BLOG 2012 Q4
The Gravity Recovery and
mission mapped the lunar
gravity field from the
satellites Ebb and Flow
(blog December 17)
General Norman Schwarzkopf
Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Schwarzkopf directed the buildup of 700 000
coalition troops. Operation Desert Storm began on 1991-01-17. They called him "Stormin' Norman."
A Short History
Of Nearly Everything
At last I read it:
A wonderful ramble
2012 December 31
Fiscal Cliff Agreement
CNN, 21:49 ET
A deal was reached between Congressional leaders
and the White House late Monday night. The agreement brokered by Vice
President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was later
signed off on by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid during calls with President Barack Obama. The plan
postpones the sequester by two months.
OPEC, the oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, will
pocket a record of more than US$1 trillion in net oil revenues in 2012.
United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, the most influential members
of the cartel, are home to 3 of the world's 10 largest sovereign wealth
funds. The benchmark closed at or above $100 every trading day in 2012,
except a few in June and July.
2012 December 30
Spent hours reading about the Mongol warlords Genghis Khan and Hulagu and
the Turk warlord Timur
(Tamerlane, a.k.a. The Sword of Islam): horrific.
The Fun Stuff
Virginia Woolf: "Oh, yes dear reader: the essay is alive.
There is no reason to despair."
James Wood: "Surely Woolf knew that
her prose had to sign itself. So her essays, both in texture and in content,
Wood says George Orwell "almost certainly" got his "eye for didactic detail from
Tolstoy" and that
Ian McEwan in turn "learned quite a lot about narrative
stealth and the control of disgust from Orwell."
Wood on Cormac
McCarthy's apocalyptic novel The Road: "As long as language can be used to
recount the worst, then the worst has not arrived. ... When does narrative,
V. S. Naipaul wrote home to his family
in Trinidad during his lonely years studying at Oxford:
"I have got to show
these people that I can beat them at their own language."
Daniel Mendelsohn says Susan Sontag had "aspirations that were at odds with her temperament
and her talent." Her self-consciousness and "inability to resist any
opportunity to interpret" made her an exciting critic but a clunky and banal
Mendelsohn attributes Jonathan Franzen's habit of "snide
superiority" to a case of arrested adolescence so severe it amounts to a
"political and aesthetic autism."
Christopher Hitchens described
Rebecca West as "a superbly intelligent woman, whose feminism was above all
concerned with the respect for, and the preservation of, true masculinity."
Katie Roiphe: "The really ghastly thing about trying to convey to a
white man the reality of the Negro experience has nothing whatever to do
with the fact of color, but has to do with this man's relationship to his
own life. He will face in your life only what he is willing to face in his."
Virginia Woolf wrote that personality is the essayist's "most dangerous
and delicate tool."
2012 December 29
David Bentley Hart
Carl Jung began receiving revelations in 1913, when he was 38 years
old. He undertook to lay open his thoughts in the Red Book, an immense
illuminated manuscript on cream vellum, copiously illustrated with
elaborate painted panels and bound in red leather.
The Red Book
is saturated in imagery and concepts drawn from the Gnostic systems of
late antiquity. Its spiritual logic is one of a saving wisdom vouchsafed
through a private revelation. For Jung, Gnostic myth was a poignantly
confused way of talking about the universal human tragedy.
have learned to see nature as a machine. The story of evolution appears
to concern only a mindless process of violent attrition and fortuitous
survival. In such a cosmos, many of us imagine transcendence solely as
an absolute absence of God from the world.
Life of Pi
Ang Lee and his team have devised an aesthetic
for Yann Martel's fanciful novel Life of Pi. Lee has decided that the
appropriate keynote is beauty, of a luminous, heightened, almost abstract
nature. A teenage boy and a ferocious tiger must coexist on a small boat set
adrift in a sea of kitsch.
The first half hour is a
luminously shot account of Pi's upbringing. Emigrating to Canada, Pi
survives a storm at sea and finds himself adrift in a lifeboat in the
company of a Bengal tiger, an orangutan, a hyena and a zebra. The film
squeezes more narrative life from Pi's ordeal than the book does.
point is to go beyond kitsch in search of visual transcendence. Lee
identifies the color of fantasy, and not surprisingly, it's a little garish.
If you can bear to let your cynicism slip, you might be swept up in some
scenes. But as a coherent film experience, Life of Pi is fatally scuppered
2012 December 28
Britain In Europe
EC president Herman Van Rompuy: "If every member
state were able to cherry-pick those parts of existing policies that they
most like, and opt out of those that they least like, the union in general,
and the single market in particular, would soon unravel. All member states
can, and do, have particular requests and needs that are always taken into
consideration as part of our deliberations. I do not expect any member state
to seek to undermine the fundamentals of our cooperative system in Europe."
VR: "Britain's contribution is greater, I think, than it
sometimes realizes itself. It has been crucial in building the EU's
centerpiece, the single European market, now the largest market in the
world, and the common rules for the common market that are necessary for it
to function. British expertise in the fields of foreign policy, finance, and
trade shape the EU's policies in these fields. It has led the way on climate
change and development aid. It has offered us the English language, now in
practice the lingua franca of Europe."
German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble: "Without the EU as an amplifier,
Britain's influence in the world would be lessened. No European country
alone can make its voice heard in today's globalized world. Europe needs an
ongoing critical debate about the best way forward. The British voice is
sorely needed in this competition of ideas."
WS: "The political
stability and economic prosperity European integration has secured have
benefited the UK as much as they have the continent. As an EU member,
Britain has enjoyed unrestricted access to the world's largest single
market. The EU has benefited tremendously from British membership. The UK is
one of Europe's strongest, most innovative economies. London is the
financial capital of Europe."
The world is so rich in interest and in puzzles,
and the task of finding out as much as we can about it is going to take us
many millennia to complete. Discovery is exciting.
narratives, they like to have an explanation, they like to know where they
are going. They like the answer handed to them by somebody authoritative
with a big beard. And that is a betrayal of the fact that we have
intelligence and so we should be questioning, challenging, trying to find
The dryads and the nymphs used to be in the trees and in the
streams. After that they evaporated into the wind and the sun. The gods went
from the surface of the earth to the mountaintops, then into the sky, and
finally beyond space and time altogether.
Extreme strands of Islam,
Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism force people to narrow their horizon of
vision down so that they are almost blind, almost infantilized, as if in a
straitjacket. But every religion goes through a fundamentalist phase and
every religion leaves its fundamentalist rump.
Almost any religion
can be explained to another person in about half an hour. But to know
anything about astrophysics or biology or anything that really gives us an
insight into the real beauty of the universe takes years of study.
The meaning of life is what you make it. There will be as many different
meaningful lives as there are people to live them.
Judy Greer has made around 80 movies in Hollywood.
But she launches straight into confessional mode:
"Oh my God: I totally
just had like a 10-minute conversation with someone and I've got no idea who
they were." She says "fuck" a lot.
Greer's latest film is Playing for
Keeps, a cliched romcom in which a string of soccer moms throw themselves at
a washed-up footballer: "These girls who work at the cupcake shop by my
rehearsal space were like: 'Ohmygod we love you, we love you. You were in
Bridesmaids and you were so awesome!' And I said: 'I wasn't in Bridesmaids.
I promise you, I wish I was in that movie, I am not in it.' Another person
said, 'Oh you were in 27 Dresses!' And I said, 'Yeah!' And she said: 'That
was my favorite movie until Bridesmaids came out and now Bridesmaids is my
favorite movie!' And I was like, yeah."
Greer was in the TV comedy
Arrested Development, playing a personal assistant to a man whom she's fond
of flashing with the line: "Say goodbye to these!" She was in LA shooting a
new series and told its creator: "'Oh, yeah, thanks by the way for all the
people flashing their tits at me all the time,' And he was, like: 'What? Do
people do that?' Yes people fucking do that. That's all they do. I get
flashed all the time. It's mostly men."
Life of Pi
This must be the most beautiful film of the year, a technical marvel,
and magic realism at its most magical. It tells the story of an Indian
teenager named Pi shipwrecked in a lifeboat with a ravenous Bengal tiger.
They encounter many marvels — a sky full of flying fish, an ocean brimming
with iridescent jellyfish, a carnivorous island — all brought to the screen
with dreamlike intensity. The story's lyricism and the movie's visual
magnificence make this an unmissable experience.
AR Chris and I knew each other in Oxford in
2012 December 27
Richard Dawkins often concentrates his attack against
religion on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are not
fundamentalists. Dawkins is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another
The growth of our understanding of the world through science
weakens some of the motivation which makes people believers. But that's not
the same thing as saying they're incompatible. It's just that some of the
traditional reasons for belief, going back thousands of years, are rather
Anybody who is a convinced but not a dogmatic believer
can continue to hold his belief. This means you have to be rather more
careful about the whole debate between science and religion than some people
have been in the past.
At the CERN meeting on the Higgs boson on July
4, the response of the audience was overwhelming. It wasn't like a
scientific seminar, it was like the end of a football match when the home
team has won, and that was what was overwhelming to me, to be a part of
that. It was the feeling that it's arrived at last!
Richard Dawkins on child abuse by Catholic priests:
"Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than
the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up
Catholic in the first place."
Several events inflicted psychological
damage in my childhood, yet the form of Catholicism in which I was raised
was basically warm hearted, and I adored the rituals and the general
reassurance that my guardian angel would watch over me and I shouldn't do
anything to shame him.
There were abiding rules but there was also
tolerance for the sinner. You were told that if you steal, you must make
restitution. You should never let the sun go down on your anger and if
you're having a rotten time, offer it up. None of this had a psychologically
damaging effect on me.
Antarctica seems to
be warming fast
Turing defined the logic of a computer. At the age of 23, he solved the decision problem of
whether there was a mechanical, finite procedure to distinguish provable
from unprovable mathematical statements within a formal system. His 1936
paper describes a hypothetical machine with a central processing unit that
uses an infinite strip of tape for memory, a program, and input and output
data. It can execute any computable program by manipulating the symbols on
the tape. He showed that the machine would be unable to decide the
validity of all mathematical statements. He had defined a schema for the
computer. He died in 1954, just shy of 42.
He built on Gödel's work,
but did well anyway.
Tots Turn To Tablets
The hottest gift for children this holiday season
is a tablet. Analysts predict 2012 will be the year children will unwrap
tablets at trendsetting rates. Traditional toy companies are scrambling to
stay relevant. Mattel's #1 selling product this year is a plastic cellphone
One Nation Under God?
Chreasters attend church only
on Christmas and Easter. Even the nones mark the birth of Jesus with a day off.
Nones are nothing
new. The past was not a golden age of faith. In medieval times, ordinary
people often skipped church and had a feeble grasp of basic Christian dogma.
American rates of church affiliation have long been higher than those of
Europe, but rates of church attendance have never been as sterling as the
Christian Right suggests.
Now that the nones are declaring themselves,
America's Christian consensus is crumbling.
65, will star in
AR Do Americans really want
a guy like this
in every school?
Do less, not more:
All or nothing
unlikely to collapse
ice-free summers by 2100
Sea level rise:
greater than feared
cooling effect lower
8 K by 2300
A planet 5 times the mass of
Earth is thought
to be orbiting
in the habitable zone around
Tau Ceti, a star like our
just 12 light years away.
we can move there
if it gets too hot here.
2012 Boxing Day
Lord of the Rings — Part III
Give Chuck A Chance
Thomas L. Friedman
President Obama is considering appointing
Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense.
Hagel said that his job
as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to
advance U.S. interests. He believes that being committed to Israel's
survival doesn't mean going along with Israel's self-destruction. He
believes that the only thing standing between Israel and national suicide is
America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth.
Hagel prefers a
negotiated solution to Iran's nuclear program. He wants to engage Hamas to
see if it can be moved from its extremism. He believes that the Pentagon
budget must be cut. He is averse to going to war again in places like Iraq
Hagel is out of the mainstream. His voice would be
valuable right now.
AR Someone in America
needs to play hardball with Israel.
The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome
said that sometimes the best way to address an uncertain future is to
premeditate on evils.
Saras Sarasvathy interviewed 45 successful
entrepreneurs, and almost none embraced the idea of writing comprehensive
business plans or conducting extensive market research. Rather than choosing
a goal and then making a plan to achieve it, they took stock of the means
and materials at their disposal, then imagined the possible ends. They asked
how great the loss would be if their venture failed, and went ahead if the
potential loss seems tolerable.
Steve Jobs: "Remembering that you are
going to die is the best way that I know to avoid the trap of thinking you
have something to lose."
With three quarters of the Saudi population of 28 million
under the age of thirty, Saudi Arabia faces many of the same social problems
as Egypt and Yemen. Nearly 40% of Saudis aged 20 to 24 are unemployed, and
drawn to radicalism. The country suffers from a housing crisis and chronic
inflation, there is recurring domestic terrorism, and the cities are plagued
by poverty, drugs, and street violence.
The Al Saud dynasty often
seems geriatric and disconnected. Only Egypt ranks ahead in Facebook usage
in the region, and a high proportion of Saudis now use Twitter and YouTube.
This has made it easier to expose alleged corruption by members of the royal
family. There are thousands of princes in the royal family, each getting a
share of the mostly hidden national budget.
Karen Elliott House sees a country whose
people are seething with discontent and whose leadership reminds her of the
dying decade of the Soviet Union. She finds appalling evidence that some
women are subjected to virtual slavery.
Thomas W. Lippman finds scant
evidence that any substantial portion of the Saudi population wants to
replace the regime. He laments the Saudi education system, which has
produced a lost generation of young Saudis. The Saudi government has made
hardly any progress in weaning itself from oil.
The current U.S.
ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James B. Smith, says the three pillars of the
U.S.–Saudi relationship are oil security, stability, and counterterrorism.
2012 Christmas Day
Lord of the Rings — Part II
The Moral Animal
The majority of people in Britain and America
declare allegiance to a religious faith. In an age of science, that is
surprising. Natural selection should favor the ruthless and altruists should
die before passing on their genes to the next generation. Yet all societies
Neuroscientists say we have mirror neurons
that lead us to feel pain when we see others suffering. We pass on our genes
as individuals but we survive in groups, and groups can exist only when
individuals act for the sake of the group. We form larger and more complex
groups than any other species.
We have two patterns of reaction: one
instinctive and emotive, the other reflective and rational. The fast track
helps us survive, but it can lead us to impulsive and destructive acts. The
slow track leads us to considered behavior, but it is often overridden. We
are sinners and saints, egotists and altruists.
Religion helped us
survive because it strengthens and speeds up the slow track. It reconfigures
our neural pathways, turning altruism into instinct. It remains a powerful
community builder. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face
of history and biology.
2012 Christmas Eve
Lord of the Rings — Part I
Christianity is in danger of being wiped out in the Mideast because of
Islamic oppression. Between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the
region have left or been killed over the past century. Muslim-majority
countries are the most hostile to Christians.
in Egypt after 1973 when the quadrupling of oil prices gave Saudi Arabian
religious extremists the money to export their intolerant views. The idea of
jihad is deeply embedded in Islam, making it susceptible to violent
Iraq has also witnessed the decimation of its Christian
community. In 1990 there were between 1.2 to 1.4 million Christians in Iraq.
By 2003, there were around 500,000. Today there are less than 200,000.
The geostrategic benefits of a transatlantic
partnership are recognized on both sides. By 2030, Asia's economy will be
larger than that of the US and EU combined. By acting now, the US and EU
still possess the leverage to set global standards for China and others.
2013 presents the best moment for a serious US trade
initiative since 2008. Most European governments are enthusiastic. Europe
may attract derision in the US but no one associates it with a giant sucking
sound. The issue would attract bipartisan support.
2012 December 23
Integrated Health And Medicine
I advocate an integrated approach to medicine and
health. Integrated medicine integrates the best of new technology and
current knowledge with ancient wisdom to include mind, body, and spirit.
Integrated health is an approach which respects and includes the physical
and social environment.
medicine still tends to be based on the notion of the body as a machine, of
disease as the consequence of breakdown of the machine, and of the doctor's
task as repair of the machine.
We need to understand how symptoms may
often simply be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness. Treatment
may often be effective because of its symbolic meaning to the patient. We
can no longer see mind and body as separate entities. They are one and the
Good medicine should aim for a better balance between
what science and technology may demand and what patients may actually want
and need. What seems to go missing all too easily is the art of thoroughly
understanding the patient's narrative.
We could improve health through a range of better
integrated interventions and programs. We need to deploy approaches which
retain empathy, compassion, and the enduring values of the caring
AR Well said.
Guns In America
In the last years, there have been a series of
gun-related tragedies in America. Each sparked a brief debate about guns.
Yet each debate fizzled out with zero action being taken. Now, following the
grotesque slaughter of 20 innocent young children in Newtown, the mood has
The senseless killing has to stop. High-powered assault
rifles of the type used at Aurora and Newtown belong in the military and
police, not in civilian hands. High-capacity magazines, too, should be
banned. And background checks on anyone buying guns in America should be
Law-abiding Americans who use guns for hunting
and sport or who want to protect themselves must be respected. But this is a
vital debate for the country. Some 12,000 people are murdered in the United
States with guns every year, compared with just 35 in Britain, where there
are strong gun laws.
AR Well said 2.
2012 December 22
Obama Picks Kerry
President Barack Obama nominates Senator John Kerry to be the
next secretary of state: "Over these many years, John's earned the respect
and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of
Outgoing secretary of
state Hillary Clinton called the pick "excellent."
AR Good pick. Now Chuck Hagel.
NRA: Put Guns In Schools
The National Rifle Association wants to put "good
guys with guns" in every school in the United States and is starting a
"national school shield" program with an unlimited budget.
AR Who pays all those thousands of "good
guys" and who checks there are no bad ones?
Old Russian proverb:
"When the guns talk, the muses fall silent."
Japan And Israel
Japan and Israel have a lot in common.
Temperamentally, Israelis and Japanese are opposites, but both nations have
smart people. Yet Japan stagnated two decades ago, while Israel now is
Israel is full of entrepreneurs,
encourages new businesses. Israelis welcome risk and are not cowed by
failure. They are informal in their dealings and say what they think,
leading to more innovation.
Japan has produced many great
entrepreneurs but has not empowered enough new ones. Japanese society is
hierarchical, everyone shows deference, and decisions need consensus,
The Japanese island mentality is getting worse
as fewer Japanese work or study abroad. By contrast, Israelis travel the
world and tap foreign markets. Japan can learn from Israel.
AR Japan certainly needs a few changes.
2012 December 21
Murdoch Presidency Bid
Press baron Rupert Murdoch
tred to support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in
the 2012 election. In 2011, Fox News president Roger Ailes dispatched Fox
emissary K.T. McFarland to Afghanistan to urge Petraeus to run for the
Republican nomination for president, bankrolled by Murdoch, as
revealed in a tape recording of a Petraeus and McFarland meeting obtained by Bob Woodward.
AR So Murdoch is Machiavellian, Fox is
evil, Petraeus didn't bite, Woodward still lives. Ho hum.
Five Top Tips
1 Listen more than
2 Keep it simple
3 Take pride in your work
4 Have fun, success will follow
5 Rip it up and start again
AR Thanks, good advice.
High culture is concerned with the true, the
beautiful, and the good. Fake culture marginalizes truth. American composer
John Cage made his reputation with a happening in which a pianist in concert
dress sits silently at the piano for exactly 273 seconds. Similar episodes
occurred in the visual arts. In each case, the critics projected the fake to
the public as the real thing. Fake culture is like corrupt politics.
2012 December 20
Pope Benedict XVI
The Christmas stories in the New
Testament convey the message that Jesus was born to offer the world a peace
universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time. The
liberation he brought to his people was about conquering sin and death
forever. The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our
values, our very way of life.
Christians should engage with the
world. But they should transcend ideology. Christians fight poverty out of a
belief that we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable.
Christians oppose greed and exploitation. The birth of Jesus marks the end
of the old order. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of
arms, but on the power of love.
Get Mad, Get Even
Men and boys are responsible for almost all violent crimes in America.
From an early age, boys learn that violence is an admired form of conflict
resolution. They learn it from their fathers, from a media that glorifies
it, from a culture saturated in images of heroic and redemptive violence,
and from each other.
Young men learn that they are entitled to feel
like a real man, and that they have the right to annihilate anyone who
challenges that sense of entitlement. They learn that "aggrieved
entitlement" is a legitimate justification for violent explosion. Our ideals
of manhood have became entangled with violence.
Many of these young
mass murderers are white. Only white boys expand the range of their revenge
so far as to seek to destroy the entire world. The proximate causes of this
tragedy were lax gun laws and mental illness, but we can only understand it
by adding these elements to our equation.
Boys and young men who have exploded in a paroxysm of
vengeful violence in recent years were conformists to norms of masculinity
that prescribe violence as a solution. Like real men, they didn't just get
mad, they got even. We must transform that definition of manhood.
Human hands are good for tool manipulation. David
Carrier says many hand shapes would have allowed greater dexterity, but only
one hand shape lets us make a fist with a thumb as buttress. Among primate
hands, ours is unique for its ability to form a fist with the thumb outside
the fingers. When athletes hit a punching bag using a normal fist, a fist
with the thumb stuck out, and with an open palm, they could generate more
than twice the force with a normal fist as with the thumb-stuck-out fist.
The force was the same with a normal fist and with an open palm, but a fist
concentrates the force. High levels of testosterone cause men's ring fingers
to be longer than their index fingers. Long ring fingers might make a better
2012 December 19
Europe: Back In 2013
The aggregate capitalization of the Greek stock
market is less than Costco. In Italy, the stock market now has a total value
about the same as Apple's.
markets have surpassed the lows typical of regional crises. But peripheral
Europe cannot just abandon the euro. The region can regain competitiveness
only by tolerating a collapse in wages and employment. This process is slow
The strongest signal of recovery in crisis-torn
countries is the return of the current account to surplus. Spain, Portugal,
Greece, and Italy are on track to shift into current account surplus next
year. Europe is also making the necessary adjustment in labor costs.
The recovery in Europe will come. One way to think about the future of
Europe is to ponder this question: can Italy be worth no more than Apple?
It might be useful to distinguish between pleasure
and joy. A lot of people seem to feel that joy is only the most intense
version of pleasure. That has not been my experience.
experience at least a little pleasure every day. I seem to get more than the
ordinary satisfaction out of food, for example. But until recently I had
known joy only six times in my life, and each time tried to forget it soon
after it happened, out of the fear that the memory of it would dement and
destroy everything else. Three of those times I was in love. Twice I was on
drugs. Once I was in water.
I suppose a neuroscientist could explain
why the moment after giving birth can feel ecstatic, or swimming in a
mountain lake with somebody dear to you. Perhaps the same synapses that
ecstasy falsely twanged are twanged authentically by fresh water, certain
epidurals, and oxytocin. And we don’t need to be neuroscientists to know
that wild romantic crushes do something ecstatic to our brains.
love came much later. It lay at the end of a long and arduous road. The
thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real
pleasure in it. Joy is such a human madness.
Hilary and Steven Rose lambast the armchair
theorizing of evolutionary psychology and scorn the neuromyths sold to the
educational establishment. Evo-devo and epigenetics make the old genetic
determinism untenable, genomics and stem-cell therapy have thus far failed
to usher in a miraculous new age of medicine, and Big Pharma is shutting
down research into mental health disorders in favor of more profitable
diseases. The Roses say we are living through the "commodification of
bioinformation" as vast new DNA biobanks are built from national
populations, and note that screening for genetic predisposition to diseases
"serves to expand the potential demand for drugs to people with no symptoms"
to create "a new kind of patient, the at-risk individual" and hence "a fresh
market of unforeseeable size".
Rose wrote a good brain book many, many years ago.
2012 December 18
University of Minnesota neuroscientist Shmuel Lissek
believes that the concept of doomsday evokes an innate fear response:
"Apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats predictable." When an
unpleasant or painful experience is predictable, we relax. Doomsday preppers
who assemble their bunker and canned food, he says, are engaged in a proven
therapy in times of trouble.
University of Kent psychologist Karen
Douglas suspects that conspiracy theorists share attributes with those who
believe in an impending apocalypse: "One trait I see linking the two is the
feeling of powerlessness, often connected to a mistrust in authority."
Harvard psychiatrist Steven Schlozman finds that people frequently
romanticize the end times. They imagine surviving, thriving, and going back
to nature: "All of this uncertainty and all of this fear comes together and
people think maybe life would be better."
AR Prep talk for 2012-12-21
For almost a year the
Grail twin satellites Ebb and Flow orbited the Moon. Now NASA has crashed
them into a lunar mountain.
Ebb and Flow were as big as washing machines and
crashed at over 6000 km/s. They flew near each other in the same orbit
and broadcast their position 5 times a second with an accuracy of 50 nm to
map the lunar gravitational field until they completed
their mission and
ran out of fuel. Their measurements helped to discover magma channels
hundreds of km long inside the Moon.
started representing the Middle East Quartet — the UN, EU, US, and
Russia — a few weeks after leaving Downing Street.
Authority aide Mohammed Shtayyeh says:
"The Quartet has been
"Always the statement of the Quartet really means
nothing because it was always full of what they call constructive ambiguity
that really took us to nowhere. You need a mediator who is ready to engage."
We the people petition the United States government to secure funding and resources to begin construction on a
Death Star by 2016.
By focusing our defense
resources into a
superiority platform and
weapon system such as a
Death Star, the
can spur job creation.
This is no spoof.
Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmitt,
December 13, 1972
AR The End:
IBM announces a technological breakthrough. It has
verified in a manufacturing environment the feasibility of using light
instead of electrons to transmit data. It proved the concept of silicon
nanophotonics in 2010: to integrate electrical and optical devices on the
same piece of silicon, enabling chips to communicate using pulses of light,
so they can be smaller, faster, and cooler.
The development is part
of the IBM exascale computing program to build a supercomputer than runs at
1 exaflops. Photons move much faster than electrons: photonic data can run
through the new chip at 25 Gbps.
The Boxer APC could be the
next export bestseller for
Moscow is interested.
US Navy stealth drone
Global Trends 2030
Pope Benedict XVI
Art, Culture and Empire
British Library, London
2012-11-09 — 2013-04-02
2012 December 17
American Mental Health
America is gearing up for a big discussion about gun
control. The United States has seen 62 mass shootings since 1982. Mental
illness was apparent in over half of the killers before the crime took
place. The idea that violence can be used to make a statement is encouraged
by the gun fetish, but the problem extends to the failure to build a welfare
system capable of dealing with such people. The underfunding of mental
healthcare must be addressed.
Obama Pick Preview
AR John Kerry at state and Chuck Hagel in
defense? Sounds good to me.
will challenge major financial institutions, says Bank of England director
of financial stability Andrew Haldane: "I see opportunity knocking for
finance. Hopefully, the growth of peer-to-peer lenders and those involved in
crowd-funding will help solve the problems we have with lending for small
and medium enterprises."
P2P lenders match up firms in need
of cash with investors:
Zopa has lent £250 million since being founded
Funding Circle has lent £66 million.
Crowd funding raises
a small amount from each of a large number of funders:
lent £4.5 million since being set up in 2010 and has 25,000 registered
The P2P industry has advanced an estimated £300 million to
individuals and small businesses in the UK so far in 2012.
AR For all who could use an injection of
liquidity, so to speak.
2012 December 16
Guns In America
The Newtown shootings might prompt the United States
into tightening gun laws. Democratic congressman John Larson: "Politics be
darned. Of the 12 deadliest shootings in our nation's history, half of them
have happened in the last five years."
the National Rifle Association. Formed in 1871, it has become an
aggressively libertarian organization proclaiming the civil right of
citizens to bear arms. In 2010 it had a budget of $307 million, and now has
4.3 million members.
In 2008, the NRA spent $100 million lobbying
against Barack Obama. In 2012, Mitt Romney wooed NRA members: "We need a
president who will stand up for the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and those
seeking to protect their homes and their families."
In April 2012,
two-thirds of Americans had a favorable view of the NRA. Since then, there
have been mass shootings in Seattle, in Aurora, Colorado, in Oak Creek,
Wisconsin, in Minneapolis, in Portland, Oregon, and now in Newtown,
2012 December 15
Jared Diamond burst into prominence at the age of
sixty, in 1997, with
Guns, Germs, and Steel. The book won a Pulitzer Prize and became the
basis for a TV series. Diamond said it was an answer to Yali, a man he had
met in New Guinea in 1972, who asked: "Why is it that you white people
developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people
had little cargo of our own?"
Diamond says we are WEIRD — Western,
educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. He thinks we should consider
following traditional societies by spreading child care among a local
network of providers, respecting the knowledge of elders, adopting
agricultural practices designed to anticipate food shortages, learning
multiple languages, and embracing a healthier diet.
AR Liked the book, not sure I like being weird.
2012 December 14
SAP Xmas Party
SAP has posted 11 consecutive
quarters of double-digit growth and is now the most valuable company in
Germany. The party was a great opportunity for me to catch up with old friends. I
guess you could say my going was like a Muslim going on the hajj to Mecca.
Nassim Nicolas Taleb
Historical accounts of scientific and
technological discovery focus on the role of luck as opposed to plans. But luck cannot drive policy. The benefit has to
be in the payoff function. The gains need to be large and the errors small
or harmless. The mathematical term is convexity. You get more gain than pain
from a random event if the performance curve is convex (bulges rightward).
Then you are harmed less by an error (or a variation) than you can benefit
from it, and uncertainty is welcome.
In complex systems with opaque chains of cause and effect,
tinkering vastly outperforms teleology. But tinkering needs to be convex.
Cooking relies entirely on the heuristics of trial and error. We change the
mix and taste it. We keep it if we like it, otherwise we try again. We can
retain the upper bound and be unaffected by adverse outcomes. Evolution is a
convex function of stressors and errors: genetic mutations come at no cost
and are retained only if they are an improvement. It's a ratchet.
Antifragile phenomena have a convexity bias. If you inject uncertainty into
a convex exposure such as some types of research, the result improves, since
uncertainty increases the upside but not the downside. This differential
maps the way antifragile phenomena reward risk:
1 With convexity we gain more from improving the
payoff function than from knowing what we want.
2 Research payoffs have fat tails. Most gains
come from the rare black swans.
harvest black swans, you need to act opportunistically by switching and
4 New theory is born from
(convex) practice more often than teleological planning.
5 Optionality works by finding out what doesn't
work. We need to pay for negative results.
There are many accounts of intense religious
experience in epileptic seizures. Recordings show an exact synchronization
of the epiphany with a spike in epileptic activity in the temporal lobes.
permeated by religious joy and awe include out-of-body experiences (OBEs)
and near-death experiences (NDEs). Both cause vivid and compelling
hallucinations. An OBE can be produced experimentally with simple equipment
to confuse visual and proprioceptive input. An NDE usually goes through
characteristic stages. One seems to be moving effortlessly and blissfully
along a dark corridor or tunnel towards a wonderful living light. The dark
tunnel may represent constriction of the visual fields due to low blood
pressure in the eyes, and the bright light a flow of excitation from the
The spiritual tendency lies deep in human nature and seems
to have its own neurological basis. Neuroscientists find physiological
changes not only in OBEs and NDEs but also in prayer and meditation.
2012 December 13
Eurozone Banking Union
EU leaders are gathering for another crisis
summit. Averting crises depends more on implementing sound domestic policies
than on EU governance.
France must undertake domestic reforms. The
European social model is not a large welfare state. A federal Europe is not
the solution to the economic ills of the eurozone.
A eurozone banking
union has been proposed to solve the problem of dangerous financial links
between governments and domestic banks. But consider crises:
1 Fiscal problems lead to a financial
catastrophe, as in Greece. Excessive accumulation of public debt imperils
domestic lenders. Perverse global regulations must go. Fiscal discipline
must be strengthened.
2 A financial
crisis leads to a fiscal one, as in Ireland, Spain, the UK and US. A private
credit boom turns to bust and strains government finances. Policies that
encourage banks to lend into bubbles must go.
A banking union needs a
detailed plan. We need regulatory reform and improved policies in problem
countries, especially the largest.
France, be warned!
Cut Pentagon Spending
Robert G. Gard and John Johns
American power is more than
military power. A national security strategy must be based on current and
future threats. The economic crisis is the greatest threat to national
America needs political will to kill
unnecessary and expensive projects. Our nuclear weapons policy is based on
Cold War conditions that no longer exist. The Pentagon is expected to spend
more than $700 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, for little
added security. The F-35 program is slated to cost $1.5 trillion over its
lifetime. These are resources that are desperately needed elsewhere.
Reducing wasteful spending on unneeded
programs and outdated strategy will save money and enhance national
security. Continuing to waste money is bad policy and bad for security.
2012 December 12
N. Korea: "Look at me!"
North Korea's Unha-3 rocket launch has political
commemorates the first anniversary of Kim Jong Il's death. Elections and
leadership transitions in
have put proliferation talks on hold. The launch raises NK visibility.
2 It helps leverage more aid from the
international community to fill gaps in the NK domestic economy.
Kim Jong Un
can increase his domestic legitimacy with aid deliveries.
3 It enhances the NK nuclear deterrence posture
and increases NK strategic leverage.
have to open negotiations without prior conditions. We already
have a foundation for an agreement: two states and the settlement blocks.
There will be three blocks, and we shall give the Palestinians an equal
piece of land. Israel doesn't have a better choice than the
In 1948, we
were a small group of 650,000 people surrounded by tremendous hostility,
outgunned, outnumbered, without natural resources. We had a war before we
had a state. We had an army before we had a government. We didn't have a
chance, yet we made peace with Egypt and Jordan. We started to make peace
with the Palestinians. There is a Palestinian Authority and there is sort of
Look at relations with Arabs in Israel itself: It
looks like an impossible relationship. But if you look a bit closer, there
are islands of peace between us. Take health care. There is
not a single hospital in Israel that doesn't have Arab nurses, doctors,
patients and Jewish doctors, nurses and patients working together without
problems. It's complete peace in the hospitals.
Not everything that
happens in the Middle East is connected to Israel. The bloodshed in Syria is
not connected to Israel. Egypt has nothing to do with Israel. And the same
goes for Tunisia and Yemen. There are some fanatics who try to introduce the
conflict between us and the Palestinians as an excuse for their extremism,
but they are a minority.
There is not yet a new
Mideast. There is a divorce from the old Mideast, but not yet a new
Mideast. We're in a period of transition. But the process has started. The young generation has already
achieved something. First of all, they got rid of their dictators. They
pushed their countries to elections. They didn't know how to win elections,
but they did introduce elections.
The problem of Iran is a global
problem. Israel doesn't have to monopolize it. And I prefer to go with a
coalition led by the United States. President Barack Obama, in my judgment,
is a serious and constant leader. He is against Iranians having a bomb
because it's a danger to the world. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin
told me he can't stand a nuclear bomb in the hands of the Iranians.
Writers have to be proactive. It's hard
to get noticed by traditional publishers. You need a great idea, but then
you've got to carry it through. If you get it right, you'll be a
success. But there's an element of luck.
When I wrote my
first crime novel, I was doing a PhD in Scottish literature at Edinburgh
University. I went to the university writer-in-residence, Allan Massie, and
said, "I seem to have accidentally written a crime novel, while striving to
write literature." He said, "Don't worry about it. Do you think John Buchan
ever worried about whether he was writing literature or not?"
first novel was turned down by half a dozen publishers. I remember going into a bookshop in Edinburgh in about 1992, and they had
none of my books on the shelves. I walked up to a member of staff and said,
"How come you've not got any Ian Rankin books?" And he said, "Oh, he's just
not very popular." It made me more bloody-minded than ever.
biggest breakthrough was probably when I won the Crime Writers Association
Gold Dagger award for Black and Blue in 1997. That convinced me, my
publishers, and the public at large that I had a future.
AR Writing philosophy for the masses is similar.
2012 December 11
Stephen Hawking has won the $3m Special Fundamental
Physics Prize for a lifetime of achievements, including the discovery that
black holes emit radiation, and his deep contributions to quantum gravity
and aspects of the early universe.
Hawking was selected by an
independent committee of physicists including Ed Witten and Alan Guth.
Unlike the Nobel prize, experimental proof of theoretical work is not
required. The award is funded by Russian internet mogul Yuri Milner.
AR Good for Hawking — congratulations!
Former US ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker: "What do
we want to be as a nation? A country with a permanent kill list? ... A
country that instructs workers in some high-tech operations center to kill
human beings on the far side of the planet because some government agency
determined that those individuals are terrorists?"
Drones have blurred the line between war and assassination. Somebody
suspected of plotting a terrorist attack on the soil of the US or the UK
would be subject to arrest and prosecution. But if the suspects are in the
tribal areas of Pakistan, they can simply be blown away.
say strikes are precisely targeted and civilian casualties minimal. In a war
on terror, it is legitimate to attack al-Qaeda forces in Pakistan.
International law may be no concern to many citizens, but the attacks set a
AR War is hell. Better zap
a few ragheads than have car bombs in our cities. But where the soil is
makes no diff in a globalized world, so why not forget the law and zap
suspicious persons here too?
The services are revamping arsenals for a new era.
The USAF still wants 1,763 F-35 JSFs plus up to 100 next-generation bombers
but canceled a plan to develop an attack drone jet and abandoned its UAV
development roadmap. It is even reconsidering a promise to make the NGB
optionally manned, citing potential high cost. It seems likely that USAF UAV
initiatives are thriving within the classified budget.
Bill Sweetman on new stealth
drone work by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman
2012 December 10
EU vs. UK
EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström
has told David Cameron he cannot simply pick and choose which European
cross-border crime-fighting powers the UK will adopt in future.
Conservatives want to reclaim powers in areas including policing, employment
law, and fisheries. Cameron may hold a referendum on the result in 2015. In
2014 the UK will activate a provision in the Lisbon treaty to opt out of 136
EU laws on terrorism and crime, then opt in to selected ones. Malmström: "On
each of these opt-ins there will have to be a negotiation and the other
member states will have to agree."
The Mughal emperors ruled India from 1526 to
1858. They were Muslims descended from Genghis Khan. Akbar the Great reigned from 1556 to 1605. He gathered artists and craftsmen from Persia, Central
Asia, and the Hindu kingdoms of India, and commissioned illustrated works of
poetry and history and translations of Hindu classics.
Italian prime minister
Mario Monti says he
resign as soon as he has
passed a key budget law.
He said so
former clown and criminal
Silvio Berlusconi said he
would seek office again.
AR Can no one
Italy from the SB?
AR I'm currently reading
Tom Wolfe's novel
Back to Blood.
German Boxer APC
Saudi Arabia wants to
buy hundreds of them.
Before the fatwa in 1989,
Salman Rushdie wrote
two great books:
Midnight's Children (1980)
and Shame (1983).
the fatwa, he has
not written any.
Three changes in the new 5th
edition of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental
Asperger's syndrome is gone:
its symptoms fall under a wider
diagnosis of autism spectrum
Temper tantrums will be
diagnosed as disruptive mood
What used to be gender
identity disorder becomes
2012 December 9
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy has canceled most of the
decree that gave him sweeping powers. The move may end the political crisis.
But the cancellation was not retroactive, so decisions such as approval of
the draft constitution still stand. Opposition figures already dismiss it.
One: "This is a farce."
All Or Nothing Mafia
Muslim Brotherhood frontman Morsy doesn't
make decisions alone. He obeys MB leader Mohamed Badi. The goal is a sharia
state. The MB won't share power and it has an efficient militia. If
opposition continues, the militia will start to poke out eyes and tear out
tongues. They'll stop at nothing.
President Obama warns the Syria that any use of chemical
weapons would cross a red line. Why?
Syria has stockpiled roughly 500
tons of a lethal nerve gas called sarin. That's enough to kill millions of
people and cause utter mayhem. Attacking the chemical stockpiles could
scatter the gas and cause mayhem too. So U.S. experts are reportedly
instructing rebel officers on how to secure chemical sites. Some of the
rebels may be jihadists. Red lines galore.
The Holocaust can be seen as the final catastrophe
following World War I. Hitler falsely held the Jews responsible for the
German defeat and the postwar settlement. In Nazi Germany, Jews were
stripped of civil rights and pressured to emigrate. In World War II, SS
organizations could operate effectively in states where political
institutions were destroyed and the previous legal order obliterated.
Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland
from both sides in 1939. SS groups killed educated Poles, German laws
were imposed, and Jews were expelled from their homes. After Hitler invaded
the Soviet Union in 1941, German power extended over the major Jewish
settlements in Europe. The SS began to organize the mass killing of Jews in
a zone where first the Soviets had destroyed independent states and then the
Germans had destroyed Soviet institutions. Then the Holocaust spread
eastward and westward.
2012 December 8
Going Crazy In Tehran
Christopher de Bellaigue
Gohar Homayounpour finds that "today's
sexuality is still Freud's sexuality" in Tehran. After five years as a
psychoanalyst in the Iranian capital, Homayounpour has analyzed more than
enough Oedipus complexes and incestuous dreams to inspire the "note to
myself" called Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran.
Homayounpour feels the distance between the exile and the country to which
she returns. In America she had drifted in a fog of exoticism. Now, with her
francophone painter, she discusses "the loneliness, the individualism, the
lack of human relationships" in Western society and the fantasy of dying
unnoticed in a Paris apartment.
Coming home was a disappointment. She
finds she "preferred the distance I could keep from people in the West,
especially if I wanted to be left alone, or get some work done". She
confesses that "there are so many neurotic gains to be had from the
process". The talking cure has been taken to heart in Iran.
How Cats Make U Crazy
Scientists have discovered how the
parasite Toxoplasma gondii passes from the human gut to the brain.
Toxoplasma completes its life cycle in cats, which shit the parasite,
and drives rats and mice to be eaten by cats. When eaten by a human it
can infect the dendritic white blood cells of the immune system and use them
to cross the blood-brain barrier. Infected human dendritic cells secrete the
neurotransmitter GABA normally produced by brain cells. GABA can inhibit the
sense of fear and anxiety. Infected rats and mice lose their fear of cats.
Toxoplasma can produce L-dopa. So it may trigger psycho effects in
humans, including schizophrenia.
2012 December 7
Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett, and Reginald Adams
say we find things funny when our expectations are overturned. This
theory works well for jokes. Wordplay is amusing because the lead line
encourages one understanding of a term but the punchline reveals
another. Bob Monkhouse: "I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my
father. Not screaming and terrified like his passengers."
nuance their theory:
1 The surprise must
overturn committed expectations.
surprise must lack negative emotional valence.
Our expectations must be swiftly overwhelmed.
Comic timing, and
other aspects of delivery, can help. A talented performer can lead the
audience down the wrong road via gesture or tone of voice, but an
incompetent one gives the punchline away in delivery. There are good
adaptive reasons for being wired up to get pleasure from detecting
errors in our beliefs about the world. Things get more complicated with
2012 December 6
Cyborg anthropology is the study of the interaction
between humans and technology, and how technology affects culture. A cyborg
is someone who interacts with technology. Everyone that uses technology is a
superhuman. When you use a social network, your sense of self extends into
that virtual space.
We have all of these devices
now that are sensors for sound, noise, temperature, images, location, air
quality and so on. All of this data is interesting, but all of the devices
speak different languages. What we need is a common language that allows all
of these devices to communicate with one another.
2012 December 5
David Cameron knows the importance of the City of
London. Financial and related professional services employ almost 10% of the
UK workforce, contributed £63 billion in tax last year, and is by far the
largest British export earner. Yet the City is under attack.
City is the BRIC capital of the world. It sits at the center of a global
network that facilitates business between Brazilians, Russians, Indians, and
Chinese. But it still needs Europe. A high proportion of EU financial market
activity is concentrated in the UK.
It really is poppycock to believe
that the City can survive in its present form if it is not an integral part
of the European financial and professional services single market. Our role
in Europe is as important as our role in the UK. We need to protect and
promote the single market.
The discovery of the Higgs boson here at CERN was
great. It was the last undiscovered particle of the Standard Model. After 45
years, many billions of dollars, many careers worth of concerted effort, in
hundreds of universities and laboratories around the world, we have finally
done the work on the most successful theory of science, as measured by the
number of decimal places to which its predictions have been tested. The LHC
gives us no experimental hint of anything Beyond the Standard Model.
Hence the long faces. We want more. Look for the classic symptoms of grief:
Denial. The BSM dog did not bark in the night. Face it: there is no dog.
Anger. At those who doubt the need for BSM physics.
BSM is beyond our universe. If go for a multiverse we can run free again.
Depression. No more meal tickets. Hurry up and find a superpartner!
2012 December 4
The planet must not be allowed to warm more than 2 K, say
speakers at the Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar. But a new study
shows the increase may be 5 K.
Between 1990 and 2011, global
emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by 54%. Humans will release over
35 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2012 alone. China
produces 28% of global emissions, the United States 16%, the European Union
11%, and India 7%. Developing countries accounted for 35% of the global CO2
emissions in 1990 but 58% in 2011.
An increase of 2 K would result
in polar glacial melt, rising sea levels, droughts, and waves of migration
worldwide. An increase of 5 K would be fatal.
Nature climate change
The army let the Muslim Brotherhood rush
parliamentary elections and win a landslide victory.
president and the military junta fought for power. The president won and
added legislative power to his executive role. He then neutered the
judiciary and forbade any review of his decrees.
The Brotherhood had
packed the assembly drafting a new constitution with Islamists. The assembly
has produced a document that violates freedom of religion and speech and
fails to check executive power.
Egypt is divided between Islamists
and the rest, in a National Salvation Front coordinated by me.
Is God Happy?
The future Buddha was happy as long as the grim
realities of life were unknown to him. At the end of his life, he attained
Nirvana. Can Nirvana be described as happiness? Nirvana entails the
abandonment of the self. Happiness without a subject seems absurd.
Both Buddhism and Christianity suggest that the ultimate liberation of the
soul is also perfect serenity. But being human involves the ability to feel
compassion. Happiness as an immutable condition is not accessible to us,
except perhaps for mystics.
We are told that God loves His creatures,
and love is an emotion. If He is perfectly immutable, He cannot be perturbed
by our misery. But if He is indifferent, how can He be a loving father? And
if He is not immutable, then He feels sorrow. In either case, God is not
Jesus Christ was not happy.
Nor are we happy. We can never forget the existence of evil and the misery
of the human condition. If we believe that all is right with the world
because it is under the constant guidance of God, are we happy? No.
2012 December 3
LeWeb Paris 2012
At the event in Paris, December 4-6, LeWeb focuses on
hyperconnectivity and the Internet of Things: It's not just us who will be
connected to the internet and each other, but the objects around us too.
Fight For Freedom
The internet empowers each one of us. Today more than
two billion people are online. But this free and open net is under threat.
Governments are enacting new laws threatening online free expression.
The International Telecommunication Union opens on December 3 in Dubai.
It brings together regulators from around the world. Several governments
reportedly propose to ban anonymity from the web. Others have proposed
moving the management of domain names and internet addresses to the UN. Yet
other proposals would require internet content providers to pay new tolls.
Only governments vote at the ITU.
The multi-stakeholder model of
internet policy development is the only sensible way forward.
and openness are keys to informed participation in policy making.
Within a few years the net is predicted to be serving four billion users. We
believe the present approach is best positioned to keep up with the net's
exponential growth. The practices that have created the internet allow for a
broad range of business models. The critical technical standards developed
by the Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium
The future of the net is far from assured.
History is rife with examples of governments controlling access to
information and inhibiting freedom of expression. We must make sure that the
internet stays free.
UK Euro Trade Attack
The City of London should be deposed as the
euro's main financial hub, says Banque de France governor Christian Noyer,
who sees "no rationale" for allowing it to be offshore: "Most of the euro
business should be done inside the euro area." Noyer is on the ECB governing
council. Britain fears a plot to shift financial services from the City to
surprise that the EUSSR wants to control euro trade. If the UK wants the
business, it can always join the currency.
Ice On Mercury?
Mercury is a planet of extremes, from 100 K by
night to 700 K by day. NASA Messenger data now suggests there are 100
gigatons of water ice at the poles, in craters that never see sunlight. The
data shows hydrogen at bright spots discovered by radar in 1992. Laser data
also suggests patches of ice.
The brightest regions in radar images match
cold areas where ice can exist on the surface. The areas that are bright in
the radio images but dark to the laser are warmer patches where ice is
stable only if buried under 10 cm of other material. The other material may
be organic compounds delivered by comet or asteroid impacts.
findings suggest that Mercury has a potentially habitable subsurface zone.
Life is unlikely to exist in these zones, because the water pockets would be
very small. But they could support a human base on Mercury one day. A joint
European and Japanese mission to Mercury is set to launch in 2015.
AR A base on Mercury could generate
solar power for a starship.
Color Glass Condensate?
Particles behaving oddly at the LHC seem to hint at
a previously unseen color glass condensate. Nuclear particles are made of
quarks held together by gluons. Gluons are the bosons of the color force.
Theory says that at relativistic speeds, particles flatten and gain new
gluons, creating a color glass condensate.
The hints come from the
CMS detector. Researchers smashed together beams of protons with beams of
lead ions, producing showers of subatomic particles that flew off at high
speed. They were trying something else, but analysis of the data revealed
that certain pairs of particles flung out were correlated in unexpected
Similar effects are seen in collisions that create a quark-gluon plasma, as
existed just after the big bang. Ripples in the plasma can nudge emitted
particle pairs in a way that looks like the CMS patterns. In a color glass
condensate, the wave functions of the new gluons may be entangled. We need
AR This story is not
about everyday color, or glass, or condensation.
2012 December 2
AR Re below, World War III was the war against
Soviet communism, which we won 23 years ago.
World War IV will be the
struggle that builds a new political order in the Islamic world:
WWIV = We Win Islamic Victory
2012 December 1
The Mideast is a giant mess that won't let the
United States pivot toward Asia. It hogs the spotlight. It would still
monopolize attention even without oil or the Arab-Israeli conflict. As it
has for centuries, the Mideast stands at the center of historical currents
and conflicting ideologies.
is in crisis because it suffers from endemic corruption, poor governance,
discrimination against women, and serious economic problems. Rival
philosophies are battling for the future. Democracy supporters may have
become more muscular, but other determined fighters aspire to create
profoundly anti-woman, anti-liberal, and anti-American states:
Cairo protesters are
boiling with rage against President Morsy, who grabbed powers in an apparent
move to dictatorship. They worry about the Muslim Brotherhood. One Arab
observer compared Morsy to Khomeini. Morsy insists his move is necessary and
only temporary. We need to review our alliances.
The United States cannot stop worrying about Iran.
Oil is not the issue: we could still buy oil from a nuclear Iran. But their
nuclear program may trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. Iran vows it
will accelerate enriching uranium despite sanctions. Tehran is still
shipping weapons to Hamas in Gaza.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine remains a challenge to American
influence. Hamas vows to destroy Israel. The Palestinian Authority refuses
to talk and blames Israel. The PA took its case to the UN, where Arab,
Muslim, and Non-Aligned Movement (AMNAM) states endorsed its statehood,
decoupled from peace.
Some 40,000 people have died in civil war in Syria. The rebels are
struggling to overthrow the Assad regime. But we worry about events after
the fall. The opposition includes not only progressives but also extremists
who want to build a supranational Islamic caliphate. We cannot afford to
President Obama might like to move on, but the Mideast remains top of
AR WWIII = We Will kill Islam
(one hopes not)
Hitler In India
My wife teaches kids in Mumbai. She asked a class
of 25 to say who they most admired: Hitler came top with 9 votes, Mahatma
Gandhi got 1 vote. Back in 2002, the Times of India reported that 17% of
students in elite Indian colleges "favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of
leader India ought to have."
Indians buy thousands of copies of Mein
Kampf every month in multiple editions. I found at
flipkart.com that in 51
customer ratings 35 gave it five stars. Reports say it has become a
must-read for business school students.
Shiv Sena party chief Bal Thackeray (d. Nov. 17) admired
Hitler and the Nazis. In a 1993 interview: "There is nothing wrong if
[Indian] Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany." BT: "If you take
Mein Kampf and if you remove the word Jew and put in the word Muslim, that
is what I believe in."
AR Islam has a PR
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
How To Create A Mind
A grand project is under way to understand the human
brain. When we understand how the brain works, we shall use the results to
create more intelligent machines. The neocortex is basically a large pattern
Compare how humans and computers play chess. Deep Blue
analyzed the logical implications of 200 million board positions per second.
Kasparov analyzed less than one position per second. But Kasparov had
learned about 100,000 board positions. He looks at the chessboard and
compares what he sees to all the positions he has mastered, all at the same
Jacket patch for
the nuke team
It seems 68% of the French are
pessimistic about the future. Despite the Moody downgrade, French borrowing
costs remain low, but French unit labor costs have risen by 20% more
than German since the euro launch, and French public spending
is well above the EU norm. If a thing can't go on for ever it will
probably end one day.
The People's Daily
of China bought it.
Curiosity took this picture of
itself on Mars to let mission
check its health.
— Angela Merkel
Angela rescued David on Friday with his
plan to cut the cost of Brussels bureaucracy. The talks fell apart when
Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Britain said the proposed deal was
unacceptable. But the new alliance between London and Berlin was the biggest
result of the summit. Senior German figures found it "completely
unacceptable" for European presidents Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel
Barroso to isolate Britain in the talks.
2012 November 30
UN General Assembly
votes on Palestinian statehood: 138 in favor,
9 against, 41 abstentions
PA President Mahmoud Abbas: "The moment has
arrived for the world to say clearly:
Enough of aggression, settlements,
— The independence of the state of
— With east Jerusalem as its capital
— On all the Palestinian
territory occupied in 1967
— To live in peace and security alongside the
state of Israel
— With the refugee issue solved on the basis of Resolution
PM Binyamin Netanyahu on his critique of Israel:
"These are not
the words of a man who wants peace."
Asher Intrater is a Messianic Jew. He believes that
Jesus is the Jewish messiah, and that the Bible prophesizes that God's plan
is for him to return to Jerusalem, prevail in an apocalyptic battle with the
Antichrist, and rule the world from the Temple Mount.
congregation, Ahavat Yeshua (Love of Jesus), meets in Jerusalem. Jewish
prayers are said, but the congregational leader adds a blessing for "Yeshua
HaMoshiach" (Hebrew for Jesus the Messiah).
Messianic Jews evangelize
to Jews in Israel, but it is far less aggressive and overt than their
evangelizing in the United States. Under Israel's immigration laws, Jews who
are considered to have abandoned their Judaism are not permitted to obtain
Intrater: "Just as the first Holocaust and World War II
ended up in the rebirth of the nation of Israel, so will the second
Holocaust and World War III end up in the birth of the Millennial kingdom of
peace and prosperity on earth."
are not the words of a man who wants peace.
2012 November 29
Blasphemie, von Gunnar Schedel
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA instead.
Antisemitism In Hungary
Marton Gyöngyösi is the deputy parliamentary leader
for the Jobbik party, which won
17% of the vote in Hungary's 2010 elections.
In a debate over
Israel's action last week in Gaza, Gyöngyösi demanded that "all Jews living
in Hungary be registered" and that "Jews, particularly those in parliament
and the government, be evaluated for the potential danger they pose to
historian Kristian Ungvary: "That was pure national socialism in
parliament." He has long argued that Jobbik is like the Arrow Cross, the
Hungarian national socialist party in the Hitler era. Jobbik politicians
vehemently deny any similarity.
Gyöngyösi's comments triggered
widespread indignation and disgust in Hungary. Several hundred people
wearing Jewish stars gathered to protest "creeping fascism" in parliament.
TThe government released a statement condemning Gyöngyösi's statements
and pledging to fight extremism and racism. It reads like a form statement.
Bestiality In Germany
Sex with animals is not currently illegal in
Germany. The law was changed in 1969, at the same time as sex between adult
men was decriminalized. Madeleine Martin, an animal protection officer from
Hesse, says there are "animal brothels" and calls for the government to
German animal lovers aren't giving up
without a fight. Michael Kiok, chairman of zoophile pressure group
see animals as partners and not as a means of gratification."
Evidence shows that inter-species
sex is both widespread and widely condemned. The mere fact that legal
prohibitions are so commonplace suggests that it has long been a problem. As
philosopher Peter Singer pointed out, interspecies sex is one of the last
taboos in Western society.
Nukes In America
The Pentagon has signed a contract with Boeing for a
prototype tail kit for its B61 nuclear bomb. The fins and control systems
will make the B61 mod 12 the most accurate nuke ever. The B61 was first
fielded in 1968. The United States has other bunker-busting nukes for any
showdown with North Korea or Iran. The B61 mod 12s are meant to replace the
180 or so earlier mods currently deployed in Europe to deter the Red Army.
The Life Extension Program will cost an estimated $10 billion.
2012 November 28
Thomas W. Malone
Collective intelligence is groups
of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. A new kind
of collective intelligence is enabled by the Internet. Think of Google or
Wikipedia. We're likely to see lots more examples over the coming decades.
At the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence we ask how people and
computers can be connected so that they act more intelligently. We're trying
to measure collective intelligence. We found three factors:
1 The average social perceptiveness of the group
2 The evenness of conversational turn
3 The percentage of women in the group
We define intelligence the same way psychologists define intelligence at
the individual level. The most intelligent person is the one who's best at
picking up new things quickly. That's essentially the definition we used for
groups as well.
As all the people and computers on our planet get
more closely connected, it's useful to think of them as a kind of global
brain. Our work may be helpful in understanding and accelerating this move
toward a more collectively intelligent planet.
The perspective of
collective intelligence gives us new ways of understanding what it means to
be human in the first place. Most of what we think of as human intelligence
arises in our interactions with other human beings.
Biggest Black Hole Blast Ever Seen
Computer models of the early universe look
good except that their ratio of the mass of black holes in galaxy centers to
the rest of the matter in galaxies is too big. It seems galaxies throw off
much of the mass that would have fallen into their central black holes.
Supermassive black holes are the most energetic objects known. Some
galaxies containing active black holes, called quasars, shine more brightly
than anything else seen. Simulations show that if a quasar can throw off a lot
of mechanical energy, then galaxy masses can match observations.
Researchers at the ESO VLT in Chile studied a giant cloud of ionized
hydrogen blasted away from a quasar at a speed of 0.025c. The ejection shows
how young galaxies can lose mass by turning the energy we usually see as
radiation into kinetic energy. This could explain the observed masses of
galaxies and sizes of the black holes at their centers.
The Onion is proud to announce that North Korean supreme leader Kim
Jong-un, 29, has officially been named the newspaper's Sexiest Man Alive for
the year 2012.
With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his
boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob
is every woman's dream come true.
Structural realism goes back to Henri Poincaré: what
survives when scientific theories change is not so much the content
(entities) as the underlying mathematical structure (form).
Structural realism works for the periodic table. In 1869, when Dmitri
Mendeleev published it, nobody knew about the substructure of the atom or
that it contains protons, electrons and neutrons. This knowledge came from
quantum theory. Electrons occur in shells, and the number of outer electrons
governs the chemistry of an element and determines where it fits in the
periodic table. This is structure.
Structural realism also works for
modern biology. In 1859, when Charles Darwin published his theory of
evolution, the theory lacked a physical mechanism on which selection acted.
This was eventually provided by the discovery of DNA, which has played a
similar role in biology to that of the electron in chemistry. DNA determines
the genetic code according to the sequence of bases. This is structure too.
AR A useful way to consider science.
2012 November 27
The Decline Of The West
China has quadrupled average incomes relative to
America in one generation.
The West is at
a different phase both in development and culturally from emerging
economies. This is bringing back one of the most remarkable shifts in the
global balance of economic power.
Western ascendancy is coming to an
end, after 500 years of divergence, when the west got much richer than
everybody else. The tide has turned.
The rest of the world, led by
China, have been downloading our killer applications. They have been
imitating the things that work well in the West, particularly in the realm
of business. This is great.
Things that used to work well in the West
don't work so well now. Many Western economies are crushed by debt. The debt
represents a tax on the future. They act as a major check on economic
We've moved a long way from our ideals of self-sacrifice for the future that
characterized the West during its glory days of industrialization,
imperialism, and war. After World War II, most Western countries decided to
create generous welfare states. They reduced inequality. But they became
victims of their own success. They became financially unsustainable.
Structural budget deficits are symptoms of a more profound problem.
Regulation and bureaucracy are becoming more burdensome in Western countries
but are becoming less so in emerging markets.
The rule of law in the
United States is becoming the rule of lawyers. The legal profession has
become a big cost for business. Any big organization needs a huge compliance
department and teams of lawyers.
China has a different rule of law
question. China is acquiring a huge middle class with its rapid growth. The
middle class wants the rule of law and representative government and freedom
of the press.
AR Ferguson =
(well, not quite)
French government minister Arnaud Montebourg is a
firebrand leftist under Socialist president François Hollande. Montebourg
threatened to nationalize a steelmaking site belonging to ArcelorMittal, the
European steelmaker controlled by Indian businessman Lakshmi Mittal.
It is wrong for Hollande to hold Mittal to informal promises made several
years ago and misguided of companies to woo politicians with pledges they
cannot keep. Hollande should clamp down on Montebourg. His government risks
earning a reputation as anti-business.
If "clamp down" means off with his head, I agree.
Israel's latest clash with Hamas is over. The
ceasefire appears to be holding. Critics ask why the Israeli army did not go
into Gaza and crush the Hamas rocket squads once and for all.
Netanyahu faces a general election in January. Those who dislike his
ceasefire are likely to go further to the right. That does not tip the
parliamentary balance of left and right.
Security and defense are
again central to the debate. If rocket fire from Gaza resumes, Netanyahu
will be accused of failure. If the the ceasefire holds, he will be favorite
AR Did Netanyahu hit Gaza now to
boost his poll rating?
Dome worked very well, better than expected. The system was designed to
defend relatively small populated areas against quite primitive short-range
rockets that travel 15 to 25 kilometers.
The speed of the Hamas
rockets is in the range of 500 meters per second. Scuds that can travel 600
kilometers are traveling at 2,200 meters per second. An ICBM is traveling at
7,000 meters per second.
Two rockets launched by Hamas had a range
of about 65 kilometers. That gets you to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. I
understand that one of these rockets was shot down. The other one they
didn't try to shoot down because it was going to fall in a place that was
Iron Dome has a short-range radar that measures the
locations of rockets as they are fired and some advanced methods for
estimating their trajectory. They have to be fast, because it could be 90
seconds from launch to impact.
Then they fire an interceptor toward
the rocket. The radar guides the interceptor until it acquires the target
with its infrared sensor. Then the infrared homes in. The interceptor has to
be very rapidly maneuverable. It has to detect wobbles and make final
Iron Dome is optimized to be efficient and not fire at
rockets that pose no threats. But if an interceptor looks like it's going to
miss, the system will launch a second interceptor.
2012 November 26
States and banks prop each other up like two old
drunks. Governments are addicted to borrowed money, and banks help them by
purchasing sovereign bonds. In return, the banks expect a guaranteed bailout
if they get in a fix.
Greece is de facto insolvent but it still
issues bonds to Greek banks, which buy them not only because they have high
yields, but also because they can deposit them as collateral for cash.
Spanish and Italian banks are also buying up sovereign bonds issued by
their own governments. They borrow cheap ECB money and reinvest it in
sovereign bonds. The ECB charges 1% interest, the sovereign bonds yield up
When European governments formulate new regulations for the
banking industry, they steer clear of dealing with banks financing states:
1 New rules oblige banks to increase the
capital backing risky investments and loans. Everything is risky except
sovereign bonds, which need no capital backing.
2 New rules oblige banks to keep enough liquid assets on hand to
survive for 30 days without fresh funding from capital markets. Liquid
assets include sovereign bonds.
levies a financial transaction tax on each trade of French company shares
and on certain derivatives. The tax does not apply to trades involving
European banks now hold some €1.6 trillion in sovereign
2012 November 25
Blair Backs Europe
Tony Blair warns that a British disengagement from
the European Union would be a disaster. As more senior Tories back moves to
pull the UK out of the EU mainstream, Blair will seek to rally the business
community behind a campaign to halt the Eurosceptic bandwagon before too
Blair believes that with economic rivals
such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia emerging in the global power game,
EU membership was never more important. The postwar argument for Europe was
about war and peace, but now the case for Europe is about power versus
On Wednesday, Blair will argue that the EU needs to
promote a grand plan, to say that member states can best take on these huge
economic powers as a united bloc. Nearly half of UK exports go to EU member
states while half of foreign direct investment in the UK is from EU
Business leaders are uneasy about Tory Eurosceptics and
voter hostility to Europe. CBI president Sir Roger Carr says EU membership
is a launchpad for business: "Whatever the popular appeal may be of
withdrawal, businessmen and politicians must keep a bridge to Europe firmly
AR Good old Blair, fighting
for a new job after his Mideast flop.
Syria and Iran have criticized
the planned stationing of NATO Patriot missiles in Turkey. The Syrian
foreign minister called the planned deployment on the border a new
provocation. The Iranian parliamentary president said in Damascus: "The
internal crisis in Syria cannot be solved with the deployment of such
weapons." Russia also spoke out against the plan. Turkey sees the missiles
as a response to repeated border violations by the warring factions in
AR I back Turkey.
The greatest story ever told starts with the gods and ends for now with
us. Along the way came Jews, Christians, Muslims, Communists,
the Holocaust, and the Apollo moon shots. It is a story of human
triumphs and tragedies, of slow advance from a planet populated by
ignorant savages to the modern world of networking and robots.
How we rose from surviving as naked apes to living as smart nodes in a
globalized ecosystem is a story well worth telling and retelling
until we all know the truth and learn to love it. Andy Ross tells it as the
story of a tribal god that grew to drive billions of believers
before it became the inner self of the global organism, Globorg.
AR Revised today.
Avantguard unmanned ground combat
vehicle tested and certified by the Israeli army for border patrol
Morsi Power Grab
Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake:
"President Morsi placed himself and all his decisions above the law. The
danger of a presidential tyranny looms. The EU should send a clear signal
and freeze all financial assistance to the Egyptian government."
AR Yes, yes, yes!
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy has issued an order
preventing any court from overturning his decisions, allowing him to run the
country unchecked until a new constitution is drafted. Demonstrators in
Cairo protested against Morsy and the growing influence of the Muslim
Brotherhood, with some chanting "birth of a new pharaoh" and
"Morsy the dictator."
No, no, no!
The European Space Agency makes its plans
Britain and Poland are going different ways in
the European Union. Britain's fight over the EU budget is straining its EU
ties, while Poland seeks closer ties. Noting that the two countries had
"historically excellent relations", Poland's Oxford-educated foreign
minister Radoslaw Sikorski said: "But if you ask me if people in Poland have
noticed that Britain wants to cut the European budget by €200 billion, where
Germany is in favor of a more ambitious budget, I'm forced to tell you, yes they've noticed."
The Petraeus Affair
Former general David Petraeus has now seen both sides of bipolar
Washington. He resigned as CIA director because an FBI probe uncovered an
extramarital affair with his biographer. Yet the FBI investigation found
only a few e-mails, no evidence that the affair harmed his spy work or
compromised national security.
It was a private affair,
of no public interest.
Image Credit: Stephen Mudge
A Sexy, Sensual Carmen
The English National Opera
lust, and violence. Artistic
Berry said the role
of Carmen is sexy and sensual
and the audience will feel
heat of the visceral and brutal
show, but adds: "Everybody can
their mum to see it."
No Quick Fix
Egypt hopes to broker a ceasefire
agreement but talks have hit a brick wall. Hamas wants an end to the
blockade of Gaza. Israel fears a renewed influx of weapons to militants.
The leader of Hamas rejected demands to
stop rocket fire: "We don't accept Israeli conditions because it is the
aggressor. We want a cease-fire along with meeting our demands."
Israel wants international
guarantees that Hamas will not rearm or use the Sinai peninsula for militant activity.
2012 November 24
Screenwriting sometimes entails
selling a screenplay. Always it involves writing a book. It is a craft, its
values are commercial, and its target is the audience.
requires tools. Success is easily quantifiable. The trained eye has no
trouble separating the professional from the amateur.
Syd Field set
the template. Learning to write, speak, and eventually think in the
three-act structure was key. His method is elegant.
Vogler: "Stories built on the model of the Hero's Journey have an appeal
that can be felt by everyone because they well up from a universal source in
the shared unconscious and reflect universal concerns."
"Put yourself in the shoes of the customer, the person who's paying good
money, including parking and a babysitter, to come see your film."
David Mamet: "It is not your responsibility to know the answers, but it is
your responsibility to know and to ask the right questions over and over."
2012 November 23
Cuts And Perks
Angela Merkel is determined not to
isolate David Cameron in the EU budget negotiations: "The positions are
still quite far apart, and if we need a second stage, then we will take the
time for it."
Merkel thinks agreement on the seven-year framework is
a far better solution than falling back on annual budgets. Germans calculate
that only another few billion needs to be trimmed to reach an overall cut of
€50 billion, which would bring the UK on board.
Council president Van
Rompuy hopes to break the stalemate by restoring billions in funding for
agriculture and poor regions to please France and Italy. Administrative
costs for salaries and benefits for eurocrats are intact for now. Diplomats
expect symbolic cuts there.
A Trillion Euros For What?
The European Union quarter in Brussels is enjoying a building boom. An art
deco pile is being converted into a palace fit for a European president, at
a cost of €300 million. The European parliament is upgrading its environs
with a history theme park, at a cost of €100 million. Not long ago it made a
multimedia tribute to itself in the Parliamentarium, at a cost of €20
To be a eurocrat is to escape the pain of
austerity. They work easy hours and take Friday afternoons off. Their
children are educated for free at high-quality private schools. They retire
at 63 on generous pensions and many retire early on full pensions. Staff not
living in their native country receive a salary top-up for being
expatriates. Yet administration takes up less than 7% of the
overall EU budget.
The commission issued a "Myth Buster" leaflet in 23 languages to try to
highlight the benefits of EU spending. It points to the example of building
and supplying medical centers in Guatemala, where 61 of the 65 objectives
were met and 130,000 people may have benefited. It is easy for critics to
find laughable or shocking examples of ridiculous EU-funded projects.
Institute for European Environmental Policy senior policy analyst Keti
Medarova-Bergstrom: "Appropriate EU action can be cost saving for member
states, rather than cost increasing. Therefore, possible administrative
costs should be seen as investment in improving the implementation and
result orientation of future spending."
>> EU scandal
In military terms, the conflict between Israel
and Hamas is asymmetric. Israel Defence Forces used fighter jets, drones,
precision guided missiles, tanks, heavy artillery, and naval vessels to
pound the Gaza Strip, drawing on years of work by Israeli intelligence
officers. The Hamas military wing and other militant groups have
fired an intense barrage of rockets and missiles at Israel, but most landed
in open fields or were intercepted by Iron Dome.
National Security Studies analyst Yiftah Shapir: "This is a classic
example of asymmetric warfare. This is the type of warfare that takes place
not on the ground but on TV and computer screens all over the world. One
side is trying to show the world how miserable and how much of an underdog
they are, while not being afraid and not losing."
general Shlomo Brom: "This is the kind of encounter that cannot end with a
knockout. It ends with both sides counting the points that they have
achieved. The problem is that this is too complicated for the Israeli
public. The people want a victory and they don't understand that there are
no victories in these conflicts."
Gaza Test For Iran
The conflict between Hamas and Israel was a
practice run for a confrontation with Iran, featuring improved rockets that
can reach Jerusalem and new antimissile systems to counter them.
Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren: "In the Cuban
missile crisis, the U.S. was not confronting Cuba, but rather the Soviet
Union. In Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel was not confronting Gaza, but
The missile defense campaign over Israeli territory is the
most intense yet in combat anywhere. It could change warfare in the same way
that air power in the Spanish Civil War shaped combat in the skies. A
historic battle of missile versus missile defense played out in the skies
over Israel. The Iron Dome system shot down 350 incoming rockets, 88% of all
targets assigned to the missile defense interceptors.
conflict began, Hamas was estimated to have amassed an arsenal of 10,000 to
12,000 rockets. Israeli officials say their strikes on Hamas rocket depots
severely reduced the arsenal. And most of the approximately 1,500 rockets
fired by Hamas in this conflict were on trajectories toward unpopulated
areas. Iran is certain to be studying the results.
>> Conflict timeline
2012 November 22
PM: We're ready to take a harsher stance if truce
PM: Israel is giving the cease-fire with Hamas a chance
Truce is a set of understandings between Israel and Egypt, Hamas and Egypt
IDF official: Hamas will be shocked by level of damage in Gaza
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy navigated a
minefield of competing interests to bring Hamas to the table and got its
leadership to agree to a cease-fire. Brokering that deal has given him
Woodrow Wilson Center Mideast scholar Aaron David
Miller: "For a civilian president in Egypt perceived as a weak leader, he
has, much to everyone's surprise, delivered."
Hamas took on Israel
more boldly than ever before. They may get an easing of the Gaza economic
blockade. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction no longer speak
for all Palestinians.
Miller: "Hamas has emerged stronger, it has
consolidated its control over Gaza and it has gained now more legitimacy.
Look what they accomplished; they, rather than Abbas, has put the
Palestinian issue back on the international stage."
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: "We need to navigate
this ship of a state in stormy waters with responsibility and wisdom, that's
how a responsible government acts. We've executed a military action but also
stayed open for a diplomatic solution."
Haaretz analyst Anshel
Pfeffer says the crisis has propelled Morsi into the role of an important
Hamas rockets rained down on Israel and were
able to hit both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The ceasefire agreement calls for a
partial lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The Hamas leadership didn't cave.
The Netanyahu administration may have helped a Hamas resurgence by
negotiated with them while ignoring PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Yedioth analyst Alex Fishman: "Hamas has morphed from the enemy that must be
brought down to the enemy that is the lesser of two evils."
Gaza Strip, thousands took to the streets to celebrate what they see as a
Fuller reports and
timeline for operation Pillar of Defense
Iran Behind Hamas
In the latest fighting in Gaza, Iran casts an
ominous shadow. The standoff between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear
program frames Israeli tactics and strategy in Gaza and influences the
international response. When Israelis see a rocket launched from Gaza, the
thought that one day that rocket could carry a nuclear payload burns hot in
The Islamic Republic of Iran has
long armed Israel's enemies. Iran has threatened to unleash attacks against
Israel and "wipe it off the face of the Earth" in case of a hit on its
nuclear installations. Those attacks could come from Hamas and Hezbollah.
The prospect that Iran could hand them nuclear materials is more realistic
than a direct nuclear attack from Iran.
Israeli air attacks in Gaza
depleted a Hamas arsenal it sees as part of Iran's preparations in case of
war with Israel. Israeli officials say the missiles launched against
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were made in Iran, shipped in pieces to Sudan and
then moved through Egypt and into tunnels to Gaza, where they were assembled
with the help of Iranian operatives in Gaza.
In October, Israeli
fighter jets are believed to have bombed an arms factory in Sudan. The
facility is said to have made missiles for Hamas and was operated by Iranian
Revolutionary Guards. The Israeli attacks against Gaza destroyed Iran's most
dangerous weapons arrayed in Gaza, launched with increasing brazenness by
Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Hamas PM Ismail Haniya traveled to Iran
earlier this year. The Hamas charter opposes any negotiations with Israel
and declares "Israel will exist ... until Islam will obliterate it." The
charter also quotes an ancient Islamic scripture about "killing the Jews."
Israel And Northern Ireland
A ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas is
not peace. British experience in Northern Ireland can help: London persuaded
the Provisional IRA that it would never be able to shoot or bomb its way
into power and opened a political path instead.
Israel cannot bludgeon the Palestinians into
submission. Israel needs a partner for peace. The Palestinian Authority in
the West Bank wants to make peace but is weak. Hamas is strong but will not
reject violence. So Israel can work to strengthen the PA or it can work to
In the fighting, Hamas has again failed to get
results. Qatar's prime minister visited Gaza and gave financial support,
freeing Hamas from dependence on Iran and Syria. Hamas is in competition
with the PA to represent Palestinians. But Hamas is in tune with the
zeitgeist and can work
Israel can outline a fair and comprehensive settlement
and define a path for getting there. In Northern Ireland, the Provisional
IRA put down their arms, entered the political process, and reached an
agreement. Israel can persuade Hamas to do the same.
2012 November 21
BBC, 17:31 GMT
Israel and Hamas have agreed a ceasefire, say
Egyptian and Hamas officials,
to start 19:00 GMT (21:00 local time)
Report: Israel, Hamas Agree Cease-Fire
19:12 Israel Time
Egyptian official says formal
announcement of truce to be made shortly following Morsi, Clinton meeting in
Cairo; sources say Israel will not lift Gaza blockade; IAF strikes, rocket
"Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to
the Israeli massacres."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri
"The bombing must go on. We defend
ourselves. We have no other choice."
Tel Aviv office worker Ron Ginat
"Loving my beautiful new store
that just opened at Mecca Mall in Saudi Arabia!"
Israel vs. Gaza
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met for more than two
hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She is expected to
meet later with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian
President Mohamed Morsy.
Clinton: "President Obama asked
me to come to Israel with a very clear message. America's commitment to
Israel's security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is
essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. The goal must be a durable
outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and
legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Netanyahu: "Obviously, no country can tolerate a wanton attack on its
civilians. Now, if there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution
to this problem through diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I'm
sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever actions necessary
to defend its people."
Netanyahu said Israel was fighting back with
"surgical operations against terrorists at a time when our own population is
being bombarded by rocket attacks."
Netanyahu: "If we hope to make
these tactics illegitimate, they should be condemned in the most forceful
terms by all responsible members of the international community. The moment
we draw symmetry between the victims of terror and the unintended casualties
that result from legitimate military action against the terrorists, the
minute that false symmetry is drawn, the terrorists win."
spokesman Mark Regev: "We want a new reality."
AR Sobering to recall the 2008
2012 November 20
17:48 Israel Time
In a joint press
conference with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, PM Binyamin Netanyahu
"If a long-term solution can be put in place through diplomatic means
then Israel would be a willing partner to such a solution."
AR Yes, of course. If only.
End In Sight?
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy: "The travesty
of the Israel aggression on Gaza will end in a few hours."
Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan: "It's in the hands now of the Israelis. I
think the Egyptians are waiting for some support, promised support, from the
United States in order to make an end for that."
Hamas al Qassam
Brigades commander Mohammed al-Deif: "The ground operation that they keep
threatening of waging will be the greatest hope to release our prisoners."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way.
AR You couldn't make this stuff up.
Israeli Ground Invasion
Thousands of Israeli troops with tanks and armored
vehicles are poised on Gaza's borders ready to move in. The Israeli
Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said war planning is complete and the
troops are ready to move in if necessary. Israel is well aware that a ground
invasion would carry broad risks.
health officials said 104 people have died and another 860 have been wounded
in Gaza since Israel began its offensive in response to incessant rocket
attacks by militants. Israeli officials say three people have died and 68
have been wounded in Israel as the result of rocket fire from Gaza.
Militants in Gaza have fired nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel since the
conflict began. Israel has targeted more than 1,300 sites in its bombing
campaign. Ambassador Oren said at the current rate of activity military
action could last 45 days to 100 days. He said Hamas has 10,000 to 11,000
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said no
option had been ruled out and at this stage everything depends on the action
of Hamas. A ground decision would be easier for Israel if Hamas were to
launch rockets that hit Tel Aviv or caused a high number of civilian
More Perfect Union
Britain might suffer if it leaves the European
Union. But the idea that British demands are so unreasonable that they can
never be met is wrong. And without British participation, the EU can forget
about becoming a global power.
case for keeping Britain within the EU is strong. The EU aimed to overcome
the divisions that led Europe into repeated wars. Britain was active in most
of those wars. The eurozone crisis has already led many Americans and Asians
to doubt the EU. If Britain opted out, it would look even more wobbly.
Germans increasingly distinguish between law-abiding northern Europeans
and the unreliable and indebted south. They regret that Switzerland and
Norway opted not to join the EU. The departure of the UK would further
weaken the north. Even the French might miss British support on some issues.
say the British make impossible demands. But a budget freeze seems
reasonable. So does cutting Eurocrat perks. Repeal of job-killing social
legislation and reduction of EU powers in internal affairs would help.
Repatriating powers would help the UK government win a referendum on Europe.
Israel Versus Hamas
"In my talks with leaders, I emphasize
the effort Israel is making to avoid hitting civilians, and this at a time
when Hamas and other terrorist organizations are making every effort to hit
civilian targets in Israel."
AR Israel is
right, Hamas is wrong. Arabs must declare their acceptance of this basic
moral truth, otherwise we face a clash of civilizations.
Oxytocin Boosts Monogamy
Journal Of Neuroscience
The hormone oxytocin could
promote fidelity in men.
Dirk Scheele et al.:
"Oxytocin may help
maintain monogamous relationships ... When approaching or being approached
by an attractive woman ... intranasal administration of oxytocin
caused monogamous men to prefer a greater distance."
Gates Of Hell
The Israeli Air Force has hit
20 underground sites housing
long-range launchers capable
of striking Tel Aviv and killed Hamas military head Ahmed
Hamas says Israel "opened the gates of hell" with the killing.
"The first aim of this operation is to bring back
quiet to southern Israel, and the second target is to strike at terror
AR Well done, lads.
has led a sedentary
Lord Patten earns £110,000 a year as BBC Trust chairman.
He also has 10 other jobs paying him an extra £200,000 a year. The former
Tory Cabinet minister is also Chancellor of Oxford University.
AR Such rampant cronyism is killing Britain.
Is He Serious?
Egyptian Salafist jihadi Murgan
Salem al-Gohary said on Egyptian Dream TV2 that the Great Sphinx and the
pyramids of Giza are "idolatrous" and must be destroyed.
humans really are getting dumber.
Why are American Jews
so often rich and
2012 November 19
EU officials have begun work on a plan to create
a long-term budget without the UK. The plan may be a negotiating ploy to try
to put more pressure on David Cameron to compromise. Downing Street on
Sunday rejected the idea of a budget deal without Britain as unacceptable.
Cameron wants a freeze in the budget of roughly €1 trillion for
2014-2020 to keep spending at 2011 levels. Sweden has taken a similar
position to the UK. But France disagrees. François Hollande: "Above all,
spending on the common agricultural policy must be preserved."
planned alternative budget would be annual, which under EU rules requires
qualified majority votes. The traditional 7-year budget requires unanimity.
But revenue in an annual budget still requires unanimity. A diplomat: "It
would be a technical nightmare."
2012 November 18
Nathan J. Brown
Violence between Israel and the Hamas-controlled
"statelet" of Gaza serves domestic politics. Palestinians fear that the
Israeli government is making war with an eye to upcoming elections. Israelis
suspect that Hamas — "Islamic Resistance Movement" — is lobbing rockets
because it is tired of taunts that it is not living up to its middle name.
Both sides know they cannot win. The Israelis cannot
dislodge Hamas from Gaza without unacceptable cost and endless occupation.
But they want to punish the movement to deter it from future violence. Hamas
knows that the damage it inflicts serves no strategic value, but it hopes
that its rockets will cause dislocation and panic in Israel.
United States will be seen as complicit in the Israeli offensive. Egypt,
which now tilts toward Hamas, is embarrassed. The United States has
pretended that the Israeli-Palestinian issue could be dealt with as if Hamas
does not exist. But Hamas dominates Gaza. The movement runs everything in
Gaza. Gaza residents see no alternative.
Imagine that while you are sleeping a team scans your
brain. They also record any bodily details that might reflect on your state
of mind. They copy this mind file to a nonbiological body that looks and
moves like you and can pass for you. In the morning you are told what
happened and you meet You 2. You 2 is talking about his life as if he were
You 2 could go around claiming to be you. All of your friends
and loved ones would be happy with You 2. So you don't need that old body
and brain anymore, right?
Your sense of identity is still with you.
You 2 is a different person. He is extremely similar, because he also shares
all of your neocortical patterns and connections. Or he did when he was
created, but then the two of you started to go your own ways. You are still
around, so You 2 is not you.
Now imagine you have an operation to
replace a very small part of your brain with a nonbiological unit.
As promised, the procedure works just fine. You are still you. Then you
decide to have different region of your brain replaced. Again, you're still
you. You keep going until eventually you've changed every part of your
brain. Each time things went well and you didn't lose any of your
personality, skills, or memories. There was never a you and a You 2. You
still exist. Everything is fine.
But now you are entirely equivalent
to You 2. After the gradual replacement scenario, you have all of the
neocortical patterns and connections that you had originally, only in a
nonbiological substrate, which is also true of You 2.
We are not the
stuff that makes up our bodies and brains. The particles in our cells flow
through us. Putting nonbiological systems into our bodies and brains will be
the same. It won't change our identity any more than the natural replacement
of our biological cells does. We have already largely outsourced many of our
memories to our devices and the cloud. The devices will get smaller until
they fit in our bodies. We won't lose them that way. And we'll do most of
our thinking in the cloud.
AR This is
exactly the scenario on my GIG book. We both got it from Dave Chalmers.
The European Space Agency may join the United States
in building the Orion spaceship. The plan stems from the NASA decision to
privatize crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station, with
leaves ESA without a role in running the ISS.
The Orion Multiple
Purpose Crew Vehicle is designed to carry astronauts on missions of up to
six months to the Moon or beyond. The first two test flights may take place
around 2017 using existing Atlas V launchers. A bigger rocket is being
2012 November 17
He Di, 65, is in an ideological war. He aspires to
live in a world of liberty, democracy, and free markets. But universal
values clash with the revolutionary ideology of the Communist Party and Mao
Shanghai historian Xu Jilin: "The history of Germany and
Japan in the 1930s shows that if statism fulfills its potential, it will
lead the entire nation into catastrophe ... What a strong state needs most
is democratic institutions, a sound constitution, and the rule of law to
prevent power from doing evil."
He traces the drift to 2003. The Hu
administration started back down the old road of central planning. He thinks
the combination of extreme nationalism, extreme populism, and state
capitalism looks Nazi.
To write about the great is to subordinate them to
the reader: the reader can regard himself as the heir to all the ages,
because he preserves in imagination what no longer exists in fact.
publication day, an author should burn a copy of his book, to acknowledge
that what he accomplished is negligible compared to what he imagined and
Speech is an action, writing an act whose audience is
always primarily oneself. To become memorable or brilliant, language needs
to be fertilized by egotism.
Philosophy and history never say
anything true about the world, only about the experience of being in the
world. Some sensibilities require the illusion of objectivity to get their
version of the truth spoken.
One begins writing as a detour away from
life that is supposed to return one to the main road of life further on.
Only gradually does it become clear that the detour is really a fork in the
The future will be made up of beings that will understand us
better than we can understand ourselves. The writer's aspiration is to leave
a body of evidence for the future to interpret.
The pursuit of
outward status and the pursuit of inward perfection can both be understood
as ways of imposing direction, and therefore narrative, on a life.
2012 November 16
Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said
Israel felt compelled to respond to relentless Palestinian rocket attacks
into southern Israel. But Palestinians in Gaza say that what the Israeli
military calls surgical strikes kill civilians and they are cut off from the
world by a blockade.
This is the most serious Israeli
offensive on Gaza since 2009. Israel's military says preparations are being
made for a ground offensive, should the need arise. Already this offensive
is causing regional rifts. Egypt was so angry it has recalled its ambassador
Regionally, the Mideast is looking more and more unstable.
The Syrian civil war is spilling over into Lebanon, the Golan Heights,
Jordan, and Turkey. Israeli concern about Iran's nuclear program and the
possibility that it will strike Iranian nuclear facilities are adding to
The moribund Mideast peace process is suffering another
setback. Some accuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of launching
this offensive to benefit politically from taking tough action against
Hamas. Peace talks between Israel and Fatah or Hamas look unlikely.
Karl Marx, Banker
If Karl Marx had been alive in 2007, he would have
been working for a bank. Banks had reached a state of communist perfection.
The workers took home everything. the capital holders were left with
nothing. Marx would have been laughing all the way from the bank.
The beneficiaries of the communist banking system are
squealing. Many in banking seem not to have noticed that they recently
brought the world economy to its knees. Bankers need rescuing from
themselves. Regulation can reimpose a capitalist system on the banks.
The banks need to be humble about how much value they really add to the
economy. Only productive investment generates growth. The banks do not have
the investment ideas: businessmen do. The banks are just transferring money
around the economy.
A healthy, prosperous, contributing City needs
more capitalism and less communism. Ignore the alarmist warnings that we are
committing national suicide by regulatory interventions. Boring and reliable
banks will deliver national competitive advantage in future.
2012 November 15
Hamas felt confident over the ascendancy of its
fellow Islamists in the region and attempted to set new rules on the Gaza
border. But it mistook Israeli restraint for weakness. By firing more and
more indiscriminate rocket barrages into Israel, Hamas overplayed its hand.
Israel once again has proved its intelligence capabilities in Gaza not only
by targeting Ahmed Jabari but also by removing most of Hamas' long-range
underground rocket launchers in the first wave of air strikes. Operation
Pillar of Defense shows Israel will defend its civilians.
Jacques Derrida was a Jew from Algeria. He felt
like an an outsider. He wrote of the absolute singularity of every human
Deconstruction holds that nothing is ever entirely
itself. There is a certain otherness lurking within every assured identity.
No system is never quite as stable as it seems. When François Mitterrand
came to power in 1981, Derrida was invited to set up an international
college of philosophy in Paris. He was feted as an intellectual superstar.
An American comic book featured a sinister Doctor Deconstructo. But
Derrida simply asked whether we know what we mean.
Schizophrenia is the most common cause of
hospitalization. Mental health units are overcrowded. Patients are often put
on drugs and get no talking therapies. After a decade or two, the
side-effects of the drugs may shorten lives by decades.
intervention program (EIP) was supposed to help. Clinical psychologist Dr
Alison Brabben: "It was quite a break away from traditional mental health
services. Previously, schizophrenia was seen as a purely biological
condition, the diagnosis was made and then people were given a pill to try
to make the symptoms better. No one ever asked about people's lives."
The chemical explanation for psychosis is incomplete. Black groups have
far higher rates, but not in Africa or the Caribbean. The problem is not
being black, it's being black in Britain.
2012 November 14
No Solar Power For Europe
The Desertec Industrial Initiative was the most
ambitious solar energy project ever when it was founded in 2009.
Industrialists, politicians, and environmentalists all liked it. The idea
was to pipe solar thermal power from the Sahara Desert via Mediterranean
power lines to Europe.
Today there is still little
to show for the project. Political backing evaporating when the Arab Spring
destabilized the region. The projected budget was €400 billion and funding
dried up. No country wants to import power only to compromise energy
Last week, Desertec failed to seal a deal on three Moroccan
solar power plants when Spain pulled back. The initiative was launched with
a long list of corporate shareholders and partners. Siemens and Bosch will
quit at the end of the year.
Manufacturing fetishism is the idea that manufacturing
is the central economic activity and everything else is somehow subordinate.
Business people express it when they equate wealth creation with private
sector production. But when you look at the value chain of manufactured
goods we consume today, you quickly appreciate how small a proportion of
their value is represented by manufacturing and assembly.
labor for manufacturing is a cheap commodity in a globalized world. But the
skills and capabilities that turn that labor into products of extraordinary
complexity and sophistication are not. Manufacturing was once a principal
source of low-skilled employment but this is no longer true in advanced
economies. Most unskilled jobs in developed countries are in personal
services. Workers in China cannot serve you lunch, collect your refuse, or
bathe your grandmother. Anyone who thinks these are not real jobs does not
The Higgs is proving far too well behaved. The
standard model must be incomplete as it doesn't cover dark matter and
The Higgs is detected by the particles it decays into. One
anomaly was a lack of tau leptons in the debris. Now experimentalists from
CMS and ATLAS say the number of tau particles detected has crept up. So no
problem there. The standard model says the Higgs boson has mirror symmetry.
Now CMS confirms this with a statistical significance of 2.5 sigma. Only one
hint of a problem: the Higgs seems to decay twice as often as predicted into
pairs of photons.
Steven Weinberg: "The particle discovered at the
LHC looks more and more like the particle that was predicted." He says it
will be a nightmare if the LHC finds the Higgs behaves as predicted.
Philip Roth: "My autobiography would consist almost
entirely of chapters about me sitting alone in a room looking at a
typewriter." When his relationship with Claire Bloom was in its first
romantic flush, he invited her to spend three weeks at his home in rural
Connecticut. According to her autobiography, he then spent every day writing
in his study, and every evening reading Russian novels.
Roth started by exposing the Jewish
Newark where he grew up. Rabbis denounced him for supplying ammunition to
the gentiles. Roth's response was Portnoy's Complaint, America’s bestselling
novel of 1969. Roth: "I don't want to read fiction, I don't want to write
it, and I don't even want to talk about it anymore. I dedicated my life to
the novel. At the exclusion of nearly everything else. It's enough!"
AR Quite right. Knowing when to stop is
Ray Monk has published his third biography, this one
of Robert Oppenheimer. His two previous biographies were on Ludwig
Wittgenstein and on Bertrand Russell.
Monk studied Wittgenstein's
philosophy of mathematics at Oxford. Michael Dummett said it was
conventionalist, while Crispin Wright argued for its strict finitism. Monk:
"My thought was that if you had any understanding of the spirit in which
Wittgenstein wrote, there was no way you could attribute those positions to
His biography of Wittgenstein was a success. He was invited to
teach a class on Wittgenstein at Southampton University, got a job there,
and has been there ever since.
studied Wittgenstein with Dummett and Wright a few years before Monk. Did I
miss the chance of a lifetime there? No: see my next book.
2012 November 13
What Do Animals Want?
Marian Stamp Dawkins
The hard problem of consciousness is still
very hard, and to try and rest your ethical case on proving something that
has baffled people for years seems to me to be not good for animals. If you
think about human beings, the way to get them to change their behavior is to
show them that their own self-interest lies in doing something. Animal
welfare improves human health, it improves the health of their children, it
gives them better food, it gives them better quality of life. Those
arguments may actually be much more powerful for people who aren't already
convinced about animal welfare than trying to use an argument based on
Are Humans Getting
Stanford geneticist Gerald Crabtree believes that an
average Greek from 1000 BCE was brighter than most of us. Our intellects
have probably been sinking since the invention of farming and city life.
In the past, when our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers, stupidity was
often punished by death. Enormous evolutionary pressure bore down on them,
selecting out the dimwits. But not today.
Crabtree estimates that 2
to 5 thousand genes play a role in human intellectual ability, and that each
of us carries two or more mutations that arose in the past millennia. "We,
as a species, are surprisingly intellectually fragile and perhaps reached a
peak 2,000 to 6,000 years ago."
Other geneticists say enormous
evolutionary pressure may not be necessary to maintain our intelligence.
Crabtree: "Remarkably it seems that although our genomes are fragile, our
society is robust almost entirely by virtue of education, which allow
strengths to be rapidly distributed to all members."
wrong. Selection pressures have changed, not disappeared. Until recently, dim
men joined armies and got killed. Dim women got diseases and had sick kids.
The Higgs boson gathers mass from everything it
touches, so its mass should balloon from 125 GeV to 10^19 GeV, the Planck
scale, where things go berserk and gravity is strong enough to fill the
universe with stormy spacetime.
Perhaps we can reining in the Higgs
mass and save our universe by invoking a new symmetry of nature.
If supersymmetric sparticles partnered each standard model particle, their
fluctuations could cancel each other out. If we don't find sparticles with
low masses, we can tweak the theory to give them higher masses. Or we can
just accept the vast discrepancy between the Higgs's actual mass and that
predicted by quantum theory: if things were different we wouldn't exist.
This is anthropic reasoning.
The mass of the new particle is 125 GeV,
about as small as it can be. If it were just a few GeV lighter, the lowest
energy state of the vacuum would dip below zero. Then at any moment the
universe could tunnel into total ruin.
2012 November 12
The United States will pump more oil than Saudi Arabia by 2017.
AR Yeah! Time to emigrate!
Christ is now
MTV Europe Music Awards
November 11, 2012
How to Create a Mind
A brain grows according
to certain rules and contains repeating patterns. All you need to
understand it are the rules and how the basic neural building blocks
Reverse engineering the brain is only the start. The
results will then be forward engineered. Ray Kurzweil says this will
happen in the next decade or two.
The Washington Times
China bills its new stealth jet,
the J-31, as the only 5G stealth
light combat jet in
after the F-35 Lightning II.
The first videos show smoke trailing from the aircraft, a sign of poor
fuel burn. China has met technical problems developing combat jet engines. Analysts
say the J-31 engine is a Russian design, the Klimov RD-93.
The timing of the debut is political.
AR A technical expert says
Chinese jet engines "suck".
HM Revenue and Customs
investigation reveals drug
dealers, gun runners, and
AR An Oxford colleague
was HSBC CEO
mother banks there.
2012 November 11
Britain No, France No
Politicians in Brussels and Berlin are unhappy
with President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that with its anti-EU
course London has "taken leave of its senses" while France has too little
industry and innovation.
The UK parliament recently passed a
non-binding resolution demanding substantial cuts to the €1 trillion budget
recently proposed by the European Commission. France has threatened to veto
the budget if it doesn't include a continuation of generous agricultural
AR Britain and France can kill
the European Union. But what then?
|Tweedledum and Tweedledee
GDP growth: 0.7%
GDP: $2,511 billion
Population: 63.1 million
GDP per head: $39,770
GDP growth: 0.0%
GDP: $2,732 billion
Population: 63.6 million
GDP per head: $42,930
The BBC is in crisis in its history after the
dramatic resignation of its director general, George Entwistle, after just
54 days in the job. Entwistle was engulfed in the crisis following
confirmation that the BBC had wrongly implicated former senior Tory
politician Lord McAlpine in a story about pedophilia.
The British are currently convulsed about
pedophilia. Accusations of child abuse against Jimmy Savile have triggered a
wave of other charges. A Conservative politician has been accused in a case
of mistaken identity. David Cameron was confronted on ITV with a list of 40
Pedophilia was not always
unpardonable. When I was at school we sniggered that some schoolmasters
sexually exploited pupils. In the Church such malpractices have been
widespread. The public obsession with pedophilia is madness. Child abuse
demands a proportionate response.
2012 November 10
David P. Barash
The Buddha urged his followers to be sensitive to
the suffering of all sentient beings. For Buddhists, no one exists as a
permanent structure distinct and isolated from the rest of the world. Trying
to locate an inviolate particle of selfhood within anyone is like peeling an
onion. For Buddhists and ecologists alike, we are all created from spare
parts scavenged from the same cosmic junk heap.
There are many connections between Buddhism and ecology. By contrast, the
Abrahamic religions start from an assumption of separateness. With dualism
overcome and the world seen in its wholeness, it is absurd to consider any
natural process as wrong. It is what it is. Embedded in an ecological world
view is a notion of things in flux, which is convivial to an evolutionary
Ecology is a practical corrective to human hubris. It
subverts our egocentric insistence on separateness and our inclination to
ride roughshod over the rest of the natural world. Buddhism is no less
subversive. Martyrdom is out of fashion, but the consequences of combining
Buddhism and ecological wisdom might be equally significant. Instead of
losing a life, we just might expand it.
One prefers not to associate science with religion. Science is beyond
2012 November 9
In his keynote at the
18th National Congress of the
Communist Party of China, President Hu emphasized the central role of
economic development and striking a balance between the government and
financial markets. He set the 2020 target to double per capita income in
China from 2010 levels.
"We should firmly maintain the strategic focus of
boosting domestic demand, speed up the establishment of a long-term
mechanism for increasing consumer demand, unleash the potential of
individual consumption, increase investment at a proper pace, and expand the
AR Hu hum, just another
Hu Jintao will soon steps down as General Secretary of the
Communist Party of China. Hu, 69, cemented China's position as a rising
An engineer by training, Hu worked his way up
the ranks of the party and in 1997 became the youngest member of the
Politburo Standing Committee. At the 16th Party Congress in 2002, he
succeeded President Jiang Zemin as Communist Party chief and then became
Hu championed balanced and sustainable development.
Under his watch, China has become the world's second largest economy. He has
improved the Chinese military and boosted national pride. In 2012, China
docked a manned spacecraft, orbited a female astronaut, and deployed an
Faced with ethnic unrest in Tibet and
Xinjiang, Hu showed his steely side by cracking down harshly. His regime
showed little tolerance toward political opposition. China has kept a tight
control of the media, especially the social media community.
Hu failed to narrow the country's widening wealth gap. China still has
more than 100 million people living in poverty. The top 10% of households
have 57% of total income and 85% of total assets. Hu resisted pressure to
reform the political system. Corruption is now endemic.
President Xi Jinping will likely take over from Hu as General Secretary. Xi
will manage China's emergence as a global superpower.
AR Hu was a product of the system.
Latinos, African-Americans, and young people have
become the most reliable Democratic voting blocs. And white men have become
the mainstays of the Republican party. This is good news for Democrats and a
troubling omen for Republicans.
But Democrats will need to do more
than rely on Republican electoral stupidity. Democrats will need to champion
immigration reforms, paid family and medical leave for women, expansion of
the Earned Income Tax Credit, and income-contingent college loans. All these
are good policies.
The wages of white men without college degrees are
less than they were 35 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Democrats could
have pushed for a nationwide system of productivity bargains, as in Germany.
They could have insisted that America’s trading partners have a minimum
wage. And they could have reduced taxes on the middle and working class, and
raised them on the rich.
AR They can
2012 November 8
Red China — No Change
President Hu Jintao outlined
a conservative vision for the future of China. He said China must stay with
socialism as power is handed to a new generation. Hu: "We must not take the
old path that is closed and rigid, nor must we take the evil road of
changing flags and banners."
Speaking in the Great Hall of the
People, Hu, who will hand power to Xi Jinping, warned that "the party, even
the country, could perish" if the anti-corruption campaign is not
successful. Hu also unveiled the ambitious goal to double per capita income
by the end of 2020.
A Progressive Surge
A country reeling from one disaster has dodged
another. President Obama's re-election has evoked relief. The voters
defeated a living symbol of plutocracy.
A Mitt Romney victory would
have imperiled the security of all but those insulated by extreme wealth
from basic concerns like finding housing. It would have been viewed as a
validation of radical individualism. It would have empowered
social forces that oppose progress in the United States.
Democratic majority in the Senate is more progressive than before. The
new caucus provides majority leader Harry Reid with an opening to
respond to pressure for reform of Senate rules. The House remains in
Republican hands. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi will have a hard time.
We need to put the jobs crisis first, shifting the frame of national
discussion away from the deficit and toward investments in education and
AR Address the fiscal
cliff first, please.
The Next Battle
Barack Obama won a convincing electoral victory
over Mitt Romney. It will spark a bitter debate among demoralized
Republicans. Democrats increased their Senate majority and Republicans
maintained control of the House, setting the stage for renewed gridlock on
The White House and Congress face a looming fiscal
cliff. Obama promised to work with Congress to reduce the deficit and reform
the tax system. Republican House speaker John Boehner said the mandate from
voters was for political leaders to "find a way to work together".
AR Time to inch toward coalition politics.
You) Under My Skin
Circle Culture Gallery, Berlin
The United States armed forces can destroy
anything on Earth within an hour. Yet Hurricane Sandy tore down power lines
dangling from wooden poles over the streets of Brooklyn and New Jersey. New
York City hospitals had to be evacuated.
America is a country of total capitalism. Its functionaries have no need
of public hospitals or of a reliable power supply to private homes. American
society is in ruins and its government is crippled. Romney and Obama are two
faces of a broken system. It doesn't matter who wins. Both are in the hands
of big business. Greed and religion dominate public opinion. The American
downfall has begun.
States of America
2012 November 7
Obama: Four More Years
Why Mitt Romney Lost
Mitt Romney lost in part due to his own weaknesses
as a candidate. The Obama campaign put Romney on the defensive early about
his work at Bain Capital, and left him there. The Republican nominee made
any number of horrendous gaffes. He ran a disastrous Republican convention.
He never found a narrative that middle-class voters could relate to.
But even a clumsy candidate might have won if not for the GOP's growing
extremism. The Republican strategy of making the election a referendum on
Obama's handling of the economy was sound enough, but the Republican Party
couldn't pass the credibility test itself. The GOP sounded like a bizarre
fringe party, not a responsible governing one.
To win the nomination,
Romney had to behave like a right-wing extremist. He had to pass muster with
the right-wing base on taxes, immigration, climate change, abortion, and gay
rights. When he tried, much too late, to move closer to the center,
Republicans kept popping up with disgusting reminders of the GOP's
retrograde views on gender issues.
Demographic change and better
economic circumstances stand to make the Republican road back to the White
House an even steeper climb in future years. The party has to present a more
conciliatory and reasonable face to sell itself to swing voters. It must cut
loose its theocrats and liberate itself from the Tea Party. Let the
Good For Science
It was a good night for science. Voters endorsed one of the
most scientifically accomplished administrations in U.S. history. Obama has
been a great supporter of science education and research, he has appointed
science-friendly people to science posts, and he gave a great shout-out to
science just a few weeks after taking office:
"Science and the
scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a
wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of
the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other
resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of
The election was also an affirmation of the
magical powers of math, statistics, and social science research. Polls gave
Bayesian statistics god
Nate Silver the raw data to predict electoral outcomes with satisfying
accuracy. Numbers work!
The Religious Right Is Dead
Last night was a victory for America's emerging
secular liberal majority. The United States is still pious by European
standards, but the gap is narrowing every year. The Religious Right united
around a candidate who, by most standards, is not even a Christian. Also,
America has just re-elected its first post-Christian president. Barack
Obama's churchgoing is no more than Chicago politics: why else would a
sophisticated Harvard-educated lawyer sit through years of incoherent
ranting by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Americans, welcome to Europe!
Britain And Germany
Angela Merkel will dine with David Cameron at the
Downing Street tonight and attempt to avert another European diplomatic
debacle. In a prior phone call, Merkel told Cameron: "There seemed to be a
lot of euroskepticism at your party conference."
Germany and Britain
could champion a shared vision of Europe with fiscal discipline and open
markets. Merkel wants a budget deal in November to resolve the eurozone
crisis and move toward political and economic union. Cameron needs her
support to realign Britain so that it retains a key role in Europe but
stands aside from eurozone integration.
Merkel has retreated from
freezing the EU budget to accept a small increase to help fund development
in Poland and other eastern partners. Poland's foreign minister Radoslaw
Sikorski studied politics at Oxford, admired Margaret Thatcher, and became a
fiscal hawk, but he wants help from Europe.
The mood toward the UK in
the German political establishment is a mix of exasperation and concern. CDU European affairs spokesman Michael Stübgen: "I think it would be better if
the UK remained in the EU. But in recent years, Cameron has developed a
European style which cannot be sustained for long."
foreign affairs spokesman Karsten Voigt: "Germany always wanted Britain to
stay in the EU and to play an active role in it. But in the last years I
find more and more politicians who are simply giving up. In the end Britain
has to decide whether they really want to be in or out."
Labour MP Gisela Stuart: "I don’t think we have ever been further apart in
my memory. I just feel there is nothing in common ... both sides are fed up
with each other."
Britain And Germany
David Cameron hosts the star among western leaders in
Downing Street today. Angela Merkel has approval ratings that put others to
shame. She presides over a prosperous Germany that dominates the European
Union. There is little anxiety when Germany prescribes fiscal rectitude for
southern Europe, outmatches France for control of the EU agenda, or radiates
impatience with the UK. She can be confident of re-election next year.
The UK and Germany are growing apart. Cameron vetoed a fiscal pact from
Berlin, then Germany nixed the proposed merger of BAE Systems and EADS. The
Anglo-German relationship was an improvised answer to French pressure for
protectionism and heavy regulation. When Paris sought to go against the
United States, London and Berlin preserved the Atlantic relationship. Now
Germany feels it can prevail in Europe without British help.
Conservatives admire the German economic model, but they want the UK to be a
global trader. There is little in common between the Tories and the other
center-right parties in Europe. The British don't get that Germany will do
almost anything to preserve the euro. The Germans still think euroskepticism
is a Tory whim rather than the will of the British electorate. Merkel may
not like it, but Cameron is as pro-Europe as he can be.
2012 November 6
U.S. Presidential Election
Das Haus der Kultur, Heidelberg
Filled to capacity with Heidelberg students: over 90%
Israel And Iran Talk In Brussels
Israeli and Iranian officials met in Brussels to
talk about banning nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction from
the Mideast. A participant described the mood as respectful and positive.
Billed as an academic seminar, the event included Israeli ambassador Jeremy
Issacharoff and Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh. The delegations met
with representatives from Arab states and others to propose a conference on
establishing a WMD-free zone in the Mideast. Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava
is organizing the planned conference in Helsinki, sponsored by the UN.
Peter Sloterdijk is 65. His Critique of Cynical
Reason (1983) sold 40,000 copies in its first few months.
Now he teaches philosophy and co-hosts a TV show.
Sloterdijk sees humanism as a domestication of men: our institutions are
human zoos. When he channels Heidegger he emits hot gas. When he
concentrates on anthropology he shines. He seems the most French of current
Sloterdijk: "Truth games of the philosophical type, if
they are not to sink into anodyne salon conversation, cannot and must not be
confined within the frames of an epistemological establishment or within
institutions of a politics of knowledge that's given once and for all. ...
For 200 years, everything that has fired authentic thinking has come from
nonphilosophy erupting into philosophy."
Jack Zipes: "I have endeavored to demonstrate that the
historical evolution of storytelling reflects struggles of human beings
worldwide to adapt to their changing natural and social environments."
As an oral
form, fairy tales have been around for millennia. The Grimm brothers altered
the folk tales they collected. They created an ideal type for the fairy tale
that reflected their preferences.
Zipes loathes Disney's movies. He
criticizes Disney's editorializing, he says the characters are stereotypes,
and he sees blatant and rampant sexism. But his arguments are ridiculous.
The fairy tale thrives in places folklore scholars ignore. Zipes should
listen to hip-hop.
a brief life
My Vision For America
My Vision For America
When hardship hits, America is at its
best. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm, only
Governor Romney has started calling
himself an agent of change. But it's not the change we need. We
know what real change looks like:
— Change is an America
where people of every age have the
skills and education that
good jobs require.
— Change is an America that's home to
the next generation of
manufacturing and innovation.
Change is an America that turns the page on a decade of war
do some nation-building here at home.
— Change is an
America where we reduce our deficit by cutting
spending where we
can, and asking the wealthiest Americans
to go back to the
income tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton
The folks at the very top don't need another champion in
Washington. The people who need a champion in Washington are the
Americans whose letters I read at night, the men and women I meet on the trail every day. When these Americans do well,
America does well. That's the change we need right now.
America is a place where freedom rings.
America is a land of opportunity. But lately, for too many
Americans, opportunity has not exactly come knocking. Together
with Paul Ryan, I've put forward an economic recovery plan:
We will produce more of the energy we need to heat our
homes, fill our cars, and make our economy grow. By 2020, we
will achieve North American energy independence.
will retrain our work force for the jobs of tomorrow and ensure
that every child receives a quality education no matter where
they live. Parents and students need to have greater choice.
3 We will make trade work for America. We'll open more
markets to American agriculture, products, and services. And we
will finally hold accountable any nation that doesn't play by
4 We will restore fiscal sanity to Washington
by bringing an end to the federal spending and borrowing binge.
5 We will champion small business, the great engine of job
creation in our country, by reforming the tax code and updating
and reshaping regulations that have suffocated economic growth.
The problems we need to overcome now are not bigger than we
are. We can defeat them.
Red China, Black Jet
China's new stealth fighter jet,
J-31 "Falcon Eagle", made
its maiden flight in
CCTV 4 report (0:58)
AR 31 = 16 + 15
Falcon Eagle :)
AR Love that "ë"
2012 November 5
On Wednesday morning, U.S. voters will probably
awaken to wonder what the fuss was about. In all probability, Barack Obama
will be the next president, the Senate will remain narrowly Democratic, and
the House will still be comfortably Republican. After two years and $6
billion in election spending, American government will still face the worst
gridlock in recent history.
AR True, but
who dares to revise the constitution?
At Israel's National Institute of Security
Studies in Tel Aviv, a group of Israeli experts met to play a war game
exploring an Israeli strike against Iran on November 9, 2012. Participants
were divided into groups for Israel, Iran, the United States, Russia,
Hezbollah, and so on. The Netanyahu actor was a former deputy foreign
minister of Israel.
After the Israeli attack on Iran, the
Iranians responded by launching missiles against Israel. They asked Jordan
and Egypt to cancel their peace treaties with Israel and tried to get
Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza to join in. But they stopped short of
attacking U.S. targets.
The "U.S. President" reiterated his support
for Israel and raised the alert status of forces in the Mideast. The
Israelis asked Washington to help prevent Hezbollah and Hamas joining in, to
help shoot down Iranian missiles, and to keep up the pressure on Iran in the
UN Security Council.
To finish the job, the Israelis launched a
second wave of strikes against Iran hours after the first. Iran's nuclear
facilities were almost totally destroyed. Hezbollah and Hamas played only a
token role and Iranian missiles had only limited effect. Iran failed to get
sanctions on it lifted or have sanctions imposed on Israel. Iran was the loser.
Netanyahu actor Yehuda Ben-Meir: "The principal insight we gained was that
following an Israeli attack the entire world was interested in calming the
region down. Before the attack everyone had something to say on a possible
attack but once it became a fait accompli the world wanted to know what
would happen next, and everyone's goal was to contain the situation and to
How Authors Write
Jack Kerouac claimed to have typed On the Road in
1951 in a delirium of "spontaneous prose" onto a 120-foot roll of teletype
paper. His first draft really was produced without paragraph breaks on a
continuous roll of paper. The prose is celebrated for its ecstatic lyricism.
Nicholson Baker's novel The Mezzanine (1988) includes numerous
footnotes. They are so long and involved they drown the narrative. Baker
wrote The Mezzanine with a word processing program that made it easy to
insert and format footnotes.
German writer W. G. Sebald composed
strange meditations on the Holocaust. His books begin quietly but pursue a
decaying orbit around the central tragedy. The books include fugal
digressions, descents into the past through nested narrators, and very long
sentences. Most idiosyncratic of all are the uncaptioned, grainy
Authors are excited to experiment not by
publishing media but by the technologies they use to compose them. Even when
a writer's style is informed by a publishing platform, it's often because
that technology is also an authoring tool: blogging programs publish blogs
to the Web but they are also word processors.
Jennifer Egan's novel A
Visit from the Goon Squad includes a chapter written as a series of
Microsoft PowerPoint slides and presented as made by a daughter for whom
they are a natural idiom. In early 2012, Egan published a short story
entirely in the form of tweets. She wanted to write a story that seemed to
be told inadvertently.
Kerouac, Baker Sebald, and Egan were all
writing when new media were everywhere, but what got their juices going were
technologies of composition. Literary writers are solitary creatures. Their
keyboards and pens are real. Websites and books are mere mechanisms of
AR The style of this blog
is definitely shaped by my software.
2012 November 4
EU vs. UK
The European Union budget crisis is set to deepen.
European parliament leaders vow to block any freeze on spending from 2014 to
2020. They favor increases even higher than the 5% the commission asked for.
Austrian Socialist MEP Hannes Swoboda: "We need a budget that is
fulfilling its task and the task is [economic] growth and employment.
Particularly in the poorest regions of the EU, we need growth."
Britain and Germany have been demanding EU spending cuts. British
negotiators now fear that Germany will relent and back a small budget
increase to assist economic growth in poorer EU nations.
The Canadian government wants Polish migrants in
Britain to start a new life in Canada. Canada has vacancies in construction
and transport, and Poles from the UK already speak English.
Immigration minister Jason Kenney held a meeting with Poles in the UK at the
Canadian High Commission in London to discuss the issue: "Many of you would
find a better job in Canada."
AR The UK
needs its Poles.
White Man's Burden
White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of
logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans. Without this tribal
appeal, Romney's candidacy would not be viable. Most kinds of Americans see
no reason to vote for him.
AR It's not
racist to hope that a rich man can fix the economy.
2012 November 3
The 18th national congress of the Communist Party
of China (CPC) begins on November 8. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and President
Hu Jintao will be succeeded by Prime Minister Li Keqiang and President Xi
Jinping. The change of power will remain within the unspoken contract that
Mao Zedong made with the people: We rule, you obey. In the last 10 years,
Chinese GDP quintupled and the number of people who live on less than $2 a
day went down by 250 million.
The UK government is expected to discuss the
threat posed by Iran with officials in the
Gulf region. Leaders in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are concerned that Iran
might try to block the Strait of Hormuz.
Britain has Royal Navy minesweepers in the Gulf region and
David Cameron is considering deploying RAF Typhoons to a base in Abu Dhabi.
The government is keen to reassure its Gulf allies of British backing if
tensions with Iran escalate. BAE Systems says the UAE has "genuine" interest
in buying 60 Typhoons.
UK government statement:
"The UK regularly deploys Typhoons to UAE as part of our routine exercise
program and to demonstrate our military commitment to UAE and the security
of the region."
Donald Keene, 90, professor emeritus at Columbia
University, is now a Japanese citizen. Dr Keene is a prominent figure in
Japanese literary and intellectual circles. The Japanese emperor awarded him
one of Japan's highest honors for his contributions to Japanese literature.
first visited Japan during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. His affection for
Japan began in 1940 as a student at Columbia, when he read a translation of
the Tale of Genji. It was his first encounter with Japan's delicate sense of
beauty and its acceptance that life is fleeting and sad.
United States entered the war, he enlisted in the Navy and learned Japanese
to become an interpreter and intelligence officer. After the war, he
pioneered academic studies of Japan in the United States. He has written
about 25 books on Japanese literature and history.
In Japan, he
befriended some of Japan's best known fiction writers, including Yukio
Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, Junichiro Tanizaki, and Takashi Tsujii. Dr Keene
retired only last year from Columbia. He plans to spend his final years in
Japan as a gesture of gratitude.
I lived in Japan, I
read a book or two by Keene plus novels by Mishima, Oe, Tanizaki et al.
2012 November 2
Israel Versus Iran
Benjamin Netanyahu's red line for Iran is when it has
240 kg of HEU. This is enough to convert into enough WGU to build one
nuclear bomb. Israeli officials say Iran will reach the red line next
But enough WGU for one bomb is not a program. After one nuclear test, they would have to wait. Even with more
WGU, Iran would still need months to make a bomb. The IAEA would see what
Iran was doing.
International sanctions are working. Debate around
the Iranian Supreme leader is intensifying. If the Israelis wait, they may
get more arms from the United States to help them strike alone.
highly enriched uranium (U-235 at 20% concentration)
weapons grade uranium (U-235 at 90% concentration)
The EU budget is a runaway monster. The
Commission proposes an increase of 11% over present spending to take the
budget over 1.1% of income. Eurocrats need to practice the austerity they
preach. EU policies go unreformed, its funds are patronage, and its salaries
and benefits are unaccountable.
Britain accepted a nominal rise in the EU budget from
€100 billion in 2004 to €129 billion in 2011. But it is one thing to have
spent more in good times, quite another to spend more when the domestic
budget is being squeezed. It is not hypocrisy to say spend less in bad
times. Circumstances change.
European politicians will see the vote
as confirmation of a British national madness. Ever since Britain entered
the European Union, oppositions have jeered at British governments forced to
defend Brussels. If the Westminster political class has given up on
Brussels, why bother to placate them?
EU vs. UK
The United Kingdom will not accept the European
Union budget proposal of €1 trillion and demands cuts. Brussels is losing
Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Janusz Lewandowski: "We
can't finance more Europe with substantially less money. ... Of course I am
also referring to Great Britain. Either they see their future in the
European Union in the long term or they don't."
British PM David
Cameron: "This government is taking the toughest line in these budget
negotiations of any government since we joined the European Union. At best
we would like it cut, at worst frozen, and I'm quite prepared to use the
veto if we don't get a deal that's good for Britain."
chancellor Angela Merkel: "I don't want to throw more vetoes into the room.
It doesn't help bring about a solution."
Solitude is a place of purification. Our aspiration
for traveling to that place might be the simple pleasure of being freed of
pettiness and corruption. For me, being alone is about staying sane in a
noisy and cluttered world, but it is also a way of opening out a creative
Temporary dwellers in the wilderness are renewed by a spell of lonely
contemplation. Then they return to the fray. The committed wilderness
dwellers are after something more. To take oneself out into the wilderness
as part of a spiritual quest is one thing, but to remain there is another.
The wilderness is a place of becoming lost, as much as found. We need to
beware of forest thinking. The wilderness is filled with dragons, but only
some of them are natives. The rest come with the pilgrim.
how sublime or close to the divine my solitary hut in the wilderness might
be, it is a sterile paradise of emptiness and rage unless I am prepared to
return to the social world. Solitude offers us not an escape or a paradise,
but a way back to that world.
I can sit down at any time with a problem, and if
I sit there and don't allow my mind to have distractions, my mind will
eventually start to work on it on its own. It's like a biosphere situation.
I isolate myself.
I always consider sitting the accomplishment. If I
could boil it down to the essence of becoming a really fine comedian, it's
just getting your ass from upright to seated.
An hour a day. That was
my first goal. Sometimes I had to trick myself to get myself to write. I'd
put the cookies by my notebook. It's like a mousetrap. I go get the cookies,
then I look in the notebook, and the next thing I know, I'm writing.
2012 All Saints Day
UK Rebels: Cut EU Pay
The UK government lost a
Commons vote over the EU budget. Labour and eurosceptic Tory MPs backed an
amendment demanding a pay cut.
David Cameron: "At best we would like
it cut, at worst frozen, and I'm quite prepared to use the veto if we don't
get a deal that's good for Britain."
The non-binding vote was put it
forward by Mark Reckless: "In the long run we will begin to get money and
power back from Europe."
AR EU reform has
to start somewhere. Cutting Brussels fat cat pay is a good start.
The Square Kilometer Array
will offer great new views
of the cosmic distribution
2012 October 31
Israel Versus Iran
The Iranians are still resolved to build nuclear
weapons. Success would trigger an arms race in the Mideast. Saudi Arabia
would turn nuclear within weeks, Turkey would turn nuclear in years, and
Egypt would have to follow. The world would start the countdown to the
nightmare of nuclear material in the hands of terrorists.
extremely skeptical about the chances that the ayatollahs will sit together
at any point in the foreseeable future and decide to give up their intention
to go in the footsteps of Pakistan and North Korea and turn into a military
nuclear power. They think of themselves as a major regional power and are
determined not to fall into the trap that, in their judgment, the late
Gaddafi fell into.
Israel reserves the right to act alone. The
question is when the Iranians come into the zone of immunity, where no
surgical attack can delay them significantly. Any operation against Iran
would be less dangerous now than when the country has crossed the nuclear
Step Back, Romney
Americans agree that the performance of their economy
has been disappointing. Many voters blame the president. Economic
1 Demand: America runs
deficits with foreigners. When households and businesses run surpluses, the
government runs the deficits. For balance, either household spending or
business investment must soar.
Supply: In the long run, the determinant of growth is rising productivity.
American productivity comes from new technology, which depends on government
3 Inequality: Since the crisis,
90% of US income gains have gone to the top 1% of earners. New growth has
not spread economic wellbeing. Children dependent on their parents are
4 Fiscal solvency: With
high unemployment and public debt, fiscal deficits cannot be cut without
risking a collapse in demand. A recovery would cut the fiscal deficit.
Healthcare spending is bad for solvency.
Obama offers no reforms to
reignite dynamism. Romney wants to increase defense spending and cut taxes.
Americans have a choice between low ambitions and a return to the policies
that led to the crisis.
Penguin and Random House intend to combine operations.
Bertelsmann, the Germany-based parent company of Random House, will own 53%
of the new venture. Penguin's UK parent company, Pearson, will control the
AR When Bertelsmann took over Springer in
1998/99, I moved on to SAP.
2012 October 30
Out of this European crisis can come the opportunity
to achieve a model of European integration that is sustainable. A
Europe-wide election for the presidency is the most direct way to involve
the public. People can understand an election for a big post held by one
If eurozone structures lead to a Europe that is fundamentally
divided politically as well as economically, rather than a Europe with one
political settlement that accommodates different levels of integration
within it, the European Union will be on a path to breakup.
Threatening to slaughter cities full of civilians is
atrocious. UK defense secretary Philip Hammond's claim that a continuous
at-sea deterrent based on submarines filled with ballistic missiles carrying
nuclear warheads remains "the ultimate safeguard of our national security"
is ludicrous. The price tag on some estimates could be £100 billion over 30
The present UK government inherited a commitment for
overpriced aircraft carriers of dubious use. Now it binds its successors
into another ruinous purchase by sinking so much money that cancellation
becomes unthinkable. The urgency is bogus. Other aspects of foreign policy
are open to rational debate. With the bomb, the sole test is the bloody
2012 October 29
This weekend the Obama campaign added an exclamation
mark to its "Forward" slogan. "I guess it's better than backward," said
President Obama can do no more
than promise voters the economy will mend and insist it won't under Mitt
Romney. Yet Obama has shown little ability to sharpen his message on the
economy, let alone offer a big vision of the future. Bill Clinton outshone
him at the convention.
Barack Obama's people skills are not
improving. Most people in Washington assume that it was only Republican
intransigence that scuppered a bargain during the debt ceiling drama of
August 2011. But the president made almost no effort to build trust with his
Many white voters believe Obama is
un-American. Some still deny he was born in America. Next time Springsteen
does an Obama event, he should sing "Born in the USA".
"No, No, No"
Tensions are rising between Britain and Germany over
the future of the European Union. German diplomat Rudolf Adam, deputy head
of mission at the German embassy in London, told a UK government ministerial
aide that David Cameron's stance on Europe meant Britain would "just see the
red lights of the train that has already left the station".
you ask a German politician, he will probably talk about the federal states
of Europe, and a European army. For the last 20 years from Britain, the
comment on Europe has been 'No, no, no, we don't want this, we don't want
that'. If you want to bring your power and your influence to bear, why does
your government not develop a vision of what Europe should be like?"
The story of how literature went digital begins in
2002 when Google developed a machine for turning books into data. To the
people of the book, Google Books is a sacrilege.
humanities are the next big thing. But literature cannot meaningfully be
treated as data. Literature is the opposite of data. The Epic of Gilgamesh,
the first story, is the story of a hero who has contact with the ineffable.
The very first work of surviving literature is on a subject that transcends
data. And we will never know most of literature. Huge swathes of the
tradition are absent or in ruins. Literature is haunted by entropy.
The experience of the mystery of language is the original literary
sensation. Any meaningful line in literature reveals a fugitive release from
the status of information. Shakespeare, from Macbeth: "Light thickens, and
the crows make wing to the rooky wood." As data, nonsense, and yet the words
illuminate their moment. The reality of context is ineluctable. The
algorithmic analysis of texts is reductionist. Meaning is mushy.
a free, complete, professionally curated, global library is more than just a
dream. Thanks to our machines, we will soon be able to read anything,
anywhere, at any time.
Schwetzingen Schlossgarten, 2012-10-28
Human Brain Project
Blue Brain Project
China Versus United States
"You know, kids have good
instincts. They look
other guy and say, well,
that's a bullshitter."
UK Says No To US
Following rising tensions with Iran, US diplomats lobbied for the use of British bases in
Cyprus, and for permission to fly from bases on Ascension Island in the
Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both British territories.
Downing Street: "We are working closely with the US with regard to
UK bases" but "the government does not think military action is the
right course at this point of time".
Tail bites dog.
Apollo and Mars
race for space and
the human condition
Poor responses to the
3/11 nuclear disaster
Jimmy Savile was a pedophile who abused his power as a star in the 1970s
to groom child victims. The BBC filmed an interview with a victim but
The BBC collects annual revenues of £3.6 billion
from fees that all UK viewers must pay. It has a grey corporate
Vulnerable children come first. Whether a
few highly paid TV executives get pensioned off is not the point. This
is a story about abuse that flourished in plain sight. The BBC bosses
appear to lack empathy.
The BBC recently aired a series about the
dilemmas social workers face in such cases. The culture that saw girls
as untrustworthy has not gone.
Comic Jerry Sadowitz
on Jimmy Savile, 1988
(audio, 49 s,
2012 October 28
Human Brain Project
The Human Brain Project aims to recreate the human mind inside a
supercomputer. It is the next step after the
Blue Brain Project, which since
2005 has created a virtual replica of part of a mammalian neocortex by
feeding a computer with vast quantities of data and algorithms produced from
studying tiny slivers of rat brain. That team has used the simulator to map
the neural circuitry behind thinking.
Blue Brain head Henry Markram
said the breakthrough was proof the "brain in a box" concept works. Now his
team joins with other scientists to create the Human Brain Project, which
aims to scale up their model to recreate an entire human brain. If their bid
for €1 billion of EU funding is successful, Markram says they are a decade
away from producing a synthetic mind that could think and talk like we do.
Moon Shot Ideas
The Arizona State University Center for Science and the
Imagination (CSI) will bring sci-fi writers together with engineers and
technologists to spark new "moon shot" ideas. CSI director Ed Finn: "It
brings together a variety of different people who wouldn't usually work
together. We want to create conversations that cut across all these
different boundaries and get people thinking."
Intel is working with the CSI to create the
USA, a new website for expert conversation on the future. Intel
technology evangelist Steve Brown: "In science fiction writing and the
conversations, you can explore how the technology can impact in both
positive and negatives."
2012 October 27
From Earth To Mars
Artemis Westenberg and Chris Carberry
On August 6, 2012, the
Laboratory (MSL, a.k.a. Curiosity) landed on Mars. Led by NASA, this
mission is truly international. Although the United States stepped back from
participation in the European Space Agency ExoMars missions, the
international community should use the launch window in 2018 to plan a
robotic mission that will move us closer to the goal of a Mars Sample Return
mission. If NASA, ESA, Russia, and other space agencies work together, they
can mount a major mission.
2012 October 26
Powell Praises Obama
Republican former secretary of state Colin Powell says
Mitt Romney has not "thought through" many issues: "I'm not quite sure which
Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy."
Powell praised Barack Obama for ending the war in Iraq, winding down the
Afghanistan conflict, and for a "very, very solid" record on
counter-terrorism. In the last debate Romney agreed with Obama on many
issues and avoided direct confrontations, partly to avoid gaffes and partly
to look more presidential.
Obama states his case in Rolling Stone
The euro crisis is changing the European Union.
Three tiers are emerging:
Tier 1 The 17
eurozone countries will submit national budgets and some economic policies
to the control of EU institutions. This tier will hold regular meetings of
its finance ministers and heads of government and probably have its own
Tier 2 The "eurozone plus"
countries, such as Poland, that aspire to join the euro will accept much of
the same supervision of budgetary and economic policy as the first tier.
They will also join eurozone members in the banking union.
Tier 3 The UK and a few others that do not wish
to give up any more economic sovereignty will wish to remain involved in the
single market, trade policy, and so on.
New Tier 1 policies may harm
the single market for countries like Britain, Sweden, and Poland. But EU
leaders are unlikely to offer a special deal to the UK. If Britain blocks a
new EU treaty, the result will probably be a Tier 1 treaty.
Tier 3 need not be uncomfortable for the UK. Yet successive British
governments have done too little to forge alliances with the central
Europeans, Nordics, and Dutch, who tend to think alike. No one wants the UK
to join Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland in Tier 4.
Valerie M. Hudson
There is a strong and significant link between
state security and women's security. The best predictor of a state's
peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its
ethno-religious identity. The best predictor is how well its women are
Those who say the world is becoming more peaceful forget
that violence against women in many countries is becoming more prevalent,
and dwarfs the violence produced through war and armed conflict. A country
is not at peace when its women are subject to femicide.
From 300 BCE, Alexandria was the capital of
Egypt and the commercial hub of the eastern Mediterranean. Its Museum
contained most of the intellectual inheritance of Greek, Latin, Babylonian,
Egyptian, and Jewish cultures. The Ptolemaic kings gave leading scholars
tenure at the Museum and use of the library.
developed his geometry in Alexandria. Archimedes laid the foundation for calculus.
Eratosthenes calculated its circumference of the Earth to within 1%. Galen
revolutionized medicine. Astronomers postulated a heliocentric universe.
Geometers deduced the exact length of a year and proposed a 'leap day' every
fourth year. Engineers developed hydraulics and pneumatics. Anatomists
studied the brain, the nervous system, the heart, and the digestive system.
Their achievements were staggering.
The Alexandrian library covered
the entire range of intellectual inquiry. Alexandrian scholars developed new
techniques of comparative analysis and commentary. Ptolemy Philadelphus
commissioned seventy scholars to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The
Septuagint became the Old Testament.
Peter Russell and Eckhart Tolle say consciousness is no-thing
AR Tolle has no more
charisma than me!
2012 October 25
William J. Bennett
In the third debate, Barack Obama was
aggressive and provocative. He landed more punches, trying to characterize
Mitt Romney as amateur and reckless. He wanted to destroy Romney, but he
fell short. Romney looked more like the president and Obama the challenger.
Romney emphasized peace and diplomacy. He agreed with
Obama on many issues. Romney distanced himself from President George W. Bush
and said the United States should "help the world of Islam and other parts
of the world reject this radical violent extremism."
Sudan accuses Israel of carrying out an air strike
on an arms factory that killed two people. Bombs from four aircraft struck a
complex and triggered a blast that rocked Khartoum.
journalists video of a huge crater and two destroyed buildings. They said an
analysis of rocket debris and other remains proved Israel was behind the
Sudan may go to the UN security council. Israeli officials
declined to comment. Israel has no diplomatic relations with Sudan and
believes it supplies arms to militants in Gaza.
Ideas Come From
As life gets bigger, it slows down. Flies die
young, elephants die old. The hearts of small animals pump faster than those
of big ones. Max Kleiber found a law: metabolism to the fourth power scales
inversely to mass. So the number of heartbeats per lifetime is stable, but
bigger animals take longer to have them.
Geoffrey West investigated
whether Kleiber's law applied to cities. West and his team collected data on
dozens of cities around the world. They found that Kleiber's law governs the
energy and transportation growth of city living. From an energy perspective,
an elephant is a big mouse and a city is a big elephant.
West and his team found another power law. Data for
creativity and innovation also followed a fourth-power law, like Kleiber's
law, but the scaling was positive, not negative. An average resident in a
city with a population of 5 million people generated almost 3 times more
innovation than one in a town of 100,000.
I guess the laws would scale to
As I speak, information starts as electrochemical
signals in my brain, then it gets converted into sound waves, then into the
vibrations of a microphone, then into electricity, and so on. The
information has remained unchanged throughout the process. The way to get
this substrate independence of information is to refer it to a level of
physics that is more fundamental than things like laws of motion.
Constructor theory is an idea I had for generalizing the quantum theory
of computation to cover all physical processes. A universal quantum computer
can simulate any other finite physical object with arbitrary accuracy, so
the set of all possible computations of a universal computer corresponds to
the set of all possible motions of anything. But the quantum theory of
computation can't tell you which program corresponds to which physical
object. We need a generalization of the theory that assigns to each program
the corresponding real object.
In constructor theory, science is formulated in terms of the difference
between transformations that are possible and those that are impossible. If
a transformation is impossible, then constructor theory says there is a law
of physics that makes it impossible. Conversely, if no law of physics makes
it impossible, then it's possible.
explains how to write a novel in 30 days
2012 October 24
How badly has the U.S. economy performed under
President Barack Obama? In Q2 of 2012, real GDP was 5.2% higher than in Q4
of 2008. Unemployment at 7.8% in September was the same as in January 2009.
Stanford professor John Taylor, a member of Mitt Romney's economic
team, says strong growth normally follows U.S. financial crises, but not
this time. He blames bad policy.
1 Is he
right? No. The aftermaths of systemic financial crises are worse than those
of other downturns. In their book This Time is Different, Carmen Reinhart
and Kenneth Rogoff characterize a systemic financial crisis by a real estate
bubble and high levels of debt.
speed of recovery is a good measure of success? No. The recent recession was
marked by a weak contraction, not a weak recovery. The recovery seems weak
because the contraction was mild, given the scale of the crisis. That was a
3 Is it valid to focus on
U.S. experience alone? No. Reinhart and Rogoff reject American
exceptionalism. The U.S. performance in this crisis has been better than the
average of other rich countries hit by recent systemic banking crises.
We have no reason to regard the performance of the U.S. economy under
President Obama as poor. His policy limited the severity of the recession.
Given the crisis, the U.S. economy has performed quite well.
AR Blame Bush, not Obama.
Coal, Make Gas
MIT Technology Review
Companies can now
extract fuel from coal beds by using microbes that eat coal and excrete
methane. Much of the natural gas found in coal beds is produced by naturally
occurring microbes that feed on coal. Researchers have found ways to
stimulate the microbes to produce more methane, allowing vast amounts of
buried coal to be converted into natural gas.
The idea of using
microbes is not new. But researchers have identified the different microbes
that work together to turn coal into methane. They can find out which
microbes live in a coal bed and what nutrients to pump in for them. Improved
DNA sequencing allows a company to sample a coal bed, determine which
organisms are present, and feed them a optimal mix.
Costs are low
enough to make the approach profitable in the United States. But it could be
even more promising in China, where prices for natural gas are high and the
gas is a clean alternative to their coal.
Energy crisis bye-bye.
Bush on USS
Abraham Lincoln, May 2003
Gregor Peter Schmitz
George W. Bush won the third debate.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney exchanged platitudes about events in the
Mideast. The embassy attack in Libya has kept America fixated on the war
on terror. For Romney the main issue was Iran versus Israel. Both
debaters like drones. Both know the public is tired of war.
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships America
and Tripoli can operate F-35B jump jets. Other assault ships can fly helicopters plus Harrier jump jets, but
are built around huge well decks to launch and recover small craft
for moving Marines onshore. America and Tripoli lack well decks and
have extra space for aircraft and their fuel and ammo. The F-35B could
be years away from ops.
Walker: Story Teller
Somerset House, London
2012 October 23
Third Presidential Debate
A forceful President Barack Obama put Republican challenger
Mitt Romney on the defensive on foreign policy. Obama played the experienced
commander-in-chief in explaining policy and attacking the views of Romney,
who ended up supporting Obama on several key issues.
Analysts agreed that Obama won the debate on points, but
Romney established credibility as a leader. Obama sought to highlight
Romney's lack of foreign policy experience. Romney argued that a strong
foreign policy and national defense depends on a strong economy.
Romney pushed for a comprehensive strategy "to get the Muslim world to
reject extremism on its own." Obama: "What we need to do with respect to the
Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership
that is all over the map."
Full debate transcript
AR I thought
Romney came out better. Obama seemed angry, bad tempered, and caught up in
details. Romney seemed calm, pacific, and in command of a good view of
the big picture.
Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney won. George W.
Bush won the foreign policy debate. The framework for understanding the
world he put in place after 9/11 still holds. The Bush administration
defined American foreign policy as American military policy.
and Romney discussed foreign policy almost exclusively through the Bush
prism. They focused on countries where the United States is either at war or
soon could be. There was virtually no discussion of global shifts in
economic power. The war on terror still holds sway.
George W. Bush
believed that al Qaeda was equivalent to the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.
Wrong. What made Moscow and Berlin dangerous was their economic strength.
The American economy has been weakened by the Bush legacy of imperial wars
and financial crisis.
1 Obama won final
debate, but no knockout.
presented his five-point plan to revive the economy.
3 Obama said his first job as commander in chief
was to keep the American people safe.
Romney: "America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend
freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful."
Obama: "America remains the one indispensable nation. And the world needs a
5 It is now a race to
Hussein Agha and Robert Malley
Darkness descends upon the Arab
world. Death and destruction attend a fight for a better life. The only
consistent program is religious and is stirred by the past. The fight
between Islamism and Arab nationalism has been long and bloody. To many,
Arab nationalism was an unnatural Western import. Islamists helped topple
the nationalists. They reckon they have corrected history. Amid chaos and
uncertainty, the Islamists alone offer a vision for the future.
Berlin is increasingly the de facto capital of the
European Union. The shift in power from Brussels to Berlin has been
accelerated by the euro crisis. German chancellor Angela Merkel still goes
to summits in Brussels but she is now the most important leader at the
The leaders of all the other big EU nations are in a weak
position. Spain and Italy are struggling with debt crises. The British have
opted out of the single currency and are marginalized. The Poles have a
relatively small economy. France's various proposals for eurozone bonds,
banking unions, infrastructure spending, and common social programs all look
like attempts to get German taxpayers to subsidize France.
Exasperation with laxity and incontinence elsewhere in Europe is making the
Germans insist on the need for more German virtues. The Germans are
determined to make Europe work.
How to write a book in 30 days
Stage 1: days 1-6
Create your preliminary outline with characters, setting, and plot
Stage 2: days 7-13
Research your novel to write with authority and confidence
3: days 14-15
Reinforce the structure and evolution of your story
Stage 4: days
Introduce the formatted outline into a document ready for editing
Stage 5: days 25-28
Evaluate your formatted outline for weak or missing elements
Stage 6: days 29-30
Revise your first draft and make final checks
AR It's high time for me to follow this
2012 October 22
Africa is Big
World Bank economist Wolfgang Fengler is optimistic
1 Older population: Most
Africans are living longer and having fewer children.
2 Rapid urbanization: Improving efficiency is
luring investors to capital cities.
Technology impact: Africa is a global pioneer in banking on mobile devices.
4 Better governance: Economic management by
officials has improved.
Merkel Warns Cameron
Angela Merkel will seek to cancel the November
European budget summit if David Cameron stands by his intention to veto any
increase in spending.
The European Commission
wants more than €1 trillion for the years 2014 to 2020, or nearly 1.1% of
European GDP. Merkel backs a compromise that would cap EU spending at 1% of
GDP. The compromise has the backing of at least six other EU member states:
the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Finland, and the Czech Republic.
Cameron will be a hero at home if he drops another V-bomb, but EU
officials warn that it could wreck the December summit on building a banking
Peter Hitchens knows his new book about drugs,
The War We Never Fought, will go down badly among metropolitan liberals:
"Almost certainly the battle to halt the spread of mind-altering drugs is
Every week in the Mail on Sunday,
Hitchens delivers a thunderous sermon against the moral degradation of all
things modern. He abhors libertarianism and laments the passing of Christian
Hitchens: "Drug-taking is the purest form of
self-indulgence." It cuts the link between work and reward, making "deferred
gratification appear a waste of time and a foolish rejection of readily
In an ideal world, Hitchens would outlaw alcohol
and tobacco too. Although he does drink, he hasn't been drunk since he was
15. But he needs a strong caffeine hit every morning before he can start
Hitchens, 60, is the younger
brother of Christopher, who died last year. The brothers were never close in
adulthood. Peter is a devout Anglican who lives with his wife and three
children in Oxford.
European Airbus are proposing a launch trolley
powered by linear induction motors to get planes airborne. The engineers
call their proposal Eco-climb. The aircraft would sit on a platform that ran
along a track on the runway. The platform would accelerate to take-off speed
and the plane would lift into the air under its own power. Such an
electromagnetic catapult could launch the plane at higher speed, letting it
climb faster, save fuel, make less noise, and use a shorter runway.
According to Airbus, Eco-climb would reduce
fuel consumption by 3% on a typical 900 km flight, even with existing
aircraft designs. But it would also allow for the design of lighter
aircraft, with smaller engines, which would cut fuel consumption, noise, and
General Atomics has already built and tested a
similar system for the next generation of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. An
electromagnetic catapult has several advantages over steam catapults.
Whereas a steam cat lets rip with a constant force, the speed and power of
an EM cat can be controlled to moderate the acceleration. That puts less
stress on the aircraft and extends its life. The force could be kept within
the 2.5 g typically felt in a modern airliner at take-off.
also use EM cats for landing. If an incoming aircraft landed on a moving
platform equipped with a linear motor, the current in the motor could be
reversed to slow it down. Then planes could do without landing gear, saving
still more weight.
AR Good idea in
principle, but you'd need EM cats at every airport for emergencies.
2012 October 21
Facebook launched as a public company on 18 May 2012.
Mark Zuckerberg, 28, found his personal wealth exceeding $20 billion. At the
end of the first day of trading, Facebook was worth $135 billion. Professional investors shorted Facebook from the start.
Traders had valued Facebook at 24 times annual revenue, but only 6 times for
Google. Yet Google made $88 from each of its users, Facebook only $15. Zuckerberg saw himself not as a billionaire businessman but as a man on
a mission to make folks make friends. When Facebook signed up its billionth
user, its market value was less than half than on 18 May.
Charles Windsor is next in line to be king of the UK. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve MP QC, has blocked a legal decision
to allow the public to read Prince Charles' letters to politicians and civil
servants. Grieve said the letters contained his "deeply held personal views
and beliefs" about public affairs, which would make politicians unwilling to
"engage" with him in future. The tribunal Grieve overruled said the prince
was engaged in a "massive extension" of lobbying that went far beyond
precedent and convention. The heir to the throne is not neutral and the
state must cover up this fact. Charles Windsor is wholly unsuitable
to be king.
2012 October 20
British Toff Dodges Train Fare
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne traveled on
a Virgin Trains service from Wilmslow to Euston. He sat in a first-class
seat with a standard-class ticket. Fellow passengers said that when the
ticket collector confronted Osborne he refused to move on and sit with those
in the cheaper seats.
Osborne asked to remain in first class but the
guard said if he wanted to stay, he must pay. Osborne agreed to pay for the upgrade: £189.90 for him and his aide. He
sent his police protection officer off to standard class. As the train
pulled in at Euston, two police officers met Osborne to take him away.
AR Osborne gets his money from the taxpayer.
Why should he hand it over to filthy rich capitalist train boss Sir Richard
Branson to waste on space travel?
French and German leaders have agreed on a
timetable for eurozone banking union.
"Those who are most eager to talk about
political union are sometimes those who are most reticent about taking
urgent decisions that would make it inevitable."
Angela Merkel: "We've always found
ways and means to come to converging views, and we've even found a
possibility this time to come to a solution on a matter of substance."
AR Quiet flows the Rhine.
Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present
National Gallery, London, 2012-10-31 — 2013-01-20
Hilary Mantel Wins Booker
Robert McCrum Interview
The Daily Beast
Celebrity memoirs can be flops. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total
Recall has sold only 27,000 copies since its October 1 release,
21,000 of them in the first week. Alec Baldwin's A Promise to
Ourselves has sold only 13,000 hardcover copies since its September
2008 release. By contrast, J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy moved 375,000 in its
first six days.
Mr. President, have you
looked at your pension?
You know, I
don't look at
pension. It's not as
big as yours so it doesn't
take as long.
Well, let me give you
I don't check it that often.
give you some advice.
Look at your pension. ...
We're way off topic here,
Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory
found an Earth-sized planet
4.4 light years (about 40 Pm)
away in nearby star system
Alpha Centauri B. But it's
Who I Am
In 1964 I began playing guitar the
way I was always meant to play it. I wasn't trying to play beautiful
music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound
of what we all knew was the single absolute of our frail existence
— one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us
all in a flash.
Paul Johnson's brief biography of Charles Darwin is
horribly wrong. He captures Darwin's early life fairly well and his
overview of Darwin's theory of evolution is clear and accurate. But
then he says Darwin's theory led to eugenics and forced
sterilization, United States anti-immigrant policies between the
wars, Nazi racial theories, and communist mass murders. The book masquerades as an objective biography before descending into
2012 October 19
Scientists Turn Fresh Air Into Gasoline
A small British company has produced gasoline
from air using a revolutionary technology that promises to solve the energy
crisis and curb global warming.
Air Fuel Synthesis in
Stockton-on-Tees has produced a gallon of fuel since August at a small
refinery that makes gasoline from carbon dioxide and water vapor. The
company plans to build a larger plant soon, and also plans to produce
aviation fuel. The process is powered by electricity from the grid.
Institution of Mechanical Engineers head of energy and the environment Tim
Fox: "It sounds too good to be true, but it is true ... It's a small pilot
plant capturing air and extracting CO2 from it based on well known
principles ... they have put the whole thing together and shown that it can
CEO Peter Harrison: "We've taken carbon dioxide from air and
hydrogen from water and turned these elements into petrol ... It's a much
cleaner and clearer product than petrol derived from fossil oil. We don't
have any of the additives and nasty bits found in conventional petrol."
The euro crisis is transforming the European
Union. The old dream of ever closer union was ambiguous.
Europe still had one destination. That metaphor must go.
argues for a two-tier Europe, with a top tier of countries that merge their
governance into a single government and a second tier embracing a
restructured single market plus various social and environmental norms. But
this is not a recipe for renewal.
Another alternative is variable
geometry. This makes the EU a club of clubs and avoids imposing
second-class status on countries outside the euro. But it does not resolve
Europe's democratic deficit.
Will Britain exit the European Union? PM David
Cameron fears the issue may split his party. Coalition partner Nick Clegg
cannot help him. Labour leader Ed Miliband will not risk political capital
Successive British governments have bet that more
federally-minded Europeans would bend to their demands for special
treatment. But other European leaders are tired of London's demands for
exemptions and opt-outs. They have to rescue the euro. If Britain wants out,
they say, it should get out.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has lost
patience. Cameron has ignored overtures from Italian PM Mario Monti. Spanish
leader Mariano Rajoy now looks to Berlin rather than London. French
president François Hollande is no close chum. British refusal to help with
the euro has baffled even Sweden. Others are tired of British lecturing. It
may be time for the Brexit.
2012 October 18
Tripping To Alpha Centauri
Alpha Centauri is roughly 4.3 light years (40 Pm)
away. In 1968, Freeman Dyson suggested sending his proposed Orion spacecraft
to the star system. Powered by the
shockwaves from a series of nuclear explosions to some 3% of light speed, it
would have weighed a few thousand tons, used a few million bombs, cost a few
trillion dollars, and taken 130 years to get there.
The new planet is called Alpha Centauri Bb. Its
surface is probably molten lava and is no place for life, but its neighbors
might be. If the planet has siblings orbiting further out, they might be
good places to live. If you took along a big antenna, you could tune into
Earth TV. If you were there now, you could watch Barack Obama campaigning
for the presidency against John McCain.
2012 October 17
Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Debate Science
|1 Innovation and the
|We must create
an environment where invention, innovation, and industry can
||Innovation is the key to economic
growth and job creation, and increasingly important to American
competitiveness in the global economy.
|2 Climate Change
|We have to meet
this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth
in clean energy generation.
||Economic growth and technological
innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to
environmental protection in the long run.
|3 Research and the
support investments in research and development that help spur
||I am a strong supporter of
federally funded research, and continued funding would be a top
priority in my budget.
|4 Pandemics and
|I will continue
to work to strengthen our systems of public health so we can stop
disease from spreading across our borders.
||I will encourage advancements in
research and manufacturing to increase scientific understanding of
new pathogens and improve response time.
|Early in my
administration, I called for a national effort to move American
students to the top of the pack in science and math achievement.
||America remains gridlocked in an
antiquated system controlled to a disturbing degree by the unions
|I know the
country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will
lead the global economy in the 21st century.
||An expansion in the affordable,
reliable supply of domestically produced energy can bolster the
competitiveness of virtually every industry within the country.
|I have been
working to safeguard our food supply, prevent foodborne illnesses
and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat.
||In a Romney Administration, the FDA
will work closely with industry, and collaborate with researchers
and state agencies, to develop specific guidance.
|8 Fresh Water
Administration released a national clean water framework aimed at
developing a comprehensive approach to protecting the health of
||I will modernize the federal laws
and regulations governing water use to enable smarter, more
collaborative, more flexible, and more cost-effective approaches.
|9 The Internet
legislation to protect intellectual property online, but any effort
to combat online piracy must not reduce freedom of expression,
increase cybersecurity risk, or undermine the Internet.
||I would rely primarily on
innovation and market forces, not bureaucrats, to shape the Internet
and maximize its economic, social and scientific value.
|10 Ocean Health
|I made it a
priority of the federal government to ensure a proactive approach to
improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great
||A Romney Administration will
safeguard the long-term health of fisheries, while welcoming input
from the fishermen most affected at every step.
|11 Science in Public
|I directed the
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure that
our policies reflect what science tells us without distortion or
||In a Romney Administration, sound
science will inform sound policy decisions, and the costs and
benefits of regulations will be properly weighed in that process.
|I am committed
to strengthening the base for America's next generation of
||Rebuilding NASA, restoring U.S.
leadership, and creating new opportunities for space commerce will
be hard work.
|13 Critical Natural
|My support for
the development alternatives to rare earth materials is helping to
ensure we have the materials necessary to propel our high-technology
||The key to guaranteeing the quality
and availability of these resources is a modernized regulatory
|14 Vaccination and
|I fought for the
Affordable Care Act, which will make sure all Americans have access
to quality preventive health care services.
||The first priority must be to
ensure that America has adequate supplies of safe and effective
Steven Levy reports on
Google data centers
2012 October 16
Iran and its nuclear ambitions present a
strategic dilemma. A resolution would require a functional relationship
between Iran and the United States. The relationship has been dysfunctional
So far the Obama administration has launched covert
actions and sabotage efforts against Iranian nuclear facilities. It has also
imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Iran. The sanctions are hurting.
But they have not changed the government's position that it has the right to
enrich uranium under international law. President Obama says there is still
time for diplomacy to work.
In his recent foreign policy speech, Mitt
Romney said: "I'll put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States
and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons
UK Versus EU
The UK government want no part of further
integration in the European Union. The Euro Group will form a hard core of
countries working together more closely. The dream of Greater Europe is
For Germans, the British provided a counterweight to France and
guaranteed smooth relations with the United States. Berlin still wants
integration to be available to all EU members, but Chancellor Merkel has
long accepted that there is no way back to the center of the union for the
British. European security and defense policy seemed to make little sense
without the UK until now, but in future Germany, France, and Poland will
promote EU cooperation on security policy.
The British are perceived
as a divisive force in the European Parliament. Prime Minister Cameron hopes
to delay an official exit from the EU, but close to a half of all Britons
say they would vote to withdraw from the EU in a referendum. Foreign
Secretary William Hague has announced a comprehensive audit of the impact of
EU law on Britain, to report by the end of 2014. If London takes powers back
from Brussels, it will contravene the EU Treaty.
Euro Group President
Juncker and European Commission President Barroso wanted to convene a
constitutional convention, with the idea of moving toward a United States of
Europe. Now a convention initiated by Britain could lead to a new division
Cuban Missile Crisis
The "world stood still" 50 years ago in late
October, from the announcement that the Soviet Union had placed
nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was averted, said historian
In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev's willingness
to accept Kennedy's hegemonic demands. But we can hardly count on such
sanity forever. It's a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been
As Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein said almost 60
years ago, we must face a choice that is "stark and dreadful and
inescapable": "Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind
2012 October 15
Expectations of universal entitlements are so high
that no amount of taxing the rich will make them affordable. All you do by
soaking wealth creators is to undermine economic growth and job creation. We
need to lower expectations. The crash of 2008 was caused by governments
allowing banks to take ludicrous risks with credit to make a boom they could
milk for entitlement spending.
The United States is peering over a fiscal cliff,
Europe staggers on without a growth strategy, and Japan stagnates. The BRIC
countries face corruption and financial impediments to growth as demographic
trends blight their prospects. The orthodox view emphasizes austerity and
structural measures for growth. The IMF says more demand will promote
UNESCO figures show that birth and background matter
far more in deciding children's prospects than talent and merit, and that
for millions of children educational opportunity is a hollow promise. The
way forward is to invest in education. Education First is bringing together
UN and World Bank institutions to work with governments to deliver new
school places and train new teachers.
Vlatko Vedral thinks thermodynamics can
provide a new theory of everything
Felix Baumgartner jumps from an altitude of 39 km
"I don't mind if I have to
sit on the floor at school.
want is education.
And I'm afraid of no one."
Nobel Peace Prize 2012
To the European Union, which
over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and
reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe"
Foto: Gary Dawson
Motor: Rolls-Royce Merlin
Bewaffnung: 12 x Browning MG
Brooklands, Dez. 3
Preispunkt: £1.7 Million
A Christian neurosurgeon
offers "proof" of heaven
— but Colin Blakemore
says he has no proof
on my blog after this one,
say reader stats, is:
Some British Literary
Amis, Fenton, Hitchens,
Curiosity has found a little
silver thingy on Mars. Rover team meteorologist Keri Bean:
"Last night was crazy —
we had to quickly come up with a totally
AR Just such a find
was a plot driver in my novel
Rod Stewart, 67,
explains in his forthcoming autobiography how he got tired of
sleeping with women he barely knew: "I remember being at a hotel in Cannes and we were shagging ourselves
rotten, and I said, 'This is fucking depressing.'"
Rod has been
married 3 times and has 8 children.
Mount Wilson Observatory
the solar system sized bubble in Cygnus is not a Dyson sphere.
Jail The Sods
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a
constitutional fundamentalist. He applies the words in the
Constitution as they were understood by the people who wrote them:
"The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely
easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on
abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years it was criminal
in every state."
AR The next
2012 October 14
Mitt Romney on how he handles his first moments
onstage at a presidential debate: "I write my dad's name at the top of the
piece of paper to remind myself of all that he sacrificed to give me the
opportunities I now have."
His wife Ann Romney: "As soon as he gets
on stage ... he takes off his watch and puts it on the podium ... then he
writes 'Dad' on the piece of paper." She also said her husband next makes
eye contact with her in the audience. "He has to find where I am."
Joe Biden played the debate for laughs. Democrats
want to make being in the 47% a badge of honor. But the real distributional
issue the country faces is between generations. Paul Ryan: "A debt crisis is
coming. We can't keep spending and borrowing like this. We can't keep
spending money we don't have."
At $16 trillion, the U.S.
public debt now exceeds 100% of GDP. In the absence of the kind of reforms
of Medicare, Social Security, and the tax system that Paul Ryan advocates,
it will keep on growing. Asked what he and President Obama intend to do
about it, Biden responded with blarney. He turns 70 this year.
Life And Death
Sam Harris Forum
Materialists claim that thought is no more than
a state of the brain. For materialists, intentionality is either an illusion
or an inherent property of certain material structures such as nervous
systems. Ideas and minds only exist in physical systems such as brains and
cannot exist outside such systems. An afterlife is compatible with
materialism only if our minds can continue after death in a material vehicle
other than an organic body.
We need a functioning brain to experience
ourselves and our personalities. If the brain is damaged, experience will be
compromised. But it does not follow that physical brain functions are the
ultimate source of our personal experiences. No matter how well we correlate
brain states with mental states, we cannot prove causation from correlation.
Many mind-matter dualists have definite ideas about the nature of the
soul. Reports of near-death experiences (NDE) often echo religious
scriptures. But no one has yet applied these ideas to prove or disprove the
reality of souls or out-of-body experience (OBE).
Sam Harris says
Eben Alexander doesn't know what he is talking about
2012 October 13
Does the EU deserve its Nobel?
The decision to award the European Union the Nobel
Peace Prize is a trifle odd. There are several other potential candidates
for keeping the peace in Europe:
1 The Americans
The EU would
doubtless like to take the credit, and it surely did no harm. EU leaders
the habit of intensive cooperation with each other, which will
be crucial to preserving the union.
A Nobel Peace Prize for the EU is
no more absurd than one for Barack Obama after a year in office.
Todd S. Purdum
Joe Biden: prolix, hair-plugged, imprecise,
plagiaristic, gassy, meandering, serious, sober, curious, well staffed, well
briefed, and well informed.
In Danville, Kentucky, he was priest to
Paul Ryan's flummoxed altar boy, scoutmaster to Ryan's nervous, tongue-tied
knot-tier. His smile veered between amused and condescending as he referred
to Ryan as "my friend."
Ryan kept his head down and looked to his
notes. He is no dope, and he had his moments, but he was on the ropes
Biden comment: "A bunch of stuff." Ryan response: "It's
Irish." Biden: "Malarkey."
2012 October 12
Biden Versus Ryan
The New York Times
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and
Representative Paul D. Ryan quarreled fiercely in their debate.
on Romney and Ryan: "These guys bet against America all the time."
Ryan on the 47% gaffe: "I think the vice president very well knows that
sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way."
Biden in reply: "But I always say what I mean. And so does Romney."
Ryan on Libya: "Look, if we're hit by terrorists, we're going to call it
what it is, a terrorist attack."
Biden on threatening Iran: "The last
thing we need is another ground war in the Middle East."
Medicare: "We are not going to jeopardize this program, but we have to save
Biden on abortion: "I do not believe we have the right to tell
women that they can't control their body."
Austerity, Budgets, Crisis
The UK current deficit in 2012-13 will be £95
billion, or 6% of GDP. British policy between the wars focused on the gold
standard and fiscal austerity and was counterproductive. Real output in 1938
was barely above the 1918 level and public debt remained above its pre-WWI
level until 1990. Austerity and a balanced budget will not end the crisis.
Deficits, Euro, Failure
Deficit reduction is costing more than it saves.
The IMF used to think that for every 1% of GDP reduction in the deficit,
there would be a 0.5% reduction in output. In fact the effect is more than
twice as bad.
The effect of consolidation on growth depends on how it
is done. Higher taxes and cuts in capital spending are much worse for output
than cuts in entitlements and current spending. Deficit reduction programs
in the eurozone are weighted to tax increases. The UK structural deficit
ranks higher than almost anywhere in the eurozone, yet it enjoys low
interest rates and market confidence because the government has offset the
fiscal squeeze with loose monetary policy and currency devaluation.
The eurozone does not have this option. The IMF approach is failing in the
eurozone. The problem is not the fiscal medicine, it is the euro.
AR I used to think "loose monetary policy and
currency devaluation" was a cheap trick that fooled no one. Now I see it
fools all the punters in Club Med. Why should the falling denomination of
their wages and prices in euros bother them any more than their worthless
currencies did before?
2012 October 11
BAE-EADS Deal Collapses
Attempts to create a European rival to Boeing
have collapsed. Government officials in London, Paris, and Berlin blamed
each other for not backing the merger. A senior German official:
were concerned about Germany being marginalized in the deal."
in BAE fell, shares in EADS rose.
Auf Wiedersehen, UK
As communism crumbled in 1989, Foreign Office
diplomats urged Margaret Thatcher to seek "better and closer relations with
Germany". She scoffed, and Britain was marginalized.
between Angela Merkel and David Cameron are cool. Asked when the two leaders
will next meet, a German official remarked, "What's the point?"
David Cameron wants to review EU citizens' right
to live and work in the UK. Brussels threatens to take the UK to court if it
fails to respect EU laws. EU social affairs commissioner László
Andor: "There is no evidence that the workers who come to the UK are
crowding out British workers."
Germans can't work in the UK, what about me, here, now?
Physics arXiv Blog
Quantum chromodynamics describes how quarks
and gluons form atomic nuclei. By using the world's most powerful
supercomputers, physicists have managed to run discrete lattice simulations
of cubes of cosmos a few fm in size (1 fm = 10^-15 m). They are
indistinguishable from the real thing. So how could we know whether we live
in a Matrix?
Silas Beane, at the University of Bonn, Germany, and a
few pals say that if we live in a simulation there ought to be a cutoff in
the spectrum of high energy particles, and there is such a cutoff in the
energy of cosmic ray particles, the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin (GZK) cutoff:
"The ... angular distribution of the highest energy components would exhibit
cubic symmetry in the rest frame of the lattice, deviating signiﬁcantly from
We could do the measurement with current technology. We
would see the orientation of the lattice on which our universe is simulated.
But the effect is only measurable if the lattice cutoff is the same as the
GZK cutoff, which is about 10^-27 m. If the spacing is much smaller, we'll
AR Nix: the Planck lattice
spacing is 10^-35 m. And it's a foam, not a cubic lattice.
2012 October 10
Frankfurt Book Fair
As an author I need to kiss the
pretty face of the publishing industry and feed its gourmet mouth.
Instead I toured its digestive processes and observed its assholes in
Euro Capital Flight
The IMF warns that unless the eurozone resolves
its capital crisis, bank balance sheets will contract, damaging growth and
raising unemployment. Capital flight from the eurozone periphery to the core
could force European banks to dump €2 trillion (over 7%) of their assets by
the end of 2013.
Pew: 1 in 5 Americans Say No To Religion
When the Pew Research Center asked U.S. adults
to choose from a long list religious affiliations, 1 in 5 chose "nothing in
particular" or agnostic or atheist, including 1 in 3 of adults under 30.
About 1 in 2 Americans say they are Protestant. Two thirds of the
"nones" are Democrat, forming a quarter of the Democratic base. White
evangelicals make up a third of the Republican base.
The "nones" are
liberal on social issues, but 1 in 3 of them care if the president is a
believer, 2 in 3 say they believe in a universal spirit, 1 in 5 say they
pray every day, and 1 in 20 attend weekly services.
Who I Am
I think if I hadn't been bullied into the Who, I would have
been happier as an art student. I would have been happier in a Brian Eno
world. That was the stuff I was trained to do — to think differently, to
think outside the box, about installations, the coming of computers, the way
that computers would change the language, blah blah fucking blah. I've been
talking about it all my life as a rock star and people have been going, 'For
fuck's sake — shut up and play your guitar.'
I've felt too old to be
doing it since I lost my hair and people started to say, 'Roger Daltrey
looks in good shape, but that guy Townshend looks like a bank manager', or
more recently 'a vicar', or more recently still 'a pedophile vicar'. And
there has been a sense, too, that I can do what I do simply because I'm
healthy and I've survived. I can jump about and ape the old stuff. But for
me, the job was to write the songs, to do the creative work.
2012 October 9
World Economic Outlook
The recovery has suffered new setbacks.
Uncertainty weighs heavily on the outlook.
Policies have not
Tail risks continue to preoccupy investors.
Projected global growth is weaker.
Output is expected to remain sluggish.
Unemployment is likely to stay elevated.
And financial conditions will
Downside risks have increased.
There is now a
chance of global growth falling.
This juncture presents major
Injections of liquidity are having a positive impact.
Reducing the risks will require care.
More adjustment in deficit
and more demand in surplus economies
would contribute to
stronger growth for all.
Phi is "a voyage from the brain to the soul" by Giulio Tononi. His
central idea is that consciousness is integrated information. Tononi has
devised a set of equations that capture an organism's levels of
differentiation and integration. His final measure for the degree of
consciousness is denoted by phi.
This book is a narrative fiction in
which Galileo Galilei is swept from scene to scene by Francis Crick, Alan
Turing, and Charles Darwin. Galileo meets people with brain damage and sees
that not all brain areas are equal for consciousness. The book is bold and
experimental. It is a masterwork.
still annoyed that Tononi found excuses not to talk to me at
ASSC XIII in 2009.
Topology In The TOE
Physics arXiv Blog
Perimeter Institute researcher Xiao-Gang Wen
combines topology, symmetry, and quantum mechanics in a new theory that
predicts new states of matter and allows the creation of artificial vacuums.
Topology is used to explain how quantum particles cannot form pairs
but do form triplets called Efimov states. The particles are connected like Borromean rings: three
loops intertwined in such a way
that cutting one releases the other two. Only three rings can be connected
in this way, not two.
Symmetry is basic for states of matter such as
liquids and solids. When a liquid freezes, the atoms become locked into a
crystal lattice with discrete translation symmetry. A phase change induces
Quantum phases of matter such as superconductivity
and superfluidity also result from symmetry breaking. Their topological
properties, combined with symmetry, explain how these phases form, just as
Borromean rings explain Efimov states.
Wen explores the properties
of matter with more general and complex topological links between particles.
He finds that topological order is due to long-range quantum entanglements
that lead to amazing emergent phenomena. For example, photos are
fluctuations of the quanglements and fermions are the quanglement defects.
2012 October 8
The Mantle Of Leadership
This century began with terror, war, and economic
calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and
I will put the leaders of Iran
on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent
them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to
impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently
have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces
in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region, and work with Israel
to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace,
we must make clear to Iran that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.
Iran is sending arms to Assad because they
know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them. We should be working
no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many
Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran.
I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by
the end of 2014. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best
advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is to the
security of the nation.
The attacks on
America last month are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out
across the broader Mideast. The fault lines of this struggle can be seen
clearly in Benghazi.
We cannot support
our friends and defeat our enemies in the Mideast when our words are not
backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and
deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of
our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity. It is time to
change course in the Mideast.
AR Is this
good? It's not bad.
Tiger: Globorg "on the ropes"
Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery
(TIGER) shows global recovery to be on the ropes, despite the best efforts
of central banks to boost demand. Economic data and confidence indicators
have deteriorated since earlier in the year across the G20, apart from the
United States. The financial markets remain relatively strong.
AR The money men always win, even on Titanic.
Pioneers on Mars will need food, fuel, and shelter.
Shipping it all from Earth is not on, but synthetic microbes would be easy
to carry in a spacecraft. Once on Mars, they could feed and breed and pave
the way for a human settlement.
NASA Synthetic Biology Initiative
head Lynn Rothschild aims to build designer microbes for future crewed space
missions. Synthetic biologists have built a biological toolkit consisting of
chunks of genes, called biobricks, that can be inserted into microbes to
change how they work.
The thin Martian air is rich in CO2
and N2. An ancient cyanobacterium called Anabaena metabolizes the gases to
make sugars. Rothschild: "As long as it has warmth and some shielding from
ultraviolet light radiation, it should do well on gases in the Mars
With the right biobricks, Anabaena can be made to share
its sugar to feed colonies of other bacteria that make oil or plastics for
settlers. A team has even tweaked a bacterium that drinks human urine to
help form calcium carbonate for cementing Martian sand into bricks for
AR This is
good: the bugs can work for us here too.
2012 October 7
Another UK Veto
David Cameron may block a proposed €1 trillion
European Union 7-year spending plan. European diplomats fear Cameron is
serious about demanding a budget freeze at the November EU summit and
British diplomats fear a confrontation between London and the rest of the
EU. A veto would help Cameron at home but a split EU budget would divide
Europe. The PM will not surrender the British rebate won by Margaret
Thatcher in 1984. Tory MPs want a referendum on Europe.
David Cameron: "If it comes to saying no to a deal that isn't right for
Britain, I'll say no."
ET Solar Power
The Sun beams solar energy onto the Earth at a rate
of 170 PW. At the present doubling rate for energy use, in 400 years we will
need that much energy and more.
Freeman Dyson predicted that any
civilization that lives long enough will soon need so much energy that it
builds a huge shell of solar panels around its home star. Astronomers call
these shells Dyson spheres. To find advanced alien civilizations, look for
Dyson spheres. They should give off a heat signature that we could see
through our infrared telescopes.
Last month a trio led by Penn State
astronomer Jason Wright began a search for Dyson spheres in the Milky Way.
Their project was awarded a grant from the Templeton Foundation. The trio
will scan three different infrared sky surveys. They will look for Dyson
spheres in our galaxy and for whole galaxies with excess waste heat from
Wright: "More than once some
inexplicable object has been discovered that looked like aliens, and then
slowly it became clear that it was a very interesting, but totally natural,
AR Dyson spheres caught my
imagination decades ago. Alien civilizations are a natural phenomenon.
2012 October 6
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under attack. At a
press conference in Tehran he blamed the plummeting value of the rial on
western sanctions and a "propaganda campaign" by his opponents.
Ahmadinejad has suffered a series of setbacks in his feud with the
conservatives. Tehran's Grand Bazaar went on strike and hundreds of
protesters took to the streets chanting anti-government slogans. Iranian
state TV reported the closure of the bazaar and the discontent about the
devaluation of currency.
Fundamentalists accuse Ahmadinejad and his allies of undermining clerical power and advocating nationalism and cultural
openness. Under Iranian law, Ahmadinejad cannot run again in
English Students In Germany
Massive tuition hikes and deep cuts to university
funding in the UK are driving students to Germany. The London office of the
German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) reports a sharp increase in students
interested in pursuing degrees in Germany.
Robert Chesters studied neuroscience at King's College
London. Now he is starting a master's degree in cellular and molecular
neuroscience in Tübingen, where all his lectures are in English: "It's a
good alternative. I just couldn't have afforded to study in England."
The Free University of Berlin offers many courses in English. The number
of British students at the university has doubled over the last five years.
Sam Dolbear has begun a doctoral degree in philosophy there: "From an
English perspective, the German university system really has a lot to
Germany recorded Europe's largest growth in English-language
master's courses over the last two years. There are now about 650.
Engineering and science programs in Germany are particularly popular. All
this can help the German economy too.
More German-speaking British graduates will smooth Anglo-German relations.
|British pop culture
50 years ago: James Bond and the Beatles
YouTube, 16 s
Zookeys calls the newly discovered dinosaur species Pegomastax
University of Chicago professor Paul Sereno: "It looks
like a fanged vampire parrot."
America has seized the lead in mobile
broadband and launched 4G services before others. Fracking and
horizontal drilling for natural gas could support its energy needs
for 100 years. Sure it has economic problems, but it can reinvent
itself through technology.
Arizona State University professor
Daniel Sarewitz: "The United States lacks a strategic approach to
science and technology but the environment for innovation is very fertile."
Tag der deutschen Einheit
The End Of Men?
Hanna Rosin says women are
doing better than men. Men are seen as slovenly and inept, women as
stronger and more ambitious. Patriarchy is still here but millions
of men have "lost the architecture of manliness".
What has the average white male got to hang on to? An affected
interest in football? Some vague idea that you can show who's boss
in the bedroom? Or just a retreat into macho infantilism?
2012 October 5
Mitt Romney disowned his earlier claim that 47% of Americans
were "victims" dependent on government: "Now and then you're going to say
something that doesn't come out right. In this case, I said something that's
just completely wrong."
AR Another flip-flop, like on Romneycare in the debate. Is he mellowing
into a patrician liberal?
In the dialectics of sexual evolution,
male strategies and female counterstrategies escalate over time. Males want
to score at all costs, females want the most viable offspring. But humans
need to cooperate to raise children to adulthood. Mothers and children are
more likely to survive in an extended network. We are the species for whom
life is about partnerships.
Women are handicapped in competitive careers by taking
time out for maternity. Genghis Khan fathered a lot of kids, but many male
rivals had few or none. Cleopatra had only four kids, perhaps no more than
her female slaves. Risks can pay off in reproductive terms for males in a
way they don't for females. Males are selected to go for all or nothing.
A Casual Hit
The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling's
first adult novel, is #1 on USA Today's Best-Selling Books list. It bumps
another kind of adult novel, E.L. James' erotic Fifty Shades of Grey, which
has been #1 for 21 of the past 23 weeks. Rowling's publisher says The Casual
Vacancy has sold 375,000 copies in all formats. A fan: "Jo has a wonderful
way with words that makes it easy for me to keep turning the pages."
AR If my next book does that, I'll be happy.
As we get older, our telomeres shorten. Researchers
gave two groups of adults doses of omega-3 supplements and gave another
group placebos. The adults given the fish oil for a while had longer
telomeres than the placebo group. Telomere length showed a significant
correlation with lowered ratios of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 in the
blood. The fish pill groups also showed lower oxidative stress.
So getting enough omega-3 fatty acid to change the balance of
oils in your system may help preserve your telomeres and reduce the risks of
aging. Another result from the experiment associated omega-3 fatty acid
supplements with lowered inflammation, which may be responsible for the
changes in telomere length. Boosting omega-3 intake with a nutritional
supplement is an easy way boost health prospects.
2012 October 4
The First Presidential Debate
Reihan Salam: Mitt Romney pressed the reset button last night
on his campaign. He presented himself as a compassionate centrist.
Ilyse Hogue: Mitt Romney spouted inaccuracies,
obfuscations, and flat-out lies. His big, bold idea tonight was "never
Timothy Stanley: Barack Obama defended his
record. By contrast, Romney was on fire. He delivered the superior
Paul Begala: There were no knockout
punches, but Mitt Romney landed more jabs. President Obama seemed
Ruben Navarrette: The debate was a
pretty clear victory for Mitt Romney. But there were no zingers, just lots
of facts and figures.
LZ Granderson: President Obama
was being himself. He's a very thoughtful, introspective man. Mitt Romney
didn't give voters the specifics of his plans.
Zelizer: Obama used much of his time to hammer away at Romney's
proposed fiscal policies. Romney went on the offensive.
Greene: Policy talk is probably fun for Obama and Romney.
Seriousness can be reassuring once in a while.
Romney had the president on the defensive a few times tonight. I am hoping
the fact checkers do their job.
Obama really want the job?
Physicists have shown that particles that did
not exist at the same time can be entangled.
If you have two pairs of
entangled photons, taking one photon from each pair and entangling them
disengages the two original pairs, and creates a second, fresh entanglement
between the two, left out photons. Start with an entangled pair of photons,
P1 and P2, and "kill" the quantum state of P1 by measuring it. P2 lives on.
A moment later, create a new entangled pair, P3 and P4. If you now entangle
P2 and P3, you entangle P4 with P1, even though P1 is "dead". You can check
that P4 is entangled with P1 by measuring its state, which depends on the
states measured for P1, P2, and P3. Now P4 is entangled with a photon that
is already dead. The result could boost quantum cryptography.
AR Since entanglement survives spatial
separation it must also work for temporal separation, by relativity. But
good to confirm this.
2012 October 3
Growth in productivity peaked in the decades after
World War II. Then growth decelerated again.
There were three
1 The age of steam
culminated with the railway.
2 The age of
electricity and the internal combustion engine brought domestic plumbing,
radio and telephone, chemicals and petroleum. Motor power replaced animal
power, running water replaced the manual hauling of water and slops, oil and
gas replaced the hauling of coal and wood, electric lights replaced candles,
and electric appliances revolutionized communications and domestic labor.
Society industrialized and urbanized. Life expectancy soared.
3 The age of information is still going.
AR Forget gross growth and celebrate
organizational growth toward Globorg.
2012 October 2
Philip K. Dick said reality is what doesn't go
away if you stop believing in it. Two definitions of reality:
1 Reality = A world without us, a world
untouched by human desires and intentions. By this definition, things like
languages and wars are not real. But at least it gets human subjectivity out
of the picture.
2 Reality = The most
fundamental things that everything else depends on. In the material world,
stuff depends on atoms, atoms on elementary particles, and so on. So
ordinary things are not part of it.
When we ask whether something is
real or not, these two definitions are what we should have in mind.
AR I say reality is the whole lot,
from top to bottom and from subjectivity to objectivity.
Math: The Ultimate Reality
Mathematical structures don't seem to be physical
at all. Max Tegmark: "Space and time themselves are contained within larger
mathematical structures. ... I believe that physical existence and
mathematical existence are the same, so any structure that exists
mathematically is also real. Other mathematical structures correspond to
Brian Greene: "There's a lot of math out there.
Today only a tiny sliver of it has a realization in the physical world. Pull
any math book off the shelf and most of the equations in it don't correspond
to any physical object or physical process."
All mathematical structures can be derived from the empty
set, the set that contains no elements. If this set represents 0, you can
then define the number 1 as the set that contains only the empty set, 2 as
the set containing the sets representing 0 and 1, and so on. Eventually you
get all of mathematics. Ian Stewart calls this "the dreadful secret of
mathematics: it's all based on nothing".
I say all reality can be modeled in set theory, and the null base
shows nothing is left out.
The European Mess
The European Union is dealing with the
consequences of the hubris of the great Europeans of the past. Men such as
Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors dreamed of a united Europe, with a single
currency at its core. It has turned into a nightmare.
Who is to
1 The Germans
2 The southern Europeans
Rather than attacking each other, Europeans should blame
the great Europeans. Kohl drove through the unification of Germany. Delors
constructed the European single market. But on the euro they flunked.
2012 October 1
Official sector involvement, OSI, is the notion
that governments and similar institutions may need to accept a reduction in
their contractual claims on Greece. Official creditors resist OSI because
their lending to Greece was an emergency intervention. They expect
without further debt reduction, Greece has little hope. More than three
years into a series of relief programs, Greece has consistently failed to
generate growth, to control its explosive debt dynamics, and to attract new
capital. Virtually all of the targets have been missed.
could well get even worse. No realistic amount of domestic austerity and
structural reforms can work unless Greece regains more operational
flexibility. The time has come for European creditor governments to think
long and hard about the costs and benefits of OSI for Greece.
The End Of Men
The primary victims of our latest economic disaster
have been men. Our struggling middle class is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with
men increasingly absent as women make all the decisions.
say we are all imprinted with
adaptive imperatives from the past. Men are faster and stronger and
hardwired to fight for scarce resources, a trait that shows up in
contemporary life as a drive to either murder or win on Wall Street. Women
are more nurturing and compliant, suiting them perfectly to raise children
and create harmony among neighbors. This is the natural order.
But now it seems as if those fixed roles are
more fungible than we ever imagined. A female-dominated society does not
necessarily translate into a soft feminine utopia. Women are becoming more
aggressive and even violent in ways we once thought were exclusively
reserved for men. The story we believed about ourselves is no
longer true. There is no natural order, only the way things are.
is still a gender wage gap, women still do most of the childcare, and the
upper reaches of power are still dominated by men. But the modern economy is
becoming a place where women hold the cards.
Patriarchic religion is historically a means for men to maintain
their collective grip.