BLOG 2010 Q2


IBM Watson can understand a naturally posed question and respond with a precise, factual answer. This fall, the producers of the TV quiz show Jeopardy will pit Watson against human players.

AR Achtung TREX-Kumpel!

Afghan Mineral Riches
The New York Times

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan. The previously unknown deposits including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium. Afghanistan could be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world.

An internal Pentagon memo states that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key metal for batteries in an electric future.

Digital self-publishing is
changing book publishing

"We are not born free. Freedom is something we acquire. And we acquire it through obedience."
Roger Scruton

Monty Python
The Wall Street Journal

In a vintage Monty Python sketch, there is a soccer game between Germany and Greece in which the players are leading philosophers. Germany is captained by "Nobby" Hegel and boasts the world-class attackers Nietzsche, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, while the wily Greeks, captained by Socrates, field a dream team with Plato in goal and Aristotle on defense. Socrates scores a match winner. Hegel argues in vain with the referee, Confucius, that the reality of Socrates' goal is ...

My posted Amazon reviews
of books by various authors

British Prisoners
Converting To Islam
The Times

Inmates are converting to Islam in order to gain perks and the protection of powerful Muslim gangs. It seems that some convicts are taking up the religion in jail to receive benefits only available to Muslims. The share of Muslim prisoners has risen from 5% in 1994 to 11% in 2008. Staff at top-security prisons and youth jails have raised concerns about the intimidation of non-Muslims and possible forced conversions.

Sir John Templeton
The Nation

Sir John Templeton was an architect of globalization. As he grew older, he would rhapsodize about science's amazing progress in virtually every area of knowledge except in spirituality. He envisioned a new "humility theology" that emphasizes how much believers need to question and test their beliefs. Templeton wrote of the search for "spiritual information" and of God as "Unlimited Creative Spirit."

The Assassins

From 1090 until 1273, the Order of Assassins played a singular and sinister role in the Middle East. A small Shiite sect more properly known as the Nizari Ismailis, the Assassins were geographically dispersed, and despised as heretics by most Muslims. By conventional standards, the Assassins should have been no match for their many enemies. But the charismatic and ruthless Hasan-i Sabbah forged this sect into one of the most lethally effective terrorist groups the world has ever known. The Assassins were brilliant at asymmetric warfare. Their targeted killings produced a stable balance of power in the Middle East. Then the Mongols crushed them.

AR I recently watched the movie Der Mongole by Sergei Bodrov about the rise to greatness of Genghis Khan. It seems he was wise and judicious, the veritable Moses of his people. Maybe the West needs a new Moses.

Medieval Afghanistan
Foreign Policy

Britain's new defense minister, Liam Fox, described Afghanistan as a "broken 13th-century country." One Afghan official said Fox's comments "show a lack of trust" and prove that Britain is a "colonial, orientalist, and racist country."

Look at the power of religion in rural Afghanistan. Islam still permeates all aspects of everyday social relations in rural society. Its influence pervades people's ordinary conversations, business transactions, dispute resolutions, and moral judgments. There is no relationship, whether political, economic, or social, that is not validated by Islam. In such a society it is impossible to separate religion from politics. Christianity played a similar role in medieval European life.

President Hamid Karzai is like a medieval European king. An understanding of medieval power politics would be of greater value to the international advisors sent to the Karzai government than a background in constitutional law.

AR The truth is never proof of colonialism or racism.

Has Israel lost it?
Robert Fisk

Had Europeans been gunned down by any other Middle Eastern army, there would have been waves of outrage. What does this say about Israel? Isn't Turkey a close ally of Israel? Is this what the Turks can expect? Now Israel's only ally in the Muslim world is saying this is a massacre — and Israel doesn't seem to care.

2010 June 30

Global Dominion
Andy Ross

The G8 and G20 summits have just wound up their latest meetings in Toronto. No one would say they enact global governance in any politically meaningful sense, any more than we can say United Nations sessions reflect the general will of the human community on planet Earth. But, hey, they're a start. We could do worse.

Could we? Why stage global summits at all? Why not muddle along at the national and regional level for a few decades longer? Most people on this planet, if and when they have the freedom to say so, insist on maximal sovereignty, maximal delegation of powers from the center, and minimal interference from above. The political superstructures we build to regulate our affairs are most successful when they work with a light touch, ideally as light as air, with just a breeze from time to time to remind us they still exist.

By that standard, the GX summits, for X in the range 2 to 20, are dismally heavyweight ..

2010 June 26−27

G-20 Summit Meeting, Toronto, Canada

"An artificial lake, birds singing from the tape, food taster for the Banquets: In order to polish his image does, Canada is the G-20 summit in Toronto to cost more than a billion dollars. On the statesmen waiting a true paradise — in which they are to debate the economic crisis."
Der Spiegel [poetry via Google]

Taming The Financial Market Monster
Der Spiegel

The G-20 summit may be the last chance to regulate financial markets. But it seems more likely that the leading industrialized nations will once again fail to reach an agreement.

"The G-20 was kind of the thing that was at hand in a moment of crisis. It's not necessarily the natural board of directors of the global economy, let alone global social welfare."
Charles Freeman, CSIS

AR I'm not attending the event, sad to say.

2010 June 24−27

Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
14th Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada

AR I'm not attending this event either.

2010 June 26

My Afpak solution: Pull out the troops, bomb the crazies

2010 June 25

Basic Income For All
Cameron Abadi

According to some Christian Democrats, the only way that Germany can honor people's right to material dignity while freeing the labor market of distortions is by means of universal basic income: a single monthly payment, pegged to levels currently received by the unemployed, guaranteed to every citizen from cradle to grave.

AR Yes: Replace the incomprehensible jungle of tax and welfare payments that befuddles even smart dudes like me.

2010 June 23

"The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense."

2010 June 21

Attention Earthlings!
Andy Ross

Spaceship Earth is the greatest machine that human beings can ever hope to build. Well before the planet is shipshape, natural- born humans will have ceased to exist. That won't stop them building it. It will stop them taking command. ...

With life on Earth united in a global organism of superhuman power and purpose, the human prehistory of that organism will be capped and trumped with convincing finality. The species will rest in peace as a precursor form in the great unfolding.

Pascal Bruckner on guilt
Theodore Dalrymple on surrender

2010 June 20

Innocently surfing the web, watched a video ... 95 minutes later,
my life will never be the same again:

Directed by Shaun Monson/Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix/Featuring music by Moby

EARTHLINGS is a documentary film about humankind's perception and treatment of animals.

EARTHLINGS is by far the most comprehensive documentary ever produced on the correlation between nature, animals and human economic interests.

"If I could make everyone in the world see one film, I'd make them see Earthlings"
— Peter Singer

"This is the single most powerful and informative movie about society's treatment of animals."
— Woody Harrelson

And now for something completely different:

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the annual global arms trade is way over $1 trillion.

"The financial crisis and economic recession that affected most of the globe appeared to have little effect on levels of military expenditure, arms production or arms transfers. However, the crisis probably did undermine the willingness and ability of major governments and multilateral institutions to invest other, non-military resources to address the challenges and instabilities that threaten societies and individuals around the world."
Bates Gill, SIPRI

And now for something else completely different:

Marco Roth on neuronovels and Ian McEwan
Edmund White on aging and Martin Amis

2010 June 19

Visionary Obama
Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

Pedestrian is beneath Obama. Mr. Fix-It he is not. He is world- historical, the visionary, come to make the oceans recede and the planet heal .. The gulf is gushing, and the president is talking mystery roads to unknown destinations. That passes for vision, and vision is Obama's thing. It sure beats cleaning up beaches.

AR I'm disappointed that Obama wimped out of even considering the nuclear option.

2010 June 17

Support Israel
José María Aznar

The state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society, a fully fledged Western nation.

But Israel is still fighting for survival. Punished with missiles, threatened with destruction by Iran, and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel is not left in peace.

The rise of radical Islamism threatens the world. Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region. If Israel goes down, we all go down.

The West is going through a period of confusion. But to abandon Israel to its fate would merely illustrate how far we have sunk.

Friends of Israel support Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to do otherwise is a strategic error.

Israel is part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Our fate is intertwined.

AR Well said, [Spanish ex-premier] José.

2010 June 16

Oil Addiction Is Suicidal
Anatole Kaletsky

The Western world's addiction to oil is environmentally destructive, geopolitically suicidal, and economically irrational. By relying on fossil fuels, the West is not only risking catastrophic climate change and subsidising some of the world's nastiest political regimes to the tune of $1 trillion annually, it is also forgoing the opportunity to develop new energy technologies in which Europe and America would enjoy a clear competitive advantage.

ARMy three-point policy advice to President Obama:
1 Pop a B61 bunker-buster bomb down the spill drill hole and bill BP another billion dollars for the favor,
2 Slap a punitive pump tax on automotive gasoline to wean the guzzlers off gas and pay down the federal deficit,
3 Start a crash program to push a terawatt of electricity from new-generation nuclear reactors into the grid by 2020.

2010 June 13

Singular Mystic
The New York Times

Ray Kurzweil, 62, looks like a professor. His franchise includes best-selling books, lucrative speaking engagements, blockbuster inventions, and a line of health supplements. In August, he will begin a cross-country road show to promote a documentary about his life and beliefs that present him almost as a mystic.

Kurzweil is a prophet of the Singularity. He says there will be a thousand times more technological progress in this century than in the twentieth century. He says humans will fill their bodies with nanoscale creatures that can repair cells and will tap their minds into computers. He says the computer and the Internet have changed society much faster than electricity, phones, or television, and soon industries like medicine and energy will grow as fast as IT. In 2008, Kurzweil and others founded Singularity University.

AR Ray's ideas helped inspire my book — see above.

2010 June 10

The Hasso Plattner Institute is developing imaginary interfaces for mobile devices to replace screen and keyboard with hand gestures

AR Just like in my book — see above.

Freedom Triumphs
Der Spiegel

The liberal VVD party has come first in the Dutch parliamentary election, beating PM Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrats into fourth place. But the election's real winner is anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party could be part of the next government.

Let Freedom Ring
The Telegraph

The real victory went to Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV), which demands an end to immigration from Muslim countries and a ban on new mosques. The PVV now has 24 seats and could enter a coalition government. Wilders called it a magnificent result: "We are the biggest winner today. The Netherlands chose more security, less crime, less immigration and less Islam."

AR Is the Dutch way better than the British way of life, below?

Charles: "Follow the Islamic way"
Daily Mail

Prince Charles yesterday urged the world to follow Islamic spiritual principles to protect the environment. He argued that man's destruction of the world was particularly contrary to Islam. He said the Koran teaches that there is "no separation between man and nature" and says we must always live within our environment's limits. The prince was speaking in Oxford on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, of which he is the patron.

"The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason, and that is, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us. Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with creation."

AR Charles has taken an inconvenient truth from Al Gore.

2010 June 9

A More Forceful China
The New York Times

Relations between the American and Chinese militaries are in a very deep freeze.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue, a meeting of the defense ministers of 28 Asia-Pacific nations including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and General Ma Xiaotian, the deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, who said: "A cold-war mentality still exists."

Gates said military ties between the nations are "held hostage" by the Taiwan issue, even though American arms sales to Taiwan "have been a reality for decades."

A Chinese admiral lectured on American "hegemony" in a private session during last month's Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing. American diplomats were left furious.

The Obama administration's approach to China needs retooling.

2010 June 8

British Social Engineering
Theodore Dalrymple

Britain is one of the worst countries in the Western world in which to grow up. This is the consequence not of economic poverty but of the various kinds of squalor that are prevalent in the country.

Professional alleviators of the effects of social pathology, such as social workers and child psychologists, dispute this claim. A common view is that poverty is simply maldistribution of resources. But redistributionist thinking denies agency to the poor and encourages dependency and corruption.

The British state is today as much a monopoly provider of education to the population as it is of health care. The burocrats believe that public education is a means of engineering social justice.

AR I tend to agree. At least since the winter of discontent in 1979 that triggered the Thatcher revolution, Britain has shown signs of societal dysfunction.

  If you would know Allah, go to the infinite blue.
  Who is this you call Allah?

  Almost formless, embodied in light,
  In his embryonic avatar,
  He meets his beloved.

  We all know this to be the truth.
  We flower from the past
  To become prophets of the future.

  He who has self-knowledge
  Is open to any religion,
  Be it Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian!

— from Homage to Adam by Bengali poet Lalon Fakir
Quoted by William Dalrymple in his reflective study of the steady diminution of religious diversity in India

2010 June 7

Iran Red Crescent Aid To Gaza

Iran's Red Crescent Society will try to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. One shipment of relief goods will go to Gaza via Egypt and two ships will go straight to Gaza, including a hospital ship and a ship with more relief goods.

AR This looks like checkmate for the Israeli blockade.

2010 June 6

Young, Muslim, Brutal
Der Spiegel

A new study shows that violence among young Muslims increases with their religiosity. Muslim religiosity promotes acceptance of a macho culture and use of violent methods.

The conclusions stem from a joint research project of the Federal Interior Ministry and the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN) led by criminologist Christian Pfeiffer. The KFN interviewed around 45,000 teenagers nationwide.

Turkish scientist Rauf Ceylan explained that the majority of imams in Germany support a retreat into a conservative Islam and their own ethnic group. Most imams are only temporarily in Germany, cannot speak German, and have no positive relations to German culture. They regard male dominance as self-evident.

Pfeiffer said the results show there is a problem with how Islam is propagated to promote acceptance of a macho culture. While young Christians show less violence with increasing religiosity, the opposite is true in young male Muslims.

AR Islam is failing in its duty as a moral code. Imams, take note.

2010 June 4

Hints of Life on Titan
New Scientist

The Cassini spacecraft has found two potential signs of life on Saturn's moon Titan. Scientists suggested that life forms could live in the lakes of liquid methane or ethane scattered over the moon's surface. Microbes could get energy by breathing in hydrogen gas and eating the organic molecule acetylene, creating methane. This would result in a lack of acetylene on Titan and a depletion of hydrogen close to the surface, where the microbes would live. Cassini measurements have now borne out these predictions.

2010 June 3

The Times

Mark Zuckerberg predicted that in a few years' time thousands of websites and services would be linked to consumers' profiles and preferences, following the trend that Facebook has started: "Things are going to be designed around people. The world is moving this direction where things are going to be designed more around people and that's going to be a really powerful direction."

The Times

Steve Jobs predicts the era of the personal computer is coming to an end and the tablet will take its place: "The transformation of the PC to new form factors like the tablet is going to make some people uneasy because the PC has taken us a long ways."

IDC predicts that 46 million tablet computers will be delivered worldwide during 2014. Jobs said that it was "surreal" that Apple had overtaken Microsoft by market capitalization.

AR I foresee these trends too — see my new book.

2010 June 2

What's To Investigate?
Shmuel Rosner

The debate about the Gaza blockade has nothing to do with the raid on the flotilla. As long as blockade is the policy, no bunch of protesters can be given the right to enter. The relevant question is about the use of excessive force against the protesters. Israel wasn't expecting to kill civilians. The soldiers were surprised by a mob. They opened fire. Civilians were killed. It's no cause for pride — but also nothing to be ashamed of.

AR A great shame, I'd say.

2010 June 1

Schloss sucht Boss
Der Spiegel

Die umstrittenen Worte über Krieg und Frieden vom ehemaligen Bundespräsidenten Horst Köhler: "Meine Einschätzung ist aber, dass insgesamt wir auf dem Wege sind, doch auch in der Breite der Gesellschaft zu verstehen, dass ein Land unserer Größe mit dieser Außenhandelsorientierung und damit auch Außenhandelsabhängigkeit auch wissen muss, dass im Zweifel, im Notfall auch militärischer Einsatz notwendig ist, um unsere Interessen zu wahren, zum Beispiel freie Handelswege, zum Beispiel ganze regionale Instabilitäten zu verhindern, die mit Sicherheit dann auch auf unsere Chancen zurückschlagen negativ durch Handel, Arbeitsplätze und Einkommen."

AR War is the continuation of trade by other means — go tell it to the Greeks.


No Sex, Please!
Janice Turner

Is a woman who doesn't want sex suffering from a medical condition? The problem is not that she cannot perform, but that she has no desire to. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is common. Surveys show that
43 percent of American women have it. That's either an epidemic or simply a norm.

AR Maybe I have HSDD.

Horex bike

Rebirth of a legendary
German marque: the 2010
Horex with 200 hp V6 motor

America's efforts to use the religious and political fervor of Islam to its own ends followed a Nazi program intended to do much the same thing during World War II.
Ian Johnson

Messerschmidt 262
Mike Vines
Me 262 over Berlin
2010 ILA Berlin Air Show

British Blogger Sage

A blogger who left Britain 20 years ago for rural bliss in Spain has become an unlikely economic sage who advises the International Monetary Fund. Edward Hugh counts Nobel Prize winner and American economist Paul Krugman among his avid followers. Krugman: "I wish he posted more." Hugh attended the London School of Economics in the late 1960s.

AR So there's hope for me yet

Two New Humanist gems:
Scruton on pessimism
Grayling on evil

A more thoughtful analysis
of the flotilla blockade saga

British Women
Converting To Islam
The Times

The number of female converts to Islam is on the rise. At the London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, women account for roughly two thirds of the "New Muslims" who make their official declarations of faith there. In 2001 there were at least 30,000 British Muslim converts in the UK. According to Kevin Brice, of the Centre for Migration Policy Research, Swansea University, this number may now be 50,000. Most are women.

British Women Imamahs
The Times

Women imams could be leading prayers in British mosques within 15 years, according to a leading Muslim. But resistance from traditionalists means that it could be decades before they lead mixed congregations. The number of female Islamic scholars, or alimahs, is soaring. There are five seminaries for women in Britain, with hundreds of graduates.

The Hitch weighs in on
Israel and Turkey

More repercussions of the spat
between Israel and Turkey

Coolpix of a sunlit walk in
Schwetzingen Schlossgarten

Aluf Benn, Haaretz

The "flotilla affair" offers a good opportunity to complete the disengagement from Gaza and leave Hamastan to its own devices.

AR Do it!

The Hitch
The Telegraph

The Hitch does self-parody well. According to his closest friend, Martin Amis, he "likes the smell of cordite" and is always on the prowl for an argument. "Against the Hitch," Amis once wrote, "physical and intellectual opposition are equally futile."
The Hitch's favored debating technique is charm followed by an abrupt, flick-knife withdrawal of charm.

Who is Chris Hitchens?

Who was Ayn Rand?

Four Turks Among Dead
Jerusalem Post

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that four Turkish citizens are among those that were killed in Monday's Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship the Mavi Marmara.

AR  Is Israel ambitious to become the North Korea of Southwest Asia?

All Souls Update
The New York Times

The All Souls entrance exam included a three-hour exam in which applicants wrote an essay about a single word printed on an otherwise blank question paper. No longer. All Souls College, part of Oxford University, recently decided to scrap the one-word exam. "For a number of years, the one-word essay question had not proved to be a very valuable way of providing insight into the merits of the candidates," said Sir John Vickers, the college warden.

AR  Thirty years ago I'd have loved to be an All Souls fellow.
I worked regularly with fellows there, for example with Charles Taylor, the 2007 Templeton Prize winner, and with Crispin Wright, now Global Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at New York University. I read all their books avidly. Bygones.

Cash For Clunker?
Alison Flood, The Guardian

A science-fiction author is offering people a cash incentive to read his novel. Peter Riley finished his novel Universes in 1999 but failed to land a publishing contract for the book. He has posted the novel online for free, offering readers part of a $3,000 prize if they answer some questions about the book. Riley: "I'm hoping that publishing the book online and pretty well paying people to read it will get it noticed ... I'm 65 ... and I'm desperate to get it published while I'm still alive."

AR  Chin up, man!
I sympathize.

Garbage and Gravitas
Corey Robin, The Nation

When Russian emigré Ayn Rand arrived in the United States,
Thus Spake Zarathustra was the first book in English she bought. With Nietzsche on her mind, she was inspired to write in her journals that "the secret of life" is, "you must be nothing but will. Know what you want and do it. Know what you are doing and why you are doing it, every minute of the day. All will and all control. Send everything else to hell!"

AR  Clear thinking, AR!

New Life Is Born
Mark Henderson, The Times

Craig Venter has created a synthetic bacterium. Nicknamed Synthia, it is a breakthrough in biological engineering, allowing the creation of organisms that make vaccines and turn carbon dioxide into biofuels.

Dr Venter: "This is the first synthetic cell ... a proof of concept. But the proof of concept was key, otherwise it is just speculation and science fiction. This takes us ... into a new world."

"I'm probably more aligned to Lucifer and the dark side"
Keith Richards

DNA Robots
MIT Technology Review

Researchers from Columbia University, Arizona State University, and Caltech have made a nanobot that follows a programmable path on a surface patterned with DNA and researchers from New York University have made a nanobot that picks up pieces of gold as it moves along a surface patterned with DNA. The machines are described in Nature.

Susanne Lencinas Fotografie
Time for me to get out
and enjoy nature again

2010 May 30

Lena gewinnt Grand Prix
Der Spiegel

Lena Meyer-Landrut hat am Samstagabend den Eurovision Song Contest 2010 gewonnen. Die aus Hannover stammende 19-jährige Abiturientin war erst vor wenigen Monaten in einer Casting-Show entdeckt worden. Sie konnte ihren Sieg kaum fassen. "Oh mein Gott, ich dreh durch!", rief sie völlig überwältigt.

AR  "Love, oh, love" — what a fun song!

2010 May 29

Waverider Test
Aviation Week

The X-51A was launched over the Pacific on May 26, achieving scramjet ignition and acceleration, but the engine ran for 200 s rather than the 300 s planned, and the vehicle reached around Mach 5 instead of Mach 6.

The X-51A booster-and-cruiser stack was released by the B-52 mother ship at around 15 km and Mach 0.8. The stack separated cleanly and the booster ignited as planned, taking the vehicle to Mach 4.8, where the cruiser separated and executed a roll.

At Mach 4.73, the scramjet ignited with ethylene and transitioned to JP-7 fuel. The X-51A accelerated at up to 0.15g instead of the projected 0.22g. At around Mach 5, the vehicle began to slow. When telemetry was lost, range safety officials terminated the flight and destroyed the vehicle.

AR  Spiegel fact checkers take note!

2010 May 28

X-51A on B-52
X-51A Waverider on B-52 wing pylon

Three Minutes at Mach 5
Der Spiegel

Engineers were "ecstatic" at the first flight of the hypersonic X-51A Waverider scramjet. The U.S. Air Force launched the X-51A from a B-52 at an altitude of 15 km. The solid-fuel booster accelerated the missile to Mach 4.8, then the scramjet fired for 200 seconds of Mach 5 flight through the atmosphere. This is a breakthrough in supersonic combustion ramjet technology.

AR  We all wanted scramjets 40 years ago for fast interceptors.

2010 May 27

Germany Versus Europe
The New York Times

Germany is doing far better than the rest of Europe. But its economy would sputter if European consumers could no longer afford to buy its goods. German banks lent billions to Greece and other troubled European countries.

With a low fiscal deficit and strong export surpluses, Germany has contributed less than its fair share to the global stimulus. The eurozone's lack of a common fiscal policy is the responsibility of all the euro's creators.

The PIGS countries spent lavishly during the bubble and failed to reform labor markets or control wages. Germany should have demanded adjustments earlier. Those countries have been forced into tax increases and spending cuts to bring their deficits under control. The cuts risk plunging Europe into recession.

Instead of committing to more spending, Germany is now preparing a multiyear program of deep spending cuts. German austerity will likely cripple Europe's nascent recovery and Germany's own prosperity.

AR  Where are the German Keynesians when we need them?

Dunkirk boats 70 years on
Dunkirk boats departing Ramsgate for France to mark the anniversary of the evacuation 70 years ago

AR  Still gives me shivers to think of all that

2010 May 25

Korean War 2: Countdown
The Guardian

Scott Snyder, director of the center for U.S.-Korea policy at the Asia Foundation, Washington: "This is really the last phase of unwinding of this policy of engagement that had been in place between the Koreas since 1998."

Professor Hazel Smith, North Korea expert, Cranfield University: "Wars sometimes happen by accident, or because you have escalation and no one can control it."

Hillary Clinton called stability on the Korean peninsula a "shared responsibility" of China and the United States as she wrapped up two days of talks in Beijing.

Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images AsiaPac
South Korean Air Force F-16 team, Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2009

AR  A few years ago I practiced piloting bombing runs over Korea
       in a USAF F-16 simulator on my PC

2010 May 23

The iPad Revolution
Sue Halpern, The New York Review of Books

According to the Association of American Publishers, book sales fell nearly 2% to $23.9 billion in 2009. Educational books and paperbacks took the biggest hit. The figures seemed to confirm what Steve Jobs said in early 2008: "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore."

Jobs was wrong: In 2009, sales of digital books were over $313 million. Goldman Sachs predict U.S. sales of e-books will grow to $3.2 billion by 2015.

There are two ways to display words on a screen. E Ink reflects light and looks like regular ink. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) have backlit pixels that can be dimmed or brightened. Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook are both monochrome readers that use E Ink. Aple's iPhone and iPad have LCDs, and both are backlit. Backlit screens are hard to read outside or in direct sunlight. Reflective E Ink screens are hard to see in low light. LCDs drain power, E Ink screens conserve it.

The Nook is built around the ePub format, which is open and freely available for any device. The Kindle uses a proprietary format, which functions only for Kindle. The iPad's iBook app uses the ePub format. So far, the iBookstore has some 60,000 titles. The ePub format is used by every electronic reader except the Kindle. Google Editions, scheduled to launch this summer, will use it.

AR GIG in ePub format?

2010 May 21

Revised Cover and Blurb for GIG

Through our efforts to develop new technology and globalize its industrial application, we humans are working together to create a global organization so integrated that we become parts of a single living organism. Andy Ross calls this organism Globorg.

Globorg is the natural culmination of biological evolution on planet Earth. It will embrace humans as living parts. It will include human history as part of its own history. We are building its brain with the infrastructure of the web and cloud services.

We shall identify with Globorg. On a clear day we shall see and act as one. Globorg will have woken up. But first we need to win the war between science and religion. Andy Ross proposes a logical foundation for a new philosophy of life.

This book is a road map from here and now to Globorg. It will open up a new world for smart and ambitious readers.

2010 May 20

Thatcherize The Eurozone!
Bill Emmott, The Times

Panic is not a word normally associated either with Germany or Angela Merkel. But that was the impression given by Germany's announcement on Tuesday that it was banning short-selling of eurozone government debt or of shares in financial companies by German institutions.

When the euro was launched in 1999, rules were set for budget deficits and public debt. France and Germany were among the first to break the rules. So when the southern European nations broke the rules big time, it was no surprise. Nor can it be a surprise that banks in France and Germany lent the money.

Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy (PIGS) must make budget cuts. Presumably, the penalty would be expulsion from the euro. But Merkel has described any exit as unthinkable.

Steffen Kampeter, the German Finance Ministry #2, said the eurozone needs a strictly enforced fiscal union, combined with a broad liberalization of goods, services, and labor markets. In other words, it needs to be Thatcherized.

Will the PIGS take the medicine? Will Germany?

AR  Do it! If Brits could take it, Krauts can.

2010 May 14

SAP Stack Wars
Financial Times

SAP's acquisition of US peer Sybase is the largest deal SAP has done since buying Business Objects in 2007. Sybase is a market leader in software for putting business apps onto mobile devices.

The deal will help SAP to push forward its in-memory technology. SAP says in-memory systems can cut database analysis times from hours to seconds. It is the next big leap in computer technology. Developing in-memory computing has been a pet project for Hasso Plattner, SAP's chairman and co-founder.

Sybase is focused on clients from the financial and trading world, where the in-memory technology will pay off well.

AR  Hasso is developing in-memory technology with my old team.
       I almost wish I was still there in the middle of the action.

Literary criticism is a refuge for unsystematic thinkers

2010 May 13

Cameron and Clegg
Carl de Souza
Britain's First Couple: David Cameron and Nick Clegg

AR  My book news: the manuscript is finalizing at 300 pages in a
       handy 12.9 x 19.8 cm paperback format

2010 May 10

Through our efforts to develop new technology and globalize its industrial application, we humans are working together to create a global organization so integrated that we become parts of a single living organism. Andy Ross calls this organism Globorg.

Globorg is the natural culmination of biological evolution on planet Earth. It will embrace humans as living parts. It will include human history as part of its own history. We are building its brain with the infrastructure of the web and cloud services.

We shall identify with Globorg. On a clear day we shall see and act as one. Globorg will have woken up. But first we need to win a major turf war between science and religion. Andy Ross presents an original and winning idea.

This book is a road map from here and now to Globorg. It conveys a stark message that many will find controversial.

AR  My new book is now available as a PDF file (303 pages, 2 MB)
       set in a handy paperback page format (but not yet for sale)

2010 May 9

The beloved U.S. imam who now preaches jihad from Yemen
Two non-biologists try to say what they think Darwin got wrong
Nietzsche and Heidegger: still too much slime below the surface

2010 May 8

65 years ago today: VE Day

Apple Passes Microsoft
The New York Times

The most important technology product no longer sits on your desk but rather fits in your hand. Apple, maker of iPods, iPhones, and iPads, shot past Microsoft, maker of Windows and Office, to become the world's most valued technology company. This change caps a stunning turnaround for Apple. Microsoft has dominated the relationship most people had with their computers for almost two decades. Apple still sells computers but makes twice as much revenue from hand-held devices and music. As of Wednesday, Wall Street valued Apple at $222 billion and Microsoft at $219 billion.

AR Combined street value: $441 billion

The Euro Crisis
Christopher Booker
The Telegraph

The measures so far taken to prop up the collapsing euro, such as the "$1 trillion package", are no more than gestures. We are witnessing a judgment on the European project. Everything has been directed to one goal, full political and economic integration. The most important part was locking the member states into a single currency. There was no way economic and monetary union could work unless it was run by a single all-powerful economic government, with the power to raise taxes.

If the euro disintegrates, the consequences would be incalculable. Without a currency, trade would collapse. Cries went up last week for the European Union to be transformed into an economic government with control over national budgets and the power to raise taxes.

AR  Ein Europa, eine Währung, eine Politik — alles nur konsequente Gleichschaltung.
Ich habe kein Problem damit.

The Euro Is Dead
Jeff Randall, The Telegraph

The game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club Med. You cannot run a single currency with one interest rate for 16 economies with such huge fiscal disparities.
Withdrawal from the eurozone
of one or more countries is now inevitable. Greece and Portugal are favorites to be booted out.
A new hard currency zone, led
by Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries, is being proposed for the winners.

CIA Can Kill Cleric
The New York Times

The Obama administration has authorized the CIA to kill an American citizen. American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is hiding in Yemen. Administration officials say that no legal or constitutional rights can protect him. The idea that the CIA can execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, discomfits some legal authorities.

Awlaki back story

SAP to Buy Sybase
The New York Times

SAP has agreed to buy Sybase for $5.25 billion. The acquisition puts SAP into the database software market and raises its game against Oracle.

AR  Good move
and good for my
former team
TREX too

IISS Dossier
IISS Strategic Dossier
Release date: May 10


Intuitive Surgical
Intuitive Surgical
The da Vinci robot allows surgeons to operate through keyhole-sized incisions

Lockheed U-2

Lockheed U-2
Later models are still in use
for high altitude research

2010 May 7

Clegg seems to have lost in the UK election but has really won big. He can now choose which PM he wishes to work with to reform the British electoral system so that he, Clegg, can win big next time.

My old friend Judy has been unseated by the Conservative with a margin of 536 votes, out of about 46 000 votes cast — their local Monster Raving Loony candidate succeeded in getting 265 votes.

2010 May 5

My mashup from Wikipedia and theConservatives website:

David Cameron, 43, was elected Leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005. He has been the Member of Parliament for the Oxfordshire constituency of Witney since 2001. He studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, gaining a first class honours degree. He then joined the Conservative Research Department. He worked as a special adviser, first to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and then to the Home Secretary. He then spent seven years at Carlton Communications and served on the management board. His experience in business made him appreciate first hand the damaging effect that red tape and high taxes can have on job creation.

AR  Too young, base too narrow, but likely to be the winner

2010 May 4

President Ahmadinejad makes a case on nuclear non-proliferation

2010 May 3

The financial crisis has entered a new phase. Today, the world is threatened by the debts of governments, including debts run up rescuing banks a year ago.
Spiegel Online

2010 May 1

Fifty years ago today, CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers flew a Lockheed U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union and was shot down by a Soviet missile. Following a NASA press release that the plane had gone down north of Turkey, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower claimed the plane was a weather research aircraft. Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev contradicted the U.S. account and embarrassed Eisenhower. In 1962 the Soviets released Powers in a prisoner exchange. He returned to criticism that he had failed to destroy the plane and commit suicide.

AR  I recall following the story with fascination in the newspapers.

Sven Birkerts: Novels are hard to read in our age of digital media

U.S. Air Force
Bikini Atoll, May 5, 1954

Global Hawk

Global Hawk
Modern unmanned platform
for spy plane missions


2010 April 29

Greek Tragedy
Takis Michas

The debacle of the Greek state signifies the collapse of a model of economic development that placed politics above markets. The central organizing principle of Greek society has always been that political support is provided in exchange for material benefits. The state's role as the main provider of benefits is paramount.

2010 April 28

Can we expect an economic cold war between China and the West?

2010 April 26

God Is Not One
Stephen Prothero,

Lumping all the world's religions into one megareligion is not just false, it is a threat.

When it comes to safeguarding the world from the evils of religion, the claim that all religions are one is no more effective than the claim that all religions are poison. We need realism.

What the world's religions share is a starting point: Something is wrong with the world. They part company when it comes to stating just what has gone wrong, and they diverge even more sharply over how to solve it.

For more than a century, scholars have searched for the essence of religion. Today it is widely accepted that there is no one essence that all religions share. What they share are family resemblances.

It is a fantasy to imagine that Christianity and Islam are in any meaningful sense the same, or that interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims will magically bridge the gap.

Tolerance and respect are empty virtues until we know what we are supposed to be tolerating or respecting.

AR  God neither is nor is not one, nor is, nor is not, mu.

2010 April 25

Is rationalism just a bad religion? Gray on Grayling

2010 April 23

Boeing X-37B Unmanned Space Vehicle

The U.S. Air Force launched a new space plane into orbit last night from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Perched atop an Atlas V rocket, the Boeing X-37B made its first flight after a decade in development.
The X-37B is less than 9 meters long. It can stay in orbit for up to
9 months. It will return and land itself using an onboard autopilot. The primary landing spot is Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The primary goal is to see if the system is a viable option for the Air Force. The X-37 program was first developed for NASA. The program was transferred to the Department of Defense in 2004.

AR  A robot pickup truck for getting stuff in and out of orbit

SAP Profit Up

SAP AG has nearly doubled its Q1 net profit. SAP reported 2010 Q1 net income of €387 million compared with €196 million in 2009 Q1, an increase of 97%. Revenue rose 5% to €2.5 billion in the quarter. Both software revenue and support revenue were up 11%.

X-37B preparation
Boeing X-37B
X-37B launch

Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrat leader
Nick Clegg has been voted the most popular party leader since Winston Churchill following his bold display of winning form in last week's TV debate.

AR  Nice young man but looks like yet another party clone: David Campbell was educated at Eton and Oxford, Nick Clegg at Westminster and Cambridge.
Will Brits always go for toffs?

Hanging out with Ian McEwan
Tina Brown

Tina Brown talks to Ian McEwan about his latest novel Solar.

Interview (16:49)

War and Peace
Victor Davis Hanson

Technology helps explain the peace in the Western world. War zones can be imaged in real time from air or space. Surprise is rare and potential combatants know the odds in advance. But aggressors are often guided by destructive emotions from deep in the human psyche.

2010 April 21

Candace Bushnell
The Sunday Times

Candace Bushnell is the woman who created Sex and the City. She tried modelling and acting, worked as a journalist, and was offered a column on The New York Observer called "Sex and the City". She got a book deal and the book was optioned for a TV series. It premiered in 1998, ran to six series, and was revived as a movie. Bushnell went on to write several bestselling novels.

Goldman Sachs — The Great American Bubble Machine

2010 April 18

Coolpix of a walk in the springtime sunshine

Liberal Democrat Election Outrage
Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Explosive new YouGov poll results: Conservatives 33%, Liberal Democrats 30%, Labour 28%. According to a BBC calculator, this would translate to these election results: Labour 276 seats, Conservatives 245, Lib Dems 100, others 29. This latest shift in public opinion speaks of an appetite for change. If the Clegg bounce is reflected in the result on May 6, it could unleash a political and constitutional crisis.

AR  Bring it on — break the stale duopoly of British politics!

Motor Yacht A
Klaus Gaeth
Motor Yacht A
Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, 38, owns Motor Yacht A. Launched in 2008, the $300 million yacht is 119 m long and has a luxurious master suite his employees call the nookie room.

AR  Such ominously threatening beauty in those stealth lines.

2010 April 16

Eyjafjallajökull volcano
Grynjar Gaudi/AP
Iceland: Vulcanologists say we may soon get more eruptions like that of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano now grounding all commercial flights across northern Europe. Increased rumblings under Iceland in the past decade suggest the area is entering a more active phase.

2010 April 15

The War in Afghanistan
David Miliband, The New York Review

Afghanistan was the incubator for the September 11 attacks. The Afghan and international strategy over the last eight years has been to focus on building up the key functions of the state and delivering better lives for the Afghan people. There is a real record of achievement here. In 2003, the Afghan National Army numbered fewer than two thousand. Today it is over 100,000 strong. As the Afghan National Army gets stronger, international forces will be able to withdraw from combat operations. In 2001, only one million Afghan children attended school, all boys. This year we expect to see seven million Afghan children enrolled in school, a third of them girls. The achievements of the National Solidarity Programme would be a remarkable story in any country. But justice and law and order are a battleground, civil administration remains an uphill struggle, and corruption is widespread.

AR  Not good. It's taking too long and costing us too much.

2010 April 8

President Obama on Nuclear Posture Review:

"The Nuclear Posture Review, led by the Department of Defense, recognizes that the greatest threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear proliferation to an increasing number of states. Moreover, it recognizes that our national security and that of our allies and partners can be increasingly defended by America’s unsurpassed conventional military capabilities and strong missile defenses."

AR  This is my assessment too.

"As a result, we are taking specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons while preserving our military superiority, deterring aggression and safeguarding the security of the American people."

AR  This is the correct policy.

"The United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons."

AR  I would update the warheads.

2010 April 4, Easter Sunday


Nuclear Power
Malcolm Grimston, CNN

World energy use is expected to double by 2050. We get a lot of our energy from oil and coal. Oil is around $80 a barrel and the sources are often insecure.

Nuclear economics look good compared with future fossil fuel prices. The industry should be able to deliver new stations to time and cost. Uranium is mined in Canada and Australia.

For baseload, nuclear energy does not compete with renewables but with coal and gas. Nuclear power plants cause no serious carbon dioxide emissions. The waste problems are minor compared to energy shortages and climate change.

AR I agree. Most nuclear waste can be burned in new reactors.

2010 April 2, Good Friday

Fundamentalists Versus Secularists
Caspar Melville

Eric Kaufmann says modernity does not inevitably lead people away from religious belief and toward rational humanism. Since the birth rate of secularists worldwide is below replacement level (2.1 in the West), and the birth rate of religious fundamentalists is above (between 5 and 7.5 depending on sect), demography favors the fundamentalists. Differential fertility also widens the rift between religionists and secularists. In America, 35−40% of young whites are secular. But the converts come mostly from moderate religions. The closed sects cling on to their kids. Irreligion and fundamentalism are growing and moderate religion is shrinking.

Kaufmann says religion provides enchantment, meaning, and emotion: "This is the challenge for secularism: can it come up with such an ideology?"

AR My next book aims to do so.


Electronic Cat Brain?
Wei Lu presents the memristor, a device that remembers its previous voltage state. He has built a memristor circuit that shows memory and learning. In a brain, neurons are connected to each other by synapses that can be reset based on the strength and timing of neural signals. This is spike timing dependent plasticity, thought to be the basis for memory and learning. Lu has demonstrated spike timing dependent plasticity using a memristor circuit. He uses voltage timing to change the electrical conductance in the memristor system. In our brains, similar changes in synapse conductance underlie long term memory.



USAF B-2 Spirit dropping B61 bomb
USAF B-2 Spirit dropping
B61 nuclear bomb

The B61-11 destroys buried targets to a depth of several hundred meters. The yield can be set from 300 tons of TNT to more than 300 kilotons.