und Zukunft ist für uns
Illusion, wenn auch
AR I think
of time is wrong.
Quantum chip in test rig
Spinor visualised as a vector
on a Möbius band: turning
thru a cycle inverts its sign.
is both a model for
quantum spin and a step
2017 April 26
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a tale of a father
and son bonding, travelling on a motorcycle on a tour of western
America. It discusses science and mysticism, mind and machine, and
western enlightenment through reason versus eastern enlightenment
Pirsig was born in Minneapolis in 1928.
His father was a law professor of German descent and his mother was
Swedish. At age 9 Robert was assessed to have an IQ of 170 and at
age 15 he entered university. He was expelled for failing grades:
"Science could not teach me how to understand girls sitting in my
In 1946 he joined the army and served in Korea. Then
he studied oriental philosophy in India. Back in Minnesota, he
worked on a newspaper and met Nancy. They married in 1954 and had
two sons. Pirsig wrote technical manuals, bought an old farm, and
started teaching philosophy.
Pirsig went to study in
Chicago, but it soured and he was given electroconvulsive shock
treatment. Writing ZAMM was his salvation. After being turned down
by 121 publishers, it was published in 1974. It sold 5 million
copies. A sequel,
Lila, appeared in 1991. Pirsig: "I felt that Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance was the journey out, and Lila was this trip
AR I loved ZAMM — one of
the few books I've read twice.
2017 April 25
Google had a vision: All the books ever
written could be as instantly accessible as web pages.
project began in 2002 when Larry Page offered the University of
Michigan a deal: Let us borrow all your books and we'll scan them
for you. In just over a decade, after making deals with numerous
library systems, Google had scanned about 25 million books, at a
cost of $400 million.
Authors and publishers complained. They
filed a class action lawsuit against Google on behalf of everyone
with a US copyright interest in a book. Only about half the books
published between 1923 and 1963 are in the public domain, and no one
knows which half.
The Authors Guild agreed on a collective
licensing regime for out-of-print books. Authors and publishers
could opt out their books at any time. For the rest, Google would
display and sell their books, but 63% of the revenues would go into
escrow with a Book Rights Registry.
The agreement set the
terms for a public utility to be deployed on terminals to local
libraries nationwide. But many feared what had happened to the
academic journal market: The Google Books price would be fair at
first, then once libraries and universities were hooked it would
rise. The Department of Justice said the settlement would give
Google a monopoly.
Now Google has a database of 25 million
books that no one is allowed to read.
Google is working on building
a quantum chip that performs a calculation beyond the reach of a
conventional computer. The chip will race a supercomputer to prove
Quantum chips crunch not bits but qubits. Researchers
have so far demonstrated quantum computing with only small groups of
qubits. Google will need a grid of 49 qubits for its "quantum
supremacy" experiment, but its latest chip has only 6 qubits. Quantum
processors would need to crunch many more than 50 qubits to do
The experiment could become a benchmark for a
working quantum computer. It has already helped managers at Google
see that the technology is on its way.
rules work extremely well. But there are still open questions
regarding the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Some scientists
aim to develop alternative versions of the mathematical rules to
gain new insight into the underlying reality.
In standard quantum mechanics, the rules
use complex numbers. An alternative theory uses hyper-complex
numbers, which are a generalization of complex numbers.
Hyper-complex rules can replicate most of the predictions of the
standard rules, but some operations that commute in standard quantum
mechanics do not commute in a hyper-complex world.
A team tested for deviations from standard quantum
mechanics predicted by hyper-complex rules. An interferometer allowed
a photon to travel both ways around a loop at the same time. Their
loop included a normal optical material and a specially designed
metamaterial. The normal optical material slowed down the photons,
whereas the metamaterial sped them up.
The rules of standard
quantum mechanics say light behaves the same whether it first passes
through a normal material and then through a metamaterial or vice
versa — the effects of the two materials commute. In a hyper-complex
world, they might not. The team verified that hyper-complex
rules are not needed in this case.
That's a relief — the complex rules are complicated enough.
2017 April 24
Emmanuel Macron v Marine Le Pen
Emmanuel Macron looks likely to beat
Marine Le Pen in the second round of French elections on May 7.
A centrist who supports open markets and France staying in the EU,
he took 23.75% in the first-round vote, ahead of Ms Le Pen at 21.53%
(definitive results as of 0702 ET).
The euro jumped 2 cents
against the US dollar as the results were confirmed, pushing above
$1.09 (with the pound at $1.27 / €1.17).
Un immense gâchis
Ainsi donc, l'imperdable a
été perdu. L'impensable s'est imposé. L'impossible est advenu. La
droite, qui pendant cinq ans aura étrillé les socialistes dans tous
les scrutins, la droite, dont les idées et les valeurs n'ont jamais
été aussi majoritaires dans les profondeurs du pays, cette droite à
qui la victoire ne pouvait pas échapper a été, hier, sèchement
éliminée. Alors que le désir d'alternance, après un quinquennat
unanimement jugé calamiteux, n'a jamais été aussi puissant, elle ne
sera pas, pour la première fois de son histoire, représentée au
second tour de l'élection présidentielle.
2017 St George's Day
En Marche! La France
Estimations sofres à 20h00, 1er tour en % des suffrages
23% Emmanuel Macron, 23% Marine Le Pen
Planet Over Presidency
We have only a short window to deal with
the climate crisis or else we forever lose the chance to thwart
In Paris in 2015, leaders pledged to
try to hold global warming to 1.5 K. But at current rates of burning
coal, gas, and oil, we are on course to overheating.
was that growth in renewable energy would begin to close the gap
between what physics demands and what our political systems have so
But President Trump will slow that momentum.
The effects will be felt for many years.
The effects of climate change policy are forever.
USS Carl Vinson
"We are sending an armada,
very powerful. We have
far more powerful than the
that I can tell
you. And we have the best
military people on
2017 Earth Day
Fast Radio Bursts
Fast radio bursts (FRBs) last just a few
milliseconds, but they are the most luminous radio signals in the
universe. When a repeating FRB
was spotted, the extragalactic magnetar model became the most
Astronomers spotted a flash that made eight
reappearances, originating in a dwarf irregular galaxy about 1 Gpc
away. The data seems consistent with the magnetar theory. Magnetars
generally form from Type-I superluminous supernovas, which appear
relatively often in dwarf irregular galaxies.
of stars since the Big Bang has increased the metallicity of the
universe. But dwarf irregular galaxies formed from primordial
hydrogen and helium. Their low metallicity lets them make more
massive stars, which die to form highly magnetized neutron stars, or
Brian Metzger guesses that the repeater is a young
magnetar, a newborn neutron star, probably less than 3 Gs old, with
a powerful and unstable magnetic field that pumps energy into the
expanding cloud of supernova debris, which absorbs the energy and
occasionally releases FRBs.
Another idea is that FRBs are
emitted by active galactic nuclei (AGNs). AGNs are thought to be
powered by supermassive black holes, and many of them have jets that
could beam FRBs into space. But AGNs usually exist in bigger
galaxies, not dwarfs.
We need more data.
2017 April 21
Leaning on China to pressure North Korea
could fail. Then Donald Trump gets mad and destroys an NK test
missile on its launchpad with a barrage of cruise missiles. Result:
a new Korean war.
North Korea might respond by firing
artillery at Seoul, a metropolitan area of 25 million people. The NK
regime would be destroyed, but the country has a huge army and
missiles that can reach Tokyo. A war could cause a million
casualties and $1 trillion in damage.
US and South Korean
policies toward North Korea have failed over the years. If Trump
tries a pre-emptive military strike, heaven help us.
David Böcking, Christian Reiermann
minister Wolfgang Schäuble has flown to Washington to report to Team
The German trade surplus is mainly the result of
market decisions made by companies and consumers. The surplus was
8.6% of GDP in 2015 and 8.3% in 2016, and is estimated at 7.5% in
2017 and 7.0% in 2018. Around half of it is due to structural
factors such as the global competitiveness of German vendors and the
quality and complexity of German products.
and private citizens invest abroad to earn profits that account for
a quarter of the current account surplus. German investors hold a
stake in more than 3,000 American companies employing around 672,000
people, accounting for a total turnover of €466 billion. In 2016
alone, $63 billion in German capital flowed into the US. This is due
to US importance to the global economy and to the global role of the
Germany has taken steps to reduce the surplus. A
minimum wage and €11 billion in tax cuts will increase domestic
demand and public investment has increased by 45%. Germany has no
influence on the exchange rate and applies no protectionist
Whether all this will convince Team Trump is
Germany exported goods and services worth about
€100 billion to the UK in 2015, notching up a bilateral trade
surplus of about €40 billion. Direct and indirect German investments
in the UK amount to almost €110 billion. Fewer than 10% of German
companies expect a negative impact from Brexit, mostly from lower
British demand and a weaker pound.
For Germany the integrity
and success of the EU are matters of existential importance. Sophia
Besch and Christian Odendahl: "Berlin ... considers disintegration
of the EU the biggest Brexit risk ... In Germany's view, Brexit is
2017 April 20
Dover and Out
Britain will leave the EU at the
stroke of midnight on March 29, 2019. Theresa May: "This is an
historic moment from which there can be no turning back."
will take the UK out of both the single market and the customs
union. Membership in the single market meant accepting the four
freedoms: freedom of goods, capital, services, and people.
Continuing to embrace that last freedom was a red line for May. She
is equally determined to break free of the jurisdiction of the
European Court of Justice, which means leaving the customs union
Remainers see big holes in the government case. May and
her ministers say they want frictionless free trade with Europe, on
the best possible terms. They want continued close security
cooperation. They want free trade in a world turning to
protectionism. They want Britain to be a global magnet, attracting
people of ambition. That was what the UK had, until they decided to
throw it all away.
2017 April 19
Theresa May is on course to win a majority of more than 100 in a
June snap election, with Labour pro-Brexit voters deserting Jeremy
Corbyn, according to polling data.
"Since when did prime
ministers and party leaders deliver Easter messages? ... Mrs May's
rather bland one ... did suggest a Christian duty to unite in
support of Brexit."
$1 Trillion to Fix US Roads
President Donald Trump will soon reveal his $1
trillion plan to fix everything. But $1 trillion will barely cover
what the Department of Transportation estimates is a $836 billion
backlog in US highway investment needs.
The US road
construction and repair funding system is broke. The Highway Trust
Fund comes from gas and diesel pump taxes, but Congress has not
raised the gas tax since 1993. Congress stabilized funding for a few
years and kicked the can down the road. But in the long term, if
vehicles continue to get more fuel efficient and electric cars catch
on with the US public, the tax revenues will fall.
transportation bill finally funded a study of a road usage tax,
where people pay per mile they drive instead of per gallon they
burn. This could raise as much as $246 billion by 2020. California
has just wrapped up the largest ever US pilot study of a road usage
charge. The great majority of participants thought it was fairer
than a gas tax and liked road charging as a concept.
AR The pay per mile scheme gets my vote
for funding UK roads too.
a few hours after the May statement
helped envision the
of the History
of Polish Jews
US President Donald Trump
wants a ride in the Queen's
coach during his
state visit this year.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft
in the water plumes of Saturn's
The ice shell
has fractures with plumes of
liquid water from a subsurface
ocean containing organics and
dioxide. The hydrogen
is likely produced at hot vents
on the ocean
now looks like our best bet for
The Cassini mission will
end on 2017-09-15.
2017 April 18
I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed
that the Government should call a general election, to be held on
Britain is leaving the European Union and there can
be no turning back. We want a deep and special partnership between a
strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is
free to chart its own way in the world.
We need a general
election now, while the European Union agrees its negotiating
position and before the detailed talks begin.
I first read Ray Kurzweil's book
The Age of Spiritual Machines in 2006. A few years earlier, I
had dropped out of Bible school and stopped believing in God. I was
living alone in Chicago and working nights as a cocktail waitress.
Kurzweil divided all of evolution into successive epochs. We
were living in the fifth epoch, when human intelligence begins to
merge with technology. Soon we would reach the Singularity and be
transformed into spiritual machines. We would resurrect our minds
onto supercomputers and our bodies would become incorruptible.
Transhumanists say they are carrying on the legacy of the
Enlightenment. Most are atheists. Some transhumanists say true
resurrection can happen only if it is bodily resurrection. They tend
to favor cryonics and bionics. The question of whether the
resurrection would be corporeal or merely spiritual was debated by
My doubts about God began after I read The
Brothers Karamazov. I could not reconcile the idea that an
omnipotent and benevolent God could allow so much suffering.
Transhumanism offered redemption without the problems of divine
Oxford philosopher and transhumanist Nick Bostrom
suggested that we live in a Matrix-like simulation and that the
posthumans running it are like gods in relation to us. Simulation
theologists say it is reasonable to assume that our creators are
benevolent because the capacity to build sophisticated technologies
requires rational purpose and social harmony.
Transhumanism Association chairman Christopher Benek told me Jesus
was both fully human and fully God. Science had verified the
potential for matter to have two distinct natures. Superposition, a
principle in quantum theory ...
Cut — Ed.
2017 April 17
Turks voted yes. President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan has won a narrow majority for introducing a presidential
system that puts all the power at the top. After a hundred years of
parliamentary democracy, Turkey will be become a one-man state.
The referendum should never have taken place. Citizens were
forced to decide on a constitutional change during a state of
emergency. Erdogan mobilized the entire state for his campaign yet
won by less than 2%. In the three biggest cities — Istanbul, Ankara,
and Izmir — he lost.
Erdogan can now dissolve
parliament whenever he likes. He can side with one party and can
pick new constitutional judges. He will abolish the post of prime
minister and reintroduce the death penalty.
Europe and Turkey
are partners in NATO and about 3 million Turks live in Germany.
Turkey depends on EU trade, so the EU can exert leverage in
negotiations on deepening the customs union. The EU should work with Turkish civil society and offer refuge to
persecuted journalists and academics.
A year after the Treasury forecast that
leaving the bloc would hit the UK economy hard, economists agree
that the report mostly stands the test of time.
Consumer willingness to spend since the referendum suggests that
they think the government assessment of a permanent long-term hit to
incomes was wrong. Economists still think consumers are likely to be
The Treasury analysis predicted that Brexit
would reduce trade and foreign investment in the UK, reducing the
growth rate. The harder the Brexit, the worse the predicted effect.
The ultimate impact of leaving the EU looks more negative than
MIT economics professor John Van Reenan: "As we get
closer to the end of Article 50 and a hard Brexit looks likely, I
suspect this is when the proverbial will hit the fan."
EU Goes Pear-Shaped
Brexit is a problem for the EU. The
British economy is as big as that of the 20 smallest member states
combined. It is as if those 20 were leaving the EU at once.
Brexit destroys the European equilibrium. In the European Council,
a blocking minority needs 35% of the EU population. The UK and
the Deutschmark bloc (Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and
Finland) have a population of 35%. These countries favor free trade.
The Club Med bloc has a population share of 36%. After Brexit,
the first block shrinks to a share of 25%. Club Med grows to 42%,
and they favor protectionism.
Brexit wrecks the EU and the UK. Well done — NOT!
British Islands, Child Sex
British overseas territories are among the world's
leading hosts of websites with images of child sexual abuse. UK
Council for Child Internet Safety executive member John Carr urged
ministers to intervene to place UK overseas territories under the
same rules as the .uk domain.
All these little British overseas territories, these toxic remnants
of empire, should be offered a choice between subjection to full and
enforced domestic UK law and tax legislation or complete and
unsupported independence. Their present status is disgraceful, an
affront to all decent taxpayers in properly regulated states.
2017 Easter Sunday
No news is good news.
2017 April 15
My father was British and my mother American,
and Jewish. In my youth I railed against all states. I enjoyed the
upside of living in a cosmopolitan city. When I was growing up in
London, people always banged on about how polyglot it was.
Remainers failed to explain how the EU was going to prevent the 1%
getting relentlessly richer. Windy talk of human rights is always an
appeal to the world government, which would be the only institution
capable of enforcing them.
For most of us, the Passover story is a
tale of liberation, in which an oppressed minority rebels and
resists the oppressive might of a wicked regime. But try to see
things from the other side.
The Pharaoh proceeds cautiously
at first, afflicting the Israelites with no more than hard labor.
When that proves to be bad policy, he escalates. By the time Moses
arrives, the remaining Israelites are so thoroughly persecuted they
lose the spirit to rise up. Moses understands that nothing short of
divine intervention can redeem them.
Israel is mired in a
futile struggle against Palestinian terrorism, America is wasting
time on Daesh, Europeans cannot stop Islamist fanatics. We think
each oppressed people, whether afflicted by real burdens or by
imagined slights, will raise itself up. The Egyptians failed to
crush the Israelites — the oppressed will not be crushed.
Follow this argument to its logical end, and your best bet is to try
and appease your enemy. But the Pharaoh story also shows you can
wage a gradually escalating war against your foes and achieve a
victory so crushing that they need divine intervention to survive.
2017 April 14
Germany and Europe
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) faces a
challenge from chancellor candidate Martin Schulz (SPD) and foreign
minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD). They want relaxation of the austerity
demands on southern EU states and want to expand the EU mandate into
a social dimension. European Commission president
Jean-Claude Juncker and many southern EU heads of government want
Merkel is opposed to transferring more social
competencies and money to Brussels. Her circle wants reforms and
competitiveness, citing polls showing a clear majority of Germans
opposed to more aid for Athens. Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble
and his counterparts in other EU member states want further
austerity in Athens.
Gabriel thinks it was a mistake to let
Merkel set EU policy: "There is significant support for Europe on
the center-left. I think it is possible to win an election on
appeals for a more socially minded Europe ... We Social Democrats
are in favor of an EU pursuing the harmonization of living
A Foreign Ministry paper on pillars of social
rights advocates more money for education, mobility and research,
and more EU money for the fight against youth unemployment to boost
development in poorer regions. EPP parliamentarian Manfred
Weber: "A campaign focused on Europe is fine with us. We have the
support of many voters."
European Commission proposals for a
European pillar of social rights include a comprehensive package of
social rights to create equal opportunity on the job market along
with minimum salaries, unemployment benefits, and health care.
Gabriel's campaign lets Merkel sit between the extremes as the voice of
Britain and Europe
Brexit is bad news. At best, the UK and the
EU27 will reach an agreement they both believe serves their
interests reasonably well. At worst, Britain risks a disorderly
The UK seeks a deep and special partnership with the EU
after Brexit. It hopes to protect the rights of EU citizens living
in Britain and UK citizens living in EU member states. It wants a
soft border in Northern Ireland, free trade in goods with minimal
customs barriers, an ambitious services trade agreement, and
security and policing cooperation.
The EU27 seeks guarantees
for citizens and a good solution for Ireland, but otherwise starts
out from the status quo. Since the EU is happy with Britain as a
member state, it seeks compensation from the UK for damaging
Britain starts from a fantasy in which the UK is
already outside the EU and seeking a better relationship, while the
EU 27 is grounded in reality. Britain will have to budge.
Brits must face the facts. May will do her best. The EU demand for a
financial divorce settlement is reasonable. Gibraltar cannot get the
same EU deal as the UK.
2017 April 13
President Donald Trump on NATO: "I said it was
obsolete; it's no longer obsolete."
In a WSJ interview, Trump
praised Chinese president Xi Jinping, backed down a threat to brand
China a currency manipulator, and eased off on his demands for China
to reverse the trade imbalance with the United States.
decried Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as a "butcher" and might
now advocate regime change.
Trump: "Right now we are not
getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in
terms of relationship with Russia."
He even publicly
criticized his political guru Steve Bannon.
A wild first 100
The Science of Consciousness
5-10, San Diego, California
The 2017 conference was
scheduled in Shanghai, China, June 5-10, but due to unforeseen
circumstances is moving to The Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine,
near the UCSD campus.
TSC is the world's largest and
longest-running interdisciplinary conference on all aspects of the
nature of conscious experience, awareness, feelings and existence.
Questions include how the brain produces consciousness, whether
consciousness is intrinsic to the universe, or an epiphenomenal
illusion, how consciousness can causally affect brain processes,
what are the best empirical theories, do we have free will, how did
life and consciousness originate and evolve, what are the origins of
moral and aesthetic values, how can we improve mental, physical and
cognitive function, and can consciousness persist after bodily
death. These are approached through science, philosophy, culture,
and contemplative practices.
TSC began at the University of
Arizona in Tucson in 1994, and returns there in even-numbered years,
alternating with TSC conferences around the globe.
AR I was at Tucson in 2000 and 2002, as
well as at the TSC meetings in Denmark in 1997, Sweden in 2001, and
the Czech Republic in 2003. I also liked the
in Bremen in 1998, Oxford in 2006, and Berlin in 2009.
"We will hold the US wholly
accountable for the catastrophic
consequences to be entailed
by its outrageous actions."
China moves 150,000 troops
and medical supplies to
Jupiter, 668 Gm away
"Political imagination seems
exhausted. Not one major party
the US or the UK offers our
children something their
grandparents didn't have."
"Bannon is just a conniving
hateful bloated punk who
President Trump removed
Steve Bannon from the NSC
and restored senior military
and intelligence officials,
in a change arranged by
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
AR Good work, Mac.
"The choice of the British
that may be, does not fit
into the march of
— not European history
and not global history."
Wins ACM Turing Prize
I talked with him
Gail Campbell, 2017
Nurse: "Jesus Christ had only
but look at you!
You're clearly a very important
man. What do
Parfit: "I work on
2017 April 12
Ghost in the Shell
The groundbreaking 1995 original Ghost in
the Shell, based on a manga series by Masamune Shirow, was a
masterpiece. The Hollywood remake has dialled down the
introspection, beefed up the action, and tweaked the enigmatic plot.
The result is not so dumbed down that it loses the original
chilly techno-dread. Scarlett Johansson dives deep into a tricky role, a
character who is as much a sentient weapon as she is a human
consciousness. The visual impact is breathtaking.
AR Despite the Hollywood action format,
the philosophical issues about human or cyborg identity come over
clearly. The future cityscape is richly imagined and chillingly
plausible. And Johansson as Japanese is amusing.
The New York Times
Modern London is the metropolis that
globalization created. London is banker to the planet. It is as much
city-state as city, with a culture and economy that circulate the
Modern London thrives on the idea
that one city can be a global melting pot, a global trading house,
and a global media machine. The thought is that being connected to
the rest of the world is something to celebrate.
to London when that idea unexpectedly falls away? Brexit is probably
the noisiest and most complicated divorce in modern European
history. The certainties that sustained a great city are no longer
Those who voted for Britain to leave the European
Union say London is reclaimed. But banks, investment firms, and
other companies are making plans to move elsewhere.
AR From potential capital of Europe to
actual capital of a rocky outcrop.
2017 April 11
Carrying more than 5,000 sailors and 60 aircraft, the
Nimitz-class carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is heading for North
Korea. She is escorted by guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E.
Meyer and USS Michael Murphy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake
Champlain. The three escort warships have more than 300 combined
missile tubes and are outfitted with the Aegis ABM system.
Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in
"The Carl Vinson group is commanded from
Hawaii, rather than the US military base in Japan, so it's a clear
American initiative not a Japanese or South Korea one. That may
defuse attempts to link Japan and South Korea and thus limit the
possibility of any North Korean aggression against them."
Former CIA and NSA head retired General Michael Hayden:
matter what we do there is this move by North Korea to build
missiles and put weapons on top of missiles. This is what they count
on for regime survival. ... The best we can do is box it where it is
right now. I don't think we can make them give up the program."
2017 April 10
Researchers have found that the dreaming
brain and the waking brain often recruit the same areas for the same
types of experience. Dreaming about faces is linked to increased
high-frequency activity in the brain region for face recognition,
and so on.
Francesca Siclari and colleagues made a series of EEG recordings
of participants who were sleeping. The participants were awakened
periodically and asked if they had been dreaming. If they had, they
were asked how long they thought the dream had lasted and what they
could remember of it.
The researchers linked dreaming to a
drop in low-frequency activity in a cortical hot zone including
visual areas and areas involved in sensory integration. This held
regardless of whether the dream was remembered or not and whether it
occurred during REM or non-REM sleep.
The researchers also
linked dreaming to an increase in high-frequency activity in the hot
zone during non-REM sleep and linked dream recall to an increase in
high-frequency activity toward the forebrain. They saw similar
activity in the hot zone and beyond for dreams during REM sleep.
The team learned to predict dreaming from the EEG trace with
high confidence. The study could help clarify the nature of
consciousness by revealing what happens in the brain during sleep
when we switch from unconscious to conscious states.
2017 April 9
President Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against a
Syrian airfield in Homs. I think we can now discern the beginning of
an improvement in US foreign policy.
The head of the Russian
propaganda outlet RT observed darkly that the airstrikes had been
ordered on the centenary of the US entry into WW1.
Woodrow Wilson opted for intervention in Europe. He chose to tip the
scales in favor of Britain and France. He had a strategy.
Trump has shown the world that a new sheriff is in town. He has
shown Chinese President Xi Jinping that he will not shirk from using
force against North Korea.
This does not amount to a coherent
strategy to stabilize the Mideast.
The Wilson strategy led to WW2.
The Rock imported 117 million packs of
cigarettes in 2013. This epic Russian smuggling operation may have
cost EU countries €700 million in lost tax revenues.
Gibraltar used to be a naval garrison blockaded by Spain. When the
money dried up with the end of the cold war, the Rock had to
diversify. Like other British colonies, it did so by aggressively
undercutting the rules and taxes of its neighbors.
more than 60,000 companies registered in Gibraltar. These undermine
the UK as much as everyone else. A recent Gib growth industry has
been online gambling.
Gibraltar is loyal, it guards the gates
to the Med, it loves Britain and the Queen. This is like a kid who
visits his gran every weekend, just so he can nick her pension.
AR Give it
back to Spain.
2017 April 8
David Bohm developed a quantum theory
in which a wave with properties identical to that of the standard
wave function guides particles around. In his picture, if particles
are entangled, a common pilot wave guides them, and any change in
the position or momentum of one particle instantly changes the pilot
wave, thus influencing all the other particles.
In a new
double-slit experiment, researchers created pairs of photons with
entangled polarizations, and sent one photon of each pair through a
double slit that would let a vertically polarized photon through
slit A and a horizontally polarized photon through slit B. Measuring
the polarization of the second photon revealed the polarization of
the photon passing through the slits.
The team determined the
path of the traveling photon as it went through the apparatus and
measured the polarization state of the associated probe photon. They
did this with tens of thousands of photon pairs, and found that, on
average, at the moment a photon passed through slit A, the probe
photon would be vertically polarized, as expected. When a traveling
photon was measured at a position on the screen corresponding to
having passed through slit A, half the time the polarization of the
probe photon was horizontal, suggesting that the traveling photon
had passed through slit B.
The experiment shows that the
moving photon is constantly changing the polarization of the probe
photon. Look at the probe photon at the moment the moving photon
goes through a slit, and there is no contradiction. But look at it
the moment the moving photon hits the screen and, half of the time,
its polarization state has changed. Bohmian theory accepts this
Bohmian mechanics is formulated to replicate the
predictions of standard quantum mechanics for non-relativistic
particles. By contrast, quantum field theory is Lorentz invariant.
Attempts to marry Bohmian ideas with special relativity still fail.
AR Locality fails in Bohmian
mechanics, so it offers no advantage over standard quantum theory,
just a lot of traditional metaphysical baggage that physicists
should learn to drop. My interpretation is closer to Copenhagen but
better adapted to general relativity and information theory.
2017 April 7
Trump Raises the Stakes
Dennis B. Ross
President Trump's decision to launch 59
Tomahawk cruise missiles against Al Shayrat air base in Syria was
swift and purposeful. The United States has sent a powerful message
that there is a price for using chemical weapons.
AR His baptism of fire.
Die Welt gerät
aus den Fugen. UK
governments had stuck to their promises, delivered to their allies,
and been diplomatically astute. But now the UK seems to have gone
mad. The prime minister gave the job of foreign secretary to a man
who campaigned for Brexit and who compared the EU to the Nazi
The European Research Group is the most powerful
opposition force in British politics. The group wants a hard Brexit:
little or no severance money to the EU, little or no jurisdiction
from the European Court, a gung-ho up-yours stance on relationships
with the single market, and impatience with those who dislike their
Two weeks ago the Daily Telegraph published a letter
from 70 MPs demanding that the BBC tell the good news about Brexit.
In the last week MPs have played a kind of Monty Python sketch of
competitive bragging, where one says we won't pay anything and
another adds: "Never mind paying nothing, they should pay us!"
ERG people are busy talking with themselves about what a good
position we are all in. One said the EU negotiators won't really
insist on getting their money before talking about trade. In a
normal parliament a strong opposition could act as a corrective to
this sort of fantasy. How can our EU partners take it seriously?
AR If the UK sets itself against the
EU, only one of the unions will survive. Place your bets: a little
old union with toytown politics, medieval institutions, and a broken
economy takes on a big new one with an unparalleled cultural
heritage, modern political institutions, and one of the strongest
economies in the world.
The Age of Genius
In 1633, René Descartes learned that
Galileo had been convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church and
punished with a life sentence of house arrest. Descartes was shaken
enough to suppress a treatise he had written based on the
heliocentric model of Copernicus. Something special happened in
philosophy in the seventeenth century, and especially in natural
The New Philosophy was characterized by
a reliance on reason and evidence rather than devotion to religious
or ancient authority. Truth was a matter of discovery, not decree.
Philosophy pursued causal explanations of phenomena based on
experiment and mathematics. Popular accounts of modern philosophy
typically start with Descartes, who in 1637 said cogito ergo sum.
2017 April 6
My White House Role
I think there are multiple ways to have your
voice heard. Where I disagree with my father, he knows it. And I
express myself with total candor. Where I agree, I fully lean in and
support the agenda and make a positive impact. But I respect the
fact that he always listens. It's how he was in business. It's how
he is as president.
I am confident in my father to be able to
execute on his promise to the people who elected him. I think the
election highlighted for people just how divided this country was.
We're in a unique time where noise equals, in a lot of people's
perception, advocacy. And I fundamentally disagree with that. I do
think there's a time for public denouncement. I also think there's a
time for discussion.
I wasn't elected by the American people
to be president. My father is gonna do a tremendous job. And I wanna
help him do that. But I don't think that it will make me a more
effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly
where I disagree. I think most of the impact I have, over time, most
people will not actually know about.
If being complicit is
wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then
I'm complicit. I don't know that the critics who may say that of me,
if they found themselves in this unique and unprecedented situation
that I am now in, would do any differently than I'm doing. So I hope
to make a positive impact. I hope time will prove that I have done a
good job and, much more importantly, that my father's administration
is the success that I know it will be.
AR Sounds good to me.
2017 April 5
German President Attacks Brextremism
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier
told MEPs in the European Parliament that the Brextremists would be
unable to deliver on their promise to take back control.
said he was convinced that in this world a single European country
standing alone and without the EU cannot make its voice heard or
assert its economic interests. Only as partners on the world stage
can Europeans avoid becoming the playthings of other powers.
He said Brextremist promises would come to nothing, "Take back
control" is a strong slogan but nationalists are unable to deliver
it, and if it can be delivered then it is something we can only do
He described the UK vote to leave as "bitter" and
said Germany fully supported the European project. He dismissed
Donald Trump's claims the EU was a vehicle for German economic
In English, Steinmeier added: "In my country, yes,
we want Europe. We want to build a better Europe and we want to be a
European People's Party bloc leader
Manfred Weber: "Some of the politicians in London have not
understood what leaving the European Union means. It means being
British leader of Conservative MEPs Ashley Fox: "The
European Parliament claims to represent all the citizens of the EU,
and until we leave that includes UK citizens. Therefore,
Conservative MEPs intend to continue playing a full role in all
debates, including discussions on Brexit. To suggest otherwise is
both unconstitutional and undemocratic."
Exit vom Brexit
Ein Widerruf der Austrittsmitteilung durch
die Briten dürfte nur unter Bedingungen, die von allen
Mitgliedstaaten der EU-27 festgelegt werden, möglich sein.
Rechtsdienst des Europaparlaments: "Es herrscht weitgehende
Einigkeit, dass der Austrittsprozess gestoppt werden könnte, wenn
alle anderen Mitgliedstaaten zustimmen."
Gerichtshof müsste entscheiden.
EuGH — von Brextremisten verflucht!
2017 April 4
Germans sometimes call Brits
Inselaffen — island monkeys — unpredictable, backward, quarrelsome,
and isolated. The term has boomed since Brexit.
At the annual
Königswinter conference last weekend, British participants tried to
outline a new post-Brexit Anglo-German relationship. The best line
was that Brexit was a resolution, not a dissolution. Instead of
moaning about EU integration, Britain would now engage
on things like security.
● The Balkans are awash with
Russian influence and jihadists.
● Europe has failed in Syria,
in Libya, and in the Mideast.
● Turkey is descending
headlong into autocracy.
● NATO deterrence in the
Baltic states is still fragile.
● The war in Ukraine bubbles
● Democracy and the rule of
law are under strain.
Serious shit, as one German said.
Germany and Britain complement each other. Germany is the
economic giant, Britain is the leading military and intelligence
power. German defense
spending may not reach 2% of GDP, but it may hit 3% on defense and
conflict prevention combined.
Britain objects to an ECJ ruling that would prohibit GCHQ from
collecting and storing internet data. Brexit will solve that problem
for the Inselaffen.
EU draft negotiating document on Brexit: "After the
United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the
United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the
agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom."
That prompted fury in Britain. Former Conservative party leader
Lord Michael Howard: "I do think it is a remarkable coincidence that
35 years ago this week another woman prime minister sent a task
force half way across the world to protect another small group of
British people against another Spanish speaking country."
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: "I think the position of the
government is very, very clear, which is that the sovereignty of
Gibraltar is unchanged, and it's not going to change and cannot
conceivably change without the express support and consent of the
people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, and that is not going to
Spain called for cool heads. Foreign Minister
Alfonso Dastis: "Frankly, it seems to me that someone in the United
Kingdom is losing their temper."
Gibraltar is classified as a
British Overseas Territory. The UK has held sovereignty over
Gibraltar for more than 300 years after it was captured from Spain
in a war. In a 2002 referendum Gibraltar residents rejected a
proposal to share the territory between the UK and Spain, but in the
2016 referendum 96% of them voted to stay in the European Union.
Between a Rock and a Hard Brexit
Gibraltar is a remnant of the British
Empire. Spain will not forget about the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that
assigned the Rock to the UK.
The Kingdom of Spain is soon to
be the fourth largest EU economy and has the backing of the entire
European Union. The Brexit choice may be between:
— A good deal
for the UK and Gibraltar shared with Spain
— A hard and hostile
Brexit plus a blockade of Gibraltar
The UK will also need to
be mindful of its base on EU member Cyprus.
Großbritannien verliert die Contenance
Der Vorschlag, in den Krieg gegen Spanien zu
ziehen, stammt aus Michael Howard. Der ehemalige Vorsitzende der
Konservativen Partei, der sich seit sieben Jahren Baron Howard of
Lympne nennen darf, brachte den Krieg von seinem Wohnzimmersofa aus
Gibraltar ist nur halb so groß wie die
Falklandinseln, besitzt aber etwa 30.000 Einwohnern. Vor etwa
300 Jahren fiel der Fels in britische Hand. Die spanische
Bevölkerung wurde vertrieben. Der Landzipfel ist dem breiteren
Publikum vor allem als notorische Steueroase ein Begriff.
Spanien hat den Schotten nun weiteren Auftrieb verschafft: Madrid
hat seine bisherige Opposition zum EU-Beitritt eines unabhängigen
Schottlands gerade aufgeben. Gibraltar hat mehrheitlich gegen den
Brexit gestimmt: 96% der Bevölkerung waren gegen den Austritt.
Madrid hat sich zurückgehalten. Außenminister Alfonso Dantis:
"Die spanische Regierung ist ein wenig überrascht über den Ton, den
Großbritannien anschlägt. In diesem Fall mangelt es eindeutig an der
traditionellen britischen Contenance."
AR Ein Hauch von deutscher Schadenfreude da!
2017 April 3
I have great respect for Xi Jinping. I have
great respect for China. China has great influence over North Korea.
And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they
won't. If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.
Look where we are. We have an $800 billion trade deficit. The
Mideast is a mess. This is a very, very serious problem that we have
in the world today. The United States has talked long enough and you
see where it gets us, it gets us nowhere.
I think Brexit is
very good for the UK. I would have thought when it happened that
more would follow, but I really think the European Union is getting
their act together. It could be a very good thing for both. There is
a different spirit for holding together.
In July 2014, German statistician
Thomas Royen proved a famous conjecture at the intersection of
geometry, probability theory, and statistics that had eluded experts
The Gaussian correlation inequality (GCI) was
posed in an elegant form in 1972. Royen, 67, found it could be
extended into a statement he was familiar with, and suddenly saw how
to prove it.
His proof was short and simple. He typed it up
and posted it to arxiv.org. False proofs of the GCI had been floated
repeatedly over the decades, so at first his achievement went
In its 1972 form, the GCI puts a lower bound on
the odds in a game of darts. Imagine two overlapping convex polygons
A and B centered on a target point. Darts thrown at the target will
land in a bell curve distribution of positions around the center
point. The GCI says the probability that a dart will land inside
both A and B is at least as high as the probability of landing in A
times the probability of landing in B. The same inequality was
thought to hold for any two convex symmetrical shapes with any
number of dimensions centered on a point.
Royen found he
could generalize the GCI to apply to statistical spreads related to
the squares of Gaussian distributions, called gamma distributions.
His familiarity with gamma distributions sparked his epiphany. He
transformed his function into a simpler function and saw that the
derivative of this transformed function was equivalent to the
transform of the derivative of the original function. The latter
derivative was always positive, proving the GCI. Experts say any
graduate student in statistics could follow his proof.
"It is like a kind of grace. We can work for a long time on a
problem and suddenly ... a good idea."
2017 April 2
Brexit will be much more protracted and expensive than the worst
imaginable divorce. Both sides: "Never again will those impossible
people on the other side of the Channel be able to interfere in our
affairs. Now we can take back control and sit back and watch their
union fall apart."
Schisme est le mot
juste — recall the great division between western and
eastern Christianity in 1054. As Rome was to past schisms, so
Brussels is to this one.
Britain was always a brake on
European federalism. Now the EU27 can unite in giving the UK a hard
time. Brextremists see an economic 1940, with a global Britain
striking out anew.
AR May the
force be with EU in year 77 of the fight for FUK.
2017 April 1
Quantum theory and modern mathematics
complement each other to reveal symmetries in reality.
Classical mechanics may compute how a particle
travels from A to B along a geodesic. Quantum mechanics considers
all possible paths from A to B. The Feynman sum over histories
assigns to each path a weight that determines the probability that a
particle will go that way. The classical solution is simply the most
Calabi-Yau spaces are compactified 6D solutions
of the Einstein equations of gravity. One can count the number of
curves on a Calabi-Yau space using an integer, the degree, that
measures how often the curves wrap around. Finding the number of
curves of a given degree is hard even for the simplest Calabi-Yau
space, the quintic. The number of degree 1 curves is 2,875. The
number of degree 2 curves is 609,250. The number of degree 3 curves
String theorists defined a single function with a
physical interpretation as a probability amplitude for a string
propagating in the Calabi-Yau space that probes all possible curves
of every possible degree at once. An equivalent formulation of the
physics uses a mirror Calabi-Yau space with a different topology but
the same string propagation. The difficult computation on the
original manifold translates into a single integral on the mirror
Mirror symmetry illustrates duality. Two classical
models can be equivalent when considered as quantum systems.
Dualities point to deep symmetries of the underlying quantum theory.
Mirror symmetry can connect symplectic geometry, which underlies
much of mechanics, with algebraic geometry, the world of complex
Mathematicians bring new rigor to quantum theory as
they work on homological mirror symmetry.
AR Hard stuff. My work is prior to all
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