BLOG 2021 Q3

My Oxford alma mater Exeter College, looking good this summer



2021 September 30

James Bond

Dan Sabbagh

James Bond is a not-so-secret weapon in the struggle to position the UK as a cultural superpower.
HMSS officials are ambivalent about 007. They complain that Bond's shoot first, cause a diplomatic crisis later approach is all wrong for the quiet work of intelligence on real pay and expenses. Bond presents a fantasy universe in which a powerful British secret service ranges across the world.
HM government provides major support to the Bond franchise. No Time To Die reportedly received £47 million in tax credits on a production spend of £200 million. For a movie aiming to gross in the region of $1 billion at the global box office, this is generous.
But the help does not stop there. In 2012, Bond was product-placed in the Olympic Games opening ceremony, complete with a cameo from the Queen. No Time To Die features British soldiers, a Royal Navy warship, and an RAF airbase.
Promotion of a Bond movie projects soft power Global Britain cannot otherwise buy.

AR Bond movies have become long screen ads.


2021 September 29

China vs AUKUS

Dan Sabbagh

China has the world's largest navy and the largest shipbuilding industry. Its Type 003 aircraft carrier will be as big as the latest US Ford class and have an electromagnetic catapult for launching jets.
China aims to push back the US navy in the western Pacific, beyond the first island chain that runs south of Japan, between Taiwan and the Philippines, to the South China Sea.
RUSI research fellow Sidharth Kaushal: "China has been building a capacity over the last two decades to deny the US significant freedom of action in the western Pacific."
The US security guarantee to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan is at risk. While the Chinese navy now has 350 warships and aims for 400 by 2025, a US plan to increase to 355 has no firm date.
AUKUS will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarine technology. But the subs will not be ready until around 2040. Meanwhile, China is building a nuclear submarine every 15 months.
China may not have enough amphibious vessels to invade Taiwan. Uncertainty over how to defend Taiwan and how China would respond opens alarming prospects for escalation.
In 1996, Bill Clinton dispatched two US carriers near Taiwan in a show of force after China had fired missiles into the nearby sea. A power projection on this scale today would risk significant losses.
Chinese control over the South China Sea threatens Japan, which depends on the sea lanes to import 80% of its oil.
Kaushal: "Nationalism is a powerful force in China."

AR All this could end badly.




2021 September 28


Gideon Rachman

The next German government will likely aim for an EU army. France wants more EU strategic clout after AUKUS. But the EU is still far from turning these ideas into reality.
For hard security, the EU still relies on America. But US patience for subsidising European defence is wearing thin, and US political stability can no longer be taken for granted.
The EU members together spend less than €200 billion a year on defence, compared with an annual US spend of more than $700 billion.
France is the only EU country with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its own nuclear weapons. The main German political parties want to see a single EU seat at the UN.
German strategic culture has a strong streak of pacifism. German fondness for the idea of an EU army largely reflects continuing discomfort with national military power.
The impediments to European strategic autonomy remain formidable. But the Germans and the French together form a powerful combination.

AR I look forward to an armed federal Europe.



Steven Pinker

Rationality ought to be the lodestar for everything we think and do. Yet today we are flooded with reminders of our fallacies and follies.
Rationality is a cognitive toolkit. Its normative models come from logic, philosophy, mathematics, and AI. They are our benchmarks for assessing how we reason. Often our judgments deviate from a normative model. Sometimes we cannot cope with the complexity of a problem, or a bug drives us to the wrong answer.
A problem may have been presented in a deceptive format, and when it is translated into a mind-friendlier guise, we ace it. The normative model may be correct only in a particular environment, and we know when we are not in it. The model may be designed to bring about a certain goal, and we are after a different one.
We can learn to spot deep problems. We can apply our best thinking outside our comfort zones. And we can set our sights higher.

AR Worth reading?



Patrick Cockburn

Boris Johnson is a genuine charlatan. He deceives and manipulates all the time with his boosterism, false promises, and lying. But contempt or hostility prevent proper analysis of the consequences of having him in charge of the UK.
Bursting with servile bonhomie, Johnson sat beside President Biden in the White House this week, claiming that British−American relations were better than ever. Biden made it clear that an Anglo-American trade deal was dead in the water.
The failure was masked by the claim that Britain might join the North American free-trade pact. Bemused trade experts denied that any such thing was likely to happen, adding that it would do Britain little good anyway.
Johnson is addicted to international conferences. These jamborees are an ideal platform for his catchy slogans and grandiose projects that are soon discarded.
Brexit is both a symptom and a cause of an English identity under threat from globalisation.

AR Brexit dreams evaporating.


735 Sitze


2021 September 27

Bundestagswahl 2021

Der Spiegel, 0435 UTC

Wahlberechtigte 60,4 Millionen
Wahlbeteiligung 76,6%
Vorläufiges Endergebnis:














































AR This voting system is better than FPTP.




The Next German Chancellor

Oliver Nachtwey

It could have been a fresh start. Instead, Germany will carry on as before.
Annalena Baerbock, the Green candidate, tried to cultivate a Merkel-like image of rigor and expertise. Foiled by a scandal, she soon lost her early lead in the campaign.
Armin Laschet, the Union candidate, likewise attempted to depict an aura of competence and efficiency. But he presided over an erratic, error-strewn campaign.
Olaf Scholz, the SPD candidate, campaigned as the continuity option. As deputy chancellor and finance minister in Merkel's administration, he even adopted her "triangle of power" hand gesture.
Germans like monetary stability. The debt brake leaves little room for a major investment program or infrastructure spending. No fundamental restructuring of the economy seems feasible.
Economic inequality has risen. Social discontent is rising.

AR I expect a red−green−yellow coalition government.


Merkel: The Legacy

Jan-Werner Müller

Angela Merkel is widely seen as a moral leader above party politics. Her political method is to observe carefully which way things are going, identify interests that converge at a point, then sit there. She never took deliberate risks.
In 2015, Merkel opened the borders for refugees. As a Christian, she said those in dire need had to be welcomed with open arms. But her later management of the pandemic hurt her image. During the lockdown, Germans saw just how far they had fallen behind.
As a scientist, Merkel was uniquely well placed to lead on climate, but she never did.
Even critics concede her fundamental decency.

AR We need more scientists in power.


Greta Thunberg
⦿ Marcus Ohlsson/Lundlund
Greta Thunberg


2021 September 26


The Secret Negotiator

The IPCC report in August was a wake-up call. But there is a huge disconnect between IPCC science and national and international politics. We are not yet seeing the level of ambition we need.
The G77 used to be a common block for developing countries, but the big emitters in the group are now looking to their own national interests first, while small developing countries are struggling and need help.
We all seem to focus on our own country and see diplomacy as a zero-sum game, where if one wins, another must lose. But with climate change, we all lose.

The climate goblin
Greta Thunberg

The leaders will say we'll do this and we'll do this, and we will put our forces together and achieve this, and then they will do nothing. Maybe some symbolic things and creative accounting and things that don't really have a big impact. We can have as many COPs as we want, but nothing real will come out of it.
I think it's an exaggeration saying many people treat me as a saint. More people treat me like something very, very bad.

AR We're all Earthlings.


Future Tiangong Space Station


The New Brexit

The Sunday Times

American universities are rapidly replacing Oxbridge as the new goal for the UK's wealthiest kids and ambitious parents. A new industry has sprung up to help rich Brits navigate the US system. Some firms charge more than £1 million for the service.
Ivy Coach calls itself "the world's leading college consultant" and is seeing growing demand from British parents. Ivy Coach owner Brian Taylor: "Harvard, for instance, prides itself on rejecting five classes worth of kids with perfect grades, perfect scores. It's a very human process. The aim is to sway human beings to root for you."
London-based Arcus Advisory founder and coach Susie Cochin de Billy: "I often get students and parents come to me and say we want to apply to university, but we only want to apply to the Ivy League .. Twelve years ago, there weren't that many students applying from England .. I probably get four or five times as many inquiries now .. You're competing with the entire world."
Private schools such as Eton College were once obsessed with Oxbridge. But Oxbridge offers for Eton pupils fell from 99 in 2014 to 48 in 2020. The schools now arm their students for the US battle.
A handful of UK state-educated youngsters head to the US for university. Charities such as the Sutton Trust help them with their applications and offer support for navigating the US system.

AR Exit all the rich kids, cue Bramageddon.




2021 Autumn Equilux

This Week in Global Britain

Marina Hyde

On the sunlit uplands of this septic isle, we face possible shortages of commodities as diverse as gas, petrol, carbon dioxide, beer, lorry drivers, chicken, hospitality staff, care workers, turkeys, and prime ministers who understand economics.
Calls for the army to step in to assist with driving petrol tankers feel like dressing for the Global Britain we are, rather than the Global Britain we want to be. A country without a foreign policy deploys highly trained soldiers to sit in traffic between BP forecourts.
Boris Johnson wants any emergency wage increases in sectors suffering labour shortages to be explicitly linked to Brexit. James Forsyth: "When a group of influential businessmen tried to bend his ear this month about labour shortages, Johnson simply asked if they had tried paying people more. He regarded that as the end of the conversation."
Johnson in his big UN speech: "We still cling with part of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure, and we combine this narcissism with an assumption of our own immortality. We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make."
Write what you know, I guess.

AR She's witty.




Tschüss Mutti

Anna Sauerbrey

Angela Merkel never sought acclaim. A low-key exit feels fitting. But it also reveals an irony about her rule. Her best qualities — her caution and consistency, her firmness and diligence — are now leading some to regard her departure with relief. Germany is ready to move on.
 Her deal with Turkey to take in refugees is hardly a sustainable solution. Migrants will continue to seek refuge in Europe. A better solution must be found.
 Her handling of the euro debt crisis helped secure the future of the bloc, but at the cost of leaving the underlying dynamics untouched.
 Her conciliatory approach to Russia, not least over the NS2 gas pipeline, looks ever more untenable as Vladimir Putin consolidates his regime.
 Her inclination to avoid censuring Hungary and Poland protected the EU against disintegration, but it sidestepped essential questions about Europe.
 Her stewardship of the German economy has come at the cost of an increased dependence on the Chinese market that she has done little to address.
 Her plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions came only late in her tenure, and she has taken only minor steps toward confronting the big issue of our time.
Still, Germans will miss her.

AR If only Brits had a leader of her caliber.




2021 September 24

Quad Meet

The Times

Today, in a Quad summit, US president Joe Biden will host three prime ministers: Scott Morrison of Australia, Narendra Modi of India, and Yoshihide Suga of Japan.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — the Quad — is a group of four countries: the United States, Australia, India, and Japan. Its agenda includes tackling security, economic, and health issues.

Quad after AUKUS
Financial Times

The Quad was revived in 2017 to counter China, but AUKUS raises questions about its purpose.
Australian US-Asia Centre fellow Hayley Channer: "The agenda appears to be driven more by the US .. and by capacities in member countries' bureaucracies than by joint high-level policy decisions."
Japanese vice-minister for foreign affairs Mitoji Yabunaka: "The reason why Japan is taking part in Quad is because of aggressive actions taken by China and everybody knows it. But it is more of a diplomatic institution and it's different from a military-oriented framework like AUKUS."
Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla says the Quad has a "positive and constructive agenda" and focuses on climate change, vaccines, emerging technologies, and infrastructure.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Tanvi Madan: "AUKUS will help India's objectives in the Indo-Pacific without asking India to do things it does not want to do .. France is a .. very close Indian defense partner. India wants all its friends to play nice with each other as friendly fire only helps China."

AR Try to calm China.




2021 September 23

Turning Point for Humanity

Boris Johnson

It is time for us to listen to the warnings of the scientists and to understand who we are and what we are doing.
The world — this precious blue sphere with its eggshell crust and wisp of an atmosphere — is not some indestructible toy, some bouncy plastic romper room against which we can hurl ourselves to our heart's content.
We have come to that fateful age when we know roughly how to drive and how to unlock the drinks cabinet and to engage in all sorts of activity that is not only potentially embarrassing but also terminal.
We believe that someone else will clear up the mess we make, because that is what someone else has always done. We trash our habitats again and again with the inductive reasoning that we have got away with it so far, and therefore we will get away with it again.
The adolescence of humanity is coming to an end. We must come together in a collective coming of age. We are awesome in our power to change things and awesome in our power to save ourselves, and we must choose what kind of awesome we are going to be.
We need to pledge collectively to achieve carbon neutrality, net zero, by the middle of the century.

AR Well said.


Indo-Pacific Arena

Jeremy Cliffe

AUKUS is a template for wider American strategy in its contest with China.
For Australians, China once looked like a ticket to prosperity, but its treatment of Australia has become more aggressive. That has moved Australia into alignment with America.
The US is serious about countering China in the Indo-Pacific. Australia's decision to go for nuclear submarines is a vote of confidence in American power. The vessels will be interoperable with those of the US Navy Pacific Fleet.
AUKUS shows the US plans to share its technology. By endowing a partner state with nuclear propulsion technology and opening the door to pooled cyber, AI, and quantum computing advances, it proposes a networked form of technological supremacy.
Some see in AUKUS the kernel of an Indo-Pacific NATO. More likely is a multiplicity of groups doing different things: Five Eyes, AUKUS, the EU, the Quad+, ASEAN, and CPTPP. The old US bilateral relationships with Indo-Pacific allies are evolving into a network.
The thinking is that a growing military presence marked by networked technological supremacy and a patchwork of intersecting alliances will maintain a balance of power and prevent conflict.
The Indo-Pacific is the pivot zone of the 21st century.

AR All the more reason to cement US−EU relations via GB.


Day out with friends


2021 Autumn Equinox

American Diplomacy

David E. Sanger

President Biden called at the UN General Assembly for a new era of global action: "Our security, our prosperity, and our very freedoms are interconnected, in my view as never before."
Despite Afghanistan: "The future belongs to those who give their people the ability to breathe free, not those who seek to suffocate their people with an iron-hand authoritarianism. The authoritarians of the world, they seek to proclaim the end of the age of democracy, but they're wrong."
Biden met only one ally at the UN: Australia PM Scott Morrison. He bristled when the French compared him to his predecessor. Later, back in Washington, he met UK PM Boris Johnson.
Biden said the United States would pursue challenges like the climate crisis, cyberattacks, and pandemics: "US military power must be our tool of last resort, not our first, and it should not be used as an answer to every problem we see around the world."
On the coronavirus pandemic, he called for peaceful international cooperation: "We need a collective act of science and political will."

Biden−Boris body blow
Daily Mail

Joe Biden squashed UK hopes of an imminent transatlantic trade deal last night: "We're going to have to work that through."
UK ministers are considering a "variety of different ways" to join the US−Canada−Mexico agreement (USMCA) instead.
Democrat Congressman Brendan Boyle: "I haven't heard one word about that .. We have no planned meetings on any sort of prospective US−UK trade deal."
Biden: "I would not at all like to see .. a change in the Irish accords .. a closed border in Ireland."

AR Biden is getting it right.




2021 September 21


Gideon Rachman

AUKUS has been greeted with rage in China and France. But Indo-Pacific nations worried by China look to America to balance Chinese power.
Later this week, the White House will host a summit meeting of the leaders of the Quad. The US is strengthening its network of security relationships across the Indo-Pacific.
The positive reaction in the region will matter much more in Washington than anger in Paris. Containing China is now the main US strategic priority.
India, Japan, and Singapore welcome AUKUS. In Canada, opposition leaders criticise the government for not yet being in it.
The strengthening in Asia is ultimately aimed at deterring Chinese power. Meshing and enhancing ties creates a network of powers including the UK, Japan, Canada, South Korea, and India.
The AUKUS nations will work together on strategic technologies, where India and Japan also have much to add.
China denounces all these moves as provocative. But the AUKUS allies have decided to draw a line.

AR It does make sense. But Britain would do better to focus on Europe.


Tax The Rich

Ben Tippet

A new net wealth tax could generate huge revenues for the government. A tax on the top 1% of wealthiest households in the UK could raise £70−130 billion a year, or 8−15% of total tax revenues taken by the government.
A net wealth tax on the top 1% lets those with the broadest shoulders bear the heaviest burden. Net wealth combines financial, property, pension, and business assets, minus debts.
Wealthier households would face increasing marginal rates, with only the top 1% paying anything at all. Household wealth of £3.4−5.7 million could be taxed at 1%, £5.7−18.2 million at 5%, and above £18.2 million at 10%.
Wealth taxes both raise revenues and tackle inequality. Before the pandemic, the top 1% had more wealth than the bottom 69% of the population. Since then, the gap between rich and poor has grown wider.
Rich people could just get up and leave. This problem seems devastating. In our globalised world, money doesn't just talk, it walks. A wealth tax would drive assets out of the country.
A global wealth registry, more funds for HM Revenue and Customs, and sanctions on financial institutions that allow tax evasion will limit the offshoring of assets. A hefty exit tax on vacating wealthy individuals could be imposed. Even if enforcement is weak and half of the wealth goes free, a tax on the top 1% would still bring in a lot.
Some of the top 1% say they cannot afford the tax because they have no liquid assets. Wealthy people will lobby to exempt their assets from wealth taxes. If one area is exempted from a wealth tax, the wealthy will somehow find a way to move assets into that bracket.
For those with real liquidity concerns, households could borrow against their wealth. The government could even give people the option to pay with shares of their assets.
As UK graduates face 50% marginal tax rates and benefit cuts plunge 500,000 families into poverty, calls for a new progressive wealth tax will only get louder.

AR Any UK government that fails to do this is a rogue regime.


UK Foreign Policy

William Hague

New UK foreign secretary Liz Truss will face her first test the opening week of the UN general assembly in New York.
The Whitehall foreign policy machine needs a reboot. Britain has some brilliant people working in diplomacy and development, but they are not as well used as they could be. We need them fully engaged on new trends in global affairs.
The US−China rivalry is intensifying. Beijing's "wolf-warrior" diplomacy is uniting other nations to counter its growing power. AUKUS is the right response. But the western alliance needs to be broader and deeper. The AUKUS initiative should be opened to the two other Five-Eyes allies. Others such as France should be invited to join forces with it.
We need to decide how the UK works globally with the rest of Europe. African policy is a natural anchor for a stronger alliance with France and a strategic partnership with the EU.
Nations hosting technological innovation will gain in power. Economic policy will be fundamental to influence. New issues will emerge in foreign affairs, such as restraints on lethal autonomous weapons.
The importance of COP26 is widely understood. The dire consequences for international relations of failure are not. Truss will be tested.

AR An elegant bit of mansplaining here.


Japan, France, and the United States held joint military exercises around the Senkaku Islands to counter Chinese territorial claims



2021 September 20

Japan vs China

Nobuo Kishi

China is attempting to use its power to unilaterally change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. It is strengthening its military power both in terms of quantity and quality, and rapidly improving its operational capability.
These Chinese military trends have become a strong security concern for Japan. What is happening in the East China Sea and the South China Sea is not only a regional problem, but at the same time also a problem for the international community.
Japan will take all measures against airspace incursions in accordance with international law and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces Act. The incursions around the Senkaku Islands are very regrettable violations of international law.

Pacific tensions
America has increased its presence in the Indo-Pacific region. The UK has announced a permanent military presence in the region. French warships have participated in joint exercises with the US and Japan, and Germany recently sent a warship for the first time in two decades.
The EU says regional tensions "may have a direct impact on European security and prosperity" but urges "multifaceted engagement" with China.
Japan's deputy prime minister Taro Aso says any Chinese attack on Taiwan poses an existential risk to Japan.

AR I have the highest regard for Japan. In a war with China, it has much more to lose than America.




AUKUS: UK−France Defence Summit Cancelled

The Guardian

Paris has cancelled a Franco-British defence ministers' summit scheduled for this week in protest over the loss of its submarine contract with Australia and its secret replacement by a UK−US deal.
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace and French defence minister Florence Parly were due to hold a bilateral meeting in London and to address the Franco-British Council. Co-chair Sir Peter Ricketts said the council was postponed to a later date.

French ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault: "We discover through [the] press that the most important person of this Australian government kept us in the dark intentionally until the last minute .. This was a plot in the making for 18 months. At the same time while we were engaged with making the best of this [submarine] program where France committed its most well-kept military secrets .. there was a complete other project that we discovered, thanks to the press, one hour before the announcement. So you can imagine our anger — we felt fooled."

AR The French are right to be angry.


Michel Barnier 4 President?

Peter Conradi

Michel Barnier, 70, is running for the French presidency. He is concerned by immigration from outside the EU: "I want to protect Europe, to save it, to safeguard it, and to .. learn the lessons of Brexit .. If nothing changes, there will be other Brexits."
He proposes a referendum with two questions: one to allow the French parliament to set quotas for the number of economic migrants allowed to enter France and a second to approve a temporary constitutional shield to prevent this from being challenged by the European Court of Justice or falling foul of the European Convention on Human Rights.

AR He is a good candidate.


German Election Debate: Round 3

Der Spiegel

SPD candidate Olaf Scholz is leading the polls. He tries to stay calm and make as few mistakes as possible. When Green candidate Annalena Baerbock asks him about the money laundering investigation, he thanks her for the question.
Baerbock argues vigorously against CDU candidate Armin Laschet. When he accuses the SPD and the Greens of "punishing" small entrepreneurs with an inheritance or wealth tax, she snaps back: "Can you stay with the facts, please?"
Scholz takes her side. It already looks as if the chancellor and vice-chancellor are debating with the CDU opposition leader. Asked about his coalition wishes, Scholz says he'd prefer to form a government with the Greens.

AR A red−green coalition looks feasible. I say include the FDP for balance and have a traffic-light coalition.




2021 September 19

Cooling Earth Fast

The Sunday Times

Gernot Wagner says we can avert a climate catastrophe slowly and expensively by reducing greenhouse gas emissions or we can do so quickly and cheaply by solar geoengineering.
Imagine life in 2035. The Gulf of Mexico is in a permanent state of emergency, India has imposed shelter-in-place orders to prevent deaths from extreme heat, and large swathes of the Amazon rainforest are burning. Rich nations agree to deploy fleets of giant gas bombers that dump megatons of SO2 into the stratosphere every year.
The bombing could wreck rainfall patterns and cause the monsoon to fail. And once it started, we couldn't stop it without causing a sudden spike in global temperatures.
Oh, and the sky would turn white. We'd never see blue skies again.

AR How many trillions is a blue sky worth?




AUKUS Insults France

Larisa Brown

Australia rejected France by tearing up a €56 billion contract for French submarines and opting to buy its new subs from the UK−US. AUKUS is the most significant international capability collaboration in decades, and the French were left out in the cold.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the move a stab in the back.
French Europe minister Clément Beaune: "Our British friends explained to us that they were leaving the EU to create Global Britain. As you can see, it is a return to the American fold and accepting a form of vassal status."
French ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault was officially informed of the sub deal just hours before the AUKUS plotters announced it in a TV address. Thébault: "[This] is a major breach of confidence and a very bad signal."
French president Emmanuel Macron hosted Australian prime minister Scott Morrison at the Élysée Palace just days after Boris Johnson and Joe Biden had plotted their secret pact with Morrison at the G7 in Cornwall. Morrison at the Élysée: "We are good friends; we are good partners."
France did not recall its UK ambassador. Britain and France have had a bilateral defence agreement for more than a decade. If the French want revenge, they can always escalate the migrant crisis in the Channel.

AR HMS Brexitannia is a US vassal. The American sunset will be a British bloodbath.




2021 September 18

How AUKUS Was Done

The Times

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the First Sea Lord, attended a meeting at the Australian High Commission in March this year. Australian Chief of Navy Vice-Admiral Michael Noonan asked him for help.
Australia had agreed to purchase 12 Barracuda diesel-electric submarines from France in 2016. But the Australians wanted faster, stealthier subs with greater endurance to "move quietly, sit outside a port, track movements, keep an eye on undersea cables" and so on.
Britain and America were in the Five Eyes spy network with Australia and might be persuaded to share their nuclear technology.
Radakin forwarded the request to Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Sir Stephen Lovegrove.
So began Operation Hookless. Only about ten people in Britain were privy to the details, including the prime minister, the foreign secretary, and the defence secretary. Lovegrove, who took on the job of national security adviser, and Number 10 foreign policy adviser John Bew were also privy.
The proposal was put to the Americans. In the weeks that followed, it was discussed at the Pentagon, the state department, and the energy department.
The Australians warned the British government that there was a looming deadline where the costs for the French deal would mount and lock them in.
A UK government source: "There was a choice about how broad it would be .. Boris was pushing that it had to be as ambitious as possible. This was a strategic move."
At the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, as the French were preoccupied with the "sausage war" over the Brexit divorce deal, President Biden, Boris Johnson, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison negotiated a top-secret pact, later called the AUKUS alliance.
They were braced for a backlash from France, which also has nuclear-powered submarines. But Australia and Britain have history together.

How France reacted
The Guardian

France has recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultations sparked by the "exceptional seriousness" of Canberra's decision to cancel an order for French-built subs.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian: "The abandoning of the ocean-class submarine project that linked Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States to launch studies on possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners."
Former PUS at the Foreign Office and former UK ambassador to France Sir Peter Ricketts: "Don't underestimate reaction in Paris. It's not just anger but a real sense of betrayal that UK as well as US and Australia negotiated behind their backs for 6 months."
A French diplomatic source: "The UK accompanied this operation opportunistically."

A new global order
Rana Mitter

AUKUS binds the US into global security for decades. France has every reason to be angry. But expect to see the UK and France as pillars of a European security order tied to the US through AUKUS.
AUKUS suggests that the liberal order can reconstitute itself. With the Quad (Japan, Australia, India, and the US), it suggests more partial ties to come. The liberal order is robust enough to adapt.
China will note the regional silence on AUKUS. Singapore's hope that AUKUS will "complement the regional architecture" shows China has failed to persuade its neighbours to welcome a US exit.
AUKUS may affect trade. China is outside the new Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. The day after AUKUS was announced, Beijing made a formal bid to join the CPTPP.
The CPTPP raises standards for trade and labour. If the UK also joined in 2022, it would be the third biggest member after China and Japan. Dialog with China in the CPTPP would boost Global Britain.
A CPTPP with China might just tempt the Americans back in. AUKUS could trigger a reunion of the two superpowers through trade.

AR Bodger must have loved the Churchillian secrecy of plotting the AUKUS deal. The French must see the perfidious Albion that has dogged them for centuries. And Americans must admit that Joe Biden has a tin ear for the nuances of European diplomacy.
AUKUS is a logical move that makes sense in face of rising Chinese power. But the execution of the deal was bungled. Under Bodger, Britain will now be showboating in the South China Sea, posing as a global power, while Europe struggles to contain the threat from Russia.
When hostile forces confront Britain across the Channel, don't expect a US-led campaign to rescue the islanders. Americans will have their hands full committing atrocities against China. Unless China heads off a new world war peacefully via CPTPP.




2021 September 17

US Global Hegemony

China Daily Global

Since the end of WW2, the United States has spared no effort to chase and maintain global hegemony. The US has hyped tensions around the world by launching wars, provoking confrontations, and overthrowing foreign governments with armed forces. It has employed double standards and obstructed international cooperation.
US hegemonism and power politics have undermined world order and threatened human peace. The US has violated the principles of the UN Charter and the norms of international law. Since WW2, the US has waged or participated in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places.
SIPRI: "In 2020, US military expenditure reached an estimated $778 billion, representing an increase of 4.4% over 2019. As the world's largest military spender, the United States accounted for 39% of total military expenditure in 2020."
The US defense budget today is more than the defense budgets of the next 10 largest countries in the world combined. It consumes more than half of the discretionary budget of the federal government.
Since the 9/11 attacks, anti-terrorism has become the focus of US national security and foreign policy. US-led anti-terrorism operations have become a tool to maintain US hegemony and promote American democracy and values overseas.
The US has trampled on the human rights and freedom of other countries. Since the end of WW2, the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected, grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries, and tried to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
Since WW2, the US has used its dollar hegemony to increase the financial risk of developing countries, plunder their wealth, and obtain monopoly rights over public service industries. US economists, bankers, and advisors trick developing countries into falling into economic traps.
Despite ballooning fiscal deficits and government debt, US debts enjoy low interest rates due to the dollar hegemony. After the financial crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve launched three rounds of quantitative easing, transferring the crisis to the whole world and benefiting not ordinary Americans but the top 1%. While tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic, the total wealth of the 650+ US billionaires increased by $1.3 trillion. The wealth of the 5 richest Americans increased from $358 billion to $661 billion. The US national debt is now $28.5 trillion.
The US invokes "American exceptionalism" to trample on international relations. It has long put its own interests above the international system. Yet the US led the establishment of international systems and rules for global governance after WW2.
The US says it has the responsibility to promote its values across the globe. But its values are an ideological tool to maintain its global hegemony.

AR There is much truth in this diatribe.



The Times

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte will today offer Boris Johnson a pact with the EU on defence and security cooperation. France and Germany support the initiative. The EU regards French anger over the AUKUS deal as a trade dispute.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell: "We have been in favour in continuing strong cooperation on security and defence. We still are."

AR Quite right.


British attack sub


2021 Yom Kippur


Financial Times

President Joe Biden has announced a new trilateral security partnership with the UK and Australia to help Canberra build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in a move designed to counter China. He announced AUKUS in a virtual event with British PM Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison.
The deal ends an existing agreement for Australia to buy 12 French-designed conventional submarines. French defense minister Florence Parly: "The regrettable decision .. only reinforces the need to make the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear. There is no other credible way to defend our interests and our values in the world, including in the Indo-Pacific."

Global Britain
The Times

Australia is expected to tear up a $90 billion deal with France to receive new diesel-electric submarines in favour of nuclear-powered subs.
A senior US official: "Great Britain is very focused on the concept of 'global Britain' and their tilt is about engaging much more deeply with the Indo-Pacific, and this is a down payment on that effort."
Johnson: "The AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever, creating a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity."

Cold war mentality
The Guardian

UK Commons foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat: "After years of bullying and trade hostility, and watching regional neighbours like the Philippines see encroachment into their waters, Australia didn't have a choice, and nor did the US or UK."
Chinese embassy in Washington spokesman Liu Pengyu: "They should shake off their cold war mentality and ideological prejudice."

Japanese islands

Japanese defense minister Nobuo Kishi says the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, are Japanese territory and will be defended, with Tokyo matching any Chinese threat to the islands ship for ship and beyond. Japan is expanding its Self-Defense Forces with new fighter jets, destroyers, submarines, and missiles.

AR The Middle Kingdom versus the Auks — hmm.




2021 September 15

State of the European Union

Ursula von der Leyen

Robert Schuman: "Europe needs a soul, an ideal, and the political will to serve this ideal."
Europe has brought those words to life in the last twelve months. The next year will be yet another test of character. I know that Europe will pass that test.
Today, more than 70% of adults in the EU are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. We were the only ones to share half of our vaccine production with the rest of the world. We delivered more than 700 million doses to the European people, and we delivered more than another 700 million doses to the rest of the world, to more than 130 countries.
A pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. We followed the science. We need to speed up global vaccination. This is one of the great geopolitical issues of our time.
Team Europe is investing €1 billion to ramp up mRNA production capacity in Africa. We have already committed to share 250 million doses. The Commission will add a new donation of another 200 million doses by the middle of next year.
We are delivering a European Health Union to deal with future health threats.
Economically, we expect 19 countries to be at pre-pandemic levels this year, with the rest following next. Growth in the EZ outpaced the US and China in 2020 Q4.
The Single Market is the driver of good jobs and competitiveness. In the digital single market, we will contain the gatekeeper power of major platforms, underpin the democratic responsibility of those platforms, foster innovation, and channel the power of AI.
We are investing in European tech sovereignty. At present, we depend on chips made in Asia. We will present a new European Chips Act to create a European chip ecosystem.
The pandemic has left its mark on our social market economy. The European Pillar of Social Rights will ensure decent jobs, fairer working conditions, better healthcare, and better balance in people's lives. A new European Care Strategy will support men and women in finding the best care and the best life balance for them.
In our social market economy, companies make profits thanks to the quality of our infrastructure, social security, and education systems. We expect all companies to pay their fair share. We will continue to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion.
We all benefit from our European social market economy. We must ensure that the next generation can do so too. We asked young people to keep their social distance, to stay locked down, and to do school from home, for more than a year. We will propose to make 2022 the Year of European Youth.
This generation is pushing us to go further and faster to tackle the climate crisis. The recent IPCC report leaves no doubt. Climate change is man-made. We can do something about it.
We announced a target last year of at least 55% emission reduction by 2030. We have now turned our climate goals into legal obligations. And we will make sure that higher climate ambition comes with more social ambition. This must be a fair green transition.
COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth for the global community. Current commitments for 2030 will not keep global warming to 1.5 K within reach.
Europe is connected to the world, and the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly. Disruptive technology lets someone can paralyse industrial plants or city administrations from a laptop. You can disrupt elections with a smartphone and an internet connection.
We are developing a European defence ecosystem. We need the European Defence Union. We have been held back by a lack of political will. We need to build the foundation for collective situational awareness, to improve interoperability, and to talk about cyber.
Europe needs a presence in the Indo-Pacific region. We will soon present a connectivity strategy called Global Gateway. We want investments in quality infrastructure, connecting goods, people, and services around the world. We will offer transparency and good governance to our partners. We need a Team Europe approach.
Global trade is good, but not at the expense of people's dignity and freedom. We will propose a ban on products in our market that have been made by forced labour. Human rights are not for sale.
Every member state has a stake in building a European migration system. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is a balanced and humane system that works for all member states. Societies that build on democracy and common values have trust in people.
Our great European values are part of our soul, enshrined in our EU treaties. We all signed up to them when we became EU members as free and sovereign countries.
Protecting the rule of law is hard work. People have the right to an independent judiciary and to be treated equally before the law.
Defending freedom also means freedom from fear. We will propose a law to combat violence against women.
Media freedom gives voice to all other freedoms. Defending media freedom means defending our democracy.
Strengthening Schuman's European ideal is work in progress.

AR I see no ground here for British dissent.




2021 September 14

Robotic Arms Races

A.C. Grayling

An attack like 9/11 a few years later might have prompted nothing worse than a drone war.
Drone warfare is more selective, more precisely targeted, and less likely to cause collateral damage than conventional bombing. Drone pilots working in secure bases are also out of harm's way.
Most drones are human-in-the-loop weapons. Humans select targets and decide whether to attack them. Human-on-the-loop systems can select and attack targets autonomously, but with human oversight and the ability to override them.
Human-out-of-the-loop systems are autonomous devices programmed to seek, identify, and attack targets without human oversight. Such robotic weapons could be in operational service by 2050. States worldwide are investing heavily to develop them.
The idea of delegating life-and-death decisions to robots is inconsistent with humanitarian law. Banning lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) before they become operational is the urgently preferred option of the Human Rights Watch campaign to stop killer robots.
International humanitarian law already outlaws the deployment of certain weapons and tactics. LAWs did not exist at the time the documents were drafted, but they say novel weapons should be examined for their consistency with the law.
LAWs could be programmed to distinguish reliably between justified military targets and everything else. They would need technology to identify enemy combatants and read their intentions. They could be more reliable than humans in the heat of battle.
But who is accountable if they go haywire and kill everyone they meet?

AR Don't panic!




2021 September 13

German Election Debate: Round 2

Philip Oltermann

The CDU and SPD candidates attacked into each Sunday in the second of three TV debates prior to the Kanzleramt election on September 26.
CDU candidate and NRW Ministerpräsident Armin Laschet went on the attack against SPD candidate and Bundesfinanzminister Olaf Scholz: "If my finance minister were to work like you, then we would have a serious problem."
Kanzlerkandidat Scholz accused Laschet of dishonesty and boasted of his efforts to modernise the Bundesfinanzministerium.
Green candidate Annalena Baerbock was pushed into a moderator role as the two men got stuck into what she mocked as Vergangenheitsbewältigungen.
Scholz declined to rule out coalition talks with Die Linke but said: "An acknowledgement of transatlantic relations, NATO, and the EU are necessary for a good government."
Laschet did not rule out another CDU−SPD coalition, but with senior and junior roles reversed in the case of a Scholz victory.
A snap poll showed Scholz convinced 41% of viewers, compared with 27% for Laschet and 25% for Baerbock.

AR Bet on a red−black coalition.


Genetic Lottery


2021 September 12

Emma Raducanu Wins US Open

Sean Ingle

Emma Raducanu has won her first grand slam victory. Never in tennis history has anyone fought through three qualifying rounds of a grand slam before winning the tournament, let alone a teenager the bookies rated as a 400−1 outsider. And without dropping a set.
She received a $2.5 million cheque. Because she is British, though born in Canada to a Chinese mother and a Rumanian father, she also received a letter of congratulation from the Queen.
Raducanu: "I don't feel any pressure. I'm still only 18 years old. I'm just having a free swing at anything that comes my way."

AR Well done!


The Genetic Lottery

Kathryn Paige Harden

Genetic science can help us to build policies and social interventions that create more social equality. Sweeping genetic differences between people under the rug does not make the genome go away. Genetic and environmental factors are braided together at every level.
A genome wide association study takes many hundreds of thousands of people with similar genetic ancestry and measures tiny genetic differences. It then looks to see which of those variants correlates with their number of years of schooling. A polygenic score then predicts how far a person will go in school.
Crude though it is, the approach has found correlations. Each of more than a thousand genetic variants spread over the entire genome has a tiny effect. The combined influence captures about 10−15% of the variance in educational attainment. The rate of college graduation is nearly four times higher for people who have a high compared with a low polygenic score. That competes with other variables, such as family income, which has an effect size of about 11%.
Formal schooling in the US and UK reinforces a very particular type of reasoning. This is the same type of reasoning that IQ tests also pick up on. Various other abilities help pull people through school. A polygenic score picks up anything genetic that makes you more likely to get to the next stage of your education.
A useful application is in improving the basic research we do to design our wider policies and interventions for everyone. Many policy initiatives are based on assuming children only receive environments from their parents, and not anything genetic.
Most of the things we try in education make no difference. The risk of not talking about genetics is continuing the status quo.

AR This is good science talking.


The Disc Embedding Theorem

Kevin Hartnett

The Disc Embedding Theorem rewrites a barely intelligible 1981 proof by Michael Freedman that answered a key problem in topology.
Henri Poincaré conjectured in 1904 that any manifold with certain generic properties is homeomorphic to the sphere. Grigori Perelman solved the 3D Poincaré conjecture in 2002.
Freedman tackled the 4D conjecture. In summer 1981, he sent out copies of a 20-page handwritten outline of his proof. He explained it to about 10 people at a conference in California that August. His audience, including his old friend Robert Edwards, was bewildered.
Freedman submitted his outline proof to the Journal of Differential Geometry. The editor sent it to Edwards for review. Time passed, until the journal published it without a formal review in 1982, with typos and misspellings, still an outline.
In 2013, Peter Teichner asked Freedman to give a series of lectures on the proof. A group of 50 young mathematicians gathered in Bonn to watch the video feed from Santa Barbara. Their notes led to this book of nearly 500 pages. A motivated student could read it.

AR Too much for me.




2021 September 11

Twenty Years On

Ben Rhodes

On September 11, 2001, American power was at its peak. Globalization, democracy, and the US-led international order had shaped the previous decade. And then suddenly, this.
George W Bush declared a war on terror. The American public broadly accepted it. But by 2009, it was clear that its objectives were unachievable.
Barack Obama concluded that America could not defeat the Taliban militarily but needed to build up an Afghan government. By May 2011, the killing of Osama bin Laden removed what many Americans regarded as the original rationale for the war there. In June 2011, the American drawdown began.
As president, Donald Trump maintained an awkward detente with hawkish elements of the US establishment. His deal with the Taliban barely registered in US politics.
There was no way Joe Biden was going to cancel Trump's deal and extend the US presence in Afghanistan. There is no victory in the war on terror.

AR Any such war must deconstruct the ideology of the opponent.


Radical Islam

Tony Blair

Radical Islam holds that there is only one true faith and one true view of that faith. Radical Islamists believe that society, politics, and culture should be governed by this view and that armed struggle is justified to achieve it.
Islamism is a first order security threat. Like Revolutionary Communism, it operates in many different arenas and dimensions. Its defeat will come ultimately through confronting both the violence and the ideology, by a combination of hard and soft power.
Western societies and their political leaders are deeply averse to casualties among our armed forces. This is now an overwhelming political constraint. Yet if the enemy knows that the more casualties they inflict, the more our political will erodes, then the incentive structure is plain.
Our values are still those which free people choose. Recovering confidence in those values and in their universal application is part of defending them.

AR I like this analysis.




2021 September 10

Chinese Cultural Crackdown

The Guardian

Chinese Communist party officials told attendees at an entertainment industry symposium in Beijing on Tuesday: "Consciously abandon vulgar and kitsch inferior tastes, and consciously oppose the decadent ideas of money worship, hedonism, and extreme individualism."
Authorities have banned some reality shows, restricted social media fan culture, and ordered broadcasters to resist abnormal aesthetics such as sissy men. They have targeted vulgar influencers, stars' inflated pay, and performers with lapsed morals.
Actor Zhang Tong: "As a Chinese in the new era, a Chinese actor, and a Chinese literary and art worker, it is very necessary to understand one's own direction, determine the meaning of one's responsibilities, manage well one's words and deeds, and improve one's personal morality."
Director Zhang Yongxin: "It is our creators' duty to do every work simply and unadornedly, and to pass positive energy silently to the audience."

AR Nice to see them trying, but it's not that easy.


Loving Dead Jews

Yaniv Iczkovits

People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn shows that much of the way we narrate Jewish history is, at best, self-deception and, at worst, rubbish.
When we learn to remember certain things in certain ways, we set the limits of what can be said and what cannot be said, even as we might have the urge to say it.
Horn says of Anne Frank's diary: "It is far more gratifying to believe that an innocent dead girl has offered us grace than to recognize the obvious: Frank wrote about people being 'truly good at heart' before meeting people who weren't. Three weeks after writing those words, she met people who weren't."
We take the easy way out rather than plumbing the depths of evil. We look for universal lessons in lieu of attending to the actual persecution of Jews.
Horn says of setting a bar for antisemitism: "Anything short of the Holocaust is, well, not the Holocaust. The bar is rather high."

AR The bar bodes ill for the future of humanity.


UK health secretary Sajid Javid
says he will be "watchful for
any waste and wokery" as
the NHS spends billions
in extra funding

Nork hazmat parade

Germany expects the
UK will drop out of its
top 10 trading partners
by the end of 2021


2021 September 9

Germans Like Continuity

Philip Stephens

Germany does not want to be disturbed. Predictions of the outcome of the September 26 election must start with a caveat. The fixed point is the national mood for continuity. The campaign began with a consensus in Berlin that the SPD would lose. The CDU had survived two grand coalitions.
The SPD now has a sizeable lead. CDU poll ratings are as low as they have ever been. Armin Laschet has stumbled at every turn. Olaf Scholz is competent, solid, and dull, but he has emerged as the heir apparent.
Angela Merkel paid a heavy political price for her boldness on refugees in 2015. Now her caution has curdled into cynicism. She said she had no credible partner in Paris to reinvigorate the EU, but Emmanuel Macron was just such a partner. She never let politics interrupt exports to China or let security concerns prevent deals with Russia. Germans like continuity.

AR Continuity beats the bodged zigzags in British politics.


Respect All Workers

Olaf Scholz

Brits and Americans voted for Brexit and Trump because they felt socially insecure and unrecognised for what they do. We see the same dissatisfaction and insecurity in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Austria, or Germany.
Among certain professional classes, a meritocratic exuberance has led people to believe their success is completely self-made. As a result, those who keep the show on the road don't get the respect they deserve. That must change.
The rise of meritocracy is the trend of our time. There is nothing wrong with merit, but it's not limited to top earners and those with university degrees. We need to recognise other types of merit and pay better wages for carers and skilled workers.
Germany still has strong industry with globally competitive companies. Many of them are companies with 300 to 2,000 employees. There are very few countries in the world where this tradition is so deeply anchored. We're still good at making things.
Our challenge is to remain a car nation that makes electric vehicles instead, to produce chemicals, steel, or cement without damaging our climate protection targets, and to achieve this in barely 25 years. There's no shortage of investment capital.
By 2050, the world will have 10 billion inhabitants. The EU will at this point still only have 400 million. To prevail in Europe, we need to work together. Germany's main mission after Brexit must be to push on with the EU.

AR This pitch seems eminently suitable to me.


Another Brexit Clash

The Guardian

The UK needs to extend a Brexit deadline again. For the third time, it is waiving checks for goods moving between GB and NI.
As ever in Brexit talks, the two sides disagree. The EU is looking for ways to address UK concerns within the terms of the existing agreement. Lord Frost says the protocol needs total renegotiation.
The problem is theological. Easing NI border checks involves aligning UK and EU standards, which is anathema to Brexiteers. They say the EU is obsessed with the integrity of the single market.
The real obstacle is trust. Repairing relations with the EU is the urgent priority.

AR Brexit is bad, bad, bad.


Haiku 575

Tories raise taxes
Low paid workers
will pay more
But this is not


2021 September 8

German Afghan Diplomacy

Henry Foy, Guy Chazan

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken meets German foreign minister Heiko Maas today at the Ramstein air base taking evacuees from Afghanistan. Their talks will reaffirm the "strong alliance" between the United States and Germany and their "close cooperation" on foreign policy.
Maas: "There is a great need for a diplomatic presence. If it's politically possible and if the security situation allows it, Germany should have its own embassy in Kabul."
Germany provided the largest number of troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan after the US. They were mainly involved with training policemen and building schools and roads.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid: "We would like the German government to have the best possible diplomatic relations with our new government .. We would like to revive the friendly atmosphere between Afghans and Germans."

AR Win not with guns blazing but with schools and roads.


Quantum Spacetime

Adam Becker

Monika Schleier-Smith and her team are trying to test quantum gravity in a tabletop experiment. They trap a system of atoms with light and magnetic fields to entangle them into a treelike geometry, as in simple models of emergent spacetime.
The AdS/CFT duality relates QFT in 4D without gravity known as conformal field theory (CFT) to a 5D spacetime with gravity known as an anti-de Sitter (AdS) space. We can think of the CFT as lying on the surface of the AdS space, as when a 2D hologram produces a 3D image.
In the AdS/CFT duality, the bulk space emerges from quantum entanglements between the components on the surface. Neighboring regions of the bulk correspond to highly entangled parts of the surface, distant regions to less entangled parts. If the surface has an orderly set of entanglement relations, the corresponding bulk space will be empty. If the surface is chaotic, with all its parts entangled with all the others, the bulk will form a black hole.
Our universe is not a 5D AdS space. Rather than looking for a quantum entanglement pattern that could produce our universe, we can build systems with various entanglements and search for the emergence of analogs to spacetime geometry and gravity.
We cannot yet build a system like any of the strongly interacting quantum systems known to have gravitational duals, but these are only a few of the possible systems. We can try to construct the others in the lab and see if they also have a gravitational dual.
In the AdS/CFT duality, a black hole in the bulk corresponds to a dense web of entanglement at the surface that scrambles incoming information very quickly. String theorist Brian Swingle wanted to study quantum scrambling in the lab.
Schleier-Smith: "He explained to me that .. if you could build a quantum system in the lab that scrambles [quickly], then maybe that would be some kind of an analog of a black hole."
Schleier-Smith imagined a setup to entangle pairs of atoms, then to entangle the pairs, and so on, forming a tree. She talked with Steven Gubser, who worked on the AdS/CFT duality using the p‑adic numbers. There's a p‑adic number system for each prime number, and each system can be represented as a tree.
In the AdS/CFT duality, if you rewrite the surface theory using the p‑adic numbers, the bulk becomes a tree with infinite branches packed into a finite space, resembling the structure of the p‑adic numbers. Gubser and Schleier-Smith saw a way to get something resembling the tree to emerge from entangled atoms in a lab.
The experiment centers on a vacuum chamber where 18 tiny groups of rubidium atoms in a line are cooled to almost 0 K. Using a laser and a magnetic field, the team entangled the groups of atoms and coaxed the entanglements into a treelike structure.

AR A quantum computer could create toy universes.


Book Wars

Internet Freedom:
50 Key Stats

Snowflake Writing
Method Explained


2021 Jewish New Year

Book Wars

Jennifer Howard

John B. Thompson recalls the fear caused by the advent of e-books. The digital shift had already eviscerated the music industry. Thompson: "Was this the beginning of the end of the physical book?"
Digital books began their growth in 2008. That year, e‑book sales for US trade titles added up to $69 million. By 2012, they were up to $1.5 billion.
AAP data show that e‑books plateaued at 23−24% of total book sales in the 2012−14 period, then slipped to about 15% in 2017−18. Print books reached a low point of about 75% in 2012−14, bouncing back to 80−85% of total sales in 2015−16.
Thompson examines the legal actions brought by publishers and authors against Google over its plans to digitize books and make their content available through Google Books and Google Library.
The focus has moved to Amazon. Thompson: "Today, Amazon accounts for around 45% of all print book sales in the US and more than 75% of all e‑book unit sales, and for many publishers, around half .. of their sales are accounted for by .. Amazon."
Amazon derives its power from market share and from the data it collects about its customers. That gives it an enormous advantage over traditional publishers.
Workarounds to Amazon do not yet scale. Authors connect with readers via email newsletters and social media, and publishers use direct outreach via digital channels.
Authors can now sidestep literary gatekeepers, such as agents and acquiring editors, and build successful careers with the help of self-publishing platforms and outlets. Book review editors no longer write off self-published books as vanity press projects.
Empowered by the internet, writers can self-publish via an array of publishing services and digital platforms. They can crowdfund their books and connect with readers in online communities.
Andy Weir launched his book The Martian (2011) as serialized chapters on his blog and via newsletter. Thompson: "The astonishing success of The Martian — from blog to bestseller — epitomizes the paradox of the digital revolution in publishing: unprecedented new opportunities are opened up."

AR I welcome help publishing/promoting ALBION.




2021 September 6

Northern Ireland Protocol

Lord Frost

The NI Protocol treats goods moving from GB into NI as if they were crossing an EU external border. We need serious engagement on movement of goods into NI, the standards for goods within NI, and the arrangements for regulating this.
Our proposals retain controls in the Irish Sea, envisage that EU laws can still be valid in NI, and recognise that the EU has an interest in how the arrangements are enforced.
We are told the EU has conceded that its border may be policed by a third country, so EU legal controls should be applied to make it work. But we have conceded that an EU external border can be operated through the middle of the UK.
This is an agreement between two sovereign and autonomous entities, not a relationship of subordination. The issue is tied to our view of UK territorial integrity.

AR I still side with the EU, not the UK, here.


British Poverty Deepens

William Keegan

Brexit is a disaster. As a consequence of Brexit, Britain is economically, culturally, politically, and diplomatically poorer. The Brexit gang failed to appreciate how Britain had become an integral part of the European economy. Brits continue to want European standards of public service and healthcare, but not at the levels of taxation that our fellow Europeans are prepared to pay.

AR The Brexit gang cared only about making (private) money and saving (public) money.


English Populism

Alastair Campbell

English populists loop back to the past instead of thinking about how we might all do better in future. They say immigrants and welfare scroungers are the cause of the problems we face, not an incompetent and morally corrupt government.
Brexit was secured on the message of taking back control, resurrecting lost British pride. The prime minister seems unconcerned that old enmities are resurfacing in Northern Ireland. In the rest of the UK, voters can say things are worse over there.
Boris Johnson is happy to lay a huge St George flag outside Number 10, dress up ludicrously in an England shirt over his work clothes. He doesn't mind antagonising Scots and Welsh voters against England. Division is part of his book of tricks.
Under British voting law, he will need little more than a third of the vote to stay in No 10.

AR Britain needs proportional representation.


⦿ Joe Lamb
BAF day 3: Show plane crashes
at Sandbanks: crew unhurt


2021 September 5

Brexit Apocalypse


Ian King on Sky News: "England has become a country where the pubs have no beer, farmers don't have anyone to pick their fruit, and even if they did there aren't enough lorry drivers to get it to the shops."

Almost 50 shops a day disappear from high streets
BBC News

More than 8,700 chain stores closed in British high streets, shopping centres, and retail parks in the first six months of this year, research suggests.

Jobs market set for bumpy ride
BBC News

UK unemployment may rise from its current level of 4.4% to about 4.9% in the autumn, with another 150,000 workers unemployed. Employment support schemes will be needed to protect vulnerable groups.

Plans to reform social care in England
BBC News

England's social care system is under pressure after past governments failed to fund it properly or bring in reforms. But in the last election, the Conservatives made a manifesto commitment not to raise taxes.

UK exports suffer huge slump
Daily Business

A House of Commons analysis shows the UK is the only country in NW Europe to suffer from declining exports since the Brexit vote in 2016, while every neighbouring country has increased its exports.

AR Project Fear?


Professor−Student Sex

Amia Srinivasan

Is real teaching possible when professors sleep with or date their students?
The tacit promise of the classroom is that the teacher will work to confer on the student some of his knowledge and understanding. In the best case, the teacher−student relationship arouses in the student a strong desire, a sense of thrilled if inchoate infatuation. That desire is the lifeblood of the classroom, and it is the teacher's duty to nurture and direct it toward learning.
Women do not enter or exist in the classroom on equal terms with men. The pedagogical relationship can be erotically charged but need not be sexualized.

Sex is not a sandwich
Amia Srinivasan

An 'incel' − involuntary celibate − is a man convinced he is owed sex and enraged by the women who deprive him of it.
Feminists thought sex under patriarchy was inherently violent and said women were entitled to sex free of guilt. They now take desire as given, morally constrained only by the boundaries of consent. But when we see consent as the sole constraint on sex, we risk covering for misogyny, racism, ableism, transphobia, and so on.
Politicizing desire risks encouraging a discourse of sexual entitlement. There is no entitlement to sex. Angry incels refuse to see this.

AR Teach and learn XOR have sex.


Tank Museum SW Model Show: 1/35 model of Israeli M-51 tank, 2021-09-04



2021 September 4

Scholz packt das an

Philip Oltermann

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz is in pole position to succeed Angela Merkel. Polls published last week show the SPD ahead of the CDU by 3−5%.
In campaign posters, Scholz leans back and holds a card with election pledges into the camera: a minimum wage rise, stable pensions, the construction of 400,000 homes a year.
Political communication expert Frank Stauss: "The SPD has come up with the perfect campaign."

AR Go for it.


Special Relationship?

Peter Ricketts

After 20 years of tough military action in Afghanistan, in which the UK provided the largest number of troops after the US and took the second highest number of combat deaths, London played no part at all in the American decisions to end the NATO operation. Boris Johnson was reduced to pleading with Joe Biden through the media.
Biden will go down in history as presiding over the worst US military humiliation since Vietnam in 1975. The UK has not had less influence than other US allies. But the US failure to consult its allies has more serious implications for a UK claiming a special relationship with Washington.
Americans have always been unsentimental about the relationship. Britain has become less useful in an era when European security has given way to the confrontation with China as the overriding US national security priority.
A central thesis of the Brexit argument was that casting off the shackles of the EU would leave Britain free to leverage its link to Washington and reap trade benefits. All that has now turned out to be a mirage.
Global Britain has been shown up as a ship adrift without a compass, a slogan rather than a strategy. It is time to shed the delusions of British exceptionalism.

AR Long past time.


Bournemouth Air Festival day 2: The "Awesome Foursome" (Me 109/Buchon, P-51 Mustang, Spitfire, P-47 Thunderbolt)
flies over me, reconfirming British thraldom to WW2 nostalgia.


ABBA is back!


2021 September 3

Clocks Measure Entropy

Natalie Wolchover

Marcus Huber and Paul Erker say a clock is a thermal machine. The more regularly it ticks, the more accurate it is, but greater accuracy dissipates more energy and produces more entropy. An ideal clock that ticks with perfect periodicity would take infinite energy and make infinite entropy.
Gerard Milburn: "A clock is a flow meter for entropy."
Erker and Huber studied a system of three atoms. A hot atom connects to a heat source, a cold atom couples to the surrounding environment, and a third atom linked to both atoms ticks by undergoing excitations and decays. Energy enters the system from the source, drives the ticks, and raises entropy when waste heat is released. Calculations show the ticks of this tiny clock become more regular the more entropy it produces.
More entropy production corresponds to more information, here on time elapsed. Erker and Huber added extra hot and cold atoms connected to the ticking atom and showed the additional complexity enabled the clock to sharpen the probability of a tick happening into narrower windows of time.
Natalia Ares studied a 50 nm vibrating membrane that could be stimulated with white noise. The membrane allows precise tracking of its motion and energy use. Her team confirmed the predicted linear relationship between entropy production and accuracy.
Modern attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity often treat spacetime as emergent. If so, both time and space are approximate concepts.
Huber: "Could it be that time is an illusion and smooth time is an emergent consequence of us trying to put events into a smooth order?"

AR Yes. The spacetime continuum is a Kantian category.


Modeling Single Neurons

Allison Whitten

Powerful AI systems employ deep learning. Their algorithms learn by processing huge amounts of data through hidden layers of interconnected nodes. Deep neural networks are inspired by biological neural networks.
Researchers trained a DNN to mimic the computations of a simulated biological neuron. They found it required 5−8 layers of artificial neurons to do so.
Timothy Lillicrap says we may need to rethink the old tradition of loosely comparing a neuron in the brain to a neuron in the context of machine learning.
Artificial and biological neurons both receive incoming signals and decide whether to send a signal to other neurons. Artificial neurons decide using a simple calculation. We can model the relationship between the inputs received by biological dendrites and the decision to send out a signal with an IO function.
The researchers simulated the IO function of a pyramidal neuron from a rat cortex and fed the simulation into a DNN that had up to 256 artificial neurons in each layer. They increased the number of layers until they achieved 99% accuracy at the ms level between the input and output of the simulated neuron. The DNN predicted the IO function for the rat neuron with 5−8 artificial layers, equivalent to about 1K artificial neurons.
Lillicrap suggests that if each biological neuron is like a 5-layer ANN, then perhaps an image classification network with 50 layers is equivalent to 10 neurons in a biological network.
The researchers hope their work will change DNN architecture.

AR Will this improve DNN results?


⦿ Rob Fleming / Bournemouth Echo
RAF Typhoon at Bournemouth Air Festival, 2021-09-02


The RN has 4 V-class subs,
each with 16 Tridents,
each w.u.t. 12 MIRVs
(red), each w.u.t.
6 × Hiroshima


2021 September 2

End of Pax Americana

Iain Martin

President Biden claimed the evacuation of 120,000 Afghans as a glorious American effort, including in the total rescues made by allies such as France and the UK. He dismissed criticism and the concerns of friends. Some US commanders on the ground behaved arrogantly toward British counterparts.
The Ministry of Defence in London was appalled by the imperious way the US neglected cooperation, with US officers still assuming they could tell the Brits what to do on the ground, forgetting that trust is earned and can be shattered in a few weeks but with consequences that last decades.

AR A Brexiteer dares complain about shattered trust?


Scots No to Trident

Steven Swinford

Trident nuclear submarine bases could be moved from Scotland to the US or France in the event of Scottish independence under government contingency plans.
The SNP pledges to ban all nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. There are then three options for the future of the Trident bases:
1  Relocate to the Royal Navy's Devonport base: cost up to £4 billion
2  Relocate to an allied country such as the US: cost significantly less
3  Negotiate a new British Overseas Territory within an independent Scotland
    to include the Faslane and Coulport bases — a "nuclear Gibraltar"

AR Work with France and Germany to build a shared deterrent.


Quantum Complementarity

Physics World

Quantum objects behave like waves in some situations and like particles in others. Scientists in Korea used precisely controlled photon sources to study how the properties of a photon's source influence its wave and particle character.
When a photon meets a barrier with two thin openings, it forms an interference pattern on a screen behind the openings only if its path is not observed. The interference pattern identifies the photon as a wave. But if detectors at the openings determine which slit it went through, there is no interference pattern, and the photon behaves like a particle. Niels Bohr said this wave−particle duality was quantum complementarity.
The new study goes further. The researchers shone seed beams of laser light onto two crystals of lithium niobate. This made each crystal emit an entangled pair of photons: a signal photon and an idler photon. The signal photon was sent into an interferometer to quantify its wave nature, and the path of the idler photon was observed to pinpoint its particle character.
By controlling the seed beams into each crystal, the researchers adjusted the emission of photons. When one of the crystals was very likely to emit photons, the interference pattern was barely visible. When the two emission probabilities were equal, it was sharp.
The study focused on regimes where the photon acted partly as a wave and partly as a particle. It corroborates theoretical work by Xiaofeng Qian: "This experimental test and the theoretical quantitative analysis really deliver the message that a quantum particle can behave simultaneously, but partially, as both."

AR This is good progress.


Endless war


2021 September 1

Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Joe Biden

The United States has ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.
This mission was designed to operate under severe stress and attack. Ninety percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave. And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline.
The Taliban has made public commitments on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans. We have leverage to make sure those commitments are met.
By the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. I was not going to extend this forever war. And I was not extending a forever exit.
The decision to end the military airlift operations at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers. There is no evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, threats we faced.
The war in Afghanistan is now over.

AR Maybe Americans can regroup now.


Europe Must Step Up

Josep Borrell Fontelles

Europe and the United States were united as never before in Afghanistan.
Europe must invest more in its security capabilities and develop the ability to think and act in strategic terms. The events in Afghanistan should lead us to deepen the alliance with America.
The EU is working on a document as a guide to our collective future. Alongside increasing pivotal military capabilities, we need forces that are more capable, more deployable, and more interoperable. A new fund will support collaborative research and the development of defense technologies.
The task could not be more urgent.

AR A document and a fund — very impressive.


China−US Relations

Qin Gang

The China−US relationship faces a very severe situation. The previous US administration has caused serious damage to our relations. This goes against the fundamental interests of Chinese and American peoples and the wishes of the international community.
Everything the Communist Party of China does is for the purpose of meeting the people's aspiration for a better life. We have no ambition to challenge and displace America or to seek hegemony in the world. China and the US are inseparable stakeholders.
China is not the Soviet Union. China is closely linked to the US and integrated with the world. China is committed to peaceful, open, cooperative, and common development, and works to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

AR Sounds good to me.


Last man
Last man out


2021 August 31

Leaving Afghanistan

The Guardian

At 11:59 pm local time in Afghanistan, the last evacuation flight, a USAF C-17, lifted off from Kabul airport. US Army Major General Christopher Donahue, 82nd Airborne Division, was the last man out.
Head of US Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie: "Tonight's withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation, but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001. The cost was 2,461 US service members and civilians killed and more than 20,000 who were injured."
Nearly 50,000 Afghan civilians and 70,000 Afghan soldiers and police are estimated to have died in the violence since 2001.
A total of 123,000 civilians were evacuated this month, including 79,000 flown out by the US military in the biggest non-combatant evacuation in US military history.

Why we lost
Ross Douthat

The American effort to forge a decent Afghan political settlement failed long ago. This failure was buried under a blizzard of official deceptions and bureaucratic lies.
American priorities shifted from the pursuit of victory to the management of stalemate. There was no prospect of victory, no end to corruption or collateral damage, and no clear reason to be in Afghanistan. But if US casualty rates stayed low, there need be no defeat.
Joe Biden promised withdrawal, and we have now withdrawn. The circumstances of the withdrawal are a devastating indictment of the policies of his three predecessors, which together cost roughly $2 trillion and built nothing that survived.
Without US troops, the US-backed government in Kabul fell faster than the Soviet-backed government some 30 years ago. Without Soviet troops, that government held out for years before the mujahedeen reached Kabul. Our regime fell to the Taliban before our troops were out.
It's wrong to say the situation was stable and the death toll negligible before we began to withdraw. In fact, Afghan casualties were nearing 15,000 annually and the Taliban were gaining ground.
It's wrong to say US occupation was morally right to nurture the shoots of Afghan liberalism. Our good cause was outweighed by the bad effects of corruption, incompetence, and drone campaigns.
It's wrong to say the US mission in Afghanistan could resemble our presence in Germany or South Korea. This was delusional before the collapse of the Kabul government and is ludicrous now.
Biden is trying to disentangle America from a set of failed policies. If all we remember is what went wrong in August 2021, then we'll have learned nothing.

AR Islamists rejoice.


Triell ums Kanzleramt: Laschet, Baerbock, Scholz
"Der Unionskanzlerkandidat wirkte oft wie ein grimmiger Underdog — die Grüne Baerbock und SPD-Mann Scholz waren ihm voraus."

Sebastian Fischer



2021 August 30

German Chancellor Election

Guy Chazan

Angela Merkel steps down as chancellor at the end of September. An August 21 poll put the Christian Democrats at 22%, level with the Social Democrats. New polls suggest the SPD is ahead.
Three candidates are running to succeed Merkel:
 CDU candidate and NRW prime minister Armin Laschet has low approval ratings. He is attacked and ridiculed as a poor communicator, unsure what line to take, a weak candidate.
 SPD candidate and current finance minister and deputy chancellor Olaf Scholz has steered German public finances deftly through the pandemic. Critics call him Scholz-o-mat.
 Green leader Annalena Baerbock, 40, spent weeks fighting off accusations of plagiarism and of embellishing her CV.
CSU leader and Bavarian prime minister Markus Söder is an effective and decisive crisis manager. Yet the CDU/CSU chose Laschet as its candidate rather than Söder. Many say this was a fatal mistake.
The SPD wants a €12 per hour minimum wage, more affordable housing, and stable pensions.
The Greens, like the SPD, wants to introduce a wealth tax and increase state investments.
Polling day is September 26. Conservatives are worried.

The first debate
Philip Oltermann

The first of three TV debates for German chancellor candidates was two hours long. In a snap poll of viewers after the debate, 36% declared Scholz the winner, 30% Baerbock, and 25% Laschet.
 Scholz appeared more reserved as his rivals tore into each other. Repeatedly, he said "the chancellor and I" concurred on various issues. He declined to rule out a coalition option with the Greens and Die Linke.
 Baerbock: "Years of wait and see under the grand coalition have not done this country any good. We need a genuine new start."
 Laschet accused the SPD of blocking new equipment for the German army and warned of Green plans to burden businesses with environmental restrictions and higher taxes.

AR Go for Scholz.




2021 August 29

China vs America

Andrew Anthony

China vs America: A Warning is a new book by former Conservative minister Sir Oliver Letwin.
America has begun to question its international role. President Biden's decision to pull US troops out of Afghanistan will be widely seen as endorsing the isolationist stand of the previous administration. But Biden has pledged to return the US to the forefront of international politics. This will involve developing a policy on how to handle China.
Biden and his successors face a difficult job ahead. Weakness could look like appeasement but displays of strength might lead to unpredictable military escalation. The old cold war tactics are no longer viable.
Letwin believes a continuation of the present US China policy can only lead somewhere bad and even to nuclear war. He suggests "peaceful competition through enterprise internationalism" as the only rational option.
Letwin: "We have ultimately to judge whether we prefer to minimise the chance of losing a war with China or whether we prefer to minimise the chance of experiencing such a war, with all of its incalculable consequences."

AR Must read.




2021 August 28


Anatol Lieven

The Taliban victory arose from the courage and sacrifice of the Taliban fighters.
Western aid to Afghanistan fed Afghan corruption. The local ethnic militias failed because their commanders were living the high life in Kabul or Dubai.
National Islamic Front commander Abdul Rahim Wardak lived off western aid. When I met him, he wore an expensive western suit with a heavy gold watch and had a camouflage band around his gold pen. His fighters were known as Gucci guerrillas. He later became Afghanistan's defence minister.
Taliban fighters now pose triumphantly on the gilded chairs and luxurious carpets in one of the palaces belonging to former VP Abdul Rashid Dostum. He had once commanded a militia fighting the Taliban but has now fled abroad.
No Afghan soldier wanted to die for such men. Americans liked having bases in Afghanistan to threaten surrounding states, but they made no real effort to build a viable Afghan state.
The fundamental US error was to frame the struggle as good against evil. This had no chance with the people of Afghanistan. Calls for talks were met with claims the Taliban were evil.
Victory or defeat in Afghanistan did not depend on Britain or other European NATO members. They sent troops to Afghanistan to keep the US committed to defending Europe.
The British army in Helmand fought to atone for its failure in Iraq. The aim of its Helmand campaign was to put on a performance for Americans.
Britain pays a blood price for its relationship with America. Global Britain depends on US power and behaves like a vassal state.

AR Take back control.




2021 August 27

Our Consciousness

Discover Magazine

We synchronize in various ways when we interact with one another. We match our footsteps when we walk together, and in conversations we mirror postures and gestures. We synchronize heart rates and breathing when watching emotional films together, or when as partners we share a bed.
Our neural rhythms also synchronize, in ways that could upend our current models of consciousness.
When our brains fire, they send EM signals. When billions of neurons fire together for specific cognitive tasks, the frequencies of their collective signals are aligned. Information transfer occurs when firing frequencies align via phase synchronization.
Functional links across brains increase when people work together. In a 2018 study, greater neural synchronization occurred between subjects completing a puzzle together. Synchronization levels dropped when the same subjects completed identical puzzles individually.
In such studies, higher feelings of cooperativeness went with higher levels of neural synchronization. Levels of inter-brain synchrony matched subjective feelings of engagement, affinity, empathy, and social connection.
Our conscious experience emerges from large-scale interactions between different brain regions via EM phase synchronization. Consciousness is an emergent property of multiple interacting networks.
Tom Froese advocates a shift in our understanding of consciousness. He says our mental boundaries may be under constant renegotiation during exchanges with the environment and other people. When we socialize, inter-brain synchronization neurally binds us together and extends consciousness:
"When we become aware that 'we' are sharing a moment with someone else, it is no longer necessarily the case that we are fundamentally separated by our distinct heads — we could really be two individuals sharing in one and the same unfolding experience."
Froese says consciousness emerges from multiple interacting brain networks: "We have to move away from this solipsistic, brain-in-a-vat, neuro-reductionist view of human consciousness."

AR We swim in a dazzling ocean of cosmic consciousness.




2021 August 26

We Need New Brain Maps

Jordana Cepelewicz

Neuroscientists are the cartographers of the brain. The visual cortex enables sight. The auditory cortex enables hearing. The hippocampus is essential for memory. But memory also requires other brain networks, and the hippocampus works in other cognitive processes.
Lisa Feldman Barrett: "The idea that there's some kind of strong parallelism between mental categories that neuroscientists use to try and understand the brain and the neural implementation of mental events is just wrong."
Our searches for the neural correlates of mental faculties have improved our understanding of the neural basis of perception, attention, learning, memory, decision-making, motor control, and so on. But our results are sometimes surprising.
György Buzsáki: "We divide the real estate of the brain according to our preconceived ideas, assuming — wrongly, as far as I'm concerned — that those preconceived ideas have boundaries, and the same boundaries exist in brain function."
Russell Poldrack and others tested our categories for mental function by running behavioral data through a machine learning classifier. The resulting classifications defied expectations. Tasks meant to measure either perception or memory were not measuring separate constructs.
Poldrack: "It suggests that those two categories are really imprecise."
Categories like perception and memory may not be the real organizing principles of the mind.
Joseph LeDoux says the feeling of fear arises in the prefrontal cortex and related brain areas. The amygdala is involved with responding to threats.
LeDoux: "I kept being introduced over the years as someone who discovered how feelings of fear come out of the amygdala. But I would always kind of flinch when I would be introduced this way."
Buzsáki: "We have to look at brain mechanisms first, and why and how those things evolved."
Barrett: "You study the whole system as its parts interact."

AR Quite right.


The Python's Lunch
The Python's Lunch


2021 August 25

Black Holes and the Python's Lunch

Netta Engelhardt

If information is conserved, the entropy of everything outside a black hole starts out at some value, increases, then goes back down to the original value once the black hole has evaporated. Stephen Hawking said the entropy increases, and once the black hole is evaporated, it plateaus at some value.
Think of this entropy as ignorance of the state in the black hole interior. The more possibilities there are for what goes on in it, the more ignorant we are about which configuration it's in.
If the evolution of the universe conserves information and you start out with zero ignorance before a black hole forms, eventually you're going to end up with zero ignorance once the black hole is gone.
Hawking had a formula for the entropy that's inconsistent with unitarity. We want to understand how we can derive the curve of the entropy Don Page proposed, which goes up then comes back down.
Our proposal is that the quantum-corrected area of a certain surface inside the black hole computes the entropy. Maybe we get a unitary result.
One quantum extremal surface gives the Hawking answer. The right one is the one with the smallest quantum-corrected area. When the entropy curve turns from increasing to decreasing, there's a jump. The surface with the smallest quantum-corrected area goes from Hawking answer to one that reproduces the Page curve.
To imagine what a classical, non-quantum extremal surface feels like, begin with a sphere with a light bulb inside it and follow the light rays as they move outward. As the light rays get farther away from the light bulb, the area of the spheres that they pass through will get larger and larger. The cross-sectional area of the light rays increases.
In very curved spacetime, it can happen that even though the light rays move outward from the light bulb, the cross-sectional area shrinks. This focusing of light rays is fundamental in general relativity.
The extremal surface straddles the line between the violent situation where the area decreases and a normal situation where the area increases. The area of the surface is neither increasing nor decreasing, extremal. The quantum-corrected area is a sum of area and entropy.
When the Page curve turns over, we expect that our ignorance of what the black hole contains starts to decrease, as we have access to more radiation.
The quantum extremal surface moves outward and encompasses more of the black hole interior. By the time the black hole evaporates altogether, the radiation has decoded everything.
Think of the two quantum extremal surfaces, the Hawking one and the Page one, as constrictions in the spacetime geometry. This is the python's lunch.

AR OK ..




2021 August 24

Afghanistan War Was Lost Long Ago

Michelle Goldberg

The war in Afghanistan was lost years ago. In 2019, allied and government airstrikes in Afghanistan killed some 700 civilians.
Boston University political science chair and Costs of War Project co-director Neta C. Crawford says about 3,000 Afghan civilians were killed in 2020. Before the Taliban takeover, 2021 was shaping up to be as bad or worse.
Crawford: "What most of the conversation seems to be assuming here is that the level of civilian misery is taken out of the equation and all that matters is who controls Kabul."

AR Again, I recall Vietnam.



William Hague

By 2050, Africa is expected to host well over 3 times the population of Europe, with Nigeria more populous than the United States. The total expected increase in Africa is more than 1.1 billion.
African states will either build good governance or slide into despair, civil conflict, and terror.
Case for optimism. Over the 5 years before Covid, 4 of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world were in Africa. Young Africans are demanding better governance and an end to corruption. The commercial opportunities across the continent are immense.
Case for pessimism. Lack of land registration inhibits property ownership and entrepreneurship. Many cities lack the infrastructure to reap the benefits of high productivity. Political instability deters foreign investment. Climate change will hit Africa hard.

African Jihad
Jonathan Clayton

UN forces are failing to defeat African Islamist groups.
Islamist mayhem in the Sahel region has killed hundreds and displaced millions of people. Somalia, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are battling Islamists. Burkina Faso is largely under the control of Islamists. Libya is home to many radical Islamist groups.
Support for them grows under incompetent and corrupt governments. National armed forces kill innocent civilians, eliminate political rivals, and harass local populations in botched crackdowns.
The umbrella group Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) aims to eject the "occupying Crusader enemy" of UN peacekeepers.
JNIM head Iyad Ag Ghaly: "We are winning."

AR This is alarming.


Being You

NASA visualization of
orbiting black holes


2021 August 23

Global Britain Alone

Andrew Rawnsley

Number 10 bragged that Boris Johnson was at the top of the list on Joe Biden's call sheet, so the "special relationship" was still good.
But when it came to Afghanistan, Johnson's capacity to influence Biden was zero. Ministers are reduced to guessing what America will do next.
President Trump struck a terrible cut-and-run deal with the Taliban. Biden foolishly chose to carry on with it and surrendered Afghanistan. Other NATO members could only protest after the event.
The prime minister told the Commons his government was unable to shape events in Afghanistan or even forecast them. I have never heard so much fury expressed by Conservative MPs about US behaviour. They fear an impotent Britain is friendless in a frightening world.
The rallying cry "Very well, alone" worked for Winston Churchill in 1940. It is an utterly hopeless strategy for survival today.

AR I blame Brexit.


Being You

Anil Seth

I'm interested in explaining conscious experience. We risk not understanding it by lurching to magical thinking. There is much to be done in a materialist understanding of how the brain relates to conscious experience.
It's a mistake to think of thoughts being produced or observed by a prior internal self. There is an experience arising of me being a single unified individual, with memories, emotional bonds, and experiences of body.
I'm agnostic about whether a program of accounting in physical terms for properties of experience will still leave something more to explain. The existence of conscious experience seems weird. I want to know why.

AR I recall Seth from my Mindworlds years.


Transfinite Set Theory

Martin Goldstern, Jakob Kellner

In axiomatic set theory, we compare infinite sets by mapping between them. A 1-1 mapping is a bijection. The power set P(x) of any set x is always larger than x itself: There is no bijection between P(x) and x.
Cardinal numbers denote the size of sets. The cardinality of the set N of natural numbers is countable. For sets A and B, A ≤ B if there is a mapping from A to B that uses each element of B once at most. For all infinite sets x, x ≥ N.
Sets that have a bijection with N are countable, with cardinality 𝔄(0). For every infinite cardinal 𝔄(α), there is a next larger cardinal number 𝔄(α + 1). The continuum is the set R of real numbers: R is as large as P(N), and its cardinality is 2𝔄(0).
The continuum hypothesis (CH) says 𝔄(1) = 2𝔄(0). Set theory based on the ZFC axioms suffices for almost all mathematics. CH cannot be proved or disproved in ZFC.
Any countable set is a null set. If the family of all null sets is 𝒩 and the smallest cardinality of a non-null set is non(𝒩), 𝔄(0) < non(𝒩) ≤ 2𝔄(0). If we assume CH, non(𝒩) = 2𝔄(0).
We can define cardinals add(𝒩), cov(𝒩), cof(𝒩) for the null sets, plus corresponding cardinals for the meager sets. We can also define cardinals for sets of continuous functions that dominate every possible continuous function.
The Cichoń diagram comprises 12 uncountable cardinalities of which no more than 10 can be simultaneously different. If we assert CH, they are all equal. Only the relationships in the diagram can be proved in ZFC. We now know there are models of ZFC with 10 different cardinalities.

AR This goes beyond what I studied in the 1970s.


Badri 313
Background: US CENTCOM / Insets: Taliban Badri 313 Battalion
Meet the new enemy: Time for new tactics




The Sunday Times

The NATO intervention in Afghanistan has cost $2.2 trillion over 20 years. Yet it has collapsed. UK ministers question the sanity of US president Joe Biden.
On Friday 13 August, the day after the Taliban took Kandahar, US embassy staff in Kabul began destroying sensitive documents. Biden departed for his vacation, but he was back in the White House on Monday.
In London, Boris Johnson was "extremely frustrated" by the turn of events. He requested a conversation with Biden on Monday morning. The president returned his call at 10 pm on Tuesday.
A UK minister: "America has just signalled to the world that they are not that keen on playing a global role .. Brexit was bad, but this is much worse. The castle we thought was built on rocks is built on sand."
Johnson, only half in jest: "We'd be better off with Trump."
President Trump reduced the US footprint in Afghanistan and signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020. Biden agreed with him that America has wasted far too much blood and treasure in Afghanistan.
Former US national security adviser John Bolton: "When it comes to leaving, Trump and Biden are of completely the same view."
In April, Biden announced that all US troops would be out of the country by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. US secretary of state Antony Blinken and others asked him to reconsider, but they bowed to the boss.

No time to lose
Ben Wallace

As UK defence secretary, I have been incredibly proud of the work done by my civil servants and military personnel. We are getting people out.
No nation will be able to get everyone out. This is a source of deep sadness for many of us across NATO. No one wanted 20 years of sacrifice to end this way.
We shall stand by our obligations. We are exploring ways to keep a presence in the country after the military are gone.

We must not abandon them
Tony Blair

The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic. The decision to return Afghanistan to the same group from which the carnage of 9/11 arose seems almost designed to parade our humiliation.
The withdrawal was driven not by grand strategy but by politics. Every jihadist group around the world is cheering. We need to work out a means of dealing with them.
Radical Islam is a political ideology. Radical Islamists say Muslim people are disrespected and disadvantaged, and the answer lies in creating a state governed by a strict and fundamentalist view of Islam.
If Western policymakers saw Radical Islam as a strategic challenge, they would never have taken the decision to pull out of Afghanistan.
We recognised Revolutionary Communism as a strategic threat for more than 70 years. We understood it was a real menace and combined across nations and parties to deal with it.
This is what we need to do now with Radical Islam.

AR I agree with Blair on Radical Islam.


Robert Peston
Robert Peston


2021 August 21

The Whistleblower

Andrew Billen

The Whistleblower, Robert Peston's first novel, is politically insightful, scary, satirical, beautifully paced, and full of great characters.
It is set in 1997, when Peston was political editor of the Financial Times. Its narrator, Gil Peck, is politics editor of the Financial Chronicle. Like Peston, who is the grandson of East End tailors, Gil is a dandy, yet also a scruff.
Peston is Jewish: "My dad never talked about emotional things at all .. I went to a comprehensive in Crouch End in north London because my parents passionately believed in comprehensive education .. I was lucky enough to end up at Oxford."
After doing research for the European Community in Brussels and then a spell as a stockbroker, he moved to Investors' Chronicle, The Sunday Correspondent, Independent on Sunday, Financial Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the BBC, and ITV News. He is now 61.
To learn more about him, read The Whistleblower.

AR Must do so.




2021 August 20

Climate Change

Greta Thunberg et al.

For children and young people, climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures. We are the ones who will have to clean up the mess you adults have made, and we are the ones who are more likely to suffer now.
The Children's Climate Risk Index provides the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children. It ranks countries based on children's exposure to climate and environmental shocks, as well as their underlying vulnerability to those shocks.
Virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now. About a third of all the world's children are exposed to four or more climate or environmental hazards, including heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, flooding, or water scarcity. A billion children, nearly half the children in the world, live in "extremely high risk" countries, says UNICEF.
The fundamental goal of the adults in any society is to protect their young and do everything they can to leave a better world than the one they inherited. The current generation of adults, and those that came before, are failing at a global scale.

AR We must make global solidarity a fact.



The World

Ed Simon

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is one of the most immaculate volumes of modernist poetry published in the past hundred years.
The entire first chapter is only seven sentences:
The world is all that is the case.
The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all the facts.
For the totality of facts determines what is the case, and also whatever is not the case.
The facts in logical space are the world.
The world divides into facts.
Each item can be the case or not the case while everything else remains the same.

AR Divinely inspired.




2021 August 19

UK Lost World

Ian Dunt

The Commons returned from summer recess on Wednesday to discuss the disaster in Afghanistan amid an overwhelming sense of shock and humiliation.
MPs with stricken faces were suddenly aware that they were witnessing the decline of the West. The special relationship with the US is clearly a fiction and has been for longer than the UK foreign policy establishment cares to admit. Brexit had burned bridges with the other Western powers to whom Britain might now naturally turn. The government is utterly unable to demonstrate the level of competence the situation demands of them.
MPs are realising that the West is unable to cooperate, wrecked by populist self-interest, and lacking in urgency, patience, or basic moral stamina.

AR Bodger: The man who lost the world.




Europe Day March

London Economic

EU campaigners have come together to organise a March for Rejoin in London on Europe Day 2022.
Adam Poole and Peter Corr are organising the march. Poole started the group in December 2019 to build a referendum campaign to rejoin the EU. Corr set up the UK Rejoin the EU group.
Poole: "We are still here, we are still European, and we are still fighting. We haven't gone away and we are not going to go away. It's an opportunity for us all to get together after the pandemic and celebrate Europe Day."
Corr: "People's lives are completely destroyed by Brexit and in my opinion all politicians are completely ignoring it."

AR They have my support.




2021 August 18

UK MPs Debate Afghanistan

The Times

In a rancorous Commons debate, prime minister Boris Johnson blamed the chaos in Afghanistan on the American decision to withdraw.
Johnson: "The west could not continue this US-led mission, a mission conceived and executed in support of America. I really think that it is an illusion to believe that there is appetite among any of our partners for a continued military presence or a continued military solution."
Sir Keir Starmer: "We have had 18 months to prepare and plan for the consequences of what followed, to plan and to prepare for the resettlement of refugees and those that have supported us, for supporting the Afghan government in managing the withdrawal, for securing international and regional pressure on the Taliban, and support for the Afghan government."
Starmer responded to foreign secretary Dominic Raab with criticism: "He shouts now but he stayed on holiday while our mission in Afghanistan was disintegrating. He didn't even speak to ambassadors in the region as Kabul fell to the Taliban."
Tobias Ellwood: "We are actually ceding the country back to the very insurgency that we went in to defeat in the first place, and the reputation of the west to support democracies across the world has suffered."
Tom Tugendhat: "I've watched good men go into the earth .. This doesn't need to be defeat, but right now it damn well feels like it."
Theresa May: "Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? Or did we just feel that we had to follow the United States, and hope that on a wing and a prayer it would be all right on the night."
Tim Loughton: "The Taliban is not at war with a regime. The Taliban is at war with the civilised values of justice, equality and tolerance that all of us hold dear, and against which it respects no international boundaries."
Chris Bryant: "The home secretary announced this morning that the UK would be taking 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan but that only 5,000 will be able to come this year. What are the 15,000 meant to do? Hang around and wait until they've been executed?"
Caroline Lucas: "This disaster must mark a turning point for our failed asylum system, in particular getting rid of the so-called hostile environment and the nationality and borders bill under which a woman fleeing the Taliban with her children on a boat across the Channel would be criminalised."
Sir Desmond Swayne expressed bafflement and anger that Afghans were queuing at the airport rather than leading the resistance.

AR Sad.


César Manso
Humans pushing Earth
close to tipping point,
say most in G20


2021 August 17

Hothouse Earth

Bill McKibben

We have raised the temperature of the planet 1 K above its pre-industrial level. Current warming means everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is effectively moving southward at about 20 km a year.
If we stay on our current trajectory and get bad luck, we could see a rise of 5 K by 2100. But the rising damage will not be linear. It will be exponential.
At 2 K, the Arctic Ocean becomes ice-free in summer, much of the permafrost region melts away, and we lose much of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Rising sea levels displace 80 million people. We get fiercer heatwaves. The natural world suffers badly.
At 3 K, we get global heating no human has yet experienced. The West Antarctic ice sheet collapses. Higher sea levels cause more storm surges. Over a billion people need air conditioning to survive. The Amazon dies back, permafrost collapses, white ice melts, solar heating accelerates.
At 4 K, we get major food crop failures. Sea temperatures kill many marine species. Mass extinctions resemble 65 million years ago, when an asteroid helped end the age of the dinosaurs.
At 5 K or 6 K, any description is pornographic. The living will envy the dead. Massive monsoons wash away soil down to the rock. The oceans turn anoxic. As at the end of the Permian period, 90% of species disappear.
We have many options, but we need to use them at scale and with speed. We cannot stop global warming. But we can survive.

AR Let's get to work.




2021 August 16

Taliban Conquer Afghanistan

The New York Times

The rapid reconquest of Kabul by the Taliban after two decades of an expensive and bloody effort to establish a secular government with functioning security forces in Afghanistan is tragic.
The American dream of being the "indispensable nation" in shaping a world of civil rights, women's empowerment, and religious tolerance proved to be just a dream. Afghans who bought into it are now at the mercy of a ruthless enemy.
The Biden administration was right to bring the war to a close. Yet there was no need for it to end in such chaos. In America, efforts to draw critical lessons from this calamitous setback have already been enmeshed in angry recriminations.
The war in Afghanistan began in the US and NATO response to the 9/11 attacks as an operation to deny Al Qaeda sanctuary under the Taliban. How it evolved into a 20-year nation-building project is a story of mission creep and hubris.
Biden was urged to keep a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan for several more years. But he was convinced that would not prevent an eventual Taliban victory. The war had to end.

AR Over and done. Move on.


Kanzlerin Angela Merkel
"Sie hat es großartig gemacht"


2021 August 15

Americans Abandon Afghanistan

David E. Sanger, Helene Cooper

President Biden's top advisers say they were stunned by the rapid collapse of the Afghan army in the face of the latest Taliban offensive.
They should not have been. Americans overestimated the results of the $83 billion the United States has spent since 2001 training and equipping the Afghans. The Pentagon warned Biden about the Taliban potential.
For Biden, the debate about a final withdrawal began the moment he took office. Pentagon officials lobbied to keep a small counterterrorism force in Afghanistan for a few more years. They said Al Qaeda could find a new foothold in Afghanistan.
Biden asked what a few thousand US troops could do if Kabul was attacked. He said the presence of US troops only furthers Afghan government reliance on the United States. He said he wanted all US troops out by September 11.
American forces stayed in Afghanistan far longer than the British did in the 19th century, and twice as long as the Soviets, with roughly the same results.

AR End of the British Empire, end of the Soviet Union, end of the United States?


Almond Eyes

Shukria Rezaei

Kate Clanchy described one of her pupils as having "almond-shaped" eyes. I am that girl with the almond eyes. I did not find it offensive.
I would not dream of commenting on whether other words and phrases Kate has used are offensive to others, but "almond eyes" is a term that I have often used in my own poems. My almond-shaped eyes are at the core of my Hazara identity. Hazaras are an ethnic group in Afghanistan.
I remember reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I was the only Hazara in the class, and I felt extremely uncomfortable at some of Hosseini's descriptions of the Hazaras. Kate's use of "almond eyes" is in no way the same.
People have been quick to criticise her because she is a white, privileged writer. Hosseini is a person of colour and an Afghan; he has not been questioned at all. I think this is hypocrisy.
I had been in England less than a year when I met Kate and was invited to attend her poetry workshops. It was the highlight of my entire school experience.

AR I was also disturbed by Hosseini's racist views.




2021 August 14

Author Alert

Lionel Shriver

Kate Clanchy, in her memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, referred to "chocolate-coloured" skin and "almond-shaped" eyes. The book won the Orwell Prize in 2020.
Clanchy has since apologised: "I am not a good person, not a pure person, not a patient person, no one's saviour." Picador, her publisher, also apologised for the "anguish" the book has caused.
Thou shalt not employ foodstuffs when describing non-white people. Any mention of the edible in reference to the oppressed is dehumanising, objectifying, and commodifying, as if characters exist to be consumed or are otherwise disposable.
White people are routinely described as having "peaches and cream" complexion, "milky" skin, and "strawberry blond" hair. We do so because common foods provide a shared visual vocabulary. We often name colours after what we eat.
Readers outside modern publishing may be unaware of how many such rules rain down on bewildered authors. No sooner does some self-nominated expert on Twitter claim that you can't write something than pushover publishers take the edict to heart.
Clanchy and Picador could have ignored these petty objections.

AR Demand free speech.




2021 August 13

Kandahar Falls


The Taliban has taken control of the city of Kandahar as it continues its advance toward the capital Kabul. The fall of the city is the beginning of the end for Afghanistan's US-backed government. Kandahar had been a major hub for US military operations.
Former NATO supreme allied commander Wesley Clark: "For the Biden administration I think they reached the end of the road. It was clear that they weren't going to be able to create or help create an Afghanistan government that supported its people. And without that government support, its military did not have the support of the people. And this is the consequence of it."

Afghan Collapse

The New York Times

Three major cities in western and southern Afghanistan have fallen. The Taliban seized Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, on Friday morning. Hours earlier, the insurgents had captured Herat, a cultural hub in the west, and Kandahar.
The speed of the collapse has deepened the sense of panic across Afghanistan as thousands try to flee from the Taliban advance. Kandahar is Afghanistan's second-largest city and the economic hub in the south. By seizing the city, the Taliban can effectively proclaim a return to power.
The Pentagon is moving 3,000 Marines and soldiers to Afghanistan and another 4,000 troops to the region to evacuate US embassy staff and US citizens from Kabul.

AR Déjà vu — Vietnam.




2021 August 12

Steven Weinberg

Nima Arkani-Hamed

Steven Weinberg shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam for their work on electroweak unification.
His big breakthrough was to see that at very high energies, electromagnetism and the weak nuclear forces are intertwined, described by Yang−Mills theory, whose equations have gauge symmetry. This commonality is hidden by the Higgs mechanism. His model was confirmed by experiments.
He reimagined QFT. Starting from the primacy of special relativity and quantum mechanics, he studied electromagnetism and gravity, where photons have spin 1 and gravitons spin 2. Spin 1 particles conform to equations with gauge symmetry, while spin 2 particles have a universal coupling strength to all particles. Two long-range forces are all we get in QFT.
He said quantum mechanics and locality guarantee that particle interactions accessible at some energy scale must be described by a simple effective QFT that involves only these particles.
He disliked the view of gravity as the curvature of spacetime. He formulated general relativity using the methods of particle physics and realized that particle physics and cosmology had to be united.
His popular book The First Three Minutes is a classic.

AR I read it in 1977 and was deeply impressed.


"Our relationship with nature is broken. But relationships can change. When we protect nature, we are nature protecting itself."
Greta Thunberg



2021 August 11

Olaf Scholz

Guy Chazan

Olaf Scholz is German finance minister and deputy chancellor. He is running as SPD candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in September.
Scholz, who served as mayor of Hamburg and as federal labour minister before 2018, is the personal favourite. In a recent poll, 35% voted for him, 20% for CDU/CSU candidate Armin Laschet, and 16% for Green candidate Annalena Baerbock.
But the SPD is in decline. Scholz: "The message I'm sending to the German people is: If you want me as chancellor, you will have to vote SPD."

AR Vote Scholz.


IPCC/New Scientist
Central estimates for global
average heating in K by
2081−2100, relative to


2021 August 10


The Times

The IPCC says human activity is unequivocally warming the biosphere:
 Human activity has led to a 1.09 K rise in the global surface temperature when comparing the average temperature between 2011 and 2020 to the average between 1850 and 1900.
 The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850. Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850.
 The observed warming is driven by emissions from human activity. The scale of recent changes across the climate system and the present state of many of its aspects are unprecedented over thousands of years.
 Global temperatures will breach 1.5 K by 2040 no matter what we do. By reducing human emissions, we can correct and reverse global overshoot to 1.6 K by 2060.
 Global surface temperature will increase until at least 2050. It will exceed 2 K this century without deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
 The average sea level increased by 20 cm between 1901 and 2018 and is now rising by about 3.7 mm per year. The recent rate of rise has nearly tripled compared with 1901−1971.
 Human influence is very likely the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers, the decrease in Arctic sea-ice area, and the observed surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet over the past two decades.
 The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than since around 11,000 years ago. The Arctic is likely to be practically ice-free in September at least once before 2050.
 Human activity is leading to an increase in extreme weather all over the world. It will lead to increasing occurrence of unprecedented extreme events. Evidence of extremes such as heatwaves, heavy rain, droughts, and tropical cyclones has strengthened.
 Hot extremes and heatwaves have become more frequent and more intense across most land regions since the 1950s. Cold extremes have become less frequent and less severe. Human-induced climate change is the main driver of these changes.
 Some recent hot extremes observed over the past decade are extremely unlikely to have occurred without human influence on the climate.
 Human-induced climate change has contributed to increases in agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions. It very likely contributed to the decrease in northern hemisphere spring snow cover since 1950. It will increase the regularity of fire weather across all continents and compound flooding in some areas.
The IPCC considered five scenarios ranging from a best case with net zero global emissions by 2050 and then negative emissions to a worst case with greenhouse gas emissions doubling by 2050.
The best case requires a drastic reduction in annual emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and SO2.
On our current trajectory, the global average temperature increase will be medium to high (2.7−3.6 K) by 2100.

AR !!!




2021 August 9


Fiona Harvey

Human activity is changing the Earth's climate in ways not seen for thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, with some changes now inevitable and irreversible.
By 2040, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels, breaching the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
The new IPCC report marshals the work of hundreds of experts and peer-review studies. It presents our best knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change. It finds that human activity is causing rapid changes to the climate, including rising sea levels, ice melts, heatwaves, floods, and droughts.
Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases in this decade can prevent such climate breakdown.

AR Act now, Boris!


Reform Germany

Annalena Baerbock

Germany is in dire need of reform and renewal. Angela Merkel has led by character and by example. But by trying to preserve what worked in the past, her governments did not shape the future.
As the Green candidate for chancellor, I offer reform and renewal. We plan to invest an additional €50 billion a year in the digital and environmental transformation of our country. We will not accept poor infrastructure.
Germans should play a more active international role in the climate crisis. We must make climate neutrality the new engine of prosperity. Carbon neutrality will be essential to secure jobs and competitiveness in future.
I want Germany to lead by example, ideally in tandem with London. We must learn how to prosper without ecological damage, economic exploitation, or global injustice. We need change.

AR Wake up, Boris!


Kabul, May 2021


2021 August 8

US Foreign Policy

Geoffrey Wheatcroft

Americans have left Afghanistan and Iraq to stew in bloody chaos, with the real victors the Taliban and Iran. Few great powers in history have suffered such humiliating failures.
Andrew Bacevich looks back at the long tradition of American exceptionalism: "Just as the self-congratulatory domestic narrative centers on the ineluctable expansion of freedom from sea to shining sea, so, too, the narrative of America abroad emphasizes the spread of freedom to the far corners of the earth."
When President Biden speaks of "the strength and audacity that took us to victory in two world wars," he forgets that the US entered those wars belatedly and succeeded largely thanks to others. The first war against Germany was won by the blood sacrifice of the French and British Armies, the second by the blood sacrifice of the Red Army.
During the Cold War, the Americans were humiliated in Vietnam and the Russians were humiliated in Afghanistan. The Afghans destroyed the morale of the Red Army before precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Union. Atrociously, the Americans used defoliants in Vietnam.
In the 30 years from 1961, 4 of 7 American presidents had once served as officers in the Navy in WW2. By contrast, 3 of the 4 presidents over the next 30 years — Clinton, Bush 43, and Trump — were born in 1946. None of them served in Vietnam.
America still has 750 military bases in some 80 countries. Its military-industrial complex longs to build ever more expensive weapon systems with no obvious purpose. Bacevich says it might be better to defund the military than the police.

AR America, the Incredible Hulk.




2021 August 7

Brexit Slow Puncture

Chris Grey

The UK has only been substantively outside of the EU for 7 months. In many respects, we have not yet experienced the full reality of it.
Given the pandemic, many Brits have yet to encounter the new complexities and restrictions travel now involves, with more to come in 2023. Anyone who dreamed during lockdown of relocating to Spain or France will be in for a nasty shock.
The UK has yet to introduce full controls on EU imports. More controls come in on January 1, 2022, and yet more in March 2022. Only then will the Brexit controls on UK−EU trade in both directions be fully in place, with the UK customs IT system up and running.
Brexit is like a slow puncture. Instead of a moment of crisis, there will be a gradual decline. Labour shortages will limit activity across many sectors. It will be hard to distinguish the effects of Brexit from those of the pandemic. Most voters will not notice that they affect only the UK, not EU.
As for foreign direct investment in the UK and related issues, the only argument for Brexit is the prospect of a more attractive regulatory environment.
Manufacturers will have to implement the new UKCA registration and marking system to sell most goods in GB from January 2022. This replaces the CE mark, which will still be needed to sell goods in the EU. The CE mark will also be valid in NI. The UKNI mark (but not the UKCA mark) can also be used by NI companies selling in GB, but not in the EU. Ireland will require a CE mark. There are also rules about permissible combinations of CE, UKCA, and UKNI markings in different markets.
The EU single market abolished all such red tape. The irony is that few UK product standards are set to diverge from EU standards. Brexiteers demanded only the theoretical possibility of divergence.
These are only the first signs of the Brexit slow puncture.

AR I recommend Grey's book Brexit Unfolded.


Failures of State

AR I read it with consternation: Its revelation of serial incompetence at the heart of UK government is seriously shocking.

Cool Planet: Cut Methane

IGSD head Durwood Zaelke:
"Defossilization will not lead
to cooling until about 2050.
Cutting methane gives
us time."


2021 August 6

A Hard Problem

Steve Nadis

Gianluca Paolini and Saharon Shelah have settled a classification problem for torsion-free abelian groups (TFABs).
For any two countable graphs G and H, if there is a 1-1 correspondence between vertices in G and vertices in H such that two vertices in G are connected by an edge whenever the corresponding vertices in H are too, the graphs are isomorphic.
In 1989, Harvey Friedman and Lee Stanley showed that the problem of proving such graphs are isomorphic is maximally hard — the family of all countable graphs is Borel complete.
A TFAB is a countable subset of the real numbers which (1) is closed under addition and subtraction, (2) has commutative composition, and (3) has only nonperiodic nonzero elements.
Paolini and Shelah define a function preserving isomorphism as it maps countable TFABs to graphs. Since the family of countable graphs is Borel complete, the family of countable TFABs must be too.
The problem of classifying TFABs is maximally hard.

AR Good to know.


If you don't take an interest in the affairs of your government,
you're doomed to live under
the rule of fools.


2021 August 5

Gulf Stream Collapse?

Damian Carrington

The Gulf Stream is showing signs of collapse. This would disrupt the monsoons in India, South America, and West Africa; increase storms and lower temperatures in Europe; push up the sea level in the eastern United States; and further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets.
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) has two states: a fast, strong one, as seen over recent millennia, and a slow, weak one. These data show rising temperatures can make the AMOC switch abruptly between states over a few decades.
The AMOC is driven by salty seawater sinking into the Arctic Ocean. Greenland ice melt is slowing it down earlier than climate models suggested. A new analysis shows it may be nearing a shutdown.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research scientist Niklas Boers: "The signs of destabilisation being visible already is something that I wouldn't have expected and that I find scary."

Climate Change
Hamilton Nolan

An existential threat to our way of life should prompt us to marshal everything to fight for survival. But when the threat comes from the folly of our own greed and profligacy, we find it hard to rise to the occasion.
The G20 is a model of our collective failure. The latest G20 meeting wrapped up last week without firm commitments on what nations will do to hold global heating to 1.5 K. In the past five years, G20 members have paid $3.3 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuel production and consumption.
Unfettered pursuit of economic growth caused climate change. Our globe is trapped in the logic of capitalism, where the rich continue doing something that is destroying us, yet the profits they reap will insulate them from the consequences.
Viewing humanity and its pollution as a malicious virus set to be eradicated by nature is a timely metaphor. Homo sapiens rose above the lesser animals thanks to our ability to wield logic and reason, yet somehow the knowledge of what is driving us to doom is not moving us to stop it.
We need a price on carbon, strict emissions regulations, massive green energy investments, and a focus on sustainability fierce enough to end unlimited consumption. Our present path leads to the last billionaire blasting off in his private rocket as the rest of us burn or drown.

AR Human evolution in action: Get rich or die.




2021 August 4


Martin Sandbu

In Value(s), former Bank of England governor Mark Carney says value, or economic performance, is intimately linked to values, or moral standards.
He recounts a dinner at the Vatican. Pope Francis said that just as the grappa served after the meal was distilled wine, so the market was distilled humanity: concentrated self-interest devoid of everything else that makes us human. Francis invited his guests to turn the grappa back into wine, to turn the market back into humanity.
Turning a good or service into a traded commodity changes its nature. When money changes hands, it detaches a good or service from the norms that usually govern how it is treated. The bonus culture in banking, like tipping in restaurants, can undermine any principled motivation.
As bank governor, Carney focused on stranded assets such as untapped oil and gas reserves, whose value falls as the world goes green. He is now focused on helping investors combine positive social and environmental outcomes with strong risk-adjusted returns.
Carney will advise Boris Johnson for the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference.

AR Make it good advice.




2021 August 3

Milliardäre im Weltall

Alexander Neubacher

Halb Twitter ist sich einig: Weiße alte Säcke machen Schwanzvergleich im Weltall — ach, wie ist das peinlich!
Mag sein, dass Virgin-Eigner Richard Branson, Tesla-Chef Elon Musk und Amazon-Gründer Jeff Bezos von männlicher Eitelkeit getrieben sind. Vielleicht haben sie auch zu viel Star Trek geguckt. Uns kann es nur recht sein.
Wenn wir das All nicht den Chinesen überlassen wollen, braucht es verrückte Finanziers wie Bezos und Musk.
Einige sagen, die jüngsten Weltraumausflüge brächten keine neuen Erkenntnisse, seien wissenschaftlich wertlos, umso schlimmer die schlechte Klimabilanz. Ich halte diese Kritik für kleingeistig.
Wir sollten froh sein, dass es Menschen gibt, die ihren Kindheitsträumen nachjagen.

AR Denke ich auch.


W.G. Sebald


2021 August 2

W.G. Sebald

Donna Ferguson

His books are saturated with despair. His emotionally traumatised characters are caught in plots that doom them to a life of anguish. In a forthcoming biography, Carole Angier lays bare the wounded psyche of novelist W.G. Sebald, who died aged 57 in 2001.
At age 17, Sebald saw a film at school about concentration camps. It traumatized him and ruined his relationship with his father, an old-fashioned authoritarian who fought as a German soldier in WW2.
Angier: "He could never get his parents to talk about the war. He would accuse his father, and his father would clam up and say he didn't remember."
Sebald grew depressed and eventually had a breakdown. He continued to suffer and had three major breakdowns in total. He explored his feelings in Austerlitz, his final masterpiece, about a Jewish refugee whose parents perished in the Holocaust.
As a young lecturer at Manchester University, Sebald got to know the first Jewish person he had ever met, his landlord, a German refugee who also did not like to speak about the war.
Angier: "Here was a real person, who had grown up exactly like him, spoke his language, lived in the same way .. Meeting him brought home to Sebald the human reality of these terrible crimes."
Angier says Sebald's final breakdown, at age 35, was the most severe: "That breakdown was crucial. It is then that he begins to write literary fiction. He fills his characters with his own despair."

AR I was impressed by Austerlitz.


Poole Bay, Sunday noon, 2021-08-01



2021 August 1

UK Chumocracy

Financial Times

Financiers and grandees who make substantial donations to the Conservative party gain membership of its Advisory Board. Such privileged access is a problem for good governance.
Donors from the property sector have poured close to £18 million into Tory coffers since 2019. The proportion of money backing the party from them has doubled to a quarter of all donations.
The prime minister is trying to push through an overhaul of planning rules that aims to build 300,000 houses a year. Britain has a housing crisis and a shortage of supply. The party insists donations have no bearing on policy.
Conservative party co-chairman Ben Elliot played a big role in setting up the Advisory Board. He is the Duchess of Cornwall's nephew. The whiff of chumocracy is in the air.
There is no suggestion that party donors or the Advisory Board have broken any rules. But that is precisely the problem.

AR More houses good, landlord government bad.


UK Crackdown

John Harris

Supermarket shelves are either understocked or completely empty. Populist loudmouths have been taking aim at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and its supposedly "woke" lifesavers.
The UK descent into whip-crack law enforcement continues apace. Boris Johnson's authoritarianism mixes cynical posturing with a coherent drive to weaken basic liberties:
 A new crime reduction plan will relax restrictions on "suspicionless" stop and search.
 The police, crime, sentencing, and courts bill will impose new restrictions on the right to protest.
 The nationality and borders bill will make arrival in the UK without permission a criminal offence.
 The government aims to limit judicial review of ministerial decisions.
 The Home Office is pushing to extend secrecy laws that will restrict investigative journalism.
 Johnson plans to put offenders in chain gangs dressed in hi-vis jackets.

AR Blame Brexit for removing the safety harness.


Time Crystals

Natalie Wolchover

Google researchers have used their quantum computer to demonstrate a time crystal that cycles between states without consuming energy. A time crystal evades the second law of thermodynamics and spontaneously breaks time-translation symmetry.
The time crystal is an out-of-equilibrium phase of matter with order and stability despite being in an excited and evolving state. By comparison, a diamond is a crystalline phase of carbon that spontaneously breaks space-translation symmetry.
Imagine a row of quantum particles, each spin up or down or in a superposed state. The spins will soon align in a localized state if they can. But interference between them can cause the row to get stuck in one configuration. In a time crystal, flipping all the spins can give a stable, many-body localized state.
We can tickle a localized chain of spins with a laser of periodically varying intensity to flip the spins back and forth. The chain can cycle between two different many-body localized states without absorbing energy.
This is an example of a Floquet time crystal. It is periodically driven by an external energy source and cycles between localized states. The laser imposes a discrete time-translation symmetry. This is an approximate time crystal. Independently of Google, a Delft team built a Floquet time crystal using the nuclear spins of carbon atoms in a diamond.
Google used a chip with 20 qubits, each representing up or down for a particle. They tuned the strengths of interactions between the qubits to lock a row of spins into a pattern for many-body localization.

AR Discrete breakage of spacetime symmetry via periodicity is intriguing.




2021 July 31

Superreichen in Deutschland

Leo Ginsburg

Christian Freiherr von Bechtolsheim ist ein Vermögensverwalter der Superreichen in der Republik. Bechtolsheim: "Es würde relativ vielen Familien gelingen, das Geld über mehrere Generationen zu verdummen, weil immer ein Trottel dabei sei. Mein Job ist, dem entgegenzuwirken."
Grundsätzlich sei es seinen Kunden nicht das Wichtigste, Steuern zu sparen, sondern gut zu schlafen. Sie legten besonders auf zwei Dinge wert: Das Gefühl, ihr Geld sicher anzulegen und Mensch und Natur etwas Gutes tun.
Bechtolsheim: "Die meisten Reichen, die ich kenne, sind engagiert. Fast alle haben einen Anreiz, der jenseits vom reinen Geldwachstum liegt .. Die Reichen sind in Deutschland mittelständische Unternehmer, deren Unternehmen irrsinnig viel wert sind. Deswegen sind sie reich."
Zudem: "Wenn man wohlhabend ist, wird nicht nach außen hin geprahlt. Reiche wollen nicht auffallen .. Eins haben alle Reichen gemeinsam: Es sind alles harte Arbeiter."

AR Is this also true for rich Brits?


Photovoltaic Effect in Titanate Superlattices

Yeseul Yun et al.

Layering ferroelectric BaTiO3 between paraelectric SrTiO3 and CaTiO3 enhances photocurrent.
Comparing the photocurrent extracted from superlattices consisting of BTO, STO, and CTO layers with that from a pure BTO layer, we observed an enhancement of three orders of magnitude with light of energy of 3.06 eV and of around two orders of magnitude under solar irradiation. We conclude that SLs provide a platform to engineer a suitable PV material.

AR A tip for Bill Gates?


Mouse brain


2021 July 30

Mouse Brain Diagram

Allen Institute for Brain Science

A team of neuroscientists has released a dataset that maps the fine structures and connectivity of 200,000 brain cells and close to 500 million synapses, all contained in a 1 mm cube of visual neocortex from the mouse brain.
The public data collection is hosted online by Amazon Web Services and is freely accessible on the cloud. Google contributed storage and computing engine support and the visualization tool Neuroglancer.
The Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks program took five years to complete. Its goal was to mine brain-wiring information to improve machine learning. But the dataset is also valuable to neuroscientists and biomedical researchers.
The data contains the most cells and connections of any such dataset to date, and it is large enough to capture entire local circuits and near-complete 3D shapes of individual mouse neurons. The cubic mm volume was chosen to catch circuits across multiple brain areas involved in vision.
Andreas Tolias: "The neocortex contains billions of neurons communicating through trillions of connections that have endowed mammals with astonishing capabilities. A key question to untangling this bewildering complexity is to discover the relationships between the wiring rules and the functional properties of neurons."

AR Microsoft mouse.




2021 July 29

A Proof Assistant

Kevin Hartnett

A computer proof assistant called Lean has worked at the leading edge of mathematics by verifying the correctness of a complicated proof.
The proof, by Peter Scholze, is part of condensed mathematics, a project to build new foundations for topology by making topological spaces from a dust of points glued together in condensed sets.
Scholze worked out a difficult proof in July 2019 to establish that real functional analysis still works if you replace topological spaces with condensed sets. He began on a Monday, almost entirely in his head. He powered through and finished it on Friday. But he was unsure if it was correct.
He wrote out the proof in November 2019. A year later, he asked about typing it into Lean for the program to verify. Experts formalized it for input. In May 2021, Lean compiled and verified it.
Scholze: "I think this may be my most important theorem to date .. it's sensible in principle to formalize whatever you want in Lean."

AR Milestone moment.


2021 July 28


Thomas Lewton

Fractons are theoretical quasiparticles that are either immobile or move only discretely.
In 2011, Jeongwan Haah found a theoretical phase, the Haah code, containing quasiparticles that move only in combination. Other similar theoretical phases were soon found.
An electron moves in a space filled with electron-positron pairs popping into and out of existence. One such positron is on top of the electron, and they annihilate, leaving the new electron displaced from the original electron. We see a single electron moving.
Imagine a particle among not pairs but squares in the vacuum. A square with an antiparticle on top of the particle annihilates a corner. A second square then pops up and one of its sides annihilates with a side from the first square. This leaves the second opposite side, also a pair. We see a particle-antiparticle pair moving.
In the Haah code, new particles appear in endless fractal patterns. Zoom in on a corner of a square and find another, smaller square, zoom in again for another square, and so on. Realizing the fractal structure requires energy, so the fracton cannot move.
Nathan Seiberg says fractons do not fit in QFT. He and others aim to encompass fractons by allowing some discrete behavior on top of continuous spacetime.
Fractons could make very stable qubits.

AR Another reason to go for discrete spacetime.


Centaurus A
Centaurus A supermassive black hole. L: Two plasma jets fired in opposite directions. R: New EHT zoom on jet moving toward Earth.



2021 July 27

UK Governance

Max Hastings

The UK government agenda and appointments are being disputed between Dominic Cummings and Carrie Symonds.
The UK needs better and brighter MPs and ministers. The consequences of paying them poorly and discouraging MPs from paid outside activities have been pernicious. Top officials should be paid substantially more.
Backbenchers spend far too much time in their constituencies, pretending to be social workers, when their priority should be to represent voters at Westminster, holding government to account.
As the UK becomes less important, sharing in its governance seems a less exciting career prospect. Tiny minorities of party activists imposed the choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.
UK parliamentary democracy has become the plaything of extremists.

AR Dissolve the UK. Let its nations join the EU.


2021 July 26

Limits to Growth

Edward Helmore

Gaya Herrington predicts the collapse of civilization around 2040 if current trends hold. This affirms the bleaker scenarios in The Limits to Growth, a landmark 1972 MIT study.
She finds current data aligns well with the 1972 analysis: "The MIT scientists said we needed to act now to achieve a smooth transition and avoid costs. That didn't happen, so we're seeing the impact of climate change."
She says global slowdown, climate change, social unrest, and geopolitical instability need not end in collapse: "Continuing to update the model provides another perspective on the challenges and opportunities we have to create a more sustainable world."
She adds: "Resource scarcity has not been the challenge people thought it would be in the 1970s and population growth has not been the scare it was in the 1990s. Now the concern is pollution and how it perfectly aligned with what climate scientists are saying."
Herrington offers two scenarios. Under business as usual, growth will stall and combine with population collapse. The comprehensive technology scenario models stalled economic growth without social collapse. Both scenarios show a halt in growth by about 2030.

AR I sensed this 50 years ago. Now I know it.




2021 July 25

Climate Change

The Observer

Every year, factories, power plants, and vehicles pump tens of gigatons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, trapping solar radiation that will further increase temperatures around the globe. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted tomorrow, the carbon dioxide already in our atmosphere will hang around for decades and continue to heat the planet.
There is no prospect of humanity quitting its fossil fuel addiction overnight. At best, we might reach such a goal by 2050. We are going to experience increasingly severe floods, wildfires, and storms, along with shrinking icecaps, rising sea levels, bleached coral reefs. and spreading deserts. This is the best we can hope for over the next three decades.


Cummings vs Johnson

The Guardian

Dominic Cummings is fighting a jihad against Boris Johnson. He claims that weeks after the general election, he and a group of allies were discussing how they could remove the prime minister.
A former colleague: "We wanted [to] get things going. And him being him, was like, 'I'm going to go on holiday to Mustique, I'm going to put my feet up for a month.'"
A former government insider: "Boris needs strong structure around him, to guide him. He needs people to channel and direct his energy."
The prime minister's approach to government has become erratic. Carrie Johnson and policy director Munira Mirza are now the only remaining members of his inner circle from 2019.
A Conservative MP: "[Carrie] has got strong views on people, and we all suspect it matters whether you're in her favour or you're out of it."
A former Johnson adviser: "You can see with the people that you've got around him that she does have huge influence."
A senior Tory: "There's just so little sense that there is a clear plan, as we've changed it so often now that we don't know where it begins and where it ends."

AR Time for a change.


12 Bytes


2021 July 24

Our Transhuman Future

Laura Spinney

Jeanette Winterson worries that we will put artificial general intelligence (AGI) to the wrong uses.
Her starting point is the first industrial revolution, the one that gave us steam and mass production but also black cities and a miserable, sickly underclass. Fast forward 200 years, and we're the means of production, as tech companies spin our data into gold.
Winterson draws a direct line from the first forgotten female computer programmers to today's female undergraduates who are occasionally lectured by male computer scientists that they don't have the brains to enter the field. The algorithms that instruct AI show a strong male bias.
Transhumanism is about transcending categories. As soon as a human can have a relationship with an AGI, preconceptions about gender and sexuality will explode in ways they haven't yet, despite a thriving sex robot industry.
Robots may only be a transitional stage for AI, on the way to a pure AGI that would be all around us as well as inside us. Our ancestors were forever being jostled by angels and ghosts. We are more wedded to our own physicality now than we ever were in the past.
As the boundary between human and nonhuman becomes blurred, we'll have to reassess what we mean by human. You might balk at the idea of an AI personal assistant with whom you communicate via an implant rather than an earpiece, but the real problem is the fact that the AI is reporting back to Mark Zuckerberg.
Winterson suggests that love will be more meaningful than intelligence in future. What is love?

AR We need our philosophers.




2021 July 23

Northern Ireland Protocol

Fintan O'Toole

The UK is demanding that the EU tear up a crucial part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
For the UK, Lord Frost published his wildly unrealistic NIP demands on Wednesday. For the EU, Ursula von der Leyen flatly rejected them on Thursday.
The NIP arose from a problem created by the UK refusal to acknowledge that choices have costs. Boris Johnson and the ERG faced a choice: They could cut GB but not NI off from the EU single market and customs union, or they could prioritise the integrity of the UK.
Johnson traded the integrity of the UK for GB freedom from the EU. He made this choice in October 2019. The NIP demand is driven by his desire to wish away this fact.
The Johnson government fails to accept the connection between choices and outcomes.

AR Logic bites back.




2021 July 22

Linking Numbers and Geometry

Kevin Hartnett

A new paper by Laurent Fargues and Peter Scholze (FS) advances the Langlands program to link disparate branches of mathematics by bridging numbers and geometry.
Évariste Galois proved that there are no general methods for calculating the roots of polynomials with powers above 4 and proposed studying the symmetries between roots in group theory.
Robert Langlands proposed matching every Galois group with an automorphic form from analysis, the theory of calculus. The geometric Langlands program aimed to link geometric objects with the Galois groups and automorphic forms.
Polynomials have many of the same properties as numbers, but you can graph polynomials. For each prime, there is a unique p‑adic number system, each based on a single prime. Scholze's perfectoid spaces give geometric form to the p‑adic numbers.
Langlands conjectures for the p‑adics involve matching representations of the Galois group of the p‑adic numbers with representations of p‑adic groups. The conjecture for rational numbers is global because the rationals contain all the primes. The version for p‑adics is local, since p‑adic number systems deal with one prime at a time.
Fargues linked the local Langlands conjecture to the geometry of the Fargues−Fontaine (FF) curve. The points of the FF curve each represent a version of a p‑adic ring.
FS shows how to construct sheaves linked to points on the FF curve in the way tangent lines are to points on a circle. Coherent sheaves represent p‑adic groups, and étale sheaves represent Galois groups. We can always match a coherent sheaf with an étale sheaf.
FS proves one direction of the local Langlands correspondence. Next: Make it two-way.

AR My math research supervisor at Oxford was into sheaves. They help in an intuitionist account of set theory and forcing as well as in category theory.


Dominic Cummings, Laura Kuenssberg



2021 July 21

Dominic Cummings vs Boris Johnson

Aubrey Allegretti

In his first TV interview since quitting No 10, Dominic Cummings says that soon after the December 2019 election aides feared Boris Johnson had no plan to run the country.
He says Johnson's wife Carrie tried to "appoint complete clowns to certain key jobs" and wanted to be "pulling the strings" at the heart of government.
He says that until the election, Boris and Carrie were happy to have Vote Leave veterans working in Downing Street, but then Carrie became frustrated that VL were running the show.
By January 2020, he says, people inside government began speculating that "either we'll all have gone from here or we'll be in the process of trying to get rid of [Johnson] and get someone else in as prime minister" and discussed ways to oust him.
Cummings: "[Johnson] doesn't have a plan, he doesn't know how to be prime minister, and we only got him in there because we had to solve a certain problem, not because he was the right person to be running the country."
He says anyone sure about Brexit "has got a screw loose" and "no one on Earth knows" if leaving the EU was a good idea.

AR All true to form.


Jeff Bezos
Blue Origin
On the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo project Moon landing, Jeff Bezos has flown into space on his own rocket, Blue Origin,
together with three other people: his brother, the oldest person to go into space, and the youngest person to go into space.
The spacecraft flew about 100 km into space, far enough for the astronauts to enjoy a few minutes of weightlessness.
Bezos is now worth $200 billion. The total cost of the Apollo project, in 1973 dollars, was just under $200 billion.



2021 July 20

Brexit Unfolded

Christopher Grey

AR Brexit Unfolded, subtitled "How no one got what they wanted (and why they were never going to)" and by London professor emeritus Christopher Grey, is an academic but readable account of the Brexit process from June 2016 to February 2021. Having just written a book — ALBION — with closely related subject matter and a similar perspective, I can say with some authority that Grey's book is about as good as it gets as a first analysis of the Brexit phenomenon. In fact, I think it's really good and recommend it to anyone who seeks a careful and logical account of the process that has diminished the UK in the eyes of the world more than anything else in modern times.




2021 July 19

A Video Tour of the Standard Model

David Tong

AR Excellent little video — wunderbar!


Bournemouth beach, Sunday afternoon



2021 July 18

Pegasus Spyware

The Guardian

Authoritarian governments have used used the Pegasus software tool sold by Israeli NSO Group to target human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers across the world. Pegasus is spyware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable its operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones.

AR Surprised?


2021 July 17

The Continuum Hypothesis


Can we add axioms to set theory to prove or disprove the continuum hypothesis (CH)?
Georg Cantor proved that the set of sequences of natural numbers has a higher cardinality than the cardinality Alef-0 of the natural numbers. His CH says the cardinality of the continuum is Alef-1.
In 1940, Kurt Gödel proved that the CH is consistent with the axioms of ZFC set theory. He did so by defining a constructible universe L in which the CH is true. But he later suspected that the power of the continuum is Alef-2.
In 1963, Paul Cohen proved that the CH is independent of the ZFC axioms. Starting with L, he developed a technique called forcing to enlarge the continuum to include new reals.
Forcing lets you to add as many reals as you like. You can add other objects that are incompatible with each other. This creates a multiverse of possible universes V.
Set theorists prefer to decide CH by adding a new axiom to ZFC. Two rival axioms emerged.
Martin's maximum (MM) says anything conceived using any forcing procedure exists, so long as the procedure satisfies a consistency condition. It implies that the power of the continuum is Alef-2.
Hugh Woodin proposed an axiom (*) that also pins the continuum at Alef-2. Its model V satisfies the nine ZF axioms plus the axiom of determinacy, rather than choice. Determinacy and choice contradict each other. He devised a forcing procedure to extend his model V into a larger one consistent with ZFC. This model V satisfies (*).
Axiom (*) lets us make statements of the form: "For all x, there exists y such that φ." One such statement is: "For all sets of Alef-1 reals, there exist reals not in those sets." This negates the CH.
David Asperó and Ralf Schindler have proved that MM++ (a technical variant of MM) implies (*). They use a recursive sequence of forcing steps to generate a "witness" that verifies all statements of the form of (*). So long as the forcing obeys the consistency condition, MM++ says the witness exists, and (*) follows. The proof defines a universe V in which the cardinality of the continuum is Alef-2.
Woodin now thinks the CH is true. He poses a stronger variant of (*) that contradicts MM in his "ultimate L" model of V. He says the right axiom to add to ZFC is that V = ultimate L. Then the continuum has cardinality Alef-1.
Who's right?

AR I spent years studying V and the CH and liked the idea that V = L until I understood that forcing messes it up. In the end, the math was too much for me.


Aviation Titans
Sukhoi Su-34 strike aircraft

Viljandi, Estonia

"Putins Russland bewegt sich
.. langsam dorthin zurück,
wo die Sowjetunion .. aufgehört hat."

Christian Esch


2021 July 16

America, Germany, Russia, Ukraine

The Guardian

Joe Biden hosted Angela Merkel at the White House on Thursday for bilateral meetings. They spoke to the importance of the US-German alliance and vowed to work together to defend against Russian aggression and stand up to China.
They said Russia should not use energy as a weapon. Biden reiterated concerns about the NS2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. President Zelensky of Ukraine told Merkel in Berlin on Monday that NS2 threatens Ukraine's security.


Russia and Ukraine

Vladimir Putin

Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are the heirs of ancient Rus. When it fragmented, the people perceived Russia as their motherland. Moscow became the center of reunification.
In 1686, Kiev and the lands of the east bank of the Dnieper were included in the Russian state. Their region was called Little Russia. A century later, Crimea and the lands by the Black Sea became part of Russia.
After the 1917 revolution, a civil war unfolded in the former Russian Empire. In 1921, the western lands of the former Russian Empire were ceded to Poland. The lands were returned to the USSR in 1939. In 1945, Transcarpathian Ukraine united with Ukraine.
In December 1991, the USSR ceased to exist. All these territories were suddenly cut off from their historical homeland. The Russian Federation provided Ukraine with significant support. But the Ukrainian authorities squandered the achievements of many generations. Electricity generation in Ukraine has almost halved in 30 years. Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe.
After the events in Kiev in 2014, the Ukrainian elites chose to justify the independence of Ukraine by denying its past. They rewrote history to say it was occupied by the Russian Empire and the USSR. They accused the USSR of genocide.
Western countries supported a radical nationalist coup. The radicals were indulged by the authorities. Local oligarchs robbed the people of Ukraine and hid the stolen wealth in Western banks. Ukraine was drawn into a dangerous geopolitical game.
The coup provoked confrontation and civil war. Russia tried to stop the fratricide. But the representatives of Ukraine say they are victims of external aggression and stage bloody provocations to attract attention.
Hatred and anger are a poor basis for sovereignty. Russia is open for dialog with Ukraine. After all, we are one people.

AR Biden, Merkel, Putin — three smart adults.




2021 July 15

Tokamak Energy

David Rose

Every workday, a scientist in an industrial plant near Oxford fires a particle beam into a swirling cloud of hot plasma inside a spherical steel reactor vessel about 2 m in diameter. Electromagnets contain the plasma as nuclear fusion heats it to more than 15 MK.
Tokamak Energy is trying to harness nuclear fusion. TE is leading in the race to develop a viable fusion device that harnesses the fusion of hydrogen isotopes to deliver energy on a commercial scale.
Fusion power will have incalculable environmental benefits. A fusion reactor can heat steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity. Small portable versions could power container ships and airliners.
TE co-founder and vice chair Dr David Kingham says TE is on track to deliver commercial 150 MW fusion power plants by the late 2030s. They could be made on a production line.
The TE reactor contains the plasma using superconducting electromagnets made of rare earth barium copper oxide that consume only a tenth of the power used by cryogenic superconductors. The spherical shape, like a cored apple, makes the reaction more efficient than in a doughnut shape.
Kingham: "Combining high temperature superconductors and a spherical reactor has huge advantages and .. will make this form of energy significantly cheaper."
UK Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng visits the TE plant today. Its workforce of 165 is set to double by the end of 2022.

AR I wish TE well.


Poole Bay, 10 am BST, Bastille Day



2021 July 14

America and Germany

Constanze Stelzenmüller

German chancellor Angela Merkel visits US president Joe Biden in Washington this week.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken: "The US has no better friend than Germany."
Russian president Putin published a manifesto in a German weekly saying Germany should decouple from the western alliance.
China's Global Times praises Germany for its "attempt to get rid of US interference".
Merkel was rebuffed in her attempt to restart EU−Russia summits. The European Parliament refuses to ratify an EU−China investment agreement she negotiated.
Biden treats Germany as a peer nation.

AR No surprises for me here.


Second Nature

Mark O'Connell

Nathaniel Rich: "Even in the most optimistic future available, we will profoundly reconfigure our fauna, flora, and genome. The results will be uncanny."
He writes about people living with the environmental consequences of corporate greed and stupidity, people struggling to come to terms with a changing natural world, and efforts to reengineer nature.
Bringing back an extinct creature would be a difficult and complex project, involving a restructuring of the genome from surviving DNA. The more interesting problems are philosophical and ethical.
If we brought back an extinct species, it would never be the same as the one that went extinct, but rather a creative approximation. Humans have been making such monsters for thousands of years.
Rich: "Enlightenment lies not in renouncing reality but in seeing it more clearly. Art, even flawed art, helps us to understand our own place in an unfamiliar landscape."

AR New life as art — I like it.




2021 July 13

Freedom Fetishists, Covid Conspiracies

Melanie Phillips

Boris Johnson has given the impression he has already cooled on the Freedom Day set for July 19. Brexiteers are sneering at the majority who want restrictions to continue. Many of these freedom fetishists believe the measures were taken with malign intent.
Unfortunately, this has become dogma among some Conservatives. When reality confronts it, they deny reality and wrench the evidence to fit the dogma. Can we ever return to the rational treatment of objective evidence?

AR I do hope so.




2021 July 12

Phase Transition Symmetries

Allison Whitten

Do phase transitions in physical systems feature conformal invariance?
Conformal invariance is three symmetries rolled into one: translational symmetry, rotational symmetry, and scale symmetry.
We know conformal invariance holds for a few models, but we cannot prove it holds for all of them. A team of authors has now proved that a wide range of physical systems show rotational invariance at the boundary between states.
The Ising model represents physical systems near critical points. These include metals losing magnetism, the gas-liquid transition in air, and the switch between order and disorder in alloys. In 2006, Stanislav Smirnov proved conformal invariance for the Ising model.
We now know that rotational invariance is a universal property of a large subset of known 2D models. A proof of scale invariance, given that translational symmetry needs no further proof, would give us conformal invariance.

AR Good to know.


Italien ist Europameister!

Der Spiegel

La Repubblica: "Europa ist unser .. Nach 53 Jahren zermürbenden Wartens kehrt Italien endlich auf den Thron Europas zurück."
Gazzetta dello Sport: "Wir sind Europameister. Football is coming home. Das können wir singen .. Wir sind auf dem Dach Europas."
Corriere dello Sport: "Italien ist Europameister! .. Der Pokal kommt nach Italien .. Ein Märchen, der zweite EM-Triumph nach 1968."
Tuttosport: "Italien ist Europameister! England im Elfmeterschießen besiegt .. Die Nationalmannschaft blüht in Wembley wieder auf."

AR Well deserved.


Egotrip ins All

Der Spiegel

Richard Branson hat das VIP-Wettrennen gewonnen: Als erster Milliardär flog er ins All. Er lobte das als Errungenschaft für die ganze Menschheit — doch die Show vor Ort war vor allem ein PR-Event.

AR My verdict too.


Richard Branson
Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceplane detached from its mothership and flew under rocket power to to an altitude of 85 km,
where Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson and his fellow passengers briefly experienced weightlessness, before gliding
down to land at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Branson: "We're here to make space more accessible to all. We want to turn the next generation of dreamers into the
astronauts of today and tomorrow. We've all us on this stage have had the most extraordinary experience ..
Welcome to the dawn of a new space age."

AR He's pipped Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.



2021 July 11

Data War 1

Robert Reich

The emerging cold war between Beijing and Washington is less about traditional arms than about data — gathering, aggregating, analyzing and making maximum use of it to outmaneuver the other side. Cybersecurity comes down to which side has access to more information about the other and can use it best.

AR Is China winning DW1?


Death Valley, Saturday


2021 July 10

The Prime Etonian

Andrew Adonis

Boris Johnson pulled off a coup. He carried a national referendum against a prime minister. He now rivals post-Falklands Thatcher and pre-Iraq Blair.
Boris loves supremacy and celebrity. Even Brexit turned on naked self-advancement. In February 2016, pacing around his office, hand ruffling hair, he told me that he was "buggered" if he knew which side to take on the referendum set for 23 June.
Boris exudes Etonian elitism. Over the Thatcher and Major years, 61 Etonians served as ministers. A tenth of the Conservative MPs in the 1992 parliament were Old Etonians. Eton has provided 20 prime ministers since 1721, among a total of 55.
Boris is a classic Eton type. As a bright boy from a thrusting Tory family, he entered Eton from a top prep school by way of a King's scholarship. He then went up to Balliol College, where he was one of about 150 Etonians then at Oxford.
Boris gravitated naturally to political leadership. He tried to enter the Commons in 1997, at 32, and won Henley-on-Thames in 2001. He is assiduous at both his vocation and his pleasures. On the rebound from failure, his work ethic is ferocious and focused.
Boris has little he wants to accomplish. Beyond keeping the celebrity show on the road and striking Churchillian poses, we have a handful of populist catchphrases in place of strategy.
Boris likes grand projects with his name on them. So long as they get people talking, he doesn't give a fig if they end up going nowhere.

AR The Eton lock is bad for Britain.


2021 July 9

The Politics of Lies

Annette Dittert

Boris Johnson is more popular than ever. The public forgives him for his catastrophic mismanagement at the start of the pandemic, his odd relationship to the truth, the corruption within his cabinet, the shambles of Brexit, and even his authoritarian style of government. He has shifted the Tories to the far right.
Johnson is indifferent to the truth. He says the British vaccination program is a success of Brexit, but the program was possible as an EU member. He sold post-Brexit trade deals that copy existing EU deals as new. His Northern Ireland minister says the EU must either solve the Irish border problem or risk UK anger.
Johnson set up a commission to redefine the limits of judicial review of the executive following the legal objection to his dissolution of parliament in 2019. When the commission proposed only minimal changes, his justice minister proposed future laws with clauses to put them beyond jurisdiction.
British democracy is poorly defended against such attacks. The unwritten British constitution works on the "good chaps" principle and fails for Johnson.
British media are not holding the government accountable. During the Brexit campaign, the BBC gave Leavers and Remainers equal airtime. Johnson and his colleagues spread their untruths uncorrected. But his government Is now attacking the BBC. It appointed a Tory party donor as new BBC director.
The Johnson government proposed Paul Dacre to head the Ofcom media regulator. He was editor of the Daily Mail for its ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE headline in 2016. When the selection committee for the Ofcom post said he was unsuitable, the government dissolved the committee.
The Coronavirus Act circumvents parliamentary approval of decisions. The government has used it to put parts of the health system under direct ministry control. It spent £37 billion on a test-and-trace system that is failing. It spent billions on PPE via contracts to companies that had a VIP line to Downing Street. An initiative to investigate such corruption was met with expensive government lawsuits that broke it.
In his select committee testimony, Dominic Cummings described in detail all the lies, the shamelessness, and the cynicism of the Johnson government during the pandemic. But Cummings himself left truth behind with his Leave campaign in 2016.
Johnson saw Brexit as a vehicle to take him into Downing Street. It is an ideological project with no vision of where sovereignty should lead the UK. Leading Brexiteers admit they have no coherent trade policy yet still paint the Single Market as enemy territory.
UK sovereignty is a mask over the political vacuum brought by Brexit. Johnson makes bold gestures to distract voters from his push to become the uncrowned king of Little England.

AR The German text is long and damning.


Complex neural networks will use photonics



2021 July 8

Neural Firing Timing Code

Elena Renken

The brain is like a musical instrument. Neurons that fire together wire together, but the tune they play depends on the precise timing of the firing.
Phase precession in brain waves times neural firings precisely to wire interneural links. A team has observed neurons in the human brain using it to encode spatial information.
Phase precession was seen decades ago in rat brains. Both human and rat brains contain place cells, each tuned to a specific region or place field. Our brains scale these place fields to cover our current surroundings. The closer we get to the center of a place field, the faster the place cell fires.
As a rat passes through a place field, the cell fires earlier in the theta wave cycle. As the rat goes from one place field into another, the early firing of the first cell approaches the late firing of the next. Firing within tens of milliseconds of each other strengthens the synapse between them.
We also see phase precession in processing sounds and smell in rats and other species. In human brain wave patterns, phase precession is also involved in serial image processing and in making progress toward abstract goals.
A standard phase precession mechanism in mammals seems likely. By tuning neural firing times, phase precession may assist fast learning.

AR This confirms the general view we had many years ago when I studied this stuff. Hint to AI researchers: The mechanism could readily be implemented in photonics.


2021 July 7

A Pyrrhic Victory

Martin Wolf

Brexiteers misunderstood the EU. The EU trade barriers will stay. Its members regard the preservation of the EU legal order as an overriding interest.
Brexit has strengthened the EU, not weakened it. EU members fought to defend their interests. Boris Johnson lied over the implications of his deal on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and even dared to attempt to repudiate it. The EU regards him as unserious and untrustworthy.
The UK and EU may be equally sovereign, formally, but they are far from equals. The UK economy is a fifth of the EU economy. UK dependence on trade with the EU is much greater than the other way round. The UK will lose more from this than the EU.
Between the second quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2021, the UK economy shrank by 4.3% but the EZ economy grew by 1.3%. Brexit inflicted a large initial shock to trade volumes. UK trade will end up smaller than it would otherwise have been.
Brexit has lifted constraints on the government. The UK government no longer needs to worry about EU rules. But in areas where international cooperation is needed, Brexit has not increased control. The UK now lacks a platform inside the EU from which to act.
Public hostility toward the EU was mostly over migration. UK statistics are very poor on this. The number of EU citizens seeking settled status turned out to be 5.3 million by March 2021, many more than expected. But inflows of migrants from the rest of the world have now jumped, as those from the EU declined.
In the longer run, Brexit is likely to damage the UK, perhaps split it, while strengthening EU solidarity. It was a Pyrrhic victory.

AR A sound assessment.




2021 July 6


Aubrey Allegretti

Dominic Cummings says that just after the 2016 Brexit referendum Boris Johnson told him: "Obviously it's ludicrous me being PM — but no more ludicrous than Dave or George, don't you think?"
Cummings agreed to help: "The problems of Boris as PM can be partly mitigated by us, given we understand Whitehall much better than him and understand effective political action much better than him and the Conservative party."
Cummings says Johnson is "happy to hide behind the mask of a clown" and "rewrites reality in his mind afresh according to the moment's desire" so "there is no real distinction possible with him" between truth and lies.
Johnson, July 2019: "I'm good at motivating people, I can tell the public a story and get them behind me, but I'm not good at organising, I'm not good at all the details and dealing with the machine."

AR It shows.


Nicolas Gisin


2021 July 5

Constructing Time


General relativity says time and space form a deterministic spacetime continuum. Quantum mechanics says particle behavior is probabilistic and suggests time is quantized. The apparent inconsistency over time is a problem.
Nicolas Gisin looks to intuitionist mathematics. He says time really passes and new information is created. This could solve the problem.
The weather is chaotic. We could in principle predict the weather a week on, but we can't gauge conditions with enough decimal digits of detail to extrapolate forward and make perfectly accurate forecasts.
In a classical world in which time only seems to unfold, exactly what will happen is set from the start, with the initial state encoded with infinitely many digits of precision.
But information is physical. It requires energy and occupies space. Any volume of space has a finite information capacity. A pointlike singularity cannot store infinite information.
Intuitionist L.E.J. Brouwer saw mathematics as a construct. He said real numbers are constructible, with digits calculated or chosen or randomly determined one at a time. Numbers can become ever more exact as more digits reveal themselves in a choice sequence, a function for producing values with greater and greater precision.
Intuitionism denies the law of excluded middle (LEM). LEM says that either a proposition is true, or its negation is true. For Brouwer, statements about numbers might be neither true nor false at a given time, since the number's exact value hasn't yet revealed itself.
Standard math is fine for numbers like 4, or ½, or π. An algorithm for generating the decimal expansion of π makes it as determinate as a number like ½.
But consider another number x near ½. Say its value so far is 0.4999, where further digits unfurl in a choice sequence. If in future a digit other than 9 crops up, then x < ½. We don't know whether it will, so we can't say x < ½, nor can we say x = ½.
The continuum can't be cleanly divided into two parts. If you try to cut it in half, this number x will stick to the knife and won't be on the left or on the right.
Gisin saw a connection between the intuitionist unspooling decimal digits of real numbers and the physical notion of time in the universe. Time can't be cut in two sharply, and the present is not a point but "thick".
Denial of LEM suggests propositions about the future are yet to be determined. The digits that specify the weather ever more precisely and dictate its evolution are chosen in real time as the future unfolds in a choice sequence. New digits are created as time passes.
If the digits of numbers defining the state of the universe grow over time, then new information is created by a measurement. An intuitionist physics might also let information be destroyed: Perhaps information is lost in black holes.

AR I studied all this in depth as a grad student. I accept constructivist math and propose a creative unfolding in physics behind a leading-edge "now" zone. This text supplements/replaces the cut in my blog entry on 2020-04-08.




2021 Independence Day

Afghanistan Withdrawal

The Observer

President Joe Biden is expected to declare the conflict in Afghanistan is at an end. The NATO military involvement there began in 2001.
Biden set a US withdrawal date of September 11 shortly after taking office. Most forces have now left. The withdrawal has set Afghanistan back on the path to terror, mayhem, and disintegration.
The Taliban has mounted multiple territorial offensives in recent weeks. At least half of rural Afghanistan is controlled or contested by insurgents. Afghans face the prospect of anarchy.

AR Sad for locals who seem unable to organize themselves, but the Afghan wilderness is no place for NATO to waste our money.


Frost Damage

Lisa O'Carroll

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney says the EU fears that Boris Johnson wants to dismantle the Northern Ireland protocol following a provocative article by Lord Frost and Brandon Lewis.
Coveney says London has barely acknowledged EU flexibility on the protocol including a pledge to remove barriers to the supply of medicines to NI. He says the article is "a very strange way to make friends and build partnerships" coming two days after the EU and the UK agreed to extend the deadline over the sale of sausages and chilled meats.
Coveney: "The challenge here is that both sides have to take responsibility and ownership .. The EU and the UK have got to work in partnership."

The NI protocol
David Frost, Brandon Lewis

In October 2019 the British government reached an agreement with the EU, enshrined in the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. The rules are set by EU law. We expected to be able to administer them sensitively in practice.
We are trying in good faith to make things work. But problems are arising because of the inflexible requirement to treat the movement of goods into NI as if they were crossing an EU external frontier. The movement of goods between GB and NI is vastly more important to NI than its trade with Ireland and the rest of the EU.
The current process risks creating a series of crises. The way forward is to find a new balance in the way the protocol is operated. We need constructive and ambitious discussions with the EU.

AR The way forward is to sack Frost.


Sunbathing Topless

Hattie Crisell

Welcome to the summer of revenge boobs, in which a new movement of young women are asserting their right to be semi-nude here on British soil. Life has been somewhat limited lately, so here is a different way to exercise our liberty, casting off bras.

AR When women feel free to bare both bums and boobs on my local seafront, I'll know that civilization is dawning in England.




2021 July 3

Europe After Brexit

Patrick Wintour

Soon after the Brexit referendum, Angela Merkel let her diplomats start negotiating a bilateral agreement with the UK on continued cooperation in defence and foreign policy. A joint declaration was shelved.
German ambassador to London Andreas Michaelis has now helped revive the agreement. It includes consensual words on NATO, Iran, the Indo-Pacific, future relations with Putin, and the balance between the pursuit of trade and human rights.
German and British cabinets will now meet once a year to allow ministers to think about the relationship. With Merkel yesterday, Boris Johnson also agreed to an affirm European unity.
Germans do not want bilateral cooperation with the UK to weaken EU foreign policy. The European issues gripping German politicians are relations with Joe Biden and Viktor Orban, not with Britain. The German−French motor will drive Europe from now on.

AR All eminently logical.


Anvil Point
Anvil Point, Dorset, Friday



2021 July 2

Angela Merkel Visits UK

Nadeem Badshah

Boris Johnson welcomes German chancellor Angela Merkel to Chequers today. She calls for quarantine for all UK travellers entering the EU. Travellers to Germany from the UK must present a negative Covid-19 test prior to departure and quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
The UK government is pushing for greater freedom and says fully vaccinated Britons will be able to travel to amber list countries including Germany, without having to quarantine upon their return, from later this summer.
Johnson: "The UK and Germany have a steadfast friendship and a shared outlook on many issues. Our scientists, innovators, and industrialists work together every day to make the world a better place .. And the new joint ventures we will agree today will leave a legacy that will last for generations."

Philip Stephens

After severing its EU ties, the UK government is no longer afforded privileged treatment. Emotions in the UK still veer between bombastic exceptionalism and needy victimhood.
Thatcherite Germanophobia is a powerful strand in Brexiteer thinking. Brexit minister David Frost wears socks emblazoned with the UK national flag when he meets his EU counterparts.
Britain needs Germany as a friend. Germans have more pressing things on their minds than their relationship with a third country. The German threat is indifference.

AR I'm imprisoned on a badly governed island.




2021 July 1

Gamma Ray Bursts


Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) can emit the energy of a supernova in seconds or minutes rather than weeks, with peak luminosities a billion times more than the brightest supernovas.
Long GRBs result from big stars collapsing into black holes and exploding as supernovas. Short GRBs come from merging neutron stars. In 2017, LIGO/Virgo detected a neutron star merger, and the Fermi Space Telescope caught its GRB.
In each case, the GRB comes from a fast jet fired out from the event in opposite directions. On average, one observable GRB appears in the visible universe every day.
Earth's ozone layer blocks gamma rays from reaching the surface. But as gamma rays enter the atmosphere, they bump into other particles and emit Cherenkov radiation. We can scan for these blue bursts of light.
An ultrahigh-energy GRB was observed in 2018 by the HESS array. The radiation came from the afterglow as a GRB jet collided with stellar material thrown off in the supernova. Accelerated particles produced the glow.
We used HESS to study GRB 190829A for 56 hours. Its higher energies persisted > 5 times longer than the result in 2018, raising questions about how GRBs are produced.
GRBs give a window into the wreckage following supernovas and neutron star mergers. Future instruments will study GRBs in more detail.

AR Good progress!


Planet Labs
Satellite images show China is building 120 silos in a grid pattern, at 3 km intervals, ready for DF-41 ICBMs,
each with up to 10 MIRVs, just a half-hour flight from the continental United States.



Chinese Communism @ 100

The Times

The Communist Party of China (CPC) is celebrating its centenary, culminating today with a speech from President Xi Jinping.
CPC oath: "I will be loyal to the party, work hard and fight for communism throughout my life. I am ready at all times to sacrifice my all for the party and the people and I will never betray the party."
Xi asks the 92 million CPC members unite around him. He is campaigning for his third presidential term and to achieve the status of Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping.
Xi has published 66 books on his ideology. A list of the 100 top CPC quotes from the last 100 years includes 30 from Xi and 30 from Mao.
Xi: "The original aspiration and the mission of Chinese communists is to seek happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation."
Xi came into power in 2012. He has fought against corruption, cracked down on dissent in the party, and updated the CPC charter and the Chinese constitution. He says he will lead China to greatness.

AR All in one man: risky.


BLOG 2021 Q2

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