design,
construction, operations, maintenance, and divestment. That could
AR I say go for the
Moon base for now. It will ripen the tech we need for Mars. A Moon
base was part of the plot in my 1996 novel
The sporadically repeating fast radio burst FRB121102
with duration 3 ms has been traced to the dwarf galaxy PGC1000714
some 30 Ym away. Cornell University researcher Shami Chatterjee: "We
think it may be a magnetar — a newborn neutron star with a huge
magnetic field, inside a supernova remnant or a pulsar wind nebula —
somehow producing these prodigious pulses."
AR See blog 2016-03-03. A neutron star
signaling us starred in my 1996 novel
UK vs EU
Britain never really joined the EU. For
France, Germany, Italy, and the rest, the union was a political
project with emotional roots. For Brits, it was a commercial
Politicians at Westminster have never quite
shaken off the conviction that the enterprise is destined at some
point to fail. Each further step toward integration has been greeted
with scorn. Even now, many Brexiteers claim to be leaving a sinking
For German leaders especially, the union is a vessel
for European values. It is an enterprise that underpins the peace,
stability, and democracy of the continent. The EU has a meaning and
purpose beyond the export of bottles of fizz and expensive cars.
2017 January 4
EU politicians want strategic autonomy in
defense, without relying on the United States. But they have long
failed to raise collective defense spending. Now Brexit and Trump
create new urgency:
Good — Without
the UK the EU can at last get moving on its defense plans. To
prevent plans for an EU operational headquarters duplicating NATO,
the HQ covers only training and civilian operations.
Bad — Brexit will cost the EU one of its
two credible military powers. New plans mean little if the EU lacks
capabilities and forces, so the EU should try to keep the UK
involved in EU military affairs.
The Trump presidency will likely spur more defense spending
by EU states. But the US security guarantee is already weakened.
Some EU leaders are concerned about Trump ties to the Kremlin.
AR With weakened US and UK
commitments to European security, the EU27 states are vulnerable.
They could not resist a serious Russian military push and must
temporize with appeasement until new defense plans are in place. If
Trump befriends Putin, this is a viable strategy.
next move is for the UK to boost its commitment to defending EU
states in return for EU accepting UK membership of the single market
despite a Fortress UK border clampdown. The boost, above the NATO
commitment, would include an immediate nuclear guarantee and initial
work on a future shared Anglo-French deterrent.
UK representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers quits, citing
"ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking" over Brexit from
UK prime minister Theresa May is facing
fresh claims that her government is turning a deaf ear to news and
advice on Brexit it does not want to hear.
supporter Peter Mandelson: "Everyone knows that civil servants are
being increasingly inhibited in offering objective opinion and
advice to ministers."
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: "I
think it is crucial that whoever represents us in Brussels is wholly
committed to Brexit."
Klartext: Drink the Kool-Aid!
2017 January 3
Scientists: Keep Iran Deal
The New York Times
Dozens of top US scientists wrote to
PEOTUS Trump on Monday to urge him not to dismantle the Iran nuclear
deal: "We urge you to preserve this critical US strategic asset."
The letter was organized by
Richard L. Garwin, who helped design the first hydrogen bomb and
has long advised Washington on nuclear weapons and arms control.
Long before Donald Trump vowed to make
America great again, China, Russia, and Turkey had already
established the fashion for nostalgic nationalism. Democracies are
not immune to nostalgia — look at Japan, India, Hungary, and
Globalization and the relative decline of the West
increase nostalgia for a more nationalist past. But neither Putin
nor Xi is keen to discuss the crimes of Stalin and Mao, and Germans
would nix a vow to make Germany great again.
2017 January 2
Robocars — Upside
Autonomous cars will offer better safety
features and more efficiency. Semiautonomous cars are in showrooms
today. Completely autonomous cars are set to be available by the end
of the decade.
The social and economic implications are
enormous. They will transform the auto industry business model.
Related businesses, such as telecoms, software, media, freight
transportation, semiconductors, and insurance, will also face
disruption and opportunity.
Autonomous cars could contribute
$1.3 trillion in annual savings to the US economy. Annual US
productivity gains alone would be over $500 billion. Global savings
could be over $5.6 trillion.
The auto industry will have to
shift gears. The growth of software as a part of the car is likely
to divide the industry into dedicated hardware and software makers,
with a crucial role for vertical integration. This structure would
resemble that of the smartphone or computer industries.
of the concerns or obstacles to mass adoption of autonomous vehicles
are largely practical or procedural. Technology is not an issue. The
capability to make a robocar is largely available today and only
needs incremental research and development.
Public opinion on
robocars remains split. Acceptance and adoption will take time.
Potential obstacles include building sufficient infrastructure,
government regulation, and ethical issues.
Robocars — Downside
An autonomous car that relies on a human to save
the day in an emergency is not going to work. Humans make horrible
backups — they are inattentive, easily distracted, and slow to
respond. So automakers will be taking you out of the equation
Full autonomy — no steering wheel, no pedals, no
human backup — is the best way forward. Google figured this out
around 2012. The shift came as automakers recognized the difficulty
of the handoff — getting the person behind the wheel to take control
Level 2 autonomous cars can keep their lane and
handle rush-hour gridlock. Level 3 autonomy defines cars that can
make basic decisions like when to change lanes or pass other
vehicles. Level 3 requires making sure the car can handle any
situation for several seconds while the human wakes up and takes
Level 3 autonomy is difficult to justify. If every car
on the road featured Level 2 capabilities, fatal automobile
collisions would drop by 80% already. Full autonomy brings more
safety improvements while also bringing mobility to people who
cannot drive, automating deliveries, and creating other
Google started with a system that could handle
highway driving with human oversight. But engineers soon realized
those humans were lulled into paying zero attention and would be all
but useless in emergencies. So they are going straight to levels 4
and 5 and pursuing full autonomy.
Most automakers started
planning to progress steadily through the levels. Ford was among the
first to break ranks, announcing in late 2015 that it would skip
Level 3. Audi has invested heavily in the handoff and plans to bring
Level 3 to the showroom in 2018.
Audi is also pursuing full
autonomy. General Motors is buying robocar startups and Ford is
rebranding itself as a mobility company. Car sharing and other
alternatives to ownership are growing in popularity, and upstarts
like Uber see an opportunity to push established players aside.
Uber wants to drop the human chauffeurs in taxi cabs. Google
could configure robocabs for riders to use its other services.
Cities hosting fleets of robocabs get a new way to cut congestion
and solve parking problems.
2017 January 1
Frank Wilczek won his Nobel Prize
in 2004 for breakthroughs on the mathematical foundations of quantum
chromodynamics — our theory of how quarks make atomic nuclei — and
is a passionate advocate of the supersymmetric extension of current
theory that would deepen it yet further ...
authors of books on physics for poets, Wilczek is not patronizing
and does not seek to erase the technical truth behind his readable
gloss on the quest for deep beauty. On the contrary, he puts his
passions on show with rapturous outpourings of praise for the
creative impulse behind the visions he beholds — and then cites
details in appended explanations of his terms of art that spell out
the cash value of even his most apparently overblown rhetoric that
show he chose every word carefully, and meant it.
clearly a book that transcends most of the glosses on physics that
litter bookshops today. As an addict of such books, ever hopeful of
striking gold but too often disappointed, I am confident it will
stand as a classic of its kind a century from now.
Jonathan Franzen is a good writer
and Purity is a good novel. With a story about a star German hacker,
whose proclaimed mission is to let sunlight disinfect the dirty
secrets of this world, and a mixed cast of hapless Americans,
who unwittingly reveal deeper downsides of modern life, this book
could have been written for me ...
The best novelists manage
to achieve a forensic detachment from their subjects that gives the
reader space to air dissenting views. Franzen did well at standing
back, but ... the characters all seemed like nightmare products of
Franzen's imagination, with exactly the lack of frontal lobe
function that dream figures often display.
By any normal
standards it was a fine novel.