Coll Exon Oxon
My Oxford alma mater in season
2022 September 25
Our economic models are largely obsolete. They assume that productivity is influenced by tax cuts and the like. Real economic growth is determined by thermodynamics.
For millennia, biomass energy set a limit to the efficiency of production. Things changed with the transition to coal. Growth took off when machines in the industrial heartlands of England fueled a sixfold boom in the population and tenfold rise in GDP.
We have entered the twilight of the fossil fuel age. The problem is not dwindling reserves of these fuels but their declining quality. An economy runs on the net energy left over after energy is transformed into a usable form. This is thermodynamic fact.
Energy scarcely features in the models used to determine policies on growth. The rise of China is often explained via politics when the real story involves burning coal on a colossal scale.
We must put energy policy at the heart of government and recruit the best engineers and scientists for the top. We should spur innovation in energy technology.
AR This is correct.
2022 September 24
2023 Breakthrough Prizes
Three Breakthrough prizes in life sciences are awarded to: Clifford P Brangwynne and Anthony A Hyman for discovering a new mechanism of cellular organization; Demis Hassabis and John Jumper for developing AlphaFold, which accurately predicts the structure of proteins; and to Emmanuel Mignot and Masashi Yanagisawa for discovering the causes of narcolepsy.
The Breakthrough prize in mathematics goes to Daniel A Spielman, for multiple discoveries in theoretical computer science and mathematics.
The Breakthrough prize in fundamental physics is shared by Charles H Bennett, Gilles Brassard, David Deutsch, and Peter Shor for their foundational work in quantum information.
Six men working in neuroscience and artificial intelligence share three awards:
The first award is shared by Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics geneticist Anthony Hyman and Princeton University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute bioengineer Clifford Brangwynne for their work discovering a fundamental mechanism of cellular organization: liquid-liquid phase separation.
Demis Hassabis and John Jumper, both at the London-based company DeepMind, share an award for their work developing AlphaFold 2, a deep learning system that rapidly models the 3D structure of proteins. This summer, the team published predicted structures for 200 million proteins derived from nearly every organism with protein sequence data.
Stanford University School of Medicine sleep researcher Emmanuel Mignot and University of Tsukuba molecular geneticist Masashi Yanagisawa share an award for their discoveries on the genetic cause of the chronic sleep disorder narcolepsy. They showed that narcolepsy is a neurodegenerative disease with autoimmune origins.
Daniel Spielman has produced a slew of influential results in computer science. He studied error-correcting codes and built new codes from expander graphs.
While at MIT, Spielman and Shang-Hua Teng explained the simplex method, for which they were awarded the Gödel Prize.
Spielman: "We were trying to understand one of these algorithms that was used a lot, called the simplex method. The idea we came up with was that it works because all the cases where it fails seem very, very fragile .. we got the idea that if there was a little randomness in the inputs, the method would be fine. And we were able to prove that."
The pair won a second Gödel Prize for algorithms that can quickly solve large sets of simple linear equations.
The prize is shared between Charles Bennett of IBM, Gilles Brassard of the University of Montreal, David Deutsch of the University of Oxford, and Peter Shor of MIT, for their work in the field of quantum information.
Bennett and Brassard proposed a protocol called BB84 that launched the field of quantum cryptography. BB84 lets Alice and Bob exchange messages with total secrecy. Any eavesdropper would leave indelible evidence of their interference.
Deutsch saw that computers were based on classical mechanics and decided to rewrite the theory of computation, basing it on quantum theory instead of classical theory. As a proof of principle, he proposed the first algorithm that would be exponentially faster than classical algorithms.
Shor developed a quantum algorithm that could divide numbers into their prime factors exponentially faster than any classical algorithm. At last, quantum computers had a serious practical application. Shor has also shown how to combine bit correction and phase correction for practical quantum error correction.
AR See how central computers are.
"Budget of staggering size ..
has sent markets reeling."
BBC economics editor
2022 Autumn Equinox
UK Mini Budget 2022
Main points of fiscal statement by chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on the plan to boost growth:
• The 45% top rate of income tax is scrapped. Top earners will pay the higher rate of 40%. The basic rate of income tax will be cut by 1% in 2023.
• The threshold for stamp duty on house purchases is raised from £125,000 to £250,000. For first-time buyers, the threshold will rise from £300,000 to £425,000. The value of the property on which first-time buyers can claim relief is raised.
• The cap on bankers' bonuses is scrapped. The planned rise in corporation tax from 19% to 25% from next April is scrapped.
• The increase in national insurance contributions introduced in April is cut from November. The health and social care levy is scrapped.
• Alcohol duty will be frozen from February 2023. A digital VAT-free shopping scheme will be introduced for international tourists outside airports.
• Energy bills for households are capped at an average of £2,500 a year for two years. Bills are capped for six months for businesses, charities, and public sector organisations from October.
• An energy markets financing scheme will fund banks to provide emergency liquidity to energy traders. The cost of the energy measures will be £60 billion for six months.
• The government will accelerate the delivery of about a hundred big infrastructure projects and set up new investment zones offering tax cuts for businesses.
At £45 billion, this is the biggest round of tax cuts for 50 years and will require new government borrowing. The political aim is to unleash the benefits of Brexit.
A huge gamble
In this fiscal event, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have undone much of the work of the Tory party over the past few years. The announcements are undeniably big, economically risky, and politically difficult. The unease among Tory MPs who backed Rishi Sunak was clear in the Commons chamber as the announcements rolled out.
Truss and Kwarteng bet the package will lead to growth. They went big because they have only two years before the next election to try to get growth going and know their political capital will shrink, so they want to push on while they can. It's a huge gamble.
AR Total cost exceeds £100 billion − the Brexit boost better be big.
Saul Kripke, 2006
Saul Kripke, pioneering logician and great philosopher, has died aged 81.
His classic work Naming and Necessity was published in 1972 and drawn from lectures he delivered at Princeton. He said a statement is possibly true if and only if it is true in some possible world and necessarily true if it is true in all possible worlds. A rigid designator is a term that denotes the same thing in all possible worlds.
He denied that when we use terms such as names, we must be able to correctly identify what the terms refer to. We succeed in using terms not because we know much about the referent but because we are linked to the referent by long social chains of communication.
He also ruminated on metaphysics, modal logic, recursion theory, identity, materialism, and the ontological status of numbers. Much of his work remains unpublished. He was the model for the philosopher Noam Himmel in Rebecca Goldstein's 1983 novel The Mind Body Problem.
Saul Aaron Kripke was born in 1940 in New York. His mother wrote children's books about Judaism. His father was a conservative rabbi. Saul published his first completeness theorem in modal logic when he was 18.
He graduated from Harvard in 1962 and was appointed to professorships at Rockefeller University, Princeton, and City University. In 2001, he was awarded the Rolf Shock Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
AR His work in modal logic helped me understand the possible worlds of quantum theory.
New Webb view of Neptune
Life on Enceladus?
Saturn's icy moon Enceladus
has all the essentials for life
as we know it: C-H-N-O-P-S,
liquid ocean, warm core.
2022 September 22
An experiment led by J C Séamus Davis at the University of Oxford has visualized superconductivity on the atomic scale in a cuprate.
Vibrations moving through rows of atoms can glue electrons together. An electron flying between atoms draws the atomic nuclei toward it and sets off a ripple. That ripple pulls in a second electron, and the two electrons form a Cooper pair.
Cooper pairs are bosons, so many pairs merge into a superfluid. If we turn up the heat much above 0 K, energetic atoms wash out the lattice vibrations and separate the pairs.
Cuprates are crystals consisting of sheets of copper and oxygen interspersed between layers of other elements. When researchers found cuprates that superconduct above 130 K, the search was on for the superglue responsible for this high-temperature superconductivity.
Philip Anderson suggested a quantum effect called superexchange: When electrons can hop between multiple locations, their position at any one moment is uncertain, while their momentum is precisely defined. This allows a lower energy state.
In some materials, superexchange establishes a regular up‑down-up‑down pattern of electron spins and nudges electrons to stay a certain distance apart. Anderson believed this could form strong Cooper pairs.
Davis and his team used a modified scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to measure a current of Cooper pairs and then mapped the density of pairs around each atom to measure superconductivity.
The easier it is for electrons to hop between copper and oxygen atoms in a cuprate, the higher its critical temperature.
In a cuprate called BSCCO, the layers of copper and oxygen atoms get squeezed into a wavy pattern by the surrounding atoms. This varies the distances between atoms and offers a range of hopping energies in one sample.
The team used an STM to map the hopping energies across the cuprate. They then measured the density of Cooper pairs around each atom.
The two maps lined up. Where electrons struggled to hop, superconductivity was weak. Where hopping was easy, superconductivity was strong. It seems superexchange is the superglue enabling high-temperature superconductivity.
We hope to harness superexchange to engineer new superconductors.
AR Good work!
Putin orders mobilization,
threatens nuclear war:
"This is not a bluff."
2022 September 21
The Black Hole Information Paradox
Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw
JF Black holes are places where quantum physics and general relativity clash.
BC This clash between them happens in the vicinity of the event horizon of a black hole.
JF Imagine describing everything that falls into a black hole with a bit string. The information is the smallest bit string that lets you determine what fell in.
BC If information is preserved, then you could collect all the Hawking radiation and decode it to reconstruct what fell in. But Hawking calculated this is impossible.
JF Hawking said information is obliterated in a black hole. This violates quantum mechanics. The information falls through the horizon of a black hole into the singularity. He saw no way to get anything back out from the singularity.
But from our point of view outside the black hole, nothing ever falls through the horizon. Everything stops on it. Anything that falls on it kind of evaporates off.
If I throw a book into a black hole, from my external perspective, it gets obliterated and burned up and spread all over the horizon of the black hole, then comes back out as Hawking radiation. But from the point of view of the book, it just falls smoothly through the horizon.
Black hole complementarity is the idea that information simultaneously gets reflected off the black hole and falls through the horizon.
BC Both are legitimate views. That challenges our notion of reality.
JF The holographic principle says the information in any region of space is encoded on the boundary of that region. If you cut out a chunk of space, the quantum entanglement with the rest of the universe encodes everything that happens inside that region.
A region of spacetime has an equivalent description on the boundary of that spacetime in terms of a quantum field theory. Think of it like the surface of a ball that encodes for general relativity in the interior. In one description, there is no interior space, just the surface. This is complementarity.
The interior space is encoded on the boundary, like the information inside a black hole is encoded on its horizon. If you take any chunk of spacetime, anywhere, the entanglement between that region and the rest of the universe is enough to encode the interior of the region.
All that really exists is information. Spacetime emerges from entangled qubits.
AR Book due in October.
2022 September 20
1 Work out what's in your control. A cornerstone of Stoicism is the control test, as found in the Enchiridion by Epictetus: "Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing."
2 You don't need to judge everything. We make judgements quickly, often with little information. Much of what we label good or bad is neutral. If we treat most events in a neutral way, we are less likely to get upset by things.
3 Money, health, and reputation are out of your control. Money, health, and reputation are all essentially outside our control. If we can cultivate indifference to them, we are less likely to waste energy trying to control them. Stoics warned against suffering twice: once from an illness or injury and a second time from the anger or anxiety that follows. Learn to be indifferent to what you have.
4 Practise the conditions that you fear. The Stoics practised voluntary hardship. Seneca advised his friend Lucilius to fast in case one day he was unable to access food. It may not be as bad as we fear. We are stronger than we think.
5 Practise imagining death. The Stoics believed that you should grieve your loved ones while they are still living. If you imagine that your friend may suddenly die, you will be more inclined to make the most of the time you have. The same goes for our own death. Epictetus: "I cannot escape death, but at least I can escape the fear of it."
6 Don't worry about others' reactions. Your character is one of the few things you can control. The four Stoic virtues are wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. Act with virtue. But worrying about what others think is a waste of time. Just worry about your own character.
7 Moderation is a virtue. A Stoic would say addiction is dangerous because it impairs reason. But banging on about abstaining is boring.
8 Give without expecting a return. Give freely, without expecting anything in return. That avoids disappointment if a favour is never repaid.
9 Say no to FOMO. The Stoics had ways to deal with the fear of missing out. Epictetus: "If these things are good, you ought to be glad he has gotten them; and if they are evil, don't be grieved that you have not got them."
10 Try to relax. The Stoics sought to maximise joy, minimise suffering, and keep calm.
AR Reasons Not to Worry
The Queen's Funeral
Pursuivants and heralds of arms, caparisoned horses, yeomen, equerries, priests, archers, sheriffs, beefeaters, bagpipers, almsmen, gentlemen at arms, soldiers, knights, princes, princesses, heads of state, celebrities, and a new King: myriad actors in a glorious ceremony of mourning and a procession to the royal grave, accompanied by pipes, trumpets, drums, flags, bands and pealing bells, soaring music, flowers, prayers, hymns and ancient poetry.
And on the other side: us.
More than a million people travelled to London to line the streets and witness an old and established ceremony of a sort almost none of them had seen before. Some four billion people watched worldwide, probably the largest television audience in history. The day comprised three separate services in 12 hours, starting in Westminster Hall and ending with a private burial in St George's Chapel, Windsor.
The grandest royal funeral the world has ever seen was .. also about us. We were witnessing ourselves .. we liked what we saw.
AR Selbstlob stinkt.
1922 September 19
Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II (1926−2022)
2022 September 18
Chaos and Tipping Points
We can plot the state of a complex dynamical system as a point in a phase space. Cyclic systems trace out a repeating orbit in the space, while chaotic evolution looks like a tangled mess.
Nonstationary systems can undergo tipping-point transitions, changing their behavior suddenly and perhaps irreversibly, with little warning and potentially catastrophic consequences.
Recurrent neural networks can predict the evolution of stationary chaotic systems far into the future. They rely on records of past behavior but have no clue about the underlying equations.
A team fed an NN data recorded in a nonstationary system while the hidden parameter was drifting, unknown to the network. In many cases, the NN was able to predict an imminent tipping point.
Algorithms that can predict such transitions may find applications in climate science.
AR This is progress.
Sunday walk to Hengistbury Head and back (25 km)
2022 September 17
Quantum cosmology aims to devise and apply a quantum theory of gravity to the entire universe. Recent breakthroughs in black hole physics could help us.
Our universe is expanding, and its expansion is accelerating. Regions of space repel one another until not even light can get through. A spherical cosmological event horizon surrounds us, leaving everything beyond a certain distance in darkness. Our current cosmological event horizon is about 16 billion light years away. Any light emitted beyond that distance will never reach us.
Black holes have a temperature and therefore emit matter and radiation. Hawking radiation causes black holes to evaporate away. Cosmological horizons also have a temperature and emit matter and radiation. But because cosmological horizons surround us and the radiation falls inward, they reabsorb their own emissions and therefore do not evaporate away like black holes.
The information inside a black hole may be accessible from the Hawking radiation that leaves the black hole. Progress here grew from the holographic principle: A theory of quantum gravity for black holes will work not in the usual 3D space but in 2D space.
A black hole has an entropy proportional to the area of its event horizon. The entropy of a gas in a box is proportional to the volume of the box. Because space is curved within black holes, you can increase the volume without affecting the area of the horizon or the entropy.
The holographic principle says we should formulate quantum gravity as a nongravitational quantum system in fewer dimensions. The encoding of information in Hawking radiation is analogous to how a gravitational system is encoded in a lower-dimensional nongravitational system.
Cosmological event horizons radiate like black holes. Multiple outsiders with different horizons can manipulate the same qubits independently.
AR The quangled omnium is work in progress.
2022 September 16
China and Russia
The New York Times
President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia met on Thursday.
Xi made no public mention of Ukraine. China has increased its purchases of Russian energy but is not shipping weapons to Russia or helping Russia circumvent Western sanctions.
China says it is "willing to work with Russia to demonstrate the responsibility of a major country, play a leading role, and inject stability into a turbulent world."
Putin: "We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. We understand your questions and concerns in this regard."
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Alexander Gabuev says the Kremlin is "clear-eyed" about the limits of Chinese backing: "Access to Western technology, Western markets, Western money is of paramount importance."
US officials say that Russia and China see each other as useful in challenging the West but that Putin and Xi will only go so far to support each other.
Putin and Xi met in Samarkand at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and four Central Asian nations.
AR Game, set, and match to Xi.
2022 September 15
Address to Russia
Do you think we [Ukraine and Russia] are still one nation? Do you still think you can scare us, break us, force us to make concessions? Have you really not understood? Have you not understood who we are? What are we fighting for, what is all this for?
Without gas or without you? The answer is without you. Without electricity or without you? Without you. Without water or without you? Without you. Without food or without you? Without you.
For us, cold, hunger, darkness, and thirst are not as dangerous and deadly as friendship and brotherhood with you. But history will put everyone and everything in its place. And we will have gas, electricity, water, and food, and it will be without you!
AR Powerful and right.
2022 September 14
In 2015, the United Nations established 17 sustainable development goals. The Gates Foundation has released a progress report: "As it stands now, we'd need to speed up the pace of our progress five times faster to meet most of our goals − and even that might be an underestimate, because some of the projections don't yet account for the impact of the pandemic, let alone the war in Ukraine or the food crisis it kicked off in Africa."
A worse place than I expected
The effects of the pandemic and now the effects of the war in Ukraine are very dramatic, and there are huge setbacks on all these measures.
The scariest thing of all is the ongoing distraction of the war in Ukraine from climate adaptation and mitigation. With the war on top of the pandemic, the next five years are going to be challenging.
China has done a very good job. On Asia, I'm optimistic. I'm optimistic that India will reduce poverty over time. But then we're faced with the mind-blowing challenge of Africa.
The Green Revolution was one of the greatest things that ever happened. But the funding for public-domain seed systems has gone down. We're trying to get that back up.
Helping farmers has got to be the very top of the climate adaptation agenda. Africa should be a net exporter. But their productivity is much lower than in rich countries.
High variance weather leads to both drought and floods. The weather induced by climate change over the last five years has been far worse than was predicted.
If temperature rise stopped today, you could just take the best seeds we have now and adopt it for Africa. But temperature rise is not stopping.
The world gets a very good grade on the global health stuff. On the agricultural side, we haven't seen it. And with the war in Ukraine, it's even tougher than before.
AR War, pestilence, drought − either we wake up or we're toast.
2022 September 13
Ukraine Is Winning
The Ukrainian offensive in Kharkiv is of historic importance. It has overturned much of what was confidently assumed about the course of the war.
The Ukrainian high command took advantage of Russia moving forces towards Kherson. The Russians were suckered by Ukrainian talk of the coming Kherson offensive into diverting troops even though Kharkiv was always the real objective.
The Ukrainian commanders made sure the Kherson offensive was well established before opening another front. The Kharkiv offensive was designed to shock and disorient Russian forces, break through thin lines of defense, bypass Russian positions, and cut off the Russian forces there.
Russian military bloggers are a patriotic group who assess the conflict with a degree of objectivity. They are furious that the chance to reconnect Ukraine to Mother Russia has been lost and that the armed forces are suffering such losses and humiliation.
Russian nationalist Igor Girkin: "The war in Ukraine will continue until the complete defeat of Russia. We have already lost. The rest is just a matter of time."
AR Putin is as doomed as Hitler was by 1942.
We Are Nature
In the small German town of Jena in 1798, groups of young men rushed to the university auditorium to hear their new philosophy professor, Friedrich Schelling, say the self and nature are identical:
"At the first moment, when I am conscious of the external world, the consciousness of my self is there as well, and vice versa − at my first moment of self-awareness, the real world rises up before me."
Schelling, 23, was one of a group of philosophers, poets, and writers who lived and worked in Jena, including Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Alexander von Humboldt. They redefined our relationship with nature.
Schelling said everything was part of one great organism and being in nature is always also a journey into oneself. This philosophy of oneness became the heartbeat of Romanticism. The young Romantics felt a deep connection to the world around them.
Humboldt later described nature as an organism where everything was entangled in what he called "a wonderful web" of life. He was the first scientist to talk about the environmental devastation caused by monoculture and deforestation.
Schelling: "As long as I myself am identical with nature, I understand what living nature is as well as I understand myself."
AR The Romantics bridged the way from Kant to Marx.
Life Is Rare
Research suggests life in the universe is rare. Even if all potentially habitable planets do harbor life, the fraction of matter in the universe in living form is like a few grains of sand on the Gobi Desert.
Life may be even rarer than that. Our universe seems fine-tuned for the emergence of life. Perhaps our universe is but one of a huge number of universes with a wide range of values for their basic parameters. In most of those universes, these values lie outside the narrow range for life.
A similar line of thinking could explain why planet Earth has such favorable conditions for life. Many planets do not harbor life. We live on one of the few planets that have the right conditions for life. In sum, animate matter is rare in our universe and nonexistent in most possible universes.
We like to think there is only one possible universe consistent with the fundamental laws of nature. But if there were many different universes consistent with the same basic principles, our universe would be incalculable. Some basic properties of our universe would be accidents.
Life in our universe is rare, both in space and in time. This fact gives us kinship with all living things. We are the way the universe observes itself. We help give the universe meaning.
AR Meaning is a subjective thing.
2022 September 12
Ian McEwan wrote Lessons during lockdown: "It was one of the most pleasant writing experiences I've ever had. The stillness here, the long walks, writing every day, seven days a week, 10 hours a day."
Lessons thrives on the interplay between seismic global events and private lives. Roland is an alter ego whose parents, siblings, childhood, and early education are all minutely modeled on McEwan's own. On the brink of adolescence, their paths diverge. The alter ego suffers a trauma that knocks him off course.
McEwan carries himself with the easy confidence of a writer who is both a serial best seller and a darling of the critics. Calm, rational, unhurried, he fixes you with a steady eye, his gaze the physiological equivalent of his lucid, neat, economical prose. His wry good humor suggests that he's a stranger to disappointment and difficulty.
Julian Barnes on Lessons: "It's a summing up of Ian's life .. I won't say Lessons feels like a Last Novel, but it wouldn't be the worst thing if it were."
AR My copy may arrive tomorrow.
Ukrainian armed forces
Russian trash abandoned near Kharkiv
Ukrainian soldiers in Kupiansk
2022 September 11
Ukraine−Russia War: Day 200
Ukraine has regained control of the cities of Kupiansk and Izium after a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. Kupiansk is an important logistical hub for Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed the withdrawal of its troops from Izium. UKMOD says Russian forces were "likely taken by surprise" by the counteroffensive.
The liberation of Izium
The New York Times
A lightning Ukrainian offensive has reshaped the war of attrition. Russian front lines have buckled, Moscow's troops have fled, and one village after another has been retaken.
Ukrainian troops have liberated the eastern city of Izium, a strategically important railway hub that Russian forces seized in the spring. The military equipment left scattered about pointed to a hasty retreat to avoid encirclement.
The successful Ukrainian offensive is a testament to the endurance of Ukrainian troops and the shortcomings of the Russian war machine. It lifts Ukrainian morale and stymies Russian plans to annex occupied territory.
President Zelenksky: "The path to the return of our entire territory is all there. Every day it becomes clearer. We see the contours of restoring the territorial integrity of our state."
AR This is encouraging.
Subdued carnival preparations, Swanage, Saturday
2022 September 10
The End of Imperial Britain
In April 1947, Princess Elizabeth delivered a radio address from Cape Town on her 21st birthday: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service, and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
At the time, Elizabeth was the daughter of the Emperor of India. By the time she was crowned in 1953, the jewel of the empire had already gone. Yet Elizabeth II would remain a human link with the old imperial Britain.
The first Elizabethan age marked a transition between the loss of England's last continental possession (Calais, in 1558) and the foundation of its first permanent colony in the New World (Jamestown, in 1607). Britain began to establish a global merchant empire.
The second Elizabethan age began with fundamentally Victorian and Edwardian figures. Her first prime minister was Winston Churchill, who was born in 1874 and first experienced war in 1897 as a journalist covering a rebellion on the northwest frontier of British India.
Churchill had returned to power in 1951 with a pledge: "To foster commerce within the Empire we shall maintain Imperial Preference. In our home market the Empire producer will have a place second only to the home producer."
The Queen was a symbol with political resonance, an anchor tethering the UK to its past. She embodied the cultural and historical links to the former territories of the empire that helped Britain adapt to a diverse, multi-ethnic population better than most other Western countries.
The colonies won their independence, and the UK integrated with the European continent. Brexit is yet to generate the buccaneering national renewal promised in 2016. Once the reign of King Charles III is underway, a national reckoning looms.
AR Start by reading ALBION.
2022 September 9
Address to the Nation
King Charles III
Throughout her life, Her Majesty The Queen − my beloved mother − was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family. We share a deep sense of gratitude for the more than 70 years in which my mother, as Queen, served the people of so many nations.
On her 21st birthday, she pledged to devote her life, whether it be short or long, to the service of her peoples. That was a profound personal commitment which defined her whole life.
I pay tribute to my mother's memory and I honour her life of service. As the Queen herself did with such unswerving devotion, I too now solemnly pledge myself, throughout the remaining time God grants me, to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation.
I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect, and love.
String theory postulates higher-dimensional strings with D-branes as endpoints. The D0-brane is an atom of space, a graviton.
Matrix models let the atoms self-organize into a space. A quantum system contains spatial dimensions folded inside it like a figure in a pop-up book. A constructed dimension reflects a holographic order in the system where big things and small things can seem distant, stratified by scale.
A 3D universe can be dual to a 2D one, where distance is a difference in scale. When things grow or shrink, we perceive that as movement. Things interact with things of comparable size, and the effects can cascade through scales, showing how locality holds in the emergent dimension.
The coherence of a quantum system gives rise to space. Space as we know it emerges from entanglement by scale.
Black hole photon halos
The EHT team went to theorists for help interpreting their image of the black hole at the heart of Messier 87. The image was not sharp enough to see finer details, but simulated images predict a thin ring within the observed image.
Photons that make one U-turn around a black hole and then fly to us would appear as a ring of light. Photons that make two U-turns form a subring within the first ring, and so on, to give nested rings, each fainter and thinner than the last. Light from the inner subrings was captured earlier, to make a series of snapshots of the surrounding universe.
The concentric rings suggest a conformal symmetry. This is scale invariant, so each photon subring is a demagnified copy of the previous subring. A conformally symmetric system stays the same when translated in time and when all spatial coordinates are inverted, shifted, and then inverted again.
Imagine cutting out a black hole and replacing its event horizon with a surface containing a quantum system with conformal symmetry. The black hole is a holographic dual of the system. The duality maps the system on the surface to properties of spacetime and gravity in the interior.
Hitting a black hole can make it ring like a bell, with tones related by a symmetry like that relating its photon subrings. The photon ring may be part of the holographic dual of the hole and encode information about what fell into it.
AR A timelessly fascinating topic.
2022 September 8
King Charles III
The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty the Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family. We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved mother.
Pictured 2 days ago
Queen Elizabeth II has died
Liz Truss unveils £150 billion
UK energy plan but limits
to 6 months
Lessons − another review
Time and Memory
Mammalian brains maintain an internal map of space. Place cells fire when an animal is at a specific location in space and form a network that makes a spatial map of its surroundings.
Animals cannot map time with the same fluency. They can tell time and anticipate future events, but they are better equipped to navigate, sense, represent, and understand space than time.
Humans may have come to understand time better when the brain co-opted the circuits it already had to represent and understand space. We naturally moved from presentism to eternalism.
Presentism states that only the present is real, whereas the past is a gone and the future is yet to be determined. As neuroscientists say, the brain makes decisions in the present, based on memories of the past, to decide our future.
Eternalism states that the past and future are as real as the present. There is nothing special about the present, and now is to time as here is to space. Time is a dimension much like space, and the universe is a 4D block.
Most physicists and philosophers accept a block universe. If all moments in our past and future are eternally embedded within it, our perception of the flow of time is an illusion.
We can see the brain trace of a memory as a memory engram. An engram is stored within a network of connected neurons. We can make the neurons holding an engram visible.
We can study and manipulate memory engrams by activating their networks. Episodic autobiographical memory relies on the hippocampus, procedural memories are supported by the basal ganglia, and semantic memory is stored in the cortex.
We can insert a fluorescent protein into mouse brains to light up the neurons during learning. We can also use the protein ChR2 to let us turn neurons on and off with a laser. We can activate memory engram cells in lab animals.
We can record nerve impulses and use decoding algorithms to reveal patterns. Excited neurons in an area become part of an engram. These neurons briefly inhibit their neighbors from becoming part of another engram to fix the memories.
Mice with the ChR2 gene let us identify the neurons involved in learning. We can reactivate memories by shining light on the ChR2 genes of the neurons. We can even insert false memories.
We can reconstruct visual memories. We scan the brains of subjects viewing images to find active regions, then train an algorithm to predict an image from a scan.
The brain assigns an emotional valence to its input. The peptide neurotensin encodes the difference between good and bad memories. Neurons adjust their release of neurotensin to send the input down different neural pathways for good or bad memories.
Valence assignment is essential for forming emotionally charged memories. Associative memories form in the amygdala. Within the amygdala, the basolateral complex links environmental stimuli with positive or negative outcomes.
Neurotensin is involved in the processing of reward and punishment. Neurons in the thalamus produce neurotensin and project it into the amygdala. Neurotensin levels rise in the amygdala after reward learning and drop after punishment learning.
The brain is biased toward pessimism. Anxiety, addiction, and the like may arise when the bias is too negative. Neurotensin and the thalamic neurons are potential targets for drugs aimed at treating such disorders.
AR My jury is still out on the block universe.
2022 September 7
Ian McEwan: Lessons
Ian McEwan's latest novel Lessons includes a look at postwar British history. He aims to show how global events penetrate our lives and calls Lessons "a sort of post-Brexit novel."
The genial man in linen shirt and jumper, who might just as easily be an eminent scientist, has a reputation as fiction's prince of darkness. He won the Booker in 1998, wrote the novel of the 2007 movie Atonement, and features on school reading lists.
McEwan: "We had our time. My generation, when we were first publishing in the 70s, it was very boyish. It was a tight world. We're all in our 70s now. We can't complain .. We got the prizes and some money, and we had the writing life."
He started writing Lessons in 2019. All he wanted to do was stay at home and write in 2020: "I really wanted to write a long novel .. I thought, now I'm going to plunder my own life, I'm going to be shameless."
AR I hope to enjoy my Lessons.
Liz greets Liz
2022 September 6
UK Outlook Grim
Sir Anthony Seldon
Liz Truss will be heavily constrained as prime minister. Her in-tray is extremely grim economically, financially, and socially. Politically, she has a divided party and won on a slender majority.
Internationally, she faces a war in Ukraine, she needs to repair relations with the EU and show the world that Brexit meant something, and she needs to forge a relationship with the United States.
She likes big statements and would like to make history. But her premiership will be constrained by the economic, political, social, and international realities.
Britain Is still in thrall to empire
Liz Truss presents herself as the savior of a UK in crisis. She poses as a second Margaret Thatcher, but she comes over more like Enoch Powell.
Remembered for his racism, Powell proposed to achieve British dominance in global trade by resisting immigration, shrinking the state, undermining organized labor, and fostering finance.
Powell called for tax cuts, privatization, and the free movement of money. He proposed financializing the British economy by erecting borders for empire citizens but not for empire wealth.
Truss vows to increase the border force and send asylum seekers to Rwanda. She will confront the EU over the NI protocol and confront Putin over Ukraine. But on the economy, she is imperialist.
She once said the relative decline of the UK was the result of a welfare state mollycoddling workers. She still says British workers lack the "skill and application" of their foreign counterparts.
Truss would cut down the state, restrain wages, reduce red tape, and trust in the market. This is Powellism.
AR No honeymoon in sight here.
Liz Truss accepts the job
2022 September 5
Liz Truss PM
BBC News, 1238 BST
Sir Graham Brady has announced that Liz Truss has won the Conservative Party leadership race and hence will become the next prime minister of the UK.
Her back story
The Sunday Times
Liz Truss was born in July 1975 in Oxford to Priscilla, a nurse and teacher, and John, a mathematics lecturer.
When her father's junior research fellowship at Oxford University ended, he spent a couple of years as a schoolteacher in Kidderminster, then took a job at Paisley College of Technology and moved to Glasgow in 1979.
Priscilla first introduced Liz to political activism in Paisley, taking her on CND marches.
In 1987, John took a job as a one-year visiting professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada. The family then settled down in Roundhay, Leeds. It was a household of music lessons, political debate, books, and board games.
In her sixth form, Liz reportedly received extra tuition along with other Oxbridge applicants, which helped her win a place at Merton College, Oxford, to study PPE.
She matriculated in 1993. She joined the university Liberal Democrat society and became its president in 1995. On social issues she still espoused the left-wing radicalism of her parents.
Truss migrated to London after college. She worked as an economist for Shell and then Cable and Wireless, but she was soon captivated by Tory politics.
In 2000, Truss married Hugh O'Leary, an accountant. They live in Greenwich and have two daughters.
Liz Truss tells her fans: no further "handouts" to help people with the cost of living, no windfall tax, no new taxes at all, no energy rationing this winter, no lockdowns ever again. A pragmatist would see that:
• Reversing the NI rise and cutting VAT are not the targeted help we need. The former would do nothing for pensioners, while the latter misses the mark for those on low incomes.
• On top of emergency bailouts for energy bills, the extra borrowing required will hit market confidence when it is already falling.
• The privatization of energy and water has not been a roaring success for consumers, and so would look at ways of making these markets work better.
• When UK energy companies may make excess profits of up to £170 billion over this crisis, and when some elderly people will be planning to stay in bed all winter to stay warm, basic fairness begs for action.
Truss can be flexible. The young Liz thought her way into Conservatism rather than just being born into it. This is to her credit.
AR We can only hope for the best.
RAF Typhoon Display Team
Bournemouth Air Festival, September 1−4: RAF Typhoon Team
2022 September 4
Ian McEwan's 18th novel ranges widely across place and period, propelled by the memories and meditations of its central figure, Roland. Opening in 1986, it zigzags from WW2 to 2021, unrolling a panorama of momentous global happenings against which Roland's personal life is silhouetted, such as the Cuban missile crisis, the Chernobyl disaster, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Lessons traces the full cavalcade of Roland's life, from a childhood in Libya where his father was stationed; relocation from Tripoli to London and a boarding school in Suffolk; and later, the slow decline of his mother, as Roland drifts through such occupations as photographer, tennis coach, poet, researcher of quotations for greetings cards, and pianist in a Mayfair hotel.
McEwan shares a fascination with German politics as Roland sees reunification as the start of unstoppable liberal democratic progress to European unity. Toward the end, a clownish circus of "right-wing cranks determined on the fantastical project" of taking Britain out of Europe brings about what he views as a national tragedy of unreason.
The novel is far from dispiriting.
AR Hmm − I hope my ALBION is better.
2022 September 3
The central challenge to a science of consciousness is that we can never acquire direct evidence of consciousness apart from our own experience.
In the absence of a better understanding, we must assume that consciousness either arises at some point in the physical world or is fundamental in the physical world.
But what we deem to be conscious processes in nature is based solely on reportability. And work with split-brain and locked-in patients radically shifts our reliance on reportability.
Can we find conclusive evidence of consciousness from outside a system?
Is consciousness causing anything or driving any behavior?
We have no clear answer to either question. Assuming consciousness is fundamental seems a good place to start.
AR Consciousness is not physical. It is a formal condition for the necessity for experience of bringing the manifold of phenomenal sensation to the synthetic unity of apperception. Read Kant.
2022 September 2
Russia's War Addiction
Under Vladimir Putin, the Russian state has failed. His 22-year rule has been marked by constant conflict.
When Putin rose to power, he annihilated Grozny in a conflict that cost 60 000 lives. When he invaded Georgia in 2008, Russian people were told it was to protect separatist enclaves. Then he intervened in Syria to help an autocrat survive a popular revolution.
Putin's war in Ukraine began in 2014 and expanded this year. His Russian nation is sick. Hundreds of times, I have seen wives granting their husbands permission to rape Ukrainians and mothers listening as their sons told them tales of torture.
The people of Russia know what their country is doing.
AR Putin has failed and betrayed the Russian people.
Festival of Brexit Flop
The Festival of Brexit was supposed to attract 66 million visitors. But after six months, only 238 000 people have turned up.
The festival has been used to push "woke" causes, such as gender fluidity and how imperialism shaped British gardens.
Former Brexit minister David Jones: "It's clearly been hijacked by people who probably don't approve of Brexit anyway but most certainly don't share the values of most people who did vote for Brexit."
When Theresa May first announced the idea for a festival in 2018, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "A Festival of Brexit would be excellent."
Project director Martin Green asked: "Can I ascertain it's not a Brexit festival?"
Taxpayers must foot the bill: £120 million.
AR £500 per visitor for a woke joke!
First Dog on the Moon
2022 September 1
We face apocalypse. Societal collapse on a global scale is inevitable. Those who survive will live in drastically reduced circumstances.
The Land Institute founder Wes Jackson and journalist Robert Jensen say An Inconvenient Apocalypse tries to be blunt and honest about the depth of the crisis.
In their view, the dawn of agriculture was the original sin. A millennial Ponzi scheme of increasing energy use and material wealth has brought us to ecological crisis.
Jackson: "We know how Ponzi schemes tend to end. They're not nice."
In their scenario, global population shrinks from about 8 billion people to a sustainable 2−3 billion.
AIA: "A new future defined by contraction is coming."
Jensen: "We don't have a solution."
AR This scenario ignores the technical fixes that will ameliorate the apocalypse.
Antonov An-225 Mriya
BREXIT is the monster
under the bed Liz Truss
is trying to ignore
Sterling has its worst month
against the US dollar since
the 2016 aftermath of the
£1 = $1.16
2022 August 31
Panpsychism meets the hard problem of consciousness by saying the notion of a subject is superfluous and consciousness is a pervasive field.
Consciousness is felt experience. The great mystery of consciousness is why some collections of matter in the universe light up with felt experience. Either felt experience arises out of brain processing or consciousness is universal.
The autobiographical self is the story of who I am. The sense of self goes deeper than the autobiographical self and is simply the experience of being a single entity that has a precise location and is doing the experiencing.
When the basic constituents of matter form a brain, they combine to create a conscious subject. Complex and integrated information is required to produce thoughts or intentions like ours. This is the combination problem.
We know that qualia appear in the universe. We claim that qualia appear to a subject when we construct a self by connecting experienced moments of qualia via memory. The privacy of conscious experience is a perspective from within the illusion of self.
Breaking down the flow of experiences into a stream of present moments can help shift our sense of what we call subjects or selves. In each moment, new content appears and is experienced sequentially in a process. Memory then gives the illusion of a full picture.
It makes no sense to ask where my consciousness ends and yours begins. Content arises, and some of it is shared across time via memory. There is no self for which it is private.
Consciousness may be a fundamental feature of the universe like spacetime. Content may be divisible, but consciousness is not, and the combination problem is like one we might have about spacetime. Complex systems like brains give rise to configured content at locations in spacetime.
We are new selves in each new moment. I am a different self now from the self I was an hour ago because my brain is in a different state. Merged brains would share content.
The experience of a human brain confuses consciousness with the illusion of self. The combination problem is solved when the confusion is resolved.
For panpsychists, consciousness is a field pervading the universe.
AR This is good. If spacetime emerges from quantum loops, perhaps consciousness emerges from qualia, defined as quantum subject−object loops.
2022 August 30
The Guardian, 1008 UT
Germany and France warn against a ban on tourist visas for Russians. The topic will be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague on Tuesday and Wednesday. EU defense ministers in Prague are likely to agree on organizing joint military training missions for Ukrainian troops.
EU top diplomat Josep Borrell: "The situation on the ground continues to be very bad. Ukraine needs our support, and we will continue providing support."
Russia's Gazprom is reducing its gas deliveries to France, starting Tuesday.
Ukrainian troops are mounting a counteroffensive in the southern region of Kherson. President Zelensky: "If they want to survive, it is time for the Russian military to flee."
A UN team of nuclear inspectors arrived in Kyiv on Monday. The IAEA team will visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The Kremlin has ruled out vacating the site. Ukraine says Russian forces fired at the city where it is located.
A senior US official says Russia has faced numerous failures with Iranian-made drones acquired from Tehran this month.
Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to fight in Ukraine and has expanded recruitment efforts by eliminating the upper age limit and by tapping into prisons.
AR Some progress, but still deeply depressing.
2022 August 29
A mimosa plant folds its leaves when they are touched. If you put one into a sealed chamber with a dose of anesthetic, it will eventually stop doing this.
Diethyl ether works well. Lidocaine is also effective when applied at the roots. If you attach electrodes to the leaves at the same time, you will see that the waves of electrical activity that usually spread through the plants are suppressed.
Paco Calvo thinks plants may live in a state of awareness that is shut off by anesthetics.
At his lab, his team photographs a climbing bean plant once a minute to capture its movements as it grows and searches for supports. At the same time, they monitor its internal electrical signaling activity using electrodes and biosensors. The experiments show the bean behavior is accompanied by spikes in electrical activity.
Sentience is the capacity to experience sensations and feelings. It is mediated through electrical activity, and plants produce a lot of electrical activity in their vascular tissues. They also use many of the signaling molecules seen in animals.
Calvo believes plants possess something like sentience.
AR I think an analog of consciousness extends throughout the tree of life. It may be brightest in humans − but then again maybe not.
2022 August 28
Russia Avoids Economic Collapse
Russia is bogged down in a war of attrition and its economy is in deep recession. China and India help it by importing its oil. Western sanctions hurt it by targeting its energy exports and financial system.
The ruble crashed to a record low against the US dollar earlier this year but has bounced back to its strongest level since 2018. The Russian central bank predicts inflation at 12−14% for 2022 and expects GDP to shrink by 4−6%.
Russia's revenues from selling oil and gas to Europe have surged despite declining volumes. Between January and July, China increased its seaborne imports of Russian crude by 40% over last year. India's seaborne imports from Russia are up by more than 17 times over the same period. Russia is also exporting more gas to China via pipeline.
Global inflation has pushed the Russian standard of living at PPP back about 10 years. To offset this, the Russian government is raising pensions and the minimum wage.
Technology sanctions hurt Russian economic prospects. The collapse of Russian semiconductor imports will set back Russian manufacturers.
The Russian military machine has come unstuck in Ukraine. Observers see incompetence that makes Russia look weak. Loyalists tow the official line but are losing confidence.
The Soviet Union was brought down when the regime was delegitimized by its failures. Communities with radically different views were all unwilling to preserve the status quo. Those communities may now agree that the current regime is not up to the job.
Putin needs a victory to justify the war. He responds to its challenges with empty edicts rather than practical policies. His Kremlin is becoming ever less credible.
AR Western economies are suffering pain to inflict it.
2022 August 27
General relativity and quantum mechanics give rise to problems when we try to use them together in such situations as the center of a black hole.
To make quantum mechanics more compatible with general relativity, I propose that we try treating space and time on an equal footing.
In relativity, time is interwoven with space. In quantum mechanics, it is a separate entity, a series of steps through which interactions evolve.
Quantum entanglement can exist between not just objects in space but also between the states of the same object at two different times.
We can describe the behaviour of quantum objects across all spacetime at once. The fundamental dynamics are the same.
Time is relative in this account and depends on the observer. Looking at two descriptions of a position in spacetime, you cannot always say which happens first.
If we think of spacetime as an entangled web of quantum events, perhaps we can unify quantum theory with general relativity.
Experiments with qubits illustrate our approach. We can measure the qubits at multiple times and calculate the quantum state we are probing across both space and time.
Anything we can calculate in the standard approach to quantum physics we can also calculate in our spacetime version.
Any quantum uncertainty between space and time prevents space and time from both contracting to precisely zero at the center of a black hole.
AR This looks good, but it's Einstein's block universe again, with no accommodation for the epistemological dimension that quantum stories seem to need.
2022 August 26
David Christian proposed Big History in 1991. His idea was to situate human history within a narrative that stretched back to the Big Bang and forward into the future. He focused on the big picture.
Three decades later, Bill Gates sees its educational potential. The Big History Project is an online course that provides free resources for teaching Big History in schools.
Christian says Big History is a modern creation myth or an origin story. It offers the deep meaning typically associated with religion. Science provides its mythic meaning.
The narrative traces the interplay of energy and evolution. Big History has eight thresholds: the Big Bang, stars and galaxies, new chemical elements, the Earth and solar system, life on Earth, the human species, agriculture, and the Anthropocene epoch.
These thresholds stem from recent advances in science. Energy flows connect all things, from cosmic dust to earthworms. There is also some speculation.
Humans are both products of nature and shapers of natural processes, so we barely fit in the frame. A moralizing dimension asks us to take responsibility for shaping the future.
AR Recall Yuval Noah Harari.
2022 August 25
Nuclear catastrophe is a real risk. Putin hints at using nuclear weapons in his war. Mistakes happen.
Countries are meeting this week at the UN to renew the nuclear NPT. These talks offer a chance to breathe new life into nuclear disarmament.
New Zealand calls on the nuclear weapons states to step back from the abyss and negotiate a new multilateral nuclear disarmament framework.
There is a lot at stake in New York this week. We need to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
AR I back the NZ push.
Putin's war in Ukraine is helping the EU evolve into a sovereign political power.
Europe has developed a strong and stable single currency. Since the sovereign debt crisis, the EZ has strengthened its financial system and monetary tools.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, beyond implementing sanctions against Moscow, the EU is acquiring a new dimension in defence.
The EU will establish energy sovereignty on a sustainable footing and support investments in digital technology, health, hydrogen, and semiconductors.
The EU affirms its identity as a democratic power anchored in the rule of law. There will be no compromise on free elections or independent justice.
The EU must become an anchor of stability for the European continent.
AR I say UK must rejoin EU.
Excess profits of the oil and gas industry amount to $3 billion every day for the past 50 years: $1 trillion a year taken from consumers worldwide.
Cartels dominate the oil and gas industry. The power of Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Mobil, Texaco, BP, and Gulf led to the formation of OPEC by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and others. This year, Russian manipulation has sent gas prices through the roof.
Ending the power of big oil via market reform may be impossible. But we know how to escape the grip of fossil fuels: Stop using them.
AR I say bust the trust.
PM Johnson meets President
Zelensky in Kyiv: Ukraine
awards Johnson the
Order of Liberty
2022 August 24
A European war has begun. European politicians closed their eyes to reality in 2014. Voters wanted peace, but it is already too late.
Putin will die, but Holy Russia goes on. If other peoples bow before the autocrat in Moscow, the population that sheds its blood for the fatherland feels blessed by God.
The masses will see military failures or the loss of even a small part of the Holy Land as clear signs that the tsar is not blessed. Putin legitimized his presidency by regaining Crimea, but his legitimacy is evaporating today in Ukraine.
The next tsar will be an actor who cannot change his role. His role is written by the entire Russian power structure. If the Russian quality of life deteriorates, so be it. The regime never cared much about the happiness of the people.
The free world is not fighting a mad dictator but an autonomous and aggressive power system. Russian autocracy has been preserved by history for centuries. And now the Russian Federation is shedding its skin once more.
Before WW2, people wanted peace. Voters hoped their governments in France and Britain would pursue a policy of peace with Hitler. What followed is history.
European voters must steel themselves for great sacrifice and hardship. That is the price we must pay for peace.
AR This is the bitter truth. But Ukraine is wrong about Johnson: Brexit encouraged Putin by breaking ranks in free Europe.
Space and time may emerge from something more fundamental. Figuring out this emergence may be the key to a theory of everything.
In string theory, strings are fundamental and give rise to gravity. Much of string theory is uncharted, but we can make progress with mathematical dualities.
Try to curl a dimension into a tiny space, and string theory says we get what looks like a world where that dimension is huge instead. The two worlds are dual in string theory.
Juan Maldacena uncovered a duality between a conformal field theory (CFT) and anti−de Sitter space (AdS). AdS/CFT duality links a quantum theory and a spacetime with gravity.
The AdS space is one dimension up from the CFT. This is an example of the holographic principle, where the properties of a region of space are fully encoded by its boundary. In the AdS/CFT duality, the CFT boundary encodes everything about the AdS space.
Space emerges from quantum entanglement. In quantum theory, interacting objects get entangled for so long as they remain isolated from outside, independently of distance.
In the AdS/CFT duality, any two nearby regions of AdS space correspond to two highly entangled CFT entities. More entangled regions are closer together. Entanglement holds the space together.
The AdS/CFT duality shows how spacetime might emerge from a quantum system, or vice versa. Its presumption of AdS space and supersymmetry is unrealistic for our world.
In loop quantum gravity, atoms of spacetime are linked in a network to form a spin foam. Our world emerges from the foam.
AR This review reinforces various earlier posts.
Webb IR view of Jupiter
Supermassive black holes power galaxies. Gravity draws dust and gas inward to the galactic center, where it forms a swirling accretion disk of hot plasma around the black hole. The black hole engulfs it and spits energy back out. This feedback affects star formation rates and gas flow patterns throughout the galaxy.
The black holes power active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Stellar feedback occurs when a star explodes as a supernova and has effects like AGN feedback on a smaller scale. Both stellar feedback and AGN feedback shape the Milky Way.
The more massive a galaxy is, the more massive its central black hole. AGN feedback offers a way to connect the black hole to the galaxy at large. Supermassive black holes power the luminous jets observed in quasars.
A black hole gets brighter as it eats mass. This blows gas outward until the pressure stops gas falling in. A big galaxy presses down harder on gas blowing outward, and so the black hole grows bigger.
Energetic radiation gives AGNs their bright glow. Magnetic fields cause matter to fly out from the accretion disk either as diffuse galactic winds or in powerful narrow jets.
Huge bubbles of X-rays and gamma rays stretch out above and below the Milky Way. They may come from the AGN jets. AGN and stellar feedback intertwine with the circumgalactic medium.
A new project will use nested simulations to build a model of how gas flows through the Milky Way and the nearby active galaxy Messier 87.
AR The picture is shaping up nicely.
2022 August 23
Russian Paratrooper Speaks
Russian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev spoke out against the Ukraine war, then fled Russia.
He says his fellow troops are tired, hungry, and disillusioned: "We understood that we were dragged into a serious conflict where we are simply destroying towns and not actually liberating anyone .. We are just destroying peaceful lives."
His unit was based in Crimea and sent to Ukraine early in the conflict. The soldiers and their commanders did not know what they were expected to do in Ukraine. They soon became disillusioned after arriving in Kherson and facing resistance from locals.
Filatyev was injured and evacuated. He says the Russian army lacks the basics: "Our barracks are about 100 years old and are not able to host all of our servicemen .. Several days after we encircled Kherson, many of us did not have any food, water, or sleeping sacks."
Filatyev: "I think this is the worst, stupidest thing our government could have done."
AR He's right − suicidal for Putin, ruinous for Russia.
European Economic Outlook
UK contraction forecast
Growth in UK economic activity has slowed more than expected to an 18-month low.
S&P Global: "The UK private sector moved closer to stagnation in August, as mild growth of activity across the service sector only just offset a deepening downturn at manufacturers."
Capital Economics expects a recession in Q3 after the UK economy contracted in Q2. The Bank of England forecasts a recession that leaves UK GDP smaller by 2025 Q3 than before the pandemic.
EZ contraction forecast
Eurozone business activity has suffered its biggest contraction for 18 months.
German businesses reported their biggest reversal of activity for more than 2 years. Pantheon Macroeconomics expects German GDP to fall in Q3 and then go into recession.
S&P Global says the data point to an EZ economy in contraction during Q3.
Brexit has failed
Clár Ní Chonghaile
Jacob Rees-Mogg: "As a supporter of Liz Truss to become prime minister I am a strong advocate of the benefit of tax cuts to the economy and to the British consumer."
Given inflation, tax cuts will require increased borrowing to restore benefits and pensions.
JRM: "The trade border is one example of how government efficiency eases inflation .. the government suspended the expensive physical checks on incoming goods from the European Union to address the rising cost of food. As well as saving officials at the border time and resources, this measure has also saved businesses in the wider economy at least £1 billion in avoided costs."
So not implementing Brexit reduces inflation and raises government efficiency.
Truss throws red meat
As Conservative MPs ponder what a Truss government would look like, many fear the agenda that gave her pole position in the race could repel the swing voters they need.
Liz Truss promises to reverse the NI increase and ditch the scheduled corporation tax rise. But two-thirds of voters say she would be wrong to prioritise tax cuts over tackling the cost of living.
She will need to offer more help beyond tax cuts. Critics say the state of public finances means she must choose between tax cuts and help for those who need it.
AR Problems all around, but Brexit deepens them.
Philosopher Alexander Dugin
urged Putin to kill Ukrainians
2022 August 22
What Does Putin Want?
We need to agree on why Putin decided to invade Ukraine. Only then can we define victory or defeat for either side.
Putin was said to be terrified at the prospect of a democratic Ukraine, which would threaten his power by showing Russians a new model. But most Russians would be unmoved.
The invasion was also portrayed as an imperialist land grab. But the Russian military is already struggling in Ukraine. An attack on the Baltic states or Poland would bring them into direct conflict with NATO, which no one wants.
Putin expressed outrage in 1994 that Crimea was joined to Ukraine. The idea raised in 2008 that Ukraine should join NATO was too much for him.
In 2014, he annexed Crimea. Then he fomented a separatist revolt in the Donbas. Then he launched his war on Ukraine. He aims to neuter the regime in Kyiv and show NATO cannot stop him.
Whether he succeeds will depend on western support for Ukraine over the winter. All he needs to claim victory is control of the Donbas and the land bridge to Crimea.
A geopolitical transition has begun that may take decades. A new balance of power will emerge.
AR Putin is the canary for Xi and China to test the air for their bid for undisputed global hegemony before the decade is out. The western liberal order is overdue for a historic fall in their Marxist view of the geopolitical dynamic on Earth.
2022 August 21
The biggest thing the US government does with businesses is subsidize them.
Joe Biden's biggest first-term accomplishments include the Chips and Science Act (with $76 billion of subsidies and tax credits), the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ($550 billion of new spending), and now the Inflation Reduction Act (more than $300 billion for energy and climate reform, including $30 billion in subsidies to manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines).
The Trump administration delivered billions in subsidies to Covid vaccine manufacturers. The Obama administration subsidized the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries and spent hundreds of billions bailing out the financial industry, GM, and Chrysler.
Before Reagan, instead of subsidizing these industries and sectors, the US government would have regulated them.
We have seen a big change in the balance of power between large corporations and the government. Today the government cannot demand that corporations bear the costs of public goods. Government must bribe them instead.
The shift in power to big corporations has transformed industrial policy.
AR I remarked on this change in my 2010 book on Globorg.
Peveril Point on Saturday (for more, click pic)
2022 August 20
We normally say the proton contains two up quarks and one down quark. But quantum theory predicts a chance that other quark-antiquark pairs pop up inside the proton.
We now find that a small part of proton momentum, around 0.5%, comes from the charm quark. A team used a machine learning model to test proton structures with different quark flavors and compared them with collision data from decades of accelerator experiments.
The team checked recent LHC results against model stats of proton momentum with or without a charm quark. They found a better match for protons with charm.
AR Not too surprising.
2022 August 19
Readers argue over whether to give up on a dull book or to plough through. It is tempting to blame Twitter. But social media are just the latest tools of distraction rather than something newly rotten.
Alternative entertainment might be one reason Americans read fewer books in 2021 than at any time since 1990. My difficulty stemmed from the pandemic. I turned to TV, and it became my escape.
In its early days, prestige TV was likened to novels to lift the form from its lowly status in a cultural hierarchy. Literary fiction encourages empathy and critical thinking, but so does television drama.
In a world of breaking news, it is restful to control the flow of information. Elegantly crafted words are a thing of beauty, but most novels are not high art. Sometimes television may be better.
AR The brilliant shards of philosophy in ALBION would be lost in a TV adaptation.
2022 August 18
Translating our theories of reality into the mathematical language of the octonions could solve deep problems in physics and help us toward a theory of everything.
The square root of −1, i, when combined with real numbers, gives us complex numbers. Think of complex numbers as being 2D. Two more roots, j and k, give us the quaternions, 4D numbers. The octonions form an 8D number system.
Real numbers, complex numbers, quaternions, and octonions are collectively known as the normed division algebras. They are the only sets of numbers that support addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Quantum theory relies on complex numbers. And the mathematical structure of general relativity can be expressed elegantly by the quaternions. But the octonions were called the graveyard of theoretical physics.
Internal symmetry refers to certain abstract properties in physics. Quantum particles are defined by such numbers as their mass, charge, and spin. These symmetries define the structure of the standard model.
Internal symmetries are central to the quest for a wider theory. Back when the universe was much hotter, we think some forces that are now distinct were unified. As the universe cooled, some of the symmetries broke.
Each different epoch requires a different model with its own symmetries. These models are nested like Russian dolls.
A candidate for the outermost doll has 45 symmetries. Inside it is one with 21 symmetries, then one with 15 symmetries, then the standard model with 12 symmetries. Each doll fits the experimental evidence. But we can't say why symmetries break in this order.
Nichol Furey and Mia Hughes have built an algebraic system describing a set of octonions, specified by quaternions, specified by complex numbers, specified by a set of real numbers.
Their formulation exposes these Russian doll layers. When some numbers involved in the complex, quaternion, and octonion formulations are swapped from positive to negative, or vice versa, some of the symmetries change and some don't. Only the ones that don't are found in the next layer down. Furey calls this division-algebraic reflection.
This is an octonionic link between general relativity and quantum theory. These ideas might help us find a theory of everything.
AR I love this idea − see blog 2018-07-23.
2022 August 17
The UK is in trouble as food and fuel prices soar and people fear the future.
As Britain bakes, water reservoirs are drying up and the NHS is close to meltdown. Railway and postal workers, dockers, doctors, and teachers are angry. The police are failing, courts have big backlogs, and ambulances arrive too late. Care homes and nurseries lack staff. Fruit and vegetables rot in fields. Passports take months to renew. Travel is a nightmare.
The coming winter promises millions of people destitute and risks blackouts, industrial strife, civil disobedience, and social unrest.
Tory party members are selecting the next PM. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss vie to be the deepest tax cutter, the most hostile to Brussels, the harshest on asylum seekers, the greatest scourge of woke.
Unfunded tax cuts will help the rich, not the poorest. Truss dismisses help for the poor, badmouths the EU, disparages wind and solar farms, antagonizes the Scots, and attacks the civil service.
Neither candidate dare tell hard truths. Neither dare admit that Brexit is not a triumph, or that public life needs moral regeneration. Neither offers fresh ideas on the crises in health and social care, energy dependency, low educational standards, or poor infrastructure.
All the while, the public grows ever more fed up with it all.
2022 August 16
Being a scientist is about being curious about our natural world. With CRISPR, we can imagine doing things with life that have never happened in nature but now are possible because we can alter the DNA at will. That is a profound thing.
I think CRISPR will have an impact in the next few years. We will see it used to mitigate some of the effects of climate change and probably for things like diagnostics. In the longer term, there will be CRISPR-based therapies or preventive treatments.
We can use CRISPR in the human germ line. Changes in embryos could create human beings who have edits to their DNA that not only affect them but can also be passed on to future generations. This could have profound and possibly dangerous impacts.
Given the complexities of using genome editing in different settings, it is hard to imagine enforcing global regulation. Global scientific entities can study the issues and make formal recommendations, then work with government agencies.
AR See The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson.
2022 August 15
Boosterism and Bluster
Liz Truss is "an optimist about the future of this country" who is "completely unapologetic about being optimistic" and says: "I don't agree with this declinist talk."
Boosterism is damaging. Given dire economic news, it looks like politicians are out of touch. As millions look ahead to catastrophe and destitution, bromides about sunlit uplands are jarring.
A blinkered determination to see silver linings can blind our leaders to gathering clouds. Those venturing concerns or asking for more detail are dismissed as doomsters and accused of "talking our country down" as if their concerns were treason.
When you say your opponents are simply Project Fear merchants, you can ignore them. Truss: "I know there are difficult forecasts out there, but forecasts are not destiny. And what we shouldn't be doing is talking ourselves into a recession."
Boosterism risks making belief a substitute for action. The idea that believing in something strongly enough can make it happen has been big in recent decades. Tory members seem to like it.
Hope wins, as any electoral strategist will tell you. Yet how I long for the astringent tang of realism. Optimism not rooted in reality is just boosterism and bluster.
AR Recall the speech by Dr Goebbels at the Berliner Sportpalast in February 1943.
2022 August 14
The Rushdie Attack
Salman Rushdie was stabbed repeatedly at a literary event on free speech in America. Ayatollah Khomeini had imposed a fatwa on him in 1989 for his novel The Satanic Verses.
Western liberals have worked over 30 years to assist the ayatollah in dismantling free speech, sending fear through those who dare to criticise or ridicule religion or anything else.
We like to think we have free speech, but we lack even its pale imitation. People throughout the West desist from speaking out on sensitive issues for fear of the consequences.
To avoid giving offence to minority groups, we have committed grievous offences against free speech. As Rushdie lies injured, we continue to sleepwalk toward disaster.
AR Islam is an unsolved problem for the West.
Poole Quay on Sunday
Truss Plan Ruinous Nonsense
Liz Truss plans to govern from the hard right. She plans to be the uncompromising representative of the Brexiteer wing of the Tory party. It will end in failure.
Her stated aim is economic growth of 2.5%. She plans to cut taxes, revoke business regulation, scrap all EU-derived laws, impose "British" regulation, create low-tax investment zones, and manage inflation by interfering in the Bank of England.
She sees no need for the state to lead in the energy, public health, water, and farming systems to support business and civil society. She fails to see that a modern economy is built on knowledge, intellectual property, and digitisation, for which smart regulation is basic.
She does not see that city regions and the institutions and processes that support them are motors for growth. As British exports stagnate, she does not see trade as a propellant of growth. The UK is locked out of its largest markets in Europe.
Revoking the national insurance rise, stopping the corporation tax rise, and retaining the freeze on personal allowances will forgo tax revenue and achieve nothing.
Despite successive cuts in the UK corporation tax rate, private business investment remains at the bottom of the G7. The key driver of investment is not the tax rate but confidence.
The Tory planners are ignorant about the enterprise revolution. What stops entrepreneurs in the UK is the lack of an ecosystem to foster growing companies.
The planned supply-side reforms would remove employment protection in the least regulated labour market in the OECD, permit fracking, and scrap incentives to go green.
As for blaming the Bank of England for inflation, get a life.
The plan is ruinous nonsense.
AR A socialist government would do better.
Drought declared in
most of England
2022 August 13
AI Learning Over Time
Humans learn over time, but our AI algorithms learn only during training. To teach them anything new, we must train them again from scratch. To avoid catastrophic forgetting, we replay past experiences during training.
In veridical replay, we store a subset of the raw inputs and mix them in with new images to be learned. Or we replay compressed representations of the old images. In generative replay, an ANN generates a synthetic experience and mixes it with new examples.
To learn something new, the ANN stores something about every concept it learned in the past. We think humans replay recent experiences to prevent forgetting them. To use replay, an ANN must store something about every task it learned in the past.
We aim in continual learning to make a better learner. We want to know how past learning makes future learning more efficient and how learning something in the future corrects past learnings.
In standard machine learning, we have a training set and a test set, and we train on the training set and test on the test set. In continual learning, the training set evolves as the learner learns.
AR Supplement to post below.
2022 August 12
Self-Taught AI and the Brain
To train AI systems using labeled data, human supervisors are needed to add the labels. Neural networks can now be trained with little or no labeled data with self-supervised learning algorithms modeling human language and image recognition.
SS learning algorithms leave gaps in the data and ask the NN to fill in the blanks. In a language model, the training algorithm shows the NN the first few words of a sentence and asks it to predict the next word. When trained with a lot of text, the model learns the syntactic structure of the language.
In computer vision, an SS encoder randomly masks images and turns the unmasked portions into latent representations. A decoder then converts the representations back into full images. The SS learning algorithm trains the encoder-decoder combination to turn masked images into their full versions.
In such systems, we can see echoes of how we learn. Biological brains continually make predictions, just as an SS learning algorithm predicts the gap in an image or a segment of text. The algorithms help show us how brains work.
AR This is major progress.
Planet Labs PBC/AP
Destroyed Russian aircraft at Saky airbase in Crimea after explosions there on Tuesday
2022 August 11
Russian Failures in War with Ukraine
An internal Ukrainian government report says Russian weapons recovered from the battlefield are unreliable and do not meet modern requirements. The Kalibr cruise missile has only a 1 in 3 chance of hitting its target. About 1 in 3 of the missiles used hit civilian objects. Another missile has an accuracy of 1 in 2.
The Grad is an MLRS that can fire 40 rockets in under 20 s. It is imprecise but can cause damage in towns. The 80 Grad rockets launched overnight at Marhanets in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine killed 13 civilians and injured 11 people.
The Pantsir AAMS is unable to fight swarms of drones and lacks protection against air strikes. Ukrainian defenders say it cannot cope when they send decoy drones with attack drones.
Russia suffered heavy losses in Crimea on Tuesday when explosions destroyed an airbase. Ukrainian sources will not confirm that the attack was carried out by Ukrainian special forces. Satellite imagery from the morning before the attack showed at least 30 Russian planes out on the tarmac, close to fuel and exposed munitions.
AR No surprises for me in this analysis.
American Losses in War with China
A war between China and the United States over Taiwan would lead to devastating losses of US warships and aircraft.
A naval battle for Taiwan could prompt the combined US and Japanese navies and air forces to sink up to 150 Chinese amphibious and other surface ships, but it would succeed in defending Taiwan only at an "extremely high" cost, say former Pentagon and US Navy officials and other experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The CSIS analysis will not be published in full until December, but in 18 of the 22 wargames completed so far, PLA ballistic missiles were predicted to sink a large proportion of the US and Japanese fleets and destroy up to 900 US fighter and attack aircraft − about half of all USAF and US Navy combat planes − in four weeks.
CSIS senior adviser Marc Cancian: "However, allied air and naval counterattacks [would] hammer the exposed Chinese amphibious and surface fleet, eventually sinking about 150 ships."
China has an anti-access, area-denial (A2D2) strategy to deter US aircraft carrier strike groups from entering its coastal region in a time of war. During the latest PLA military aggression against Taiwan, the US Navy 7th Fleet was on duty in the Indo-Pacific region but stayed away from Taiwan.
Cancian: "The US will need to strengthen its position enough to deter China or to win the war without experiencing high attrition."
AR Such a war would be catastrophic for both sides.
Human Folly in War with Earth
Justin Gregg: "If Nietzsche had been born a narwhal, the world might never have had to endure the horrors of the Second World War or the Holocaust."
Gregg derides the human obsession with causal inference. Nonhuman animals get by just fine on learned associations. They link actions with results, without seeking to understand why something is happening. Humans look for causal connections.
Gregg is an expert in dolphin communication. He shows how complex human cognition allows us to paint pictures and write symphonies. We can share ideas with one another.
Gregg says human intelligence has empowered us to wreak ecological havoc and risk our own extinction. He says we'd be happier and healthier if we followed the lead of nonhuman animals.
AR Our minds are our crowning glory.
My village this morning, awaiting a heatwave
Olivia Newton-John, 1977
2022 August 10
Britain Faces Crisis Upon Crisis
Recent UK governments have prepared us for none of the great predicaments we face. Around half of the population could be pushed into fuel poverty this winter, but Liz Truss pledges to scrap the green levies funding energy efficiency and renewable electricity.
The UK faces a choice not only between fossil fuel profits or a habitable planet, but also between fossil fuel profits and habitable homes. Energy bills, coupled with punitive rents, rising inflation, and stagnant wages and benefits could mean destitution for millions.
Ten years ago next month, Liz Truss, Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, and Chris Skidmore launched Britannia Unchained, a semi-literate polemic that blamed everything going wrong in the UK on "a diminished work ethic and a culture of excuses" and laziness: "Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world."
The authors celebrated the "black-market buccaneers" who in other countries have created "a lawless place" where demand is met by supply. After their years in government, we face looming stagflation and a recession deeper than elsewhere.
AR Britain is badly governed.
2022 August 9
Putin and Ukraine
Through the coming months, we all need to maintain our outrage that towns are shelled indiscriminately, that rape and violence are used systematically, that a nuclear disaster is risked deliberately, and not let our attention wander from the immensity of what is at stake.
AR Nagasaki, 77 years ago today.
PLA pilot on a combat training exercise near Taiwan on Sunday
2022 August 8
China vs Taiwan
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has announced new military drills around Taiwan. Beijing's defence ministry has also shelved military talks with the US in protest against Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei last week.
Last week, the PLA targeted Taiwan with days of major live-fire exercises, scheduled to end on Sunday. On Monday, China's Eastern Theatre Command announced it would conduct joint drills focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations. A total of 21 PLA aircraft entered Taiwan's air defense zone on Monday.
AR At least Xi hasn't launched a full-on assault like his friend Putin.
Brexiteers vs Net Zero
In the Conservative leadership contest, the menace of climate change barely merits a mention. Reticence now cedes vital ground to the forces that drove Brexit.
Nigel Farage has launched Vote Power Not Poverty, a campaign demanding a referendum on Net Zero plans. Former European Research Group rebel Steve Baker MP is now chairman of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of climate rebels.
These forces have a clear "us versus them" message, the best political campaigner in the UK, deep wells of oil and gas money, and helpfully irritating opponents. Prime minister Truss or Sunak may be tempted to make concessions to placate them.
The fusion of populism and Euroscepticism snowballed into a mighty political force. The fusion of populism and climate scepticism will gain in power as recession bites and green investment becomes politically difficult.
In a referendum, the British public may reject the idea of meaningful action and make another great leap toward global irrelevance.
AR No referendum without new Brexit referendum first.
2022 August 7
UK access to nature minister Lord Benyon owns a gigantic Berkshire estate. Protesters call on him to open it to the public.
Benyon was involved in a review that looked at broadening access to the countryside, but the review was shelved. Just 8% of English land has free access, including coastal paths and moorlands, and campaigners want more.
The almost 5 kha Englefield estate has long been in the Benyon family and contains land that was once a common.
Right to Roam
Right to Roam champions our right to access English land, not just the measly 8% of it we're legally entitled to.
Young people in an English city have more freedom to roam, to explore their environment, than they do in the countryside.
We need green open spaces to feel human. Nature deficit disorder is a problem. The NHS faces an unprecedented mental health crisis, yet the countryside is reserved as an annex for the rich.
Right to Roam wants to see green belts, rivers, downland, and woodland made open to everyone.
AR Access to natural scenery is a human right.
German family secretary Anne Spiegel resigned following a scandal. She said she was doing so to prevent damage to the office. German politicians often say that when forced out.
The House of Commons may seem exemplary for a democracy. But the PMQ show is too theatrical. On other days of the week, Commons debates are very sparsely attended.
Brexit Britain is moving toward the US model, where voters can only choose between red and blue. In Germany, the party shelf has a variety of colors. The British aversion to coalitions is puzzling.
A traffic-light coalition is exhausting for those involved because they need to compromise. But their compromises reflect social diversity. British politicians should take note.
AR Britain needs coalition culture.
Swanage seafront, midway on my Saturday hike (30 km)
2022 August 6
If Putin Faces Defeat, He May Go Nuclear
General Sir Richard Barrons
Putin is expected to annex occupied territory in Donbas next month. The war in Ukraine will probably continue for years.
Ukraine aims to throw the Russians back behind the eastern bank of the Dnieper and talks of creating an army of up to one million. Every new soldier will need basic kit such as a uniform and a weapon. They will also need aircraft, missiles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and thousands of tons of ammunition.
Logistics will drive strategy. The West can either provide the money and material to help Ukraine create an offensive military power or see the war end with Russian annexation now and more aggression later. Helping Ukraine to fight Russia is better than mobilizing NATO to fight a general war with Russia.
If Russia is thrown back so far that he senses strategic defeat, he is likely to employ tactical nuclear weapons.
AR Reminder: 77 years ago today, Hiroshima saw up to 146 kilodeaths from a weapon of 15 kilotons.
2022 August 5
Proof That Black Holes Are Stable
Elena Giorgi, Sergiu Klainerman, and Jérémie Szeftel (GKS) have proved that slowly rotating Kerr black holes are stable.
Most explicit solutions to Einstein's equations are stationary. To assess stability, we perturb the black hole and then track what happens to the solution as time ticks by.
GKS asked what happens when a black hole is met by gravitational waves. Perhaps a wave crosses the event horizon and enters the interior. The black hole mass and rotation may change but leave the black hole intact. Or the waves could swirl around and dissipate.
Or the waves could create havoc by combining outside the event horizon and forming a separate singularity. The spacetime outside the black hole would then be too warped for the Kerr solution.
GKS first assumed the opposite of what they hoped to prove, then extended the Kerr solution beyond the assumed maximum time. They showed that any maximum time can always be extended, contradicting the assumption and proving stability.
We guess that in the deep future the universe will evolve into a finite number of Kerr black holes drifting apart.
AR General relativity is vindicated again.
2022 August 4
Brexit Blowback 4 Britain
British politicians talk about Brexit as if it will all be fine. But the proportion of Brits who think Brexit has made daily life worse has gone up from 30% in June 2021 to 45% now. Problems:
1 Labour shortages: Brits now face long waits and long queues. The shortage of workers extends from pubs to hospitals to adult social care. The UK needs more and more care workers, but Brexit has made things worse by excluding many European care workers.
2 Food shortages: Hunger is becoming a problem in Britain. Empty shelves in supermarkets are now a part of everyday life. Farmers who grow fruit and crops and need help at harvest time cannot find enough British workers. Food importers face a bureaucratic nightmare. The UK has postponed Brexit controls on EU food imports, but when they begin, importing will get even harder.
3 Business hurdles: Between 2020 and 2021, British exports to the rest of Europe fell by 14%. Covid was part of that, but the plunge was also due to paperwork for almost every product shipped between UK and EU markets and checks on thousands of goods daily, as well as a sudden mess of VAT, import duties, and raised transport charges.
4 Long queues: The Port of Dover left people trying to get to the continent stranded in hours-long queues. British travelers now wait to get their passports stamped, instead of being waved through. Spanish border staff now ask British arrivals for proof of a return plane ticket, where they are staying, and proof that they can spend at least £85 a day.
5 Economic doldrums: EU GDP per head has grown by 8.5% since Brexit, but the UK figure is 3.8%. The UK is now behind all the other G7 nations in its recovery from the pandemic. Brexit is expected to cut GDP by 4% compared with remaining in the EU. In 2021 Q3, England and Scotland showed tiny GDP growth, and Wales zero, but thanks to EU trade, Northern Ireland did much better.
6 High inflation: The UK has the highest inflation rate of any country in the G7. The war in Ukraine and pandemic issues are sending prices soaring across the world, but the UK also has Brexit. The weaker pound increases import prices and raise company costs. Limits on foreign workers hit bottom lines and hinder continental supply chains.
7 Universities punished: Between 2020 and 2021, the number of students from EU countries coming to the UK fell by 40%. European academics are reluctant to work in the UK when teaching and research depend on people being free to move from one institution to another, often with their families. British involvement in Horizon Europe may end.
8 Artists impoverished: For musicians, actors, and other people who work on stage, Brexit imposes a nasty tangle of rules, demands, and fees they never faced before.
AR Untergang GB.
2022 August 3
Gamma Ray Bursts
Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) from the distant universe may provide a new way to measure cosmic distances. They come from supernova explosions or colliding neutron stars.
Studies of 500 GRBs found 179 with an afterglow after the main explosion, probably caused by neutron stars with predictable properties. We can use these GRBs as standard candles.
We need to know how far away the most distant galaxies are to calculate how fast the universe is expanding, represented by the Hubble constant. GRBs could help.
AR Good − we need remote standard candles.
2022 August 2
New Quantum Duality
There is a formula for the amplitudes for the probability of two gluons colliding to produce four gluons and a formula for two gluons colliding to produce a gluon and a Higgs boson. The formulas give strikingly similar amplitudes.
Researchers calculated the two amplitudes at progressively higher levels of precision until they were sure it was a new duality. This antipodal duality arises in a simplified theory of the interactions, but a similar duality may hold in the real world.
An antipode map inverts the order of the terms in a code used to calculate the amplitude. Applying this antipode map to all the terms in the scattering amplitude for two gluons becoming four yields the amplitude for two gluons becoming one gluon plus a Higgs.
The antipodal duality maps the terms allowed in a scattering amplitude into a set of rules that ensure causality. This hints at a deeper physical connection.
AR Time and causality − worth pondering.
2022 August 1
The Brexit Britain Fantasy Is Over
Brexit boosterism is over. But the turmoil has only just begun.
A crisis at the top of the Conservative party has ousted yet another sitting prime minister. A string of defeats and miserable polling has convinced party leaders that the end is nigh.
For nearly two years after the election in December 2019, the government enjoyed a kind of honeymoon. British nationalism was resurgent. But now, economically stagnant, socially fragmented, and politically adrift, Britain is being cut down to size.
The Brexit fantasy seemed for a while to envelop the country. The high was caught by two television broadcasts. The first was the prime ministerial address to the nation on March 23, 2020, declaring a national lockdown. The second was the Euro 2020 final, in which England stood a realistic chance of winning against Italy, on July 11, 2021. Both broadcasts were watched by tens of millions of people. Both suspended normality in a struggle recalling folk memories of WW2.
These were nationalist moments. One was top-down, the other grassroots. One was British establishment nationalism, the other proletarian English. Together they briefly caught a sense of nationhood.
In September 2021, things started to shake loose. Fuel shortages, rising energy prices, food banks, overstretched and underfunded hospitals, and a Westminster crisis led to a growing clamor. By July 2022 it was over. The economy is now heading toward an abyss.
Opposition is resurfacing. Scotland again aims to stage an independence referendum. In Northern Ireland, the republican Sinn Fein is the biggest party. And in England, a wave of strikes has broken out. Tory Britain is unraveling.
Britain existed only for a few decades after WW2. Until then, British identity was global, pinned to its empire. It became a nation only in the postwar years when capitalism was organized within a welfare state. Since then, Britain has become merely a hub for multinational corporations. Brexit was supposed to revive the nation.
The exit of the Brexit PM marks its end. Next is crisis.
AR Comparing Brexit Britain with the Third Reich, the UK position today is like that of Germany weeks after the Stauffenberg plot.
Juno image of stormy vortices hundreds of km across near Jupiter's north pole, 2022-07-05
NASA physicist Scott Bolton wants to understand the core inside Jupiter. If Jupiter formed like the Sun, it might not have a core
of heavy elements. If it formed more like a planet, we expect to see a rocky core inside Jupiter today.
Juno discovered that Jupiter has a large, dilute, fuzzy core, with maybe a compact core inside. Now we see that neither
of the original theories really works. Theorists are now using Juno data to make a new core model.
Juno evaluated the atmosphere at many locations using a microwave radiometer to look deep into the atmosphere.
Way below the clouds, we saw that the ammonia and water abundances are still varying.
Juno also studied the four Galilean moons. Ganymede is covered with known terrain types.
We will soon have a similar map of Europa.
2022 July 31
Bill McGuire says we have ignored warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously heating the Earth for far too long. We have passed the point of no return.
We can expect a future where lethal heatwaves are common in the tropics, summers at temperate latitudes are baking hot, and the oceans are warm and acidic.
McGuire: "I know a lot of people working in climate science who say one thing in public but a very different thing in private .. The world needs to know how bad things are going to get."
Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when humanity began pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, global temperatures have risen by just over 1 K.
McGuire: "Just look at what is happening already .. It turns out the climate is changing for the worse far quicker than predicted by early climate models."
A rise of 1.5 K will bring intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, reduced crop yields, melting ice sheets, and rising sea levels. As for 2 K ..
AR Let's get serious about this.
2022 July 30
People of the Book
Josh Lambert surveys the influence of Jews in publishing and literature. Once barriers based on prejudice came down, Jews in America gained influence and practiced literary nepotism.
Jewish editors and literary critics abounded. In publishing firms, Jews seemed ubiquitous. Their numbers in university professorships rose. The most discussed novelists were Jewish.
This Jewish influence came about in part through the emergence of hitherto suppressed literary talent. In the beginning was the word, and soon after came the Jews. The verbal energy once put into religious studies, Jews put into poetry, novels and stories, essays, criticism.
Lambert is content to show the connections between Jewish editors and authors, teachers and students, husbands and wives, parents and children in the postwar American literary world. He looks forward to the day when a broader distribution of power prevails in the literary world.
The biggest publishers in America today have made diversity their priority. There was no Jewish literary mafia enforcing or silencing views. Political correctness does that.
AR That Jewish literary flowering was a fun phenomenon.
Black to move and win
2022 July 29
The DeepMind AI system AlphaFold has predicted the structure of almost every protein so far catalogued in science, cracking one of the grand challenges of biology in just 18 months.
Determining the crumpled shapes of proteins based on their sequences of constituent amino acids has been a persistent problem for decades in biology.
Working with the EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Cambridge, DeepMind is publishing the structures of more than 200 million proteins on an open database.
DeepMind scientific team lead Pushmeet Kohli says the company is working to improve AlphaFold: "We want to understand how these proteins behave, what their dynamics are, how they interact with other proteins."
Structure of 200 million proteins revealed
Proteins are the building blocks of life. Formed of chains of amino acids, folded up into complex shapes, their 3D structure largely determines their function.
DeepMind AlphaFold can rapidly predict this information. DeepMind published the protein structures for 20 species last year. Now it has finished the job.
DeepMind founder and chief executive Demis Hassabis: "Essentially, you can think of it as covering the entire protein universe. It includes predictive structures for plants, bacteria, animals, and many other organisms, opening up huge new opportunities."
EMBL-EBI senior scientist Dame Janet Thornton: "AlphaFold protein structure predictions are already being used in a myriad of ways. I expect that this latest update will trigger an avalanche of new and exciting discoveries."
AR Supports my view of the life sciences in ALBION.
Germany and Russia
Many Germans are struggling to process Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Their yearning for good relations with Moscow does not arise from economic statistics. We need to go back into the darker, older mists of the German psyche.
Thomas Mann's Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man (1918) grew out of a disagreement with his brother. Thomas had embraced the nationalist fervor of 1914, but Heinrich rejected the war and called for a democratic German republic.
Mann drew on the distinction Nietzsche drew between French and English civilization and German culture. Mann said the Great War had been necessary to uphold the conservative order that shielded the musical, philosophical, and artistic depths of the German soul from the decadent, materialistic, civilized West.
German ambivalence toward the Roman West was often bound up with the lure of Russia. These bonds went back to the medieval period. Mann emphasized Dostoevsky and Nietzsche and linked Protestantism with an elevation of the Dionysian over the Apollonian.
Mann soon awakened from his bad dream and reconciled with his brother. In 1933, he fled from Germany and ended up in California. In a speech in the summer of 1945, he said German war guilt had deep roots in the national psyche and blamed "morbid" Wagnerian romanticism.
The Federal Republic of Germany feted Mann as a pillar of German letters. His novels, banned under Hitler, became bestsellers. The protagonist of Doctor Faustus (1947) is an Enlightenment man who succumbs to the undertow of irrational romanticism, caught between the two traditions.
Germany euphoria over the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification was in large part the sense that this old tension had finally been resolved. A peaceful, united Europe now stretched from the Atlantic to the Urals.
Germans find Russia's turn away from the West hard to accept.
AR This is the troubling issue behind ALBION.
2022 July 28
Rebecca Solnit, Terry Tempest Williams
The future the scientists warned us about is now.
The climate emergency has been declared over and over by Nature and by human suffering and upheaval in response to its catastrophes. The sunbaked populations of southern Asia, the grain crop failures in China, India, Europe, and America, the droughts in Africa, the bleached and dying coral reefs of Australia, the rivers of meltwater gushing from the Greenland ice sheet, the melting permafrost of Siberia and Alaska: All bear witness that this is a climate emergency.
We can choose to live differently. Our hope lies in our collective actions. Business as usual can halt, our priorities can shift, and we can recognize our responsibility to others. This emergency did not begin with us and will not end in our lifetimes. We must do all we can to stabilize the health of the planet and speed the transition away from fossil fuels. We know what to do and how to do it.
The future needs us. We need each other. We must respond for those who will be born next year and next century, who need a planet alive and flourishing in all its exquisite diversity of land and creatures and humans. We have no right to rob them of their birthright.
We declare a climate emergency.
AR Fair warning.
Talk to Russia and China
The West risks stumbling into a nuclear conflict with China or Russia.
UK national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove says the world's superpowers understood each other better during the Cold War and that there has since been a breakdown in communications.
Lovegrove praises the US engagement with China but says technological advances could upset the balance: "We have clear concerns about China's nuclear modernisation program that will increase both the number and types of nuclear weapon systems in its arsenal."
China may be pulling ahead in the race to develop hypersonic missiles. Last year it tested a hypersonic missile that circumnavigated the globe before hitting a target.
Former Russia president Dmitri Medvedev says western support for Ukraine has brought the world to its most dangerous moment since 1962. Russian state TV says President Putin could wipe out Britain with a nuclear tsunami in retaliation for supporting Ukraine.
Lovegrove says lack of communication with China and Russia risks strategic conflict: "The USSR and NATO .. were able to reach a shared understanding of doctrine .. Today, we do not have the same foundations with others who may threaten us in the future."
He points out that ever more countries have high-tech weapons.
AR Fair warning.
2022 July 27
An enormous volume of science is already coming from the James Webb Space Telescope.
JWST can look back in time to the early universe and see some of the first galaxies and stars. It has already spotted the most distant galaxy known, GLASS‑z13, seen at 300 My ABB. The galaxy shows surprising rates of star formation and already contains a billion solar masses, 1 G⦿.
More early galaxies hide in the image of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The cluster is so massive it bends the light of more distant objects, revealing up to 16 remote galaxies.
One distant galaxy in the image dates to 700 My ABB and contains heavy elements. We hope the telescope will find even earlier galaxies lacking heavy elements. This will be evidence for for the first generation of stars formed from primordial H and He.
JWST has observed a galaxy 24 My from us called NGC 7496 and its young star-forming regions veiled in dust. JWST can see IR light from the dust, letting us probe close to when the stars lit up.
JWST has looked at Jupiter. The Jovian upper atmosphere is hundreds of degrees hotter than the lower atmosphere, and JWST sees it shining in IR light. The image also shows the volcanic moon Io interacting with the Jovian aurora, with material from Io streaming down the magnetic field lines.
JWST has looked at the TRAPPIST‑1 system, a red dwarf star with seven Earth-size worlds. Early observations show the "hot Jupiter" WASP‑96 b in a tight orbit around its star and found water vapor in its atmosphere.
JWST should be capable of finding distant supernovas as well as stars being torn apart by the supermassive black holes that lurk at galactic centers.
Our task now is to keep pace with the constant barrage of data raining down on us.
AR Wonderful stuff.
A fast pulsar some 20 ky away from us in the constellation Sextans is the heaviest neutron star observed so far. PSR J0952‑0607 has a mass of about 2.35 ⦿.
If a neutron star grows too massive, it becomes a black hole. No one knows the exact mass boundary between neutron stars and black holes, but a neutron star so close to becoming a black hole has at heart the densest material we can access in the universe.
PSR J0952‑0607 has a spin period of 1.41 ms. Another star orbiting it every 24 ks is losing gas to it, which has sped up its spin and boosted its mass.
AR Quark soup on the menu?
2022 July 26
UK PM Debate
Rishi Sunak is the candidate of conservatism as it was until 2019, when the government was still trying to reconcile Brexit with reality. Liz Truss appeals to the successor movement.
Tax policy dominated Monday night's TV debate. Beyond that, the battle consists of lunges and postures that come across as playground bragging.
The contest is suffused with the Brexit culture wars. The candidates were asked whether the current tailbacks of traffic at Kentish ports are due to Brexit. The correct answer is yes. They both said no.
It was not a real debate. This is not a safe way to choose a prime minister. It is not a healthy way to run a country.
AR When I heard those "no" answers, I knew they were both deluded.
Stop Brexit Man
Steve Bray, also known as Stop Brexit Man, has been protesting outside parliament for five years. Today a group of police officers is watching him. The new Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act strengthens police powers to place conditions on protests.
Bray: "People who feel so passionately that they have to protest, they've been put in that position by a government which is trying to shut them up .. it's fascism. Our right to protest is fundamental and we're all being attacked."
Bray says money has poured into his crowdfund. More than £180,000 was donated in the time since his amps were seized, and the total now stands at about £230,000.
Bray is an enduring presence on TV. His tactic of following and filming politicians, while insistently shouting questions, is clearly annoying. "But I say: this is for our futures; this is for all of us."
"Brexit was the start of something far bigger. Our political system is very flawed. This government has shown how bad a system run on trust is. There is no integrity, no honour, no decency, and no morals."
Bray, 53, was born in Cardiff. He spent his childhood living on military bases in Germany, which drew him to the idea of the EU. He worked as an electrical engineer and became a rare coin dealer. Then the crowdfunding was set up.
He leads the Stand of Defiance European Movement, SODEM: "I think there's so much wrong with this country. The mess will never be undone, but you have to start somewhere."
AR The government must indulge his protest.
Poole Bay, evening of 2022-07-25
Getting Brexit done:
Dover border queues,
2022 July 25
The Problem of China
Bertrand Russell (1922)
The Chinese are, in certain ways, superior to us, and it would not be good either for them or for us if, in these ways, they had to descend to our level in order to preserve their existence as a nation.
If the Chinese were to adopt the Western philosophy of life, they would, as soon as they had made themselves safe against foreign aggression, embark upon aggression on their own account ..
If China were led astray by the lure of brutal power, she might repel her enemies outwardly, but would have yielded to them inwardly ..
If Chinese reformers can have the moderation to stop when they have made China capable of self-defence, and .. when they have become safe at home, .. devote their freedom to science and art and the inauguration of a better economic system − then China will have played the part in the world for which she is fitted, and will have given to mankind as a whole new hope ..
China deserves a foremost place in the esteem of every lover of mankind.
AR Russell is wise − is he right?
Chinese Military Threat
US joint chiefs of staff chairman General Mark Milley says the Chinese military has become more aggressive and dangerous over the past five years.
The number of intercepts by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific region with US and other partner forces have increased significantly over that time.
MM: "The message is the Chinese military, in the air and at sea, have become significantly more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region."
Milley will attend a meeting of Indo-Pacific defence chiefs this week in Australia. Beijing has signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands. The US and Australia would not tolerate the Solomon Islands hosting a Chinese military base.
MM: "This is an area in which China is trying to do outreach for their own purposes .. China is not doing it just for benign reasons. They're trying to expand their influence throughout the region."
The US is expanding its military and security relationship with Indo-Pacific nations to build a network of alliances to counter China.
AR US vs China − is war inevitable?
Hungary's Racist PM
Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban says countries where European and non-Europeans mingle are no longer nations and says of Hungarians: "We are not a mixed race .. and we do not want to become a mixed race."
Romanian MEP Alin Mituta: "Speaking about race or ethnic purity, especially in such a mixed region such as central and eastern Europe, is purely delusional and dangerous. And so is Mr Orban."
Orban gave an apocalyptic speech predicting the decline of the West and "a decade of peril, uncertainty, and war" and criticising western military support for Ukraine. He says the West should mediate a peace deal.
AR England mixes races − not a nation?
UK Economic Prospects
UK GDP figures are disappointing. Employment growth is positive but highly unproductive. The annual productivity rate of growth has been dismal. Brexit has led to job vacancies.
Targeting inflation may weaken demand. Tax cuts may boost cyclical demand but force sharper monetary tightening by the Bank of England. Corporate tax cuts may merely raise returns to shareholders and executives.
Fiscal policy can boost productivity by offering incentives for risky business investment and for infrastructure. The UK government should plan bold investments.
AR It should − will it?
National Astronomical Observatories
Martian moon Phobos seen
from orbiter of China's
Mars probe Tianwen 1
2022 July 24
Donald Trump's attack on democracy culminated in the insurrection on January 6. Trump exhorted his followers to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell" knowing many of them were armed with guns and wearing body armor.
Harvard political scientist Steven Levitsky: "The picture that the hearings depict is of a coup leader."
Fox News star Tucker Carlson called the January 6 hearings "deranged propaganda" and the insurrection "a forgettably minor" event.
NewsGuard monitors misinformation. It reviewed output during the hearings from the TV channel Newsmax. Senior analyst Jack Brewster: "If you were watching only Newsmax to get information about the January 6 hearings, you would likely be living in an entirely alternate universe."
Levitsky says the Republican party now poses an even greater threat: "In a two-party system, if one political party is not committed to democratic rules of the game, democracy is not likely to survive for very long."
He says Trump's efforts to overturn the election have given Republican strategists a roadmap: "They discovered that there is a plethora of opportunities for subverting an election, from blocking certification to sending alternate slates of electors to Congress. Armed with that knowledge, they may well do it much better next time."
He says of Republicans: "They learned that if you try to overturn the election you will not be punished by Republican voters, activists, or donors. For the most part, you'll be rewarded for it."
The States United Democracy Center says at least 33 states are now considering 229 bills that would enable state legislatures to politicize, criminalize, or otherwise tamper with elections.
2022 July 23
'Biggest Loss of British Sovereignty Since 1066'
Hermann Hauser was a computer entrepreneur in Cambridge in 1985. His company Acorn developed the first "advanced RISC machine" ARM chip. It now has 225 billion descendants.
He is now a venture capital investor in UK tech companies, with an investment portfolio worth about £1 billion. He thinks the US, China, and EU are the only three "technology sovereignty circles" with the 5G factories and knowhow needed for a modern economy: "Britain has no chance of being technologically sovereign. Brexit has been the biggest loss of British sovereignty since 1066."
Hauser grew up in Austria and studied physics in Vienna. He is a passionate European: "I hope that despite the toxicity that you have with Brexit between Europe and Britain at the moment − which is idiotic − I hope that Britain will join Europe's technology sovereignty circle. Britain doesn't want to become the 51st state of the United States."
AR Good man.
⦿ Sergey Bobok / AFP
Harvesting barley, Kharkiv region, 2022-07-18
2022 July 22
♦ A deal between Ukraine and Russia, signed in Istanbul and mediated by Turkey and the UN, allows 5 megatons of grain exports per month from three Ukrainian ports. Grain ships will navigate through a safe corridor in the Black Sea and through the Bosphorus to reach global markets.
♦ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: "We have a significant potential for the advance of our forces on the front and for the infliction of significant new losses on the occupiers."
The Ukrainian military reports another day of heavy artillery and rocket fire by Russian forces in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, along with airstrikes. The Russians failed to advance north of Kharkiv, along the Luhansk−Donetsk border, and along the border of the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions.
♦ British intelligence service MI6 head Richard Moore says that since February, European countries have expelled hundreds of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.
Moore says Russia may be "about to run out of steam" in Ukraine: "Our assessment is that the Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower material over the next few weeks. They will have to pause in some way and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back."
AR Ukraine can still win.
Not a good look
2022 July 21
UK PM: The Choice
The next prime minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss.
Sunak is the right and responsible choice. He correctly prioritises controlling inflation over unfunded tax cuts. Truss calls him a closet socialist, but her proposed tax cuts would create a £30 billion black hole in the exchequer.
The choice is between hard reality or consoling fiction.
Liz Truss aspires to be a second Margaret Thatcher
Liz Truss was born in Oxford in 1975. Her father John was a maths lecturer, her mother was a nurse and teacher, and both parents had extreme left political views.
When her father became a professor at Leeds, Liz went to a comprehensive school. She went on to read PPE at Oxford, where she graduated in 1996.
After a period with the Liberal Democrats at Oxford, she joined the Conservative party, met an accountant, and married him in 2000.
In 2010, Truss was elected as MP for a safe seat. She founded the Free Enterprise Group of MPs, championing deregulation and lower taxes, and co-authored Britannia Unchained, a paean to free market economics.
In 2014, she joined the cabinet. Before the Brexit referendum, she campaigned boldly as a Remainer, but after it she realised her political ambitions were dead unless she rapidly became a born-again Brexiteer.
Boris Johnson made her his trade secretary, then foreign secretary. On the NI protocol, her approach to the EU was conciliatory in January but is hardline in July.
Dominic Cummings calls Truss a "human hand grenade" who would be "even worse" than Johnson as prime minister.
A Downing Street insider: "She might start a nuclear war."
I'll beat Labour as a true Conservative
Over the next few weeks, I will be setting out a bold new plan.
My approach is rooted firmly in Conservative values of aspiration, enterprise, and freedom. The central issue at the next election is going to be the economy. I am the tax-cutting candidate.
I believe in Global Britain's great potential as a sovereign nation. I will accelerate our regulatory divergence from the EU. I will help Britain lead the world in tackling aggressors and in advancing and defending freedom and democracy.
This is a defining moment for the country. To steer our way through the storm, we need strong leadership and a bold approach.
I will be governing as a true Conservative.
AR I attended the set theory classes John Truss held at the Mathematical Institute in Oxford in 1975. I recall them as admirably clear and correct but horribly dull and flat.
10 Downing Street
Bodger bunked a COBRA meeting on the heatwave emergency this week for a jolly ride in a Typhoon.
As his last words in PMQ, he quoted Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: "Hasta la vista, baby."
Tory Leader Poll
Rishi Sunak 137
Liz Truss 113
IR image of nightside Venus
2022 July 20
Britain Facing Nightmare
British politics makes me feel like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.
The opportunity for a fresh start has already been wasted. None of the contenders has the courage to question Brexit.
The Tories have ceased to be a conservative party in the traditional sense. They now depend on a small number of extremely wealthy donors.
The UK media is largely controlled by a few billionaires. The discredited PM still has their support. His successor will not dare burst his Brexit bubble.
Labour should be exposing the gap between reality and fantasy on Brexit. Yet Keir Starmer promises instead to "make Brexit work" and suggests Britain could be better off outside the EU.
Over a third of Brits already see Brexit as a mistake. Evidence shows Brexit is damaging UK economic prospects.
The British public is tumbling toward rock bottom.
Tories are attacking democracy
The Northern Ireland protocol bill proposed by Liz Truss is making its way through parliament. It contains clauses that amount to a power grab.
The bill lets parliament constrain the courts and hands new powers to ministers.
Clause 22 will convert regulatory powers into a Henry VIII powers. Ministers will be able to make any provision that could be made by an act of parliament, without parliament.
Other clauses let parliament legislate freely to constrain the courts and let ministers impose new regulations on the movement of goods between GB and NI.
Clause 19 lets ministers alter primary legislation independently of parliament and take any measures to implement any post-NIP agreement reached with the EU.
The NIP bill erodes our sovereignty, our constitution, and government accountability. This is the route to an elective dictatorship.
A bitter ex will curse the next
Britain has two classes of citizen. A lay herd elects parliaments, and a priestly caste, the Conservatives, anoints prime ministers. That is how this PM got the job and it is the method that will name his successor.
The past six years has been an experiment in how absurd politics can get. The Brexit delusion was fabricated by a personality cult in Downing Street. It treated the 2019 general election as confirmation of the 2016 referendum mandate, and both as a personal licence to govern uninhibited by institutional checks or law.
The new Tory leader will struggle for authority. Johnson and his monstrous vanity are not going anywhere. The role of former PM will suit his taste for elevated status without any burden of responsibility. His final weeks in power will combine despotic indolence − milking the job for its perks − with self-pity and spite.
Britain will get a leader appointed in a presidential ritual. But the new PM will rely on a mandate the current jealous holder will not relinquish, because he thinks it is his personal property.
Time to cut members out of Tory leadership
This is not the first PM whose conduct fell below what we should expect. He was chosen because party members wanted him. In parliament his weaknesses and failings were well known. That someone so unsuited to be PM was selected should prompt a rethink.
AR Bodger may recall Churchill after Gallipoli.
Poole Bay this morning, 2022-07-19
UK recorded its first-ever air temperature exceeding 40 C today
Tory Leader Poll
Rishi Sunak 118
Penny Mordaunt 92
Liz Truss 86
2022 July 19
The problem of sphere packing is a natural problem with a simple formulation. There are still many open questions surrounding it.
My dream is that women getting major prizes will be a routine event. Maybe this prize could have a positive effect on young women, but what is much more important is what happens early at school.
Everything we do is connected to our everyday experience. I prefer working on concrete examples. I am like a pioneer discovering an unknown land.
We live in an exciting time when technology is changing mathematicians and mathematics. Machine learning interests me. I could use some of these new tools in my own research.
AR Viazovska won a Fields Medal. She showed how to pack spheres in the most efficient way in 8D.
Sad White Men
A publisher: "If a really good novel by a male writer lands on my desk, I do genuinely say to myself this will be more difficult to publish."
The stories of Sad White Men were once a novelty.
Sinclair Lewis' 1922 novel Babbitt tells the story of a real-estate broker who is unhappy and begins to question his status in society. The tension in the novel derives from whether he has the strength of character to fulfil his rebellion.
Sloan Wilson's 1955 novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit was a more straightforward narrative. Its hero worked in media and public relations and felt the pressure of whether to conform or resist.
Joseph Heller's 1974 novel Something Happened is a comic masterpiece. Its hero is the most jaded and cynical of all the Sad White Men. With him, the unhappiness was the story.
AR Does my novelised history of Brexit make me a sad white man?
Fire danger forecast, 2022-07-18
UN secretary general António Guterres: "Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms,
and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction .. We have a choice:
collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands."
Tory Leader Poll
Rishi Sunak 115
Penny Mordaunt 82
Liz Truss 71
Kemi Badenoch 58
2022 July 18
Will Putin Win?
Russia has retreated from Kyiv, faced unprecedented sanctions, and met international condemnation. But Putin has a plan:
1 To establish control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the land corridor securing access to Crimea. For this goal, Putin thinks time is on his side. Western military experts say Ukraine is unable to win back these areas.
2 To force Kyiv to capitulate and accept the Russification of Ukraine. In one to two years, the conditions for capitulation will ripen as internal opposition ousts the Zelensky administration. Putin aims to stop NATO and expand imperial Russia.
3 To build a new world order. Putin sees the political elites in Western countries as slaves of their voters and incapable of strategic thinking, while ordinary Europeans and Americans want normal relations with Russia. He thinks his war will make the people overturn the elites.
Sooner or later, Putin will face reality. Then he will be dangerous.
How the UK can help defend Europe
UK security is inextricably tied to what happens in Europe. Yet the rhetorical prison of Brexit makes constructive discussion impossible. London looks like the capital of a country run by the dodgy rich, for the dodgy rich.
Grandstanding about British military aid to Ukraine misses the point. Only the United States has the military heft to make a difference. Only the Europeans have the economic clout to cripple the Russian economy.
Deterring Russia means closer ties with Europe. The top priority for UK armed forces is to defend European allies. NATO alone cannot do so. European worries more about American reliability than Russian aggression.
Britain needs European allies and institutions to boost energy security, improve infrastructure, harden supply chains, rationalise defence procurement, counter disinformation, and impose effective sanctions.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
Webb image of Stephan's Quintet
Black Hole Mass and Angular Momentum
General relativity has transformed our understanding of gravity. But it is still a work in progress. The theory does not offer a simple or standard way of determining the mass of an object. Angular momentum is even harder to define.
Matter and energy curve spacetime, but this curvature is itself a source of energy, causing a nonlinear effect. Defining momentum or angular momentum presupposes mass.
ADM mass is the mass of an isolated object viewed from far away, where spacetime is almost flat. The mass enclosed within a region as measured on its surface is quasilocal mass.
Stephen Hawking defined the quasilocal mass inside a sphere by determining its bending of incoming and outgoing light rays. This only works in a spherically symmetric or static spacetime.
Roger Penrose says characterizing quasilocal mass and defining quasilocal angular momentum are the main unsolved problems in general relativity.
Po-Ning Chen, Mu-Tao Wang, and Shing-Tung Yau (CWY) define the quasilocal angular momentum enclosed within a surface by embedding the surface in Minkowski spacetime, then defining a mapping between the surface there and in natural spacetime.
CWY and Ye-Kai Wang (CWWY) describe the angular momentum carried by gravitational waves from the vantage point of null infinity. Even then, the angular momentum can depend on the origin and orientation of the coordinate system.
When gravitational waves pass by, spacetime never reverts exactly to its initial state, leading to supertranslations. CWWY compute angular momentum as a supertranslation invariant quantity.
We can use supercomputers to get approximate solutions by voxelating spacetime. We can thus estimate the masses and angular momenta of merging black holes or neutron stars from their gravitational waves.
Yau: "It can take a long time for ideas from mathematics to permeate physics."
AR I was impressed by this fact some 30 years ago.
2022 July 17
Uranus is the coldest planet in the solar system. Its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, almost in the plane of its orbit round the Sun. Its polar hemispheres alternate summers of nonstop sunlight with winters of total darkness.
In 1986, Voyager 2 visited Uranus during its grand tour of the solar system. It revealed a smooth pale blue world with an atmosphere of hydrogen, helium, and methane, a rich family of moons, and a powerful magnetic field.
The US National Academy of Sciences has published a report urging NASA to launch a Uranus probe as its highest-priority flagship mission for the next decade.
Astronomers divide our planets into three basic categories. Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the rocky inner planets. Then come the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, made mostly of hydrogen and helium. Beyond them, Uranus and Neptune are the two ice giants. They have high abundances of methane and frozen water.
Uranus orbits the Sun at an average distance of 2.8 Tm and Neptune at 4.5 Tm. A Uranus mission will need a gravity assist from Jupiter. To get one, it will have to be launched in 2031 or 2032.
NASA has a decade to design the probe, raise the $4 billion to build it, and then launch it on its 13‑year voyage. The mission will almost certainly involve the participation of other organisations such as ESA.
A main craft would orbit Uranus, survey the planet, and swing near some of its moons and rings for a close look. A companion probe may drop into the Uranian atmosphere to study its composition.
Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune still have some internal heat and emit more energy into space than they absorb from the Sun. But Uranus has a cold heart.
AR I may not live to see the results.
The fall of Bodger:
Update out now
2022 July 16
In 1794, Johann Gottlieb Fichte secured the chair in philosophy at the University of Jena.
Inspired by Kant, Fichte developed a philosophical system based on a first principle: "The I originally posits its own being purely and simply."
He struggled to explain how a rational being can be aware of itself and its representations as its own. The explanation of self-consciousness relies on reflection.
The problem is that the reflective act treats the first act as an object. But I must be conscious of this second act too. An infinite regress of reflective acts looms.
A rational being is a self-positing I. The constitution of itself into an I is a free act based in nothing beyond itself. The self is not the I that posits itself.
Reflective self-consciousness gradually develops through social interaction. It is conditioned by the summons of other rational beings. This idea inspired Hegel.
Fichte saw that self-consciousness is a social phenomenon.
AR Fichte helps link Kant and Hegel.
My next ALBION selfie
2022 July 15
A causal loop is a classic conundrum where time travelers can kill their grandparents. A new analysis shows they are possible in more model universes than expected.
Vilasini Venkatesh and Roger Colbeck modeled a set of toy universes populated by agents who can discern information and act on it but who cannot communicate faster than light.
They found that such causal loops can appear in universes with one spatial dimension. In them, past and future can be correlated in odd ways by information lacking an origin.
Venkatesh: "Typically, we say that correlation does not imply causation. We now focused on the converse, where causation does not imply correlation."
AR Given Humean causation, this is no surprise.
2022 July 14
Tory Leader Poll Round 2
BBC News, 1502 BST
Survivors from the second round of voting among Tory MPs:
Rishi Sunak 101
Penny Mordaunt 83
Liz Truss 64
Kemi Badenoch 49
Tom Tugendhat 32
The next poll is on Monday.
Sunak or Mordaunt
Mordaunt and Sunak have locked up the support of just over half of the Tory party between them, and both appear headed for the final two, who will then face the judgement of the party membership over the summer.
Badenoch only became an MP five years ago and has never served in the cabinet. She has strong views. She wants to slash the size of the state by more than any other candidate. But her rise damns Truss.
AR Party members in the shires will vote Penny.
Penny Mordaunt in 2019
"Uplifting and highly readable"
2022 July 13
Tory Leader Poll Round 1
BBC News, 1702 BST
Here are the results of the first round of voting in the Tory leadership contest:
Rishi Sunak 88
Penny Mordaunt 67
Liz Truss 50
Kemi Badenoch 40
Tom Tugendhat 37
Suella Braverman 32
These candidates proceed to round 2 tomorrow.
AR Penny has momentum.
The Guardian, 1427 BST
International trade minister and former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt would easily beat all over candidates in the Tory leadership contest in the final ballot of Conservative party members, suggests a new poll.
Mordaunt would beat her strongest opponent, foreign secretary Liz Truss, by 55% to 37% and would beat former chancellor Rishi Sunak by 67% to 28%, the poll suggests, based on a weighted sample of 876 members.
The findings resemble the results of another survey of about 950 party members published yesterday. That also found Mordaunt on course to beat all rivals, beating Truss by 51% to 33% and beating Sunak by 58% to 31%.
Mordaunt was named after the cruiser HMS Penelope and read philosophy at the University of Reading. She was elected as the MP for Portsmouth North in 2010 and served as defence secretary from May to July 2019.
AR Her book Greater appeared in 2021.
Jains say ahimsa prohibits injuring others. Humans, animals, plants, rocks, water, fire, and air all have a soul. They should all be treated with courtesy and respect.
Ancient spiritual traditions can teach us how to regain a sense of the sacredness of nature. We have to change not only our lifestyle but our whole belief system.
Spending a few minutes each day quietly absorbing the sights and sounds of nature can remind us that we are part of the world around us and depend on it.
AR Armstrong is a gem.
2022 July 12
Webb's First Deep Field
President Joe Biden has unveiled this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723. The image covers a patch of sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm's length by someone on the ground.
Webb's sharp near-infrared view brought out faint structures in extremely distant galaxies, offering the most detailed view of the early universe to date.
NASA and its partners will release the full series of Webb's first full-color images and data, known as spectra, on Tuesday, during a live NASA TV broadcast.
This deep field, taken by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours − achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope's deepest fields, which took weeks.
The image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago. The mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying much more distant galaxies behind it.
Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the galaxies' masses, ages, histories, and compositions, as Webb seeks the earliest galaxies in the universe.
Webb's first big image
The first full-color image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the deepest and highest-resolution image of the universe yet captured.
Tuesday's release will include a view of the spectacular Carina Nebula, which is a star-forming region, and a distant group of galaxies known as Stephan's Quintet.
Joseph DePasquale is the lead JWST image processor at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). The images he and his colleague Alyssa Pagan have been processing were beamed back across the 1.5 Gm of space between Earth and the telescope as a bit stream. The image file is stored in an archive at the STSI.
The detectors in JWST instruments create monochromatic data. To create color views, the team mapped different filtered wavelengths of IR light, captured in monochrome by the telescope, onto red, green, and blue. Combining the resulting three images gives a color picture.
The images show six-pointed stars bisected by a thin line. This is a diffraction pattern. It arises from a characteristic of the telescope called the point spread function.
Webb brings out details we have never seen before in the IR universe.
AR Webb heralds new breakthroughs in astronomy.
2022 July 11
The UK Economy
UK policymakers face the stagnation in productivity and real incomes.
The Resolution Foundation says the years 2004−2019 were the weakest for growth in GDP per head since 1919−1934. Household real disposable incomes for non-pensioners rose by only 12% between 2004/05 and 2019/20.
Between 1980 and 1995, median non-pensioner household real disposable incomes rose by 37%, but by 67% for the top decile and only 3% for the bottom one. Between 1992 and 2007, they rose by 41%, 47%, and 37% respectively. Between 2004 and 2019, they rose by 12%, 11%, and 2%.
The distribution of disposable incomes in 2018 was the most unequal in any high-income democracy except the US.
Compared with European peers, real median household disposable incomes adjusted for purchasing power fell by 2% in the UK between 2007 and 2018, while they rose 34% in France and 27% in Germany. UK incomes fell to 9% below France and 16% below Germany.
UK output per hour fell from 84% of German levels in 2007 to 81% in 2015 and 79% in 2021. UK GDP per head relative to Germany fell from 92% in 2007 to 87% in 2015 and 82% in 2021.
Given the British electoral system, voting Labour is the only way to get the Conservatives out of power.
The UK is in a mess because its politics and system of power remain stuck in the past. Whitehall departments cannot do what ministers ask. The Houses of Parliament are a shabby symbol of decay. The House of Lords is a disgrace. And the way we elect the Commons is a joke.
The institutions of Westminster and Whitehall live in symbiosis with structures of privilege centred on a few private schools and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
For 40 years now, the Conservative party has overseen a mess of inequality, insecurity, and economic fragility. After the crash of 2008, this approach led to stagnating wages, flatlining prices, and cheap credit. The scale of and predicament and dire economic consequences of Brexit set the UK apart from just about all other advanced economies.
There is increasing support for changing the electoral system.
AR Looks like I should have stayed in Germany.
2022 July 10
Writers: Take Back Control
All those British ex-ministers and parliamentary private secretaries might take advantage of their free time to write novels. Plenty of politicians have been persuaded that writing fiction is a legitimate second job.
Prominent figures in the area of politics, journalism, and entertainment often use unacknowledged ghost writers. This looks bad. If you don't have the skill set to do a job and have to pay someone who does to do it for you, then maybe you shouldn't do it.
Producing a novel is now an established rung on the light entertainment career ladder. These books are in danger of becoming the rhododendrons of the publishing ecosystem: not necessarily hideous, but in danger of choking off every other variety.
Publishing is growing ever more risk-averse. Big-name bestsellers generate revenue. A recognisable name brings some guarantee of a return, especially in conjunction with the rise of the "An evening with .." event, coming soon to a theatre near you.
Audiences pay to see their favourite celebrity interviewed live. A television personality who had written a book would do one of these events and hope that a decent percentage of the audience would hang around to buy the book and get it signed.
Marketers now make this more convenient and profitable by adding the book to the ticket price. A public figure who can fill a theatre for a few nights is all but guaranteed a place on the bestseller lists.
AR Do I need a big name for ALBION (updated edition in prep)?
Summer is back in Poole Bay
2022 July 9
Rishi Sunak 4 PM
The Tories dare not flounder through the summer under a discredited prime minister. The course ahead requires high intelligence, careful and conscientious intellect, deep experience of economic management, and fastidious judgment.
Rishi Sunak is far ahead of the other contenders. His quiet decency can help as we head into rough water. Government will not be liked but may be respected. Sunak could do the job.
AR Must be Dishy Rishi 4 now.
UK voter polls on Brexit
The Johnson Legacy
Boris Johnson's premiership has ended in disgrace. There is a sense of relief in Brussels and Schadenfreude on the continent.
But no one is under any illusion that Johnson's departure from Downing Street solves any of the underlying problems in the UK−EU relationship. The damage done lives on.
Nationalism is a divisive, undemocratic, and disrespectful political principle. The Brexit variety is no different. Trying to "make Brexit work" might be a political imperative for now, but tinkering with the practical details of Brexit cannot remedy the fundamental incoherence it creates.
On UK political relationship with the EU, I believe none of the Conservative hopefuls for the premiership has taken a significantly more constructive attitude than Johnson.
On the geopolitical unity of the democratic west, autocrats from Moscow to Beijing know all about Schadenfreude. They are loving every minute of the spectacle. The discredited populist politics that Johnson and Trump leave will haunt us all for years to come.
Continental Europeans can only hope the UK Conservative party makes a clean break with the man and his method.
Britain needs a clean break
Boris Johnson couldn't take the hint. For two days this week, Britain had no functioning government, as departments of state emptied of ministers who could no longer abide him. But he clung on.
Britain's unwritten constitution has barely survived the ordeal. But Johnson is not Trump, and we can come back from the brink. Both country and party now need a clean break from his rule.
In a democracy, leaders serve the public, not themselves. Johnson does not understand this. His determination to stay on, in the hope of staging some grand finale in October, is an affront.
The nation that laughed itself stupid
Martin Amis said embracing frivolity was Britain's way of dealing with post-imperial decline. If we can't run the world, let's treat it as a joke. Resentment of the American usurpers became mockery of their humourlessness.
I understand the drag of earnestness. But Mediterranean per capita income with northern European weather is Britain's plausible future. Its authors are all the jokers who waved aside the economics of Brexit as boring.
Who let him in?
Boris Johnson has decided both to resign and to remain in office. He lacked the integrity for the job and cannot be trusted in No 10. His successor should order a deep clean of the premises.
The Conservative party has most to answer for, choosing this man as its leader in 2019 when everything you needed to know about him was already known.
Labour too has a case to answer. By sticking with Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, Labour flung the door of Downing Street wide open for Johnson and all but ushered him in.
Johnson vandalised the architecture of Europe
Johnson's rise and fall has none of the grandeur of tragedy.
Johnson was so incompetent he could not keep himself in office even with a thumping parliamentary majority, a sycophantic press, and a servile cabinet. Yet he has remade the political architecture of Europe.
He reshaped Britain in his own image. His roguishness has made it a rogue state. His triviality has diminished it in the eyes of the world. His abuse of power has ruined its reputation for democratic decency.
His lust for power was real and deep. But he behaved like a juvenile delinquent. The soundtrack to his political career is the crash of breaking glass as he chucks rocks at the neighbours overseas.
He sabotaged the Good Friday agreement. He trivialised the problems of the Irish border. He played with the delusions of his admirers. He brought relations between Britain and Ireland to a new low.
The harm he inflicted will not be undone quickly.
AR Britain's worst PM.
2022 July 8
Boris Johnson should not remain in Downing Street while the contest to identify his successor is held. Leaving him with his hands on the levers of power until the autumn would be intolerable.
To allow a prime minister whose own ministers have just resigned en masse with no confidence in his leadership to remain in place cannot be in the national interest. He will retain the full powers of the office, restrained only by a weak cabinet.
Johnson could try to use this window to drive through tax cuts or quarrel with the EU over the NIP. No assurances that he will exercise restraint can be taken at face value.
The business of government must go on. At a time of intense economic and geopolitical challenges, the Conservative party has an obligation to provide stable government.
Johnson should step down immediately in favour of an interim leader. The 1922 Committee should find a way to let a new PM take office by the end of July.
Brexit support collapsing
Support for Brexit has collapsed. A new poll finds every region of the UK says Brexit was an error: 55% say it has gone badly and 33% say it has gone well.
The number of trading relationships between the UK and the EU is in steep decline as small businesses get bogged down in the new red tape. Brexit may be a factor in the UK falling behind all other G7 economies.
Brexit was supposed to allow new trade deals offering greater access for British goods in emerging markets, plus a bonfire of regulations in the City of London. The lack of a Brexit dividend has led many to reconsider.
Brexit has not settled the argument about what sort of relationship Brits want with Europe. A future government is likely to negotiate a closer deal.
Reset relations with Europe
Timothy Garton Ash
Fog in the Channel is penetrated only by the Blitz of mutual irritation. The British threat to breach international law over the NIP has broken trust between the EU and the Johnson government.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer does not offer the bold alternative we need. His message "Make Brexit Work" almost implies it can work. He proposes such sensible but modest ideas as resolving the problems around the NIP.
French president Emmanuel Macron suggests a wider European political community for countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, North Macedonia, Albania, Norway, Switzerland, and Britain. This will not assuage Brexiteer pride.
If the NIP issue has not been resolved by September, the next PM should remember that a compelling narrative is as important as hard facts. A new PM can craft a new partnership with the EU.
AR Moving in the right direction.
A few harmless spots
removed − relief!
2022 July 7
BBC News, 1722 BST
Boris Johnson has resigned as leader of the Conservative party. He plans to remain as PM until the Conservative party has elected a new leader. He is holding a meeting with his new cabinet after replacing ministers who resigned.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss says the party needs to keep governing until a new leader is found. Former PM Sir John Major says Johnson should go now. Labour says they may try to bring a no confidence vote in parliament.
Johnson will resign
0953 Sir Keir Starmer: "It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister. But it should have happened long ago. He was always unfit for office."
0928 Boris Johnson spoke to 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady and agreed to stand down. No 10 sources say he took the decision about an hour ago.
0843 UK chancellor Nadhim Zahawi tweet: "Prime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now."
In his resignation letter dated Wednesday, he listed the "incredible achievements" of the government: "No one will forget getting Brexit done, keeping a dangerous antisemite out of No 10, our handling of covid and our support for Ukraine in its hour of need."
Gove sacked by phone
Boris Johnson sacked Michael Gove by phone last night, accusing him of disloyalty.
No 10: "You cannot have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully briefs the press that he has called for the leader to go."
Fastest memoir in history
"Stand by for the fastest prime ministerial memoir in history. And I bet it'll be a cracking read, as will the handsomely remunerated newspaper column that inevitably follows. Johnson understands − just as his idol Churchill did − that controlling the narrative of your failures, as well as your successes, is the absolute key to life beyond No 10."
AR As of 1100 BST, more than 50 members of the government have quit since Sajid Javid resigned.
2022 July 6
Boris Johnson is still clinging to office in Downing Street, despite the resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid. That is a mistake.
There is no conceivable chance that Johnson can recover his authority. Every day he remains deepens the sense of chaos.
The latest scandal surrounds Chris Pincher, who resigned last week following accusations of sexual assault. Johnson had appointed a manifestly unsuitable candidate to a job with responsibility for party welfare and discipline. When this became apparent, his first instinct was to dissemble and then get others to speak untruths on his behalf.
The PM first claimed he was not aware of any allegation against Pincher, then any specific allegation, then any unresolved specific allegation. Former Foreign Office head Lord McDonald made clear that this was untrue.
Serial dishonesty corrodes effective government. No one can trust a word this government says.
Doing the right thing
Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid both did the right thing. Boris Johnson cannot hold the office of prime minister.
The UK is struggling with all the damage that Covid caused, a cost-of-living crisis, and the experiment of Brexit. It needs a PM it can trust and a government with integrity.
Sunak concluded he could not create common economic policy with Johnson, who believed in both low taxes and higher spending and was not willing to accept that the two were incompatible.
The government long ago lost its sense of coherence and direction. The right thing for the country is clear.
This should be the end of him
Dominic Cummings says he protested when Johnson suggested he should appoint himself as his own chief of staff and spokesman in November 2020. Johnson replied: "Yes, I'll fuck up all sorts, but so what? If I can't do what I want, what's the point of being prime minister?"
AR As of 1700 BST, 34 members of the government have quit in the past 24 hours, and Michael Gove has told Johnson his premiership is over.
Keir Starmer sets out Labour's 5-point plan to Make Brexit Work
All About Climate Change
2022 July 5
UK Government Collapsing
2022 Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: "The Tory party is corrupted, and changing the man at the top won't fix it. We need a real change of government and a fresh start for Britain."
2014 Former Brexit minister Lord David Frost says Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid did the right thing: "The interests of the country, our new-found self-government, and the Conservative Party would be best served by a new leadership and a new prime minister."
2001 Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg: "Over the centuries members of the Cabinet have come and gone and prime ministers who have a majority in the House of Commons are able to continue."
1957 Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg says he met Boris Johnson tonight after the resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak and the PM's mood was very much "business as usual".
1951 Rishi Sunak says he can no longer serve as chancellor because his approach has become "fundamentally too different" from Johnson's: "The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning."
1946 Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon: "The whole rotten lot need to go."
1941 UK trade envoy to Morocco and former Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison has resigned: "The last straw in the rolling chaos of the past six months has been the unavoidable implications of Lord McDonald's letter."
Former Foreign Office top civil servant Lord McDonald wrote to parliamentary commissioner for standards Kathryn Stone over No 10 statements on MP Chris Pincher, who last week resigned as a Conservative whip and was then suspended as a party MP over allegations he groped two men at a private members' club in London.
1935 Conservative party vice chair Bim Afolami has resigned.
1925 Culture secretary Nadine Dorries says she is "100%" behind Boris Johnson.
1909 Tory grandee and former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine: "I think that from the moment 148 backbenchers voted against Boris Johnson − and Michael Howard and William Hague as former leaders of the party called for him to go − the end was inevitable."
1907 Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross says his views have not changed since he voted against Boris Johnson in a confidence vote last month.
1857 Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: "After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failure, it's clear that this government is now collapsing. Tory Cabinet ministers have known all along who this prime minister is. They have been his cheerleaders throughout this sorry saga."
1854 One of Johnson's closest allies: "It will all be over by this time tomorrow. No PM can survive the resignation of two senior cabinet ministers like that."
1849 Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey tweets the prime minister should go: "You have discredited our great country long enough."
1843 Health secretary Sajid Javid writes: "The tone you set as a leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country .. The vote of confidence last month .. was a moment for humility, grip and a new direction. I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership − and you have therefore lost my confidence too."
1839 Former chief whip Mark Harper tweets: "Tonight we have seen leadership from Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid. Honourable decisions made by honourable men. The Conservative Party still has so much to offer to our country. It's time for a fresh start."
1837 BBC political editor Chris Mason: "What we are witnessing tonight .. is the potential collapse of the government .. Resignation letters, from the chancellor and the health secretary, saying that they cannot, in all good conscience, continue to serve the government."
AR All timestamps BST (UTC + 1 hour).
UK household income growth between 2007 and 2018 fell behind the rest of Europe, ahead of only Greece and Cyprus. Ireland grew by 6%, France by 10%, Germany 19%, while the UK fell back by 2%. After 15 years of income stagnation, Global Britain is hard hit by recent events.
The Resolution Foundation says "a toxic combination of both low growth and persistently high income inequality" lies behind the British disease. Among EU countries, only Bulgaria is more unequal than the UK.
UK military logistics
Britain lacks the kit for its main military task. At Russian rates of fire, our army would run out of artillery shells in two days.
The most likely war British soldiers face now is in Estonia. Our ability to move large quantities of equipment and supplies there is untested even in peacetime.
The Kremlin has been menacing its neighbours since the 1990s. The UK has focused on producing munitions such as the Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, highly accurate with a low explosive charge and ideal for fighting Afghan insurgents, but less use in a big war against Russia.
HM government's Integrated Review stressed uniting economic and military capabilities, and touted digital warfare, information operations, drones, and robots. Putin flattened opponents with relentless bombardment in Syria and is doing the same in eastern Ukraine.
New UK defence chief General Sir Patrick Sanders says UK armed forces are now focused on Russia. But even the best kit is no use if it is missing vital spare parts, has run out of fuel, lacks crew members, or has no ammo to shoot.
Helping Ukraine runs down stockpiles. The UK needs to rebuild its own capabilities before the Kremlin turns northward. But production lines are at full stretch, bottlenecks abound, lead times are long, and some parts come from China.
Dreams of Global Britain are meeting Realpolitik in Europe.
AR Reforming the economy must come first.
Upgrading the LHC detector ALICE
2022 July 4
Ten years ago, researchers gathered at the CERN lab to celebrate the discovery of the Higgs boson. Particle physics then suffered a long hangover. Now, as the LHC fires up again, we have renewed optimism.
The standard model of particle physics, SM, describes the particles and forces that make up our universe, but it is incomplete. Ten years ago, a popular new idea was supersymmetry, SUSY, which predicts a zoo of superparticles pairing known particles.
Supersymmetry was based on a mathematical symmetry relating bosons to fermions. Many SUSY models contained a candidate to explain dark matter. SUSY also unified the electroweak and strong force at high energies.
The Higgs field acts as a gloop that slows down particles like electrons and quarks by giving them mass. But the Higgs field strength seems to have only two natural values: either zero or so high that everything in the cosmos collapses into black holes.
Superparticles would interact with the Higgs to stabilise the Higgs field around the value we see without fine-tuning. They would have masses close to the Higgs boson mass, well within the reach of the LHC, but they have not appeared in the ATLAS and CMS detectors.
CMS and ATLAS experimenters have measured the Higgs mass and interactions with increasing accuracy. So far, it looks as predicted by the SM. The lack of new physics has dismayed some.
LHC researchers have discovered new types of matter−antimatter asymmetry and tetraquarks and pentaquarks. These all fit within the SM. They have also seen evidence of beauty quarks behaving in ways beyond the SM.
Some solutions to the beauty anomalies introduce leptoquarks. These can convert quarks directly into leptons and vice versa, beyond the SM, leading to a larger theory explaining why we see six quarks and six leptons.
In the coming decade, the LHC will get a major upgrade to increase its luminosity. ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb will all be able to make precise measurements of the mass of the W boson.
A Higgs decay to dark matter would show in ATLAS and CMS as missing momentum. Measuring the Higgs self-interaction would tell us about processes in the first picosecond after the big bang.
AR Clear Cliff notes.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, European Commission president Ursula von der Layen
NZ has secured a free trade agreement with the EU
2022 July 3
UK Policy Agenda
I want to build a strong policy agenda. Then it's there for reasonable people to take up. At least you get people debating how to change the country in a way that bears some resemblance to the reality of the challenge we face.
Sometimes politics isn't about just going with the flow, it's about resisting it as well. It's a fight. For Labour to win the next election, it's got to have a policy agenda.
Brexit is not going to be reversed any time soon. This stuff in Northern Ireland is doing us damage.
Annalena Baerbock, Simon Coveney
The Good Friday agreement commits everyone to pursue dialog to resolve differences.
When the UK voted to leave the EU, the EU and the UK agreed on the NI protocol to protect the Good Friday agreement. It paved the way for the EU−UK trade and cooperation agreement.
The EU has brought forward proposals to simplify the movement of goods between GB and NI. It is committed to giving stakeholders in NI a greater say in how the NIP works.
This package respects the Good Friday agreement and maintains the high standards that EU citizens expect. The British government chose not to engage in good faith with these proposals.
We urge the British government to step back from their unilateral approach.
AR Such a pity Blair lied about Iraq.
Brexit Rocks UK
Brexit has damaged the UK ship of state. In 2022 Q1, the UK current account deficit was 8.3% of GDP, the worst since records began in 1955. Real export volumes over the period are down 4.4% and import volumes up 10.4%.
Sterling has slipped below $1.20 in foreign exchange markets. The UK economy is falling into recession, investment is flat, and inflation is rising fast. Britain faces an existential sterling crisis, made worse by the refusal of the government to face the truth.
Reopening full access to the EU can offer export growth and inward investment. We need to reproduce the strong economic performance of NI within the single market across the UK.
The UK needs to be in the single market and customs union to have any prospect of price stability and growth. It needs to be within the political architecture of Europe for its own security. And it needs to be within both to hold the union together.
HMS Brexitannia is foundering.
AR Titanic tragedy.
2022 July 2
Defeating Putin: The Price
Are we prepared to pay the price for victory in Ukraine?
President Putin will be happy if Russian forces take the Donbas and the Crimean corridor. He could spin this as a win.
President Zelensky says Ukraine "will only negotiate from a position of strength" but is unlikely to drive Russia out of Donbas and Crimea.
Western officials say it is not just for Ukraine to decide how and when this war ends.
A French diplomat: "Of course, we have our own interests, but for now they coincide with Kyiv's."
A German official: "At present, we wholly support Ukraine's position."
The White House doubts that the Ukrainians can retake all of the Donbas and is debating what would be a credible victory.
Putin has no reason to make peace with Ukraine without sanctions relief. Zelensky cannot negotiate this. At some point we will be involved.
NATO is not truly united and has hung back from a clear statement on victory. NATO ground troops will not be deployed to the battlefield.
Putin is betting that Russia will be able to outlast Ukraine and the West.
The United States has already given Ukraine more than a third of its arsenal of Stinger and Javelin missiles. Congress has appropriated $9 billion to replenish US arsenals. But demand is pushing up prices, and many manufacturers are overwhelmed.
What do we want?
Doing a deal
There will probably have to be a deal with President Putin. The Russians must be forced to stop their war. But once we have stopped them, we must agree terms and resume relations.
President Zelensky may be the most popular person in the world at present, but he is human and under pressure. His allies must ask how far they can go.
Putin may well be unhinged and is clearly untrustworthy. But the remedy for Ukraine is security through defensive capability underwritten by western allies, not through regime change in Moscow.
British bellicosity from the prime minister, defence secretary, and foreign secretary is inappropriate and unseemly. Boris Johnson says Putin has a toxic testosterone problem. Ben Wallace goes one better with a diagnosis of small man syndrome. Liz Truss has turned to Taiwan, where she seems to be threatening war with China.
Wars that do not end in occupations end in deals.
AR I say demand Putin be replaced.
2022 July 1
Hong Kong: 25 Years of Freedom
President Xi Jinping, in a speech to usher in 2020: "In recent months, we have been concerned with the situation in Hong Kong. Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can people live in peace and enjoy their work? I sincerely wish Hong Kong well and our Hong Kong compatriots well."
On June 30, 2020, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopted the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR.
On March 30, 2021, the NPC, approved amending and improving the city's electoral system, aiming to keep administrative power in Hong Kong firmly in the hands of patriots.
Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies vice-president Lau Siu-kai describes the implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle over the past 25 years as a general success. The autonomy conferred on Hong Kong means the central government still holds the right of overall jurisdiction.
Since Xi took office in 2012, the central government has enhanced its support for Hong Kong. With the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the successful election of a new chief executive, Hong Kong is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its return to the motherland.
AR UK officials who complain seem pusillanimous.
We have a saying in America that nations with allies thrive, nations without allies wither. We're watching Russia wither before our eyes right now.
One military lesson we can be taken from Russia's war in Ukraine so far is: Don't have incompetent generals in charge of your operations.
Russia's military performance is pathetic. It's an immoral, tactically incompetent, operationally stupid, and strategically foolish effort.
The tragedy of our time is that Putin is a creature straight out of Dostoevsky. He goes to bed every night angry, he goes to bed every night fearful, he goes to bed every night thinking that Russia is surrounded by nightmares. This has guided him.
Putin probably thought the Ukrainian people were going to welcome him.
AR Informal remarks, but perceptive.
Ukrainian tank driver