I saw the great man
up close with Helmut Kohl
in Heidelberg in
"Donald just criticized me for
yes, I did. You know
what else I prepared for?
to be president."
Punktsieg für Clinton
K.O-Schag für Trump
was das noch nicht!
Alone we suffer, alone we die,
and alone we must make
meaning out of our fate.
The highest value is
face of death.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan featured Genesis bombs as
2016 September 28
Musk Mars Mission
SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave a keynote speech at the
Astronautical Congress in Mexico on Tuesday.
His plan for
colonizing Mars uses a fully reusable transportation system. The
spaceship is fueled with methane and oxygen in Earth orbit and
refueled on Mars after landing there.
Musk sees two possible
1 Humans experience an event
that drives them toward extinction.
Humans become a spacefaring civilization and a multiplanetary
species, starting with Mars.
To steer for
2, we must:
— Make fully reusable
— Master refueling in orbit
— Produce propellant on
— Choose the right fuel
SpaceX has started testing
its Raptor rocket engine for an interplanetary launch system.
Traveling to Mars and building a base there is a big challenge. We
have not yet solved the problem of protecting humans from radiation
in deep space.
The Sky's Limit
Oil Change International
The Paris Climate goals require
a managed decline of fossil fuel production.
Potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in currently
operating fields and mines
would take us
beyond 2 K of warming.
The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even
with no coal, would take the
world beyond 1.5
With the necessary decline in production to meet climate goals,
clean energy can be scaled up
No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure
should be built.
Some fields and mines should be closed before fully exploiting their
Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the
fossil fuel industry.
2016 September 27
Trump Blew It — So What?
In any ordinary election year, by any
rational measure, you would say that Hillary Clinton trounced Donald
Trump in their first debate.
Trump Fails the Stamina Test
Clinton improved as Trump began to flail. So
she won the debate on points and probably won it in the court of
public opinion. She didn't goad Trump into a meltdown or knock him
out with a devastating attack. She won the night, but he lived to
fight another day.
Brexit Boost for Britain?
Britain will emerge from Brexit stronger and better off than
other EU countries within five years, says BILD publisher Axel
Springer chief executive Mathias Döpfner: "I very simply think that
in the long run continental Europe may suffer more from Brexit than
England itself. We should not take this whole Brexit decision as a
way to blame the Brits. We should take it like a wake-up call for
Europe to refresh its political approach."
The Jovian moon Europa repeatedly spews
plumes of water into space.
NASA says the Hubble Space Telescope has
glimpsed the plumes for a second time, suggesting Europa has an
active ocean underneath its ice crust.
William Sparks: "We may be able to explore that ocean for organic
chemicals or even signs of life without having to drill through
unknown miles of ice."
In 2014, Sparks and his team watched
Europa transit Jupiter and analyzed UV images of the plumes backlit
by the planet. The plumes rise some 200 km before raining
down again. NASA and ESA will send probes to Europa.
Our understanding of biological evolution
has taken huge strides. Advances in genetics, epigenetics, and
developmental biology challenge us to rethink the relationship
between genes, organisms, and the environment. There are ways other
than genetic mutations to generate heritable variety.
set of genes has the potential to produce a variety of phenotypes,
depending on the environment in which the organism develops. This
developmental plasticity may play an active role in the evolutionary
process. Organisms seem to have evolved the ability to respond
flexibly to whatever conditions they experience.
phenotype allows organisms to survive in the short term, with
genetic change following later. Experiments reveal that organisms
exposed to new environments develop characteristics that resemble
those of closely related species adapted to these same environments.
This suggests that adaptations may commonly arise through immediate
responses to the environment, with natural selection subsequently
cementing them through genetic evolution.
is currently portrayed as a process in which external agents sort
between random variants according to their suitability. But
organisms modify their environment and help to determine which of
their characteristics are useful. Organisms play a central role in
their own evolution.
2016 September 26
NASA culture is Big Space. Big corporations
receive contracts from NASA to produce custom-built hardware and
software following NASA procedures at enormous cost. Little Space
aims to carry out space operations using hardware and software
mass-produced for other purposes by companies in a competitive
market at vastly lower cost.
The prospects for future manned
space missions conducted within Big Space culture are generally
dismal. Any serious risks to the life and health of astronauts would
be unacceptable, so few missions are feasible and most of them are
unattractive. Risk aversion permeates Big Space culture.
future of space is a problem of biology rather than of engineering.
Rockets solve the easy problem of space travel, to get from here to
there. The hard problem is that of biology, to find ways to survive
and build communities in space, to adapt the structures of living
creatures so they can take root in strange environments.
Biotechnology will advance to the point where we can design and
breed entire ecologies of living creatures adapted to survive in
remote places away from Earth. A Noah's Ark spacecraft is a
baseball-sized object containing living seeds with the genetic
instructions for growing millions of species of microbes and plants
and animals adapted to live together and support one another in an
alien environment. Suitable places to put such arks are planets and
moons, and also the more numerous cold dark objects far from the
sun, where air is absent, water is frozen into ice, and gravity is
weak. Each Noah's Ark will grow into a living world of creatures.
Life can survive anywhere in the universe where there is
starlight as a source of energy and a solid surface with ice and
minerals as a source of food. Planets and moons are the worst places
for life from the point of view of mobility because their gravity is
too strong. Life has been stuck here on Earth for three billion
years. Our destiny is to be creators of a living universe.
2016 September 25
CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT
The New York Times
Hillary Clinton has a record of
service and a raft of pragmatic ideas. Donald Trump is the worst
nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history. But
the best case for Hillary Clinton is not that she is not Donald
The next president will take office with
bigoted, tribalist movements and their leaders on the march. In the
Mideast and across Asia, in Russia and eastern Europe, even in
Britain and the United States, war, terrorism, and the pressures of
globalization are eroding democratic values, fraying alliances, and
challenging the ideals of tolerance and charity.
Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these
problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect,
experience, toughness, and courage over a career of almost
continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the
arena. Her record shows a determined leader intent on creating
opportunity for struggling Americans at a time of economic upheaval
and on ensuring that the United States remains a force for good in
Through war and recession, Americans born since
9/11 have had to grow up fast, and they deserve a grown-up
president. A lifetime's commitment to solving problems in the real
world qualifies Hillary Clinton for this job, and the country should
put her to work.
President Barack Obama's farewell address
to the UN general assembly: "The global economy ...
global integration ... our global economy has made life better for
billions of men, women and children ... a global supply chain ...
global trade ... global capital ... global marketplace ...
global education ... global security."
AR Globall Hyperatlas
"Full English Brexit is bad for
Scotland's economic health
and cultural identity."
"We mustn't become isolated
Language learning in this
country is very low compared
University of Oxford first
UK university to
World University Rankings,
knocks former #1 Caltech
to #2 for 2016-2017.
AR So my 3
are worth something
2016 September 24
Listen for ET
Gazing at the stars I always imagined
there was someone up there looking back. As I grow older I am more
convinced than ever that we are not alone. After a lifetime of
wondering, I am helping to lead a new global effort to find out.
The Breakthrough Listen project will scan the nearest million
stars for signs of life. One day we might receive a signal from a
planet like Gliese 832c, but we should be wary of answering back. If
aliens visit us, the outcome could be much like when Columbus landed
in America, which did not turn out well for the Native Americans.
In recent years, we have found thousands of planets outside our
solar system. Finding intelligent life would be the single greatest
discovery in history. We would have to give up the idea that we are
unique and start acting with more compassion and humility.
The center left faces acute crisis. A
Conservative government has just perpetrated the biggest policy
disaster in generations, leading to an unplanned Brexit, but is
being rewarded with large poll leads. Across Europe, center-left
parties are struggling to compete with conservative parties and
A crisis of financial capitalism has
rebounded politically to the benefit of parties of the right. Labour
was at the wheel when the ship hit the rocks. It and other left-wing
parties in France, Germany, and Scandinavia have also seemed bereft
of credible ideas for post-crisis recovery.
arithmetic is unforgiving. In 2015, the Conservatives and UKIP
attracted roughly half of the vote in the UK. Unless the remaining
fragments of the opposition can appeal to people who have voted
Conservative, the next generation faces the prospect of one-party
AR Democracy could lead to a
one-party police state in Fortress UK.
2016 September 23
A Global Crisis
According to the UNHCR, in 2015 there were
over 65 million people throughout the world who had been uprooted
from their homes by conflict and persecution. Over 20 million of
these people are refugees. On average, 34,000 people were forced to
flee their homes every day of 2015.
Turkey has over 2.7
million refugees from Syria. Lebanon shelters 1 Syrian for every 5
Lebanese citizens. Jordan has nearly 660,000 Syrians known to be on
its territory. Pakistan and Iran have, respectively, 1.6 million and
950,000 Afghan refugees. Kenya hosts about 500,000 refugees from
Refugees are displaced for an average of 17 years,
and those displaced within their own country for an average of 23
years. Humanitarian needs go unaddressed and cause further political
disruption. The need to rethink aid policy is overwhelming.
AR Pulling up the drawbridge and raining
insults on outsiders is no solution.
A National Crisis
Brexit creates new challenges for the left
and reflects the weakness of the left in the UK. Brexit was only
possible because Labour shifted from a governing party to the
margins of power.
Jeremy Corbyn makes the party unelectable.
His half-hearted message about Europe is a betrayal of millions of
working people and his equivocation on NATO is dangerous.
Domestically, nationalization and corporate taxation are not the
Global markets are rewriting the rules. Globalization
has created inequalities of income, wealth, and power that challenge
the traditional left and it has challenged social norms in a way
that breaks the back of the traditional right.
The left needs
1 Does it put values above
2 Does it have policies for
wealth creation as well as fair distribution?
3 Does it have an international
perspective as well as a national one?
AR So the old left and right are both dead — long live the
2016 September 22
String theory began as an elegant promise to
solve such fundamental problems as quantum gravity. Simply replace
point particles with tiny vibrating loops of string. Even more
elegant was the math behind it.
The theory said the strings
were too small to be probed by experiment. They lived in up to 11
spatial dimensions that were compactified into complex origami
shapes, and surely some configuration would turn out to be right for
our world. But the complexities refused to reduce to a single
Juan Maldacena found that a 5D string theory
including gravity was equivalent to a 4D quantum field theory (QFT). This
anti-de Sitter / conformal field theory (AdS/CFT)
duality looked like a way to get a handle on gravity by
relating it to QFT.
deeper. QFT unified special relativity and quantum mechanics, but
they found a huge number of theories. When physicists years ago
struggled with the particle zoo they dug down to more fundamental
building blocks, like quarks and gluons. Now they want to do the
same with QFT.
The flowering of string theory has been great
for mathematics and cosmology. The multiverse idea with the
selection effect is a natural story of why our world is as it is.
2016 September 21
The Messenger of Monotheism
The Prophet Muhammad brought the
message of monotheism to the tribes of Arabia some fourteen
centuries ago. In doing so, he raised the Arabs from primitive
superstition and world-historical insignificance to become the
leading agents of a force for progress that dominated the region
stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the Atlantic Ocean for a
thousand years. This was a colossal, awesome achievement, eclipsed
only by the rise of Europe under the impetus of science and the
AR My 5,000 word review of
books by Kader Abdolah — see this as a promissory note for my mooted
monograph on monotheism.
I believe that this UK government will not seek to reverse the
result of the referendum vote. Theresa May will depart not only from
the EU but also from the customs union and the single market. Both
deprive the UK of legislative autonomy.
constitutionally entitled to ignore the vote result. But the
Conservatives would surely follow Labour into ruin if they tried to
reverse the outcome. Their Brexiteers would go berserk.
Brexiteers propose that the UK should simply repeal the European
Communities Act, rather than go through Article 50. Such egregious
treaty breaking would hardly be a helpful precursor to the
negotiation of new trade agreements. It is essential to go through
the formal process of negotiating a departure.
I would like a
government prepared to overturn the referendum. In my view the UK is
making a huge economic and strategic blunder. The UK has chosen a
largely illusory autonomy over EU membership.
of the US Air Force Deborah Lee James introduced Lt Col Richard
Cole, the co-pilot of Lt Gen James Doolittle,
to name the Northrop
Grumman B-21 as the Raider, in recognition of the Doolittle Raiders
Slovakian PM Robert Fico
says the EU will make sure
for the UK
AfD up, SPD go from
AR Duplicating the
Ray Laser Cannon
for British Forces
Fallon says MoD
is finalizing a £30 million
deal with MBDA UK to
capability demonstrator for a
to be delivered by 2019.
AR Relax —
MBDA is a
"The party is divided.
The loonies may split from
"This summer I travelled
all over Germany, and the
was to talk about
Brexit. Every time, in every
biggest round of
applause was when I said:
'The time of
and rebates is over.' That
is how the German
feel about the situation."
Burkhard Balz MEP
"The political benefits of
the EU — for the stability
Continent, and for
the Continent's contribution
ascendancy of Western
values and influence in the
global society of states
have been persistently under-estimated by many in the UK,
Andrew Tyrie MP
Apartheid Isles or
The Ross Blog
Over the last month
it has averaged over
visitors a day
(steady for years)
The Silk Roads
9/11 stumble give
Trump the White House?
State Election Results
UK Forecasts Down
UK GDP growth
1.8% for 2016
1.0% for 2017
2016 September 20
Baron Hague of Richmond
Hong Kong, June 29, 1997: Prince
Charles and other UK dignitaries were gathered aboard the Royal
Yacht Britannia. An invitation to dine on Britannia was eagerly
sought, and lucky guests poured up the gangplank. Former prime
minister Margaret Thatcher told Latin American ambassadors at dinner
about the achievements of Empire: "The trouble with all of you was
that you were not colonised by the British."
2016 September 19
On September 19, 1946, Sir Winston Churchill
delivered a speech in Zurich calling for the creation of a United
States of Europe.
Churchill was called the father of Europe.
Hugo Young: "But he was also the father of misunderstandings about
Britain's part in this Europe. He encouraged Europe to misunderstand
Britain, and Britain to misunderstand herself."
(earlier): "We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not
The EU referendum campaign was dominated by the
debates on immigration and the economy. Foreign, security, and
defense policy was discussed only in terms of the costs and benefits
to the UK of being a member of the EU.
Since the referendum
vote, there has been no indication from UK foreign secretary Boris
Johnson or prime minister Theresa May as to how they see the future
focus of foreign and security policy. Brexiteers liked the idea of
reviving an Anglosphere.
Anglocentrism = Xenolinguaphobia
The New York Times
Reeling from terrorist attacks, an
influx of refugees from Africa and the Mideast, and persistent high
unemployment and low economic growth, millions of Europeans are
losing faith the EU. They are turning in increasing numbers to
populist movements and nationalist politicians who promise to
protect their security by closing national borders.
If the EU
is to survive, its leaders must restore popular faith in its ability
to address its problems. EU leaders hope that plans to reinforce
security through joint military headquarters, cooperation on
military procurement, and expanding a readily deployable EU force
will convince European voters that they will be more secure in the
AR Festung Europa
and I are entangled.
This slogan is the key to my goal of
unpacking a new psychology that links our modern miph
(mathematics—informatics—physics) with Kantian philosophy and
monotheism. Roughly, the relation between God and the first-person
self is analogous to
that between Schrödinger and his cat. The idea came to me this
morning — now I just need to write it up in a brief monograph.
2016 September 18
Gaia Star Map
space telescope has produced its first catalog of stars in the Milky
Way galaxy. The data logs the positions and brightness of some 1.1
billion stars, around 1% of the Milky Way total.
eventually map the motions of all the stars in its catalog. The data
will sharpen our picture of the structure of our galaxy and show how
it formed and evolved, as well as how stars evolve.
will be used to test models of dark matter. A model proposed by Lisa
Randall spreads this invisible stuff through the galaxy in a thin
disk, rather than suffusing it in a spherical halo.
continues its stargazing, its data will reveal wobbles in the
positions of many of the stars, indicating the tug of orbiting
worlds. Exoplanet researchers are making use of the data.
2016 September 17
UK Will Block EU Army
UK defense secretary Sir Michael Fallon says he will veto
measures to build an EU army for as long as the UK remains a member
of the EU. Sir Michael: "We have always been concerned about
unnecessarily duplicating what we already have in NATO."
France and Germany will present the EU as a beacon of
security and defense in a vulnerable world. They have drawn up a
timetable to create a common military force that would rival NATO in
capability. The timetable commits Brussels to a plan for the
establishment of a "single operational headquarters for all EU
civilian and military missions to be more efficient and quicker to
act" and a defense fund to boost investment in shared military
Angela Merkel: "We need more cooperation,
particularly in the area of defense, and a lot more needs to be done
on the Franco-German plan."
A new EU defense fund will pay
for an embryonic European air force and navy through the Brussels
budget for drones, cyber-defense, air transport, and naval vessels.
It will fund dual-use EU assets that can be deployed for border and
coastguard operations as well as military missions.
Sir Michael: "We will go on being
committed to the security of the European continent."
UK Forces Inadequate
General Sir Richard Barrons has sent a
long memo to UK defense minister Sir Michael Fallon criticizing UK
There is no military plan to defend the UK in a conventional
● A Russian air campaign
would quickly overwhelm Britain.
Navy ships and RAF planes lack sufficient support. Systems and
stocks are deficient.
● The army is
outgunned by professionals elsewhere and can only fight weak
● Small numbers of
expensive pieces of military kit make UK capabilities fragile.
● Manpower is squeezed, with only 40 or
so pilots who can fly the new F-35 fighter jets.
"There is a sense that modern conflict is ordained to be only as
small and as short term as we want to afford — and that is absurd."
A senior Whitehall official: "So far there is a lot of talk
about deterrence across NATO but what really matters is whether it
is credible, certainly as far as Russia is concerned."
British armored warfare capabilities have been cut back over the
years. The army now fields only about 168 Challenger main
battle tanks, all due for an upgrade. New Russian Armata tanks have
a bigger gun, in a robot turret, plus an active protection system.
British aerial surveillance assets are stretched. The RAF fleet
of 6 AWACS planes is obsolete and too small to sustain 24-hour
coverage over a theater of operation.
The Royal Navy surface
fleet is too small. With 2 Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers, plus 6
Type 45 destroyers and a planned 8 Type 26 frigates, the Royal Navy
will fly just 48 new F-35 jets.
Amphibious assault forces are
being cut back. The number of Bay-class logistics ships has fallen
from 4 to 3, and there are no plans to replace HMS Ocean.
fundamental shortfall is one of strategic oversight and planning.
The most recent Strategic Defence and Security Review threat
analysis simply rules out a direct threat to the UK.
AR There is no direct threat. The UK is all
but surrounded by EU states. Russia would only threaten us through
eastern Europe, triggering a NATO response.
2016 September 16
Diane James has been elected the new leader
of UKIP: "From one grammar school girl to another, stop the faff,
stop the fudge and the farce. Get on with it. Invoke article 50."
UKIP demands: "No to soft Brexit. No to single market controls
and no to unrestricted freedom of movement into this country. If
they come in, they come in on a fair basis."
AR No to UKIP.
Brexit challenges us. Today many people think
that being part of the EU stands in the way of stability and
security. It is therefore crucial to restore the balance between
freedom and security, openness and protection.
crisis was the tipping point. The lack of rapid action and of a
uniform European strategy have weakened trust. Rebuilding this trust
has become an urgent necessity.
Someone must give back to
Europeans their sense of security. We should cooperate more closely
when it comes to the exchange of information and operations. At
external borders we must ensure that everybody is checked.
Our citizens expect the EU to better protect their interests. Free
trade and global competition pose challenges. We must reassure our
citizens that we are protecting their interests.
Brexit, business as usual is not an option. We will not change the
European Union into a single state. We need strong political will
2016 September 15
Alexa, Amazon's Ambient Assistant
Amazon unveils Echo, an online speaker
and digital assistant for the family home.
Echo is a black or
white cylinder with no screen and it blends into the background when
not in use. You can ignore it until you ask it to do something, such
as play music, find recipes, turn on lights, or shop for stuff. If
you ask a factual question, it fetches the answer and replies.
Echo is immobile. You do not pick it up or take it out to use
it. It can listen constantly to people around it and respond to
them. Alexa is the AI software in the cloud to which Echo appeals
when anyone within hearing calls its name. Amazon has built in
privacy controls to ensure that Echo does not relay everything you
say straight to Alexa. But it is easy. All you have to do is talk.
An ambient computer that converses with people has been a goal
since the early days of computing. But the technology for speech
recognition and language analysis behind Echo is new. It reflects a
leap forward in machine learning during the last decade enabled by
faster computers and cloud data.
The trick is to tame the
complexity and deliver it simply. Jeff Bezos believes in making
things easy. He equates difficulty of use to psychological friction,
which reduces the chance of your using a device. His idea is for
Amazon to become ambient, blending seamlessly into everyday life.
AR Amazon Alexa may do better than
Big Business Black Boxes
A black box is a system whose inputs and
outputs are known, but the algorithm by which one is transformed to
the other is unknown. Algorithms shape shape the stuff we see
through Google or Facebook and thus shape the choices we make.
Google and Facebook both know their reputation depends on people
finding what they want. Google made search engine optimization easy
at first by helping web publishers understand what
kinds of things its page rank algorithm valued. Facebook has updated its news feed
algorithm to de-emphasize stories with clickbait headlines to create
a better user experience.
My four rules for
evaluating whether you can trust an algorithm:
1 Its intended outcome is clear to all
and easy to check.
2 Success in
reaching its outcome is measurable.
The goals of its creators and its consumers are aligned.
4 It helps people to make better long
Government regulations are also algorithms.
But too often they fail my four tests:
1 Some governments have made plain
language a priority. But this clarity is rare.
2 Government regulations rarely include
any provision for measuring or determining their effect.
3 The goals of regulators and of
consumers may be aligned, but often regulations serve the needs of
government rather than citizens, or of those with access to the
4 Over time,
regulations get out of step with the needs of society. When
regulations no longer have the intended effect, they often continue
with new regulations simply piled on top of them.
of government to improve its black boxes is one of the major reasons
why trust in government is so low.
There is a master
algorithm that rules our society: The only obligation of a business
is to its shareholders.
Shareholders of the world unite!
Crazy, Conceited, Contemptible Crap
Mein Kampf originally appeared in two
volumes in 1925 and in 1926. A 1930 popular edition in one volume
ran to a total of 12.4 million copies by 1944. Copyright reverted to
the public domain in 2015. The new critical and scholarly edition
comprises nearly 2,000 pages with over 3,700 notes in two big
volumes. The initial print run of 4,000 copies sold out in days, and
sales have reached 14,000, to put it for a time at #2 on the Spiegel
The book was never the bible of National
Socialist doctrine. There is little truth in the author's
description of himself as an impoverished and unrecognized genius
who emerged from a struggle within his soul. The book deals with
four basic ideas: space, race, violence, and dictatorship. Passages
on racial eugenics and Jews include abundant rhetoric on
extermination and elimination. To see the book as a Nazi bible merely affirms its author's claim to have been a
AR Not for me.
2016 September 14
State of the Union 2016
Our European Union is in an
existential crisis: high unemployment and social inequality,
mountains of public debt, the huge challenge of integrating
refugees, security threats, and even the prospect of a member
leaving our ranks. We are not the United States of Europe. Our
European Union can only work if we all work together to deliver:
1 A Europe that preserves our way of life
Europe means peace. Our values are freedom, democracy, and the rule
of law. Being European also means open trading, the right to
privacy, equal pay, protection of our workers and our industries in
an increasingly globalized world, and (for some) the euro as a
currency that brings huge economic benefits.
2 A Europe that
We need to reform our European telecommunications
markets. We also have to empower our artists and creators and
protect their works. Creators of content should be paid fairly for
their work. More than anything, we need to invest in our young
3 A Europe that defends us
We must defend
ourselves against terrorism. We are fighting for our European way of
life and our values. We will defend our borders with strict
controls. We have to take responsibility for our own defense in
complementarity with NATO. The European defense industry needs to
4 A Europe that takes responsibility
the European Union. We can only build it with the member states,
never against them. The Commission has to take responsibility by
listening to the European Parliament, to all member states, and to
the people. It is time we all took responsibility for building a
2016 September 13
Colliding Black Holes
Long ago and far away, two massive
black holes spiraled together and merged, making waves in spacetime
detected by LIGO. The new data has shaken up astrophysics.
Experts met in August to discuss the implications at the
for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara.
The first LIGO
event was the merger of a pair of black holes of roughly 30 solar
mass (M°) apiece. Massive stars explode as supernovas, and their
cores collapse into black holes or neutron stars. Most known massive
stars live in binary systems. Binary massive stars dance and kiss
and suck each other's gas like vampires, and sometimes shrink down
to black holes and merge.
The LIGO detections seem to support
two theories of binary black hole formation. A new chemically
homogeneous model for their formation vies with the classic common
The common envelope story starts with two
massive stars in a wide orbit. As the first star runs out of fuel in
its core, its outer layers puff up to form a red supergiant. Much of
this gas gets sucked away by the second star, and the core of the
first star eventually collapses into a black hole. The interaction
draws the pair closer, so when the second star puffs up into a
supergiant it engulfs the two of them in a common envelope. The
companions spiral ever closer as they swim through the gas. The gas
is lost to space, the core of the second star collapses too, and the
two black holes merge.
This model is expected to yield pairs
of black holes with mass around 10 M°. The second LIGO event, from
merging black holes of 8 M° and 14 M°, fits it. Common envelopes can
produce mergers of 30 M° black holes if the progenitor stars weigh
around 90 M° and contain almost no metal (elements above H and He).
Such systems may be rare.
The chemically homogeneous model
begins with two massive stars rotating around each other very
rapidly and so closely that they become tidally locked like tango
dancers. This stirs the stars and heats them, triggering fusion
throughout their interiors until they run out of fuel. Each star
then collapses into a massive black hole. They dance on
for a few billion years and then merge.
LIGO data suggests
that black hole mergers are frequent events.
AR See my blog entries for 2016-06-15
2016 September 12
Consequences of Hard Brexit policy choices:
1 Leaving the single market would
likely end UK-based service company rights to sell into EU markets
without discrimination or local regulatory barriers. Financial firms
based in London would lose their passport to sell services across
the EU. Many would move their European HQ out of London. The
euro-denominated derivatives clearing trade would also move.
2 Quitting the EU customs union would
mean costly customs checks on all British goods entering the single
market. Dublin would need to impose customs checks on goods entering
its territory from Northern Ireland.
Exiting the EU with no negotiations would leave British exporters
with no idea of the potential future costs of trade with the EU. The
UK would instantly cease to be covered by the 60 or so free trade
agreements between the EU and the rest of the world.
4 Lifting all UK tariff barriers and
exporting under WTO rules would instantly face British car exporters
to Europe with a 10% import tariff on motor vehicles. UK
manufacturing firms would be engulfed in a tidal wave of cheap
imports from the developing world.
The consequences would be
German elections are due in fall 2017.
If she runs, Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to win, with the
same grand coalition. A new poll puts the AfD at 15% of the vote
nationwide, with the CDU coalition down to a bare majority.
The new Bundestag is unlikely to press for a soft
Brexit. The SPD does not want it, nor do the Greens or the AfD. It
is also unlikely to agree to a Greek debt restructuring or to push
for further integration in Europe.
This century has seen a revolution in
global trade. To improve its speed and security, the World Customs
Organisation lets Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs) file all
their documentation electronically in advance. Mutual recognition
between customs authorities allows goods to be waved through at
As a member of the EU, the UK
is part of this global system. Negotiating separate AEO status for
Britain would take far too long. Remaining in the European Economic
Area (EEA) and keeping its AEO status gives the UK both
continued access to the single market and a unilateral right to
exercise some limited control over immigration from the rest of the
Dropping out of the EEA would be devastating.
© Lynn Preston
"We have become too lazy and
too fat on our successes in
AR Brexiteer bites
Economists for Brexit
aims to combat the efforts
campaign to draw the UK
into a fudged
and aims to explain the
favour of Brexit.
"Unser Land darf sich nicht
verändern, Deutschland muss
EU army plans will go
Stanford U, US
Harvard U, US
Cambridge U, UK
Oxford U, UK
AR In 1987 I turned down
an offered place at
Less than a month before the
end of the mission, Rosetta's
high-resolution camera has
revealed the Philae lander
into a dark crack on
Britain is the second biggest
arms dealer in
the world, after
the United States. Two-thirds
of UK arms
exports since 2010
have been to Mideast states.
New UK government
"The UK is one of the world's
most successful defence
exporters, averaging second
place in the global rankings on
rolling ten-year basis, making
it Europe's leading defence
exporter in the period."
The Great Fire
raged over some 200 hectares
of the city center 350 years
this week in 1666.
May in China
JIRAM mosaic of Jupiter's
southern aurora, about
4 hours after perijove
2016 September 11
Germany chairs the G20 from December 1. The
G20 is supposed to govern the world. It includes democrats and
autocrats, kings and communists, as well as the EU, the most
important international institutions and organizations, and
thousands of experts.
The EU must refashion itself after the
Brexit shock into an effective federal state. Without a united
Europe, an international order is hard to imagine, certainly not a
free one. We must uphold a vision for the world.
Yuval Noah Harari
God is dead. Both Christianity and
Communism were created by human beings and are defined by their
social functions. Religion is anything that legitimizes human norms
and values by arguing that they reflect some superhuman order.
Technology often defines the scope and limits of our religious
vision. Scientists today can do much better than the Old Testament
God. The faithful may believe that their religion is eternal and
unchanging, but religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and
New technologies kill old gods and give
birth to new gods. Religions that lose touch with the technological
realities of the day forfeit their ability even to understand the
questions being asked. Hundreds of millions may go on believing in
Islam, Christianity, or Hinduism, but numbers alone count for little
Marx and Lenin established the first techno
religion in history. Communism came with electricity, railroads, and
radio. After Marx, questions of technology and economic production
became far more divisive and important than questions about the soul
and the afterlife.
Socialism failed to keep up with new
technology. Christianity and Islam have turned into largely reactive
forces. In the coming decades new techno religions are likely to
take over the world.
AR Look out
for mine — see my next book.
2016 September 10
I want Britain to be a place where advantage
is based on merit, not privilege. For far too many children in
Britain, the chance they have in life is determined by where they
live, or how much money their parents have. We need a school system
with the capacity and capability to respond to what they need. Four
should actively strengthen state school attainment. There are not
enough students from disadvantaged backgrounds and from ordinary
families fulfilling their potential with the grades to get into the
best universities. I want our universities to do more to help us to
improve the quality of schools so that more students of all
backgrounds have the grades, the subjects, and the confidence, to
apply to top universities and to be successful.
2 Faith schools and the
role they play in a diverse school system should be promoted. We
should also ensure that faith schools are properly inclusive and
make sure their pupils mix with children of other faiths and
backgrounds. I believe it is right to encourage faith communities to
play their full part in building the capacity of our schools.
3 Independent schools
should face a tougher test on the amount of public benefit required
to maintain charitable status. Independent schools that cannot take on full sponsorship of a local state school
will be asked to provide more limited help. I want independent
schools to to play a major role in creating more good school places
for children from ordinary working families.
4 Selective schools
should be reintroduced. They are hugely popular with parents and
good for the pupils that attend them. They reduce the attainment gap
between rich and poor pupils to almost zero. We should stretch the
most academically able to the very highest standards of excellence.
We already have selection in specialist disciplines like music and
sport. I believe we should take the same approach to support the
most academically gifted too.
Every child should have access
to a good school place.
move — grab the center ground, ignite public controversy, force an
election, get a bigger majority, becalm the Brexiteers.
German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble
expects Brexit to increase the financial burden on Germany. The
German share of EU GDP will rise to 25% from 21% today, increasing
the German share of the EU budget by around €4.5 billion for 2019
and 2020 — unless, say, the UK pays for access to the single market
or the EU cuts its budget.
German taxpayers will be cursing Brits.
2016 September 9
Theresa May is clear that voters want
control over EU immigration. Options:
Requiring all EU citizens to have jobs before they come to the UK is
unlikely to reduce the numbers of EU workers entering Britain.
Businesses would get around it by offering work on demand.
2 A cap on EU migration in return for
limited access to the single market would put a hard ceiling on the
numbers. The EU shows no sign of agreeing to such a "have cake and
eat it" deal.
3 Work permits for
EU workers would let EU citizens come to Britain for holidays and
business without a visa, but to seek work they would need to apply
for a permit, with a quota for EU nationals.
The EU will
reciprocate. Whitehall officials expect the City to lose its
passporting rights and its euro clearing facilities. Companies based
in Britain will almost certainly have to live with burdensome
customs clearing and regulatory certifications.
May is much
more interested in the politics of immigration than in the details
of the economy. The signs point to a hard Brexit.
AR Hard as in crash and burn?
2016 September 8
EU Reform Push
An EU bloc known as the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Poland, the
Czech Republic, Slovakia) will lobby at the Bratislava summit next
week to put national governments back in control of the EU.
The summit will gather all EU-27 leaders to forge a new vision of
Europe. It is expected to expose the rift between newer member
states in the east and western countries committed to a European
project based on open borders and markets.
"Brexit is a fantastic opportunity for us. We are at a
historic cultural moment. There is a possibility of a cultural
counter-revolution right now ... People don't change, national and
religious identities still have their place. There's no European
identity that could replace them."
"Economic patriotism is a
valid topic to discuss. People say that money doesn't smell but the
owner of the money does. Only those nations that have their
historic, religious and national identity will survive and be
AR This is the kind of
nativist revolt against globalism that powered the Nazis.
Aryans v Arabs
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for the
"cursed, evil" Saudi monarchy to be stripped of its role as
guardians of Islam's holiest sites. On Monday he accused them of
being "puny Satans" in thrall to the US "great Satan" and claimed
that Saudi officials had "murdered" injured Iranian pilgrims caught
in a stampede during the 2015 hajj.
Saudi Arabia's most senior
Sunni cleric, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh: "These are not
Muslims, they are children of magi and their hostility towards
Muslims is an old one,” he said in a reference to Zoroastrianism.
Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "Indeed; no resemblance between
Islam of Iranians & most Muslims & bigoted extremism that Wahhabi
top cleric & Saudi terror masters preach."
AR Brace for war in the Gulf.
2016 September 7
EU Referendum Rules
We do not know what Brexit means in reality.
The country is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Whatever the
forthcoming Brexit plan looks like, it should be put to the people
in a referendum, or it should be debated and voted on in Parliament,
or there should be a general election on the issue.
exit the European Union, this House is about to be consumed with
legislation that will probably be with us for more than a decade.
The task ahead for the nation is gargantuan. We are talking about
the sort of effort involved in reconstruction after the war, or the
birth or the loss of empire.
Uncertainty is bad for business
and our economy. If Whitehall is focused on trying to work out
Brexit and then on trying to deliver it, where will the capacity be
to tackle many other urgent issues that the country faces? A
decision of such significance must be debated and approved by
When we voted on the referendum it was described
as advisory and non-binding. There was no two-thirds threshold as is
required in other nations to validate a major constitutional change
of this nature. There was no quadruple lock to ensure that the
majority in each of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom
agreed with the change.
I cannot see a way out of this other
than for the Government to present their plan for Brexit to
Parliament so Members can approve or reject it on behalf of their
constituents, or to present their plan to the people so they can
have their say in either a second vote or in a general election.
AR This is the meat of an excellent
speech by Lammy in a House of Commons debate on Monday on a petition
questioning the rules for the referendum on June 23.
Heather M. Roff, Peter W. Singer
the Obama administration created a Department of Defense directive
setting policy on how the Pentagon handles the questions of
autonomous weapons systems (AWS). The directive has a 5-year limit,
so Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will need to decide what the US
policy on killer robots will be within the first year of their term.
Robots in combat but outside of direct human control is where
the technology is headed. The US military is working on at least 21
different projects to increase the autonomous capacities of weapons
systems in war. American efforts are being paralleled by research
and deployments of increasingly capable systems from nations around
The present US policy does not sufficiently
identify what sorts of actions are permissible for various weapons
systems. It limits actions with AWS but allows semi-autonomous
weapons systems, yet is ambiguous regarding the difference. The
directive says it is crucial for "commanders and operators to
exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force"
but no more.
Learning systems are the future of AWS. They
will do everything from navigation to target recognition. By
learning how to deal with new kinds of targets, they will keep up
with the decoys or deceptions that an adversary is likely to try to
use. But by definition they might not act predictably. There should
be policy guidance on these systems.
The US will gain
valuable leverage if it can be the first nation with a robust policy
on armed robotics. It would be a bad thing for overall global peace
and stability if the US did so alone. The next president will decide
US policy on all this.
AR A movie
scenario: Imagine a million-strong Chinese army of AWS tanks
advancing westward across Asia on a broad front, like locusts, not
stopping until they reach the Atlantic Ocean. The tanks might be
called massively offensive new-generation off-road (Mongor)
vehicles, and the advance the Mongor invasion.
2016 September 6
Statement On Brexit
Britain is leaving the European Union. There
will be no attempt to stay in the EU by the back door. The people
Brexit will mean controls on the numbers of
people who come to Britain from Europe, but also a positive outcome
for those who wish to trade in goods and services.
Brexit is about seizing the huge and exciting opportunities that
will flow from a new place for Britain in the world. There will be
new freedoms, new opportunities, new horizons.
We can get the
right trade policy for the UK. We can create a more dynamic economy.
We can encourage the brightest and the best to come to this country.
My new Department for Exiting the European Union will require
significant expertise and a consistent approach. Negotiating with
the EU will have to be got right. We are going to take the time
needed to get it right.
We will be guided by some clear
1 We wish to build a
national consensus around our position.
While always putting the national interest first, we will always act
in good faith towards our
3 Wherever possible we will try to
minimise any uncertainty that change can inevitably bring.
4 We will put the sovereignty and
supremacy of this Parliament beyond doubt.
We will leave the
European Union, but we will not turn our back on Europe.
AR So shall I leave the UK to seek new
freedoms, new opportunities, new horizons, but not turn my back on
the British Isles? I think this would mean I regarded the UK
establishment as beyond reform. Davis seems to think the EU is
beyond reform and fit only for scrap.
Merkel and Germany
The state election in
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern gives the right-wing populist party
Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) a big boost and challenges
Chancellor Angela Merkel. The vote was essentially a referendum on
Merkel and her policies. Her center-right Christian Democratic Union
(CDU) won 19% of the vote, down 4% from 2011. The AfD went from zero
to almost 21% — the party didn't even exist five years ago.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is home to Merkel's own parliamentary
constituency, so the AfD has staged a revolution in her backyard.
The election became a single-issue vote on her refugee policies. The
CDU is now the third-strongest party in the state, behind the
center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the AfD. For Merkel, it is a
Emotions seem to have triumphed over
reason. Merkel has always staked her political success on clear
arguments based on facts and figures. Now she will have to do more
explaining and take a few hints from the Bavarian Christian Social
Union (CSU), which has been sharply critical of her stance on the
The AfD will not disappear soon. The
right-wing populists are on the rise. The problem is one for all of
AR With its population
of 1.6 million, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is one of the smaller German
states. It lies on the Baltic coast between Hamburg to the west and
Szczecin, Poland, to the east. AfD strength there is concentrated
in the eastern polling districts near the Polish border. The overall
state results for the AfD was just under 21%, but local results
ranged from around 12% in the west around Rostock and Schwerin to
around 32% in the eastern Greifswald districts, which had been CDU
strongholds. Some of the AfD voters had previously voted CDU but
many had not voted before.
Gary Saul Morson
The Russian Revolution of 1917 let
10,000 Bolsheviks take control of an empire. They made up for their
small numbers with outsized violence. Bolsheviks invented
No form of government had ever been so
brutal to those it regarded as its own people. Soviet Russia was
cruel. Conservative estimates of executions under Lenin and Stalin
range around 20 million from 1917 to 1953.
documented how many people Marxist-Leninists killed. They have asked
whether the deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians or the
murderous deportation of all Chechens to central Asia qualify as
genocide. They estimate 20 million deaths in the USSR, 65 million in
China, 2 million each in Cambodia and North Korea, 1.7 million in
African countries, and so on, for a total of about 100 million.
Toasting the 1937 anniversary of the Bolshevik seizure of power,
Stalin declared: "We will destroy each and every enemy, even if he
was an old Bolshevik; we will destroy all his kin, his family. We
will mercilessly destroy anyone who, by his deeds or his thoughts —
yes, his thoughts! — threatens the unity of the socialist state. To
the complete destruction of all enemies, themselves and their kin!"
AR I can see why Germans 80 years
ago wanted robust measures to tackle the Red menace.
2016 September 5
For decades, the synergy between the
private sector and the Department of Defense made great tech.
Together the Pentagon and the Valley came up with the internet and
with global positioning, imaging, and sensor technology. But the
relationship is ailing.
US defense secretary Ashton Carter:
"I am committed to building and rebuilding the bridges between our
national security endeavors at the Pentagon and innovators
throughout the nation from the tech entrepreneurs in Silicon
DoD National Security Technology Accelerator
director Adam Jay Harrison: "The Department of Defense is the world
leader in funding high-risk, high-pay-off technology, but too many
high-tech businesses and start-ups are turning their backs on us. We
are no longer inventing the future."
DoD no longer has the
deepest pockets. During the Reagan years, the US government
accounted for nearly 50 cents of every research dollar globally.
Today the amount is less than 5c per $.
The Pentagon invested
nearly $72 billion last year in R&D, more than double Apple, Intel
and Google spending on R&D combined, but only $12.5 billion of the
DoD spend was in science and technology to support work in DoD labs
and engineering centers.
US government work has lost its
allure. Splinternet author Scott Malcomson: "For Silicon Valley, it
is a disadvantage to be seen as a tool of the US government."
Mathematicians dismissed as moonshine the fact that the first
important coefficient of a certain j-function is 196,884, the sum of
1 and 196,883, the first two dimensions in which the monster group
can be represented. But researchers traced this fact to string
theory. The j-function describes string oscillations in a string
theory model, and the monster group captures the symmetries of the
spacetime these strings inhabit. In K3 string theory, evidence
emerged of 23 new moonshine structures connecting symmetry groups
with mock modular forms (which include the j-function). The Umbral
Moonshine Conjecture that these 23 moonshines exist was proved last
year. — Ed
String theory says
there are 10 spacetime dimensions. Since we only perceive 4, the
other 6 must be compactified. There are something like 10^500
possible ways to compactify them. The search for a toy model leads
to a K3 compactification, which captures the key properties of
Calabi-Yau manifolds and how string theory behaves on them. You can
think of K3 as a flat torus you can fold. The result of smoothing a
folded flat torus is a K3 surface.
I explored how black holes
behave in this theory. If the K3 dimensions are Calabi-Yau
manifolds, black holes can form. Trying to understand string theory
in K3 and the black holes that arise in that compactification should
also shed light on other problems.
A moonshine relates
representations of a finite symmetry group to a function with
special symmetries. Underlying this relationship in the case of
monstrous moonshine is a string theory. String theory has two
geometries. One is the worldsheet geometry of a string moving in
time to define a cylinder. If you roll the cylinder and connect the
two ends, you get a torus that gives you the symmetry of the
j-function. The other geometry in string theory is spacetime, and
its symmetry gives you the monster group.
To have a moonshine
is to have an algebraic structure. If you look at a theory and ask
what kind of particles you have at a certain energy level, this
question is infinite, because you can go to higher and higher
energies. In monstrous moonshine, this means that if you look at the
j-function, there are infinitely many terms that basically capture
the energy of the particles. Umbral moonshine says there should be a
structure like this.
AR Years ago
I used to relish struggling with this stuff.
2016 September 4
G20 summit in Hangzhou started badly for UK prime minister
Theresa May with warnings from the United States and Japan.
US president Barack Obama warned that the US wanted to focus on
trade negotiations with the EU and a bloc of Pacific nations before
considering a deal with the UK: "I've committed to Theresa that we
will consult closely with her as she and her government move forward
on Brexit negotiations ... But ... the first task is figuring out
what Brexit means with respect to to Europe. And our first task is
making sure we go forward on TTIP negotiations ..."
issued a 15-page warning that concludes: "Japanese businesses with
their European headquarters in the UK may decide to transfer their
head-office function to continental Europe if EU laws cease to be
applicable in the UK after its withdrawal ... In light of the fact
that a number of Japanese businesses, invited by the government in
some cases, have invested actively to the UK, which was seen to be a
gateway to Europe, and have established value-chains across Europe,
we strongly request that the UK will consider this fact seriously
and respond in a responsible manner to minimise any harmful effects
on these businesses."
May: "I won't pretend it is all going
to be plain sailing. There will be some difficult times ahead."
2016 September 3
Brexit: A Russian View
The British decision to leave the
European Union made Europe a little bit weaker. The whole process of
getting away from Europe is a difficult one and creates more
For Russia, it is important that Europe
is strong. We don't need weak partners. We need strong partners to
go forward and provide a better future for Russian and European
Strong politics makes Europe a big player in the
international landscape. Individual countries cannot affect
international politics in the same way that a united Europe can do.
Tim Maudlin says physics is about what
exists and what it does: "If you answer both of those questions,
then I think you have answered the question what is reality."
Quantum theory is our best description of material reality, yet
it seems to imply all possible states of a quantum object are
equally real until a measurement forces a single state to exist. Why
is one state real, and what determines which one? What happens to
the other versions — do they simply cease to exist, or do all
persist in parallel versions of reality? The mathematics of quantum
theory is silent on these questions.
If the mathematical
description is precise but the physical interpretation is messy,
might mathematics be the only real thing? Are the most fundamental
things bits of information?
Jan Westerhoff: "What we perceive
as the physical world is a kind of crystallization of abstract
Any true understanding of reality
may require understanding consciousness.
AR I have grappled with these questions
for decades. My theory: a primordial qubit buds endlessly into a
quangled omnium that crystallizes in the eternal now from future
flux onto my local past pile.
Asexuality is common. It reflects one of the
normal variations in sexual attraction. In almost all cases it is
not due to a choice, or a wish, or celibacy, or trauma, or
psychological dysfunction or disability.
learning more about the neural underpinnings of attractions and the
diversity of attractions. We know sexual orientation extends beyond
the conventional categories of same sex-attracted, opposite
sex-attracted, or attracted to both. The fact that an individual can
be asexual shakes up our thinking.
Asexuality by Lori A. Brotto and Morag Yule
years ago today, Britain declared war on Germany.
AR In that war Germans played the
In the next war — Brits?
2016 September 2
Conservatives esteem the existence and
autonomy of institutions that have stood the test of time. UK universities are such institutions. The UK comes second only to the
US in higher education, with 4 of the 10 top-rated universities in
the world and 10 of the top 50.
Universities generate and
impart understanding from generation to generation. Yet proposed new
legislation aims to turn the UK higher education system into a
competitive market. A new Office for Students (OfS) will regulate
and control university teaching.
The OfS will have the power
to abolish the ability of universities like Oxford and Cambridge to
grant degrees. This is a government takeover of the UK university
sector. The government fails to understand the value of independent
and enduring universities.
2016 September 1
Brexit Means Brexit
Curbing migration from the EU will be a red line in Brexit
negotiations. The UK will not accept a deal like those between the
EU and Norway or Switzerland.
Theresa May: "This must mean controls on the numbers of people who
come to Britain from Europe but also a positive outcome for those
who wish to trade goods and services."
AR No squaring the circle: This means strife on passports,
trade terms, everything.
Theresa May gave the one substantial speech
of her campaign for the leadership of the Conservative party in
Birmingham. It is the home town of her adviser Nick Timothy and was
the political base of Victorian titan Joseph Chamberlain. Timothy
wrote a biography of Chamberlain.
is much to admire in Chamberlain: "Our Joe" left a mark on
Birmingham that can still be seen today. In 1884 he said: "My aim in
life is to make life pleasanter for this great majority; I do not
care if it becomes in the process less pleasant for the well-to-do
Chamberlain's big ideas were backward looking and
utterly unsuited to our age. He wanted barriers to keep out global
competition and he decried mass immigration. Imperial preference was
a divisive part of the dance that drew the world to war.
Thomas Metzinger says
each of us has a robust experience that "I exist". But given that
humans might soon create virtual beings inside computers, we may
never find out whether or not we are simulations ourselves.
Our brain generates the feeling of existence. It is continually
hit by signals from the body and its environment, and it
predicts their causes by creating internal models of the body and
the environment. Metzinger: "The brain is a system that is
continually trying to prove its own existence."
All of this
certainty and doubting could still be part of a simulation.
Metzinger: "What I'd want to know is, what the heck is the hardware
that the simulation is running on? Is it God's brain or the
AR Both at once: All is
one in the cosmos.
Juno view of
Jupiter's north pole, about 2 hours before perijove
Message from aliens?
"Brexit is ... a huge
politically ... If we organize
Brexit in the wrong
we'll be in deep trouble, so
now we need to make
that we don't allow Britain to
keep the nice things, so
speak, related to Europe while
taking no responsibility."
"I think everyone
be comfortable being
naked because everyone's
Juno makes its closest pass
of Jupiter at 12.51
The close encounter will be the
first time the $1.1
has its full set of cameras and
and facing the
planet as it flies 4 Mm over
We hope for
AR My 1996 novel aimed to
humanism with unifed
planetary consciousness and
sketch a path
to the Lifeball.
The novel accelerated things
with a Googly
god coded by
a hyperconscious neutron
star — my muse for all
this was Carl Sagan.
Poles in UK
In 2015, there were 831,000
in the UK — the
biggest foreign-born population
Polish migrants living
in the UK have gained confidence
their value, built their social
skills, and developed fluency
in English. Now 92% of Polish
migrants are in employment or
education, the highest level
among all nationalities,
including the British.
Alpha Centauri (left),
Beta Centauri (right),
(in red ring)
RAF V-bombers, L to R:
Vulcan (first flew 1952),
Valiant (1951), Victor (1952).
the RAF flew 70 Vulcans,
50 Valiants and 39 Victors.
When Britain Ruled the Skies
AR Boyhood dreams
"When I invented the burkini
in early 2004, it was
women freedom, not
to take it away."
Current net worth of
Bill Gates (60)
2016 August 31
Planet of the Apps
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
For about 2 Gs, Homo
sapiens has been the smartest algorithm on the planet. But soon that
will cease as techno algorithms outstrip our old and slow
biochemical models. Computers will know us better than we know
ourselves. Harari: "Looking back, humanity will turn out to be just
a ripple within the cosmic data flow."
Harari says we can aim
for immortality, happiness and divinity: "We will now aim to upgrade
humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus."
will be able to merge with robots and computers and create new forms
of life: "After 4 billion years of wandering inside the kingdom of
organic compounds, life will break out into the vastness of the
inorganic realm, and will take shapes that we cannot envision even
in our wildest dreams."
It might all go horribly wrong. Homo
sapiens emerged as omnipotent because language and cooperation
enabled us to process data more efficiently than all other animals,
and now our technology promises spectacular breakthroughs, but our
societies are totally unprepared to grapple with such big issues.
Playing God is a dangerous game.
Capitalism and Democracy
Under both liberal democracy and capitalism,
people make their own choices and exercise agency. Humans are viewed
as ends, not as means.
egalitarian and capitalism is inegalitarian. In a limping economy
the majority might choose authoritarianism, and in a booming one the
rich might exercise plutocracy. Growing inequality and slowing
productivity growth endanger both democracy and capitalism.
Dani Rodrik says democracy, national sovereignty, and global
economic integration are mutually incompatible. We can have any two
of them but not all three. National regulations reduce freedom to
buy and sell across frontiers; removing barriers and harmonizing
regulations put limits on state autonomy; and free capital movement
constrains national freedom on taxes and regulations.
Movement across borders is divisive. Either people are allowed to
come and go as they like or citizens control citizenship as a collective property right. Migration forces choices between individual
liberty and democratic sovereignty, between national democracy and
global economic opportunity.
A global plutocracy might
replace national democracies. Or controlled national capitalism
might replace global capitalism.
The Kantian moral order requires that we see people as ends,
not as means, and that we promote equality of opportunity
in the global noosphere. National borders are an anachronism in
2016 August 30
Brussels has hit Apple with a tax penalty
of up to €13 billion after finding the US tech group enjoyed a
quarter of a century of illegal state support from Ireland that
distorted competition in Europe. The bill sets the stage for a big
fight over the taxation of US multinationals and EU reach into
national tax policy. EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager:
"Fair taxation is a global issue."
This is not only a hard ruling but also a marginally legal
one, since it applies retrospectively, yet it is surely a decent
one. Big companies are sitting on multibillion cash piles while
governments struggle to provide basic services. Global corporations
must not only obey the letter of the law but also be seen to be happy
to act in the manifest public interest.
The Irish model of
massive tax breaks for global companies was an attempt to run rings
around taxpayers across Europe and an invitation to other nations to
participate in a race to the bottom. Britain after Brexit is
flirting with the same business model and invites a similarly
draconian EU reaction. Let us not seek to beggar our neighbors in
our enthusiasm to get rich quick.
2016 August 29
Scruton On Wagner
Sir Roger Scruton is one of the finest
philosopher-musicians since Schopenhauer.
works ... are revelations ... Wagner ... makes available to an age
without religious belief the core religious experience."
Wagner: "It is reserved to art to salvage the kernel of religion,
inasmuch as the mythical images which religion would wish to be
believed as true are apprehended in art for their symbolic value,
and through ideal representation of those symbols art reveals the
concealed deep truth within them."
The Ring cycle presents a
crepuscular hunter-gatherer world on the edge of a more organized
society, in which the exercise of power rests on arrogation. Love
and sacrifice emerge as the only means of opposing this power and as
the sole path to redemption.
Scruton focuses attention on
the two most sacred episodes in the cycle:
1 In Act 3 of Die Walküre, Wotan
consigns to sleep and kisses away the godhead of his daughter
Brünnhilde, who has followed the way of love forbidden to the
immortals. This is a moment of incarnation, in which a god chooses
humanity with the intention of saving it.
2 In Act 3 of Götterdämmerung,
Brünnhilde releases her father from the existential anxiety that has
haunted his noble spirit, and puts him finally and definitively to
rest. This is nothing less than the end of religion.
exposes how Wagner uses music to make dramatic and philosophical
AR The cult of the
Ring is like the cults of
The Lord of the Rings.
2016 August 28
The European Union faces existential
problems. The euro is a slow-motion catastrophe, the flood of
refugees is unending, terrorism is a deadly plague, and an energy
crunch is approaching. Amid growing mistrust across Europe for all
the EU stands for, it is now faced with the vote of one of its
largest members to leave it altogether.
The venue chosen for
last week's meeting of the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, was
the little island of Ventotene off Naples. There, in 1941, a
prisoner of Mussolini's had written the visionary manifesto that
looked forward to building a United States of Europe. Altiero
Spinelli proposed that the future government of Europe be quietly
assembled over many years, and then when all its pieces were in place a
convention would draw up a Constitution for Europe.
Spinelli was elected as a Communist MEP in 1979, he became the
second most influential person, after Jean Monnet, in shaping Europe
as we know it today. The headquarters of the European Parliament in
Brussels is called the Altiero Spinelli Building. The project has
always aimed to promote a supranational government for Europe.
AR Booker is in bad company:
Anders Breivik too was
incensed by the communist prehistory of the EU. But its problems are
hardly existential. The euro can work in a federal Europe, the
refugee flood and terrorism are harder issues to tackle without the
EU, and our response to the energy crunch is best coordinated on a
There is an equally plausible
counter-narrative to that of widespread mistrust in the EU. It goes like this:
Brexit was hatched by a gang of renegade nationalists and rapacious
capitalists who aimed to profit from a captive population duped by
rabid rabble rousers into voting away (1) their market rights and
protections, (2) their freedom to come and go as they please, and
(3) their hopes for a better world in which queen and country no
longer dominate the outlook.
Workers of the world might
choose to unite to put down the nationalist rebellion on the
British Isles. They might see a tax haven economy in an anachronistic polity that
prizes carpetbagger billionaires over the downtrodden masses as an
intolerable blemish on the map of Europe. Harken to their
alliterative war-cry: Blackball Brexit Britain!
2016 August 27
Yuval Noah Harari
For thousands of years humans believed
that authority came from the gods. Then humanists gradually shifted
authority from deities to people. Our own feelings and desires
became the ultimate source of meaning.
Now, a fresh shift is
taking place. High-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are
creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of
algorithms and Big Data — Dataism.
Dataists believe in the
invisible hand of the dataflow. As the global data-processing system
becomes all-knowing and all-powerful, so connecting to the system
becomes the source of all meaning. Dataists believe that given
enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing
system could understand humans better than we understand ourselves.
Humanists have seen the human heart as the supreme source of
authority. In politics, we believe that authority depends on the
free choices of ordinary voters. Humanist education teaches us to
think for ourselves and humanist ethics tells us if it feels good,
Yet the idea of free will is under threat. Scientific
insights into the way our brains and bodies work suggest that our
feelings are biochemical mechanisms that all mammals and birds use
to make decisions by calculating probabilities of survival and
reproduction. Feelings are evolutionary rationality made flesh.
Until now humanism made good practical sense. There was nothing
magical about our feelings, but they were the best way we had to
make decisions. Even if the church or the state spied on me all the
time, they lacked the facts and the logic to calculate the
biochemical processes shaping my will.
But Google and
Facebook are gaining the edge. Biologists are deciphering the
mysteries of the human body and brain and computer scientists are
giving us unprecedented logic power. Once Big Data systems know me
better than I know myself, authority will shift from humans to
Devices such as Kindle can collect data on their
users while they are reading books. If Kindle were upgraded with
face recognition software and biometric sensors, it would know how
each sentence influenced your heart rate and blood pressure. Such
data should eventually enable Amazon to choose books for you with
uncanny precision, to know who you are and how to press your
Medical doctors increasingly base
decisions about your life on the calculations of computers that know
you better than you know yourself. Eventually people may give
algorithms the authority to make the most important decisions in
their lives, such as whom to marry. Google will likely do better on
average than me.
Dataism offers a single overarching theory
that unifies all the scientific disciplines. Your favorite music, a
stock exchange bubble, and the flu virus are just three patterns of
dataflow that can be analyzed using the same basic concepts and
tools. Dataism may conquer the world.
The world is a nail for a man with a hammer.
The challenge in machine
learning is to find a rule that classifies data correctly and is
likely to work for future examples. An algorithm might project two
datasets into an n-dimensional feature space and find a simple
separation by a process of iterative searching.
classification algorithms are known as support vector machines. They
identify the hyperplane that optimally separates points in an
n-dimensional space. SVMs have the property, not shared by neural
networks, that if the computation converges on a solution, it is
Until recently, most research in machine learning
was focused on such techniques. As computers became more powerful
and datasets larger, it became practical to leave the computers to
figure out the right feature space to use. It seemed as if the
computer had learned concepts.
Google built a huge artificial
neural network called Inception to analyze still images selected at
random from ten million YouTube videos. The tall stack of layers in
this network enabled it to recognise human or cat faces. Inception
distilled the concept of a cat face out of the data by itself.
A recurrent neural network uses weighted links not just between
nodes but between instances of the same node at successive steps in
the computation. Recurrent networks are ideally suited to analyzing
sequential data, such as speech or language. They can predict the
next word in a sentence to create a point in a feature space for
Google uses a recurrent neural network approach
for machine translation. Their network creates mappings between the
feature representations of words in different languages. The Google
network may soon seem to be using language as humans do.
AR When Google speaks, we shall bow down
2016 August 26
Liberal Islam Is No Answer
The problem of Islamist terrorism and
extremism cannot be solved by reforming Islam. Four problems blight
attempts at liberal reform:
Liberal Islam is based on a mostly imagined account of Islamic
history. Rationalizing history to serve present purposes makes only
a marriage of convenience.
Liberal Muslims see Islam through values stemming from a western
heritage reaching back to antiquity for legitimation. A liberal
caliphate is an oxymoron.
Liberal Muslims seek to define a true Islam to exclude extremists
and say most Muslims are moderate. Such exclusion conflates
extremism with heresy.
Islam lacks transcendent content and aims only for a polity
consistent with sharia. Its focus on management rather than
mysticism confuses sharia with spiritualism.
have yet to offer a clear alternative to Islamist militancy or
Not all species struggle to keep up with
competitors. Two species can start working together. For years
scientists thought mutualists evolved more slowly. But new research
suggests that mutualists can evolve faster than separatists.
Researchers sequenced the genomes of ants evolved to protect plants
that provide them with food and nesting chambers. These ants were
aggressive, patrolling and attacking herbivores and invaders. The
researchers compared their evolution with other ants who live in the
same place but have different behavior.
Benjamin Rubin: "We
originally set out to uncover the genetic basis of mutualistic
behavior in ants. So we sequenced the genomes of three mutualistic
species of plant-ants and four of their closely related,
non-mutualistic relatives. We were surprised to learn that the
mutualists actually had a higher rate of evolution across their
genomes than the generalists."
Populism v Democracy
Populism can be toxic. A state run through
populist referendums on every issue would be chaotic and would crush
civil liberties and minorities. Representative democracy has evolved
to manage its crudities.
Instead of mass referendums we have
an elected legislature. Its representatives have plenipotentiary
powers. They act on behalf of their constituents rather than
carrying out the will of those who voted for them.
June 23 referendum, less than a third of the population voted for
Brexit. But 76% of MPs saw remaining in the EU as in the best
interests of the UK. MPs who fail to do what they think is right for
the UK are failing in their job.
Professor Grayling and I shared much the same Oxford
education in political philosophy and taught for a while at the same
Oxford college, so I naturally agree with him.
2016 August 25
Nature announces that astronomers have found an Earth-like
planet orbiting Proxima Centauri
(see blog 2016-08-19).
the basis of planet surveys to date, we now believe that around 1 in
5 of Sun-like stars has a planet of similar size and composition to
Earth within their temperate zone, not too hot and not too cold for
liquid water to exist.
Earlier this year, billionaire
entrepreneur Yuri Milner announced a $100 million project called
Starshot to develop a probe to fly to Proxima Centauri in just 20
years (see blog 2016-04-13).
Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf,
with 12% of the Sun's mass and 0.15% of its brightness. Its
temperate zone is correspondingly closer to the star. Its planet
Proxima b has an estimated mass of 1.3 times that of Earth, and it
orbits the star once every 11 (terrestrial) days or so.
dwarf stars like Proxima Centauri, orbiting planets can be detected
by a wobble in the parent star, seen as a Doppler shift in the
wavelength of light emitted from the stellar atmosphere. Periodic
red and blue shifts reveal the duration of the planet's orbit, from
which we can calculate its orbital distance.
Liquid water and
rocky ingredients on Proxima b make life more likely. But a magnetic
field to fend off solar wind is essential too because its star is
more unstable than our Sun. Powerful solar flares spray the planet
with intense bursts of particles and radiation, including 400 times
the dose of X-rays that the Earth receives from the Sun.
Proxima b passes in front of its star from our perspective, we might
read the composition of its atmosphere from a spectral analysis. But
the chances of such a transit are very low. We are a long way from
finding neighbors out there.
This could form the basis of a great sci-fi novel/movie about
visiting the planet. I'd set it a century or so in the future and
imagine a robot ship offering telepresence for Earthbound humans.
The big challenge would be to set up a plausible starshot-capable society on Earth —
contact with an extremely alien lifeform would be the cherry on top
from an authorial point of view.
On June 23, the day of the referendum,
sterling reached a high of $1.50 and €1.31 shortly after polls
closed. It then plummeted, and has since averaged at about $1.30 and
€1.18. In trade-weighted terms, the pound is down more than 15% from
its level a year ago.
The foreign exchanges are backed by many
billions of dollars from in and outside the UK. They are saying that
everything in the UK has been marked down against the rest of the
world. Imports make up roughly 30% of UK GDP, and if their cost goes
up because of the vote to leave the EU, in time everybody will be
The mechanism is that prices rise more than wages. A
real-wage cut cements the effects of a cheaper pound. In the past,
each devaluation of the pound produced a temporary fall in the real
exchange rate, until domestic costs started rising faster than the
costs of UK trading partners, when the advantage eroded.
devaluation-powered improvement in UK trade will be harder to
achieve if Brexit reduces access to the EU single market and too few
new export markets open up. The British are poorer than they were
before the votes were counted on June 23. That reality will be clear
AR This cycle of
greed for pay and perks followed by devaluation has been the tragic
fate of Greece, Italy, and other European countries. It destroys
stability and confidence. The strongest holdout against such
boom-and-bust thinking has been Germany, and now EZ countries are
painfully learning the lesson that budget discipline is better. The
Brexit vote showed that UK voters are ready to bet on boom and bust
again. I see only folly.
2016 August 24
Czech Republic prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka: "In the face of
uncontrolled mass migration, even states in the center of Europe
have realized that internal borders must be better controlled. Aside
from better coordinated foreign and security policy, I also believe
that in the long term we will be unable to do without a joint
Security and defense are on the agenda as the
EU prepares to relaunch itself at the 70th anniversary celebrations
in Rome next March. EU leaders see a good starting point in the
mutual defense clause introduced by the Lisbon treaty of 2009. Like
NATO Article 5, it commits all members to come to the defense of any
member under attack.
Federalists see huge cost savings from
streamlining the overlapping defense plans of EU member states. A
June review of EU defense and military aims envisaged multinational
military headquarters, combined procurement, and deployments in
times of existential crisis. America and NATO are wary of any talk
of EU military integration.
Good plan to integrate EU defense: I just wish the UK were
The latest data suggests the eurozone has
shrugged off the Brexit vote. Purchasing manager indexes for the
single currency area, a reasonably reliable indicator of future
growth, showed a composite measure of confidence holding up well in
August, consistent with the economy turning in another solid
performance in the third quarter.
Big Banks Blockchain
Four big banks — UBS, Deutsche Bank,
Santander, and BNY Mellon — will develop a new form of digital cash
as an industry standard to clear and settle financial trades over
blockchain technology. Their utility settlement coin will let
financial institutions pay for securities without waiting for
traditional money transfers to clear. The digital coins are directly
convertible into cash at central banks and stored using blockchain
distributed ledger technology. Launch target is early 2018.
AR Mathematics in action, improving life
as we know it.
2016 August 23
EU Leaders Stay Firm
The leaders of Germany, France, and Italy
will not let Brexit reverse EU integration:
1 They pledge to reinforce European
defense, solve the refugee crisis, and spur economic growth.
2 They will seek an EU agreement to
improve intelligence sharing against Islamist
3 They plan to boost
industrial cooperation among European defense companies.
Angela Merkel: "Faced with terrorism and the civil war in Syria, we
must do more for our internal and external security. Defense
cooperation must be strengthened and the exchange of intelligence
information must be intensified."
François Hollande: "If
there is one wish we have to share it is to say that Europe must
assure its own defense, and France will take its part."
three leaders resolved to to prolong a €315 billion EU investment
plan by two years to 2019 and discussed an enlargement of the plan.
EU-27 leaders are preparing for a summit next month in
A UK government review of Islamist
extremism in prisons proposes segregating a small number of the most
dangerous Islamist prisoners to prevent them from radicalizing other
British jails have become universities of jihad.
Islamists threaten prison staff and other inmates, aggressively
promote conversion to Islam, and pressure staff to leave the prayer
room during periods of unsupervised collective worship.
Deobandi sect, to which over two-thirds of prison imams belong, is
hardline fundamentalist and gave rise to the Taliban. Mainstream
Deobandi thinking in the UK denounces integration, demonizes
Christians and Jews, and supports terrorism abroad. Deobandis
control almost half of British mosques and nearly all UK-based
training of Islamic scholars.
The steady penetration of
Islamist extremism in Britain is a reality. Many Muslims interpret
any attempt to thwart it as an attack on their whole community.
Refusal to acknowledge this reality is the road to defeat.
Progressed from level 2 to level 3 in classical mechanics.
2016 August 22
UK Infrastructure Spending Spree Needed
The value of UK infrastructure contracts
for July dropped to £1.5 billion. This is a fall of 20% against the
previous month and 23% lower than a year ago. It seems investors are
putting projects on hold as the result of uncertainty surrounding UK
withdrawal from the EU.
prime minister Theresa May has put infrastructure at the heart of
plans to rebuild the economy. Net public sector investment, which
includes infrastructure investment, fell from £51.5 billion in 2009
(3.4% of GDP) to £33.2 billion (1.8% of GDP) in 2015-16. The WEF
ranks the UK 24th in the world for the quality of its
AR Fix UK roads!
The Silk Roads
AR I have started
reading this book at bedtime and am already gaining new insights.
Frankopan goes against the Eurocentric tradition of beginning his
history of the world with the ancient Greeks and begins instead with the
Persians in a history turning on the heartlands of central Asia.
Starting in about the second century of the Common Era, Persia
suffered an epidemic of Christian and Buddhist missionary activity.
The authorities reacted by deliberately encouraging the old
Zoroastrian beliefs (focused on purity and fire) to maintain the
martial vigor of the population. The religion of Zoroaster (or
Zarathustra) first appeared in about the sixth century BCE.
It occurs to me that
Friedrich Nietzsche saw his
Also sprach Zarathustra as attempt to do the same thing for
Germans, whom he diagnosed as having gone soft through centuries of
Christianity. His Zarathustra preached racial purity and the
incendiary virtues of strife. As a professor of classical philology,
Nietzsche would have been well aware of the precedent.
Arrows, BAF day 4
RAF Eurofighter Typhoon
BAF day 4
4 golds in 2 Olympics
23 golds in 4 Olympics
British Jews upset by
Brexit look to Germany
The New York Times
London-based Jewish News
editor Richard Ferrer
Germany has done all in its
power to right its past wrongs:
"I'm very pro-German and I'm
very happy with Germany."
Blackbox Film & Medienproduktion
Brunhilde Pomsel, 105
2016 August 21
Bournemouth Air Festival 2016
weather today, so the show was better. The start was much the same,
but continued into aerobatics by Gerald Cooper in his
XA41, fly-pasts of WW2 American B-25 Mitchell and
Fortress bombers, wing-walking on a pair of
biplanes, a parachute team jumping from an Antonov An-2, a BAC
Strikemaster jet, a WW2
Spitfire Mk 2 — an original Battle of
Britain veteran, with a patched hole in the wing from a
Messerschmitt cannon shell (but the wounded Polish pilot nursed his
hit Spit back to base), flying in the colours of an ace who scored 26
kills, accompanied by music from the Battle of Britain
movie blared out over the festival PA speakers — followed by the Red Arrows and at last the mighty
Typhoon, making a thunderous noise from its twin ten-ton-thrust
turbojets as it climbed vertically into the clouds on full reheat. The Great War
biplane dogfight and the Lancaster bomber flyby were canceled because the wind was
too gusty. The crowd contained a large proportion of people with
visibly Muslim or subtropical heritage, for whom all this was rather
strange. British culture is shrinking into a museum format, and its
remains are morphing into awkwardly curated parts of a new global
Britain is taking the ideal of the Olympics seriously. In Sydney
in 2000, we won 28 medals; in London in 2012, 65; and so far in Rio
in 2016, 66, including 27 gold, second only to the United States.
Suddenly we are Team GB.
Our boys and girls wrap themselves
in union jacks and the nation feels a warm patriotic glow. Football
remains overwhelmingly our national sport. But for the brief
quadrennial convulsion of the Olympics, it is, in terms of money,
audiences, and emotion, the only game that matters.
National pride can be a reason for sport. Sports and the arts
are performed by specialists for specialists and yet we think they
are of wider importance. Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the
modern Games, called the Olympics a quadrennial celebration of the
springtime of humanity.
Team GB have done it again. A grateful nation
cannot but rejoice in our incredible tally of gold, silver and
bronze — enough for us to vie for second place with China, behind
only America. Not for a century has Britain finished second in the
gold medals table. Team GB has as many gold medals as Germany and
France put together.
breathessly patriotic BBC coverage gave us no coherent idea of which
competitors other than Team GB won which medals for which sports.
2016 August 20
Bournemouth Air Festival 2016
was not much of a day for flying — fierce westerly wind, high waves,
low billowing clouds — but there was still some flying over the pier
this afternoon. I watched three helicopters (a Merlin and two
Wildcats) and two Hawk jets fly around as a big navy frigate pushed
through the waves to support a simulated marines landing on the
beach. Then the Red Arrows did their customary choreographed routine
with red, white and blue smoke over the bay. All this action was
good for the armed forces recruiting stands along the seafront, who
were encouraging boys to get involved. I guess there will be no
shortage of eager recruits to ensure that Britain punches above its
weight when the EU army invasion barges come crashing onto our
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
will make his autumn statement in a fog of uncertainty. After six
years of austerity, spending on public services has been squeezed
more than at any time since WW2. Keeping to current plans will
involve cuts of 30% from 2010 levels for many items.
Forecasts have to be made without knowing how Britain will settle
with the rest of the EU. The UK economy will be much smaller by 2030
if we end up trading with the EU on standard WTO terms than if we
retain full membership of the single market. The forecasts will be
worse than before the vote.
Brexit worsens our economic
prospects. If we leave the single market and lose much of the
financial services industry of if we restrict immigration of
citizens from the EU, the rest of us will have to pay more taxes or
suffer worse public services. An end to austerity will merely
postpone the bad news.
math is clear: Brexit is a bust.
Progressed from level 3 to level 4 in geometry.
2016 August 19
astronomers have discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting our
nearest stellar neighbor, the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, just
40 Pm away.
Because the star is dim and sometimes produces
apocalyptic eruptions of plasma, any plants on the planet would be black to
use all the light for photosynthesis. Any animals would have to be
tough enough to survive
European Southern Observatory (ESO)
astrophysicist: "It was hard work finding the tiny celestial body.
We were at the limits of what is technologically possible when it
comes to measurements."
The ESO team used a specialized
reflector telescope on la Silla, a mountain in the Atacama Desert in
Chile. They looked at Proxima Centauri for months and detected a
tiny regular wobble in its position caused by an unseen companion
tugging at it. The planet has an Earth-like mass and moves so close
to its sun that liquid water could exist on its surface.
propulsion concepts would allow a nanotech probe to fly to the new
planet within half a century by accelerating to 0.1c.
worked on an ESO stellar atlas at Springer in 1987. I have the book
in front of me now.
2016 August 18
The Brexit vote has created an environment
of great uncertainty. No one can predict with any confidence what
will happen for at least the next three years, but economists are in
unusual agreement that if Brexit occurs it will be bad for the UK
and bad for the EU.
The more complicated the decision, the
less desirable a referendum. It is hard to think of a more complex
choice than Europe to put to voters. Given the ambiguity of Article
50, voters had no way of knowing what outcomes would come from a
vote to Remain or Leave.
A majority of 4% in a referendum
should not be considered a mandate to hastily invoke Article 50. The
vote was a straw poll of voter sentiments. Voters should be given
the opportunity to change their mind, either via a vote in
parliament or in a second referendum.
The euro was supposed to bring prosperity
and enhance European solidarity. It has done just the opposite.
Without adjustable interest or exchange rates and with a central
bank focused on inflation, the EZ raised unemployment and reduced
GDP. Changes are needed:
• A common banking union and deposit
insurance, trade surplus rules, and eurobonds
• Monetary policy to
focus more on employment, growth and stability, not just inflation
• Industrial and other policies aimed at helping laggard countries
catch up to the leaders
• A move away from austerity toward
growth-oriented fiscal policies
A single currency is neither
necessary nor sufficient for close economic and political
cooperation. A smooth transition might move to a flexible euro
system: strong neuro in the NEZ, softer seuro in the SEZ. To deal
with legacy debt, redenominate euro debts as seuro debts.
Progressed from level 3 to level 4 in algebra.
2016 August 17
Conflict in Ukraine
Institute for the Study of War
conventional conflict between Russia and Ukraine are accelerating.
Russia has positioned military units with thousands of troops in
Bryansk, near Rostov, in Crimea, and in Transnistria. Russia has
also deployed an air defence regiment in Donbass.
AR Russia can beat us in Ukraine.
UK in Europe
Theresa May needs a broader agenda to discuss
what the UK has to offer as a strategic partner to the European
project. Her pitch must include promises to engage with the big
continental challenges. The question is not whether we can cobble
together a thin facsimile of EU membership but how the UK can be an
upstanding friend and neighbor to the EU.
EU will involve diplomacy as pro-European as that required for
joining in the first place. In the intervening years we have spent a
lot of energy arguing about what Europe means to Britain. It is time
to consider what the rest of Europe might see in us.
AR The UK has scored an own goal with
the Brexit vote.
Progressed from level 3 to level 4 in number theory.
2016 August 16
Ada Ushpiz's documentary Vita Activa:
The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (2016) seeks to convey the complexity
and idiosyncrasy of the philosopher's thinking. Arendt used the
phrase Vita Activa to denote the fundamental categories — labor,
work, action — of an active life.
A problem with making a
film about Arendt is that philosophers are not supposed to have
lives. Martin Heidegger once was asked: "What was the life of
Aristotle?" His answer was that Aristotle was a philosopher: "He was
born, he thought, and he died." All the rest is pure anecdote.
Arendt would have agreed with him.
Heidegger avoid his relationship to Arendt and other women. In Vita
Activa, Heidegger's granddaughter Gertrud Heidegger suggests that
Heidegger took "spiritual comfort" in many young academic women,
Arendt among them. But films about Arendt place her association with
him at the heart of her life.
During an interview with
Arendt's former assistant about Heidegger's ties to the Nazi party,
Ushpiz asks whether Heidegger, like Adolf Eichmann, failed to think
what he was doing. The assistant laughs nervously in response.
Arendt did not openly engage with Heidegger's Nazism, but an
assessment of his failure to think is unavoidable.
2016 August 15
A German Life
Joseph Goebbels would walk up the steps
from his little palace near the Brandenburg Gate, on to which his
huge propaganda ministry was attached. He'd trip up the steps like a
little duke, through his library into his beautiful office on Unter
I worked as a shorthand typist in his office. We
always knew once he had arrived, but we didn't normally see him
until he left his office, coming through a door that led directly
into our room. He was short but well groomed and had a gentlemanly
air. He wore suits of the best cloth and always had a light tan. He
had well-groomed hands — there was really nothing to criticize about
him. I felt sorry for him because of his limp, which he made up for
by being a bit arrogant.
I was terrified to see him on stage
at the Berliner Sportpalast delivering his "total war" speech in
February 1943. I had a seat behind Magda Goebbels. In the office he
had a kind of noble elegance, and then to see him there like a
raging midget — you just can't imagine a greater contrast.
the Führerbunker during the last days of the war, it felt as if
something inside me had died. We tried to make sure we didn't run
out of alcohol. That was urgently needed to stay numb.
the Holocaust memorial was unveiled in 2005, I took a trip to see it
for myself. I went into the information center and told them I
myself was missing someone, an Eva Löwenthal. The list of names on
the machine we used just kept on rolling nonstop down the screen.
2016 August 14
UK PM Theresa May may be forced to delay enactment
of article 50 to late 2017 because her new Brexit and international
trade departments will not be ready. French and German elections are
also being cited as a cause for delay. Britain might not invoke
article 50 until France has voted next May or even until after the
German poll in September. The new departments are being set up from
scratch and the situation is chaotic, say sources.
UK international trade secretary Liam Fox
and foreign secretary Boris Johnson are feuding over who controls
key parts of UK foreign policy. Fox wrote to Johnson suggesting
British trade with other countries would not flourish if
responsibility for policy remained with the Foreign Office. He cited
economic statistics in support and suggested the FO should focus on
diplomacy and security.
The prospect of a Hard Brexit has a
bonus. The economic damage will soon become so obvious that the UK
government will face a backlash. As the economy sinks deeper into
recession and difficulties proliferate, plans for Brexit may start
EU leaders should insist on a binary choice. The UK must either
disengage completely from the EU remain an EU member. At the same
time, they should begin to reform the EU.
After Hard Brexit,
UK trade with Europe would be subject to WTO rules. These require
all members to be treated equally unless they are parties to a
specific FTA. The UK and the EU would have to impose the same
tariffs and restrictions on each other as they do to other WTO
British financial and service businesses would also
face WTO rules. But EU regulations could easily be altered to ensure
that most European financial activity was conducted on EU territory
under EU law. The idea that London would remain the financial center
of the EU is totally implausible.
Hard Brexit presents the
entire EU project with an existential threat. Mainstream politicians
across Europe would have to admit that disintegration of the EU or
the EZ is possible. Already they face 34 separate demands for exit
referendums in 18 other EU member states.
The EU will break
up if it continues to resist change. An EU offer to start serious
talks on reform would be hugely popular in Europe. If EU leaders
listen to voters and learn to respond, British voters might be happy
to remain in the union.
With a few days of work I raised my scores to level 3 in:
Next — level
looking west from Canford Cliffs, 8.15 am Saturday
NASA plans to launch a mission
to Jupiter moon
Europa in 2022.
A spacecraft will orbit Jupiter
and do close
flybys of Europa,
which likely has a deep
beneath its icy crust that
could host life.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
played by Lily
War and Peace
AR The new BBC
spurred me to reread the
book in the
by Anthony Briggs. Finished
late evening —
Half novel (one of the best
ever written) and
on the philosophy of history
(as interesting as
much clearer), this book is
a landmark in human
2016 August 13
Is God Transgender?
I'm a rabbi, and so I'm particularly saddened
whenever religious arguments are brought in to defend social
prejudices — as they often are in the discussion about transgender
The Israelite tetragrammaton YHWH was probably not
pronounced Jehovah or Yahweh but in reverse as Hu/Hi — in other
words, the hidden name of God was Hebrew for "He/She". The God of
Israel was understood by its earliest worshipers to be a
AR A useful
corrective to a sexist tradition.
2016 August 11
UK Government: New Policy
Theresa May has made big changes to the
cabinet in the wake of the EU referendum. She has also outlined a
new direction for policy, adopting a more confrontational stance on
Chinese investment and executive pay and signaling an enthusiasm for
building on the achievements of the coalition, which bore down on
high executive pay and focused on building capacity in sectors where
the UK has a competitive advantage. She seems to want to stick to
the center ground. This is wise, given her slim majority in the
May needs to rebalance a now-fragile economy and
recalibrate the UK relationship with Europe. She may be tempted to
seek an explicit mandate from the British people, but now is not the
time. She should govern in the interests of the whole nation.
UK Science: New Uncertainty
Following the Brexit vote, Theresa May must
decide what she wants from the divorce settlement with the EU. The
Royal Society and other UK national academies have issued science
priorities. They want the government to commit to filling any gap in
research funding left by Brexit and to keep EU regulations in areas
such as clinical trials and data protection.
Researchers also need to remain free to cross borders to work
and to collaborate as freely as they do now. The best research
requires collaboration and free movement. In July, May wrote to the
Royal Society: "I would like to reassure you about the government's
commitment to ensuring a positive outcome for UK science as we exit
the European Union."
2016 August 10
Several hours of clicking thru some fun online tests bagged the
Classical mechanics (2)
Electricity and magnetism (2)
Number theory (2)
Levels in parentheses: Must raise them.
2016 August 9
A Brexit Chance: Diversify Europe
I suspect that the euro, rather than
Brexit, poses the biggest risk to the EU. There is no real
confidence in the future of the euro but the EU is in denial. The
Brexit vote merely reflects this.
For the EZ to survive, a
banking union and EZ guarantees are required at least. Germany will
agree to this if EZ members relinquish aspects of their fiscal
autonomy. The EZ must integrate further.
The EU needs to
offer diverse models for its members. The single market can link
these models. It is wrong to use the single market to enforce
uniformity when the EU is about peace and prosperity.
must offer growth so that EU nations want to join it. EU nations
that stay out of the EZ would adopt a minimum of EU standards and
retain maximum national sovereignty.
Pound Worst Currency
Down about 12% since the start of the year and
trading at its lowest level since 1985, the pound is doing worse so
far this year than any other major currency. It has plunged
14% against the US dollar since the Brexit vote on June 23. Analysts
expect it will drop further from current levels around $1.29.
AR Join the EZ and help reform the
2016 August 8
At first glance, the European mood looks
good: 80% of citizens in the 28 member states and 89% of Germans are
satisfied with their lives. Personally too, most Europeans are
satisfied: an EU average of two-thirds say their financial situation
is good (Germans 82%) and 58% are satisfied with their job (Germans
68%). Many hope to do better next year.
Europeans seem happy
but many are pessimistic about the big picture. Most say things in
their home country and in the EU are going in the wrong direction.
They are unhappy with the state of the economy and the labor market,
and expect things to get worse.
a majority voted for Brexit. Individually the British are among the
most satisfied Europeans. But overall they are so pessimistic that
they want to move on — anywhere — just out.
In France the
satisfaction level is near the EU average. But 90% are unhappy with
the labor market, 85% say the economy in poor shape, and 76% think
France is going in the wrong direction. The Front National might win
the spring 2017 presidential elections.
In Germany most
people are happy both personally and with the national economy. But
most expect the labor market to get worse in future: 46% see Germany
and 60% the EU as on the wrong course. This is bad news for the fall
2017 general election.
Altogether the European economy is
stagnant, with the euro crisis far from over and Britain sinking
into recession. In many countries, immigration and terrorism are the
main reasons for pessimism about the economy. Populist politicians
paint a gloomy picture and tell a persuasive story, whether it
reflects reality or not.
Moving On Out
Brexit will require at least six
interlocking sets of negotiations:
Announcement: The EU-27 will want UK exit from the EU, as prescribed
by Article 50, before the June 2019 European elections and will not
extend the 2-year deadline.
An FTA on future economic ties with the EU along the lines of the
CETA deal is likely. Britain would gain only limited access to the
single market for services and London financial firms would lose
their EU passport.
cover for the UK before then: To repeal EU laws and shun European
Court of Justice rulings, to limit free movement only to those with
job offers, or to stop paying into the EU budget, the UK needs
agreement from the EU-27.
4 Accession to the WTO:
Britain is currently only a member of the WTO via the EU. The UK
must agree with the EU-27 on the schedules, and then all 162 WTO
members must agree. Any member could block UK membership.
5 Deals to replace the 53 FTAs that bind
the EU and other countries. Those countries will not want to
negotiate an FTA with the UK until they know what the EU-UK
relationship looks like or until it is an WTO member.
6 Agreement: UK-EU ties in foreign and
defense policy, police and judicial cooperation, and
counter-terrorism will be easier as here the UK has more bargaining
The longer British ministers take to complete these
negotiations, the worse the uncertainty for the British economy.
AR A series of fudges and failures
awaits a UK poorly equipped and quite unprepared to go it alone.
The British establishment has shot its bolt on this one. I say go
back to square one and reconsider.
2016 August 7
British people must learn to live outside
the EU. We need to understand why they made the choice that they
did. I believe that wealth, the way we understand it and the way we
share it, played a crucial role in their decision.
set individuals free, just as poverty can trap them. But a shift in
behaviour is inspiring some groundbreaking new enterprises and
ideas. Cathedral projects are being started by one generation with
the hope that a future generation will take up the challenges.
We live in perilous times. Our planet and the human race face
multiple challenges. These challenges are global and serious —
climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of
other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.
If we fail, then the forces that led to Brexit will strengthen.
If that were to happen, I would not be optimistic about the outlook
for our species. We must broaden our definition of wealth and learn
to share it more fairly.
Free Will Revisited
Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett
(podcast, 1 h 45 m)
AR Good review of what started years
back as an ill-tempered exchange. Sam yearns for absolute truth in
the jungle of neuroscientific causation whereas Dan appreciates the
pragmatic value of robust solutions for life as we know it. Since
neuroscience deconstructs me but I exist, Dan is right for me. Sam
wants a more purist explanation of the first person — he just lacks
a way to get it.
2016 August 6
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Richard Wagner situates the Viking gods in
a German landscape, along with Siegfried, hero of the
Nibelungenlied. The Ring Cycle is a story of the gods for people who
have no gods to believe in.
Its theme is the death of the
gods. The gods let us know and long for the sacred. Wagner implies
that we must recognise sacred moments to live as free beings and to
endow human life with significance.
Wagner came to believe
that there could be no political salvation from the ills of
civilization. Like Nietzsche, he saw resentment as the default
position of human communities, and believed that each of us must
achieve redemption for himself, through our capacity for love. The
Ring cycle attempts to show that real love involves freedom,
personality and sacrifice, with only momentary beauty and often a
The power of the gods comes from our belief in
them, and this belief must be naive, unquestioning and strong.
Wagner distinguishes the consensual order, ruled by law, from the
coercive order, ruled by treachery and violence. And caught between
these two orders lies the narrow sphere of personal love.
Wagner says stop looking to politics for salvation. And stop
expecting from love anything more than it demands, which is
sacrifice. It is a harsh moral, but a true one.
2016 August 5
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Richard Wagner understood that loss of faith
in the divine demanded another route to meaning. He found it in
ancient Germanic texts and used them to shape a new post-Christian
cosmology. He chopped his epic poem The Ring of the Nibelung into
four operas (16 hours of music) to tell the story of civilization
from the beginning to modern times through his hero Siegfried, who
fights for freedom and redemption.
took 26 years to complete, during which Wagner changed from
Schopenhauer-driven atheist to mystically besotted husband of the
hyper-religious Cosima, from anti-capitalist utopian to
artist-prince financed by mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. Three kings
and the Kaiser attended the premiere.
Wagner hammered his blockbuster allegory of the
downfall of civilization brought about by the evils of capitalism
and industrialization poisoning and polluting the natural world.
Like Nietzsche, Wagner saw in the death of the old gods both
unparalleled catastrophe and unparalleled opportunity to build a
better society. Wagner believed that only art could redeem modern
The Ring of Truth
AR Amazon delivered my copy of Sir
Roger's new book yesterday, along with the Solti recording of the
Ring (16 CDs, Decca).
2016 August 4
To explain why the known particle masses
are low enough to account for the weakness of gravity, Nima
Arkani-Hamed and team suggest a new particle, the reheaton. After
its birth, the universe inflated until it was cold and flat, and all
the energy was locked up in reheatons. These decayed into the
particles we know.
In the Standard Model, the Higgs has the
lowest possible nonzero mass. Take N copies of this model, each with
a slightly different mass for its Higgs boson. Varying the Higgs
mass leads to big differences in the effects of gravity. In a
universe with very massive or massless Higgs bosons, gravity is too
strong or too weak for atoms to form. Only one Higgs mass is right
For families with a Higgs mass just above zero, the
reheatons decay into one Higgs boson and another particle for the
remaining energy. For families with high Higgs boson masses,
the reheatons decay into two smaller entities (instead of a Higgs)
plus the remainder particle. Particles prefer to decay into fewer
entities, so most energy goes into light-Higgs families, and very
little to the others.
To account for weak gravity, fine-tune
the equation for gravity by adjusting the number N. It seems
N ~ 10^16 does the trick.
Arkani-Hamed et al.
We present a new mechanism to
stabilize the electroweak hierarchy. We introduce N copies of the
Standard Model with varying values of the Higgs mass parameter.
Ensuring that reheating deposits most of its energy into the
lightest copy requires a modified cosmology.
AR Intriguing, but work in progress, I'd
2016 August 3
AR Reading it
today — to the end. The best account of the life of the Prophet I've read — highly recommended. Now I'm reading the author's
translation of the Qur'an.
2016 August 2
While she was home secretary, Theresa May set up
an independent inquiry into the operation of Islamic law in the UK
as administered by Sharia councils. May: "Some Sharia councils may
be working in a discriminatory and unacceptable way ... contrary to
the teachings of Islam."
The error is to think such harm is
caused by anything other than Islamic law itself. Sharia holds that
a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man; condones marital
rape, forced marriage, and honour-based violence; and puts women
into burqas. Sharia rulings on marriage, divorce, children,
property, and inheritance violate fundamental human rights and
equality for women. Sharia orders the harshest possible punishments
for apostates, blasphemers, and homosexuals.
Sharia was one of various religious codes and practices that she
said benefited British people of different faiths. In fact, Sharia
entraps and enslaves many British people. Many British Muslims are
anxious to live under the legal protection of human rights.
Theresa May has deferred a decision on
the £18 billion Hinkley Point power station to reconsider whether
the French-Chinese financed project is in British national
interests. May works on problems with her co-chiefs of staff Nick
Timothy and Fiona Hill, who worked with her at the Home Office.
A minister said it was just the prime minister and two other people
running the country.
Theresa May's new joint chief of staff Nick
Timothy criticized Chinese involvement in the Hinkley Point nuclear
power station. In his recent writings, he
Brexit: "If the country votes to leave, it would almost certainly be
the British Government's policy to seek access to the Single Market
— criticized China: "We do not have to accept dumping by
the Chinese steel industry, in which state subsidies finance
overcapacity and lead to prices lower than the real cost of
— criticized social liberalism and green
taxes that are "far removed from — and sometimes run directly
against — the interests of ordinary families"
recipients of tax credits "are not feckless benefits cheats, but
millions of low-paid, hard-working people who are trying to do the
— wants an end to regime-changing military
interventions. In Syria, he would come "to terms with unsavoury
leaders including Assad, or at least members of his regime"
— likes stability instead of
radical institutional shake-ups, and prefers improving management by
rooting out incompetence in the police and poor governance in faith
One Nation Conservatism,
attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, holds that Conservatives should
govern the UK in the interests of the whole country, rich and poor.
Theresa May's new government will
— be more serious about
— seek to align foreign aid with the national
— tackle social justice issues
— seek to
boost social mobility
— push for serious social reform
build more homes
— promote apprenticeships and
— oppose more quantitative easing
2016 August 1
OSIRIS-REx will travel to a near-Earth asteroid
called Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study. The
mission is scheduled to launch September 8, 2016. As planned, the
spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a
sample to Earth in 2023.
William D. Nordhaus
For most of human history, economic
progress moved at a crawl. From the stone age, to the earliest
cities ten thousand years ago, through the Middle Ages, to the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1800, living standards
doubled. Another doubling took place over the subsequent period to
1870. Then the world economy took off.
measures of economic growth omit some of the largest gains in living
standards and underestimate economic progress. The standard measures
do not include gains in health and life expectancy. Nor do they
include the impact of technological revolutions such as the
introduction of electricity or telephones or automobiles.
The century of progress in the United States after 1870 was
economic. A rapid growth of output in the century to 1970 was
followed by decades of slower growth. Productivity growth slowed
sharply due to rising energy prices, growing regulatory burdens, a
structural shift to lower productivity sectors, and a decline in
Economists understate improvements in
living standards. The growth of real income is understated because
of flawed price indexes, and GDP omits aspects of economic activity
not captured in market transactions. Also, including health status
increases sharply the improvement in living standards over the last
AR We see a big global
step change, from pre-industrial to post-digital lifestyles, still
replacing traditional social forms worldwide. Some call it
capitalism in action — I call it the arithmetization of value. I see
this as part of a wider evolution of DNA life on Earth into MIR
life. This evolution of a
Lifeball is in turn part of a cosmic process by which
mathematically determinate form crystalizes out of the primal flux.
before 9 am, Sunday, July 31
Surrey manor house,
6 bedrooms: £2.6 million
(Rolls not included)
AR Living in the past
"Great Trump speech,
America first! Stop wars!
Protect our borders! Fair trade!
said it better!"
Former KKK grand wizard
Theresa May meets
Photo: Adrian Dennis
2016 July 31
As prime minister, I am setting up the first
ever government task force on modern slavery. There has been good
progress in the first year of the Modern Slavery Act that I brought
forward as Home Secretary. But there is still further to go on
raising awareness of these despicable crimes, improving training for
those in our criminal justice system, and strengthening support for
We need a new approach to defeating this vile and
systematic international business model. We have played the leading
role in getting the eradication of modern slavery into the
Sustainable Development Goals. We will be using over £33 million
from our aid budget to create an International Modern Slavery Fund
focused on countries where victims are regularly trafficked to the
The victims of modern slavery must go free. This is the
great human rights issue of our time. I am determined to make it a
national and international mission to rid our world of this barbaric
2016 July 30
Friedrich Nietzsche had a systematic
political theory. He saw the state originating from a conqueror with
an iron hand, who seizes power violently and forces a hierarchy on
the people. He favored a healthy culture in which philosophy and
great art could be produced, and favored slavery to release a small
number of Olympian men from the drudgery of daily existence to focus
on high culture. His thinking on eugenics and democracy was based on
theories of racial classification.
Nietzsche foresaw the
privatisation of the state and how democracies give birth to
aristocracies, herd morality, majoritarianism, and resistance to domination. He described how statesmen revive such
pathologies as nationalism, racism, intellectual parochialism, and
political insularity. He imagined the unification of Europe led by a
cultural elite, the good Europeans, bred from Prussian military
officers and Jewish financiers, who would create a new world
2016 July 29
Prime Minister May
Theresa May is Britain's first
post-Thatcherite Conservative leader. Her conservatism will likely
combine undisguised contempt for the cultural left's sacred cows
with a neo-statist economic policy. Her 2015 party conference speech
and her record at the Home Office suggest genuine concern about the
economic and cultural impacts of high immigration. She shares the
electorate's contempt for the self-congratulatory elite
cosmopolitanism of the city and magic-circle law firms.
has called for an industrial policy and worker representation on
boards. A deficit reduction program that was quietly reducing the
state share of the economy is likely to be largely abandoned. May
will be attentive to the forgotten northern working class at whose
expense the Thatcherite economic miracle was built. If Thatcherites
sought to help Brits compete against the rest of the world, most
Mayists find global competition terrifying and would prefer
Theresa May is not the establishment candidate and
certainly not merely a safe pair of hands. She represents a
challenge to ubiquitous cultural and economic elite assumptions.
Aspects of her cultural and economic outlook suggest she would
cheerfully sacrifice the British financial services industry in
return for lower immigration. As some of their international friends
depart and their bonuses diminish, the London elite may start to
want their country back.
May's approach to immigration will
sit uneasily with the left and right of the party. Moving toward a
centrist economic position might unite left and right against the
government. With a wafer thin majority, extremely difficult Brexit
negotiations to conduct, and a deliberately exclusive cabinet, the
government would soon be floundering. The obvious way to prevent
this destabilisation is for May to restrain her advisers and
moderate her break with the previous consensus.
May and Munich
Atrocities like the July 22 attack in
Munich remind us that we spend too much time focusing on party
political trivia. Our state representatives and institutions are
entrusted with the difficult job of protecting us. And if the threat
of this kind of attack continues to grow, all manner of new
questions will arise for Britain, and for the wider European and
The recent dominant Western view has been
to celebrate unconditionally all forms of unification, movement and
migration, and a developing plurality of values and views. We have
assumed that the promotion of those ideals combines to form simply
effected progressive aims that fit well with our tolerant society,
and improve the lives of citizens here and elsewhere.
May will need to consider the disillusionment that feeds support for
extreme politics and ideologies, failures to recognise and dilute
radical influences, upcoming elections in America and Europe, and
the EU responses to the refugee and EZ crises. How she deals with
such threats will be as important as how she deals with the Brexit
2016 July 28
Elect Hillary Clinton
President Barack Obama called Trump a "homegrown
demagogue." Michael Bloomberg dismissed him as a "con." And Vice
President Joe Biden, in rejecting Trump, declared that "Americans
have never, ever, ever, ever let their country down."
cast the 2016 election as a choice between two visions for the
country: "It's not just a choice between parties or policies, the
usual debates between left and right. This is a more fundamental
choice — about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to
this great American experiment in self-government."
told delegates that no man or woman has ever been better qualified
for the presidency than his former secretary of state: "Not me, not
Bill, not nobody."
"Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary
Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you
carried me ... If you're serious about our democracy, you can't
afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on
every issue. You've got to get in the arena with her, because
democracy isn't a spectator sport. America isn't about 'Yes he
will.' It's about 'Yes we can.' "
2016 July 27
UK and Ireland
Our discussions focused on Brexit:
• Economic relationship:
Trade between the United Kingdom and Ireland is worth almost £1
billion each week, supporting 400,000 jobs across our islands. To
maintain the closest possible economic relationship in the future,
we need to address a number of complex issues. We should take time
now to study the options and to strive for practical solutions.
• Common travel area:
We benefitted from a common travel area between the UK and the
Republic of Ireland for many years before either country was a
member of the EU. Both of us want to preserve it and so we must now
focus on securing a deal. We should continue our efforts to
strengthen the external borders of the common travel area.
• Peace process: It is
in all our interests to work together to safeguard our national
security. We are both fully committed to working together in support
of the Northern Ireland Executive to build a better, stronger, safer
future for the people of Northern Ireland. We have reaffirmed our
commitment to establishing a new Independent Reporting Commission by
the end of this year.
There are many issues to resolve.
2016 July 26
Brexit: The Movie
AR In the Swanage
Conservative club meeting room, some two hundred mostly young men in second world war
British battledress, including tin helmets and hobnail boots, sat under a
wartime portrait of Winston
Churchill for a briefing before marching off to the shooting.
2016 July 25
God v Multiverse
If the universe began with a quantum
particle blipping into existence, inflating into spacetime and a zoo
of stuff, then why is it so well suited for life?
physics supplies an answer. In the multiverse of many universes, all
with different constants, we are here because we happen to be in one
of the universes that works. No miracles, no plan, no creator.
Ptolemaic cosmology put Earth at the center of a succession of
celestial spheres. Nicolaus Copernicus put the sun at its center.
But a hundred years before Copernicus, Nicholas of Cusa had said the
universe had no center. Start from any cosmic body, Cusa suggested,
and the visible area around it is what we call a world.
Giordano Bruno said the universe is infinite because its creator is.
There is no bit of God left over before or beyond or outside
creation. This infinite universe is the source of all things, the
life in all things, and the end of all things — or what everybody
means by God.
2016 July 24
Trump A Danger
The Washington Post
Republican presidential nominee
Donald J. Trump is uniquely unqualified to serve as president. A
Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.
It has been 64 years since a major party nominated
anyone for president who did not have electoral experience. The lack
of experience might be overcome if Trump saw it as a handicap worth
overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears
to believe he needs no advice.
The Republican Party has moved
the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders
impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil
democracy depends. We have criticized the presumptive Democratic
nominee, Hillary Clinton, but we do not believe that she represents
a threat to the Constitution. Trump is a unique and present danger.
A Banana Republic
The Republican convention has been
consumed by a vigilante rage. Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted
that Hillary Clinton deserves to be in jail. The picture presented
to the world has been of America as a banana republic.
Donald Trump announced that he might not honor the NATO
guarantee of security to European allies, practically inviting
Vladimir Putin to destabilize Eastern Europe. That is a break not
just with seven decades of Republican foreign policy but also with a
core US commitment that has kept the peace since 1945. It is the
most reckless statement made by a presidential candidate in modern
The Republican Party has given itself up to a single
family and its business interests. Whatever happens, the Trump brand
will come out of this election with even greater global celebrity.
2016 July 23
The Final Frontier
A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope mosaic image gives
us our latest, deepest view of the universe. The map shows 1.2
million galaxies as they were were 6 billion years (Gy) ago.
NASA Frontier Fields lead astronomer Anton Koekemoer: "We basically
use a cluster of galaxies as a natural gravitational lens, using
effectively a natural telescope to amplify these distant galaxies
much more than we've ever been able to do before."
Fields is a joint project combining data from Hubble, the
Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The goal
is to learn more about the early universe by studying distant galaxy
clusters using gravitational lensing of remote supernovas by the
Koekemoer: "Many of the key scientific
results to come out of Hubble probably weren't even envisioned when
it was being designed. There are always new areas that can be
Researchers have used
BOSS data to measure galaxies in a spherical volume reaching
back 6 Gy. They find the universe expands by 1% in each direction
every 145 My. The James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018,
will observe light redshifted beyond anything Hubble can see, from
events soon after the Big Bang 13.8 Gy ago.
Sloan Survey gives us our most detailed picture of what we call the
intermediate distance universe, so these galaxies are distant but
they aren't nearly as distant or early in the universe as what we
see in these deep fields of Hubble ... You're really pushing back
further into the early universe. It's very much like a final
2016 July 22
America Is Back
My message is that things have to change —
and they have to change right now. The crime and violence that today
afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January
20th, 2017, safety will be restored.
Our convention occurs at
a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and
the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any
politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our
We are going to build a great border wall to stop
illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop
the drugs from pouring into our communities.
This is the
legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction terrorism and
weakness, but Hillary Clinton's legacy doesn't have to be America's
It is time to show the whole world that America Is
Back — bigger, and better and stronger than ever before.
Donald Trump is the person to make America
great again. I have seen him fight for his family, for his
employees, for his company. And now I am seeing him fight for our
My father not only has the strength and ability
necessary to be our next president, but also the kindness and
compassion that will enable him to be the leader that this country
needs. He is color blind and gender neutral. When Donald Trump is in
charge, all that counts is ability, effort and excellence.
president, my father will change the labor laws put in place when
women were not a significant portion of the workforce. He will make
childcare affordable and accessible to all. He will fight for equal
pay for equal work and I will fight for this too, right alongside of
When my father says he will make America great again, he
2016 July 21
A British Crisis
The vote for Brexit has revealed a deep
fracture in British society. The gaps between north and south, the
social classes, Londoners and everyone else, rich Londoners and poor
Londoners, and white and brown and black are real. Extreme
inequality fractures communities.
After a while the whole
edifice comes tumbling down. Everybody has been losing, but no one
more than the white working classes who really have nothing, not
even the perceived moral elevation of trauma or victimhood. And so
many of them have chosen to be flagrantly, shamelessly wrong.
There has been a money madness in London for some time. The
economically and socially disenfranchised of this nation are
struggling and deeply unhappy. I believe that most of those who
voted Leave did so out of anger and hurt and disappointment.
Britain is now in crisis. Rather than pull another veil over the
mess, we might as well start trying to build from where we are. The
rights and protections provided for the British people by Europe
must not now be replaced by a nonsensical vision of British
2016 July 20
UK v EU: Not Over
The dogma that referendums are
sacrosanct is a travesty of true democracy. In genuine democracy
nothing is ever irreversible, since every decision is always open to
debate. This principle of continuous challenge must be restored
quickly if Britain is to avoid a catastrophe.
others need to begin a serious debate about the right balance
between direct and representative democracy. The new government will
have to find a way to preserve the main benefits of EU membership
and then present the plan to voters. Political leaders from the rest
of Europe will then have to show greater flexibility and a stronger
instinct for EU preservation.
We need to challenge the
assumption that democracy requires unquestioning obedience to a
referendum result. The essence of democracy is the right to
challenge and reverse majority votes. After every election, the
defeated party becomes the official opposition, tasked to change the
will of the people before the next election.
A referendum is
a message directly from the people. But the UK is a representative
democracy. Parliamentary representatives are entrusted with making
decisions, because the will of the people is often inconsistent or
erroneous or even dangerous.
Margaret Thatcher called
referendums a device for dictators and demagogues. Germany excluded
referendums from its postwar constitution. Democracy represents the
diversity of individuals, each with changing opinions and
Efforts to keep Britain in the EU after the vote
are as democratically legitimate as any other popular political
movements. We need a campaign to secure a second referendum or
general election to judge any new deal proposed by the government.
The claim that referendums are irreversible and permanently binding
is a parody of democracy — one man, one vote, one time.
UK v EU: Facing Reality
Brexiteers said the EU was aiming for a
federal superstate. But the EZ and migration crises have changed
things. The EU is economically and politically too diverse to push
for ever closer union.
The EU faced reality during the EZ
crisis. The crisis was handled largely by the European Council, made
up of heads of member state governments, rather than the European
Commission, made up of technocrats. The EU must recognise the
council as its supreme executive and the commission as its
The EU must now face reality on freedom of
movement. That principle was first outlined by six member states at
a similar stage of economic development. It is unsuitable for 28
member states at different stages of economic development.
The EU needs to prove its value to its citizens. The British
contribution was always to subordinate rhetoric to reality.
Europeans need to rescue the EU from its elitist and technocratic
2016 July 19
Quantum theory is our best theory of basic
reality. The Schrödinger equation describes a wave function that
gives reliable odds on which of many possibilities you will see if
you take many measurements of identical objects. The Copenhagen
interpretation says the act of observing reality collapses the wave
function into a definite object. In 2011, an informal poll of 33
physicists attending a conference on quantum physics and the nature
of reality found that over 40% accepted the Copenhagen view. Sean
Carroll called it perhaps the most embarrassing poll in physics.
An objective collapse theory
can solve the observer problem. A human observer meddling with a
quantum system is bound to get entangled with it and collapse any
uncollapsed wave function in it. Such a theory was worked out
decades ago by Giancarlo Ghirardi and Tulio Weber. They tweaked the
Schrödinger equation to make the wave function evolve naturally from
a mixed states to a unique state. To do so, they added a nonlinear
term to promote one state fast and a stochastic term to make this
happen at random.
Daniel Sudarsky and Elias Okon have shown
how objective collapse in the early universe would give rise to an
uneven distribution of matter to form stars and galaxies. They say
the rate of random wave function collapse could explain the
information loss rate predicted for black holes. Since spontaneous
wave function collapse makes a bit of energy, this process could
solve the problem of dark energy. Objective collapse might also
explain why the universe started in a state of extremely low
entropy. The steady increase of entropy since then appears to us as
the arrow of time.
AR I read a
technical account of the Ghirardi-Weber theory in 1988 and found it
interesting. Although it is rather heuristic in motivation, it
shares this feature with much of physics. I am tempted to go for the
full Copenhagen, with a new theory of subjectivity to steer clear of
anthropology — the result is the psychophysics I aired in my 2009 book
erfreulicher Urlaub in Deutschland: Hotel direkt neben diesem
Garten, schöne Zeiten mit guten alten Freunden
spektakuläre SAP Summer Summit 2016 auf dem SAP-Campus in Walldorf
Statement from Tony Blair
on Chilcot Report
Pound plumbs 31-year low
as Brexit impact bites
Conservative leader and PM
vote among MPs, first round:
Theresa May 165, all the other candidates together 164
Pound hits new
against dollar: $1.30
UK property funds halt trading
as Brexit contagion spreads
A Letter to Europe
2016 July 9
Intricate webs of European cooperation
built up over decades by British companies, institutions,
universities, research establishments, galleries, employers of
British skills and British labour are now wrecked. In many cases the
work of patient decades is shattered beyond repair. The economic and
human consequences are of incalculable magnitude.
stupid, ignorant people in every country. Most of them are not asked
to take historically momentous and irrevocable decisions of state.
It is unfair to thrust onto unqualified simpletons the
responsibility to take historic decisions of great complexity and
The prime minister recklessly gambled away
the future of Britain and Europe. Lacking the courage to tell the
yobs in his own party to take a running jump, he played Russian
roulette with the future of Europe and the world. His decision to
hold the referendum was a monstrously irresponsible gamble.
His place in history is assured, but not pretty.
2016 July 8
America and Europe
This may be the most important moment for
our transatlantic alliance since the end of the cold war. Terrorist
attacks, waves of migrants, Russian aggression, and the vote in the
UK to leave the EU all raise questions about the future. We can meet
these urgent challenges only if we stand united.
confident that the UK and the EU will be able to agree on an orderly
transition to a new relationship. The special relationship between
the US and the UK will endure. I have no doubt that the UK will
continue to be a major contributor to European security.
Likewise, the US will continue to have an indispensable partner in
the EU. US and EU cooperation will be essential to stimulating
global growth and reducing inequality. Europe will remain a
cornerstone of American engagement with the world.
Brexit creates some uncertainty, our shared prosperity will continue
to rest on the solid foundation of NATO. In Warsaw, we must reaffirm
our treaty obligation to defend every NATO ally. NATO members must
continue to invest more in our common defense.
are more secure when we stand together. We are united by our
enduring commitment to shared values and strengthened by our rich
diversity of backgrounds and faiths. We will prevail if we stay
united, strong and true to our democratic values.
2016 July 7
Jews Reconsider UK After Brexit
Brexit has led to a surge in the numbers
of Britons seeking to become nationals of other EU states.
Descendants of Jewish refugees who fled to the UK to escape from
Nazi persecution are seeking German nationality.
nationality is available to someone who has at least one German
parent or who has lived for a certain period in Germany. For Jewish
and political refugees from the Third Reich, the Grundgesetz says
former German citizens who from 1933 to 1945 were deprived of their
citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their
descendants, can have their citizenship restored.
AR I shall seek a German passport.
DARPA Hack Bots
A $55 million hacking contest put on by DARPA
called the Cyber Grand Challenge is set for August in a ballroom in
Las Vegas. A visualization in arena view will show hack bots inside
seven supercomputers, each running AI software that defends one
machine and attacks the rest.
The supercomputers will stand
on a clear plexiglass stage. The contestants, the seven teams that
designed the bots, will watch the bots working inside the machines,
analyzing and defending software and looking for security
vulnerabilities, scrambling to patch those vulns and keeping their
systems running. DARPA referees will watch the show too.
Finding and patching security holes was a human talent, but machines
are taking over. Google is building sweeping systems that can
identify vulns via fuzz testing, a technique that involves throwing
random inputs at a piece of software. The system can simultaneously
fuzz dozens of Android phones, and is using deep neural networks to
learn what sort of fuzzing is likely to work.
bots that can identify and patch vulns in the moment, without human
intervention. The Las Vegas audience will see when a bot finds a
hole, when it patches the hole, when a bot breaks the service, and
so on. The visualization can drill down and look at the streams of
data in a trace view that shows the execution flow of a program on
the data, like a debugger.
Reminds me of the good old days at SAP.
2016 July 6
Chilcot Inquiry Conclusions
Seven years and 2.6 million words later,
the Chilcot report presents the UK role in the Iraq debacle as a set
of collective failures. It concludes that Tony Blair's decision to
go to war in 2003 was flawed.
Chilcot: "It is now clear that
policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and
assessments. They were not challenged and they should have been."
The Joint Intelligence Committee headed by Sir John Scarlett was
responsible for collating the intelligence and presenting it to
ministers. MI6 had a responsibility to ensure that ministers "were
informed in a timely way when doubts arose".
criticised for failing to tell the Commons the full intelligence
assessment on the consequences of military action when he said
Saddam Hussein constituted a "real and present" danger to UK and
Chilcot: "The risks of internal strife in
Iraq, active Iranian pursuits of its interests, regional
instability, and al-Qaeda activity in Iraq were each explicitly
identified before the invasion."
The referendum was manifestly won on the
basis of misinformation. There are several plausible ways forward,
yet all the Conservative leadership candidates are going for Brexit.
An explanation can be found by extrapolating from a pattern evident
in privatisations going back decades.
When the railways were
privatised, the experts objected but the government pressed ahead
anyway. When university finance was privatised, experts pointed out
the problems but the government pressed ahead. When the government
proposed to force all schools in England out of local authority
control, its aim was to place the entire school system in private
hands. When the near meltdown of the global financial system raised
doubts about the entire system of global capitalism, the UK
government simply cut back social welfare provision on a grand
Advocates of leaving the European Union claimed that
after a brief period of turmoil it would be fine. A vast chorus of
experts disagreed, the referendum result delivered a global shock,
and now UK affairs are in complete confusion.
capitalism operates by delivering massive shocks to the system and
then using the ensuing period of anarchy, fear, and confusion to
reassemble the pieces of what it has broken into a new
configuration. UK politicians can now redraw the legal framework
that will govern all aspects of our lives. They will find countless
pretexts for emergency measures that benefit business and roll back
the state during the current parliament.
Riot Club last night, I realised that the Brexit drama could
have been scripted by establishment figures duped by disaster
capitalists who aim to get rich at EU expense. Seriously, the key to all this is that
government is the problem, not the solution. People must sort their
own lives, not look to the nanny state to do it for them. Government
is hobbled by its commitment to democracy. Big corporations are free
to order themselves like totalitarian states, which given clear
goals can be much more efficient. A parliamentary democracy should
leave as much as possible to corporations and restrict itself to
debating a framework of rules and goals for them. In this view,
the EU is a dinosaur like the USSR, or rather a cash cow, ripe for a
2016 July 5
Juno Enters Jupiter Orbit
The New York Times
Juno is the second spacecraft to enter orbit around Jupiter. The
NASA Galileo spacecraft spent eight years there surveying the planet
and its moons.
Jupiter is believed to hold the keys to
understanding the origins of our solar system. How much water it
contains and the possible presence of a rocky core could reveal
where in the solar system Jupiter was created and provide clues to
the early days of other planets. Juno will measure the magnetic and
gravitational fields of Jupiter and the microwave glow from within.
A titanium vault will shield its crucial systems as it passes
through the Jovian radiation belt.
Juno traveled within 5 Mm
of Jupiter's cloud tops, passing through almost the exact spot that
the navigators had aimed for after its 2.7 Tm voyage. After the
engine burn, the spacecraft pivoted to turn its solar panels toward
the Sun. Sunlight at Jupiter is 4% as bright as at Earth, and Juno's
three 10 m long solar panels generate only 500 W to power the craft.
The spacecraft will have to make multiple flybys to start
answering questions like whether there is a rocky core at the center
of Jupiter. From polar orbit, the Juno cameras are likely to add to
the number of known moons of Jupiter, now 67.
radiation dose will take its toll on the electronics. As the mission
progresses, the orientation of the orbits will pivot, and Juno will
pass through more intense radiation.
On orbit 37, slated
for 2018-02-20, Juno is to dive into Jupiter, ending
As UK home secretary, I have been the cabinet
minister responsible for counter-terrorism for the past six years. I
am a member of the National Security Council. At times of high
alert, I am called upon to chair meetings of Cobra.
vital for our national interest that we maintain what is the most
significant security and military capability in Europe. It is
crucial that we maintain our independent nuclear deterrent. We need
a full fleet of four submarines.
We should get on with it.
EU — UK
IMF head Christine Lagarde says the UK could
lose up to 4.5% of growth by 2019 if it presses ahead with Brexit —
but the EU could make the best of the vote by getting on with
decisions unencumbered by British opposition. The prediction assumes
Britain reverts to WTO status. If the UK remains part of the single
market, the damage would be 1.5%.
Lagarde: "I have heard
European commissioners, one after the other, say, this is so
complicated, we can't do it because of the British ... I believe
Europeans will come out of Brexit on top."
Steps to Brexit
David Allen Green
The political class in the UK has had a
fright. They were not expecting to lose the EU referendum. So now
there is a crisis — but only for a while.
Already the unwritten constitution may be saving the political class
from their own folly and complacency. The referendum was never
binding in law and was a glorified consultation exercise. The real
decision had to be made afterwards, as a distinct legal act.
The prime minister was expected to make that decision on the day of
the result. But he left it to his successor to make. The government
may get away with this move because the Leave campaigners had no
Unless a sincere Leaver becomes the next prime
minister, the UK government can be expected to take three steps
to slow down the Brexit process:
Snap the tie between the referendum result and the Article 50
2 Require some form of
preconditions before further action.
Brexit becomes less
likely as time passes. It may not happen at all.
Non to Frexit
For the French, the most visible
consequence of the Brexit referendum is the return of Marine Le Pen.
She is back with a vengeance and a huge grin. But France is not
ready for Frexit.
France had a crucial role in creating
the European Union. Postwar French leaders have constantly pushed to
take Europe further as an instrument of power on the world scene. As
Europe took shape, at every stage, the Franco-German tandem, the
engine of Europe, was humming behind the scenes.
three pillars: France, Germany, and Britain. For France, Britain was
a partner in its strategic vision of the world. With Brexit, one of
the three pillars is gone, and France faces an uneasy marriage with
a stronger Germany.
For the past 10 years, the European Union
has failed its citizens. Over the past few days, European leaders
have hastily identified three priorities to save their union:
security, migration, and economic growth. Their failure can be
overcome if European citizens regain a sense of the political and
historical mission of the European idea.
Berlin on Brexit
The result of the referendum was clearly
in favor of withdrawal. That disappointed us, but we must respect
it. But we can also see that the debate over how to handle the
results is only just beginning. Wisdom demands that we wait and see
the outcome of this debate.
I have always wanted
Britain to be a strong member state in the EU, especially from a
German perspective. The Brits must first decide if and when they
want to submit a request to withdraw. No one knows what demands the
new government will put forward.
British institutions should
be allowed to reflect on the consequences of the referendum. The
German constitution does not permit such referenda for good reasons.
We will continue to be reserved at the federal level about
plebiscites, especially if they have direct effects on other
Globally, the EU has enormous allure and enjoys a
great degree of respect. But there are different notions about how
Europe should continue. Simply calling for more Europe is not
The Evolved Laser Interferometer Space
Antenna (eLISA) is a physics experiment. eLISA relies on a stable
configuration of three satellites 1 Gm apart (3 times the distance
from the Earth to the Moon) at the vertices of an enormous
equilateral triangle drawn by laser beams.
satellite there is a set of tiny gold cubes in zero gravity. These
free falling test masses will respond to the smallest disturbance in
the fabric of spacetime, looking for gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves were first detected last year by LIGO and
promise to open a new type of astronomy. European Space Agency
mission eLISA is LIGO in space. It should offer gravitational
sensitivities beyond anything possible on Earth.
"We are opening up a window on the universe so radically different
from all previous windows that we are pretty ignorant about what's
going to come through. There are just bound to be big surprises."
Memorial service for
76th anniversary of the
Battle of Britain: Spitfire
AR Expect more
nationalism after Brexit.
Nigel Farage resigns as UKIP
leader (but not as MEP):
have done my bit."
AR Done too
A Wake-Up Call
I was born in America,
my parents are English,
I was schooled in Brussels.
shocking outcome of
the British referendum has
my understanding of who
I am and my place in the
It was a rejection of the sense
that our differences
important than our shared
experiences, a wake-up
call for British youth.
At work recently we had
a vote and
decided to invest
a considerable sum of money
in a new venture that
a week we could see was
not going to work.
We all sat around
and gnashing our teeth
until someone had
a brilliant idea.
"I know," he said.
"Let's have another vote."
So we did, and as a
result financial ruin
2016 July 4
"Welcome to Jupiter!"
NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Pasadena, California,
shortly before 9 pm Pacific Daylight Time:
The NASA Juno mission
completed its main engine burn and entered orbit around Jupiter.
NASA Science Mission
Directorate acting administrator Geoff Yoder: "This is phenomenal."
UK to Slash Corporate Tax Rate
UK chancellor George Osborne plans to
slash corporation tax to less than 15% to woo business to invest in
Brexit Britain: "We must focus on the horizon and the journey ahead
and make the most of the hand we've been dealt."
will anger EU finance ministers who fear a race to the bottom. The
OECD tax head warned that the fallout from Brexit "may push the UK
to be even more aggressive in its tax offer" but that further steps
in that direction "would really turn the UK into a tax haven type of
AR Bullingdon boy
George gives billionaires a break at the expense of the plebs.
UKIP Plot to Install New PM?
Theresa May supporters accuse UKIP of trying to steal the
Conservative crown for Andrea Leadsom. A big UKIP donor swung behind
her leadership campaign after she promised to trigger formal Brexit
more quickly than her rivals. This has won her huge support among
hardline Brexiteers. Conservative MPs start tomorrow to cut a field
of five candidates down to two for a ballot by party members.
German Cheer for Scotland
German economy minister and vice-chancellor
Sigmar Gabriel says Scotland can join the EU as an independent
country. He said the EU would certainly accept Scotland as a member
in its own right if the country left the UK and wanted to join the
SNP spokesman: "These comments highlight the goodwill
there is towards Scotland in the EU. Our focus is on the
negotiations that lie ahead, to protect Scotland's relationship with
the EU and our place in the single market."
General Election Before Brexit
The Conservative party has caused the greatest
constitutional crisis in modern times. The party of business is now
the source of reckless economic turmoil. The natural party of
government is now presiding over paralysis in Westminster and
Whitehall. The party is now letting Britain drift.
government has no leadership, no plan, no consensus, and no clue
about what to do next. All it wants is to leave the EU. Hedge fund
owners want to turn the City into a tax haven and Brexiteers witter
about staying in the single market but shirking its rules. We need a
Der Spiegel am Montag
Das Votum der Briten ist so
etwas wie der inoffizielle Startschuss für den Bundestagswahlkampf.
Während Martin Schulz die Kommission in Brüssel zu einer Art
europäischen Superregierung ausbauen will, findet Finanzminister
Wolfgang Schäuble, dass zur Not die Nationalstaaten die Sache in die
Hand nehmen sollten. Und die Kanzlerin hofft darauf, dass die Briten
sich besinnen und am Ende doch noch davon absehen, aus der EU
Die Queen riet ihrem Volk, "ruhig und gefasst"
zu bleiben. Es ist ganz und gar unüblich, dass sich die Queen ins
politische Tagesgeschäft einmischt. Aber wozu braucht es eigentlich
ein Staatsoberhaupt, das selbst dann zum Schweigen verdonnert ist,
wenn die Regierung purzelt, die Opposition sich zerlegt und
Schottland darüber nachdenkt, eigene Wege zu gehen?
Waiting for Gödel
In 1975, Kurt Gödel was awarded the
National Medal of Science. Nicknamed Mr Why by his parents, Gödel
was known to some of his admirers as God. His 1931 masterpiece was
his incompleteness theorem: There is more to truth than can be
caught by proof. Within any given system, there are claims which are
true but which cannot be proven to be true.
This June, a
group of Gödelians convened for a crash course in incompleteness in
Brooklyn. The students included a computer scientist, a
nutritionist, a philosopher, an ad man, and a teacher who had spent
a lonely winter reading Douglas Hofstadter's
Gödel, Escher, Bach.
London professor and Facebook
engineer Peter O'Hearn: "Gödel's theorem has a major impact on what
all computer scientists do. It puts a fundamental limit on questions
we can answer with computers."
My second thesis (Oxford 1976) was on the implications of Gödel's
theorem for mathematics. I read Hofstadter's book in Japan in 1981.
Dice With 120 Sides
Earlier this year, at a mathematical
conference in Atlanta, two scientists from the Dice Lab débuted a
die with a 120 sides. The d120 is 5 cm in diameter and 90 g in
weight, and is technically a disdyakis triacontahedron. Its face
numbers are distributed so that any two opposing sides sum to 121.
Each of its 62 corners boasts equanimity, too. For example, a vertex
at which 10 triangles meet sums to 605, which is 10 times the
average of all the numbers on the die.
AR My first thesis (London 1974) was on the logic of
probability, as applicable to dice throws.
ER = EPR
The slogan ER = EPR hints at a
connection between two parts of physics first investigated by Albert
Einstein. His general theory of relativity says gravity is the
warped geometry of spacetime and implies black holes have entropy.
Quantum theory he attacked in a paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan
Rosen, arguing that entanglement was preposterous.
Martín Maldacena conjectured that string theory equations describing
gravity in some volume of spacetime are dual to a set of quantum
equations describing the surface of that volume. He gave an example
based on a paper by Einstein and Rosen showing how two apparently
separate black holes might be connected inside. He showed that an
Einstein-Rosen bridge or wormhole would only form if the outsides of
the black holes were entangled. This links quantum mechanics and
Mark Van Raamsdonk explored further. If you slowly
reduce the amount of entanglement between two black hole surfaces to
zero, the wormhole becomes thinner until it breaks, leaving two
unconnected bits of spacetime. He infers that spacetime is a
geometrical manifestation of entanglement. It may also be a
manifestation of quantum information.
Black holes emit
Hawking radiation. If nothing new falls in, a black hole will
eventually evaporate. But matter is information, and in quantum
theory it can never be destroyed. If information escaped with the
radiation, a Hawking particle on its way in would have to entangle
with all other Hawking particles that left the black hole at all
earlier times as well as its partner outside the horizon. This
offends the monogamy of entanglement. But without polygamy a blazing
firewall of radiation forms at the event horizon, contradicting
general relativity — paradox.
Quantum monogamy says three
quantum systems cannot all be entangled at the same time. But if the
particles just inside the horizon and the particles far away are
connected via a wormhole, one must lie to the future of the others.
So they are not all entangled at the same time — paradox gone.
AR I groped at such links between
spacetime and entanglement in my 2006 paper
About Time (Mindworlds
13). Recently I have neglected these ideas.
2016 July 3
David Cameron gambled away British EU
membership and history has moved on. The vote for Brexit has set the
stage for the next big power struggle within the EU: more Europe
versus less Europe.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
and Parliament President Martin Schulz want more. Schulz: "If
the British play games with us, the entire EU will fly apart."
Most European heads of state and government, led by Angela
Merkel, want less: Treat the British amicably, don't rush them and
play for time. And choke off all efforts aimed at more Europe.
Schulz and Juncker have long been working toward limiting the
influence of European heads of state and government in the EU. In
May, the two pledged to join forces to ensure greater powers for the
EU. It was a pact against Merkel.
German finance minister
Wolfgang Schäuble wants to improve EU-27 cooperation and cohesion.
He wants completion of the single market and the free movement of
capital, plus agreement on economic growth and external border
Sunday — French president François
Hollande wants to get rid of the UK as quickly as possible. He says
the EU must be clear about what leaving entails. Brexit increases French influence in the EU.
— Merkel and Holland meet in Berlin with Italian prime minister
Matteo Renzi. They say proposals for further EU development in the
areas of security, employment, youth, and EZ cooperation should be
presented by September. Merkel addresses the German parliament: no
secret negotiations with the UK before it officially applies for
withdrawal and no cherry picking by London. But give them time.
Tuesday — EU leaders meet for the last supper
Wednesday — EU heads of state
and government will take the lead in Brexit negotiations. Junker
says that is his responsibility, but they say they have been elected
and he hasn't. They agree on no changes to European treaties, no
convention, no fundamental modifications to the EU, and no deepening
— Merkel defeats Schulz and Juncker for the
idea of Europe as a collection of nation states.
— Polish Law
and Justice party head Jaroslaw Kaczynski wants more Europe in
foreign and security policy. He wants a European army and a strong
European president. Many governments in eastern and central Europe
agree with him.
— Governments in southern Europe want to see
greater public investment, such as an EZ budget under European
— Countries like Sweden and Germany want
a joint asylum system, with a fair distribution of refugees
throughout the EU. This too would lead to more Europe.
AR The UK is fundamentally out of step
with all this. Long live the EU.
How to Revive European Union
The New York Times
One critique of the EU is that it is
not democratic. European Council decisions are subject to political
compromise and rarely reflect national preferences directly. The
European Commission negotiates trade agreements, enforces antitrust
rules and proposes legislation, but its president is selected by the
European Parliament, which is weak. Reforms could include making the
parliament more central in decision making and letting Europeans
directly elect the president of the commission.
Nationalists will rail against greater European unity, but
addressing the refugee crisis will require it. EU leaders made the
crisis worse by leaving Italy and Greece to handle it on their own
with little assistance. A long overdue European border and coast
guard operation will help manage migration and security. Officials
need to centralize the registration and screening of refugees.
Another big challenge is the weakened EU economy. Some
countries, like Greece and Spain, have suffered such a steep decline
in living standards that a full recovery could take decades. Even in
countries like France and Italy, unemployment rates are still way
too high. In Britain, median wages surpassed their pre-crisis level
only last year. The EU could strengthen its economy by restructuring
the debt of weaker countries and increasing public spending.
AR If Europe had still been a collection
of separate nation states, mass immigration would have led to armed
conflict by now. The national economies would be crippled by red
tape at borders and citizens would suffer permanent austerity inside
their police states. They would dream of European integration as
A Dutch View
European political leaders are allowing
asylum seekers and migrants to come to us. They're spending billions
of euros on them. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states should take care
of these people.
I want to close the Dutch borders. I don't
have a problem with people from Slovakia and Lithuania. But I do
have a problem with immigration from Islamic countries.
will decide who we allow into our country and who we will outlaw.
Immigration from non-Western immigrants costs our state €7.2
billion annually, much more than closing the borders and visa
We have a million Muslims in the
Netherlands. As long as they obey the law and respect the
constitution, nobody has anything to fear. But when somebody has
dual citizenship and commits a crime, his Dutch passport should be
revoked and he should be deported.
Islam is an imperialist
ideology like communism or fascism. Islam wants to destroy us and I
want to prevent it. I will not stop fighting against Islam until I
have achieved freedom for our country.
AR Fight imperialist Islam at the European level. Close ranks
and fight together.
Brexit Will Still Hurt
Brexit probably won't happen
for years yet. There is no evidence to dismiss predictions that the
UK would suffer a recession if it left the EU. The vote alone has
triggered an instant 10% drop in the exchange rate.
was no revolt against the elites. The Tory leadership contest is
like Oxford student politics. Oxford graduates David Cameron and
George Osborne were defeated, then one former president of the
Oxford Union debating society (Gove) knifed another (Boris Johnson),
while a former Oxford Union treasurer (Nicky Morgan) decided to back
Gove against a former Oxford Union returning officer (Theresa May),
who is married to a former Oxford Union president. The shocking
truth about British politics is this: heads, Oxford wins; tails, all
other universities lose.
The big division exposed by the
referendum was between the generations. Not only were the elderly
much more likely than the young to back Brexit, they were also much
more likely to vote.
AR At Oxford I studiously avoided student politics. Now I see
there's no escape!
Ein gepflegter Ausraster britischer Schnösel
Selten haben sich Angehörige der
britischen Elite so verzockt wie David Cameron und Boris Johnson
beim Brexit. Die Erklärung dafür liefert womöglich der Club, dem
beide als Studenten angehörten.
Sehr britisch, diese Nobel-Uni von Kotzford!
Riot Club — der Film über Hooligans in
Nobel-Uni-Uniformen. Vorbild war ein Club, dem auch David Cameron
Bullingdon boys trashed Britain — thanks, chaps!
London, Saturday: Thousands of
anti-Brexit demonstrators marched from Park Lane to Westminster.
AR A vibrant democracy is not always
a cricket match played to Westminster rules. On a question of
the people may take to the streets, as
many have done here, and overturn a majority that was achieved by
Governments are elected to serve the people, not fool
them with party political games that shame our country.
Poole Park, June 7
— an age ago!
The Great War
Both my grandfathers fought
in WW1. They
and patriotic men whose
memories my family holds
dear. They survived years
of fighting and came home
medals for bravery.
As we commemorate British
war dead I
bow my head. But
during the moments of silence
I recall this:
were on the German side.
We must think and act coolly.
The UK will not gain access
to the single market without
allowing free movement of
Do we as a nation
hate foreigners sufficiently
to the single market?
"We need to confront
what kind of country
we want to live in."
"Time does not exist.
Time exists for us."
2016 July 2
UK Still in Deficit in 2020
UK chancellor George Osborne has had to
abandon his goal of reaching a budget surplus by 2020. The Brexit
vote has torn up his economic plan and continues to convulse world
British government bonds traded in negative
territory. The FTSE 100 closed up on Friday but the FTSE 250 closed
down compared to referendum day. The pound also ended the week down.
Osborne: "The government must provide fiscal credibility so we
will continue to be tough on the deficit but we must be realistic
about achieving a surplus by the end of this decade."
The Biggest Blunder
The decision for Brexit is its single biggest
democratic act in modern times. But it is also a historic blunder,
provoked for the wrong reasons and then pursued in the biggest
establishment cock-up in my lifetime.
The cock-up started in
2012, when David Cameron and his closest political allies decided
that the only way of scuppering UKIP and the Euro-hostile right of
the Conservative party was to give the British people a referendum.
Cameron decided to put party management and tactics ahead of grand
strategy, grossly overrated his own negotiating skills, and has been
badly bitten in the bottom accordingly.
The British political
class has come close to destroying itself. My guess is that
parliamentary chaos and a sense of drift will propel us into an
election later this year or next. There is plenty of anger still to
Brexit Warns America
The true impact of Brexit will not be
visible for many years. The slow agony of the divorce proceedings
will take up precious political time and energy in London and other
European capitals. The UK will turn further in on itself, so British
energy and talent will not be dedicated to solving bigger problems.
Money will not be spent and opportunities will be lost.
European countries may now face political instability as well. Not
just in the smaller European nations but also in France, the
Netherlands, Italy, and possibly even Germany, the political scene
may shift dramatically. Again, much of the damage will be invisible,
taking the form of things that will not happen.
referendum campaign was unique. Identity politics trumped economics.
Arguments about independence and sovereignty defeated arguments
about British influence and importance. The advice of institutions
was ignored. Elected leaders were swept aside. If all that can
happen in the UK, it can happen in the United States too.
University towns voted overwhelmingly for
Remain. But now the people whose sense of security and wellbeing has
been shredded by the knowledge economy have taken their chance to
answer back. The gap between the winners and losers in the new
economy has been laid bare.
economic winners find themselves on the losing side. In economic
terms they still have plenty to lose, and populism will not hold
much appeal. My sense is that underlying the voter demographics
behind the result is the basic gap that now exists between people
who can imagine a viable future for themselves in a networked world,
and those who cannot.
The digital revolution reveals a future
in which knowledge is the primary currency, connectivity the primary
asset, and physical geography at best a secondary concern. People
who are rooted in particular places, who work in industries that
produce physical goods, and whose essential social interactions do
not happen online are the ones who wanted Out.
result represents a rejection of the power of elites. The tragedy is
that it has undermined one of the few institutions that operates on
a scale that might limit the power of those elites. It shows that
real people still have the power to surprise faceless networks.
Brexit Britain: Elites Run Amok
A week on from the referendum, no one knows
who will be taking back democracy for us. But public money will be
squandered on disentangling the UK from the EU and getting the
elites the trade deals they want. When the government limits free
movement, the islanders will have to buckle down.
Conservative MPs will spend the summer deciding which two candidates
for leader and prime minister they will ask their membership to
choose between. Then democratic accountability will be restored to
sovereignty. With EU protection gone, our dysfunctional
democracy will be all we have.
We voters broke it, we voters must fix it.
2016 July 1
Exit From Brexit
Markus Becker and Dietmar Hipp
A campaign to stop Brexit
is gaining ground. Organised opponents are lining up their
1 The betrayal argument: The day after the vote,
Leave campaign leaders disavowed central promises and the market
reaction confirmed the fears of Remain campaigners. Voters felt
2 The democracy argument: The result was too
narrow. If millions of Leave voters were to change their mind in the
next few weeks, it would be hard to ignore them. Leave campaigners
lied to them.
3 The legal argument: The referendum is not
legally binding. David Cameron was moved to call it not by the
public interest but by party interests. Brexit is arguably a
disproportionate response to a narrow majority.
Before the UK
government enacts Brexit, experts say it must get the
consent of Parliament.
Wir erwarten von London einen
überrascht, wie wenig vorbereitet Großbritannien ist. Was mich am
meisten ärgert, ist, dass die beiden Hauptkontrahenten bei den
Tories aus einem zunächst nur innerparteilichen Konflikt eine
ausgewachsene Staats- und Regierungskrise in Großbritannien gemacht
und damit auch der ganzen EU Schaden zugefügt haben, nun aber die
Verantwortung für die Folgen anderen überlassen.
Was wir von
London erwarten, und zwar zügig, ist ein Fahrplan, wann die
Verhandlungen über den Ausstieg mit der EU beginnen sollen und wie
die Briten sich diese Verhandlungen vorstellen. Weitere
Verzögerungen wären nicht wünschenswert, und sicher auch schädlich,
für die Briten selbst und auch für uns in Europa. Es kommt jetzt
darauf an, Europa zusammenzuhalten.
AR In short, foreign minister Steinmeier
expects a plan from London as soon as possible. Delay would damage
not only the UK but also EU member states.
A Nation in Peril
The most important decision taken by the UK in
many decades has left the country deeply divided. The question is
how to unite, how to protect and advance the national interest, and
what is the right future relationship with Europe.
This will not be easy. Leave elation is matched by a
profound dismay in the ranks of Remain voters, and in the case of
younger voters anger. To come safely through this we need adult
The European Parliament has to agree any new deal
for Britain. There is going to be a negotiation of extraordinary
complexity where there are a thousand devils in every detail. This
needs serious statesmanship.
The EU-27 could decide to deter
other secessionist movements. We the British people will be face to
face with our new reality.
Art has the ability to open our eyes to a
different perspective on the world. Physics does the same thing. It
opens our eyes to something new, more wide and true.
Science is the best tool we have. One should distinguish the
actual job of doing physics, solving problems, learning how to do
equations, from the sheer beauty of what physics is actually
describing. The results can be appreciated by everybody.
In trying to understand quantum gravity,
we find that there is no time at the fundamental level. Instead of
time, there is only the change of things with respect to one
another. Our feeling of passing time is due to our imperfect
knowledge of the world.
Nature is so complex. If we learn to
move from thinking of the world as an ensemble of distinct things to
thinking of it as a network of interconnected processes, we will
grasp it better.
AR I make time.
Battle of the Somme, 1 July — 18 November 1916: What
happens when European solidarity fails