Hesja Air Art Photography
Ukrainian Air Force Su-24 strike jet
2023 March 31
The European Union
Timothy Garton Ash
EU leaders and institutions have been galvanized by the war in Ukraine. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has found in it the great cause of her presidency. The EU now looks forward to further enlargement.
The EU is well liked. Most EU27 citizens "tend to trust" the EU more than their own national governments, and many are optimistic about its future. Since Brexit, even the British have more confidence in the EU than in their own government and parliament.
But the EU faces big threats, including the Ukraine war, China maintaining good relations with Putin's Russia, unpredictable US politics, global heating, and a risk of war in the Pacific. The EU will need to stay strong.
Britain is falling behind
The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) will involve mass digitization, automated networks of intelligent robots, and advanced manufacturing techniques.
Our European neighbors are rising to the challenge. Europe's Digital Decade earmarks over €807 billion up to 2026 for the digital transition to boost productivity. British imports of advanced industrial robotics are among the lowest in Europe.
Industry 4.0 is also green. The EU is funding commercial green economy initiatives to the tune of €10 billion. Britain is set for a £62 billion investment gap in funding to meet its 2030 climate goals.
To halt the backward slide, the UK needs to make manual labor more expensive than machines. Companies would then accelerate automation. If robots raise productivity, we should work fewer hours for the same earnings and standard of living.
Terrible Pacific trade deal
The UK has joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The CPTPP will force the UK to lower environmental standards and let corporations sue the UK government for treating them unfairly. It will add an estimated 0.08% to UK GDP after a decade.
AR Britain is getting the Brexit bonus ..
Helene von Bismarck
King Charles III made a state visit to Hamburg on Friday.
Between 25 July and 3 August 1943, the Royal Air Force conducted a series of night raids against Hamburg. The US air force joined in with two daylight air raids.
The resulting firestorm killed at least 34,000 people. Hamburg was largely reduced to rubble and nearly a million people fled the city. After the attack, entire districts of Hamburg were walled off and declared death zones.
The ruin of St Nikolai is today a memorial not only to those who suffered in Hamburg in 1943 but also to all victims of the war Germany started.
The King aims to further UK−German reconciliation.
AR A sad chapter in a terrible war.
2023 March 30
King Charles in Germany
Addressing the Bundestag In Berlin, King Charles recalled the "special bond" between the UK and Germany. He won loud applause for his speech, mostly delivered in German.
He praised the "vital leadership" shown by Germany and the UK as democratic allies responding to a war in Ukraine that trampled "in the most brutal way" on human freedom and dignity.
He ended with a nod to the future of Anglo-German relations: "In the long and remarkable story of our countries, there are many chapters not yet written. Let us fill these with the restless pursuit of a better tomorrow."
End of the speech (1:09)
AR My idea of excellent news.
2023 March 29
W Boson Mass
Last year, Fermilab reported a W boson mass measurement that deviated from the Standard Model prediction. The ATLAS collaboration at the LHC has now measured a value for the W mass consistent with the Standard Model.
ATLAS spokesperson Andreas Hoecker: "The W mass measurement is among the most challenging precision measurements performed at hadron colliders. It requires extremely accurate calibration of the measured particle energies and momenta, and a careful assessment and excellent control of modeling uncertainties. This updated result from ATLAS provides a stringent test, and confirms the consistency of our theoretical understanding of electroweak interactions."
For their 2022 measurement, the Fermilab team combed through 10 years of recorded data and came up with a mass of 80.433 GeV ±0.094 GeV. This mass was unexpectedly high.
The latest ATLAS measurement adds to evidence supporting the Standard Model. The ATLAS team reanalyzed the 2011 data sample for their 2018 measurement result and ended up with a W boson mass of 80 360 MeV ±16 MeV.
AR Reassuring, but supersymmetry slips ever further away ..
2023 March 28
Russia's Forever War
Pjotr Sauer, Andrew Roth
Putin's government is putting Russian society on a war footing with the West and digging in for a long conflict. Putin: "For us, this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children."
Political analyst Maxim Trudolyubov: "Putin has practically stopped talking about any concrete aims of the war. He proposes no vision of what a future victory might look like either. The war has no clearcut beginning nor a foreseeable end."
University of Helsinki Russian politics professor Vladimir Gelman: "It is easier not to talk about the war efforts when your army is making no progress. But scaling back is not an option for Putin; that would mean admitting defeat."
US military expert Rob Lee: "Russia simply does not have the offensive capabilities for a major offensive. Their forces can slowly achieve a few grinding attritional victories but do not have the capacity to punch through Ukrainian defensive lines in a way that would change the course of the war .. We see that Russia's military is preparing for a long war."
Carnegie Endowment senior fellow Andrei Kolesnikov: "Many in the country have now fully accepted that this war will not go away and believe that they need to learn to live under the reality."
Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin: "Not everyone in this country yet understands what we're going to have to pay to win this war. People in our country have to pay for their love for Russia with their lives. It's serious and we weren't ready for this."
AR Do Russians really want this misery?
2023 March 27
Israeli Political Crisis
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will delay the judicial overhaul bill until the next parliament session in a few weeks.
Across Israel, thousands of people have been protesting in anger at the Netanyahu government's plan to overhaul the judiciary.
The plan lets a Knesset majority override almost any supreme court ruling and lets politicians appoint most of the court justices. Israel has no formal constitution or second legislative chamber, so the supreme court plays a political role.
The plan would erode democratic norms and the rule of law. It has sparked the biggest protests in Israeli history.
AR The plan stinks.
2023 March 26
Ukraine's Navy Targets Crimea
Ukraine's navy commander Vice-Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa says that when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, it also hijacked most of Ukraine's fleet. Kyiv lost more ships with its Azov Sea ports last year.
Since the war began, Ukraine has received at least 58 US patrol boats, enabling its navy to dominate the Dnipro River and the coastal waters west of it.
ON: "We have to act in an asymmetrical way against a more powerful enemy. We must use any means to deprive them of their dominance and destroy their fleet."
Last October, Ukrainian naval drones damaged a Russian missile frigate and several other ships in Sevastopol.
ON: "Of course, the Russians .. have developed a new system for protecting their ports in response to our use of unmanned maritime vehicles."
Ukraine must neutralize Russian use of Crimea to protect Ukrainian civilians from cruise missiles fired from Russian warships.
ON: "The Russians .. have air superiority over the Black Sea .. We need new aircraft to assert air dominance, not only over our land but also our sea."
The victory at Snake Island showed the Kremlin decision to grab Snake Island had been unwise.
ON: "It could only be supplied by sea or air, so the navy group was assigned the task of disrupting these communications between Snake Island and occupied Crimea. The Harpoon missile system coped with this task very well."
Neizhpapa says the entrance to the Dnipro-Bug Canal is now the contact line. He mentions Russian artillery on the Kinburn Spit. Depriving the enemy of the use of Crimea will test his navy.
AR How about giving Ukraine a few submarines?
Substitute WORLD for NATION (and get rid of the flag) and this become an interesting slogan
Tish Harrison Warren
The face of Christianity is changing. In 1900, about 80% of the world's Christian population lived in the West and about 20% in the rest. By 2000, only 37% lived in the West. There are around 685 million Christians in Africa now.
In Africa, Latin America, and Asia, the most explosive growth has been in independent Christian churches with no historical ties to western church traditions. There are an estimated 342 million evangelical Christians globally.
Ever more Christians are migrating to the United States. Also, many migrants are converting to Christianity after they arrive. The changing demographics of Christianity promise to transform faith and religious discourse.
Immigrant Christian communities tend to be more committed to social justice than many white evangelicals. This influx will challenge religious conservatives. The future of American Christianity is multiethnic.
AR The Christian memeplex is an awesomely effective replicator.
Tories After Brexit
Tim Bale examines what the Brexit misadventure has done to the Conservative party.
Traditional Tories used to flinch at ideological fanaticism. They now rage about woke, lefty lawyers, the judiciary, the civil service, parliamentary scrutiny, the universities, the BBC, the Bank of England, the CBI, and other deep-state conspiracies.
The right-wing press has been hugely influential over Tory members and MPs. Without their agitation, Brexit might not have happened. When Theresa May said she would be prepared to walk away with no deal at all, they were ecstatic. Daily Mail: STEEL OF THE NEW IRON LADY. The Times: "May to EU: give us a fair deal or you'll be crushed" − no word on how the UK would crush the EU27.
Weak prime ministers presided over dysfunctional governments. The "strong and stable" May soon became weak and wobbly. Boris Johnson had little idea what to do with office other than pig out on its perks. Truss was a painful communicator with a dreadful plan. The party now looks ungovernable as MPs divide up into pressure groups.
The ERG was the voice of the Brextremists. Up to the referendum in 2016, the cabinet and most Tory MPs backed remain. By the time Brexit got done, the ERG and the new cabinet had pushed the UK into a corner. Today, most of the public now wish the UK had never left the EU. Even Brexiteers struggle to cite any tangible benefits.
Liz Truss persuaded Tory party members she would deliver the pot of Brexit gold. Her disastrous budget put the right-wing media in raptures. Daily Mail: AT LAST! A TRUE TORY BUDGET. Financial markets responded by dumping UK debt, crashing the pound, and pushing mortgage costs up to punitive levels. The myth that post-Brexit governments would have "the freedom to do pretty much what they wanted" ought to have died with her kamikaze experiment.
The arrival of Rishi Sunak at Number 10 hints that the Tories have reverted to being boring. He is a multinational millionaire member of the global elite, the classic "citizen of nowhere" May scorned.
Bale recalls that however bad at governing, the Tories are good at winning power.
AR Too depressing − I won't buy it.
2023 March 25
Our cosmological theory must account for the fact that we exist within the universe. This requires adopting a quantum outlook from inside.
The early universe ran a process akin to that of natural selection on Earth. Variation arises when random quantum jumps cause frequent small excursions from deterministic behavior and occasional larger ones. Selection amplifies some of these excursions by quantum measurement. This sets new rules that help shape later evolution.
The interaction between these two effects in the big bang era produces a branching process, as if the collective quantum observations retroactively fix the outcome of the big bang.
Stephen Hawking: "We create the universe as much as the universe creates us."
The universe may be akin to a hologram. A set of entangled quantum particles on a surface can contain within it all the information of a higher-dimensional cosmos with curved spacetime.
Stephen and I applied the idea to describe the earliest stages of an expanding universe. The dimension of time pops out holographically. History is holographically encrypted.
The past is contingent on the present in holographic cosmology. Venturing far back in time means taking a fuzzy look at the cosmological hologram. As we zoom out, we discard more and more of the entangled information in the hologram. This suggests that not only time but also physical laws disappear back into the big bang.
Stephen and I developed a quantum outlook that reads the genealogy of the physical laws.
AR I thought of this years ago. In the beginning was/is the qubit, and time energes as qubits keep popping. I just couldn't prove it.
⊛ Vadim Ghirdă/AP
Ukrainian ground forces
commander Oleksandr Syrskyi:
"[The Wagner mercenaries] are
losing considerable strength
and are running out of steam.
Very soon, we will take
advantage of this
2023 March 24
Brokering Peace in Ukraine
The Moscow summit between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Russian president Vladimir Putin came at a time of great need for Putin.
China is willing to maintain the status quo in its relationship with Russia, but Xi has still not said what kind of support is on offer beyond deepening bilateral trade ties and further coordination in international affairs.
The joint communique issued by the two leaders omits any reference to a "no limits" partnership and stresses a relationship based on "no alliance, no confrontation, and no targeting" against any third parties. Beijing would be unwise to involve itself further with Putin's mistaken gamble.
Actively brokering peace in Ukraine may help China to secure its economy. China must set red lines with its partner in the Kremlin.
Xi is not Russia's knight in shining armor
Xi Jinping's visit to Russia left Putin disappointed.
From the first days of the invasion, Russian leaders have seen China as a key player that would help Russia negotiate peace in Ukraine on Russian terms.
But Russia has very little to offer China. Russia is asking a lot, with no leverage. Putin mistakes a similarity in foreign policy goals for policy alignment. Xi is not about to jeopardize his own security to help Putin.
Xi is not Putin's knight in shining armor.
AR A relief that he's not.
The Windsor Framework
Joint statement by European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and UK foreign secretary James Cleverly: "The Joint Committee .. adopted the new arrangements set out in the Windsor Framework. These arrangements address.. the challenges in the operation of the [NIP] over the last two years .. Both sides agreed to work together intensively and faithfully to implement all elements of the Windsor Framework. The [UK and EU] also reaffirmed their intent to .. address and jointly resolve any relevant future issues that may emerge."
Cleverly: "We've formally adopted the Windsor Framework."
Šefčovič: "Signed and sealed."
AR Brexit got done ⌖
2023 March 23
The New Cold War
President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow has left the world more polarized between east and west than at any time since the Cold War. The United States now faces Russia and China.
◼ Russia: Putin rolled the dice on military adventurism in a bid to extend his empire along the Black Sea coast.
◼ China: Xi calculates that China faces its worst risks from either an outright Russian victory or a Russian collapse.
◼ America: With its strict sanctions and moral outrage at Russia's actions, Washington forces others to take sides.
President Biden may not have foreseen how China would stand by Putin and blame NATO for the war. China has made deals for cheap energy with Russia.
At least Xi made no promises to Putin in the summit. If the West wins in Ukraine and Russia loses, China may stay out of Europe and the Mideast.
AR If the West wins in Ukraine, Taiwan may be saved.
2023 March 22
War and Peace
US ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A Brink: "After all the talk in Moscow yesterday, more Russian missiles and more drone attacks on civilian overnight make it perfectly clear how much interest President Putin has in a just peace or an end to the war he started."
AR Well, quite.
The Age of AI
In my lifetime, I've seen two demonstrations of technology that struck me as revolutionary.
The first time was in 1980, when I was introduced to a graphical user interface (GUI), the forerunner of every modern operating system, including Windows.
The second time was in 2022. I'd been meeting with the team from OpenAI and gave them a challenge. When I met with them again, I watched in awe. I had just seen the most important advance in technology since the GUI.
The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone.
Artificial intelligence is technically a model created to solve a specific problem or provide a particular service. AI powers things like ChatGPT. Artificial general intelligence will be software that can learn any task or subject. AGI doesn't exist yet.
Developing AI and AGI has been the great dream of the computing industry.
Fully incorporated into products like Office, AI will enhance your work. Advances in AI will enable the creation of a personal agent. Company agents will empower employees in new ways.
Global health and education are two areas where AI can help reduce inequity. As well as helping with health care, AIs will accelerate the rate of medical breakthroughs.
AI-driven software will revolutionize the way people teach and learn. It will know your interests and your learning style, measure your understanding, and give immediate feedback.
Like most inventions, AI can be used for good purposes or malign ones. Superintelligent AGIs are in our future.
Three books have shaped my thinking on AI: Superintelligence, by Nick Bostrom; Life 3.0, by Max Tegmark; and A Thousand Brains, by Jeff Hawkins.
AR I've read them all (see image). I agree with Bill entirely.
2023 March 21
Putin Welcomes China Peace Plan
Vladimir Putin welcomed China's proposals for peace in Ukraine at a joint press conference with Xi Jinping in Moscow.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken: "The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms."
Xi said he and Putin have established close relations and built strategic communication. He suggested no breakthrough in the peace efforts. His visit is seen as a big boost for Putin.
Putin and Xi signed two joint documents: one on plans for economic cooperation and one on plans for deepening partnership.
In Kyiv, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss Japanese support for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
Good neighbors and reliable partners
Xi Jinping in Moscow: "China and Russia are good neighbors and reliable partners connected by mountains and rivers."
Xi said China and Russia are striding ahead to open a new chapter of friendship, cooperation, and joint development, working closely together to fulfill their responsibilities as great powers and uphold the international system with the UN at its core.
Xi refers to the "Ukraine crisis" and frames this trip as a "journey of peace" as China seeks to play a "constructive role" in finding a political settlement to the conflict.
AR Xi may never understand Ukraine.
UK Meteorological Office
Global average temperature relative to the 1961−1990 average
2023 Vernal Equinox
Climate Crisis Final Warning
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the final part of its assessment report AR6. The report took hundreds of scientists 8 years to compile and runs to thousands of pages. Its message: act now, or it will be too late.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres: "This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once."
The IPCC says extreme weather caused by climate breakdown has led to increased deaths from heatwaves in all regions, millions of lives and homes destroyed in droughts and floods, millions of people facing hunger, and irreversible losses in ecosystems.
Half of the global population now experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. Weather extremes are "increasingly driving displacement" of people worldwide.
The report says there is still hope of staying within 1.5 K. Temperatures are now about 1.1 K above pre‑industrial levels. If greenhouse gas emissions peak soon and are then reduced rapidly, we can still avoid the worst.
The first three parts of AR6, published in 2021 and 2022, covered the science and the impacts of greenhouse gases and ways to cut emissions. The final part presents the key messages.
AR The war against climate change must come first.
AUKUS Deal Climate Crime
The first Australian-built AUKUS class vessels come into service in the early 2040s. By then, at current rates, the planet will have warmed more than 1.5 K above its pre-industrial state.
Warming on that scale means disasters like the 2019/20 bushfire season or the 2022 floods not once in a century, but every year or so. It means drought and heatwaves disrupting food production, rising seas inundating the land, and millions of people fleeing stricken regions.
Nuclear submarines do not top the list of what Australians might require under such conditions. The government has pledged far more money for them than it ever spent on preventing global warming. An arms race in the Asia Pacific will enrich defense companies but will not cut emissions.
A conflict between nuclear powers would seal our environmental death warrant. Climate change is coming. A new arms race is a crime against the future.
AR Fair comment − bad deal.
2023 March 19
On the Origin of Time
In 2002, Stephen Hawking told me he thought his understanding of how the universe was so hospitable to life had been wrong. He and I worked for the next 20 years to develop a new theory of the cosmos and the emergence of life.
We have put physics and biology on the same footing. We reject the idea that the universe is a machine governed by fixed laws and say instead that the universe is self-organizing entity in which emergent patterns appear.
On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking's final theory by Thomas Hertog
AR May be worth a read.
2023 March 18
Values, Voice, Virtue
Matthew Goodwin has examined the rise of UKIP, the factors that drove Brexit, and the rise of national populism in Britain.
A rift is growing between a powerful new elite and a much larger number of people who are rebelling against this new ruling class and their political project.
The ruling elites fell out of step with the economic and social values of their voters. Close to half of voters back the return of the death penalty. At least the Brexit plebiscite acted as a safety valve for the disenfranchised.
Goodwin: "Many workers feel deeply alienated by many of the narratives about Britain that are promoted by radical progressives who now dominate the Labour Party and many of the institutions, such as the media and universities."
Low growth has done as much to tear apart western societies as any cultural divisions. The structural problems with the British economic model are tied to social issues. They need to be appreciated together.
Many voters are disillusioned with a new elite that fails to reflect their values, represent their voice, or treat them with much respect.
The Conservatives and Labour are listening to their bases. A new centre ground of British politics is being formed.
AR Yadda, yadda, yadda.
OpenAI's ChatGPT-4 is another leap ahead in generative AI. It can generate enough text to write a book, code in every computer language, and work with images.
Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT operate at such scale and speed that they can appear to do whatever you want. They can give professionals and creatives the tools to work faster and spend more time on what humans do best.
The pace of change is picking up: In 2021, global private corporate investment in AI doubled, and these breakthroughs may double that again.
AR Interesting − must play with it.
Department of the Air Force
New Air Force One color scheme
Poland will send MiG-29
fighter jets to Ukraine
2023 March 17
ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Putin
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin and his children's rights commissioner Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova for war crimes.
The ICC says Putin is "responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine" to Russia.
Kyiv estimates that at least 16,000 children were deported to Russia between February 2022 and last month.
UK foreign secretary James Cleverly: "Those responsible for horrific war crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice."
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine says the war crimes included attacks on civilians and energy-related infrastructure, wilful killings, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, as well as unlawful transfers and deportations of children.
Russian foreign ministry: "The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country."
AR Putin seems unlikely to leave Russia now anyway.
2023 March 16
The Iraq War showed that liberal intervention is self-defeating. Americans thought Iraqis yearned for American-style democracy. Fundamentalist Iran is now the dominant force in Iraqi politics.
The goal of Western policy is now regime change in Russia. Liberal hawks see Ukraine as the pivotal battlefield in a global struggle for democracy. The imperial Russian state must be demolished.
The end of the Russian state would be followed by a period of anarchy. The chief beneficiary would be China. If a shrunken Russian state survived, it would most likely be led by a radical nationalist.
For Europe, inflicting a crushing defeat on Russia means escalating the war. The conflict risks spilling over into neighboring countries. A European conflict could widen into a global conflagration.
War in Ukraine has become an existential struggle for both Kyiv and Moscow. The West cannot back down. Putin cannot afford any retreat that might threaten his control of Crimea.
AR I see some truth in this view.
2023 March 15
UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt claims Britain will become the best place to invest of any advanced economy given the £9 billion of business tax breaks at the heart of his budget.
He says two big measures will keep people in work: a £5 billion extension of free childcare in England and a decision to scrap the £1 million lifetime allowance on tax-free pension contributions.
He says the UK will avoid recession in 2023: "The plan is working. The declinists are wrong and the optimists are right."
AR A budget by the rich and for the rich.
Astute class attack
2023 March 14
US president Joe Biden, Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese, and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak met in San Diego, California, on Monday to unveil details of the AUKUS submarine program.
Joint statement: "For more than a century, our three nations have stood shoulder to shoulder .. to help sustain peace, stability, and prosperity around the world .. The steps we are announcing today will help us to advance these mutually beneficial objectives in the decades ahead."
Biden: "AUKUS has one overriding objective − to enhance the stability in the Indo-Pacific amid rapidly shifting global dynamics."
Albanese: "AUKUS .. represents the biggest single investment in Australia's defence capability in all our history, strengthening Australia's national security and stability in our region."
The allies signed the trilateral AUKUS security pact in September 2021.
The AUKUS plan
1 The US and UK will train Australian sailors and engineers for the submarines. The US will deploy four Virginia class boats to Perth, starting in 2027.
2 The US will sell 3−5 Virginia class submarines to Australia, starting in 2032. They will be crewed by Australian sailors.
3 Australia and the UK will start building SSN Aukus, a modified SSN(R) submarine now being designed in the UK.
China's foreign ministry: "The three countries have gone further and further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community."
AR The subs will cost more billions than anyone can now count.
2023 March 13
Stopping Killer Robots
Stuart Russell, 61, is a computer science professor in California and the author of the textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. On artificial general intelligence (AGI) he says: "My timeline for when we might expect AGI to arrive has shortened considerably."
He sees improved tools being rushed out without the developers ensuring that human benefit remains a guiding principle to control them: "If the machine is more capable than humans, it will get what it wants. And if that's not aligned with human benefit, it could be potentially disastrous."
Russell says super-intelligent AGI is still decades away. For now, he and a few colleagues have designed theorems that instruct AI programs to be super-cautious. Before taking a course of action that might be detrimental to humans, they ask for permission.
SR: "This is the core of how we retain control. We can prove that the machine will let you switch it off. In fact, it wants to be switched off, if you want to switch it off, because it wants to avoid doing whatever it is that would cause you to want to switch it off. It's all maths, basically."
Russell often goes to defence conferences, warning politicians that an era of autonomous weapons beckons. Instead of nuclear bombs, swarms of small drones, loaded with explosive charges and controlled by AI, could be the next weapon of mass destruction.
SR: "If you're creating systems that are more powerful than human beings, how do you expect to have power over them forever? If we don't figure this out, I guess we better stop doing AI."
AR A sobering issue.
2023 March 12
America vs China
The New York Times
The White House has moved to limit economic ties with China. It is treating China as a growing threat to American interests.
The relationship between the United States and China delivers big economic benefits. The two nations are linked by millions of peaceful interactions every day.
US interests are best served by emphasizing competition with China while minimizing confrontation. China is active in international affairs but not in pushing its values.
America and China both face challenges on how to: ensure common prosperity, rein in the excesses of capitalism, care for old and young people, and slow climate change.
US economic growth has been driven primarily by increased productivity in sectors exposed to global trade. Confrontation makes it harder to cooperate.
The best guarantee of American security is American prosperity and engagement with the rest of the world.
AR An opportunity for peace goes begging.
Herbert Marcuse was called the father of the New Left. He was a critic of scientific rationality and said the domination of both man and nature must be supplanted by a new ethos.
Marcuse was born in 1898 to a Jewish family in Berlin and received a classical education. He was drafted into military service and radicalized by the war. By 1919, he was attending political meetings with Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht.
In the early Weimar Republic, Marcuse hosted meetings to discuss revolutionary subjectivity. After completing his doctorate in literature, he studied Marx and Schiller in search of a communist theory of man.
Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927) moved Marcuse to politicize the distinction between an inauthentic existence and authentic being. While capitalism forced inauthenticity on most people, authenticity was seeing that praxis can change this.
Marcuse studied under Heidegger until 1932. He then moved to Geneva and wrote an essay on historical materialism combining insights from Marx and Heidegger. He advocated revolution to supplant alienation with authenticity.
As the only Frankfurt School philosopher to develop a revolutionary theory, Marcuse moved to New York in 1934. Following the outbreak of war, he was hired by the intelligence agencies and stayed with them until 1951.
Eros and Civilization (1955) marked his return to philosophy. He said pursuit of the pleasure principle defines fulfilling labor and gives meaning to our lives. He modeled socialism not on the blueprints of economic planners but on works of art.
One Dimensional Man (1964) was his next major work. He saw consumer capitalism as a warped realization of his erotic dream and its degeneration into a nightmare. Mass production and welfare pacified the population but impeded liberation.
In 1968, Marcuse was in Paris during the upheavals. He was mobbed by journalists and disciples. Demonstrators waved banners with the slogan "Marx, Mao, Marcuse!"
AR I read his 1955 and 1964 books as a grad student while sharing a commune with Marxists and Freudians.
2023 March 11
Ukraine and Russia Need to Parley
President Zelensky of Ukraine is playing a political game, often brilliantly. Western politicians want to believe what he says, because we share his aspirations. Yet there is a chasm between hopes of his victory and the dispassionate military view.
The Americans bear the overwhelming burden of arming Zelensky's people. This should shame Europeans. The UK government has yet to authorise the vastly increased weapons production we need to replace munitions dispatched to Kyiv.
Putin is creating a war economy. Russia is almost certainly strong enough to hold its ground against Ukraine. None of my informed friends believes the Ukrainians can break through the massive defences Russians have dug in eastern Donbas.
We need to support Ukraine. No plausible course will bring this war to a swift end, because both sides still believe they can prevail on the battlefield. We can best check the Russians by raising the cost of the war to the Kremlin.
AR A sober military view.
Macron and Sunak: "Close
neighbours. Great friends.
2023 March 10
Entente Renewed in Paris
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has struck a new deal with French president Emmanuel Macron: London will pay Paris €541 million over the next three years to allow French officials to step up their efforts to stop small boats carrying migrants across the Channel.
Hundreds of extra French border officials and a dedicated police unit focused on small boats are promised. Drones, aircraft, and other technologies will also be deployed to stop the boats.
◼ 1525: Sunak and Macron aim to put the rancour of the Brexit years behind them. They welcomed "a new beginning" in Anglo-French relations and promised cooperation on a range of issues.
Sunak: "We want to have a close, cooperative, collaborative relationship with our European partners and allies .. We've discussed every aspect of our crucial alliance today and made important progress in three areas in particular: illegal migration, energy, and security."
Macron called the meeting "a moment of reunion, of reconnection, and of a new beginning."
◼ 1510: Macron says France will not negotiate a bilateral agreement for migrants to be returned from Britain: "This is not an agreement between the UK and France, but an agreement between the UK and the EU. Because the Dublin agreement are no more in a situation to be implemented so this is something now to be negotiated."
◼ 1450: Last year, British officers were stationed in French control rooms for the first time. The new deal makes this permanent, with a 24/7 "zonal coordination centre" directing efforts to stop boats. Closer cooperation is also promised between the National Crime Agency and its French counterparts to target the leaders of smuggling gangs.
Sunak: "Today, we have gone further than ever before to put an end to this disgusting trade in human life. Working together, the UK and France will ensure that nobody can exploit our systems with impunity."
◼ 1200: At the first Anglo-French summit in five years, Rishi Sunak talked with Emmanuel Macron. Sunak: "This is a new chapter in the relationship. I really believe that the range of things that we can do together is quite significant."
AR Good news at last.
2023 March 9
Small Boats Crisis
French president Emmanuel Macron will talk with UK prime minister Rishi Sunak at a bilateral summit in Paris on Friday.
Suella says enough is enough
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it is "profoundly concerned" about the UK government's new Illegal Migration Bill aimed at stopping migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.
Rishi Sunak says he is "up for the fight" but admits the bill may clash with the European Convention on Human Rights. Home secretary Suella Braverman says she is on the side of "the law-abiding patriotic majority" who "have said enough is enough" on immigration.
Last year, 45,000 migrants crossed the Channel in small boats.
The end of a nightmare chapter
The Élysée sees the Franco-British summit as ending a nightmare chapter in cross-Channel relations. Trust between France and the UK had evaporated following the last Franco-British summit in 2018.
Chatham House research fellow Alice Billon-Galland: "War in Ukraine has brought sense of urgency and a clear rationale for Paris and London to find solutions to their differences."
The UK is concerned about migration across the Channel on small boats. The two leaders may agree to strengthen security operations on the French coast. About 800 officials are already deployed daily in anti-migrant operations in northern France.
France would welcome a British asylum processing centre in northern France, to allow successful claimants to travel legally to the UK.
AR France is key to solving the problem.
2023 March 8
A far horizon can collapse quantum states into classical ones. Measuring the gravitational field of particles in superposition decoheres the superpositions into definite states.
Imagine Alice creates a particle in a superposition, then looks for an interference pattern. The particle only shows interference if it remains unentangled with any outside system.
Bob tries to measure its position from far away by measuring its field. If he succeeds, he entangles with the particle. When his signal gets to Alice, she finds she saw no interference.
The decoherence Bob causes is always less than that Alice causes with her own field. Bob will not decohere her system because she decoheres it herself.
Put Bob in a black hole. Field effects from a system in superposition outside the event horizon cross the horizon and get detected by Bob in the black hole. The detector decoheres the state, but no information can cross back over.
The field radiation spreads information in a halo around the black hole. The halo of soft hair is not only from particles falling across a horizon but also from outside particles moving about. Outside superpositions entangle with the soft hair and decohere.
Nothing can shield gravity. To preserve causality, superpositions outside the black hole decohere at the maximum rate a hypothetical observer inside the black hole can collect information about them.
This result holds for any horizon that only lets information pass one way. The cosmological horizon is an example. Such horizons fix everything, all the time.
AR It seems we are defined by our horizons. The boundary determines the bulk. This looks like the holographic principle again.
Celebrating Spring 2023 − photos
2023 March 7
I beat Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the general election of 2020, before he stole it back with the help of the secret police and Vladimir Putin.
The vast majority of Belarusians are horrified at what is happening in Ukraine. Resistance fighters have blown up transport networks to try to constrict the supply of Russian arms into Ukraine. Hundreds of Belarusians have enlisted to fight the Russian aggressor in Ukraine.
There will be no secure Ukraine without a free Belarus. Overthrowing Lukashenko would accelerate victory for Ukraine. Most Belarusians want Russian troops to be withdrawn from Ukraine and from Belarus immediately.
AR A free Belarus could join the EU and NATO too.
Hasso Plattner Institute
Nach mehr als 20 Jahren in der Lehre war unser Gründer und Stifter Prof. Hasso Plattner diese Woche für sein letztes Seminar zu Besuch am HPI. Als Leiter des Fachgebiets "Enterprise Platform and Integration Concepts" hat sich der IT-Pionier in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten aktiv in die Forschung und Lehre am Institut eingebracht.
Zu den bedeutendsten Beispielen gehört seine HPI-Forschung zu In-Memory Data Management, aus der die SAP-Plattform HANA hervorging. Die neuartige Datenbank-Technologie wurde 2012 mit dem Deutschen Innovationspreis und dem Innovationspreis Berlin Brandenburg ausgezeichnet.
AR I worked in the HANA team for years on this technology.
2023 March 6
Before Russia invaded Ukraine last February, many analysts thought future conflicts would be economic or fought in cyberspace. Instead, we have a violent and expensive land war.
Artillery has been the main weapon on the battlefield. The Russians are using it to raze cities to the ground. Ukraine needs western supplies of howitzer ammunition. The outcome of the war will depend in part on how fast each side can resupply.
Ukrainian commanders say their two other key weapons are HIMARS and other rocket artillery, plus reconnaissance drones to locate their targets. Drones can also detect force concentrations behind enemy lines.
Similarly favoring defenders has been the minimal presence of combat air power. Russia has adopted a cautious approach to avoid losing too many aircraft to Ukrainian air defenses.
The Ukrainian defenders are stuck in a war of attrition resembling WW1. No one had expected to see that type of war again.
AR Advance to WW2: Let tanks break the lines.
The Bank of England aims to develop a digital pound. The central bank anticipates overlapping with commercial banks in key activities while gaining new access to personal financial data.
A BoE central ledger would record personal ownership of digital pounds. These anonymised accounts would bear no interest and have a retail deposit limit. Commercial banks would administer the electronic wallets.
The use of physical cash for transactions has dropped from 55% to 15% of the total in a decade. The BoE likes Britcoin because of this shift away from its money. Also, EU peers have advanced plans for a digital euro.
The BoE dismisses civil liberties objections to a digital pound, which would make no difference to the privacy of financial data. Law enforcers would continue to follow due process to unmask criminals.
A central Britcoin register could show all BoE digital money and when it moved. Anonymity would be assured by the political and legal system. A Britcoin account would be as safe as the BoE.
AR As safe as UK politics? Adopt the euro.
2023 March 5
Intense fighting continues in and around the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut as both sides struggle with ammunition shortages and mounting casualties.
Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin: "If the private mercenary force Wagner retreats from Bakhmut, the whole front will crumble .. to the Russian borders and maybe further. Wagner is the cement .. We are drawing the entire Ukrainian army on ourselves, breaking them and destroying them."
Ukrainian commander Volodymyr Nazarenko says the situation in Bakhmut is "hell" but his forces have stabilized the frontline.
Russian forces now occupy areas on three sides of the town, and there is only one road west to Ukrainian-controlled territory. Ukraine may be preparing for a retreat by destroying bridges.
Thousands of Ukrainians and Russians have been killed and injured in the battle for Bakhmut.
AR Impressive resistance.
2023 March 4
Plasma Wakefield Accelerators
A new kind of particle accelerator might help us find new physics.
The Advanced Wakefield Experiment (AWAKE) at CERN creates a wave of plasma and sends electrons surfing along it. Compared with the LHC, over a set distance, a plasma wakefield accelerator (PWA) can achieve much higher accelerations.
A laser fired into a plasma creates a wave in the plasma. Electrons can be caught in the wake of this wave and accelerated with high efficiency to high energies.
The plasma waves can also be driven by a beam of protons. The CERN Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) provides a source of high-energy protons. The AWAKE team uses a beam of protons from the SPS.
AWAKE is a 10 m tube surrounded by electronic equipment. In 2018, the team showed that electrons injected into the tube with an energy of about 19 MeV were accelerated to 2 GeV by the end of it.
In 2022, the team demonstrated the proton beam breaking up into short micro-bunches that in a long tube can accelerate the electrons more and more. A few years from now, PWAs might reach energies of tens of GeV.
One use for PWAs would be to study the Higgs boson.
AR Surely smarter than building ever bigger conventional accelerators.
2023 March 3
Almost Quantum Theory
Quantum theory is good, but perhaps we need almost quantum theory (AQT).
Quantum particles can be in a superposition before measurement. They can be in entangled states and seem to influence each other instantaneously over long distances. This is nonlocality.
The Bell test involves sending two entangled particles to remote labs for measurement in one of two ways. Each lab measures without knowing what the other measures and then predicts the result of the remote measurement. The labs do this many times and count the correct predictions.
If entanglement is local, a Bell test gives the right answer no more than 75% of the time. In quantum theory and in real life, the test gives the right answer 85% of the time.
A team built a theory based on two principles: (1) no signals go faster than c, (2) reality is nonlocal. The theory is too strong: A Bell test scores 100%.
Another team tried again: (1) no signals go faster than c; (2) as we move from the quantum to the macroscopic world, classical physics emerges as nonlocality vanishes. Then a Bell test scores less than 100%.
Another team started from information causality: When two people exchange information, one cannot receive more than the other sent. Then a Bell test scores 85%.
Another team stayed closer to quantum theory and came up with AQT. Now a Bell test scores about 85%, but there are correlations stronger than in plain quantum theory.
We could test AQT either using a Bell test with three particles instead of two or inside quantum computers, where many entangled particles interact.
If true, AQT has big implications.
AR Interesting, but not there yet.
2023 March 2
Russia vs Ukraine
President Putin has blundered in Ukraine by giving the West the impression that Russia could lose its war there.
President Zelensky began by advocating a peace deal in Ukraine. Now he calls for complete victory. Polls show Ukrainians want nothing less.
Ukraine has only one certain way of accomplishing this feat in the near term: direct NATO involvement in the war. Otherwise, complete victory is nearly impossible. A meat grinder in one direction will be a meat grinder in the other.
Russia has nearly switched its state onto a war economy setting. Moscow now seems mostly focused on maintaining its positions in Luhansk and Donetsk and securing a land bridge to Crimea. Ukraine may be unable to win them back.
Ukraine has not been turned into a landlocked country and it remains in control of seven of the eight oblasts with highest GDP per capita.
Ukrainians may be wiser to define victory as accession to the EU than as recapture of all Ukrainian territory.
AR This is the hard truth.
2023 March 1
The War in Ukraine
• Ukraine may decide to withdraw its forces from Bakhmut, but Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin says Ukrainian forces are putting up "furious resistance" against Russian attempts to seize Bakhmut.
• The Russian defense ministry says its forces repelled a major Ukrainian drone attack on Crimea.
• The leaders of China and Belarus − Xi Jinping and Alexander Lukashenko − have issued a joint statement calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine and negotiations to bring about a political settlement to the conflict.
• The Finnish parliament has overwhelmingly approved legislation for Finland to join NATO.
• The Russian foreign ministry says Russia will only agree to extend the Black Sea grain deal if the interests of its agricultural producers are considered.
• Poland says Russia was behind a hacking attack that blocked user access to the online tax filing system.
AR China and Belarus could say more.
⊛ Clement Pascal/NYT
Slava Ukraini is the new documentary film by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Lévy has been braving Russian military assaults: "In Ukraine, I had the feeling for the first time that the world I knew, the world in which I grew up, the world that I want to leave to my children and grandchildren, might collapse."
A philosopher, writer, television personality, and filmmaker, Lévy is widely known in France simply as BHL: "The moral call never goes silent for me."
Born in French Algeria in 1948 to a Jewish family, he warns that President Putin must be stopped or there will be a new Cold War, with Moscow, Beijing, and Islamists menacing the world. BHL has written dozens of books.
AR BHL is a delightful poser.
The Windsor Framework
The Windsor framework is a triumph for Rishi Sunak. It was the result of his intelligence, charm, seriousness, discipline, diligence, and now also courage and command.
A workable deal was always available, given his approach. Hardliners had said the UK could only get a good deal by threatening the EU and saw their bill going through parliament as a way to bring the EU to the table. But it was the decision to suspend progress on the bill that brought the EU to the table.
The Windsor framework proves there is a solution to the NI border problem. The EU will always make concessions to preserve the peace and prosperity of Europe.
Brexitism is dying
Rishi Sunak voted leave in 2016, but he was no vandal. He was forced to face economic reality when he became chancellor.
Selling his new deal, Sunak boasted that NI enjoys a "very special position" in the EU single market, and that this privilege makes it a magnet for investment. He is thinking like a Remainer.
Hardline Brexiteers see a zero-sum game in which the EU is only happy if Britain has been diddled out of sovereignty. Today that attitude faces fatigue. Voters have no appetite for a new Brexit war.
Hardliners boggle at the concession Sunak won for his Windsor framework. The Stormont brake allows for a unilateral UK halt to the application of EU regulation in NI. This is the trust dividend.
Sunak is now in alignment with Sir Keir Starmer. Both like to say Brexit is done. Not so, but Brexitism is dying.
AR Rejoin, Rishi.
King Charles III greets European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Windsor, Monday
2023 February 28
The Windsor Deal
The Windsor deal shows there was always a deal to be done. Boris Johnson's NIP bill had demanded that the EU scrap the NIP or the UK would start a trade war and declare its contempt for international law. That was never going to work.
The inconvenient truth was that the DUP made the NIP inevitable by helping to bring down Theresa May, whose "backstop" plan would have left no need for it. The DUP disowned the NIP by adopting a pose of high dudgeon and glorious defiance.
Rishi Sunak's deal shows the merit of trying to function like a normal government and seek mutually beneficial solutions to common problems. But he now faces the fact that NI has a very different kind of Brexit to all the other parts of the UK.
The deal is a very good one for NI. Sunak has called the bluff of DUP allies in the ERG. Few people in GB care much about the NIP. The new deal with its "Stormont brake" gives the assembly real powers to block EU regulations.
AR It looks like a winner.
2023 February 27
The Windsor Agreement
At a joint press conference, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak have announced a new agreement to end the dispute over the NIP.
Sunak: "We have now made a decisive breakthrough. Together, we have changed the original protocol, and are today announcing the new Windsor framework."
Von der Leyen: "Above all, we had to listen to the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland."
The agreement resolves three issues: physical controls and checks on trade to NI from GB, the role of the ECJ in applying EU law, and the place of NI in the UK.
The deal will help restore UK−EU relations.
A new Brexit deal
The new deal takes three big steps forward on Brexit: a new green lane for goods moving from GB to NI, treat NI like GB on things like VAT rates, and a new Stormont brake on EU law to safeguard NI sovereignty.
Sunak: "The only EU law that applies under the framework is the minimum necessary to avoid a hard border."
Von der Leyen: "We agreed that, if you look at the huge challenges we are facing together, whether it is the atrocious Russian war against Ukraine, or the fight against climate change, we are fighting for the same values, on the same side, shoulder by shoulder."
AR This looks promising.
The Pacific Challenge
A war with China would be unlike anything ever faced by Americans.
China could launch a lightning air, sea, and cyber assault to seize Taiwan. Chinese missiles are poised to strike US and allied forces in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and US bases in the Pacific.
China can wage a war reaching deep into American society. The country has a formidable cyberwar capability. Cyber offensives would disrupt electricity, gas, water, transport, health care, and other public services.
China could also weaponize its dominance of supply chains and shipping. The US economy is heavily dependent on Chinese resources and manufactured goods. Most of these goods are transported in ships along sea lanes increasingly controlled by Chinese interests.
China is now the dominant global industrial power by many measures. China produces more ships, steel, and smartphones than any other country and is a world leader in chemicals, metals, heavy industrial equipment, and electronics.
The United States can no longer outproduce China.
US may be unable to defend Taiwan
The United States faces a possible war with China. The Pacific Forum, a US foreign policy research institute, says in a report: "Taiwan has been increasingly under the threat of a military takeover by the People's Republic of China (PRC)."
★ Taiwan, faced with invasion but no international help, seeks peace talks, but the invasion goes ahead. PLA armed drones take out key sites, submarines launch underwater vehicles to sever cables, missiles shower Taiwan, the invasion force seizes US weapon systems, and China takes control of strategic microchip plants.
★ Taiwan falls after an intense battle that includes the US and allies, who find the PLA is more capable than imagined. Hundreds of US and allied pilots and thousands of US Marines are lost and most of the US Pacific Fleet is sunk. PLA forces on Taiwan then threaten US forces in Okinawa and Guam as well as Japan's Ryukyu islands.
China could try to invade Taiwan in the next few years.
AR But is Xi as reckless as Putin?
2023 February 26
Five scenarios for the ultimate end of the physical universe:
1 The Big Freeze the universe gets more and more empty, more and more diffuse, colder over time. Your galaxy becomes isolated because other galaxies are so far away. It burns up all its stars. They die, to leave black holes. Eventually, the black holes evaporate. Everything radiates away. We reach maximum entropy, the heat death of the universe. This takes a very long time.
2 The Big Rip starts when dark energy accelerates the expansion of the universe. A cosmological constant leads us to heat death, but a dynamical energy field can get more powerful over time. It stretches the universe faster and faster. Instead of just creating more empty space, it stretches things from within. It tears apart planets, atoms, and ultimately the universe.
3 Vacuum decay is possible. The Higgs field is an energy field that in the very early universe changed to a certain value throughout space. It could change again, by quantum laws. If it decays at one point to the true vacuum, then a bubble of true vacuum expands at the speed of light. The decay time is something like googol years, but quantum events are unpredictable.
4 The Big Crunch is the idea that the universe is expanding, but as galaxies pull away their gravity pulls them back. The universe could start compressing everything. All the radiation would be compressed into higher frequencies. It would cook us.
5 The Bounce covers a cyclic or bouncing universe. Deep questions about the very beginning lead to these cyclic cosmologies. Either a previous universe evolved into our Big Bang and then evolves into our current universe, or we just have a constant cycling of different universes.
Maybe spacetime emerges from a deeper reality.
AR It emerges from an eternal logical loop.
2023 February 25
China's Peace Plan
◼ President Emmanuel Macron of France: "Peace is possible only if Russia ends its aggression, withdraws its troops and starts respecting Ukraine's territorial sovereignty .. I think the fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing."
◼ Ukrainian political advisor Mykhailo Podolyak: "If you claim to be a global player, you don't offer an unrealistic plan. You don't bet on an aggressor who broke international law and will lose the war."
◼ President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus: "We are peaceful people .. There is no way we are going to send our troops to Ukraine .. But don't forget Russia is our ally."
◼ President Xi Jinping of China has invited Lukashenko to visit China from February 28 to March 2.
China's position on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis
PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1 Respecting the sovereignty of all countries
2 Abandoning the Cold War mentality
3 Ceasing hostilities
4 Resuming peace talks
5 Resolving the humanitarian crisis
6 Protecting civilians and prisoners of war
7 Keeping nuclear power plants safe
8 Reducing strategic risks
9 Facilitating grain exports
10 Stopping unilateral sanctions
11 Keeping industrial and supply chains stable
12 Promoting post-conflict reconstruction
AR The position seems sound, assuming stopping sanctions is preceded by withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.
The Biggest Ideas in the Universe
Sean Carroll is a genial master at making real physics accessible to non-specialists. This first volume in his Biggest Ideas series is aimed at any bright and motivated reader who can handle high-school mathematics. From classical Euclidean geometry through Galilean relativity and Newtonian mechanics to the neoclassical cosmology that peaks in Einstein's cosmological equation, Carroll presents the real math behind the curved spacetime we now know we inhabit in such an honest and perceptive way that its meaning is clear.
A confession: As a lazy reader who tends to skim over any math he can't do in his head, I had never befriended tensor calculus, differential geometry, and the like to the level where I could quite get the hang of the various four-dimensional tensors that feature in Einstein's equation. Most of the dazzling detail in Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler's beautifully crafted blockbuster Gravitation was a closed book to me. But now, with Carroll's brilliant new book as a primer, its thickets of Greek superscripts and subscripts make more sense.
Carroll explains all the formulas in his story lucidly and transparently, so much so that the big ideas behind them shine through. His book is not about the math, but it does show how mathematics is the natural language to use when the ideas in play are as big as space, conservation, symmetry, mechanics, and gravity, and how those all fit together. If you want to understand our modern theory of the expanding universe from its hot Big Bang origin to its fate in a cold night of black holes at more than the mythic level, read Carroll.
The book offers a dramatic narrative, with such heroic characters as Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Leibniz, Laplace, Gauss, Hamilton, Riemann, Maxwell, Einstein, Minkowski, Hilbert, Schwarzschild, Penrose, Hawking, and many more to animate it. If any of these names mean something to you, and you like simple math, and you want to understand how Einstein's glorious update of Newton's law of gravitation really works, this is the book for you. Then follow it with Cox and Forshaw's recent book on black holes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
2023 February 24
China Urges Peace
President Zelensky: "I plan to meet Xi Jinping and believe this will be beneficial for our countries and for security in the world."
China's peace plan
President Zelensky welcomes some elements of a Chinese proposal for a ceasefire in Russia's war on Ukraine. China calls for peace talks and urges all parties to avoid nuclear escalation and end attacks on civilians. Zelensky: "China has shown its thoughts. I believe that the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is not bad."
Russia's foreign ministry says Russia appreciates China's plan to resolve the conflict in Ukraine but adds this must include recognizing "new territorial realities" in Ukraine with Russia's unilateral annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhia, and Crimea.
Western leaders largely dismiss China's peace plan for Ukraine, saying Beijing lacks the international credibility to act as mediator in the conflict. US officials are critical of the 12‑point position paper on Ukraine and note growing ties between China and Russia.
I was listening in London at 4 am on 24 February 2022 when Putin announced his war. The Moscow elite had expected him merely to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian oligarchs say the war is a disaster.
When Putin was a KGB officer in Dresden, the KGB created a network of front companies to smuggle technology into the Soviet Union. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, they secured control of strategic economic sectors and cash flows. Putin earned a reputation as a man who solves problems efficiently.
Boris Yeltsin chose the young Putin as his successor when scandal forced him to step down. Through his network, Putin had bags of black money to bribe people. Once domestic power was secured, the money was used for classic KGB operations abroad.
Russians sowed discord in western democracies by spreading fake news, bribing politicians, and supporting extremist movements. Europe was blackmailed into becoming dependent on cheap oil and gas.
Putin intervened more and more in Ukraine until the illegal occupation of Crimea and the proxy war in Donbas from 2014. His 2022 war has wiped out decades of work, wealth, and influence. Russia has become an international pariah.
In September, Putin announced a partial mobilization. He plans a new offensive in spring. He will not back down and must be defeated. The longer this war lasts, the more expensive it becomes for the West.
Suppose Putin agrees to a ceasefire: Russia gets Donetsk and Luhansk in exchange for Kherson and Zaporizhia. This would only encourage the Kremlin hawks and could escalate into endless war.
AR He must lose.
2023 February 23
The Ukraine War
The night before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last year, Vladimir Putin thought Kyiv would fall in three days, the Kremlin would seize control of government, and ordinary Ukrainians would welcome the invaders as liberators.
One year on, Ukraine has not only defended Kyiv and forced the Russians to retreat from around it but also pushed them away from Kharkiv and forced them to abandon Kherson weeks after Putin annexed four Ukrainian provinces to Russia.
Putin may be hoping to force an unequal peace. Control of the Donbas may be his minimal settlement. President Zelensky says he will make no territorial concessions, and Ukraine can beat Russia on the battlefield with western support.
Putin craves victory. Western leaders say he must not emerge victorious from his war. Use of a nuclear weapon could trigger NATO intervention.
AR Putin must lose.
Lord Hague of Richmond, Sir Tony Blair
2023 February 22
A New National Purpose
Tony Blair, William Hague
We are living through a tech revolution. The world is set for the fastest and most comprehensive period of innovation in history.
Our report sets out our ideas for reshaping the UK around technology to rebuild the state with a new operating model.
Whitehall must drive the use of data and AI across government, including digital ID for citizens, NHS data infrastructure, and AI systems backed by supercomputers.
Government should treat data as an asset, promote innovation via procurement, reform pension fund rules, and liberate research institutions. It should raise R&D funding, renew funding research, reform infrastructure planning, personalise education, and build science partnerships with the EU and around the globe.
This is the real growth agenda. Technology transcends partisan politics. A new national purpose needs new politics.
AR I was pushing for this view years ago − see my 2010 book on Globorg. I suggest forming a global team to write an open-source package of integrated core code for a digital national state system, perhaps using SAP code for running a company as a model. I suspect the UK will first have to overcome its nationalist go-it-alone hubris.
Putin, Moscow, Tuesday
⊛ Mandel Ngan/AFP
2023 February 21
The New York Times
President Vladimir Putin of Russia will suspend Russian participation in the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States. In a lengthy national address, he falsely claimed that Ukraine and its allies had "started the war" there. He gave no hint of ending the Russian invasion.
Putin: "Russia will respond to any challenges, because we are all one country, one big and united people. We are confident in ourselves and confident in our strength. The truth is with us."
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: "I strongly encourage Russia to reconsider its decision and respect existing agreements."
State of the nation
Putin: "The people of Ukraine have become the hostage of the Kyiv regime and its western overlords, who have effectively occupied this country in the political, military and economic sense. They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation .. we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country."
Biden and Xi tread softly
The United States is not at war with Russia. But Kremlin propaganda increasingly portrays the conflict in Ukraine as a defence against western enemies trying to encircle and weaken the motherland. The patriotic theme is resonant in Russia.
Beijing was outraged when US secretary of state Antony Blinken warned China not to provide arms to Russia. Putin says China is as much a victim of western hostility as Russia and wants China to replenish his depleted arms stocks.
Like NATO, Beijing does not want to be drawn in militarily and advocates a peaceful solution. The EU says providing lethal support would be a "red line" in EU−China relations.
AR I still hope China can help resolve this conflict.
UK PM Rishi Sunak is told he risks ministers quitting if his new deal does not rewrite the NIP or remove any powers for the ECJ. NI minister Steve Baker spoke at an ERG meeting where members fear a sellout but are reluctant to rebel and damage Conservative poll numbers.
Brexiteer and former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg: "There seems to me to be no point in bringing a deal that does not restore power-sharing .. I don't know why so much political capital has been spent on something without getting the DUP and the ERG on side first .. this is very similar to what happened with Theresa May."
AR The ERG tail wags the Tory dog.
Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky, Mariinsky Palace, Ukraine, Monday
⊛ Jacques Tilly
2023 February 20
Biden in Kyiv
The New York Times
President Joe Biden visited Kyiv on Monday morning. Biden joined President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine for a joint news conference at the Mariinsky Palace.
Biden shows support for Ukraine
President Biden, tweet: "When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the west was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong."
Biden, from at Mariinsky Palace: "One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you."
Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya: "I don't think the Russians would be surprised. It will be for them another proof that Washington has unambiguously chosen its camp .. It's a proof of total disruption with Russia, confirmation that now the West bets on the strategic defeat of Putin."
AR The moral case is clear as black and white − now persuade China.
The New Brexit Deal
Dan Sutton, Christos Kourtelis
UK PM Rishi Sunak seems about to agree with the EU over the NIP and accept the role of the ECJ.
The sovereignty argument is key to Tory policy on the NIP. The government plan proposes "green and red channels" in a reheated version of Theresa May's deal on NI. Brexiteers have rebranded her "surrender deal" as a British victory.
The European Commission had proposed a plan to treat goods travelling to NI and the EU differently. That idea was rejected by Brexiteers. The UK now accepts it and presents the idea as its own.
The British approach to negotiation has been to reject whatever the EU proposes, suggest a few bad ideas, and then come round to accepting the EU proposal, but make it look like a British idea.
Brexiteers have a reflexive disdain for the ECJ. The EU rejects any idea of removing ECJ oversight. Now the UK has accepted the arrangement on the ECJ role set out in the current NIP.
Former ERG chairman and now NI minister Steve Baker was the ringleader who brought down May to protect British sovereignty. At the time, he rejected any role for the ECJ.
Sunak now aims to resolve the issue by accepting the solution proposed by the EU in 2020.
AR Get the ERG clowns away from power − call a general election.
Dorset coast, Sunday
2023 February 19
Ukraine Needs Arms
At the Munich Security Conference, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the war in Ukraine will be over unless the EU finds a way in weeks to speed up the provision of ammunition to Ukraine.
He will table plans on Monday to use the €3.6 billion European peace facility to procure ammunition jointly on the model of procuring vaccines during the Covid crisis.
Borrell: "We forgot about classical wars. We were only engaged with expeditionary forces and technological Blitzkrieg .. We have taken too much time to make critical decisions such as providing battle tanks .. You will not win this war without this kind of arms."
Polish MEP Radoslaw Sikorski suggested granting Ukraine political membership of the EU quickly, then letting it meet the full criteria step by step.
Putin will be called a failure
Vladimir Putin has overreached. Had he chosen to step down in 2008, he may have been cast as the hero who pulled Russia back from the brink of collapse. Had he retired in 2018, he may have left Russia in possession of Crimea.
Like so many autocrats, Putin has become a caricature of himself. The need to appease him distorts the Russian war effort. The best he can now hope for is control of the Donbas region and the land bridge to Crimea, leaving Ukraine armed and angry.
Putin demands miracles. His technocrats are now engaged in crisis management to avoid public humiliation. His kleptocrats are finding their rewards diminished. His hawks and nationalists are losing heart at the mess in Ukraine.
Putin may stay in power for a time. Most Russians see resistance as futile and keep their heads down. Western support for Ukraine feeds his attempt to spark their patriotism by claiming they are facing a hostile coalition.
In the past, Putin could count on public support and elite compliance. He could throw money at his problems. But not now.
A scared little man
When Putin was first elected, Russia had Western support, an educated population, enormous natural resources, a strong industrial base, and a rich cultural history.
If Russia had been properly governed, it might now have a modern economy on a par with those of Germany or Japan. Instead, its economy has been hollowed out.
Putin and his cronies have stolen at least $1 trillion from the Russian state since 2000. This money should have been spent on hospitals, schools, roads, and other public services. Instead, it was spent on private luxuries and deposited in foreign bank accounts.
If Putin loses power, he will lose everything. He misjudged three things: the capabilities of his war machine, the Western response, and the Ukrainians. A scared little man has stolen too much money and is terrified of facing the consequences.
AR A historic tragedy.
2023 February 18
In 2006, Graydon Hoare began designing a programming language that let him write compact, fast code without memory bugs. He named it Rust.
Seventeen years later, 2.8 million coders are writing in Rust. Companies from Microsoft to Amazon regard it as key to their future.
Rust manages where it puts data in memory. It has rules on how to use or copy data inside a program. Code is harder to write but offers memory safety and concurrency safety.
In 2009, Mozilla decided to sponsor Rust. The language remained open source, but Mozilla paid engineers to work on it. As they improved Rust memory management, they saw less need for a garbage collector and removed it. Programs ran even faster.
In 2016, a Mozilla group released Servo, a new browser engine built using Rust. Facebook used Rust to redesign software that managed its internal source code.
Executives and engineers at Amazon Web Services say Rust can help them write safer, faster code that uses half as much electricity as a similar program written in Java.
As tech giants adopt Rust, they pay engineers to develop it. In 2021, they set up a Rust Foundation to support volunteer coders and fund the servers that host Rust code.
As Rust spreads, we could find our software landscape growing more reliable and secure.
AR Rust was the latest buzz when I left SAP.
2023 February 17
A NATO Gotland
After Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, war games suggested NATO forces would quickly be overwhelmed in a Baltic battle. Russia has stationed nuclear-capable Iskander‑M missiles in Kaliningrad. Russian jets routinely violate neighboring airspace and buzz NATO aircraft and naval vessels.
NATO has now beefed up its Baltic defense into a "deter and defend forward" strategy, with plans for clusters of air and missile defense systems, more prepositioned equipment, and more troops on the front line.
Finnish and Swedish accession will give NATO control of the two choke points at either end of the Baltic: the Oresund strait and the Gulf of Finland. A naval blockade could cut off Kaliningrad. The land border with Finland will distract Russia.
Gotland is close to Kaliningrad, Estonia, and Latvia. NATO forces on the island could tip the balance of power in the Baltic. Anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) missile systems could puff up bubbles of ranged weaponry that deter Russian forces from operating nearby.
Sweden remilitarized Gotland in 2018. The island now has an armored battalion with Leopard 2 tanks, CV‑90 variant IFVs, and hundreds of personnel.
Gotland regiment commander Magnus Frykvall: "If you're going to seize a totally undefended island it could be more or less like Crimea, but if it's a defended island then you need to start a war."
AR We just need to persuade Turkey to agree.
Polish F-16 Viper
2023 February 16
Poland Right on Russia
Polish president Andrzej Duda hopes for US a commitment to supply F‑16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Poland aims to create Europe's largest land army and will supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine in a coalition of tank powers including Germany.
European Council on Foreign Relations senior policy fellow Piotr Buras: "Germany is on the wrong side of the moral argument, so the Polish government saw it as their moment to seize the high ground. We have been right on energy security, on dealing with Putin, on defense spending."
Poland has 647 main battle tanks. It has 250 new Abrams on order plus a second batch of 116 Abrams from the US and 1,000 K2 tanks from South Korea.
The Polish defense budget was 2.4% of GDP and is now rising to 4%. Poland has 114,000 combat troops and is aiming for 300,000. Even before the Russian invasion, Poland signed a deal for 32 American F‑35 fighter jets.
AR Well done, Poland.
NATO Resisting Russian Aggression
NATO says Russia is losing up to 2,000 men for every 100 m gained in human wave assaults in eastern Ukraine. NATO defense ministers pledge to equip Ukraine against the Russian offensive. Russia is said to be massing military aircraft on its western borders.
US defense secretary Lloyd Austin: "You've seen us move to provide .. tanks and a number of other things .. Russia continues to pour large numbers of additional people into the fight .. we see them incurring a lot of casualties."
US official: "Russian land forces are quite thinned out, ragged and very demoralized, so the best indication is that they will try to switch to aerial combat."
Austin: "Russia has a substantial number of aircraft in its inventory .. we need to .. get Ukraine as much air defense capability as we possibly can."
NATO is putting 40,000 troops under NATO command and doubling the number of battlegroups in the east. America and Germany are giving Ukraine Patriot missiles.
AR Seems about right so far.
⊛ Albert Sneppen
A Perfect Kilonova
A kilonova in the galaxy NGC 4993 formed a huge spherical fireball when two neutron stars merged to form a black hole. The two neutron stars, with a combined mass about 2.7 ⊛, orbited each other for billions of years before colliding about 1.5 Ym away from us.
Copenhagen astrophysicist Albert Sneppen: "It is a perfect explosion .. both aesthetically, in the simplicity of the shape, and in its physical significance."
The cores of the two orbiting neutron stars collided fast to create extremely intense magnetic fields. The violence of the merger forged heavy elements such as gold, platinum, arsenic, and uranium in long streamers around the new black hole.
The kilonova was studied using the ESO VLT.
AR More results to come on this one, I hope.
2023 February 15
The Military Balance 2023
Russia's invasion of Ukraine illustrates defense transformation in Europe.
Russia has suffered big losses of personnel and equipment in its armed forces. It has depleted its inventory of cruise missiles. Its tank and artillery fleets also suffered attrition: Around a half of its pre-war fleet of modern battle tanks is assessed to have been lost.
Ukraine has looked to boost personnel strength and improve combat capability. The war is prompting Ukraine to modernize its artillery inventory and deliver improved capability.
Poland is accelerating plans to modernize its army equipment and boost its air and naval power. Germany announced a special €100 billion fund for defense. Finland and Sweden will almost certainly join NATO this year.
Higher inflation rates in 2022 eroded the value of many defense investments. Global defense spending in 2022 fell in real terms. European and Asian defense spending grew in real terms.
Online reporting and imagery supplement other information. Open-source citizen analysts and independent research organizations report on Russian and Ukrainian equipment losses during the war in Ukraine. Analysts need to consider diverse data and reprioritize analytical capacity.
Russia's armed forces have shown deficiencies in many areas.
AR Factors like morale and motivation are hard to assess.
Quantum entanglement can be understood in terms of information.
Quantum physics cannot provide a theory of local reality. Einstein suggested scientists should look for a deeper theory of local reality. Variants of an experiment to test for a local reality were performed by the 2022 Nobel physics laureates.
Quantum physics describes the experiments we perform to explore how the world works in terms of probabilities for the possible experimental outcomes.
Let Alice and Bob be interrogated in separate rooms with no communication. They are each asked one of two possible questions and must agree with each other to be set free. The questions contain a trap such that if they are both asked the second question, they must give opposite answers. A and B know all this and devise a strategy for their answers. But in local reality, without knowing which question the other one was asked, they can win at best three-quarters of the time.
A and B can achieve a higher win rate by exploiting the math of quantum information rather than classical information. The results show reality is nonlocal.
Quantum information provides our best description of reality.
AR A little gloss on the Bell test.
My Valentine joy
2023 Valentine's Day
Russia Has Lost
US joint chiefs of staff chairman General Mark Milley: "Ukraine remains free. They remain independent. NATO and its coalition has never been stronger. Now, Russia is a global pariah and the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience. In short, Russia has lost − they've lost strategically, operationally and tactically."
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg: "We see no signs that President Putin is preparing for peace. What we see is the opposite, he is preparing for more war .. This has become a grinding war of attrition and therefore it's also a battle of logistics. This is a huge effort by allies to actually be able to get in the ammunition, the fuel, the spare parts, which are needed."
German defense minister Boris Pistorius: "We will quickly start our own production of Gepard ammunition at Rheinmetall. I am very happy we have been able to guarantee the delivery of this important part of air defense."
Zeitenwende in action
German chancellor Olaf Scholz deserves credit for reframing the national conversation about strategy. His government signed off on immense emergency spending bills: a €100 billion special investment fund for the armed forces and a €200 billion offset package for German industry and consumers to buffer the impact of the Russian energy cutoff.
Germany houses more than a million Ukrainian refugees. Public opinion supports helping Ukraine. Defense minister Boris Pistorius wants an extra €10 billion per year on his €50 billion budget.
AR Winston Churchill: "Keep buggering on."
⊛ Alessio Mamo
Earthquake death toll
now over 35,000 in
Turkey and Syria
2023 February 13
The hit to business investment from Brexit has cost the UK economy about £29 billion, says Bank of England monetary policy committee member Jonathan Haskel − a "productivity penalty" of about £1,000 per household, or 1.3% of GDP.
A Brexit sellout?
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has asked ministers to draw up plans for rebuilding links with EU countries. The plans focus on areas including defence, migration, trade, and energy.
Brexit-supporting Tory MP John Redwood: "Instead of talking of sellout at private conferences the UK establishment needs to complete Brexit and use its freedoms."
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage: "The full sellout of Brexit is under way. This Tory party never believed in it."
Former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost: "Brexit doesn't need 'fixing'. It needs this Conservative government [to] embrace its advantages instead of leaving the field to those who never wanted it in the first place."
A science superpower?
Before Brexit, British scientists won about £1 billion a year of EU funding. But the EU is blocking UK requests to join the €100 billion Horizon Europe programme due to the NIP dispute.
UK secretary of state for science, innovation, and technology Michelle Donelan: "If we cannot associate, we are more than ready to go it alone with our own global-facing alternative."
UCL professor of research policy James Wilsdon: "There's no scenario in which life outside Horizon will be good for UK science."
Academy of Medical Sciences president Prof Dame Anne Johnson: "The scientific community strongly believes that association to the Horizon Europe funding programme is best for research in the UK and in Europe."
A human rights beacon?
Clar Ni Chonghaile
In May 1948, Winston Churchill attended a Congress of Europe meeting and asked a government colleague to help draft a charter of rights.
The resulting 1953 European Convention on Human Rights is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is unrelated to the EU. Of all European nations, only Russia and Belarus are outside it.
UK PM Rishi Sunak threatens to take the UK out of the ECHR if it says his new immigration bill is unlawful. His home secretary has opposed the ECHR since it blocked the first deportation flight to Rwanda last June.
The GFA for peace in NI depends on the legal structures of the ECHR.
An act of heresy?
Tory ERG zealots will see Michael Gove's attendance at the Ditchley Park meeting as an act of heresy. Rishi Sunak must soon decide whether to compromise with the EU to resolve the dispute over the NIP. A compromise would be a huge political risk, but he should follow Gove's lead and take it.
AR What a humiliating mess.
2023 Darwin Day
Brexit Failings: UK Summit
A secret summit titled "How can we make Brexit work better with our neighbours in Europe?" was held last week. The two-day event in Oxfordshire brought together senior politicians, diplomats, defence experts, and the heads of businesses and banks.
Political attendees included cabinet minister Michael Gove, former Tory party leader Michael Howard, former chancellor Norman Lamont, former Labour minister Gisela Stuart, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, shadow defence secretary John Healey, and former cabinet minister David Lidington, with former European commissioner Peter Mandelson as chair.
Non-political attendees included GlaxoSmithKline chair John Symonds, Goldman Sachs managing director Oliver Robbins, former Treasury permanent secretary Tom Scholar, and NATO assistant secretary general Angus Lapsley.
An introductory statement said "so far the UK has not yet found its way forward outside the EU" with Brexit as a drag on growth and potential. The discussion emphasised the economic downside to the UK at a time of global instability and rising energy prices.
A paper says Europeans show "little interest in further wrangling over Brexit and little time being devoted to the relationship with the UK" but both sides "have shared interests on containing Russian aggression, developing new sources of energy and building major technology companies with their capital base on our side of the Atlantic" as well as common defence interests.
Attendees discussed forging closer links with the EU on tackling organised crime, illegal immigration, defence, and policy toward China. They agreed that Brexit in its current form is damaging the UK economy and reducing its strategic influence in the world.
Talks on Brexit failings
The Sunday Times
Michael Gove and senior members of the Labour shadow cabinet took part in a secret meeting to discuss the failings of Brexit. Attendees included Lord Howard, Lord Lamont, David Lammy, John Healey, and Lord Mandelson. Also at the talks were diplomats, defence experts, and heads of big UK businesses and banks.
Gove's attendance is likely to prompt a backlash among Tory backbench MPs who suspect the government will make concessions to the EU in NIP negotiations. Gove was said to be "honest" about the shortcomings of Brexit.
Brexit is a disaster
A secret summit met to discuss how to turn the Brexit disaster around.
AstraZeneca will build a new factory in Ireland that was once planned for NW England. The UK pharma industry has lost billions in EU research funding due to Brexit.
Leaving the EU single market and customs union has damaged UK trade more than first estimated. The gap between UK exports and imports has grown by tens of billions.
Business investment stalled from mid-2016, remained flat until late 2019, then plummeted. Funding for new equipment, machinery, and IT systems has still barely recovered.
Low investment ruins calculations of future tax revenue. A shortage of workers in the UK is causing inflationary wage increases. Rising interest rates drive recession.
Brexit is one of the worst disasters in modern economic history.
AR At last − a clear admission of defeat.
Air Force Times
Give Ukraine Warthogs
2023 February 11
After weeks of secrecy, Operation Banbury − the codename for President Zelensky's visit to the UK − was finally given the green light on Monday morning.
Only a tiny handful of people in government, the security services, and the police knew in advance. The secrecy was such that MPs and peers had to stand for Zelensky's address to parliament because ordering chairs could have been a clue.
In the event, Zelensky's visit was seen as a diplomatic triumph, particularly in stealing a march on the French. After his visit, Zelensky was flown to France in the prime minister's plane emblazoned with the union jack logo − a source of great satisfaction.
AR It's this sort of nationalist nonsense that makes me want to have nothing more to do with the union jack or anything it now represents.
Space Rock or Alien Tech?
Galileo Galilei pioneered the scientific method. It calls for experimental data to help us figure out reality. Discovering the truth requires submission to experimental evidence, not wishful thinking.
The notion that interstellar objects are simply natural rocks could be wishful thinking. The Galileo Project aims to get a better understanding of unexplained aerial phenomena and to investigate the origins of unusual interstellar objects.
AR I say alien tech is more likely wishful thinking here.
2023 February 10
Zelensky vs Putin
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky fills his speeches with references to WW2. He gets up early each morning and reads from my book Hitler and Stalin, recently published in Ukrainian translation. He has already learned much of what the history of WW2 has to offer, whereas Putin has not.
Three broad lessons:
1 Leave strategy to your generals. Stalin meddled and doomed the Red Army to early defeats.
— Putin was similarly overconfident when the Russians invaded Ukraine.
— Zelensky has left the military decisions to his generals.
2 Overpromising in war can be fatal. Hitler promised to hold Stalingrad. Its loss ruined his image.
— Putin keeps reassuring Russians that the Ukrainians are about to be crushed.
— Zelensky sets no deadlines for military action.
3 Be sure you know what counts as a victory. Hitler set no limit for his army in the Soviet Union.
— Putin is vague about what victory looks like for the Russians in Ukraine.
— Zelensky knows what he wants: Remove the Russians from Ukrainian territory.
AR It's a good but horrifying book.
2023 February 9
Evil Russian Plans
President Zelensky: "We have intercepted the plan for destruction of Moldova by Russian intelligence. These documents show who, when, and how Russia is going to break democracy of Moldova and establish control. I immediately warned Moldova about these threats."
The Republic of Moldova borders Ukraine and was part of the Soviet Union until it broke away in 1991, leading to a conflict and the new separatist state of Transnistria, backed by Moscow, which hosts Russian military forces.
Zelensky urges European leaders to speed up the delivery of promised weapons and ammunition: "We need artillery guns, the munitions, the modern tanks, the long-range missiles, and modern fighter jets."
He told MEPs his troops were "defending you" in a "historic battle" with Russia: "We are defending against the most anti-European force of the modern world. We are defending ourselves, we Ukrainians on the battlefield, along with you."
Zelensky talked last night with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Olaf Scholz. He aims to put the European Commission under pressure to decide this autumn that Ukraine is ready to begin negotiations on accession to the EU.
Scholz: "Among the EU states, we are now the country that provides the most support − financial, humanitarian, but also the most concrete support in terms of arms deliveries. This is necessary so that Ukraine can defend itself, just as it is necessary that this is always done in a co-ordinated, joint manner and not alone."
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki: "We can only act within the entire formation of NATO. We will not be the first ones to hand over fighter jets, but we will respond positively, provided that those who have the most of these jets will be able to give them to Ukraine."
AR When pilots are trained and bases are prepared, then will be the time for White House leadership on jet delivery.
President Zelensky in Brussels
⊛ Aaron Chown
King Charles III meets
President Zelensky: "I'm in
London to personally thank
the British people for their
support and PM Rishi Sunak
for his leadership."
2023 February 8
10 Downing Street
President Volodymyr Zelensky and PM Rishi Sunak discussed UK support for Ukraine, "starting with an immediate surge of military equipment to the country to help counter Russia's spring offensive" and reinforced by long-term support.
Sunak: "Since 2014, the UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces .. today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future."
I appeal to you and the world: We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.
The world truly helps those who are brave in defending freedom and paves the way for a new history. Anyone who invests in terror must be held accountable, and anyone who invests in violence must compensate those who have suffered from it.
In Britain, the king is an air force pilot, and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king .. Combat aircraft for Ukraine − wings for freedom.
• Ukrainian drone records a video showing Russian fighters dragging their wounded commander away from the Bakhmut battlefield and beating him violently with shovels.
• UKMOD says Russian forces continue "skirmishing and reconnaissance" on the islands in the Dnipro delta: "It is highly unlikely that Russia will attempt an assault crossing of the Dnipro. It would likely be extremely complex and costly."
• Russia demands the US embassy in Moscow stop spreading "fake news" on the war in Ukraine and threatens to expel US diplomats.
• President Joe Biden says the US will continue to support Ukraine: "We're going to stand with you, as long as it takes."
• Ukraine increased its tally of Russian military dead by 1,030 overnight to 133,190.
• Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands say they plan to provide Ukraine with at least 100 refurbished Leopard 1 battle tanks "within the coming months" and include logistical support and training.
• German defence ministry says Leopard 2A6 battle tanks will be available to Ukraine by the end of March. Rheinmetall also plans to send 20−25 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine this year.
• Ukraine national security official Oleksiy Danilov says Ukraine will eventually receive F‑16 fighter jets and suggests Ukraine may strike Russian territory beyond occupied Ukraine.
• UKMOD says Russia almost certainly lacks the munitions and units required for successful offensives and it remains unlikely that Russia could build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war in the coming weeks.
• Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu says arms supplies to Ukraine are dragging NATO into the conflict and accuses NATO allies of trying to prolong the conflict.
AR We will prevail.
2023 February 7
Quantum Path Integrals
A quantum path integral predicts the behavior of a quantum system. It suggests that our reality is a sum of all imaginable possibilities. But it does not tell us how to do the sum.
Paul Dirac saw the quantum world as based on things taking the path of least action (calculated from the time and energy for the path) to get from A to B. Richard Feynman fleshed out the idea as the path integral.
In the double-slit experiment, a wave representing possible particle locations moves through the slits. The two emerging wavefronts interfere with each other, producing a row of peaks where a particle might be detected on the screen. An interference pattern shows up on the screen.
The path integral generalizes this picture. Cut a third slit in the barrier. The interference pattern shifts to reflect the new slit. Keep cutting slits until the barrier is all slits. Then fill space with all-slit barriers. A particle fired into this empty space takes all routes through all slits to the screen. When summed correctly, all these options add up to a single bright spot.
An infinite number of curving paths add up to a single straight line. Take each path and find its action to get an amplitude, which gives the probability for a particle to take that path. Sum up all the amplitudes to get the total amplitude for a particle going from A to B.
Amplitudes are complex numbers: As vectors, they point in different directions for different paths. The amplitude for any path has the same size, so two opposite arrows sum to zero.
The amplitudes of almost straight paths from A to B all point in about the same direction, amplifying each other. The others tend to cancel each other. The straight path remains as the classical path of least action.
The path integral works for quantum fields by summing over all configurations of the fields. If we make time imaginary to turn amplitudes into real numbers and approximate the spacetime continuum as a finite lattice, we can trick up the math to match experiments.
To explore quantum gravity, we sum over all possible spacetimes. They might split or be punctured by wormholes, but rips or mergers violate causality and raise time travel paradoxes. No one knows how to go on.
AR The math is tricky, both technically and conceptually.
2023 February 6
The Ukraine War
Thomas L Friedman
A year on from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, polls show solid American majorities for backing Ukraine with arms and aid, even at risk of a direct conflict with Vladimir Putin's Russia.
American power has built and protected a liberal world order since 1945. Democracies flourish, and free markets and open trade have lifted many millions out of poverty. This order moves the United States and its NATO allies to help Ukraine.
Putin aims to win this war. He will pay any price and bear any burden to come away with a slice of Ukraine. This is going to get scary.
Historian Robert Kagan: "In both world wars and throughout the Cold War, Americans acted not in immediate self-defense but to defend the liberal world against challenges from militaristic authoritarian governments, just as they are doing today in Ukraine."
International relations theorists say interests and values are distinct. National interests like security and prosperity take primacy over values. But Putin is willing to make Russia less secure to advance traditional Russian great power ambitions.
Kagan: "Any negotiation that leaves Russian forces in place on Ukrainian soil will only be a temporary truce before Putin's next attempt. Putin is in the process of completely militarizing Russian society."
AR Putin must be stopped.
Tax Land Value
Taxing land value is good. The political power of landowners is bad.
Neoclassical economic models treat land as capital. But natural resources are unlike capital stock created out of effort and foregone consumption. The case is strong for separating the return on natural resources from that on other assets.
We should tax factors of production whose supply is unaffected by price, such as land. In a globalized economy with free movement, taxes on capital and human assets risk reducing supply and hence incomes. At present, the credit system finances land ownership and converts land rents into interest on debt.
Governments can socialize much of the yield on land. An increase in the tax rate on the value of land from a level of 0.55% to 5.55% would allow big reductions in taxation of produced capital and labor and raise output by 15% relative to trend.
A land tax would be beneficial.
AR I strongly agree.
⊛ Carl Court
London, January 31
USAF F-22 Raptor
shoots down Chinese
2023 February 5
Michel Barnier: "Brexit remains a nonsense .. there is no added value to being outside the single market and the customs union."
Vote Leave donor Jeremy Hosking: "Like many people with a Conservative disposition, I would say it's been very disappointing so far."
Brexit campaign donor Lord Edmiston: "Brexit .. was never going to be achieved without a few bumps in the road."
Barnier: "I wish the best for the UK .. But Brexit is .. a lose−lose game."
Sunak risks trade war with Brussels
Rishi Sunak's plan to scrap thousands of EU laws by the end of this year risks triggering a trade war between the UK and the EU.
In response, EU leaders are preparing "unilateral rebalancing measures" that may include tariffs on UK goods.
France's former Europe minister and EU−UK parliamentary forum co-chair Nathalie Loiseau: "The European Commission is closely following the situation and is making sure to be ready for any additional controls that would be needed to protect the EU single market."
German MEP and European Parliament foreign affairs committee chair David McAllister: "Our agreements contain mechanisms to ensure non-regression from the current high levels of protection in labour and social standards, environment, and climate, as well as rules on subsidies, and the possibility to apply unilateral rebalancing measures."
Labour Movement for Europe chair Stella Creasy: "When we left the EU, the government claimed we could have higher standards. Now it is increasingly clear they plan to rip up thousands of workers' rights, environmental laws, and consumer protections."
Centre for European Reform director Charles Grant: "The EU .. fears that if the UK abandons high social and environmental standards, its companies will have an unfair advantage over EU firms .. Some MEPs are already talking of a trade war."
Brexit was a colossal mistake
Brexit has put Britain on a trajectory of recession, strikes, and political instability. But it did not:
✗ Arouse hostility to migrants
✗ Break the housing market
✗ Create the need for food banks
✗ Disrupt the UK energy market
✗ Erode standards in news media
✗ Free up more funds for the NHS
Britain was broken before Brexit. It was already struggling with weak public infrastructure and stagnant wages. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine only increased the pain and the strain.
Brexit was the wrong answer to a big question: How do we regain a sense of identity, community, prosperity, and security in our future?
AR Who are "we"? I'm human, then European.
On a hill, Saturday
2023 February 4
Capitalism after the Crises
Markets built in partnership are our best mechanisms to direct resources efficiently and effectively. But such markets were not what the old model delivered. The 2008 crisis exposed the problem.
When a second crisis came in the form of a pandemic, governments tried to keep people attached to their employer. There was no thought for the fourth industrial revolution or cleaner energy. The pandemic showed that healthy economies rely on healthy people and communities.
The contest between democracies and autocracies is economic as well as military. Despite deep disquiet about our economic models, the reality is that democracies largely work. Even through a period of slow growth, comparing all democracies to all autocracies other than China, we see a democratic edge in growth over the past decade.
Democracies will prevail if there are ethical and practical incentives for leaders to govern in ways that improve the lives of the people. Populations only become susceptible to the lies of populists and autocrats when democracies fail.
Economic inclusion is the measure of a decent society and a precondition for a robust economy. It is fundamental to the health of democracies and the safety of nations.
Capital allocation in traditional markets is based on common metrics of performance. If we can redesign markets for investment in social purposes, based on new metrics of performance, many organizations will get more of the growth capital they need.
Our economies need to embed and express more than one notion of value. This is democratic reform.
AR From an essay that caused a stir in Australia.
Annual UK carmaking
2023 February 3
UK Flat Battery
The UK government has bet the future on green technology. The collapse of the battery maker Britishvolt shows what can go wrong.
Production of new fossil fuel cars will become illegal in the UK by 2030. The car industry must invest billions in new technology, designs, facilities, production lines, and suppliers. Otherwise, production in the UK will cease.
Britishvolt illustrates the madness of Global Britain. It was British to the point of delusion, underfunded, and naive. Britishvolt was designing its own batteries from scratch, without any previous experience of making batteries.
The scheme was fantastically underfunded. The UK government offered £100 million. Britishvolt would build a £3.8 billion factory, employ 3,000 workers, and supply 25% of all the batteries needed by the British car industry.
Carmakers need either a British battery or one imported at prohibitive expense. EU member states are building huge battery capacity where the car factories are. Britain will either import batteries or watch jobs move to the EU.
The UK is now on course to have just 26.9 GWh of capacity by 2031. Germany plans to have 378 GWh of capacity by 2030.
AR A portent of doom.
⊛ Dan Kitwood
2023 February 2
Brexit is disabling the UK. It has damaged trade, investment, national income, and car making. Even the BBC now airs Brexit horror stories.
Brexiteers are still dreaming of Brexit benefits that are nonexistent (cheaper food), peripheral (ANZUK deals), or harmful (Brexit freedoms). They seem to think Brexit is still undone.
Rishi Sunak will soon agree a revised NI protocol. The issue is too urgent and sensitive to postpone. The revision will be a template for a wider reform of Brexit.
Once a future Labour government starts revising Brexit, the whole deal will unravel. The UK will re-enter the customs union and single market.
Brexit is killing the Conservative party
Brexit is proving to be a mistake. Most Brexiteers are downbeat and defensive.
Hardcore Brexiteers say our problems stem from Covid lockdowns or the war in Ukraine − or that true Brexit is still undone. Boris Johnson boasts about the vaccine rollout (the one that happened while we still complied with EU rules) and hails a brighter future.
In 629 out of 632 British constituencies, those who regret Brexit outnumber those who do not. In 2 of the remaining 3, it is a tie. Younger voters are warming to the EU faster than older voters, so voter replacement will move the UK ever closer to Rejoin.
If the Tories lose next time, they will need to embrace the EU − or die.
AR A glint of light.
THE ROYAL SOCIETY
2023 February 1
Vint Cerf is awarded the 2023 IEEE Medal of Honor "for co-creating the Internet architecture and providing sustained leadership in its phenomenal growth in becoming society's critical infrastructure."
At the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Information Processing Techniques Office in 1974, Cerf and Robert Kahn designed the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol. TCP manages data packets sent over the Internet, making sure they don't get lost, are received in the proper order, and are reassembled at their destination correctly. IP manages the addressing and forwarding of data to and from its proper destinations. Together they make up the Internet's core architecture.
Cerf and Kahn founded the nonprofit Internet Society in 1992. The organization helps set technical standards, develops Internet infrastructure, and helps lawmakers set policy.
Since 2005, Cerf has been vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google. He is responsible for identifying new technologies and enabling policies that support the development of advanced products and services.
Cerf has received several recognitions for his work, including the 2004 Turing Award from the ACM.
AR A monumental life's work.
The Critical Brain
John M Beggs
The critical brain hypothesis posits that the brain teeters between inactive and overactive phases. Between them is a critical point where it can produce complex activity patterns.
Imagine a guessing game for a neural network. Neurons in layer 1 activate neurons in layer 2, those in layer 2 activate those in layer 3, and so on. When I activate N neurons in layer 1, you observe the number of neurons active in the last layer. The game is to guess N.
• With weak connections, neurons typically activate independently of each other. No matter how big N is, the number of neurons activated in the last layer will tend to zero.
• With strong connections, one active neuron activates multiple other neurons, spreading activity until nearly all the neurons in the final layer are active, erasing information about N.
• In the critical case, the number of neurons activated is roughly preserved across layers. You can guess N. We can quantify this ability to guess as a measure of information transmission.
Information storage is driven by the activation of neural assemblies. A critical network leads to the largest number of stable assemblies, maximizing information storage.
Experiments on neural networks and in intact brains uphold these predictions. Brains seem to operate near the critical point.
AR A very reasonable hypothesis.
The First Stars
The JWST has detected a rare isotope of helium in a distant galaxy that may reveal the earliest stars.
These Population III stars were giant balls of primordial H and He. After short lifetimes, they exploded as supernovas, forging heavier elements that later gave rise to Population II stars, then to Population I stars like our Sun.
Population III stars could have grown to immense sizes, with masses of 100 ⊛ to 100 k⊛. They had a lifetime of perhaps a few hundred My and should emit the spectral signature of He‑2, an unstable isotope lacking neutrons.
The JWST has detected the He‑2 signature from a distant galaxy seen at 620 My ABB.
AR A useful step forward.
End of an era: The last Boeing 747 Jumbo
Rolling average of voter aim
in a new Brexit referendum
2023 January 31
Three Years On
In the three years since leaving the EU, we've made huge strides in harnessing the freedoms unlocked by Brexit .. I'm determined to ensure the benefits of Brexit continue to empower communities and businesses right across the country.
Brexiteers are now Bremoaners and Bregretters
Fifty years ago this month, Britain joined the EEC. Ten years ago this month, Conservatives pledged a referendum to appease UKIP. Three years ago today, Britain committed Brexit.
Brexiteers called the sore losers from the referendum Remoaners. With the moaning there was rage against cynical Brexit leaders who knowingly sold snake oil and fairy dust.
Labour will not back rejoining. Distressed Labour Rejoiners point to how many Leavers are now Bregretters. Polls say 57% would vote for rejoining and 43% for staying out.
The Brexiteers are now the Bremoaners. Telegraph associate editor Jeremy Warner: "The grim reality is that the country seems to be falling apart on almost every front."
What became of the Brexit slogans
Brits are struggling. The UK has sunk into a political and economic crisis. By 2030, its standard of living may be below that of Poland.
✗ Brexiteers had a red bus slogan: "We send £350 million to the EU every week. Let's fund our NHS instead." The first sentence was false, and the NHS is still underfunded today.
✗ Brexiteers promised to end illegal migration. A record number of migrants entered in 2022. The UK now has a big backlog of asylum applications and overcrowded migrant camps.
✗ Brexiteers limited immigration to skilled workers. But Brits refused low-paid jobs and bottlenecks arose. Food rotted in fields and hospitals ran short of nurses.
✗ Brexiteers said the EU was preventing the UK from signing free trade deals worldwide. Much of the EU trade lost by Brexit has still not been made up by new trade deals.
✗ Brexiteers opposed EU rules. They plan to sunset all remaining EU law by the end of 2023. But the government cannot redraft the laws by then.
The benefits of Brexit
A new poll asked a sample of British adults to name benefits to Britain. Only 1 in 10 could name any specific benefits of Brexit. Topping the list for those who could name one:
• Control of immigration and borders: 30%
• The Covid vaccine rollout: 17%
A similar sample were asked to say whether they had personally benefited from Brexit and what that benefit was. Only 1 in 20 could do so. Topping the list of personal benefits:
• The Covid vaccine rollout: 21%
• Taking back control: 21%
AR Nationalist nutcases have kneecapped their nation.
2023 January 30
A Mirror Universe?
Cosmic inflation makes the universe big, smooth, and flat.
For quantum reasons, inflation makes the early universe lumpy. The denser regions collapse to form galaxies, while the rest expands as intergalactic voids. You need to adjust the initial conditions and the model parameters to fit the lumps.
The early universe was dominated by hot radiation. Going back from there, the size of the universe shrinks to zero. We can extrapolate back to a mirror image copy of our universe before the big bang.
Our universe and its mirror image are related by charge−parity−time reversal symmetry. CPT symmetry is based on deep principles of quantum theory and general relativity confirmed in many experiments. Our universe seems to violate CPT symmetry, but the combination of our universe and the mirror universe respect it.
The two universes are mirror images up to quantum uncertainty. There are correlations between what happens on the two sides of the big bang, but the exact details will differ.
Using a mathematical tool called gravitational entropy, we calculated the number of possible cosmic histories for a mirror-symmetric universe filled with radiation, matter, and dark energy. We found that almost all the resulting universes are smooth and flat, with a pinch of dark energy. We no longer need inflation to get a smooth and flat universe.
The mirrored sides of the universe grow in opposite directions away from the big bang. We add dimension zero (D0) fields to the standard model to create primordial vacuum fluctuations that can match experimental measurements.
Our D0 fields can cancel out the infinite vacuum energy in virtual particles, cancel the infinities that spoil the symmetries of some standard model fields, and give just three generations of elementary particles.
Our theory is not yet fully supported by observations.
AR This looks very promising.
EU Green Capital Tallinn, Estonia
Nadhim "Careless" Zahawi
sacked as Tory chair
by Rishi Sunak
2023 January 29
Ukraine Peace Negotiations
This is not the time for negotiations over Ukraine. Successful peace negotiations usually require both a mutually hurting stalemate and leadership on both sides prepared to take political risks for peace. Neither condition currently exists.
There will need to be negotiations. Anything short of total victory requires negotiations. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accepts that all wars end in diplomacy, but we must not force Ukraine to surrender.
Putin could declare a ceasefire and present this as a victory. He would use the ensuing frozen conflict to prevent Ukraine from recovering. Ukraine may then need to agree to negotiations, but could insist on fighting and talking at the same time.
Ukraine proposes a peace summit under UN auspices. Zelensky has put forward a peace plan including demands on nuclear safety, justice, energy security, prisoner release, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity. It could form an agenda for negotiations while fighting continues.
Ukraine will be more secure as a member of the EU even if it postpones its application to join NATO. Russia must agree not to attack again, pay reparations for damage and destruction inflicted, and accept justice for crimes committed.
We will need to ensure we are safe from aggression in future, to establish a stable relationship between NATO and Russia, and to find an exit ramp for Putin.
Now is no time for negotiations.
AR This seems judicious and wise.
2023 January 28
Six Steps to Armageddon
1 Russian forces in Ukraine collapse or mutiny
2 Ukrainian troops push to the edge of Donbas and Crimea
3 European leaders warn Zelensky to go no further
4 Zelensky waits days before heeding their warnings
5 Putin is ousted in Moscow and replaced by FSB boss
6 New Kremlin boss goes nuclear
AR The risk is the price we pay to terminate a tyranny.
Westminster standards chief
Daniel Greenberg: "It's
impossible to overstate the
importance of politicians
.. setting an example."
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak told his MPs to "unite or die" as a warning to Tory rebels. They ignored him and forced the government into multiple U‑turns. Sunak decided to ask his ethics chief to look into the scandal of party chairman Nadhim Zahawi's tax affairs. Four former cabinet ministers are bemoaning his "car crash" decision. The Conservative party is ungovernable.
Rebutting the narrative
When things start to go wrong and you seem at the mercy of events, a media narrative is born. Then you're sunk. Confirmation bias kicks in, and the story just grows and grows.
The best way to rebut a narrative is with a bigger narrative. Rishi Sunak now desperately needs one. The prime minister must grip politics by the lapels.
I admire Sunak. I respect his intellect, work ethic, kindness, steady moderation, and capacity for analysis. I like his style.
But he is drowning in detail, head down in his study rather than coming out to explain. It's good to have a PM intelligently across every Whitehall brief, but this PM needs to beware.
Suspend Dominic Raab and Nadhim Zahawi. Rebuke Suella Braverman for her tone. Tell Michael Gove the levelling-up tombola must stop. Double down on the idiocy of tax cuts now.
Shake off the smell of the great steaming heap of dog mess on the Downing Street pavement left by the Johnson government. Take off those soiled shoes.
AR Rishi, heed Daniel.
Quantum Time Flips
Photons can act as if time flowed both forward and backward at once.
A team has a built a circuit that sends a photon down a superposition of two paths: one where it passes event A and then event B, and another where it passes B then A. Events A and B are in an indefinite causal order.
A game involves firing photons through two gadgets, A and B. Passing forward through a gadget rotates photon polarization by an amount that depends on the settings. Passing backward through the gadget rotates the polarization the opposite way.
For each round of the game, a referee secretly sets the gadgets either with a forward path through A, then backward through B, or with a backward path through A, then forward through B. The player must figure out which choice the referee made.
The player arranges the gadgets and sends a photon through the maze, perhaps in a superposition of two paths. The photon hits one of two detectors. Depending on how the player set up the maze, the detector click can reveal the referee's choice.
When the player sets up the circuit so that the photon goes only one way through each gadget, then even if A and B are in an indefinite causal order, the detector clicks match the gadget settings at most about 90% of the time.
Two teams ran quantum time-flip circuits for 1 million rounds. Both teams won over 99% of them, proving their photons were in a time-flip superposition.
Such circuits might be good for quantum computing.
AR Nice, but no big surprise.
2023 Holocaust Memorial Day
Angst und Schreck
Germany has made significant efforts to try to face up to its dark history. Its responsibility for the Holocaust is taught in schools and memorialised in monuments across the country. Berlin tries to refrain from taking steps on the international stage that could see the country cast once again as Europe's aggressor and at home has built a consensual political system aimed at preventing the rise of another Hitler.
Yuval Noah Harari: "I can say this to Germans as a Jew and Israeli and as grandchildren of Holocaust survivors: We know you are not Nazis. You don't have to prove it anymore."
AR I think he's right.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Ukraine: 'The big battle is coming'
Russian armed forces say they have launched a new offensive in Zaporizhzhia region. The frozen line is heating up. Soon one side will try to break the deadlock.
Both sides are strengthening their defenses. The invading force has erected two more lines of minefields, slit trenches, tank traps, and dragon's teeth. Ukrainians watch carefully as the Russians move mechanized units from Crimea toward the eastern front in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The first phase of Russia's all-out invasion ended in debacle for Putin's forces.
The second phase tried a war of attrition and was almost as complete a defeat as the first.
The third phase is about to start.
AR All is far from quiet on the eastern front.
⊛ Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS
Boris Pistorius: "Schön, mal wieder bei der Truppe zu sein"
2023 January 26
Germany and Ukraine
US president Joe Biden showered German chancellor Olaf Scholz with praise after their coordinated announcement that the US and Germany would send battle tanks to Ukraine.
The planned deliveries of tanks were met with jubilation in Kyiv and relief in western capitals. But the breakthrough involved policy U‑turns and leaps of faith in both Berlin and Washington. Germany is a nation burdened by history and reticent about projecting hard power beside NATO allies.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has dealt a death blow to German refusal to acknowledge the nature of Vladimir Putin's Russia. Until then, Russia's military atrocities, wars, and assassinations had failed to provoke change.
Olaf Scholz had refrained from showing leadership at the recent meeting of Ukraine's supporters in Ramstein. By hiding behind Washington, he risked damage to the transatlantic relationship.
The chancellery is now seeking to frame his decision as a stroke of political genius. This may reflect the equally unclear positions of many Germans. Russia's war in Ukraine has pushed Germans out of their comfort zone.
Germany is isolated
Olaf Scholz has ended his dithering over whether to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. But his hesitancy has already damaged the Western alliance.
Many German companies have made strategic investments in Russia. They want to see a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. The last thing they want is for Ukraine to win the war with the help of German weapons.
The German−Russian relationship is long and strong. Culturally, Berlin feels closer to Moscow than to London or Paris. A new era in German security policy has begun.
Peace in Ukraine
Russia has no credibility as a treaty party. Its track record of keeping its international commitments is disastrous.
Two months before the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Putin said Russia had no interest in taking control there. He raised no intention of annexing other Ukrainian territories. In February 2022, Russia justified its invasion with allegations of security concerns.
Russia should not be given parts of Ukrainian territory simply because it wants them and took some of them by force. Ever since 2008, Putin has used multiple justifications for hostilities and invasions, but always ended up simply grabbing land.
Putin believes he can win his war in Ukraine. Peace can only be achieved when he is proved wrong.
AR We need to be patient.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
2023 January 25
Abrams for Ukraine
The New York Times
President Biden says he will send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine to help it defend against Russian invaders. He says the United States will send 31 Abrams tanks, the equivalent of a Ukrainian battalion. Germany will follow through by contributing Leopard 2 tanks and freeing other allies to send their own, the equivalent of two more battalions.
Biden: "These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces .. There is no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today."
AR Now let's see how soon they reach the front.
Leos for Ukraine
Germany will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and will permit exports by other countries. It aims to establish two Leopard battalions in Ukraine with tanks from military stocks. Training of Ukrainian troops in Germany will begin soon. Germany will also provide logistics and ammunition.
AR Start the countdown.
Weird Black Holes
In our 4D universe, the event horizons of black holes must be 2D spheres. But the Einstein equations allow an infinite number of shapes for black holes in 5D and above.
A black ring is a symmetrical black hole solution to the Einstein equations in 5D. It is a 3D surface like a doughnut. In principle, such black holes could form if they were spinning at just the right speed.
We can describe all the shapes black holes can have in 5+ dimensions. Included among the shapes are lens spaces. Think of them as scrunched spheres.
In 1D, divide a circle into upper and lower halves, then move every point in the bottom half to the diametrically opposite point in the top half, to leave just the upper semicircle and two antipodal points, one at each end. Glue them to each other to make a smaller circle.
In 2D, take a sphere and move every point on the bottom half up so that it touches the antipodal point on the top half to leave just the top hemisphere. Matching the points along the equator with one another scrunches up the surface.
In 3D, take a ball and run longitudinal lines between the poles. Two lines split the globe into two hemispheres: Identify points on one hemisphere with the antipodal points on the other. There are many longitudinal lines and many ways to connect the sectors they define.
In 5D, a spinning black lens solution in asymptotically flat spacetime is held together by a matter field. A generalized result gives a black hole in the shape of any lens space, yielding an infinite number of possible black holes in an infinite number of dimensions.
Tiny black holes could pop up in a particle accelerator. If we found one with nonspherical topology, we could say our universe was at least 5D.
AR That's a pretty big if.
Polen hat bei der BRD die
Zustimmung zum Export von
Leopard‑2-Panzern an die
Ukraine beantragt: Die BRD
will Antrag "mit gebotener
2023 January 24
Tanks to Ukraine
SPIEGEL, 1731 UTC
Deutschland wird Kampfpanzer vom Typ Leopard 2 an die Ukraine liefern. Nach SPIEGEL-Informationen geht es um mindestens eine Kompanie Leopard 2A6.
Poland wants EU compensation
The Guardian, 1159 UTC
Poland will ask the EU for compensation for the cost of Leopard 2 tanks it wants to send Ukraine. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki: "I hope that this answer from Germany will come quickly, because the Germans are delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is difficult to understand."
What is the West waiting for?
Putin has long since abandoned any respect for the laws of war. With every day that goes by, more innocents are sacrificed and more soldiers on both sides are killed. The sooner we can help the Ukrainians to win, the better.
The Ukrainians will need our help to take back the land bridge along the coast from the Donbas to Crimea. If they can take back that land bridge, it is game over for Putin. All they need to do it is the kind of kit the West has in abundance.
I am proud that the UK is sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks. Defense secretary Ben Wallace has set an example for other countries to emulate. The Ukrainians need hundreds of tanks, and they should be getting them.
If Putin were so insane as to go nuclear, he would become a global pariah. He would plunge Russia into cryogenic economic exclusion. Above all, he would lose the Russian people.
Putin wants to portray his war of choice as a stand-off between NATO and Russia. But he has brought a geostrategic disaster upon himself. He has managed by his violence and aggression to destroy any case against NATO membership for Ukraine.
The Ukrainians are fighting for all of us. They are fighting for the principle that nations should not have their borders changed by force. Let's give them all they need to win.
AR It's happening.
The UK Economy
On almost all relevant international comparisons, the UK economy looks sickly. Forecasts from international bodies diagnose a chronic rather than acute problem. Three proximate causes:
✗ Brexit. All credible economic analysis suggests that leaving the EU caused the UK serious economic harm. For all their competence in economic management, government ministers deny this reality.
✗ Inadequate public services. The state squeezes justice, local government, welfare, housing, transport, and education in a bid to fund health and social care for an ageing society. All of these services are now losing the battle to do more with less.
✗ Impediments to construction. The UK is held back by its severe restrictions on building in places where people want to live and work and its legal rights for objectors to development.
These weaknesses hold Britain back. The people of Britain are to blame. They voted for Brexit, they insist on a welfare state with low taxation, and they block new homes near where they live.
Brexiteers promised sunlit uplands. They said the annual payments to the EU would make the NHS a world-envied health service. Now we have a collapsing NHS. They said the UK would "take back control" of its borders. Unmanaged migration is now rising. The economy would roar like a lion once the UK was "unshackled" from the EU. The UK is now the sick man of the G7.
The Retained EU Law bill proposes a mass cull of former EU laws turned into British law in a bid to get Brexit "done" by the end of 2023. The promoters of this folly are the same people who said we held all the cards in the withdrawal negotiations, we would secure a superb deal, and Brexit would be brilliant for Britain. Most voters say they would like to rejoin the EU.
AR All this is hard to deny.
2023 January 23
When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) started work, it soon detected extremely distant yet very bright galaxies that seem to have formed very early in the history of the universe.
Within a few My ABB, the hot plasma that filled space settled down, and particles combined into atoms, mostly neutral hydrogen. Things were quiet and dark during the cosmic dark ages. Then something happened.
In the standard picture, cold dark matter began collapsing into clumps. Atoms clustered and condensed into the first stars. Their radiation reionized interstellar hydrogen. Gravity pulled larger and more complex structures into a vast cosmic web of galaxies.
Cosmic expansion is accelerating, driven by dark energy, represented by lambda. Plug values for Λ, cold dark matter, and regular matter and radiation into the equations of general relativity, and you get the lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model.
JWST soon found a bright and distant galaxy at an apparent redshift of 12. Other JWST observations had redshift values from 11 to 20. The earliest JWST galaxies are an order of magnitude heavier than those in ΛCDM computer simulations.
The JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES) team searched for galaxies whose IR spectrum cuts off at the Lyman break where H atoms absorb light. Cosmic expansion shifts its wavelength: JADES found spectra with redshifts up to 13.
Simulated ΛCDM universes produce galaxies as heavy as those found by JADES at redshifts of 10 and higher. These galaxies may contain first-generation stars. JWST is doing well.
AR What about teleparallel gravity?
Year of the Rabbit
2023 Chinese New Year
Revealing the Start of Time
Gravitational waves can help us to peer back to the state of the cosmos shortly after the Big Bang. Princeton plasma physicists Deepen Garg and Ilya Dodin adapted techniques from their research into fusion energy to create formulas that could let gravitational waves reveal new facts.
Garg: "We can't see the early universe directly, but maybe we can see it indirectly if we look at how gravitational waves from that time have affected matter and radiation that we can observe today .. We basically put plasma wave machinery to work on a gravitational wave problem."
Dodin: "Once we started digging deeper into the topic, we realized that very little was understood about the problem and we could do some very basic theory work here."
AR Good work.
Tanks to Ukraine
It is an act of grave stupidity for the West to supply Ukraine with modern tanks. We may begin an unstoppable descent into horror. Ukraine's new tanks might sweep all before them and cross into what Russia regards as its own territory.
If cornered, Putin might authorize the use of battlefield nuclear weapons. A large chunk of Europe could be turned into a radioactive graveyard. I have no idea how Britain will become safer by sending Challenger 2 tanks.
Leopards for Ukraine
German defense minister Boris Pistorius said he wanted to check which and how many Leopard tanks he could deliver to Ukraine. But the German government has kept a detailed spreadsheet listing all the Leopards it has available since May 2022.
The Bundeswehr then had a total of 312 Leopard 2 tanks, of which 99 were in maintenance or repair and 1 due for scrap, so there were 212 Leopard 2 models in the inventory. Among them were the models 2A5, 2A6, 2A7, and 2A7V.
Germany might send Ukraine the 19 Leopard 2A5 currently used in training maneuvers. These could be combined in a package with upgraded 2A4 tanks from other European nations to equip a unified Ukrainian tank battalion with Leopards.
AR Send tanks.
2023 January 21
Germany Defies Pressure
Guy Chazan, Felicia Schwartz
Germany dashed allied hopes that it would approve the dispatch of battle tanks to Ukraine on Friday. Leopard 2 battle tanks would help Kyiv mount a counteroffensive against Russia, but Berlin has yet to agree, despite pressure from its allies.
German defense minister Boris Pistorius will check the Bundeswehr inventory of Leopards to see how many could be spared: "Then we would be able to act immediately and provide the support within a very short time."
German chancellor Olaf Scholz will not take a lead on sending tanks. Biden administration officials say Leopards are lighter and easier to maintain than Abrams tanks, hence better suited to the war in Ukraine.
US Republican senator Lindsey Graham: "Putin is trying to rewrite the map of Europe by force of arms. World order is at stake. To the Germans: send tanks to Ukraine because they need them .. To the Biden administration: send American tanks so that others will follow our lead."
Tanks no longer taboo
Konstantin von Hammerstein
To shape political developments, you need to see sooner than others which way the wind is blowing, then take the lead. He who hesitates is lost.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz hesitates. Comrade Olaf knows what's right, and that's enough.
In Ramstein, new defense minister Boris Pistorius acted like a pro. There was "no unified opinion" among the partners on the question of tanks, he said. The decision to deliver Leopard 2 will be made "as soon as possible" in consultation with partners. He commissioned his ministry to examine the inventory of Leopard 2 tanks in the Bundeswehr and in industry − a way to buy time.
Ukraine urgently needs battle tanks to withstand a Russian spring offensive. The paradox is that tank deliveries are no longer taboo. It is only a matter of time before they get the green light.
Germany will pay a high price for the delay. The Russians are happy; the Ukrainians are not. In the end, Germany will deliver Leopards.
Die Kommunikation insbesondere von Kanzler Olaf Scholz in dieser Frage sei eine "Katastrophe", laut Vorsitzende des Verteidigungsausschusses Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann: "Zumindest wäre ein Signal richtig gewesen, den Partnern schon mal grünes Licht zu geben. Die Geschichte schaut auf uns und Deutschland hat leider gerade versagt."
Sie sei sich allerdings sicher, dass die Leopard am Ende an die Ukraine geliefert würden.
AR Let's hope so.
2023 January 20
German Tanks for Ukraine
Defense ministers from 15 countries met at the Ramstein air base in Germany today to discuss sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Kyiv says it needs the tanks to retake territory, but the Kremlin warns of an "extremely dangerous" escalation.
Under current regulations, Germany must sanction any re-export of Leopard 2 tanks by countries that use them. Germany is reluctant to give the green light except as part of a wider NATO package, preferably including US M1 Abrams tanks.
US defense secretary Lloyd Austin: "Germany has .. a big oar in the water like the rest of the contact group does, and they're working hand in hand with the rest of our colleagues here .. Our goal is to provide the capability Ukraine needs to be successful in the near term."
US joint chiefs of staff chair General Mark Milley on when Ukraine can launch an offensive: "Personnel have to be trained and married with equipment .. there's a really short window of time to accomplish those key tasks and that's very challenging .. This is the most unified I've ever seen NATO."
Poland's defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak on sending Leopard tanks: "Defense ministers .. talked about this topic. I am convinced that coalition building will end in success."
Ukraine's present tanks are old and are no match for modern NATO tanks. Ukraine wants a few hundred Leopard 2 tanks because there are around 2,000 in 13 European countries and they are relatively easy to maintain, with ready supplies of spare parts and ammunition.
German defense secretary Boris Pistorius: "None of us can say today when there will be a decision for Leopard tanks and what the decision may look like. When a decision is made .. I want to be able to act quickly .. We will support Ukraine so long as it is necessary and the war is over."
AR Chancellor Olaf Scholz must make the decision.
Poole Bay seafront, 2023-01-19
2023 January 19
Military Aid for Ukraine
• A group of 11 countries pledge new military aid for Ukraine.
• Britain plans to send 600 MBDA Brimstone missiles.
• Sweden will send AFVs and the Archer artillery system.
• Estonia will send military equipment worth €113 million.
• Denmark will donate 19 Caesar howitzer artillery systems.
• US and German defence ministers discuss sending Leopard 2 tanks.
• Poland could send Leopard 2 tanks even without German approval.
• US officials are considering helping Ukraine strike Crimea.
AR The war is escalating.
Germany and Ukraine
Timothy Garton Ash
Germany has a responsibility to help Ukraine end Putin's war of terror. The Berlin government should send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine let allies do so.
★ Eighty years ago, Nazi Germany fought a war in Ukraine. The lesson of history is not that German tanks should never be used against Russia but that they should be used to protect Ukrainians.
★ German policy toward Russia failed after the annexation of Crimea and the start of Russian aggression in the Donbas in 2014. Germany increased its energy dependence on Russia after 2014.
★ Germany paid Russia for energy. In the first six months of the war, Germany paid Russia some €19 billion for it. Russia's entire military budget for six months in 2021 was around €30 billion.
★ The German position on military support for Ukraine is still hesitant and confused. America shares its concerns about Russian escalation, but the best path to peace is to step up military support.
Ukraine needs more kit. To push back it needs modern battle tanks. Leopard 2 is the best available. Germans should show leadership.
AR A sound analysis from a sympathetic observer.
Boris Pistorius ist neuer
und wird die Zeitenwende
2023 January 18
Speaking at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres compared Big Oil bosses who knew decades ago that their products were "baking our planet" with tobacco company bosses who knew smoking led to cancer:
"Just like the tobacco industry, they rode roughshod over their own science. Big Oil peddled the big lie .. Today, fossil fuel producers and their enablers are still racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival. This insanity belongs in science fiction, yet we know the ecosystem meltdown is cold, hard scientific fact."
Oliver Stone goes nuclear
Andrew Ross Sorkin et al.
Amid the crowd gathered in Davos, Oliver Stone says nuclear power is a force for good. His movie Nuclear shows it has been unfairly maligned by Big Oil and its danger is overstated.
Stone: "Despite our investments in renewables, it's not improving our carbon emissions because we haven't tackled the core issue − eliminating fossil fuels."
'Tax us now'
A group of 205 millionaires and billionaires call on leaders and executives meeting in Davos to introduce wealth taxes to tackle extreme inequality:
"The current lack of action is gravely concerning. A meeting of the 'global elite' in Davos to discuss 'cooperation in a fragmented world' is pointless if you aren't challenging the root cause of division .. Now is the time to tackle extreme wealth; now is the time to tax the ultra rich."
Almost two thirds of the new wealth amassed in 2020 and 2021 went to the richest 1% of people. They pocketed $26 trillion in new money, while only about $15 trillion went to the poorer 99%.
AR Big business leads, governments follow.
⌜ Russell Frege ⌝
⌞ Gödel Turing ⌟
2023 January 17
The Joy of Sets
In 1900, the young Cambridge fellow Bertrand Russell believed he had codified the laws of arithmetic and put the discipline of mathematics on a firm foundation. In 1901, he began to realise that maths could not fully explain itself. The inadequacy arose from its logical foundations in set theory.
Russell wrecked German mathematician Gottlob Frege's monumental work on the foundations of arithmetic by deriving a contradiction from its axioms. Around Europe, mathematical thinkers faced a crisis of belief. Novelist Robert Musil: "They actually looked all the way to the bottom and found that the whole building was standing in midair."
This foundational crisis led via David Hilbert's decision problem and Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems to the work of another young mathematician in Cambridge. Alan Turing began to formulate a mechanical procedure to test the validity of any mathematical proposition. His 1937 paper "On Computable Numbers" shaped the modern world.
Mathematics belongs within the Modernist revolution in art and thought that reconfigured minds and lives. Yet the response of many traditional literati to any suggestion that mathematics should form part of a shared culture remains denial, derision, and outrage.
UK prime minister Rishi Sunak proposes a compulsory extension of maths education to age 18. The braying chorus of "no more boring sums" from many authors offers a dismaying glimpse into the wilful ignorance that passes for cultivation in British literary life.
Maths may be fallible
The gold standard for mathematical reliability is axiomatic set theory. Beginning in the early 1900s, mathematicians developed a set of fundamental axioms for set theory known as ZFC (from Ernst Zermelo and Abraham Fraenkel, plus an axiom of choice).
California philosopher of mathematics Penelope Maddy: "If it could be guaranteed that ZFC is consistent, all uncertainty about mathematics could be dispelled. Alas, it soon became clear that the consistency of those axioms could be proved only by assuming even stronger axioms, which obviously defeats the purpose."
ZFC has been hugely productive. It has let mathematicians prove no end of interesting results. They have even developed precise measures of just how much we can trust theories derived from ZFC.
But Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems showed the futility of seeking perfection: Any useful mathematical theory allows statements about its domain that cannot be proved true or false.
AR My own work from 1972 to 1977 on the foundations of set theory remains one of the great joys and privileges of my life − more thereon in my next book.
2023 January 16
Forget Global Britain
Brexit is a disaster. Its costs include £40 billion a year in lost tax revenue, a 4% hit to GDP, and 6% added to food prices. Its benefits are illusory, trivial, or distant.
Yet UK PM Rishi Sunak terms Brexit a "tremendous success" and Sir Keir Starmer talks only about making Brexit work.
Britain still has something Europe needs: military, security, and intelligence clout. Europe still depends on an increasingly unwilling United States. Germany and France need help. Bolstering European security is a huge opportunity for Britain.
Global Britain made an Indo-Pacific tilt featuring defence deals with Australia and Japan. Sharing expertise and training is fine. So is a presence with allies. But the UK makes only a marginal difference in these faraway seas and regions.
The British army is too small for a peer adversary such as Russia. Across the armed forces, Britain needs more stocks of ammunition and spare parts and the logistics to move them. Otherwise, the warplanes, tanks, and ships are just for show.
The UK £55 billion defence budget is badly spent. Allies and foes alike know Britain tries to do too much with too little and ends up doing it all badly.
Focusing on Europe will increase British security, relieve Americans, and repair continental ties broken by Brexit.
AR Integrate European forces properly in NATO.
2023 January 15
Getting Brexit Done
UK foreign secretary James Cleverly and EU Brexit man Maros Sefcovic have agreed to let the EU monitor the flow of goods from GB into NI. The deal was finalised last week in a cordial atmosphere.
Boris Johnson's deal with Brussels in 2020 left NI in the customs unions of both the UK and the EU and put a border in the Irish Sea. Some GB traders cannot send products into NI and others are deterred by the paperwork.
The data deal will let EU officials monitor the movement of all goods coming into NI. An express lane leaves the problem for the UK that the EU wants to check some goods in the express lanes. UK and EU officials aim to solve this.
Former PM Liz Truss pushed a bill to abandon parts of the NIP unilaterally if there were no deal. New PM Rishi Sunak has put that bill on ice to give the talks a chance.
The harder problem concerns ECJ governance of a deal. The role of the ECJ is a problem for the ERG and the leadership of the DUP. But EU officials insist on it, given that the EU has issues over democratic governance in Hungary and Poland.
Both sides want a new deal before a possible state visit by US president Joe Biden to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10.
AR This is all such a bodge.
2023 January 14
UK to Send Tanks to Ukraine
BBC News, 1130 UTC
UK PM Rishi Sunak confirms the UK will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine during a call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.
AR Will this push Germans to let Poland send Leopard 2 tanks?
Troubled German secretary of defense Christine Lambrecht will likely resign next week. People in the Bundeswehr reacted with relief: "Finally."
Respect and trust are important. A defense minister cannot become the laughing stock of the troops. Ever since February 24, 2022, the defense ministry should have been central in the federal government after the chancellor. It wasn't.
Lambrecht has spoken to chancellor Olaf Scholz several times about resigning. She was wrong for the job and never looked ready to master geopolitics, English, the defense industry, and the work of the forces. Soldiers soon sense when a minister really wants nothing to do with them.
Scholz likes to have everything under control, but now he must work fast. A big meeting in Ramstein next week will see NATO partners discuss delivery of Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.
The Bundeswehr is in a desolate state. Scholz gave Lambrecht €100 billion but has seen little action. He should have replaced her long ago.
AR Put Wolfgang Schmidt in defense.
What Russia fears
2023 January 13
Russian president Vladimir Putin: "Russia's future is what matters the most. Defending our Motherland is the sacred duty we owe to our ancestors and descendants."
As 2023 began, a college in Makiivka, 12.5 km from the front line, was hit by Ukrainian artillery. The building housed not only hundreds of recent Russian conscripts but also ammunition. The Russian ministry of defense admitted the disaster. The unofficial toll is close to 300 killed.
Russian general Sergei Sevryukov: "The main reason for the incident was the activation and mass use − contrary to a prohibition − of mobile phones by personnel in the enemy's range."
A Ukrainian military spokesman said the Russians were unable to deploy their personnel covertly. The stored ammunition turned the loss into a catastrophe. HIMARS and other Ukrainian systems make all troop concentrations near the front vulnerable.
Russian forces are mounting a serious offensive to take Bakhmut. This is another epic encounter in which the Russians spend months and heavy casualties to take cities they reduce to rubble. The Russians and their Wagner mercenaries have taken huge losses. Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin blames a lack of equipment and shells.
Deputy minister of defense Valery Gerasimov: "The situation on the front line has stabilized, with the main efforts of the Russian troops concentrated on completing the liberation of the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic."
Putin: "We are .. all mortal, we are all under the Lord. And someday we will all leave this world. It is inevitable. The question is how we lived."
The underlying trends of this war favor Ukraine. Putin faces more retreats and a growing aura of futility.
AR Putin faces death and infamy.
2023 January 12
UK vs Germany
The UK and Germany have very different economic problems. Germany is reliant on old industries and technology. The UK's problems have been exacerbated by Brexit. Both countries have unsustainable economic models.
Angela Merkel was uninterested in solving problems. She agreed to global emissions benchmarks and NATO military spending targets that she had no means of meeting. The austerity policies of her coalitions led to a shortfall in public investment of hundreds of billions of euros.
Germany was outwardly a successful economy during her period in office. Growth rates were good and public finances were solid. But the Bundeswehr is now so underfunded that it cannot fight a war over several weeks.
AR A merged Anglo-German economy would be better than the sum of the two.
EU in the UK
President von der Leyen
2023 January 11
Ursula von der Leyen
We know that our adversaries and our competitors are using all possible tools to challenge us and to undermine our security. They are afraid of our openness, of our transparency, of our democracies .. That is why it is so important that we stand together and strengthen our resilience overall.
Today .. we will be discussing Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine .. Because we all know that a stronger European defence will also make NATO stronger.
Since the beginning of Russia's war, Member States have started to increase their military spending .. we also need to spend better .. We need to build interoperable forces [and] maintain a strong industrial military base in Europe.
One important new focus for our cooperation is the security of our critical infrastructure .. So today we are launching an EU−NATO Task Force for Resilient Critical Infrastructure .. By now, if you count in Finland and Sweden, 23 Member States of the 27 in the European Union are also in NATO.
AR Addressed to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.
2023 January 10
NATO and the EU
The EU and NATO are close partners. Today, we sign our new Joint Declaration that sends a strong message of unity and continued support for Ukraine.
The EU and NATO are:
★ Stepping up cooperation on emerging and disruptive technologies and space
★ Intensifying work on countering hybrid and cyber threats and terrorism
★ Addressing the looming security implications of the climate crisis
★ Strengthening the resilience of our critical infrastructure
Declaration of cooperation
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg signed the third joint declaration of cooperation between NATO and the EU with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.
Stoltenberg says the cooperation is "more important than ever" following Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "We are determined to take the partnership between NATO and the EU to the next level."
NATO and the EU will cooperate more closely in the "growing geostrategic competition" with China and appeal to Russia to end the Ukraine war immediately.
AR The UK is out in the cold.
The B— Word
Last week, Sir Keir Starmer made a speech with the theme "Take Back Control" but not in that way. He doesn't want to talk about Brexit.
Rishi Sunak doesn't want to talk about it either. He says he's against regulatory alignment because Brexit is already delivering "enormous benefits" to Britain.
Brexit is a disaster. Political instability since Brexit has made the UK less attractive to investors. The UK has an economy smaller than before the pandemic.
Given that the prime minister supported Brexit and the leader of the opposition did not, you might expect our politics to be dominated by little else.
AR Silence compounds the sin.
2023 January 9
Eurozone Employment Up
Eurostat data shows the number of people in the EZ labor market without work fell in November to 10.8 million unemployed, the lowest since records began.
German industrial output increased 0.2% between October and November.
The New European
The reality of Brexit is sinking in.
A new survey shows 1 in 3 Tory voters now say Brexit has created more problems than it has solved, while 1 in 5 say the opposite.
Some 2 in 5 Tory supporters said the NI Protocol was a key Brexit concern, 1 in 3 are worried about red tape affecting UK businesses, and 1 in 3 frustrated about difficulties with gaining work abroad.
When the survey was widened to all voters, almost 3 in 5 said Brexit was causing more problems than it solved.
Another recent poll conducted a split sample. When asked a simple question about rejoining, 42% of respondents wanted to return to the EU, while 35% opted to stay out.
Even when joining the single market and the Schengen area, accepting free movement of EU nationals, applying EU laws, and paying into the EU budget were listed to the other half of the sample, 38% still wanted to return to the EU and 35% to stay out.
This is the will of the people.
AR End the B— farce now.
2023 January 8
Russian Aggression in Ukraine
Senior UK politicians back demands for a special tribunal to investigate Russia for a "crime of aggression" against Ukraine in a move to hold Vladimir Putin and his generals to account.
In a joint statement, former prime minister Gordon Brown, Labour leader Keir Starmer, former NATO secretary general George Robertson, former foreign secretary David Owen, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and others say the tribunal should be set up to investigate the "manifestly illegal war" on the same principles that guided the Allies for the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is looking at allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the Ukraine invasion. Advocates say a special tribunal is needed because the ICC does not have the power to examine the crime of aggression, defined by as the invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state on the territory of another state, or any military occupation.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says a new tribunal with broad support is needed to ensure the invasion does not go unpunished. The Netherlands is willing to host a UN tribunal.
The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown
It has been 10 months since Russia, backed by Belarus, launched one of the largest ground invasions in Europe since the Second World War.
Since then, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed or injured, eight million people have been internally displaced and around eight million have become refugees. Civilian infrastructure and economic assets worth tens of billions have been destroyed or plundered, and irreplaceable cultural monuments reduced to rubble ..
.. we propose the creation of a special tribunal with a limited focus on the crime of aggression ..
The tribunal would draw on international law which proscribes aggression and the domestic law of Ukraine .. and respond to a direct request from President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian Parliament to take forward this initiative.
AR Definitely worth doing.
2023 January 7
A Sharper Mind
Dr Sanjay Gupta
Whatever your age, you can feel sharper, less anxious, more productive, better rested, and more energized in just three months if you:
• Eat vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil
• Cut out all added sugar (and artificial sweeteners)
• Slash your salt intake
• Aim to drink 30 ml of water a day for every kg of body weight
• Get up and walk for at least 2 min every hour
• Walk for at least 30 min every day
• Deep breathe, twice a day
• Try analytical meditation as a daily habit
• Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night
• Pick up a new hobby or do something in a different way
• Make more social plans
AR Surely sound advice.
Imagine there's no Brexit
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to cheat or lie for
And no corruption too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I'm a Remainer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And Europe will be as one
RIP, John Lennon
2023 January 6
Britain begins 2023 in crisis. A rich country has become dysfunctional. Voters feel frustration at the stoppages and shortages, disbelief at the decline, and fatalism about a fall.
There is less overt anger than might be expected. Voters have deserted the Conservative party in the opinion polls, but polls suggest a lot of flux and confusion.
Voters sense that the current crisis may well get worse. They hope for more competent and principled government under Starmer: "We can't go on like this."
Sunak vs Starmer
Rishi Sunak provided the backdrop for Keir Starmer to make his best speech yet.
Sunak seemed on another planet when he talked about maths, fintech, quantum, life sciences, and AI, while people can't heat homes, buy enough food, call an ambulance, summon police to a burglary, post a letter, catch a train, or pay their bills.
Starmer said trust in central power is broken. Trusting in communities covers everything from the NHS and crime to schools, skills, planning, transport, and the environment. He plans a "take back control" act to cut Whitehall power.
Labour is on course for victory.
Sunak vs Truss
Rishi Sunak lists growing the economy as one of his five priorities. His supporters say trying anything too bold would only expose weakness.
Liz Truss and members of her cabinet could still pose a threat in an ideological fight. When a party is trailing by 20 points in the polls, MPs say slow-and-steady is no answer.
Sunak leaves a vacuum for others to fill. Boris Johnson may woo those who feel their voices have not been heard.
The UK economy is in a bad way. Britain faces a deeper recession and slower recovery than its peers.
British performance since 2008 is the worst in British history since before the Industrial Revolution.
The global financial crisis hit the UK hard. The turn to austerity and Brexit were drags on recovery.
AR Doom and gloom.
⊛ Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Fighter from Karpatska Sich Battalion in a church destroyed by shelling and reportedly looted by Russian forces,
Lyman district, Donetsk region, 2022-12-25
2023 January 5
The Kremlin has announced a 36 hr ceasefire in Ukraine to mark the Eastern Orthodox Christmas. President Putin ordered the ceasefire from noon Friday until midnight Saturday. Ukraine's leaders dismiss it as cynical posturing by a ruthless and untrustworthy enemy.
UK defence strategy
Ukraine is now the focus of British attention. This was not anticipated in the March 2021 Integrated Review, where Global Britain dreamed of an Indo‑Pacific tilt.
Senior Whitehall officials still imagine the UK is a global power, with the navy policing Asian sea lanes rather than protecting the undersea cables that connect the British Isles.
We should scrap the review and start again. Perversely, it identified Russia as the most acute threat to UK national security yet redirected military and security resources to Asia.
Scrap the Indo‑Pacific tilt. Focus on building forces to deter Putin from attacking other European allies. Bolster Ukraine and prepare the end of the regimes in Minsk and Moscow.
The UK needs a statement of grand strategy, demanding changes in forces, industry, and thinking. Have the courage to focus on Europe and NATO.
Fifty years on
On 1 January 1973, Britain became a member of the European Economic Community. It hoped to wield outsized influence in Europe.
The British governing class is incapable of running a small European archipelago and nurses a delusion that Britain must always strive to be world-beating, worthy of global status.
A postcolonial melancholia links the Britain of 1973 with 2023. Government elites battle the decline on the fraying carpets and under the leaky roofs of government buildings.
Britain is still an imperial entity. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland aim to transcend it. Only England lacks its own political institutions, yet it hosts 84% of all Brits.
The British malaise elides the unresolved Europe question with the unresolved English question.
AR Britain needs to shape up.
2023 January 4
Will we ever be able to locate consciousness within the brain? Two researchers aim to settle a wager they made long ago this summer.
At the ASSC2 conference in Bremen in 1998, Christof Koch, now at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, bet David Chalmers, now at New York University, that scientists would discover a neural correlate of consciousness within 25 years.
Koch: "I was a young academic. I was at the world's best research university. I was inexperienced. I thought, OK, we're going to nail this problem."
Chalmers: "If we understand consciousness, we'll understand ourselves a whole lot better."
There are two main rival theories of consciousness:
◼ Global workspace theory says the brain processes non-conscious experiences in sensory areas, but we only become aware of them if this information is then broadcast to a cluster of neurons distributed across the brain that integrate the sense data. Brain regions with dense links to others are prime sites for the integration.
◼ Integrated information theory argues that extended awareness of an object must be correlated with a signal of consciousness for the same duration. IIT suggests the signal is in the posterior cortex, where neurons are active during conscious perception.
The bet will be called at the ASSC26 conference in New York City, June 2023.
AR I was at the conference in Bremen where they made the bet. I talked with them both.
2023 January 3
UK Economic Forecast
The UK will face one of the worst recessions and weakest recoveries in the G7 in 2023. Most FT poll respondents say the inflationary shock caused by the pandemic and the Ukraine war will persist for longer in the UK than elsewhere.
An economist: "The 2023 recession will feel much worse than the economic impact of the pandemic."
Another: "The combination of falling real wages, tight financial conditions, and a housing market correction are as bad as it gets."
Forecasts show UK GDP shrinking by 1% in 2023, compared with 0.1% for the EZ and growth of 0.25% in the US.
LSE professor Ricardo Reis: "The UK suffers from an energy shock as bad as Europe's, an inflation problem as bad as the US, and a unique problem of lack of labour supply from the combination of Brexit and the NHS crisis."
AR Blame Brexit.
Putin vs West
Vladimir Putin's long war against the West has been brought into stark relief by his brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Brexit was the first step in Putin's plan to remove Britain from the EU and derail the transatlantic alliance at the heart of NATO.
In the summer of 2012, Russian diplomat Sergey Nalobin held a party at the embassy in London establishing the Conservative Friends of Russia. For three years, he befriended senior Conservatives and those later associated with the Vote Leave campaign, including Boris Johnson.
Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko was appointed in January 2011. He approached UKIP and met Nigel Farage in the Russian embassy in 2013. Farage began to appear regularly on the RT channel as a studio guest and in news of his speeches in the European Parliament.
Putin began funding Eurosceptic and far-right parties across Europe, in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. His Internet Research Agency spent $50 million a year supporting Donald Trump's presidential election campaign. The planned UK referendum on EU membership presented an opportunity to strike a strategic blow against the EU.
Russian embassy official Alexander Udod was tasked with infiltrating UKIP. He approached Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore at the UKIP conference in 2015, when they were planning their Leave.EU campaign. From November 2015 through to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Russian embassy staff had multiple meetings with Leave.EU officials on preferential access to state monopolies in Russian gold and diamond deals.
Nalobin and Udod waged a campaign to shape British politics via Brexit. Nalobin was expelled from Britain in 2015 and Udod in 2018.
Yakovenko was recalled to Moscow after Boris Johnson became the Conservative party leader in 2019. Putin awarded him the Order of Alexander Nevsky medal and made him president of the diplomatic academy. Yakovenko: "We have crushed the British to the ground. They are on their knees, and they will not rise for a very long time."
London and the UK became the favoured hub for a rich Russian diaspora. Soviet-born oligarchs joined the British scene and made the City of London a major investment and trading hub for Russian companies.
The Conservative party enjoyed extensive funding by Russian oligarchs and gave them access to politicians. Many senior business figures who funded either the Leave campaigns or Brexit think tanks made their millions in Russia or have big investments there.
The Evening Standard and The Independent newspapers are both owned by Russian oligarchs. The Evening Standard, owned by former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny, promoted Johnson during his time as mayor of London. Against security advice, Johnson later elevated Evgeny to the House of Lords.
Soviet-born oligarch and major Conservative donor Alexander Temerko said Johnson was persuaded to back Brexit by a group of eastern European businessmen. Johnson made the final decision at a dinner with Evgeny Lebedev, then spent time as foreign secretary drinking with Temerko and plotting to replace prime minister Theresa May.
In November 2017, the first Mueller indictment had accused Trump foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos of lying about meeting Joseph Mifsud, a purported Russian agent in London. Mifsud had planned to meet Johnson to talk over dinner about Brexit. Weeks after meeting Mifsud, Johnson told a select committee he'd seen "not a sausage" of Russian interference in British politics.
On the day after Johnson said this, former chief whip Gavin Williamson was appointed defence secretary. Brexiteer Williamson knew about the links between Leave.EU and Russia. Theresa May finally called out Russian interference in British politics in 2018. Williamson was sacked from his defence job in May 2019.
A few months later, Johnson appointed Williamson as campaign manager in his bid for the Conservative leadership. Johnson has since awarded Williamson a knighthood.
Putin has been waging a hybrid war against the UK, US, and EU since at least 2014, using online operations, subversion, character assassination, and sometimes murder.
Despite Johnson's attempts to suppress its publication, the Russia Report by the UK intelligence and security committee confirmed this.
For eight years, the British establishment gave Putin a free hand to wage his war against the West.
AR Brits have let down the West and ruined their economy.
2023 January 2
The Wreckage of Brexit
The wreckage of Brexit is all around us, but UK politicians will still not acknowledge it. New evidence of the folly of our exit from the EU seems to arrive at least once a week.
The government responds to such news with its usual ludicrous evasions. Even now, Tory zealots cling to the belief that life outside the EU could still deliver all the promised prosperity and general magic, if only ministers would try harder.
What Brexit has done to Tory politics now goes beyond the party's interminable debate about what exactly life outside Europe should entail, and deep into Conservatism's collective psychology, which has become eccentric and unhinged.
On basic economics, the extremists deny the existence of gravity. But they now make much more noise about climate action, Meghan Markle, the BBC, whatever other "woke" ghouls are irking them. Their defining project has turned to dust.
For fear of questioning Brexit itself, no one in politics seems minded to point this out. When mainstream politicians are in denial, demagogues make hay.
A toxic electoral system
Under the British first past the post (FPTP) electoral system, Labour needs a lead of 12% for a parliamentary majority. Governments tend to gain as election day looms.
FPTP leads to a winner-take-all system, privileging the interests of the already powerful and a few swing voters in a few swing seats. Proportional representation (PR) would weaken their grip by making every vote count.
In 2019, 16.2 million people backed progressive parties and only 13.9 million supported the Tory and Brexit parties. But the latter won an 80‑seat majority.
We must change the system to change society. Polls show both majority support for PR (56%) and for progressive parties to work together in government (78%), with candidates helping each other to win (71%).
Power is waged and won by combining morality with force. The UK needs real democratic reform. Politics as usual will not do.
AR British politics is so dismal.
⊛ G. Allegre CC BY-SA 4.0
MIGA is located at the Laboratoire Souterrain à Bas Bruit (LSBB) in southern France: LSBB is also a site option
for the projected European Laboratory for Gravitational and Atom-interferometric Research (ELGAR)
Gravitational Wave Astronomy
The Matter-wave Laser Interferometric Gravitation Antenna (MIGA) in France is designed to spot low-frequency gravitational waves that LIGO can't see.
Located 300 m underground in a former military facility, MIGA is a 150 m tube around a near-perfect vacuum. While LIGO uses two beams of light as detectors, MIGA uses rubidium atoms chilled with lasers to just 2 μK.
Quantum effects turn the cold atoms into matter waves that can be used like light beams, but with far more sensitivity. Unlike LIGO, MIGA can detect VLF gravitational waves.
MIGA project manager Benjamin Canuel: "The dream of gravitational wave astronomy is to be able to cover all frequencies of gravitational waves."
MIGA will be the first laser-based atomic interferometer to study variations of the strain tensor of spacetime and gravitation.
The MIGA antenna baseline is designed to reach high sensitivity at low frequency. It has three atom interferometers distributed along the beam path. A laser beam locked to a resonant cavity drives the interferometer laser pulses. Each interferometer measures the accelerations felt by the atoms relative to the cavity mirrors.
The atoms are in free fall along a parabolic trajectory. Interrogation times of 200 ms will be reached with an active interrogation area of diameter 20 cm. A differential measurement between the three interferometers cancels the mirror contributions and gives readouts of gravity gradient, gravity curvature, or higher moments.
Due to their limited frequency bandwidth, current GW detectors such as LIGO can only observe the last evolution phase of binary systems. Before collision, the same sources emit quasi-continuous GW signals at lower frequencies. Detectors such as MIGA will be able to observe such sources years before LIGO can see them.
Low frequency GW detectors allow extended observation of binary systems and new gravity and cosmology tests.
AR I look forward to the first results.
Nork 600 mm Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL) can carry tactical nuclear warheads and will put all of South Korea within range
2023 January 1
Kim Jong Un Orders More Nork Nukes
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for an "exponential increase" in the NK nuclear weapons arsenal in response to what he claims are threats from South Korea and the United States.
North Korea twice over the weekend tested what it claimed was a large, nuclear-capable, multiple-launch rocket system that could put all of South Korea in its range. Kim said South Korea has become an "undoubted enemy" and says its US ally has exerted "maximum" pressure on the North by frequently deploying US military assets to Korea.
Kim said Pyonyang will mass produce tactical nuclear weapons and develop a new ICBM to give him a "quick" counterstrike capability.
The South Korea defense ministry called Kim's comments "provocative language that seriously harms peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula" and urged Pyongyang to "immediately stop" developing nuclear weapons and return to the path of denuclearization.
The ministry will strengthen its "three‑axis" defense system: the Kill Chain preemptive strike system, the Korea Air and Missile Defense system, and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan.
Washington is deploying assets like F‑22 fighters and B‑1 bombers to the exercises around Korea and has activated its first overseas Space Force command in South Korea.
AR Kim needs nuking.
⊛ Alessandra Benedetti
Pope Benedict XVI
In September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address at the University of Regensburg. It inflamed the Muslim world, but for me it became a source of understanding.
The lecture offered a critique of tendencies that set the West on a collision course with Islam. Benedict traced the crisis to a rupture between faith and reason that left us torn between irrational faith or soulless reason.
The ancient Greeks used reason to uncover the deepest origins of reality. The philosophers concluded that there must be some absolute perfection in which all others participate, an unmoved mover behind the world. The Greeks found God via philosophy.
Greek armies overran many nations. Among them were the Jews, who answered questions about ultimate causation with a universal God: "I Am" was the stuff of philosophy.
The courtship between ancient Greece and Jewish religion was consummated with the advent of Christianity. In the Christian telling, God became a man of reason: In the beginning was Logos, a reasonable God.
This account of divinity challenges both irrational superstition and a kind of reason that would reduce all phenomena to their immediate efficient causes without going deeper.
Benedict blamed theologians who questioned whether God could be known by reason and reformers who saw the Greco-Roman influence on Christianity as pagan baggage.
Faith and reason went their separate ways. Fundamental ideals and yearnings, Benedict observed, are now excluded from the realm of public reason. The moral claims of the great religious traditions are treated as species of private bias.
A scientistic account of reason affords humans a lower status than did classical philosophy and revealed religions. You can do anything to people, especially the weak and the poor, if you view them as mere collections of particles.
Benedict: "The world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions."
At Regensburg, Benedict targeted the individual and utilitarian consequences of materialism and scientism. He has shaped a deeper Catholic−Muslim dialog based on a shared critique of a soulless modern world.
AR I enjoyed several books by Benedict. He was a deep thinker.
Wareham Forest, New Year's Day