BLOG 2017 Q2

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) image of a small impact crater
on the sloping wall of a larger crater. North is up, the slope is down westward, and the area shown is about 250 m wide.


Theresa May told the EU she
cannot control her ministers.
So EU delegates are visiting
UK ministries to thrash out a
unified British position on
which the EU can talk.

EU lead Brexit negotiator
Michel Barnier: "This is a crisis
on Europe's doorstep. The EU
has no choice but to intervene,
if only for humanitarian


Serena Williams

Evolutionary Christianity
EastLake Community
Church (1:11:01)

Die Konzentration von
Dichlormethan in der
Atmosphäre steigt an.
Der Chloranteil kann
Erholung der

USS Zumwalt

HMS Queen Elizabeth

Juan Maldacena
Juan Maldacena
His AdS/CFT duality links
anti-de Sitter spacetime to conformal field theory on its
boundary — the holographic
principle. His ER = EPR claim
links spacetime wormholes
(Einstein-Rosen bridges)
to quantum entanglements

British schoolboy heat protest:
Looks good — apart from
those stupid neckties

Hat Queen
Because she was not allowed
to express her own view
Mrs Windsor chose to
use interpretive hats
to get her message

Queen Elizabeth II
Her Speech heralds Brexit,
her hat says otherwise


2017 June 30

G20 Discord

Der Spiegel

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross says Germany must buy raw materials from the United States instead of from Russia, lower tariffs on automobile imports from US manufacturers, and make sure American cars "obtain a larger share" of the European market.

Donald Trump could turn the G20 summit into a fiasco. His America First administration is sabotaging the search for joint positions among the G20 economies by seeing the world not as a global community but as an arena in which dog eats dog.

Transatlantic trade conflicts are multiplying. Washington views the EU fine levied against Google as a hostile act, and might back out of the joint fight against tax havens and tax dumping and for the joint regulation of financial markets and banks.

European G20 participants will form a common front against Trump.

AR UK too?

A Lot of Bother

Nick Clegg

An enduring myth among the elites of Westminster is that the argument over Brexit is won or lost by polemic and emotion. The British public were asked to vote in the referendum, so felt duty bound to do so. Some now say they would vote the other way.

More and more people are bewildered at the complexity of it all and frustrated at the incompetence on show. Voters were promised a quick and easy Brexit. There is only so much squabbling between members of the Cabinet that people will put up with.

People who knew it would be complex said Brexit would be as simple as flipping a switch. They told us that the EU needs us more than we need them, so we can just walk out overnight. They refused to listen to others who knew what they were talking about.

David Davis says Brexit makes the NASA Moon shot look quite simple. People were promised a walk in the park to Brexit, not a death defying Moon landing. That is certainly a whole lot of bother beyond what most voters expect or want.

AR Clegg went to a lot of bother to prop up the Conservatives back in 2010 and and in return was left for dead in 2015 by the rapacious scoundrels of the hard right.

2017 June 29


Philip Stephens

Possibly coming soon — another UK general election.
Boris "Bojo" Johnson fights Jeremy "Jez" Corbyn for the title of next prime minister:

— recalls the days when Britain ruled the waves
— speaks for continuing Anglophone supremacy
— continues to insist Britain can have its cake and eat it
— has always had a strained relationship with the truth
— has ambition undimmed by a woeful performance at the Foreign Office

— recalls the revolutionary socialism of his youth
— sees the EU as a capitalist conspiracy
— casts himself the honest politician in a sea of cynicism
— has policies that may be barmy but are authentic
— may have lost the last election but won what pundits call momentum

More than a year after the referendum, there is still no plan for Brexit.
Just Bojo versus Jez.

Brexit Battlebus — Dangerous Driver

Jenni Russell

Brexit secretary David Davis says sunny uplands lie ahead. An EU deal by March 2019 will give us almost all the trading benefits we currently enjoy and will quickly leave us free to sign trade agreements with the rest of the world. But EU officials say leaving the EU means the UK will trade on worse terms than now.

Davis has sublime confidence. Those who have worked with him say he hates to listen to advice, has delusions of grandeur, is vain and quixotic, and is all noise and bluster. Apparently he has no practical sense of the realities he is about to confront and prefers assertion to getting to grips with inconvenient facts.

His department, Dexeu, is finding it hard to recruit and keep staff. It has issued no details on how new arrangements for customs, immigration, or the Irish border would work. Industry representatives who visited Dexeu were left aghast at its approach and were fobbed off with vague assurances that it would all be fine.

Davis is said to have learned more realism than Liam Fox and Boris Johnson, but he has no interest in evidence that does not suit him. As the UK chief negotiator, he needs a shrewd grasp of British strategic needs and relative weakness. His role is not to grandstand or cheerlead, but to be a tactful and wily realist.

A senior Tory peer and Brexiteer: "I am frankly scared. I'd be surprised if it all went right now."

2017 June 28

UK Sovereignty

Stephen Bush

The European Commission, under direction from EU27 leaders, wants the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and of the British diaspora in the EU guaranteed by the European Court of Justice. They want to secure the status of those citizens against the whims of a simple majority vote in the UK legislature.

The UK is one of the few countries in the EU where political elites can dismiss checks on legislative power by saying: "Well, what's the worst that could happen?" For the leaders of most EU27 states, a guarantee not backed up by the European Court of Justice is no guarantee at all.

Brextremists are concerned about sovereignty. Remaining subject to the rule of the ECJ without being able to set its parameters represents a significant loss of sovereignty. So Brexit minister David Davis concedes that there will have to be an international guarantor for any trade deal.

A new EU-UK international body would satisfy the letter of Theresa May's ECJ red line. On the EU27 side, the body would take its lead from ECJ and hence effectively subject the UK to the ECJ. You cannot satisfy both popular demand for hard borders and political demand for sovereignty at once.

AR A sovereign UK would have no brake to hinder a strong leader with a big parliamentary majority from ruling effectively by fiat, for example to expel foreigners. This constitutional deficit would represent a European fire risk.

2017 June 27


Financial Times

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager: "Google's strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals. Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results and demoting those of competitors. What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules."

AR Google will see the €2.4 billion fine as a tax bill.


The New York Times

President Trump is siding with Sunni Saudi Arabia and demonizing Shiite Iran.

In Syria, Iran and the United States share a common goal of defeating Daesh. But US officials fear the Iranians will seek control of enough territory in Syria and Iraq to establish a land bridge from Tehran to Lebanon. There they could resupply their Hezbollah allies.

Daesh is close to being routed from its headquarters in the city of Raqqa. But the prospect of victory has opened the door to new tensions between US and Iranian forces. US officials suspect that Iran is more interested in controlling territory in these areas than defeating Daesh.

Russia threatened to retaliate to recent US "self defense" moves by treating US warplanes as targets. Despite this, administration officials seem to consider Iran a bigger problem than Moscow.

Demonizing Iran could broaden the US military mission in the region.


The Guardian

Theresa May locks in parliamentary majority with £1 billion in promises to the DUP of Northern Ireland. The deal buys two years of support for her government.

AR That's an extra fiver a week per citizen in Northern Ireland.

2017 June 26

US Military Power

Jeremy Diamond

President Donald Trump has overseen a transfer of power from the White House to the Pentagon.

In Afghanistan, Trump has empowered defense secretary James Mattis to set troop levels. In Yemen and Somalia, Trump has given US commanders more freedom to launch raids and airstrikes without his OK. In Iraq and Syria, he has also granted the Pentagon more freedom to manage troop levels.

Trump administration officials describe the changes as a deliberate effort to empower the military. Much of the top brass described the Obama administration oversight of military campaigns as micromanagement that needlessly hamstrung commanders.

Retired General John Allen backs letting the military carry out missions more effectively and maintain the momentum against the enemy: "Many of these targets are very perishable. Every time I or other commanders had to come back to Washington for permissions, everything slowed down."

Steve Bannon: "The president believes the best thing to do is to let the warfighters fight the war."

2017 June 25

Weak Gravity and Cosmic Censorship

Natalie Wolchover

Singularities are snags in spacetime where general relativity breaks down and a quantum theory is needed. Naked singularities have now been shown not to exist in a toy 4D universe with an anti-de Sitter (AdS) spacetime geometry.

The weak gravity conjecture (WGC) is that gravity must always be the weakest force in any viable universe. Jorge Santos and Toby Crisford found that if another force in the toy universe is stronger than gravity, the singularity is censored by a black hole. It seems the cosmic censorship conjecture (CCC) is saved just where gravity becomes the weakest force.

It was thought that naked singularities can exist in a 4D AdS universe with a bounded spacetime — inside a tin can, say. But imagine an electromagnetic (EM) field and a gravitational field coexisting in the can. Cranking up the energy of the EM field on the surface of the can will cause spacetime to curve more sharply inside it, to form a naked singularity.

Cumrun Vafa was working to rule out large swaths of the 10^500 different possible universes that string theory naively allows. He did this by identifying swamplands where universes were too absurd to exist, and proposed the WGC as a swamplands test. Universes seem to fail unless gravity is weaker than the other forces, so the WGC swamps huge regions of the string landscape.

Vafa saw a link between the WGC and CCC. When Santos and Crisford cranked up the strength of the EM field on the surface of their can, they originally assumed that the interior was classical, with no quantum fluctuations. But if singular particles are more strongly coupled to the EM field than to gravity, as per the WGC, then cranking up the EM field adds enough energy to trigger collapse of singularities to black holes, as per the CCC.

Perhaps WGC iff CCC.

Jez We Can!

The Times

Glastonbury ravers burst out in Corbyn­mania when Jeremy Corbyn arrived in a Somerset field to find hordes of young women with "Jezza" and "I love Jez" written on their foreheads in glitter.

Corbyn, 68, was the first leading politician to appear at Glastonbury since the festival began 47 years ago — and no one was complaining that Theresa May had not shown up.

Corbyn basked in chants of "Oh Je-rem-y Cor-byn" and "Jez we can" as he waved his little red book (the Labour manifesto) and attacked the elites who had got it wrong.

Spreadsheet Phil For PM!

The Times

Philip Hammond could replace Theresa May as UK prime minister in a temporary alliance with Brexit minister David Davis. Ministers say Hammond should be anointed as leader before October provided he vows to stand down as Conservative leader before the next election.

A minister: "I think Philip is the only plausible candidate for a couple of years, with DD running Brexit. He is a more credible caretaker than the current prime minister."

DD: "It will be turbulent"

Anushka Asthana

UK secretary of state for exiting the EU David Davis says a leadership election to oust Theresa May would have a catastrophic effect on Brexit negotiations. He was unsure about securing a Brexit deal: "I never said it was a breeze. I said it will be turbulent, there will be difficulties but at the end there is a point of common interest."

On EU citizens in the UK: "They get the same residence rights, the same employment rights, the same rights, the same health rights, the same welfare rights, the same pensions rights and so on, almost the same as British citizens. The only thing they don't get is the right to vote — and we ask for the same the other way."

The disagreement came over the role of the European Court of Justice.

2017 June 24


New Scientist

Uranus has the weirdest magnetic field in our solar system. A new model suggests that the edge of its magnetic field bubble could be opening and shutting every day.

Most of the planets in our solar system rotate around similar axes, spinning in the same plane as their orbit. Their magnetic fields are aligned on the same axes, with field lines emerging from the cores of the planets near their N and S poles and wrapping them in magnetic shields.

Uranus is different. Its rotational axis is tilted about 1.7 rad from the plane of its orbit around the sun. The axis of its magnetic field is tilted 1.0 rad from the rotational axis and offset, with field lines emerging some distance from the S pole.

The Uranian magnetosphere tumbles in a complicated way. Carol Paty and Xin Cao created a model of the magnetosphere and its interactions with the solar wind that fits the best data to date.

The magnetosphere forms a shield against the solar wind: when the two are moving in the same direction, the solar wind slides by. But when they move in opposed directions, the bubble shield lets some wind particles flow inward.

Such magnetic reconnection occurs occasionally over Earth and can lead to intense auroras. On Uranus, Paty and Cao found that it should happen every U-day (about 62 ks), switching the bubble shield on and off. This could lead to auroras there too.

The best data on the field around Uranus is from from the Voyager 2 flyby in 1986. NASA dreams of sending a new probe to Uranus in 2034.


Dunkirk without the boats

Brexit will be dropped like a broken toy around 2020:
Labour will quietly ask the EU if we can stay after all.

2017 June 23

An International Laughing Stock

Rafael Behr

The pageantry of the Queen's speech is easy to mock. But this time the farce had nothing to do with the fancy costumes and archaic language. The UK has chosen to legislate itself out of the EU without having anything remotely resembling a credible plan for national prosperity on the other side.

Great chunks of Tory manifesto were expunged from the government agenda. Yet the Queen's speech contained eight bills relating to Brexit. Just one of them is so monstrously complicated it is hard to imagine parliament having the capacity to do much else over the next two years.

On Monday, Brexit secretary David Davis led his negotiators into their first session with their EU counterparts, led by Michel Barnier. The only measurable outcome was total capitulation by the UK side on the question of sequencing for the talks ahead. The EU27 insisted that agreement on divorce terms must precede discussion of future trading arrangements. The UK team had intended to dispute this timetable — but promptly folded.

Article 50 is activated. The clock is counting down, and the pretence that May might be prepared to walk away without a deal is melting. The bluff was called on day one.

A tragic folly is unfolding. The UK parliament is an international laughing stock, and not because of the silly wigs or the funny hat on a stick.

You Have To Laugh

Christian Zaschke

Britain has become the laughing stock of Europe. The British people were lied to by the Leave campaign and treated like idiots by the popular press. The economic outlook is dire — yet Brexit negotiations have hardly begun.

Britain will withdraw from its main trading alliance. It would make sense to stay in the single market and the customs union, but that would mean being subject to regulations over which Britain no longer had any say. Better to have stayed in the EU in the first place.

The EU is dealing with a government that has no idea what it it wants. The UK had finally found a new place in the world as a strong, awkward, and influential part of the EU. Now it has fallen into an identity crisis, a fit of madness.

2017 June 22

The Queen's Speech

Andrew Grice

Theresa May has delivered a threadbare Queen's Speech that befits her lame government. Most of the measures in her manifesto have been ditched.

The legislative package was dominated by eight measures on Brexit. May has not yet secured a deal with the DUP, so the Government will have to live from hand to mouth in the Commons. The Tory party's civil war on Europe between Europhiles and Brextremists has flared up again.

There may be no majority among MPs for hard Brexit. There will certainly be none if May tries to walk away from the EU negotiations without an agreement. Her "no deal is better than a bad deal" mantra might apply to the DUP talks, but on the Brexit negotiations it is dead.

The House of Lords, which would have swallowed its doubts about hard Brexit if May had enhanced her majority, will now feel no such constraint. Peers will certainly get their teeth into the Repeal Bill, which would allow ministers to change EU laws without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Conservative MPs do not want a general election, but if necessary they will not hesitate to force May out.

Poole Bay
Evening of the longest and hottest day over Poole Bay

Igor Ashurbeyli
Igor Ashurbeyli

"I want to make Mars seem
possible — make it seem as
though it is something that
we can do in our lifetime.
There really is a way that
anyone could go if they
wanted to."
Elon Musk

Suwalki gap
The Sun

Trailer (2:35)

EU More Popular

Pew survey of 10,000 people
across the EU revealed rise
in positive opinions of EU
compared with a year ago:

Germany 68% (up 18 pp)
France 56% (up 18 pp)
UK 54% (up 10 pp)

Brexit Bill

EU estimates presented
to EU27 diplomats:

Full estimate:
€100 billion (€60 billion net)
Minimum demand:
€60 billion (€40 billion net)

Trump under investigation
for possibly obstructing justice
in relation to a criminal probe

Trump tweet: "They made up
a phony collusion with the
Russians story, found zero
proof, so now they go for
obstruction of justice on
the phony story. Nice"

AR Dude's a bozo.



2017 Summer Solstice

Albion Alone

John Sawers

The harder the Brexit, the bigger the cost. The same goes for Britain's role and influence in the world. Leaving the EU removes the platform Britain has this century for projecting its power.

Britain's decline from being the leading power began in 1914 and continued until 1980. The decline resumed after 2008. Brexit threatens to accelerate that decline.

The common thread in British influence since the end of the cold war is our cooperation with France and Germany. The three powers represent Europe and together count for something in the world.

No democratic country can be a power in the world unless it has a thriving economy. We also have to be part of a wider team. Britain on its own will count for little in the west.

We will be part of NATO. But as the US withdraws from global leadership, the regions the US has protected since 1945 have to determine their own defence and security. That includes Europe.

I doubt that our current leaders will countenance a strategic rethink. We need to remain joined to our continental partners. If we can no longer help shape the world, others will do it for us.

2017 June 20



Asgardia is open to all residents on planet Earth and is free to join. Since Igor Ashurbeyli announced his plans to form an independent nation that operates in outer space in October 2016, hundreds of thousands of people have signed up to be citizens.

Asgardia will establish a physical presence in space via a series of satellites. Ashurbeyli says the first will be launched into Earth orbit in September 2017. The data includes things like family photos, says Ashurbeyli.

Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in LEO. Ashurbeyli says our real home is planet Earth: "Going to Mars, the galactics, so on — that's just fake. I intend something more real."


Kepler Science Conference

Since launching in 2009, the NASA Kepler mission has observed more than 200,000 stars in search of exoplanets. Kepler has now identified 4,034 planet candidates, 2,335 of them confirmed as exoplanets and more than 30 of the confirmed planets similar in size to Earth.

The Kepler mission has shown that the smaller exoplanets fall into two distinct sizes: Earth-like planets and super-Earths, and gaseous mini-Neptunes. Altogether, Kepler has found that exoplanets can be cold gas giants, hot Jupiters, ocean worlds, ice giants, lava worlds, and rocky planets.

This is the final catalog detailing exoplanet candidates and confirmations from Kepler mission K1. From 2009 to 2014, Kepler observed part of the constellation Cygnus. Kepler broadened its search in K2 to include other parts of our galaxy. The mission will end in October.

2017 June 19

Emmanuel I of France

Le Figaro

Emmanuel Macron has won. The second round of French legislative elections give his La République En Marche party and its centrist allies 350 of 577 seats. Les Républicains and their allies won 131 seats, the Parti Socialiste 29. Less than 44% of the electorate turned out to vote.

2017 June 18

NATO v Russia

Bojan Pancevski

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad was surrounded on three sides by NATO forces yesterday in Operation Saber Strike and BALTOPS. The Russian Baltic fleet is based in Kaliningrad and the exclave is defended by nuclear-capable Iskander SRBMs.

The exercises included deployment of B-52, B-1B, and B-2 bombers, showing US commitment "to ready and posture forces focused on deterring conflict". Moscow responded by flying two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers with fighter jets and a spy plane over the Baltic Sea.

Last week the NATO exercises consisted of live fire by heavy artillery in the Suwalki Gap, a 100 km stretch of land between Kaliningrad and Belarus.

US Army commander Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Gventer: "Our focus here is to deter and defend the alliance from aggression by being razor sharp and lethal. God forbid we would have to defend, but we create a deterrent effect by being credible."

2017 June 17

A Great Chancellor


Helmut Kohl (Kanzler 1982—1998) reunited Germany, cemented its role with France at the heart of Europe, and pushed to introduce the euro.

Quantum Networks

IEEE Spectrum

Entanglement is key to quantum networks and quantum cryptography, but it is easily disrupted by interference from the environment. Entangled photons face interference in the lower 10 km or so of the atmosphere but are more isolated in space. A new record for entanglement used a satellite to connect Earth sites separated by up to 1200 km.

The satellite Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) was launched from Jiuquan, China, in 2016 to orbit at an altitude of about 500 km. QUESS generated entangled pairs of photons and transmitted them to ground stations in China. One member of each pair went to one site and the other to another, over distances from 500 to 2000 km.

The record distance was set by photons beamed at the cities of Delingha and Lijiang in China, with experiments achieving 10^17 greater efficiency at transmitting entangled photons than the best optical fibers. The experiments generated about 6 million entangled pairs of photons per second and the researchers detected about 1 pair per second.

Researchers in Germany measured the quantum coherence of laser signals from about 40 Mm away. Physicists at MPI Erlangen, Germany, worked with the Alphasat I-XL satellite in geostationary Earth orbit, which communicates via laser signals with a ground station in Spain. The work suggests global quantum crypto key distribution is feasible.

2017 June 16


The Guardian

In this new addition to the cult of Winston, starring Brian Cox, scripted by Alex von Tunzelmann and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, Churchill betrays his private agony on the eve of D-Day.

AR It worked for me. Refracting the heart of the war leader through a few days in June 1944, the tale steered short of hagiography and made a useful counterpoint to the comparably illuminating Hitler movie Der Untergang.

Brexit Is Dead

Thomas Hüetlin

The Conservative party has lost face. The UK is the most connected country in Europe — look at the financial center in London, UK-based carmakers, what's left of British industry. Continentals have stakes in UK electricity, waterworks, and airports, and supply a quarter of all NHS doctors.

A soft Brexit would let the UK remain a part of the single market. It would mean accepting EU immigration and EU regulations — bad perhaps, but better than no deal at all. With no deal, investors face uncertainty, stunted growth, less trade, and higher taxes.

The promise of Brexit was a fairy tale based on jingoism. Brexit was never a very good idea. Now, in practical terms, it is dead.

Brexit Saved Europe

Jean Quatremer

Watching Brexit unfold is such a pleasure. One year on from the referendum, it is now clear that leaving the EU is exceptionally difficult, carries an undeniable cost, and plays havoc with the politics of the country attempting it.

A victory for leave has shattered the dreams of all the Europhobes and Eurosceptics across the union against the brick wall of reality. So I would like to thank the British people, who have shown a spirit of sacrifice that is greatly to their credit.

Brexit has acted as a deterrent that united Europeans as never before. For the past year, the British political class have revealed their complete recklessness. Brexit amounts to a loss of influence and an abdication of shared sovereignty in the union.

2017 June 15

Trump: The Nightmare

Lili Anolik

Donald Trump is funny. The sheer recklessness of the things he says takes the breath away. He turned everybody on. He spent much of his career on the bottom rungs of the entertainment industry. The guy's played one toilet after another. And in so doing he's honed his common touch.

A billionaire who started out life a millionaire has become the working-class hero. Like, how much of a nitwit is Average Joe for imagining that Trump is his man. Trump is Average Joe except filthy stinking rich, part con man and part ham actor. He isn't a president, he's a reality star.

Trump is a big butch American hot dog. He's a swinging dick and an alpha male, a maker of deals and a builder of buildings. He isn't one of those sissies who need a woman to sign a permission slip before he'll try to hold her hand. Hell no, he grabs pussy first, asks questions later.

Trump feeds off the ardor of his fans, and his best outcome was defeat in a squeaker. Then he'd spend the rest of his days shaking a fist at the system. Instead, victory. Now he's only a short jump to the nightmare: the crowd's love turning into hate, the cheers into jeers.

May: The Cliff

Jenni Russell

Theresa May has accepted responsibility for her profound misjudgment of politics. Over the past year she has been disdainful and delusional. She has utterly failed to recognize the terrifying complexity of withdrawing from the EU, the truth that our economy needs the EU far more than they need us, and the bleak consequences if we crash out without a deal.

The prime minister has no mandate from the public for hard Brexit and no majority in parliament for anything. An eighth of the time on the Brexit clock has been wasted on this election. Europe can either make these talks as productive as possible or so slow and awkward that no deal is made. May can only avert disaster by creating goodwill and building alliances.

A former ambassador: "It's going to get very bitter and twisted over the next 18 months, and she'll need a pool of good faith. She has to understand that it's up to her, because Europe's view is: If they want to drive themselves off a cliff, they're going to find it bloody cold at the bottom."

AR Perhaps it was deliberate: "Let them eat Brexit" — only then can facts prevail.

2017 June 14

View From Denmark

Road to Brexit, Copenhagen

Danish finance minister Kristian Jensen: "There are two kinds of European nations. There are small nations and there are countries that have not yet realised they are small nations. It is a paradox that the country that once had an empire on which the sun never sets, that ruled the waves, that in its heart is truly global, is now drawing back from the world's most successful free trade area."

Jensen reflected on British membership of the G7, the G20, and the UN permanent security council: "There is still this notion in some countries that because they have been the rulers of the 20th century they will continue to be that in the 21st century. They are a member of all these groups, but what has happened to the value of the pound since Brexit? What will happen in the coming years when the finance sector is perhaps looking to Frankfurt or Paris? What will happen when inflation rises? How will they be in the future? I am very concerned about Britain's economy right now."

Denmark has taken Brexit very badly. Danish Chamber of Commerce CEO Jens Klarskov: "I think the response ranges from surprise to repulsion. How can they do that? Would you leave your best friends among enemies? That’s what you've done. We were best pals and now you are leaving us."

Chaotic Brexit

Martin Wolf

The UK is in a spectacular mess. Europhobic obsession over EU membership has brought the country to a crisis. We cannot assume economic life as we know it will continue after a disorderly exit.

There is no binary choice between Remain and Leave. Britain is now uniting Europe against the UK. That is a strategic disaster.

Harold Macmillan understood that the UK had a strategic interest in being part of a strong Europe. The best choice for the UK remains to Remain. All the alternatives are much worse.

The UK is trapped between an EU rock and a hard Brexit. No Brexit is far better than no deal. But a bad deal, or none, lies ahead.

AR What next — a military putsch to impose martial law and abandon Brexit? The putschists would have to be republicans — the Queen might prefer a hard Brexit.

Swanage, UK, 2017-06-13


"I'm backing Theresa May.
Let's get on with the job."
Boris Johnson

"I will continue for as long
as you want me to do so."
Theresa May

Chancellor Hammond
Philip Stephens

Philip Hammond is the only
figure in the cabinet who can
salvage something from the
wreckage of the Brexilection.
Colleagues say Boris Johnson
is plotting a new power grab.
 Hammond is more concerned
with securing a reasonable
outcome to the Brexit

Theresa May
The Times
"Dead woman walking"
George Osborne

B-1B Lancer
USAF B-1B Lancer bombers
deploy to England for
NATO exercises

Snap survey
2 in 3 Conservative party
members say May
should resign

"After this election, there's
no mandate for the hard Brexit
the prime minister put forward
— but there's no mandate to
abandon Brexit either. With
no majority in Parliament,
the government's negotiating
position just got weaker."
Lord Peter Ricketts

May advisers Nick Timothy
and Fiona Hill resign

Open Britain

Evening Standard

Me, Poole count
At the Poole count


2017 June 13

France v Britain

Gideon Rachman

Theresa May will enter the Brexit negotiations gravely weakened after the British general election. Emmanuel Macron is poised to emerge from French elections with a huge parliamentary majority.

Macron will see Brexit as a historic opportunity. Macron has a vision of a revitalized France inside a revitalized EU that works better if Brexit proceeds uninterrupted. Macron wants much deeper EU integration on defense and finance, and Britain has been a brake on European federalism.

Macron needs to show French voters that leaving the EU will bring only pain. If he can also rebuild the Franco-German partnership at the heart of the EU, he can restore the popularity of the European project in France. With Britain out of the EU, there is a better chance of restarting the drive for European integration.

The opportunities for France are economic as much as political. If Britain excludes itself from the EU single market, France has a unique chance to hoover up jobs in finance and manufacturing. Macron has little economic or political incentive to make concessions on migration or money.

As President Macron pursues French interests, he will occupy the moral high ground. Britain has brought its fate upon itself, while he is motivated by a desire to protect the European project.

Get On With It!

Michel Barnier

Next week, it will be three months after the sending of the Article 50 letter. We have not progressed. We must begin this negotiation. We are ready as soon as the UK is ready.

My preoccupation is that time is passing, The subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex. It will take us several months to draw out the conditions of an orderly withdrawal, so let us not waste time.

From my side, there is no spirit of revenge, no punishment, no naivety either. There is truth on what Brexit means, what leaving the EU signifies by its consequences. The citizens have the right to know this truth.

AR We could invite Barnier to serve as guest UK prime minister.

2017 June 12

France Is Back

The Times

President Macron strengthened his grip on power as his centrist party La République En Marche swept to an overwhelming victory in the first round of parliamentary elections. The party is on course to secure a landslide of between 415 and 445 of the 577 seats in the national assembly.

AR This is what the UK needs — a new hero, a new party, new hope.

A Softer Tone

Financial Times

Theresa May faces a showdown with re-elected Conservative MPs today. The party civil war on Europe may be about to reignite as she tries to negotiate a deal with the DUP.

May had to abandon plans for a sweeping cabinet reshuffle, including the expected sacking of her chancellor Philip Hammond. Instead most of her senior team stay in place.

She has appointed Damian Green (PPE, Oxford, and a staunch pro-European) as first secretary of state, in effect deputy PM. He will play a key role in setting Brexit policy.


Fintan O'Toole

Theresa May saw that the popular will had been established on that sacred referendum day. Boris Johnson promised that Britain could have its cake and eat it. After the election, the unified people would have a unified parliament and a strong leader to stand on the cliffs of Dover and shake her spear of sovereignty at the damn continentals.

All May had to do was repeat the words "strong and stable" over and over and Labour would be crushed forever. Britain would become one-party state, and Europe would bow and concede a Brexit deal in which supplies of cake would be infinitely renewed. There were three problems:

1 May demanded an enormous majority so that she could ride out into the Brexit battle without having to worry about mutterings in the ranks behind her. But to win an election, you need a convincing narrative.

2 The Conservatives tried to build a personality cult around a robotic politician. The party has plunged the UK into an existential crisis because it was too weak to stand up to a few nationalist zealots and tabloid press barons.

3 The idea of a single British people united by the Brexit vote is ludicrous. Not only do Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London have large anti-Brexit majorities, but many of those who did vote for Brexit are deeply unhappy about the effects of government austerity policies.

May will form a government with the support of the DUP. That government will be weak and unstable and it will have no real authority to negotiate an agreement with the European Union. Brexit is thus far from being a done deal.


Camilla Cavendish

Theresa May went into the contest seeking a stronger negotiating hand with the EU. But she had nothing to say about Brexit that she wanted to share with the electorate. She gave the impression that we should trust her to get the deal done, not worry our silly little heads about the detail.

The manifesto failed because May and her inner circle rebuffed almost every single person who offered advice. They forgot the golden rule of political survival: listen. Her presidential campaign kept ministers away from the cameras and put her before candidates on their own leaflets.

Anyone with the interests of the country at heart would be building a cross-party and business alliance to tackle Brexit. Instead, we have delusion and denial. It cannot be long before May is challenged for the leadership.


David Papineau

Since Galilieo, science has been one long success story. It has uncovered the workings of nature and brought untold benefits to humanity. Philosophy has done less well.

But philosophers hand things over to scientists. All new sciences start as branches of philosophy, and only become established as separate disciplines once philosophy has bequeathed them the intellectual capital to survive on their own.

Physics as we know it was grounded in the mechanical philosophy of Descartes and others. Whenever philosophy makes progress, it spawns a new subject, which then no longer counts as part of philosophy. So philosophy is full of progress.

Philosophical problems arise within science as well as outside it. The interpretation of quantum mechanics is a scientific question that admits no simple experimental resolution. We need a coherent theory to accommodate the data.

Philosophical issues typically have the form of a paradox. Scientific theories can be infected by paradox too. The quantum wave packet must collapse, but this violates physical law. Here philosophical methods are called for, to figure out where our thinking is leading us astray.

One of the great scandals of our time is the way physicists have brushed the problems of quantum mechanics under the carpet. Generations of students were told that the glaring inconsistencies apparent in the theory were none of their business. Shut up and calculate was the line.

Most people dislike banging their heads against nasty paradoxes. But someone has to do it. Philosophers take on the hard questions.

AR Quantum paradoxes? I'm onto them.

2017 June 11

Did Higgs Blow Up The Universe?

New Scientist

The universe began as a hot speck of energy and inflated quantum fluctuations to form stars and galaxies.

1 Fedor Bezrukov and Mikhail Shaposhnikov show how the Higgs boson could be the inflaton. The Higgs field could have inflated the tiny cosmos exponentially, in a fraction of a second, by nearly as much as it did in the following 13.8 billion years. The Higgs potential curve is shaped like a dip with a bump in the middle. The Higgs comes to rest in the dip to one side and gives mass to other particles. If the side of the dip has a flat shelf around it, the Higgs could sit there and flood the universe with extreme antigravity.

2 Juan García-Bellido says a tweaked Higgs potential implies a second scalar particle, the dilaton. The expansion of the universe is accelerating, and the dilaton field could provide the boost to expansion. The dilaton would prevent the Higgs mass from dilating too much but itself would be massless. Dark energy would be its main effect in the universe.

3 Alexander Kusenko says the Higgs field could have been much stronger during inflation. As the field relaxed, it could distinguish between particles and antiparticles, leaving more matter than antimatter, which would otherwise have annihilated each other to leave an empty universe.

AR Neat — three wins at once!

2017 June 10

Deal with the DUP

BBC, 1951 BST

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has agreed in principle a "confidence and supply" deal to support a Conservative government.

Deal with the DUP?

The Telegraph

Theresa May is in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland about forming a minority government. The DUP holds 10 of Northern Ireland's 18 Westminster seats. DUP leader Arlene Foster is keen to avoid a hard border with Ireland and has spoken against a hard Brexit.

DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson: "This is perfect territory for the DUP because obviously if the Conservatives are just short of an overall majority it puts us in a very strong negotiating position. Certainly that is one we would take up with relish."

Democratic Unionist Party

The DUP was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971. The party opposed 1981 talks between Margaret Thatcher and Irish prime minister Charles Haughey, and tried to create a Protestant loyalist volunteer militia to fight the IRA. The DUP opposed the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Following the Troubles, the DUP withdrew from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in protest when Sinn Fein was allowed to participate while the IRA had not been disarmed. The DUP opposed the agreement in a subsequent referendum in which 71% of the electorate approved the agreement.

The DUP is populist and socially conservative: it is anti-abortion, opposes same-sex marriage, and formerly campaigned against the legalisation of homosexual acts in Northern Ireland. It aims to defend Ulster Protestant culture against Irish nationalism and backs Brexit.

The Independent described the DUP as backed by terrorists. The New York Times called it a hard-line reactionary party.

Form British National Unity Government

FT View

Theresa May had decided that Britain would never accept free movement of people or the authority of the European Court of Justice. The UK would not remain in the single market or even the customs union. Beyond that, her message was — trust me and I will deliver.

The voters have said no. But the Brexit negotiations are set to begin in less than a fortnight. The talks cannot simply be kicked into the long grass until the Conservative party elects a new leader. None of the obvious successors seem likely to be unifying figures, and another general election would probably only confirm a deeply divided country.

The Brexit negotiations put a high premium on having a government that can speak firmly and unequivocally. A national unity government, made up of ministers from both major parties, would create a stronger negotiating position — with a softer vision of Brexit.

AR Forming a NUG next week will be hard on the whips.

May Must Share Power

Paul Goodman

Theresa May has governed mainly through powerful cabinet committees and through her two chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Now both are gone, she needs one new chief of staff who can command authority in the parliamentary party.

May has treated cabinet members as instruments of her will. She should appoint a deputy prime minister and co-govern with the Chancellor, the home secretary, the foreign secretary, the Brexit secretary, the chief whip, and a new party chairman.

May needs to work more closely with the 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady. She needs to bring policy making closer to MPs and the Conservative Policy Forum. The 1922 Committee should be represented on the Downing Street Policy Board.

May should invite the Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson to attend Political Cabinet, just as Boris Johnson did when he was Mayor of London.

Assuming that May can form a workable minority government, she needs to try to gain as much support as possible across the party divide.

May We Criticize?

Jay Elwes

Theresa May shunned others and tried to make a virtue of it. She had no political friends. But her real failure was to misunderstand the country she wanted to lead.

May urged people to vote for her so that she might "fulfill the promise of Brexit" and to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations. She portrayed the Brussels bureaucrats as intent on frustrating her attempt to free the UK from their deadening clutches. Her language became increasingly confrontational as she hinted at something close to a diplomatic war with the EU.

But we are not at war on the continent. Neither are we in a position to show up at international meetings and dominate. And yet this seemed to be the entirety of her Brexit plan. Britain would simply state its demands and the Europeans would agree to them — or no deal.

May seemed to think that what people needed was to be told off and shoved in the right direction. When she took office, she immediately set up two vast new government departments: one to negotiate Brexit, the other to hammer out new trade deals. Brexit was a sort of nationalism, where everyone knew that Britain was supreme and foreigners were to be dominated.

The prime minister wanted to sail the ship of state into a future that looked very much like its glorious past. Her worldview is fifty years out of date.

AR Before the Summer of Love?

Whips Get Cracking!

Matthew Parris

Theresa May miscalculated badly in calling an election. She then mismanaged the conduct of the election. She has lost public trust and lost her authority to govern. In its merciless and underhand way, the incoming parliamentary Conservative Party will soon be making that clear to her. So let the sane centrists find their collective voice now before the Europhobes and their opportunist hitchhikers like Boris Johnson mobilize.

AR Parris detests Boris.

2017 June 9

Weak and Wobbly

Jörg Schindler

As the election approached, May repeated her slogan "strong and stable" ad nauseam, to the point that it became a joke. The reasonable response to the election results would be for her to resign. But Brexit negotiations are set to begin on June 19.

The front between the UK and the EU27 member states has hardened. A Brexit without an agreement would be bitter for the EU but disastrous for the UK. Britain could use a strong and stable leader.

Europe Must Act

Joris Luyendijk

When it comes to Brexit the UK is like a child that just will not see reason. The EU must therefore start preparing to impose its own solution.

The Brexit referendum campaign was waged with lies, manipulation and delusional promises, leading millions of Britons to vote for an option that was not on the menu: have cake and eat it.

This election could have been the moment when Britain made a choice between have cake and sail into hard Brexit or eat cake and accept all the rules of the single market.

This was not what Labour or the Conservatives offered. Both all but avoided Brexit during the campaign. This is the state of denial that Britain is still in.

Brussels cannot afford to risk the integrity and coherence of the single market by giving Britain a sweet deal. But nor can it risk total economic meltdown in the UK.

Maybe Not

The Evening Standard

Theresa May has been forced into a deal with Northern Ireland MPs to save her from an ignominious departure from 10 Downing Street.

May: "Having secured the largest number of votes it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist Party has the certainty and legitimacy commanding a majority in the House of Commons."

Conservative MPs seethed that she had tossed away her Commons majority in a catastrophic gamble. Many thought she would be out in two years or less.

May is now in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is expected to drive a hard bargain as May rang its leader to strike the sort of bargain she had jeered at as a "coalition of chaos".

The Commons was divided as follows: Conservatives, 318 (-12); Labour, 261 (+29); SNP, 35 (-21); Liberal Democrats, 12 (+4); DUP, 10 (+2); Others, 13. One seat is yet to call. Turnout was 32,159,240 (68.74%). UKIP was crushed and its leader quit.

A night of shock sent sterling plunging 2% against the dollar and the euro as the world weighed the implications for Brexit negotiations.

Donald Tusk‏ tweet:
We don't know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a "no deal" as result of "no negotiations".

AR Instant karma ..

Hung Parliament

The Times

Theresa May's gamble on a snap election failed. She has not won a majority, but she remains prime minister until she either attempts and fails to form a government or she resigns.

The Conservatives will remain in government until it is agreed who will try to form a new government or unless May resigns. She will have the first go at assembling a majority.

Frantic talks are expected over coming days as parties scramble to try and agree deals. A new government must test whether it can command the confidence of the House.

The Queen's speech is scheduled for Monday June 19. Brexit talks are also set to begin on June 19.

"Wow. So good Labour stronger. So good Brutal Brexit rejected. So good next generation realized the stakes and spoke up."
David Miliband

"Theresa May anointed herself Empress of Brexit. Now her authority is shot."
Rafael Behr


Khor Al Adaid, Qatar
The New York Times

President Trump has taken sides with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states to bully Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen cut ties to Qatar mainly because Qatar has a relationship with Shiite Iran.
On Wednesday, Daesh claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Tehran at the Iranian parliament and the Khomeini mausoleum.
Qatar hosts the forward HQ of US Central Command, a major intelligence hub, and a big US air base.
There is no sign that Trump has thought any of this through.

"You don't win a culture war
with facts. Heroes wanted.
Conflict wanted. Goals
wanted. Dreams wanted.
Tell me a story I want
to be part of."
Marina Hyde

Jeremy Corbyn
The Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn
"I want us to have a decent
and harmonious community
in Britain .. The best way of
dealing with a negative
campaign is to be

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande

Zeit, die Indoktrination mit
islamistischem Gedankengut
wirkungsvoll zu bekämpfen

London horror
The Times
More London horror
by global jihadi
death cult

"The EU remains the most extraordinary, ambitious,
liberal political alliance in
recorded history. It has over-
seen unprecedented peace
and prosperity for 70 years.
It is the dream trading bloc
and a heroic project."
Ian McEwan

"The European Union must
resist the temptation to
punish Britain and approach
the negotiations in a
constructive spirit ..
Britain is a parliamentary
democracy. Within five years
it has to hold another general
election and the next
parliament may vote to be
reunited with Europe."
George Soros



2017 June 8

Beginning: Brexit Catastrophe

Jenni Russell

The electorate is going to the polls today in a state of blissful ignorance over the catastrophe that is about to hit the UK.

Theresa May called an election to give herself a mandate for her version of Brexit. She has told the electorate nothing new about how she intends to do it, about how Britons will be poorer and more highly taxed if she keeps to her plan to leave both the single market and the customs union, or the devastation that will follow if she walks away from the table without a deal. Her victory will be based on evasion and soothing visions.

Her decision to interpret 52% as licence for a hard Brexit is as outrageous as if the Remainers had won a narrow victory and immediately decided to join the euro, the Schengen travel area, and an EU army, declaring that no discussion was needed because this was the people's will.

For a year we have been in a phoney Brexit. Six months ago we were the fastest-growing economy in the G7, but figures from the G7 last week show we are tying with Italy for the slowest growth as the EZ forges ahead of us. HM Treasury says an agreed Brexit will make us £36 billion a year poorer by 2032 and a no-deal exit will cost £45 billion.

May and her people view the EU as opponents. Under her government the Brexit fires are starting to burn.

2017 June 7


Martin Wolf

White House advisers HR McMaster and Gary Cohn write: "The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a 'global community' but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it."

Earth is not just an arena. It is our shared home. It does not belong to one nation, even a powerful one. Looking after the planet is the moral responsibility of all.

AR Wolf is right, of course.


Edward Luce

Theresa May has had trouble spelling out what a post-EU Britain would look like. Brexiteers propose recapturing the spirit of an earlier Elizabethan age, when plucky English buccaneers forged pathways to the New World. This is a delusion.

The elites, not the people, have led the British retreat from Europe and the world. Most of them started their careers as student political hacks, and the ties they forged nourished their political careers. What they lacked in global experience they substituted with London networking.

Brussels could cope with a nasty divorce. Britain could not. Yet May seems to be going out of her way to rub the Europeans the wrong way. Thanks to her, the EU27 are now of one mind.

AR May must see this.

2017 June 6


Melanie Phillips

Islamist terrorism is not a perversion of Islam. The West equates religion with spirituality. But Islam is as much a political ideology as a source of spiritual guidance.

Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi: "The scriptures are exactly what is pushing these people to behead the infidel. Our books teach the beheading of people."

Jihadist Islam is dominant once again in the Muslim world. Islamists believe their values represent the word of God. For them, no other values can possibly be superior.

We must see jihadist Islam as at the extreme end of a continuum of beliefs that are incompatible with British society. We should close down radical mosques, deport those born in other countries who are involved in extremism, stop foreign funding for Muslim institutions, and ban the Muslim Brotherhood. We should also outlaw Sharia courts.

Jihadist terrorists are not trying to divide us, destroy our values, or stop the general election. They are trying to kill us and conquer us.

AR Islamism is a global military threat. Kill the jihadis before they kill us. And forget the British spin — they threaten all Western societies. Unite or be conquered.


Roger Cohen

For a long time I could not bring myself to write about the British election. The June 8 vote was a formality. The Labour Party was in meltdown. The British, their ludicrous vote to leave the European Union gradually sinking in, would give May her mandate.

Suddenly, we have an election after all. The expected Tory landslide has evaporated. May embraced a hard Brexit and came up with a dementia tax to punish people for living too long. Opinion polls now put Corbyn within a few percentage points of May.

A Labour victory would punish the Tories for the disaster of Brexit.

AR It would also lead to chaos and confusion — economic mayhem, loss of control of national debt, rank amateurs in government, weakness on Russia and Islam — not good.

2017 June 5

Terror Attack

Theresa May

We are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face. Perpetrators are copying one another and often using crude means of attack. Things need to change:

1 The recent attacks are connected by the evil ideology of Islamist extremism. It is an ideology that claims our western values are incompatible with Islam. It will only be defeated when we make people understand that our values are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.

2 We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. We need to work with allied democratic governments to prevent the spread of extremism. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.

3 There is far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. We need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. The whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism.

4 We have a robust counter-terrorism strategy. We need to review our strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need. We may need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorist-related offences.

Our country has made progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies.

AR United in solidarity with other Europeans facing the same threat.

2017 June 4

Causal Emergence

Natalie Wolchover

Erik Hoel has published an essay that aims to explain how consciousness and agency arise. He claims that causes can emerge at macroscopic scales, and that macro states of a physical system such as a brain can have more causal power than a micro description of the system.

Hoel shows that macro scales gain causal power rather like error-correcting codes increase the amount of information that can be sent over data channels. Macro states reduce noise and uncertainty in a causal structure, making system behavior more deterministic.

Giulio Tononi conceives of consciousness as information encoded not in the states of individual neurons but in the complex networking of neurons into ensembles in the brain. His integrated information theory (IIT) aims to characterize consciousness.

Tononi tasked Hoel with exploring the mathematical relationship between the size of neural groups and information. Hoel quantified the causal power of brain states by measuring causation in bits. His measure, effective information (EI), is simpler and more general than integrated information.

Scott Aaronson: "It was hard for me to find anything in the essay that the world's most orthodox reductionist would disagree with. Yes, of course you want to pass to higher abstraction layers in order to make predictions, and to tell causal stories that are predictively useful — and the essay explains some of the reasons why."

Physicists say causation starts with interactions between elementary particles. It originates at the micro level and is merely easier to discuss at the macro level.

AR I tried to explain my Mindworlds model of consciousness to Aaronson at TSC 2001 (Skoevde) and to Tononi at ASSC XIII (Berlin, 2009).

2017 June 3

Earth Report

Martin Rees

On Earth, 4 billion years of evolution led eventually to technology and the world we live in today. The direction of travel is almost certainly toward a posthuman world. After a few millennia of gradually expanding technology generated by human beings, maybe there will be billions of years more when the dominant technology is entirely inorganic.

Mars is far less clement than the South Pole, and not many people want to live there. Robots are becoming more sophisticated, and all the science can be done by robots just as well as by human beings. Huge fabricators up in space will assemble telescope dishes and solar energy collectors.

The collective effect that we are having as a species is causing changes to the atmosphere and the climate. A second class of threats arises because the world of things is more interconnected. The biotechnology issue is scary too.

Scientific advisors have a limited impact on political leaders. The Pope raised concerns about the risks to biodiversity and to climate from the heavier footprint of the rising human population and said people have an obligation to nature. That statement was an important input to the Paris conference on climate change in December 2015.

Brexit Britain

Patrick Cockburn

Brexit is the most important single development in British foreign policy since declaring war on Germany in 1939, and arguably the worst unforced error ever in British history.

Britain is leaving the EU on the absurd assumption that the EU-27 will give it a sweetheart deal. Since 1940, the UK has ridden tall on US power, but this free ride is gone with America First.

AR Millions of British voters expressed indifference or contempt for the European idea in June 2016. Nationally, this was a shameful revelation of factual ignorance and moral turpitude.

2017 June 2

A Disgraceful Exit

The New York Times

President Trump has an incredibly shortsighted approach to climate change. He said the Paris agreement was a bad deal for the United States. Yet it is a voluntary agreement under which more than 190 countries offered aspirational emissions targets, pledged their best efforts to meet them, and agreed to give periodic updates on how they were doing.

Trump clearly knows nothing or cares little about the science underlying the stark warnings of environmental disruption, about the problems that disruption could bring, or about the fact that America has a special obligation to help the rest of the world address these issues.

Trump clings to the false narrative that environmental regulations are job killers, that efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions will hurt the economy, that the way forward lies in yet more burning of fossil fuels. Yet the global transition from fossil fuels has opened up a huge market estimated at $6 trillion by 2030, for renewable fuels, electric cars, and new technologies.

Big economic benefits flow from protecting human health and the environment. Technologies are improving and the business community is ready. About two-thirds of Americans are worried about climate change and wanted to stay in the Paris agreement.

Weather News


The Weather Channel greeted the White House news with every ounce of righteous outrage it deserved. Its top nine stories were all devoted to the topic. Two of them covered the announcement. The other seven methodically explained exactly why it was so misguided and why it matters.

The Weather Channel network has concluded that climate change poses a threat that transcends partisan politics. Its stories illustrated the damage climate change is poised to wreak and gave a science-based refutation of the notion that the threat is overstated or hypothetical.

Third LIGO Detection

New Scientist

The LIGO collaboration has made its third observation of gravitational waves emanating from a pair of merging black holes. This pair was about 3 billion light years away.

LIGO detects ripples in spacetime caused by moving masses. The spins of merging black holes can warp those waveforms, which are mostly produced by their orbits and eventual collision.

For the first event, we did not have enough information to determine spin direction of the black holes. For the second, we saw that each black hole was probably spinning in the same direction. For this third pair, they are probably spinning in different directions.

Black hole binaries are either born together from a pair of orbiting stars or they form separately in a stellar cluster and drift together. In the first case, the pair should rotate in the same direction as they orbit. In the second, they can point in any directions.

2017 June 1

Global Enemy #1

President Trump
pulls America out of the Paris agreement.

Zooming the Sun


Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 6 Gm of the surface of the Sun, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, PSP will provide new data on solar activity and increase our ability to forecast major space weather events that impact life on Earth.

PSP explores the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a scientific spacecraft. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause $2 trillion in damage in the United States alone.

Physics of Time


General Relativity and the Standard Model are based on time-symmetric laws. The eternal cosmos spanning all of spacetime is sometimes called the block universe.

Andreas Albrecht says that to understand the distinction between past, present and future, you have to ask how an observer perceives time.

Avshalom Elitzur: "The future does not exist .. Ontologically, it's not there."

Lee Smolin: "The future is not now real and there can be no definite facts of the matter about the future."

Sean Carroll: "The entropy of the universe will be larger tomorrow than it is today. But if that was all you knew, you'd also say that the entropy of the universe was probably larger yesterday than today — because all the underlying dynamics are completely symmetric with respect to time."

George Ellis says the universe is a growing volume of spacetime. Its surface is the present moment and represents the instant where the indefiniteness of the future changes to the definiteness of the past. One can see the direction of time by looking at which part of the universe is fixed (the past) and which is changing (the future). This is a GR block universe with a future boundary in the present.

Rafael Sorkin says that in causal set theory spacetime is discrete rather than continuous. Planck scale atoms of spacetime form a partially ordered set. The number of these atoms gives rise to the volume of spacetime, while their sequence gives rise to time. New spacetime atoms are continually coming into existence.

AR I'm writing a paper on the physics of time — and I pretty much agree with all the views above.


For me, getting it right means abandoning the whole stupid idea.

"Anyone who today puts
on national blinkers and no
longer has eyes for the world
around him is, I am convinced,
ultimately out on a limb."
Angela Merkel


Angela Merkel has made by
some margin the most serious
assertion of historical meaning
over the seismic political events
of 2016 in Britain and America.
The assertion is that they mark
the end of an era, 1945-2016,
when the Western nations of
the world were reliable
partners, dependent
on one another.


German foreign minister
Sigmar Gabriel: "The challenges
of migration will only increase
as a result of the departure of
the new US government from
the Western policy consensus ..
The short-sighted policy of
the American government
is against the interests of
the European Union."


Theresa May will try to woo
working-class voters this week.
She will seize on aggressive
Brexit demands from Brussels
to insist that only she can negotiate a good deal. She will
tell voters concerned about immigration and sovereignty
that their views have been
ridiculed and ignored
for too long.

Merkel, beer
Angela Merkel: "Wir müssen
selber für unsere Zukunft
kämpfen, als Europäer,
für unser Schicksal."

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel: "Die Zeiten,
in denen wir uns auf andere
völlig verlassen konnten,
die sind ein Stück vorbei ..
Wir Europäer müssen unser
Schicksal wirklich in unsere
eigene Hand nehmen."

Diskussion über Klimaschutz
"sehr unzufriedenstellend"


Hurricane Donald
Die Welt

UK threat level critical
Troops patrol streets

President Richard Nixon
went to Saudi Arabia and
Israel in June 1974 to change
the domestic narrative. He
resigned a month later.


Horror in Manchester
Suicide bomb attack at
Ariana Grande concert:
22 killed, 59 injured


2017 May 31

No Deal Is No Option

Rafael Behr

Angela Merkel has a record of 11 years in office. To her, Brexit looks mad. Germany is a leading global exporter and a stalwart EU member without one contradicting the other.

The Brexit vote has changed perceptions of the UK on the world stage. The British look volatile, uncooperative, nationalistic. Now Merkel has lumped Britain in with America as an unreliable ally.

For decades EU leaders bridled at British tabloid caricatures of their meetings as a conspiracy against plucky Albion. But they accepted assurances that this was pantomime. It did not occur to them that the tabloid view of the European project might become official UK policy.

Boris Johnson is despised in Brussels as a prime peddler of Europhobic myths. Making him foreign secretary was read as a hostile act by Theresa May. Since then, she has shown no new understanding of Europe and little grasp of what is realistically available from an Article 50 deal.

The European Commission has published detailed draft negotiating positions on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and on budget liabilities. The talks begin on June 19. David Davis seems relaxed, but his department cannot match the EU apparatus for experience and capacity.

Insisting that no deal is better than a bad deal is nonsense. The line is popular and has intuitive appeal. But the UK is not buying a deal from the EU. If the talks fail, Brexit ends in a train wreck.

May is either bluffing or delusional. The rest of the world knows this and fears the consequences. Merkel has resorted to voicing that anxiety in public.

2017 May 30



We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change

3:40 AM - 30 May 2017

European Defense Strategy

Paul Mason

President Trump is ready to put American business interests before those of Planet Earth or of Europeans facing down Russia. If it comes to a fight, America will be last, not first.

The EU powers and the British government need a new strategy. Angela Merkel sees this. Her speech should lead Europe to consolidate around the EZ core and liberal values.

Britain, set on a catastrophic exit from the EU single market, must wake up. When the UK was the dominant world power, playing one European power against another may have been fun. After 1945, the urge to stand aloof from Europe and seek to divide it is fatal.

We need to defuse the Brexit bomb fast. The current UK government includes amateurs who dream of a new trading empire and nationalists who jeer at the idea of a European army.

Trump shows the current strategy of NATO is a dead letter. From 1939 to 1941, the UK had to fight as a European power to survive. Europe needs more security cooperation.

Brexit Bomb

Simon Tilford

Brextremists often say the EU economy is weak and the UK economy can boom by leaving it. In fact, Brexit threatens to make matters worse.

British economic growth between 2000 and 2015 lagged behind Spain and Germany. In 2015 Britain ranked only slightly ahead of France. UK wages have risen by much less than French and German wages over the last 15 years, and Brits have to work longer hours than the French or the Germans to earn as much. Since 2000, poorer regions of Britain have not been catching up with richer EU regions but falling further behind.

A successful labor market requires skilled workers, access to housing, and good quality infrastructure. A significantly higher proportion of young British adults suffer from weak literacy and numeracy than those in France, Germany, Italy, or Spain. The UK is building around half as many houses as it did 40 years ago, and has invested less in roads, railways, and air travel than other large EU economies over the last 20 years.

Outside the EU, Britain will trade less with member states. Brexit threatens to make a mediocre economic performance even worse.

Merkel in Munich

Gideon Rachman

Speaking at an election rally in Munich, Angela Merkel came close to announcing the death of the Western alliance. But her speech was a blunder for at least five reasons:

1 It is a mistake to allow the Trump presidency to throw into doubt an alliance that has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years. It is possible that Trump is an aberration and will soon be out of office.

2 Trump was right about the failure of most European countries to meet NATO targets on military expenditure. It is unsustainable for the US to account for most of NATO defense spending.

3 By implying that NATO is now coming apart, Merkel has compounded the error Trump made. Encouraging the Russian government in this way reduces European security.

4 Merkel was unwise and unfair to bracket Britain with America. The UK sided with the EU against the US on climate change. The UK government upholds the British commitment to NATO.

5 Pursuit of the Brexit negotiations in a similar spirit would risk creating lasting antagonism between Britain and the EU. A hard Brexit could weaken the British commitment to NATO.

Merkel chose a beer-tent in Bavaria to announce a separation from the UK and the US while bracketing those two countries with Russia.

AR She was electioneering.

2017 May 29

Every Word a Winner

Annett Meiritz, Anna Reimann, Severin Weiland

Angela Merkel in a Munich beer tent: "We must fight for our future, as Europeans, for our destiny."

Merkel is now regarded as a leader of the liberal world. Her beer tent speech breaks with her previous caution over the US president. Her hopes are fading for constructive cooperation with Trump.

Trump says "America First" and means Europe must do more in future. Merkel and her foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel agree on more defense spending — controversial in Germany.

Global and European politics will be important in the German election campaign. Merkel now poses as a champion for Europe against Trump.

Merkel is betting on France. She and President Emmanuel Macron will push for a roadmap of reforms. Gabriel has a plan to invest more in EZ defense and foreign policy.

AR EZ fusion can be the core of a historic union as strong and stable as China.

Merkel v Trump

The New York Times

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe's most influential leader, has apparently concluded that the United States of President Trump is no longer as reliable as it once was.

Merkel: "We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands — of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, and as good neighbors wherever possible also with other countries."

She said the G7 discussion about climate was very unsatisfactory — six against one. Trump refused to endorse the Paris climate accord, scolded Germany for its trade practices, and lectured NATO members for not spending enough on defense.

Trump tweet: "Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!"

Presidency in Peril

Elizabeth Drew

If Donald Trump leaves office before four years are up, this month might turn out to be the turning point. New revelations surround whether he colluded with Russia. His troubles will only grow.

Impeachable offenses are political questions. An impeachment of a president is grounded in the theory that the holder of that office has failed to fulfill his responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. This prevents a president from setting a tone that leads to acts by his aides that amount to a violation of constitutional government.

Trump has the most unhappy White House staff ever. He is a nearly impossible person to work for and screams at his staff when they tell him something he doesn't want to hear. People who have been to the Oval Office have come away stunned by his minimal attention span, his appalling lack of information, his tendency to say more than he knows.

The survival of Trump's presidency may depend on congressional Republicans. Their challenge is how to overcome the blights of Trump's chaotic governing and his lack of achievements on Capitol Hill. His sole substantive accomplishment thus far is House approval of a health care overhaul that will throw tens of millions of people off of health insurance.

Trump is in some ways a cannier politician than Nixon. He knows how to lie to his people to keep them behind him. But he cannot keep blaming his failures on others.

2017 May 28

Martin Luther

Ingrid D. Rowland

On Halloween 1517, Martin Luther, Augustinian friar and professor of theology, posted a broadsheet on the faculty bulletin board of Wittenberg University in Saxony. The poster proclaimed a series of propositions that questioned the basic beliefs of the Catholic Church.

His 95 theses set off the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation. Friar Martin focused his ire on the sale of indulgences. These papal dispensations grew out of a traditional medieval conviction that prayer, repentance, good works, and pilgrimage could atone in some measure for sin.

The sale of indulgences became an industry in Saxony. Pope Julius II and the Augsburg banker Jakob Fugger directed the revenue from German indulgences toward the rebuilding of Saint Peter's in Rome. Penitents put coins in indulgence chests, iron-bound coffers like giant armored piggy banks.

Friar Martin was driven by a spiritual insight. The Christian hope for eternal life, he believed, was a divine gift that no human being, no matter how virtuous, could ever deserve. Salvation was a gift from God, bestowed by divine grace.

Luther survived the firestorm his theses ignited not only because of his courage and eloquence but also because the local sovereign, Elector Frederick III of Saxony, sided with him. The archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg, sided against and reported on the theses to Pope Leo X. The pope summoned Friar Martin to Rome but the friar demurred.

An interview was arranged in Augsburg in 1518. The inquisitor was a cardinal under instructions to make Luther recant or to arrest him and drag him back to Rome. But Luther stood his ground and the cardinal let him go.

In the following years, Luther proclaimed his views in torrents of prose and poetry in both Latin and German, and spread them as widely as the printing press could reach. He married the runaway nun Katharina von Bora, who bore him six children.

AR Halloween 2017 — mark your calendar!

2017 May 27

G7 Fiasco

Die Welt

Donald Trump wrecked the G7 summit: After endless wrangling, only a meager communiqué emerged.

Trump did not want to commit clearly to the Paris climate agreement. He portrayed the fight against terrorism as more important in a tweet: "Terrorism is at the top of the list." He blocked progress on free trade and criticized the Germans for running a trade surplus with the US.

AR Mr Nyet should take more care of his levers of global power.

G7 Summit


G7 leaders call on internet giants to crack down on extremist content. But they failed to agree on climate change — US president Donald Trump refused to endorse the 2015 Paris accord on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Trump and UK prime minister Theresa May talked trade.

G7: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US.

German Cars Are Better

Financial Times

US president Donald Trump: "I don't have a problem with Germany, I have a problem with German trade. Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We'll stop it."

German manufacturers exported 670,000 cars and light trucks to the US last year. BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Volkswagen produced 809,000 vehicles at their US plants. US auto imports from Germany, worth $22 billion, were 3.8% of all US auto imports in 2016.

EU president Donald Tusk: "This is going to be the most challenging G7 meeting in years. It is no secret that some leaders have different positions on climate, on trade .. Most importantly, we have to defend the rule-based international order."

Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn: "He wants to understand how we can bring back manufacturing, bring back jobs, but still be environmentally friendly, but not have a restriction enforced upon us that makes absolutely no sense."

AR Germans make the best cars, Americans make the best weapons. This illustrates the Ricardo theory of comparative advantage and shows why global free trade is best.

2017 May 26


Donald Trump

Members of the alliance must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations:
23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense.

Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today's very real and very vicious threats. If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.

The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration. You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries. We must be tough. We must be strong. And we must be vigilant.

AR Trump is losing friends in NATO.

Quantum Dark Energy

Joshua Sokol

Dark energy was conjured up to explain what is pushing the universe apart ever faster. It seems to be spread evenly through space at a density of a few GeV/m^3.

Quantum mechanics (QM) says the vacuum is filled with jittering quantum fields. Calculations suggest a dark energy density way too high, so perhaps the fields tend to cancel out on big scales.

General relativity (GR) says energy is absorbed and released all the time by the flexing of spacetime. Overall balance is preserved, but the fine details remain mysterious.

GR and QM see the fundamental structure of the cosmos differently. GR sees 4D spacetime as smooth and continuous, but QM implies that on a small scale space is made up of discrete units. No unified theory of quantum gravity exists.

Perhaps particles feel the granularity of spacetime as friction and lose energy into space. If so, the matter in the universe has been losing energy steadily since a fraction of a second ABB. But the resulting estimate for dark energy strength is still way off.

Quantum cosmology lets the early universe be in a superposition of many sizes and states at once. The precision with which we can know the rate the universe is accelerating is uncertain, with consequences for all other variables that depend on that rate, such as the density of dark energy.

AR I vote for uncertain acceleration and dark energy as a rounding error.

2017 May 25

Hurricane Donald

Die Welt

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker: "I view President Trump with increasing sympathy. I think he is beginning to sense the wind of history."

NATO v Daesh

Financial Times

NATO leaders are expected to agree to join the US-led coalition against Daesh today as US president Donald Trump visits NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO allies anticipate that he will publicly endorse NATO Article 5 mutual defence guarantee for the first time in Brussels.

Trump has pressed allies to intensify NATO counter-terror efforts, a demand backed by the UK. Germany and France had resisted joining the coalition against Daesh, but each of the 28 NATO members is already in the coalition. NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said allies were still discussing whether NATO should join.

UK prime minister Theresa May: "We must redouble our resolve to meet the threats to our shared security whether from terrorism or Russia .. unity in responding to common strengths is our most potent weapon."

2017 May 24

Terrorists Target Children

The New York Times

The suicide bombing in Manchester, England, on Monday night that killed young fans of the pop star Ariana Grande is wrenching.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the bombing. British police officials believe the suicide was Salman Abedi, 22, whose parents emigrated from Libya. This attack is an attempt to provoke a thirst for vengeance and a desire for safety that sweeps away the most cherished democratic and inclusive values. Daesh wants to watch Western democracies embrace its mad version of a holy war pitting Muslims against Christians.

AR NYT published leaked details that hinder ongoing British law enforcement operations. This will have implications for UK-US security cooperation going forward.

Service and Care

The Times

President Trump met with Pope Francis. Trump described the meeting as a great honor.

A Vatican statement confirmed their joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience, and called for collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.

Francis gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on caring for the environment.

Global Government

The Independent

Nearly 7 out of 10 people in the UK support the creation of a form of world government to deal with major risks facing the world. Over 6 in 10 say they consider themselves global citizens.

A survey interviewed 8,100 people in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, South Africa, the UK and US. The survey found nearly 9 in 10 supported taking action on global warming.

In the UK, over 8 in 10 agreed climate change could be a global catastrophe. A majority (54%) said they would be happy for the UK to give up some sovereignty to address such problems.

The Trump Budget

Financial Times

President Trump will call on Congress to push through $3.6 trillion of spending cuts in order to balance the federal budget in 10 years. He proposes a range of cuts in welfare outlays and healthcare support for poorer families, while sheltering the military, social security, and Medicare.

Larry Summers

The first Trump budget appears to contain a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course.

Apparently, the budget forecasts that US growth will rise to 3% by 2021 thanks to proposed tax cuts and regulatory policies. Then the administration asserts that it will propose revenue-neutral tax cuts, with the revenue neutrality coming in part because the tax cuts stimulate growth.

This appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.

The president's economic team is failing. Claims about tax cuts not favoring the rich, claims made for the deal negotiated last week with China, the ridiculous estimate of the costs of Dodd-Frank, or the new budget — not one of them meets a minimal standard of competence and honesty.

2017 May 23

God of Israel

Jerusalem Post

"The ties of the Jewish people to this holy land are ancient and eternal .. Israel is testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people .. My administration will always stand with Israel."
Donald Trump, Jerusalem

God of Go

The New York Times

The world’s best player of Go has been defeated by an AI program. Chinese champion Ke Jie, 19, was defeated by AlphaGo, developed by Google division DeepMind. Ke: "Last year, it was still quite humanlike when it played, but this year, it became like a god of Go."

Time in Islam

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Islamic conception of time is that mere chronology is irrelevant in comparison with the theological sense of eternity. What matters is only the Hereafter, and thus heaven and hell. Mere terrestrial time is seen as limited and relatively insignificant, a stepping stone to the infinite. This is the core of Islam. So working hard and making money, or recreational things like going to the pub or watching soccer or going to the movies — all this is rejected as sinful or futile.

AR The Prophet contemplated eternity on clear nights on a mountaintop.

Time in Physics

Tim Maudlin

In special relativity, the time directions are structurally different from the space directions. In the timelike directions, you have a further distinction into the future and the past, whereas any spacelike direction can be continuously rotated into any other spacelike direction. The two classes of timelike directions cannot be continuously transformed into one another.

If time had no direction, that would make time into just another spatial dimension. I can imagine a 4D spatial object, but nothing happens in it. This is the way people often talk about the block universe. I believe that the past is as real as the present, which is as real as the future. Things that happened in the past were just as real. If that is all it means to believe in a block universe, fine.

The block universe is a rigid structure. The totality of concrete physical reality specifies that 4D structure and what happens everywhere in it. In Newtonian mechanics, this object is foliated by planes of absolute simultaneity. And in relativity you have a light cone structure instead. So it has a different geometrical character. But the idea that the block universe is static drives me crazy.

For time to pass means for events to be linearly ordered, by earlier and later. The causal structure of the world depends on its temporal structure. To understand the later states, you look at the earlier states and not the other way around. The direction of causation is also the direction of explanation. Time is a fundamental feature of the universe.

AR Time is basic in physics. Quantum mechanics points to a better understanding. The key is to get the math right — my work in progress on the foundations of quantum theory has a lot of math in it so I am writing it anew in TeX (MacTeX, via arXiv).

Trump in Israel

President Trump in Israel — his message to Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors,
the cost will be resolving the standoff with the Palestinians.

"On those issues, there is a strong consensus among the nations of the world — including many in the Muslim world.
I was deeply encouraged by my conversations with Muslim world leaders in Saudi Arabia, including King Salman,
who .. would love to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians."

Trump, Saudis

Euler's formula

Poole Quay
Poole Quay

Crazy Nut Job

Trump told Russian officials
that firing Comey relieved
pressure: "He was crazy,
a real nut job."

Theresa May
Conservative Manifesto
PDF, 88 pages

"We do not believe in
untrammelled free markets.
We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We see rigid
dogma and ideology not just
as needless but dangerous ..
I believe we can and must
take this opportunity to
build a great meritocracy
here in Britain."
Theresa May

EMD 2017
European Commission
Conference Program
PDF, 28 pages

Donald Trump
"Never, never, never give up."
Donald Trump

"Never, never, never give in."
Winston Churchill

Gold Standard

Robert Mueller will lead
the FBI investigation into
Russian meddling in the
2016 presidential election.

Mueller was FBI director from
2001 to 2013. Barack Obama
called him the gold standard
for leading the bureau.


2017 May 22

Saudis v Iran

Richard Haass

Donald Trump in Riyadh on Iran: "It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room."

Saudi Arabia and Iran remain the most powerful countries in the Mideast. Saudi deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman rejects talks with Iran: "We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but we will work so the battle is there in Iran."

Concerns about Iran help explain the warm welcome in Riyadh for Donald Trump. Saudi Arabia is buffeted by low oil prices, high unemployment, widespread corruption, and war in Yemen.

Iran will not soon reform. Moderate president Hassan Rouhani has been re-elected but an imperial foreign policy employs militant groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas to project armed force.

Saudi Arabia and its conservative Sunni allies will be hard pressed to match Iran even with their new US arms. Saudi-Iranian relations could all too easily take a turn for the worse.

Trump On Islam

Christoph Sydow

President Trump managed his speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia without mistakes. He quoted from the Koran, praised Islamic culture, and heralded a new beginning: "America and Islam are not mutually exclusive and are not in competition with each other."

Trump is right that the Mideast does not fufill its potential, but terrorism is only partly to blame. Corruption, cronyism, and discrimination hold back the Muslim world. The greatest fear for people in poorer Muslim countries is failing to find a job or to feed the family.

In Saudi Arabia bibles and crosses are forbidden and no other faith than Sunni Islam can be lived freely. For the Saudi rulers, a Muslim who publicly renounces Islam is a terrorist but a Muslim who blows up in a bus in Jerusalem is a martyr.

2017 May 21

Battle Between Good and Evil

Donald Trump

Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.

There is still much work to be done. That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds. We must stop what they are doing. Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your holy land.

Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.

AR Trump went off script to cite Islamic extremism and Islamic terror.

2017 May 20

Euler's Formula


Last night in my bed between slumbers,
My thoughts swirled around complex numbers.
They made an equation
With artful persuasion
And conjured up dreams full of wonders.

A limerick for math can be fun.
You just have to do a small sum.
I did one with phi
And imaginary i,
Thought Euler and just let it run.

There was an equation well wrought:
E power i phi as first thought,
Then minus cos phi,
Minus i by sin phi,
To find that it all comes to nought.

First Light

Ashley Yeager

Not long after the Big Bang, a hydrogen fog pervaded the early universe and snuffed out the light of the first stars and galaxies. For hundreds of millions of years, they were all but invisible. Eventually this fog burned off as UV light reionized the atoms.

In the first years ABB, free particles flew about scattering light. At about 380 ky ABB, they cooled enough to form H atoms, which clumped into stars. The first hot stars started the reionization, but they soon died, and later stars were dimmer and cooler.

Supermassive black holes power quasars. Because quasars emit way more hard radiation than stars do, they may have reionized the universe. Astronomers have found faint quasars at around 1 Gy ABB and evidence for quasars back to 600 My ABB.

AR The past was a violent place.

Hatred, Insanity, Absolute Rubbish

Nigel Farage

The British government will always hate me. They will never forgive me for being successful.

A wave of insanity overcame the political classes of Europe. Europe is not the EU. I am working for a real Europe, one that does not attempt to take away from individual member states their national identity.

We British are not allowed to have our own foreign policy. We are not allowed to have our own trade policy. We have to break this down. The EU is dying. The whole project is finished.

I met with the Russian Embassy's deputy chief-of-mission in London in 2013. I said I admire Vladimir Putin. As a political operator, he was the best in the world.

I never received a penny from Russia. My campaign was not about money but about messages. I appear on Russia Today twice a year, or three times last year.

I went to meet Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for journalistic reasons. I met with him very briefly. We talked about a lot of things.

I used to do politics 100 hours a week. But now I do politics for 40 hours a week, so I have got a lot of time to do other things. I am a Fox News contributor. I am an LBC presenter. I write.

The EU wants to expand to the east and threatens Russia. I want the EU to be destroyed. The EU is an anti-democratic, failing structure.

Brexit is the best thing. The idea that the EU is good for the economy is absolute rubbish.

2017 May 19

Forward Together

Theresa May

The next five years are the most challenging that Britain has faced in my lifetime.
Brexit will define us.

Now more than ever,
Britain needs a strong and stable government
Britain needs strong and stable leadership
Britain needs a clear plan

I believe our United Kingdom can emerge from this period of great national change stronger and more prosperous than ever before. I believe we can be a country that stands tall in the world and provides leadership on some of the greatest challenges of our time.

I believe we can — and must — take this opportunity to build a Great Meritocracy here in Britain.

Five giant challenges:

1 A strong economy that works for everyone
We need to make the most of our existing strengths, invest in infrastructure and people, and ensure that the whole of our economy across the whole of our country can grow. Without a strong economy, we cannot guarantee our security, our personal prosperity, our public services, or contented and sustainable communities.

2 A strong and united nation in a changing world
We need to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the EU and forge a deep and special partnership with our friends and allies across Europe. As there is increasingly little distinction between domestic and international affairs in matters of migration, national security and the economy, Britain must stay strong and united — and take a lead in the world to defend our interests.

3 The world's great meritocracy
For too many people, where you end up in life is still determined by where you were born and to whom. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their talents and hard work, whoever you are and wherever you are from.

4 A restored contract between the generations
We need to respond to the reality of an ageing society, giving people security in old age and caring for those with long-term health conditions, while making sure we are fair to younger generations.

5 Prosperity and security in a digital age
For the sake of our economy and our society, we need to harness the power of fast-changing technology, while ensuring that our security and personal privacy — and the welfare of children and younger people — are protected.

Splendid Isolation

Stefanie Bolzen

Theresa May nennt das Tory-Parteiprogramm ein Porträt Großbritanniens nach dem Brexit.

May hat die Einwanderung als ein Grundproblem definiert, das den sozialen Zusammenhalt unterminiert. Deshalb wird sie die Beschäftigungsbedingungen für ausländische Arbeitnehmer in Zukunft schwer machen.

Für den Moment betrifft diese Regelung nur Nicht-EU-Bürger. Aber die Uhr tickt. Am 30. März 2019
werden auch die EU-Ausländer voraussichtlich nur noch einfache Ausländer sein. Dann gehen britische Bürger endgültig vor.

May wird das Reich in eine neue Richtung führen, mit harter nationalistischer Rhetorik.

Ich will nicht in einem ausländerfeindlichen Königreich wohnen.

European Maritime Day 2017

Poole, UK, May 18-19, 2017

European Maritime Day is the annual meeting point for Europe's maritime community to network, discuss and forge joint action.

The Future of our Seas

Karmenu Vella

Welcome to European Maritime Day 2017. As it does every year, this conference brings together Europe's maritime community to exchange ideas and forge partnerships needed for the blue economy.
From maritime spatial planning to the fight against illegal fishing, ocean mapping to marine science, habitat conservation to regional strategies, our collective initiatives have transformed the way Europe goes about the maritime business.

This year's theme introduces corporate responsibility as one of the pivotal aspects of sustainability. It therefore strives to secure commitment not just from governments and NGOs but also from business leaders all over the world.

Welcome to Poole

Janet Walton

Poole is proud to be the host of the prestigious European Maritime Day conference this year. The program for the conference at Lighthouse Poole is extensive. In support of European Maritime Day, Poole has created an interesting and diverse business program to enable its local and regional businesses to be part of the event and maximize the opportunities for the region.

AR Janet is a Conservative councillor and Leader of the Council, Borough of Poole. I have worked in close coordination with her since 2014.

2017 May 18

Is Trump Toast?

David Remnick

Donald Trump came to the presidency skilled in the art of deceit. More than forty years ago, Roy Cohn, who lived for decades under various indictments for bribery, extortion, and other sins, and yet always managed to escape conviction, instructed the ambitious young man in the dark arts.

Trump the businessman was spurned by the New York business community less for his cartoonish flamboyance than for his dishonesty and meanness of character. He stiffed contractors and workers, screwed creditors, violated casino regulations, promoted scams, and bragged of charitable contributions he never made.

In the past two weeks, a presidency of ideological meanness and unsurpassing incompetence has moved on. The usual comparison is with the Nixon presidency in the Watergate era.

Nixon aide Roger Stone was a political mentor to Trump. Roy Cohn introduced Stone to Trump, and Stone helped Trump see the political advantage in many sleazy tactics and alliances. Since then, Trump has been the focus of investigations on housing discrimination, bribery, corruption, dealings with the mob, misleading earnings reports, fraud, and improper campaign contributions.

The Trump presidency may well end before 2021.

The 25th Amendment

Ross Douthat

The US presidency is not just another office. Donald Trump has charisma, cunning, an instinct for the jugular, a common touch, and a certain creativity. But they are not enough.

The presidency now has kinglike qualities, and we have a child upon the throne. It is a child who blurts out classified information in order to impress distinguished visitors or who asks the head of the FBI why the rules cannot be suspended for his friend and ally. A child also cannot really commit high crimes and misdemeanors.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution allows for the removal of the president if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office and (should the president contest his own removal) a two-thirds vote by Congress confirms the judgment.

I respectfully ask leading Republicans to reconsider their support for Trump.

Eurasian eagle owl
David Tipling

Eurasian eagle owl
"Wenn die Philosophie ihr Grau in Grau malt, dann ist eine Gestalt des Lebens alt geworden
.. die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug
G.W.F. Hegel

Trump in Oval Office
Die Welt
In Washington fällt das
Wort Impeachment

Marty Caine
Poole protest vote
election candidate
Marty Caine

One Belt One Road

Fanged Noumena
Fanged Noumena
Nick Land
Collected Writings
1987 — 2007



2017 May 17

Republican Paralysis

Edward Luce

Most people know Donald Trump is unfit to be commander-in-chief. But no elected Republican has dared to act. Over a quarter of Americans are diehard Trump supporters.

Trump draws power from alternative narratives. Whenever the elites express outrage at his actions, his supporters take pleasure in their anguish. Trump is delivering on what he promised.

Republicans may bide their time until midterm elections. If polls were held today Republicans would lose control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate. Then they would act.

Republicans stand for national security and the moral fiber of American leadership. Trump is tearing up those principles before their eyes. They must hold him to account.


Daniel W. Drezner

Donald Trump improvises, he thinks on his feet. It sounds like he blurted out national security secrets because he was bragging.

Trump got what he shared from an intelligence report. This is probably going to affect the way the US intelligence community does things like putting together briefing memos and so forth. You can see why they would be incentivized to say as little about sources and methods as possible.

If the Washington Post story is accurate, Trump gave information where it would be easy to divine where the source came from. So if you are an intelligence agency, and you want to provide information to the president, you have to be worried that if you got information from a sole source, he then might just blurt something out and burn that source.

Trump has committed a series of gaffes and own goals.

Trump: Let Flynn Go

The New York Times

President Trump asked FBI director James Comey to shut down the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The request is documented in a memo Comey wrote shortly after an Oval Office meeting that took place the day after Flynn resigned in February. Such FBI memos are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

According to the memo, the president told Comey: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."

House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz demanded that the FBI turn over all "memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings" of discussions between Trump and Comey.

AR More blood — the hunt is on.


Daily Beast

Report: Israel Was Source of Secret Trump Intel
McMaster: Trump Didnt Even Know Where Info Came From
McCain: Trump Scandal Has Hit 'Watergate Size'

2017 May 16

White House Chaos

The Washington Post

This time it did not even take 24 hours for Donald Trump to throw his staffers under the bus and contradict their denials.

The president revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during an Oval Office meeting last week, potentially endangering a coveted intelligence asset, compromising a crucial alliance, and undermining the war effort against Daesh.

After The Post broke the story, senior White House aides quickly denied it. Then, on Twitter this morning, Trump essentially acknowledged that our reporting is accurate.

AR The Post smells blood and strikes a pose.

Merkron Drive EZ Motor

The Times

French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel agree on a reconstruction of Europe. They say they are ready to change the EU treaties to strengthen the EZ.

Macron: "In the past the subject of treaty change was a French taboo. That will no longer be the case. What the eurozone needs is an investment policy. We have to introduce new, fresh money as a budget. That requires convergence rules, real structural reforms .. That is the goal of the joint road map we are working on."

Merkel: "We are at a moment where people are looking tentatively at the European Union and realising it does us a great deal of good, it is important .. we should use this moment to push forward the strengthening of Europe."

Macron: "The French agenda will be an agenda of reform in the coming months, in economic, social, and educational terms — not because Europe requests it, but because France needs it."

Germany On Brexit

Jeremy Cliffe

There are two Germanys. One is familiar to Britain: the efficient, sober place where they make the cars and the dishwashers. These Germans exhibit a pragmatism born of a seafaring past. For centuries the Hanseatic League had trading posts in London and in towns all along eastern England. This is the Germany with which Britain can do business.

There is another Germany. If the first is the Germany of seas, the second is the Germany of rivers. It is a romantic land of dense forests and dark past traumas. It is continental and bleeds into bordering countries. This is the Germany where many families have collective memories of oppression and flight. For this Germany, Europe is about more than trade.

The two Germanys are often in tension, and Angela Merkel bears traces of both sides. The chancellor has Hanseatic family roots. She thinks that national governments, not the European Commission, should call the shots in the EU. Yet she also embodies the Germany of rivers. Merkel grew up behind the Iron Curtain and bridles at fences and walls.

Brexit has aligned the two Germanys: The Germany of rivers wants a clean Brexit; the Germany of seas mourns the loss but essentially agrees. German interests once served by a closer relationship with London now depend on the cohesion of the single market. The British who lost their way must learn there is no deal better than membership.

EU Defense Fund

Financial Times

Brussels plans to spend EU funds for military purposes. A proposed European Defense Fund would finance the development of prototype military kit such as drones, robots, and cyber defence technology. The European Commission will ask member states and MEPs to back the plans.

France and Germany believe Brexit will let them deepen EU military activities. EU-27 members will be asked to pool military spending to reinforce anti-terror defenses and external borders. The new fund raises pressure on Brussels to make up an annual budget shortfall of €10 billion after Brexit.

Under EU law, the EU budget cannot be used to fund military operations. Brussels says it can legally set up a fund tapping the EU budget to develop high-tech military prototypes. The European Commission believes the fund could spend €500 million per year on research from 2020.

AR Good plan — pity UK out of it.

2017 May 15

Silk Road Spirit

Xi Jinping

More than 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, driven by a desire for friendship, opened the overland and maritime Silk Roads and thus started a great era of exchanges among civilizations.

Today, we gather here to renew the Silk Road spirit and discuss the Belt and Road development for international cooperation. This is both a continuation of our shared legacy and a right choice for the future.

We are at a fresh starting point, ready to embark on a new journey together. So long as we press ahead with a common vision without back-pedaling or standing still, we will achieve greater connectivity and benefit from each other's development.

Belt and Road initiative

Economic growth is not on solid ground. Economic globalization is encountering some headwinds. Development has become more uneven, not to mention the other challenges that overshadow the world economy, such as wars, conflicts, terrorism, and a massive flow of refugees and migrants.

Confronted by these challenges, many countries are pondering the way forward. In a world of growing interdependence and challenges, no country can tackle all the challenges or solve global problems on its own.

Swan geese can fly far and safely through winds and storms because they move in flocks and help each other as a team. The best way to meet challenges and achieve better development is through cooperation.

The Belt and Road initiative is the project of the century and will add splendor to human civilization.


Andy Beckett

Accelerationists say computer technology and global capitalism should be massively sped up and intensified. They favor robots and cyborgs. A central figure of accelerationism is British philosopher Nick Land.

Land has published prolifically on the internet about the obsolescence of western democracy. He has also written approvingly about human biodiversity, capitalistic human sorting, and the inevitable disintegration of the human species as AI improves. Accelerationism is not about restraint.

Land taught philosophy at the University of Warwick. He wrote in 1992 that capitalism had always been held back by politics and saw civilization accelerating toward an apocalypse. He said he worked in the field of The Collapse of Western Civilization Studies.

In 1995, Land and others founded the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU). Initially based in the Warwick philosophy department, it later moved to a room above a shop in Leamington Spa. Its members remain attached to the idea that it became a kind of group mind. Even inside the Warwick philosophy department, its disdain for standard academic practice became an issue.

Early in the new millennium, after a breakdown, Land left Britain. He now lives in Shanghai. In a 2004 article, he described the modern Chinese fusion of Marxism and capitalism as the greatest political engine of social and economic development the world has ever known.

Mind and Body

Riccardo Manzotti

You are the subject.

You are not your body. The body is part of your experience, just as things in the world outside are part of your experience. Both are you.

At every moment, you are an experience identical with an object that is causally affecting your body. You are the thing that has your experience. You experience those objects.

A subject is a combination of objects relative to your body. To be a subject is to experience objects relative to your body. We each experience a world that differs from what others experience.

The self is the world.

AR This is the position I worked out in Mindworlds.

2017 May 14

Eurovision 2017

Euan Ferguson

Eurovision 2017 was won for Portugal by Salvador Sobral.
The song was immensely, stoppingly surprising, beautiful.
Hopes for the "epic sax guy" of Moldova were doomed.
Romania ran with a phenomenal mix of yodelling meets rap.
Hungary came on with a lovely mix of hip-hop and gypsy.
Azerbaijan had many high mad hopes for a dreadful mélange.
Lucie Jones sang well for the UK and garnered many votes.
Denmark went for an Aussie who is still learning the language.
Ukraine gyrated around a giant heavy metal head.
Germany went with a sweet but unmemorable piece.

Shot, Kicked, Suffering

Gina Miller

My father was a socialist. I see myself as a conscious capitalist. You have to respect what money and success gives you, then have the responsibility that goes with that. My strength of character is a privilege. I can do anything to survive.

I expected people to be nasty. I didn't expect people to say I wasn't even human, that I was a primate, and that I should be beheaded and shot. Other people took out Facebook campaigns to gang-rape me because that's what black bitches deserve. The one repeated over and over is that I should be the second Jo Cox. Now I have security all around my home.

People started sending me letters about what was happening. This young Polish woman who was standing at a bus stop up north was kicked to the ground. A grandmother said her grandson won't go to school because he's been told he's a monkey and he should get back home. I get these all the time now, and they are saying I need to be their voice.

A hard-right element in the Conservative party is gaining more and more power. Their agenda is quite simply low tax, low regulation, low social spending. They make lots of money for themselves and watch everybody else suffering.


Ian McEwan

Angry old men are shaping the future of the country against the inclinations of its youth. By 2019 the country could be in a receptive mood: 2.5 million over-18-year-olds, freshly franchised and mostly remainers; 1.5 million oldsters, mostly Brexiters, freshly in their graves.

Brexit has stirred something not heroic or celebratory or generous in the nation, but instead has coaxed into the light from some dark, damp places the lowest human impulses, from the small-minded to the mean-spirited to the murderous.

2017 May 13

Trappist Sounds

Joshua Sokol

The star TRAPPIST-1 is circled by seven planets about the size of Earth. The clockwork of the star system is the most complex case yet of a resonant chain, where the years of each orbiting body relate to one another as simple ratios. For every 8 times the innermost world races through its orbit, the next planet goes around roughly 5 times, the next one after that orbits 3 times, and the next one 2 times. And so on.

Matt Russo, Daniel Tamayo, and Andrew Santaguida have translated their intricate dance into a musical composition — Trappist Sounds (1:54).

The seventh planet, h, orbits about once every 3 weeks. Sped up some 200 million times and expressed in sound waves, that frequency is a C note. From there, the known ratios between planets determine every other signature note. Together the notes form a major ninth chord. The team added drumbeats for whenever an inner planet overtakes an outer neighbor, marking close gravitational interactions among the planets.

Quantum Vacuum

Frank Wilczek

Quantum particles are bubbles of froth kicked up by underlying fields. The fields fluctuate in intensity and direction. The average value of the electromagnetic field in a vacuum is zero, but the average value of its square is not, so the energy density in an EM field is infinite.

Quantum fluctuations are virtual particles or zero-point motion. They involve an infinite amount of energy. But only changes in energy are observable, and confirm predictions.

Gravity responds to all kinds of energy. So the infinite energy density associated with the activity of quantum fields is a problem. Experiments show the gravitational pull of the vacuum is quite small.

The measured density of the vacuum is dark energy. For fields associated with bosons the energy density is positive infinity, while for fields associated with fermions the energy density is negative infinity. The infinities can cancel in supersymmetric theories.

In addition to fluctuating fields, the vacuum contains condensates, such as the Higgs condensate, which should also weigh something. Perhaps the measured level of dark energy is an anthropic feature of our corner of the multiverse. I hope we find a better story.

AR I like loop quantum gravity — see Rovelli.

Brexit Battlebus

Trump et al.
Russian Foreign Ministry
White House, Wednesday:
Trump with Sergey Lavrov
and Sergey Kislyak

Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin: "We can afford
to go to Mars .. We must
 focus our limited resources
on only those things that
are really necessary ..
Get your ass to Mars!"



2017 May 12

Brexit Britain

William Davies

Theresa May and the Conservatives are on course for a landslide victory.

May speaks as if Britain is a nation united, aside from the divisive forces of party politics and liberal elites seeking to thwart the will of the people. She claims her opponents are merely playing political games and stresses the need for strong and stable leadership — a classic populist trope.

Her campaign message is simple and strong. A campaign video sees her speaking solemnly in front of a Union Jack in a dimly lit room as if announcing a new war, using the majestic plural variously to mean her party, her government, or all true Brits. The viewer is blinded by her majesty.

If Brexit goes bad, she and her party will be the rock in the storm.

AR FUK v EUSSR — Brexit is Battle of Britain 2.

Another Tweet Too Far

Jennifer Rubin

Trump tweet: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

The Republican dam must break. The party once united by political thought and respect for civic virtue has adopted an unscrupulous leader for the sake of holding power. Republicans defend ignorance, bigotry, dishonesty, and ineptitude for the sake of a top marginal tax rate of 28% — this seems shockingly tribalistic.

Trump says he fired James Comey because he decided Russian interference in the election was fake news. The entire intelligence community confirms the interference and members of both parties acknowledge it. Republicans are refusing to concede that bullying and firing the FBI director is impeachable conduct.

We are not surprised that the president thinks he can shut down an investigation if he dislikes the way it is going. We are surprised that so many conservatives are letting tribal loyalty trump the truth. We hope the dam breaks soon.

AR Terminate the Terminator — asap.

Frightful Five

Farhad Manjoo

A handful of American technology companies now dominates much of the global economy. The Frightful Five — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google — are among the most valuable companies on the planet, collectively worth trillions. Apple reached $800 billion in market cap this week, and the others may not be far behind.

A better way to appreciate the power of these five might be to examine the role each of them plays in your own life, and the grip each holds on your psyche. Last week I came up with a fun game: If an evil monarch forced you to abandon each of the Frightful Five, in which order would you do so, and how much would your life deteriorate as a result?

AR The real story of our time — Globorg (ppsx, 6.4 MB).

2017 May 11


The Washington Post

After the president fired James Comey, the cloud hanging over the White House got bigger and darker. Donald Trump looks like he does not want to get to the bottom of Russian interference in the US election and the potential wrongdoing of his own staffers.

POTUS 45 has surrounded himself with sycophants and amateurs. They were caught off guard by the blowback. Senate investigators have asked the Treasury Department criminal investigation division for any relevant financial information related to Trump and his team.

Terminating Comey will only lead to more questions about Russia. Hours later Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak, implicated by the FBI in the Michael Flynn investigation.

The FBI fears the Russia investigation might now be upended. Trump has hired a Washington law firm to deny that he has connections to Russia. This will give new momentum to Democratic calls for a special prosecutor.


Deborah Cohen

Consumption is as much about state intervention as about individuals or markets. For a consumer society to flourish, goods have to be invited in. The drive for accumulation is made a virtue.

Marxists said commodity fetishism put a price on the products of labor and alienated things from their makers. In 1958, J.K. Galbraith said consumerism had sapped people of their commitment to the public good.

State spending is part of the story of consumption. Crucial to postwar affluence in Europe and the United States was sharply increasing public spending. Social democracy spurred on consumerism.

Consumption is a juggernaut. We can lament the volume of stuff we purchase, yet much of our waste is from habits that have little to do with individual motives or morality.


New Scientist

Researchers are exploring the tree of life to consider where, when, and why consciousness emerged.

Anil Seth says we can infer the evolutionary history of consciousness by comparing animals alive today and working back to their common ancestor. As we observe signs of consciousness in other animals, we can gradually refine our notion of what we are talking about.

Jesse Prinz says consciousness is largely about perception and emotion. These basic components of conscious experience could be widespread, even in animals that lack our mental sophistication and brainpower.

Bjørn Grinde finds that mammals, birds, and reptiles all show signs of emotional responses, while fish and amphibians do not. The brains of higher vertebrates show that the ability to assign value to an experience arose around 300 million years ago in their common ancestor. Consciousness is slow and energy intensive, and can only do one thing at a time, so perhaps it emerged just once.

Bruno van Swinderen looked at selective attention. He trained fruit flies to walk on a trackball in front of a virtual scene. By rotating the trackball, the flies could choose which of two objects to attend to. When a fly attended to an object, its brain generated specific frequencies recorded by probes. A dynamic window of attention that moved around and suppressed competing objects marked the dawn of consciousness. The animals that pay attention also need to sleep and include vertebrates, insects, crustaceans, and octopuses.

Michael Graziano says selective attention is about data handling. An animal needs a mental model of attention much as it needs a mental model of its body. This model is responsible for our conscious awareness of the world. Perhaps such sophistication is only found in vertebrates.

Eva Jablonka believes unlimited associative learning is a marker for the origin of consciousness. This requires selective attention, binding sensations into a perception, performing compound action patterns, and distinguishing between self and environment. Such learning is widespread in the animal kingdom and may have evolved about half a billion years ago.

2017 May 10


Guy Verhofstadt

I believe that a Brexit deal remains more likely than unlikely. There is more that unites the two sides than separates them. A no-deal scenario would be a disaster for all.

An early challenge will be to agree on the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa. The complexities at stake include residency, healthcare, social security, and non-discrimination. All of these rights will need a mutually agreed enforcement mechanism.

The debate about a financial settlement is likely to be complex and heated. The EU will not seek to punish the UK, but it is only fair that the UK agrees to pay its share of outstanding commitments and liabilities. It would be wrong for EU taxpayers to be asked to pay it.

The third priority is a solution to protect the Good Friday Agreement. This may ultimately require a special status for Northern Ireland. Many Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland will continue to enjoy rights as EU passport holders.

The EU and the UK should aim for a future association agreement that goes beyond trade to include security and defence cooperation. Discussions about a future partnership can only start when there is clarity about how the existing relationship is dissolved.

I am confident the gulf between the EU and the UK government can be bridged. Achieving this will require cool heads. Failure would not be in the interests of either side.

AR Good start

Pink Floyd
Tim P Whitby/Getty Images
Pink Floyd
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Pink Floyd
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP
Pink Floyd
Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains
V&A Museum, London, 2017-05-13 — 2017-10-01

Victory Day
Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP
Red Square, Victory Day:
APC in Arctic camo

Nietzsche on breeding,
Christianity and Jews

Poole Bay bathing season
has begun but the
sea is still chilly

Ne nous quittez pas!
Die Welt

Liebe Franzosen,
wir brauchen euch
— eine politische

World Naked Gardening Day
World Naked Gardening Day

UK 1P State
UK Local Elections

Conservative +558
Labour -320
Lib Dem -37
UKIP -114
Other -107

AR England is blue.

"These negotiations are
difficult enough as they are.
If we start arguing before they
even begin, they will become
impossible. [We] need today
discretion, moderation,
mutual respect, and a
maximum of goodwill."
Donald Tusk

Paris Match


La France et le franc

Marine Le Pen has dropped
her manifesto pledge to quit
the euro and restore the franc.
Pundits feared an instant
30% devaluation.

Blame Game

Commons European scrutiny
committee chair Sir Bill Cash
is sure Germany and the EU are
seeking to undermine Theresa
May: "What they are doing is
trying to exploit a new kind
of project fear."

Tim Berners-Lee wins
Axel Springer Award

Tony Blair
Daily Mirror
Tony Blair: "What's happening
in Britain worries me .. I know
the moment I stick my head
out the door I'll get a bucket
of wotsit poured all over
me, but I really do feel
passionate about this."


2017 May 9

Airbus A400M

RAF Atlas Success

The UK Ministry of Defence says the key contractual milestone has been met following the handing over of its seventh Airbus A400M airlifter. The RAF has four A400M Atlas aircraft in service and three undergoing installation and testing of a defensive subsystem. The RAF A400M fleet is achieving excellent in-service results, with a mission success rate in excess of 90%.

Vernichtendes Zeugnis

Das Bundesverteidigungsministerium sieht die militärische Einsatzfähigkeit des Transportflugzeugs A400M wegen anhaltender technischer Probleme und der Vertragsquerelen mit dem Hersteller Airbus gefährdet. Airbus werde nicht die nötigen Investitionen tätigen, um erforderliche Nachbesserungen am A400M auf den Weg zu bringen, schreibt das Ministerium.

AR Kognitive Dissonanz

The Threat

Ross Anderson

We seem to have no privacy. The intelligence agencies can access just about everything. This is the threat.

The Internet of Things affects safety. In the old days, car safety was about hardware. Now you get software updates in one car after another. A threat to cause millions of cars in America to turn right and accelerate sharply into the nearest building, bringing traffic to a standstill in all American cities, is an interesting weapon.

The Internet brings three steps forward and one step back. The industry is rather bad at recognizing the backward steps. It tends to hope that other people will clean up its messes.

The UK government made a serious mistake when it let GCHQ break into Belgacom in order to wiretap the European Commission. That seriously annoyed the Eurocrats. There are hazards involved in lowering the threshold for conflict.

In elections we have seen the progressive adoption of social media techniques and messaging. In the Scottish referendum in 2014, nationalists hounded and abused people in favor of remaining in the UK. We saw the same thing in the Brexit referendum in the UK.

These are problems we shall be wrestling with for the next decade.

AR Cherries picked from an Edge conversation.

2017 May 8

EZ Choice

Wolfgang Münchau

The landslide victory of Emmanuel Macron gives Europe hope. France faced a clear choice between EZ reform or quitting. This election was about the future of France in Europe.

France and Germany have similar labor productivity and have had similar economic performance since 2000. But Macron will need to get French debt down from 100% of GDP to the EU target of 60%, as Germany will by 2020. Fortunately, the EZ economy is in a mild cyclical upswing.

AR EZ union will be a home run for Western ideals.

Ten Errors

Stephan-Götz Richter

Brextremists make ten strategic miscalculations:

1 The UK is not so united: The people of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland can only dream of a similar level of cohesion on Brexit within the UK as in the EU-27.

2 Conservatives have always sought to divide and conquer Europe. But the frontal attack on Poles in the UK last summer offended Poland, a potential ally against the EU.

3 Brextremists take pride in misjudging EU realities from pure arrogance. Their misunderstanding and contempt for the EU met its nemesis in EU-27 unity on Brexit.

4 Their dream of a special deal between Theresa May and Angela Merkel was always a long shot. Merkel is far too cautious to let the UK start picking cherries.

5 They say the UK is in much better economic shape than the EZ. But the UK economic outlook is stormy, while the much maligned EZ economy is recovering.

6 Brextremists failed to see that Brexit would weld the EU together. Brexit is a gift from the gods to the EU, which lacked a deterrent against leaving until now.

7 The threat of a hard Brexit is a spectacular own goal. A Brexit with no agreement hurts first and foremost the UK.

8 Most EU members think the EU is stronger with the UK. They hope the UK will relent and see reason. Germans want allies and have no desire to appease Brextremists.

9 Theresa May says EU-27 unanimity on Brexit increases uncertainty and instability for the UK. She sounds like Marine Le Pen.

10 Brextremists are wrong to imagine that after the French and German elections resistance to UK demands will collapse and the UK will win.

AR A partisan perspective, but some hits.

2017 May 7

Emmanuel Macron président de la République

Paris Match

AR Big relief French voters have seen reason.

The French Are Better

Theodore Dalrymple

France is the most visited country in the world. It is well administered, its roads are among the best in the world, its public transport systems are incomparable, and it is clean.

Every small town in France has at least one independent bookshop. One cannot attribute the high cultural level in France to bookshops alone, but at the least they help to maintain it. The attention to detail in shops is a sharp contrast with Britain. All this adds to the enjoyment of life.

France has its problems, too. Its immigrant banlieues are frightful battery farms of resentment, trafficking, and delinquency. Its educational system has deteriorated and its modern architecture is among the worst in the world. Its labour laws, social charges, regulations, and legal bias inhibit small businesses and seem to reward idleness.

The rigidity of the labour market leads to higher unemployment, but the difficulty of getting rid of an employee gives the employer an incentive to train him to be more efficient. And the French are efficient: far fewer of them working far fewer hours produce at least as much as the British.

The French, like us all, have their vices. They are the most abominable hypocrites about money. They talk equality and exude avarice and envy. Their snobbery is as bad as ours. But we should not exaggerate their woes, the better to avoid confronting our own.

2017 May 6

Quantum Thermodynamics

Natalie Wolchover

Quantum information theorists say information is physical. When energy spreads from hot objects to cold ones, particles become entangled and information spreads between them. Since information is conserved, if entropy reflects an information snapshot of a system, the universe can evolve yet always have a global entropy of zero.

Imagine a big bath of particles that possess energy and angular momentum. This bath is coupled to a weight, for energy, and a turntable, for angular momentum. Normally, to do work you need hot and cold reservoirs. But a reservoir containing multiple conserved quantities follows different rules.

In the big bath system, you can trade between conserved quantities like energy and angular momentum. The weight can rise as the turntable slows, or vice versa, using the qubits describing the energy and rotation states as a currency. Trading conserved quantities like this is a new idea.

AR Entropy is obviously relative to a snapshot — this is the good part of QBism.

Quantum Bayesianism

Christopher Fuchs

The wavefunction of a system encodes the probabilities for the outcomes of any measurements an observer might perform on it. The wavefunction probabilities are Bayesian and are updated as new data come to light. The wavefunction describes the observer's perspective.

Quantum Bayesianism solves many mysteries. Collapse of the wavefunction is simply the observer updating a data snapshot after making a measurement. Spooky action at a distance also reflects the update of a snapshot. QBism treats the wavefunction as a description of a snapshot.

AR This is my take on QBism — Fuchs' take is mostly nonsense, imho.

2017 May 5

European Crisis

Ross Douthat

In Europe, recent trends have elevated an educated upper class while separating it from a declining and fragmenting working class. A growing immigrant population serves this upper class while seeming to compete with downscale natives for jobs, housing, and social benefits.

Europe is stuck with a flawed experiment in political economy, a common currency without a common fiscal policy or a central political authority to claim legitimacy. The damage that this combination has done to the economies of Southern Europe is striking and severe.

Europe has sub-replacement fertility. A continent of historic states without a strong assimilative tradition is attempting to integrate an immigrant population that differs dramatically from its natives. Part of this immigrant population is tempted by jihadist ideologies.

European governance has a democratic deficit. The EU ruling class relies on illiberal methods to maintain the peace. Elite EU politics seems to believe that the important thing is to concentrate every effort on delegitimizing and defeating critics rather than solving problems.

Right-wing populists are not outliers in an otherwise harmonious and liberal Europe. It is not right-wing authoritarians but the great and good of Brussels and Berlin who have shown consistent contempt for the popular will. The European Union has problems its leadership cannot or will not solve.

2017 May 4

L'euro et la peur

Paris Match

Marine Le Pen: "L'euro, c'est la monnaie des banquiers, ce n'est pas la monnaie du peuple .. c'est la raison pour laquelle il faut que l'on arrive à s'arracher à cette monnaie .. les Français auront une monnaie dans leur portefeuille, une monnaie qui permettra de retrouver un niveau adapté de notre économie et de partir à la conquête du monde."

Emmanuel Macron: "Une grande entreprise ne pourra pas payer en euros d'un côté et payer ses salariés de l'autre en francs. Ca n'a jamais existé, madame Le Pen. C'est du grand n'importe quoi."

Le Pen: "L'économie britannique ne s'est jamais aussi bien portée que depuis que les Britanniques ont décidé de reprendre leur liberté."

Macron: "La grande peur, qui la manipule depuis le début? C'est vous. Qui joue sur les peurs? C'est vous. La grande prêtresse de la peur, elle est en face de moi."


Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

In a busy life, our activity separates us from our deeper selves. With our smartphones and computer screens, we often remain caught on the surface of our lives, drowning in soulless materialism.

Over the years I have developed a number of simple practices that bring together action and a quality of mindfulness that can nourish our lives in hidden ways. Activities like mindful walking or cooking with love and attention can reconnect us with life in its beauty and wonder. One of these practices is cleaning.

The art of cleaning is a simple spiritual activity that is often overlooked. Cleaning a table, dusting a shelf, I give attention and love, because everything responds to love and care. When I clean I am also caring for what is around me, knowing that it, too, needs to be loved.

I love to clean. In cleaning my living space I am clearing up debris that clutters our life more than we realize. Just as ritual bathing prepares the worshipper, or just as we may take off our shoes at the entrance to a temple or mosque, cleaning is an important preparation for living with the sacred in our daily life.

We need to learn how to clear up after ourselves. To give space to the divine, to return to the sacred, we need to relearn how to live lightly, to leave as little debris behind us as we can.

2017 May 3


The Times

The EU will bar Theresa May from negotiating Brexit with other EU leaders. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told her that under the EU mandate European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier would run the talks on behalf of the EU.

Some EU figures seem to think talking with UK Brexit minister David Davis is pointless. They could substitute EU deputy negotiator Sabine Weyand for Barnier to give May a graceful way out.

New bottom line: The EU is ready to up the UK Brexit bill to €100 billion.

AR Either the tone of the proceedings improves or the UK is doomed.

Bloody Difficult

The Guardian

Theresa May says Jean-Claude Juncker will be the next person to find she can be a "bloody difficult woman" as cabinet frustration over the Brexit negotiations mounts.

AR Either this is just posturing for voters or the UK is doomed.


New Statesman

Logic says those tasked with delivering Brexit should be those who supported the ludicrous idea in the first place. But almost everyone who understood international trade backed Remain. So the ministers now delivering Brexit are:

Liam Fox — tours the world as trade secretary to advertise how many principles Britain will flog off in order to sign trade deals, and motivates British business by calling it fat and lazy.

David Davis — has prior ministerial experience of the EU, but he has no time for doubts about a hard Brexit, and is relaxed about not assessing the effects of a Brexit with no deal.

Boris Johnson — decided to back Leave after writing one column for Brexit and one for Brussels, and deciding which one he preferred, mistaking good rhetoric for good government.

AR Either May accepts harder logic or the UK is doomed.

2017 May 2

German Focus

Peter Müller

Theresa May enjoyed a "very constructive meeting" with Jean-Claude Juncker, said a UK government spokesman. But Juncker later told Angela Merkel that May lives in another galaxy. Merkel then said in the Bundestag that London was under illusions about Brexit negotiations.

The EU plans to present a Brexit bill of around €60 billion, but May said the UK does not have to pay a cent. She also demanded an immediate start to talks on a future trade deal. The EU first wants to sort out the bill and clarify the future rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Last week the British cited the purdah rule to delay the EU budget. The rule says that during an election campaign a UK government cannot enter into any financial obligations that would bind its successors. Perhaps the EU should postpone all talks until after June 8.

British Fantasy

UK Prime Minister, 2019 (not)

Despite the unstinting efforts of my government, the UK and the EU have been unable to reach an agreement. I must warn you that difficult times lie ahead. There will be severe disruption to trade and travel for an extended period of time, and this could lead to a serious recession. Britain has made a democratic decision to leave the EU, but the EU has proved unwilling to accept that decision and negotiate a fair deal. Instead, it is determined to punish the UK.

Some European politicians seem to believe that they can humiliate Britain and bend the country to their will. Clearly, they have no knowledge of the history or nature of the British people. A country that has defeated Hitler, the Kaiser, Napoleon, and the Spanish Armada has no reason to fear the bureaucrats of Brussels, or the governments of Malta and Slovakia —

   This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
   This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
   This other Eden, demi-paradise,
   This fortress built by Nature for herself
   Against infection and the hand of war,
   This happy breed of men, this little world,
   This precious stone set in the silver sea,
   Which serves it in the office of a wall
   Or as a moat defensive to a house,
   Against the envy of less happier lands,—
   This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
   — William Shakespeare

(with thanks to Gideon Rachman)

French Philosophy

Die Zeit

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says France could exit from the EU if it does not reform. He said he has defended European ideas and policies, but he has to listen to people who are now extremely angry and impatient. He said he would seek to make fundamental reforms to the EU and the European project, and added that it would be fraud if he let the EU remain as is.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has backed off from her promised Frexit. She now says she would favor a soft exit — and only after several months of talks with European partners.

AR My favored scenario: EU heads off both Frexit and Brexit with commitment to deep reforms.

2017 May 1


Jessica T. Mathews

Asia is home to 4.4 billion people. China became the world's largest economy (measured by PPP) in 2014. Its growth has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, financed the US deficit, and let China massively increase military spending.

President Xi Jinping has built public support for his view that China is claiming its rightful place as a world power after more than a century of foreign humiliation. Communist Party legitimacy no longer rests on ideology but on economic growth. Xi has launched a vigorous campaign against elite corruption, conveniently jailing many of his political opponents.

India is growing faster than China but is still far behind. Culturally and politically, India is facing west. Its relations with the US have been growing steadily closer since 2000. The success of Indian immigrants in the US is a powerful factor.

India, China, and Japan are three of the world’s four largest economies, by PPP. Though today the US and the EU together remain substantially larger, their ability to impose order on the world is not what it once was. But the dominance of the West is driven as much by values and ideas as by economic and military power.

President Trump took the US out of the TPP, which did not include China. A few weeks later, China sent officials to a meeting of the remaining TPP members to discuss a new trade regime around China, and not the US. Trump has made cuts to the State Department, to foreign aid, and to most international institutions and programs.

General James Mattis, 2013: "If you don't fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately."

AR The Hegelian Weltgeist returns to China.

Poole Bay

My beach, Mayday

Poole Conservative Association
chooses its election candidate

#EUCO: Unity in action: #EU27
adopt #Article50 Guidelines in
less than 15 minutes. #Brexit

Die EU bleibt hart

Minuteman III
USAF Global Strike Command
 launches Minuteman III ICBM
from Vandenberg AFB, CA

NK artillery
NK artillery

AR Target-rich environment
for a Warthog.


Poll finds 45% of UK voters
agree Britain was wrong
to vote to leave the EU,
43% said it was right,
12% don't know.

AR Urgent priority:
Keep options open.

Robert Pirsig
Camera Press
Robert Pirsig

"Der Unterschied zwischen
Vergangenheit, Gegenwart
und Zukunft ist für uns
Wissenschaftler eine
Illusion, wenn auch
eine hartnäckige
Albert Einstein

AR I think that view
of time is wrong.

Quantum chip in test rig

Spinor visualised as a vector
on a Möbius band: turning
thru a cycle inverts its sign.
This is both a model for
quantum spin and a step
toward hyper-complex

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron


2017 April 30

Trump: First 100 Days


The election of Donald Trump has caused a severe case of global geostrategic whiplash. The number of campaign promises that have morphed into presidential U-turns is staggering:

China — Trump said he would name China a currency manipulator, threatened a trade war, questioned the One China policy, and accused China of being soft on North Korea. After talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping, Trump reaffirmed the One China policy, praised Beijing for taking positive steps on North Korea, and said China is not manipulating its currency.

Egypt — Trump hit it off with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when they met. Sisi visited the US to deepen military cooperation, fight terror, revive his economy, and gain legitimacy.

Germany — Trump had said Angela Merkel made a catastrophic mistake on migrants, was as bad as Vladimir Putin, and was trying to take US business. Now Trump says the EU is wonderful and he is totally in favor of it. He said NATO was obsolete. Now he says it is not obsolete.

Iran — Trump planned to take a hard line toward Tehran. When Iran tested missiles, the harsh US reaction warned Tehran about US strategy on Iran. The Rouhani administration moderated its behavior. Iranians view Trump as erratic and hostile toward their republic.

Iraq — The battle to liberate Mosul shows Trump how hard it is to defeat Daesh extremists. Heavier US and Iraqi firepower has come at a high cost in civilian casualties. Trump had toyed with taking Iraqi oil. His administration has decisively shot down that notion.

Israel — Trump pledged to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, dismantle the Iran deal, reduce funding to the UN, and cut aid to the Palestinians. Yet he wanted to close a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli right wing still expects Trump to be a friend.

Mexico — Trump still has yet to meet Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto. Mexicans say they will not pay for the wall, but they fear Trump could impose taxes as payment. On NAFTA, if a good deal is not renegotiated, Mexico plans to walk away from the pact.

North Korea — The NK government says North Koreans are under imminent threat of US attack and uses this threat to justify its investment in weapons of mass destruction. A clash between Trump and Kim Jong Un is a recipe for disaster.

Russia — Trump wanted better US-Russian relations but Vladimir Putin says the level of trust on a working level has deteriorated. Congress is investigating allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential election.

Syria — Trump promised a plan to eliminate Daesh. He tried to ban Syrian refugees from entering the US. He was silent on the civil war, but after news of a chemical weapons attack in Idlib he suddenly fired dozens of Tomahawk missiles onto the Shayrat airbase.

Turkey — Trump has taken a softer tone on Turkey. Ankara responded positively to the Tomahawk strike. Trump congratulated president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his referendum success.

UK — Trump held hands with Theresa May at the White House in January. May wants a close bond for the sake of the special relationship as Britain prepares for a future after Brexit.

EU Hard Line

Financial Times

European leaders say Brextremists have completely unreal expectations of a swift trade deal between the UK and the EU. Over lunch on Saturday, EU leaders took less than a minute to adopt tough negotiating guidelines. 

Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier report a lack of realism in terms of sequencing and timelines from their talks in London and say the two sides are far apart. Donald Tusk: "Before discussing the future we have to sort out our past."

Tusk invited Barnier to hear other EU leaders. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte: "It is important that we get agreements as soon as possible on issues like the Irish border, the divorce bill, we are talking serious money. We have to talk about citizen's rights."

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble: "There is no free lunch. Britons must know that. We don't want to weaken Britain. But we also don't want that the rest of Europe is weakened. Britain should not have advantages after the exit that other countries don't have."

Belgian premier Charles Michel: "A Brexit for free is not possible. Maybe the British government will do its utmost to split the 27 nations and it is trap we need to avoid .. If you are no longer part of a club, it has consequences."

2017 April 29

NK Missile Fail


North Korea on Saturday launched a ballistic missile that blew up over land, says US Pacific Command. The missile crashed within NK territory near Pukchang.

US President Donald Trump tweeted: "North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!"

North Korea

Rex Tillerson

All options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table. Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.

The United States also would much prefer countries and people in question to own up to their lapses and correct their behavior themselves. But we will not hesitate to sanction third country entities and individuals supporting the DPRK's illegal activities.

For too long the international community has been reactive. The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it. We must prefer a negotiated solution to this problem, but we are committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.

My First 100 Days

Donald Trump

I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. Actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier. I do miss my old life. I like to work, but this is actually more work.

2017 April 28


Demis Hassabis

Intelligence can be viewed as a process that converts unstructured information into useful and actionable knowledge. The scientific promise of artificial intelligence (AI) is that we may be able to synthesize, automate, and optimize that process. 

At DeepMind, we developed the AlphaGo program that beat a top player at the game of Go. With
10^170 possible board configurations, Go is insoluble by brute-force methods. We used deep neural networks to build a learning system, and showed it thousands of strong amateur games. Then we had it play against different versions of itself thousands of times, learning from its mistakes and improving. More than 200 million people watched AlphaGo win its victory.

In the next few years, scientists and researchers using similar approaches will generate insights in a multitude of areas. AI is analogous to the Hubble telescope — a scientific tool that allows us to see farther and better understand the universe. AI can play a role in supporting experts by identifying patterns and sources that can escape human eyes alone. This collaboration between people and algorithms will propel scientific progress over the next few decades.

Physics and neuroscience are in some ways the most fundamental subjects. Between them they cover everything.

AR I agree — see my book Mindworlds.

2017 April 27

North Korea


US senators attended a meeting on North Korea at the White House. Members of both parties said they were reassured by the administration update.

Democrat Senator Chris Coons: "It was a sobering briefing, and an important opportunity for the entire Senate to hear the emerging plans of the Trump administration."

Republican Senator Bob Corker: "It was an OK briefing."

Korean War


The 1950-1953 Korean war killed some 2.7 million Koreans, 800,000 Chinese, and 33,000 Americans. Today President Trump says US patience with the NK nuclear and missile program has run out. Pyongyang responds with more bellicose rhetoric.

All Koreans know NK artillery batteries can hit Seoul if another war breaks out. The time from firing a shell to impact in the city is 45 seconds. Kim Jong Un has fired 66 missiles in tests, has gradually increased their range, and is working to miniaturize the NK nuclear arsenal to make warheads. An MRBM with a nuclear payload could hit South Korea or Japan.

The young man known in China as Fatty Kim the Third seems serious about being a nuclear power. In speeches, he mentions Korean reunification far more often than his father did. He could fire 600 chemically armed Scud missiles on all SK airports, train stations, and marine ports, and launch MRBMs with chemical warheads at Japan to hinder US reinforcements.

The US-SK 2015 war plan OPLAN 5015 includes attacks on NK nuclear and missile facilities and decapitation attacks against Kim Jong Un and the rest of the NK leadership. A pre-emptive strike against NK missiles or nuclear facilities would be unable to take out all the NK artillery front loaded near the border, but US-SK firepower would terminate the Kim dynasty.

Pentagon thinking is that it would be a 4-6 month conflict with high-intensity combat and many dead. In 1994, President Bill Clinton was advised that a war on the peninsula would likely result in 1 million dead, and nearly $1 trillion of economic damage.

2017 April 26

Robert Pirsig

The Times

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a tale of a father and son bonding, travelling on a motorcycle on a tour of western America. It discusses science and mysticism, mind and machine, and western enlightenment through reason versus eastern enlightenment through mysticism.

Pirsig was born in Minneapolis in 1928. His father was a law professor of German descent and his mother was Swedish. At age 9 Robert was assessed to have an IQ of 170 and at age 15 he entered university. He was expelled for failing grades: "Science could not teach me how to understand girls sitting in my class."

In 1946 he joined the army and served in Korea. Then he studied oriental philosophy in India. Back in Minnesota, he worked on a newspaper and met Nancy. They married in 1954 and had two sons. Pirsig wrote technical manuals, bought an old farm, and started teaching philosophy.

Pirsig went to study in Chicago, but it soured and he was given electroconvulsive shock treatment. Writing ZAMM was his salvation. After being turned down by 121 publishers, it was published in 1974. It sold 5 million copies. A sequel, Lila, appeared in 1991. Pirsig: "I felt that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was the journey out, and Lila was this trip back."

AR I loved ZAMM — one of the few books I've read twice.

2017 April 25

Google Books

James Somers

Google had a vision: All the books ever written could be as instantly accessible as web pages.

The project began in 2002 when Larry Page offered the University of Michigan a deal: Let us borrow all your books and we'll scan them for you. In just over a decade, after making deals with numerous library systems, Google had scanned about 25 million books, at a cost of $400 million.

Authors and publishers complained. They filed a class action lawsuit against Google on behalf of everyone with a US copyright interest in a book. Only about half the books published between 1923 and 1963 are in the public domain, and no one knows which half.

The Authors Guild agreed on a collective licensing regime for out-of-print books. Authors and publishers could opt out their books at any time. For the rest, Google would display and sell their books, but 63% of the revenues would go into escrow with a Book Rights Registry.

The agreement set the terms for a public utility to be deployed on terminals to local libraries nationwide. But many feared what had happened to the academic journal market: The Google Books price would be fair at first, then once libraries and universities were hooked it would rise. The Department of Justice said the settlement would give Google a monopoly.

Now Google has a database of 25 million books that no one is allowed to read.

Quantum Computing

Tom Simonite

Google is working on building a quantum chip that performs a calculation beyond the reach of a conventional computer. The chip will race a supercomputer to prove it.

Quantum chips crunch not bits but qubits. Researchers have so far demonstrated quantum computing with only small groups of qubits. Google will need a grid of 49 qubits for its "quantum supremacy" experiment, but its latest chip has only 6 qubits. Quantum processors would need to crunch many more than 50 qubits to do useful work.

The experiment could become a benchmark for a working quantum computer. It has already helped managers at Google see that the technology is on its way.

Quantum Mechanics

University of Vienna

Quantum mechanical rules work extremely well. But there are still open questions regarding the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Some scientists aim to develop alternative versions of the mathematical rules to gain new insight into the underlying reality.

In standard quantum mechanics, the rules use complex numbers. An alternative theory uses hyper-complex numbers, which are a generalization of complex numbers. Hyper-complex rules can replicate most of the predictions of the standard rules, but some operations that commute in standard quantum mechanics do not commute in a hyper-complex world.

A team tested for deviations from standard quantum mechanics predicted by hyper-complex rules. An interferometer allowed a photon to travel both ways around a loop at the same time. Their loop included a normal optical material and a specially designed metamaterial. The normal optical material slowed down the photons, whereas the metamaterial sped them up.

The rules of standard quantum mechanics say light behaves the same whether it first passes through a normal material and then through a metamaterial or vice versa — the effects of the two materials commute. In a hyper-complex world, they might not. The team verified that hyper-complex rules are not needed in this case.

AR That's a relief — the complex rules are complicated enough.

2017 April 24

Emmanuel Macron v Marine Le Pen

Financial Times

Emmanuel Macron looks likely to beat Marine Le Pen in the second round of French elections on May 7. A centrist who supports open markets and France staying in the EU, he took 23.75% in the first-round vote, ahead of Ms Le Pen at 21.53% (definitive results as of 0702 ET).

The euro jumped 2 cents against the US dollar as the results were confirmed, pushing above $1.09 (with the pound at $1.27 / €1.17).

Un immense gâchis

Alexis Brézet

Ainsi donc, l'imperdable a été perdu. L'impensable s'est imposé. L'impossible est advenu. La droite, qui pendant cinq ans aura étrillé les socialistes dans tous les scrutins, la droite, dont les idées et les valeurs n'ont jamais été aussi majoritaires dans les profondeurs du pays, cette droite à qui la victoire ne pouvait pas échapper a été, hier, sèchement éliminée. Alors que le désir d'alternance, après un quinquennat unanimement jugé calamiteux, n'a jamais été aussi puissant, elle ne sera pas, pour la première fois de son histoire, représentée au second tour de l'élection présidentielle.

2017 St George's Day

En Marche! La France

Le Figaro

Estimations sofres à 20h00, 1er tour en % des suffrages exprimés:
23% Emmanuel Macron, 23% Marine Le Pen

Planet Over Presidency

Bill McKibben

We have only a short window to deal with the climate crisis or else we forever lose the chance to thwart catastrophic heating.

In Paris in 2015, leaders pledged to try to hold global warming to 1.5 K. But at current rates of burning coal, gas, and oil, we are on course to overheating.

The hope was that growth in renewable energy would begin to close the gap between what physics demands and what our political systems have so far delivered.

But President Trump will slow that momentum. The effects will be felt for many years. The effects of climate change policy are forever.

Earth Day

NK missile
NK dummy?

USS Carl Vinson
US Navy
USS Carl Vinson
"We are sending an armada,
very powerful. We have
submarines, very powerful,
far more powerful than the
aircraft carrier, that I can tell
you. And we have the best
military people on Earth."
Donald Trump


2017 Earth Day

Fast Radio Bursts

Katia Moskvitch

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) last just a few milliseconds, but they are the most luminous radio signals in the universe. When a repeating FRB was spotted, the extragalactic magnetar model became the most popular theory.

Astronomers spotted a flash that made eight reappearances, originating in a dwarf irregular galaxy about 1 Gpc away. The data seems consistent with the magnetar theory. Magnetars generally form from Type-I superluminous supernovas, which appear relatively often in dwarf irregular galaxies.

Each generation of stars since the Big Bang has increased the metallicity of the universe. But dwarf irregular galaxies formed from primordial hydrogen and helium. Their low metallicity lets them make more massive stars, which die to form highly magnetized neutron stars, or magnetars.

Brian Metzger guesses that the repeater is a young magnetar, a newborn neutron star, probably less than 3 Gs old, with a powerful and unstable magnetic field that pumps energy into the expanding cloud of supernova debris, which absorbs the energy and occasionally releases FRBs.

Another idea is that FRBs are emitted by active galactic nuclei (AGNs). AGNs are thought to be powered by supermassive black holes, and many of them have jets that could beam FRBs into space. But AGNs usually exist in bigger galaxies, not dwarfs.

We need more data.

2017 April 21

NK Nightmare

Nicholas Kristof

Leaning on China to pressure North Korea could fail. Then Donald Trump gets mad and destroys an NK test missile on its launchpad with a barrage of cruise missiles. Result: a new Korean war.

North Korea might respond by firing artillery at Seoul, a metropolitan area of 25 million people. The NK regime would be destroyed, but the country has a huge army and missiles that can reach Tokyo. A war could cause a million casualties and $1 trillion in damage.

US and South Korean policies toward North Korea have failed over the years. If Trump tries a pre-emptive military strike, heaven help us.

German-US Trade

David Böcking, Christian Reiermann

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has flown to Washington to report to Team Trump.

The German trade surplus is mainly the result of market decisions made by companies and consumers. The surplus was 8.6% of GDP in 2015 and 8.3% in 2016, and is estimated at 7.5% in 2017 and 7.0% in 2018. Around half of it is due to structural factors such as the global competitiveness of German vendors and the quality and complexity of German products.

German companies and private citizens invest abroad to earn profits that account for a quarter of the current account surplus. German investors hold a stake in more than 3,000 American companies employing around 672,000 people, accounting for a total turnover of €466 billion. In 2016 alone, $63 billion in German capital flowed into the US. This is due to US importance to the global economy and to the global role of the dollar.

Germany has taken steps to reduce the surplus. A minimum wage and €11 billion in tax cuts will increase domestic demand and public investment has increased by 45%. Germany has no influence on the exchange rate and applies no protectionist measures.

Whether all this will convince Team Trump is unclear.

German-UK Trade

Tony Barber

Germany exported goods and services worth about €100 billion to the UK in 2015, notching up a bilateral trade surplus of about €40 billion. Direct and indirect German investments in the UK amount to almost €110 billion. Fewer than 10% of German companies expect a negative impact from Brexit, mostly from lower British demand and a weaker pound.

For Germany the integrity and success of the EU are matters of existential importance. Sophia Besch and Christian Odendahl: "Berlin ... considers disintegration of the EU the biggest Brexit risk ... In Germany's view, Brexit is geopolitical vandalism."

2017 April 20

Dover and Out

Jonathan Freedland

Britain will leave the EU at the stroke of midnight on March 29, 2019. Theresa May: "This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back."

May will take the UK out of both the single market and the customs union. Membership in the single market meant accepting the four freedoms: freedom of goods, capital, services, and people. Continuing to embrace that last freedom was a red line for May. She is equally determined to break free of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which means leaving the customs union too.

Remainers see big holes in the government case. May and her ministers say they want frictionless free trade with Europe, on the best possible terms. They want continued close security cooperation. They want free trade in a world turning to protectionism. They want Britain to be a global magnet, attracting people of ambition. That was what the UK had, until they decided to throw it all away.

2017 April 19


The Times

Theresa May is on course to win a majority of more than 100 in a June snap election, with Labour pro-Brexit voters deserting Jeremy Corbyn, according to polling data.

"Since when did prime ministers and party leaders deliver Easter messages? ... Mrs May's rather bland one ... did suggest a Christian duty to unite in support of Brexit."
Matthew Parris

$1 Trillion to Fix US Roads


President Donald Trump will soon reveal his $1 trillion plan to fix everything. But $1 trillion will barely cover what the Department of Transportation estimates is a $836 billion backlog in US highway investment needs.

The US road construction and repair funding system is broke. The Highway Trust Fund comes from gas and diesel pump taxes, but Congress has not raised the gas tax since 1993. Congress stabilized funding for a few years and kicked the can down the road. But in the long term, if vehicles continue to get more fuel efficient and electric cars catch on with the US public, the tax revenues will fall.

The 2015 transportation bill finally funded a study of a road usage tax, where people pay per mile they drive instead of per gallon they burn. This could raise as much as $246 billion by 2020. California has just wrapped up the largest ever US pilot study of a road usage charge. The great majority of participants thought it was fairer than a gas tax and liked road charging as a concept.

AR The pay per mile scheme gets my vote for funding UK roads too.

Poole Bay 2017-04-18
My local beach, a few hours after the May statement

Newly elected AAAS member
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
helped envision the POLIN
Museum of the History
of Polish Jews

US President Donald Trump
wants a ride in the Queen's
golden coach during his
state visit this year.

AR Bling



NASA's Cassini spacecraft
has found molecular hydrogen
in the water plumes of Saturn's
moon Enceladus. The ice shell
has fractures with plumes of
liquid water from a subsurface
ocean containing organics and
carbon dioxide. The hydrogen
is likely produced at hot vents
on the ocean floor. Enceladus
now looks like our best bet for
finding extraterrestrial life.
The Cassini mission will
end on 2017-09-15.


2017 April 18


Theresa May

I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed that the Government should call a general election, to be held on June 8.

Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back. We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world.

We need a general election now, while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.


Meghan O'Gieblyn

I first read Ray Kurzweil's book The Age of Spiritual Machines in 2006. A few years earlier, I had dropped out of Bible school and stopped believing in God. I was living alone in Chicago and working nights as a cocktail waitress.

Kurzweil divided all of evolution into successive epochs. We were living in the fifth epoch, when human intelligence begins to merge with technology. Soon we would reach the Singularity and be transformed into spiritual machines. We would resurrect our minds onto supercomputers and our bodies would become incorruptible.

Transhumanists say they are carrying on the legacy of the Enlightenment. Most are atheists. Some transhumanists say true resurrection can happen only if it is bodily resurrection. They tend to favor cryonics and bionics. The question of whether the resurrection would be corporeal or merely spiritual was debated by early Christians.

My doubts about God began after I read The Brothers Karamazov. I could not reconcile the idea that an omnipotent and benevolent God could allow so much suffering. Transhumanism offered redemption without the problems of divine justice.

Oxford philosopher and transhumanist Nick Bostrom suggested that we live in a Matrix-like simulation and that the posthumans running it are like gods in relation to us. Simulation theologists say it is reasonable to assume that our creators are benevolent because the capacity to build sophisticated technologies requires rational purpose and social harmony.

Christian Transhumanism Association chairman Christopher Benek told me Jesus was both fully human and fully God. Science had verified the potential for matter to have two distinct natures. Superposition, a principle in quantum theory ...

AR Cut — Ed.

2017 April 17


Maximilian Popp

Turks voted yes. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a narrow majority for introducing a presidential system that puts all the power at the top. After a hundred years of parliamentary democracy, Turkey will be become a one-man state.

The referendum should never have taken place. Citizens were forced to decide on a constitutional change during a state of emergency. Erdogan mobilized the entire state for his campaign yet won by less than 2%. In the three biggest cities — Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir — he lost.

Erdogan can now dissolve parliament whenever he likes. He can side with one party and can pick new constitutional judges. He will abolish the post of prime minister and reintroduce the death penalty.

Europe and Turkey are partners in NATO and about 3 million Turks live in Germany. Turkey depends on EU trade, so the EU can exert leverage in negotiations on deepening the customs union. The EU should work with Turkish civil society and offer refuge to persecuted journalists and academics.

AR Trexit.


Financial Times

A year after the Treasury forecast that leaving the bloc would hit the UK economy hard, economists agree that the report mostly stands the test of time.

Consumer willingness to spend since the referendum suggests that they think the government assessment of a permanent long-term hit to incomes was wrong. Economists still think consumers are likely to be proved wrong.

The Treasury analysis predicted that Brexit would reduce trade and foreign investment in the UK, reducing the growth rate. The harder the Brexit, the worse the predicted effect. The ultimate impact of leaving the EU looks more negative than positive.

MIT economics professor John Van Reenan: "As we get closer to the end of Article 50 and a hard Brexit looks likely, I suspect this is when the proverbial will hit the fan."

EU Goes Pear-Shaped

Hans-Werner Sinn

Brexit is a problem for the EU. The British economy is as big as that of the 20 smallest member states combined. It is as if those 20 were leaving the EU at once.

Brexit destroys the European equilibrium. In the European Council, a blocking minority needs 35% of the EU population. The UK and the Deutschmark bloc (Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland) have a population of 35%. These countries favor free trade.

The Club Med bloc has a population share of 36%. After Brexit, the first block shrinks to a share of 25%. Club Med grows to 42%, and they favor protectionism.

AR Brexit wrecks the EU and the UK. Well done — NOT!

British Islands, Child Sex

The Sunday Times

British overseas territories are among the world's leading hosts of websites with images of child sexual abuse. UK Council for Child Internet Safety executive member John Carr urged ministers to intervene to place UK overseas territories under the same rules as the .uk domain.

AR All these little British overseas territories, these toxic remnants of empire, should be offered a choice between subjection to full and enforced domestic UK law and tax legislation or complete and unsupported independence. Their present status is disgraceful, an affront to all decent taxpayers in properly regulated states.

2017 Easter Sunday


No news is good news.

2017 April 15


Will Self

My father was British and my mother American, and Jewish. In my youth I railed against all states. I enjoyed the upside of living in a cosmopolitan city. When I was growing up in London, people always banged on about how polyglot it was.

Remainers failed to explain how the EU was going to prevent the 1% getting relentlessly richer. Windy talk of human rights is always an appeal to the world government, which would be the only institution capable of enforcing them.


Liel Leibovitz

For most of us, the Passover story is a tale of liberation, in which an oppressed minority rebels and resists the oppressive might of a wicked regime. But try to see things from the other side.

The Pharaoh proceeds cautiously at first, afflicting the Israelites with no more than hard labor. When that proves to be bad policy, he escalates. By the time Moses arrives, the remaining Israelites are so thoroughly persecuted they lose the spirit to rise up. Moses understands that nothing short of divine intervention can redeem them.

Israel is mired in a futile struggle against Palestinian terrorism, America is wasting time on Daesh, Europeans cannot stop Islamist fanatics. We think each oppressed people, whether afflicted by real burdens or by imagined slights, will raise itself up. The Egyptians failed to crush the Israelites — the oppressed will not be crushed.

Follow this argument to its logical end, and your best bet is to try and appease your enemy. But the Pharaoh story also shows you can wage a gradually escalating war against your foes and achieve a victory so crushing that they need divine intervention to survive.

2017 April 14

Germany and Europe

Der Spiegel

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) faces a challenge from chancellor candidate Martin Schulz (SPD) and foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD). They want relaxation of the austerity demands on southern EU states and want to expand the EU mandate into a social dimension. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and many southern EU heads of government want the same.

Merkel is opposed to transferring more social competencies and money to Brussels. Her circle wants reforms and competitiveness, citing polls showing a clear majority of Germans opposed to more aid for Athens. Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and his counterparts in other EU member states want further austerity in Athens.

Gabriel thinks it was a mistake to let Merkel set EU policy: "There is significant support for Europe on the center-left. I think it is possible to win an election on appeals for a more socially minded Europe ... We Social Democrats are in favor of an EU pursuing the harmonization of living conditions."

A Foreign Ministry paper on pillars of social rights advocates more money for education, mobility and research, and more EU money for the fight against youth unemployment to boost development in poorer regions. EPP parliamentarian Manfred Weber: "A campaign focused on Europe is fine with us. We have the support of many voters."

European Commission proposals for a European pillar of social rights include a comprehensive package of social rights to create equal opportunity on the job market along with minimum salaries, unemployment benefits, and health care.

Gabriel's campaign lets Merkel sit between the extremes as the voice of reason.

Britain and Europe

Chris Giles

Brexit is bad news. At best, the UK and the EU27 will reach an agreement they both believe serves their interests reasonably well. At worst, Britain risks a disorderly exit.

The UK seeks a deep and special partnership with the EU after Brexit. It hopes to protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain and UK citizens living in EU member states. It wants a soft border in Northern Ireland, free trade in goods with minimal customs barriers, an ambitious services trade agreement, and security and policing cooperation.

The EU27 seeks guarantees for citizens and a good solution for Ireland, but otherwise starts out from the status quo. Since the EU is happy with Britain as a member state, it seeks compensation from the UK for damaging changes.

Britain starts from a fantasy in which the UK is already outside the EU and seeking a better relationship, while the EU 27 is grounded in reality. Britain will have to budge.

Brits must face the facts. May will do her best. The EU demand for a financial divorce settlement is reasonable. Gibraltar cannot get the same EU deal as the UK.

2017 April 13

Trump Flip-Flops


President Donald Trump on NATO: "I said it was obsolete; it's no longer obsolete."

In a WSJ interview, Trump praised Chinese president Xi Jinping, backed down a threat to brand China a currency manipulator, and eased off on his demands for China to reverse the trade imbalance with the United States.

Trump decried Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as a "butcher" and might now advocate regime change.

Trump: "Right now we are not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia."

He even publicly criticized his political guru Steve Bannon.

A wild first 100 days.

The Science of Consciousness

June 5-10, San Diego, California

The 2017 conference was scheduled in Shanghai, China, June 5-10, but due to unforeseen circumstances is moving to The Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, near the UCSD campus.

TSC is the world's largest and longest-running interdisciplinary conference on all aspects of the nature of conscious experience, awareness, feelings and existence. Questions include how the brain produces consciousness, whether consciousness is intrinsic to the universe, or an epiphenomenal illusion, how consciousness can causally affect brain processes, what are the best empirical theories, do we have free will, how did life and consciousness originate and evolve, what are the origins of moral and aesthetic values, how can we improve mental, physical and cognitive function, and can consciousness persist after bodily death. These are approached through science, philosophy, culture, and contemplative practices.

TSC began at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1994, and returns there in even-numbered years, alternating with TSC conferences around the globe.

AR I was at Tucson in 2000 and 2002, as well as at the TSC meetings in Denmark in 1997, Sweden in 2001, and the Czech Republic in 2003. I also liked the ASSC meetings in Bremen in 1998, Oxford in 2006, and Berlin in 2009.

TSC 2017

"We will hold the US wholly
accountable for the catastrophic
consequences to be entailed
by its outrageous actions."

China moves 150,000 troops
and medical supplies to
NoKo border

Jupiter, 668 Gm away
HST, 2017-04-03

"Political imagination seems
exhausted. Not one major party
in the US or the UK offers our
children something their
grandparents didn't have."
Caitlin Moran

"Bannon is just a conniving
hateful bloated punk who
despises mankind."
Sean Penn



Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump


President Trump removed
Steve Bannon from the NSC
and restored senior military
and intelligence officials,
in a change arranged by
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

AR Good work, Mac.

"The choice of the British
 people, however respectable
that may be, does not fit
into the march of history
— not European history
and not global history."
Jean-Claude Juncker

WWW Inventor
Tim Berners-Lee
Wins ACM Turing Prize

AR Congratulations!
I talked with him
@ WWW2004


Thomas Royen
Rüdiger Nehmzow
Thomas Royen

Derek Parfit
Gail Campbell, 2017
Derek Parfit
Nurse: "Jesus Christ had only
12 disciples, but look at you!
You're clearly a very important
man. What do you do?"
Parfit: "I work on
what matters."


2017 April 12

Ghost in the Shell

The Observer

The groundbreaking 1995 original Ghost in the Shell, based on a manga series by Masamune Shirow, was a masterpiece. The Hollywood remake has dialled down the introspection, beefed up the action, and tweaked the enigmatic plot.

The result is not so dumbed down that it loses the original chilly techno-dread. Scarlett Johansson dives deep into a tricky role, a character who is as much a sentient weapon as she is a human consciousness. The visual impact is breathtaking.

AR Despite the Hollywood action format, the philosophical issues about human or cyborg identity come over clearly. The future cityscape is richly imagined and chillingly plausible. And Johansson as Japanese is amusing.


The New York Times

Modern London is the metropolis that globalization created. London is banker to the planet. It is as much city-state as city, with a culture and economy that circulate the world.

Modern London thrives on the idea that one city can be a global melting pot, a global trading house, and a global media machine. The thought is that being connected to the rest of the world is something to celebrate.

What happens to London when that idea unexpectedly falls away? Brexit is probably the noisiest and most complicated divorce in modern European history. The certainties that sustained a great city are no longer certain.

Those who voted for Britain to leave the European Union say London is reclaimed. But banks, investment firms, and other companies are making plans to move elsewhere.

AR From potential capital of Europe to actual capital of a rocky outcrop.

2017 April 11

North Korea


Carrying more than 5,000 sailors and 60 aircraft, the Nimitz-class carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is heading for North Korea. She is escorted by guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain. The three escort warships have more than 300 combined missile tubes and are outfitted with the Aegis ABM system.

Peter Layton, a visiting fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in Brisbane, Australia:
"The Carl Vinson group is commanded from Hawaii, rather than the US military base in Japan, so it's a clear American initiative not a Japanese or South Korea one. That may defuse attempts to link Japan and South Korea and thus limit the possibility of any North Korean aggression against them."

Former CIA and NSA head retired General Michael Hayden:
"No matter what we do there is this move by North Korea to build missiles and put weapons on top of missiles. This is what they count on for regime survival. ... The best we can do is box it where it is right now. I don't think we can make them give up the program."

2017 April 10


Nicola Davis

Researchers have found that the dreaming brain and the waking brain often recruit the same areas for the same types of experience. Dreaming about faces is linked to increased high-frequency activity in the brain region for face recognition, and so on.

Francesca Siclari and colleagues made a series of EEG recordings of participants who were sleeping. The participants were awakened periodically and asked if they had been dreaming. If they had, they were asked how long they thought the dream had lasted and what they could remember of it.

The researchers linked dreaming to a drop in low-frequency activity in a cortical hot zone including visual areas and areas involved in sensory integration. This held regardless of whether the dream was remembered or not and whether it occurred during REM or non-REM sleep.

The researchers also linked dreaming to an increase in high-frequency activity in the hot zone during non-REM sleep and linked dream recall to an increase in high-frequency activity toward the forebrain. They saw similar activity in the hot zone and beyond for dreams during REM sleep.

The team learned to predict dreaming from the EEG trace with high confidence. The study could help clarify the nature of consciousness by revealing what happens in the brain during sleep when we switch from unconscious to conscious states.

2017 April 9

Globocop Redux

Niall Ferguson

President Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian airfield in Homs. I think we can now discern the beginning of an improvement in US foreign policy.

The head of the Russian propaganda outlet RT observed darkly that the airstrikes had been ordered on the centenary of the US entry into WW1.

President Woodrow Wilson opted for intervention in Europe. He chose to tip the scales in favor of Britain and France. He had a strategy.

Trump has shown the world that a new sheriff is in town. He has shown Chinese President Xi Jinping that he will not shirk from using force against North Korea.

This does not amount to a coherent strategy to stabilize the Mideast.

AR The Wilson strategy led to WW2.


Oliver Bullough

The Rock imported 117 million packs of cigarettes in 2013. This epic Russian smuggling operation may have cost EU countries €700 million in lost tax revenues.

Gibraltar used to be a naval garrison blockaded by Spain. When the money dried up with the end of the cold war, the Rock had to diversify. Like other British colonies, it did so by aggressively undercutting the rules and taxes of its neighbors.

There are more than 60,000 companies registered in Gibraltar. These undermine the UK as much as everyone else. A recent Gib growth industry has been online gambling.

Gibraltar is loyal, it guards the gates to the Med, it loves Britain and the Queen. This is like a kid who visits his gran every weekend, just so he can nick her pension.

AR Give it back to Spain.

2017 April 8

Quantum Weirdness

Anil Ananthaswamy

David Bohm developed a quantum theory in which a wave with properties identical to that of the standard wave function guides particles around. In his picture, if particles are entangled, a common pilot wave guides them, and any change in the position or momentum of one particle instantly changes the pilot wave, thus influencing all the other particles.

In a new double-slit experiment, researchers created pairs of photons with entangled polarizations, and sent one photon of each pair through a double slit that would let a vertically polarized photon through slit A and a horizontally polarized photon through slit B. Measuring the polarization of the second photon revealed the polarization of the photon passing through the slits.

The team determined the path of the traveling photon as it went through the apparatus and measured the polarization state of the associated probe photon. They did this with tens of thousands of photon pairs, and found that, on average, at the moment a photon passed through slit A, the probe photon would be vertically polarized, as expected. When a traveling photon was measured at a position on the screen corresponding to having passed through slit A, half the time the polarization of the probe photon was horizontal, suggesting that the traveling photon had passed through slit B.

The experiment shows that the moving photon is constantly changing the polarization of the probe photon. Look at the probe photon at the moment the moving photon goes through a slit, and there is no contradiction. But look at it the moment the moving photon hits the screen and, half of the time, its polarization state has changed. Bohmian theory accepts this nonlocality.

Bohmian mechanics is formulated to replicate the predictions of standard quantum mechanics for non-relativistic particles. By contrast, quantum field theory is Lorentz invariant. Attempts to marry Bohmian ideas with special relativity still fail.

AR Locality fails in Bohmian mechanics, so it offers no advantage over standard quantum theory, just a lot of traditional metaphysical baggage that physicists should learn to drop. My interpretation is closer to Copenhagen but better adapted to general relativity and information theory.

2017 April 7

Trump Raises the Stakes

Dennis B. Ross

President Trump's decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Al Shayrat air base in Syria was swift and purposeful. The United States has sent a powerful message that there is a price for using chemical weapons.

AR His baptism of fire.


David Aaronovitch

Die Welt gerät aus den Fugen. UK governments had stuck to their promises, delivered to their allies, and been diplomatically astute. But now the UK seems to have gone mad. The prime minister gave the job of foreign secretary to a man who campaigned for Brexit and who compared the EU to the Nazi occupation.

The European Research Group is the most powerful opposition force in British politics. The group wants a hard Brexit: little or no severance money to the EU, little or no jurisdiction from the European Court, a gung-ho up-yours stance on relationships with the single market, and impatience with those who dislike their vision.

Two weeks ago the Daily Telegraph published a letter from 70 MPs demanding that the BBC tell the good news about Brexit. In the last week MPs have played a kind of Monty Python sketch of competitive bragging, where one says we won't pay anything and another adds: "Never mind paying nothing, they should pay us!"

ERG people are busy talking with themselves about what a good position we are all in. One said the EU negotiators won't really insist on getting their money before talking about trade. In a normal parliament a strong opposition could act as a corrective to this sort of fantasy. How can our EU partners take it seriously?

AR If the UK sets itself against the EU, only one of the unions will survive. Place your bets: a little old union with toytown politics, medieval institutions, and a broken economy takes on a big new one with an unparalleled cultural heritage, modern political institutions, and one of the strongest economies in the world.

The Age of Genius

Steven Nadler

In 1633, René Descartes learned that Galileo had been convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church and punished with a life sentence of house arrest. Descartes was shaken enough to suppress a treatise he had written based on the heliocentric model of Copernicus. Something special happened in philosophy in the seventeenth century, and especially in natural philosophy, science.

The New Philosophy was characterized by a reliance on reason and evidence rather than devotion to religious or ancient authority. Truth was a matter of discovery, not decree. Philosophy pursued causal explanations of phenomena based on experiment and mathematics. Popular accounts of modern philosophy typically start with Descartes, who in 1637 said cogito ergo sum.

2017 April 6

My White House Role

Ivanka Trump

I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard. Where I disagree with my father, he knows it. And I express myself with total candor. Where I agree, I fully lean in and support the agenda and make a positive impact. But I respect the fact that he always listens. It's how he was in business. It's how he is as president.

I am confident in my father to be able to execute on his promise to the people who elected him. I think the election highlighted for people just how divided this country was. We're in a unique time where noise equals, in a lot of people's perception, advocacy. And I fundamentally disagree with that. I do think there's a time for public denouncement. I also think there's a time for discussion.

I wasn't elected by the American people to be president. My father is gonna do a tremendous job. And I wanna help him do that. But I don't think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree. I think most of the impact I have, over time, most people will not actually know about.

If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I'm complicit. I don't know that the critics who may say that of me, if they found themselves in this unique and unprecedented situation that I am now in, would do any differently than I'm doing. So I hope to make a positive impact. I hope time will prove that I have done a good job and, much more importantly, that my father's administration is the success that I know it will be.

AR Sounds good to me.

2017 April 5

German President Attacks Brextremism

The Guardian

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier told MEPs in the European Parliament that the Brextremists would be unable to deliver on their promise to take back control.

He said he was convinced that in this world a single European country standing alone and without the EU cannot make its voice heard or assert its economic interests. Only as partners on the world stage can Europeans avoid becoming the playthings of other powers.

He said Brextremist promises would come to nothing, "Take back control" is a strong slogan but nationalists are unable to deliver it, and if it can be delivered then it is something we can only do together.

He described the UK vote to leave as "bitter" and said Germany fully supported the European project. He dismissed Donald Trump's claims the EU was a vehicle for German economic dominance.

In English, Steinmeier added: "In my country, yes, we want Europe. We want to build a better Europe and we want to be a European Germany."

European People's Party bloc leader Manfred Weber: "Some of the politicians in London have not understood what leaving the European Union means. It means being alone."

British leader of Conservative MEPs Ashley Fox: "The European Parliament claims to represent all the citizens of the EU, and until we leave that includes UK citizens. Therefore, Conservative MEPs intend to continue playing a full role in all debates, including discussions on Brexit. To suggest otherwise is both unconstitutional and undemocratic."

Exit vom Brexit

Markus Becker

Ein Widerruf der Austrittsmitteilung durch die Briten dürfte nur unter Bedingungen, die von allen Mitgliedstaaten der EU-27 festgelegt werden, möglich sein.

Rechtsdienst des Europaparlaments: "Es herrscht weitgehende Einigkeit, dass der Austrittsprozess gestoppt werden könnte, wenn alle anderen Mitgliedstaaten zustimmen."

Der Europäische Gerichtshof müsste entscheiden.

AR EuGH — von Brextremisten verflucht!


2017 April 4

European Security

Edward Lucas

Germans sometimes call Brits Inselaffen — island monkeys — unpredictable, backward, quarrelsome, and isolated. The term has boomed since Brexit.

At the annual Königswinter conference last weekend, British participants tried to outline a new post-Brexit Anglo-German relationship. The best line was that Brexit was a resolution, not a dissolution. Instead of moaning about EU integration, Britain would now engage on things like security.

Security problems abound:

The Balkans are awash with Russian influence and jihadists.
Europe has failed in Syria, in Libya, and in the Mideast.
Turkey is descending headlong into autocracy.
NATO deterrence in the Baltic states is still fragile.
The war in Ukraine bubbles on.
Democracy and the rule of law are under strain.

Serious shit, as one German said.

Germany and Britain complement each other. Germany is the economic giant, Britain is the leading military and intelligence power. German defense spending may not reach 2% of GDP, but it may hit 3% on defense and conflict prevention combined.

Britain objects to an ECJ ruling that would prohibit GCHQ from collecting and storing internet data. Brexit will solve that problem for the Inselaffen.



EU draft negotiating document on Brexit: "After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom."

That prompted fury in Britain. Former Conservative party leader Lord Michael Howard: "I do think it is a remarkable coincidence that 35 years ago this week another woman prime minister sent a task force half way across the world to protect another small group of British people against another Spanish speaking country."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: "I think the position of the government is very, very clear, which is that the sovereignty of Gibraltar is unchanged, and it's not going to change and cannot conceivably change without the express support and consent of the people of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, and that is not going to change."

Spain called for cool heads. Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis: "Frankly, it seems to me that someone in the United Kingdom is losing their temper."

Gibraltar is classified as a British Overseas Territory. The UK has held sovereignty over Gibraltar for more than 300 years after it was captured from Spain in a war. In a 2002 referendum Gibraltar residents rejected a proposal to share the territory between the UK and Spain, but in the 2016 referendum 96% of them voted to stay in the European Union.

Between a Rock and a Hard Brexit
Sean O'Grady

Gibraltar is a remnant of the British Empire. Spain will not forget about the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht that assigned the Rock to the UK.

The Kingdom of Spain is soon to be the fourth largest EU economy and has the backing of the entire European Union. The Brexit choice may be between:
— A good deal for the UK and Gibraltar shared with Spain
— A hard and hostile Brexit plus a blockade of Gibraltar

The UK will also need to be mindful of its base on EU member Cyprus.

Großbritannien verliert die Contenance
Die Welt

Der Vorschlag, in den Krieg gegen Spanien zu ziehen, stammt aus Michael Howard. Der ehemalige Vorsitzende der Konservativen Partei, der sich seit sieben Jahren Baron Howard of Lympne nennen darf, brachte den Krieg von seinem Wohnzimmersofa aus ins Spiel.

Gibraltar ist nur halb so groß wie die Falklandinseln, besitzt aber etwa 30.000 Einwohnern. Vor etwa 300 Jahren fiel der Fels in britische Hand. Die spanische Bevölkerung wurde vertrieben. Der Landzipfel ist dem breiteren Publikum vor allem als notorische Steueroase ein Begriff.

Spanien hat den Schotten nun weiteren Auftrieb verschafft: Madrid hat seine bisherige Opposition zum EU-Beitritt eines unabhängigen Schottlands gerade aufgeben. Gibraltar hat mehrheitlich gegen den Brexit gestimmt: 96% der Bevölkerung waren gegen den Austritt.

Madrid hat sich zurückgehalten. Außenminister Alfonso Dantis: "Die spanische Regierung ist ein wenig überrascht über den Ton, den Großbritannien anschlägt. In diesem Fall mangelt es eindeutig an der traditionellen britischen Contenance."

AR Ein Hauch von deutscher Schadenfreude da!


2017 April 3

World Exclusive

Donald Trump

I have great respect for Xi Jinping. I have great respect for China. China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't. If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.

Look where we are. We have an $800 billion trade deficit. The Mideast is a mess. This is a very, very serious problem that we have in the world today. The United States has talked long enough and you see where it gets us, it gets us nowhere. 

I think Brexit is very good for the UK. I would have thought when it happened that more would follow, but I really think the European Union is getting their act together. It could be a very good thing for both. There is a different spirit for holding together.

Bull's Eye!

Natalie Wolchover

In July 2014, German statistician Thomas Royen proved a famous conjecture at the intersection of geometry, probability theory, and statistics that had eluded experts for decades.

The Gaussian correlation inequality (GCI) was posed in an elegant form in 1972. Royen, 67, found it could be extended into a statement he was familiar with, and suddenly saw how to prove it.

His proof was short and simple. He typed it up and posted it to False proofs of the GCI had been floated repeatedly over the decades, so at first his achievement went unrecognized.

In its 1972 form, the GCI puts a lower bound on the odds in a game of darts. Imagine two overlapping convex polygons A and B centered on a target point. Darts thrown at the target will land in a bell curve distribution of positions around the center point. The GCI says the probability that a dart will land inside both A and B is at least as high as the probability of landing in A times the probability of landing in B. The same inequality was thought to hold for any two convex symmetrical shapes with any number of dimensions centered on a point.

Royen found he could generalize the GCI to apply to statistical spreads related to the squares of Gaussian distributions, called gamma distributions. His familiarity with gamma distributions sparked his epiphany. He transformed his function into a simpler function and saw that the derivative of this transformed function was equivalent to the transform of the derivative of the original function. The latter derivative was always positive, proving the GCI. Experts say any graduate student in statistics could follow his proof.

Royen: "It is like a kind of grace. We can work for a long time on a problem and suddenly ... a good idea."

2017 April 2


Niall Ferguson

Brexit will be much more protracted and expensive than the worst imaginable divorce. Both sides: "Never again will those impossible people on the other side of the Channel be able to interfere in our affairs. Now we can take back control and sit back and watch their union fall apart."

Schisme est le mot juste — recall the great division between western and eastern Christianity in 1054. As Rome was to past schisms, so Brussels is to this one.

Britain was always a brake on European federalism. Now the EU27 can unite in giving the UK a hard time. Brextremists see an economic 1940, with a global Britain striking out anew.

AR May the force be with EU in year 77 of the fight for FUK.

2017 April 1

Quantum Questions

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Quantum theory and modern mathematics complement each other to reveal symmetries in reality.

Classical mechanics may compute how a particle travels from A to B along a geodesic. Quantum mechanics considers all possible paths from A to B. The Feynman sum over histories assigns to each path a weight that determines the probability that a particle will go that way. The classical solution is simply the most likely one.

Calabi-Yau spaces are compactified 6D solutions of the Einstein equations of gravity. One can count the number of curves on a Calabi-Yau space using an integer, the degree, that measures how often the curves wrap around. Finding the number of curves of a given degree is hard even for the simplest Calabi-Yau space, the quintic. The number of degree 1 curves is 2,875. The number of degree 2 curves is 609,250. The number of degree 3 curves is larger.

String theorists defined a single function with a physical interpretation as a probability amplitude for a string propagating in the Calabi-Yau space that probes all possible curves of every possible degree at once. An equivalent formulation of the physics uses a mirror Calabi-Yau space with a different topology but the same string propagation. The difficult computation on the original manifold translates into a single integral on the mirror manifold.

Mirror symmetry illustrates duality. Two classical models can be equivalent when considered as quantum systems. Dualities point to deep symmetries of the underlying quantum theory. Mirror symmetry can connect symplectic geometry, which underlies much of mechanics, with algebraic geometry, the world of complex numbers.

Mathematicians bring new rigor to quantum theory as they work on homological mirror symmetry.

AR Hard stuff. My work is prior to all that.

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