AR   2019-10-19
Publications Sitemap Contact
BLOG 2019


Rise up


2019 October 19

Inherited Learning

Viviane Callier

Some learned behaviors and acquired responses can be transmitted through several generations.
Possible mechanisms for epigenetic inheritance involve either chemical modifications of the proteins and DNA in the chromatin that makes up chromosomes, or small molecules of RNA that pass into germ cells, where they interact with the DNA and affect gene regulation.
C. elegans worms infected with viruses defend themselves by generating small RNAs that target and neutralize the viruses. Offspring of the roundworms also make these small protective RNAs. The inheritance of the small RNAs depends on enzymes that replicate them from a template.
C. elegans worms engineered to lack a gene required both for the synthesis of small RNAs and for chemotaxis cannot sniff out food if subjected to mild stresses. Restoring the missing gene only in the worms' nerve cells restored their ability to locate food.
C. elegans worms exposed to a pathogenic bacterium learn to avoid it, and they transmit this learned avoidance for about four generations. Worms exposed to the pathogen show changes in the expression of a gene in a neuron required for the avoidance behavior. There are also changes in the small RNAs in the germline.
Fruit flies can also inherit behaviors epigenetically. Adult Drosophila females raised with parasitic wasps learn to lay their eggs on food that contains ethanol, which protects the eggs and larvae from the wasps. This egg-laying preference persists for five generations. Small noncoding RNAs from the mother are not sufficient for transmitting the behavior between generations; an epigenetic modification on chromosome 3 is also essential.
Mice suffering early-life trauma release stress hormones that affect them throughout their lives. They also affect the developing germ cells, causing the same behaviors and metabolic alterations to be inherited in the offspring for up to five generations. Injecting the blood of traumatized mice into control mice can induce similar metabolic symptoms. Their offspring inherit the metabolic abnormalities too.
We don't know why epigenetic inheritance lasts for a few generations and then stops.

AR I find this fascinating.

Stop Brexit

Jacob Rees-Mogg

"Let us stagnate no more,
let us spring forth and
seize the victory
people voted for."
Jacob Rees-Mogg


The pound has just surged
through $1.29

Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster after
talks with Boris Johnson


Liberal Democrats table an
amendment to the Queen's
speech asking that any deal
brought back from Brussels
be put to a public vote.

LibDem leader Jo Swinson:
"The best deal we have
is as members of the
European Union."

Ted Turner
Ted Turner, 2011

Queen Elizabeth II



"We the people elect leaders
not to rule but to serve."
Dwight Eisenhower

Nie wieder


2019 October 18

Turkey's Victory

The New York Times

President Trump's withdrawal of US troops from Syria shows the danger he poses.
The troops were stationed in Syria between the Kurds who fought with them on the ground and the Turks, whose country is a NATO ally and repository of American tactical nuclear weapons. The betrayal left the Kurds divided among five Mideast countries that mistrust them. Trump abruptly sold them out to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu: "We got what we wanted."


New Deal Between EU27 and HMG

Michael Dougan

Boris Johnson's "new deal" between the EU27 and the UK government is mostly identical to that finalized by Theresa May. The only substantive change is to the Irish protocol.
NI will be a UK customs territory but subject to large swathes of EU legislation and ECJ caselaw. Customs and regulatory checks will take place between GB and NI.
For NI, any trade benefits of Brexit must be set against the cost of added customs complexity and bureaucracy. EU customs duties will apply unless and until proved otherwise, with a procedure for refunds by UK authorities.
The revised backstop will apply unless and until it is replaced by a new EU-UK trade deal. In reality, the backstop regime is permanent unless NI institutions later decide it should be terminated.
HMG says the customs and regulatory barriers will run only from GB into NI, whereas NI will enjoy free access to the GB market. This raises problems of equity for Scotland and Wales.
The revised Political Declaration remains much the same, but with a few tweaks intended to increase the future distance between the EU and the UK.
The deal might help with the immediate challenge of an orderly departure from the EU, but it remains a damaging and dangerous Brexit.


Hold Public Vote on Brexit Deal

Martin Wolf

Boris Johnson's new deal is better than the lunacy of no deal. He should now give the public the informed choice they lacked in 2016.
Leaving the EU will give the UK the illusion, not the reality, of greater control. The UK alone does not have the clout needed for transformative trade deals.
GDP is now 2−3% less than it could have been without the 2016 vote. With this deal, GDP per head could be 6−7% lower compared to staying in the EU. This is even worse than the 5.5% loss estimated under the May deal.
The economic loss far more than offsets any gain. The political costs are also dire. A breakup of the UK becomes much more likely.
This is a terrible deal, an act of mutilation. Ask the people whether it is what they want.

2019 October 17

Brexit Deal Done

Evening Standard, 0947 UTC

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker tweet: "Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It's a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions."
UK prime minister Boris Johnson tweet: "We've got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities."


DUP Rejects Brexit Plan

Financial Times

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party says it cannot support the revised Brexit deal as it stands. The EU and the UK have been seeking ways to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The UK has conceded that NI will apply EU customs and tariffs rules overseen by the ECJ.


Johnson Deal Bad for UK

James Blitz

Boris Johnson's proposed Brexit deal is bad for the UK economy and will leave most British citizens poorer.
Johnson is seeking a goods-only deal with only minimal coverage of services. This is worse for the economy than Theresa May's deal, under which per capita income (PCI) would have been 1.7% lower than under continued EU membership. The PCI loss for the Johnson deal is 2.5% lower while that for a no-deal Brexit is 3.3%.
Under the Johnson proposal, NI will enjoy a special status as part of the UK but closely aligned to the EU single market and customs union. The SNP will say this undermines the idea of the UK and will demand to be treated like NI.
The deal Johnson proposes will make Britons poorer. Put it to the public in a referendum.

2019 October 16

"No Deal Tonight"

BBC News, 1848 UTC

A UK government source says there will be "no deal tonight" as officials work on details in Brussels. The UK and EU were hoping to sign off a revised Brexit deal before the EU council meeting tomorrow. Boris Johnson needs ERG and DUP MPs to back his ideas for Northern Ireland.


The Romance of Brexit Britain

Robert Harris

England has not been conquered for almost a thousand years. The English had no guillotine and no Hitler. For England, the past is full of nostalgia.
Europe was devastated during WW2. The European project arose from the ruins. Europeans decided that such a disaster would never be repeated. But that is obviously beyond the imagination of many Britons.
I have a lot of friends in the Conservatives. But the Brexit question is more fundamental. The preparations for Brexit reveal how little the government actually has under its control.
Boris Johnson is a bad writer and a poor speaker. He's not as smart as many people in the UK think. He is a charming bluffer.


The Fantasy of Wartime Britain

John Harris

Brexiteers affect to be consumed by the distant stuff of Dunkirk, the Blitz, and VE day.
Boris Johnson rants about parliament's "surrender bill" and No 10 sources warn of MPs colluding with foreign powers. Nigel Farage rallies begin with the sound of air-raid sirens. Friends of the prime minister regularly bring up his fixation with Winston Churchill.
Johnson and Farage were born in 1964. The end of WW2 was decades away, and the remaining rump of empire was the butt of jokes. But their audience loves the idea that Britannia could once again rule the waves and stick it to the continentals.
The comical fantasy of a belligerent UK blazing its own trail is absurd.


The Fallacy of Government Security

Edward Snowden

The US government is seeking to undermine the security of the world's information.
Facebook is being asked to create a backdoor, or fatal flaw, into its encrypted messaging apps, which would allow anyone with the key to that backdoor unlimited access to private communications. So far, Facebook has resisted this.
If internet traffic is unencrypted, any government, company, or criminal that happens to notice it can steal a copy of it, secretly recording your information for ever. Encrypted traffic is safe: only those who have a special decryption key can unlock it.
E2EE ensures the keys that unlock any given message are only ever stored on the specific devices at the end points of a communication. E2EE keys can no longer be stolen in the event of corporate data breaches. E2EE protects users.
The US government claims that without total access to the complete history of every person's activity on Facebook, it would be unable to investigate terrorists, drug dealers, money launderers, and child abusers.
E2EE helps us remain not only safe, but free.

2019 October 15

Scottish Independence

BBC News, 1630 UTC

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon enjoyed multiple standing ovations when she told the SNP conference that a second referendum on Scottish independence must happen next year. She confirmed that she will ask the UK government for formal consent by the end of this year and said Westminster had no right to block the request. She stressed the referendum had to be recognised internationally, because her aim was to deliver independence.


Ted Turner, Captain Planet


Ted Turner founded CNN, the world's first 24-hour news network, in 1980. He had a master plan: to make the world a better place.
A philanthropist of extraordinary generosity, he once donated $1 billion to the UN. He founded the Nuclear Threat Initiative, set up the UN Foundation to support humanitarian work around the world, and signed The Giving Pledge to commit more than half his wealth to good deeds.
The cause closest to his heart is protecting the Earth: "It's a pretty wonderful world that we live in down here, and it's worth saving .. You have to save the species that live on the planet to save the planet."
Turner now owns 16 ranches in six western US states and three more in Argentina. They cover a total of more than 3000 square miles. Each ranch is a refuge for native species.
Captain Planet is a person with a mission to save the world. Ted Turner is Captain Planet.


Jesus in Asia

Ian Johnson

Asian intellectuals grappled with Jesus as a person with a place in Asian religions and compared him with other religious figures, such as Zoroaster, Buddha, and Krishna.
Ponnambalam Ramanathan (1851−1930) was less interested in the man Jesus than in his spirit. He lauded his childlike ability to reveal God. On a tour of the United States, he told audiences Christian ideas are not originally Christian but old Hindu doctrine.
C.T. Alahasundram (1873−1941) wrote a book about Jesus that omitted events he thought were useless or unconvincing to a person from India. He thought Jesus was mainly significant for his ethical views, which he equated with those of Buddha.
Manilal Parekh (1885−1967) saw Jesus as a savior and spiritual teacher in the Jain sense. Parekh tried to cleanse Christianity of European culture and imperialism. He saw his task as making Jesus suitable and intelligible to Indian spirituality.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1885−1975) was perturbed by how Hinduism was denigrated by missionaries. He wrote of Jesus as being heavily influenced by Buddhist ideas: "Buddha and Jesus are men of the same brotherhood."
Christianity in China has roots in the work of preachers before 1949. It has spread among ethnic Chinese in the heartland and among professionals. It is the first foreign religion to gain a central place in China since Buddhism.

Jesus in Asia by R.S. Sugirtharajah

2019 October 14

The Queen's Speech

Queen Elizabeth II

My government's priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union on 31 October. My government intends to work towards a new partnership with the European Union, based on free trade and friendly cooperation [and] seizing the opportunities that arise from leaving the European Union .. [etc. etc.]

AR Given the Brexit crisis and the fact that this is an embattled minority government, the speech was no more than party political propaganda on behalf of Boris Johnson — who wrote it for her — in preparation for the next general election.


Brexit Update

The Times

EU negotiators want more concessions from Boris Johnson before agreeing a Brexit deal this week. After a weekend of intensive negotiations in Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors that UK proposals were not yet acceptable. He is said to have told UK chief negotiator David Frost that Johnson must give ground on a customs agreement for Northern Ireland.
The EU is prepared to back Johnson's plan in principle even if a legal text cannot be finalized in time for the summit so long as the UK gives ground. Johnson would present a political deal for a vote in the Commons on Saturday. A final legal agreement would be ratified by an implementation bill passed by both houses of parliament.

Labour Split
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is being isolated as senior party figures call for Labour to back a second referendum on Brexit. Allies of shadow chancellor John McDonnell want the party to back Remain.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey: "I think the only option that we've got now is to let the people decide."


Law and Justice in Poland

The Guardian

Poland's ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has won Sunday's parliamentary election. According to official results from 99.5% of constituencies, PiS took 43.8% of the vote, ahead of the Civic Coalition on 27.2% and the Left alliance on 12.5%.
Jarosław Kaczyński: "We have reason to be happy."

Law and Justice
The right-wing PiS party is expected to win Sunday's election in Poland. Jarosław Kaczyński founded the party with his twin brother Lech. He remains the most powerful man in Poland.
Following the PiS election victory in 2015, Kaczyński weakened Poland's constitutional tribunal and made the judiciary answerable to his parliamentary majority. Brussels responded by launching legal proceedings against Warsaw.
Kaczyński has deepened support among the party's traditional, nationalist electorate. He polarized the confrontation between Catholic Poles with "normal families" against "Poles of a worse category," as he called them.
About two years ago, Kaczyński replaced prime minister Beata Szydlo with Mateusz Morawiecki. The party's tone became more moderate and PiS became more electable.
Adam Laszyn owns the company Alert Media Communications: "PiS has the most modern and sophisticated political communication strategy of any party in Europe."

AR Look on the bright side: Stability is its own reward.

2019 October 13

Making America Worse

The New York Times

The Trump administration is considering a rollback of rules written by the Obama administration to prevent big corporations from escaping taxation by shifting profits out of the United States.
The Trump administration has worked hard to reduce federal protections for consumers, workers and the environment, making the United States a dirtier and more dangerous place to live.
The Trump administration also continues to flout existing law. Its regulatory policy can be summarized as marching to the orders of the businesses it regulates. It has pushed so hard to reduce regulation that even companies have sometimes expressed reservations.
If Trump stands in 2020, Americans can improve their lives by voting for someone else.


Impeach Trump

Robert Reich

Donald Trump is the most xenophobic and isolationist US president in modern history.
Trump sides with Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Trump Towers Istanbul is the Trump Organization's first and only office and residential building in Europe.
Trump has separated families at the US-Mexico border, locked migrant children in cages, and tried to ban Muslims from entering America.
Trump has repeatedly compromised American democracy for personal gain. He asked the president of Ukraine to do him a personal favor by digging up dirt on Joe Biden.
Trump justifies his trade war with China as protecting America from Chinese predation. But he asked China to start an investigation of Biden.
Trump is pushing the prime minister of Australia, among others, to gather information to discredit Robert Mueller, who found that Russia acted to help Trump get elected.
Trump's international thug is Rudy Giuliani. Two Giuliani associates have been arrested in connection with a criminal scheme to funnel foreign money into American politics.
Trump's own children are profiting from foreign deals. Eric and Don Jr have projects in the works in Ireland, India, Indonesia, Uruguay, Turkey, and the Philippines.
Trump is pocketing money from foreign governments staying at his hotels. They spent more than a million dollars at Trump businesses in 2018.
All this is impeachable.


Big Money Brexit

Barry McGuinness

Brexit is being driven by rich investors who like to operate above the law.
Corporate tax avoidance is a global problem, but by far its biggest enabler is the UK. In 2016, the EU published a directive to tackle corporate tax avoidance. From January 2020, the new law will require anyone with offshore accounts to disclose them for scrutiny.
Continuing membership of the EU requires the UK to enforce the directive. This bothers companies that dodge taxes, as well as any rich people who hoard and launder money with British offshore banks. A no-deal Brexit lets them do business as usual.
The Conservative party is traditionally the party of business. But in the summer of 2019, it was hijacked by a small group of Brexiteers. The vacuum of regulations created by Brexit offers them an opportunity to reshape the UK economy.
London will then be deregulated. Fund managers will place bets on any assets that can rise or fall in value. The world is a big casino to them, and any disaster or crisis is a chance for a bet.
After Brexit, the UK is set to become a tax haven for Big Money.


Global English

The Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 [sic] is awarded to the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk for a narrative imagination that represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.
Tokarczuk: "Sometimes I wonder how my life would have worked out if my books had been translated into English sooner, because English is the language that's spoken worldwide, and when a book appears in English it is made universal, it becomes a global publication."

AR The English language, not English politics, is the true global asset.

2019 October 12

Trade War Threatens Global Economy

Kevin Rudd, Helen Clark, Carl Bildt

President Trump has announced a preliminary trade détente with China.
As representatives of a group of former prime ministers and presidents from governments that have enjoyed close relations with both the United States and China, we urge both sides to reach a substantive trade agreement by year's end.
America has profited immensely from access to global markets since its birth. China, since opening up 40 years ago, has lifted millions of its people out of poverty largely through global trade. Much of the prosperity enjoyed by people across the world is anchored in our ability to sell goods and services freely across national boundaries.
We understand the challenges that arise from Chinese policies on intellectual property, its restrictions on market access, and its subsidies for exporting companies. We believe these practices need to change. But we do not see the tariff war started by the United States as an effective way to resolve the dispute.
We urge both countries to try to reach agreement this year.


Category Theory

Kevin Hartnett

Jacob Lurie has constructed a new way to understand some deep math by moving beyond the equal sign. Mathematicians are repackaging his work to build a foundation for mathematics founded not on equality, but on equivalence.
For over a hundred years, sets have been the foundation of mathematics. Set theory specifies how to construct and manipulate sets in terms of equality. But to say that two sets are equal is to overlook all the ways they can be equal. Equality is all or nothing. Equivalence comes in different forms.
In 1945, Samuel Eilenberg and Saunders Mac Lane introduced categories. A category is a set with extra metadata describing all the ways two objects are related to one another, including a description of all the ways two objects are equivalent.
Categories can keep track of strong forms of equivalence. When you do math in terms of weaker notions of equivalence, the amount of information about how two objects are related increased dramatically. Ultimately, you build an infinite tower of equivalences between equivalences. The tower gives you a full perspective on your objects, but it was hard to build a theory of it.
Jacob Lurie created the machinery needed to replace set theory with a new mathematical foundation based on infinity categories. Read his book Higher Topos Theory.

AR I worked hard on set theory in the 1970s. But I neglected categories. Now I feel too old to tackle higher topos theory.

Get ready for IT

This is not a drill



2019 October 11

EU27 Green Light

The Guardian, 1132 UTC

EU27 gives green light for EU-UK Brexit negotiations to enter the Tunnel.


Brexit Chance

Donald Tusk, 0917 UTC

I have received promising signals from the Taoiseach that a deal is still possible. Technical talks are taking place in Brussels as we speak. Of course, there is no guarantee of success and the time is practically up. But even the slightest chance must be used.

AR Sterling jumps above $1.25 on the news.


Buccaneering Britain

Robert Saunders

The Brexit wildfire has been fed by a narrative of loss, betrayal, and dispossession.
Leavers use the past to imagine the future. They market their fables with the word "we" — "We won the war" — "We survived the Blitz" — "We abolished slavery" — and say that after Brexit we can once again take to the high seas and engage with the wide world beyond Europe.
Brexiteers say Global Britain can enjoy the same power today as at its colonial zenith. They tell of a buccaneering people in a history that recasts a coercive military empire as a champion of free trade, with entrepreneurialism as the thread from then to now.
Such rhetoric erases empire from the record to tell a story of British greatness anchored in timeless national characteristics that require only liberation from Brussels to bloom anew.
A vision of Britain both as a global titan and as a small island punching above its weight defies the real history. It detaches memories of British greatness from the material conditions that made it possible. It promotes the power of positive thinking and blames failure on the fainthearts.
Boris Johnson is an enthusiast for empire. He thinks the power of the British empire rested less on material underpinnings than on a cocktail of pluck, courage, and determination.
Johnson dotes on WW2. In his book The Churchill Factor, he roots Allied victory in the mobilization of national belief by a heroic leader. He sees in Winston Churchill a "resounding human rebuttal" to an emphasis on impersonal factors.
The rhetoric of Global Britain has set Britain on a dangerous course.


Primordial Black Holes

New Scientist

The first black holes grew amid the radiation that flooded out of the big bang.
Hawking radiation could reveal primordial black holes. Astrophysical black holes form from the collapse of dense stars of 1.4 solar masses (⦿) or more. Primordial black holes form directly from radiation and can be smaller. We could detect their evaporation by Hawking radiation.
We think invisible dark matter enables galaxies to spin fast without flying apart. Primordial black holes could emit dark matter particles as Hawking radiation. Bigger black holes are cooler and emit fewer and lighter particles. As they shrink, they heat up, emitting more massive particles.
Primordial black holes could help us explain the rate of cosmic expansion, H. We measure one value of H by recording the red shift of nearby objects and another by extrapolating from CMB data. Primordial black holes could emit dark radiation that explains the discrepancy.
Most large galaxies have supermassive black holes at their hearts with up to tens of billions of solar masses. These enormous objects must be primordial. Black holes of about 30 ⦿ are also expected have formed in the early universe.
Since 2015, LIGO has found about 30 black holes that could be primordial.

2019 World Mental Health Day

Turks Kill Kurds


Turkey is invading Syria and attacking Kurds, who were key US allies in fighting ISIS. President Trump says the Kurds were not US allies in WW2.

AR With that logic, Trump would let Russians invade Germany.


Brexit Folly

David Edgerton

The Conservative party is set on a course most capitalist states and enterprises regard as foolish.
The party now represent the interests of the small group of capitalists who fund it. The capitalists who support Brexit tend to be very loosely tied to the UK economy.
Today there is no such thing as British national capitalism. London is a hub for world capitalism. The interests of foreign capital are not expressed through a national political party.
Brexit is the political project of the hard right within the Conservative party. It reveals the weakness of the UK. The modern British state has distanced itself from the productive economy and has few experts on the complexities of modern capitalism.
The UK can no longer undertake the radical planning and intervention that might make Brexit work. That would require state experts closely aligned with business. Brexiteers hope the EU will cave and carry on trading with the UK as if nothing had changed.
Brexit shows how capitalism now relates to politics. It shows the UK place in the world.


UK Science

Anjana Ahuja

In September, Boris Johnson announced a £220 million investment in nuclear fusion. But Brexit is already damaging British science.
Sheffield physicist Richard Jones was summoned to Downing Street: "This meeting wasn't about the whole funding system but just one aspect: how to support world-changing innovations driven by brilliant individuals .. But my view is that the European Research Council provides a very good mechanism for that."
The ERC has a €13 billion budget for 2014−2020 to provide for "investigator-driven frontier research" into new and unpredictable fields. UK involvement with the ERC and with organizations such as Euratom is due to end when the UK leaves the EU.
Jones: "You need continent-scale competition to drive things forward. A small, inward-looking country can lose its competitive edge."


Technological Innovation

João Medeiros

Mariana Mazzucato researched the provenance of technologies in the Apple iPhone.
The HTTP was developed and implemented at CERN, in Geneva. The internet began as Arpanet, funded by the US DoD. The DoD also funded the development of GPS, the hard disk drive, microprocessors, memory chips, and LCD display. Siri started as a project commissioned by DARPA. The touchscreen arose from research funded by the NSF and the CIA.
Mazzucato: "Steve Jobs has rightly been called a genius for the visionary products he conceived and marketed, [but] this story creates a myth about the origin of Apple's success. Without the massive amount of public investment behind the computer and internet revolutions, such attributes might have led only to the invention of a new toy."
Between 1960 and 1972, the US government spent $26 billion on the Apollo program. Many projects contributed, not only in aeronautics but in nutrition, textiles, electronics, and medicine, resulting in spinoff products from freeze-dried food to digital fly-by-wire flight control systems. Apollo also boosted work on integrated circuits.
The state assumed the risks of technological enterprises behind the development of aviation, nuclear energy, computers, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and the internet. DARPA pumped billions of dollars into developments that led to Microsoft Windows, videoconferencing, Google Maps, Linux, and the cloud.
In 2017, the European Commission for Research, Science, and Innovation hired Mazzucato as special adviser. She suggested reframing the European research and innovation program as Horizon Europe, a €100 billion mission-oriented initiative due to start in 2020.
In May 2019, the European Parliament approved her proposal. Five mission areas were chosen: adaptation to climate change; cancer; healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters; climate-neutral and smart cities; and soil health and food. The European Commission will now appoint a mission board for each area.


Chemistry Nobel for Lithium-Ion Cells


John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino share the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing lithium-ion battery cells.
Lithium is the lightest metal in the periodic table and readily forms ions by giving up electrons. But to use lithium in a power cell, you need to tame its reactivity.
Whittingham developed a new cathode material, titanium disulphide, that allowed lithium ions to move freely within it. Goodenough replaced the titanium disulphide cathode with one made of cobalt oxide to increase the voltage and energy capacity. Yoshino showed how to replace the pure lithium metal anode with a safer one made of a carbon matrix.
Lithium cells now power portable electronics worldwide.

AR Goodenough and Whittingham formerly worked at Oxford.

World wars

Montage by AR
Correcting a calumny

"The modern structure of the [British] state is a higher form of democracy in which, by virtue of the people's mandate,
the government is exercised authoritatively while there is no possibility for parliamentary interference to obliterate
and render ineffective the execution of the nation's will."
Joseph Goebbels [ed AR]

22 days




2019 Yom Kippur

White House Will Not Cooperate

The New York Times

The White House says it will not cooperate with what it calls an illegitimate effort "to overturn the results of the 2016 election" that violates precedent and denies due process rights.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction. Mr President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable."


Brexiteer Faith in America Misplaced

Daniel Finkelstein

Brexiteers assume that Britain can take its place as a leading partner in the Anglosphere and partner the United States in a truly special relationship.
Ever since WW2, European integration was as much the project of the United States as it was of France or Germany. Dean Acheson saw the reconstruction of Europe as central to US interests. The Marshall Plan, NATO, and European integration formed a single package.
Donald Trump heads a movement that has always been sympathetic to Britain. It approves of Brexit and reveres Margaret Thatcher as Ronald Reagan's comrade in arms.
Trump has an election to fight next year. A Democratic president will revert to Acheson's policy. Any UK-US trade deal would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate for ratification. Democratic support would be hindered by a breach with Ireland.
The present US administration is not internationalist. Trump wants to Make America Great Again, not preserve the great in Great Britain.


Brexit Deal Doomed, Deadline Looms

The Guardian

A blame game erupted in Westminster when an anonymous source briefed selected journalists about a telephone call between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel.
European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker: "I do not accept this blame game of pinning the eventual failure of the negotiations on the EU. If that's the case, the explanation is actually in the British camp."
Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar: "There are some fundamental objectives that haven't changed for the past three years and we need them guaranteed."
European Parliament president David Sassoli: "Up to the very last minute, it will be possible for the European Union and parliament to try and find a deal."


Brexit Killing Science

The Guardian

The UK government still aims to join the new €100 billion EU research program Horizon Europe.
Sir Paul Nurse: "Colleagues abroad think the UK has lost its senses. The prime minister behaves like a clown and the world has noted that. Our reputation has plummeted."
Sir Andre Geim: "In science, a no-deal Brexit would be like a severe drought for an orchard. You can't expect to have a harvest after watering it again next year. All the trees are already dead."
Professor Gero Miesenböck: "Basic research is the foundation of everything. And the UK is extremely good at it, which is why I am here. But I worry that no one is paying attention to the damage about to be done."
Sir Alan Fersht: "The EU has been the best thing for British science for decades. The European Research Council has provided support that didn't exist, like starter grants for young scientists and advanced grants for senior scientists to do novel work. It has been transformative."


Nobel Prize in Physics

New Scientist

The 2019 Nobel prize in physics goes to James Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz for their contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in it.
Peebles made theoretical predictions about the shape of the universe and the matter and energy in it. He looked at the role of the CMB in how matter clumped to form galaxies and galaxy clusters.
Mayor and Queloz discovered the exoplanet 51 Pegasi b. It was the first time a planet was found to orbit a star similar to our Sun.


Supercomputer Brain Simulation

New Scientist

The SpiNNaker supercomputer at the University of Manchester, UK, has a total of 1 million processing cores and can simulate the behavior of 77 000 neurons, equivalent to a 1 mm cylinder in sensory cortex, as fast as the brain for up to 12 hours.
Markus Diesmann designed the model it uses. His group plans to port their model of visual cortex to SpiNNaker.

Real-Time Cortical Simulation on Neuromorphic Hardware
Oliver Rhodes et al.

2019 October 8

Trump Obstructs "Kangaroo Court"

The New York Times, 1627 UTC

The Trump administration directed US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland not to appear for a scheduled interview in the impeachment inquiry.
Trump tweet: "I would love to send [Sondland] to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court."

AR Republicans should revolt against their administration.


Brexit Deal "Essentially Impossible"

BBC News, 1557 UTC

A Downing Street source has said a Brexit deal is "essentially impossible" after a call between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel. The source said she implied a deal was "overwhelmingly unlikely" — but EU officials doubt Merkel would have used such language.
European Council president Donald Tusk: "What's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people."

AR Conservatives should revolt against their government.


Trump Betrays Kurds

The New York Times

President Trump says he will not stand in the way of a Turkish invasion to expel Kurdish forces from the border region of northern Syria.

AR Oust him now.


EU Rejects Brexit Plan

Daniel Boffey

Leaked documents detail EU rejection of Boris Johnson's Brexit proposals for the Irish border:
 A Stormont veto would let the DUP block plans for the regulatory zone.
 A customs border would risk major disruption of the all-Ireland economy.
 A fallback of no controls or checks leaves the EU internal market wide open.
 A proposal to prevent border checks and infrastructure has no plan B.
 A proposal for an open border invites other countries to seek open borders.
 A customs exemption for smaller businesses would invite smuggling.
 There is no provision for checking payment of VAT.
 NI businesses would have competitive advantage trading in the single market.
 Access to EU databases to police the border would remain after a DUP veto.
EU leaders say the legal text does not form the basis for serious negotiation.

UK Cost Warning
HM Revenue & Customs says businesses would be hit with an annual £15 billion bill to fill in customs forms for trade between the UK and the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Companies in the UK and EU would face "a significant new and ongoing administrative burden" in a disorderly departure.

UK Debt Warning
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the scale of the government response required to firefight a flatlining economy in the event of a disorderly departure from the EU would raise the UK national debt to almost 90% of GDP, its highest level for fifty years.

AR Time for Boris to see sense in a Damascene conversion.


Another Trillion Trees

Christine Swanson

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) is a NASA mission designed to provide the first 3D look at the world's forests. The information GEDI gathers will help us understand climate change.
CO2 emissions from human activity put about 10 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. Oceans absorb about a quarter of it, and forests account for much for the rest. Altogether, biomass sequesters an estimated 550 gigatons of carbon, most of it in trees.
A 2015 estimate put the total number of trees on Earth at about 3 trillion. Our estimates of how much carbon is contained in the Amazon rainforest range from 60 to 90 gigatons.
GEDI uses lidar, where laser pulses are timed bouncing back from solid objects to calculate distance. Laser beams penetrating a forest at different depths from the canopy down to the ground help build a 3D map of the forest.
GEDI lidar uses near-infrared light, which is reflected off leaves but cannot penetrate clouds. It will sample only a fraction of Earth's surface and will miss most of the boreal forest.
Radar systems emit microwaves, which penetrate cloud and scatter from solid objects. The optimal wavelength is 70 cm. The European Space Agency has selected it for use in the Biomass satellite, set to launch in 2022.
Worldwide, some 15 billion trees are felled each year. We could plant enough additional trees to cut CO2 levels by a quarter, making this by far the best climate change solution available.

AR I vote for more trees.

Extinction Rebellion

⦿ Christophe Gateau / DPA
Extinction Rebellion, Berlin

Eckhardt Tolle


German flag

Tag der Deutschen Einheit
29 Jahre später

Wolfgang Thierse spricht
über die Langsamkeit des

Rotary selfie


2019 October 7

Trump Showdown


A federal US judge dismissed Donald Trump's effort to prevent his tax returns from being turned over to a New York grand jury. The ruling raises the likelihood that the president's tax returns will be provided in response to the subpoena. Any material obtained through a grand jury subpoena is covered by grand jury secrecy rules.


Brexit Shootout

Robert Shrimsley

Brexit is down to a final shootout. EU rejection of Boris Johnson's plan will leave the prime minister forced to delay Brexit and face an election. Defeat for Johnson means a second referendum on a new deal, but victory means a hardline government that can exit without a deal. The result will be winner take all.


The EU Is Changing

The Observer

Brexiteers imagine the EU is as obsessed with obstructing Brexit. In fact, the priority in Brussels is to facilitate an orderly departure.
EU eyes are mostly elsewhere. Confirmation hearings have begun for the new European Commission president. The European Parliament must give its consent by the end of October. Then come budget negotiations. The new European Council president takes over in December. Then come EU reforms.
The EU is still grappling with problems, but it continues to defy those who wish it harm. The EU has formidable resilience.


The EU Cannot Afford Brexit Delay

Christiane Hoffmann

British prime minister Boris Johnson has plunged the UK into crisis. No one wants to let him declare victory in leading the UK out of the EU.
Johnson has submitted a proposal to resolve the Irish border issue. It is a poor solution, but a further delay would not help resolve the issue. Some hope a postponement can give time for a second Brexit referendum. Others hope new elections will give Johnson a mandate for a no-deal Brexit.
Brexit has become inevitable. Separating on good terms is wise. Europe can no longer afford the Brexit insanity.

2019 October 6

Conscious Manifestation

Eckhart Tolle

Your life purpose unfolds through the activities that you engage in on the dimension of doing. The dimension of being is equally important. In the dance between being and doing, the ultimate source of satisfaction in life is to recognize yourself as consciousness.
A key to conscious manifestation is to be anchored in presence — the feeling of "I am" — and our only true source of fulfillment. When we are connected with presence, we create from a place of joy, appreciation, and sufficiency. We become vehicles of creative intelligence.
There is a relationship between your predominant way of thinking and what you experience as your reality. Manifestation is about influencing your external circumstances by changing your thinking and your state of consciousness.
A field of intelligence sources all creation on the level of form. Aligning consciously with this universal intelligence starts with the direct realization that there is no you apart from the universe. In your most essential nature, you are consciousness.
We cannot manifest a more conscious world without a shift in consciousness that begins on the individual level. The New Earth begins with your awakened consciousness.

2019 October 5

Charity Chinese Celebration

Rotary Club of Poole, Dorset Chinese Association

AR A superbly choreographed celebration of traditional Chinese culture combined with excellent Chinese cuisine combined to make for an enjoyable evening in the company of fellow Rotarians and friends. The dancing girls were amazing.


Quantum Supremacy

John Preskill

In 2012, I proposed the term "quantum supremacy" to describe the point where quantum computers can do things classical computers can't.
Google used a device with 53 qubits and report that it took just minutes to perform quantum computations that would take today's most powerful supercomputers thousands of years. This is a remarkable achievement.
The problem their machine solved was carefully chosen. By checking that the output agrees with the output of a classical supercomputer (in cases where it doesn't take thousands of years), the team verified that they understand their device and that it performs as it should.
In the era now dawning, we can do noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) computations. The Google team has apparently demonstrated that we can now build a quantum machine large enough and accurate enough to do nisq-y work.
The Google achievement bolsters our confidence that quantum computing is not ridiculously hard but merely really, really hard.

2019 October 4


The New York Times

President Trump outside the White House declared to the assembled press: "China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
A US president urging a foreign government to investigate his political rival would seem to be flagrantly violating the law. But this president is a master at defining deviancy down. His defenders increasingly say what he did in pressuring the Ukrainian president was no big deal.
Trump seems to be assuming that the more shameless his assault on US norms and laws, the more he can get away with.



Todd Phillips, Joaquin Phoenix, et al.

AR This is the bleakest, darkest movie I've seen for a long, long time. If the mood it conveys is an accurate reflection of the lived experience of the white underclass in Trump America, that society is doomed to descend into a Mad Max abyss in our lifetime.
The Joaquin Phoenix incarnation of the Joker is an anti-hero of Dostoyevskyan madness and nihilistic malice, projected into an American dystopia of such violence and squalor that no political movement short of Extinction Rebellion could begin to redeem it. The logical linkage of gun culture and bloodbath slaughter is hideously apparent, the broken societal links that doom the poor to deepening poverty dismally obvious.
There is no hope for an America remotely resembling this ominously plausible portrait. Only a coherently imagined revolution can save it, and no revolutionary model so far proposed is up to the magnitude of the challenge. My first response (I first saw the movie this afternoon) is to invest my hopes in the cleansing idealism of the China Dream.

NYT interview with Joaquin Phoenix



The Guardian

The UK government has promised a court that Boris Johnson will send a letter to the EU seeking an extension to article 50 as required by the Benn act. The pledge was given in legal papers submitted to the court of session in Edinburgh after anti-Brexit campaigners began a legal action to force Johnson to uphold the act's requirements.

AR Pray let this doom the nightmare.

2019 October 3



President Donald Trump: "This is the greatest hoax. This is just a continuation of what's been playing out since my election. This is a fraudulent crime on the American people."
Trump made no effort to veil his unbridled disgust at the crisis engulfing his presidency during public appearances at the White House. Administration aides fear he has failed to grasp the enormity of what he is facing him. He is lashing out, tweeting Democrats are focused on "bullshit" in all-caps.
Democrats warned him to expect a subpoena demanding documents related to his handling of Ukraine. House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff warned against witness intimidation or incitement to violence and said obstruction of justice could be added to any articles of impeachment.
Trump responded by declaring Schiff should be investigated: "It should be criminal. It should be treasonous. He made it up, every word of it, made up."


EU Defends Ireland

The Guardian

European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted two messages:
 To Leo Varadkar: We stand fully behind Ireland.
 To Boris Johnson: We remain open but still unconvinced.
European Parliament Brexit steering group: "Safeguarding peace and stability on the island of Ireland, protection of citizens and EU's legal order has to be the main focus of any deal. The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop."
European Commission spokeswoman: "There are problematic points in the UK's proposal and further work is needed. This work is for the UK to do, not the other way around."



Jenni Russell

At the Conservative party conference, the mood is ugly. The Brexiteer narrative of betrayal makes sense if you think the referendum overrode parliament and trumped representative democracy. Voters were asked to make a decision and gave their order.
They do not accept or understand that they were being asked a very simple question about a very complicated situation. A no-deal Brexit is not an end but a tortured beginning. The UK cannot just slice through all its most valuable trading relationships.
In the simplistic world in which we will be prosperous, proud, and independent the minute the UK gets out of the EU and the only obstacles to leaving are the conniving Remainer elites, it is no wonder that Brexit voters are becoming increasingly furious.
Downing Street says after Brexit the anger will subside. But those in power who are now flaunting ideas of conspiracy and betrayal are cutting the ties of trust that hold society together, merely to win the next election. They will regret it.


Lazy Bo Kills It

John Crace

Government ministers filed into the Conservative party conference hall and took their seats to a standing ovation. Stanley Johnson and Carrie Symonds got an even more enthusiastic reception. Cries of "BO-RIS, BO-RIS" filled the hall as Boris Johnson made his entrance.
This was a golden moment delivered on a silver spoon. Bo had really meant to write a proper speech. But what with one thing and another, it was only after breakfast that he had finally made a start, and then his mind had gone blank.
He centered on how parliament was essentially a total waste of time. Brexit was basically a breeze. Whatever the EU might say to the contrary, the customs union and the Good Friday agreement were basically just technicalities. If it didn't work out, he could always blame the EU or parliament.
Ten minutes in, the Incredible Hulk realized that he'd basically said all he wanted to say and began to ad-lib. Punctuated by gags that hadn't been particularly funny when he'd first told them years ago, it was desperate stuff from a man for whom the truth has always been another country.
He said we were on the brink of a new era of nuclear fusion with Britain at the fore. He said London was the most productive region of the EU. He said a Brexit delay would cost £1 billion a month. He was lost in his own world, where he was totally killing it.
He was actually dying on his feet. Tory party members had come in search of a vision. Instead they got a vacuous after-dinner speech. The final applause and cries of "Bo-ris, Bo-ris" were fainter now.

2019 October 2

Deal or No Deal

BBC News, 1116 UTC

Boris Johnson says there should be "no doubt" the only alternative to the Brexit proposals he will put to Brussels is a no-deal Brexit. Addressing his party conference in Manchester, the prime minister said his plan was a "compromise by the UK" and hoped the EU would compromise too. The European Commission says it will examine the proposals objectively.



Andrea Ucini

Quarks are elementary particles. They have the quantum properties of flavor and spin. They cluster together in pairs (in mesons) or triplets (in baryons). And they have a charge we label with three colors (red, green, blue) mediated by gluons.
Quarks of different colors can sit together because their color charges cancel out to white. A quark and an antiquark can sit together if they have color and anti-color charges. Single quarks never appear because without their color partners they are too unstable.
The theory of quarks and the color force is quantum chromodynamics (QCD). Full QCD calculations are forbiddingly complex, so most of the properties of sets of quarks are calculated using simpler effective models.
Gerard 't Hooft once made a bold compromise on accuracy by discarding the parts of the QCD equations that describe color. He let quarks have any number of colors, even an infinite number. Because a set of quarks can be stable only if all colors balance, an infinite number of colors implies baryons with infinite numbers of quarks.
Every quark has a quantum spin. Multiply the number of quarks and you raise the maximum spin. In extreme cases, when all the quarks have their spins aligned, the baryon has so much spin the model struggles.
The resolution comes from string theory. Under certain circumstances, quarks can take on a fraction of their usual spin. It turns out QCD can describe quarks with fractional spin too.
Zohar Komargodski brings all the quark ideas together using the infinite color model but giving the quarks freedom to take on fractional spins. Instead of a 3D cluster of quarks jostling for position, the high spin forms a 2D pancake of quantum foam, and quarks with fractional spin emerge from it.
The implication is that the quarks here are not fundamental at all, but emerge from the behavior of quantum foam. The quarks are emergent rather than fundamental particles.

2019 October 1

The People's Republic of China Celebrates Turning 70

The Guardian

The 70th anniversary of the PRC is less a historical commemoration than a political event. The Communist party of China (CPC) has understood the power of history ever since it took over in 1949. Xi Jinping understands its power better than any leader since Mao Zedong.
The west will watch closely as the People's Liberation Army unveils new missile, stealth, and unmanned vehicle capabilities. The PRC has outlived its big brother, the Soviet Union, and outgrown western economies.
Many in China are grateful for party rule. It enjoys a level of support that many western governments would envy. The last 70 years have seen extraordinary progress in lifespan, literacy, and incomes as hundreds of millions of people worked their way out of poverty.
The CPC has constructed a history in which its central role is ending national humiliation. China is seeking to reshape the international order once more. Xi is already looking ahead to the PRC's centenary.

New PLA weapons on parade

Chairman Xi

⦿ Xinhua
President Xi Jinping gave a speech at a grand rally at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing to celebrate the 70th anniversary
of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC).
"Seventy years ago on this day, Comrade Mao Zedong solemnly declared here to the world that the PRC was founded and
the Chinese people had stood up."
Xi pledged China will stay on the path of peaceful development and pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up.
"We will continue to work with people from all countries to push for jointly building a community with a shared future for humanity."
Xi stressed that the People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police Force should always preserve their nature, purpose,
and character as the forces of the people, resolutely safeguard China's sovereignty, security, and development interests,
and firmly uphold world peace.
"China will surely have an even brighter future."

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

⦿ PA
British Antarctic Survey research ship Sir David Attenborough is launched. In 2016, the Natural Environment Research Council
held a referendum inviting the public to choose a name for the ship. After a radio campaign, a runaway majority of the votes
were cast for the name Boaty McBoatface. In May 2016, UK science minister Jo Johnson announced the official name,
leaving unsaid the reason that the popular choice was just too bloody stupid to be adopted.

AR Ergo exit Brexit.


Get it done

Order of the Garter


33 days

⦿ Yui Mok
PM advisor Dom Cummings

He lied

Stephanie Wehner
Stephanie Wehner, Delft UT,
coordinates the Quantum
Internet Alliance, an
EU initiative


2019 September 30

Trump Impeachment

Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a private appeal on Sunday to Democrats not to squander their chance to build public support for an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. "The polls have changed drastically about this. Our tone must be prayerful, respectful, solemn, worthy of the Constitution."
Representative Adam B. Schiff: "We have to flesh out all of the facts for the American people. The seriousness of the matter and the danger to our country demands nothing less."
Representative Josh Gottheimer: "We need to make sure this is fact-driven and evidence-based. You can't prejudge something that is so solemn and obviously could have a big historical impact on our country, and you need to keep the country together."
Representative Angie Craig: "I'm going to tell my constituents that this is a decision I never wanted to have to make, that the president left us no choice but to open an impeachment inquiry."


"Fraud and Treason"

Donald Trump

Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called 'Whistleblower,' represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way.
His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.


Brexit Backstop

Financial Times

At the Conservative party conference in Manchester, DUP leader Arlene Foster warned that she was not prepared to see new border checks in the Irish Sea as part of any Brexit deal. She said a time-limited version of the backstop was "something we would look at" but that Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar had already ruled out a time-limited backstop.
An aide for Boris Johnson: "We want the backstop removed entirely."
Johnson will spend the next three days in Manchester promising to "get Brexit done" and offering tough rhetoric to party activists before heading back to London to negotiate an exit deal with Brussels. He hopes the creation of an "all-Ireland" regulatory zone can pave the way to a Brexit deal. He needs DUP support to persuade hardline ERG Brexiteers to back his deal.
ERG leader Jacob Rees-Mogg: "Like Gulliver tied down at Lilliput, we are tied down by a ragtag, motley collection of feeble, fickle, footling politicians, all in desperate pursuit of a single ignoble aim: to renege on the solemn promise they made to the British people."
Minister for no-deal preparations Michael Gove: "The level of our preparations has accelerated massively [but] we cannot anticipate every risk and cannot guarantee against some turbulence."


"Surrender Act"

Jörg Schindler

Boris Johnson is in a desperate plight. He can only win a general election by getting the votes of the angry Brits seduced by the hellfire and damnation ranting of Nigel Farage. Johnson is defending his right flank by aping Farage, but no one knows if this will work.
If he had a comfortable majority, Johnson could either conclude a last-minute deal with Brussels and whip it through parliament or leave the EU without a deal. The way to trigger new elections is for his Commons opponents to call a vote of no confidence.
In early September, Johnson prorogued parliament. He wanted to force angry MPs to call a vote to trigger an election for which he would set the date. No one could stop him from letting October 31 go by and then campaigning in triumph.
Instead of falling into this trap, MPs passed an act that hit Johnson hard. He must now conclude a deal with Brussels by the EU summit in mid-October or ask for an extension of article 50 beyond Halloween. Johnson says he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than ask for an extension.
After the prorogation was ruled null and void, Johnson shouted "surrender act" at his opponents in parliament. MPs now fear for their personal safety.


Europe Is Not the Enemy

Joris Luyendijk

The present UK prime minister has taken nastiness to an entirely new level. The UK government lies about nonexistent negotiations with the EU and threatens to renege on its outstanding financial obligations. The leader of the Commons threatened to sabotage the EU from within if Brexit was postponed, and the prime minister compared the EU to the Nazis.
The Britain that most democratic Europeans love still exists. Yet the terrible truth is that this progressive side of Britain is in deep disarray. The dominant four newspapers in Britain by circulation have been brainwashing their readers with fake news about the EU for years.
The Conservative party has elected the most callous, ruthless, mendacious, and superficial politician in living memory as its leader. According to the polls, this deeply nasty man is easily the most popular politician in the country.
If the UK opts for the no-deal disaster so many of its leaders and publications crave, the UK must take the blame. Brexit is an act of the UK against the EU. The EU cannot save a country that does not want to save itself.


"The Will of the People"

Gideon Rachman

Legal crises have now broken out on both sides of the Atlantic. They are signs that the laws and conventions that underpin liberal democracy are under attack in both the UK and the US, two countries that have long regarded themselves as democratic role models for the world.
The Trump and Johnson camps are whipping up their supporters to believe that their legal problems are acts of revenge by political enemies who are intent on thwarting the will of the people. In their approach to politics, once you accept that the end justifies the means, any tactic is permissible.
The implied threat of violence is already part of the Trump−Johnson playbook. The political arguments made by both the Johnson and Trump administrations use the language of democracy, but the underlying logic has more in common with populist authoritarianism.
When leaders such as Johnson and Trump claim a direct mandate from the people, they treat the other institutions of a democratic society with contempt, and even threaten them with violent retribution at the hands of the people. The degeneration of liberal democracy in its Anglo-American heartlands will have a global impact.

AR Democracy works best when the electorate is intelligent and well educated enough to appreciate the issues at stake. The bigger issues we face are now complex enough to ensure that democracy as we know it works less well.

2019 September 29

Address to the United Nations

Donald Trump

These animals in the press. They're animals actually — some of the worst human beings you'll ever meet. They're scum — many of them are scum.
I didn't do anything. I don't know if I'm the most innocent person in the world. I just said I'm the most presidential except for possibly Abe Lincoln when he wore the hat — that was tough to beat. Honest Abe, when he wore that hat, that was tough to beat. But I can't do that, that hat wouldn't work for me. Yeah, I have better hair than him.

AR Verbatim


One Nation Conservatism

Damian Green

I believe that the tradition of One Nation Conservatism must remain strong. A growing number of Conservative MPs are joining the One Nation Caucus, which I chair.
Brexit has divided the country, so the job of any thoughtful Conservative is to devise ways we can reunite it. Any Conservative worth the name recognises that a country shouting at itself is unlikely to continue caring about its institutions and history.
The Conservative party can reconnect with the decent instincts of the majority of British people only if it puts One Nation politics at the heart of its mission.


The Garter

Tim Shipman

The supreme court rebuke has led to a breakdown of trust between Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.
A Whitehall source: "They are not impressed by what is going on — at the very highest levels of the family."
A palace courtier: "Boris joins Cameron and Blair. Not in the Queen's lifetime will any of them ever receive the garter."
Sir John Major, the last prime minister to be bestowed with the Order of the Garter, remains close to the palace.


Brexit Piffle

Ian McEwan

I've become a junkie of the Brexit process. There's a spirit of collective adventure, a touch of Enid Blyton about it.
Brexit has reached absurdity. No reasoned case is now made for it. No economic case, such as for the Norway model, is now mentioned. It's become like a religion. It has entered the realm of the mystical, the English version of Blut und Boden.
A charming, humorous man has turned into a boneheaded populist using the puerile language of shackles. I don't want to suggest Brexit politicians are cockroaches. It's a metaphor for something ugly that has entered the Brexit argument.
It's a great triumph of our society, a triumph of meritocracy, that we have 16 million in the elite! All we need to do is try to bring up the other 17.4 million.
The £350 million-a-week lie on the side of the bus is nothing to compared to the lie of Take Back Control. People will have not more control. Every trade deal is a compromise with sovereignty. People were sold a whopper. It deserves satire.
Brexit is piffle compared to climate change or the nuclear arms race, but it's our piffle.

AR Enid Blyton: "The secret island .. seemed more enchanting than ever .. Oh, what a secret island, all for their very own, to live on and play on."

2019 September 28

Trump Versus China

Financial Times

The White House is weighing a plan to stop Chinese companies listing on US exchanges. President Trump's advisers are exploring steps to limit financial investments between America and China. Other options include curbing the ability of US government pension funds to buy Chinese equities.
Next week, Beijing is preparing a national celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.


Trump Impeachment

The New York Times

President Trump is the legitimate president. He campaigned as an iconoclast, but it became clear early in his administration that his disruptiveness was aimed less at bringing fresh thinking to bear on stale policymaking than at assaulting the vital institutions of governance.
The facts are not in dispute. A president's use of his power for his own political gain, at the expense of the public interest, is the quintessence of an impeachable offense. There is no known precedent for a president pressuring a foreign nation to tear down a political rival.
Trump was working to subvert the 2020 election. The House now has a duty to protect the integrity of the election by using its powers to conduct a methodical and fair investigation. Trump has left Congress no other recourse than considering impeachment.


This UK Government

Sir John Major

UK government ministers assure us they are moving toward a deal. It seems more likely that we will end up leaving the EU without any deal at all.
The government tells us everyone is fed up with Brexit. But no one should believe that Brexit will end on the day we leave. Its negative impact will be felt for a long time.
There is much talk of a general election. If the government were confident in the aftermath of their Brexit policy, they would wait for next spring and take credit for its success. Instead the government seems intent on whipping up dissent by using highly emotional and evocative language that can only provoke fear and anger.
I fear the government will seek to bypass statute law by passing an order of council to suspend the Benn act until after 31 October. Ministers can pass an order of council without involving the Queen. This would be a piece of political chicanery that no one should ever forgive or forget.
I hope the Conservative parliamentary party will rein in the faction of a faction that now prevails in cabinet.

2019 September 27

Trump Impeachment

The New York Times

The whistle-blower whose claims led Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry against President Trump is a CIA officer who was previously detailed to work at the White House and had expertise on Ukraine. When Trump called the claims a "political hack job," we decided to publish information about the whistle-blower to help readers make their own judgments.


Surrender Humbug

Stephen Bush

Before 16 June 2016, MPs tended to file death threats in the waste-paper bin. The assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox has changed all that. Even Conservative MPs fear the rising anger in British politics will make them targets.
Boris Johnson knows the power of words. He knows that when he uses language like "surrender act" it has consequences. His political calculation is that it will help him realign British politics on Leave−Remain lines and then win an election.
When he tells Paula Sherriff, a Labour MP who has faced death threats, that her request that he moderate his language is "humbug" he knows this will antagonize MPs into refusing a deal and forcing a divisive election.


Mobilizing Rage

Sean O'Grady

Boris Johnson is polarizing British politics. He is mobilizing his base of angry and frustrated Leavers. He wants to be seen doing battle with parliament in the name of the people.
Johnson thinks he is fighting a vast Remain Establishment conspiracy, the mainstream media, and now the judiciary too. His dog-whistle style follows the ruthless advice of Dominic Cummings.
On Brexit, there is no middle ground. The bell curve has been replaced by twin peaks. The only way to win a war like this is to fire up the other side and beat them in battle.
Scenes of Johnson winding up the Remainers will recruit former Labour or UKIP voters into the Conservative camp. The army of populist revolt is fighting for Brexit in a war to save Britain.
Johnson would love to be arrested for defying the "surrender act" by refusing to request an article 50 extension from the EU. He would declare himself Britain's first Brexit martyr.
You cannot trust this man.


UK Constitutional Reform

Jolyon Maugham

A prime minister willing to shrug off the political cost of legal defeats can continue to suspend parliament at will. MPs must replace the prime minister.
The House of Commons can identify an individual in whom it has confidence and communicate that view to the Queen, who would invite that individual to form a new government. With no vote of no confidence, there is no risk of a general election if MPs find no one.
Successive governments and prime ministers have made no attempt to find in the referendum vote a democratically sustainable mandate for anything. We have had instead a series of undeliverable promises that have outraged Remainers and Leavers alike.
An emergency government should commission a statutory inquiry to hear evidence from the public and produce a recommendation to be put back to the electorate in a referendum.
The emergency government could also implement a program of constitutional reform. The UK constitution has been tested and found wanting.



Philip Goff

If we want a theory of consciousness (TOC), we need to accommodate both the quantitative data of physical science and the qualitative reality of consciousness.
Physical science says a lot about the behavior of matter, but nothing about its intrinsic nature. Here is a hole in our scientific worldview. We can put consciousness in the hole.
Neuroscience is necessary but not sufficient for a TOC. Neuroscience gives you correlations. Trying to explain those correlations takes you beyond what can be settled empirically.
Panpsychism has deep problems. The integrated information theory (IIT) is an emergentist panpsychist model of consciousness. IIT may be our best TOC.

2019 September 26

White House Coverup

CNN, 1549 UTC

Former Obama VP Joe Biden: "[Trump] believes he can do anything and get away with it."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "The complaint states that the White House tried to lock down all records of the call, especially the word for word transcript. That gave the whistle-blower reason to believe that they, the White House, understood the gravity of what transpired in that call. The complaint reports a repeated abuse of an electronics record system designed to store classified, sensitive national security information which the White House used to hide information of a political nature."
Republicans say the whistle-blower acknowledges he or she did not have first-hand knowledge of most of the events described.

Whistle-blower complaint regarding President Trump and Ukraine


HM Government 0, Opposition 7

BBC News, 1338 UTC

HM Government has lost its 7th vote of 7 since Boris Johnson became prime minister. MPs voted by 306 to 289 against a motion calling for a 3-day parliamentary recess next week to coincide with the Conservative party conference in Manchester.


Trump Impeachment

The New York Times

The announcement by speaker Nancy Pelosi that the House is opening a formal impeachment investigation of US president Trump is historic.
After months of watching the president ravage democratic norms and taunt lawmakers, Congress is saying there are lines that cannot be crossed.
Trump says impeachment will benefit him politically. Many Democrats admit that possibility. But they believe the costs of inaction are too high.
Trump's dealings with Ukraine triggered the formal inquiry. America will not tolerate the meddling of other nations in its elections.


Surrender, Betrayal, Traitor

The Times

In the House of Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson told MPs they must deliver Brexit.
Labour MP Paula Sherriff: "Many of us [are] subjected to death threats and abuse every single day. They often quote [Johnson's] words — surrender act, betrayal, traitor — and I for one am sick of it. We must moderate our language."
Johnson: "I have never heard such humbug in all my life."


Britain's Hour of Crisis

Philip Stephens

Boris Johnson enjoyed a display of mutual backslapping with Donald Trump during his visit to New York — two demagogues united in contempt for democratic values.
Johnson and his fellow English nationalists claim to guard national sovereignty against the EU. The real threat is not from Brussels but from the prime minister.
Johnson frames the supreme court decision as the latest instalment in an imagined conspiracy against Brexit. His aim is to mark out the ground to fight an election.
Real life points to a request for another extension of the Article 50 process. The EU27 could be forgiven for expelling Britain in its hour of crisis.


Quantum Internet

Stephanie Wehner

We will discover all kinds of applications for quantum networks. One is to use quantum communication for quantum key distribution.
Quantum keys use qubits. I can have a qubit here and you can have a qubit in New York, and we can use the quantum internet to entangle them. If I make a measurement on my qubit here and you make the same measurement in New York, we will always get the same outcome. No one else can share that entanglement: Quantum communication is secure.
New kinds of remote computing become possible. Say you have a proprietary material design and you want to test its properties. You use a simple quantum device and the network to send your design to me, and I run a simulation for you on my quantum computer and tell you the outcome, yet I cannot spy on your design.
A quantum internet can also be used to combine distant telescopes. The state of the photons coming into telescope 1 are teleported, using entanglement, to telescope 2, and then combined with those of telescope 2.
With our simulation platform, which is now running on a supercomputer, we can explore different quantum network configurations and study properties that are hard to predict analytically. We hope to find a scalable design that can enable quantum communication across Europe.
We will learn more physics by making these networks. In computer science, we will learn new ways to program and control them.

AR Quantum technology like this is the way to new science.


Quantum Supremacy

New Scientist

Google appears to have achieved quantum supremacy, where a quantum computer is able to perform a calculation that is practically impossible for a classical one.
Google's quantum computer consisted of only 54 qubits. For quantum computers to really come into their own, they may need thousands of qubits.
Qubits must be isolated from vibrations that can decohere them. Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and others are all looking at how to advance the technology. The next challenge is to build a quantum computer that has quantum supremacy plus error correcting codes.
The biggest step is to do something useful. Google's quantum computer tackled a random circuit sampling problem. It's impressive, but there's no practical use for it.
University of Texas at Austin professor Scott Aaronson: "There are certain quantities that you'd like to know that you can't easily learn from experiment and can't calculate with supercomputers today. This is where quantum computers can help."

AR Scott seems to be the go-to guy for such handy quotes.

Soyuz 61

⦿ Christina Koch
Soyuz 61 makes its way from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station, photographed from the ISS

Special Report on the
Ocean and Cryosphere
in a Changing Climate

Global warming has led to
widespread shrinking of the
cryosphere. The global ocean
has taken up more than 90% of
the excess heat in the climate
system. Global mean sea level
is rising, with acceleration
in recent decades.

Reopen parliament

Pound sterling leaps to
$1.25 and €1.13

BoJo, NY
Boris Johnson dismayed
in New York

Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Oil war

19 of the world's best WW2
museums and historical sites


An Update

Climate strike


2019 September 25

Climate Change

Spiegel Plus

July 2019 was the hottest month worldwide since weather records began. Around 200 million people in 350 cities worldwide struggle with temperatures exceeding 35 C. Over the next 30 years, the number of affected cities is forecast to triple.
Since industrialization began, humans have emitted so much CO2 that the global average temperature has increased by about 1 K. Every decade raises it a further 0.2 K. Worldwide, the years since 2014 are the warmest since records began.
In its October 2018 report, the IPCC asked whether the world can limit warming to 1.5 K by 2100 and concluded that every country must do more. Global CO2 emissions must halve by 2030. By 2055, they must fall to net zero. Global warming of 2 K would lead to massive damage and mortal danger for millions of people.
Every year, human activity produces tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that cover the Earth like a blanket and prevent solar energy from escaping. An atmospheric CO2 level of 400 ppm was reached in 2013 for the first time in at least 3 My.
Cities suffer from the heat island effect and become hotter than their surroundings by up to 10 K. Beijing and Tokyo have heated up five times faster in the past 100 years than their neighborhoods.
The summer of 2003 broke temperature records. Some 15,000 people died within weeks in France, 7,000 in Germany, 70,000 across Europe. And the frequency of such heat waves is increasing.
In Delhi, temperatures reached 48 C this June. Delhi has also become more humid in recent years. More humid air leads to heavier rainfall, which in turn leads to floods. This year, floods hit Nepal, Bangladesh, and India's northeast. Millions were expelled from their homes and crops destroyed.
In the interior of South Africa, the temperature is almost 2 K higher than 100 years ago. The length of the dry season is increasing, and when it rains, it is more torrential. Lack of water as a result of climate change is the new normal in South Africa.
This is the state of the world in 2019, with 1 K of global warming. Things could quickly get a lot worse, due to climate feedbacks. Snow reflects sunlight into space. Forests and Arctic permafrost soils store carbon. As global temperatures rise, snow melts, forests burn, permafrost thaws. More CO2 gets into the atmosphere, warming accelerates and more CO2 escapes.
The permafrost soils store twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere, partly as methane, which is up to 86 times as harmful to the climate as CO2 over a period of 20 years. Glaciers around the world are melting faster than predicted. In Russia, huge methane bubbles are bulging up in thawing permafrost and exploding, and in the Arctic the forests are burning.
There is hope. The UK is a pioneer in climate change. In 2008, the Climate Change Act stipulated a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. By 2050, Brits will have to fly less and eat less meat and dairy products. Electricity will come entirely from renewable sources and only electric cars will be sold.
In the WEF energy transition ranking, the UK is now ranked 7th, behind Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Austria. Germany is ranked 17th.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact founding director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: "There will always be those who put their heads in the sand and ignore the dangers of climate change, but a much larger number of us are determined to overcome this sluggishness."

2019 September 24

Armed Aggressor Abroad

Laura Kuenssberg

Prime minister Boris Johnson is in New York at the United Nations. MPs will be sitting again in Parliament on Wednesday. Do not underestimate how aggressive Johnson might be in response to the judgement. He may fly straight back from New York armed with a strategy.


Boris, Bercow, Brexit

Daily Mail

Boris Johnson: "We in the UK will not be deterred from delivering the will of the British people. I strongly disagree with this decision of the Supreme Court. I have the upmost respect for our judiciary but I don't think this was the right decision .. there are a lot of people who want to frustrate Brexit. There are a lot of people who want to stop this country coming out of the EU."
John Bercow: "In the light of that explicit judgment, I have instructed the House authorities to prepare for the resumption of the business of the House of Commons."
European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt: "At least one big relief in the Brexit saga: the rule of law in the UK is alive and kicking."


Calamity, Car Crash

Daniel Finkelstein

The government has made a grave error. For a Conservative government to find its actions revoked and reversed by the highest court and for it to have given advice to the Queen which has been found unlawful is a calamity. The government may be tempted to see this judgment as a bump in the road. This is a car crash.


UK Supreme Court Ruling

BBC News, 1045 BST

Lady Hale says the decision of the court is unanimous that the prime minister's advice to the Queen on prorogation is justiciable. This case is about the limits of the power to prorogue parliament. Parliamentary sovereignty would be undermined if the executive abused its power to prorogue parliament.
Prorogation would be unlawful if its effect were to limit the power of parliament to exercise its constitutional function. This is true independently of what the prime minister's motive or intention may have been at the time of the decision. The court concludes that the prime minister's advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful.
The court further concludes that the prorogation was void and of no effect. Parliament has not been prorogued. This is the unanimous verdict of the court. Gina Miller's appeal is allowed.

AR Great relief — Boris Johnson is rebuffed.


Universal Basic Services

The Labour Party

Some things in life are too important to be left to the market. The labour movement has long upheld that many of the key things in life should be provided collectively, funded out of general taxation and free at the point of use for everyone.
Collectively provided universal public services create shared experiences that bring us together as a society. They strengthen social bonds and contribute to our quality of life in ways economists struggle to measure but are vital to leading a rich and fulfilling life.
Universal public services, free at the point of use, will be a central pillar of the economic program of the next Labour government. Alongside structural reform and social security, universal public services are how we will create an economy that serves us instead of making us its servants.
Our vision of what services ought to be universal and basic will continue to expand. We have clawed back services that have been at risk of becoming commodified in the past. We must maintain that sense of direction and overcome the barriers thrown in our path.
The campaign for universal basic services has always been part of a bigger struggle between labour and capital. We must fight for a society based upon social justice. We can demand ever higher standards for a rich and meaningful life.

AR Tories will say these are empty aspirations. Well, aspirations matter.


Infernal Trio

Spiegel Plus

For Saudi Arabia, it was a total humiliation. The world's largest oil refinery went up in flames. The United States and the Saudis think Iran was behind the attack.
An infernal trio is ready to go to war. US president Donald Trump has already plunged the world into chaos with his aggressive and haphazard policies. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) maintains a rivalry with Iran and wages a cruel war in Yemen. Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is a fundamentalist steeled by decades of struggle against the Great Satan.
Trump cannot start another war if he wants to be re-elected in 2020. He has not even fulfilled his election pledge to bring home US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. An attack on Iran would lead to total war. It would be a nightmare for Trump.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been expanding its power throughout the Mideast region for decades and is associated with the Shia faith. Khamenei is now 80 years old, and the hardliners are stronger than ever. Revolutionary Guard Elite Force leader Qasem Soleimani is a battle-hardened war hero and the real architect of Iran's foreign and security policy in the region.
Saudi Arabia claims to lead the Sunni variant of Islam. But despite spending hundreds of billions on Western arms, Saudi Arabia is militarily far weaker than Iran. Riyadh has been waging a brutal war in Yemen for four years without success.
Trump quit the nuclear agreement with Iran and sealed an alliance with Saudi Arabia. He will find it difficult to form a coalition against Tehran. Britain, France, and Germany had reached the agreement with Tehran over years of hard negotiations. Trump nixed it with a stroke of a pen.
Trump will do any deal if the money is right. Saudi Arabia agreed to invest $450 billion in America, so it has his backing. Trump cannot tighten economic sanctions any further against Iran but hopes he can force the regime to back down.
Americans no longer depend on Saudi oil. In the short term, they even benefit from the refinery attack. If Trump asks for help, Europeans are not listening.

AR I fear Boris will back Trump.

2019 Autumn Equinox

Trump Scandal


The Ukraine scandal raging around Donald Trump is forcing Democrats to confront a fateful choice on impeachment. The facts of whether the President pressured Ukraine to investigate his potential Democratic general election opponent Joe Biden while a US military aid package was on the table are still unclear. It looks like the Trump team is using the power of the presidency to incite collusion ahead of the 2020 election.


Trump Fest

Swati Narayan, Manpreet K. Singh

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi joined US president Donald Trump onstage in Houston for a rally to celebrate the growing ties between India and America. Both leaders stoke divisions with policies that chip away at democracy and both claim they are acting within their national laws. History shows something can be legal without being moral.


Peak Populist

Michael Sauga

President Donald Trump has maneuvered himself into a dead end in his trade war with China. UK prime minister Boris Johnson faces defeat after defeat in parliament. Has the populist wave that flooded the globe after the financial crisis peaked?
To succeed as an autocrat, you must meet three conditions:
 You have to convince people you have the best ideas.
 The existing democratic institutions must have lost much of their legitimacy.
 Your tirades against the powerful in the old system must be credible.
Then you can surf to power on a wave of discontent.
Trump promised to lead America to new heights. But the high growth rates of his first years in office have now given way to a slowdown, for which he is responsible. If he fights on, the economy could crash. If he relents, he looks like a loser.
Johnson promised to save UK democracy from the EU. But it was Johnson who betrayed democracy by proroguing parliament. He must now either renege on his Brexit promise or flout the new law against a no-deal Brexit.
It is still too early to proclaim victory. But the liberal model is winning. People still trust the principles of the rule of law, freedom of expression, and separation of powers.

2019 September 22

Trump Dilemma

Sir Lawrence Freedman

President Donald Trump is holding back on punishing Iran for the attacks on a Saudi oil facility.
The crisis began last year, when Trump decided to opt out of the nuclear agreement with Iran and reimpose harsh economic sanctions. The obvious next step is to negotiate with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. But some reports say he authorised the attack on the Saudi facility.
Trump is proposing more economic sanctions, which have declining returns. He does not want war.

AR Trump fears a war would drag on into the 2020 election campaign.


Queen Dilemma

Nick Cohen

The Queen cannot insist the UK prime minister obeys the rules, because her realm has too few rules and too many old conventions.
Elizabeth II claims to be above politics. Now the pose has been exposed. Boris Johnson knows the old conventions can be subverted. He has prorogued parliament to escape democratic control.
The Queen could have denied his request for prorogation. She has broken the convention that she is above politics.

AR The UK needs a written constitution and a president with legal teeth.


Climate Change on Venus

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Venus likely maintained stable temperatures and hosted liquid water for billions of years before an event triggered drastic changes in the planet.
Today, Venus is a mostly dead planet with a toxic atmosphere at 90 bar and surface temperatures that reach 735 K. Its size is similar to Earth.
A new study of climate simulations of Venus shows the planet could have supported liquid water and a temperate climate on its surface for at least 3 Gy. But between 700 and 750 My BP, something triggered the release of CO2 from rocks, transforming the climate.
Study author Michael Way: "Our hypothesis is that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years. It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hothouse we see today."
To recreate likely conditions on Venus from 4.2 Gy BP, simulations gradually increased solar radiation. Sunlight on Venus evaporated H2O, let H2 escape into space, and trapped CO2. That caused a greenhouse effect and formed a toxic atmosphere. The topography was transformed by volcanic eruptions that most likely filled in lowland regions and any ocean basins.
Way: "Venus currently has almost twice the solar radiation that we have at Earth. However, in all the scenarios we have modeled, we have found that Venus could still support surface temperatures amenable for liquid water."
It seems Venus went through a rapid cooling phase a few billion years after it formed. The atmosphere was then full of CO2. If Venus evolved like Earth, that CO2 would have been trapped in rocks, leaving an atmosphere of N2 with trace amounts of CO2 and CH4. But around 700 My BP, vulcanism released CO2 back into the atmosphere, which caused a runaway greenhouse effect.
Way: "Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn't be re-absorbed by the rocks .. It completely transformed Venus."
Way presented his study at the EPSC-DPS 2019 meeting in Geneva.

2019 September 21

Climate Change

Friends of the Earth

Anyone can tell that the weather is getting wilder and affecting us all. Climate change is happening now. Yet there are clear signs of hope as more and more people join together to take action.


Climate Change Science

The Royal Society

⦿ Earth's climate is warming. Average surface air temperature has increased by about 0.8 K since 1900, largely in recent decades. The evidence is incontrovertible.
⦿ Recent climate change is largely caused by human activities. The dominant influence of human activities on recent climate change is clear from the greenhouse effect and from patterns of recent climate change.
⦿ Human activities have disturbed the natural carbon cycle by extracting fossil fuels and burning them for energy, thus releasing CO2 to the atmosphere. The CO2 level has risen 40% since the Industrial Revolution.
⦿ The Sun has not played a major role in recent climate change. Variations in solar energy affect Earth's climate, but we see no overall increase in solar energy while the climate has warmed.
⦿ The observed warming in the lower atmosphere and cooling higher up in the stratosphere is the result expected from increases in CO2 and decreases in stratospheric ozone. Natural factors alone cannot explain the observed changes.
⦿ Climate change is disruptive. Past climate changes led to extinction of many species, population migrations, and pronounced changes in the land surface and in ocean circulation. The speed of the current change makes it more difficult to adapt.
⦿ The present level of atmospheric CO2 is the highest for a million years. Atmospheric CO2 levels were higher many millions of years ago, when temperatures and sea levels were also higher.
⦿ Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will cause surface temperatures to continue to increase. The extra CO2 becomes less effective at trapping energy, but surface temperature will still rise.
⦿ The observed warming rate has varied from year to year, decade to decade, and place to place. The variations are mostly due to natural causes. The warming trend in recent decades is mainly due to greenhouse gases.
⦿ Since 1998, the increase in average surface temperature has slowed relative to the previous decade, with more of the excess heat being stored in the oceans. Surface temperatures in the 2000s were on average warmer than the 1990s.
⦿ Global warming is a long-term trend. Day to day and year to year changes in weather patterns still produce cold days and nights, and winters and summers.
⦿ Arctic sea ice is reducing while Antarctic sea ice is not because sea ice extent is affected by winds and ocean currents as well as temperature.
⦿ The lower atmosphere is becoming warmer and moister as a result of greenhouse gases. More water is drawn into major rain storms. Extra energy makes the strongest hurricanes stronger. More dry areas in the subtropics are expected.
⦿ Sea level is rising at 3.2 mm per year. The overall observed rise since 1901 is about 20 cm. If greenhouse gases continue to rise, sea level may rise by a further 0.5 to 1 m by 2100.
⦿ Oceans soak up about a quarter of the CO2 emissions from human activities each year. The oceans shift to a more acidic state. Acidification impacts marine ecosystems and the food web.
⦿ If emissions continue on their present path, further warming of 2.6 to 4.8 K is expected by the end of this century. Questions remain as to how some natural processes amplify or reduce warming.
⦿ Global warming of just a few degrees will be associated with widespread changes in regional and local temperature and rainfall and more extreme weather events. This will have serious impacts on human societies and the natural world.
⦿ Science is a continual process of observation, understanding, modeling, and testing. The predicted trend in global warming from greenhouse gases is robust and is confirmed by a growing body of evidence.
⦿ Our best climate models do not indicate any abrupt changes in the climate in the near future. As warming increases, major abrupt change is possible.
⦿ Even if human emissions of greenhouse gases were to suddenly stop, Earth's surface temperature would not cool to the level before the Industrial Revolution for thousands of years.

AR The science is clear as day.

Global temps

⦿ Ed Hawkins
Annual global temperatures 1850−2018

Climate demo

⦿ AP
Greta Goes Global — Mass demos in big cities worldwide protest government inaction on climate change — here London

Me at Tiger Day

Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson

44 days

LD Stop Brexit

Tiger Day 2019
My photos

Time Magazine
"I'm sorry."

There Will Be Blood


2019 September 20

Trump: No Hope

The Guardian

Donald Trump is set to speak at the UN headquarters during the UN climate crisis summit on Monday, but will not attend the summit. The White House has booked a room in the same building on the same day so that the president can address a gathering on religious freedom instead. Trump will insult the climate summiteers.


Brexit: No Hope

The Guardian

Downing Street's secrecy over its "underwhelming" Brexit proposals has caused a fresh rupture in the negotiations in Brussels.
The UK government demands that the EU treat a cache of documents outlining its latest ideas as "Her Majesty's government property" and not distribute them to EU27 delegates. EU officials say all proposals need to be available for analysis in EU27 capitals if talks are to progress.
There is despair in Brussels at the state of the talks, with the latest ideas seen as "more of the same" from Downing Street.

2019 September 19

Modern War

P.W. Singer

In the dead of night, a swarm of robotic planes sneaks past a billion-dollar defense system and then takes out one of the world's most valuable targets in a fiery blast.
Much remains uncertain about the raid on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on Saturday that shut down half the country's oil output. But the attack points to big changes in the technology of war and its consequences.
Dozens of nations have cruise missiles and armed drones. Those numbers will continue to grow as more sellers like China introduce the technology into the world arms market.
Hezbollah in Lebanon flew drones into Israel in 2004. The Islamic State operated hundreds of drones in Iraq and Syria. And the Houthi have used drones to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates many times since 2015.
The biggest threat to an oil field, airport, or aircraft carrier may be from small, disposable drones. Small nations and nonstate actors can strike back, so the promise of easy wars fought from afar without consequences is even more false than it was in the past.


Capitalism is Rigged

Martin Wolf

As well as slowing productivity growth, soaring inequality, and huge financial shocks, we are seeing the rise of rentier capitalism.
Rent is reward over and above ideal market levels. Rentier capitalism is an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.
Globalization in the form of foreign trade and offshoring has not been a large contributor to rising inequality. Trade policies do not explain bilateral or overall balances. The economic impact of immigration has also been small and frequently positive.
We need to look at rentier capitalism. A fast-growing financial sector is detrimental to aggregate productivity growth. When the financial sector grows, it hires talented people, who then lend against property, because it generates collateral. This is a diversion of talented human resources in unproductive, useless directions.
Increased financial activity has not raised the growth of productivity. The same is true of the raised pay of corporate management. Management pay linked to the share price makes a huge incentive to raise that price by manipulating earnings or borrowing money to buy the shares. Neither adds value to the company.
Competition has declined. Widening gaps in productivity and profits between the leading businesses and the rest suggest weakening competition and rising monopoly rent. A great deal of the increase in inequality arises from different rewards for workers with similar skills in different firms.
In winner-take-all markets, superstar individuals and their companies earn monopoly rents, because they can now serve global markets. The network externalities and zero marginal costs of platform monopolies are the dominant examples.
Successful metropolitan areas attract and reward talented people. This disadvantages businesses and people trapped elsewhere. Big cities also create rents in property prices and in earnings.
Monopoly rent can be the result of policy. The idea that consumer welfare should be the sole objective of antitrust policy led to complacency. The monopoly rent we see in leading economies is not a sign of creative destruction, because there is not much creative destruction.
Corporations and shareholders benefit from the public goods provided by liberal democracies. They also exploit tax loopholes. The main challenges within the corporate tax system are tax competition and base erosion and profit shifting. We see the former in falling tax rates. We see the latter in the location of intellectual property in tax havens and in rigging transfer prices within firms.
US corporations report seven times as much profit in small tax havens as in six big economies. They make rents by lobbying against regulations on tax avoidance, mergers, anti-competitive practices, financial misbehavior, the environment, and labor markets. Corporate lobbying overwhelms the interests of ordinary citizens.
Corporate leaders need to reflect on all this. They must consider the public arena.

AR We need rentier populism — basic unconditional income for everyone.

2019 September 18

Lib Dem Vision

The Times

In her first speech to the Liberal Democrat conference as party leader, Jo Swinson said: "I am standing here as your candidate for prime minister. Because people across Britain deserve a better choice than an entitled Etonian or a 1970s socialist."
She has not ruled out doing a deal with either party but suggested that her price could be the head of their party leaders. She said a Lib Dem government would introduce a wellbeing budget, with a happiness minister and an office to measure and monitor wellbeing.
Swinson: "We have been conditioned to believe that as long as GDP keeps growing, everything is fine. But this ignores the reality behind the numbers, that the social contract is broken, that working hard and playing by the rules is no longer enough to guarantee a better life."


Law and Politics

Daniel Finkelstein

Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament was wrong and unwise.
The hearings taking place in front of the UK supreme court this week may be historic. They may mark the moment Britain stopped being a political democracy restrained by law and became instead a legal democracy tempered by politics.
The UK has always been a parliamentary democracy with nothing above its political decision makers. The representatives of the people decide.
The United States starts with the law, established by the constitution. The courts can strike down laws made by the representatives of the people.
The UK is moving toward the US settlement. The supreme court hearing could be the decisive step from one system to the other.


Black Hole Tones

New Scientist

A black hole can be described in full by three properties: its mass, its spin, and its electrical charge. All other information, like the properties of the objects that have fallen into it, is hidden beyond the event horizon.
When a pair of black holes merge, the new black hole should ring like a bell, emitting gravitational waves at several frequencies. The frequencies of its waves are determined by its mass and rotation. The frequencies include a fundamental and overtones.
An MIT team found an overtone in a gravitational wave signal detected by LIGO in 2015. The mass and spin of the black hole had already been calculated by the LIGO team. The MIT team used just the overtone to confirm that the black hole mass is about 68 ⦿ and it spins at about 100 Hz.

AR Einstein wins again.

2019 September 17

A Big Bounce

Rachel Sylvester

The Liberal Democrats base their resurgence on the party returning to a position of equidistance between Labour and Conservative. They now have a clear positive identity as the party of Remain.
Nobody really believes that Jo Swinson could soon be prime minister, but the Lib Dems are on a roll. They won more than 700 council seats in May and came second in the European elections. Despite being smashed at the 2017 general election, they are now polling at 18% and have 18 MPs. Lib Dems could end up holding the balance of power in a hung parliament.
Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna: "To be a Remainer is not only to be an advocate of our continued membership of the European Union, it is to hold a set of liberal, internationalist values."


A Big Supernova

Robin Andrews

A billion years ago, something erupted with a fury that outshone entire galaxies. In 2016, the light from that cataclysm was captured by the ESA satellite Gaia. The glowing ember is still visible.
Supernova 2016iet was once a star of 120 to 260 solar masses (⦿) and was found in an area lacking in metals. As a primordial star, it was among the first beacons that lit up the universe and ended the dark ages. They made the metals that helped create future generations of stars.
In any star, gravity presses inward and thermonuclear burning in its core presses outward. In a supermassive star, the very hot core makes many matter-antimatter pairs. Energy is used to make them, so gravity shrinks the star. It contracts violently and the core flares up. In one pulse, nuclear burning blows the star apart. The entire star is obliterated, and nothing is left to form a black hole.
If a star has a slightly lower total mass, it contracts but burns less hot. The star bounces back, shedding a giant shell of matter moving at millions of meters per second. The process repeats over time. Newly ejected shells collide with older shells, producing enormous bursts of light. Eventually, so much mass is lost that the star dies to form a black hole.
This is known as a pulsational pair-instability supernova. To make one, the original star must have at least 90 ⦿. A full-blast pair-instability supernova requires a star whose original mass was 140 ⦿. SN 2016iet could fit either story.


A Big Pulsar


Astronomers have detected the most massive neutron star ever, dubbed J0740+6620, just 4,600 light years away. It is a millisecond pulsar.
Neutron stars are the leftover remnants of supernovas. The newly detected neutron star has a diameter of 25 km and a mass of 2.2 ⦿. This is close to the limit when it falls into a black hole.
J0740+6620 has a white dwarf companion star that warps the space around both stars and allows mass measurements via the relativistic Shapiro delay in the pulsar signal.

A very massive neutron star

2019 September 16

US "Locked and Loaded"

The New York Times

The Trump administration points to Iran as the likely agent of attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Officials cite intelligence assessments to support the accusation. A combination of drones and cruise missiles may have been used, beyond the ability of Houthi rebels.
Donald Trump tweeted: "Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting .."


Johnson−Juncker Grudge Match

BBC News, 1605 BST

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had lunch with UK prime minister Boris Johnson in Luxembourg. The EU says the UK has yet to come forward with a solution to replace the backstop. Johnson says he will not request an extension and will take the UK out of the EU on 31 October.
Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel: "We need written proposals and the time is ticking, so stop speaking and act. But we won't accept any agreement that goes against a single market."


EU Sinks UK Hulk

The Guardian

European officials were not amused when Boris Johnson compared himself to the Incredible Hulk prior to going to Luxembourg for Brexit talks. Johnson said he was poised to break free of the EU "manacles" and cited: "The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets."
Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile. Is the EU supposed to be scared by this?"


Resolving Brexit

Vince Cable

Liberal Democrats will campaign to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50. Following a general election, should our party win a majority, that would be a sufficient mandate to revoke.
Lib Dems would need to go from 17 to 325 seats. But LDs have been victims of the FPTP electoral system in every election since WW2. On a proportional basis, LDs should have had around 45 MPs rather than 12 in 2017. Once the vote share rises, dramatic things happen under FPTP, and LDs make disproportionate gains.
With hundreds of LD seats in the Commons, we could close down the Brexit issue and overhaul UK constitutional arrangements in a democratic revolution.

AR Liberals were a force for progress in the 19th and 20th century UK. They can be again.

2019 September 15

Lib Dems Will Cancel Brexit

BBC News, 1700 BST

At their annual party conference in Bournemouth today, the Liberal Democrats pledged to cancel Brexit if they come to power at the next general election. Members voted for the policy by an overwhelming majority. Party leader Jo Swinson: "We will do all we can to fight for our place in Europe and to stop Brexit altogether."

AR Lib Dems get my vote, no question.


Global Finance

Niall Ferguson

In China, people pay with their phones, using systems made by Alibaba and Tencent. This way to pay is spreading around the world. It could be bigger than Chinese dominance of 5G telecom networks.
Since 1971, the US dollar has been the #1 currency. American policymakers have grown used to exploiting it as a lever of foreign policy. This power has grown irksome to other large economies.
China is building a global payments infrastructure. America could let this process continue until the day comes when the Chinese connect their digital platforms into one global system.
Or America could wake up and start competing for dominance in digital payments. A short cut to a system to rival Alibaba and Tencent is Libra. This would be a digital currency in the Chinese style.
The US Treasury is opposed to Libra and the Fed is skeptical. From a national security perspective, Americans need to compete with the Chinese before they dominate digital payments globally.
Libra would be a kind of dollar substitute, reducing international demand for dollars. But it would not offer an alternative to Treasury bonds, so it would not reduce the global demand for those.
Power is inseparable from financial power. The country that leads in financial innovation leads. Lose that financial leadership and you lose your place as global hegemon.

2019 September 14

The Universe Is Not Boxed

Julian Barbour

The laws of physics suggest there is no distinguished direction of time. If a system has either zero energy or positive energy, as time goes on, the size of the system will grow to infinity in both directions, with one point where the size is at its minimum. This may relate to the arrow of time.
When thinking about a system of objects in the real universe, the background universe defines your direction of time. You say the system went through minimal size and then it grew again, into the future. But if this is a toy model of the whole universe, there is no background arrow. We have a uniform distribution of particles in the middle and a more structured distribution in both directions away from it.
In a toy model universe, there are two directions of time from that central Janus point. Observers inside this universe would think time begins back at the Janus point, and they are going forward to the future away from it. Then there would be another universe on the other side where time is going in the other direction.
This can resolve the mystery of how the laws can be symmetric, but you see a direction. The overall solution is completely symmetric, but because observers can only be on one side or the other, they see things asymmetrically.
Consider thermodynamics. In a steam engine, the steam is in a cylinder in a box. Then statistical mechanics led to the discovery of entropy, and with it the mystery of the arrow of time.
People who work on this problem of the arrow of time still assume conditions that work for a steam engine. The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum, and the universe is evolving toward a heat death. We have to think out of the box.
The evolution of the universe starts from a quantum Big Bang, inflates for a while, then forms stars and galaxies, and finally leads to life on the Earth and so on. This goes counter to the idea that entropy increases inexorably.
Instead of saying the universe started in an ordered state and has been getting disordered ever since, we say the universe starts in the most disordered way possible and has been getting ever more interesting. Maybe the universe in some senses will die, but in a very beautiful form.
Certain mathematical theorems said that when in the past you had steam in a box, the steam originally in a small corner of the box spread out through the box. But with no box, the steam can take a more interesting shape. In space there is no box.

AR This resonates with my own dissident thoughts on universal entropy and universal closure, as aired respectively in About Time (2006) and Omniscience (2019).

2019 September 13

Brexit Labour Showdown

Jim Pickard

Labour is set for a fresh Brexit showdown at its annual conference. Some senior figures are pushing for a clear Remain position. But aides close to party leader Jeremy Corbyn say adopting a Remain stance could alienate millions of voters.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says Labour must pledge to hold a referendum almost immediately. His view is likely to be backed by much of the membership, many MPs, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, and deputy leader Tom Watson.


Brexit Disaster Capitalism

Byline Times

If Boris Johnson takes the UK out of the EU on 31 October, his backers stand to make billions out of the disaster.
When he became prime minister, many of the donations he received were from hedge funds and people he worked with on the Vote Leave campaign in 2016.
Between January to May 2019, hedge funds were taking out fewer than 10 short positions per week. But when Johnson announced he was running for the leadership, the number of short positions rose. By the time his victory was announced, it was around 100 per week.
Currently, £8.3 billion of short positions has been taken out by hedge funds on a no-deal Brexit. The firms involved are mostly those that donated to the Vote Leave campaign and took short positions on the referendum result.
The prime minister has a conflict of interest when those bankrolling him stand to gain from a Brexit disaster.


A Watery Exoplanet

New Scientist

About 110 light years away is a planet twice as big as Earth with water vapour in its atmosphere. It may be the best place we have yet seen to look for alien life.
Astronomers observed planet K2-18b as it passed in front of its star so that light shone through the atmosphere. They found signs of water vapor.
K2-18b is also in the habitable zone around its star, defined as the area where it could maintain liquid water on its surface without the water freezing or boiling away.
K2-18b probably has a rocky core but is mostly gaseous, says Laura Kreidberg: “The jury is still out on whether a planet like this could be habitable. If there were life there, it definitely wouldn’t be like life as we know it on Earth.”

Water Vapor on the Habitable-Zone Exoplanet K2-18b
Björn Benneke et al.

We report the detection of water vapor and the likely presence of liquid water clouds in the atmosphere of the 8.6 Earth-mass habitable-zone planet K2-18b. With a 33-day orbit around a cool M3 dwarf, K2-18b receives virtually the same amount of total radiation from its host star as the Earth receives from the Sun, making it a good candidate to host liquid water clouds.

Arrowhead frigate

Royal Navy Type 31 Frigates

The British Royal Navy's five planned low-cost Arrowhead 140 Type 31E frigates will have a length of 140 m,
a displacement of about 3−4 Gg, a range of 17 Mm, and a top speed of 15 m/s.
Each ship will be armed with a Wildcat helicopter, a 127 mm main gun, 40 mm guns, and a 32-cell VLS rapid-fire launch system
for AA and AS missiles. Four large boat bays will be capable of deploying RHIBs, USVs, and UUVs, and the ship will be able to
accommodate 60 troops beside its crew.
Babcock will build the ships at its Rosyth Dockyard in Scotland, to the baseline design of the
Iver Huitfeldt frigate in service with the Royal Danish Navy, at a unit cost of £250 million.

Red bus
Operation Yellowhammer
original document

Something Deeply Hidden
"I was overwhelmed
by tears of joy."
Scott Aaronson

Palace of Westminster
Dark days

Amber Rudd
⦿ Francesco Guidicini
"I am resigning as Secretary of
State for Work and Pensions ..
I am also surrendering the
Conservative whip."
Amber Rudd

Dorset for Europe

55 days


2019 September 12

European Commission: VdL Speaks

The Times

European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen is convinced the UK will not crash out of the EU without a deal: "It's not in the common interests either of the UK or EU and will be way more difficult than an orderly Brexit."


European Parliament: MEP Veto

Daniel Boffey

A European Parliament resolution due for next week complains that the UK government "insists that the backstop must be removed from the withdrawal agreement but has not until now put forward legally operable proposals that could replace it" and states EU "readiness to revert to a Northern Ireland-only backstop" but says the EP "will not give consent to a withdrawal agreement without a backstop" in order to protect Ireland.
The resolution questions "how close the future EU/UK economic relationship can be" unless the UK signs up to "high levels of environmental, employment and consumer protections" and warns "any free-trade agreement that fails to respect such levels of protection would not be ratified" by the EP.
The resolution criticizes HM Government's hostile environment for EU citizens living in the UK.


Quantum Gravity

Sean Carroll

The standard approach to developing a quantum description of a phenomenon is to start with a classical description and then quantize it. That unnatural approach has failed again and again for gravity and spacetime. The real world is quantum from the start, and the classical world emerges as an approximation.
Our current best physical theory is quantum field theory, in which the basic ingredients are fields. Elementary particles are vibrations in fields stretching through space.
In a classical approximation, we can specify the value of a field by dividing space into tiny voxels and listing the field value in each voxel. In a quantum field theory, the values of the field in the voxels can be entangled with each other. There is quantum uncertainty about the value we measure at a voxel, but entanglement means the value we get at one voxel affects what we get at other voxels.
In the vacuum state of a quantum field theory, the entanglement between fields in different regions is directly tied to the distance between them, and so to the geometry of spacetime.
We can start with a quantum state and work backwards to extract spacetime from entanglement. We can define distance as (inversely) related to entanglement. A quantum state gives us the distance between any two parts of it, so it defines a geometry on an emergent space.
A quantum state exists at each moment of time, so at best it can define the geometry of space at that moment. We want to extend this to 4D spacetime.
We start with abstract quantum degrees of freedom. These are quantities that can take on different values. In field theory, they are the values and rates of change of the fields. The degrees of freedom are basic, and they are entangled with each other. Defining the area surrounding a region as the entanglement of its degrees of freedom with the outside world gives a geometry that obeys general relativity.
Now consider a quantum system consisting of two subsystems: a clock and everything else. Let the system evolve through time, take a series of moments, and add together all the specific quantum states at all the moments.
This gives you a new super-state, a superposition of individual states with specific clock readings and specific configurations of everything else. The clock is entangled with the rest of the world. If we measure the clock to read it, the rest of the system snaps instantly into the quantum state the original system had at that time.
Time can emerge inside an eternal quantum state. If you are a clock subsystem entangled with the rest of the universe in the right way, the clock ticks your life.

AR This seems promising. I'm eager to read Sean's book. By the way, his degrees of freedom are my qubits. Reality pops out from qubits.

2019 September 11

Scottish Judges Rule Prorogation Unlawful

BBC News, 1202 BST

Boris Johnson's suspension of the UK parliament is unlawful, Scotland's highest civil court has ruled. The judges said the prime minister was attempting to prevent parliament holding the government to account ahead of Brexit: "The Court will accordingly make an Order declaring that the prime minister's advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect."
HM Government said it will appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court in London.


Quantum Probability

Sean Carroll

Quantum mechanics has rules governing what happens when systems are measured. Measurement outcomes are predicted with the Born rule saying the wave function assigns an amplitude to each measurement outcome, and the probability of getting that result is equal to the amplitude squared. Quantum theory leans on the idea of probability.
There are two views of probability. The objective or physical view treats it as a fundamental feature of a system. The subjective or evidential view treats it as a reflection of personal credence, or degree of belief. Bayesian probability specifies how to update our credences as we get new information.
Quantum theory describes the state of a system in terms of a wave function, which evolves smoothly and deterministically according to the Schrödinger equation. But when the system is being observed, the wave function suddenly collapses into some particular observational outcome. The collapse itself is unpredictable. This is the measurement problem.
The many-worlds theory says the wave function obeys Schrödinger's equation, but there are no collapses and no additional variables. The equation predicts what happens when an observer measures a quantum object in a superposition of states. The combined system of observer and object evolves into an entangled superposition. In each part of the superposition, the object has a definite measured outcome. Each part of the system then evolves separately as a new world.
We suffer self-locating or indexical uncertainty. As you are about to measure a quantum system, the wave function branches into different worlds, with two people, one on each branch, both descended from you. Even if they know the wave function of the universe, they don't know which branch of the wave function they are on.
There is a period of time after branching before the observers find out what outcome was obtained on their branch. This ignorance is self-locating uncertainty. The wave function branches on timescales of a zeptosecond or less, so at first you're on a branch but don't know which one.
The credence you should attach to being on a branch of the wave function is the amplitude squared for that branch. By epistemic separability, whatever predictions you make, they should be unaltered if we only change the wave function for separate parts of the system.
Self-locating uncertainty is a new kind of epistemic uncertainty. You can know everything there is to know about the universe and yet still be uncertain about where you are within it. Your uncertainty obeys the usual rules of probability.

AR Indexical probability pertains to who you are, or to how you realize yourself as you keep popping those qubits.

2019 September 10

JoBo Fired

CNN, 1639 UTC

Trump tweet: "I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning .. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week."


Parliament Bo-Rogued

The Guardian

The UK parliament was prorogued in the early hours after midnight to extraordinary scenes of chaos and anger in the House of Commons as opposition MPs staged a protest.
Earlier in the day, House speaker John Bercow announced his intention to resign before October 31 in order to allow his successor to be chosen by parliament before the next election.
An evening of high drama saw Boris Johnson lose his sixth parliamentary vote in six days. MPs rejected for a second time his call for an October 15 election, with 293 votes for and 46 against. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, at least 434 votes are needed.
As Bercow began formal proceedings to prorogue parliament, a group of opposition MPs carrying signs reading "silenced" drowned out Black Rod when she tried to enact the traditional ritual.
Bercow: "[This prorogation] is not typical. It is not standard. It's one of the longest for decades and it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues, but huge numbers of people outside, an act of executive fiat."
Several MPs were also involved in altercation near the speaker's chair, as they attempted to prevent him leaving his seat and attending the House of Lords, the next step in the formalities required for the suspension of parliament.
Alex Sobel MP: "[The action] echoes the action of members to try and prevent the speaker proroguing at the request of Charles I."
While Bercow completed the formalities in the House of Lords, opposition MPs sung songs, including the Red Flag, Jerusalem, Scots Wha Hae, and Bread of Heaven (in Welsh, with harmonies).


Voice of Reason

The Times

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson: "We would cancel [Brexit] by revoking Article 50 and remaining in the European Union."

AR Hear, hear.

2019 September 9

Brexit News

The Guardian

MPs have passed by 311 votes to 302 a motion requiring the release of Operation Yellowhammer planning documents, as well as private messages from No 10 officials about prorogation. The government seems unlikely to comply. This was Boris Johnson's fourth main defeat in a Commons vote since he became prime minister.

Edited extracts from Jeremy Corbyn's parliamentary speeches today:
I hope the prime minister will live up to the office that he holds, accept the decisions made in parliament, and carry out the wishes of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 6) Act to ensure that an application is made to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU on the 31 October.
No 10 has briefed that the PM will defy the law, so until the government has abided by that law, I don't believe there will be a majority in this house for what the PM is proposing later today under the Fixed-term Parliament Act.
The fact that parliament is compelled to pass a law to ensure the will of parliament is upheld shows what extraordinary times we now live in. The house has rejected no-deal, businesses and trade unions are united in rejecting no-deal, and there is no majority for it across the country.
We are not at war. The prime minister is obsessed with hyperbole and aggressive language. We're supposed to be having negotiations with our European partners.

2019 September 8

Quantum Mechanics

Sean Carroll

QM is a successful theory. But we don't understand it.
QM seems to require separate rules for how quantum objects behave when we're not looking at them, and how they behave when they are being observed. When we're not looking, they exist in superpositions of different possibilities, such as being at any one of various locations in space. But when we look, they suddenly snap into just a single location, and that's where we see them. We can't predict exactly what that location will be; the best we can do is calculate the probability of different outcomes.
We describe a quantum object in terms of a wave function, which collects the superposition of all the possible measurement outcomes into a single mathematical object. When they're not being observed, wave functions evolve according to the Schrödinger equation.
QM is the most fundamental theory we have, sitting squarely at the center of every serious attempt to formulate deep laws of nature. If nobody understands quantum mechanics, nobody understands the universe.
Gravity doesn't fit with QM. We need to understand why.

AR Quantum objects are emergent phenomena. They emerge from constellations of qubits. We pop qubits to make bits, which pixelate an emergent spacetime landscape of objects.
Qubits are generally entangled with each other. When we pop qubits, we pop all the others entangled with them together. In this discrete procedure, a bounded classical landscape grows out around our latest popping.
Spacetime inflates around us as a quantized causal network. We step forward through a dialectic of epistemology and ontology that defines our reality as a landscape populated by the particles and forces of the Standard Model.
Our causal bubbles — our mindworlds — get bigger as we pop ever more qubits. We evolve in lockstep with our bubbles and are embodied in them as bit structures.
This works for me — so long as I ignore the math!

2019 September 7

The Purge

Max Hastings

Boris Johnson may prove able to form another government. But the Conservative party as we have known it will be gone. Absent the purged moderates, it will become a thing apart, repugnant to millions of British voters who see that government must be conducted on the centre ground.
For half a century, division over Europe has been a poison seeping into the party. Conservatives took Britain into Europe in 1973 and have kept it there ever since. Leavers blame the EU for every national difficulty, yet none of the big problems Britain faces has anything to do with Europe.
Boris Johnson is laying waste to the Conservative party as we have known it. He offers the British people a budget of falsehoods and unfulfillable promises. We should not delude ourselves that what is taking place represents any sort of normality or acceptable political process.


The Twilight Zone

Marina Hyde

The Tory episiotomy on Europe went septic this week as Boris Johnson expelled 21 MPs, lost his own brother, and gave a speech so bad it whiteyed a policewoman.
Despite practising since boyhood, Boris Johnson's entire demeanour is that of a man who has won a competition to lead the country for a day. For a prime minister, his shtick is bizarre and juddering. Oratorically, his PMQs debut merits a mere five-word review: "Welcome to the Commons, bitch."
Thursday afternoon found Johnson at a Yorkshire police academy, where he appeared deeply confused. Having very belatedly taken the stage, he proceeded to die on his arse in front of rows of police officers. Perhaps terror prevented him from assisting the faint policewoman. He chose instead to gibber out the last of his prepared lines, and the bulletins duly led with his claim that he'd "rather be dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit.
Was it worth it? Did we want three years of political paralysis, a toxic public realm, bitter family rows, and no prospect of national healing just to watch this monster reap his own whirlwind, live on telly, in a horrifyingly hilarious cautionary tale about getting everything you always wanted? No.


The End

Fareed Zakaria

The Conservative and Unionist Party has a long and honorable tradition. Like most enduring parties, the Tories have embraced many different factions and ideas over the years. But in the postwar era, they advocated free markets and traditional values.
We are living now in a new era, one defined by a divide between a world of greater openness in trade, technology, and migration and one of barriers, protections, and restraints. Parties of the future will likely be positioned along this new spectrum.
All of Britain's previous five prime ministers were in favor of the UK staying in the EU. By contrast, Boris Johnson is remaking the Tories into the party of Brexit. Many Brexiteers are staunch free marketeers, yet they want the UK to crash out of the EU.
The people who voted for Brexit largely embrace a closed ideology. They are suspicious of foreigners and resentful of the new, cosmopolitan Britain they see in London and other big cities. They want less immigration and are more rural, more traditional, older and whiter, and they want a return to their childhood.
The CUP is cracking.

AR Thanks to Boris the crackpot.

2019 September 6

Lords Approve No No Deal

The Guardian, 1724 BST

The bill to stop Boris Johnson taking the UK out of the EU on 31 October without a Brexit agreement has cleared the House of Lords. It is set to become law on Monday when it gets royal assent. The bill cleared all its stages in the Lords in two days, with no amendments. The bill gives MPs recourse to the courts if Johnson refuses to request an extension.


No Election Before Delay

BBC News, 1311 BST

UK opposition parties have agreed not to back Boris Johnson's demand for a general election before the EU summit on October 17. Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, and Plaid Cymru say they will vote against the government or abstain in Monday's vote on whether to hold a snap poll. They want to make sure the UK does not "crash out" in a no-deal Brexit.


"Dead in a Ditch"

The Times

At a speech to police cadets yesterday, Boris Johnson said he would rather "be dead in a ditch" than ask the EU to delay Brexit. Downing Street had briefed in the morning that it would be the first day of an election campaign.
The prime minister made a chaotic campaigning debut and was harangued in the street. One member of the public accused him of playing games when he should be in Brussels negotiating, and another said: "Please leave my town."
Police spokesmen called his decision to give a political speech in front of student police officers in Yorkshire wrong and inappropriate. Johnson's rambling speech heightened Conservative fears over an election campaign.

Q Can you comment on your promise to never seek a Brexit delay from the EU?
Boris Johnson: Yes, I can. I'd rather be dead in a ditch. What on Earth is the point of further delay? I think it's totally, totally pointless.
I hate banging on about Brexit. I don't want to go about this anymore. I don't want an election at all, but frankly I cannot see any other way. The only way to get this thing done, to get this thing moving, is to make that decision.
Do you want this government to take us out on 31 October or do you want Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party to go to that crucial summit in Brussels on 17 October, effectively hand over control to the EU and keep us in beyond 31 October?
That's the reality of what we face.

AR The reality is a government determined to do the wrong thing.


Amazon Fires Shame Us

Rowan Williams

The scale of the devastation caused by the wildfires still raging in the Amazon is hard to comprehend. This is a rainforest that provides one-fifth of the world's oxygen.
But it is also a human tragedy. The survival and wellbeing of those who call the rainforest home should take precedence over the drive for development that serves only a lust for consumption and convenience.
For generations, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin have been the stewards of the forests. Their rights have been overridden in the face of the greed of various powerful economic interests.
The wildfires raging in the Amazon are a visible metaphor for the effect of our unrestrained passion for limitless economic growth.

AR We should live in solidarity with all life on Earth.

Amazon fires

⦿ Ueslei Marcelino / REUTER
Amazon wildfires: As I watch Prime Minister's Questions on BBC News TV, I see that the Westminster parliament
is utterly and hopelessly incapable of debating the serious issues that would confront a sovereign rogue state,
as the UK would become if its separation from the EU became final on Halloween.

"In recent weeks I've been
torn between family loyalty
and the national interest —
it's an unresolvable tension
and time for others to
take on my roles as
MP and Minister."
Jo Johnson
(brother of Boris)

Behind bars
⦿ Daniel Leal-Olivas
Behind bars: Dom Cummings,
Boris Johnson

No No
⦿ Tolga Akmen

⦿ Axel Schmidt
Protesters in Berlin

Bugatti Chiron
A Bugatti Chiron driven by
Andy Wallace sets 304 mph
record on German test
track, powered by
1578 bhp motor

Deutsche Landtagswahl









BAF 2019

My photos


2019 September 5

Fever Dream

Philip Stephens

This week the vulgar swagger of Boris Johnson's short premiership collided with reality. A politician accustomed to lying and cheating was defeated in the Commons.
Johnson has thrown the Conservative party overboard. In his anxiety to outflank the Brexit party, he will fight an election as leader of the party of English nationalism.
The prime minister wants to frame a general election as a contest between parliament and the people. Anyone who thinks Britain should not be wrenched out of Europe by October 31 is a collaborator. The Europeans are the enemy.
Johnson championed the sovereignty of the Westminster parliament. He now claims a higher authority as the tribune of the will of the people. This way lies authoritarianism.
Reason has fled from the European argument. The minimum requirements for a sustainable settlement are the removal of Johnson and another referendum.


Poisoned Apple

The Guardian

Boris Johnson's bid to trigger a general election next month is blocked by MPs following a string of heavy defeats for the government in both houses of parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn said he would back the call for a snap poll only once Hilary Benn's backbench bill to block a no-deal Brexit has received royal assent, which could happen early next week if it is not scuppered by Tory peers.
Corbyn said Johnson's proposal for a 15 October poll was "a bit like the offer of an apple to Snow White by the wicked queen" and added: "Let this bill pass and gain royal assent: then we will back a general election."
Johnson calls Benn's bill "Corbyn's surrender bill" and says "the country must decide" whether he or Corbyn go to Brussels for the EU summit on 17 October.


Lords Guillotine

The Guardian

The House of Lords has agreed overnight to get the Benn bill through all stages of parliament before it is suspended next week. Around 1.30 am Thursday, following late-night debate, peers said a Conservative filibuster had been averted by a guillotine and the bill can be returned to the Commons by 5 pm Friday.


Clown Prince

John Crace

There was an air of expectancy on the Tory benches as Boris Johnson prepared to face his first prime minister's questions.
Within minutes, it was clear we were heading toward yet another shitshow. We got an excruciating unravelling of the narcissistic ego in which Johnson exposed his tired routine. Corbyn was Caracas! It hadn't been funny when he'd first made the gag three years previously. The opposition was shit! Corbyn was a big girl's blouse!
Johnson waffled when Corbyn pressed him about the Brexit negotiations. This was all on a need to know basis. And not even he needed to know. You never negotiate in public. And apparently not in private, either. In any case, Corbyn was trying to undermine him by taking no deal off the table.
Corbyn replied it was hard to undermine something that wasn't taking place. Johnson was making Corbyn look like a statesman in command of his brief.
It was downhill for Johnson from there. Come the end, he was desperate to leave.


Cunning Plan

Jenni Russell

Boris Johnson was lying when he said he was being pushed into calling an election. He wants an early election he can deny seeking.
Johnson had to look like the champion of no deal. The tactic was to frame him as squeezed between MPs and Europe. He had to push parliament into blocking no deal and push Europe into opposing a new deal.
But the plan went wrong. The Conservative rebellion was bigger than expected, undeterred by the threats of deselection. And Jeremy Corbyn did not fall into the trap of an instant election but instead insisted the Benn bill first become law.
Johnson is now marooned, majority gone, election blocked, and looking incompetent. But his team is bullish about securing an election within weeks. They will hammer the message that they need the mandate to deliver Brexit.
Johnson is polling a third of the vote, yet on current forecasts that will win him a decent majority because the opposition is split.

AR Time for tactical voting.

2019 September 4

No Quick Election

BBC News, 2136 BST

MPs voted by 298 to 56 (well over the required 2/3 majority) to deny Boris Johnson an election until the Brexit delay bill voted earlier becomes law.


No No Deal Again

BBC News, 1720 BST

MPs voted to approve the Brexit delay bill at the second reading by 329 votes to 300.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay: "The public want Brexit delivered, the business community wants certainty. This bill will leave our negotiations in purgatory with a third extension after more than three years. This is a Bill that is intended to stop Brexit. I urge my colleagues to oppose it."
The bill now goes into the committee stage, then to the Lords.

AR Get the bill into law this week. Stop Brexit.


Night of the Long Knives

The Times

Boris Johnson lost control of Brexit last night. He cannot even carry out his threat of calling a snap election after suffering a humiliating defeat in his first Commons vote.
His government has followed through on his threat to strip the whip from the 21 Conservative rebels, including 9 former cabinet ministers, 2 former chancellors, and Sir Winston Churchill's grandson Sir Nicholas Soames.
Opposition parties and Tory rebels will today move to pass a bill forcing the government to ask the EU for a further extension to prevent a no-deal exit on October 31.
Johnson says he will move to call an election in mid-October under the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which requires a two-thirds majority to call an election. But Labour will block the move until today's bill becomes law.
After the defeat last night, Tory whips phoned the rebels to bar them from standing as Tory candidates. The government is now 43 votes short of a majority.

AR Boris will die hard. Don't miss the final bunker scene.


Government Defeated

The Telegraph

Today's front-page headlines from the newspaper that supports and promotes Boris Johnson by paying him extravagantly to publish his regular columns of ill-considered piffle:
 Boris Johnson demands election after rebels seize control of Commons agenda
 Day of the Remainer purge How Dominic Cummings ranted at Tory rebels in Downing Street
 The mood was as sour as old milk. In a raging Commons, the Tories tore themselves apart
 We face indefinite paralysis unless the PM calls an election by any means possible
 Brexit has driven us all a bit mad, but this lot are seriously barking!
 This is one of the most seismic political realignments in history. The Tories had better be careful
 Britain needs a general election

AR Let's hope this outpouring of malodorous hysteria heralds the end of the revolt of the Europhobic Tory pensioners against reason and good governance.


Democratic Crisis

Aditya Chakrabortty

Britain is mired in a democratic crisis. Its post-democratic order is a spectacle managed by teams of experts in marketing, where the interests of multinationals and big businesses trump those of ordinary people.
The political classes need to show what use they are to the public. That means providing advice to voters on practical matters in classes on how politics and economics work. Britain needs a democratic renewal.

AR In a functioning democracy, the electorate needs to be well informed.


Utter Chaos

Dominic Sandbrook

A general election now seems a certainty. Voters will face a choice between Boris Johnson and a probable no-deal Brexit, and Jeremy Corbyn and an extreme left-wing government.
To outsiders, all this must look like utter chaos. The choice facing Britain is the strong possibility of chaos on the one hand and the absolute certainty of it on the other.

AR Divisive politics, without proportional voting or coalitions, confronts voters with impossibly hard choices. This is UK democratic dysfunction in action.

2019 September 3

No No Deal

BBC News, 2210 BST

MPs passed the motion that "the House has considered the matter of the need to take all necessary steps to ensure that the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union on 31 October 2019 without a withdrawal agreement" by 328 votes to 301.
The motion enables MPs to bring forward a bill to make it illegal for the UK to leave the EU on October 31 without a deal.


The Pantomime Will End

Rafael Behr

Boris Johnson says demands to rule out no deal make it harder to negotiate in Brussels because EU leaders will compromise only when they see the UK is beyond reason. Talks are not progressing in Brussels because the UK is not negotiating.
Johnson is lying to the public in a cycle of mutually reinforcing delusion. Like all theatrical performances, it works by suspension of disbelief. But EU critics can see the artifice and are waiting for the moment when the pantomime ends.


The Awkward Fact

Daniel Finkelstein

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson spoke for many: "Jeremy Corbyn? Absolutely not."
Her position rules out a temporary government. As the leader of the opposition, Corbyn will not accept a government led by someone else.
This is the awkward fact.


No Majority

BBC News, 1557 BST

Conservative MP Philip Lee has defected to the Liberal Democrats. His defection, hours before a showdown between Boris Johnson and Conservative party rebels over Brexit, cuts the government's working majority in the Commons to zero.
Lee: "This Conservative government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways .. I am dismayed at what the Conservative party has become .. I will not implicitly condone these things by being party to them."

AR Lee defected while Johnson addressed the Commons with such shamefully ill-chosen words as "collaborator" and "surrender" in relation to our friends and partners in Europe.



The Times

UK prime minister Boris Johnson threatens to deselect Conservative rebels who vote against the government tonight.
Former justice secretary David Gauke will rebel: "In the end, the national interest must come first."
Former chancellor Philip Hammond will too: "This is my party .. I am going to defend my party against incomers, entryists trying to turn it from a broad church into a narrow faction."
Former education secretary Justine Greening will too: "My concerns about the Conservative party becoming the Brexit party have come to pass."
Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd: "We should not be .. trying to remove from our party two former chancellors [and] a number of ex-cabinet ministers."
Downing Street sources say the government pencils Monday October 14 for an election.

Today, BBC R4
Philip Hammond says the government is being disingenuous about the Brexit negotiations. There is no progress on finding a replacement for the Irish backstop. The government has tabled no proposals. There is not even a UK negotiating team.


Germany Moves Right

Titus Molkenbur, Luke Cooper

In 2015, Angela Merkel responded to the refugee crisis with a welcome. One result was that the far-right AfD party gained support. In the Saxony and Brandenburg state elections last Sunday, the AfD achieved its best-ever results.
The AfD uses the slogan "We are the people" to oppose multiculturalism. AfD party leader Alexander Gauland: "We will take back our country and our people."
AfD voters are concentrated in regions with high outward migration. Young people moved out and left dying communities behind. There the extremists in the AfD say foreign intruders are overwhelming ethnic Germans.

AR The authors blame EU policies here, but the rise of the AfD is a German problem. Massive investment in the eastern states has failed to stem the emigration. The wider refugee crisis needs a solution at European or even global level.

2019 September 2

Vote Tuesday: Very Simple

The Times

UK prime minister Boris Johnson threatens to remove the whip from Conservative MPs who vote to block a no-deal Brexit and ban them from standing as Conservatives at the next election.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer says the rebel alliance has a "very simple plan" for legislation to make a no-deal Brexit unlawful.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove suggests the government may refuse to abide by new legislation.
A senior source in the whips' office: "The whips are telling Conservative MPs today a very simple message: if they fail to vote with the government on Tuesday, they will be destroying the government's negotiating position and handing control of parliament to Jeremy Corbyn."


UK Constitution: Divine Right

Will Hutton

The UK constitution was established in 1689 as this: What the crown assents in parliament is law.
The "glorious" notion that the crown can continue if it delegates its monarchical sovereignty to anyone commanding a majority in parliament is a wheeze that today too easily collapses into a centralized executive acting dictatorially.
The UK prime minister controls the business of the House of Commons and can prorogue it. Boris Johnson exercises the sovereignty that Charles I claimed as the divine right of kings.
Remainers needed to trump the narrative of an undemocratic Europe by recognizing more profound democratic failings at home. Remain should have stood for a re-democratized Britain that put power in the hands of the people.


Irish Backstop: No Alternative

Kate Proctor

A report summarizing the findings of HM government working groups finds issues with all the "alternative arrangements" put forward to try to replace the Irish backstop.
The leaked document is classified "official−sensitive" and dated 28 August. It concludes: "It is evident that every facilitation has concerns and issues related to them. The complexity of combining them into something more systemic and as part of one package is a key missing factor at present."
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake: "No 10 do not want to release these findings as they know Boris Johnson's bluff will be revealed."

2019 September 1

A Way Forward

Boris Johnson

We need to get a deal done. Parliament has had three whole years for delectable disputations on this matter without successfully resolving it.
I think people have felt things have been a bit becalmed for the last few years. We're trying to put a bit of a tiger in the tank, put our pedal to the metal, foot to the floor.
I think the people of this country have had a bellyful of elections. I want us to get on and do a deal. I want everybody to come together as a party and deliver.
The fundamental choice is this. Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people and plunge this country into chaos? Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda. That's the choice.
The UK government has a great deal of clarity about what it wants and a very clear vision of UK−EU relations in the future.


A Moment of Truth

Michel Barnier

Nine months ago, the EU27 reached an agreement with the UK on the terms of an orderly withdrawal. So far, the House of Commons has failed to approve the agreed package.
The backstop is all about managing the unique risks that Brexit creates in Northern Ireland. It is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.
The EU is ready to explore all avenues that the UK government may present and that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement.
The UK has now come to a moment of truth. If it chooses to leave the EU without an agreement, there will be no transition period and no mini-deals. All the financial and other obligations from its past EU membership will continue to exist.
The EU cannot prevent the UK from choosing a no-deal scenario. We would still need to solve the same problems after 31 October.


A Dirty Game

Jonathan Lis

The UK political system has for decades operated according to gentlemen's conventions. Everyone assumed that the boys who passed through England's elite schools would play fairly in public life without the need for anything so vulgar as a written constitution.
Everything in UK politics is now in danger. This prorogation is about seizing power from the people's representatives and handing it to Boris Johnson. His government has learnt much from the Trump administration. Forget principle — it is all about wrong-footing opponents, briefing false lines, and focusing on how you can win.
This is what happens when you treat all politics as a game. If we ever inhabited an era of selfless public service, we certainly don't now. This is a dirty game.


A Big Black Hole

Natalie Wolchover

Among the gravitational waves detected by LIGO and Virgo since April, one signal is rumored to have come from a collision involving a black hole of 100 solar masses (⦿).
Black holes form from the remains of burnt-out stars. But when the core is too massive, it triggers a pair-instability supernova. The core grows so hot that photons pop into electron-positron pairs, losing radiation pressure and causing the core to shrink and get even hotter, in a runaway effect leading to oxygen nuclear ignition and explosion.
For cores with a mass in the 65−130 ⦿ range, the star is totally annihilated in seconds. Cores of about 50−65 ⦿ pulsate, shedding mass in a series of explosions until they drop below the instability range. There should be no black holes with masses in the 50−130 ⦿ range.
Many black holes have masses of more than 130 ⦿. But because stars shed mass throughout their lives, a star must be born weighing at least 300 ⦿ in order to end up as a 130 ⦿ core, and such giants are rare. Black holes detected by LIGO/Virgo were expected to top out at around 50 ⦿.
Whereas most of the colliding black holes that LIGO/Virgo detects probably originated as pairs of isolated stars, some of them occur in dense stellar environments such as globular clusters, where two black holes can orbit each other and spiral inward.
In a globular cluster, two big black holes could merge, and the resulting giant could merge again in the event LIGO/Virgo detected. Other stories are possible.

AR No big surprise for me here.

Milky Way

⦿ Charles Wade
How To Photograph The Milky Way
A step-by-step guide to the techniques and settings you need to shoot epic Milky Way images

Get angry


2019 August 31

War in Europe

Dirk Kurbjuweit

On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany launched a Blitzkrieg against Poland. A hard-won peace first returned to Europe on May 8, 1945.
A major reason for wars in Europe was the formation of nation states. Today, strident nationalism is on the rise. The British want to be alone again: Brexit is a nationalist project.
Another reason for wars was revolution. After the French Revolution of 1789, France waged wars against neighbors until peace was restored in 1815. The Russian Revolution of 1917 was followed by civil war and unrest across Europe.
A third reason is systemic competition, which now pits liberal democracy against authoritarianism and in the past pitted monarchies against democracies, fascism against democracy, fascism against socialism, and socialism against democratic capitalism.
In a bleak future scenario, an authoritarian state allied with China might seek to protect Europe against decadent liberalism.
Nationalism, revolutionary populism, and systemic competition in Europe tend to favor wars. Europe must curb all three.

AR Germany should help build a Eurowaffenpolizei to integrate army, navy, air and space operations in and around Europe.


No Boots, No Blitzkrieg

The Times

Germany's 183,000 Bundeswehr soldiers face a wait of up to 18 months to be issued with new boots. The Bundesverteidigungsministerium admits the 2016 plan to equip all soldiers with new boots by the end of 2020 will not be completed until 2022. So far, "several" soldiers have their new boots.

AR Ironic: 80 years ago, Germany had a good military and bad politics whereas Britain had good politics and a bad military, but today the positions are reversed.

2019 August 30

Ad Astra

Xan Brooks

Ad Astra is an outer-space Apocalypse Now. In place of steaming jungles, it gives us existential chills. It is an extraordinary picture, steely, unbending, and assembled with wild-eyed zealotry.
Set in the near future, it casts Brad Pitt as a lonesome samurai traveling out to Neptune in search of his lost father and seeking to halt a series of cosmic rays that threaten life on Earth.
Ad Astra is so deadly serious that it verges on the silly, so immaculately staged and sustained that it sweeps us up in its orbit.


Brexit Boris

Simon Jenkins

Boris Johnson displays cowardice and mendacity in insulting parliament with enforced suspension, and then in claiming that it has nothing to do with Brexit. It has everything to do with Brexit.
He is behaving unconstitutionally but not unlawfully. His decision to prorogue is a blatant admission of democratic opposition. If that opposition weakens his negotiating hand, tough.
Parliament has been so casual and tribalistic on Brexit as to render it an inadequate custodian of the national interest. MPs serve as an electoral college of government but do not exist as a coherent political force.
There is no time for new legislation to block no deal. A vote of no confidence followed by a general election would be too slow to avert Brexit on 31 October. It would probably lead to a hung parliament, the break-up of the UK, and heaven knows what.
The UK is an elective dictatorship. It has traditionally relied on dictators honoring precedent, dignity, and proportionality. Most have, but Johnson has not.
Nations that put their faith in unwritten constitutions are vulnerable to rogues.


Constitutional Cheating

David Allen Green

Prorogation closes down parliament. That this is happening in the short period before the UK is set to leave the EU on October 31 is extraordinary.
Boris Johnson appears to be using prorogation to close down practical opposition to his determination to take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31.
Parliament can seek to head him off by votes of no confidence, which take time, or it can legislate to oblige the government to request from the EU an extension to the Article 50 period, which takes far more time.
Prorogation is an attack by the executive on parliamentary democracy. It is not fair play. It is constitutional cheating.


Divided Deutschland

Anna Sauerbrey

Germany is once again divided along East-West lines.
After the mass unemployment and deprivation following the breakdown of the socialist state economy after 1989, the economy in eastern Germany has been on a slow, steady recovery. Regional identities were softening.
The 2015 migration crisis has passed, and the rage has cooled, but the scar remains in support for the far-right AfD party. East German unrest has surfaced in a toxic, xenophobic nationalism, with calls for a populist uprising.
A truly unified Germany is still a long way off.


Emergency Exit

Financial Times

A key aide of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has been sacked and marched out of Downing Street under police escort at the command of Boris Johnson's chief advisor Dominic Cummings for allegedly helping opponents of the government's Brexit strategy.
Cummings fired Sonia Khan on the spot for alleged lying about talking with people close to her former boss, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. Javid was not told that his chief media adviser had been fired until after Khan was out the door.

AR Shakespearean bloodletting on the London stage.



BAF 2019

2019 August 29

Boris Johnson Shortens the Fuse on Brexit

The New York Times

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have tried a surprise parliamentary end-run to curtail the time the UK parliament will have to debate before October 31.
Brexit deadlines have been moved before, but not by a prime minister who has maneuvered his way to 10 Downing Street by claiming that all the doomsday scenarios around a no-deal Brexit are wrong.
The prorogue ploy prompted an immediate chorus of outrage from MPs who were planning to block a no-deal exit when parliament reconvenes.
If parliament fails to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Johnson will probably call a quick election before the economic consequences strike. If parliament blocks him, he will get his quick election by claiming his opponents are defying the public will.
Johnson campaigned against UK membership in the EU on the grounds that it diminished parliamentary sovereignty. He has now curtailed that sovereignty.


Do Not Prorogue Parliament

The Guardian

A petition calling on the government not to prorogue parliament has already been signed by more than 1.2 million people. It was launched on Tuesday and states:
"Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK's intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled."
By Wednesday afternoon, it had attracted more than 100,000 signatories, passing the threshold to be debated in parliament. Later in the day it passed the 1 million mark.

AR Like the 2016 referendum, the petition indicates public opinion.


Beachfront Air Show

Bournemouth Air Festival 2019

AR Alongside aerobatic displays by modern sports aircraft and fly-bys of modern military jets, the annual Bournemouth seafront festival of aerial showmanship again features a patriotic memorial to the British RAF air war in WW2.
The photo at left (by Neil English) illustrates Thursday's display. Clockwise from top:
Hispano HA-1112-M4L Buchon "White 9" (with Rolls-Royce Merlin instead of DB605 engine) painted to resemble a wartime Messerschmitt Bf 109
TF-51D Mustang "Contrary Mary" (which was too late for WW2 but flew during the Korean War)
Supermarine Spitfire T.IX ML407 (as flown over the D-Day beachhead by Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC)
Republic P-47D Thunderbolt "Nellie" (this one was built in 1945 in Indiana, USA)

Stop the coup


66 days


2019 August 28

Queen Approves Government Coup

BBC News, 1356 BST

The Queen has approved her government's request to suspend parliament not earlier than 9 September and no later than 14 September, until Monday 14 October.


Sinister Suppression

The Times

European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt: "Taking back control has never looked so sinister .. Suppressing debate on profound choices is unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU-UK relationship."


No Deal

Financial Times

Deutsche Bank strategist Oliver Harvey: "We retain our view that the most likely political strategy being pursued by the UK government is in fact to engineer a no-deal Brexit at the end of October, followed by a snap election."


UK Government to Suspend Parliament

BBC News, 0936 BST

HM Government will ask the Queen to suspend parliament just days after MPs return to work in September. This will enable Boris Johnson's new administration to hold a Queen's Speech laying out his government's plans on 14 October.

AR This is outrageous.

2019 August 27

The Church House Declaration

Ben Quinn

In a gathering at Church House in Westminster, John McDonnell (Lab), Anna Soubry (ex-Con), Jo Swinson (Lib Dem), Caroline Lucas (Green), and others signed the Church House declaration. They issued a joint statement:
"The attendees agreed that Boris Johnson has shown himself open to using anti-democratic means to force through no-deal. The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent no-deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no confidence."
More than 160 MPs from a range of parties signed the declaration. Conservative MPs were absent from the event.

2019 August 26

Trump Britain

Miriam González Durántez

Donald Trump has chosen the UK as the latest battlefield for his twin goals of undermining the EU and challenging China. The UK has become a toy in his hands.
Trump has made clear to the British government what he expects of it. America will make a series of priority sectoral trade agreements with the UK as a prize for leaving the EU, but the UK will have to side with his foreign policies.
The possibility of an orderly Brexit is now almost zero. Brexit is likely to be disfigured by threats and trade retaliations. Trump UK will start a race to the bottom on tax and regulation to attract business away from Europe.
Trump sees the EU as an obstacle. The Europeans will have to make a huge effort to resist this aggression if they are not to see the European project crumble.

AR Trump must not be allowed to rule the UK, let alone the (western) world.


What Price Brexit?

The Times

Boris Johnson suggests that if the UK left the EU without a deal, it would no longer owe £39 billion and would pay much less. This would stall progress on the Irish backstop.
Johnson believes that unless he shows absolute determination to carry out his "do or die" pledge, whatever the cost, the EU will not take the threat of a no-deal Brexit seriously.
He may be right. Hardball usually works in politics. As with nuclear war, the UK has to be ready to inflict the worst if it is credibly to deter the other side from aggression.

AR This is MAD. The EU is a union of friends and partners. When hardball fails, doom follows.


Quantum Spacetime

Lee Smolin

Quantum mechanics has two different laws to describe reality. A wave function says how quantum objects evolve smoothly in time, exploring alternative realities in superpositions. But a measurement of a quantum state realizes a unique outcome, and the alternative realities disappear. The apparent contradiction here is the measurement problem.
Quantum theory also seems to violate the principle of locality, which says that objects or events must be near one another to interact. Entanglement seems to let objects influence each other instantaneously over any distance.
General relativity and quantum theory seem to be fundamentally incompatible. GR describes a continuous spacetime with no objective flow of time or universally defined now. QT suggests that spacetime is based on discrete quanta, with time as a universal metronomic beat.
We need to go back to first principles:
 Reality consists of events and the relationships between them.
 Time, in the sense of causation, is fundamental.
 Time is irreversible. Once an event has happened, it cannot be undone.
 The geometry of spacetime emerges from the causal network of events.
 Energy and momentum are conserved in causal processes.
These principles define energetic causal set models.
An event is distinguished by the information available to it about its causal past, its sky. The sky is a 2D surface informing it of its relationships with other events and a view of its causal past. By the holographic principle, the area of 2D surfaces in the emerging spacetime gives the maximum rate at which information can flow through them.
We can derive the equations of GR and emergent spacetime from an evolving causal network in which time flows as the history of the universe grows longer. Each event has a different sky, and a principle of maximum variety reproduces the dynamics of QT.
This is how we might construct a unified physics.

AR Disentangling a qubit sky — this is the way.

G7 France 2019

G7 France, Biarritz 2019


Macron and Johnson
Boris Johnson plays footsie with
Emmanuel Macron in Paris

Johnson and Merkel
Boris Johnson meets
Angela Merkel in Berlin

Trump tweet

US Army
M777 munitions
delivery system


2019 August 25

G7 Discord

Julian Borger

Donald Trump has rowed with his fellow G7 leaders over his demand that Russia be readmitted to the group. He argued vehemently that Vladimir Putin should be invited back. Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Donald Tusk, and Emmanuel Macron argued against the suggestion.
Trump was apparently reluctant to attend the summit. His officials said Macron had filled the agenda with niche subjects such as climate change and equality, rather than sticking to global economics and trade. Trump pushed for Russian readmission in a discussion about Iran policy.
Next year, Trump hosts the G7. Bet Putin is there.

2019 August 24

Trump Trade War

The New York Times

President Trump responded angrily to news that China will impose new tariffs on American goods and that the Federal Reserve defied his demands.
Trump started tweeting like a potentate: "Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China."
He then announced higher tariffs on Chinese imports amounting to a big tax increase for Americans. Stocks dropped sharply and kept sliding.
A tweet is not a legal document, and presidents have limited authority to direct the affairs of private companies.


The G7 Summit

The Times

UK prime minister Boris Johnson should not seek to split the difference between G7 allies or imagine he has a special relationship with the Trump administration.
A recession is impending and is likely to be severe. Interest rates are already near historic lows and fiscal policy is loose. The G7 should discuss how to prevent a downturn.


Disaster Capitalist Brexit

George Kerevan

Brexit is not a cry for help from the English underclass. It is a carefully stage-managed campaign by global finance capital in the form of the hedge funds. It is being orchestrated out of hedge fund self-interest and the greed of billionaires. Boris Johnson is their front man.


Taylor Swift

Laura Snapes

Taylor Swift has spent much of the past three years living in London with her boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Her new album Lover is out now. Much of it is about him.
I interview Swift, now 29, in her Nashville apartment. We discuss 2016, when she failed to endorse a candidate in the presidential election, allowing the alt-right to adopt her as their Aryan princess.
The reality, she says, is that she was totally broken. She left girlhood as a multimillionaire, and as a teenager she was obsessed with the rise and fall of great musicians: "Pop music can feel like it's The Hunger Games, and like we're gladiators."
Lover comes with printed excerpts from her diaries. On August 29, 2016, she wrote: "This summer is the apocalypse."
2019: "The thing I can't get over right now is gaslighting the American public into being like, If you hate the president, you hate America .. I really think that he thinks this is an autocracy."

2019 August 23

The French Veto

Sean O'Grady

France can expel Britain from the EU. Emmanuel Macron can do this by refusing to re-open the withdrawal agreement and by vetoing any further extension of Article 50. Even if the UK parliament were to take back control, he could still say "Non!"
He has a huge incentive to do so. He sees the French national interest: poaching jobs from the City of London, displacing manufacturing from the UK to France, and tempting other business to follow, seeking refuge in a core EU member.
Macron also knows that if they stay in, the British will always be a drag on his ambition for more Europe. The French cannot build the Europe they want with Britain in the club. Macron can be a Napoleon who makes Europe great again.
One way to stop a Macron veto is for German patience and generosity to prevail again. Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson 30 days to solve the Irish backstop — but it was a kindly throwaway remark, not a plan. She too is a European.
The second way out is to revoke Article 50 and park the issue until Brits recover their sanity.

AR Revoke, rethink, remain — vive l'Union européenne!

2019 August 22

Trump Versus Denmark

The New York Times

"That the president of the United States would demonstrate such willful ignorance of how the world works, that he would treat a territory and its independent people like goods and chattel, that he would so readily damage relations with an old and important ally out of petty pique, is frightening."

AR Frightening for Brexit Britain, too.


Macron Versus Brexit

Financial Times

French president Emmanuel Macron: "In the coming month we are not going to find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the original. If there are things in the framework of what was negotiated by Michel Barnier that can be adapted and conform with the two objectives I mentioned — stability in Ireland and integrity of the single market — we should find it in the coming month."

AR Merkel and Macron 2, Johnson 0


UK, Failing State

Chris Patten

Britain's system of government, praised in the past, is based on parliamentary democracy. Voters elect individual members of parliament, who owe their constituents their best judgment about how to negotiate the predicaments of politics. MPs are not required to respect an alleged popular will.
In Britain, historically, government has been accountable to parliament, whose opinions it must respect and whose conventions it should follow. An independent judiciary guarantees the rule of law, to which all are subject. That is how Britain has run its affairs and won praise around the world.
The Conservative party is now led by a chancer. Boris Johnson has lied his way to the top, first in journalism and then in politics. Owing everything to xenophobia and English nationalism, Johnson knows he is prime minister because he promised to deliver Brexit by the end of October, do or die.
Johnson's principal adviser Dominic Cummings is now masterminding Brexit. Johnson and Cummings plan to win an election on the basis of a "people versus the politicians" campaign. They will use all the methods from the 2016 referendum campaign and call their opponents enemies of the people.

AR Join the Bresistance.

2019 August 21

Trump Cancels Denmark Visit

Shaun Walker

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen is "surprised and disappointed" that Donald Trump has called off his planned visit to Copenhagen over Danish refusal to sell Greenland.
Trump: "I thought the prime minister's statement that it was an absurd idea was nasty."
Frederiksen: "The cancelation of the visit doesn't change the good relationship between Denmark and the United States."
Danish Red-Green Alliance Politicians foreign policy chair Eva Flyvholm: "There are already many good reasons to think that the man is a fool, and now he has given another good reason."
Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt: "Is this some sort of joke? Deeply insulting to the people of Greenland and Denmark."
Former Danish foreign minister Villy Søvndal: "Donald Trump is a narcissistic fool .. If he had been a clown in a circus, you could probably say that there is considerable entertainment value. The problem is that he is the president of the most powerful nation in the world."
Former US ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford: "I think it's sad, honestly, because this is just not the way you treat an ally. And to cancel the trip in this way is just a shame."


Trump Wants Brexit Chaos

Michael H. Fuchs

Boris Johnson aims to drive Britain off a cliff, do or die. There is little evidence it will end well.
Donald Trump has long supported Brexit. But US congressional leaders would nix any trade deal if Brexit endangers Northern Ireland.
The reality of a post-Brexit US-UK alliance could be bad. The UK is no longer a global power, but if it leaves the EU without a deal its power will sink further.
Brexit Britain will no longer be able to influence EU decisions. US-EU trade was worth $1.3 trillion in 2018. If the UK and EU remain at odds after Brexit, the US will have to choose between the UK and close allies in Europe.
Brexit won't resolve policy disagreements between the Trump administration and the UK. Trump seems unlikely to give the UK a break on the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal or whether to allow Chinese telecom company Huawei to do business in Britain.
Trump is an agent of chaos. Brexit helps him to spread it. His disdain for allies is a warning.


Trump Could Buy Britain

Richard Littlejohn

Donald Trump loves a deal. He should go for Britain.
The net worth of the UK is maybe £10 trillion, so call it $12 trillion for cash. It would be the biggest deal of all time. Trump would be buying a huge economy and a strong military. He would rule over a single market of 426 million people.
The UK could become a US state and still be more independent from Washington than EU members are from Brussels. Britain and America share a common language, and the US legal system is based on English common law.
Come on, Donald. Make us an offer.


Will Macron Back Brexit?

John Keiger

Boris Johnson may get help from French president Emmanuel Macron to secure his Halloween Brexit. Whatever the UK parliament does, any further extension of Article 50 requires unanimous approval by the EU Council of Ministers. Macron can just say no.
Macron may want something in return. The Trump administration is schmoozing Britain with promises of big deals. But Trump may try to link a trade deal to changes in British foreign policy that work against France.
Macron could use his veto in exchange for an agreement from Johnson to protect France's €10 billion trade surplus with the UK. Without it, French food and drink exports would be badly hit by a no-deal Brexit.
Macron can help Russia join the EEA and nix a Brexit extension.


Brexit and Vietnam

Rafael Behr

Like US president Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, UK prime minister Boris Johnson is trapped in the middle act of a tragedy.
The next ten weeks may be the final act. The strategic folly of surrendering a lead role in Europe was flagged in act one. The Damascene moment is yet to come.
Brexit could trigger a wider unraveling. If the European project goes under, historians will ask whether Britain was wise to get out when it did or weak to rat out at the key moment. Some will call Brexit a heroic escape, others the spark that lit the inferno.
But if the EU prevails and flourishes, it might still be years for British folly to be accepted as fact. The error will have to be composted down and mulched by pitchforks until the stink blows over. A new generation will say Brexit stank from the start.
We imagine the end is still open. But fatalism is creeping in. Dreadful events are being driven by a plot set long ago.

2019 August 20

Australia: China Can Beat America


US defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific region is in crisis and US allies need to build up their forces, says a new Australian report: "China has deployed a formidable array of precision missiles and other counter-intervention systems to undercut America's military primacy."
The report says almost all US military installations in the Western Pacific could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict.
The US National Defense Strategy Commission said in 2018: "The US military could suffer unacceptably high casualties [and] might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia."
The report: "Washington will require significant and ongoing support from its regional allies and partners to successfully deter Chinese adventurism."


Trump and Greenland

Phillip Inman

Donald Trump sees the purchase of Greenland as the real estate deal of a lifetime. Greenland is an autonomous region under Danish sovereignty. Trump is due to discuss Danish NATO contributions this weekend.
Greenland harbors huge deposits of rare-earth metals, including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium. Greenland Minerals, an Australian company, is mining them.
Until recently, US corporations let China supply these metals. Chinese companies acquired mines in Africa to secure dominance of the global market.
Trump: "We protect Denmark like we do large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, certainly. Strategically it's interesting. It's essentially a large real estate deal."
The FT estimates Greenland is worth over $1 trillion.


Punishing Ireland

David McWilliams

Brexit has turned into a hostage situation. Boris Johnson is the kidnapper, Ireland is the captive, and the backstop is the ransom. The UK message to the EU: "Drop the backstop or we'll kill the hostage in a no-deal shootout."
British sensitivity toward Irish concerns has never figured highly in Anglo-Irish affairs. Part of the new British approach is a campaign to paint itself as the victim of Irish inflexibility, emboldened by a Rule Britannia assurance that Ireland can and will be brought to heel.
Ireland is more economically successful than the UK. The Irish are now richer per capita than their UK counterparts, Ireland is growing nearly five times faster than the UK every year, and Ireland is a far more globalized economy.


Letter to Donald Tusk

Boris Johnson

The date of the UK exit from the EU .. is fast approaching ..
We remain .. committed to working with Ireland on the peace process .. We recognise the unique challenges the outcome of the referendum poses for Ireland ..
The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement .. is a historic agreement .. and we are unconditionally committed to the spirit and letter of our obligations under it in all circumstances ..
The [Irish] backstop .. is anti-democratic and inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK .. [It] is inconsistent with the UK's desired final destination for a sustainable long-term relationship with the EU .. [It] risks weakening the .. historic compromise in Northern Ireland ..
[T]he backstop cannot form part of [a] Withdrawal Agreement .. We must, first, ensure there is no return to a hard border .. We must also respect the aim to find "flexible and creative" solutions ..
I propose that the backstop should be replaced with a commitment to put in place [alternative] arrangements ..

AR Tusk will rightly say Johnson offers no specific and viable alternative to the backstop. A "flexible and creative" solution would soon lead to a new hard border, new troubles, and a hard push to reunify Ireland. Johnson cannot have his Irish cake and eat it.

2019 August 19

Supply Side Is Over

Rana Foroohar

Roughly four decades ago, America kicked off the supply side revolution. Capital gains taxes were slashed. Some people got very rich. But inequality rose.
Now US Democrats seek higher taxes for the wealthy and tougher rules for corporations. Economists debate how the public sector can slice the economic pie more fairly.
The signs are all around us. B corporations balance purpose and profit, and people are investing based on environmental, social, and governance factors. In government, there is growing bipartisan support for tougher antitrust scrutiny and trade protection. Democrats see monetary policy as a way to pay for their priorities without tax rises.
After a decade of loose monetary policy, baby boomers have seen their assets appreciate while millennials cannot afford to get on the housing ladder. One battle will be over who gets what share of the pie in a slower growth economy. Another will be between capital and labor. There is now broad support for higher taxes on the wealthiest.
The age of wealth distribution will have big consequences. The rules of the road for investors are changing. That will come with an upside.


US Army AI Munitions

David Hambling

The US Army is building a cannon-delivered area effects munition (C-DAEM) that can hit "moving and imprecisely located armored targets" by actively finding the targets. A parallel project will develop algorithms for them that scan IR images for targets and run on chips like those in smartphones.
The munitions will have a range of up to 60 km and will slow down to allow more than 60 s to scan and classify potential targets. They will autonomously hunt for targets over thousands of hectares, decide when they have found one, and attack without human intervention. Several contractors are competing to build them, with prototype demonstrations scheduled for 2021.
US Army: "This is not an autonomous weapon .. We seek an advanced capability for a round, once fired, to continue pursuing a target despite the types of interference that might cause it to pursue something else. This would improve our capabilities to avoid collateral damage."


Colliding Black Holes

Erika K. Carlson

Black holes are the remains of big old stars. As the stars age, they puff out to several times their original size. If two stars are orbiting close together, one is engulfed, and the pair collide before they become black holes.
Yet black hole collisions are fairly common. So colliding black holes must start out far apart. Perhaps the big stars start far apart and grow closer as they collapse into black holes. Or perhaps some stars collapse without ever ballooning into supergiants, or solitary black holes meet one another and bind to form pairs.
Or perhaps a third object brings a pair closer together. Imagine the Earth and the Moon orbiting each other, and imagine the third object rotating around the Earth−Moon system at an angle, so that the orbits are not coplanar. If the angle between the orbits is large enough, gravitational effects from the third object pull on the orbits of the Earth and Moon to stretch them out into long ellipses, which can destabilize them enough to trigger a collision.
For black holes, the third object could be a stellar-mass black hole, or a massive star, or one of the supermassive black holes found at the centers of most galaxies. If two massive stars near the galactic center collapse to become black holes, they and the supermassive black hole can make a three-body system.
Black holes that merge via triples should have more eccentric orbits than those in undisturbed binary systems. Also, if a binary system formed without the influence of a third body, their rotational and orbital axes should be aligned, whereas third bodies will often tilt the axes.
To find the truth, we need more gravitational wave detections.


The Guardian





Deus vult

77 days

Greta Thunberg

Stop Brexit


2019 August 18

Operation Yellowhammer

The Sunday Times

Base Scenario
 Brexit ends all rights and reciprocal arrangements between the UK and the EU.
 The UK reverts fully to "third country" status. The relationship between the UK and the EU as a whole is unsympathetic. Many EU member states will not engage bilaterally or implement protections unilaterally.
 No bilateral deals have been concluded with individual member states, except for a social security agreement with the Republic of Ireland. EU citizens living in the UK can retain broadly all their rights and status before Brexit.
 Public and business readiness will remain at a low level. Large businesses that work across sectors will have better developed plans than small and medium-size businesses. Business readiness will be compounded by seasonal effects and factors such as warehouse availability.
 HM government will act in accordance with the rule of law.

Key Planning Assumptions
 Exit day: Day 1 is a Friday.
 Member states: A few EU member states may act in a way that could benefit the UK.
 Channel ports: France will impose EU mandatory controls on UK goods on Day 1, and most HGVs travelling via the short straits may not be ready for French customs. This could reduce the flow rate to about half of current levels. The worst disruption might last 3 months before flow rates rise much. HGVs could face a delay of about 2 days on routes to France.
 Border checks: UK citizens travelling to and from the EU may be subject to increased immigration checks at border posts, leading to passenger delays. Delays for UK arrivals and departures at EU airports and ports are likely to cause disruption.
 Drugs and disease: Significant disruption could last up to 6 months and will impact the supply of medicines and medical supplies. The supply chains are highly regulated, and some products cannot be stockpiled because of short shelf lives. Any disruption of the supply for UK veterinary use would risk disease outbreaks, endanger the environment and food safety and availability, and pose a risk to human health.
 Food and water: Certain types of fresh food supply will decrease, and critical elements of the food supply chain may be scarce, reducing availability and choice and increasing prices. Panic buying may disrupt food supplies. Public water services are at low risk, but urgent action may be needed to ensure access to clean water.
 Law and order: Law enforcement data and information-sharing between the UK and the EU will be disrupted.
 Financial services and insurance: Some cross-border UK financial services will be disrupted. A small minority of insurance payments from UK insurers into the EU may be delayed.
 Data: The EU will not have made a data decision with regard to the UK before exit. This will disrupt the flow of personal data from the EU. An adequacy assessment could take years.
 Fuel: Border delays could affect fuel distribution, leading to shortages. Tariff policies undermine industry plans to mitigate their impact on refinery margins, leading to big financial losses and the closure of two refineries. Strike action at refineries would disrupt fuel availability.
 Northern Ireland: On Day 1, HM government will activate a plan to avoid a return to a hard border on the UK side. The model is likely to prove unsustainable because of economic, legal, and biosecurity risks. Automatic application of EU tariffs and regulatory requirements for goods entering Ireland will severely disrupt trade. Some businesses will stop trading or relocate. Others will face higher costs. Disruption is likely to lead to a growing illegitimate economy. There will be immediate pressure to agree new arrangements.
 Energy supplies: Demand for energy will be met. A rapid split of the single energy market will probably lead to marked electricity price rises for customers.
 Gibraltar: The imposition of checks at the border with Spain will cause disruption to the supply of goods and to shipments of waste, plus long delays in the movement of people across the border. Cross-border services and data flow will be disrupted. Gibraltar has not invested in contingency infrastructure and faces legal risks.
 Brits in Europe: UK nationals will lose their EU citizenship and can expect to lose rights and access to services. EU member states have not all passed legislation to secure all rights for UK nationals. Demands for HM government to help will increase. An EU member state would continue to pay a pension it currently pays to a UK national living in the EU, but EU member states will not extend current healthcare arrangements beyond Brexit. There is a risk of disruption for patients, and a minority could face substantial costs.
 Protests and police: Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK, using up police resources. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.
 Fishing: EU and EEA fishing vessels could fish illegally in UK waters. This is likely to cause anger and frustration in the UK. Competing demands on UK agencies and assets could put enforcement and response capabilities at risk.
 The poor: Low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by rises in the price of food and fuel.
 Social care: The adult social care market is fragile. An increase in inflation after Brexit would raise costs for providers of adult social care. This might lead to failures.

AR This is all bad news — a total no-no.

2019 August 17

World Spiraling Into Chaos

Michelle Goldberg

All over the world, things are getting worse. China is weighing a crackdown in Hong Kong. Hostilities between India and Pakistan have ratcheted up, with fighting across the border in Kashmir. Turkey threatens to invade Northeast Syria to go after Kurds.
North Korea continues its nuclear program and ballistic missile testing. A two-state solution in Israel and Palestine looks more remote than ever. Tensions between America and Iran keep escalating. Relations between Japan and South Korea have broken down. The UK could see food shortages if it crashes out of the EU without a deal. And the global economy may be lurching toward recession.
In a world spiraling toward chaos, we begin to see the fruits of Donald Trump's erratic and incompetent foreign policy, his systematic undermining of alliances, and his hollowing out of America's diplomatic and national security architecture. In one flashpoint after another, his administration has either failed to act appropriately or acted in ways that have made things worse.
Obviously, India and Pakistan still want to avoid a nuclear holocaust. China may show restraint on Hong Kong. Trump might make a deal with Iran. The global economy could keep going in 2020.
Even then, America will never again play the same leadership role internationally that it did before Trump. The consequences of not having a functioning US administration are coming into focus.


US−German Relations

Matthias Gebauer, Christiane Hoffmann, René Pfister, Gerald Traufetter

A gulf is growing between Germany and America. This is partly due to the personal chemistry between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel. In May, Merkel spoke at Harvard but did not see Trump. She will not see him when she visits New York for the UN General Assembly in September.
When Trump visits Europe, Germany is "flyover country" to be ignored. He has landed in Rome, Paris and London, but not Berlin. When he flies to Europe at the end of August for the G7 summit in Biarritz, he will visit Copenhagen and Warsaw.
US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell threatens the withdrawal of US troops from Germany. The US Army command in Germany runs worldwide missions, and the huge US bases in Ramstein and Stuttgart support operations in the Mideast. No US commander would give up these bases lightly.
The main symbol of broken US-German relations will soon be at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Gas from Russia will flow through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to heat millions of German homes.
Trump wants to prevent the project at any cost. In September in Copenhagen, he will put pressure on the Danish government. He says the pipeline should not be built because it helps Russia.
Trump is also threatening German auto industry bosses. His agreement not to charge an import tax expires in November. EU negotiations with the US administration have so far had little success.
Perhaps transatlantic cooperation will rebound after the Trump era.

2019 August 16


Andrew Brown

In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb in Oslo, killing 8 people, and then shot dead 69 others. According to the manifesto he published online, he had been inspired by a blog called the Gates of Vienna, which took its name from the siege of Vienna in 1683, when an Ottoman Turkish army was defeated by Christian Europeans.
A founding myth of contemporary Islamophobia is a plot called Eurabia to destroy European civilization. When US president Donald Trump tweets about crime in London or Germany, he is invoking the Eurabian myth that European liberals have surrendered their cities to Muslim criminals.
Eurabia was promoted by Gisèle Littman, who wrote under the Hebrew name Bat Ye'or and developed a conspiracy theory in which the EU was selling out Europe to the Muslims in exchange for oil. Littman said Islam aims to rule the world, and Europe is evolving from a Judeo-Christian and secular civilization into a civilization subservient to jihad.
Israeli historian Robert Wistrich dismissed her writings as the protocols of the elders of Brussels. But Norwegian blogger Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen transmitted her ideas to Anders Breivik.
Jensen was in Cairo at the time of the 9/11 attacks and saw Muslims celebrating the slaughter. He became convinced that Islam was an existential threat to European civilization that the liberal establishment was willfully ignoring.
The myth fed another set of ideas about global migration known as the great replacement. The demographic shrinkage facing Europe was obvious, as were the high birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Islam and Muslims became both a conspiracy and a demographic threat.
One fruit of the 9/11 attacks, the new atheist movement, was hostile to Islam. Sam Harris: "We are at war with Islam. It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but [Islam] has the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death."
The election of Trump revealed a huge constituency for racialized hatred and despair. Trump tweet: "The losers all want what you have, don't give it to them .. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!"
In the campaign for the European elections this May, a German AfD party poster showed a naked white woman being pawed by men in Arab headgear: "Europeans, vote for AfD, so that Europe will never become Eurabia."

2019 August 15

No Big Bang?

Anna Ijjas

The observable universe is expanding. Extrapolate back in time, and we reach the big bang.
Quantum theory prompts us to rethink this story. Particles can pop into and out of existence all the time, as long as they come and go quickly. This constant fizz would be important at the big bang, when the universe was tiny. As space expanded, fluctuating energy from the fizz should have spread out to give huge imbalances in energy across the universe.
But the distribution of matter is remarkably smooth over the universe on the largest scales. The quantum fluctuations at the big bang should have caused space to warp wildly. As the universe expanded, these warps would have expanded too, and distorted the path of light traveling across the cosmos. We see no trace of this.
The inflationary scenario is that just moments after the big bang, the universe underwent a brief epoch of extremely rapid expansion. This stretched the universe so quickly that any warps in the fabric of spacetime were ironed out and the distribution of matter smoothed.
But inflation requires a hypothetical field to have switched on at just the right time and with just the right strength to account for a smooth universe. Yet the field strength would differ in different regions of space due to quantum fluctuations.
Also, quantum fluctuations can prevent inflation from ending, except in odd patches of space. Instead of a uniform universe, inflation leaves space divided into a lot of patches with a huge range of different properties, giving an inflationary multiverse.
Inflation would leave small distortions in the fabric of spacetime that became primordial gravitational waves, with wavelengths long enough to leave an imprint on the CMB. But researchers have found no evidence of primordial gravitational waves in the CMB.
Maybe our universe began not with a bang, but from a previous universe that slowly contracted to a small patch of space, bounced, and then began a new expansion.
This scenario features a long phase of slow contraction before the bounce. The energy that slowed the contraction reversed it to expansion long before the universe shrank far enough to produce detectable primordial gravitational waves. The universe would look like the one we observe.
A cyclic universe would have no beginning or end.

2019 August 14

Out Means Out

David Allen

The UK will leave the EU by automatic operation of law on October 31, 2019. The departure will change the legal position absolutely.
Britain will be a third country. Article 50 will no longer be relevant, and the fast route for an agreement that rests on it will be gone. Any deal between the UK and EU will have to follow the slow process for external relationship and trade agreements.
Once out, the only way the UK can rejoin the EU is by applying under Article 49. In theory, such an application can be expedited, if there is unanimous political will. But it would normally take years and would not necessarily succeed.
Any extension or revocation has to be in place before the deadline. There are practical political impediments to a government of national unity coming in and requesting an extension. There is no time for a general election or a second referendum.
A departure is final. This finality is written into the Treaty on the European Union.


Climate Change

GQ Magazine

Greta Thunberg: "I have Asperger's syndrome and, to me, almost everything is black or white. I think in many ways that we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange. They keep saying that climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all. And yet they just carry on like before."
Thunberg addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January: "I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."
Her school strike for climate began on August 20, 2018. She would not attend school until the Swedish general election on September 9, 2018. Since then, along with millions around the world, she has been on strike every Friday, demanding, among other things, that Sweden aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Thunberg is taking a gap year to focus on her activism: "Right now is the time when the transformational change needs to begin. So if we don't start that right now, this coming year, then we have a smaller chance of succeeding and preventing the worst consequences of the climate change crisis. I just think there's no more time to wait."
She spoke to the UK parliament in April: "The UK is .. very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting .. I hope my microphone was on. I hope you could all hear me."
Thunberg has a firm grasp of the science of climate change: "[The world] has a carbon budget, a very limited and extremely rapidly disappearing carbon budget, which no one seems to know exists .. If we do the changes required it is still possible within the laws of physics to avoid the worst. But if we don't then maybe not. But I just think that we will have to do everything in our power to make the changes required possible. To do your best is no longer good enough. We now have to do the seemingly impossible."

2019 August 13

Brexit Pivot

The Times

US national security adviser John Bolton hopes to pivot UK prime minister Boris Johnson away from the EU and toward the US.
The UK government must accept that a no-deal Brexit opens a diplomatic rift between the UK and the EU. An isolated UK in need of allies gives US president Donald Trump leverage. Bolton may seek to drag the UK deeper into the escalating US−Iran conflict. He may ask the UK to ban Chinese technology from UK telecom networks.
Trump is eager to conclude a US-UK trade deal soon. Johnson will meet him at the G7 summit in Biarritz on August 24−26.

AR An Anglo-American Alliance (AAA) could be met by a "Zoll- und Zuwanderung-Zielvereinbarung" (ZZZ) between Germany and Russia. Then where would we be? Between AAA hammer and ZZZ anvil! See Ringlord.


The Irish Question

Daily Mail

UK prime minister Boris Johnson thinks his no-deal stand on Brexit will force the EU to cave in at the 11th hour.
One UK cabinet minister: "The EU will give us a better deal, because if they don't Ireland is fucked. No‑deal will destroy it. No-deal hurts us, the EU and Ireland, but it hurts Ireland the most. A lot of Irish trade goes to Britain, and much of the rest comes through us to Europe."

AR So Boris will fuck Ireland just to please the Brextremists. The EU should stage an airlift to Ireland rather than cave in to such bully-boy tactics. Irish-Americans will back it.


Quantum Spacetime

George Musser

General relativity predicts that matter falling into a black hole becomes compressed without limit as it approaches the central singularity. The fall is irreversible beyond the event horizon. But the laws of quantum mechanics are reversible.
In quantum theory, black holes have a nonzero temperature. A hole emits radiation as random heat energy. As it does so, it shrinks and finally pops. This is a paradox because the hole destroys the information that would let you rewind time.
A black hole is just empty space. If you zoom spacetime to the Planck scale, you cannot see a grid. The grid lines would privilege some directions over others, contradicting Lorentz symmetry.
Measuring the entropy of a system measures its microscopic complexity. If you do this for a 3D block, the number of parts increases as the cube of its size. But if you increase the radius of a black hole, the number of parts increases as the square. The black hole behaves like a 2D object.
This is the holographic principle. The basic parts of space need not be spatial. The geometric properties of space are emergent properties. Space arises from correlations between events that form a network with a pattern of connectivity.
Entanglement may be more primitive than space. Quantum fields are internally entangled. Distinct regions are correlated, with the degree of correlation depending on the area of their interface. Entanglement links energy with spacetime geometry.
String theory applies the holographic principle to the universe when making new dimensions to bulk out space. Entanglement knits the bulk space together. Correlations in quantum fields reveal the entanglement.
The ubiquity of entanglement may explain the universality of gravity. Entanglement between a black hole and the radiation it emits may form a wormhole that preserves information.
Under a minimal description, a quantum system can be partitioned into different regions of spacetime, where the degree of entanglement defines spatial distance.
So far in physics, we have assumed that any account of what we see is a mechanism operating in spacetime. We need a new foundation.

AR My second cut of this piece; see blog 2019-06-29. I say the new foundation is our (epistemo-ontic) play with bits and qubits; see Omniscience.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Angus Roxburgh

Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin prime minister in August 1999. Speaking in the Bundestag,
Putin proclaimed in fluent German that Russia's destiny was in Europe.
In 2007, Putin spoke in Munich against US pretensions to rule the world as sole master. Later,
he was angered when Barack Obama said Russia was a mere regional power. Later still, he declared
the supremacy of Russian society and morality over the decadent and genderless west.
Putin thinks if the west can invade Iraq, Russia can help out the regime in Syria. If the west can
intervene in Ukraine, he can too. If the west can influence Russian affairs with propaganda for the
opposition, he can influence western elections too.

AR Putin wants a Eurasian Union.


Europe isn't scared
of Boris Johnson
A hermit nation ruled
by an egomaniac
could be about
to collapse


Sterling sank to $1.20
and €1.06 today

Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg says she will
not waste time in New York
meeting Donald Trump


2019 August 12

Brexit War Powers

The Times

HM government ministers will have draconian powers to bring in curfews, redirect food supplies, and even change the law without consulting parliament in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Ministers could give police, local authorities, and other public bodies immediate powers to tackle potential problems such as fuel or food shortages and to ban lorries from travelling to Channel ports to avoid disruption. The powers, contained in the Civil Contingencies Act, would be used under Operation Yellowhammer and run from the Brexit war room.

2019 August 11

State of Play

Gordon Brown

Boris Johnson is hell-bent on conjuring up the absurd and mendacious image of the patriotic British valiantly defying an intransigent Europe determined to turn the UK into a vassal state. He is alienating Scottish and Irish nationalists and pushing England toward xenophobia.


Ship of Fools

Andrew Rawnsley

The idea that Boris Johnson might face a no-confidence vote this autumn, lose, refuse to quit as prime minister, and barricade himself in No 10 for long enough to force through a no-deal Brexit before an election can take place is grotesque. This would plunge the UK into the darkest crisis of its modern history.


Queen of Clowns

The Sunday Times

An impeccable royal source: "I think [the Queen]'s really dismayed. I've heard her talking about her disappointment in the current political class and its inability to govern correctly."
A senior royal source: "She expressed her exasperation and frustration about the quality of our political leadership."

2019 August 10

The Hubble Parameter

Natalie Wolchover

Cosmologists say the expansion of the universe is accelerating. For this discovery, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.
The universe is currently expanding faster than the standard theory of the cosmos predicts. That theory, ΛCDM, describes all the visible matter and energy in the universe, along with dark energy (Λ) and cold dark matter (CDM).
The rate of cosmic expansion is called the Hubble parameter H, where H = v/d, the ratio of the recessional velocity v of a star or galaxy to its distance d from us. You can measure v for an object from the Doppler shift of its frequencies, but measuring d is harder.
To build a distance ladder, you start by calibrating the distance to stars of known luminosity, cepheids. You use these standard candles to gauge the distances to cepheids in more remote galaxies. This gives the distances of Type 1a supernovas in those galaxies. These supernovas are much brighter standard candles you can spot in yet more remote galaxies in the Hubble flow.
The Planck team uses its CMB map to predict H = 67.4 km/s per megaparsec, ±1%.
Riess and his SH0ES team measure cosmic expansion using a cosmic distance ladder to put H at 74.0, ±1.9%. A team called H0LiCOW says H is 73.3. The combined SH0ES and H0LiCOW measurements have crossed the 5 σ threshold.
Planck and SH0ES are more than 4 σ apart.
The Carnegie−Chicago Hubble Program (CCHP) used a distance ladder method with "tip of the red giant branch" (TRGB) stars to peg H at 69.8.
The two early-universe predictions give about 66 or 67. Five late-universe measurements give about 73 or 74. CCHP is in the middle.
New data from the Gaia space telescope will enable us to calibrate cepheids and TRGBs from their parallax. The James Webb Space Telescope will also help when it launches in 2021.

AR Obviously H changes with time and ΛCDM is all wrong.

2019 August 9

Brexit: Scientists Speak

The Times

Science is done by huge international collaborations: 1 in 6 academics in the UK comes from an EU27 country, and 1 in 3 of papers published by UK academics are co-authored with EU27 researchers. EU science funding has disproportionately gone to UK institutions.
Astronomer Royal Lord Rees of Ludlow: "The EU citizens with long-term posts in my institute say they wouldn't have come on the present or likely terms."
Francis Crick Institute director Sir Paul Nurse: "The benefits of participating in European schemes go far beyond the money .. The UK should associate to Horizon Europe as soon as possible."
Academy of Medical Sciences president Robert Lechler: "Research and innovation thrives when people from different backgrounds and cultures are able to exchange and challenge ideas freely."
Royal Society president Sir Venki Ramakrishnan: "The Royal Society has .. been clear that a no-deal exit from the EU is the worst option for science."
Nobel laureate Sir Andre Geim: "The government .. cannot reduce turmoil that would be caused to science in the UK by a no-deal Brexit. Scientists .. know that turmoil is inevitable for many years."

Jeremy Corbyn: "Forcing through no deal against a decision of parliament, and denying the choice to the voters in a general election already under way, would be an unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power."

AR How loud and clear does the message have to be, Bozo?

2019 August 8

European Physics

Carlo Rubbia

We constructed a colliding beam machine at CERN and entered the energy domains of the weak nuclear force. Then we built the 27 km LEP collider and produced enough W and Z bosons to complete their story.
The next question was how to produce Higgs bosons. Understanding the Higgs field is at least as important as observing the W and the Z, and it concludes the story of the elementary particles in the Standard Model.
Probing higher energies offers the hope of new physics. But before exploring higher energies, it makes sense to build a muon collider to study the Higgs precisely. A muon ring is a hundredth the size of the LHC.
The integration of Europe through science is phenomenal. This is a very important success. Particle science over the last few decades has been European.

A walk to Swanage


Reign of Terror

The Guardian

Rebel MPs may be able to stop Boris Johnson pursuing a hard Halloween Brexit. Outrage is growing about Dominic Cummings, said to be running a "reign of terror" in No 10.
Rebel MPs can amend the motion needed for parliament to break for party conferences in September. This gives MPs time to pass a bill to request an extension to article 50.
Cummings is working flat out to deliver Brexit on Halloween, deal or no deal. He has installed a team of "true believers" from the former Vote Leave campaign in No 10.


Thwart No Deal

Vernon Bogdanor

Parliament can prevent a hard Brexit only by legislation. After a vote of no confidence, MPs have 14 days to form a government that can command the confidence of the Commons.
Normally, the Queen would send for the leader of the opposition. Otherwise, she would need a guarantee that a majority of MPs would support a government of national unity.
After 14 days, the PM names a date for a general election at least 25 working days after dissolution. A vote of no confidence on September 5 allows an election on October 17.

AR Boris can name a date in November and do hard Brexit first — but this is rape.

2019 August 7

Trump and Brexit

Larry Summers

Regarding a post-Brexit trade deal, I'm not sure what Britain wants from the United States that it can plausibly imagine the United States will give. Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions.
Second, Britain has no leverage. Britain is desperate. Britain has nothing else. It needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that's when you strike the hardest bargain.
If Britain thinks the American financial regulators are going to come together to give greater permissions and less regulation of UK firms, I would call that belief close to delusional.


A Never-Ending Story

James Kirkup

Boris Johnson says he will get Brexit "done" by Halloween.
Leaving is just the easy part. It kicks off a whole new era of the UK wrangling with the EU27 about how UK and EU laws, rules, systems, and so on interact.
A no-deal Brexit will leave the UK with the vast task of agreeing a future relationship with the EU. It waves goodbye to Article 50 and says hello to Article 218.
Getting Brexit done just opens the door to the real killer.

2019 August 6

No Big Deal

The Guardian

European diplomats have been told Boris Johnson has no intention of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement and the UK government is expecting to crash out of the EU.
A senior EU diplomat: "It was clear UK does not have another plan .. A no-deal now appears to be the UK government's central scenario."
UK government chief Europe adviser David Frost said the UK prefers a technological solution to the Irish border but admits it will not be ready by Halloween.
European Commission spokeswoman: "For a negotiation to be successful it takes two to tango .. The outcome on the table is the best deal possible and I don't think there is any fault or blame to be looked for in this."
UK government spokesman: "We are ready to negotiate in good faith an alternative to the anti-democratic backstop .. Until then, we will continue to prepare to leave the EU on 31 October."

AR Halloween suicide bid, yawn.

2019 August 5

Brexit: Take Back Control

The Guardian

A no-deal Brexit would outrage millions of UK citizens and threaten their economic security. It would risk the unity of the UK and 20 years of peace in Northern Ireland. It would deepen the divisions of Brexit, appal our European neighbours, and damage the UK brand.
Government ministers say they would rather leave with a deal but make no serious effort to achieve one. The prime minister is confident parliament cannot stop the UK from crashing out of the EU. Dominic Cummings says it is now too late to stop Brexit by Halloween.
This arrogant gamble must be stopped. Boris Johnson heads a minority government. He lacks both the democratic and moral authority to do what he is attempting.
There is no justification for parliament not sitting now. Recall MPs from their summer recess. Let them occupy the Commons chamber to make their case.


Germany Debates Euro

Wolfgang Münchau

Margaret Thatcher warned of a European superstate. This is how Brexit started. I see something similar going on in Germany, except that the target is the ECB and the EZ.
German media refer to negative interest rates as penalty rates levied to punish German savers. Germans do not see Germany as the main beneficiary of the euro and dislike being locked into the EZ with countries whose leaders they do not trust.
Germany has large savings surpluses, but its returns on foreign investments are the lowest among all G7 countries. Germans do not yet see a case for EZ integration.



New Scientist

James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis has inspired a generation of Earth scientists.
Humans are now heating up the planet by releasing more greenhouse gases than green plants can absorb. The heat is melting the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. These contain enough water to raise the global sea level by 65 m.
We urgently need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

AR I predict techno-Gaia: Globorg

Eton team

Boris Johnson (front, center) leads team, Eton Wall Game, 1982

Eton College

Jörg Schindler

Near Windsor Castle, Eton College is a red-brick campus almost 200 hectares in size.
A total of 20 UK prime ministers have been "produced" at Eton.
Boris Johnson is an Old Etonian. He was a King's Scholar and quickly made a name for himself in rugby and the Eton Wall Game.
Those who went to Eton can rely on an old boy network for the rest of their lives.
King Henry VI founded Eton College in 1440. At first, the public schools were open to any child in the realm. They attracted rich people,
who bid up the fees. In the 2017/18 school year, Eton received £51 million in fees, plus millions more for extras. Eton College also
owns a vast portfolio of historic assets, yet it enjoys tax privileges as a charity.
British people vented their anger at such injustice in the EU referendum.
The privileged elite will always win.



No Brexit

Thermal Europe



2019 August 4

How the World Sees Brexit

The Observer

China Liu Ye
Not many Chinese people care about the details of Brexit, but the reputation of British democracy has suffered. For decades, public intellectuals talked about the British style of constitutionalism. Now this image has collapsed.

France Sylvie Kauffmann
We French Europeans are grateful to our British friends for making sure one word has exited our vocabulary: Frexit. The Brits seemed to be losing their minds. This is a British crisis, not a European one. Please go and fix your problem, and then come back.

Germany Khuê Pham
Boris Johnson has been disdainful toward Europeans. The German public used to think of Britain as being very cool. Now it's seen as a big mess. I am not very hopeful about good relations between Britain and Germany in the near future.

Japan Nobuyuki Suzuki
Japanese companies invested in Britain because it was a member of the EU. Leaving the EU is a bad idea. I feel very sorry for British voters. The Japanese had always seen Britain as a gentle, stable country, but that has changed.

India Mihir Sharma
The incredible arrogance on display in England reveals itself in this belief that they will somehow be a desirable location or partner for other countries once they leave Europe. Britain confuses its standing with that of London. London is a great global city. Britain is a small European country with ideas above its station.

South Africa Khadija Patel
Britain is trying to figure itself out in 2019 and is suddenly realising that it's not that important any more.

Russia Alexey Venediktov
The view of Boris Johnson in the Russian leadership is quite negative. They don't think he's serious. They think he's a clown with little support.

United States Jen Kirby
No one thought Britain would vote to leave the EU, until it did. No one thought Trump would win the presidency, until he did. All the forces that made Trump and Brexit possible have only hardened in the three years since.

Brazil Fernanda Mena
Britain was the homeland of ideas of liberalism, free markets, and multiculturalism. London was one of the capitals of the world. It was quite shocking to see people being driven by lies to vote for Brexit. The UK is losing relevance quite quickly.


Synthetic Intelligence

Zdenka Kuncic

We may be able to replicate human intelligence by creating a physical object whose structure resembles that of the brain. The human brain is a hardware device rather than an algorithm and it doesn't need to be programmed. It operates in a continuous, analog mode rather than processing information using digital bits.
The brain's neural circuitry is interconnected with a vastly higher density and complexity than can ever be achieved in conventional electrical circuitry. Each of its 86 billion neurons is linked to thousands of others, so there are hundreds of trillions of synaptic junctions. This complexity gives rise to cognitive abilities.
Synthetic intelligence involves developing a device with unconventional electrical circuitry in order to achieve a structural complexity and functionality similar to a real neural network. It is built using insulated silver nanowires a few nanometers thick with a length comparable to that of neural axons and dendrites, and letting them self-organize as electrical signals travel across synthetic synapses. The device is rather like a bowl of spaghetti.
Neuroscientists believe collective oscillations facilitate connections between different areas of the brain: Neurons that fire together wire together. They also study other types of emergent collective properties, such as resilience and adaptation, to gain deeper insight into how the brain works. We can use their methods to analyze emergent collective dynamics in our nanowire networks.
Synthetic intelligence could deliver machines whose responses to unpredictable environmental cues are both reason-based and flexible yet are free of human imperatives. The might even develop consciousness.

AR I find this a promising line to pursue.

2019 August 3

End of the United Kingdom

Luke McGee

Boris Johnson want us to know he loves the union between the four nations that make up the UK. But during his visits to the four nations this week, he was confronted by protesters who took issue with his "do or die" approach to Brexit.
In Northern Ireland, Unionists see any separation from the UK mainland as unthinkable, while Irish republicans want to see Northern Ireland reunited with the rest of Ireland. Northern Irish citizens are starting to see a united Ireland as an inevitable consequence of a no-deal Brexit.
In Scotland, Brexit supporters tend to oppose independence. Scotland had a vote on independence in 2014 and voted to stick with the UK by 55% to 45%. But 62% of Scotland voted to remain in the EU, so Scottish nationalists want a second independence vote.
Wales voted to leave the EU and doesn't have a strong independence movement. But it has Welsh nationalists, and Johnson is alienating them.
The strongest support for Brexit comes from English nationalists, for whom Brexit really means England First. If they win, goodbye UK.


Young Brits

Lara Spirit

Conservatives think Boris Johnson can win a general election and force a hard Brexit. They're wrong: 8 in 10 young people feel disgust at the Brexit crisis and want to resolve it through a people's vote. Yet Johnson wants to force the single most destructive form of Brexit upon us without our consent. This is a prime minister whose cause is neither Brexit nor Britain, but Boris.


Europeans: Resist Trump and Johnson

Maximilian Popp

Donald Trump is US president and Boris Johnson is UK prime minister. Trump wants to divide Europe and supports Brexit, and Johnson looks to Trump for a trade deal after Brexit. It could get worse.
Mideast policy will be the test. America, Britain, France, and Germany had made a deal with Iran on its nuclear plans, but Trump has walked out. Johnson could walk out too.
Europe could face a dilemma like that in 2003 over Iraq. Germany and France held back as America and Britain went to war against Saddam Hussein. This time the break could be deeper.
Brexit has so far been seen as damaging to business. The Iran crisis shows security policy could also be damaged. If the UK continues to side with US policies, this will weaken the EU role in the world.
Some in the EU hope the problem will solve itself when Johnson loses the next general election and Trump is voted out of office in 2020. But those events are far from certain.
The EU should act with integrity and clarity against populism. Instead of rehashing Brexit with Johnson or following Trump on Iran, France and Germany should work together.

AR If Brexit breaks the UK so that Northern Ireland unites with Ireland, Scotland and Wales rejoin the EU, and England becomes a vassal state in the USA, then the map of Europe features a curious new symmetry: At its eastern end EU states would surround the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, while at its western end EU states would surround the US enclave of England. If America and Russia went to war, the two enclaves would have to be pacified by EU forces.


Quantum Supremacy

Sabine Hossenfelder

Google and others are racing to build a quantum computer that outperforms the best conventional computers to achieve quantum supremacy. Google could win this year.
A quantum computer processes entangled qubits. Today's largest quantum computers have about 20 superconducting qubits. Chips that can achieve quantum supremacy will hold at least 50.
Quantum computers could raise global productivity enormously. But they are fragile and need a lot of support infrastructure. Quantum supremacy is just a start.


Quantum Thermalization

Natalie Wolchover

Jürgen Berges and others have discovered universal laws governing thermalization in a variety of systems consisting of many particles that are far from thermal equilibrium. All kinds of quantum systems in various extreme starting conditions seem to fall into a fractal-like pattern, exhibiting universal scaling before transitioning to standard thermalization.
When energy cascades through turbulent fluids, a vortex generates smaller eddies, which make still smaller eddies, with the rate of the transfer of energy described by a universal exponential decay factor of 53. Similar cascading occurs in far-from-equilibrium quantum dynamics, with scaling across both time and space.
Just after the big bang and cosmic inflation, it seems the universe showed fractal-like universal scaling. After inflation, the condensate became a dense field of particles all moving at high speed, with fractal scaling governed by universal scaling exponents as they began to thermalize.
Universal scaling occurs at the nanokelvin scale of ultracold atoms, the terakelvin scale of nuclear collisions, and the zettakelvin scale of the early universe.

2019 August 2

America Blocks China

The New York Times

US president Donald Trump will impose a 10% tariff on an additional $300 billion of imports from China next month. The new tariff is in addition to the 25% levy he has already imposed on $250 billion of Chinese imports and will widen US taxes to cover nearly everything China sends to America.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi: "Adding tariffs is definitely not the correct way to resolve economic and trade frictions."


Another Brexit Caution

The Guardian

UK prime minister Boris Johnson had his working majority in the House of Commons cut to 1 after the Conservatives lost to the Liberal Democrats in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

Liberal Democrats
Monster Raving Loony

13 826
12 401
3 331
1 680


% change


No sign of a Boris honeymoon.

2019 August 1

No Deal, No Way

Guy Verhofstadt

There is no time to limit the damage of a Halloween Brexit. Unless a new extension is requested or article 50 is revoked by 31 October, a big shock awaits the global economy, and we all stand to lose.
European governments need to prepare for the worst. In the face of British posturing, I expect EU governments to remain calm and keep their unity. Attempts to pressure Ireland will be met by EU solidarity.
Brexit is a British decision and article 50 can be revoked at any time. But the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including the backstop to safeguard the Good Friday agreement, cannot be discarded.
A united Europe can be a bastion of the free world. Brexit is a waste of everyone's time. A no-deal Brexit is no way out.


Weak Pound, Weak Economy

Azad Zangana

The sharp fall in the pound in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum has not improved the UK trade position or boosted GDP growth.
Between the end of 2015 and the end of 2019 Q1, trade-weighted sterling fell 12%. The share of manufacturing in total value added and total employment stayed the same.
Since 2000, the UK share of global exports has fallen, yet trade-weighted sterling fell 29%. If sterling falls much further, the cost will be devastating.


Quantum Darwinism

Philip Ball

Quantum Darwinism (QD) can help reconcile quantum and classical physics. The classical properties of objects are selected from a menu of quantum possibilities in a process like natural selection.
Quantum superpositions pop in a noisy environment. But when two quantum objects interact, they entangle into a shared quantum state. As they go on to collide with other objects, the entanglement spreads, and the superposition becomes ever more diffuse. The superposed states no longer interfere coherently and appear to be replaced by a menu of distinct possible outcomes.
Decoherence explains why quantum behavior becomes hard to see in large systems with many interacting particles. It happens extremely fast. Quantum states that are robust in the face of environmental decoherence can be registered as the position of a pointer on a measuring device.
Pointer states are not scrambled by the interactions with the environment. This implies that the environment selects some states while trashing others. A pointer state is imprinted widely.
You see an object when photons deliver information to your retina. They carry information to you as partial replicas of certain aspects of the object. Lots of replicas are needed if many observers are to agree. We can observe a pointer state if it makes a big footprint in the environment. We measure fitter states that make more replicas in the environment.
This is QD.


Quantum Bayesianism

Donald Hoffman

We may all be wrong about the nature of the world. As scientists, we assume the world of objects in spacetime is objectively real. As evolved creatures, we can expect to perceive not the truth but only what pays off for our survival.
Natural selection has given us a simple user interface for a complex world. Physical objects, and the space and time they exist in, are nature's way of presenting fitness pay-offs in a handy form.
Our scientific theories tell us how the world works, presumably as an objective reality that exists outside our heads. But they hint at a mismatch between perception and reality.
Quantum theory defies our classical ideas that objects have definite properties, that those properties are independent of us, and that influences propagate no faster than light. This is no surprise if objects and their properties are data structures in our interface.
The Bayesian interpretation of quantum theory, or QBism, says the uncertainty inherent in quantum observations is all in our minds. Quantum states, and all the theory around them, are epistemic.
My collaborators and I are currently trying to explain how objective reality emerges from a vast network of interacting conscious agents and their experiences. We may be wrong.

AR Consciousness is emergent and continuous. The deeper truth is that we are all part of a single unfolding process of numinous universality. We are dimly conscious, each in our own way, of a brilliant truth.

  ★ ★ ★


Andy Ross

Omniscience is knowledge of everything, and today we see the Cosmos as embracing everything,
or at least everything that is not delusory. Cosmology, the science of the Cosmos, is our modern
analog of the old striving, as Stephen Hawking put it, to know the mind of God.
In 2006, I summarized my views on what we know about everything in the form of a slide show.
Today, the slides recall the struggles of a thinker still entangled in the mathematical obsessions of his youth.
The time was not yet ripe to fill out those insights except in a cryptic way.
This moves me to offer the present review. My plan is to quote the text from each of the 16 slides in turn,
under its structural heading, and then to answer the questions each text raises in paragraphs of new notes,
commenting, explaining, and adopting my present perspective.
The outcome should be to turn what began as a work of mathematical mysticism into a fruitful perspective
on the enterprise of science. A thinker who had not yet cooked his ideas down to a digestible form
is revealed as a pioneer, perhaps, of a new science of the Cosmos.

  ★ ★ ★

Back to Top Old Blogs Contact