⊛ Jamie Hunter / RAF
RAF Typhoon FGR4: To be effective, such aircraft need sophisticated ground support at their bases
and pilots with at least three years training, so they are unlikely to be delivered to Ukraine.
2023 February 4
Capitalism after the Crises
Markets built in partnership are our best mechanisms to direct resources efficiently and effectively. But such markets were not what the old model delivered. The 2008 crisis exposed the problem.
When a second crisis came in the form of a pandemic, governments tried to keep people attached to their employer. There was no thought for the fourth industrial revolution or cleaner energy. The pandemic showed that healthy economies rely on healthy people and communities.
The contest between democracies and autocracies is economic as well as military. Despite deep disquiet about our economic models, the reality is that democracies largely work. Even through a period of slow growth, comparing all democracies to all autocracies other than China, we see a democratic edge in growth over the past decade.
Democracies will prevail if there are ethical and practical incentives for leaders to govern in ways that improve the lives of the people. Populations only become susceptible to the lies of populists and autocrats when democracies fail.
Economic inclusion is the measure of a decent society and a precondition for a robust economy. It is fundamental to the health of democracies and the safety of nations.
Capital allocation in traditional markets is based on common metrics of performance. If we can redesign markets for investment in social purposes, based on new metrics of performance, many organizations will get more of the growth capital they need.
Our economies need to embed and express more than one notion of value. This is democratic reform.
AR From an essay that caused a stir in Australia.
Annual UK carmaking
2023 February 3
UK Flat Battery
The UK government has bet the future on green technology. The collapse of the battery maker Britishvolt shows what can go wrong.
Production of new fossil fuel cars will become illegal in the UK by 2030. The car industry must invest billions in new technology, designs, facilities, production lines, and suppliers. Otherwise, production in the UK will cease.
Britishvolt illustrates the madness of Global Britain. It was British to the point of delusion, underfunded, and naive. Britishvolt was designing its own batteries from scratch, without any previous experience of making batteries.
The scheme was fantastically underfunded. The UK government offered £100 million. Britishvolt would build a £3.8 billion factory, employ 3,000 workers, and supply 25% of all the batteries needed by the British car industry.
Carmakers need either a British battery or one imported at prohibitive expense. EU member states are building huge battery capacity where the car factories are. Britain will either import batteries or watch jobs move to the EU.
The UK is now on course to have just 26.9 GWh of capacity by 2031. Germany plans to have 378 GWh of capacity by 2030.
AR A portent of doom.
⊛ Dan Kitwood
2023 February 2
Brexit is disabling the UK. It has damaged trade, investment, national income, and car making. Even the BBC now airs Brexit horror stories.
Brexiteers are still dreaming of Brexit benefits that are nonexistent (cheaper food), peripheral (ANZUK deals), or harmful (Brexit freedoms). They seem to think Brexit is still undone.
Rishi Sunak will soon agree a revised NI protocol. The issue is too urgent and sensitive to postpone. The revision will be a template for a wider reform of Brexit.
Once a future Labour government starts revising Brexit, the whole deal will unravel. The UK will re-enter the customs union and single market.
Brexit is killing the Conservative party
Brexit is proving to be a mistake. Most Brexiteers are downbeat and defensive.
Hardcore Brexiteers say our problems stem from Covid lockdowns or the war in Ukraine − or that true Brexit is still undone. Boris Johnson boasts about the vaccine rollout (the one that happened while we still complied with EU rules) and hails a brighter future.
In 629 out of 632 British constituencies, those who regret Brexit outnumber those who do not. In 2 of the remaining 3, it is a tie. Younger voters are warming to the EU faster than older voters, so voter replacement will move the UK ever closer to Rejoin.
If the Tories lose next time, they will need to embrace the EU − or die.
AR A glint of light.
THE ROYAL SOCIETY
2023 February 1
Vint Cerf is awarded the 2023 IEEE Medal of Honor "for co-creating the Internet architecture and providing sustained leadership in its phenomenal growth in becoming society's critical infrastructure."
At the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Information Processing Techniques Office in 1974, Cerf and Robert Kahn designed the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol. TCP manages data packets sent over the Internet, making sure they don't get lost, are received in the proper order, and are reassembled at their destination correctly. IP manages the addressing and forwarding of data to and from its proper destinations. Together they make up the Internet's core architecture.
Cerf and Kahn founded the nonprofit Internet Society in 1992. The organization helps set technical standards, develops Internet infrastructure, and helps lawmakers set policy.
Since 2005, Cerf has been vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google. He is responsible for identifying new technologies and enabling policies that support the development of advanced products and services.
Cerf has received several recognitions for his work, including the 2004 Turing Award from the ACM.
AR A monumental life's work.
The Critical Brain
John M Beggs
The critical brain hypothesis posits that the brain teeters between inactive and overactive phases. Between them is a critical point where it can produce complex activity patterns.
Imagine a guessing game for a neural network. Neurons in layer 1 activate neurons in layer 2, those in layer 2 activate those in layer 3, and so on. When I activate N neurons in layer 1, you observe the number of neurons active in the last layer. The game is to guess N.
• With weak connections, neurons typically activate independently of each other. No matter how big N is, the number of neurons activated in the last layer will tend to zero.
• With strong connections, one active neuron activates multiple other neurons, spreading activity until nearly all the neurons in the final layer are active, erasing information about N.
• In the critical case, the number of neurons activated is roughly preserved across layers. You can guess N. We can quantify this ability to guess as a measure of information transmission.
Information storage is driven by the activation of neural assemblies. A critical network leads to the largest number of stable assemblies, maximizing information storage.
Experiments on neural networks and in intact brains uphold these predictions. Brains seem to operate near the critical point.
AR A very reasonable hypothesis.
The First Stars
The JWST has detected a rare isotope of helium in a distant galaxy that may reveal the earliest stars.
These Population III stars were giant balls of primordial H and He. After short lifetimes, they exploded as supernovas, forging heavier elements that later gave rise to Population II stars, then to Population I stars like our Sun.
Population III stars could have grown to immense sizes, with masses of 100 ⊛ to 100 k⊛. They had a lifetime of perhaps a few hundred My and should emit the spectral signature of He‑2, an unstable isotope lacking neutrons.
The JWST has detected the He‑2 signature from a distant galaxy seen at 620 My ABB.
AR A useful step forward.
End of an era: The last Boeing 747 Jumbo
Rolling average of voter aim
in a new Brexit referendum
2023 January 31
Three Years On
In the three years since leaving the EU, we've made huge strides in harnessing the freedoms unlocked by Brexit .. I'm determined to ensure the benefits of Brexit continue to empower communities and businesses right across the country.
Brexiteers are now Bremoaners and Bregretters
Fifty years ago this month, Britain joined the EEC. Ten years ago this month, Conservatives pledged a referendum to appease UKIP. Three years ago today, Britain committed Brexit.
Brexiteers called the sore losers from the referendum Remoaners. With the moaning there was rage against cynical Brexit leaders who knowingly sold snake oil and fairy dust.
Labour will not back rejoining. Distressed Labour Rejoiners point to how many Leavers are now Bregretters. Polls say 57% would vote for rejoining and 43% for staying out.
The Brexiteers are now the Bremoaners. Telegraph associate editor Jeremy Warner: "The grim reality is that the country seems to be falling apart on almost every front."
What became of the Brexit slogans
Brits are struggling. The UK has sunk into a political and economic crisis. By 2030, its standard of living may be below that of Poland.
✗ Brexiteers had a red bus slogan: "We send £350 million to the EU every week. Let's fund our NHS instead." The first sentence was false, and the NHS is still underfunded today.
✗ Brexiteers promised to end illegal migration. A record number of migrants entered in 2022. The UK now has a big backlog of asylum applications and overcrowded migrant camps.
✗ Brexiteers limited immigration to skilled workers. But Brits refused low-paid jobs and bottlenecks arose. Food rotted in fields and hospitals ran short of nurses.
✗ Brexiteers said the EU was preventing the UK from signing free trade deals worldwide. Much of the EU trade lost by Brexit has still not been made up by new trade deals.
✗ Brexiteers opposed EU rules. They plan to sunset all remaining EU law by the end of 2023. But the government cannot redraft the laws by then.
The benefits of Brexit
A new poll asked a sample of British adults to name benefits to Britain. Only 1 in 10 could name any specific benefits of Brexit. Topping the list for those who could name one:
• Control of immigration and borders: 30%
• The Covid vaccine rollout: 17%
A similar sample were asked to say whether they had personally benefited from Brexit and what that benefit was. Only 1 in 20 could do so. Topping the list of personal benefits:
• The Covid vaccine rollout: 21%
• Taking back control: 21%
AR Nationalist nutcases have kneecapped their nation.
2023 January 30
A Mirror Universe?
Cosmic inflation makes the universe big, smooth, and flat.
For quantum reasons, inflation makes the early universe lumpy. The denser regions collapse to form galaxies, while the rest expands as intergalactic voids. You need to adjust the initial conditions and the model parameters to fit the lumps.
The early universe was dominated by hot radiation. Going back from there, the size of the universe shrinks to zero. We can extrapolate back to a mirror image copy of our universe before the big bang.
Our universe and its mirror image are related by charge−parity−time reversal symmetry. CPT symmetry is based on deep principles of quantum theory and general relativity confirmed in many experiments. Our universe seems to violate CPT symmetry, but the combination of our universe and the mirror universe respect it.
The two universes are mirror images up to quantum uncertainty. There are correlations between what happens on the two sides of the big bang, but the exact details will differ.
Using a mathematical tool called gravitational entropy, we calculated the number of possible cosmic histories for a mirror-symmetric universe filled with radiation, matter, and dark energy. We found that almost all the resulting universes are smooth and flat, with a pinch of dark energy. We no longer need inflation to get a smooth and flat universe.
The mirrored sides of the universe grow in opposite directions away from the big bang. We add dimension zero (D0) fields to the standard model to create primordial vacuum fluctuations that can match experimental measurements.
Our D0 fields can cancel out the infinite vacuum energy in virtual particles, cancel the infinities that spoil the symmetries of some standard model fields, and give just three generations of elementary particles.
Our theory is not yet fully supported by observations.
AR This looks very promising.
EU Green Capital Tallinn, Estonia
Nadhim "Careless" Zahawi
sacked as Tory chair
by Rishi Sunak
2023 January 29
Ukraine Peace Negotiations
This is not the time for negotiations over Ukraine. Successful peace negotiations usually require both a mutually hurting stalemate and leadership on both sides prepared to take political risks for peace. Neither condition currently exists.
There will need to be negotiations. Anything short of total victory requires negotiations. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accepts that all wars end in diplomacy, but we must not force Ukraine to surrender.
Putin could declare a ceasefire and present this as a victory. He would use the ensuing frozen conflict to prevent Ukraine from recovering. Ukraine may then need to agree to negotiations, but could insist on fighting and talking at the same time.
Ukraine proposes a peace summit under UN auspices. Zelensky has put forward a peace plan including demands on nuclear safety, justice, energy security, prisoner release, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity. It could form an agenda for negotiations while fighting continues.
Ukraine will be more secure as a member of the EU even if it postpones its application to join NATO. Russia must agree not to attack again, pay reparations for damage and destruction inflicted, and accept justice for crimes committed.
We will need to ensure we are safe from aggression in future, to establish a stable relationship between NATO and Russia, and to find an exit ramp for Putin.
Now is no time for negotiations.
AR This seems judicious and wise.
2023 January 28
Six Steps to Armageddon
1 Russian forces in Ukraine collapse or mutiny
2 Ukrainian troops push to the edge of Donbas and Crimea
3 European leaders warn Zelensky to go no further
4 Zelensky waits days before heeding their warnings
5 Putin is ousted in Moscow and replaced by FSB boss
6 New Kremlin boss goes nuclear
AR The risk is the price we pay to terminate a tyranny.
Westminster standards chief
Daniel Greenberg: "It's
impossible to overstate the
importance of politicians
.. setting an example."
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak told his MPs to "unite or die" as a warning to Tory rebels. They ignored him and forced the government into multiple U‑turns. Sunak decided to ask his ethics chief to look into the scandal of party chairman Nadhim Zahawi's tax affairs. Four former cabinet ministers are bemoaning his "car crash" decision. The Conservative party is ungovernable.
Rebutting the narrative
When things start to go wrong and you seem at the mercy of events, a media narrative is born. Then you're sunk. Confirmation bias kicks in, and the story just grows and grows.
The best way to rebut a narrative is with a bigger narrative. Rishi Sunak now desperately needs one. The prime minister must grip politics by the lapels.
I admire Sunak. I respect his intellect, work ethic, kindness, steady moderation, and capacity for analysis. I like his style.
But he is drowning in detail, head down in his study rather than coming out to explain. It's good to have a PM intelligently across every Whitehall brief, but this PM needs to beware.
Suspend Dominic Raab and Nadhim Zahawi. Rebuke Suella Braverman for her tone. Tell Michael Gove the levelling-up tombola must stop. Double down on the idiocy of tax cuts now.
Shake off the smell of the great steaming heap of dog mess on the Downing Street pavement left by the Johnson government. Take off those soiled shoes.
AR Rishi, heed Daniel.
Quantum Time Flips
Photons can act as if time flowed both forward and backward at once.
A team has a built a circuit that sends a photon down a superposition of two paths: one where it passes event A and then event B, and another where it passes B then A. Events A and B are in an indefinite causal order.
A game involves firing photons through two gadgets, A and B. Passing forward through a gadget rotates photon polarization by an amount that depends on the settings. Passing backward through the gadget rotates the polarization the opposite way.
For each round of the game, a referee secretly sets the gadgets either with a forward path through A, then backward through B, or with a backward path through A, then forward through B. The player must figure out which choice the referee made.
The player arranges the gadgets and sends a photon through the maze, perhaps in a superposition of two paths. The photon hits one of two detectors. Depending on how the player set up the maze, the detector click can reveal the referee's choice.
When the player sets up the circuit so that the photon goes only one way through each gadget, then even if A and B are in an indefinite causal order, the detector clicks match the gadget settings at most about 90% of the time.
Two teams ran quantum time-flip circuits for 1 million rounds. Both teams won over 99% of them, proving their photons were in a time-flip superposition.
Such circuits might be good for quantum computing.
AR Nice, but no big surprise.
2023 Holocaust Memorial Day
Angst und Schreck
Germany has made significant efforts to try to face up to its dark history. Its responsibility for the Holocaust is taught in schools and memorialised in monuments across the country. Berlin tries to refrain from taking steps on the international stage that could see the country cast once again as Europe's aggressor and at home has built a consensual political system aimed at preventing the rise of another Hitler.
Yuval Noah Harari: "I can say this to Germans as a Jew and Israeli and as grandchildren of Holocaust survivors: We know you are not Nazis. You don't have to prove it anymore."
AR I think he's right.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Ukraine: 'The big battle is coming'
Russian armed forces say they have launched a new offensive in Zaporizhzhia region. The frozen line is heating up. Soon one side will try to break the deadlock.
Both sides are strengthening their defenses. The invading force has erected two more lines of minefields, slit trenches, tank traps, and dragon's teeth. Ukrainians watch carefully as the Russians move mechanized units from Crimea toward the eastern front in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The first phase of Russia's all-out invasion ended in debacle for Putin's forces.
The second phase tried a war of attrition and was almost as complete a defeat as the first.
The third phase is about to start.
AR All is far from quiet on the eastern front.
⊛ Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS
Boris Pistorius: "Schön, mal wieder bei der Truppe zu sein"
2023 January 26
Germany and Ukraine
US president Joe Biden showered German chancellor Olaf Scholz with praise after their coordinated announcement that the US and Germany would send battle tanks to Ukraine.
The planned deliveries of tanks were met with jubilation in Kyiv and relief in western capitals. But the breakthrough involved policy U‑turns and leaps of faith in both Berlin and Washington. Germany is a nation burdened by history and reticent about projecting hard power beside NATO allies.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has dealt a death blow to German refusal to acknowledge the nature of Vladimir Putin's Russia. Until then, Russia's military atrocities, wars, and assassinations had failed to provoke change.
Olaf Scholz had refrained from showing leadership at the recent meeting of Ukraine's supporters in Ramstein. By hiding behind Washington, he risked damage to the transatlantic relationship.
The chancellery is now seeking to frame his decision as a stroke of political genius. This may reflect the equally unclear positions of many Germans. Russia's war in Ukraine has pushed Germans out of their comfort zone.
Germany is isolated
Olaf Scholz has ended his dithering over whether to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. But his hesitancy has already damaged the Western alliance.
Many German companies have made strategic investments in Russia. They want to see a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. The last thing they want is for Ukraine to win the war with the help of German weapons.
The German−Russian relationship is long and strong. Culturally, Berlin feels closer to Moscow than to London or Paris. A new era in German security policy has begun.
Peace in Ukraine
Russia has no credibility as a treaty party. Its track record of keeping its international commitments is disastrous.
Two months before the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Putin said Russia had no interest in taking control there. He raised no intention of annexing other Ukrainian territories. In February 2022, Russia justified its invasion with allegations of security concerns.
Russia should not be given parts of Ukrainian territory simply because it wants them and took some of them by force. Ever since 2008, Putin has used multiple justifications for hostilities and invasions, but always ended up simply grabbing land.
Putin believes he can win his war in Ukraine. Peace can only be achieved when he is proved wrong.
AR We need to be patient.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
2023 January 25
Abrams for Ukraine
The New York Times
President Biden says he will send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine to help it defend against Russian invaders. He says the United States will send 31 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of a Ukrainian battalion. Germany will follow through by contributing Leopard 2 tanks and freeing other allies to send their own, the equivalent of two more battalions.
Biden: "These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces .. There is no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today."
AR Now let's see how soon they reach the front.
Leos for Ukraine
Germany will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and will permit exports by other countries. It aims to establish two Leopard battalions in Ukraine with tanks from military stocks. Training of Ukrainian troops in Germany will begin soon. Germany will also provide logistics and ammunition.
AR Start the countdown.
Weird Black Holes
In our 4D universe, the event horizons of black holes must be 2D spheres. But the Einstein equations allow an infinite number of shapes for black holes in 5D and above.
A black ring is a symmetrical black hole solution to the Einstein equations in 5D. It is a 3D surface like a doughnut. In principle, such black holes could form if they were spinning at just the right speed.
We can describe all the shapes black holes can have in 5+ dimensions. Included among the shapes are lens spaces. Think of them as scrunched spheres.
In 1D, divide a circle into upper and lower halves, then move every point in the bottom half to the diametrically opposite point in the top half, to leave just the upper semicircle and two antipodal points, one at each end. Glue them to each other to make a smaller circle.
In 2D, take a sphere and move every point on the bottom half up so that it touches the antipodal point on the top half to leave just the top hemisphere. Matching the points along the equator with one another scrunches up the surface.
In 3D, take a ball and run longitudinal lines between the poles. Two lines split the globe into two hemispheres: Identify points on one hemisphere with the antipodal points on the other. There are many longitudinal lines and many ways to connect the sectors they define.
In 5D, a spinning black lens solution in asymptotically flat spacetime is held together by a matter field. A generalized result gives a black hole in the shape of any lens space, yielding an infinite number of possible black holes in an infinite number of dimensions.
Tiny black holes could pop up in a particle accelerator. If we found one with nonspherical topology, we could say our universe was at least 5D.
AR That's a pretty big if.
Polen hat bei der BRD die
Zustimmung zum Export von
Leopard‑2-Panzern an die
Ukraine beantragt: Die BRD
will Antrag "mit gebotener
2023 January 24
Tanks to Ukraine
SPIEGEL, 1731 UTC
Deutschland wird Kampfpanzer vom Typ Leopard 2 an die Ukraine liefern. Nach SPIEGEL-Informationen geht es um mindestens eine Kompanie Leopard 2A6.
Poland wants EU compensation
The Guardian, 1159 UTC
Poland will ask the EU for compensation for the cost of Leopard 2 tanks it wants to send Ukraine. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki: "I hope that this answer from Germany will come quickly, because the Germans are delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is difficult to understand."
What is the West waiting for?
Putin has long since abandoned any respect for the laws of war. With every day that goes by, more innocents are sacrificed and more soldiers on both sides are killed. The sooner we can help the Ukrainians to win, the better.
The Ukrainians will need our help to take back the land bridge along the coast from the Donbas to Crimea. If they can take back that land bridge, it is game over for Putin. All they need to do it is the kind of kit the West has in abundance.
I am proud that the UK is sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks. Defense secretary Ben Wallace has set an example for other countries to emulate. The Ukrainians need hundreds of tanks, and they should be getting them.
If Putin were so insane as to go nuclear, he would become a global pariah. He would plunge Russia into cryogenic economic exclusion. Above all, he would lose the Russian people.
Putin wants to portray his war of choice as a stand-off between NATO and Russia. But he has brought a geostrategic disaster upon himself. He has managed by his violence and aggression to destroy any case against NATO membership for Ukraine.
The Ukrainians are fighting for all of us. They are fighting for the principle that nations should not have their borders changed by force. Let's give them all they need to win.
AR It's happening.
The UK Economy
On almost all relevant international comparisons, the UK economy looks sickly. Forecasts from international bodies diagnose a chronic rather than acute problem. Three proximate causes:
✗ Brexit. All credible economic analysis suggests that leaving the EU caused the UK serious economic harm. For all their competence in economic management, government ministers deny this reality.
✗ Inadequate public services. The state squeezes justice, local government, welfare, housing, transport, and education in a bid to fund health and social care for an ageing society. All of these services are now losing the battle to do more with less.
✗ Impediments to construction. The UK is held back by its severe restrictions on building in places where people want to live and work and its legal rights for objectors to development.
These weaknesses hold Britain back. The people of Britain are to blame. They voted for Brexit, they insist on a welfare state with low taxation, and they block new homes near where they live.
Brexiteers promised sunlit uplands. They said the annual payments to the EU would make the NHS a world-envied health service. Now we have a collapsing NHS. They said the UK would "take back control" of its borders. Unmanaged migration is now rising. The economy would roar like a lion once the UK was "unshackled" from the EU. The UK is now the sick man of the G7.
The Retained EU Law bill proposes a mass cull of former EU laws turned into British law in a bid to get Brexit "done" by the end of 2023. The promoters of this folly are the same people who said we held all the cards in the withdrawal negotiations, we would secure a superb deal, and Brexit would be brilliant for Britain. Most voters say they would like to rejoin the EU.
AR All this is hard to deny.
2023 January 23
When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) started work, it soon detected extremely distant yet very bright galaxies that seem to have formed very early in the history of the universe.
Within a few My ABB, the hot plasma that filled space settled down, and particles combined into atoms, mostly neutral hydrogen. Things were quiet and dark during the cosmic dark ages. Then something happened.
In the standard picture, cold dark matter began collapsing into clumps. Atoms clustered and condensed into the first stars. Their radiation reionized interstellar hydrogen. Gravity pulled larger and more complex structures into a vast cosmic web of galaxies.
Cosmic expansion is accelerating, driven by dark energy, represented by lambda. Plug values for Λ, cold dark matter, and regular matter and radiation into the equations of general relativity, and you get the lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model.
JWST soon found a bright and distant galaxy at an apparent redshift of 12. Other JWST observations had redshift values from 11 to 20. The earliest JWST galaxies are an order of magnitude heavier than those in ΛCDM computer simulations.
The JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) team searched for galaxies whose IR spectrum cuts off at the Lyman break where H atoms absorb light. Cosmic expansion shifts its wavelength: JADES found spectra with redshifts up to 13.
Simulated ΛCDM universes produce galaxies as heavy as those found by JADES at redshifts of 10 and higher. These galaxies may contain first-generation stars. JWST is doing well.
AR What about teleparallel gravity?
Year of the Rabbit
2023 Chinese New Year
Revealing the Start of Time
Gravitational waves can help us to peer back to the state of the cosmos shortly after the Big Bang. Princeton plasma physicists Deepen Garg and Ilya Dodin adapted techniques from their research into fusion energy to create formulas that could let gravitational waves reveal new facts.
Garg: "We can't see the early universe directly, but maybe we can see it indirectly if we look at how gravitational waves from that time have affected matter and radiation that we can observe today .. We basically put plasma wave machinery to work on a gravitational wave problem."
Dodin: "Once we started digging deeper into the topic, we realized that very little was understood about the problem and we could do some very basic theory work here."
AR Good work.
Tanks to Ukraine
It is an act of grave stupidity for the West to supply Ukraine with modern tanks. We may begin an unstoppable descent into horror. Ukraine's new tanks might sweep all before them and cross into what Russia regards as its own territory.
If cornered, Putin might authorize the use of battlefield nuclear weapons. A large chunk of Europe could be turned into a radioactive graveyard. I have no idea how Britain will become safer by sending Challenger 2 tanks.
Leopards for Ukraine
German defense minister Boris Pistorius said he wanted to check which and how many Leopard tanks he could deliver to Ukraine. But the German government has kept a detailed spreadsheet listing all the Leopards it has available since May 2022.
The Bundeswehr then had a total of 312 Leopard 2 tanks, of which 99 were in maintenance or repair and 1 due for scrap, so there were 212 Leopard 2 models in the inventory. Among them were the models 2A5, 2A6, 2A7, and 2A7V.
Germany might send Ukraine the 19 Leopard 2A5 currently used in training maneuvers. These could be combined in a package with upgraded 2A4 tanks from other European nations to equip a unified Ukrainian tank battalion with Leopards.
AR Send tanks.
2023 January 21
Germany Defies Pressure
Guy Chazan, Felicia Schwartz
Germany dashed allied hopes that it would approve the dispatch of battle tanks to Ukraine on Friday. Leopard 2 battle tanks would help Kyiv mount a counteroffensive against Russia, but Berlin has yet to agree, despite pressure from its allies.
German defense minister Boris Pistorius will check the Bundeswehr inventory of Leopards to see how many could be spared: "Then we would be able to act immediately and provide the support within a very short time."
German chancellor Olaf Scholz will not take a lead on sending tanks. Biden administration officials say Leopards are lighter and easier to maintain than Abrams tanks, hence better suited to the war in Ukraine.
US Republican senator Lindsey Graham: "Putin is trying to rewrite the map of Europe by force of arms. World order is at stake. To the Germans: send tanks to Ukraine because they need them .. To the Biden administration: send American tanks so that others will follow our lead."
Tanks no longer taboo
Konstantin von Hammerstein
To shape political developments, you need to see sooner than others which way the wind is blowing, then take the lead. He who hesitates is lost.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz hesitates. Comrade Olaf knows what's right, and that's enough.
In Ramstein, new defense minister Boris Pistorius acted like a pro. There was "no unified opinion" among the partners on the question of tanks, he said. The decision to deliver Leopard 2 will be made "as soon as possible" in consultation with partners. He commissioned his ministry to examine the inventory of Leopard 2 tanks in the Bundeswehr and in industry − a way to buy time.
Ukraine urgently needs battle tanks to withstand a Russian spring offensive. The paradox is that tank deliveries are no longer taboo. It is only a matter of time before they get the green light.
Germany will pay a high price for the delay. The Russians are happy; the Ukrainians are not. In the end, Germany will deliver Leopards.
Die Kommunikation insbesondere von Kanzler Olaf Scholz in dieser Frage sei eine "Katastrophe", laut Vorsitzende des Verteidigungsausschusses Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann: "Zumindest wäre ein Signal richtig gewesen, den Partnern schon mal grünes Licht zu geben. Die Geschichte schaut auf uns und Deutschland hat leider gerade versagt."
Sie sei sich allerdings sicher, dass die Leopard am Ende an die Ukraine geliefert würden.
AR Let's hope so.
2023 January 20
German Tanks for Ukraine
Defense ministers from 15 countries met at the Ramstein air base in Germany today to discuss sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Kyiv says it needs the tanks to retake territory, but the Kremlin warns of an "extremely dangerous" escalation.
Under current regulations, Germany must sanction any re-export of Leopard 2 tanks by countries that use them. Germany is reluctant to give the green light except as part of a wider NATO package, preferably including US M1 Abrams tanks.
US defense secretary Lloyd Austin: "Germany has .. a big oar in the water like the rest of the contact group does, and they're working hand in hand with the rest of our colleagues here .. Our goal is to provide the capability Ukraine needs to be successful in the near term."
US joint chiefs of staff chair General Mark Milley on when Ukraine can launch an offensive: "Personnel have to be trained and married with equipment .. there's a really short window of time to accomplish those key tasks and that's very challenging .. This is the most unified I've ever seen NATO."
Poland's defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak on sending Leopard tanks: "Defense ministers .. talked about this topic. I am convinced that coalition building will end in success."
Ukraine's present tanks are old and are no match for modern NATO tanks. Ukraine wants a few hundred Leopard 2 tanks because there are around 2,000 in 13 European countries and they are relatively easy to maintain, with ready supplies of spare parts and ammunition.
German defense secretary Boris Pistorius: "None of us can say today when there will be a decision for Leopard tanks and what the decision may look like. When a decision is made .. I want to be able to act quickly .. We will support Ukraine so long as it is necessary and the war is over."
AR Chancellor Olaf Scholz must make the decision.
Poole Bay seafront, 2023-01-19
2023 January 19
Military Aid for Ukraine
• A group of 11 countries pledge new military aid for Ukraine.
• Britain plans to send 600 MBDA Brimstone missiles.
• Sweden will send AFVs and the Archer artillery system.
• Estonia will send military equipment worth €113 million.
• Denmark will donate 19 Caesar howitzer artillery systems.
• US and German defence ministers discuss sending Leopard 2 tanks.
• Poland could send Leopard 2 tanks even without German approval.
• US officials are considering helping Ukraine strike Crimea.
AR The war is escalating.
Germany and Ukraine
Timothy Garton Ash
Germany has a responsibility to help Ukraine end Putin's war of terror. The Berlin government should send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine let allies do so.
★ Eighty years ago, Nazi Germany fought a war in Ukraine. The lesson of history is not that German tanks should never be used against Russia but that they should be used to protect Ukrainians.
★ German policy toward Russia failed after the annexation of Crimea and the start of Russian aggression in the Donbas in 2014. Germany increased its energy dependence on Russia after 2014.
★ Germany paid Russia for energy. In the first six months of the war, Germany paid Russia some €19 billion for it. Russia's entire military budget for six months in 2021 was around €30 billion.
★ The German position on military support for Ukraine is still hesitant and confused. America shares its concerns about Russian escalation, but the best path to peace is to step up military support.
Ukraine needs more kit. To push back it needs modern battle tanks. Leopard 2 is the best available. Germans should show leadership.
AR A sound analysis from a sympathetic observer.
Boris Pistorius ist neuer
und wird die Zeitenwende
2023 January 18
Speaking at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres compared Big Oil bosses who knew decades ago that their products were "baking our planet" with tobacco company bosses who knew smoking led to cancer:
"Just like the tobacco industry, they rode roughshod over their own science. Big Oil peddled the big lie .. Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival. This insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific fact."
Oliver Stone goes nuclear
Andrew Ross Sorkin et al.
Amid the crowd gathered in Davos, Oliver Stone says nuclear power is a force for good. His movie Nuclear shows it has been unfairly maligned by Big Oil and its danger is overstated.
Stone: "Despite our investments in renewables, it's not improving our carbon emissions because we haven't tackled the core issue − eliminating fossil fuels."
'Tax us now'
A group of 205 millionaires and billionaires call on leaders and executives meeting in Davos to introduce wealth taxes to tackle extreme inequality:
"The current lack of action is gravely concerning. A meeting of the 'global elite' in Davos to discuss 'cooperation in a fragmented world' is pointless if you aren't challenging the root cause of division .. Now is the time to tackle extreme wealth; now is the time to tax the ultra rich."
Almost two thirds of the new wealth amassed in 2020 and 2021 went to the richest 1% of people. They pocketed $26 trillion in new money, while only about $15 trillion went to the poorer 99%.
AR Big business leads, governments follow.
⌜ Russell Frege ⌝
⌞ Gödel Turing ⌟
2023 January 17
The Joy of Sets
In 1900, the young Cambridge fellow Bertrand Russell believed he had codified the laws of arithmetic and put the discipline of mathematics on a firm foundation. In 1901, he began to realise that maths could not fully explain itself. The inadequacy arose from its logical foundations in set theory.
Russell wrecked German mathematician Gottlob Frege's monumental work on the foundations of arithmetic by deriving a contradiction from its axioms. Around Europe, mathematical thinkers faced a crisis of belief. Novelist Robert Musil: "They actually looked all the way to the bottom and found that the whole building was standing in midair."
This foundational crisis led via David Hilbert's decision problem and Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems to the work of another young mathematician in Cambridge. Alan Turing began to formulate a mechanical procedure to test the validity of any mathematical proposition. His 1937 paper "On Computable Numbers" shaped the modern world.
Mathematics belongs within the Modernist revolution in art and thought that reconfigured minds and lives. Yet the response of many traditional literati to any suggestion that mathematics should form part of a shared culture remains denial, derision, and outrage.
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak proposes a compulsory extension of maths education to age 18. The braying chorus of "no more boring sums" from many authors offers a dismaying glimpse into the wilful ignorance that passes for cultivation in British literary life.
Maths may be fallible
The gold standard for mathematical reliability is axiomatic set theory. Beginning in the early 1900s, mathematicians developed a set of fundamental axioms for set theory known as ZFC (from Ernst Zermelo and Abraham Fraenkel, plus an axiom of choice).
California philosopher of mathematics Penelope Maddy: "If it could be guaranteed that ZFC is consistent, all uncertainty about mathematics could be dispelled. Alas, it soon became clear that the consistency of those axioms could be proved only by assuming even stronger axioms, which obviously defeats the purpose."
ZFC has been hugely productive. It has let mathematicians prove no end of interesting results. They have even developed precise measures of just how much we can trust theories derived from ZFC.
But Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems showed the futility of seeking perfection: Any useful mathematical theory allows statements about its domain that cannot be proved true or false.
AR My own work from 1972 to 1977 on the foundations of set theory remains one of the great joys and privileges of my life − more thereon in my next book.
2023 January 16
Forget Global Britain
Brexit is a disaster. Its costs include £40 billion a year in lost tax revenue, a 4% hit to GDP, and 6% added to food prices. Its benefits are illusory, trivial, or distant.
Yet UK PM Rishi Sunak terms Brexit a "tremendous success" and Sir Keir Starmer talks only about making Brexit work.
Britain still has something Europe needs: military, security, and intelligence clout. Europe still depends on an increasingly unwilling United States. Germany and France need help. Bolstering European security is a huge opportunity for Britain.
Global Britain made an Indo-Pacific tilt featuring defence deals with Australia and Japan. Sharing expertise and training is fine. So is a presence with allies. But the UK makes only a marginal difference in these faraway seas and regions.
The British army is too small for a peer adversary such as Russia. Across the armed forces, Britain needs more stocks of ammunition and spare parts and the logistics to move them. Otherwise, the warplanes, tanks, and ships are just for show.
The UK £55 billion defence budget is badly spent. Allies and foes alike know Britain tries to do too much with too little and ends up doing it all badly.
Focusing on Europe will increase British security, relieve Americans, and repair continental ties broken by Brexit.
AR Integrate European forces properly in NATO.
2023 January 15
Getting Brexit Done
UK foreign secretary James Cleverly and EU Brexit man Maros Sefcovic have agreed to let the EU monitor the flow of goods from GB into NI. The deal was finalised last week in a cordial atmosphere.
Boris Johnson's deal with Brussels in 2020 left NI in the customs unions of both the UK and the EU and put a border in the Irish Sea. Some GB traders cannot send products into NI and others are deterred by the paperwork.
The data deal will let EU officials monitor the movement of all goods coming into NI. An express lane leaves the problem for the UK that the EU wants to check some goods in the express lanes. UK and EU officials aim to solve this.
Former PM Liz Truss pushed a bill to abandon parts of the NIP unilaterally if there were no deal. New PM Rishi Sunak has put that bill on ice to give the talks a chance.
The harder problem concerns ECJ governance of a deal. The role of the ECJ is a problem for the ERG and the leadership of the DUP. But EU officials insist on it, given that the EU has issues over democratic governance in Hungary and Poland.
Both sides want a new deal before a possible state visit by US president Joe Biden to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10.
AR This is all such a bodge.
2023 January 14
UK to Send Tanks to Ukraine
BBC News, 1130 UTC
UK PM Rishi Sunak confirms the UK will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine during a call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.
AR Will this push Germans to let Poland send Leopard 2 tanks?
Troubled German secretary of defense Christine Lambrecht will likely resign next week. People in the Bundeswehr reacted with relief: "Finally."
Respect and trust are important. A defense minister cannot become the laughing stock of the troops. Ever since February 24, 2022, the defense ministry should have been central in the federal government after the chancellor. It wasn't.
Lambrecht has spoken to chancellor Olaf Scholz several times about resigning. She was wrong for the job and never looked ready to master geopolitics, English, the defense industry, and the work of the forces. Soldiers soon sense when a minister really wants nothing to do with them.
Scholz likes to have everything under control, but now he must work fast. A big meeting in Ramstein next week will see NATO partners discuss delivery of Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
The Bundeswehr is in a desolate state. Scholz gave Lambrecht €100 billion but has seen little action. He should have replaced her long ago.
AR Put Wolfgang Schmidt in defense.
What Russia fears
2023 January 13
Russian president Vladimir Putin: "Russia's future is what matters the most. Defending our Motherland is the sacred duty we owe to our ancestors and descendants."
As 2023 began, a college in Makiivka, 12.5 km from the front line, was hit by Ukrainian artillery. The building housed not only hundreds of recent Russian conscripts but also ammunition. The Russian ministry of defense admitted the disaster. The unofficial toll is close to 300 killed.
Russian general Sergei Sevryukov: "The main reason for the incident was the activation and mass use − contrary to a prohibition − of mobile phones by personnel in the enemy's range."
A Ukrainian military spokesman said the Russians were unable to deploy their personnel covertly. The stored ammunition turned the loss into a catastrophe. HIMARS and other Ukrainian systems make all troop concentrations near the front vulnerable.
Russian forces are mounting a serious offensive to take Bakhmut. This is another epic encounter in which the Russians spend months and heavy casualties to take cities they reduce to rubble. The Russians and their Wagner mercenaries have taken huge losses. Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin blames a lack of equipment and shells.
Deputy minister of defense Valery Gerasimov: "The situation on the front line has stabilized, with the main efforts of the Russian troops concentrated on completing the liberation of the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic."
Putin: "We are .. all mortal, we are all under the Lord. And someday we will all leave this world. It is inevitable. The question is how we lived."
The underlying trends of this war favor Ukraine. Putin faces more retreats and a growing aura of futility.
AR Putin faces death and infamy.
2023 January 12
UK vs Germany
The UK and Germany have very different economic problems. Germany is reliant on old industries and technology. The UK's problems have been exacerbated by Brexit. Both countries have unsustainable economic models.
Angela Merkel was uninterested in solving problems. She agreed to global emissions benchmarks and NATO military spending targets that she had no means of meeting. The austerity policies of her coalitions led to a shortfall in public investment of hundreds of billions of euros.
Germany was outwardly a successful economy during her period in office. Growth rates were good and public finances were solid. But the Bundeswehr is now so underfunded that it cannot fight a war over several weeks.
AR A merged Anglo-German economy would be better than the sum of the two.
EU in the UK
President von der Leyen
2023 January 11
Ursula von der Leyen
We know that our adversaries and our competitors are using all possible tools to challenge us and to undermine our security. They are afraid of our openness, of our transparency, of our democracies .. That is why it is so important that we stand together and strengthen our resilience overall.
Today .. we will be discussing Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine .. Because we all know that a stronger European defence will also make NATO stronger.
Since the beginning of Russia's war, Member States have started to increase their military spending .. we also need to spend better .. We need to build interoperable forces [and] maintain a strong industrial military base in Europe.
One important new focus for our cooperation is the security of our critical infrastructure .. So today we are launching an EU−NATO Task Force for Resilient Critical Infrastructure .. By now, if you count in Finland and Sweden, 23 Member States of the 27 in the European Union are also in NATO.
AR Addressed to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.
2023 January 10
NATO and the EU
The EU and NATO are close partners. Today, we sign our new Joint Declaration that sends a strong message of unity and continued support for Ukraine.
The EU and NATO are:
★ Stepping up cooperation on emerging and disruptive technologies and space
★ Intensifying work on countering hybrid and cyber threats and terrorism
★ Addressing the looming security implications of the climate crisis
★ Strengthening the resilience of our critical infrastructure
Declaration of cooperation
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg signed the third joint declaration of cooperation between NATO and the EU with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.
Stoltenberg says the cooperation is "more important than ever" following Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "We are determined to take the partnership between NATO and the EU to the next level."
NATO and the EU will cooperate more closely in the "growing geostrategic competition" with China and appeal to Russia to end the Ukraine war immediately.
AR The UK is out in the cold.
The B— Word
Last week, Sir Keir Starmer made a speech with the theme "Take Back Control" but not in that way. He doesn't want to talk about Brexit.
Rishi Sunak doesn't want to talk about it either. He says he's against regulatory alignment because Brexit is already delivering "enormous benefits" to Britain.
Brexit is a disaster. Political instability since Brexit has made the UK less attractive to investors. The UK has an economy smaller than before the pandemic.
Given that the prime minister supported Brexit and the leader of the opposition did not, you might expect our politics to be dominated by little else.
AR Silence compounds the sin.
2023 January 9
Eurozone Employment Up
Eurostat data shows the number of people in the EZ labor market without work fell in November to 10.8 million unemployed, the lowest since records began.
German industrial output increased 0.2% between October and November.
The New European
The reality of Brexit is sinking in.
A new survey shows 1 in 3 Tory voters now say Brexit has created more problems than it has solved, while 1 in 5 say the opposite.
Some 2 in 5 Tory supporters said the NI Protocol was a key Brexit concern, 1 in 3 are worried about red tape affecting UK businesses, and 1 in 3 frustrated about difficulties with gaining work abroad.
When the survey was widened to all voters, almost 3 in 5 said Brexit was causing more problems than it solved.
Another recent poll conducted a split sample. When asked a simple question about rejoining, 42% of respondents wanted to return to the EU, while 35% opted to stay out.
Even when joining the single market and the Schengen area, accepting free movement of EU nationals, applying EU laws, and paying into the EU budget were listed to the other half of the sample, 38% still wanted to return to the EU and 35% to stay out.
This is the will of the people.
AR End the B— farce now.
2023 January 8
Russian Aggression in Ukraine
Senior UK politicians back demands for a special tribunal to investigate Russia for a "crime of aggression" against Ukraine in a move to hold Vladimir Putin and his generals to account.
In a joint statement, former prime minister Gordon Brown, Labour leader Keir Starmer, former NATO secretary general George Robertson, former foreign secretary David Owen, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and others say the tribunal should be set up to investigate the "manifestly illegal war" on the same principles that guided the Allies for the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is looking at allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the Ukraine invasion. Advocates say a special tribunal is needed because the ICC does not have the power to examine the crime of aggression, defined by as the invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state on the territory of another state, or any military occupation.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says a new tribunal with broad support is needed to ensure the invasion does not go unpunished. The Netherlands is willing to host a UN tribunal.
The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown
It has been 10 months since Russia, backed by Belarus, launched one of the largest ground invasions in Europe since the Second World War.
Since then, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed or injured, eight million people have been internally displaced and around eight million have become refugees. Civilian infrastructure and economic assets worth tens of billions have been destroyed or plundered, and irreplaceable cultural monuments reduced to rubble ..
.. we propose the creation of a special tribunal with a limited focus on the crime of aggression ..
The tribunal would draw on international law which proscribes aggression and the domestic law of Ukraine .. and respond to a direct request from President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian Parliament to take forward this initiative.
AR Definitely worth doing.
2023 January 7
A Sharper Mind
Dr Sanjay Gupta
Whatever your age, you can feel sharper, less anxious, more productive, better rested, and more energized in just three months if you:
• Eat vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil
• Cut out all added sugar (and artificial sweeteners)
• Slash your salt intake
• Aim to drink 30 ml of water a day for every kg of body weight
• Get up and walk for at least 2 min every hour
• Walk for at least 30 min every day
• Deep breathe, twice a day
• Try analytical meditation as a daily habit
• Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night
• Pick up a new hobby or do something in a different way
• Make more social plans
AR Surely sound advice.
Imagine there's no Brexit
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to cheat or lie for
And no corruption too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I'm a Remainer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And Europe will be as one
RIP, John Lennon
2023 January 6
Britain begins 2023 in crisis. A rich country has become dysfunctional. Voters feel frustration at the stoppages and shortages, disbelief at the decline, and fatalism about a fall.
There is less overt anger than might be expected. Voters have deserted the Conservative party in the opinion polls, but polls suggest a lot of flux and confusion.
Voters sense that the current crisis may well get worse. They hope for more competent and principled government under Starmer: "We can't go on like this."
Sunak vs Starmer
Rishi Sunak provided the backdrop for Keir Starmer to make his best speech yet.
Sunak seemed on another planet when he talked about maths, fintech, quantum, life sciences, and AI, while people can't heat homes, buy enough food, call an ambulance, summon police to a burglary, post a letter, catch a train, or pay their bills.
Starmer said trust in central power is broken. Trusting in communities covers everything from the NHS and crime to schools, skills, planning, transport, and the environment. He plans a "take back control" act to cut Whitehall power.
Labour is on course for victory.
Sunak vs Truss
Rishi Sunak lists growing the economy as one of his five priorities. His supporters say trying anything too bold would only expose weakness.
Liz Truss and members of her cabinet could still pose a threat in an ideological fight. When a party is trailing by 20 points in the polls, MPs say slow-and-steady is no answer.
Sunak leaves a vacuum for others to fill. Boris Johnson may woo those who feel their voices have not been heard.
The UK economy is in a bad way. Britain faces a deeper recession and slower recovery than its peers.
British performance since 2008 is the worst in British history since before the Industrial Revolution.
The global financial crisis hit the UK hard. The turn to austerity and Brexit were drags on recovery.
AR Doom and gloom.
⊛ Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Fighter from Karpatska Sich Battalion in a church destroyed by shelling and reportedly looted by Russian forces,
Lyman district, Donetsk region, 2022-12-25
2023 January 5
The Kremlin has announced a 36 hr ceasefire in Ukraine to mark the Eastern Orthodox Christmas. President Putin ordered the ceasefire from noon Friday until midnight Saturday. Ukraine's leaders dismiss it as cynical posturing by a ruthless and untrustworthy enemy.
UK defence strategy
Ukraine is now the focus of British attention. This was not anticipated in the March 2021 Integrated Review, where Global Britain dreamed of an Indo‑Pacific tilt.
Senior Whitehall officials still imagine the UK is a global power, with the navy policing Asian sea lanes rather than protecting the undersea cables that connect the British Isles.
We should scrap the review and start again. Perversely, it identified Russia as the most acute threat to UK national security yet redirected military and security resources to Asia.
Scrap the Indo‑Pacific tilt. Focus on building forces to deter Putin from attacking other European allies. Bolster Ukraine and prepare the end of the regimes in Minsk and Moscow.
The UK needs a statement of grand strategy, demanding changes in forces, industry, and thinking. Have the courage to focus on Europe and NATO.
Fifty years on
On 1 January 1973, Britain became a member of the European Economic Community. It hoped to wield outsized influence in Europe.
The British governing class is incapable of running a small European archipelago and nurses a delusion that Britain must always strive to be world-beating, worthy of global status.
A postcolonial melancholia links the Britain of 1973 with 2023. Government elites battle the decline on the fraying carpets and under the leaky roofs of government buildings.
Britain is still an imperial entity. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland aim to transcend it. Only England lacks its own political institutions, yet it hosts 84% of all Brits.
The British malaise elides the unresolved Europe question with the unresolved English question.
AR Britain needs to shape up.
2023 January 4
Will we ever be able to locate consciousness within the brain? Two researchers aim to settle a wager they made long ago this summer.
At the ASSC2 conference in Bremen in 1998, Christof Koch, now at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, bet David Chalmers, now at New York University, that scientists would discover a neural correlate of consciousness within 25 years.
Koch: "I was a young academic. I was at the world's best research university. I was inexperienced. I thought, OK, we're going to nail this problem."
Chalmers: "If we understand consciousness, we'll understand ourselves a whole lot better."
There are two main rival theories of consciousness:
◼ Global workspace theory says the brain processes non-conscious experiences in sensory areas, but we only become aware of them if this information is then broadcast to a cluster of neurons distributed across the brain that integrate the sense data. Brain regions with dense links to others are prime sites for the integration.
◼ Integrated information theory argues that extended awareness of an object must be correlated with a signal of consciousness for the same duration. IIT suggests the signal is in the posterior cortex, where neurons are active during conscious perception.
The bet will be called at the ASSC26 conference in New York City, June 2023.
AR I was at the conference in Bremen where they made the bet. I talked with them both.
2023 January 3
UK Economic Forecast
The UK will face one of the worst recessions and weakest recoveries in the G7 in 2023. Most FT poll respondents say the inflationary shock caused by the pandemic and the Ukraine war will persist for longer in the UK than elsewhere.
An economist: "The 2023 recession will feel much worse than the economic impact of the pandemic."
Another: "The combination of falling real wages, tight financial conditions, and a housing market correction are as bad as it gets."
Forecasts show UK GDP shrinking by 1% in 2023, compared with 0.1% for the EZ and growth of 0.25% in the US.
LSE professor Ricardo Reis: "The UK suffers from an energy shock as bad as Europe's, an inflation problem as bad as the US, and a unique problem of lack of labour supply from the combination of Brexit and the NHS crisis."
AR Blame Brexit.
Putin vs West
Vladimir Putin's long war against the West has been brought into stark relief by his brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Brexit was the first step in Putin's plan to remove Britain from the EU and derail the transatlantic alliance at the heart of NATO.
In the summer of 2012, Russian diplomat Sergey Nalobin held a party at the embassy in London establishing the Conservative Friends of Russia. For three years, he befriended senior Conservatives and those later associated with the Vote Leave campaign, including Boris Johnson.
Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko was appointed in January 2011. He approached UKIP and met Nigel Farage in the Russian embassy in 2013. Farage began to appear regularly on the RT channel as a studio guest and in news of his speeches in the European Parliament.
Putin began funding Eurosceptic and far-right parties across Europe, in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. His Internet Research Agency spent $50 million a year supporting Donald Trump's presidential election campaign. The planned UK referendum on EU membership presented an opportunity to strike a strategic blow against the EU.
Russian embassy official Alexander Udod was tasked with infiltrating UKIP. He approached Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore at the UKIP conference in 2015, when they were planning their Leave.EU campaign. From November 2015 through to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Russian embassy staff had multiple meetings with Leave.EU officials on preferential access to state monopolies in Russian gold and diamond deals.
Nalobin and Udod waged a campaign to shape British politics via Brexit. Nalobin was expelled from Britain in 2015 and Udod in 2018.
Yakovenko was recalled to Moscow after Boris Johnson became the Conservative party leader in 2019. Putin awarded him the Order of Alexander Nevsky medal and made him president of the diplomatic academy. Yakovenko: "We have crushed the British to the ground. They are on their knees, and they will not rise for a very long time."
London and the UK became the favoured hub for a rich Russian diaspora. Soviet-born oligarchs joined the British scene and made the City of London a major investment and trading hub for Russian companies.
The Conservative party enjoyed extensive funding by Russian oligarchs and gave them access to politicians. Many senior business figures who funded either the Leave campaigns or Brexit think tanks made their millions in Russia or have big investments there.
The Evening Standard and The Independent newspapers are both owned by Russian oligarchs. The Evening Standard, owned by former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny, promoted Johnson during his time as mayor of London. Against security advice, Johnson later elevated Evgeny to the House of Lords.
Soviet-born oligarch and major Conservative donor Alexander Temerko said Johnson was persuaded to back Brexit by a group of eastern European businessmen. Johnson made the final decision at a dinner with Evgeny Lebedev, then spent time as foreign secretary drinking with Temerko and plotting to replace prime minister Theresa May.
In November 2017, the first Mueller indictment had accused Trump foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos of lying about meeting Joseph Mifsud, a purported Russian agent in London. Mifsud had planned to meet Johnson to talk over dinner about Brexit. Weeks after meeting Mifsud, Johnson told a select committee he'd seen "not a sausage" of Russian interference in British politics.
On the day after Johnson said this, former chief whip Gavin Williamson was appointed defence secretary. Brexiteer Williamson knew about the links between Leave.EU and Russia. Theresa May finally called out Russian interference in British politics in 2018. Williamson was sacked from his defence job in May 2019.
A few months later, Johnson appointed Williamson as campaign manager in his bid for the Conservative leadership. Johnson has since awarded Williamson a knighthood.
Putin has been waging a hybrid war against the UK, US, and EU since at least 2014, using online operations, subversion, character assassination, and sometimes murder.
Despite Johnson's attempts to suppress its publication, the Russia Report by the UK intelligence and security committee confirmed this.
For eight years, the British establishment gave Putin a free hand to wage his war against the West.
AR Brits have let down the West and ruined their economy.
2023 January 2
The Wreckage of Brexit
The wreckage of Brexit is all around us, but UK politicians will still not acknowledge it. New evidence of the folly of our exit from the EU seems to arrive at least once a week.
The government responds to such news with its usual ludicrous evasions. Even now, Tory zealots cling to the belief that life outside the EU could still deliver all the promised prosperity and general magic, if only ministers would try harder.
What Brexit has done to Tory politics now goes beyond the party's interminable debate about what exactly life outside Europe should entail, and deep into Conservatism's collective psychology, which has become eccentric and unhinged.
On basic economics, the extremists deny the existence of gravity. But they now make much more noise about climate action, Meghan Markle, the BBC, whatever other "woke" ghouls are irking them. Their defining project has turned to dust.
For fear of questioning Brexit itself, no one in politics seems minded to point this out. When mainstream politicians are in denial, demagogues make hay.
A toxic electoral system
Under the British first past the post (FPTP) electoral system, Labour needs a lead of 12% for a parliamentary majority. Governments tend to gain as election day looms.
FPTP leads to a winner-take-all system, privileging the interests of the already powerful and a few swing voters in a few swing seats. Proportional representation (PR) would weaken their grip by making every vote count.
In 2019, 16.2 million people backed progressive parties and only 13.9 million supported the Tory and Brexit parties. But the latter won an 80‑seat majority.
We must change the system to change society. Polls show both majority support for PR (56%) and for progressive parties to work together in government (78%), with candidates helping each other to win (71%).
Power is waged and won by combining morality with force. The UK needs real democratic reform. Politics as usual will not do.
AR British politics is so dismal.
⊛ G. Allegre CC BY-SA 4.0
MIGA is located at the Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit (LSBB) in southern France: LSBB is also a site option
for the projected European Laboratory for Gravitational and Atom-interferometric Research (ELGAR)
Gravitational Wave Astronomy
The Matter-wave Laser Interferometric Gravitation Antenna (MIGA) in France is designed to spot low-frequency gravitational waves that LIGO can't see.
Located 300 m underground in a former military facility, MIGA is a 150 m tube around a near-perfect vacuum. While LIGO uses two beams of light as detectors, MIGA uses rubidium atoms chilled with lasers to just 2 μK.
Quantum effects turn the cold atoms into matter waves that can be used like light beams, but with far more sensitivity. Unlike LIGO, MIGA can detect VLF gravitational waves.
MIGA project manager Benjamin Canuel: "The dream of gravitational wave astronomy is to be able to cover all frequencies of gravitational waves."
MIGA will be the first laser-based atomic interferometer to study variations of the strain tensor of spacetime and gravitation.
The MIGA antenna baseline is designed to reach high sensitivity at low frequency. It has three atom interferometers distributed along the beam path. A laser beam locked to a resonant cavity drives the interferometer laser pulses. Each interferometer measures the accelerations felt by the atoms relative to the cavity mirrors.
The atoms are in free fall along a parabolic trajectory. Interrogation times of 200 ms will be reached with an active interrogation area of diameter 20 cm. A differential measurement between the three interferometers cancels the mirror contributions and gives readouts of gravity gradient, gravity curvature, or higher moments.
Due to their limited frequency bandwidth, current GW detectors such as LIGO can only observe the last evolution phase of binary systems. Before collision, the same sources emit quasi-continuous GW signals at lower frequencies. Detectors such as MIGA will be able to observe such sources years before LIGO can see them.
Low frequency GW detectors allow extended observation of binary systems and new gravity and cosmology tests.
AR I look forward to the first results.
Nork 600 mm Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL) can carry tactical nuclear warheads and will put all of South Korea within range
2023 January 1
Kim Jong Un Orders More Nork Nukes
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for an "exponential increase" in the NK nuclear weapons arsenal in response to what he claims are threats from South Korea and the United States.
North Korea twice over the weekend tested what it claimed was a large, nuclear-capable, multiple-launch rocket system that could put all of South Korea in its range. Kim said South Korea has become an "undoubted enemy" and says its US ally has exerted "maximum" pressure on the North by frequently deploying US military assets to Korea.
Kim said Pyonyang will mass produce tactical nuclear weapons and develop a new ICBM to give him a "quick" counterstrike capability.
The South Korea defense ministry called Kim's comments "provocative language that seriously harms peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula" and urged Pyongyang to "immediately stop" developing nuclear weapons and return to the path of denuclearization.
The ministry will strengthen its "three‑axis" defense system: the Kill Chain preemptive strike system, the Korea Air and Missile Defense system, and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan.
Washington is deploying assets like F‑22 fighters and B‑1 bombers to the exercises around Korea and has activated its first overseas Space Force command in South Korea.
AR Kim needs nuking.
⊛ Alessandra Benedetti
Pope Benedict XVI
In September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address at the University of Regensburg. It inflamed the Muslim world, but for me it became a source of understanding.
The lecture offered a critique of tendencies that set the West on a collision course with Islam. Benedict traced the crisis to a rupture between faith and reason that left us torn between irrational faith or soulless reason.
The ancient Greeks used reason to uncover the deepest origins of reality. The philosophers concluded that there must be some absolute perfection in which all others participate, an unmoved mover behind the world. The Greeks found God via philosophy.
Greek armies overran many nations. Among them were the Jews, who answered questions about ultimate causation with a universal God: "I Am" was the stuff of philosophy.
The courtship between ancient Greece and Jewish religion was consummated with the advent of Christianity. In the Christian telling, God became a man of reason: In the beginning was Logos, a reasonable God.
This account of divinity challenges both irrational superstition and a kind of reason that would reduce all phenomena to their immediate efficient causes without going deeper.
Benedict blamed theologians who questioned whether God could be known by reason and reformers who saw the Greco-Roman influence on Christianity as pagan baggage.
Faith and reason went their separate ways. Fundamental ideals and yearnings, Benedict observed, are now excluded from the realm of public reason. The moral claims of the great religious traditions are treated as species of private bias.
A scientistic account of reason affords humans a lower status than did classical philosophy and revealed religions. You can do anything to people, especially the weak and the poor, if you view them as mere collections of particles.
Benedict: "The world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions."
At Regensburg, Benedict targeted the individual and utilitarian consequences of materialism and scientism. He has shaped a deeper Catholic−Muslim dialog based on a shared critique of a soulless modern world.
AR I enjoyed several books by Benedict. He was a deep thinker.
Wareham Forest, New Year's Day