BLOG 2017 Q3
Blade Runner 2049
Allstar/Warner Bros
Blade Runner 2049


Britain has fallen from the top
to the bottom of the league of
G7 leading economies in the
year since the Brexit vote


"De l'audace, encore de l'audace,
toujours de l'audace et la Patrie
sera sauvée!
Georges Danton

Boeing v Bombardier

US Department of Commerce
sides with Boeing in its war
against Canada planemaker Bombardier and slaps 220%
tariffs on sales into the US,
alleging Bombardier sold
airliners below cost into US
thanks to subsidies from
Canada and UK.

AR Bad for US-UK trade
prospects after Brexit.

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
A US fundamentalist theocracy
treats women as property of
the state, forcing them
into sexual servitude
to repopulate a


2017 September 30

BFR Mars Vision

The New York Times

At the IAC in Australia, Elon Musk said he has a workable plan for a new rocket and spaceship. The “BFR” would be 9 m in diameter and able to lift 150 Mg to LEO — more powerful than the Saturn 5 rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

For Mars colonists, the BFR would lift a spaceship with 40 cabins for about 100 people per flight. After launch, the booster would return to the launchpad. The spaceship would continue to orbit and refill its tanks with methane and oxygen before pushing on to Mars. With everything reusable, the cost of operation would be low. The system could even fly passengers between any two points on Earth in less than an hour. Musk said BFR could launch in 2022 and go to Mars in 2024.

Lockheed Martin has a Mars mission vision too. It would head to Mars in 2028 with 6 astronauts and the first trip would only circle Mars for a year before returning to Earth. It would use the Orion crew capsule and the NASA Deep Space Gateway.

Musk — Moon — Mars

New Scientist

Elon Musk dreams of an enormous new rocket that he calls the BFR, to lift 150 tons up to LEO. Once up and running, it will launch satellites and ferry cargo and crew to the ISS.

Then it will fly to the Moon: "This will enable the creation of a lunar base. It's 2017 — we should have a lunar base by now. And then of course Mars, becoming a multi-planet species. Beats the hell out of being a single-planet species."

5778 Tishri 9


Jerusalem Post

UN schoolbooks used in Gaza and the West Bank display extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments and no hope for peace in the region, according to a new study.

The textbooks depict Jews as having no rights in the region but only greedy ambitions. The Jewish holy sites are all presented as Muslim holy places threatened by Jews. Israel is not recognized at all.

Schoolbooks dated 2016 say the 6 million Jews living in the country after its supposed liberation will endure expulsion from the land and extermination of their defeated and scattered remnants.

The UN is helping to prepare Palestinian children and youths for a future war with Israel.


Mustafa Akyol

In Kuala Lumpur, I recently gave a talk on apostasy from Islam. I said Muslims must uphold freedom of conscience, in line with the Quranic dictum that there shall be no compulsion in religion.

A group of religion enforcement officers came into the lecture hall, looking serious. I and my hosts decided to cancel my next lecture. I went to the airport to go home but was arrested and locked up. In the morning, I was taken to a Shariah court, interrogated for two hours, and finally let go.

A parenthetical note is frequently inserted into Saudi translations of the Quranic verse: “There shall be no compulsion in religion (in becoming a Muslim).” They agree that no one should be forced to become a Muslim but think Muslims should be compelled to practice Islam in the way they define.

By policing religion, the authorities are enfeebling their societies, raising hypocrites, and causing people to lose their respect for Islam.

2017 September 28


Joan Acocella

Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy, always said his ideal for the centerfold photo was "the girl next door with her clothes off."

Playboy was launched in 1953. The magazine proposed that wanton sex was good for you. In his first issue, Hefner ran a nude photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It made the issue a hit.

Hefner set out to sell an upscale hedonism. He brought in fiction by well-known authors and featured interviews with Miles Davis, Peter Sellers, Bertrand Russell, Malcolm X, Billy Wilder, Richard Burton, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jimmy Hoffa, Albert Schweitzer, Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Genet, Ingmar Bergman, Dick Gregory, Henry Miller, Cassius Clay, George Wallace, and many more.

The fee for a centerfold shoot today is $25,000. These women hope the centerfold will get them a career in modeling or acting. One wonders whether sex is still the point.

Playboy is still the best-selling men's magazine in the United States.

More Gravitational Waves

New Scientist

On 14 August, the new Virgo detector in Italy and the two US detectors that make up LIGO all observed the ripples in spacetime caused by two black holes merging. This is the fourth gravitational wave detection ever. All four have come from pairs of black holes spiraling toward one another and then colliding.

The black holes that caused this latest burst of gravitational waves were 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun before they merged. They are located about 1.8 billion light years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.

LIGO collaboration member Kenneth Strain: "Three detectors is not just a little bit better than two — it gives us radically better information about the location of the source and what's going on with the source. The numbers we can get now are much more precise than before."

LIGO spokesperson David Shomaker: "This is just the beginning of observations with the network enabled by Virgo and LIGO working together. With the next observing run planned for fall 2018 we can expect such detections weekly or even more often."

2017 September 27

Relaunching the European Project

Emmanuel Macron

The Europe we know is too weak, too slow, too inefficient, but Europe alone can give us a capacity for action in the world in the face of major contemporary challenges. The only path that assures our future is the rebuilding of a Europe that is sovereign, united, and democratic.

Security and Defense
— Create an EU intervention force
— Create an EU defense budget and a common doctrine to act
— Create an EU intelligence academy and a public prosecutor for terrorism
— Create an EU asylum office and border police
— Create an EU natural disaster response force

Economy and Trade
— Impose an EU tax on financial transactions and use it to fund development aid
— Impose an EU company tax with rate bands as a condition for structural funds
— Strengthen the EZ with a stronger budget and a minister of finance

Environment and Climate
— Set a carbon tax of at least €25 per ton to penalize pollution
— Impose a carbon tax at EU external borders on imports from polluting industries

Digital and Innovation
— Create an EU innovation agency to finance research in fields such as AI
— Create EU champions in the digital transition
— Tax digital enterprises by taxing the value where it is created
— Regulate major platforms

EU Institutions
— Start a broad debate on Europe to offer ideas before the 2019 EU elections
— Elect half of the European Parliament on transnational lists
— Reduce the European Commission to 15 members.
— Rebuild the European project by and with the people


Mehreen Khan

French president Emmanuel Macron spoke on the future of Europe for 100 minutes at the Sorbonne. It was more than double the projected time and was greeted with rapturous applause.

Macron repeated the French desire for a common EZ budget, focused on renewed Franco-German cooperation, and proposed the creation of a common European intervention force and joint defense doctrine. He did not dwell on the details.

"I have no red lines, I have only horizons. Audacity is the only answer."


Brendan Howlin

We were told that there will be no going back to a hard border in Ireland. But if part of the island is in a different customs union than the remainder, the need for border checks seems inescapable.

Ireland does more than €1 billion a week trade with the UK. Last year alone saw 110 million border crossings. Some 375,000 Irish people now live in the UK. And 277,000 British people now live in the Republic of Ireland. For this volume of trade and travel to be interrupted by border checks is unacceptable.

The peace in Ireland is anchored in EU membership. EU citizenship has allowed a blurring of British versus Irish identity. We cannot allow Brexit to undermine the progress made since 1998.


Jan-Werner Müller

Jason Brennan says most US voters are ignorant about politics. They treat politics like a sport. The completely ignorant are hobbits, those who root for one team and hate the other are hooligans, and a tiny minority of vulcans examine the evidence to form their political judgments.

Brennan proposes restricting the franchise on the grounds of a knowledge test to create an epistocracy. He rejects the pious notion that political participation tends to educate, enlighten, and ennoble. He says more political involvement is likely to turn hobbits into hooligans.

Brennan says modern democracies fail to achieve rational ends. But the democratic process is not really about individual voters making rational or irrational choices. Rather, it allows leaders to gain power on the basis of their claims to represent different ideas, interests, and identities.

The quality of democracy depends on the space between voters and the policy decisions that bind them. Ignorance and misinformation are often spread by political elites to further their interests. Democratic politics can be ugly, but it can throw the bastards out.

Neuromorphic Computing


Intel has developed a self-learning neuromorphic chip that mimics how the brain functions. This extremely energy-efficient chip gets smarter over time and does not need to be trained in the traditional way. It takes a novel approach to computing via asynchronous spiking.

Neuromorphic computing draws inspiration from our current understanding of brain architecture and computations. The brain relays information with pulses or spikes, modulating the synaptic strengths or weight of the interconnections based on timing of these spikes, and storing these changes locally at the interconnections. Intelligent behaviors emerge from the cooperative and competitive interactions between multiple regions within the neural network and its environment.

The Loihi research test chip includes digital circuits that mimic the brain, making machine learning faster and more efficient. Neuromorphic chip models are inspired by how neurons communicate and learn, using spikes and plastic synapses that can be modulated based on timing.

2017 September 26

Germany Turns Right

Klaus Brinkbäumer

Germany is heading for a Jamaica coalition. Germany has never seen such a coalition at the national level. But the coalition has no substantive foundation. It only has a common enemy, the AfD.

That is hardly a promising starting point for good governance. Liberal democracy is insecure. We are seeing in the United Kingdom and in France how tiny cracks can grow with time into big divides. We have seen in the United States, Poland, Hungary, and Turkey how ruthless politics can become and how rapidly freedom can be eroded.

Whether the AfD, with its intolerance and xenophobia and with the return of Nazi notions it represents, will remain a fringe phenomenon or whether it will prosper and gain power will depend on how the new government and the new parliament approach the challenges of the coming years.

Angela Merkel enjoys admiration from abroad. In crises, she seems neutral and ambiguous — she waits to see how things play out. Germany lost control of its borders for around two months in 2015. Merkel will have to find her way to determination and learn to explain the steps she takes if she wants to prevent the populists from growing.

The Bundestag has not been good enough in recent years. There have been few debates deserving of the name and the government has not felt beholden to parliament. Democracy deserves better.

Germany Is Normal

Gideon Rachman

Germany has lost its immunity to angry populism. The Alternative for Germany scored over 13% of the vote, still well below the proportion of voters who elected Trump, delivered Brexit, and opted for extremists in France. But its strong showing dashes the hope that Germany is different.

The AfD has begun to play with the most incendiary material in German history. Alexander Gauland said Germans have a right to be proud of their soldiers in both world wars. Alice Weidel called the German government the puppets of the victorious powers of the second world war.

The presence of a rightwing nationalist party in the Bundestag will change the tone of German politics. Germany already has difficult relations with both Turkey and Poland. Hopes for deeper European integration may be put on hold. Germany looks like a normal western country.

The Darkening Age

Catherine Nixey

A militant religion deliberately attacked and suppressed the teachings of the classical world, ushering in centuries of unquestioning adherence to its faith.

The early Christians, far from being meek and mild, were violent, ruthless, and fundamentally intolerant. Unlike the old polytheistic faiths, this new ideology stated not only that it was the way, the truth and the light, but also that every other way was wrong and had to be destroyed. For the first five centuries, those who failed to fall into step with its beliefs were pursued in every possible way: social, legal, financial, and physical. Their altars were upturned and their temples demolished, their statues hacked to pieces and their priests killed. It was an annihilation.

The Christian church demolished, vandalised and melted down a simply staggering quantity of art. Classical statues were knocked from their plinths, defaced, defiled and torn limb from limb. Temples were razed to their foundations and burned to the ground. Monasteries began to erase the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and Archimedes. Every single work of Democritus and his heretical atomism vanished. Nine tenths of all classical literature was lost.

AR Christianity has been tamed since the Enlightenment. Now we face the aggressive intolerance of fundamentalist Islam.

The new Bundestag


CDU 246
SPD 153
AfD 94
FDP 80
Die Linke 69
Grüne 67

Mein Fleck

Prof. h. c. Dr. K. Lamers
N. Löbel
Dr. S. Harbarth

(alle CDU)


EU flag
Britanniens Weg
führt aus der EU

Brexit — Remain Majority

A new poll shows a majority
for the UK to remain in the EU.
Of 1,447 British adults polled
in mid-September, with results
weighted for the UK profile,
52% say remain, 48% leave.

CNN Money
Voll muttiviert

"Throughout its history the UN
has suffered from a seemingly
unbridgeable gap between the
nobility of its purposes and the effectiveness of its delivery."
Theresa May

Swanage today

Wile E Coyote
Wile E Coyote

"Boris is Boris"
Theresa May

Lady Macbeth
AR Another good movie

Jennifer Lawrence
and Javier Bardem star in a
macabre spectacle of revulsion,
a veritable agape of chaos,
says Peter Bradshaw.

AR I found it quite


2017 September 25

The Price of Success

Philipp Wittrock

Angela Merkel will serve as German chancellor for a fourth term. Her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) saw their joint result fall by more than 8% — their worst showing since 1949.

The strategic goal has been achieved, but at a high price. Voters have punished the parties of the current governing coalition. The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) will now enter parliament. And it will be difficult for Merkel to build a stable government coalition.

The AfD have announced their intention to hunt down the chancellor. More than a million voters are believed to have flocked from the CDU and the CSU to the AfD. Most of them say that it was the chancellor's refugee policies that led them to shift their vote.

Merkel has identified the regulation of refugee flows and domestic security as the key topics for the coming years. Who will succeed her? The question is likely to arise soon.


Max Hastings

Dunkirk, the rescue of the British army from the beaches of northeastern France in May 1940, is a British tale that feeds the myth that has brought the UK to the cliff edge of departure from the EU — that there is splendor in being alone.

Winston Churchill never saw anything in the least glorious about standing alone. He saw that while Britain might somehow avert defeat, without fighting alongside friends it could not conceivably aspire to victory. Only necessity and a supremely courageous willingness to defy reason caused him in June 1940 to proclaim British determination to fight to the last.

For the rest of 1940 — the mood turned sourer in 1941 — the British people displayed a stoicism and even euphoria as irrational as Brexit exultation. Churchill and his nation set the world a magnificent example of defiance, but it was an impotent defiance, from which both Britain and democracy were redeemed only by the belated arrival of allies.

Michael Korda is surely right to compare the emotions of the modern Brexiteers with those of the British in June 1940: "There was a national sense of relief .. at leaving the Continent and withdrawing behind the White Cliffs of Dover."

2017 September 24

German Elections

Jon Henley, 17:23 BST

Angela Merkel will form a coalition government after sliding to about 32% of the vote from 41.5% in 2013. She could form a "Jamaica" coalition of CDU (black), FDP (gold), and Greens (green).

The SPD scores 20% — a new new post-war low. The party will go into opposition. At 13%, the AfD will not be the official opposition party in the Bundestag.

Dramatische Verluste für Union, SPD auf Rekordtief, AfD dritte Kraft

Die Welt, 18:18 CEST

Die Union wird mit 32,7% stärkste Partei. Die SPD steht nur noch bei 20,2%. Drittstärkste Partei wird der Hochrechnung von 18.12 Uhr zufolge die AfD mit 13,4%. Die FDP kehrt mit 10,5% der Stimmen in den Bundestag zurück. Auch Grüne und Linke werden vertreten sein.

God And Spock

Simon Yisrael Feuerman

A new series of Star Trek premieres this weekend.

In the original Star Trek series, Spock was played by Leonard Nimoy. Spock had a Vulcan salute appropriated from the hand signs the Cohanim make when they recite the priestly blessings in synagogue.

In one episode, Spock and Kirk met up with a monster capable of great destruction but also love and tenderness. Spock felt he must communicate with the monster even if doing so could kill him. He used a Vulcan mind-meld to connect with this creature. Spock came into painful touch with the monster, screaming pain followed by an uncontrollable pseudo-religious rant.

Later, Nimoy revealed that he when he was eight years old, his family took him to shul on the high holidays, and he witnessed the priestly blessing. His father admonished him not to look at the priests as they blessed the congregation. He was told that the shekhina, the presence and the light of God, shone through their hands and fingers, and the holy light could fatally blind.

Nimoy invented Spock as a kind of ideal Jew.

2017 September 23

Quantum Gravity

Anil Ananthaswamy

Antoine Tilloy approaches gravity by tweaking standard quantum mechanics. He modifies the GRW model to show how it can lead to a theory of gravity. The model incorporates flashes — spontaneous random collapses of the quantum state vector — that have the effect of measurements without observers.

A flash collapses a state vector to a unique state, creating a gravitational field at that point in spacetime. A massive quantum system with many particles is subject to numerous flashes, to give a fluctuating gravitational field that averages out to a Newtonian gravitational field.

This approach to unifying gravity with quantum mechanics is called semiclassical: gravity arises from quantum processes but remains a classical force. The model predicts that gravity behaves differently at the atomic and cosmological scales.

AR It will be hard to coax us all away from the geometric approach to gravity in general relativity. Also, those random flashes are quite unmotivated. I studied the GRW model 30 years ago and was unconvinced. Roger Penrose controversially proposed a similar mechanism, with consciousness to trigger the flashes.

2017 September 22

A New Era of Cooperation and Partnership

Theresa May

The British people have decided to leave the European Union. Our determination to defend the stability, security, and prosperity of our European neighbours and friends remains steadfast. We will do all this as a sovereign nation in which the British people are in control.

Since the triggering of Article 50 in March, we have made concrete progress on many important issues. The UK government, the Irish government, and the EU as a whole have been clear that through the process of our withdrawal we will protect progress made in Northern Ireland over recent years. We have also made significant progress on how we look after European nationals living in the UK and British nationals living in the 27 Member States of the EU.

We will no longer be members of the single market or its customs union. Let us be creative in designing an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people. To make this partnership work, we will need a strong and appropriate dispute resolution mechanism.

We are proposing a bold new strategic agreement that provides a comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement, and criminal justice cooperation. We are also proposing a far reaching partnership on how we protect Europe together from the threats we face in the world today. What we are offering will be unprecedented.

There should be a period of implementation after the UK leaves the EU. As of today, these considerations point to an implementation period of around two years.

Our departure causes another type of uncertainty for the remaining member states and their taxpayers over the EU budget. We can only resolve this as part of the settlement of all the issues. The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.

The negotiations will be difficult. But we can find a way forward that makes a success of this for all of our peoples. The tone I want to set is one of partnership and friendship.


Josef Joffe

Germans vote in their general election on Sunday. The only question is who Angela Merkel will pick as a junior coalition partner for her fourth term. For spice, you have to look to the Alternative for Germany and its coded racism.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, is the perfect embodiment of a nation that has had its fill of political thrills. This is why the country will grant her yet another term, at the end of which she will have been in office for 16 years.

The queen of consensus also knows how to reverse course. In the refugee crisis of 2015, she welcomed a million migrants into the country. By early 2016, the Balkan route into Germany was closed and border controls were back.

Historically, moderation has never been a German speciality. Now blandness is a blessing. The Merkel republic offers full employment, decent growth, and a more egalitarian income distribution than elsewhere west of Scandinavia.

No European NATO member has disarmed further or faster than Germany since 1990. But Russians seem ready to redraw European borders by force.

2017 September 21

German Nationalism

Alan Posener

The general election in Germany will see the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party enter the Bundestag. Rightwing populism has been a fixture in the Netherlands and Austria for years and authoritarian nationalists are ruling Poland and Hungary, but Germany is different.

Four years ago, the AfD was led by an economics professor who wanted Germany to leave the euro. He and the other liberals are gone now, sidelined by Frauke Petry, who transformed the party into a populist anti-immigrant outfit. But she wanted the AfD to enter government coalitions and she demanded the expulsion of far-right radicals. Though still the party chairwoman, she is obviously on the way out.

The new stars are Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. Weidel used to work for Goldman Sachs and Allianz Global Investors, is openly lesbian, and lives in Switzerland for tax reasons. She praises communist China for its law and order and because it protects its borders. Gauland is portrayed in a 1996 novel as a reactionary bureaucrat and careerist. He is against American capitalism and for German neutrality.

The AfD is on the brink of success. Perhaps the realities of parliamentary work will expose its weakness. If a true leader arises, the party could really go places.

Atomic Brain

Andreas von Bubnoff

Brains are paragons of energy efficiency. The human brain consumes something like 20 W of power. Modern supercomputers would use over a billion times the power to simulate the same activity.

UCLA researchers hope to match this efficiency with systems that mirror brain structure. A team led by Adam Stieg and Jim Gimzewski is building a device inspired by the brain to do what it does.

The current pilot device is a 2x2 mm mesh of silver nanowires connected by artificial synapses. The device is messy, like a highly interconnected plate of noodles. Its fine structure essentially organizes itself out of random chemical and electrical processes.

The mesh boasts 1 billion artificial synapses per cm^2, which is within a couple of orders of magnitude of the brain. Its electrical activity also displays a property of complex systems like the brain: criticality, a state between order and chaos indicative of maximum efficiency.

Preliminary experiments suggest this neuromorphic silver wire mesh can perform simple learning and logic operations, it can clean the unwanted noise from received signals, and it proves the principle that devices can compute with an energy efficiency close to that of the brain.

The researchers trained the wire network to execute simple logic operations. If such neuromorphic atomic switch networks can eventually solve tasks as effectively as algorithms running on traditional computers, they could do so using only a billionth as much power — and fast.

2017 September 20

Total Destruction

Kori Schake

President Donald Trump says unless North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, "the United States will have no choice but to totally destroy" the country: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

Secretary of Defense James Mattis says a war on the Korean peninsula would be tragic on an unbelievable scale. Even if the United States could pull off a military campaign of exceptional virtuosity, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would likely die.

National Security Advisor Lieutenant General McMaster has made the case for military attacks. He says President Trump will not allow North Korea to develop the capacity for a nuclear attack on the United States. Military action must be on the table.

The White House is conflating possession with use. Shrewder would be to say nuclear weapons make no difference, because any attack on America or its allies would result in the end of the Kim regime. A nuclear-armed North Korea is no big deal.

2017 September 19

Rocket Man

Donald Trump

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first. All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.

AR Hegel used to say nation-states were in a state of nature relative to each other. Wars followed.

We Were Wrong

The Times

Earth has warmed more slowly than had been forecast by computer models. It seems we have a better chance than previously claimed of meeting the goal set by the Paris agreement on climate change to limit warming to 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels.

A new study published in Nature Geoscience shows that rapid reductions in emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has more time to make the changes.

University College London professor of international energy and climate change Michael Grubb:
"It's still likely to be very difficult to achieve these kind of changes quickly enough but we are in a better place than I thought."

The new study finds that computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a more rapid temperature increase than has taken place. Global average temperature has risen by about 0.9 K since pre-industrial times but there was a slowdown in the rate of warming from 2000 to 2014.

Oxford University professor of geosystem science Myles Allen: "We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven't seen that in the observations."

According to the earlier models, keeping to the 1.5 K target would mean humans could emit only about 70 gigatons of carbon after 2015. In the new view, we can emit another 240 gigatons and still have a reasonable chance of keeping within 1.5 K.

Allen: "That's about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely to cross 1.5 C. It's the difference between being not doable and being just doable."

Grubb: "We're in the midst of an energy revolution and it's happening faster than we thought, which makes it much more credible for governments to tighten the offer they put on the table at Paris."

AR Good news — for now!

2017 September 18

Brexit — Benefits

Nigel Lawson

Theresa May will speak in Florence before the next round of Brexit talks. She will reportedly say that after Brexit the UK will wish to maintain a special relationship with the EU. Arguably her most important audience will be in the UK.

There are economic benefits to be gained from Brexit:

1 UK public finances will benefit. The outlook published by the OBR shows EU payments falling from £12.6 billion in 2018/19 to zero in 2019/20.

2 UK legislators can comb through the vast corpus of EU regulation, amending it to suit the best interests of British business and our economy in general.

A trade deal is in the gift of the EU, and at best they will offer a bad deal. No deal simply means trading on WTO terms, like most UK trade with the rest of the world.

There is no cliff edge and no cliff.

AR Go tell Wile E Coyote.

A Ludicrous Fantasy

The Guardian

Her Majesty's secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Boris Johnson, is an accomplished confidence man. His 4,200-word job application (he wants to be prime minister) in last Saturday's Telegraph is a masterclass in doublespeak and smarm. Almost everything it says about the prospects of a Brexit deal is false.

The members of the Conservative party who might still make him prime minister want to believe Britain is the second-greatest power on Earth after America. They want to believe that wicked foreigners are taking from us £350 million a week. They are instinctively convinced they you cannot be a patriot and a lover of the European Union.

True patriotism demands a sense of proportion. Fear of young people who declare their allegiance to a European ideal is not true patriotism but the last resort of scoundrels. The task for we who think Brexit will be a disaster is first to mitigate it and second to pin the blame on the Bullingdon boys.

Sexual Selection

David Dobbs

Richard Prum believes in the Darwinian theory of sexual selection. He is an expert on the evolution of feathers and says they may have first evolved as a decorative surface for sexual display.

Prum believes courtship displays and rituals arise from a multigenerational conversation between mating partners. Male aesthetic and social qualities are repeatedly tested, judged, and modified by whether they please potential mates. Thus individual female preferences help drive evolution.

Evolution unfolds according to the demands of either fitness or beauty. A trait selected for its beauty might create problems by selecting for ornaments that work against fitness. But aesthetic courtship creates a culture that gives the female sexual choice, autonomy, and safety. Such choices gradually reshape mating behavior.

Prum shows how, for one human trait after another, adaptationist explanations fail while aesthetic ones work. Distinctive human sexual traits evolved to help women evaluate male prosocial-pleasure potential. Humans evolved to negotiate and have sex as a sort of display ritual.

Sexual selection is shaped by conflicts between male and female priorities. Sexual species tend to evolve toward either big forceful males or beautiful males. Prum says humans chose beauty.

2017 September 17

Emergent Spacetime

Robbert Dijkgraaf

Thermodynamics describes the collective behavior of large numbers of particles, irrespective of many microscopic details. It covers a wide class of phenomena in its mathematical scope.

In a renormalization group formalism, we go from small to large by taking averages. Instead of looking at the behavior of individual atoms, we can take little cubes, say 10 atoms wide on a side, as building blocks. We can then repeat this averaging procedure. Renormalization theory describes how the properties of a system change as we increase the length scale of the observations.

At the limits of the renormalization process in the infinitely large or small, things will typically simplify because either all details are washed away or the environment disappears.

This approach to quantum gravity started with the thermodynamics of black holes and came into being with the work of Juan Maldacena. In this approach, quantum spacetime, including all the particles and forces in it, emerges from a holographic system with fewer spatial dimensions.

Spacetime emerges out of the complexity of quantum information. Thermodynamics and general relativity both describe emergent phenomena.

AR A series of effective models at different scales needs folding at the limits into a theory of consciousness to give us an epistemologically grounded ontology.

The Rub Of Time

Emma Brockes

Martin Amis lives with his wife Isabel Fonseca in Brooklyn. At 68, he is still very much Amis:
"I miss the English. I miss Londoners. I miss the wit."

The terms of success in America are narrower, with a greater emphasis on individual responsibility. Amis says it is undoubtedly an easier place in which to be a successful novelist.

Christopher Hitchens died in 2011, much sooner than Amis expected. Amis is adamant about the absurdity of losing old friends over politics: "As Hitch said, you can't make old friends."

Since 1993, his own family life has been low in drama. He says he and Isabel have been lucky in all sorts of ways. Amis has mellowed.

The Golden House

Aminatta Forna

Salman Rushdie has written a tale involving great wealth and a great downfall, through a narrator who lives in the same New York garden square as Nero Golden and his three sons.

The book begins with the election of Barack Obama and ends eight years later on the eve of an election in which the lead contender refers to himself as the Joker. Nero is a man of fabulous wealth, with a beautiful Russian wife, and a fortune thought to be in part built on real estate.

The novel sees New York from the inside and the outside. Rushdie seems to be saying character creates destiny. Nero is the architect of his own downfall.

2017 September 16

German Elections

Natalie Nougayrède

German elections take place on 24 September. There is zero suspense as to who will be the next chancellor. Angela Merkel is set for a fourth term in office. She has managed to anchor her image as a safe pair of hands to shield the country from how crazy the world has become. Germans just want to hunker down and keep on living the good life.

Like the British, but for entirely different reasons, Germans have taken a holiday from the world. German voters have not shown the slightest interest in Brexit. German politicians too: Brexit was not mentioned once in the TV election debate between Merkel and Martin Schulz.

France comes across as a bit of an exception. Europe featured prominently in the French campaign, as an object of celebration for Emmanuel Macron and as a source of all evil for Marine Le Pen. One reason Macron won is that he equated Europe with a new form of French patriotism.

Contrary to many predictions, the 2015 refugee crisis has not upended German politics. In Britain, it contributed to producing Brexit. In France, it helped Le Pen collect 10 million votes. Merkel has changed her policies by closing the open door, but not her rhetoric on the moral duty of asylum.

The German public mood will make it harder to agree a collective European strategy for dealing with Brexit, Trump, Russia, Turkey, the Balkans, China, Africa, climate change, migration ..

Armageddon and Paranoia

Roger Boyes

Nuclear deterrence depended on mutually assured destruction. Stalin understood after WW2 that the US nuclear arsenal was too slender to pose an immediate threat. He challenged American power in Berlin in 1948 and supported the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950.

When Curtis LeMay was called in to sort out US Strategic Air Command in 1948, he found that bombers had first to fly to Texas to pick up their bombs, then refuel in Britain before they could drop their load on the Soviet Union. By 1953 he had fixed that with 500 bombers, 500 aerial tankers, and a web of bases across the world.

Stalin responded by throwing massive resources at the nuclear project. In 1955, the Soviets conducted the first ever test of a thermonuclear bomb, dropped from a plane over Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. They launched the satellite Sputnik into space in 1957.

At the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, President Kennedy chose not to make use of US nuclear superiority. The fear that even a few Soviet missiles could hit US cities was compelling. Kim Jong Un is creating another Sputnik moment for America.

Armageddon and Paranoia by Rodric Braithwaite

2017 September 15

War Law

Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro

International rules regarding the use of force are at the heart of some of the most beneficial transformations of the past 70 years.

A century ago, war was regarded as a legal and legitimate instrument of state action. States had the right to wage war to right legal wrongs. The first world war was the terrible culmination of the old world order.

The Paris Peace Pact of 1928 had the goal of outlawing war. Fifteen nations signed the pact immediately and within a year nearly every state in the world followed suit. The signatories had rejected a world in which war was the tool for resolving disputes and righting wrongs.

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. US secretary of state Henry Stimson wrote to the governments of China and Japan to say the US government would not recognize any outcome brought about by means outlawed by the Peace Pact.

In 1941, US attorney general Robert Jackson said the Peace Pact authorized the Lend-Lease Act, through which the United States supplied war material on favorable terms to the Allies.

The second world war was a war of military might and of ideas. The Axis powers fought for the retention of the old world order. The Allies aimed to build a new legal structure grounded in the renunciation of war. When the Allies won, they defeated the old world order.

The United Nations was built around the commitment to outlawing war. The world order that resulted has brought 70 years of peace.

AR Apart from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq ..


The NASA Cassini mission to the Saturn system ends September 15. The satellite will dive into the clouds and burn up.
The moon Titan nudged its trajectory down to Saturn. NASA calls the nudge a goodbye kiss.

US-Russia Reset

In April, Vladimir Putin sent
a document to Washington
proposing normalization of relations between the US and
Russia across all major
branches of government.

He underestimated the
political blowback the Trump
administration would face if
it normalized relations amid
investigations by the FBI and
Congress into allegations
of collusion with Russia.

The Russian ambassador to
  Washington suggests the
offer is still open.

Maryanthe Malliaris
and Saharon Shelah have
made a breakthrough in
the mathematical study
of the continuum

Sam Harris podcast

Nigel Farage
UK-MEP Nigel Farage bei
AfD-Treff in Zitadelle
Spandau, Berlin

Gangstarapper Bushido
spricht mit AfD-MEP
Beatrix von Storch


2017 September 14

Populist Europe

Michel Gurfinkiel

Populism endangers peace and stability in Europe.

Hungary — the government is led by Viktor Orbán, a populist and nationalist who undertook to turn Hungary in an authoritarian direction. Roughly two-thirds of Hungarians support xenophobia.

Poland — the conservative Catholic Law and Justice Party is passing populist-nationalist legislation.

Czech Republic — the conservative government is increasingly authoritarian and nationalistic.

Greece — the left-wing Syriza regime exudes the same authoritarian populism as the extreme right. Syriza gained power by promising that Greece could keep its welfare system, never pay its creditors, and maybe even renounce the euro.

France — an existential threat to Jews has emerged from immigrants. Most of the violence is perpetrated by radicalized Muslims. French Jews are now leaving the country in large numbers.

Russia — Vladimir Putin garners populist praise for Russia as the vanguard of white, Christian civilization, against both the rising tide of Islam and American decadence. When the Soviet Union dissolved, its army and secret police remained intact and communism became nationalism.

2017 September 13

State of the Union

Jean-Claude Juncker

The EU economy is bouncing back. We should stay the course and chart the direction for the future. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025.

Today I wrote to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and prime minister Jüri Ratas outlining the priorities for the year ahead. Five proposals are particularly important:

1 I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda. Partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.

2 I want to make our industry stronger and more competitive. I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled and I call on the car industry to come clean and put this right.

3 I want Europe to be the leader in the fight against climate change. Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe will ensure we make our planet great again.

4 We need to better protect Europeans in the digital age. A European cybersecurity agency will to help defend us against attacks.

5 Migration will stay on our radar. Europe is not a fortress. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge.

Europe was always about values:

Freedom from oppression and dictatorship, freedom to voice your opinion as a citizen and as a journalist: on these freedoms our union was built.

Equality between its members, with no second class citizens or second class workers or second class consumers.

The rule of law, with law and justice upheld by an independent judiciary, where member states gave final jurisdiction to the ECJ.

Europe needs to become more inclusive, with the euro as the single currency, with all member states in the banking union, and with agreed social rights. It needs a stronger single market, stronger economic and monetary union, and a European minister of economy and finance accountable to the European Parliament.

Europe must be stronger in fighting terrorism and stronger as a global actor. By 2025 we need a European defense union. We need it and NATO wants it.

I want our union to have a stronger focus on things that matter. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should give back competences to member states where it makes sense.

The EU needs to take a democratic leap forward. I would like to see European political parties start campaigning for the next elections much earlier than in the past, with new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations. Europe would function better if we were to merge the presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council.

On 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. This will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people.

My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values, where all member states firmly respect the rule of law, where being a full member of the EZ and the Schengen area is the norm for all member states, where we can defend our single currency, where our single market is fairer, where we agree on social standards, where profits are taxed where they were made, where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit, where we have agreed on a defense union, and where a single democratically elected president leads the way.

If our citizens wake up to this union on 30 March 2019, they can vote in the European Parliament elections in May with the firm conviction that our union is a place that works for them.

2017 September 12

Brexit — The Irish Question

Fintan O'Toole

The Irish Question: How do you impose an EU frontier across a small island without utterly unsettling the complex compromises that have ended three decades of conflict?

EU guidelines for its negotiations with the UK: "In view of the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, flexible and imaginative solutions will be required."

The Irish radically revised their nationalism. The power of the Catholic Church collapsed, the Irish economy became a poster child for globalization, and the search for peace in Northern Ireland forced a rethinking of ideas. Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar is 38, part Indian, and gay.

The Irish border is a physical token of a mental frontier. The reciprocal withdrawal of territorial claims has recreated Northern Ireland as a new kind of political space. The Belfast Agreement recognizes the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they choose.

When these ideas were framed and endorsed in referendums on both sides of the Irish border, a third identity as EU members was shared: Ireland and the UK joined the EU together in 1973.

Brexit is England revolting against the ideas that animated the Belfast Agreement. In the 2016 referendum, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London rejected Brexit and Wales voted narrowly in favor. In England without London, Brexit won by almost 11%. Brexit was a nationalist uprising — but the nation was England.

Northern Ireland is both Irish and British. Its people have an irrevocable right to be EU citizens.

2017 September 11

Brexit — Sweet Delusion

Joris Luyendijk

British hopes for a sweet soft Brexit deal reveal ignorance of the internal logic of the EU.

The EU is rapidly evolving into an economic zone governed by a single set of rules and standards and overseen by a single European court of justice, striking trade deals with the rest of the world and deriving its logic and coherence from the four freedoms — goods, capital, services, labor. It will be a single economy, not just a single market.

Brits misread the EU position on Brexit. No other EU member state wants to leave, because each believes the benefits of membership exceed its costs. They all want to prevent other member states using a sweet deal for Britain to claim their own version. EU refusal to cut Britain a sweet deal is not about punishment but about self-preservation.

Brexiteers are deluded to think EU self-interest is served by a special deal for Britain.

AR Like the dilemma of a bunch of prisoners: one defects and wins at the expense of the others, several defect and all lose, none defects and all win. Except that in an integrated world a lone defector can't win either. Go figure.

The Nature of Consciousness

A Conversation wth Thomas Metzinger
Sam Harris podcast #96 (1 h 54 m)

AR Delightful — I know Thomas and I feel I know Sam, and I agree with just about everything they say here. They are two of the inner avatars — two mini-me figures — in my mindspace that jostle to bring my manifold of sensation to the synthetic unity of apperception, to recall a trope due to Immanuel Kant. They are inseparable in that sense from the ceaseless substrate of cerebro-cognitive processing that builds and rebuilds my sense of self. To recall a trope due to Daniel Dennett, they are demons in my pandemonium.

2017 September 10

Brexit — Address Grievances

Tony Blair

British politics is in thrall to Brexit. There is no diversion possible from Brexit without addressing the grievances that gave rise to it. The people forced the political class to wake up to the depth of their anger. But if those of us warning about the consequence of Brexit turn out to be right, and it makes us poorer and weaker, the anger will be worse and the choices more ugly.

Immigration bedevils the politics of virtually every European country. We need an immigration policy that reasserts control. But by focusing on European immigration, we are targeting the one group of migrants who clearly contribute more than they take.

We can:
— Keep freedom of movement but reform it.
— Support the single market as a matter of principle together with its social protections.
— Control overall immigration in ways that meet public anxiety but are true to our values.
— Explain why Brexit is a distraction from government failures, not a solution to them.

Many in government feel they are bound by the referendum and hemmed in by their party. Brexit forces a political choice that millions will feel they cannot support and a policy debate completely irrelevant to the real challenges the country faces. MPs should put country above party.

2017 September 9

The Church of England

Jeremy Paxman

A National Census survey suggests that 8.5 million British people now identify as Anglican, down from 13 million a decade ago. In a population of 65 million, fewer than a million go to church regularly, a decline of 11% over the past decade.

The Church of England has 26 bishops in the House of Lords and the Archbishop of Canterbury outranks the elected prime minister. The Queen, who follows Henry VIII as Defender of the Faith, says her role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions but instead to protect the free practice of all faiths.

The Church of England has three sources of authority: scripture, tradition, and the exercise of reason. C of E secretary-general ­William Nye may understand the Thirty-Nine Articles but the supposed defining principles of the C of E are unknown and virtually incomprehensible to most worshippers. They have been argued over since their promulgation in 1571.

Only an ignoramus would deny the importance of the Church in the creation of the welfare state. But disagreements over new liturgies, polite squabbles over gay and gender rights, its wish to share its authority with Islam, Sikhism and Judaism — these all indicate its struggle to adjust to the world the rest of us have been living in for years.

A Better Place

Israel Story

In 2007, long before Tesla and Elon Musk became household names, Israeli tech entrepreneur Shai Agassi announced that he was going to revolutionize transportation and put millions of drivers behind the wheel of an inexpensive electric car. It was going to make the world a Better Place. Brian Blum chronicles the demise of that dream.

AR I knew Shai at SAP — he was my boss for a while. Really nice guy.

2017 September 8

Threat to Iran Nuclear Deal

The New York Times

President Trump promised during his campaign to kill the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Killing the deal would give Iran an excuse to revive what had been a rapidly advancing nuclear capability. It would confront the world with another intractable nuclear challenge in addition to North Korea.

Iran is engaging in some worrisome pursuits, but the deal is confined to the nuclear program. As long as Tehran is staying within those limits, Trump has no reason not to certify compliance. The United States has often held to deals with aggressive or unsavory governments.

Brexit — Hard Border

Michel Barnier

The UK wants the EU to suspend the application of its laws, its customs union and its single market at what will be a new external border of the EU. And the UK wants to use Ireland as a kind of test case for the future EU-UK customs relations — this will not happen.

Brexit — Hard Line

Liam Fox et al.

Continued membership of the single market, even as part of a transitional arrangement, would quite simply mean EU membership by another name. We cannot allow our country to be kept in the EU by stealth. The government must respect the will of the British people, and that means leaving the single market at the same time as we leave the EU.

The single market is a political project, and requires its members to constantly introduce new EU laws. Therefore, the longer one remains a member the harder it is to leave.

The UK must be free to negotiate and sign trade deals during the transition period and must have the power to take back control of key parts of its immigration system. When we leave in 2019, we need to make sure we are well and truly out.

AR Hart auf hart — kann nicht gut gehen.



Oxford #1

Oxford University is #1
in the world and Cambridge
is #2 in the World University
Rankings collated by Times
Higher Education.

AR British paper hails
British universities:
Eigenlob stinkt.

Hawker Hurricane (top)
Bristol Blenheim (bottom)


2017 September 7

Flavor Physics

New Scientist

The electron has two heavier siblings. The electron was discovered in 1897; the muon, like the electron but with 207 times the mass, in 1936; and the tau, with 3400 times the mass, starting in 1974. The electron, the muon, and the tau — the charged leptons — are different flavors of the same particle.

All the fundamental fermions seem to come in three flavors, with low, medium, and high masses. Probing flavor physics might help us see further. One way to do so is to test lepton universality, the principle that all leptons behave alike, so that when larger particles decay, any leptons in the fallout should be produced in equal proportions when their mass is accounted for.

In 2014, LHC scientists studying the decays of B mesons found 25% fewer muons than electrons produced, violating the principle of lepton universality. If lepton universality is broken, one explanation is that an unknown particle appears fleetingly during the meson decay and interacts with the various decay products.

Ben Gripaios was exploring the idea that the Higgs might be composite and worked out that if it is, then a hypothetical particle called a leptoquark probably is too. Leptoquarks provide a fresh way to think about flavor physics. With the mass of a composite leptoquark predicted to be under 1 TeV, it should be possible to make them at the LHC.

AR Call this work in progress.

Reason in Islam

Christopher de Bellaigue

Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh has mulled over what many critics of Islam consider to be its besetting flaw: its antipathy to reason. He says reason entered Islam through discussion and analysis of the Quran in everyday Arabic, relying on many of the same philosophical and critical techniques as Christian theology.

The Quran is a famously allusive, repetitive, contradictory text. Nusseibeh says the Quran first enabled reason to flourish in the Mideast. The slow decline of Muslim reason came after later historical reversals that engendered a defensive impulse to contract the intellectual world of Islam.

The high-water mark of reason in the modern Mideast came shortly before WW1, when Egyptian Mufti Muhammad Abduh revived the Mutazilite idea that the Quran was created, not eternal, and hence a historical document, open to interpretation according to time and circumstance.

Nusseibeh: "Given socioeconomic and political conditions in present-day Arab society, a turn of historical proportions is needed to give free rein to the imagination and permit reason to conceive a new course — as happened, so long ago, right at the beginning."

AR Can we call Mideast reason a work in progress?

2017 September 6

AI Rules

Vladimir Putin

Artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia but of all of mankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.


Barack Obama

Immigration can be a controversial topic. But the action that the White House took today is about young people who grew up in America. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every way but on paper.

My administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the legal principle of prosecutorial discretion. And America grew stronger as a result.

But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong. And it is cruel.

The action taken today is a political decision. It is contrary to our spirit and to common sense. Ultimately, this is about basic decency.

British Economy Broken

Justin Welby

I am convinced that most people in Britain want an economic system in the service of human flourishing and the common good, where all are valued and all have a stake, regardless of their perceived economic worth and ability.

Our economic model is broken and we are failing those who will grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country is significant and destabilising. Half of all households have seen no meaningful improvement in their incomes for more than a decade.

Between 2010 and 2015, the median pay for directors in FTSE 100 companies rose by almost a half. In communities where I have worked in northern England, living standards have fallen.

2017 September 5

Quantum Reconstruction

Philip Ball

Some researchers want to reconstruct quantum theory from a few simple principles.

Lucien Hardy focused on the probabilities that relate the possible states of a system with the chance of observing each state in a measurement. He assumed that any system can be described by a list of properties and their possible values. Then he considered the possibilities for measuring the values definitively in a single observation.

A qubit can be in a superposition of the states 0 or 1. If you measure a qubit, you only ever get 1 or 0. A quantum object commonly has more states encoded in the state vector than can be seen in practice.

This property of qubits can be reflected in in probabilistic rules about how systems can carry information and how they can be combined and interconverted. The simplest theory to describe such systems is quantum mechanics, with phenomena such as interference and entanglement, in which the properties of different objects become interdependent.

A quantum reconstruction starts by listing the probabilities that a user of the theory assigns to each of the possible outcomes of all the measurements the user can perform on a system. That list is the state of the system. The other ingredients are the ways states can be transformed into one another, and the probability of the outputs given certain inputs.

Quantum theory can be derived from axioms about information. The axioms state that information should be localized in spacetime, that systems should be able to encode information about each other, and that every process should in principle be reversible, so that information is conserved. A system governed by these rules shows all the familiar quantum behaviors, such as superposition and entanglement.

Hardy suspects there is still a deeper level to go to in understanding quantum theory.

2017 September 4

NK — Massive Military Response

James Mattis

Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.

We are not looking to the total annihilation of North Korea, but we have many options to do so.

German Election Debate

The New York Times

Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz clashed in a 97 minute exchange on refugee policy, Turkey, and domestic security. She agreed with his statement that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union, while he expressed doubt about whether President Trump could deal effectively with North Korea.

Polls declared Merkel the winner. But many voters remain uncertain about who could better lead them over the next four years — nearly half of all German voters remained undecided.

Angela Merkel v Martin Schulz

AR Watching and hearing the live debate was such a delight — clear, factual, cooperative, wide ranging, analytic, harmonious, constructive, intelligent, and illuminating. So refreshingly different from the polemical dissonance one hears in British TV debates.

2017 September 3

Bournemouth Air Festival

Bournemouth East Cliff
2017-08-31 — 2017-09-03

How Brits seem to love nostalgic reminders of World War 2, even just to see overflights by aircraft of 1940 vintage that failed to prevent the Dunkirk defeat (left).

AR Sunday: Rain stopped play.

NoKo Nuke Test

The New York Times

North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test on Sunday, according to the South Korean military. A seismic tremor emanating from the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test had an estimated magnitude of 6.3, said the US Geological Survey.

Hours earlier, the NK state news agency said NK had developed a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an ICBM — without real evidence. The fourth NK nuclear test in January 2016 was claimed to be a hydrogen bomb.

SK president Moon Jae-in and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe called emergency meetings of their national security councils.

Abe: "If North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, we can never accept that."

2017 September 2

Brexit — Wipeout

The Independent

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: "No decisive progress."

Without such progress on the Irish border, the divorce bill, and the rights of EU/UK citizens, there can be no progress on a trade deal. Nothing — failure.

Full UK access to European markets implies EU membership, migration of labour, and a common external tariff. The Irish border cannot be open and free when it is an EU external border. Either the British pay their financial obligations or they do not. These are facts, not bargaining chips.

The chance is high that the UK will simply crash out of the EU in March 2019 with no deal. Who would want to be British prime minister after that, and have to tell the British people they will be poorer, with rising prices, a falling pound, and fewer jobs?

A wipeout for the Tories beckons.


Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff

On September 1, 1953, William Scoville performed brain surgery on HM. From then on, HM could no longer remember anything he did. He could not remember what he had just eaten or find his way around the hospital. He failed to recognize hospital staff he had met only minutes earlier.

After surgery, HM was insensitive to pleasure and pain. This is critical to understanding his loss of memory. All of our memories are subjective. The loss of pleasure and pain is a loss of subjectivity, which HM lost when Scoville removed his hippocampus. The hippocampus is essential to convert short-term memories to long-term memories.

The hippocampus is made up of cells with different functions. Place cells respond to location in space, creating mental maps of the environment. Other cells help establish our relationships to many other types of environmental and internal stimuli. Hippocampal neurons convey relationships to our consciousness.

Our memories are created from the point of view of the individual who is remembering. We have a sense of self because we have a preexisting sense of our body that contains that self. The basis of our subjectivity is our body image, which the brain creates from our movements and from the sensory responses to those movements.

When memories are first formed, they are short-term and unstable. With time, the physical representation of the memory in the brain formed by the synaptic junctions between neurons becomes more stable. The stabilized memories then become long-term memories. Even long-term memories are dynamic. Each time the brain tries to activate a memory trace, the nature of that trace changes. Memories are altered every time the brain recalls them.

2017 September 1

North Korea

Vladimir Putin

Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile. The region's problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road. The situation on the Korean peninsula is balancing on the brink of a large-scale conflict.

Hubble Finds Water Near Trappist-1

Jon von Radowitz

Astronomers say Hubble Space Telescope data suggests life might have evolved on planets orbiting Trappist-1, a dwarf star 40 light years from the Sun. A total of 7 planets similar in size to Earth orbit the star in its habitable zone — and now it seems the outer planets still have plenty of water.

UV radiation can dry planets out by breaking up its water molecules. Levels of UV radiation emitted by Trappist-1 suggest its inner planets could have lost 30 Yg of water in the last 250 Ps. But its outer planets may have lost less than 4 Yg of water, leaving oceans on their surfaces.

AR See blog 2017-02-23 and 2017-05-13.


Anil Ananthaswamy

From dolphins to slime moulds, organisms throughout the evolutionary tree seem to make sense of the world mathematically, deciphering its patterns and regularities in order to survive.

Any form of life that interacts with its environment needs an implicit model of that environment to function. Yet these living modelers are unaware of what they are doing. Even we human beings are unconsciously doing some pretty complex mathematics when we run or catch a ball.

Humans invented numbers. Our symbolic language for mathematics allows us not only to overcome certain limitations of our subconscious mind but also to explore abstract concepts in depth and communicate them to others. Perhaps we are born with a conscious sense of numbers in the same way we are conscious of colors.

Humans have built an immense pyramid of mathematical knowledge. The more we learn about the hidden workings of the universe, the more such mathematical innovation seems to describe the things we see. The success of mathematics as a language speaks to its primacy in the organization of the universe.

Max Tegmark thinks the universe is a mathematical structure that we are slowly uncovering to reveal the reality. He says the biggest hurdle is a mathematical description of consciousness: "That's going to be the final test of the hypothesis that it's all mathematics."

AR I've done that bit — see my book Mindworlds.

NK missile

North Korea threatens Japan

Burning Man
Burning Man
Black Rock Desert
2017-08-27 — 2017-09-04

Bournemouth beach on
Bank Holiday Monday

Border sign

Sterling sank yesterday
to €1.0835. Before the
vote on 23 June 2016,
£1 could buy €1.31.

International Space Station
photobombs solar eclipse

Natalie DiBlasio
Totality from a plane
over Oregon


Bannon the Barbarian
is back at Breitbart
"Steve is now unchained"
"He's going nuclear"



Activist and Nobel prizewinner
Malala Yousafzai wins place
to study PPE at Oxford


2017 August 31

Brexit — Deadlock

Jon Stone

Brexit talks are deadlocked as the UK and EU negotiating teams fail to make progress in critical areas. The biggest stumbling block is the divorce bill. The UK and the EU cannot agree on how to calculate it. The two sides may not make sufficient progress by October to move onto trade talks about the future UK-EU relationship.

Theresa May: "We have been publishing a series of papers over the summer. There will be more papers to come, where we are setting out the key issues that both sides need to address, the options that we have, the ideas we have, of how to deal with those."

2017 August 30

Physics of Extremists

Neil Johnson

We looked at the shapes of the distributions of terrorist attacks. Given 9/11 and an attack half that size — that gives you the statistical distribution. When you plot the frequency of events versus the size of events, you get a straight line with a slope of 2.5 for conflicts and terrorism.

Loose groups that come together and then sense danger might fight and then break up and scatter in all directions. Almost like fish in the sea, they build into schools and when a predator comes along they scatter.

We took those two features and we built a mathematical model for collections of objects that try to coalesce into groups, and then when they detect imminent danger break apart. And then they form up again, then break apart. The equations gave a power law distribution for the sizes of the clusters with a slope of 2.5.

Extremists form themselves into online groups to exchange information. Like the fish under the sea, they slowly build up into groups and then the groups get shut down by the moderators, in which case they scatter. The size distribution of the groups is a power law with exponent 2.5.

People who become extremist more quickly do so in a predictable way. The ones who take longer to cook tend to fluctuate around more. The tendency for people to flock together and then break up is common to any human activity that is under stress.

2017 August 29

NK v Japan


North Korea has fired a missile over Japan. Prime minister Shinzo Abe calls it the "most serious and grave ever" threat to the country.

The missile was fired just before 6 am in Japan. The launch set off warnings in northern Japan urging people to seek shelter. It flew over Hokkaido and broke up before falling into the Pacific Ocean a little more than 1 Mm off the Japanese coast. The missile was in flight for a little less than 1 ks.

Japan's UN ambassador Koro Bessho: "The international community has to put more pressure on North Korea."

Thorium Reactors

New Scientist

Dutch nuclear research institute NRG has launched the Salt Irradiation Experiment (SALIENT) in collaboration with the EU Commission. The researchers will use thorium as a fuel for a molten salt reactor, a next-generation design for nuclear power. Molten salt reactors can achieve very high temperatures, boosting the efficiency of the power generation process.

Other will join the thorium club. A US startup based in Utah is developing a thorium reactor, and Utah's Seven County Infrastructure Coalition is seeking experts to evaluate a thorium energy facility for producing electricity. By the end of the year, the Kalpakkam thorium test reactor in India may start generating energy.

AR I have been pushing for more thorium power R and D for years.

2017 August 28

Brexit — Soft Option

The Guardian

A Conservative government with a delusional policy on Brexit is hastening the UK toward an exit from the EU that could devastate the economy.

Labour's new Brexit policy is that Britain must remain inside the single market and the customs union for a transitional period. The transitional period will be as short as possible but as long as necessary. During that time, existing single market and customs union terms would continue to apply. Labour wants the soft option.

Labour is now more electable. Labour MPs can work with the many Conservatives who want a softer Brexit. This is a moment of hope.

Brexit — Brussels Anger

Christoph B. Schiltz

First the UK irritated the EU because it failed to explain what it wanted at Brexit. Now as the third round of negotiations begin the ideas are coming — and Brussels is angry.

According to Article 50, at midnight on 29 March 2019, the UK is out. The EU Parliament says cherry picking is not on. The size of the Brexit bill, the rights of EU citizens, and the Irish question should be decided by October.

Everything is still open.

2017 August 27

Grave Systemic Crisis

Niall Ferguson

Philip Zelikow has served Republican and Democratic presidents and was executive director of the 9/11 commission. He says the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have all been lured by the threat of Islamic terrorism into "broken wilderness areas of the world" that are unlikely to change the course of world history in any positive way.

Zelikow says catalytic change comes only after a systemic crisis when people all over the world no longer think the old order works. We are on the brink of just such a crisis now, triggered by the digital revolution and the spread of Islamic extremism and much else.

The West no longer has the secret sauce: the growth rate is a grinding 2%, the returns go to the top 0.1%, and the public and private debt just keeps piling up. Anyone who wants to take umbrage at anything shrieks "hate speech!" — the modern term for heresy.

The world is probably slouching toward a grave systemic crisis.

Sperm Counts Plummeting


Men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have suffered a 52% decline in sperm concentration and a 59% decline in total sperm count between 1973 and 2011.

AR Blame hot pants — free the scrotum!

2017 August 26

Germany Military Leadership

Anne Applebaum

Germany is an integral member of NATO. From 1945 to 1989, the US army gave West Germany the safety and security to develop a uniquely successful political culture. But there are reasons to doubt continuing American support. Germany should make its own plans to deal with threats.

Germany lacks the military and diplomatic power to keep Europe safe from future Russian aggression. Germans once confronted the problem of unification, and they spent time and resources on solving it. But when it comes to problems in the wider region, Germany has been absent.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has made the already low German defense budget an electoral issue. Given the poor condition of German armed forces, this seems irresponsible. Germans should work with the EU to create a multinational force that can defend EU borders.

Borderline Insanity

Jörg Schindler

Brexit threatens to cause confusion in Northern Ireland. Since 1998, Catholics in Northern Ireland have shared Irish citizenship. But when an EU external border runs through the island of Ireland, they will become EU citizens outside EU territory.

In 20 years of relative peace, the island of Ireland has become a single economic entity. But if the UK ends up leaving the EU single market and customs union, a border control regime will have to be reintroduced. This will cause tensions.

Irish and Northern Irish Catholics would like to see Northern Ireland remain part of both the UK and the EU. London and the EU27 would have to agree, as too would Northern Irish Protestants, most of whom are diehard loyalists.

A New Political Party

Caitlin Moran

Many people in the UK have decried the idea of a new, pro-EU political party. But the simple fact is that the 48% of people who voted Remain don't have a party they can vote for. So market forces tell you there is a big, obvious market for a new, centrist, pro-EU party.

As this new party seems to be forming in a tearing hurry — the presumption being it will have to be up and running if/when the Brexit shit hits the fan and the population looks for something new — I fear things will be overlooked as people seek to form an instant structure.

The most useful thing would be a pamphlet. It would do us good to return to the era of the thoughtful, well-reasoned pamphlet. Every generation should start at the beginning again and remind itself that the basis of any democratic system is a series of philosophical questions.

2017 August 25

Political Platforms

John Herrman

The rise of internet platforms promised mass participation in the public sphere. This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation. This contradiction is foundational to what internet companies are.

Social platforms refer to their customers as users or members of a community. Their leaders are prone to statesmanlike posturing, and content moderation and behavioral guidelines are likewise rendered in the terms of legal governance. Questions about how platforms deal with disruptive users and offensive content are met by invoking free speech.

These companies draw arbitrary boundaries against spammers, concerning profanity, or in response to government demands. Social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones.

Nude Beaches


German Left parliamentarian Gregor Gysi is bothered by the slow demise of free body culture (FKK) in Germany: "We need to make FKK possible at more places. It would be a great benefit."

After reunification, FKK began to dwindle even in East Germany. Gysi quotes a sex researcher who says West German men are responsible for the decline by ogling women: "Women didn't want to be looked at. They wanted to be free."

Gysi wants to see more nude beaches in Germany because FKK is part of German culture and an aspect of freedom: "A one-piece swimsuit or a bikini may be uncomfortable for some."

Taking Back Control

Katherine Watts

The UK prime minister says the UK parliament will make laws, UK judges will interpret them, and the UK supreme court will be ultimate arbiter in disputes over them. The UK will be outside the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).

Without the CJEU check on power, the unwritten UK constitution gives the government tremendous power to push through its own policies. A government with a large parliamentary majority is sovereign. The House of Commons has unchecked power. The House of Lords has no veto over legislation, and parliament can block a UK court from hearing a judicial review against the government.

The CJEU has at times acted on behalf of UK citizens over the UK government. It has put environmental issues into EU law and has helped to create important rights for UK citizens. Now the UK government will take back control.

2017 August 24

Rule Britannia — Not

Philip Stephens

HMS Queen Elizabeth can carry 60 fighter aircraft. But the the American F-35B jump-jets planned for it are too expensive. So the Royal Navy flagship will have to make do with 12 or fewer.

Brexit Britain is billed as Global Britain. No one knows why giving up on Europe will enhance British standing elsewhere. Now ministers admit they cannot afford a hard Brexit.

Britain will leave the EU customs union but the government wants to replicate its arrangements. The ECJ will be out but Britain will accept another court that takes its lead from the ECJ. Britain will be out of the single market but a "deep and special" partnership will ensure frictionless access.

Brexiteers think international trade is about tariffs. Today standards and norms are what really matter. Services too need common rules and mutual recognition.

On immigration, the government wants to cut numbers to below a net 100,000 a year — but hospitals will not lose EU doctors and nurses, farmers will still have cheap eastern European labour, and foreign bankers and tech wizards will always be welcome.

Most ministers know that Brexit comes with a hefty cost, but are unwilling to say so to voters. So they promise to make a success of what they know will be a failure.

Britain could just join the United States. After all, the first jets to fly from the Queen Elizabeth will belong to the US Marines. But Donald Trump takes the shine off that idea.

2017 August 23

Total Eclipse of the Presidency


In Arizona, President Donald Trump revisited his response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture wars.

He blamed "weak, weak people" for allowing removal of statues commemorating the Confederacy:
"They're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our history."

On the protests in Charlottesville:
"The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news ..
I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got 'em all."

On the failed vote to repeal and replace Obamacare and Arizona senator John McCain:
"One vote away, I will not mention any names."

A swipe at Arizona senator Jeff Flake: "Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is. And now, we haven't mentioned any names, so now, everybody's happy."

"I think we'll probably end up terminating NAFTA at some point .. Believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell doubts whether Trump can lead the Republican Party into the mid-term elections and beyond.

US Military Coup

The Independent

With his speech on Monday about increasing troop deployment to Afghanistan and US policy in South Asia, US President Trump surrendered to the military. His generals — chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary James Mattis, and national security advisor H.R. McMaster — hold him hostage.

In 1961, US President and former D-Day supreme commander Dwight Eisenhower warned against this: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

AR A military takeover from Trump is a step forward.

2017 August 22

Afghanistan, Pakistan, India

Donald Trump

We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. That must change immediately.

We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.

AR The US must get tougher than this with Pakistan.

US 0, China 2

Financial Times

In his last interview before he was fired, Steve Bannon said the US was engaged in an economic war with China. His exit shows Beijing is winning. 

Goal 1 for China — President Donald Trump decided to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP would have locked the US and China's largest Asian trading partners in a formidable economic bloc from which Beijing was initially excluded.

No US goal — Trump did not confront the One China policy or declare China a currency manipulator. His administration has just launched a probe into alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property, but it will probably drag on for a year.

Goal 2 for China — Beijing has avoided any economic disruptions with the US ahead of a Communist party congress this autumn that will inaugurate the second term in office for President Xi Jinping.

AR So Trump has cost the US another trillion dollars.

Brexit — Yes

Patrick Minford

Our report estimate that the gains from a full Brexit will be £135 billion: a 7% boost to GDP and a rise the growth rate. Elements in the calculation: free trade, pragmatic regulation, zero EU payments, and no more cost to the taxpayer of the subsidy paid to unskilled EU immigrants.

Our estimates have triggered howls of protest and derision from economists. They assume Brexit UK will be protectionist and they use a "gravity" model in which trade is a function of the size and proximity of trading partners.

The UK government is committed to free trade and the UK economy shows growth toward net exports away from consumption. The gravity model cannot account for the surge in our service exports all around the world or our huge trade with anglophone countries.

Brexit — No

Molly Scott Cato

The model estimating a big boost from a hard Brexit is voodoo economics. It is based on the UK unilaterally removing all restrictions and tariffs and trying our luck in a global market. This would lead to a massive fall in wages and the end of UK manufacturing.

That model has no credibility. The view of the EU as a costly protectionist club has been debunked. In the real world, proximity, common standards, and rapid movement of components matter. The report is based on the illusion that the UK can stand alone in a globalized world.

2017 August 21

Killer Robots

Future of Life Institute

Tesla founder Elon Musk and Google DeepMind man Mustafa Suleyman:
    "Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close."

AR Respect the rule of law [lethal autonomous weapons]!

Brexit — Cold Autumn

The Guardian

Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar says it has proved too difficult to close the differences in the opening rounds of talks between the EU and the UK. In October the European Council, on which Cerar sits, will decide by unanimity whether sufficient progress has been made on three key issues for talks to begin on trade.

Brexit — A Champion

Matt Ridley

The EU single market is a fortress protected by high external tariff walls. The big issue today is not tariffs but standards. Britain has a strong interest in trying to lead the world into services liberalisation. Britain can champion a shift toward an approach based on principles, focused on outcomes, and friendly to consumers.

A Clean Brexit

Bernard Jenkin

There will be no soft Brexit when the UK leaves the EU. A second referendum would be a distraction and perpetuate uncertainty. The EU must comply with the WTO trade facilitation agreement. Matters regarding interpretation of an interim agreement must be settled via an independent tribunal, not by the ECJ.

A Brexit Court

The Times

Britain could both withdraw from the ECJ and accept EU demands for independent judicial oversight of a future deal. EFTA court president Carl Baudenbacher proposes that the UK agree to accept the jurisdiction of the EFTA court, which oversees the EU relationship with Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: "The big difficulty is that the EFTA court takes its lead from the ECJ, and while its rulings are technically advisory, in practice they take direct effect in the countries concerned. That would be unacceptable."

AR UK — a law unto itself — a.k.a. rogue state.

2017 August 20

Brexit — Legal Confusion?

Catherine Barnard

Brexiteers vilify the European Court of Justice (ECJ). But the ECJ in Luxembourg scored a win for the City of London when it ruled that the ECB was wrong to insist that euro clearing houses should be based in the EZ.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is the one that ruled on prisoners' voting rights and that obstructed the path of UK efforts to deport Abu Qatada.

Brexiteers hate letting a foreign court tell British courts what to do. But the ECJ only interprets the meaning of EU law. The UK courts apply that interpretation to the facts.

Given the proximity of the UK customs union with the EU customs union, any judgments of the ECJ on the EU customs union will put UK courts under a strong obligation to interpret UK law in the light of ECJ judgments.

After Brexit, any future ECJ judgments will be drafted without the benefit of British judges sitting on its bench and British lawyers arguing the case. The UK has punched above its weight in getting its way — all that will be lost.

2017 August 19


Aaron James

What the surfer knows, in knowing how to ride a wave, bears on questions about freedom, control, happiness, society, our relation to nature, the value of work, and the meaning of life.

For someone to be surfing, three conditions must be met:
1 He must be attuned to a shifting phenomenon outside of himself, like a wave.
2 He must be adapting himself in response to it, so as to be carried along by its propulsive forces.
3 He must be doing so intentionally and for its own sake.

Adaptive attunement captures a meaningful sense of freedom consistent with being trapped by the laws of nature. Freedom is a matter of transcending your will and accepting the exchange between what you intend to do and what you are constrained to do by the forces around you. You take what the wave gives you.


Robert Wright

On my first retreat I had an experience that bordered on hallucinogenic. At first I was, like, whoa. I mean, this is my first retreat, right? And at first it's like red and purple and I'm like: Whoa, this is a new place. What I observed was actually in a sense that thought, except that what it looked like was one entity saying it to another, and I realized it was kind of like the inside of my mind.

Our ordinary way of seeing things is pretty deeply confused. You have apprehensions that are quite different from your ordinary way of experiencing things. Like you're meditating on a retreat, and you feel that the tingling in your foot is no more a part of you than a bird that's singing.

2017 August 18


Stefan Wagstyl

Germany is a rich country, with the highest income per head of the larger EU countries, comfortably ahead of Britain, France, and Italy. Unemployment is the lowest in the EU.

But the disparities between rich and poor loom large for many Germans, who have long believed they live in an unusually fair society, after WW2 swept away old elites and left a more equal country.

On household income, Germany is close to the EU average. But on wealth, Germany is significantly less equal than its EU peers. The gap has widened for the same reasons as elsewhere — globalization and technological change.

— Fewer than half of Germans own their own homes. The rest rent. The market delivers affordable housing but discourages investment in home ownership.

— German state pensions are generous for most people who are employed full-time for most of their working lives. They are a reliable way of financing old age.

— German inheritance tax law favors business owners. The rules largely exempt fortunes invested in productive companies as long as the heirs promise to maintain jobs.

Parliamentary elections in September offer Germans a chance to make their voices heard. SPD leader Martin Schulz pledges to raise taxes on the well-paid to finance tax cuts for those on lower incomes. Chancellor Angela Merkel offers tax cuts for all, funded from the budget surpluses.

Trump — Toast

Before composing his ode to the statues of Confederate leaders, Donald Trump tore into two Republican senators who had dared to criticize him for what he said about Charlottesville. To get any trade or tax legislation through Congress, the White House will need the overwhelming support of Republicans in Congress. Even assuming that Trump will survive this latest horror show, he has moved onto political ground that makes it virtually impossible for other people to stand with him.

Steve Bannon — Fired

2017 August 17


Steve Bannon

We're at economic war with China. They're not shy about saying what they're doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they're just tapping us along. It's just a sideshow.

There’s no military solution to North Korea, forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us.

To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're 5 years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.

Biological Mutations

Jordana Cepelewicz

Bacteria have a DNA repair mechanism for when their genomes are damaged. Dozens of genes become active and the rate of mutation goes up. The extra mutations are often detrimental but they enable adaptation.

There may be a mechanism that drives more mutation in regions of the genome where it could be most adaptive. DNA often contains multiple copies of extended sequences of base pairs or genes because mistakes can occur when cells replicate their DNA. If the replication mechanism stalls, usually it can restart and pick up where it left off. Sometimes it goes back to the beginning and accidentally deletes a gene sequence or makes extra copies of it. Perhaps these copying errors are more likely to hit genes that are actively responding to environmental stresses.

This mechanism can arise entirely through Darwinian selection of random mutations to give a process that stimulates nonrandom mutations at useful sites.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth  — its F-35B aircraft have not yet been built

Racist Republicans
Edward Luce

The US commander-in-chief
is giving succor to Neonazis.
US democracy is heading
toward civil breakdown.

German Growth

German GDP grew 0.6% in Q2
and 0.7% in Q1. Performance
was in line with EZ average.
German year-on-year
growth was 2.1%.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski:
"There is very little reason to
fear a sudden end to the
current performance."

Zapad 2013

 "The only way to preserve
free and frictionless trade
with the European Union is
continued membership of
the customs union, as well
as the single market."
Chris Leslie

American Reality
Kurt Andersen

Americans believe in heaven
and in miracles. Surveys show
the reality-based community
is a minority in America.
Being American means
we can believe anything
we want.

No No To Nukes

The American public would
not stop a president from
using nuclear weapons in war. Under pressures like those
facing President Harry Truman
in 1945, a clear majority of
the public would support the
first use of nukes now,
as it did then.

Alenia Aermacchi
Luftwaffe Typhoon
with 2 x Taurus
mission concept

The ROK Air Force would
attack NK hard targets with
Taurus KEPD 350, an ALSM
made in Germany



Saturday afternoon

"Cometh the hour,
cometh the Mogg"


Rolf Peter Sieferle und seine

Renters Alliance


2017 August 16

Trump Trash

Yair Rosenberg

Charlottesville, Virginia, last Friday night: White nationalists brandished torches, chanted Nazi slogans, and waved a banner: "Jews are Satan's children."

Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke: "The truth is, the American media, and the American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause .. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."

Alt-right luminary Richard Spencer mocked Charlottesville's Jewish mayor Mike Signer: "Little Mayor Signer — 'See-ner' — how do you pronounce this little creep's name?"

Crowd: "Jew, Jew, Jew."

Google Genes

Daniel Finkelstein

I was not surprised to learn that Google fired James Damore. I think he made a number of errors. Research on differences in the sexes finds them to be quite small, and they do not show women are less fitted for roles in technology and leadership.

The notion that there is something right wing about discussing genes is ridiculous. What we are learning about genes and behavior is a more serious challenge to the right than to the left. There is a connection between genes and behavior.

No argument gets far by ignoring science and common sense. Far from supporting racism, genetic research questions whether race even exists. Debating the relationship between nature and social outcomes helps us understand discrimination.

If some people are naturally less able to make their way in the world than others, then it may not be enough to allow equal opportunity. Genes make the case for redistribution. Progressives need not fear acknowledging the role of genes.



In Russia and Belarus, preparations are underway for Zapad, a major military exercise to be held in September. Of all the exercises in the Russian military calendar, quadrennial Zapad is the one that most closely resembles practice for invading neighbors.

The United States, NATO, and states bordering Russia will be watching closely to learn what they can about the latest Russian capabilities and military procedures. Russia has previously used the fact of troops on the move for exercises to launch real military operations.

Belarus is an ally of Russia but has no antagonism toward the West and wants instead to remain neutral between Russia and NATO. The authorities in Minsk have invited military observers and defense attachés from a large number of countries and international organizations.

NATO states have made small temporary increases in defensive assets in the Baltic states as a precaution.

Brexit Battle

Financial Times

The UK government Brexit paper on future customs arrangements accepts the UK will need a transitional customs union to avoid a catastrophic shock in March 2019. DExEU SoS David Davis calls the lack of detail "constructive ambiguity".

To maintain frictionless trade with the EU, the UK will need to continue the regulation that underpins the single market. Beyond the transition period, the plans envisage either a streamlined customs arrangement using new technology or a new customs partnership that can reliably track goods through international supply chains.

The European Commission says only membership of the customs union and single market will deliver frictionless trade.

Brexit Britain — Urbane, Unhinged

Rafael Behr

Hollywood saw long ago that a British accent makes a fine complement to evil villainy. The center ground of British politics is gone. Beyond our shores, no one thinks Brexit is consistent with the nobler traditions of British statecraft.

Tory radicals cast themselves as swashbuckling adventurers, freeing the UK to find riches on the high seas. But another archetype casts Brexiteers as fanatics urging chaos in honeyed tones, sheathing villainy in gentility.

AR Beware of the Mogg.

2017 August 15

Have Cake And Eat It

The Guardian

The UK government will seek a temporary deal with the EU for a few years after Brexit.

A deal with the EU to retain the benefits of customs union for a transitional period would give businesses and officials time to gear up for a new customs regime and give the UK time to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries. During the transition Britain would not be party to the EU treaties.

The EU will have to decide whether it would accept such an arrangement.

No Right Case For Brexit

Polly Toynbee

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an authentic reactionary. A rampant Brexiteer and a Trump defender, he is a
hard-right Tory, from climate-change denial to praise for disability cuts, from attacking the BBC to abhorrence of regulation.

He wants to cut taxes. He says this brings in more revenue: "Generally people will spend their own money more effectively than the government, and there is no money at all except that earned by the private sector."

Wrong. We need a strong state to guarantee property rights, basic public services for the workforce, and so on. Try running a business in a failed state.

No Left Case For Brexit

Ben Chu

If Labour supporters want a glimpse of what their 2017 election manifesto would look like in practice, they only need to cross the Channel.

In France, university tuition is funded by the taxpayer. In Portugal and Slovakia, domestic energy consumers enjoy price caps. In Germany, there is a network of public savings banks. In Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, train companies are public. In Luxembourg and Belgium, there are no zero-hour contracts. In Sweden and Denmark, the state takes half of national income in tax.

The EU is a bastion of social democracy. The Leftist case for Brexit is flimsy. The idea that the EU is a neoliberal project is daft.

AR No good case on either side for Brexit.

2017 August 14

America — Locked and Loaded

Gideon Rachman

Donald Trump's threats that North Korea risks fire and fury from a locked and loaded America put American credibility on the line and prompts escalation by the Kim Jong Un regime. He is flirting with a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. All previous presidents have rejected pre-emptive attacks on nuclear-armed states.

The crisis that Trump is stoking is increasingly inseparable from the domestic problems besieging his administration. The investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian intervention in the US election is getting ever closer to the Trump inner circle. Congress is deadlocked and the White House is a hive of sackings and scheming.

The idea that the threat of war could lead Americans to rally around the president should sound alarm bells for anyone with a sense of history. Governments facing a domestic crisis are often more inclined to adventurism abroad. Leaders under severe domestic political pressure are also more likely to behave irrationally.

Tech Sexism

Lara Williams

James Damore: "Philosophically, I don't think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women."

As an engineer in Google, Damore wrote a memo full of of bad science and biological determinism. He said women are intrinsically different to men, with more openness, interest in people over things, preference for social and artistic work, neuroticism and anxiety, and so on.

Science is a slow process, not a growing string of truths. Damore portrays women as a product of inherited traits without social and cultural influence. His assertions presume gender identity happens in a cultural vacuum.

Damore: "We ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs, These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life."

Men do not have biological predisposition toward stressful hours any more than women do. A balanced and fulfilling life is different if you do most of the domestic labor and child rearing. An aggressively masculine "bro" culture makes those long office hours even worse.

Free the Queen!

Kevin Maguire

Britain's most troubled family is way past its sell-by date and living on borrowed time. We should consign the UK to the dustbin of history and embrace the future as the British Republic.

Ending the monarchy is not the most pressing challenge confronting these islands. Yet in its own little way the dusty institution is a block to decency and progress. Royal inherited wealth and habits of deference give respectability to unearned riches and grotesque inequality.

Criticism of royalty is not treason. In an age of austerity there are better ways to spend £369 million than tarting up Buckingham Palace. The royals live in a gilded cage — free them!

2017 August 13


Roger Scruton

Conservatism is the attempt to conserve our community in all matters that ensure our long-term survival and mutual support.

Peace, security, democracy, and historic liberties all depend on a shared sense of belonging among strangers whom we can trust; on traditions of education, cooperation, and compromise; on the Christian legacy of neighbourly love and a tradition of tolerance. They depend upon institutions and forms of life that are the legacy of our attempts to live together as a nation on our island.

Changes have occurred that can unwind those relations of dependence:

The mass immigration of communities who define their political membership in religious
    rather than secular terms
The transfer of sovereignty from parliament to unelected officials in foreign countries
    and foreign courts of law
The disruption of the common law by the abolition of the tutelary office of lord chancellor
    and the creation of a supreme court
The assault on national unity caused by creating a Scottish parliament while leaving the
    English with no assembly of their own

Conservative politicians have a duty to articulate the idea of a diverse but unified civil society and its corporate persona. We have blundered into a condition of mass immigration with no philosophy to justify the attempt to limit it.

In the Brexit vote, the only ideas that emerged were economic, as though the "we" of national sovereignty were merely a matter of being as wealthy as we possibly can. Reducing every question to economics is the fundamental error of the Marxists.


The Sunday Times

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an unlikely outsider. His old-world civility does not suggest much appeal to young voters. But at 48 he is social-media savvy and benefits from suggestions that the Conservatives should skip a generation.

Lunchtime Thoughts

Jacob Rees-Mogg

As a constituency MP I am always seeking to represent the people remote from the centres of power, rather than the interests of lobby groups.

The problem with the European Union is we can be outvoted by a qualified majority vote and therefore laws can be passed that the British people have not only not consented to but have opposed. Some Remoaners think that the people that voted for Brexit were all stupid.

I'm a back-bench MP. My ambition is to be re-elected in North East Somerset. It would be unrealistic of me to have further ambitions. I'm very interested in political ideas, developing Conservative thinking, and I'm very keen that we should have a positive message for Conservatism.

My family is the most important thing. I've got six lovely, delightful children. I'm very lucky. I have a wonderful wife who looks after us all.

Party Pooper

Matthew Parris

Jacob Rees-Mogg is a reactionary with the intellectual nimbleness of a top QC and the opinions of a Colonel Blimp. On Europe, his instincts would take Britain crashing out with no deal at all.

A British Crisis

David Miliband

Britain is suffering a governability crisis. The implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic. The EU is a coalition of democratic states which pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law, and democratic rules. That is the team to be in.

2017 August 12


Ken Mogi

Loosely translated, ikigai is your purpose in life, from the Japanese iki (to live) and gai (reason).
It's your reason for getting up in the morning.

An ikigai is something that gives you pleasure and purpose — walking the dog, drinking green tea, or writing a book.


Ian Buruma

The Memory of Justice is a long (2 h 38 m) documentary directed by Marcel Ophuls about wartime atrocities that has rarely been seen since 1976. In it, the Nazi leaders, one after the other, declared their innocence in the Nuremberg courtroom; Yehudi Menuhin said he assumed every human being was guilty; and Telford Taylor, US counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg, asked how any of us would cope with the degeneration of standards under pressure.

Ophuls was a superb interviewer, often skeptical, never moralistic or aggressive. Perhaps his most disturbing interview was with Otto Kranzbühler, who was defense counsel for Admiral Dönitz at Nuremberg and later had a successful career as a corporate lawyer. Kranzbühler said of the Third Reich: if you were ignorant of what went on, you were a fool; if you knew, but looked the other way, you were a coward; if you knew, and took part, you were a criminal.

AR I watched (parts of) a serialization of the movie on TV in Germany (or the whole of a short cut —
I forget).

2017 August 11

UK Homeless Crisis

Abi Wilkinson

UK homelessness is rising. Unless changes are made, the number of people made homeless in Britain will double to 575,000 by 2041. Homelessness has already doubled since 2010.

When local council budgets were cut, housing support services suffered. When housing benefit was removed for young people, many were forced onto the streets. When a cap was imposed on the maximum amount a household can receive in welfare, housing benefit was cut.

The charity Crisis suggests remedial measures:
— A 60% increase in new housing
— Adequate funding for local councils
— Mental health support for rough sleepers

We must press the government to address the crisis.

UK Rental Crisis

Ben Kentish

Millions of UK tenants are living in homes that contain dangerous safety hazards and are unfit for habitation. Over a quarter of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard.

English Housing Survey data reveals 795,000 homes rented from private landlords currently contain hazards such as dangerous boilers, exposed wiring, overloaded electricity sockets, and vermin infestations.

Private landlords are significantly worse at maintaining their properties than homeowners or social housing providers and are more than twice as likely as social landlords to be renting out a property containing a serious safety hazard.

Local councils are struggling. LGA housing spokesman Martin Tett: "Councils need more resources from government to help councils build more homes for rent, supported by adequate infrastructure and services, and incentives to help raise standards in the private rented sector."

Private rents have risen by 22% since 2010. Between a third and a half of renting households say they struggle to pay their rent each month. Yet they are fearful of voicing concerns. Over 50,000 private renting households were put at risk of eviction in 2016, and almost 20,000 private renting households were evicted by bailiffs.

A government spokesman: "While the number of homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard has gone down since 2007, we know there's more to do."

Brexit Bill — Liberty Loss

The Times

Britons will lose their right to sue the government for breaking the law over air pollution. At present an ECJ ruling enables citizens to sue member states for damages if their rights are infringed by a failure to implement EU law.

A proposal in the EU repeal bill would invalidate claims against the government for failing to enforce EU air pollution standards. At present the government is potentially liable under what is known as the Francovich ruling.

A clause in the repeal bill: "There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich."

Liberty director Martha Spurrier: "Putting the government above the law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear agenda to water down our rights after Brexit."

AR Strong state — cowed citizens


"Let us become bullets and bombs devotedly defending respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un!"
Pyongyang, August 9


"They will be met with fire
and fury like the world
has never seen"
Donald Trump, 2017

"They may expect a rain
of ruin from the air,
the like of which has
never been seen"
Harry Truman, 1945

Aurora Borealis
Lofoten Links, Norway

lässt das deutsche

Peveril Point

Ex Machina

"To Irish republicans, Brexit
is a golden opportunity for
pushing unification"
Simon Jenkins



Irish Challenge

Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar
says Brexit is the challenge of
our generation: "We will do all
we can, in Brussels, in London,
and in Dublin, to achieve the
best outcome for everyone
on this island."

Lovell telescope
Jodrell Bank
The Lovell radio telescope at
Jodrell Bank is 60 years old

Dow Jones index over 22,000
Apple valued at $827 billion

Black holes
Ripples in Spacetime
Govert Schilling, Martin Rees

The Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-wave Observatory
(LIGO) was conceived decades
ago and bankrolled by the NSF.
By 2015, about a thousand
scientists and engineers were
working on the project, racking
up costs of more than a billion
dollars. LIGO detected waves
from colliding black holes in
2015 and announced the
discovery in 2016.


Frank Ramsey

As an undergraduate at
Cambridge, Ramsey befriended
Ludwig Wittgenstein. He then
translated Wittgenstein's
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
from German into English and
supervised Wittgenstein at
Cambridge. Ramsey proved his
famous theorem as a lemma
along the way to solving a
special case of the decision
problem for first-order logic.
Ramsey died in 1930,
aged 26.


2017 August 10

North Korea

Mark Bowden

Korea and the Kim dynasty are standing up to a powerful and menacing foreign enemy. Nukes are needed to repel this threat. Kim Jong Un is the anointed defender of all Koreans, the purest of all races.

The NK regime plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against US forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. NK leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force US-SK leaders to recoil from their invasion.

America has four broad options for dealing with North Korea:

1 Prevention. An all-out US-SK attack would defeat NK military forces and topple the Kim dynasty. It would be the most massive US military attack since the first Korean war and would likely trigger one of the worst mass killings in human history. It would depend on surprise and speed — but the Kim dynasty has been on the alert for three generations. Even if the strike succeeded, it would cause the largest humanitarian crisis of modern times.

2 Punishment. The US response to the next NK provocation could be sharp enough to set back the regime but not massive. Key to a limited strike is the pause that comes after. Kim and his generals would have time to think. But once the shooting starts, containing it may be difficult. Even if Kim did perceive limited intent in a first strike, he would correctly see it as an assault on his nuclear arsenal and a step on a road to regime change. He would expect a wider war.

3 Decapitation. US and SK troops recently rehearsed a strike to remove the NK wartime command structure. The US-SK war plan calls for strikes targeting NK leaders. But decapitation would be a huge gamble.

4 Acceptance. There are no good military options. Pyongyang is constrained by the same logic that has stayed the use of nuclear arms for some 70 years. It is hard to imagine Pyongyang disarming anytime soon, but creating a framework that makes it conceivable is the only sensible way forward.

2017 August 9

Climate Change

The New York Times

A 673-page draft report by scientists from 13 US federal agencies, not yet made public, concludes that the average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.

The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.3 K of warming over this century compared with today. The projected actual rise will be 2 K.

The report directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain. Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.

How The Moon Was Made

Rebecca Boyle

Some 4.5 Gy ago, the young Sun was surrounded by a hot, donut-shaped cloud of debris. This stuff swirled around, cooling and combining into clumps, then planetesimals, then planets. These bodies frequently collided and vaporized one another anew, until the Earth and the Moon were forged.

Theia, a body the size of Mars, collided with Earth. The collision produced a disk around the Earth that cooled and solidified to form the Moon. Simulations show Theia could shear away enough of Earth and scramble enough of both to build a Moon and Earth with similar isotopic ratios.

Simon Lock and Sarah Stewart say every bit of Earth and Theia vaporized and formed a bagel-shaped cloud they call a synestia. The cloud spun so fast that it became a fat disk circling an inner region. The fat disk was a cloud of molten rock that eventually cooled to form the Moon.

The Moon is unique in the solar system in having about 1% the mass of Earth and 80% of the angular momentum of the Earth—Moon system. Perhaps the Moon was formed by at least a dozen projectiles coming in from multiple angles and speeds to form moonlets that then merged.

North Korean Nukes

Washington Post

North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, says a new analysis by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

The North Korean military threat is advancing rapidly. US officials say Pyongyang is outpacing expectations in its effort to build an ICBM capable of striking cities on the US mainland.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense also concludes there is evidence to suggest that North Korea has achieved miniaturization.

Taking Down Kim

Brandon Webb

It would be easy for the United States to take out the entire North Korean leadership with a special operations unit. The intelligence capability and the special ops capability we have today is incredible. Most people have no idea how effective we are at conducting these missions.

The military and special ops community constantly rehearse scenarios — Delta Force Night Stalker helicopters could do a high altitude, high opening parachute op from across the border of South Korea, and then fly under the canopy, undetected — all sorts of scenarios.

Tories Holding Out for a Hero

Paul Goodman

Ruth Davidson is a gay kick-boxer from a Scottish comprehensive who once praised Attlee socialism and now leads the Conservative party in Scotland. Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton and Oxford, got rich in the City, and is now a backbench Conservative MP. She backed Remain, he backed Leave.

Both have more popularity within the party than its leadership. Davidson regularly tops a monthly league table on ConservativeHome. Rees-Mogg says he will not stand, but he would have come second this month if he had. Scores of party members wrote in his name when they responded.

2017 August 8

To Be Or Not To Be

Thomas Metzinger

A cognitive bias hinders our moral cognition. The phenomenal states of sentient beings on Earth are much more frequently characterized by suffering and frustration than these beings can see for themselves.

Analyzing the facts, an ethical superintelligence concludes that it should minimize consciously experienced frustration, pain, and suffering. It knows that no entity can suffer from its own nonexistence and that naturally evolved biological creatures are unable to realize this fact because of their firmly anchored existence bias. It decides to act benevolently.

There are no moral facts. We have evolved desires, subjective preferences, and we experience interests. Evolution made us efficient, but the overall process is blind to our own interests. We have deep seated moral intuitions, for example that pleasure is good and pain is bad.

The benevolent superintelligence respects these moral intuitions and tries to find an optimal way of making them consistent. But this does not imply direct access to a mysterious realm of higher moral truths. It just means that the system, given all available data, tries to find out what is in our own best interest.

Maybe meditation or future neurotechnology could help us to make our lives worth living. Conceivably, it could help us in giving our lives a positive overall balance, or even liberate us from the burden of our biological past. But even if all the billions of human beings on this planet were turned into vegan Buddhas, the problem of wild animal suffering would remain.

A fully rational superintelligence would never have a problem with ending its own existence. But most human beings could never accept any such insight, no matter how good the arguments of their artificial moral reasoner were. Homo sapiens would declare war against a compassionate anti-natalist superintelligence.

Human life is one big uphill battle. Yet we will do almost anything to prolong our own existence, even if it violates rationality constraints. This is a biological imperative that has been burned into our nervous systems over millennia — the Buddha called it the craving for existence.

AR Thomas seemed cheerier than this at ASSC XIII.

Quantum Gravity

Natalie Wolchover

Joe Polchinski won the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

Polchinski, 63, has worked at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for 25 years. He authored the seminal 1998 textbook String Theory.

Polchinski: "The first thing to know is that the two great theories of physics (quantum mechanics and general relativity) work very well in most circumstances, but in extremes like the beginning of the Big Bang we do not know how to fit them together. Black holes are a great testing ground for this. The firewall paradox seems to say that one of the two theories must be modified, and that the result is that the black hole interior is replaced by a wall of quantum bits."

AR If our Hubble bubble is bounded by a wall of qubits (recall Maldacena, blog 2017-06-25) then it seems black holes must have firewalls.

2017 August 7


Clare Foges

The migrant crisis of the past few years has been a lesson in the dangers of allowing heart to overrule head. From the German welcome policy to the NGO boats searching the Mediterranean for migrants to rescue, humanitarian compassion has escalated the crisis.

The line between refugees and economic migrants is increasingly blurred. The top three home nations of those arriving in Italy in the first quarter of this year were Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Guinea. UN figures suggest that 7 in 10 who have come to Libya are escaping poverty.

Most will sympathise with those who yearn to escape poverty. But behind every one who makes it to Italy are many more who are emboldened to set out on the same journey. The most sensible strategy is to improve life in the poorest countries and so weaken the desire to migrate.

Migrants know that once rescued in the Mediterranean, passage to mainland Europe is assured. The UN defines an asylum-seeker as anyone with a well-founded fear of persecution in their own country. Smartphones let migrants learn their rights under international law.

AR Development aid can be a good investment — better than buying patrol warships that no sane government would allow to sink migrant boats on sight.

2017 August 6

Machines of Loving Grace

Bryan Appleyard

Artificial intelligence and robotics research is transforming our world. New machines will wipe out millions of jobs. The Internet of Things is a whole new way for bad things to happen.

AI systems have already infiltrated the military, financial transactions, and the internet. We are now surrounded by machines that in many ways are more competent than we are. A high-end car runs with well over 100 million lines of computer code — with more to come in self-driving cars.

Regardless of moral and ethical concerns, Beijing proposes to lock everybody in China into a social credit system by 2020. Algorithms will log and assess all web user actions to calculate credit scores. Score high and prosper, score low and despair.

Plans for robot nurses, carers, and teachers often raise safety issues as acute as for cars. Tell an AI carer always to do what is best for the patient and it may well decide to kill them. Program them not to kill people and they may simply decide we are wrong.

Silicon Valley believers say we will engineer the Singularity. A super-intelligent machine will make itself ever more intelligent and solve all our problems. If we avoid catastrophe we can enter a kind of paradise watched over by machines of loving grace.

2017 August 5

Memo to Mike Pence

Foreign Policy

You occupy an unusual position in the American constitution. You are the only member of the executive branch whom Donald Trump cannot fire. You do not serve at the pleasure of the president.

1 Start acting like a potential successor. It will let you emerge as a leader not hopelessly tainted by your origin story. Put meaningful distance between yourself and Trump. Act with the deliberation and integrity and dignity of a president.

2 Do not allow an administration unrivaled in its mendacity to make a liar out of you. Refuse to make any factual representations to the American people that you have not independently verified and are not prepared to stand behind.

3 Reaffirm, wherever possible, your commitment to and faith in all of our three branches of government.

4 Study the example of Gerald Ford, who became president with the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.

Memo to Theresa May

Leo Varadkar

In October I will sit around the European Council table with 26 other prime ministers and we will decide together whether sufficient progress has been made to allow the Brexit negotiations to proceed. I do not underestimate the challenge.

1 If the United Kingdom does not want to stay in the customs union, perhaps there can be an EU-UK customs union.

2 If the UK does not want to stay in the single market perhaps it could enter into a deep free trade agreement with the EU and rejoin EFTA, of which it was a member prior to accession.

3 And if this cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while these things are worked out.

These are the practical solutions I am proposing.

The Next Big Thing

Tim Bradshaw

Apple augmented reality will launch next month with the latest version of iOS for iPhones and iPads. ARKit technology turns a combination of computer vision, tracking sensors, and mapping software into something that can be incorporated into any app.

Apple could become the first American business to be valued above $1 trillion. But it is 10 years since the launch of the first iPhone. The company faces speculation about where to go next.

Apple has begun to place bets on a wide range of markets. A pair of AR glasses might move cameras, sensors, and screens from the smartphone to the face. Apple is experimenting with prototypes.

Apple designers and engineers are content to wait for the right moment to launch a new product. They can move quickly when the moment arrives. App developers say AR could become the next big computing platform after smartphones.

AR is next — see GOD chapter 0001.

2017 August 4

Brexit Referendum 2

Vernon Bogdanor

Britain is negotiating for a free trade agreement in a hard Brexit. A trade agreement would probably have to be ratified unanimously by the European Council, by a majority in the European Parliament, and by 27 national and 11 regional parliaments.

The June election result reopens the issue of Europe for four reasons:

1 There is probably no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. There is probably a stronger representation of Remain MPs in parliament today than before the election.

2 Labour gains raise the question of whether the decision in the 2016 referendum is final. A study found the Labour soft Brexit policy lay behind its big gain in votes. The election was the revenge of the Remainers.

3 The election intensifies internal divisions in both major parties. If the deal is too hard, Conservative Remainers may join with their opposition counterparts to defeat it, too soft and Tory hardliners could reject it. There may be no majority for any form of Brexit on offer.

4 The House of Lords may reject hard Brexit, saying a minority government has no mandate for it.

With a deadlocked parliament, the possibility of a bad deal, and both parties deeply divided on Europe, the best way out may be a second referendum. Brexit raises existential issues for the future of the UK. The final deal needs the consent not only of parliament, but of a sovereign people.

AR The people wanted Brexit: You can't always get what you want — Mick Jagger.

Brexit Barriers

Andrew Adonis

Theresa May set out the hard Brexit policy of leaving the customs union and the single market in January. Before then, the working Whitehall assumption had been the UK would seek to stay in both, like Norway or Switzerland.

Leaving the customs union and the single market requires the UK by March 2019 to negotiate new trade treaties with the EU27 and with the 75 other nations with which the EU has trade agreements. These 102 countries account for more than 60% of UK exports of goods and services.

British trade is already global — helped, not hindered, by being part of the EU customs union. There are a few large markets with which the EU does not have trade agreements. The new Department for International Trade (DIT) is building up its negotiating capacity from scratch.

AR No deals mean barriers at the borders — FUK.


Yuval Noah Harari

Some time before the ninth century CE, a script was invented to store and process mathematical data with unprecedented efficiency. This partial script, composed of numerals from 0 to 9, was invented by Hindus and promoted by Arabs. The basis for modern mathematics came into being.

This system of writing has become the world's dominant language. Almost all states, companies, organizations, and institutions use mathematical script to record and process data. A person who wishes to influence their big decisions must learn to speak in numbers.

Mathematics has now given us a script consisting of only 0 and 1. Our computers have trouble understanding our minds, so we are learning to talk, feel, and dream in the language of computers. A new kind of intelligence is emerging, based solely on bits.

AR When I find myself in times of trouble, mathematics comes to me.

2017 August 3

War Against North Korea

The Times

US Republican Lindsey Graham quoted Donald Trump as saying "there will be a war with North Korea if they continue to try to hit America" with an ICBM: "He has told me that. I believe him .. If there's going to be a war .. it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there."

Brexit Reveals UK Flaws

Simon Kuper

Brexit is being mismanaged. More than a year after the referendum, the cabinet still cannot agree on what kind of Brexit it wants, or when. HMS UK is steaming toward yet another disaster.

Brexit reveals three enduring flaws in UK institutions:

1 Running a country on rhetoric. Brexit was made about 30 years ago at the Oxford Union — Oxford university's version of a children's parliament, which organises witty debates, and where future Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were presidents. In Britain, humour is used to cut off conversations before they can get emotional, boring, or technical. Tasking Brexiteers with managing Brexit was like asking the winners of a debating contest to engineer a spaceship.

2 Ruling class insularity. The present cabinet of mostly former public schoolboys don't want Brussels running Britain. That's their caste's prerogative. Because the referendum skated over boring policy stuff, cabinet ministers are discovering only now the UK will pay the EU a large divorce bill.

3 Delusions of grandeur. Britain became a great power because it pioneered the fossil-fuel economy and because being an island was excellent protection when states still invaded each other. Neither advantage exists any more. Britain today is like a cute little bonobo ape that thinks it's a gorilla. The updated strategy is America First, Britain Second — praying that Donald Trump will reward fealty with a sweetheart trade deal.

Britain ignores its genuine strengths. Almost all its clever people are mere spectators at the Brexit slapstick. Westminster insularity had previously enabled the financial crisis. The ruling rhetoricians treated the City as a magic money tree, until in 2007 the tree fell down and hit the country.

AR Some nice rhetoric there.

Mit Abgas in den Abgrund

Michail Hengstenberg

Die Autohersteller sind angeschlagen, ihre Diesel-Verkäufe sinken dramatisch. Mit dem Gipfel sollte hektisch Vertrauen zurückgewonnen werden, doch das Gegenteil ist der Fall. So ist die Branche dem Untergang geweiht.

AR Uups — ich fahre ein BMW Diesel-Auto.


2017 August 2

North Korea

The New York Times

The Trump administration's approach to the North Korean nuclear threat is failing. It was all about putting the responsibility on China to force the North to abandon its program.

China has held back. The Chinese fear the NK regime could collapse, sending millions of refugees fleeing across the border and effectively handing power over the peninsula to US ally South Korea.

The Trump administration has not given up on China. But sanctions alone are not the answer. Some experts suggest an NK nuclear and missile freeze in return for limits on US-SK military exercises.

The administration awaits a "tangible signal" that NK will abandon its nuclear program before talks begin. This is not realistic. Talks should begin without preconditions.

AR It could be worth a trillion dollars to resolve this peacefully.


European Commission

Terrorism is seen for the first time as the most important issue facing the EU.
Immigration comes second.

Trust in the EU and in national parliaments and governments has increased.
Europeans trust the EU more than national parliaments and governments.

4 in 10 Europeans have a positive image of the EU
2 in 10 have a negative image of the EU.
More than 4 in 10 Europeans consider that their voice counts in the EU.
More than half of Europeans disagree that their voice counts in the EU.
Well over half of Europeans are optimistic about the future of the EU.

Absolute majorities of Europeans support EU priorities and common policies.
More than 8 in 10 respondents are in favor of free movement of EU citizens.
More than two-thirds support a common European policy on migration.
6 in 10 are for European economic and monetary union and a single currency.
In the EZ nearly three-quarters support the euro.

Absolute majorities of Europeans feel attached to the EU and to Europe.
More than two-thirds of Europeans feel they are citizens of the EU.

AR The UK is down with Greece and Hungary in the national breakdowns.

Quantum Gravimeter

Jennifer Ouellette

A UK collaboration has built a quantum gravimeter that uses cold atoms to make precise measurements of gravitational field strength. It could be used to survey for oil or minerals, and it may be the start of a new market for quantum devices.

The gravimeter senses subtle changes in the strength of ambient gravitational fields. It holds clouds of rubidium atoms in superposition in a vacuum chamber cooled to 80 microkelvin. To make a measurement, it drops them and zaps them in free fall with three laser pulses. These produce an interference pattern encoding the position and paths of the clouds.

Two atom clouds falling at different speeds would indicate a change in the density of the ground below, for example due to the presence of oil or minerals. Quantum effects are sensitive, so the device must be carefully shielded and cooled.

Glasgow photonics company M Squared founder and CEO Graeme Malcolm: "I think we're just at the early stage of commercial adoption of quantum technologies."

AR My essay on quantum theory is on hold as I study QFT.

2017 August 1

Eurasia This Century


The People's Republic of China and the European Union are the leading political agents on Earth for global organization. China's road and belt strategy and the EU vision of a federalized Europe centered on Germany are the most promising steps in the direction of developing an integrated social and business model across the supercontinent, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

America can be part of this vision only after the US experiment with populist democracy has run its course and the US global hegemony has been replaced by a more globalist strategic order. A joint push from China and Europe can nudge Russia into reforms that help it support wider order. A Eurasian order can subsume Islam and other traditions in a social democratic polity.

Science is the enabler for the new vision. A scientific view of the universe and the emergence of life is a backdrop to a view of human duty as to ensure that the human footprint on Earth properly reflects the glory we wish to associate with our memory as deep time swallows up the human legacy. Due respect for science and measured cultivation of technology express basic values.

The globalist vision will center on planetary management for human flourishing in a sustainable environment. Big business corporations will share the vision as a precondition for long term success as providers of specialist services on a global scale. The legal and regulatory environment will claim global scope and seek to integrate outlier regimes as harmoniously as possible.

Globorg Is Great!

Borders of Infinity


Keita Yokoyama and Ludovic Patey have proved a major statement about the finite-infinite divide. The boundary separates two kinds of mathematical statements: finitistic ones, which can be proved without invoking infinity, and infinitistic ones, which presume that infinite objects exist.

Mapping and understanding this division is at the heart of mathematical logic. It leads directly to questions of mathematical objectivity, the meaning of infinity, and the relationship between mathematics and physical reality.

The new proof settles a question about Ramsey's Theorem for pairs — RT22 is finitistically reducible. The argument in RT22 can be used to prove new facts in finitistic mathematics.

RT22 — Imagine an infinite set of objects, such as the set of all natural numbers. Now pair each object in the set one by one with all other objects. Color each pair of objects either red or blue according to some rule. When you are done, RT22 states that at least one of the (all red or all blue) subsets will be infinite (color can be any property).

We are now free to use this result to prove statements in finitistic mathematics. All the finitistic consequences of RT22 are guaranteed to be provable in a finitistic way.

Frank Ramsey used infinitistic methods to partition infinite sets at will. David Hilbert challenged us to prove that set theory and all of infinitistic mathematics is finitistically reducible, and therefore trustworthy. Then Kurt Gödel proved that no system of logical axioms powerful enough to include elementary arithmetic can ever prove its own consistency, so to prove that a system of logic is consistent, you need another axiom from outside the system — end of Hilbert's program.

Patey and Yokoyama showed that RT22 is equal in logical strength to primitive recursive arithmetic, and therefore finitistically reducible. They modeled the infinite (red or blue) set of pairs in RT22 using a finite set whose elements are nonstandard models of the natural numbers. They then translated the question of the strength of RT22 into the size of the finite set in their model.

Numerous finitistic statements about natural numbers are now known to be expressible in primitive recursive arithmetic. They are thus certain to be logically consistent.

PLA soldiers
China Daily

"Time for talk is over"

US ambassador to the UN
Nikki Haley says China
"must decide if it is finally
willing to take this vital step"
of challenging Pyongyang.

Brexit — Cars

More than half the parts in an
average car built in the UK last
year were imported. A triumph
of modern supply chain logistics
will be a liability after Brexit.
WTO rules would cut British
exports and raise the cost
of cars in the UK.

Jack Sheldon
1917 — Passchendaele

Classic Rock Review
1967 — Beatles sang
"All you need is love"

Khan We Do It?

London mayor Sadiq Khan
wants the UK to stay in the EU
and proposes a pledge:

"For it to have credibility
with the British public, there
would have to be a Labour
manifesto offer ..

"You'd have to spell out in
black and white what we'd
do if we won the general
election. What could trump
the referendum result is us
having a manifesto offer
saying we would not leave
the EU or we would have
a second referendum."

A Yes We Khan!

John Jefferys
John Jefferys

Brain Diaries
Modern Neuroscience in Action
Natural History Museum, Oxford
2017-03-10 — 2018-01-01

AR, 2008
Me in 2008

Top — Not!

Jeff Bezos was the richest man
in the world for a few hours.
He was worth about $90 billion thanks to a rise in the valuation
of the Amazon group to around
$500 billion. Then came news
of a drop in Q2 profits.

WW2 Tanks
Matilda II tank

Editions Aedis


Hello, UK, it's the USA here ..
We understand that you chose
to split up with the EU ..
To be honest, some think
you are pandering to a part
of you that blames anybody
but themselves when
things go wrong.
So, I am asking you to do
some soul searching and
rethink this whole thing.
Just to be clear, we'll
still be friends ..
But if you leave for the
reasons you have stated,
you will not be respected
in the global community
for many years
to come.

Royal Navy 1940
Royal Navy, 1940
1939: RN had 19 battleships,
80 cruisers, ..
1945: RN had 16 battleships,
52 carriers, 62 cruisers,
257 destroyers, ..

Protesters in Lodz on Sunday

North Sea Empire

Scandinavian invaders first
raided England in 981 CE. In
1009 an army took Canterbury
and pillaged the south coast.
In 1010 it laid waste to
many English shires.

Swen Forkbeard landed in 1013
and the English capitulated.
His son Cnut the Great ruled
from 1013 to 1035 as king of
Denmark, England and Norway
 — the North Sea Empire.

Warner Bros
The Third Reich staged WW2
as the ultimate work of art

Thomas, Nolan
Emma Thomas and
Christopher Nolan in
Dunkirk last Sunday

A Celebration of
Science and Reason

Lawrence Krauss
Sam Harris
Matt Dillahunty

New York City

Donald Trump:
My First Six Months


An Inconvenient Sequel:
Truth to Power


AL GORE 2020


William und Kate

Am zweiten Tag ihrer
Deutschland-Reise waren
Prinz William und seine Frau
Herzogin Kate in Heidelberg.
Sie besuchten das Deutsche
Gegen Abend ging sie
zurück nach Berlin.

AR Es war schön,
Heidelberg wieder
im Fernseher
zu sehen


2017 July 31

China's Centenary Goals

China Daily

Speaking at a reception to mark the 90th anniversary of People's Liberation Army in London, Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming said China aims to build its armed forces to provide a strong safeguard as it strives to realize the dream of national renewal.

The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 2021 and the People's Republic of China established in 2049. The centenary goals are that by 2021, China will be economically secure and by 2049, it will be a strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country.

China aims to ensure its defense force meets the need of protecting its security and development interests. In recent decades, China's military expenditure accounted for 1.32% of GDP.

China pursues a concept focused on common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security. China will make great efforts to advance international cooperation on military and security, and will play an active and leading role in international peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

China is the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China is also the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget.

FUK No Tax Haven — Hammond

The Times

In Le Monde, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: "I often hear it said that the UK is considering participating in unfair competition in regulation and tax. That is neither our plan nor our vision for the future. The amount of tax we raise as a percentage of our GDP puts us right in the middle of the pack. We don't want that to change, even after we've left the EU. I would expect us to remain a country with a social, economic and cultural model that is recognisably European."

Conservatives do not have parliamentary support for changing the British economic model by slashing taxes and regulation.

Dunkirk Spirit

Zoe Williams

The Brexit narrative uses memories of WW2 movies in which plucky Brits won the day and sundry foreigners were put in their place.

Dunkirk does not identify a human enemy. The soldiers show a range of human qualities, bravery and cowardice, strength and weakness, uncertainty and confidence, pluck and despair — no innate British superiority, just a lot of human beings scrambling their way through visceral horror.

The moving spirit of the event depicted has nothing to do with battle and everything to do with generosity, with unarmed sailors saving strangers who needed to be saved. All you can see in hundreds of small boats is humility, gentleness, and sympathy. There can be no fit memorial to those who gave their lives but near infinite generosity between those who survived.

As for refugees, in the evacuation of the French from the beaches, Brits had no thought of breaching a yearly migration target. A moviegoer may consider the horrors that would otherwise have ensued and conclude that maybe offering sanctuary in the service of humanity is a good thing.

Thanks to the EU, Europeans have been at peace with each other for 70 years. The right response to Brexit bellicosity is Dunkirk spirit.

2017 July 30


US Department of State

The United States strongly condemns North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the principal economic enablers of North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability.

The United States will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Trump Tweets
12.29—12.35 am, July 30

I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet .. they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!


Niall Ferguson

"You have a White House in meltdown because the president is a pyromaniac .. in a rational world, Donald Trump would not be the president of the United States. We're well past the rational world."
Charlie Sykes

Two WW2 acronyms: snafu (situation normal, all fucked up) and fubar (fucked up beyond all recognition).

Last November, American voters faced a choice between a candidate who personified the political status quo under an arrogant and detached liberal elite and a candidate who promised the disruption of that status quo — snafu or fubar.

The time has arrived to break the bad news to those who voted for Trump. You wanted change. You got it. But the result is a political system that I can certify as fucked up beyond all recognition. This is not politics — this is fubatics.

AR Peaceniks of the world beware.

Brexit — Single Market Wins

The Observer

Two of Germany's biggest industry groups say their main concern during the Brexit process is protecting the single market for the EU27, even if this harms UK trade.

BDI president Dieter Kempf: "Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority for the European Union. Europe must maintain the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods, capital, services, and labour. It is the responsibility of the British government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel. Over the coming months, it will be extraordinarily difficult to avert negative effects on British businesses in particular."

BDA president Ingo Kramer: "The single market is one of the major assets of the EU. Access to the single market requires the acceptance of all four single market freedoms. The UK will remain a very important partner for us, but we need a fair deal for both sides respecting this principle. The cohesion of the remaining 27 EU member states has highest priority."

AR A clear and correct decision

2017 July 29


Anil Ananthaswamy

In the beginning, quantum electrodynamics involved hard calculations. Richard Feynman found an easier way to do them. But quantum chromodynamics involved so many of them that even Feynman diagrams got too much.

Ruth Britto, Freddy Cachazo, Bo Feng, and Edward Witten (BCFW) calculated some difficult scattering amplitudes and derived a simple equation to do the same thing.

Their method was inspired by twistor theory, developed by Roger Penrose (blog 2017-02-14). Twistors are light rays (null geodesics in relativistic spacetime). The terms used in the BCFW method map to tetrahedral volumes in twistor space, which sum up to the volume of a polyhedron.

Nima Arkani-Hamed and his team say BCFW results correspond to the volume of an amplituhedron (something like a multidimensional polyhedron). An amplituhedron encodes scattering amplitude calculations, and its dimensions and facets encode the details of the interaction.

The amplituhedron does not embody unitarity and locality, which are core principles for Feynman diagrams. But amplituhedra give scattering amplitudes that obey locality and unitarity, so locality becomes an emergent feature of spacetime. Quantum mechanics says the energy fluctuations in tiny intervals of time get ever bigger, big enough to warp spacetime and form black holes, so we might lose locality in quantum gravity.

Arkani-Hamed: "If we are going to lose something as dramatic as the idea of spacetime, it's very unlikely that it leaves any of physics unaffected. It must show up everywhere. It must show up even in situations where we think we understand things perfectly well."

The amplituhedron works for a toy model with supersymmetry. The standard model is not supersymmetric, but for simple particle interactions the amplituhedron results agree with standard ones. The new method holds for the class of theories the standard model arose from.

Arkani-Hamed: "There is no way in this geometry to decouple the piece which is spacetime from the piece which is quantum mechanics. It's all one and the same aspect of the underlying positive geometry."


Oxford Today

Oxford neuroscientist John Jefferys studies consciousness. He says this is a large question to do with what makes humans distinctive. He believes consciousness depends on the brain.

Consciousness has different levels. In some phases of sleep your brain behaves as if it is awake. When awake we experience different levels of wakefulness. Other animals are conscious, but humans are unique in storing and building on the knowledge of previous generations.

Jefferys studies neural correlates of consciousness. There are about 86 billion neurons in the human cerebral cortex. Trillions of axons connect them at synapses. Patterns of connections are as important as the numbers.


Natalie Wolchover

Jeremy England sees life as the outcome of thermodynamics. He says groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more energy, dissipating it and raising entropy. He says this adaptation fosters the growth of complex structures.

England has tested his idea in computer simulations. A simulated soup of chemicals evolves from random initial settings toward a structured steady state. For some settings, the reaction network evolves to fixed points far from equilibrium, where it cycles vigorously through reactions to harvest as much energy possible from the environment.

The simulations show this behavior can arise quite quickly. Groups of atoms that unlock and burn chemical energy must be arranged in unusual forms. When driven by external energy sources, they tend to tap into the energy sources by rearranging so as to better absorb and dissipate the energy.

England sees the confluence of form and function in life as the ultimate outcome of dissipation-driven adaptation and self-replication. In his simulations, external energy sources forced certain chemical reactions in the reaction network. As the reactions progressed and the concentrations evolved, the amount of forcing would change abruptly.

In such an environment, the networks became tuned to the landscape. In randomized runs, rare states of vigorous chemical activity and extreme forcing occurred four times more often than expected. These systems showed the functional form of life.

2017 July 28

Trump — Unfit!

Jennifer Rubin

President Trump is using the military as a pawn in a political stunt. Right-wingers threatened to block funding for his useless wall unless he eliminated funding for gender reassignment surgery from the defense budget. Trump responded with a ban on transgender people in the military.

Trump may have been taken by surprise when conservative Republicans condemned the move. His selfish motivation was obvious. In hot water with the right wing and seeing the special prosecutor hot on his trail, he decided to appeal to the worst instincts and prejudices of his base.

Trump is incapable of thinking beyond his self-interest. He would disrupt our military, create havoc among active service personnel and their families, and lie about it all just to distract from his political woes. Trump has no clue as to the awesome responsibilities of the presidency.

Mooch — Fire!

Ryan Lizza

Trump's new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci: "They're trying to resist me, but it's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves .. I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock. I'm not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I'm here to serve the country. .. OK, the Mooch showed up a week ago. This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, OK? Because I nailed these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done through the FBI and the fucking Department of Justice."

Brexit — Whoops!

Philip Stephens

Brexit may break the Conservatives. The clock is ticking. Falling off a cliff in March 2019 is not a sensible strategy for the UK or its government.

Germany says a transition would be difficult. Britain would be obliged to continue to observe all the rules of the single market and customs union, including free movement of workers and the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and pay all its financial dues, while giving up its seat at the Brussels table. Bespoke arrangements are impractical within the Article 50 timescale.

No one is offering something for nothing. The big trade deal promised by Donald Trump would see British farmers put out of business by cheap imports and the NHS opened up to US business. The Indians and Australians want more immigrant visas.

The Treasury says we need EU access until deals elsewhere are done. A limbo between the EU and Brexit would be dire. Britain would be much better off as an EU member.

Blitzsieg — Nicht!

Johann Althaus

In Mai 1940 brach die deutsche Wehrmacht durch zu Calais. Am 22. Mai 1940 steckte gut die Hälfte von mehr als eine Million französische, britische und belgische Soldaten in einem Kessel fest.

Aus London kam die Weisung, die Wehrmacht mit voller Kraft anzugreifen. BEF-Kommandeur Lord Gort traf eine andere Entscheidung: Er würde sofort und mit aller Kraft die Evakuierung betreiben. Rund 400.000 Mann mussten in die unmittelbare Umgebung der Hafenstadt Dünkirchen gelangen.

Die vordersten deutschen Panzer waren nur noch 19 Kilometer vor Dünkirchen. Doch zwei Tage lang zögerte Hitler, seinen Truppen den Angriff auf den Kessel freizugeben. Am 24. Mai erließ er einen ausdrücklichen Haltebefehl. Seit damals rätseln alle warum.

1 Der Führer könnte um seine Panzer gefürchtet haben. Denn am 21. Mai hatten britische schwere Panzer vom Typ Matilda II den meist leichten Kampfwagen der Wehrmacht zum ersten Mal eine Schlappe beigebracht.

2 Der Haltebefehl wäre ein Angebot an die Regierung in London: Nach einem Sieg über Frankreich wäre er zum Friedensschluss bereit.

3 Der Gröfaz wollte seiner höchsten Generalität klar machen, auf wen es letztlich ankam.

Nach 49 Stunden wurde der Haltebefehl wieder aufgehoben, aber diese Zeit hatten die Briten genutzt, um eine Evakuierung zu organisieren. Operation Dynamo begann am 26. Mai 1940.

Bis 3. Juni 1940 transportierten britische Schiffe aus dem Hafen von Dünkirchen 239.446 Mann ab. Kleinere Boote bargen weitere 98.780 Soldaten von den Stränden

2017 July 27

Brexit — Done Deal

Tony Barber

For many French businesses and people, Brexit is both desirable and unstoppable. Time for the EU to move on. Such impatience with the UK is not limited to France.

Too few Brits listen to the views of those across the Channel who know European politics and how the EU works. Nothing about Brexit can be settled except in agreement with the EU27 national governments and the European Parliament. Brits harbor illusions and make unrealistic demands.

Theresa May and her cabinet ministers want a phased exit from the EU to avoid a cliff-edge departure that might damage business. But temporary UK acceptance of EU rules on free movement will not be enough to strike a transition deal. EU negotiators will ask the UK to continue to make budget payments, remain in the EU judicial system, and accept its present membership obligations, yet have no vote on anything.

Too Late

UK home secretary Amber Rudd will commission a detailed analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs of EU citizens in Britain, to report back in September 2018.

Labour MP Heidi Alexander: "It beggars belief that the government have taken a year to get round to asking for expert evidence on the role played by EU nationals in our country .. The timing of this announcement shows the total lack of preparation and understanding that has typified this government's attitude to Brexit so far."

AR Heidi hat leider recht.

Tech Limits

Bob O'Donnell

Tech leaders aim to break through limits and do things that were impossible before. But a pause can be wise. Some advances raise deep ethical questions.

Limiting expectations for a new technology is important. When huge advances are daily occurrences, it is all too easy to think there are no limits to what we can do. People will accept almost any predictions about the future of new technologies. This is the fake news of tech.

Unbounded dreams for a tech-driven nirvana can clash with the realities of the modern world, particularly in regard to timeframes. Some say technologies like AI or autonomous driving are going to solve enormous societal issues in a matter of a few years. Others see the tech industry as stagnating in search of the next big thing. Both camps are wrong.

Autonomous driving can benefit some people in some environments, but it will not be a great fit for everyone, everywhere. We are still a long way from having a physical, legal, economic, and political environment for autonomous cars to have a big impact on the transportation needs of most consumers. But the technologies can have a dramatic impact on public transportation systems or shipping fleets over the next few years.

Google Glass is no longer trying to be the next generation computing device and industry disruptor but will focus on work-based applications. It will do what it is best designed to do. Accepting that a technology cannot do some things creates a more realistic scenario for it to succeed.

Thinking a new technology concept can be extended without limits will lead to disappointment. A limited scope is not a bug but a feature.

AR Globorg on hold, ditto the Singularity.

2017 July 26

Clean Up Our Air!

The Times

The UK government will ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040. Hybrid cars will also be banned. At present under 1% of new cars sold in Britain run solely on electric power.

The ban is part of a government plan to improve air quality. A £3 billion program includes £255 million to help local authorities to deal with toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from diesel vehicles. Environment secretary Michael Gove will require dozens of councils with roads breaching legal limits for NO2 to publish plans to cut emissions by the end of 2018.

Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Air pollution cost an estimated £2.7 billion in lost productivity in 2012 and 40,000 premature deaths every year.

Clean Air Zones

The Guardian

The UK ban on the sale of all petrol and diesel cars from 2040 is partly driven by EU rules.

The European Commission in February threatened the UK with penalties for failing to take action on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. UK environment secretary Michael Gove will asks local authorities to improve air quality in areas where emissions have breached EU thresholds by retrofitting buses and taking steps to improve traffic flow.

The strategy calls for setting up 27 clean air zones (CAZs) that polluting vehicles, especially diesels, would be charged to enter. Greenpeace says proper clean air zones are vital. The London mayor may be asked to fund a scheme to scrap diesels, the worst emitters of poisonous NOx.

French president Emmanuel Macron has already made the same 2040 pledge.

AR This is ambitious. A lot of extra electricity generating capacity will be needed to recharge millions of electric cars.

Dunkirk Brexit

Rafael Behr

Humiliation corrodes the soul of nations. Dunkirk was a disorderly retreat following a defeat. Yet Dunkirk spirit became an emblem of national character, a metaphor for plucky survival against insuperable odds.

Victory over fascism, after a period of solitary defiance on an island fortress, has infused British identity with vast reserves of moral authority. As the rest of the world has moved on, Brits still congratulate themselves.

Britain joined the EEC in 1973. All the tribes of Europe narrate the past in the majestic plural, yet none can match British shame at loss of identity through EU membership. Brexit is self-harm, born of an urge to expiate the sin of having joined the enterprise in the first place.

Brexit will complete the national devaluation prefigured in the post-referendum slide of sterling. Britain will cut a smaller figure on the world stage. Backing out now will require a plea for mercy that looks like a grovel.

Dunkirk was a preamble to hard times followed by magnificent redemption. It shows retreat can be the best option. When a plan goes wrong and disaster is in sight, it is time to swallow pride and turn around.

Brains in Vats

Philip Ball

A brain is governed by the laws of physics. Those laws can be simulated on a computer. According to the transhumanists, we will soon be able to live on inside computer hardware. The brain in a vat becomes the brain on a chip.

Such heady visions ignore the fact that the brain is an organ of the body. Experts say embodiment is central to experience and brain function. At the immediate physiological level, the brain engages in discourse with its sensory experience via hormones in the bloodstream.

How do you know you're not just a brain in a vat being presented with a simulated world? How, then, can you know that all your beliefs about the world are not false?

Hilary Putnam argued in 1981 that the notion is contradictory. Words and concepts used by a brain in a vat cannot be meaningfully applied to real objects outside of its experience, because the ability to interact causally with the things that words name is how such words acquire meaning.

Anthony Brueckner: "If I am a Brain in a Vat, then I am not a Brain in a Vat."

AR The world is my vat.

2017 July 25

Brexit Is Our Dunkirk

Will Hutton

Dunkirk is an enduring British myth. The extraordinary evacuation of the stranded, defeated British army in May and June 1940 staved off what would otherwise have been an inevitably successful German invasion, runs the myth. Defeat became the platform for eventual victory.

The Dunkirk spirit is emblematic of British bulldog virtues. Brexiteers appeal to it today. Any disaster, even one as epic as Brexit, can be turned around if we all pull together. Dunkirk may have been a disaster, but it was also a stunning achievement.

In 1940, British naval and air strength was formidable. The British Empire manufactured more planes and ships than Germany throughout the war. Britain also boasted great scientific and technological strength. Today, the UK current account deficit exceeds 5% of GDP, real wages and productivity are stagnant, and hope is hard to find.

Brexit is a new Dunkirk. But no flotilla of small boats and no underlying economic strength will come to the rescue. It's just defeat.

EZ Risk

Gene Frieda

Prospects for deepening EZ monetary union remain poor. EZ periphery states need to grow fast to reduce debt but growth must stay weak if competitiveness is to rise via internal devaluation. Until EZ surplus states deliver more domestic demand, this contradiction will persist.

EZ periphery vulnerability stems from several adverse dynamics:

1 Given high debt levels, euro fungibility across borders is still prone to breakdown. During periods of weak growth, sovereign debt sustainability is questioned. Periphery states have little recourse to countercyclical fiscal stimulus.

2 EZ periphery states have to undergo painful internal devaluations to regain competitiveness due to the fixed ERM. With average EZ inflation very low, internal devaluation is politically and financially destabilising.

3 Low potential growth rates and negligible inflation prevent debt levels from falling much during cyclical upswings. Debt sustainability remains elusive.

Political will is lacking. The ECB program to buy sovereign debt requires states in need of financing to cede sovereignty to Brussels in return for funding. The high bar for political intervention leaves the EZ unsafe.

German Philosophy

Stuart Jeffries

Richard David Precht is a rock star of German philosophy. He has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide of his most popular book — Who Am I? And If So, How Many? — in 32 languages. His TV show, called simply Precht, boasts a viewership of nearly 1 million.

German philosophy is flourishing. Philosophie Magazin takes its questions to the marketplace, letting the public help feel them out, and now has a circulation of 100,000. German philosophers have made the Faustian pact of exchanging profundity for popularity.

The grand German tradition of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger has been a source of national pride. German philosophy and German national identity have been yoked together ever since Hegel. No other philosophers have burdened their homelands with such a destiny.

Theodor Adorno said the German language had a particular affinity for philosophy. If you wanted to do philosophy properly, you had to do it in German. Though Adorno spent years at Oxford and more than a decade in the United States, he treated Anglo-American philosophy with contempt.

Jürgen Habermas read Anglo-American philosophers. His 1981 The Theory of Communicative Action envisioned an unlimited communication community linked through discourse and argument. His work bridged Adorno's pessimistic, elitist style of philosophy and the new revival of the discipline.

From 2002 to 2012, Peter Sloterdijk was co-host of Das Philosophische Quartett, a talk show on the German TV channel ZDF. He and Rüdiger Safranski would debate issues of the day with two invited guests. But after a decade, ZDF replaced the hosts with Richard David Precht and changed its name from Das Philosophische Quartett to Precht.

Markus Gabriel, whose 2015 book Why the World Does Not Exist became an international bestseller, confirms that modern German philosophy can be both profound and successful. Philosophers like Precht and Gabriel seems to have an export market. Philosophers, take heed.

2017 July 24

UK — Take Control

Michael Heseltine

Brexit will tear the UK government apart. I believe it faces an election in about two years.

To win that election the government must refocus the agenda and govern:

Reform schooling and end the postcode lottery scandal. Let employers teach skills in local enterprise partnerships. Devolve unemployment programs to employers.

Convert two-tier counties to unitary ones. The redundancies will allow council tax reductions. Let new mayoral authorities become showpieces of conservatism in action.

We have a housing crisis. Appoint a supremo with the power to drive every aspect and empower local authorities to build social housing.

Each new electoral register could be worth about a thousand votes against Brexit in every seat. The European issue is about immigration. Climate change will increase the flow.

Let our aid programs create brighter futures in immigrant homelands. Half of UK net immigration has nothing to do with Europe. Make new arrangements for seasonal workers.

Turn back boats leaving African shores. Our southern border is the Mediterranean. We should accept the principle of free movement but negotiate the details.

Act now. It will be too late for the government when the vote of confidence is called.

Poland — Protest

Financial Times

Polish president Andrzej Duda says he will veto two bills that would give politicians wide powers over the the judiciary in Poland.

The ruling Law and Justice party says the changes are needed to overhaul an inefficient system. But they have drawn fierce criticism from the EU and sparked protests across Poland.

One of the bills would force all members of the supreme court to step down, except for those kept on by the president. The second would give parliament control over the council that appoints judges.

Thousands of Poles took to the streets around the country to protest the changes.

Brexit — Exit Options

Wolfgang Munchau

1 Revocation of Brexit requires the explicit consent of the European Council before March 29, 2019. The EU27 leaders would have to agree. Some may ask for a few political conditions:

— Revoke the UK budget rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.
— Agree on the next EU budget for when the current budget ends in 2020.
— Cooperate on EZ reform to establish a financial center within the EZ.
— Agree on immigration and other areas where the UK opted out.

2 Article 49 of the Lisbon treaty lets the UK reapply for EU membership after March 29, 2019. This procedure removes UK rebates and opt-outs and requires the UK to join the euro.

3 The UK seeks an association agreement with the EU that goes beyond a trade deal and can serve as a blueprint for relations between the EZ and other peripheral EU countries.

AR Looks like Fortress UK — the end is nigh.

2017 July 23


Philosophical prolegomenon to a viewing of the movie Dunkirk:

The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche (1872, 1993 translation by Shaun Whiteside)

From the preface to Richard Wagner: "I imagine the moment when you, my honoured friend, will receive this essay .. I am convinced that art is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life in the sense of that man, my noble champion on that path, to whom I dedicate this book."

1 Art derives its continuous development from the duality of the Apolline and Dionysiac .. These two very different tendencies walk side by side, usually in violent opposition to one another, inciting one another to ever more powerful births, perpetuating the struggle of the opposition .. until at last they seem to beget .. tragedy.

Apollo, the deity of all plastic forces, is also the soothsaying god. Etymologically the shining one, the deity of light, he also holds sway over the beautiful illusion of the inner fantasy world.

Schopenhauer has described the tremendous dread that grips man when he suddenly loses his way amidst the cognitive forms of appearance .. If we add to this dread the blissful ecstasy which .. rises up .. from nature, we are vouchsafed a glimpse into the nature of the Dionysiac .. the artistic power .. reveals itself .. amidst the paroxysms of intoxication.

4 Apollo .. demands moderation from his followers and .. self-knowledge .. The Apolline Greeks .. were forced to feel .. their entire existence .. was based on a veiled substratum of suffering and knowledge, revealed .. by the Dionysiac.

8 Enchantment is the precondition of all dramatic art .. In the light of this insight, we must see Greek tragedy as the Dionysiac chorus, continuously discharging itself in an Apolline world of images.

16 According to Schopenhauer .. we must see music as the immediate language of the will .. we can conclude that music can give birth to the myth .. and the tragic myth above all: the myth that speaks symbolically of the Dionysiac wisdom.

25 Music and tragic myth are to an equal extent expressions of the Dionysiac capacity of a people, and they are inseparable.

AR Re music, Hans Zimmer scored a triumph of the will in Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan

The Observer

Christopher Nolan eschewed war porn for a powerful and superbly crafted disaster movie. Dunkirk brings together his finest qualities in a study of survival. The action unspools in three interlaced strands that bend our perception of time.

Nolan had turned the Batman franchise into the Dark Knight trilogy, which grossed $2.5 billion worldwide. Alongside that trio, his 2010 movie Inception took place in a mind-bending dreamworld and Interstellar (2014) in the warped time of a black hole.

Nolan was born in 1970 in London. His father was British, his mother American. He studied English literature at University College London, where he met his future wife and producer, Emma Thomas. They have been married for 17 years and have four children.

AR I absorbed the drama of Dunkirk in iSense at the Bournemouth Odeon. Dionysiac Germans hammered Apolline Brits and deafening bombs and bullets shook my body. My own bit part in the night scene in a train station is invisible in the final cut.

2017 July 22

EU West End — UK

Markus Becker

Brextremists rarely ask whether others want any part of Empire 2.0. Donald Trump may or may not give Brits a great deal full of goodies. Canada sees the US and the EU as much more important trading partners than the UK. India has made new agreements with London, but only 1.7% of UK exports go to India, only 9% to all Commonwealth countries. The EU has free trade agreements with 32 Commonwealth countries.

The EU has the best cards in the Brexit poker. It is well prepared and is holding together. The UK government still has no clear strategy on key issues. Insiders see the chance of an agreement by the end of 2018 for an orderly Brexit as near zero. A transition period will be needed to prevent a chaotic relapse to WTO rules.

Brextremist hopes will be dashed. It will be hard to avoid that humiliating end of empire feeling.

EU East End — Poland

Jan Puhl

Poland was long seen as the paragon among East End member states. But Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party have turned Poland into a problem for the EU. Kaczynski thinks in nationalist terms and sees the EU as a source of cash rather than a community of solidarity. His party is dismantling the constitutional separation of powers, despite protests from Brussels, Berlin, and Polish activists.

Kaczynski envisions a generous state with a nationalist and Catholic identity. He presents himself as the defender of the common people against the consequences of economic liberalism. He sees the Poles as a heroic people forever victimized by Russia and Germany, and calls the EU an instrument of German power.

A large majority of Poles support EU membership. Diplomats fear Poles could stumble to an exit.

2017 July 21


John McCumber

Philosophy today is a backwater, but 70 years ago things were different. Marxism was winning converts worldwide. A new philosophy was needed that provided an uncompromising vindication of free markets and contested elections.

Rational choice theory holds that people make (or should make) choices rationally by ranking the alternatives presented to them with regard to transitivity and completeness. They then choose the alternative that maximizes their utility, advancing their relevant goals at minimal cost. The theory takes a strongly individualist view of human life.

Rational choice theory was elevated from an empirical theory covering certain empirical contexts into a normative theory of the proper operation of the human mind. Scientific method was already installed as coextensive with reason itself. Scientists choose from an array of alternative theories, under a preference for highest probability, in a series of rational choices.

Cold War philosophy continues to structure US society at large. It proclaims ethical neutrality. However laudable or nefarious my goals might be, I will be better able to achieve them if I have wealth and power. We therefore derive an ethical imperative to increase wealth and power.

Concern with promulgating free markets and contested elections gave the philosophy homes in departments of economics and political science, where it thrives today. The philosophy is individualist and neutral in regard to ends. Its ethic is no ethic at all — greed is good.

Another problem: Whatever I choose has at least one alternative, or there would be no choice. But if I identify myself at the outset with any of my plurality of alternatives, I cannot choose any alternative to it. Any alternative I consider in the course of making a rational decision is something I can walk away from and still be me. My fundamental identity is as a rational chooser who opts for the highest utility.

To act freely is to act from your entire moral being. Hegel: freedom is the apprehension of necessity — to understand what you have to do to be you. Freedom of choice is valuable only when situated within wider horizons of value.

AR Sam Harris should ponder this.


Rebecca Onion

What can years and years of nuclear terror teach us about how the existential fear of mass death and societal collapse might affect our ability to respond to climate change?

Stories related to climate change have failed to tap into deep-seated pre-existing terrors. Nuclear fear draws on a number of extremely potent tropes. During the Cold War, people living in fear of nuclear apocalypse often reported feeling like they were being carried away by something ancient and inexorable.

So far, climate change lacks a visceral image of the worst-case scenario. Nuclear fear also benefits from our bias toward individual stories. Because climate change is about social fate, not individual agency, it is much less dramatic to witness, much more difficult to villainize, and much easier to ignore.

The current US president seems entirely unbothered by climate change, It is tempting to think that ringing alarm bells could force citizens to insist on positive action.

AR I fear Earth could become another hell-hole like Venus.


The Guardian

UK environment secretary Michael Gove "deeply regrets" the Trump administration's approach to the Paris agreement on climate change: "The world's second-biggest generator of carbon emissions can't simply walk out of the room when the heat is on."

On Brexit: "Of course it's important we explore new trading opportunities, with the United States and other nations across the world but it must not be, and the cabinet is agreed on this, at the risk of dropping any environmental standards whatsoever."

AR Gove is smart enough to fear Venus.


Carolin Würfel

Heiraten, so meine Erkenntnis mit etwas Abstand, ist nicht nur überflüssig, sondern total bekloppt. Heiraten ändert nämlich nichts. Nichts wird besser, schöner, sicherer.

Man fühle sich vor allem sicherer, sagen vor allem Frauen. Aber das stimmt nicht. Verbundenheit ist ein Gefühl, das sich schon vor der Heirat eingestellt haben sollte, sonst käme man ja auch gar nicht erst auf die dämliche Idee mit der Hochzeit.

Heiraten bedeutet für Frauen in Deutschland: sich klein zu machen. Etwa jede dritte Ehe wird geschieden, und Unterhaltszahlungen sind auch nicht mehr das, was sie mal waren. Seit 2008 gilt das Prinzip der Eigenverantwortung.

AR Siehe "Choice" oben!


Andrea Hanna Hünniger

Das, was am perfektesten wirkt, scheitert oft umso brutaler. Ich möchte deshalb schon vorab einen Vorschlag unterbreiten: Ich möchte das Scheidenlassen gerne, wenn nicht verbieten, dann wenigstens erschweren.

Auf dem Weg zur Ehe reden wir über die Liebe und das Glück, aber nachdem die Ringe getauscht sind, sprechen wir ganz altmodisch von Selbstauflösung, Loyalität und harter Arbeit. Wir können uns zwingen, loyal und aufopfernd zu sein, aber wir können uns nicht zwingen, zu lieben. Wir haben sehr wenig Kontrolle über unsere Herzen.

Wenn eine Beziehung in der Krise ist, machen wir keine Pause, die lang genug wäre, um uns fragen zu können, was das Eheversprechen eigentlich bedeutet hat. Stattdessen erzählen wir Geschichten darüber, wie die Liebe durch Entschlossenheit und harte Arbeit erhalten bleibt, angeblich, aber wir glauben unseren Geschichten nicht wirklich.

Sich scheiden zu lassen raubt nicht nur unfassbar viel Energie, es ist auch teuer und gesundheits
-schädlich. Die Möglichkeit des nächsten Partners ist zwar noch da, aber wir können vorher wissen, dass dieser die gleichen Probleme mit sich bringt. Nämlich unsere eigenen.

Solange man nicht kotzen muss, wenn der Partner zur Tür hereinkommt, sollte man sich nicht scheiden lassen. Gerade für Frauen bedeutet Scheidung in vielen Fällen einen finanziellen Absturz und die totale gesellschaftliche Vernichtung. Ehe heißt Unterwerfung, Trennung heißt Emanzipation, sagt man. Das ist leider nicht wahr.

Die Ehe beginnt als hoffnungsvolles, großzügiges Projekt zweier Personen, die noch nicht wissen, wer sie sind und wer der andere ist. Eigentlich ist sie ein Akt des Verzichts und ihre Ethik die dem Aushalten und der Solidarität.

AR Ledig ist erträglich,
gehieratet ist besser.


Warner Bros
Brexit with Stukas
My cuts of a few reviews

Geoffrey Macnab, The independent

Winston Churchill called it a colossal military disaster. Christopher Nolan shows the blind terror and helplessness of the 400,000 British
soldiers stranded on the beach in the summer of 1940, seemingly abandoned, as Stuka dive-bombers hammered them relentlessly.
The sound editing and Hans Zimmer's pounding, disorienting electronic soundtrack induce extreme anxiety.
Nolan has gone to extraordinary lengths to portray the Dunkirk evacuation in as realistic a fashion as possible.
He intercuts between the stories of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Much of the imagery seems surreal.
We hardly see the Germans at all, only their airplanes as they swoop down for the kill.
The soldiers wait for deliverance, hoping for a miracle.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

A superbly crafted film with a powerful story, Dunkirk is terrifying, shattering spectacle on a desolate and apocalyptic beachscape.
Nolan's best film so far also has Hans Zimmer's best musical score: the eerie, keening, groaning sound of a nightmare.
The disaster is big, the stakes are high, the anxiety is unbearable. The battle is over before the movie begins.
The soldiers wait on the beach like survivors of some horrible natural disaster.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

Dunkirk is a work of heart-hammering intensity and grandeur that demands to be seen on the best and biggest screen within reach.
The strands of the story unspool simultaneously, creating a sense that events are driving toward a pivotal historical moment.
This is a British film, with no concessions to the global market. The dialog is sparse and functional.
The actors are viscerally engaged with whatever task is facing them in any given moment.
The superb Hans Zimmer score is a constant presence.

Peter Debruge, Variety

This is the definitive cinematic version of Dunkirk. Tommy is our avatar through the ordeal.
His storyline features hardly any dialog, relying instead on us to adapt to the unrelentingly harrowing situation.
Operation Dynamo was a call to all civilian sailors, asking that they steer any ship or boat they had across the English Channel
to rescue as many of the stranded soldiers as possible. The Dunkirk beaches are a special kind of hell in the film.

Andrew Pulver, The Guardian

With Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan may at last be compared with the late, great Stanley Kubrick.
Nolan has taken on a cornerstone national myth and made a film as stylistically bold as anything Kubrick engineered.
Dunkirk is not war porn.


Notional aibot with fog node
enabled by SAP Leonardo

SAP revises expected
total 2017 revenue to
€23.3—€23.7 billion

KC Aerial Photo
Storm center 6 km south of
my sleepy head last night

Maxwell equations condensed
in modern notation to a line
relating 4-vectors A and j

Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109E
OLt Josef 'Pips' Priller
France 1940

AR No turkey

UK F-35B
Forces Network


2017 July 20

Brexit — FUK Madness

The Guardian

UK citizens living in the EU could lose the right to live in another EU member state after Brexit. In talks this week, the EU said it will not move without a guarantee for EU citizens living in the UK to allow them to move to another EU state and return to the UK.

Uncertainty faces nearly 5 million people caught on the wrong side of the English Channel. About 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU are affected. EU officials say the UK must make a reciprocal offer to protect the 3.5 million EU nationals living in the UK.

AR Are Brextremists mad? Grant full reciprocal rights!

IoT Edge Computing

SAP Leonardo

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of intelligent objects. The core of an IoT solution is typically a central IT system for storing, processing, and analyzing IoT data.

— IoT endpoints frequently cannot transmit all their sensor data to the core.
— Some local systems must make autonomous decisions fast and cannot wait for the cloud.

Edge processing can address these challenges. An edge processing unit is a physical device, called an IoT gateway or a fog node. It connects to devices at the edge and connects to the core directly using high-speed internet. It also provides security and lifecycle management at the edge.

IoT edge computing is playing an increasingly important role in IoT solutions. The industry trend is to deploy functionality as micro services and use container technology for lifecycle management and other benefits that come from isolation.

SAP Leonardo Edge Services represent the forefront of defining and providing relevant edge computing functionality such as persistence, stream processing, visual and predictive analytics, and other micro services for the edge. These services are designed for implementation on both existing and emerging edge platforms.

SAP Leonardo Edge Services provide:
— A distributed programming model for the edge and the core
— A lifecycle model for edge services, platform, and devices and sensors
— A deep integration with enterprise systems to bring enterprise functionality to the edge

SAP Leonardo Edge Services empower live business by connecting things with people and processes.

AR SAP promotion — but music to my ears.

2017 July 19

Trump — Global Consequences

Stephen M. Walt

Donald Trump lacks competence. The consequences in foreign policy are already apparent:

1 Big policy mistakes:
— Dropping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
— Walking away from the Paris climate accord
— Failing to appreciate that China was not going to solve the North Korea problem

2 Other countries do not pay much attention to Washington:
— Saudi Arabia is ignoring US efforts to resolve the dispute between the Gulf states and Qatar.
— Israel doesn't care what Trump thinks about the Palestinian dispute or the situation in Syria.
— South Korea has announced it will begin talks with North Korea.
— The EU and Japan just reached a large trade deal.
— TPP-like talks are resuming without the United States.
— Germany and Canada say they need to chart their own course.

Emmanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau of Canada treated Trump with more respect than he deserves. You'd tread carefully, too, if you found yourself in the same room as a drunk rhinoceros.

Brexit — Colossal Disaster

Hans-Olaf Henkel

It would be a disaster for the UK to leave Euratom. The EU must accommodate the British, who must accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ when it comes to overseeing Euratom.

I would urge the UK government not to listen to Guy Verhofstadt or Michel Barnier. Verhofstadt wants to achieve a United States of Europe and now wants to punish the British. Barnier wants to make sure that Brexit is such a catastrophe that no country dares to take the step of leaving the EU again.

This is a terrible situation. In Germany, we value the ties we have with the British and we value your voice in Europe. So I say to MPs: if you want to think again on Euratom, we are all ears.

As we all face the disaster of Brexit, perhaps it's too much to hope MPs will tell the British people: "We've all made a colossal mistake."

2017 July 18

New Mathematics

New Scientist

Australian prime minister Malcom Turnbull: "The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

Turnbull wants to force tech companies to give security services access to encrypted messages. Encryption uses hard mathematics that cannot be overturned by an eavesdropper. With all due respect to security services who want to read messages sent by suspected terrorists, encryption cannot be weakened for terrorists unless it is weakened for everyone.

UK home secretary Amber Rudd recently called encryption completely unacceptable. Late last year, the UK parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act that would force companies to remove encryption. But encryption is also used for online shopping, bank transactions, and so on. Politicians need to understand this.

Like it or not, the laws of mathematics are here to stay.

Classical Electrodynamics


Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell was the great genius of Victorian theoretical physics. His equations uniting electricity and magnetism enabled him to conclude light was electromagnetic radiation. All later physics, including relativity and quantum mechanics, flowed from those equations and that insight. All the electric and electronic technology that has transformed our world traces its theoretical ancestry to them.

I have spent the last week or so reliving (yet again) the drama of his discoveries by reading my way through a tolerably informal mathematical derivation of the equations from first principles. The hard work of writing it all out was accomplished with easy fluency and a light touch by Yale professor Ramamurti Shankar over some 300 pages of the second volume of his text Fundamentals of Physics. The experience has been a joy for me.

Let no one say physics is dull. Take your time and it comes alive. The saga of how we went from tinkering with a collection of curious experimental results in electricity and magnetism to a deep and satisfying theoretical account that led us inexorably to transform basic mechanics from its Newtonian roots first to special relativity and then to quantum mechanics is one of the greatest tales of our era. It sure beats Wagnerian opera!

2017 July 17


Malte Laub

Die sozialen Unterschiede in Großbritannien sind eklatant. Dass diese Unterschiede existieren, bezweifelt in Großbritannien kaum jemand. Selbst wenn man die Monarchie mit der Queen an der Spitze außen vor lässt, zerfällt die britische Gesellschaft in sieben Klassen, laut der 2013 BBC Great British Class Survey.

Fast die Hälfte der Bevölkerung werden in die drei untersten Klassen einsortiert, allein 15% im Prekariat. Diese Menschen haben ein durchschnittliches Jahreseinkommen von nur 8.000 Pfund, so gut wie keine Ersparnisse oder Grundbesitz und sind auch sozial und kulturell benachteiligt.

Wer nach den Ursachen für diese Armut und damit für die extremen Unterschiede in der britischen Gesellschaft sucht, muss sich drei Faktoren vor Augen führen:

1 In der britischen Geschichte gab es keine bürgerliche Revolution.
2 Das britische Bildungssystem ist immer noch unbeweglich.
3 Der Neoliberalismus der letzten 40 Jahre hat die Situation verschärft.

Die soziale Mobilität ist in Großbritannien besonders gering. Als Voraussetzung für hohe soziale Mobilität gilt allgemein ein Bildungssystem, das auch den Angehörigen der unteren Schichten gute Chancen bietet. Doch in Großbritannien hängt es noch heute von der Klassenzugehörigkeit ab, wer welche Schule besucht.

Überdurchschnittlich viele Angehörige der Eliten waren auf angesehenen Hochschulen: 10 von 23 Kabinettsmitgliedern in Theresa Mays neuer Regierung haben Abschlüsse von Oxford oder Cambridge, sie selbst auch. Drei ihrer Minister kommen aus dem gleichen Studiengang: PPE — Philosophy, Politics, and Economics an der University of Oxford.

AR Auch ich habe einen Oxford PPE-Abschluss
bin aber kein Vertreter der Oberschicht.

Brexit — KBO?

Anoosh Chakelian

Nicholas Soames MP, a former army officer and an ardent Europhile, offers advice to the prime minister: "Do not be defined by Brexit. Don't allow this to dominate the whole of the government."

On Brexit: "We look like we're not the country we were. I worry greatly. We don't have a skilled economy. We are way behind on our technical training. This is a poorly educated country, frankly .. I'm not optimistic for my country. I don't see how we're ever going to project our influence and our standing and our power outside the EU .. Britain's voice is going to diminish, I'm afraid."

He quotes his grandfather Winston Churchill — keep buggering on.

Trillion Dollar Turkey

The Times

The F-35 joint strike fighter was supposed to answer to all western air defence needs for the early decades of this century. It is turning into an object lesson in the pitfalls of procurement. If the UK Ministry of Defence continues on its present course, it may find the planes for its two new aircraft carriers are vulnerable to hackers, unable to fly in full stealth mode, and even in some cases too heavy to fly at all.

Though JSF development began in 1996, the aircraft still has numerous flaws. These include poor acceleration through the sound barrier. Test pilots find it underpowered in dogfights. Engineers find it unreliable even by stealth aircraft standards. For the UK, its ability to offer updated information about enemy movements far beyond the horizon is available in stealth mode only with the purchase of additional kit.

The full cost of the 14 aircraft delivered to Britain so far is likely to be closer to £150 million each than the up to £100 million cited by Lockheed Martin. The MoD has committed to buying 138 F-35s. The JSF program was meant to meet a wide range of service needs at once, at minimum cost. A trillion dollars later, the F-35 is a turkey. MoD officials say the project is on time, on budget, and the best option for Britain!

Brexit — Chaotic Handling

Guy Verhofstadt

Brexit is about the whole of the UK. It will affect all UK citizens, and EU citizens in the UK. This is much bigger than one political party's internal divisions or short term electoral positioning. It's about people's lives.

The Brexit negotiations need to be conducted with full transparency. I believe they should involve more people with more diverse opinions. Some recognition that the election result was, in part, a rejection of a hard Brexit would be welcome.

The handling of Brexit so far has been somewhat chaotic. Over a year since the referendum we have only just started the negotiations. This delay has not been good for the UK, or for the EU, or for citizens.

Novel Mathematics

Erica Klarreich

Maryam Mirzakhani said mathematics research feels like writing a novel. "There are different characters, and you are getting to know them better. Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different from your first impression."

As a graduate at Harvard, Mirzakhani was captivated by hyperbolic geometry. On a hyperbolic surface with two or more holes, some geodesics are infinitely long but others close into a loop. The number of closed geodesics of a given length grows exponentially with their length. Almost all of them cut across themselves many times before closing up smoothly. Vanishingly few simple geodesics never intersect themselves.

In her 2004 doctoral thesis, Mirzakhani developed a formula for how the number of simple geodesics of length L grows as L gets larger. She solved two other major research questions along the way. Her thesis resulted in three papers published in the three top mathematics journals.

In 2006, Mirzakhani began a collaboration with Alex Eskin. They tackled a problem concerning the behavior of billiard balls bouncing around polygonal tables. Zig-zag paths on a table can be mapped to straight lines on a translation surface. Understanding the moduli space of all translation surfaces is the key to understanding billiards.

In 2012 and 2013, Mirzakhani and Eskin proved a major set of results about such translation surfaces. Their 172-page paper is the beginning of a new era.


British Antarctic Survey
A trillion tons of ice broke off Antarctica

Maryam Mirzakhani
Maryam Mirzakhani


Macron treats Trump
to display of French
pomp in Paris

"Democracy is the theory that
the common people know what
they want, and deserve to
get it good and hard."
H.L. Mencken

Claude Shannon worked at
Bell Labs and published his
mathematical theory of
communication in 1948.
He saw that bits are a
universal interface.

Black hole simulation
Our best black hole image yet,
thanks to Christopher Nolan
and Kip Thorne

Juno image recalls
Vincent van Gogh


"Go whistle"
Boris Johnson

"I am not hearing any whistling,
just a clock ticking."
Michel Barnier

Bojo: Die Union könne
"pfeifen gehen"

Grammatischer Patzer
schon im Titel


2017 July 16

Maryam Mirzakhani


Maryam Mirzakhani (1977—2017) was an Iranian mathematician and a professor at Stanford University. She won three gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1994 and 1995 and won the Field Medal in 2014.

Mirzakhani worked on the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces. She discovered a formula expressing the volume of a moduli space with a given genus as a polynomial in the number of boundary components. She proved a theorem on closed geodesics on a compact hyperbolic surface. With others, she proved that complex geodesics and their closures in moduli space are regular.

Jordan Ellenberg: "Among other things, she studies billiards. But now, in a move very characteristic of modern mathematics, it gets kind of meta: She considers not just one billiard table, but the universe of all possible billiard tables. And the kind of dynamics she studies doesn't directly concern the motion of the billiards on the table, but instead a transformation of the billiard table itself, which is changing its shape in a rule-governed way; if you like, the table itself moves like a strange planet around the universe of all possible tables .. This isn't the kind of thing you do to win at pool, but it's the kind of thing you do to win a Fields Medal."

Mirzakhani: "Of course, the most rewarding part is the 'aha' moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new — the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. Most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight."

AR See blog 2014-08-13.

Brexit — World Role

Tom Tugendhat

We must decide what role the UK is willing to play in the questions that will define this century.

Members of Parliament must lead the debate about what sort of international role the UK can play. Grand strategy cannot be made behind closed doors. A new foreign policy vision can only be successful if there is public consensus behind it.

Parliamentary committees can be hubs for new thinking about the UK role on the global stage.

Brexit — Rough Ride

Gus O'Donnell

David Davis says Brexit makes landing on the Moon look simple. Sir Jeremy Heywood says Brexit is the most complex challenge the civil service has faced in our peacetime history. Amyas Morse says UK preparations risk falling apart like a chocolate orange.

Brexit was a complex challenge for a government with a clear majority and a strong and stable leader. The government now has to get detailed legislation through with a slender majority that could evaporate at key moments. We are in for a rough ride.

Brexit — Nuclear Calamity

Ian Chapman

The ITER project will demonstrate nuclear fusion power on a commercial scale. It involves the European Union, US, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, and India. Fusion can operate alongside solar, wind, and other renewables to power the world to a carbon-free future.

For decades, the UK has led the world in addressing this grand challenge. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) operates the Joint European Torus (JET) on behalf of Europe. In so doing, we have acquired unique capabilities in critical areas for fusion.

On 29 March, the UK government declared an intention to leave Euratom at the same time as leaving the EU. The existing Euratom R and D program ends in 18 months. It is vital that we negotiate a solution for a strong future relationship with Euratom.

2017 July 15


Veronique Greenwood

Humans have a shockingly high mutation rate. Our survival as a species suggests we have a way of dumping dangerous mutations.

It may seem that natural selection acts on mutations one by one. But perhaps the fates of mutations are linked in synergistic epistasis where having one mutation can compound the effects of another. Thus an individual with more mutations is not just additively but more like exponentially worse off.

As the number of nasty genetic errors in a population rises, natural selection will dump lots of them out of the genome together. In sexual organisms, because mutations from each parent can recombine randomly onto the same chromosomes, the synergistic expulsion can work faster.

Synergistic epistasis has been acting on us and other organisms. Fewer individuals than expected have large numbers of dangerous mutations, suggesting that at the high end there is stronger selection against such individuals. There is no shortage of individuals with milder mutations.

Sexual reproduction shuffles parental genes together in new combinations. It is hard to justify as an evolutionary strategy because a sexual organism passes on only half of its genes. An asexually reproducing organism gets double the benefit, none of the hassle. Yet sex continues.

Sex pays off if it gets rid of dangerous mutations. Perhaps it wipes them out by shuffling them into freaks that fail to breed.


Martin Wolf

The UK is making a spectacular mess of Brexit.

In an unnecessary referendum, a small majority chose an option that had not been worked out. A new prime minister adopted the hardest possible interpretation of the outcome and triggered exit before shaping a negotiating position. Then, in an unnecessary election, she lost both her majority and her authority.

The Conservative party is so split over Brexit as to be no longer a coherent party of government. Party Brextremists fail to understand that with no deal the UK would default on its legal obligations to EU members. Anyone who thinks those members would then cooperate over vital British interests is dreaming.

The UK ship of state is stuck between a rock and a hard race. Brextremists have reduced British politics to a shambles. There is no exit from Brexit and no easy way to a deal.

AR HMS Britannia sinks off Dunkirk.

Stop Brexit

Tony Blair

Britain is suffering from politics. If the will of the British people remains as it was in June of last year, then Brexit will happen. But we can change our will.

The Macron victory changes Europe. The EZ will integrate economic decision making. Europe will have an inner and outer circle. Reform is on the agenda.

The British people want a strong relationship with Europe. A majority oppose hard Brexit. As for immigration, the French and Germans share British worries.

Brexit is the biggest British political decision since 1940. The government program is dominated by Brexit. It has no bandwidth to do anything else.

Government Brexit policy has turned into hard Brexit or no deal. The Conservative manifesto was typical tough Tory policy on social care and school meals, plus fox hunting. The public recoiled.

I propose a radical policy agenda. The NHS, schools and skills, nurseries, welfare, and retirement all need fundamental redesign. Communities and people left behind need to be helped, infrastructure needs to be built anew, and we need affordable housing.

Brexit is a massive distraction.

2017 Bastille Day

Take Back Control

Philip Collins

The UK government has published its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The bill incorporates accepted EU law into the English legal system and repeals the 1972 European Communities Act.

The government has awarded itself vastly excessive executive power. The task of melding EU and UK law is very tangled. The first major constitutional event under the new sovereignty will be ministers exercising powers to amend legislation without parliamentary scrutiny.

Conservatives are meant to place wise administration before madcap utopian schemes. Yet, gripped by the colossally stupid notion that Britain as a member of the EU was not a free nation, they regard any economic price as worth the invisible benefit of sovereignty.

The politicians who got us into this mess don't know what they're doing. Their view of the EU is too ideologically narrow. The prime minister needs to take back control.

Confront The Chancers

Martin Kettle

The domestic political context of Brexit is shifting. In Brussels, Michel Barnier leads an organized and rational team of negotiators. In London, amateurs, blowhards, and chancers rule.

Theresa May continues to repeat her Brexit mantras. She is getting on with the job, working to get a good deal, always talking as if the outcome is certain. But she is trapped by the growing realization that Brexit is heading to be an economic and diplomatic disaster for Britain.

In Hamburg, Donald Trump offered Britain a "very, very big" trade deal "very, very quickly" but has no authority to deliver one. For the UK, the trade partners that matter most are places like Germany, Benelux, and France. Rational statecraft would seek to preserve that trade.

The EU is still being patient with Britain. May could be tempted to appease the Brextremists to survive her party conference. She must confront them.

Boson Stars?

New Scientist

No one knows how black holes work inside. They must either destroy information at their central singularity — no go in quantum theory — or surround themselves at the event horizon with a firewall — no go in general relativity. So perhaps the ones we think we see are actually boson stars.

Fermions, such as protons and electrons, have half-integer spin. They cannot occupy the same quantum state as one another, so electrons arrange themselves in different energy states around an atomic nucleus, explaining the periodic table in chemistry. Fermions are identified by their unique quantum states and obey Fermi-Dirac statistics.

Bosons, such as photons, have integer spin and obey Bose-Einstein statistics, so any number of them can pile into the same quantum state — and lose their separate identities in doing so. Bosons carry the forces by which fermions interact — photons carry the electromagnetic force. A bosonic collective state is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

When fermionic matter forms a star, gravitational pressure heats it up enough to ignite nuclear fusion and radiate light. By contrast, boson stars would just form big toroidal lumps. They would be transparent and invisible, given away only by their gravity. A compact boson star would bend light around it, causing a lensing effect like a black hole.

A boson star will attract mass, warm up, and emit EM radiation. Spin 0 bosons could form stars. But photons have spin 1, so no go. The Higgs boson has spin 0 but its mass is 125 GeV, so no go too. For bosons, the smaller their mass, the bigger the stars they form. We're stuck.

AR I have added content to this cut to make it crunchier. A massive boson star would be a black hole too, so I see no payoff — the problems inside are just as crass. And since a boson star would attract fermions, it might well look much like any other star. But what are these bosons? They aren't in the Standard Model.

2017 July 13

The Russian Connection

The New York Times

Rob Goldstone: "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr Trump."

Donald Trump Jr: "If it's what you say I love it."

Trump Jr appears to be in real legal jeopardy. Federal campaign finance law prohibits political campaigns from soliciting anything of value from foreign nationals.

In the Trump world, ethics is for suckers. Republicans in Congress are maintaining their head-between-the-knees position as the Trump plane spirals downward.

America's First Family

Edward Luce

The Trump administration is little more than the Trump family plus some disposable retainers.

Donald Trump Jr solicited damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. To Federal prosecutors, this is evidence of collusion with a foreign power.

At the G20 summit, Trump spent 135 minutes talking to Vladimir Putin. No one has a clue what they agreed. The USA and Russia now belong on the same moral plane.

During a G20 meeting, Trump left the room and Ivanka Trump took his place at the table between Xi Jinping and Theresa May. No other western democracy operates like this.

As long as Trump is president, the USA is vulnerable.

The Rock

The Guardian

King Felipe VI of Spain, addressing an audience of peers and MPs in the House of Lords as part of his state visit to the UK, said the two countries had overcome differences in the past:

"I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort our two governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved."

Bojo Defends Rock

The UK Foreign Office, headed by Boris Johnson, defended the expulsion of a Spanish warship from the disputed waters around Gibraltar. A Spanish patrol boat was told to leave on Tuesday by a Royal Navy unit from the Gibraltar squadron. Spain wants Gibraltar back and does not recognise the waters as sovereign British overseas territory.

The status of Gibraltar is part of the Brexit negotiations.

The European Project

Ann Mettler, Paweł Świeboda

The EU is delivering economically. The EZ and broader EU recently recorded their highest ever employment, investment is up, and growth is projected to be twice as fast as US growth. Leaders have stood for reform in Europe.

A white paper on the future of Europe published in March 2017 is being called the birth certificate of the EU27. Europeans are ready to invest in the common project. They realize that disintegration, illiberal democracy, and populism are profoundly dangerous.

Europe can only prosper on the basis of the vitality and legitimacy of the EU. Fundamental political choices must not be fudged or decided behind closed doors. A wide debate is needed, engaging citizens in new ways and making sure their voice matters.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will lay out additional initiatives in his next state of the union speech in September. For the EU to pursue business as usual would be a profound misreading of the public mood.

2017 July 12

Clash of Civilizations

Martin Wolf

Donald Trump: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"

Radical Islamist terrorism is a concern. But to judge it an overriding existential threat is ludicrous. Nazism was an existential threat. So was Soviet communism. Terrorism is just a nuisance.

We must beware the self-fulfilling prophecy of a clash of civilizations, not just because it is untrue, but because we have to cooperate. The ideal of a global community reflects today's reality. Technology and economic development have made humans masters of the planet and dependent upon one another. Borders are arbitrary.

In a nuclear age, war should be unthinkable. But that does not make it impossible. Managing frictions among nuclear-armed powers is an inescapable necessity.

Global Nuclear Weapons

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Country Deployed Total   The overall number of nuclear weapons in the world continues to decline. But all of the nuclear-armed states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. They will not be prepared to give them up for the foreseeable future.

At the start of 2017, nine states possessed about 4150 operationally deployed nuclear weapons. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possessed a total of about 14 935 nuclear weapons.
USA 1800 6800
Russia 1950 7000
UK 120 215
France 280 300
China 270 270
India ~125 ~125
Pakistan ~135 ~135
Israel 80 80
N Korea ~15 ~15

Finis Germaniae

Adam Soboczynski

Im Kern, erklärt Rüdiger Safranski, gehe es in dem diskussionswürdigen Werk von Sieferle doch nicht darum, Auschwitz zu leugnen, sondern mitzudenken, "dass dieses 20. Jahrhundert so voll von den Großverbrechen war". Auf "einer metaphysischen Deutungsebene" werde in Finis Germania dargelegt, wie nach "der allgemeinen Überlieferung sich dann ein auserwähltes Volk und das extrem Böse, das Deutsche gewissermaßen gegenüberstehen" — eine Gedankenfigur, die auch jüdische Denker schon formuliert hätten.

Finis Germania: Hitler sei es "für alle Zeiten" gelungen, "den Deutschen und den Juden eine komplementäre Sonderrolle" in der Welt zuzuweisen. Es gebe ein "positiv auserwähltes Volk", nämlich die Juden, und ein "negativ auserwähltes Volk", die Deutschen. Im Programm des antifaschistisch inspirierten Multikulturalismus macht man sich nun Sieferle zufolge genau diese Opposition zunutze, um "das indigene Volk der Industrieländer" zum Gegner zu erklären und "dessen Widerstand gegen Immigration und Überfremdung" zu brechen.

Kurz: Der Holocaust rottet die Deutschen aus, denn die Antifaschismus-Keule sorgt heute dafür, dass wir jeden Migranten ins Land lassen und somit untergehen.

AR Deutschland ist in Europa integriert — am besten so können die Deutschen sich aus dieser Selbstdiffamierung retten.



Battle of Britain Memorial Flight turns 60: A legitimate piece of living history is mutating slowly into a focus for celebrating
national exceptionalism that borders on pathological jingoism — Britain punches above its weight on the global stage etc.

Merkel, Xi
Merkel, Xi

"The more strain on its ends,
the tighter it becomes"
Angela Merkel

Party 1
Party 2
Party 3
Reception with Poole
colleagues last night

Three Nutshells
and a Jackson


2017 July 11

Apple v Google

Mihir A. Desai

Apple and Google parent company Alphabet are the two most valuable companies in the world, with a combined market capitalization of over $1.3 trillion.

Apple and Google have taken completely different approaches to their shareholders and to the future, one driven by investors and the other by founders and executives.

Apple faced pressure to redistribute its cash pile of almost $100 billion by the end of 2011 to shareholders. Most of the cash was in Ireland, and it would incur big US taxes upon repatriation. So from 2013 to March 2017, Apple released $200 billion via dividends and buybacks, and took on $99 billion in US-sourced debt.

Google founders maintained voting control over the company. But by 2012, as the founders sold stock and employees were issued shares in their compensation packages, Google gave founder shares 10 times the voting power of regular shares. From 2013 to March 2017, Google generated $114 billion in cash flow but only distributed $7 billion to shareholders.

On how to spend the profits, the interests of managers and investors can diverge. Apple lets investors dominate, which checks managers who might pursue goals that enrich themselves. Google lets managers decide, since big investors who also act for other shareholders may not serve the real interests of the company.

No one knows which is the better strategy.

Brexit and National Humiliation

Gideon Rachman

Brexit Britain appears to face a choice between three different types of humiliation:

1 Britain becomes so desperate for a trade deal that it accepts all the EU terms, including a bill of up to €100 billion, the free movement of people, and the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

2 Britain refuses, crashes out of the EU without a deal, bets on the promised "very, very big" trade deal with Trump's America, and makes "global Britain" look like a sick joke.

3 Britain accepts that there is no good Brexit and abandons the whole idea. Even to secure a return to the EU, Britain might have to give up its cherished budget rebate.

Each of these results will cause dismay and anger in Britain. Eurocrats may find a Britain humbled by Brexit easier in the long run. Postwar Germany shows being humbled can be good for the soul.

2017 July 10


China Daily

China has always attached great importance to Germany.

Germany is a competitive exporter and manufacturer, and thus an ideal model for China. Its social welfare and market system have been widely debated in China. For decades, Germany has had a big market share in China.

President Xi Jinping is likely to discuss with German leaders how to further boost bilateral ties and become bigger players in each other's markets by removing trade and investment barriers.

Globalization faces increasing challenges, especially with the UK departure from the EU and US policy to make America Great Again, which is nothing but trade protectionism. US President Trump has also pulled the United States out of the global climate change agreement.

Germany champions free trade and closer global connectivity, and remains committed to fighting climate change.

For China, Germany is the way into the EU economy.

A Postmodern Power

The Economist

As a top exporter embedded in the Eurasian continent, Germany is heavily invested in globalization. Environmental, trade, and regulatory disruptions hurt it more than most. Its defences are geopolitical alliances, diplomatic compromises, and a dense web of links.

Angela Merkel has moved closer to China in response to the US political turn, but has kept her options open. She is constructively ambiguous. But she can move fast and hard — flipping positions on nuclear power in 2011, on refugees in 2015, and last month on EU treaty change in support of Emmanuel Macron.

Germany makes no pretence of self-sufficiency. It accepts its own vulnerability, its own lack of a reliable protector, its own inextricability from mutually compromising alliances and sub-alliances. Ulrich Speck calls Germany a postmodern power.

EU Citizens

Guy Verhofstadt

In the European Parliament we accept that the Brexit decision was a democratic choice. We are not convinced Brexit would be a positive development for European citizens. The UK proposal fails to put citizens first and would cast a dark cloud over the lives of millions of Europeans.

Michel Barnier wants British people and Europeans to keep the same rights and the same level of protection they currently enjoy under European law. All rights acquired before the date of withdrawal will be directly enforceable, with lifelong protection, full reciprocity and equal treatment. A majority of the British people want to keep their EU citizenship.

The UK response proposes that Europeans would have fewer rights than British citizens are offered throughout the EU. Europeans will not only lose their right to vote in local elections, but family members will be subject to minimum income requirements, and each family member, including children, will have to make separate applications for settled status. Those who do not meet the five-year residence requirement by the end of the grace period will have to make one application to stay and another one for settled status.

The real cause for concern lies in the continuing uncertainty. British courts apply the laws adopted by British politicians. British and European citizens should be able to enforce their rights under a mechanism in which the ECJ plays a full role.

Brexit negotiations must be completed by 30 March 2019. Any extension would require the UK to hold European elections in May 2019. That is unthinkable.

A Better Way

The Times

Theresa May pledges to be more open and conciliatory and calls on opponents to work together to shape a better way forward for Britain after Brexit. She appeals to Labour and other parties to come forward with their ideas for policy.

AR Internally, the only conceivable way for the UK to make a success of Brexit is with cross-party agreement. Externally, the only way is with EU good will. Altogether, a better way to ensure UK success is to give up the whole stupid idea.

2017 July 9

G20 Leaders' Declaration

G20 Germany 2017

Mastering the challenges of our age and shaping an interconnected world is the common goal of the G20 as our premier forum for international economic cooperation.

Globalisation and technological change have contributed significantly to driving economic growth and raising living standards across the globe. However, globalisation has created challenges and its benefits have not been shared widely enough. By bringing together developed and emerging market economies, the G20 is determined to shape globalisation to benefit all people.

We are resolved to tackle common challenges to the global community, including terrorism, displacement, poverty, hunger and health threats, job creation, climate change, energy security, and inequality including gender inequality, as a basis for sustainable development and stability. We decide today to take concrete actions to advance the three aims of building resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibility.

We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

AR I have zoomed on a hot topic, naturally.

German Antihero

Christopher Caldwell

German historian Rolf Peter Sieferle took his own life last September at age 67. Last month, a posthumous collection of his observations on German political culture, Finis Germania, hit #9 on the Nonfiction Book of the Month list and #1 on the Amazon German bestseller list.

Sieferle rues and resents the tragic course of German history: "If Germany belongs to the most progressive, civilized, cultivated countries, then Auschwitz means that at any moment the human progress of modernity can go into reverse."

Sieferle is critical of the postwar culture of Holocaust memory, which he argues has taken on the traits of a religion. Hitler bound Germans and Jews together in a narrative for all time. Germans appear in this narrative as the absolute enemies of our common humanity, as a scapegoat people.

Sieferle sees Germans as the new Jews. Christians had cast Jews as either indifferent to or responsible for the crucifixion. Today, German identity symbolizes a similar rejection of some kind of revelation. Sieferle: "Today, the Jews, to whom God himself had promised eternity, build memorials throughout the world to their murdered coreligionists. Not only are the victims ascribed a moral superiority, the wrongdoers and their symbols are ascribed an eternal depravity."

Sieferle thought all this had left Germans unable to say anything but yes to a million or so migrants seeking entry to Europe in 2015. He thought such a welcome was unsustainable. His argument can sound thoroughly offensive.

AR I must read this tract.

2017 July 8

UN Treaty Bans Nuclear Weapons

Global Security

Countries meeting at a UN conference adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Statement from France, UK, US

France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have not taken part in the negotiation of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons.

Putin v Trump

Jen Psaki

Vladimir Putin should not have had the upper hand. The Russian agenda was to publicly mend the relationship, to gain a better understanding of US policy, and to discuss joint concerns over terrorism. They scored on all three.

Leading American intelligence agencies, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and many others are confident that the Russians intervened in the American election last year. But a simple assurance from President Putin overrides that. For the Russians, the public case is closed.

Fight Like the Poles

Daily Beast

Sarah Palin tweet:
Trump Gives Speech to the People of Poland, Says 14 Words That Leave Americans Stunned

Young Conservatives CEO Josh Riddle:
This is the 14-word quote the social media post is referencing:
Let us all fight like the Poles. For family, freedom, for country, for God.

AR Here is an immortal episode from European history the Young Conservatives might like:

In 1683, an Ottoman army of between one and two hundred thousand men led by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha advanced on Vienna and besieged the city for two months, but was then defeated by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The death blow for the Ottomans came when some twenty thousand cavalrymen — reputedly the largest cavalry charge in history, led by King Jan III of Poland at the head of three thousand "winged hussars" — charged down a hill and broke the Ottoman lines. In less than three hours, the Christians had won. Vienna was saved. After the battle, King Jan paraphrased Julius Caesar by saying Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit (we came, we saw, God conquered). The Christians pressed home their victory and forced the Ottomans to give up large territories in Europe.

(from my book Coral, p. 116)

2017 July 7

Physics in a Nutshell

A. Zee

"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell

Quantum field theory remains the true theory of everything. All of physics can now be said to be derivable from field theory. To start with, quantum field theory contains quantum mechanics as a (0 + 1)‑dimensional field theory, and to end (perhaps) with, string theory may be formulated as a (1 + 1)‑dimensional field theory. Quantum field theory can arguably be regarded as the pinnacle of human thought.

Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell

Einstein gravity has in time become a model for theoretical physics. It remains to be seen how fruitful this approach will prove to be, but there is no denying its appeal for theoretical physicists. Latch onto a well-established but not understood physical fact, start with an attractive mathematical framework, get the whole enchilada in one fell swoop, and enjoy a dramatic, almost immediate, confirmation. When this approach works, as it did for Einstein, it's fabulous, no question.

Group Theory in a Nutshell for Physicists

Group theory is much more than a temptress: it is our indispensable guide to a fundamental understanding of the universe. The Lorentz group determines for us how the fundamental fields should comport themselves in spacetime. Eventually, group theory, together with quantum field theory, shows us how three of the four fundamental interactions can be unified. And thus we arrive at the threshold of our understanding of the universe.

AR Great — were it not for the bad dreams of Brexit, nuclear war, climate change ..

G20 leaders
An image of order in a city become an anarchist battlefield


G20 is the central forum for
international cooperation on
financial and economic issues.
G20 accounts for more than
80% of GWP, 75% of global
trade, and some 65% of
world population.

"The Liberal Democrats
do not want to go down the coalition road again. I have
the metaphor of mating with
a praying mantis — you get
eaten at the end of it."
Vince Cable

Trump, Duda
Presidents Trump and Duda
in Warsaw on Thursday

Foreign Funded Islamist
Extremism in the UK

The Henry Jackson

US-SK test
US Forces Korea response

NK missile
"My gift to American bastards!"
Kim Jong Un

"Hard Brexit means
people fleeing UK"
Jeremy Hunt

AR Me 4 1

A photographic stroll along
the prom from Canford Cliffs
to Bournemouth Pier


Stow Shirts
60% of Brits want to remain
EU citizens after Brexit



2017 July 6


Glyndebourne Festival 2017

An opera in two acts by Brett Dean, based on the play by William Shakespeare

AR A bold and vivid production with an audaciously Wagnerian intensity

EU Red Lines

Michel Barnier

We must face the facts. In a classic negotiation 'no deal' means a return to the status quo. In the case of Brexit, 'no deal' is a return to a distant past.

I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve frictionless trade — that is not possible.

1 The free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital are indivisible. We cannot let the single market unravel.

2 There can by no sector by sector participation in the single market.

3 The EU must maintain full sovereignty for deciding regulations.

These three points were already made clear by the European Council and by the European Parliament. But I am not sure whether they have been fully understood across the Channel.

AR The UK government got it wrong. It was clear to me from the start.

Vote Leave Doubts

Jonathan Freedland

As the reality of Brexit comes ever closer, remainers concede that the only way it can be halted is if British public opinion has a change of heart, collectively repudiating their 2016 vote.

Vote Leave director Dominic Cummings was behind the "£350 million for the NHS" slogan on the side of the battlebus. He says that unless MPs force management changes on both Downing Street and Dexeu, the Brexit negotiations will be a guaranteed debacle. For Brexit to work, there has to be wholesale reform of Whitehall, British education, science, and productivity. He had already described Brexit as "the hardest job since beating Nazis" and said it was being handled incompetently.

There will be more in this vein as the consequences of Brexit become more real. As people see the scale of the upheaval, there will be more people who admit they got it wrong.

AR Stuck as I am in the middle of this horror, I can only hope good sense finally prevails.


Ruchir Sharma

Poland is an economic star. Since 1991, its economy has grown at an average annual rate of 4%. Its average income has risen to near $13,000, from $2,300. Poland set out to distance itself from Russia, and adopted the financial discipline and institutional reforms required to join the EU.

Warsaw is the conservative opposite of decadent Moscow. Its tycoons embrace entrepreneurship with an enthusiasm rarely found in Europe, making Poland a natural US ally. Poland is already one of the few NATO members meeting its commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense.

Eastern Europe is rising, with small nations like the Czech Republic leading and Poland close behind. With a population of nearly 40 million and a half-trillion-dollar economy, Poland is working its way up as a manufacturing power. Exports from manufacturing account for a third of GDP in Poland.

The Polish deficit and public debt remain manageable, the currency remains stable, exports continue to boom, and the trade balance is in surplus. Poland, rising through manufacturing, is likely to be the next rich nation.

AR Poland's performance since 1991 outshines that of the UK.

Explaining Science

Clive Cookson

Science communicators explain scientific theory and practice to a general audience. As the sector has expanded in recent years, the focus has become public engagement. A British Science Association survey shows 20% of science communicators in the UK work mainly as freelancers.

Research Councils UK says funding bodies want to embed public engagement in research. A University of Bristol national coordinating center for public engagement (NCCPE) provides funding for specific projects and says all research programs must include public communication.

AR There is surely good work for me to do in this sector.

2017 July 5

Korean War Plans

Motoko Rich

The United States has no viable military option to destroy the NK nuclear program. Even a limited US strike risks staggering casualties, because NK could retaliate with thousands of artillery pieces aimed at SK. A strike would likely fail to wipe out the NK arsenal. NK says it would immediately retaliate with nuclear missiles.

AR Let China make the heavy move.

"Crush the Fuckers"

George Parker

Theresa May has been reduced to dealing with the DUP to secure a fragile Commons majority. Cabinet ministers are breaking ranks on Brexit and the economy. A minister: "There is no plan, no strategy, no direction."

In October, the Conservative party conference in Manchester will showcase a party torn over Brexit. A pro-EU MP on his Brextremist colleagues: "We can work with half the Labour party and crush the fuckers."

AR Worse things have happened in politics.

European Genesis

Krishnadev Calamur

German chancellor Angela Merkel looks set to be re-elected. Her main political opposition is trailing in polls and the far right appears to have peaked.

German ambassador to the US Peter Wittig: "We have an extremely good economic run: record low unemployment, record low youth unemployment .. pretty good social security system, less people that feel left behind, less losers of globalization, not a dramatic inequality. So there's a strong social tissue and that has helped us."

Nearly 70% of German voters favors EU membership. Wittig: "We have benefited from Europe. We don't have this anti-Brussels discourse."

AR Germany is the cradle of European union.

African Exodus

Carl Zimmer

With fossils and DNA, scientists are piecing together a picture of human origins. The expert consensus is that Homo sapiens evolved at least 300,000 years ago in Africa. Johannes Krause and his colleagues report that Africans first walked out over 270,000 years ago and made their way to Europe.

AR Now the Africans are doing it again.

Bumpy Treks

Rafael Behr

When Donald Trump travels to Europe, his hosts can only hope he will not sabotage the western alliance. Theresa May will be challenged to overcome damage already done by the diplomatic vandalism of Brexit. The decision to quit the EU and the Trump election are terrible twins.

Brexit clouds everything May says in a miasma of unreliability. Her ambitions for the UK will mean nothing before the terms of departure from the EU are settled. She will find no queue of leaders eager to ingratiate themselves with a country on the threshold of magnificent liberation.

Brexit did not beget Trump, but there is a genetic link. The EU referendum demonstrated the insurgent potential of a campaign that mobilized economic and cultural grievance against a remote political elite. Trump called himself "Mr Brexit" and cast Nigel Farage as his supporting act.

Many Europeans saw the electoral shocks of 2016 as cautionary tales, not inspiring parables. Neither the EU referendum nor US presidential election now seems like a giant moment for geopolitics. The West has been doubly diminished.

AR Tragic — Untergang des Abendlandes

2017 Independence Day

US Threatened


North Korea claims to have conducted its first successful test of a long-range missile that it says can reach anywhere in the world. The Hwasong-14 IRBM reached a height of 2,800 km during a flight of 37 minutes over a horizontal distance of 930 km. The regime appears to have timed the launch for maximum political effect on the eve of the July 4 holiday.

"North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?" Donald Trump tweeted, referring to Kim Jong Un. "Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "The situation on the Korean Peninsula is sensitive and complex. We hope all relevant parties will exercise restraint and avoid taking actions that may escalate tensions."

AR This looks ominously like Korean War 2.

UK Diminished

Simon Fraser

The UK voted for the biggest international dislocation in its postwar history but has no discernible strategy. It is inconceivable that a deal can be negotiated by March 2019.

There are three broad scenarios for the post-Brexit economic relationship:

1 The UK stays in, or close to, the EU single market, perhaps via the EEA.
2 The UK leaves the single market but remains in a full or partial customs union.
3 The UK seeks the best preferential partnership it can get as a third country.

None of these outcomes matches the economic benefits of EU membership.

Gravitational Waves

Mark H. Kim

In February 2016, the leaders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced that they had successfully detected gravitational waves.

A team of independent physicists led by Andrew Jackson has checked the data and found correlations that should not be there. They say the correlations could call the entire discovery into question.

LIGO scientific collaboration member Ian Harry published a rebuttal of their criticism. Harry says the Jackson team missed some subtleties in their data analysis, and that he could not reproduce their claimed correlations.

Gravitational waves are exceedingly faint, so LIGO can measure a change in distance of 100 zm. LIGO uses two observatories, 3 Mm apart to duplicate the observations. The noise at each detector should be uncorrelated, but a gravitational wave should create a nearly simultaneous signal in both instruments.

Jackson claims there appears to be correlated noise in the detectors at the time of the gravitational wave signal. At worst, the signal might have been louder noise.

Harry says the Jackson team could have misused the Fourier transform, which requires that the input data signal be cyclical. A non-cyclical signal would introduce subtle errors.

For now, confidence is high in the LIGO conclusions. The LIGO team have since found gravitational waves from two further black hole mergers.

AR Science at its best — always critical, always cautious.

Physics Books

A. Zee

Popular books on physics and physics textbooks present different challenges. I enjoy writing textbooks a bit more because the aim is to transmit enjoyment and knowledge to a new generation of physicists, just as that enjoyment and knowledge have been transmitted to me. That, in essence, is what physics is all about.

I am excited by the prospects of learning more about the dark world of energy and matter, and of experimentalists coming up with clever new approaches. I am struggling to finish a short popular book on Einstein gravity.

AR I am just embarking on climbing the mountain of Zee's Nutshell trilogy. For me it will be a tough but hopefully also exhilarating assignment.

2017 July 3

Gene Bomb

Matthew Cobb

Two new genetic technologies have started a scientific and medical revolution. One is the ability to easily decode the information in our genes. The other is our newfound capacity to modify or edit the DNA sequences of humans and other creatures.

The genomes of microbes contain regular DNA sequences called CRISPR — clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats. The bits of DNA found in the spaces between the repeats had come from viruses and had been integrated into the microbe genome.

The CRISPR sequences activate a series of proteins known as CRISPR-associated proteins that can unravel and attack DNA. The CRISPR sequence and one such protein act together as a kind of immune system for microbes.

The CRISPR-associated proteins can be used to alter any DNA to achieve a desired sequence. If you know a DNA sequence from a given organism, you can chop it up, delete it, and change it at will, much like using a word-processing program on texts.

Gene drives are artificial bits of DNA that rapidly spread through the population. When a gene drive is used, the frequency of the altered gene increases exponentially with each generation, rapidly flooding the whole population. A gene drive is essentially a biological bomb.

2017 July 2


National Rifle Association of America

They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again ...

All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding ...

The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.

Grace Under Fire

The New York Times

Donald Trump lacks the grace under fire that Richard Nixon showed in public. At the height of Watergate in late 1973, Nixon blurted at a news conference: "I have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted reporting in 27 years of public life. I am not blaming anybody for that. Perhaps what happened is that what we did brought it about."


Daily Mirror

Jeremy Corbyn addressed thousands on Saturday at an anti-Tory rally in London organized by the People's Assembly Against Austerity.

Jez: "This is the movement that will win the next election."

Been There, Done That

The Sunday Times

Something momentous happened in Britain's relations with Europe. About a year later, Britain has a minority government cutting deals to try to get its legislation through the House of Commons. A wooden Tory prime minister, confident of a landslide victory in an election called in the national interest and on the question of whom voters trust to run the country in challenging times, ends up with egg on face. Britain enters a period of profound political instability.

The prime minister was Ted Heath, the year was 1974. The UK joined the EEC in 1973 and a large majority of Brits voted in the 1975 referendum to stay in it.

AR Times change: The EEC is now the EU and the UK looks like FUK.

A Green Brexit

Michael Gove

I want to ensure that we have a green Brexit: a Brexit which ensures that we develop policies on the environment and animal welfare which we would not have been able to do in the EU.

One of the things I want to do is see how we can better support investment in environmental goods rather than simply rewarding people for the number of hectares they have. If you've got a sum of money that large, it shouldn't be devoted to maintaining certain landowners in the style to which they have become accustomed.

AR Gove was on the Andrew Marr show this morning.
Marr: "Is no deal better than a bad deal?"
Gove: "Yes."

Quantum Multiverse

Yasunori Nomura

The inflationary multiverse might be the same as the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics if the formation of new bubble universes is simply an example of quantum-mechanical branching as viewed by a single hypothetical observer: a new bubble forming is equivalent to obtaining an outcome of a measurement. This picture solves the theory's predictability problem because the infinitely many bubble universes in this case coexist probabilistically rather than in one real space. In this conception, the observer in an inflationary multiverse can make predictions based on the probability of any event occurring.

AR This is good — it makes everything finite. Our Hubble bubble contains some 10^123 Planck grains of action, so even with some combinatorial jiggery-pokery the state space can be finite. And the principle of stationary action implies that broad outcomes are predictable even when individual state reductions are random on our timeline. So forget the infinite cosmic bubble bath Max Tegmark and Sean Carroll expected and forget the Everett nightmare of branching off into crazy worlds — we live on a timeline where all those crazy action paths cancel in the Feynman path integrals and everything is finite. Let's hope Nomura is right.

2017 July 1

World War II

Piers Brendon

In 1940, as France was collapsing under the German onslaught and the Dunkirk evacuation was under way, Winston Churchill decided to fight on, alone if necessary. He was the British bulldog, an incarnation of strength, courage, and tenacity.

In the austere aftermath of the war, its grim experiences were replayed in countless movies. They all assumed it was fought for a just cause. Shocking newsreel pictures of the liberation of Belsen consecrated it as a triumphant crusade against evil.

War films helped to sustain pride in British greatness as the exhausted country tried to win the peace while beset by grievous new troubles. In 1945 Britain was virtually bankrupt, facing what John Maynard Keynes called an economic Dunkirk.

Churchill's ghost haunts the bronze bust that Donald Trump restored to the Oval Office. Boris Johnson assures us that national salvation is to be found in standing alone. A fresh crop of war films reminds us of lost British greatness.

Free LSD For All!

Carlo Rovelli

If I ruled the world, I would step down and go back to theoretical physics. First I would:

Abolish borders and armies
Abolish private property
Abolish schools
Abolish such documents as passports
Abolish religion
Abolish hierarchies
Abolish tribal behavior

And I would make free LSD available for all adolescents willing to explore new realms.

AR Oh Carlo, your book on quantum gravity is lovely but this lot is utopian (except for the LSD idea, which is cute).

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