"Boris Johnson is an epic shit.
I hope he ends badly."
Theresa May, Gollum
2018 December 18
Battle of Brexit
The UK cabinet has decided to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The government will spend an extra £2 billion on contingency planning.
UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson promises to hold 3,500 service personnel at readiness for any contingencies arising from Brexit.
Just 101 days to Brexit. Theresa May has postponed the Commons vote on her withdrawal agreement until next year because she knows she will lose it.
Jeremy Corbyn has not tabled a motion of no confidence in the government because he wants to avoid a second referendum.
Corbyn is a closet Brexiteer. A zombie prime minister is shadowed by a leader offering only an illusion of opposition. Both see the People's Vote
campaign as a sinister plot and neither is truly committed to their public stand on Brexit.
Crucial domestic policy reforms are on hold because the government is preoccupied with Brexit. At a time when the UK needs leadership, it has no
government and no opposition.
British business has had its worst year since the financial crisis: Estimated GDP growth for 2018 is 1.2%. Companies are hardly investing at all.
The weakness of the pound is driving inflation. Just three months before Brexit, disagreements over which way to go are as wide as ever.
The UK government admits that Brexit will damage business. Uncertainty since the referendum has made British GDP an estimated 2% lower than it would
have been with a vote to remain. The cost to the Treasury is estimated at £500 million per week.
The NIESR conservatively estimates that British GDP in 2030 will be 4% lower than if there were no Brexit. Remaining in the EU would be better
2018 December 17
Brexit: Commons Vote
BBC News, UCT 1652
Theresa May has told Parliament that MPs will vote on the Brexit deal in the week beginning
14 January 2019.
Brexit Makes EU Stronger
Britain's departure may turn out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to the EU.
Once the UK finally limps out, the EU will not fall to pieces. Eurosceptic fantasies have been brutally exposed by reality as the ongoing car crash
is mercilessly mocked in Europe. Far from weakening the EU, as some Leavers hoped, Brexit may only have made it stronger.
AR This Full English Brexit is a sick dog's vomit breakfast.
2018 December 16
The Lord of the Rings
Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Peter Jackson's
film adaptations of
The Lord of the Rings,
has released a spoof video combining the characters of Theresa May and Tolkien's Gollum.
Leaving aside the Bible and the Koran, The Lord of the Rings is the most popular book in the history of publishing, having sold more than
150 million copies since its publication in 1954. Its influence is ubiquitous from Oxford, where J.R.R. Tolkien spent most of his life, to
Silicon Valley, which is full of Tolkien enthusiasts. But nearly all Tolkien's millions of readers seem somehow to have missed the fact that his
fiction is founded on a profoundly conservative philosophy.
Tolkien hit on the title in 1938 during the Munich crisis. He was contemptuous of Hitler but much more suspicious of Stalin. As war drew
near, Tolkien reflected that he had "a loathing of being on any side that includes Russia" and believed that Stalin was probably more responsible for
Tolkien, 1941: "People in this land seem not even yet to realise that in the Germans we have enemies whose virtues (and they are virtues) of obedience and
patriotism are greater than ours in the mass. I have in this War a burning private grudge against .. Hitler for ruining, perverting, misapplying,
and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true
AR I see Tolkien as a British admirer of Nietzsche and Wagner, and The Lord of the Rings as an English homage to
Also sprach Zarathustra and Der Ring des Nibelungen. Recasting those forbidding works as a children's novel with a happy ending
(and Zarathustra as Sauron) was a stroke of genius. Tolkien read English at my college in Oxford.
2018 December 15
COP24, Katowice, Poland, Saturday — Negotiators have finally secured agreement on a range of measures that will make the Paris climate pact
operational in 2020. The agreement aims to limit global warming to less than 2 K.
China's climate chief Xie Zhenhua: "Climate change is the greatest challenge of mankind, in front
of it no country is spared, and destinies are shared."
Black Hole Navigation
Quasars are intense beacons of light surrounding supermassive black holes in distant galaxies. Astronomers can pinpoint quasars accurately from the
radio waves they emit by using very long baseline interferometry (VLBI).
The International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF-3) is fixed in place by 303 of the most compact and stable quasars. On average, the angular location
of the quasars is accurate to within 150 picorad. The frame is used for all position measurements in astronomy.
The center of the frame is set at the center of mass of our solar system, with an NS axis parallel to Earth's polar axis on 2000-01-01. ICRF-3 also
includes about 4000 other quasars distributed around the sky as reference points for navigation.
We can detect any deviations from the planned course of a spacecraft by observing its angular position relative to a quasar. On Earth, tracking
variations in Earth's rotation speed relative to the ICRF lets us know when to insert leap seconds into UCT.
Up to now, VLBI was our only way to measure extragalactic sources accurately. But in April, the Gaia mission published a catalog of the same sources
in optical wavelengths. This can be used to further refine the ICRF.
AR If the ICRF is taken as fixed, we can measure whether the universe is rotating and hence whether Gödel's solution
to the Einstein field equations may be true.
NASA / SWRI / MSSS / GERALD EICHSTÄDT / SEÁN DORAN
Juno image of Jupiter clouds
Church of England bishops
are praying for "courage,
integrity and clarity for
Völker der Welt,
schaut auf diese Frau!
Theresa May verdient
A white hole
"The problem is not May.
The problem is Brexit."
UK in crisis:
Theresa May, Gollum
Peter Brookes 2016
Boris Johnson dubbed "most
irresponsible politician the
country has seen for many
years" at Economist awards
"Mrs May should have gone
down with her deal."
Friedrich Merz, AKK
Anne Will mit AKK
People's Vote UK
Something fundamental changed in British politics this week. Theresa May can now stop worrying about her own survival and start acting in the national
interest. She should offer parliament a vote on a second referendum with two options: her deal or remain. The prime minister should stare down the
silly boys in parliament and challenge them to grow up.
The UK and the EU are sleepwalking toward a no-deal Brexit. It would be insane, but, as WW1 showed, the insane can easily happen. The UK would become
a rogue state, its reputation for reliability and reason would perish, and the lives of millions of citizens and the operations of countless
businesses would be plunged into turmoil. Or let the people vote again.
I hope those who want a second referendum are ready for what they will unleash. Brexit voters have had two years being called stupid, racist, old,
deluded, "gammons" who should hurry up and die so Remainers can drape EU flags on their graves. Their campaign will be of furious betrayal,
righteous anger: "We're not dead yet!"
AR 2019: Anarchy in the UK
2018 December 14
Americans are not getting the job done in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet. With continued growth in emissions, annual losses
in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.
Global emissions are forecast to go up by 2.7% this year. Instead of reining them in, the Trump administration would unleash more by replacing the Clean
Power Plan with a rule that could allow power plants to unload 12 times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Instead of controlling fuel emissions,
the administration is rolling back fuel economy standards that the auto industry had embraced.
Future generations will measure us by whether we acted. Congress should send Trump legislation addressing this crisis, or we will all be judged failures.
US Foreign Policy
Donald Trump has so far avoided starting new wars. But his potential to mess up remains epic, particularly with China. The irony is that George W. Bush
made many of the mistakes of which Trump stands accused. Trump dismisses Europe, sidelines NATO, and revels in a unilateral America, but Bush did
Mr Trump is also accused of incompetence, but again Bush 43 was worse. The magic of Trump is that by uniting the elites in revulsion against his abrasive
style, he has restored their moral sense. On China, Trump and the
are ominously coming around to the view that it must be confronted.
EU: Brexit Deal Frozen
Jean-Claude Juncker: "We have to bring down the temperature. These attacks coming from Westminster against Europe and the European
Commission will not be responded to in the same way by Europe and the European Commission, although I would like to do it."
Donald Tusk: "Yesterday's conclusions are quite clear I think and we have to treat it as a good sign, I mean, that we are ready to
reconfirm our assurances and our goodwill and good faith when it comes to the so-called backstop."
Brexit: No Exit
There is a good case for a new Brexit referendum. Now at least voters can know what they are voting on. In 2016, that was not remotely the case.
But a second referendum campaign could be even uglier than the first. And it would break British society if Remainers won by a narrow margin. The losers
would say they had been robbed and would take to the streets in fury.
Europhobic populists have been harassing UK governments for decades. Their wrath would be fearful if their beloved Brexit were snatched from their grasp.
The UK government would face riots each time it made any concessions within the EU.
The idea that British political clowns like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, and Jacob Rees-Mogg might get hosed in a second referendum is tempting, as is
the prospect of keeping a major country in the club. But it may be better for all concerned if the UK first spends a few years out in the cold.
These years would be unpleasant. Britain is a pipsqueak beside America, China, and Europe. It would need years to make better trade deals than the EU
A humbled Britain could then apply to rejoin the EU, accepting the EU is not all bad and the UK is no world power. Brits are not there yet.
The New York Times
In the Westminster parliament, Brexit is often seen as a domestic issue with no thought of other interests. Rare is the politician who suggests the UK
should welcome a strong role in Europe. The party challenge to Theresa May has not helped. The options are still:
✗ The deal, as is
✗ No deal, exit
✗ No Brexit
AR Britain is cruising for a bruising.
2018 December 13
In a black hole, general relativity says matter falls onto a central singularity. There we need a new theory.
Space is composed of discrete quanta, which are small but finite. Falling matter can squeeze into a Planck star, but no more. Then quantum gravity lets the entire spacetime geometry of the black hole bounce out as a white hole.
A white hole is time-reversed black hole. Whereas a black hole is surrounded by a horizon through which it is possible to enter but not to exit, a white hole is surrounded by a horizon through which it is possible to exit but not to enter.
General relativity allows white holes. A minimal adjustment in the solution of its equations lets the geometry of a black hole interior continue into a white hole. Quantum mechanics allows it too.
The white hole is where the black hole was, in its future. The other side of the center of a black hole can be in the future of the hole. In the first part of its life, the hole is black and matter falls in. In the second, it is white and matter bounces out.
Quantum tunneling lets the horizon switch from black to white. In classical theory a black hole is eternal, but in quantum theory black holes evaporate and shrink. As they shrink, the probability that they tunnel into a white hole increases.
Time is flexible in general relativity. Seen from the outside, the internal evolution of the hole appears like a bounce in super slow motion. The holes we see in the sky may be objects that collapse and bounce back out, seen in slo-mo.
Seen from inside the hole there is no singularity, and seen from outside a black hole is not eternal. Rather, at some time the black hole turns white and whatever fell in pops out.
Our universe might have bounced out from a previous collapse. The cosmic bounce is a bounce from black to white. Tiny white holes in dark matter could have formed before the bounce. Spacetime might be very crumpled, with each white hole like a long spike out in its geometry.
The arrow of time might be a perspectival effect related to our location outside all the holes.
2018 December 12
May Wins Confidence Vote
BBC News, UCT 2100
UK prime minister Theresa May won the vote of confidence in her leadership by 200 votes to 117.
Brexit: No Confidence
BBC News, UCT 0753
UK prime minister Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership today between 1800 and 2000 UCT. Conservative MPs will vote following
receipt by 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady of the required 48 letters calling for a contest.
Bet No Deal
The chances of no deal are very high indeed. Looked at another way, the things we have to do now to secure a deal are starting to look forbiddingly
difficult. What a disaster. What a disgrace.
AR I'd better starting ramping up plans for the Ross Brexodus.
A whole insect world is dying. Measured by weight, the overall abundance of flying insects in German nature reserves has decreased by 75% over 27 years.
If you look at midsummer population peaks, the drop is 82%.
The German study indicates a vast impoverishment of an entire insect universe. There are documented downward slides of various kinds of bees, moths,
butterflies, and beetles. A 2014 review synthesized the findings of existing studies and found that a majority of monitored species were declining,
on average by 45%.
A million known species of insects represent perhaps a fifth of the global diversity of insects. The current loss of biodiversity is driven partly by
climate change and habitat degradation. Insects are also dealing with herbicides and pesticides, along with the loss of meadows, forests, and wild
patches to human expansion.
Ecosystems can unravel. Functional extinction occurs when animals and plants are still present but too few to affect how the ecosystem works. Since
1970, terrestrial populations of wild land animals have declined on average by 60%. Wild mammals have declined by over 80%. Instead we have humans
Some insects will learn to thrive in new environments. Agricultural monocultures allow some pests to reach unprecedented population levels. We need
much more data to better understand the how and why of the ups and downs.
Europe is acting much faster than the United States to address the decline of insects. Hearings have been held on protecting insect biodiversity in
the German Bundestag and the European Parliament.
AR We all need to get real on protecting the natural environment.
Vibrations: A Theory of Consciousness
The resonance theory of consciousness says synchronized vibrations are at the heart of not only human consciousness but of physical reality more
All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating,
resonating, at various frequencies. Ultimately, all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields.
Pascal Fries has explored how gamma, theta, and beta waves vibrate together in the brain to give rise to human consciousness. Gamma waves are
typically defined as about 30−90 Hz, theta 4−7 Hz, and beta 12.5−30 Hz. The three work together for various
types of human consciousness.
Fries calls his concept communication through coherence, CTC. Neural synchronization allows for smooth communication between neural groups.
Without coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and have much less effect.
The resonance theory of consciousness can help explain not only mammalian consciousness but also consciousness more broadly. All things may be
viewed as at least dimly conscious. Panpsychism is an increasingly accepted position on the nature of consciousness.
Panpsychists say consciousness and matter are two sides of the same coin. The mind associated with most of the matter in our universe is generally
very simple. Biological organisms leverage faster information exchange to become more conscious than rocks.
Communication between resonating structures is key for consciousness to expand beyond the dim glimmer we expect in rocks. Higher consciousness
results from a shared resonance among many less conscious constituents. The speed of the resonant waves sets the size of a conscious entity.
A resonance theory of consciousness gets to the heart of the mind and the evolution of physical systems. Reality and consciousness are all about
AR Essentially the theory I've held for some 20 years — see
2018 December 11
Brexit Fail: A Cathartic Collapse
Theresa May's vote was set to be the cathartic moment when the UK finally faced the Brexit truth. The cataclysmic collapse of her deal would have
wiped the slate clean, freeing everyone to rethink. Hers was the only deal possible if the red line is stopping immigration and free movement.
Every day, a referendum looks more likely. The Brexiteer threat that any attempt to run another referendum would cause rebellion, mob rule and riots on
the streets, is project fear. The country will not be intimidated by the absurd idea of people rioting against getting the chance to express
themselves in a democratic vote.
AR Embrace EU immigrants as a solution, not a problem.
Brexit Folly: Taking Back Control
A hard Brexit would let the UK take back control of trade policy. The Treasury has been inundated already with special pleading to abolish VAT on a range
of specific goods and services, which is illegal inside the EU but not outside. This is the freedom of the alcoholic presented with a drink.
National governments unconstrained by international agreements tend to go for more state intervention. EU membership restrains state involvement in the
economy. After a decade of dreadful UK productivity growth, there is reawakened interest in a more interventionist industrial policy.
The UK economy grew more slowly than almost all its competitors in the three decades after WW2. Since then, the UK has failed to invest enough in
infrastructure, to run an effective education system, to design an efficient tax system, to build enough houses in the right places, to support
innovation, and to improve management capacity. The EU is innocent.
AR Parliament is too drunk on power to take back control.
Brexit Options: Almost All Red Alert
Risk assessors use traffic lights to grade risk: red for disaster looming, amber for watch out, green for maybe OK. Almost every Brexit option is red:
a vote of no confidence, a general election, a Labour victory, Jeremy Corbyn negotiating with the EU, a falling pound, panic on the markets, all red.
Just one choice is amber: Theresa May's proposed deal.
A second referendum is also red. Most opinion polls suggest there has been little movement among leavers and remainers. The outrage of those who lose
might bring violence onto the streets.
AR Defy the Brexiteer threat. Remaining in the EU is green.
2018 December 10
Brexit Chaos: May Calls Off Vote
BBC News, UCT 1635
UK prime minister Theresa May has called off tomorrow's Commons vote on her Brexit deal following advice that she would lose heavily. House
speaker John Bercow called on the government to give MPs a vote on whether that vote should be cancelled, saying it was the "right and
obvious" thing to do given how angry some MPs were about the cancellation.
AR She is still in denial on a new referendum.
Brexit Ruling: UK Can Cancel It
The European Court of Justice has ruled the UK can cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members. The ECJ ruled this
could be done without altering UK terms of membership.
"So an extension of Article 50 to allow time for another vote,
followed by revocation of Article 50 if the outcome is Remain seems to be an option that is now open to the House of Commons."
AR Well said, Nicola, that is indeed the best plan.
European Union: Can AKK Save It?
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is the new leader of the CDU. AKK was the candidate of the party's women's and youth organizations, and was chosen by
Angela Merkel, whose chancellorship expires in 2021.
Merkel is a Protestant from Prussia. AKK is a Catholic from the Saarland, wedged between France and Germany. Merkel is devoid of convictions;
AKK is a European conservative. Merkel came in at the top as a token East German woman after unification; AKK slogged her way up through
the ranks and led governments at local and state levels.
All the European heavyweights except Germany are paralyzed by populism. Merkel will leave the mess to AKK to sort out.
AKK will go the extra mile to preserve the EU.
AR Will German populists defeat AKK in 2021?
2018 December 9
UN climate conference, Katowice, Saturday — The United States and Russia have allied with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to reject a motion to welcome
the UN report on the need to keep global warming below 1.5 K. Instead, they said it should merely be noted.
Union of Concerned Scientists director of strategy and policy Alden Meyer: "It is troubling .. Donald Trump .. takes a personal interest in dissing
scientists. But the science won't go away."
AR Big oil prefers profits to peace.
The New York Times
In the narrative that special counsel Robert Mueller and New York prosecutors are building, Donald Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in
Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him. At the same time, in this account he ordered
hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety.
Justice Department officials say that if Mueller found evidence that the president broke the law, he would not be indicted while in office. Trump's
lawyers fear Mueller is trying to cast him as an unindicted co-conspirator.
AR President Trottel is doomed.
The Commons vote on Tuesday will not be delayed, says Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay. He also says Theresa May could stay in post if, as expected,
MPs reject her Brexit plan. May says rejection could lead to a general election, and there is a "very real risk of no Brexit".
AR Sounds good.
2018 December 8
Black holes appear to stay a constant size as viewed from the outside, but their interiors keep growing in volume essentially forever. Leonard Susskind
suggests this is because they are steadily increasing in complexity.
According to general relativity, their inward gravitational collapse never stops. Their interior volume grows bigger and bigger with time as space
stretches toward the center point. Imagine a black hole as a funnel that gets ever deeper, so that infalling stuff never reaches the singularity at
the bottom. In reality, a black hole is a funnel that stretches inward in 3D.
Susskind suggests the evolving quantum property of a black hole that underlies its growing volume is its complexity, or the number of computations
needed to recover its initial quantum state. After its formation, as stuff inside the black hole interacts, the information about the initial state
becomes ever more scrambled, raising complexity.
Using toy models that represent black holes as holograms, Susskind and his collaborators have shown that the complexity and volume of black holes both
grow at the same rate. So not only do black holes store all the information they can on their surface area, they also grow in complexity as fast as
the laws of physics allow.
Researchers are still puzzling over the idea.
Mars InSight 2.2 m solar panel imaged by Instrument Deployment Camera
(AKK) ist neue CDU-Chefin
AR Merkel mini-me,
German DAX now
in bear market
"The only realistic way to
stabilize carbon emissions is
enhanced R&D in the hope
that it will bring the cost
of clean energy down"
Anil Ananthaswamy on a
new quantum paradox
Melania Trump is FLOTUS
and was born and raised
in the Yugoslav republic
Go Gal Not
Theresa May says Britain will
walk away from the military
side of the EU Galileo sat-nav
system, fearing lost influence
after Brexit, and build a
new system compatible
with the US GPS.
AR Wasteful duplication
Personal reactions recorded by Mass Observation in 1938:
"It's a fucking mess, ain't it?"
"No one knows what'll happen."
"I can't understand it properly, but it doesn't seem too good to me."
A Leave voter on BBC compared the Brexit negotiations to afternoon tea and biscuits. He said the
UK had behaved like "a soggy rich tea" in its negotiations with the "solid Hobnob" that was the EU:
"If we'd have sent a Hobnob with chocolate on we'd have won."
A man in 1938: "Keep out of foreign entanglements, that's best. Old England's the best country
in the world."
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
2018 December 7
London-based artificial intelligence company DeepMind announces two research successes: the strongest game-playing AI so far and the world's most
powerful predictor of the shape of protein molecules. Its AlphaFold system won an international competition to predict the 3D structure of
proteins from their genetic sequence. Google owns DeepMind and will develop its Streams business, an AI-based assistant for nurses and
doctors, to generate revenues from health systems.
An algorithm that masters chess, shogi, and Go
David Silver et al.
AlphaZero can achieve superhuman performance in many challenging games. Starting from random play and given no domain knowledge except the game rules,
AlphaZero convincingly defeated a world champion program in the games of chess and shogi (Japanese chess), as well as Go.
AlphaZero replaces the handcrafted knowledge and domain-specific augmentations used in traditional game-playing programs with deep neural networks,
a general-purpose reinforcement learning algorithm, and a general-purpose tree search algorithm.
AlphaGo Zero used a convolutional neural network architecture. Its hyperparameters were tuned by Bayesian optimization. In AlphaZero, we reuse the
same hyperparameters, algorithm settings, and network architecture for all games without game-specific tuning. The only exceptions are the
exploration noise and the learning rate schedule.
We trained separate instances of AlphaZero for chess, shogi, and Go. Training proceeded for 700,000 steps starting from randomly initialized
parameters. During training only, 5000 first-generation tensor processing units (TPUs) were used to generate self-play games, and 16
second-generation TPUs were used to train the neural networks. Training lasted for approximately 9 hours in chess, 12 hours in shogi, and
13 days in Go.
We evaluated the fully trained instances of AlphaZero against Stockfish, Elmo, and the previous version of AlphaGo Zero in chess, shogi, and Go,
▸ In Go, AlphaZero defeated AlphaGo Zero, winning 61% of games.
▸ In chess, AlphaZero defeated Stockfish, winning 155 games and losing 6 games out of 1000.
▸ In shogi, AlphaZero defeated Elmo, winning 98.2% of games when playing black and 91.2% overall.
AlphaZero searches just 60,000 positions per second in chess and shogi, compared with 60 million for Stockfish and 25 million for Elmo. AlphaZero
may compensate for the lower number of evaluations by using its deep neural network to focus much more selectively on the most promising
AlphaZero is a generic reinforcement learning and search algorithm that achieved superior results within a few hours, searching as many positions,
given no domain knowledge except the game rules. These results bring us a step closer to a system that can learn to master any game.
2018 December 6
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo spoke in Brussels: "We want our friends to help us and to exert their sovereignty as well."
He tried to convince America's allies that a new global liberal order would arise from the spread of America First imitations. The west should fear
the rise of China and Russia. The best way to confront such adversaries is to abandon multilateralism, he said.
Pompeo said bodies such as the EU, UN, World Bank, and the IMF should be reformed or eliminated: "The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly
are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done. But was that ever really true?"
He said no and listed treaties and bodies the Trump administration has abandoned. These include the Paris deal on climate change, the Iran nuclear
deal, the International Criminal Court, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The next target, he hinted, would be the WTO. Trump sees the WTO as a globalist plot. To Brexiteers, the WTO is an ocean on which the UK should
gloriously set sail.
Brussels received Pompeo's speech in silence.
2018 December 5
Seven Steps to Save the Planet
To give ourselves a good chance of avoiding 1.5 K of global warming, we must hit peak greenhouse gas emissions soon and taper them down to net zero
by about 2050.
How many more tons (Mg) of CO2 can we afford to dump into the atmosphere?
We think 770 Pg gives us an evens chance of limiting warming to 1.5 K. For a two-thirds chance, we must go down to 570 Pg. Annual global emissions
are currently around 40 Pg. So:
1 Kill fossil fuels
We are making rapid progress in wind and solar electricity generation. Over a tenth of global energy comes from modern renewable sources. We need
to reach at least a half by 2050, by decarbonizing electricity generation, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, and pricing for environmental
2 Travel light
More than 90% of transport is powered by oil and just 3% by renewables. Transport causes around a quarter of global emissions, growing by about
2.5% a year. Electric vehicles, better fuel efficiency, and use of biofuels can cut a lot. The rest can be done by traveling less.
3 Rebuild everything
Buildings give rise to about a quarter of global emissions, mostly for lighting, heating, cooling, elevators, office machines, and so on. A third
of the emissions are for heating and cooking. New buildings must be constructed sustainably, with less concrete and steel, preferably by
4 A new industrial revolution
Industrial emissions must be cut by around 80% by phasing out coal, increasing efficiency, and electrification. We need massive investment in R&D
to roll out new processes for making cement, steel, aluminum, and so on. For needed fossil fuels, carbon capture and storage (CCS) can help.
5 Reap what we sow
Land use accounts for about a quarter of carbon emissions. Land can be a carbon sink but we need it to grow food. We need to intensify agriculture
and reduce our consumption of foods whose production results in lots of greenhouse gas emissions, such as those that come from cattle.
6 Suck, not blow
Some emissions are from sources we do not know how to eliminate and others are too hard to get rid of entirely. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR)
technologies can help. Planting forests is the simplest way. Another approach is bioenergy with CCS.
7 Change ourselves
Power generation, transport, industry, buildings, and agriculture all involve our own actions. Change means sacrifices: driving less, flying less,
consuming less meat, having fewer children.
One way or another, big change is coming.
2018 December 4
Q What kind of party would support a leader who is not only evidently corrupt and seemingly in the pocket of foreign
dictators, but also routinely denies facts and tries to criminalize anyone who points them out?
A The kind of the party that long ago committed itself to denying the facts on climate change and criminalizing the
scientists reporting those facts. The Republican party is dominated by climate deniers, even as the damage from a warming planet becomes more
and more obvious.
Donald Trump is the culmination of where his party has been going for years.
AR Big Oil, big money, bigoted politics.
1 The UK government has been found in contempt of parliament for the first time ever. The government has been forced to
publish its full legal advice on Theresa May's Brexit deal.
2 Parliament has voted against the government for an amendment that will ensure MPs can vote in favour of a plan B option
in January if Theresa May's deal gets voted down.
3 The UK can withdraw its notification to leave the EU without first seeking EU permission, according to European Court
of Justice legal advice.
AR A way is opening to stop the Brexit juggernaut.
The political crisis has created tensions between old friends, and within families, such as few of us have ever experienced.
Sir Michael Howard recalls the Suez crisis of 1956: "Suez
happened, and was appallingly divisive, but then was over. Brexit will go on and on."
Tories perceived in Irish home rule, which finally resulted in the partition of Ireland in 1922, a threat to the integrity of the UK, which might in
turn adumbrate the unravelling of the British Empire. The matter in dispute today is less profound only because the UK is a much less important
place. But to those of us who live here, what is taking place seems so serious that it is hard to sit across a table even with friends of long
standing who welcome Brexit.
To those who view the leading Brexiteers as gods, prospective deliverers of our nation from the heathen across the Channel, I cannot imagine what
arguments we might advance that would change their minds. They consider it worth accepting any financial burden short of selling the horses to
escape the thraldom of Brussels.
Israeli historian Avi Shlaim considers Brexit a graver strategic disaster
for the UK than was Suez.
AR Former Bank of England governor Mervyn King says Theresa May's Brexit deal is like Neville Chamberlain's appeasement
of Adolf Hitler.
When Theresa May was home secretary, she promised to create a hostile environment for illegal immigrants and sent Go Home vans to tour ethnically
The government's white paper on immigration has been delayed yet again, so MPs will have no idea what will replace the free movement of people when
they give their verdict on the Brexit deal in next week's vote in parliament.
There is profound disagreement at the top of the Conservative party about the meaning of the referendum result and what kind of country the UK
should be after leaving the EU. For the Home Office, the immigration system should be about economics rather than identity politics. For the
prime minister, immigration is more about culture than GDP.
The only red line that has survived May's negotiations with the EU is the end of free movement.
AR I say let May go and keep free movement.
2018 December 3
UNO Climate Conference, Katowice, Poland
German politicians hope for progress: "Protecting the climate is a question of survival for humanity."
Saboteur in Chief
Donald Trump wears his most contemptible qualities as crown jewels. He uses them to distract us from the slow, boring, apparently mundane but deeply
insidious sabotaging of government. His project is not to administer the government of the United States but to bring it into disrepute.
America has a permanent public service of two million employees, but the top layers of each department and institution are made up of four thousand
In August 2016, Trump was enraged to discover that the head of his transition team, Chris Christie, had raised several million dollars to meet the
campaign's legal obligations to start planning to take over the government after the presidential election. He yelled at Christie: "You're stealing
my money! You're stealing my fucking money! What is this? .. Fuck the law. I don't give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money."
As of October 2018, Trump has failed even to put forward a nominee for 139 of the top 704 positions requiring confirmation by the Senate.
Another way to wreck American government is to appoint the worst possible person. The head of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) should have a strong scientific background. Barry Myers has no scientific credentials and runs a company that profits from NOAA weather
data by marketing it for paying clients. Trump nominated Myers as head of NOAA.
I'm done with the pretence that the argument about Brexit is a subtle jurisprudential discussion about sovereignty, or an exciting debate about the
business plan for UK plc.
The most significant factor in the leave vote was anxiety about the number of people coming to the UK. That's why Theresa May was so uncompromising last
week when urged by cabinet colleagues that it was not too late to reconsider the impact of tighter immigration policy on British companies. An end
to free movement, she said, was a red line.
For decades there was a political consensus that the most important metric was economic prosperity. The political parties were as one in their conviction
that nothing much was possible without a strong economy. Brexit shows that immigration is now central to the whole debate, which is less about wealth
or sovereignty than national identity.
Beneath all the talk of control and global Britain is an unpleasant nativism. There is no respectable evidence that immigration has had more than a
marginal impact upon public service capacity, wage levels, or net welfare costs. But many Britons don't much like people of foreign extraction and
don't want many more of them around the place.
We live in an interdependent world. Those who promise that leaving the EU will deliver control are really promising an absurd and horrible vision of
2018 December 2
America Versus China
The New York Times
The United States and China have called a truce in their trade war. US president Donald Trump agreed to hold off on new tariffs and Chinese president
Xi Jinping pledged to increase Chinese purchases of American products. The compromise averted a breakdown, but the two sides remain far apart on
basic issues of market access and trade policy.
George H.W. Bush
In a meeting with US president Trump at the G20 Summit in Argentina, Chinese president Xi Jinping praised the role of former US president George
H.W. Bush in helping to improve China-US relations.
Following Nixon's 1972 visit to Mao Zedong in Beijing, Bush became US envoy there in 1974 and met with several key Chinese leaders,
including Mao and Deng Xiaoping, as well as numerous military and diplomatic heads.
Bush was elected as POTUS 41 in 1988. Following the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June 1989, his administration imposed sanctions on China. Behind
the scenes, Bush reached out to smooth relations: "My long history with Deng and the other leaders made it possible for us to work through the
crises without derailing Sino-American relations."
When Bush was looking to build consensus for action against Iraq in 1991, China chose not to use its UN veto power. Later, during his dozens of
post-presidency visits to China, Bush was greeted with reverence as a great old friend of China.
Bush: "I love the Chinese people. One of my dreams for our world is that these two powerful giants will continue working toward a full partnership
and friendship that will bring peace and prosperity to people everywhere."
2018 December 1
The Bank of England Brexit apocalypse scenario — 8% economic contraction, interest rates at 5.5%, fall in sterling below parity with the dollar,
net emigration of 100,000 a year, 30% dive in house prices — is a tail possibility, says BoE governor Mark Carney.
Buried in appendix A of the BoE document is a milder no-deal scenario in which the UK reverts to WTO rules after a smooth transition in January 2021.
Sterling falls by 8.5%, the UK takes a net 85,000 immigrants a year, and the economy is 5.25% smaller than remaining in the EU at the end of 2023. But
appendix A does not solve the Irish border issue.
Justine Greening has a roadmap for a second referendum on May 30. Labour is edging toward pushing for a vote and Nigel Farage endorses one. Greening
proposes a poll with three options: remain, leave with the present deal, or leave with no deal.
Theresa May's deal is dreadful. An extension of the transition deadline for trade negotiations would probably trigger another political crisis and
risk another apocalypse scenario.
Mathematics of Evolution
Genetic algorithms use the principles of evolution to engineer new designs. They test random solutions to a problem and then combine them with random
mutations to produce a second generation of solutions, which they test, and so on. Many iterations later, they return a fit solution.
Genetic programming evolves software to write programs that solve problems efficiently. Its methods involve a mathematical theory of complexity and
randomness. Algorithmic information theory (AIT) takes the idea that it can be computationally easier to describe how to generate something than to
AIT says the probability of producing some types of outputs is far greater when randomness operates at the level of the program describing it rather
than at the level of the output itself. In this way, complex structures can be more easily produced by chance. But the algorithmic complexity
(a.k.a. Kolmogorov complexity) of a given output is not computable.
Gregory Chaitin: "Mathematically, it's a simple, beautiful measure of complexity, but it looked unapproachable for real-world applications."
In 2012, Chaitin described how evolution can be seen as a random walk through software space. The mutations along that walk follow a distribution based
on Kolmogorov complexity. But he had no way to test it.
Hector Zenil uses Kolmogorov complexity as a metric for analyzing the complexity of biological networks, such as those that model gene regulation or
protein interactions in cells. The algorithmic information content of a network is approximated, then a mutation is introduced to the network and
its effect on the Kolmogorov complexity tested. Moving the network toward greater Kolmogorov complexity tends to increase the number of functions
the system can perform and makes it more sensitive to perturbation.
Evolving artificial genetic networks toward certain targets by biasing the mutations in favor of lower algorithmic complexity causes the networks to
evolve toward solutions significantly faster. Some regions become less prone to mutation and may have evolved to be simpler, immediately
suggesting genes. Perhaps biological evolution operates via such computational rules.
Chaitin: "The idea of thinking about life as evolving software is fertile."
AR I was first excited by all this when I worked at Springer.
Greens are now the second most popular party in Germany — and first among women
"Most British people
don't have the first
inkling of what a crisis
is. They think it's
a political thing ..
Disaster .. happens to
other people, in other
places .. And if you've
ever lived in one of
those other places,
chances are you will
have seen how quickly
what you thought was
an orderly society
Bank of England says no-deal
Brexit could unleash worst
recession since WW2 and
best deal is no Brexit
"If you look at this purely from
the economic point of view,
there will be a cost to leaving
the EU because there will
be impediments to trade."
Chancellor of the Exchequer
AR Ca 4% over 15 years,
ave £1100 per person
NASA InSight picture of Mars.
Its solar panels are open,
collecting sunlight to
Tommy Robinson says the
Tory elites have betrayed
the Leaver masses: When
May's deal is voted down,
he and UKIP will push a
narrative of national
NASA InSight lander
touches down on Mars:
first surface image
MicroLED tech for pixels
2018 St Andrew's Day
A US president is trying to unseat a British prime minister. Donald Trump has handed the equivalent of a loaded gun to Theresa May's enemies. Trump said
May's deal meant Britain could not strike a trade bargain with America.
Trump has deeper motives. His British friends are May's enemies: Nigel Farage, Arron Banks, and Boris Johnson. His best hope of breaking EU resistance
is to strike a separate deal with a Britain desperate enough to agree.
The UK has benefited time and time again from being inside the EU. Britain has been able to influence and frequently to lead the foreign policy of Europe.
Brexit will reduce British influence and relegate Britain to a lesser role on the world stage.
President Trump has increased global instability. A UK outside the EU is far more likely to be a victim of this change than a beneficiary. Parliament
should reject the Brexit deal and send the decision back to the people for a new referendum.
Jo Johnson, David Willetts, Justine Greening
JJ Brexit is seen as a project driven by the Conservative party. This half-baked, worst-of-all-worlds Brexit could trigger
an electoral defeat on the scale of 1997. It would taint the party name for years to come and lead to communist ideologues coming to power in the UK.
Unionists across the four nations of the UK are right to be worried.
DW When we came into government in 1979 and again in 2010 we sorted out a mess. Now we're in danger of imposing declining
living standards on the British people. The Conservative party will have to take responsibility for that. Brexit jeopardises the future of the party,
which depends on the votes of younger people.
JG I'm backing a people's vote. The country is tired of backroom deals. It's incredible to see May touring the country and
talking to people she didn't want to give a vote to.
Peter Müller, Jörg Schindler
Brits are angry. People on the continent are watching with astonishment. A once-respected country is humiliating itself and its political class has
become a laughing stock.
Brexit is a tragicomedy of errors:
1 It will be so easy: Boris Johnson spoke of a country that had sold its soul to Europe and lost its global stature, of
Brussels hucksters who tied down the former empire with red tape, of how the UK would thrive once it broke free. He did not seriously expect to
win the Brexit referendum.
2 Set bold red lines: In January 2017, Theresa May was a popular prime minister. She spoke of how she imagined Brexit.
She said the UK would leave the single market, the customs union, and the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The number of immigrants would be cut
3 Get a bigger majority: May called a snap election for the spring of 2017. Her plan was to win big. But after an
abysmal campaign, she lost her authority and her party its majority. From that point on, each step toward Brexit was torture. And there was no
other prime minister in sight.
4 Split Europe: Boris Johnson thought the Germans would help Britain out. When London negotiators were blocked by EU
chief negotiator Michel Barnier, they tried to bypass him and reach out to the French, the Poles, and then Berlin. Brexiteers believed the
German car industry would ride to the rescue. It didn't.
5 Ignore Ireland: Some thought the Irish would follow the UK lead and leave the EU. Michel Barnier visited Ireland and
saw Brexit is a question of war and peace. He said there can be no withdrawal agreement without a backstop. It was his red line. In December 2017,
May accepted EU proposals for the softest Brexit possible.
In the end, May put UK unity before Brexiteer fantasies. She will present her deal to parliament for a vote on December 11 but looks certain to lose.
Following the vote, the markets and the pound will plunge and the UK will teeter on the cliff edge. The kamikaze plan is that panic will break out
and May will prevail.
The battle of Brexit has poisoned the UK.
2018 November 29
One of the problems that a lot of people like myself — we have very high levels of intelligence, but we're not necessarily such believers. You look
at our air and our water, and it's right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and when you look at South
America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including — just many other places — the air is incredibly
dirty. And when you're talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean, we take thousands of tons of
garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific, it flows, and we say where does this come from.
And it takes many people to start off with.
Jupiter is almost a star. If it had been ten times more massive, it would have become a brown dwarf. Our solar system would have been a binary system.
Jupiter cooled down below the threshold for nuclear fusion. But its heat and mass and pressure were enough to form huge diamonds and oily hydrogen metal.
Its dynamic magnetic field may best be explained by an ocean of liquid hydrogen 40 Mm deep.
Jupiter should have the same basic elemental composition as a star: 90% hydrogen, 10% helium, and small traces of other elements such as neon. But a quarter
of the He and 90% of the Ne are missing from the outer atmosphere. Because the planet lacks a nuclear furnace, the He and Ne churning in the stormy outer
layers fall inward under gravity.
Some way down, the intense pressure crushes the gases into liquids. The falling droplets of He and Ne heat up and glow with fluorescent colors. A robot
flying near the ocean surface might look up into the cream and orange Jovian sky and see a spectacular light show, with curtains of brilliant crimson
falling as neon rain.
2018 November 28
UK−US Trade Deal
President Trump says Brexit is for the British people to decide. But he hopes there will be room for an ambitious trade deal with the United States.
The United States is ready to get straight to work. Britain is the perfect trading partner for the United States. We are both countries at the top of our
game when it comes to business, science, and innovation.
Britain and America share the same attitude toward trade. We believe in playing fair and sticking to the rules. We don't need to prop up our businesses or
tax out their competition. Our companies are the best of the best.
We are the perfect partners. Together, we have the chance to set an example of fair, free and reciprocal, win-win trade. And we need to set that example.
EU protectionism against American farmers and business is a case in point.
President Trump has wanted that for as long as I've known him. If Britain takes back control of its trade policy, you will be at the head of the line.
AR Too vainglorious. Any US-UK axis would be led from the US end. And a weakened EU27 would turn to Russia and China. In a
confrontation between USUKA and EUSSR, the English Channel would be a moat between two fortresses.
Dialectics of Darkness
The Myth of Disenchantment, by Jason Josephson-Storm, is an account of how scholars came to associate the creation of modernity with the
withdrawal from magical beliefs.
To historians of science, natural magic was just the empirical and practical side of natural philosophy. The new human sciences said natural philosophy
reduced the world of primitive humanity to mechanism. The departure of the gods soon became a powerful myth.
Folktales were awash with this theme. Folklorists even have a classification code for the departure of the fairies: Motif F388. That fairies were once
plentiful, but have since gone into hiding, is one of the oldest and most widespread European folktales.
Max Weber connected modernity and disenchantment to shifting views on salvation. Salvific behavior was reoriented from external ritual and symbolism to
individual ethical conduct and care of the self. Disenchantment has been a theme in Western history as far back as the Christian claim that Jesus
silenced the pagan oracles.
Josephson-Storm says the modern West is still haunted by enchantments.
AR Free will, the sanctity of life, free markets, world domination, the victory of good.
2018 November 27
The NASA Mars InSight mission will explore the Martian interior. For the landing, InSight recycled the method that worked for the Phoenix polar lander
in 2008. But this time, we had a real-time stream of data relayed by a pair of cubesats together known as Mars Cube One (MarCO) that were packed
with InSight since its launch in May 2018.
MarCO A and B were configured to observe and report at the same time. The cubesats delivered the first photograph taken by InSight from the surface of
Mars. But without fuel and engines, the pair are hurtling past Mars and will soon be out of range. The NASA team will now assess the spacecraft's
health, ensure all the instruments are functional, and see where exactly InSight landed.
InSight will unpack a seismometer to detect tiny vibrations, a heat flow probe that will burrow underground, a weather station, and a radio experiment
to detect motion within the molten Martian core. They will help determine the thicknesses and materials of the interior layers and how much heat
the planet has now. We will improve our understanding of how rocky planets form and of how Mars compares with Earth.
President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed a study produced by his own administration, involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate
scientists, warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change.
"I don't believe it," he told reporters.
Why? It was cold on Thanksgiving. For Trump, anecdotes = data.
— "Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair and false way. Something has to be
done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!"
— "Sounds like a great deal for the EU. I think we have to take a look at seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade
because right now if you look at the deal they may not be able to trade with us, and that wouldn't be a good thing. I don't think they meant that.
I don't think that the prime minister meant that and hopefully she'll be able to do something about that. But right now as the deal stands they
may not be able to trade with the US and I don't think they want that at all — that would be a very big negative for the deal."
AR The Tweeter-in-Chief/Shouter-in-Chief — a
twit or a
twat — oder ein
Kaiser Wilhelm II had a talent for causing outrage. He was convinced he was brilliant at personal diplomacy, but he viewed other people in instrumental
terms, was a compulsive liar, and seemed to have a limited understanding of cause and effect.
Kaiser Wilhelm was Queen Victoria's first grandchild. He ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918 and led Germany into World War I. He was determined to be seen
as tough and powerful, fetishized the army, surrounded himself with generals, owned 120 military uniforms, and cultivated a special severe facial
expression for public occasions and photographs.
Wilhelm read very little apart from newspaper cuttings. He wrote hardly anything apart from marginalia on reports, and liked talks to be quickly over
and done with. His entourage compiled press cuttings for him, mostly about himself, which he read obsessively. He was deeply suggestible and would
defer to the last person he'd spoken to or cutting he'd read.
Kaiser Wilhelm asserted his authority unpredictably, as if to prove he was still in charge, staging rogue interventions into policy and sacking
ministers without warning. His staff and ministers resorted to manipulation, distraction, and flattery to manage him. Philipp zu Eulenburg:
"In order to get him to accept an idea you must act as if the idea were his."
The Kaiser was a narcissist in control of a global power. His posturing raised tensions in Europe. His clumsy personal diplomacy created suspicion.
His alliance with the vitriolic right and his slavish admiration for the army inched the country closer and closer to war. Once the war was
actually upon him, the government and military effectively swept him aside.
The lesson of Kaiser Wilhelm II is that President Trump may cause problems.
AR The Kaiser had a withered arm. Trump has a withered soul.
Norway Plus involves accepting Theresa May's withdrawal agreement in full but renegotiating the political declaration to specify that after the
transition the UK will join EFTA. The UK then remains in a customs union until the arrangements are agreed.
Norway Plus lets the UK stay inside the single market but outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ, outside the common agricultural and fisheries
policies, and no longer bound by the EU drive toward ever closer union.
EEA Article 112 states that "if serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties .. are arising" unilateral action can be taken on a
temporary basis to restrict freedom of movement.
AR I could live with that.
2018 November 26
Albert Einstein was a realist. He accepted the content of a scientific theory as a true representation of an objective physical reality.
Einstein: "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the
fate and the doings of mankind."
Einstein's God is determinist. His lawful harmony is established in the cosmos by cause and effect: "Everything is determined, the beginning as well
as the end, by forces over which we have no control .. we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player."
Einstein did not accept the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Niels Bohr: "There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract
quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say
Bohr and Einstein clashed. What we can say in quantum mechanics is probabilistic. Einstein's God did not play dice.
AR There is a definite reality, good. But why should we be able to predict it?
2018 November 25
Breaking Brexit: A Deal
EU27 has endorsed the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on future EU-UK relations.
Battle of Brexit
Theresa May appeals directly to the nation to back her Brexit deal. She knows she faces defeat when the deal comes before the Commons next month.
From her open letter to the British people: "We will then begin a new chapter in our national life. I want that to be a moment of renewal and
reconciliation for our whole country .. we need to get on with Brexit now by getting behind this deal."
EU Council president Donald Tusk: "No one has reasons to be happy. But we were all looking for a good and fair agreement. And I believe we have finally
found the best possible compromise."
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez raised Gibraltar but pressure from other EU leaders persuaded him not to boycott the summit. He said the UK had provided
"sufficient guarantees to reach a solution" when the UK promised that a future EU-UK trade treaty would not automatically apply to Gibraltar.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson spoke at the DUP annual conference in Belfast. The DUP MPs say they will not back May unless she scraps proposals to align
Northern Ireland with EU rules after Brexit.
May: "From my first day in the job, I knew I had a clear mission before me — a duty to honour the result of the referendum .. I have never lost
sight of that duty."
Three Votes to Victory
1 D-Day for the PM is the Commons "meaningful vote" on her deal on December 11.
— If she wins, the UK leaves the EU on March 29 and she stays on as PM until 2022.
— If she loses, Labour tables a vote of no confidence.
— If she loses again, a general election is held in January.
2 If May survives all this, she may cling on for a second vote.
— If she wins, the UK leaves the EU on March 29 and she stays on as PM until 2022.
— If she loses, she may resign rather than face another round of confidence votes.
— The chancellor becomes interim PM while Conservatives hold a leadership contest.
3 Having rejected May's Brexit deal, MPs would decide what to do next.
— They could decide on no deal or no Brexit, but this is unlikely.
— They could vote to withdraw Article 50 while a new strategy is worked out.
— A second referendum is then the most likely outcome.
AR Rage against the dying of the light.
2018 November 24
A sterile neutrino could solve some old puzzles and give us a glimpse of new physics.
When an atomic nucleus undergoes beta decay, it leaves a daughter nucleus and emits an electron. The two decay products violate conservation of
momentum unless an invisible particle — a neutrino — carries off the momentum. We now think neutrinos come in three flavors,
corresponding to the electron, the muon, and the tau. These three neutrinos slot neatly into the standard model.
The Sun is a nuclear fusion reactor powered by beta decays. But the flux of electron neutrinos reaching Earth shows a major shortfall, so it seems
the standard model is incomplete. If each neutrino had a tiny mass, it would oscillate between flavors in flight, and electron neutrinos from the
Sun could morph into muon or tau neutrinos, evading our detectors.
Other anomalies remain. The antimatter versions of muon neutrinos oscillate into electron anti-neutrinos faster than expected. And radioactive decays
within nuclear reactors are a strong source of neutrinos, but we detect fewer electron antineutrinos than the standard model predicts.
Perhaps a fourth, sterile flavor of neutrino can morph into any of the other three. Then an excess of electron neutrinos arises from the decay of
sterile neutrinos. And the reactor experiments found too few electron neutrinos because they had decayed into sterile neutrinos.
Neutrino masses are tiny, less than 1 eV. A heavier fourth neutrino and a process known as the seesaw mechanism can explain this. Experimentalists
are exploring neutrino oscillation.
Sabine Hossenfelder: "You get the impression we are missing something here."
An image made in 2000 resembled a classic quasar. A second image made in 2010 showed the quasar at one tenth its former brightness and with different
peaks. The quasar seemed to have shut down in less than 10 years.
Astronomers discovered 50 to 100 more "changing-look" quasars. But a quasar's accretion disk can stretch out for light years. To turn the quasar off,
all of that material would have to swirl inward and fall onto the central black hole.
In 2017, astronomers viewed multiple changing-look quasars in both visible and infrared light to see not only each quasar's accretion disk but also
the torus of dust clouds that wraps around the accretion disk. They saw changes in the accretion disk echoing within the torus.
Studies found evidence that the accretion disk changes its shape. In an echo, the ultraviolet and blue colors fell away first, followed by green and
finally red. A cooling front swept out from the super-massive black hole so fast that red colors dropped only a year after green. The speed hints
at the structure of the disk.
Changing-look quasars offer an opportunity to better understand how galaxies evolve. The mass of a supermassive black hole is tightly correlated with
the mass of the galaxy around it. Astronomers suspect that quasars can wreak havoc on their host galaxy.
In about five billion years from now, the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy will collide, likely sparking a new quasar.
Little Mix pose naked in the name of feminism to promote their single
injection could cut
the rate of global
warming in half
"The theory of mind we carry
around with us and use every
day has no basis in what
neuroscience tells us about
how the brain works."
"Britain is now in panic mode,
held hostage by a foolish plan
gone really really bad."
A team has flown an aircraft
with no moving parts. Steered
via radio control, it flew 55 m
with ion streams for thrust.
It weighs 2.45 kg and is
more efficient than
a standard jet.
"I am dynamite!"
Arm, aber frei
Mit trotziger Unbeugsamkeit
haben die Briten der EU den
Ivanka Trump used a
personal email account
to send hundreds of
emails about govern-
AR Lock her up!
"France loves you"
President Macron proposes
marriage to Germany
in the Bundestag
China has lifted 800 million
people out of poverty. The
Chinese are now among
the most optimistic
people in the world
US Climate Report
The New York Times
A major scientific report issued by US federal agencies presents a stark warning on the impact of climate change for the United States. The 1,656-page
report is notable for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions as it lays out the effects of a changing climate on the
economy, health, and environment. Climate change could slash up to a tenth of GDP by 2100.
The report is the second volume of the National Climate Assessment, which the federal government is required by law to produce every four years. The
first volume was issued by the White House last year. It puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the US economy of projected
climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise, and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end
of the century.
Climate change is taking us into uncharted territory. The authors offer three main solutions: putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, establishing
government regulations on how much greenhouse pollution can be emitted, and spending public money on clean energy research.
2018 November 23
Battle of Brexit
UK prime minister Theresa May: "The British people want Brexit settled. They want us to come together as a country and to move on to focus on the
big issues at home."
The challenge of forcing the deal through the Commons next month was exposed in a long and bruising debate during which May was attacked from all
A Second Referendum
If the UK and the EU sign the withdrawal agreement and the declaration on the future relationship, it must then be ratified by both the European
and Westminster parliaments.
MPs will get a meaningful vote. They must approve the deal on a motion and then legislate to ratify the withdrawal agreement.
Substantive amendments would be equivalent to rejection.
If any amendments were to be carried against the government, the prime minister would have little option but
to resign. There would then be an election for a new Conservative leader.
Many MPs favour a people's vote. The Electoral Commission says there should be a 6-month run-up to the referendum.
Britain would have to seek an extension of the Brexit deadline.
UK Facing Long Fall
The UK is on course for the longest period of falling living standards since records began, leaving the economy £42 billion smaller in 2022
than expected. Resolution Foundation director Torsten Bell: "Yesterday the OBR handed down the mother of all economic downgrades."
AR Better hang on in the EU.
2018 November 22
Theresa May, UCT 1240
The EU and UK have agreed a draft political declaration on their future relationship, paving the way for a Brexit deal to be agreed on Sunday.
AR Now May must face the Battle of the Commons.
Leaked draft of the political declaration
A few quotes:
▸ The Parties are agreed that the future relationship should be approached with high ambition
with regard to its scope and depth, and recognise that this might evolve over time.
▸ The Parties envisage having a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible ..
▸ The economic partnership should ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions
across all sectors ..
▸ The Parties will put in place ambitious customs arrangements .. making use of all available
facilitative arrangements and technologies ..
▸ Such facilitative arrangements and technologies will also be considered in developing any
alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland ..
▸ Both Parties will have equivalence frameworks in place that allow them to declare a third
country's regulatory and supervisory regimes equivalent for relevant purposes ..
▸ The future relationship must ensure open and fair competition ..
▸ Both Parties should preserve their respective strategic autonomy and freedom of action ..
China and the West
American global hegemony is a fact of life. The rise of challengers such as China seems shockingly modern. But Western dominance may come to be
seen as an aberration and the rise of China and other Asian nations as a reversion to the natural order of things.
From the birth of Christ until 1820, China and India accounted for the lion's share of global economic output. Only since the Napoleonic wars have
Europe and America eclipsed the East. Three hundred years ago, China accounted for about one third of global economic output. If China restores
its global economic share to one third, it will give China twice the economic heft of America.
The Asian economies have learnt from the West. The triumph of reason let the West leap ahead of an East still held back by religion. But the West
has made big mistakes.
Britain and Europe
Britannia was part of the Roman empire for four centuries before that empire disintegrated. Two centuries later, in 664 CE, England voted to rejoin the
European union of the Roman Catholic church. In 1534, Henry VIII pulled out, and England stayed out of the European wars of religion.
Then in 1704, England plunged into war against France. After 1713, the British lost interest in Europe until they was drawn into war against Napoleon.
In 1815, Britain helped found the Concert of Europe. The British empire then took priority, and Lord Salisbury declared a policy of splendid
In 1914, Britain was drawn into a great war over Belgium. By helping France and punishing Germany, Britain ensured the outcome was a second world war.
After 1945, Britain engaged in NATO.
Britain declined to join the Common Market in 1957, but changed its mind and joined in 1973. The Maastricht treaty in 1992 upset a delicate equilibrium.
The UK declined to join the eurozone and the EU social chapter. The slope was now downhill to 2016, when Britain turned away again.
History suggests the EU could evolve into a new Holy Roman Empire. The old Holy Roman Empire endured for a thousand years and gave Europe a splendid
civilization. You can take the UK out of the EU but you can never take Britain out of Europe.
2018 November 21
Quantum Behavior in Strange Metals
A large class of superconducting materials follow an unknown organizing principle that governs the collective behavior of particles and determines
how they spread energy and information.
Electrons inside ceramic crystals such as cuprates seem to dissipate energy as quickly as possible, subject to a quantum speed limit. Other exotic
superconductors also burn energy at what appears to be a maximum allowed rate set by Planck's constant.
This behavior occurs when the exotic materials are in a strange metal phase, in which they resist the flow of electricity more than conventional metals.
When cooled to a critical temperature, these strange metals become superconductors.
The electrons may occupy a scrambled quantum state in which the properties of each electron depend on those of every other. This state of maximal
quantum entanglement may let the electrons scatter off each other and spread energy as quickly as possible.
In 1986, when Georg Bednorz and Alex Müller discovered high-temperature superconductivity, they found that near the critical temperature their
cuprate crystal's electrical resistance decreased linearly with falling temperature. Such linear resistivity shows up in other materials too before
the onset of superconductivity. The straight line relating the electron scattering rate to temperature has a slope set by Planck's constant.
This Planckian dissipation may arise because electrons in these materials hit a quantum speed limit on how fast they can dissipate energy. Perhaps
electrons in strange metals are dissipating as fast as they can consistent with the uncertainty principle. The electrons have energy proportional
to temperature, dissipation takes time, and time and energy do not commute.
Theorists are attacking the problem using a holographic duality that mathematically connects systems of scrambled quantum particles to imaginary
black holes in one higher dimension. Maybe black holes and strange metals go to extremes in a common way.
AR I was working at Springer when Bednorz and Müller won the 1987 Nobel prize in physics — it was very
exciting for us.
2018 November 20
A New Consensus
Theresa May's deal is the worst of all worlds. I have a proposal.
There are three practical Brexit options:
✗ We can leave the EU with the deal May has negotiated
✗ We can keep our current deal by remaining in the EU
✗ We can leave on WTO no-deal terms
By giving the public a first and second preference vote, people can find a consensus.
It can work, it's fair, and it can deliver a clear voting majority on the way forward.
Let people have a say on the way forward.
Theresa May saw the Brexit referendum result as an endorsement for her tough stance on immigration. She will stop free movement between Britain
and Europe and yesterday promised the CBI a new immigration system. But free movement has been good for business.
During her years as home secretary, May unleashed a hostile environment for immigrants. She set minimum-income rules for Britons bringing
in spouses from abroad. She asked doctors, landlords, and businesses to inform on immigrants. She ran ads telling illegal migrants
to "Go Home".
The visa system for traders and tourists has become so expensive and unfriendly that many will not bother trying to visit the UK again.
The UK business class has finally taken a position. The CBI is backing prime minister Theresa May and her EU withdrawal agreement. Its leaders are
pleased that the agreement keeps the UK position unchanged during the transition period until the end of 2020.
Business has helped in pointing to the disruption that a no-deal exit would bring and in highlighting the importance of immigration to the UK economy.
But it was reluctant to spell this out during the referendum and it is backing a losing proposition now.
✗ do not generally have great or deep insight into current affairs
✗ are too timid and are reluctant to upset their customers
✗ are focused on the transition period and not yet much further
✗ sometimes misplace their moral compasses
✗ are not democratically accountable
The political class may have failed us, but business leaders cannot do better.
The worst year to have been alive may have been 536 CE. Analysis of pollutants in ice from an alpine glacier suggests a volcanic eruption in Iceland
spread ash across the northern hemisphere early in the year, causing crops to fail from Scandinavia to Mesopotamia.
Roman historian Procopius: "The sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year."
Two more big eruptions followed in 540 and 547. In 541, bubonic plague — the Plague of Justinian — broke out and went on to kill half of
the population of the Byzantine Empire. The western Roman Empire was gone, and in Britannia civic order fell apart.
Things went from bad to worse until 622 CE, Year One of Islam.
2018 November 19
Brexit and Trump
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is known to his friend The Donald as Mr Brexit. Farage, Arron Banks, and Andy Wigmore call themselves the Bad Boys
I asked Wigmore about the work Cambridge Analytica (CA) did for both Trump and Brexit in 2016: "Cambridge Analytica did work for us, yes. We just
didn't pay them. They were happy to help." He explained that Farage was close with the CA VP Steve Bannon.
Brexit and Trump are entangled. Special counsel Robert Mueller has identified the Russian ambassador to London as a conduit between the Trump
campaign and the Kremlin.
Arron Banks married a Russian woman named Katya. She had been close to Mike Hancock MP. British security warned Hancock
that he was a target for Russian intelligence.
Banks joked about Katya being a spy. He told me about his lunch with the Russian ambassador in the months before the referendum and added:
"Not a single penny of Russian money went into Brexit."
Banks has business interests in insurance and diamond mines in Africa. All his wealth, he says, was generated in Britain, and his company Rock
Services donated £8 million to the Leave.EU campaign.
Banks had multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador and Russian officials in early 2016. On the day Leave.EU held its press launch, Banks
and Wigmore visited the Russian embassy and were offered chances to buy a group of gold mines plus stakes in a diamond company.
Britain carries on regardless, transfixed by Brexit.
Trump vs China
Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping will meet at the G20 summit in Argentina.
The hawks in Washington are actively pushing for a long confrontation with China. They want to persuade Japan and South Korea to let America
deploy short-range nuclear missiles in the region. The doves want to see the current trade tensions swiftly resolved.
Trump has already gone further than any other US president in confronting China, slapping tariffs on almost half of Chinese exports to the US and
stepping up naval patrols through disputed waters in the Pacific. But he is also volatile and claims to like Xi.
With Trump as president all bets are off.
The New York Times
The Chinese economy has grown up. China now leads the world in the number of homeowners, internet users, college graduates, and billionaires. It has
become the most significant rival to the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union.
President Xi Jinping is pushing a more assertive agenda. The Trump administration has launched a trade war and is gearing up for what could be a new
Cold War. Xi is considering how to pull ahead of the West against American hostility.
The People's Republic of China has surpassed the Soviet Union in longevity. Chinese Communists studied the fate of their old allies in Moscow to learn
from their mistakes. They decided the party had to embrace reform but not democracy.
Bureaucrats who were once obstacles to growth became engines of growth. Officials devoted to class warfare and price controls began chasing investment
and promoting private enterprise. It was an act of reinvention that eluded the Soviets.
China sent generations of young party officials to the United States and elsewhere to study how modern economies worked. They enrolled in universities,
they found jobs, and they went on study tours. When they returned, the party promoted them.
The party invested in education, expanded access to schools and universities, and all but eliminated illiteracy. Mainland China now produces more
science and engineering graduates every year than the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan combined.
China tapped into a wave of globalization and emerged as the world's factory. The question now is whether it can sustain this model with the United
States as an adversary.
AR I hope and trust the Chinese will improve on AA civilization.
NATO exercise Anakonda 18, Poland
Latest UK voting intentions
NATO In Poland
Anakonda 18 is Poland's biggest NATO exercise. It features 17,500 soldiers from 10 NATO members: 12,500 in Poland and 5,000 more in Lithuania, Latvia,
and Estonia. This is the site of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence.
America remains the backbone of NATO, but after years of cutbacks European countries and Canada are finally stepping up their financial commitments.
During the last two years these countries have found an extra $41 billion for defense.
Poles and Germans are united as allies and trading partners. The European Union has done a lot to realize that reconciliation. But it was
made possible by NATO and exercises like Anakonda 18.
2018 November 18
Immanuel Kant, 1784
Dare to understand! [sapere aude]
AR Cited by Steven Pinker in his book
Battle of Brexit
Mail on Sunday
Theresa May today told her warring Conservative MPs a change in leadership will only help those who want to thwart Brexit.
AR Bring it on!
Trump and Brexit
Observers speculate that the Brexit campaign in the UK served as a test rig for Donald Trump's US presidential campaign. New evidence shows
Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica (CA) incubated both campaigns in 2015.
In October 2015, Bannon was the VP of CA. The following month, Leave.EU launched its campaign for Brexit. Bannon is cited in mails between a
CA director and Leave.EU campaigner Arron Banks.
Foreign contributions to US and UK political campaigns are forbidden by law. CA denies it was paid to work for the Leave.EU campaign. The
mails show Banks and others met with CA executives in 2015.
British investigations parallel the Mueller investigation of possible Russian support for Trump's 2016 campaign. Banks spent some £9
million supporting the Brexit campaign. Both UK and US investigators have looked at links between Banks and the Russian ambassador to
the UK. They are also looking at the role of Trump ally and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
AR Annul the referendum result.
The Dark Heart of Brexit
Approval of the EU is higher than ever: 51% of its citizens want to stay in it, 34% to leave. The EU is a tool of political balance in which everyone
gets something from it. The collateral benefit of this balance is peace.
Two peoples in the world attribute to their own nation a grotesquely disproportionate influence on world history: Brits and Russians. The reason is
probably that Russia and Britain were the last great imperial powers.
The British conservative upper class forms the hard core of resistance to the EU. This class includes few convinced supporters of the European project.
Most are reluctant, only forced to join in 1972 for economic reasons.
Brits brought with them an obsession with accounting that distinguished between net payers and net recipients, winners and losers. But the idea behind
the EU is that no one profits at the expense of others, so everyone wins, as in every good marriage, family, neighborhood, or working community.
Without this idea it fails.
The British have taken a critical view of the EU. They aim to destroy it and restore the disorder in which we all seek to outdo one another in
good, bad, or cunning ways.
AR An accountant is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
We Will Not Be Bullied
The UK got close to an acceptable deal with the EU. But we cannot now exit the backstop without the EU exercising a veto and that
could be years down the line. It's the worst of all worlds.
What's missing is political will and resolve. We must be willing to say that if we cannot close this deal on reasonable terms, we will not be bribed
and blackmailed or bullied and we will walk away.
This isn't Dunkirk. The short-term risks of disruption can be managed — but they can't be eliminated. We need to be honest about that.
AR Raab is the son of a Czech Jewish refugee from the Nazis, who went to grammar school and read law at Oxford and Cambridge.
He became as an MP in 2010 and a minister in 2015. Now 44, he also has a black belt in karate.
Give The People A Say
The reality of Brexit is finally clear. Theresa May's withdrawal agreement brings into sharp focus the colossal cost of embracing the Brexiteer delusion
of taking back control.
The agreement is probably the best Britain could get, but it offers the economics of the madhouse. If this is taking back control, it is a cruel joke.
This Brexit will leave Britain vastly diminished.
Virtually all the major challenges faced by developed nations are global and will be solved only with global collaboration. The EU is far from perfect,
but it is by far the most successful model for regional cooperation. For the UK to leave it is lunacy.
There is no such thing as a clean break from the EU that respects both the integrity of the UK and the Good Friday agreement. The Brexiteers have
abdicated all responsibility for achieving their dream. They are unable to put forward a vision or a plan.
The chances of getting the deal through parliament look tiny. A new referendum is the only way out of political gridlock. The choice is between staying
in the EU or May's lose-lose deal.
There is a good case for a vote: we now know the terms of exit and there are huge unforeseen costs. The Brexit tragedy is not inevitable. Give the
people a say.
AR May has done us all a service in exposing the Brexiteer delusion.
Christ Church Oxford
Christ Church is a college in the University of Oxford and a pillar of the establishment. It educated 13 British prime ministers, 10 chancellors
of the exchequer, and 17 archbishops. King Edward VII was a student there, Albert Einstein was a visitor there, and Lewis Carroll was a fellow there.
Last week, the dean of its college and cathedral, the Very Rev Martyn Percy, was suspended after being challenged under archaic and opaque rules
concerning issues of governance. His supporters say he wanted to modernise the college management and his opponents want to preserve their
traditional privileges in a medieval fiefdom.
Percy is said to be deeply distressed by the complaint and has had to hire lawyers for a tribunal. A university statement described him as a widely
respected member of the university community. An online drive has raised more than £37,000 to help with his legal bills.
AR Oxford needs deep reform, just like the entire British establishment.
Canford Cliffs beach, Saturday
Save the Humans
Theresa Mays Kabinett hat
dem Entwurf zugestimmt, nun
muss das britische Parlament
zustimmen, dann auch alle
Donald Tusk holds
Michel Barnier reads his deal
Prince Charles and Camilla
set off to celebrate his
70th birthday bash at
EU man, UK
2018 November 17
London, Saturday — Thousands of demonstrators occupied five Thames bridges to protest at the looming climate crisis. It was one of the biggest
acts of civil disobedience in the UK in decades. The demonstrators moved to Westminster for speeches about environmental destruction.
The action is part of a campaign of mass civil disobedience organised by Extinction Rebellion, which aims to force governments to treat
the threats of climate breakdown and extinction as a crisis.
Green party peer Jenny Jones: "If we don't start acting and acting fast we are just going to wipe out our life support system
.. Basically conventional politics has failed us."
We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. We demand that our government:
▸ Tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency,
▸ Enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions and consumption levels,
▸ Create a democracy fit for purpose, including a national citizen's assembly.
AR Greens need to calm down.
World War 3 will be fought by robots. A senior US national security official: "We've been occupied by fighting low-tech conflict against people who
lob rockets out the back of trucks, and all along China has got savvy and crept up on us. That's now our focus."
US defense secretary Jim Mattis warns that America is losing its military edge in every domain of warfare. Rather than accommodate China's rise,
Washington still largely believes in domination. The US military machine remains far and away the most powerfully equipped fighting force in
the world, and public martial spirit is strong.
Chinese president Xi Jinping wants to build a world-class military by 2049, the centenary of Communist party rule. In October 2018, clad in
camouflage, he told his commanders to prepare for war. A battle for regional hegemony over Taiwan or the South China Sea could
China has developed stealth fighter jets and put missiles and bombers on a string of artificial islands in the South China Sea. US military bases
in the Pacific, from Guam to Japan to Hawaii, would find it hard to mount a successful attack on the Chinese mainland. China would use its
fortified island bases as aircraft carriers and quickly seize the upper hand in a war.
Like Clausewitz, Mattis sees uncertainty and fear as essential ingredients of war: "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone
you meet." He points to China's aggressive authoritarian streak: "There's going to be a discipline."
Pentagon chief technical officer and former NASA head Michael Griffin is tasked with bringing the US war machine into the next age. DARPA was
founded after the Soviets orbited Sputnik in 1957 and went on to invent the precursor to the internet. Griffin: "They're focused on
what is the best and most innovative thing that can be done with the physics and technology that we have."
Former US deputy defense secretary Bob Work: "The future battlefield is going to be extraordinarily lethal and the tempo will be 24 hours a day,
all day, all weather, just no rest. It's going to be our AI against their AI. One side is going to get inside the command system and shut
Mattis: "They're fusing all the advances together, from intel input and observation and missiles and everything .. Each war is unique."
Poverty in the UK
The UK contains many areas of immense wealth, yet many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who sees the growth in food
banks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the despair that leads the
government to appoint a minister for suicide prevention, and reports of loneliness and isolation.
Local authorities that perform vital roles in providing a social safety net have been gutted by government policies. Libraries have closed in
record numbers, community and youth centers have been shrunk and underfunded, and public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation
centers have been sold off.
A fifth of the UK population, 14 million people, live in poverty: 4 million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are
destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The IFS predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict
child poverty rates of as high as 40%. This is a disgrace, a calamity, and disaster.
Britain has blundered into Brexit with no preparation at all. There is no Brexit option that leaves the UK better off economically. With hindsight,
we'd stop Brexit now, bank the knowledge we've gained and start again.
The Brexit deal is dead. Labour and the Remain-backing parties will vote against it. The DUP will vote against it. The hard Brexiteers will vote
against it. Many Tory Remainers will vote against it. And its political declaration is fudge.
Brexit takes back control for the EU alone. It reduces the UK to a mere lobbyist for its own economy. It has no advantage over the status quo by
any conceivable metric. Even Brexiteers say it would be better to remain in the EU.
AR Monty Python as reality TV.
2018 November 16
Theresa May at Downing Street last night: "I believe with every fibre of my being that the course I have set out is the right one for our country
and all our people. Leadership is about taking the right decisions, not the easy ones. As prime minister my job is to bring back a deal that
delivers on the vote of the British people."
On radio this morning: "Government policy is government policy."
May's Brexit deal is inferior to remaining in the EU while failing to deliver any of the benefits promised by ardent Brexiteers. But
a no-deal exit remains the worst option.
Britain faces its most critical decisions since the second world war.
Britain and the Politics of Pain
"Instrument of Surrender .. the British Command to carry out at once, without argument or comment, all further orders that will be issued by the
German Command on any subject."
Len Deighton's 1978 thriller SS-GB set up two ideas for Brexit: The Englishman
as a new European under German domination and the vertiginous fall from heart of empire to occupied colony.
The Falklands war played out the invasion fantasy of SS-GB at a safe distance. The tiny population of the Falklands served as a metaphor for the UK.
The Falkland Islands were a fantasy England with no black and brown immigrants and a rural terrain, an ideal version of the post-industrial
landscape that Thatcher was creating in England.
Margaret Thatcher, 1982: "The lesson of the Falklands is that Britain has not changed and that this nation still has those sterling qualities which
shine through our history. This generation can match their fathers and grandfathers in ability, in courage, and in resolution."
England was still stuck in fantasies of WW2. Kenneth Minogue, 1989: "The European institutions are attempting to create a European Union, in the tradition of the
mediaeval popes, Charlemagne, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Adolf Hitler."
Robert Harris on his 1992 thriller
Fatherland: "If there was one factor that suddenly gave my fantasy of a united Germany a harder edge, it was the news
that exactly such an entity was unexpectedly returning to the heart of Europe."
German reunification was a great missed opportunity for the English. Anthony Barnett: "The triumph and relief of the unification of Germany could and
should have belonged to us in Britain, as well as to Germany itself. It was .. a time to welcome a great culture back into our arms."
The idea of Europe as a soft-Nazi superstate is a product of England's troubled relationship to WW2. Britain was the winner that had been surpassed
by the losers, who hated us because we saved them.
Boris Johnson, 2017: "The [European project is] an attempt not just at economic but political integration of a kind that the British people had
never bargained for."
How Brexit Breaks Britain
The Brexit process is driven by two great unacknowledged contradictions. Brexit is powered by the slogan: "Take back control." But what is control
and who takes it?
◼ Another word for control is regulation. The fundamental appeal of Brexit is that the British have had too much
regulation imposed from Brussels and want to regulate themselves. But the Brexiteers dream of completing the deregulating neoliberal project
to create a global Britain that can unleash a new golden age of buccaneering capitalism.
◼ Power will be returned to English nationalists. In reaction to devolution in the UK, the English people see
their national identity not as British but as English. When asked whether the unravelling of the peace process in Ireland is a price worth
paying for Brexit, 83% of Leave voters and 73% of Conservative voters in England say it is.
Ironically, the DUP holds the balance of power at Westminster. Theresa May now says: "I will always fight to strengthen and sustain this precious,
AR Brexit is a pitiful symbol for the folly of nationalism.
2018 November 15
Battle of Brexit
BBC News, UCT 1750
UK prime minister Theresa May: "Full control of our borders by bringing an end to the free movement of people once and for all; full control of our
money so we decide ourselves how to spend it on priorities like our NHS; full control of our laws by ending the jurisdiction of the European
Court of Justice in the UK; getting us out of the common agriculture policy and common fisheries policy for good. That is exactly what this
agreement will deliver."
The Guardian, UCT 1343 ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg submits letter of no confidence in the PM.
BBC News, UCT 1203 Theresa May, House of Commons: "We've taken the decision to leave."
BBC News, UCT 1108 Theresa May, House of Commons: "We are making no plans for no Brexit."
The Guardian, UCT 1004 Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey resigns.
The Guardian, UCT 0903 Brexit secretary Dominic Raab resigns, saying he cannot back May's deal.
Terrible Brexit deal unites UK in horror
UK prime minister Theresa May has united her deeply divided nation:
✗ Remainers say the deal would be far worse than continued EU membership.
✗ Leavers say the deal would be far worse than a clean break.
✗ The deal will not be ratified.
✗ Britain is in deep, deep crisis.
May deal under scrutiny
UK prime minister Theresa May said there was collective cabinet approval for her deal. Downing Street is now braced for resignations as the mood
darkens over the Conservative party. Brexiteer MPs claim they had the 48 names needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in her premiership.
In a letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says decisive progress has been achieved in the
Brexit talks. UK cabinet approval paves the way for formal approval of the Brexit treaty at a special European Council meeting on November 25.
The 585-page withdrawal treaty will now come under heavy political scrutiny.
Parliament should reject May's rotten Brexit deal
The deal negotiated by Theresa May's government is an expression of the balance of power between the UK and the EU. The withdrawal accord is a bad deal,
a rotten deal that parliament should have no hesitation in rejecting. It would leave Britain markedly poorer, weaker in the pursuit of its national
interests, and less secure.
The prime minister could never get an agreement as good as the one Britain enjoys as a full member of the bloc. The political statement accompanying
the agreement is full of good intentions about forging a new partnership and allowing Britain to sit on the sidelines of discussions about foreign
policy, defence, and antiterrorism. In truth, Britain will be granted influence only to the extent that it is ready to sign up again to the rules
of the EU club.
The best option would see parliament back a referendum offering an informed choice between the status quo and what everyone can now see is available
outside the EU. No one voted for the chaotic halfway house now proposed.
The Independent's petition for fresh Brexit referendum is the most popular petition in the UK. More than a million people backed the call for a public
vote on May's Brexit deal in just three months.
Change.org says Brexit is dominating public opinion. Its new poll finds 85% of voters say they had been ignored over the Brexit strategy, and
just 7.4% say they have been adequately consulted.
Change.org surveyed more than 89,000 users in the UK between October 31 and November 5: 63% backed Remain, 25% voted Leave, and the remainder
did not vote or chose not to say.
2018 November 14
The 2018 report by the IPCC set a target of 1.5 K for global warming. The pledges made by nations at
the Paris conference in 2015 were not enough to meet the 2 K target. If every nation fulfilled those pledges, the global temperature would still
rise by an intolerable 3.5 K.
Engineers have continued to make remarkable advances. The price per kW for solar or wind power has continued to plunge, so much so that these are now
the cheapest sources of power across much of the globe. Renewable technology has been deployed widely in China and India.
The prospects for civilization have worsened since 2015. America has withdrawn from the Paris agreement and aims to revive the coal industry and
deregulate the oil and gas business. A continued rise in global CO2 emissions suggests 2018 will set a new record for warming.
To keep warming under 1.5 K, those emissions will have to fall by almost half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. The burden of climate change will
be heaviest on the poorest nations. At 2 K, the report predicts a "disproportionately rapid evacuation" of people from the tropics.
The IPCC is a slave to consensus and almost certainly understates the problem. Scientists have agreed on a broad and workable summary of our peril.
But even the politicians not controlled by the fossil fuel industry tend to propose changes too small and slow to make much difference.
AR The science is clear — action now.
American Dominance Eroded
The National Defense Strategy Commission, comprised of former top Republican and Democratic officials selected by Congress, evaluated the Trump
administration's 2018 National Defense Strategy and found:
▸ The United States has lost its military edge and could lose a war against China or Russia
▸ China and Russia are seeking regional dominance and an ability to project global military power
▸ The military balance has shifted adversely for the United States in Europe, Asia, and the Mideast
▸ The Pentagon should explain more fully how it plans to defeat its rivals in competition and war
▸ Despite a $716 billion US defense budget this year, the US defense effort is under-resourced
▸ Congress should look at the entire federal budget to put the nation on a stabler financial footing
▸ The US Navy should expand its submarine fleet and sealift forces
▸ The US Air Force should deploy more reconnaissance platforms and stealth fighters and bombers
▸ The US Army should pursue more armor, long-range precision missiles, air defense, and logistics
▸ Create new pilot programs aimed at breakthroughs to help retain American military dominance
AR America cannot win WW3. Negotiate global peace.
2018 November 13
Guest speech by Andy Ross
Poole Rotary Club
Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel hat sich für die Idee einer europäischen Armee ausgesprochen. "Wir sollten an der Vision
arbeiten, eines Tages auch eine echte europäische Armee zu schaffen", sagte sie in einer Rede im Europaparlament in Straßburg.
Die Zeiten, in denen Europa sich auf andere verlassen konnte, seien "schlicht vorbei", bekräftigte Merkel. "Alte Verbündete stellen
bewährte Verbindungen in Frage. Eine gemeinsame europäische Armee würde der Welt zeigen, dass es zwischen den europäischen
Ländern nie wieder Krieg gibt."
Merkel unterstützte damit einen Vorschlag von Frankreichs Staatschef Emmanuel Macron, der vergangene Woche erneut eine "echte europäische
Armee" für mehr Unabhängigkeit von den USA ins Spiel gebracht hatte.
AR Good idea.
Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated a remarkable ability to reach for the right words to match the solemnity of any diplomatic occasion.
"Old demons are resurfacing," he warned.
The British government could have used this weekend's commemorations to send its own powerful signal of its continued commitment to the global
rules-based system and its determination to play a leading role in defending it and Europe. Instead, Theresa May was conspicuous on Sunday
only by her absence from the gathering of global leaders in Paris.
Britain cannot retreat into isolationism.
Brexit Draft Deal
UK and EU officials have agreed the draft text of a Brexit agreement. A special cabinet meeting will be held 14:00 UCT Wednesday to seek
ministerial backing. Leading Brexiteers urge rejection.
The way out of this shambles is a People's Vote
I voted Remain in the 2016 referendum. I did my best as a government minister to make a success of our departure from the EU. I now appeal to every
Conservative to ask themselves if the choice being offered to us between vassalage and chaos can truly represent the national interest.
No one voted for a Brexit that would leave the UK with less control over its laws than it has within the EU. No one voted for a Brexit that will
reduce market access for our services sector. No one voted for a Brexit where the big questions remain unresolved and negotiations go on for
An alternative to the shambles is unfolding in Westminster. Handing the final decision back to the people is the most democratic thing to do
and the most practical way to solve this crisis. Support a People's Vote.
AR Jo Jo for PM.
2018 November 12
Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying "Our interests first — who cares about the
others?", we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values.
ThyssenKrupp UK chairman and CEO Terry Sargeant is a member of
German Industry UK, representing 100 German companies in the UK:
"The impact of Brexit for multinationals is disruptive, and could lead to loss of business in Britain. In Germany, people look at this and are
aghast at what is happening .. It is a complete shambles .. Once the UK leaves the customs union there will be barriers and possibly duties
and tariffs to be paid. At the very least there will be paperwork .. I am passionate that we do what we can to stop the damage."
AR I am too — we have to live with this mess for a long time.
The New York Times
Yuval Noah Harari worries that Silicon Valley is undermining democracy, that the big tech companies are destroying free will, that the technological
revolution is creating a tiny ruling class and a huge useless class.
Harari recently visited Silicon Valley. The more of a mess Washington becomes, the more interested the tech world is in creating something else.
Mark Zuckerberg admires Caesar Augustus: "Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace."
Harari: "I've met a number of these high-tech giants, and generally they're good people. They're not Attila the Hun. In the lottery of human leaders,
you could get far worse."
Dr Harari, 42, is a history professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He grew up near Haifa. His father worked in the arms industry. His mother
worked in office administration. His husband Itzik Yahav is also his manager.
Harari says free will is an illusion and human rights are just a story we tell ourselves. Political parties and the liberal world order rely on
fictions like "the customer is always right" and "follow your heart" that no longer work in the age of artificial intelligence: "If humans
are hackable animals, and if our choices and opinions don't reflect our free will, what should the point of politics be?"
At first, English-language publishers were cool on the commercial viability of his big book Sapiens.
Yahav persisted, eventually landing the agent Deborah Harris. One day when Harari was away meditating, Yahav and Harris sold it to Random House
Today, Ridley Scott and documentarian Asif Kapadia are adapting Sapiens into a TV show.
In December, Harari will enter an ashram outside Mumbai for 60 days of silence.
AR See my essay The Prophet of Posthumanism.
Die blutige Bilanz des
They Shall Not Grow Old
Real WW1 shock-doc:
AR Gripping, obscene,
like being there
in the mud
Peace Pledge Union
People wish to remember
victims of war by working
for peace. They resist
nationalistic agendas that
confine remembrance to
the British armed forces.
White poppies represent
remembrance for all victims
of war of all nationalities,
a commitment to peace
and a rejection of
Prince Charles, 70 next week:
"There's only room for one
sovereign at a time."
Oumuamua was discovered
by a star survey in 2017.
Its exact trajectory has an
excess radial acceleration,
as if from solar radiation
pressure on a thin sheet.
It might be an artificial
light sail designed for
AR A piece of interstellar
plastic waste, perhaps?
2018 Remembrance Sunday
A Hundred Years
The battles of 1914−18 were only the first phase of a European civil war that peaked in 1939−45. The long war was a struggle for mastery
between Germany and Russia. German aggression sucked France and Britain into two wars. In 1914, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg said his aim was to
lay the foundations for German predominance in Europe.
Germany after 1945 evolved into a model democracy embedded in the EU. But now Russian aggression, African migration, British separatism, and east
European assaults on the rule of law are testing the EU. The Armistice anniversary is a time to reflect that we need German leadership, US engagement,
and efforts to ease tensions.
AR British imperialists sought to tame German hegemonism but only succeeded in making way for Soviet expansionism.
American militarists faced down Soviet communism and left Europe open to Russian opportunism. Now British separatists threaten to weaken the EU
just when Europeans need to reinforce their idealism.
The Sunday Times
Theresa May's mission to deliver Brexit looks as doomed as the Apollo 13 mission. Negotiations are continuing in Brussels through the weekend in hopes
of salvation by the end of the month.
The outlines of a deal reveal a new Irish border backstop with three options:
▸ An EU-UK economic partnership with no hard border in Ireland
▸ An extension of the transition phase beyond December 2020
▸ A temporary customs arrangement between the UK and the EU
Several member states insist on conditions:
▸ The UK accepts EU rules on state aid, environmental and labour standards
▸ Their states have access to UK fishing waters after the transition
EU negotiators have rejected an independent arbitration mechanism to limit the backstop. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is said to be on the brink
of resigning. Other ministers are ready to resign.
A leading Brexiteer: "I think May's denouement might be beginning. If she thinks she is going to land this deal successfully and get it through the EU,
her cabinet and parliament, then she is living on a different planet."
AR An EU siege of the UK recalls the old U-boat blockades.
2018 November 10
Give people hope. People need the perspective that they will be able to achieve something in their lives. There has to be a realignment of wealth
within our society.
We offer an inclusive radical alternative to what this government is doing. We can recognize the reasons why people voted Leave. A lot of people
have been angered by how their communities have been left behind.
We want to make a new and comprehensive customs union with the EU, one that protects the Irish border and ensures that our supply chains work in
This government is incapable of negotiating the right Brexit deal for this country. At every stage of the Brexit process, the prime minister has
shunned constructive engagement over her Brexit strategy. She has been negotiating the deal she thinks she can get past her divided cabinet and
Supporting a bad deal is not in the national interest and there is no mandate for a no deal Brexit. No government has the right to plunge the country
into chaos because of its own failure. The national interest must come first.
AR Enter Jo ..
Jo Johnson laments that Brexit has divided families. His brother Boris was the leading figure in the Leave campaign. Jo was a passionate
Remainer. Their sister Rachel is for holding a people's vote.
A former Downing Street aide: "Jo and Boris have polar opposite views and yet they have reached the same conclusion about where we are heading. It
shows the spectrum of disquiet."
Both brothers are old boys of Eton and Oxford, were in the Bullingdon Club, and worked as journalists. Jo also studied in Paris and in Brussels before
working at Deutsche Bank and then at the Financial Times before moving into politics. He is married to Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman.
Jo became a minister in the Cabinet Office in 2014. From 2015 he was universities minister, then from January 2018 a transport minister. He despairs at
Theresa May's handling of Brexit.
Boris: "Boundless admiration as ever for my brother Jo."
Rachel: "Jo is brave and on the right side of history."
What Would Winston Do?
2018 November 9
Brexit has divided the country. The choice being presented to the British people is between an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened,
with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business, and a "no deal" Brexit that I know as a transport minister will
inflict untold damage on our nation.
My brother Boris is as unhappy with the government's proposals as I am. Indeed he recently observed that the proposed arrangements were substantially
worse than staying in the EU. On that he is unquestionably right.
The democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say. This would ask people whether they want to go ahead with
Brexit now that we know the deal that is actually available to us, whether we should leave without any deal at all, or whether people on balance
would rather stick with the deal we already have inside the EU.
Britain stands on the brink of the greatest crisis since the Second World War. My duty to my constituents and our great nation has forced me to act.
I have today written to the prime minister asking her to accept my resignation from the government.
On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and,
if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the prime minister's deal or without it.
To do anything less will do grave damage to our democracy.
AR Bravo, Jo!
No Deal Plan
UK prime minister Theresa May is accused of breaking her promise to the DUP that she would never allow Northern Ireland to be divided from the rest
of the UK.
May wrote to DUP leader Arlene Foster to say the EU is still pushing for its "backstop to the backstop" plan that would leave Northern Ireland tied
to the single market and customs union if Brexit talks collapse. May says she would never allow a divide between Ulster and Great Britain to come
into force. The DUP interprets this wording to mean the "backstop to the backstop" clause will be inserted into the legally binding agreement.
Foster: "The prime minister's letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper
Brexit for the whole of the UK."
AR Foster now says she cannot support the present deal.
Brexit is wrong. We live on this stroppy little island, and we need to talk to each other.
But have we not just spent the last couple of years going round in circles?
The referendum question wasn't right in the first place. It should have been:
"Who are we, and who do we want to become?"
There are no easy answers.
The Good, The Bad & The Queen: Merrie Land (4:48)
2018 November 8
Sessions Out, Mueller Next?
Fred Wertheimer, Norman Eisen
Special counsel (SC) Robert Mueller faces his most serious threat yet in the forced resignation of attorney general (AG) Jeff Sessions. The AG had
recused himself from the Russia investigation and let his deputy oversee it.
President Trump has named Matthew Whitaker as acting AG and shifted the oversight role to him. But Whitaker has evidently prejudged aspects of the
investigation and mused about how it can be hampered. No prosecutor should work on a matter under these circumstances.
To protect the investigation before President Trump makes any further efforts to control the SC office, we propose a solution based upon that devised
by Robert Bork when he was the acting AG during Watergate:
▸ The AG will not remove the SC except for extraordinary improprieties, will not countermand or
interfere with SC decisions or actions, and will not limit the jurisdiction of the SC without first consulting with the Republican and Democratic
leaders of the House and the Senate.
▸ The SC investigation shall continue until the SC determines that it has been completed. The SC
may make public such statements or reports as he deems appropriate and shall submit a final report and may make it public.
Members of both chambers should demand a commitment from any new person overseeing the Mueller investigation to protect it.
France−UK Military Alliance
A report from a task force led by Bernard Cazeneuve, French prime minister from 2016 to 2017, and George Robertson, UK defence secretary from 1997 to
1999 and NATO secretary general from 1999 to 2004, makes an urgent call for France and the UK to work more closely together on defence.
Lord Robertson: "[Trump] has been lukewarm on NATO and has taken a pretty hostile view about the role of some European countries and their seriousness
about defence. [NATO] is under pressure due to Brexit and it is has never been more valuable given what America is doing at the moment. It needs
to be strengthened, improved and reinforced."
The report calls on the EU to keep the security relationship with the UK alive and urges the UK to soften its red lines on ECJ jurisdiction
to allow its security forces access to key databases.
Robertson: "Britain and France are close neighbours [and] account for more than half of European defence spending and probably over 60% of defence
capability. We are both in the UN security council, we are both nuclear powers and we have both got the expeditionary capabilities. Any EU operation
will need UK forces. [This] is the dilemma we are highlighting."
2018 November 7
Democrats Win House
The New York Times
With the House of Representatives in Democrat control, Congress can do more for Americans than cutting taxes for the wealthy and menacing health care.
Democrats adopted a trio of policy goals: lowering health care costs, creating jobs by investing in infrastructure, and cleaning up politics.
These are popular causes.
Democrats have the chance to press President Trump about whether he is interested in making progress on his stated goals or is a hypocrite intent on
waging partisan trench warfare. Huge majorities of Americans support letting the Dreamers stay. Finding a compromise path with Trump would be good
policy and good politics.
Democrats will be contending with a Republican Senate leader who takes pride in obstructionism. If they can find issues that will put
Republican lawmakers on the opposite side from the president, all the better. Wait and see what Robert Mueller turns up.
Die Flucht der Briten
Die Briten, heißt es auf dem Kontinent, befinden sich auf einem Irrweg.
Brexit fußt auf nachvollziehbaren und redlichen Motiven: Die Briten blicken leidenschaftlicher auf die Freiheit und kühler auf Europa.
Der Brexit folgt berechtigter Kritik am Zustand der EU und wehrt sich gegen Fehlentwicklungen des liberalen Modells. Indem die Briten ihre
Souveränität und Identität über den Wohlstand stellen, kehren sie die Prioritäten einer europäischen Einigungslogik
um, die in der Krise steckt.
Niemand kann wissen, wohin der Aufbruch der Briten führt.
AR Die Betonung auf britischer Nationalität ist problematisch. Regionaler Solidarität und Gleichschaltung sind
2018 November 6
The European Research Group (ERG) is a Brexiteer group chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg. Members on Theresa May: "We'll keep her in place
for now. She's our puppet. We're pulling the strings."
The UK government will waste time on Brexit for decades to come. It will have no time for big challenges like the
unfair economy, the dysfunctional housing market, and climate change.
AR Brexit is a bust for the notion that Brits are better off ruled by a bunch of unrestrained MPs in Westminster
than by those same MPs restrained by the best and brightest of all Europe.
A new Brexit poll finds 54% for Remain, 46% for Leave.
The survey of 20,000 UK voters, the largest since the 2016 referendum, finds the number of local authority areas backing Brexit has fallen from 262
in the referendum to 157 today. The number backing Remain has risen from 116 to 221. Big falls in support for Brexit were recorded in
a string of seats in Labour heartlands.
Asked whether they would back yet another vote,
▸ 43% said they'd support a referendum on a final Brexit deal versus remaining in the EU
▸ 37% said they'd oppose it
Asked how they would vote on the prospect of a no-deal Brexit,
▸ 35% said they'd vote to remain in the EU
▸ 19% said they'd vote to delay leaving to allow more time for talks
▸ 36% said they'd vote to leave the EU
Asked how they would vote if the government secured its proposed deal,
▸ 33% said they'd reject it
▸ 26% said they'd accept it
▸ 34% didn't know
▸ 7% didn't reply
AR Brexit can now be branded as a con trick to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Theresa May looks increasingly likely to complete a deal that pleases no one and is approved by parliament anyway.
Calling off Brexit requires another referendum. Some say the social impact of a referendum is costlier than the economic hit of an orderly Brexit.
Another referendum can look as if stupid racists got the question wrong and must resit the exam until they get it right.
A backlash is not averted by going through with Brexit. Hardline Brexiteers will not lay down arms once the UK is out of the EU.
If reasonable men surrender the trench of EU membership, where do they retreat to fight again?
AR No surrender — kill Brexit.
Rosenmontag 2018: Theresa May gebiert einen Brexit
"Barbed wire .. can be
a beautiful sight"
At work, Friday
Scene a few days ago
outside a UK mosque
2018 November 5
Germany After Merkel
The debate about who should succeed Angela Merkel as CDU chairman is shaping up. The CDU is due to select her successor in December.
There are three serious candidates:
◼ Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CDU general secretary, is close to Merkel. She supported Merkel's
immigration policies and ran her election campaign last year.
◼ Jens Spahn, health minister and critic of Merkel, is the antidote to Merkel's liberalism. As finance
secretary he was a hardline opponent of EZ reforms.
◼ Friedrich Merz is a blast from the past. A former parliamentary leader of the CDU-CSU from 2000
to 2002, he was ejected after a power struggle with Merkel.
Merz is socially conservative and economically libertarian. He supports EZ reform and an EU army. He also advocates a constructive
relationship with the UK after Brexit.
AR Merz seems OK to me.
EU officials say the chances of a deal on the Irish border are 50-50 as talks enter a dark phase known as the "tunnel" this week. The UK government
aims to make "decisive progress" by Friday in hopes of an extraordinary Brexit summit in late November.
2018 November 4
Revealed: Secret Brexit Deal
Theresa May's secret plan to secure a Brexit deal and win the backing of parliament:
▸ The EU will write the customs deal into the withdrawal agreement to avoid a backstop
▸ An exit clause will reassure Brexiteers the UK will not be in the EU for ever
▸ A future economic partnership (FEP) will aim to balance market access and border checks
▸ Tell Brexiteer ministers to support it or be personally responsible for a No Deal Brexit
▸ Tell Remainers she fought for the closest possible alignment until the last minute
▸ Quietly ditch her Chequers blueprint and "pivot" toward a different "landing zone"
No 10 spokesman: "This is all speculation."
AR Shipman is a canny source on UK politics.
We are approaching Brexit crunch time. The government offers a choice between taking the deal but losing control or breaking free and taking the pain.
MPs should vote down the deal and give the people the final say.
AR The best FEP is to remain in the EU.
2018 November 3
Angela Merkel: Savior or Destroyer?
Angela Merkel's approach to a problem is to sit it out. Rather than follow a historic mission or strategic vision, she aims to solve problems in a way
that ensures she stays in power.
The German chancellor did so for 13 years. She has been measured, cautious, methodical, pragmatic, noncommittal, and in control. But this week she
A battle is under way over her legacy. For her defenders, the chancellor is a fundamentally decent politician who fought for democratic values. Her
critics say that on major policy questions she is indecisive and panders to public opinion.
Constanze Stelzenmüller: "Politicians have to be effective and credible, and Merkel has been both. She built relationships of trust .. She
gains people's trust because she has clear values .. It's exactly what you want running a major power in the centre of Europe."
Germans have sound historical reasons for disliking excessive political passion. Policies were never the point of Merkel. Many Germans see her as a
reliable and analytical civil servant, not as a politician who has staked out a vision for the country.
Merkel is Machiavellian. Her hard line on enforcing austerity was popular among conservatives but boosted populist movements in southern Europe, while
her 2015 open borders policy was popular among liberals but boosted the AfD. She did little for European integration or the euro.
Alice Weidel: Destroyer or Savior?
The leader of Germany's far-right AfD party has pulled out of a talk at the Oxford Union next week. The decision to invite Alice Weidel, 39,
prompted almost 30 societies from the University of Oxford to sign a letter calling for the invitation to be revoked.
AfD is the largest opposition party in the German parliament and holds regular rallies where immigrants and Muslims are targeted for criticism. The
Oxford Union described Dr Weidel as "outspoken" on issues such as the refugee crisis and traditional social values.
The Oxford Labour Muslim Network said offering a platform for "hate speech" must "not be conflated with freedom of speech" and suggested the Oxford
Union was on the wrong side of history.
Oxford Union president Stephen Horvath: "Alice Weidel has cancelled her trip to the UK due to concerns with the security arrangements for aspects of
her travels and engagements."
AR Let the Oxford snowflakes hear what she has to say.
2018 November 2
Did Russia Bankroll Brexit?
The UK National Crime Agency is to investigate allegations of multiple criminal offences by Arron Banks and his unofficial leave campaign in the Brexit
referendum. Banks is an insurance millionaire who chaired the Leave.EU campaign and was formerly a major bankroller of UKIP.
The NCA will look into suspicions that Banks was not the true source of £8 million in funding to the Leave.EU campaign and that criminal offences may
have been committed. Some MPs are calling for the Brexit process to be put on hold while the allegations are investigated.
Banks: "I am confident that a full and frank investigation will finally put an end to the ludicrous allegations levelled against me and my colleagues.
There is no evidence of any wrongdoing from the companies I own. I am a UK taxpayer and I have never received any foreign donations."
AR Guardian sources report Banks profited from absurdly lucrative dealings with Russia.
Trust the Guardian
The most trusted UK newspaper brand is the Guardian, finds a Pew study. It is particularly trusted among readers aged 18 to 29. The study included four
British newspapers and covered more than 16,000 adults across eight western European countries.
Artificial Neural Network Architecture
University of Manchester
Our Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine is inspired by the working of the human brain. A SpiNNaker machine is a massively parallel
computing platform containing a million processors and running at 200 Tflops, targeted towards three main areas of research:
◼ Neuroscience: SpiNNaker is a platform that will help neuroscientists to understand how the brain
works. It will be capable of simulating a billion simple neurons, or millions of neurons with complex structure and internal dynamics.
◼ Robotics: SpiNNaker is a good target for researchers in robotics. A small SpiNNaker board can
simulate a network of tens of thousands of spiking neurons, process sensory input and generate motor output, all in real time and in a low power
◼ Computer Science: SpiNNaker breaks the rules followed by traditional supercomputers. SpiNNaker
nodes communicate using spikes that are inherently unreliable. This offers the potential to discover new principles of massively parallel
Steve Furber: "Neuroscientists can now use SpiNNaker to help unlock some of the secrets of how the human brain works
by running unprecedentedly large-scale simulations. It also works as real-time neural simulator that allows roboticists to design large-scale
neural networks into mobile robots."
2018 All Saints Day
Math: Evidence vs Proof
A new computational model suggests the rank of one type of algebraic equation is bounded. Equations with higher ranks have larger and more complicated
sets of rational solutions.
Given an equation, you can graph its solutions as a curve. The number of rational solutions you need to find all the rest is the rank of the curve. A
curve for which you need to know two points to find the rest has rank 2.
A circle has a quadratic equation of degree 2. Elliptic curves have degree 3 and come in various ranks, with no proven upper limit. The current record
is held by an elliptic curve with rank 28, discovered in 2006 by Noam Elkies.
The new model builds on previous models and makes various predictions that almost exactly match proven results. It says there are only finitely many
elliptic curves with rank greater than 21, so rank is bounded.
Our Local Black Hole
Glowing gas swirls into the Milky Way's central black hole, marking it with a point of IR light we call Sagittarius A*. Occasionally, that point flares
up briefly and subsides. A team has measured its brightness and position and found it traces out a tiny circle.
Hot spots made of plasma seem to be orbiting the black hole at about 100 Mm/s. Their orbit is just outside the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO)
near the event horizon. The mass and spin of the back hole define the ISCO and the hot spot orbit.
Four ESO telescopes work together in a project called GRAVITY. On July 22, when Sagittarius A* flared, GRAVITY combined the IR light to produce sharp
position and polarization measurements. The data lets us measure the black hole's spin.
In parallel to this, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is imaging the warped spacetime inside the ISCO. Soon we could build up a movie of the orbiting
Halloween sunrise, Canford Cliffs (beach figure on right for scale)
2018 October 31
"Do you suppose you can go in for philosophy and eat and drink just as you do now or get angry and irritated in the same way? You are going
to have to go without sleep, work really hard, stay away from friends and family, be disrespected .. get mocked .. and come off worse ..
For Epictetus, Stoicism was a set of rigorous practices that focused on the role of reason in our lives. The compass of our rational faculties
allows us to navigate a world in which we are carried aloft by vast forces. We cannot master these circumstances, but we can master
our attitude toward them.
As a former slave, Epictetus said physical enslavement is a thing indifferent, neither good nor bad. Nearly everything that is external to us is not
up to us, but instead to nature. By dint of our reason, we can grasp and assent to the way of the world.
It requires a lifetime of effort to scale these philosophical heights. But once I scramble to the summit, I will see that mere material and physical
things cannot breach what Marcus Aurelius calls the inner fortress of my self. Within that fortress, I can cultivate serenity.
Stoicism holds much attraction. But its renunciation reaches much further than most of us would ever wish to go. Without our attachments to those we
love, we become less human.
"I'm proud to have
become a Muslim"
2018 October 30
Merkel: In Memoriam
Angela Merkel was the anti-Trump figurehead for European civilization. In Britain, her news was submerged in coverage of a meaningless budget.
While the Brexit pantomime plays out, Britain is disabled on the global stage.
Merkel was and is an ambassador from a more stable era. When she goes, a big vacancy opens up.
Britain is in no condition to supply a candidate to fill it.
2018 October 29
Angela Merkel has decided to stand down as leader of the CDU. She will not seek re-election as chancellor in 2021 and is preparing her succession.
She has served Germany and Europe well at a time of French weakness, British divergence, and Italian decline. The stability of Europe depends
AR End of an era.
2018 October 28
Big Change in Hesse
Big losses for the CDU and SPD in the state election in Hesse: The ZDF results at 1838 UCT show the CDU and minister-president
Volker Bouffier in control, but with the worst result for the party in over 50 years. The SPD faces its worst result ever in the state. The
big winners are the Greens and the AfD. The result will be a challenge for the ruling CDU-SPD GroKo in Berlin.
Britain vs London
Brexit is a mutiny — it is not about the arcane details of relationships with the EU. Across Europe, leaders are facing equivalent mutinies.
The underlying issues will be fixed not in some all-night meeting room in Brussels but by mapping out a new future.
AR Collier advocates policies to steer investments away from London toward the provinces. He also wants to see investors
focus on creating sustainable communities for wealth creation, to give workers a sense of purpose beyond that of maximizing shareholder dividends.
Generally, in my gloss, we need a moral climate where value is rooted in human life, leaving money as a (flawed) measure of value and not as a
(definitive) criterion of value.
2018 October 27
◼ Complex numbers are made up of a real part and an imaginary part. They have the form a + bi, where a and b are both
real numbers, and the "imaginary" unit i is the square root of −1. We can add, subtract, multiply, and divide complex numbers much as we do
Multiplication of complex numbers is commutative. We can also divide complex numbers, by using the fact that division is multiplication
by the reciprocal. To divide a number by i, we can just multiply it by −i. To compute the reciprocal of any complex number, we use the fact
that the product of the complex number and its conjugate is a real number.
◼ Quaternions are structured like complex numbers, but with additional square roots of −1 we call j and k.
Every quaternion has the form a + bi + cj + dk, where a, b, c, d are real numbers, and
i2 = j2 = k2 = i × j × k = −1
This relationship between i, j, k allows us to multiply and divide quaternions. We see that
i × j = k j × k = i k × i = j
j × i = −k k × j = −i i × k = −j
We lose the commutativity of multiplication, but we can still add, subtract, multiply and divide.
To divide quaternions, we still use conjugation to find the reciprocal, because
(a + bi + cj + dk) × (a − bi − cj − dk) = a2 + b2 + c2 + d2
The quaternions can be used to model the rotation of 3D space.
◼ Octonions form a number system with 7 imaginary units e1 .. e7 such that
e1 × e2 = e4 .. e6 × e7 = e2
Octonion multiplication is not only non-commutative but also non-associative. For example,
(e3 × e4) × e1 = e6 × e1 = e5
e3 × (e4 × e1) = e3 × e2 = −e5
Some physicists believe that the octonions may hold the key to describing the symmetries of the Standard Model.
AR See blogs 2018-09-08, 2018-07-23.
2018 October 26
President Trump announced last week the US plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and his country's
intention to build up nuclear arms. The United States has in effect taken the initiative in destroying the entire system of international
treaties and accords that served as the underlying foundation for peace and security following World War II.
There will be no winner in a nuclear war.
2018 October 25
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the founder and former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), usually goes by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson.
In May 2018, Robinson was imprisoned for several months for contempt of court. More than 630,000 people signed a petition calling for his release,
and solidarity protests were held in Austria, Hungary, Australia, and Canada. US activist Steve Bannon called him "the fucking backbone"
of the UK.
Following the end of the EDL in 2013, Tommy went online and now has almost a million followers on Facebook. In a video he posted in May 2017,
shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing, he stood in a Manchester street and said: "When you see these communities and you see these houses,
you think this is a British community or you might have British Muslims. They are enemy combatants in these houses. In these houses are enemy
combatants who want to kill you, maim you, and destroy you."
Robinson was born in Luton in 1982 and was drawn into gang warfare when Asian Muslim residents became more assertive. He founded the EDL in
2009 after Muslim fundamentalists disrupted a homecoming parade in Luton by British troops returning from Iraq. He organised a demonstration
that turned violent, then used video footage of it to recruit for a nationwide movement.
Robinson objects to Islamist ideology and says Muslims are an alien presence in British society. He was imprisoned for campaigning on the issue
of grooming gangs who sexually exploit teenage girls. Men of Asian Muslim heritage preyed on white victims in the former industrial
towns of England.
Robinson: "There is a nation within a nation forming just beneath the surface of the UK. It is a nation built on hatred, on violence, and on Islam."
AR Fortress Europe
UK vs Russia
Members of the House of Lords lobby the UK government in favor of Russia and get paid by Russian companies.
In 2013, Lord Truscott even nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel peace prize.
The UK government and others are trying to persuade Russia to enter the community of civilized nations. The presence in parliament
of paid advocates for Russian foreign policy is not helpful.
2018 October 24
Germans Go Green
Polls ahead of Sunday's election in Hesse show the CDU heading for one of its worst ever results in the state. Hesse has been ruled for 19 years by
the CDU, the last 5 in coalition with the Greens. But polls show the CDU at 26%, down by a third since 2013. The Greens are polling at 22%,
double their result from 2013 and ahead of the SPD.
Germans Are Good
Most Germans are financially better off than ever. Years of good economic news has cheered not only companies but also the people. The latest
DSGV survey shows 63% of respondents rate their financial status as good and only 8% as
bad. Their mood is the best since the first survey in 2001.
Brexit Dunkirk Spirit
Britain is drawing up plans to charter ships to bring in food and medicines in the event of a No Deal Brexit next March, in a move greeted with disbelief
at a stormy meeting of Theresa May's cabinet. Government officials say it is almost too late to charter ships on the open market. Brexiteers hope
Paris will not allow the Dover-Calais route to be disrupted.
Queen On Brexit
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II held a state banquet in honour of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife Queen Maxima.
King Willem-Alexander: "At present, a lot of attention is focused on the technical side of Brexit. That's understandable and necessary. But in the midst
of all that complexity we should not lose sight of the greater narrative that continues to bind us, the greater narrative of freedom, openness and
cooperation, of growth and a prosperity whose fruits are enjoyed by all."
Queen Elizabeth: "As we look toward a new partnership with Europe, it is our shared values and commitment to each other that are out greatest asset, and
demonstrate that even through change, our enduring alliance remains strong, and as innovators, traders and internationalists we look with confidence
to the future."
Nuclear Buildup Threat
President Trump's decision to rubbish the INF treaty and develop a new generation of US nuclear weapons fires a starting gun in a new global arms
race. He says new Russian cruise missiles breach the INF treaty. Russia says Americans have undermined the INF pact by upgrading their nuclear
weapons and deploying AM defences in Europe.
The UK and France cannot escape a share of blame for the global deterioration in nuclear security. London and Paris can barely afford their nukes
— sad symbols of former great power status.
AR The UK and France have wasted years of opportunity to plan a shared and credible European deterrent, which could
even have been financed through the EU.
2018 October 23
Scientists Against Brexit
Nobel-prizewinning scientists from across Europe call on UK and EU leaders to maintain the closest possible cooperation on science after Brexit. They
warn that any barriers to research collaboration in the EU will be to the detriment of all.
In a letter sent to UK prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, 29 Nobel laureates and 6 winners of the Fields
Medal for mathematics say the UK must step up its commitment to EU programs: "It is widely recognised that investing in research and innovation is
increasingly crucial for shaping a better European future."
Royal Society president and 2009 Nobel prizewinner in chemistry Venki Ramakrishnan says both the UK and the EU understand the importance of a good deal
for science: "But it has been put on hold while other things are debated. Science needs to be brought back .. and addressed."
A survey at the largest UK biomedical research lab, the Francis Crick Institute in London, found that 97% of more than a thousand researchers think a
hard Brexit would be bad for UK science. Half of the staff say they are less likely to stay in the UK if they leave the institute. They worry about
losing access to EU funds and about hostility to immigration.
AR There are too few scientists in the UK government. The country is being misruled by illiterates. A supervenient
role for EU technocrats is exactly what British citizens need to limit the damage their parliamentary representatives can do.
2018 October 22
Nuclear Forces Breakout
US President Donald Trump blamed Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty to justify his announcement
over the weekend that the United States will withdraw from the treaty. But US defense chiefs say the violations offer Moscow no military
advantage in Europe.
China is not a signatory to the treaty. There is almost no chance that Beijing would agree to INF terms. Its missiles are the central pillar of
its approach to defend the Chinese mainland and deter America and other Asian countries from intervening in possible local conflicts.
Chinese missiles are designed to bypass or overwhelm defenses. This approach aims to dissuade the US Navy from intervening in any maritime
warzone against China by inflicting prohibitive costs. Developing an effective counter would most likely violate the INF Treaty.
May On Brexit
Laura Kuenssberg, 1550 UCT
May says these four things have to happen:
1 Legally binding UK wide backstop
2 Option to extend the implementation period
3 Neither 1 or 2 can be indefinite
4 Govt to guarantee NI biz full access to rest of the UK
Today the prime minister will offer the House of Commons an update on Brexit negotiations.
AR In a Times comment to this article I posted the following sentence. Democracy is not a court ritual whereby as a
favour from on high the unwashed masses are graciously allowed a single binary vote (1 bit per voter) on an issue of existential importance,
but a process by which those masses use any civil means at their disposal to make their views known and accorded due respect by a governing
elite which has no right to rule except that conferred by those same masses.
In an earlier Facebook exchange I let slip a dog of war: Brexit is to Putin what Dunkirk was to Hitler. It removes a big player from the
continental chessboard — assuming, to paraphrase Clausewitz, that economics is the continuation of war by other means.
Finster in Europa
Brexit ist mehr Ausdruck der Krise als die Krise selber. Das erste Referendum war ein Beispiel dafür, wie ignorant die politische
Klasse Englands mit ihrer Bevölkerung umgangen ist. Das Weggehen von England ist eine europäische Katastrophe.
Personenfreizügigkeit werde hierzulande nur aus einer Wohlstandsperspektive betrachtet. In Rumänien dagegen, auf dem Land, da sind die
Ärzte alle weg, die sind in England.
Neben dem Frieden ist ein Wohlstand für alle das wichtigste Versprechen der Europäischen Union gewesen − und gebrochen worden. Was sich
in Polen abspielt ist bei weitem gefährlicher für den Zusammenhalt der EU als der Brexit.
AR Fragments from last night's
ARD talk show hosted by Anne Will.
2018 October 21
Mission to Mercury
The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe's spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 UCT on 20 October on a mission to
study the mysteries of the solar system's innermost planet.
Mercury is close to the Sun, on average just under 60 Gm compared to 150 Gm for Earth. At its equator during the day, its surface temperature can reach
700 K, while at the poles and at night it dips to 100 K. Any technology we send there must be tough.
A lot of energy is needed to put a spacecraft into orbit near Mercury. The ΔV needed for Mercury is about 18.5 km/s, compared to the 17 km/s
needed to reach Pluto.
Liberty University backs Donald Trump. Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr was instrumental in delivering 81% of white Christian evangelical voters
for Trump in 2016.
On September 29, 2018, Falwell tweeted: "Conservatives and Christians need to stop electing nice guys. They might make great Christian leaders but
the US needs street fighters like Donald Trump .. many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!"
Founded in 1971, Liberty is one of the biggest Christian educational institutions in America. Faculty members have conservative theological
views, classes start with prayers, the campus is dry, dorms are segregated, and there is a curfew. The university's mission is to train
champions for Christ.
A Christian Myth
The Trump Prophecy is a movie based on actual events. Mark Taylor, a fireman from Orlando, was forced to retire after suffering from PTSD.
After nightmares featuring demons and hellfire, in April 2011, while watching a TV interview with Trump, Taylor heard God say:
"You are hearing the voice of the next president."
A Fresh Vote
Hard Tory Brexiteers, and many in the English Conservative party, do not understand Europe or the EU or what it means to be European. They
cling to a grossly distorted, sentimental view of history that portrays the UK as a unique exemplar of enlightened governance, swashbuckling
enterprise, and imperial endeavour that rose to be first among nations. They believe Britain can lead the world.
The legions of People's Vote supporters who marched through London, and the millions who back their call for a second referendum, understand the idea and
importance of Europe — the chance to travel, study, work, and live abroad, inclusiveness, shared values and laws, mutual tolerance, and a joyful
openness to the majestic richness of myriad lifestyles, languages, traditions, and beliefs.
For many British young people, Brexit is a wanton act of family separation, brutally wrecking their European home. Unrealistic claims have been made about
civil unrest if Brexit is thwarted. Yet if it goes ahead, the prospective backlash among our younger generations at seeing their future opportunities
and prosperity so cruelly curtailed is alarming. Many will simply up and leave.
Shame on these hard Tory Brexiteers. Whenever Theresa May tries to turn their Brexit demands into binding words on paper, they scream betrayal. Every
time her impractical ideas are rebuffed by a unified EU, they plunge back into denial. Every time the prime minister hints at a concession, they
Brexit will be a disaster. The people must take charge.
Daily Mirror/The Guardian
An estimated 700,000 people turned out in central London to demand a People's Vote on Brexit
The Most Honourable Order
of the Bath derives from
a medieval ceremony for
appointing a knight that
involves taking a bath
They Shall Not Grow Old
2018 October 20
A People's March
Today, people will march in London for a Final Say on Brexit through a People's Vote.
The best way to break the impasse in Brussels and Westminster is to go back to the people.
The 2016 referendum was a vote with no idea of the consequences — now we know more.
The EU will delay the Article 50 process while the UK holds a People's Vote.
Whitehall Strikes Back
Three former cabinet secretaries who have served every prime minister since Margaret Thatcher accuse Conservative Brexiteers of undermining the
integrity of the civil service.
★ Robert Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, who served as cabinet secretary from 1979 to 1987, was appointed
a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1974 and a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1975, and was promoted to Knight Commander of the
Order of the Bath in 1978 and to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1983.
★ Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, who served as cabinet secretary from 1988 to 1998, was appointed a
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1986 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1988, was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of
the Order of the Bath in 1992 and to Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter in 2003, and became a Privy Counsellor in 2004.
★ Gus O'Donnell, Baron O'Donnell, who served as cabinet secretary from 2005 to 2011, was appointed a Companion of
the Order of the Bath in 1994, was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 2005 and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
in 2011, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy in 2014 and In 2016 and a Fellow of the
ASS in 2016.
They defend acting cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, who says Brexiteers should be ashamed of themselves for attacking Theresa May's chief Brexit
adviser Oliver Robbins.
A People's Vote
Conservatives warned Theresa May at the outset that the Brexiteers would never be her friends.
Soon the Commons must decide the fate of any deal with the EU she gets:
▸ If MPs reject it, put it to the people
▸ If a no-deal Brexit looms, put it to the people
▸ Now we know better what Brexit means, put it to the people
A new vote must be a response to public demand.
2018 October 19
Theresa May is conducting parallel negotiations at home and abroad. Her rhetoric in the domestic debate is far removed from her arguments across the
Northern Ireland is the main problem. Brussels sees legal commitments. Brexiteers dismiss them as bargaining chips and see the backstop as a wicked
way to separate Northern Ireland from Britain.
May has both capitulated to Brexiteer demands and pledged to honour the Good Friday agreement. She cannot stay true to both. She is struggling both
to get cake and to persuade Brits to eat it.
AR Brits are living in a superposition of Brexit and no Brexit, deal and no deal. Like Schrödinger's cat, the UK
is both dead and alive. But its state will soon collapse.
German chancellor Angela Merkel could tell EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to stop being so beastly and give the UK a "have cake and eat it" deal. But
she says in means in and out means out.
Full membership of the EU is by far the best way forward for any European nation. But the EU is better off without the UK. The EU will tackle its problems
a lot better without Brits sniping from the sidelines.
The British notion that, when push comes to shove, Germany will protect its economic interests betrays a basic misunderstanding of the EU. After WW2, Brits
were reluctant to pool their national sovereignty. For repentant Germany, sharing sovereignty was the only way ahead.
Germany packs a big punch, softened by its EU membership. Germany sells a lot to Britain, but more to France and even more to Benelux. Germany has land
borders with eight EU countries, all their capitals a short drive away. Germany will not bend the rules for Britain.
AR No super quantum cake position for the UK.
Quantum Physics: Many Worlds
A central problem for quantum mechanics is the rupture created by observation or measurement. The wave function defines all possible observable states
of a quantum system, all of which have equal reality until a measurement is made. But the wave function collapses when we make a measurement and
see a single outcome.
In the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics, all of the possible states remain real and there is no collapse. Measurements split worlds
off from the universal wave function. Alternative outcomes of a quantum experiment occupy separate and parallel worlds.
A quantum system decoheres as its superposed states are separated and scrambled by their interactions with their environment. Worlds split away via
decoherence and are separate when they can no longer interfere with other worlds.
The MWI requires no changes to standard quantum theory but it changes the notion of self. After I make a measurement, two or more versions of me appear
where before there was one. Our versions go separate ways in their own worlds.
Consciousness relies on experience evolving in time. In the MWI, its experience of continuity survives countless quantum splittings. We have
probabilistic beliefs about the outcome of a split because we don't know which branch we'll end up in when our consciousness goes down one
Imagine Alice places a binary bet. If the MWI is correct, Alice Before bets half-and-half, but Alice After won in one world and lost in the other,
in both cases with probability 1. Quantum probabilities disconnect Alice Before from Alice After.
The MWI seems unable to account for the ongoing experience of a persistent observer.
AR Quantum ontology repackages what was already an issue in classical epistemology for Alice and her bet. Things change
— this is the central fact of consciousness and our experience of time. I cover all this in depth in my 2009 book
2018 October 18
The Long Goodbye
Last night, EU leaders dined on pan-fried mushrooms, fillet of turbot cooked in wheat beer, and a trio of fruit sorbets. They discussed their
next steps on Brexit following a 15-minute meeting with Theresa May, who was not invited to dinner.
May spoke about the courage, trust, and leadership needed to reach agreement. She expressed a willingness to extend the transition period beyond 2020.
EU officials said the diners did not think it enough to warrant a further summit in November.
Gareth Dorrian, Ian Whittaker
NASA is working on an astronaut mission to Venus: the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept —
NASA plans to use the dense Venusian atmosphere as a base for exploration. No date for a HAVOC mission has yet been announced: NASA first needs to
notch up a few successful test missions. The mission is based on existing technology, using airships that can float in the upper atmosphere for
long periods of time.
The upper atmosphere of Venus is the most Earth-like location in the solar system. Between altitudes of 50 km and 60 km, the pressure
and temperature are comparable to regions of the Earth's lower atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure in the Venusian atmosphere at 55 km is about
0.5 bar, with a temperature between 20 C and 30 C, dense enough to protect you from hard solar radiation, but with enough sunlight for solar
power (about 1.4 times more than on Earth).
The airship will float around the planet, blown by the wind. It could be filled with a breathable gas mixture such as oxygen and nitrogen
for buoyancy. Breathable air is less dense than the Venusian atmosphere, which consists of 97% carbon dioxide and about 3% nitrogen.
Trace amounts of sulfuric acid form dense clouds that make Venus look bright viewed from Earth. The cloud layer is between 45 km and 65 km,
with the acid haze extending down to about 30 km.
The airship will need to be resistant to acid corrosion. Several commercially available materials, including teflon and a number of plastics,
have a high acid resistance and can be used for the outer envelope of the airship.
Some extremophile organisms on Earth could withstand the conditions in the upper atmosphere. HAVOC could search for possible Venusian life.
The Venusian climate is the result of a runaway greenhouse effect. It will hold lessons for us.
AR See blog 2017-11-14, 2015-08-31, 2014-12-23.
2018 October 17
Adapting to a Warming Planet
The Global Commission on Adaptation says we must not only try to limit further global warming but also do far more to ensure we survive it. The impact
of global warming is already being felt much sooner and more powerfully than expected. To keep reducing global poverty and to maintain economic
growth, societies must do much more, much faster, to adapt.
Commissioner and former UN head Ban Ki-moon: "Adaptation action is not only the right action to do, it is the smart thing. We need to make this case
more aggressively. The costs of adapting are less than the cost of doing business as usual. And the benefits many times larger."
Commissioner and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva: "A very significant opportunity for adaptation comes from mainstreaming resilience in the normal
investments we make."
EU citizens were asked about their country's membership in the EU: on average, 62% of respondents believe it is a good thing and 68% consider that their
country has benefited from its EU membership. Today, 66% of Europeans would vote for their country to remain in the EU, 17% would vote to
leave, and 17% are undecided.
As for the direction things are taking in the EU, 50% say things in the EU are going in the wrong direction, 52% say their own country is taking the
wrong direction, 33% say things are going in the right direction in their country, and 28% say the same for the EU.
As for the EP, 32% hold a positive view of the EP, 43% remain neutral, and 21% have a negative view. As for whether they would like to see a stronger
role for the EP in the future, 48% would like a stronger role, 27% would prefer a weaker role, and 15% see no need for a change.
Europeans confirm their broad support for the euro: on average across the EU, 61% of respondents are in favor of the euro, with 77% inside the EZ and
lower levels in countries outside the EZ.
Asked about the most important issues for the EP to tackle, 50% cite immigration, 47% the economy and growth, and 44% terrorism. Behind the EU averages,
opinions in member states vary.
The Neoliberal Con Trick
The IMF published a report last week that totted up the public debt and assets of 31 countries and found the UK has among the weakest public finances
of the lot.
The UK is in this sorry state because Margaret Thatcher deregulated finance and used North Sea oil revenues to pay for big tax cuts. The result is a
finance-heavy economy and a government £1 trillion worse off since the banking crash. British governments have privatised nearly all public assets,
often at giveaway prices, to friends in the City.
British governments have been asset-stripping the public sector for decades. This has enriched a select few. Instead of competitive utilities and
sounder public finances, we have natural monopolies handed over to the wealthy, banks that dump their liabilities on the public, and an outsourcing
industry that feasts upon the public purse.
The IMF defines the ideology of the small state as neoliberalism. That ideology has failed to deliver. It has ripped you off and robbed you
Sir Robert Syms, MP for Poole, briefs local Conservative party members on Brexit at the Parkstone Yacht Club last Friday
by Pankaj Mishra
will impact Britain,
Brexit or no Brexit
Go Green in Germany
Soyuz MS10, Baikonur
hairy black hole
2018 October 16
European council president Donald Tusk: "We need something very creative .. maybe we need a new method of thinking."
Theresa May: "If we as a government stand together and stand firm, we can achieve this."
Theresa May will address EU leaders Wednesday night before an EU27 dinner in an attempt to patch up differences over the Irish border.
Bundesregierung Europa-Minister Michael Roth: "Take responsibility and be constructive."
EU leaders have scrapped plans to discuss and publish a draft declaration this week on a future EU trade deal with the UK.
Theresa May is hemmed in. A government minister: "She's in a situation where every move she makes worsens the national predicament. We still
basically have no agreed government position. It's absurd. If you were playing computer chess the only way out of this would be to press the
Another minister: "The Conservative party has taken leave of its senses .. The country is being held hostage by petty politicians pushing their own
By refusing to change course, Theresa May has only shown weakness. Her strategy seems to be to leave everything until the last minute, whip up hostility
to the EU as an external adversary, and hope that she can cobble together a deal that parliament supports for fear of something worse.
Another minister: "This is such a global shambles. We are a laughing stock on the world stage ..
I feel we have just got to start with a totally
AR Only "darkest before dawn" magical thinking is keeping this show on the road. The obvious — and completely
reasonable — solution is to withdraw Article 50 and stay in the EU. The only loss would be to British pride, which is a relic of times
gone by that Brits need to downsize before the world of hard knocks does it for them.
Across Europe, the populist parties seem to be having their moment. Their most obvious feature is hostility to outsiders. They produce a sense of
belonging by combining religion and nationalism to create communities.
In a world where loneliness is a problem and where the global economy works heedless of the suffering of individuals, community and belonging seem
to be enduring stores of worth. Communities are for life, and the belonging they offer is awarded on grounds that have nothing to do with merit.
Populist parties deny community rights to others.
AR The Guardian is too gently liberal to press the painful point. Identity politics is the last stand of the
downtrodden who have nothing more to give in an age of huge and terrifying threats such as climate change, the rise of the robots, Chinese
economic competition, Islamic demographic competition, and the meritocracy of richer and smarter people.
Western democracy is under threat from identity politics and populism. The new parties are rooted in identity issues based on race, ethnicity, or
religion. They close minds against evidence in a culture war that brooks no deviation.
Belief in democracy entails understanding that sometimes you will be outvoted by those with contrary views. Yet a Remainer faction is campaigning
for a second referendum. It used to be that those who lose a vote would abide by the outcome. For some Remainers, we must vote again and again
until the people deliver the result they want.
AR In general elections, we vote again and again, every five years at least, in the vain hope that we might one day get
good governance. As for Brexit, the facts upon which the people can vote have so changed in the last two-plus years that it would be churlish
to deny the need for a refresher vote. Democracy is not one man, one vote, one time.
2018 October 15
Brexit: May Out Of Moves
Theresa May's Conservative party won't accept a proposal to keep the UK essentially in the customs union. Parliament is likely to block no deal.
The EU won't accept her Chequers plan.
A loyal minister: "She is like a chess player who only has the king left — all she can do is move one square at a time until she is checkmated."
"The EU are treating us with naked contempt — we must abandon this surrender of our country."
AR Abandon Brexit.
Bavaria: Maximal Uncertainty
The ruling CSU were the big losers in the Bavarian state elections. They lost over 10% of their votes and thus their absolute majority in the state
parliament. The SPD lost big too, with over 10% of their votes gone. The AfD won over 10% of the vote and the Greens increased their vote
by almost 9%. The Greens are now the second biggest party, ahead of the SPD.
New Headaches in Berlin
Recent national polls see the parties of the "GroKo" grand coalition down at just 41% together, compared to 53% still in September 2017, and 67% in 2013.
All three parties — CDU, CSU, SPD — urgently need to reconsider their strategy.
The CSU may dump party leader and German interior minister Horst Seehofer. The party needs to reconsider its current approach of copying AfD hardline
positions. The SPD must consider whether the coalition makes sense for them as it bleeds voters in all directions.
The Greens doubled their votes in Bavaria. They are riding high in national polls. But the AfD is the largest opposition party in the Bundesrat.
German political fragmentation is continuing at pace.
AR Good for the Greens at least.
2018 October 14
High Voter Turnout in Bavaria
Voter turnout in local elections in Bavaria was over 40% by midday. The CSU is expected to lose its overall majority.
The AfD and the Greens are expected to gain seats.
✗ CSU-Freie Wähler
AR Vote Green and save the Earth!
DUP Warns No Deal Brexit Likely
Mail on Sunday
DUP leader Arlene Foster is braced for negotiations to collapse after a furious row with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.
Barnier says a deal must include a backstop to keep Northern Ireland within EU jurisdiction. The DUP will not let Northern Ireland be
treated any differently from the rest of the UK. Theresa May relies on the DUP MPs in Westminster to support her government, so she may propose
a new backstop that keeps the whole of the UK in the EU customs union indefinitely.
Foster described Barnier as "difficult and hostile" and said the DUP is ready to block a Brexit deal.
Brexit panic has started on the Continent.
The government is proposing that the entire UK should stay within the EU customs union until the Northern Ireland border issue is resolved. Extending the
Brexit implementation period has all the drawbacks of staying within the customs union, plus several more. It is completely unacceptable.
Keeping Northern Ireland inside the single market would mean having a border in the Irish Sea for goods and people. This is completely unacceptable to the
DUP and to many people in the UK.
The negotiation currently focuses on the withdrawal agreement, pushing to one side our future economic relationship as something to be resolved after
March 2019. By then we will have pledged to give £39 billion to the EU. This is by far our biggest bargaining chip.
The Chequers plan should be dead. The commission has rejected it. The public does not like it. Parliament will not vote for it. It is time that the prime
minister reset the negotiations.
Now is the time when we can start to exact concessions from the EU. German companies will lose about a third of their car sales and two-thirds of their
dairy sales to the UK if we went to standard WTO import tariffs. Ireland's agricultural sector would face enormous risks. Belgium and the Netherlands
will each face a hit worth 3%−4% of their GDP.
Now we must drive a hard bargain.
AR Davis has gone completely nuts.
Malala @ Oxford
Mirror on Sunday
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who is reading PPE at Oxford, has joined the Port and Policy group run by Oxford University Conservative
Association. Jacob Rees-Mogg is its honorary president and former members include Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher.
The weekly forum has been rocked by controversy after sozzled members reportedly knocked back 43 shots of port each at a party and bellowed
"my castle is bigger than yours" and "I'll buy their families" when refused more booze.
AR I'm glad I didn't join the Oafs @ Oxford!
2018 October 13
Brexit KOs Global Order
✗ It does the "special relationship" between the US and Europe no favors. Differences over Russia, NATO funding, and
Mideast policy strain US-EU relations. Brexit undermines the transatlantic alliance because it diverts Brussels from working with Washington.
✗ It will weaken the UK too. It will need its partnership with the US more than ever, especially as
London's standing as a global banking center diminishes. President Trump, who will have a lot more negotiating leverage with the UK for a one-on-one
✗ It makes the UK look isolated. Britain accounts for 13.6% of Chinese trade with the EU. Given
tensions with Trump, China wants less political drama, not more, in its global trade negotiations. China will be cautious about commercial commitments
with the UK.
✗ It comes at a bad time in regard to Russia, with Trump well disposed toward Russia and Europe
pragmatic due to military weakness and energy concerns. The UK can become a world power in its own right, but it will begin doing so in a volatile
✗ It will not immediately threaten the EU. The hot mess in British politics has dampened enthusiasm
in other EU countries for an exit. But a weaker EU will lose luster on the global stage. France and Germany will go for deeper EZ integration but
✗ It will slow the trade integration that has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty around the world.
It will be the biggest win to date for country-first populism. It will further fragment the global political system and generate greater friction in
Soyuz KOs Space Station
US astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin survived the crash landing of the Soyuz MS10 capsule. But the International Space Station
might not survive. The docked Soyuz at the ISS is the now only way for the three astronauts there to return to Earth.
The Soyuz launch system might be grounded for a long time. NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011 and a new US spacecraft may not be ready until 2020.
China is now the only country with a working craft capable of taking humans to space.
The Chinese Shenzhou craft could theoretically dock with the ISS, but such a mission would be extraordinary. So the ISS may be empty for the first time
since 2000. That could doom it.
AR A Chinese rescue recalls the movies
2018 October 12
★ Immanuel Kant critiqued pure reason to make room for freedom and morality. He said only
a critical exercise of reason can save us from false beliefs.
★ G.W.F. Hegel unfolded an immanent critique in a dialectic of thought that ended when
thought and actuality were reconciled.
★ Georg Lukács introduced a concept of praxis. We are historical subjects who express our
freedom by transforming the world through activity.
★ Max Horkheimer developed a critical theory of society. Human mastery over nature came at
the expense of internal repression. Critical theory is a theory of crises.
★ Michel Foucault said society is constituted by a discontinuous and fragmentary series of
power-knowledge configurations, full of displacements and erasures.
★ Jacques Derrida said the silences and gaps of a text are indices of the repressed subjectivity
of others. Deconstruction thus has an ethical core.
★ Jürgen Habermas said economic and political crises disrupt our sense of shared meaning.
His theory of communicative action bid farewell to the myth of a unified working class.
My work aims to overcome sociological nationalism. The boundaries of the demos have not been
formed democratically. The nation is a privileged collective identity. Democracy has a bounded collective subject, but liberalism is cosmopolitan.
Liberal democracy is an oxymoron.
2018 October 11
Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair
Sasha Haco, Stephen W. Hawking, Malcolm J. Perry, Andrew Strominger (2018)
Given the conjecture that the entropy of black holes can be understood in a manner similar to their stringy counterparts, we argue that the black hole
Hilbert space must be contained within the Hilbert space of states outside the black hole. So there are no independent interior black hole
microstates at all! This solves the information paradox.
Soft Hair on Black Holes
Stephen W. Hawking, Malcolm J. Perry, Andrew Strominger (2016)
Conservation laws require black holes to carry a large amount of soft hair. This paper gives an explicit description of soft hair in terms of soft gravitons
or photons on the black hole horizon, and shows that complete information about their quantum state is stored on a holographic plate at the future
boundary of the horizon. Soft hair gives an effective number of soft degrees of freedom proportional to the horizon area in Planck units.
AR I think Frank Wilczek would call soft hair a quantum atmosphere.
2018 October 10
President Vladimir Putin of Russia has won a stunning victory over the American superpower that defeated the former Soviet Union ..
President Donald Trump of the United States owes his extraordinary propulsion into the White House, in all probability, to his longtime "friend"
and hero Vladimir Putin ..
The rise of Trump in America may look less like a classic transition to tyranny than a very modern transition to chaos .. no one expected the new U.S.
president to be so entangled by his past dealings in Russia and with Russians ..
PDF, 10 pages, 130 KB
UK public finances are among the weakest in the world. Since the 2008 financial crash, almost £1 trillion has been wiped off the wealth of the
UK public sector.
The IMF performed a health check on the wealth of 31 nations to judge how well governments are prepared for economic shocks. Norway came top, thanks to
its war chest built on its publicly held oil wealth. The UK was in 30th position and Portugal came bottom.
2018 October 9
Climate Change Denial: 5 Stages
1 Deny the problem exists
2 Deny we're the cause
3 Deny it's a problem
4 Deny we can solve it
5 It's too late
The Trump administration is at stage 5.
Trump ♥ Coal
The New York Times
Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will bring dire and irreversible changes by 2040.
President Trump continues to praise coal. He has directed his EPA to reverse the Obama administration steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from
coal-fired power plants. The Trump plan would cause as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030, as well as 15,000 new cases of upper
respiratory disease and billions of dollars in new health care costs.
The EPA plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor.
Dad's Army Brexit: Don't Panic!
UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox cheered a Conservative party conference audience by quoting John Milton:
"Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks: Methinks I see
her as an Eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazl'd eyes at the full midday beam."
UKTV plans to remake the three lost episodes of Dad's Army. Repeats of the TV series, which ran from 1968 to 1977, still top the BBC Two ratings. How
nice to know that it was Dunkirk spirit and British genius that won the war, to know that Britain is best when she stands alone.
Millennials don't think like that at all.
Quantum Verification Problem Solved
Urmila Mahadev has just solved a major problem in quantum computation: If you ask a quantum computer to perform a computation for you, how can you
know whether it has really followed your instructions, or even done anything quantum at all?
If you distrust an ordinary computer, you can in theory check its computations for yourself. But quantum systems resist this kind of checking. Their
inner state is generally a superposition, which as soon as you measure it collapses into a classical state.
Mahadev, 28, has come up with an interactive protocol by which users can be certain that a quantum computer is doing what they want. She presented it
at the 2018 Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science and was awarded the best paper and best student paper prizes.
A quantum computer can prove its computations to a verifier that measures single qubits. Mahadev used post-quantum cryptography to get a quantum computer
to build a secret state whose description is known to the classical verifier, but not to the quantum computer itself. This relies on a trapdoor
function that is easy to carry out but hard to reverse without the secret key.
Then you can get a quantum computer to create a secret state as follows:
1 Ask the computer to build a superposition of all the possible inputs to the function.
2 Tell the computer to apply the function to the superposition to create a superposition of all the
possible outputs. The input and output superpositions are entangled.
3 Ask the computer to measure the output state and tell you the result. The input state collapses
to match it, since they are entangled.
The trapdoor function's secret key reveals the two states that make up the input superposition. Mahadev built it using a type of cryptography called
Learning With Errors (LWE) to create a quantum version of blind computation, by which cloud-computing users can mask their data so the cloud
computer can't read it while working on it.
Mahadev's protocol requires the quantum computer to create a secret state and entangle it with the state it aims to measure. The quantum computer
doesn't know the secret state but the verifier does, so the quantum computer can't cheat. If the result looks correct, the verifier can be sure
The protocol presumes that quantum computers cannot crack LWE. At present, LWE is a leading candidate for post-quantum cryptography. It may soon be
adopted as the new NIST standard.
The protocol is unlikely to be implemented soon in a real quantum computer as it requires too much computing power. Scott Aaronson: "It is something
you could start thinking about, if all goes well, at the next stage of the evolution of quantum computers."
Shrinkage of sea ice in the Arctic
"A tremendous victory
for our nation"
Queen Elizabeth II coronation
Westminster Abbey, 1953
Since the Harold II coronation
in 1066, every monarch bar
two has been crowned in
Queen Elizabeth II,
AR The UK
May: "Our future is in our hands"
"There are one or two
things that Boris said
that I'm cross about"
"Artificial Intelligence ..
has the potential to have a
bigger impact than almost
any technology yet invented
.. I'm optimistic that .. we
can make a success of it."
Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP
The Future of Work
2018 October 8
Urgent: Cut Global Warming to 1.5 K
UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Governments around the world must take rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to avoid disastrous levels of
Temperatures will reach 1.5 K above pre-industrial levels by 2030, based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, precipitating higher
risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods, and food shortages around the planet.
Global net emissions of CO2 must fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" by 2050.
UK Versus Russia
UK defence chiefs have war-gamed a massive cyber-strike to black out Moscow if Russia launches a military attack on the West.
Their only other way to meet Kremlin aggression was to fire a Trident nuclear missile. They were left "ashen-faced" at how fast a confrontation
US Army Builds Robot Attack Tanks
The US Army is engineering autonomy kits to give robot tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human
intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.
AR Russia could build self-driving and remote control technology into its Armata main battle tanks. An army of robotanks could
roll over Europe in days. The European response could include Tiger antitank helicopter drones coordinated by Galileo and NATO C4I systems.
Civilian casualties could be reduced by coding humanitarian ethics into the robots. This scenario could easily burn a few trillion dollars and
maintain full employment well into the age of robot automation. But it would not be carbon neutral, so no go.
2018 October 7
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Abraham Lincoln spent a lot of time at the theater to reduce his anxiety during the civil war. Theodore Roosevelt exercised two hours every day in the
afternoon. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a cocktail party every night during World War 2.
Lyndon Baines Johnson could never unwind. He wanted to be remembered for civil rights. When he talked about Vietnam his mood would
plunge. He talked about his regret that the war had turned out badly and taken away the energy of the things he really cared about.
What made all four of these guys great leaders is they were seeking not celebrity but fame, and fame means creating something lasting that stands the
test of time.
Donald Trump doesn't have the temperament to be a leader. Compared to Teddy Roosevelt, who had a square deal for the rich and the poor, the capitalist
and the wage worker, Trump says that a deal that says both sides win is just a bunch of crap and all that matters is that you win.
Teddy became as much of a folk hero as Trump has become. He was known for his blistering language and short punchy statements: speak softly and carry
a big stick, don't hit until you have to and then hit hard. He established a rapport with the people.
Leadership in Turbulent Times
Church and State
One day, in an Anglican service, King Charles III will be anointed with holy oil by the Archbishop of Canterbury, conferring God's grace on the new
head of state.
Archbishop: "Will you, to the utmost of your power, maintain in the United Kingdom ..
the settlement of the Church of England?"
Charles: "All this I promise to do."
The UK is the only country in Europe to retain a religious ceremony to crown a new monarch. Yet the proportion of the UK population identifying as
Anglican has fallen to a record low of 14%. Among adults under the age of 24, it is 2%. A majority of the population say they have no religion.
The UK establishment confers a dual role on the monarch as head of state and head of the Church of England. In the House of Lords, 26 seats are reserved
for Anglican bishops. Church laws are approved by parliament and every inch of England is divided into parishes. The law requires every state school
to hold a Christian act of daily worship.
Anglican priest Giles Fraser: "We've been turned into flunkies of the establishment, seduced by pomp and circumstance. Disestablishment would require
the C of E to reinvent itself."
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams: "I'm not interested in a halfway house. If we want a republic, let's have a republic. If we want a
monarchy, then we have to accept that a monarchy is in some ways a profoundly symbolic thing."
2018 October 6
Imaging Our Black Hole
At the heart of our galaxy, about 26,000 light-years inbound from Earth, Sagittarius B2 is a cloud of organic molecules. Another 390 light-years or so
takes you to the inner parsec, where tubes of frozen lightning called cosmic filaments streak the sky and gravity becomes a foaming sea of riptides,
space becomes a bath of radiation, and atoms dissolve into a fog of particles. Here is the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way:
Last year, astronomers made the inaugural run of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), designed to take the first picture of a black hole. The EHT uses
very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) and combines the collected data on a supercomputer. EHT director Shep Doeleman calls it the biggest telescope
in the history of humanity.
A black hole is made of gravity. Its boundary, the event horizon, is a one-way exit from the universe. If a black hole passes in front of a bright
background, we should see its silhouette. An Earth-size collection of radio telescopes observing Sagittarius A* in the microwave spectrum would see a
dark disk ten times larger than the event horizon, with bright rays tracing a glowing ring around it.
A close look at a black hole can help us study the origins and fates of stars and galaxies. Galaxies and their central black holes seem to evolve together.
When the black hole settles down, the next generation of stars can form. How and why these things happen is still a mystery.
General relativity describes the universe on the largest scales. Quantum theory governs the subatomic world. But general relativity and quantum theory
describe worlds that look nothing like each other. Black holes can test them. If the EHT results failed to match predictions, they would provide clues
for a theory of quantum gravity.
In June 2018, astronomers released the final Sagittarius A* and M87 data from the EHT. In the next few months, they will finish their analysis and publish
AR This is truly exciting!
EU Drafts No Deal Plan
Brussels will next week unveil contingency measures for Brexit that could force flight cancellations and leave exporters facing massive disruption in
case no deal is reached by next March.
The EU plans no special arrangements for customs or road transport and only limited provisions for financial services. The EU will not relax customs
and agricultural controls and urges member states to enforce EU import rules from the first day of Brexit.
The UK and the EU must reach a deal by 17 October.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says there must be limits to the freedom of the press and accuses British media of trampling over the
human rights of politicians.
On the 2016 Brexit referendum: "If the commission intervened, perhaps the right questions would have entered the debate. Now you discover new problems
almost daily, on both sides. At that time, it was already clear to us what trials and tribulations this pitiful vote of the British would lead to ..
The British press .. do not respect the human rights of political actors at all. Press freedom also has its limits .. One should not bring people
in privacy in distress."
On the EU summit on 17 October: "I assume that we find an agreement as to the terms of the withdrawal. We also need to agree on a political statement
that accompanies this withdrawal agreement. We are not that far yet."
AR Queen Elizabeth II is consubstantial with the United Kingdom in the same sense that Jesus Christ is consubstantial with
God. Her Majesty holds audience with the prime minister of her government in weekly meetings, where Theresa May receives instruction on the issues
of the day. Is it not high time Her Majesty paid due respect to her subjects by making known her views on Brexit?
2018 October 5
Brexiteers Misunderstand the EU
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt had a reputation for sobriety. His parallel between the EU and the Soviet Union was stupid and offensive.
The EU had merely said the Chequers plan will not work.
Understanding the EU is is a necessary condition for dealing with it sensibly. For the EU leaders, the survival of the EU is an existential
issue. Relations with a departing UK are relatively insignificant.
The EU is a peace project, built on hope for a prosperous, integrated Europe able to speak up in the world. For Brexiteers to
despise these goals or hope the EU will collapse into chaos is malevolent.
The EU works by embedding mutual relations in a framework of rules. The trust necessary to make it work depends on this. The rules need
to be clear and subject to an authoritative legal process.
One EU red line is that preserving peace on the island of Ireland is more important than the UK wish list. The myth that EU obduracy snatched a
glorious Brexit from the British people is poisonous.
Brino — The most likely outcome is Brexit in name only or a very soft Brexit.
Hard — Many Brexiteers would love it hard: a return to an imagined 1940, minus Luftwaffe bombs. Recent polls show about a
third of Britons back no deal.
Remain — If parliament votes for a second referendum, even though neither party leadership wants it, a narrow Remain victory
would merely show that hard Brexit is not the "will of the people" and needs massive toning down.
Blame — If the EU lets the UK stay, Brexiteers will forever afterwards blame every British problem on what they see the illegal
decision to remain. Few EU officials want Britain back now, anyway. Trust has evaporated, with successive UK foreign secretaries comparing the EU
to Hitler or the USSR, and ministers hinting they could weasel on agreements with Brussels.
Unionism Is Dead
A majority of Leave voters would be happy for the UK to crumble if it delivered Brexit. The lack of a compelling message as to the point of the UK has
weakened the concept of unionism at a time when the prime minister is trying to unite the UK. Perhaps unionism was never alive in middle England.
The value of devolution for the national identities of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland has not been made clear to most people in England.
A more symmetrical design, with a strong message, would have had more chance of fostering UK team spirit.
AR Wind up the whole rotten show.
2018 October 4
US Senate Should Not Confirm Kavanaugh
Signed by 1,000+ Law Professors
At the Senate hearings on September 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and
certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.
Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were
raised, he responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators.
We believe he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court of our land.
UK-EU Customs Union
Ireland backs Theresa May's emerging plan for an all-UK customs union with the EU. A senior Irish official: "Whether Europe accept it or not is
Brussels sees attempts to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU after Brexit as cherry picking.
October 3, 1990, was the day the former East and West Germany reunified as one nation. Today, east and west are drifting apart again: Violent crimes
committed by right-wing extremists are far more frequent in the five eastern German states than in the west.
Former president of the German parliament Wolfgang Thierse, who once worked briefly at the ministry of culture in the German Democratic Republic,
says there is no big divide: eastern Germany has areas of prosperity and innovation beside areas of squalor and despair.
The German government's annual report on the state of the union shows that pensions and wages are rising and unemployment is down, but average income
in the former East lags the former West by around 15%. The eastern economy sports some business champions, but has fewer large companies, less
international investment, and an older demographic.
The legacy of the German Democratic Republic runs deep: 28 years after German reunification, most prominent journalists, policymakers, and business
leaders are westerners. Condescension sneaks in when they discuss why the east is so far to the right.
AR Legacy of Soviet domination — be patient.
2018 October 3
Our future is in our hands .. Solving the housing crisis is the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation .. We cannot outsource our
conscience to the Kremlin.
Leadership is doing what you believe to be right, and having the courage and determination to see it through, and that's what I've been doing
AR An excellent speech.
The New York Times
The young Donald Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father Fred and through smarts, hard work, and sheer force of will parlayed that loan
into a multibillion-dollar global empire.
This origin myth is a fiction. Donald received massive financial rewards from his father, including direct cash gifts and tens of millions in loans that
never charged interest or had to be repaid. Fred even put properties and business ventures in the names of his children, who reaped the profits.
Altogether, Donald received upward of what in today's dollars would be $413 million. It seems liberties were taken with tax laws, including greatly
understating the value of the family business, with Donald taking an active role in the effort. Tax experts see a pattern of deception.
For Trump, polishing his image has been vital to his success. But the American public has a right to some answers. Time for Trump to hand over his
Putin inspires more confidence than Trump
President Donald Trump is unpopular around the world. A new Pew survey of 26,000 people in 25 countries shows 7 in 10 people have no confidence in
Trump. In Germany and France, 9 in 10 have no confidence in him. Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin all
inspire more confidence globally than Trump.
A Second Referendum
A second Brexit referendum will have to have Remain as an option. The other one will have to be whatever agreement (deal or no deal) the government
comes back with.
If Theresa May has a deal, she can win votes of confidence in the Commons. She can threaten Labour that the UK might fall out of the EU chaotically
and they will be to blame. Labour MPs will vote for a deal to avoid chaos. Jeremy Corbyn can only stop them by endorsing a second referendum.
A second referendum requires government time to legislate. At present, May is set against it. But if she secures a deal and parliament will not pass
it, she has three choices: leaving the EU in chaos, having a general election, or having another referendum.
AR Go on, Theresa, do it.
2018 October 2
Scottish Conservatives have begun "Operation Arse" to persuade their MPs to vote against Boris Johnson in any forthcoming leadership contest. They also
want to convince party members that he would be an electoral disaster.
At conference, Johnson called on his fellow Brexiteers to pile pressure on the prime minister to "chuck Chequers" and revert to
her original Lancaster House proposals: "If we bottle Brexit now, believe me, the people of this country will find it hard to forgive. If we get it
wrong, if we proceed with this undemocratic solution, if we remain half-in half-out, we will protract this toxic tedious business .. This is
not what we voted for. This is an outrage."
The Europe Virus
As Conservatives seem to embrace their identity as the party of Brexit, their main conference announcements include a Festival of Brexit Britain and a
crackdown on immigration. The audience booed the Financial Times for its pro-European views. A former cabinet minister: "The Europe virus has infected
the entire political body of the Conservative party and we are in grave danger of being seen by the public as completely bonkers."
Crass and Inflammatory
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is fully the equal of his predecessor in diplomatic ineptitude: "The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU
club into a prison the desire to get out won't diminish, it will grow and we won't be the only prisoner that will want to escape."
The EU is a voluntary union of democratic nations, whose pioneers regarded European integration as a means of creating peace. European policymakers underwent
danger to life and liberty in order to undermine communism. European Commission president Donald Tusk was an organiser for the Solidarity free trade
union movement in Poland.
No EU government wants to punish Britain for wishing to leave. But EU policymakers are unanimous that a Brexit agreement cannot confer on Britain more
favourable terms than it enjoys as a member of the EU. The EU has made this clear from the outset.
Nobel Prize for Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for advances in laser physics to: Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou, and Donna Strickland.
Ashkin developed optical tweezers, which use lasers to trap and control objects as small as individual atoms. His key innovation was discovering that a
single laser beam can trap an object in 3D by nudging it in the beam direction to hold it near the focal point.
Mourou developed a way to create extremely short laser pulses by chirped pulse amplification. The method is used in corrective eye surgeries and and have
a vast panoply of other uses.
Strickland worked with Mourou on the trick for amplifying a laser pulse by chirping it before amplification and then recompressing it again. She is the
first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics since 1963.
Nobel Prize for Cancer Immunotherapy
The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine today goes to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo. The pair worked independently on molecular pathways
that normally inhibit the immune system. Both are credited with launching cancer immunotherapy into a new era.
Allison studied protein CTLA-4, which suppresses immune responses by T cells. He showed turning off CTLA-4 is effective in humans against melanoma.
Honjo studied protein PD-1, which suppresses T cells in a different way. He showed blocking PD-1 with antibodies can cure several types of cancer.
Today, immune checkpoint therapies based on PD-1 and CTLA-4 stand alongside surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy as cancer treatments.
Powerful laser beams exert a gravitational effect that warps spacetime around them. Photons have energy, hence gravity, and a laser beam has a
cylindrical gravitational field around it. Fabienne Schneiter says a spinning laser beam drags the spacetime around it into a corkscrew swirl
in which time is slowed down, but the change is too tiny to detect.
AR A big laser drill could bore holes in time!
2018 October 1
Brexit Disaster Warning
Britain after Brexit could become a horror scenario, a downward spiral of impoverishment and political upheavals with effects far beyond the British Isles.
The problem of how to manage the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is still unsolved. Today, thanks to the EU, there is no problem.
But a breakup would rip open old wounds and awaken ghosts.
The UK is drifting helplessly toward a major crisis. The 2016 referendum seemed like an opinion poll to most Britons, hardly a matter of life and death.
The House of Commons is supposed to be in control. Once voters decide an issue, MPs take that as an instruction to the governing party in
parliament. Whatever separates MPs, parliamentary elitism prevents them from voting on key issues. A constitution emerges by trial and error.
One can admire the serenity with which the British regard separation from continental Europe. In fact, no one is at the controls. The prime minister presented
a sketch for a soft landing at Chequers, which could be a basis for a deal with the EU but is hated by the diehards for that very reason.
A way out in dissolution of parliament and new elections is barred because the issue splits the main parties. So all that remains is to send the result so
far back to the people in a new referendum. But there is no time for that — just six months — unless London and Brussels agree to stop the
The drama cannot leave the Federal Republic cold. Germany has a vital interest in the European project. A no deal Brexit could be the beginning of the end.
Cell Jams Shape Embryos
New work shows how a fish embryo develops a long axis for its body. The process is governed by a jamming transition: At the tip of what becomes the tail,
cells can flow freely as in a fluid, but closer to the head, they jam together and behave more like a solid.
Materials such as glasses, colloids, and foams get trapped in a state away from equilibrium, neither fully solid nor fluid, so they can flow like fluids
or jam up as in a solid.
Researchers injected a droplet of ferromagnetic fluid between the embryo cells and measured its shape as the fish developed to determine the strength of
the forces the cells applied against one another. They changed a magnetic field on the droplet to measure the yield stress of the tissue.
Toward the tail end of the embryo, the yield stress was lower than the active cellular forces, and there was more space between the cells, allowing them
to move and locally soften the tissue. Closer to the head, the gaps between cells closed off and the yield stresses increased, and the tissue behaved
like soap suds or beer froth.
Cells use such phase transitions a lot. Biologists expect to see them in the formation of organs and in cancers.
Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong on the Moon, July 1969