"If you want me to
leading the country, making
sure we have that
and security in our economy,
David Cameron: "It takes a
long time to
fix the mess that
I was left. We are half way
through a building
Ed Miliband: "There was a
global financial crisis,
was a high deficit."
2015 May 3
Astronomy is a science that relies
on images. NASA satellite photographs have helped make the human
impact on climate change more visible. Failing to confront the
danger of climate change will no doubt get our species to the brink,
as in the sci-fi movie Interstellar by Christopher Nolan.
of the film's executive producers is Caltech astrophysics professor
Kip Thorne. General relativity predicts some weird phenomena in the
vicinity of strong gravitational fields, such as time dilation near
a black hole, and bending of light rays close to black holes and
wormholes. Everything you see in the film is scientifically
The movie team processed 800 TB of data to render
the bending of light by a black hole and a wormhole portal with
unprecedented accuracy. The images showed scientists something they
have never seen before in the equations. Thorne is now writing up
the new discoveries.
2015 May 2
The closest election in decades leaves it
impossible to predict who will be the next prime minister. Most
projections expect the Conservatives to win more seats, but Labour
may have a better chance of forming a minority government. The SNP
is predicted to win about 50 of the 59 seats in Scotland.
Conservatives could end up with about 40 fewer seats than Labour and
the SNP combined, despite winning as many votes. The latest forecast
predicts that the Tories will win 290 seats but finish 33 short of a
majority, with a 49% chance of Ed Miliband becoming prime minister
and a 51% chance of David Cameron keeping the job.
£1 billion was pulled out of funds investing in UK shares last
month. Analysts say the biggest cause of instability from the
election would be the prospect of a quick second election.
The British electorate has united in contempt for its
leaders. Voters distrust their political institutions and other
traditional centers of power, including parliament, print media, and
The unity of the nation is in peril from Scots
and support is in doubt for continued EU membership. Britain was
slow to recover from the global economic crisis and austerity has
A survey in January showed that only 1 in
10 Britons think UK politicians want to do what is best for the
country, while 7 in 10 think they are just protecting the rich and
AR Politicians emerge
from the people, who get the leaders they deserve.
2015 May 1
My Vision of Life
Everything extends from replicators,
which are in practice DNA molecules on this planet. The replicators
reach out into the world to influence their own probability of being
passed on. Mostly they don't reach further than the individual body
in which they sit, but that's a matter of practice, not a matter of
principle. The individual organism can be defined as that set of
phenotypic products which have a single route of exit of the genes
into the future. The organism is a unit of selection in the sense
that I call a vehicle.
There are two
kinds of unit of selection. One is the replicator, and what it does
is get itself copied. So more and more copies of itself go into the
world. The other kind of unit is the vehicle. It doesn't get itself
copied. What it does is work to copy the replicators which have come
down to it through the generations, and which it's going to pass on
to future generations. Individuals and replicators are both units of
selection, but in different senses.
Our best empirical theory of the brain
holds that the mind is an information processing system and that all
mental functions are computations. So humans and superintelligent
artificial intelligence share a common feature: their thinking is
essentially computational. Our best scientific theories of
consciousness hold that consciousness is closely related to
A biologically inspired
superintelligent alien (BISA) will have descended from creatures
that had biologically evolved motivations. Yet it may be so advanced
that we cannot understand any of its computations whatsoever. As
Arthur C. Clarke said, a truly advanced civilization will have
technologies we cannot distinguish from magic.
AR I toyed with such ideas in my 1996
Palace, Saigon, April 30, 1975
2015 April 30
The Daily Beast
President Barack Obama: "In those environments, if we think that
we're just gonna send the police to do the dirty work of containing
the problems that arise there, without as a nation and as a society
saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up
those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not
gonna solve this problem."
2015 April 29
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
Lord Hutton of Furness
Hennessy of Nympsfield
Lord Moonie of Benochy
Richards of Herstmonceux
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce
Marshal of the RAF Lord Stirrup of Marylebone
Admiral Lord West
Admiral Sir Jonathon Band
Admiral Sir Mark
General Sir Mike Jackson
Sir David Omand
Sir Keith O'Nions et al.
nuclear deterrent exists not as a military weapon but a political
one whose very purpose is for it never to be used in anger. It is
there to deter aggression against this country and our allies and to
counter any nuclear blackmail which would threaten Britain's
essential interests or survival. It is committed to NATO.
next Prime Minister will be responsible for the decision next year
whether or not to go ahead with the Main Gate decision on triggering
the building of 4 new submarines necessary to continue the
deterrent. A decision not to go ahead would effectively end
Britain's nuclear deterrent.
NATO is committed to the goal of
creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. But as
long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a
The Trident Alternatives Report concluded
that the highest level of assurance the UK can attain with a single
deterrent system is provided by SSBN CASD.
The BASIC Trident
Commission concluded that Trident meets the criteria of credibility,
scale, survivability, reach, and readiness. It opposed proposals to
develop alternative platforms and delivery systems, with new
warheads, simply on the basis of possible but speculative cost
Q1 Trident Successor
will stimulate proliferation?
Deep reductions in Britain's
deterrent made by successive governments have produced no
reciprocation from other nuclear weapon or aspiring nuclear weapon
Q2 Only the USA, France,
and the UK have CASD?
Both Russia and China are moving to CASD.
Q3 Renewing Trident would frustrate
BASIC Trident Commission: "It is doubtful that
the UK would retain continuing influence on the thinking or process
of nuclear negotiations if it ceased all its nuclear weapon
expenditure is crippling at a time of austerity?
The total cost
up to 2060 would be an average of around £2 billion a year. The NHS
costs £2.5 billion a week.
nuclear deterrent does not address new threats such as terrorism?
Correct, but irrelevant.
Abandoning Trident would save a lot of money?
Cancellation is not
a cost-free option. Decommissioning deterrent submarines and their
infrastructure would produce substantial costs.
on Main Gate will be important. It is impossible to tell what
threats may emerge over more than thirty years. To abandon
Trident now and for good in the hope that no threat will emerge over
that period would be an enormous gamble.
The UK has made
reductions in its nuclear arsenal proportionately greater than any
other nuclear weapons power. That has represented a huge
contribution toward nuclear disarmament. It would be irresponsible
folly to abandon Britain's independent deterrent.
2015 April 28
BU Rank Rises
Bournemouth University has jumped 11
places in a national university league table. BU vice-chancellor
Professor John Vinney: "I am absolutely delighted that Bournemouth
University has rocketed 11 places in this year's
Complete University Guide rankings to 54th in the UK."
AR Last night I attended a BU political
hustings event with parliamentary candidates. I spoke out on the
need to retain Trident, citing Steven Pinker,
Ian Morris, and the
report Retiring Trident, and got
a strong round of applause.
2015 April 27
In 1992 John Major led the Conservatives to
victory. He won over 14 million votes in total, more than either
Margaret Thatcher before him or Tony Blair after him. Five years
later, the Tories slumped to defeat.
electoral politics in the 20th century. But they need to catch up
quickly with the 21st century. They need discipline and resolve in
the next 10 days to win a parliamentary majority again.
Conservatives need a broader understanding of what prosperity and
the good life mean. Tory policies cannot just be about helping
people to climb economic and social ladders. Conservatives must help
to provide security as well as freedom. They must focus on providing
a strong safety net and creating world-class public services.
Conservatives must also strike a better balance between
protecting the natural environment and building more homes. Unless
they can increase housebuilding many families will never have a home
of their own.
David Cameron promises that any re-elected Tory
government would start by cutting income tax for the lowest-paid,
creating two million jobs, extending childcare, and building 200,000
Dan Dennett says explaining
how the brain
How software animates
hardware is no mystery.
100 years on:
is 25 today
Food and the Internet
and P. Lysaght
University of Łodź
2015 April 26
The Sunday Times
There are now 117 sterling billionaires
based in Britain. That is more per head of population than in any
other country in the G20.
Their total wealth is £325 billion.
The top 3 alone are worth £37 billion. London hosts 80 billionaires.
The other 37 outside London are together worth £67 billion.
Only 62 of the billionaires in the UK are British. The Queen is
worth a mere £340 million and has dropped out of the top 300.
The Ramstein air base in Germany hosts the
United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE) headquarters. But the
German government claims not to know that Ramstein is a key node in
the global drone war against Islamist terror.
Beside USAFE HQ
Ramstein, the other key node is Creech, a town in the Nevada desert.
Creech hosts a relay hub for USAF bases in ten US states. Optical
fibers transmit data to the NSA and to Ramstein.
pilot in Creech begins a mission by logging into the Air and Space
Operation Center (AOC) in Ramstein. Pilot commands go via the AOC
link to an orbiting satellite and then to the drone. The AOC node is
key because no satellite can link Pakistan and the United States
directly, and a second satellite in the chain would add too much
The German government has contracted for US use of
the Ramstein base provided nothing illegal is done there. German law
says war crimes and other violations of international law, even if
they are committed by foreigners in other countries, can all be
tried in Germany.
AR I visited
the Ramstein base in 1987.
2015 April 25
Islamic State (IS) evolved from such
jihadi groups as al Qaeda in Iraq after 2003. It resembles them in
its ideology, brutality, methods of war, and aspirations to control
1 Its use
of takfir, or excommunication of Muslims, and its willingness to
take on Muslim targets
targeting of Shia Muslims to provoke a response and force vulnerable
Sunnis into its arms
prioritization of the near enemy, apostate Mideast regimes, over
attacks on the far enemy
IS has been helped by incorporating
remnants of the Baathist Iraqi state. The US decision to disband the
Iraqi Army in 2003 was calamitous. Today around a third of the
deputies to Caliph Ibrahim are former Iraqi military officers.
IS is defined not by warped Islamic theology but by
millenarianism. Extreme religious observance is an identity marker
for who will survive the apocalypse and who will perish. IS
propaganda is deliberately traumatizing an entire generation. Cult
practices plus mass mobilization make IS totalitarian.
AR Crusaders for a clash of
civilizations: George W. Bush and Tony Blair
2015 April 24
For some, the birth of the internet spelled
the end for politicians.
The most radical answer is liquid
democracy. Every voter has a mandate to use as they see fit. The
mandate is transferable and voters can decide to pass it on to
someone they trust. If you feel strongly about an issue later on you
can take back your mandate and vote directly. But because the system
does not differentiate between voters and representatives, every
vote has to be recorded, open and transparent. So a secret ballot is
Deliberative democracy focuses on how we can
become more involved in deciding the way our lives are run, rather
than changing the way we vote. A form of deliberative democracy
known as participatory budgeting gives people a direct say in how a
percentage of their council budget is spent. This is one of the most
widespread and fastest growing democratic practices. It is moving
online as new software streamlines the process.
does not necessarily lead to workable outcomes.
2015 St. George's Day
EU on GM Food and Feed
The EU Commission proposes to allow member
states more freedom to restrict or prohibit the use of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). It sees a need to reflect public views on
the use of GMOs "for animal (feed) or human (food) consumption".
GMOs authorized at EU level by food safety watchdog EFSA are
already deemed safe. The Commission is ignoring the scientific
advice its taxpayers are paying for. It lacks the backbone to stand
by the advice.
The EU imports over 70% of its animal feed.
The proposal will prevent imports of the animal feed many farmers
rely on to feed their livestock. The free movement of people in the
EU is sacrosanct but not the free movement of goods.
2015 Earth Day
League urges world leaders to follow up on their commitments to
avoid dangerous global warming. Three-quarters of known fossil fuel
reserves must be kept in the ground if humanity is to avoid the
worst effects of climate change.
The AWWA·QG Progress Eagle is a design for
improving the physical characteristics of commercial aircraft and
reducing their environmental impact. Progress Eagle is based on the
technology beyond 2030 with ideas from quantum mechanics: engines
with zero contaminant emissions and the ability to clean the
atmosphere of pollutant particles; innovative configuration
including a lifting-body fuselage with three passenger decks and a
cockpit with panoramic views; wings with smart and self-repairing
skin made from carbon nanotubes and fibers; airframe with a
hexagonal structure and a hollow endoskeleton made of titanium and
graphene; and triple winglets to enhance aerodynamic efficiency.
With six engines, the plane is big enough for up to 800 passengers
to fly in hotel luxury.
L to R: Vikki Slade, Liberal Democrat
parliamentary candidate for Mid Dorset & North Poole; Adrian
Oliver, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Poole;
Richard Turner, UKIP parliamentary candidate for Mid Dorset
& North Poole; Andy Ross, Conservative councillor candidate
for Poole Town ward, Borough of Poole; Helen Rosser, Labour
parliamentary candidate for Poole
A hustings event in Poole on
Monday featured a Q&A session at the Salvation Army Hall
On supporting people with learning difficulties to feel
confident claiming benefits:
Vikki Slade: "Everyone
needs to be treated with dignity and respect."
Oliver: "The government has a key role in setting the
culture in our society."
Richard Turner: "It is
important to make sure those people who use the welfare
state do need it."
Andy Ross: "Benefits are a right
in our society. Those who need them will get them, should
"They are needed by some of the most vulnerable people in
this country and are extremely important."
The extermination of the
Armenians in 1915 has
marked by an assault by the
Turkish government on its
historical truth. The Israeli
government has not been able
to pass an Armenian genocide
resolution. This might be a
time for Israel to rethink.
Scottish Nationalists threaten to
block the UK
military budget until
the renewal of Trident is halted.
AR SNP tail will wag Labour dog.
2015 April 21
If Labour were to accept an offer of support
from the SNP, it could put the UK on course to a government held to
ransom on a vote-by-vote basis. Labour would be in hock to a party
that slowly but surely will push them ever further to the left. We
would pay the SNP ransom in our daily lives, through higher taxes,
fewer jobs, and more and more debt. That is no way to run a country.
AR Vote Conservative.
2015 April 20
Albert Einstein was deeply involved with
the Zionist movement promoting the settlement of Jews in Palestine.
He tried to stop the Jewish people from
becoming another nationalistic culture glorifying military strength.
But he continued to support Israel while criticizing it.
Einstein also spoke out against the militarization of America: "The
arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, initiated
originally as a preventive measure, assumes hysterical proportions.
On both sides, means of mass destruction are being perfected with
feverish haste and behind walls of secrecy. ... And at the end,
looming ever clearer, lies general annihilation."
Einstein joined with Bertrand Russell to make a public statement:
"In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons
will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the
continued existence of mankind, we urge the Governments of the world
to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purposes cannot
be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find
peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between
Is Zionism Racist?
Zionism is a nationalism. It makes a claim
for the Jewish people that they are a folk like other folk and
entitled to a land of their own just like the French have France and
the English have England.
The dream of return existed long
before the Holocaust. It existed before Herzl and the Zionists. This
vision of an end to exile kept the Jews together and brought them
hope through the years spent in Babylon millennia ago.
are not racists to want a land of their own. The Zionism of the
Jewish people is just a bid to be a nation. It was hoped that Israel
would not enslave anyone. It was hoped that Israel would treat the
strangers who lived among its people with justice and equality.
Zionism is not racist.
Nationalism is better than racism, but not always by much. Samuel Johnson:
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
2015 April 19
I am positioned where the mainstream of
politics is positioned. I want to reach out to voters who worry
about our place in the European Union, who really think we can do a
lot better as a country.
Who is going to stand up to tax
avoidance? Who is going to stand up to energy companies? Who is
going to stand up to banks? That is absolutely something I think
will appeal to Tory voters.
David Cameron already appeals to Tory voters. Former Labour home
secretary Alan Johnson on Labour's economic failure: "There is no
soundbite that we have got to equal the claim that we maxed out on
your credit card."
Philosophy of Economics
Marx thought technological innovation under
capitalism would produce a falling rate of profit for capitalist
enterprises, but he thought this because he accepted the labor
theory of value, which is false. Yet at the limit technological
innovation under capitalism will produce a falling rate of profit
because the elimination of human labor will reduce the total pool of
consumers. Is there a good discussion of this in the economic
AR Try this:
Innovative deployment of robot labor will raise productivity and
hence profits so long as disemployed workers get paid enough by the
state to keep spending. Circulation of money: capitalists
concentrate money in profits and governments spread it again in
welfare, just like a fountain powered by a pump from the pond below.
Those in the money cycle act as selectors, voting with their
spending for things that go to make up a "good" society. Income
inequalities will skew spending toward elite goods. Politics will
focus on "optimizing" the level of equality.
2015 April 18
Philosophy of Politics and Economics
All elections are uncertain but this one is
more so. Look to the transformation of society and the world of work
over the past 60 years and their relationship with the political
establishment. The absorption of UK democratic institutions by
transnational financial power is the result of a long national
decline and the circumstances of the financial crisis.
Political thought has not kept up with the new reality. Socialism
was discredited worldwide as an economic system by the collapse of
the Soviet Union. British socialism failed by turning its back on
the psychology of productive business and by selling out to casino
Neoliberalism was discredited worldwide as an
economic system by the financial crisis in 2008. The gap widened
between the rich and the rest in the ownership of wealth.
Both socialist and neoliberal economic thinking favored big
organizations. The cost argument too often ignored the
need for competition and choice or the dangers of concentrated
Advanced technology accelerated the spirit of
individualism. Each individual had to look into his own abilities
and life choices in forming a career best suited to his personal
interests. Socialist collectivism became obsolete. Authoritarian
right wing politics became equally repulsive.
ownership and control became a game of musical chairs, enterprises
were managed not to maximize market share or serve consumer
interests but to maximize quarterly profit. As national assets were
mortgaged to transnational interests, house prices rose beyond the
reach of the young.
Personal property is a human right.
Widening business ownership will encourage a more innovative and
productive economy. For big companies, company law should be amended
to give employees a say and a financial stake in them. Capitalism
based on high wages and a more equal distribution of wealth will
outperform the Anglo-American model.
2015 April 17
In the BBC TV election debate last night SNP
leader Nicola Sturgeon warned Labour leader Ed Miliband that he
would never be forgiven if he turned his back on a deal with her
to keep the Tories out of power. Sturgeon called the prime
minister's absence a disgrace: "I want Ed to replace the Tories with
Do we want to let this self-opinionated Scots ingenue call the shots
for England, wreck the recovery with spending and borrowing, and
break up the UK to boot? Hell no! Vote Tory!
Supported by Google Ideas, the
monitors the world's broadcast, print, and web news in over 100
languages. It deploys streaming machine translation to translate the
news into English in real time. For some languages GDELT achieves
the accuracy level of Google Translate. For others it can robustly
recognize key themes and flag an article for a human analyst.
AR We studied this
application area for our SAP engine.
2015 April 16
We are witnessing a struggle for regional
dominance between a coalition grouped around Saudi Arabia and one
around Iran. Sunni-Shiite enmity is not the best explanation. This
is a naked struggle for power.
The regimes are all
reactionary survivors of the Arab Spring. The Iranians mercilessly
crushed the Green Revolution in 2009, and have backed authoritarian
partners in Iraq and Syria. On the other side, the Arab monarchs
from the Gulf have extended their writ through payoffs and violence.
The Saudi bloc wants to turn back the clock. The Iranian bloc
wants to alter the regional balance of power. Both factions are run
by opaque, secretive, repressive, and violent leaders. Neither side
is interested in popular accountability, better governance, or the
rights of citizens.
Tehran has extended its influence
carefully, hedging its bets by supporting multiple groups in every
conflict zone and always maintaining a degree of remove. This
blueprint has served Iran well. Saudi Arabia has entered the Yemen
war directly, with no cover.
The regime in Tehran positions
itself as the regional champion of pluralism and minorities. The
Saudi grouping has a philosophy dangerously close to the nihilism of
al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The trend points in favor of Iran.
2015 April 15
EU Leaders Oppose Changes
European leaders are said to oppose David
Cameron's call for European Union treaty change in the run-up to a
British referendum because of the danger of copycat popular votes
spreading across Europe.
European Commission president
Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out changes to the EU treaty until late
2019 and European Parliament president Martin Schulz said treaty
change was too risky in the present political climate. President
Hollande of France and others worry that a new treaty would generate
calls for popular votes in France or the Netherlands.
Lib Dem and UKIP Manifestos
If the opinion polls are right, UKIP will
get more votes than the Liberal Democrats in the general election on
7 May, but most observers think Lib Dems will end up with more MPs
The UKIP manifesto is a populist pitch for the
protest vote and a ragbag of prejudices against the modern world.
The Lib Dem manifesto is a carefully calibrated and costed job
application for partnership in government, with a focus on balancing
the budget, on education funding, raising personal allowances, NHS
spending, and the green agenda.
UKIP and Lib Dems agree that
the British electoral system is bust. Both say Britain must have a
more proportional system if politics and government are to regain
On April 7, a USAF RC-135U
Combat Sent SIGINT aircraft
intercepted over the Baltic Sea by a Russian Air Force
Su 27 Flanker
in an "unsafe
and unprofessional manner"
with Russia would
go nuclear. Does Trident
make the UK safer?
2015 April 14
We are the party of working people,
offering you security at every stage of your life.
Our manifesto sets out how we will make this a country where those
who work hard and do the right thing can enjoy a good life:
The personal tax-free allowance raised to £12,500
No 40p tax until you're earning £50,000
The family home taken out of Inheritance Tax
£8 billion more a year for our NHS
Rail fares frozen for five years
Welfare controlled to reward work
Multinationals pursued so they pay their tax
The Right to Buy extended to 1.3 million extra families
30 hours of free childcare a week for working families with 3 and 4
• Everyone earning the
Minimum Wage lifted out of income tax altogether
We have come
this far together. Let's build on the progress we have made.
2015 April 13
Stalin and Hitler were allies for 22 months.
The Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 included a Secret Protocol
defining a division of Eastern Europe. In September Poland was
invaded by the Nazis from the west and the Soviets from the east. In
1940 the German armies conquered Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium,
and France. Churchill and Britain stood alone, for more than a year
In Poland the Soviet occupation in the east was at
least as brutal and murderous as the Nazi occupation in the west.
Hitler decided to exterminate the Jews in September 1941 and the
work started in January 1942, but their fate had been foreshadowed
by the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
The German attack in June 1941
shocked Stalin into silence at first. In September he wrote to
Churchill that the Soviet Union was in mortal danger. By 1942 he
recognized that he would gain more from his alliance with Britain
and the United States than with Germany.
In December 1941,
Churchill sent his foreign secretary Anthony Eden to Moscow. Stalin
to Eden: "Hitler's problem was that he does not know where to stop."
Eden: "Does anyone?" Stalin: "I do."
UK survival in a world with such monsters needs Trident.
2015 April 12
Time to move on from Trident
Pinning our security on a nuclear deterrent
encourages others to do the same. The UK should become the first
permanent member of the UN Security Council to give up all its
nuclear weapons. Instead of protecting us, hosting nuclear weapons
makes us a target. Having nuclear weapons diverts resources and
attention from tackling our most urgent security problems.
Peter Higgs, Michael Atiyah, and others
AR These are men whose work in physics and mathematics I
Trident Alternatives Review
HM Government, 2013
Nuclear deterrence has a unique role
in deterring extreme threats to UK vital interests which cannot be
countered by other means. A potential aggressor needs to believe
that the UK has the capability and resolve to deliver unacceptable
loss in response to an actual or imminent attack.
aims to establish if other postures or weapons systems might deliver
a credible alternative. The different systems and postures differ in
the level of assurance of second strike capability. The highest
level of assurance the UK can attain with a single deterrent system
is SSBN CASD.
Design and delivery of a new BM thermonuclear
warhead is likely to take 17 years. Delivering one for an
alternative system would take longer. This warhead timescale is
longer than the V-class SSBN can safely be operated.
costs of credible options that could meet a 2040 date were compared
against the cost of procuring 3 or 4 Successor SSBN. Cost estimates
cover the development, procurement and in-service support of a new
system, as well as transitioning from the current system.
cost driver for the Trident options is SSBN construction. The cost
driver for all non-Trident options is the warhead. The delay
requires 2 new Successor SSBN to fill the gap before a CM deterrent
Alternatives to Trident could enable the UK to
deter most potential adversaries. Alternative non-continuous
postures could offer reduced readiness when the UK assesses the
threat to be low. None of the alternatives reviewed offers the same
degree of resilience as CASD.
The costs of delivering an
alternative system could have been cheaper were it not for timing
and the fact that the UK deterrent infrastructure is finely tuned to
support Trident. Bridging the time it would take to develop a new
warhead would involve procuring 2 x Successor SSBN so that a
Trident-based deterrent remains available until at least 2040. That
makes transitioning to any of the realistic alternative systems more
expensive than a Successor SSBN fleet.
AR This is all about jobs in warhead and submarine
construction. Retask the warhead teams to civilian nuclear power
systems, retask the shipyards to SSN and surface warship
construction, and we could scrap our nuclear deterrent, have a
stronger navy, and save money.
Tony Blair is retiring as Mideast Quartet
Representative. He says the Mideast is a prime example of politics
"getting in the way" of peace. The negotiators were all politicians
and progress was impossible. By the end of 2014 a quarter of all
Palestinians and a half of all Gazans lived on $2 a day or less. To
fight religious extremism, he has established the
Blair Faith Foundation.
Tony Blair hailed "a bright new
dawn for Britain" on the morning of his 1997 election victory. As
prime minister, he wrote in
A Journey: "I had started by buying the notion, and then selling
the notion, that to be in touch with opinion was the definition of
A decade later: "I was ending by counting
such a notion of little value and defining leadership not as knowing
what people wanted and trying to satisfy them, but knowing what I
thought was in their best interest and trying to do it. Pleasing all
of the people all of the time was not possible; but even if it had
been, it was a worthless ambition."
His own method in power
was to study an issue, canvass opinion, note the debate, come to his
own conclusions, and lead. Opposition was the price paid by true
2015 April 11
purity principle might banish quantum weirdness
2015 April 10
UK Nuclear Deterrent
David Cameron: "Only the Conservatives are
absolutely guaranteeing a full replacement of Trident with four
submarines and continuous at sea deterrence. It is important that in
a dangerous, insecure world we have that ultimate insurance policy."
AR I am rethinking my approach to
nuclear war. A British deterrent based on F-35C and B61-12 would
fail to guarantee massive and unacceptable damage on a potential
aggressor. A leader as reckless as President Putin might laugh it
off. Only Trident with four boats trumps that. So British taxpayers
must shoulder the £100 billion lifetime cost and make cuts
elsewhere — or try to get our European NATO allies to share the
burden, of course.
2015 April 9
Signs of Alien Life by 2025
Los Angeles Times
NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan: "I
believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth
in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20
years. We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases
we have the technology."
2015 April 8
Margaret Thatcher (1988)
For generations, we have assumed
that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium
of the world's systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible
that with all these enormous changes — population, agricultural, use
of fossil fuels — concentrated into such a short period of time, we
have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this
Stable prosperity can be achieved throughout
the world, provided the environment is nurtured and safeguarded.
Protecting this balance of nature is therefore one of the great
challenges of the late 20th century.
Fossil Fueled Climate Change
The goal for the international climate
talks this December in Paris is a treaty on emissions that will seek
to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 K above preindustrial
levels. Beyond 2 K, scientists say, the most catastrophic climate
consequences will occur.
Total projected warming from fossil
fuels extracted so far and the projected warming capacity of various
fossil fuels that can be extracted with present technology using a
standard model for the relationship between cumulative carbon
emissions and temperature changes: 9 K.
Price carbon emissions to reflect the damages from climate change.
2 Make energy sources like nuclear and
solar cheaper than fossil fuels.
Continue using fossil fuels but capture and store the carbon.
2015 April 7
"Leaving Europe would leave Britain diminished in
the world, do significant damage to our economy and, less obviously
but just as important to our future, would go against the very
qualities that mark us out still as a great global nation."
"I want changes in Europe but then, unlike
Tony Blair, I will trust the people in an in-out referendum. We
should ask people if they want to stay a member of this
organization. You cannot ignore the will of the people."
2015 April 6
Iran and the Obama Doctrine
Thomas L. Friedman interviews President Barack Obama
Times video (46:14)
"Anti-porn feminism recognises
a link between the propaganda of
sexual violence and its practice,
and stopping porn is understood
be essential in ending the
rapes, killings and torture that
practice against women."
die Einigung im Atomstreit.
Sie hoffen auf einen
"I thought this framework
was going to suck. Actually,
it's not bad."
ME nations now worry
about the rise of Iran
Utility and reward: The most
tend to cause the
greatest harm, the most useful
workers tend to be
Most frontline care workers
receive less than the
But those who own or run a care
company make more
more they cut. The less they
care, the richer they become.
Chief executives in the UK took
60 times as much as
worker 20 years ago and 180
times as much today. Theft is
praised as wealth creation.
2015 Easter Sunday
CERN LHC Restarts
This morning scientists are restarting
the Large Hadron Collider after an upgrade. Two years ago the team
operating the €5 billion LHC discovered the Higgs boson.
few weeks the beam energy level will be raised to 13 TeV. CERN press
head Arnaud Marsollier: "We will have collisions at energies we've
never had before. If something interesting appears in this new
window we will see it."
The first collision experiments
should be in June. ATLAS team lead David Charlton: "We're heading
for unexplored territory."
AR I want
supersymmetry. A dark matter story would be nice too.
The European Problem
Many Conservative party members see the
European Union as an aggressive imperial power. Half of them want to
leave. Conservatives suppressed a series of civil service reports on
alleged EU interference in British life when not one report found
that too much power resided in Brussels.
Asking the EU to end
the free movement of labour would be asking the EU to abolish
itself. Tearing up the social chapter is beyond our powers. The EU
does not guarantee strong workers' rights anyway. The Economist:
"Britain's workers are a bargain because their pay is so pitiful."
If Britain votes narrowly to stay in, you cannot expect
Eurosceptics to accept the result. If Britain votes to leave, many
big companies say they will leave Britain. Scotland may join the
rush to the door. A UK outside the EU would no longer be the country
Scotland voted to stay with in 2014.
After more fiscal
consolidation, local government will be unable to provide essential
services, the police and armed services will struggle to maintain
law and order, and the NHS will crack. The UK would renegotiate
trade agreements with the rest of the world from a position of
AR This Labour man has
overstated his case, but there is a lot of truth here.
2015 April 4
Yemen: Saudi Arabia Versus Iran
A Saudi Arabia-led, largely Sunni coalition
of nine countries seeks to push back Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.
Coalition jets have struck not only military targets but also a
Aside from Israel, no country views the new
Iran pact with as much skepticism as Saudi Arabia. Like the
conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the conflict in Yemen looks like a
proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.
struggle has the potential to destroy Yemen and turn into a disaster
for Saudi Arabia. Ayatollah Khamenei is popular in Iran and seen as
a leader who is negotiating with the West as an equal. His adversary
on the Arabian Peninsula is the aging King Salman. The war poses
great risks to the House of Saud.
The integration of the Muslim community
into our cities is a problem. Our political class transferred to
teachers the whole obligation to integrate new immigrant
Our society has gone terribly wrong. People have
not been confronting the loss of the Christian faith, the inability
to confront Islam, the loss of the sense of the sacredness of the
sexual relation, and the exposure of young women both to external
predation and to moral decay.
The battle to maintain a proper
educational system was lost. The multiculturalists wanted to destroy
the old education system as they saw it. At stake is the survival of
2015 April 3
The White House
Key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive
Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's
nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland:
Iran has agreed to reduce by
approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran has agreed
to reduce its current stockpile of about 10 Mg of low-enriched
uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67% LEU for 15 years. All excess
centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA
monitored storage. Iran's breakout timeline will be extended to at
least one year, for a duration of at least 10 years.
Inspections and Transparency
The IAEA will have regular
access to all of Iran's nuclear facilities. Inspectors will have
access to the supply chain that supports Iran's nuclear program.
Iran will implement measures to address IAEA concern regarding the
Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.
Reactors and Reprocessing
Iran has agreed to redesign
and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a
design agreed by the P5+1. Iran has committed indefinitely to not
conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on
spent nuclear fuel.
US and EU
nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has
verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.
US sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and
ballistic missiles will remain in place.
For 10 years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and
research and development, ensuring a breakout timeline of at least
one year. Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
AR Well done,
P5+1 (a.k.a. E3/EU+3).
The Holocene epoch lasted 12,000 years.
Estimates put the global human population between 1 million and 10
million at the start of the Holocene.
Now we live in the
Anthropocene era. The familiar contrast between people and the
natural world no longer holds. The world we inhabit is increasingly
the world we have made. We cannot avoid responsibility for the world
we are making.
Anthropocene inequality has an affinity with
neoliberalism, the global extension of market logic. Environmental
economics uses the concept of the externality, a harm or benefit
that has no price tag, and so is ignored in market decisions.
Ultimately, the question is the value of life. There is no
correct technocratic answer. Either the Anthropocene will be
democratic or it will be horrible. Your vulnerability to disaster
often reflects your standing in a political and economic order.
Anthropocene ideas can prompt people to organize in new ways.
The idea of human rights gained much of its force this way.
2015 April 2
Iran: A Deal!
CNN, 1910 GMT
Russian generals at a meeting in Germany
• Crimea: Any attempt
to return it to Ukraine would be met with force, including nuclear
• East Ukraine: Any NATO
supply of weapons to Kiev would prompt a forceful response.
• The Baltic States: Conditions are like
those in Ukraine, which pushed Russia to act.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are warning the West of Russian
ambitions in their territories. NATO is reinforcing them.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
You base governance on things that
are objectively true, regardless of your belief system. The issue is
not that there are religious people in the world that have one view
over another but that you want to legislate that in a way that
There are religions and belief systems, and
objective truths. And if we're going to govern a country, we need to
base that governance on objective truths, not your personal belief
2015 April 1
America Versus Iran
Iran is using talks to shield its hegemonic ambitions
in the Mideast. Its Revolutionary Guard Corps and a host of proxies
are filling the power gap left by the US departure from Iraq and the
collapse of authoritarian governments.
The United States is currently rethinking the
Mideast. Hopes of a nuclear deal with Iran leave relations with
Israel at a new low. Fracking liberates America from Gulf oil, so
when Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran fight for regional supremacy
America may align with Iran.
Obama sees Islamic State as the danger and Iran as the victor. The
most powerful man in Iraq is Iranian general Qasem Soleimani —
"Supermani" — who leads the al-Quds Brigades, a private army under
the control of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Americans are impressed by
his professionalism and see his elite troops as their boots on the
A shift in US-Iranian relations is under way. The
nuclear conflict between Tehran and the West is over a decade old. A
breakthrough seems possible. The West wants the IAEA to be able to
inspect all facilities at any time and without prior notification.
But Iran blocks any measures that might limit its national
sovereignty. The two sides face a stalemate.
Khamenei: "Just like the Americans, I am of the opinion that no deal
is better than a bad deal."
Let's befriend Iran.
CAD image of a proposed tower
at the site of my childhood
Is the UN target of limiting global
warming to 2 K enough? Writing in Climate
Change Responses, Petra Tschakert says we need a 1.5 K target.
Hans-Otto Pörtner, an IPCC Fifth
Assessment Report author, said some species would struggle with
2 K warming but most should cope with 1.5 K.
The Body in Ancient Greek Art
2015-03-26 — 2015-07-05
British politics is broken
Electric car for one
with gyro stability
Solar eclipse viewed from
easyJet flight EZY1805 from Manchester to Reykjavik on Friday
Anglo-Saxons in British genes: most white
British people now owe almost 30% of their DNA to the ancestors of
2015 March 31
America Versus Islamic State
"Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of
our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful
about Iraq's future," said Barack Obama in March 2011.
In June 2014, Islamic State militias took Mosul. Its fall
triggered a catastrophic collapse of Iraqi forces across the
country. Huge areas and millions of citizens fell into the clutches
of ISIS, who also captured enormous quantities of US-supplied
A pageant of savagery included crucifixions,
slavery, and beheadings. IS propagandists understood that spectacle
was reality, and that this reality could spread virally across the
globe, summoning the clash of civilizations they sought.
Since then, the US military commitment in Iraq has steadily
escalated. Congress approved a bill to spend $5 billion to fight
Islamic State and now Obama has asked Congress to authorize a new
2015 March 30
Five years ago, Britain was on the brink.
Millions of people were unemployed, there was no economic security
for our families and there were worries about whether our country
could pay its debt.
Five years later,
because of our long-term economic plan and the difficult decisions
we have taken, we have more people in work than at any time in our
history, living standards are on the rise and we are more
Britain is back on its feet again: 1000
jobs are being created every single day and 760,000 more businesses
have started up. Last year our economy grew faster than any other
major advanced economy in the world.
After five years of
effort and sacrifice, Britain is on the right track. This election
is about moving forward. As prime minister, that is what I will
Sunday Times poll: Conservatives 32%, Labour
Observer poll: Conservatives 34%,
The conventional wisdom is that the Conservatives
will overtake Labour in poll share before polling day. One analysis
of the polls puts Cameron ahead of Miliband as a leader and as best
prime minister. Is this the moment when the polls turned for Cameron
and put him on course to beat Miliband?
No. Liam Fox:
"Successful political parties don't pick personalities and hope the
Drift To Brexit
UK prime minister David Cameron looks
marginalized in the European Union. The Germans, the Scandinavians,
the east Europeans, even the French are all keen to keep Britain in
the EU, but their readiness for concessions will be tested if he
wins a second term and gives Europhobia free rein.
EC president Donald Tusk says he wants to help solve the problem
in a "limited and rational way" but rules out a renegotiation of the
Lisbon treaty. In 2012, the UK government ordered a review of the
costs and benefits of EU membership. It found no case for
repatriating powers from Brussels.
2015 March 29
Humans have not left LEO since 1972, when
astronauts last walked on the moon. Robot spacecraft have ventured
to almost every corner of the solar system. When it comes to
science, robots win:
Rosetta is orbiting a comet, waiting for
the Philae lander to wake up.
Dawn is at the icy dwarf planet
Ceres, which might have a subsurface ocean.
New Horizons is set
to become the first spacecraft to visit Pluto.
Juno is scheduled
to arrive at Jupiter next summer.
Cassini has been studying the
Saturnian system for more than a decade.
Curiosity continues to
rove around on the surface of Mars.
Messenger is wrapping up a
mission at Mercury.
The human space program has a purpose. We
humans are perpetually in jeopardy if we stay on Earth, whether from
nuclear war, climate apocalypse, or a killer asteroid. To survive,
we have to spread out.
NASA has started work on a new Orion
spacecraft and the space launch system. But it cannot afford to
visit Mars. Under existing budget constraints, it never will.
2015 March 28
Astronomers have long known SETI, the Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Now some say we should encourage
a response from aliens by transmitting messages. Active SETI is
Advertising our existence could be a mortal
threat to the planet. Stephen Hawking noted that on Earth, when less
advanced societies drew the attention of those more advanced, the
consequences for the former were seldom agreeable.
this concern is overwrought. The nearest intelligent
ETs are likely to be many light years away. Simple
exchanges would take decades. Maybe we should offer the aliens Big
Data. We could transmit the contents of the Internet. A powerful
laser could beam the data in a few days.
Some say we
should choose caution and forbid powerful transmissions to the
skies. But we can do better than to declare that future generations
should endlessly tremble at the sight of the stars.
AR I supported passive SETI but I say no
to an interstellar WikiLeak.
John R. Bolton
President Obama’s approach on Iran has
brought a bad situation to the brink of catastrophe.
steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident. Now
the arms race has begun. Saudi Arabia has long been expected to move
first. No way would the Sunni Saudis allow the Shiite Persians to
outpace them in the quest for dominance within Islam and Mideast
geopolitical hegemony. Analysts believe Saudi Arabia has an option
to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan, allowing it to go nuclear
overnight. Egypt and Turkey would be right behind.
Prince Turki al-Faisal: "Whatever comes out of these talks, we will
want the same."
2015 March 27
President Barack Obama is about to repeat
the mistake of appeasing Iran that President Jimmy Carter
made decades ago.
In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
engineered a revolution in Iran and declared the Islamic Republic of
Iran. On November 4, a mob of students invaded and seized the
American embassy in Tehran and took its employees hostage. The
hostages endured 444 days of captivity.
President Carter responded by
entangling himself in a bewildering web of fruitless negotiations at the UN and the World Court. He should have told the
mullahs that they had 48 hours to release our citizens unharmed, or
else we would bomb the holy city of Qom.
Anyone who wants to
keep his hands clean should stay out of politics. Bombing Iran in
1979 would have given the world proof of US resolve as a global
superpower not to be attacked with impunity.
Churchill rebuked Neville Chamberlain when he
returned from Munich in 1938: "You were given the choice between war
and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war."
President Obama has chosen dishonor.
A hard claim: I hope it proves wrong.
2015 March 26
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Five fundamentals of Islam that need to
be removed or significantly diluted:
The status of the Koran as the last and immutable word of God
emphasis on the afterlife over the here-and-now
3 The concept of jihad or holy war
4 The writ of sharia law in everyday
5 The obligation for Muslims to
command right and forbid wrong
Muslims need to understand
Mohammed as a real man in the context of his times and the Koran as
a historically constructed text, not as a divine instruction manual.
2015 March 25
The United States plans to modernize about
200 B61 nuclear bombs hosted at air bases in five NATO countries.
The upgrade to B61-12 will make it into a precision guided standoff
weapon able to attack the same targets as previous gravity bombs but
more accurately and efficiently, using smaller yields that would
create less collateral damage and less radioactive fallout.
Under current plans, approximately 480 B61-12s are set to be
produced for five different aircraft. In addition to deployment in
Europe, the USAF intends to use the B61-12 to arm not only F-35A but
B-2 and B-52 bombers based in America. Estimated ultimate
cost of the B61 modernization program: over $10 billion.
Countries with nuclear weapons have recently embarked on big
programs to renew the strategic and tactical weapons in their
arsenals. Russia is replacing all its Soviet-era nuclear weapons
systems. The proposed US maintenance and modernization program is
projected to cost some $355 billion over the next decade and $1
trillion or more over 30 years.
The nuclear investments are
designed to make weapons harder to shoot down and more precise and
reliable. With about 16,000 nuclear weapons still on the planet,
nuclear nations have no intention of giving up their nukes anytime
AR The UK Trident is all or
nothing, and could be finessed in a crisis with a skilled opponent.
An air-launched PGM based on F-35 and B61-12 makes more sense for
realistic European scenarios where collateral damage is an issue.
2015 March 24
Slouching Toward Mecca
Michel Houellebecq said a decade ago that whoever
created monotheistic religion was a cretin and that of all the
faiths Islam was the dumbest. His novel Soumission puts us in 2022,
when France elects its first Muslim president.
months, a new social model develops, with the polygamous family at
its center. Men have different wives for sex, childbearing, and
affection. The wives pass through all these stages as they age, but
never have to worry about being abandoned. They are always
surrounded by their children, who have lots of siblings and feel
loved by their parents, who never divorce.
creates a character, Rediger, who writes sophistical books defending
Islamic doctrine. His Islamists idealize the life of piety and
despise modern culture. They believe in hierarchy within the family,
with wives and children there to serve the father. They hate
diversity and see high birthrates as a signs of civilizational
health. And they quiver with the eros of violence. But Europe is
dying and Islam is flourishing. If Europe is to have a future, it
will have to be an Islamic one.
Rediger says the summit of
human happiness is to be found in absolute submission: children to
parents, women to men, and men to God. And in return, one receives
life back in all its splendor. The Koran is an immense mystical poem
in praise of the God who created the perfect world we find ourselves
in, and teaches us how to achieve happiness in it through obedience.
Soumission is a classic novel of European cultural pessimism.
Houellebecq seems to think France has lost its sense of self.
Europeans lost their bet that more freedom would make them happier,
and now they submit to God.
Lilla has interesting views on
Europe and God.
2015 March 22
Is There a Market for Peerages?
A group of Oxford academics claim there is a
significant statistical relationship between political party
donations and nominations for UK peerages. The academics examined
the 303 Lords nominations between 2005 and the third quarter of 2014
and all donations since 2001. They isolated prominent people who
would be expected to be nominated, leaving 92 others, who donated
between them 98% of all the donations coming from nominees to the
Lords. Among those, 27 donated 95% of the total. The 27 came from a
larger pool of 779 big donors who stood out on electoral commission
The academics argue that lifetime appointments to
the UK House of Lords are in effect being sold. Yet constitutional
reform is unlikely to be top of the agenda of any of the major
political parties in the general election. The drive for reform must
come from within Westminster. Those working there are well aware
that something is seriously wrong.
Reform Parliament now!
The problem with conspiracy theorists is
how they interpret and respond to the relevant information at their
disposal. This is fundamentally a question of the way they are.
Intellectual vices are tendencies to think in certain ways.
Differences in intellectual character help to explain why people in
the same situation end up believing different things.
other bad habits, intellectual bad habits can be too deeply
entrenched to change. The only remedy is to try to mitigate the harm
the vices do to their owners and to others.
2015 March 21
We face the dual challenges of a world
view and an economic system that seem to have enormous shortcomings,
together with an environmental crisis which threatens to engulf us
all. Our ability to adapt to the effects of climate change depends
upon us adapting our pursuit of unlimited economic growth to that of
sustainable economic growth. And that depends upon basing our
approach on the fundamental resilience of our ecosystems. Ecosystem
resilience leads to economic resilience.
2015 March 20
Year after year, the software that runs
computers and other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated
and powerful. Machines now account for 10% of all manufacturing
tasks and are likely to perform about 25% of them by 2025.
Algorithms are writing most corporate reports, analyzing
intelligence data, reading mammograms, grading tests, and sniffing
out plagiarism. Computers do drug development.
workforce is subject to automation, technological unemployment must
follow. Technological progress will leave many people behind as it
races ahead. Even where automation does not eliminate jobs, it often
changes the nature of work. Automation dulls the brain, removing the
need to pay attention or master complicated routines or think
creatively and react quickly. Google is making us mindless sloths.
We live in a technophilic age. We love our digital devices and
all that they can do for us. It is naive to believe that government
is competent, let alone in a position, to control the development
and deployment of robots, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.
Government departments have their own visions of the technological
future. Business resists regulation. We, the people, are at risk.
2015 March 19
We have got a plan that is working:
A growing economy
• A record
number of jobs
• Rising living
• The deficit down
National debt starting to fall as a share of the economy
China is now sitting on top of the greatest
accumulation of bad debt and overcapacity in history. More than 1 in
5 homes in urban areas is vacant and millions remain unsold. There
are other red flags. Chinese researchers say China has wasted $6.8
trillion in investment.
Good loans result in GDP growth. When
private loan growth outstrips GDP growth, much of that excess will
be problem loans. China may have $2 trillion to $3 trillion in
problem loans. Chinese banks and shadow lenders are not reporting
bad loans close to this amount.
2015 March 18
Right On, Bibi
Israel opposition leader Isaac Herzog: "A
few minutes ago I spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
congratulated him on his achievement and wished him luck."
2015 March 17
Carbon dioxide is not the most urgent problem
facing humanity. But the next British government will be legally
committed to cutting our CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. About 90% of
our total energy still involves emitting CO2. The expansion of
nuclear and renewables is not going nearly fast enough, because
electricity comprises just one third of our energy use. We will have
to switch to electric cars and heating to cut CO2.
present technology, we cannot decarbonize our power cheaply. We
could extract CO2 from power station exhaust by carbon capture and
storage (CCS), but CCS reduces the efficiency of the power station
from about 35% to maybe 26% and roughly trebles the price to about
the same as power from an offshore wind farm. For now, there is no
way to meet our decarbonization target without bankrupting the
and barons, 1215
— Liberty — Legacy
2015-03-13 — 2015-09-01
"Give a man a fire and he's
warm for a day, but set fire
him and he's warm for
the rest of his life."
AR A little essay
about my childhood
published in Poole
2015 March 16
New US Bomber
The new US Long Range Strike Bomber
(LRS-B, probably a.k.a. B-3) is coming soon. The USAF plans to buy
80-100 of them at $550 million each, with initial fielding in 2025.
1 Have an unrefueled
range of over 5,000 nautical miles (over 9 Mm)
2 Carry less payload than previous
Even at half the payload of the B-2, the B-3 could still
destroy dozens of different targets in a single sortie using
lightweight smart bombs.
more than $550 million per plane
The target price of $550 million
per bomber is expressed in fiscal 2010 dollars. It covers the cost
of manufacture, not amortization of a $20 billion R&D program. The
total bill may look more like $900 million per plane.
4 Not contain breakthrough technologies
The B-2 bomber was designed for penetration of hostile airspace
during a nuclear war. The B-3 is likely to adapt technology from
5 Not be
The USAF will probably opt for more on-board EW gear
rather than a supersonic dash capability.
6 Not be unmanned
The fiscal 2016
budget summary describes the LRS-B as nuclear capable and optionally
manned. The combination sounds so controversial the USAF is likely
to skip it.
7 Look different from
Experts speculate the B-3 will be another flying-wing
design like the B-2. But the B-2 was conceived decades ago and
stealth has moved on.
8 Rely more
on off-board capabilities
The B-3 will be the first
information-age USAF bomber. All the legacy bombers in the current
fleet were designed before networking became central to warfare. The
B-3 will need to stay connected.
More than a hundred strong
The USAF says it wants 80-100 B-3s,
but by the time they are produced, all its current bombers will be
facing retirement. If the B-3 works, the USAF will likely replace
the whole fleet.
10 Built by
AR Another $100 billion.
RAF planners may want a few.
2015 March 15
Violence and War
Some say human beings are becoming less violent
and more altruistic. This has come about largely through the
increasing power of the state. Nuclear weapons keep the peace, and
fear of their use prevents conflict between great powers.
advances in ethics and politics are erratic, discontinuous, and
easily lost. Amid the general drift, peace and freedom alternate
with war and tyranny, eras of increasing wealth with periods of
economic collapse. Civilization remains inherently fragile.
2015 March 14
March 14 is Pi Day — 3.14.15. Pi is irrational
and absurd. It opens a window into the universe of transcendental
numbers, which exclude surds. Out of the totality of numbers, almost
all are transcendental.
Decades ago I got deeply into all this in transfinite set theory.
2015 March 13
Christianity follows changing moral fashions.
The same might be said of atheism. Evangelical atheists today view
liberal values as part of an emerging global civilization. In modern
western contexts, roughly speaking, an atheist is anyone who has no
use for the concept of God.
Sam Harris wants a scientific
morality. He takes for granted that a science of good and evil
cannot be other than liberal in content. His militancy in asserting
these values seems to be largely a reaction to Islamist terrorism.
But the ongoing reversal in secularization is not a peculiarly
Islamic phenomenon. The resurgence of religion is a worldwide
development. For secular thinkers, the continuing vitality of
religion calls into question the belief that history underpins their
values. So secular thinkers look to science for a foundation for
Friedrich Nietzsche exposed the problem atheism
has with morality. He understood that modern liberalism was a
secular incarnation of religious traditions. He was clear that the
chief sources of liberalism were in Jewish and Christian theism. He
was an atheist in large part because he rejected liberal values.
The conviction that tyranny and persecution are aberrations in
human affairs is at the heart of the liberal philosophy that
prevails today. The quintessential illusion of the ruling liberalism
is the belief that all human beings are born loving freedom and
peace and cease to do so only as a result of oppressive
conditioning. But in the larger sweep of history, it is peaceful
coexistence and the practice of toleration that are exceptional.
2015 March 12
Eurozone economic output remains below the
2007 level. The austerity policies have been taken too far.
Europeans have used political instruments to turn the financial
crisis into a debt crisis and a crisis of confidence across Europe.
Each EZ country has a common currency but a different tax
system. Fiscal policy was never harmonized in Europe. In creating
the eurozone, we have created a monster. Countries cannot reduce
their deficits unless the economy grows. Setting fixed deficit rules
for the future cannot work.
• We need to invest more money in
training and in R&D.
• We need a fiscal union and a harmonization
• We need a common EZ debt repayment fund.
Germany and France can no longer manage to tax multinational
companies effectively, because the companies are playing countries
off against each other. Many major corporations pay less in taxes
than small companies. A common EZ corporate tax would help.
We need to beef up our collective defenses on
NATO borders in Poland and the Baltic states.
been upgrading its nuclear weapons and missile systems. We need to
maintain a credible nuclear deterrent to ensure we are able to
prevent the threat of the use of such weapons against ourselves and
our allies. Our Trident deterrent does not come cheap at around £20
billion but that gives us more than 35 years of protection against
As part of our NATO commitment Britain is
expected to spend 2% of UK GDP on defense.
AR The UK Trident force is redundant if
the US commitment to NATO is good. The UK should beef up its forces
with other US purchases such as F-35C, B61-12, P-8, and BGM-109 to
reinforce US solidarity.
2015 March 11
Germany and Israel
The philosopher Kant defined enlightenment as
a process of growing up and finding the courage to think for
oneself. This requires one not only to strive to transcend the
perspective of private commitments and attempt to judge from the
cosmopolitan standpoint of everybody else but also to think aloud by
submitting one's opinions to the judgment of the reading public.
Jürgen Habermas developed discourse ethics in a heroic attempt to salvage
enlightenment thinking from the ruins of the Third Reich. He offered
Kant's ideal of public reasoning in response to Heidegger's idea of
This return to Kant will not be
achieved before German intellectuals find the courage to think and
speak about Israel. German intellectuals who do not speak implicitly
accept that their history as Germans commits them to the Jews and
not to universal humanism. Keeping silent about Israel is not the
right way to do justice to the history of the Holocaust.
Gershom Scholem emigrated from Berlin to
Palestine in 1923 and died in 1982. His life exhibits an
intellectual and cultural dual allegiance to Germany. His choice to
settle in Palestine/Israel included repeated attempts to repatriate
to Europe. He traveled around Europe after WW2 and suffered months
of depression as a result.
In the waning decades of his life,
Scholem became a strange kind of hero among the German
intelligentsia. He wrote his memoir, From Berlin to Jerusalem, in
German and published it in Germany in 1977. He is known for
groundbreaking studies in Kabbalah and Judaica.
AR Years ago I enjoyed a book by Scholem
on Jewish mysticism.
2015 March 10
Anti-Europeans frame the Europe issue as a
basic choice: are you for Britain, or are you for Europe?
Pro-Europeans must tell the truth about the 3 million jobs, 25,000
companies, £200 billion of annual exports, and £450 billion of
inward investment linked to Europe. Britzerland would be subject to
EU rules but denied a vote in shaping them. The Hong Kong option of
leaving Europe to join the world is really the North Korea option.
The true patriotic course for Britain is not just to engage but
to lead in Europe. The Britain that championed tolerance, liberty,
and social responsibility before any other is ready once again to
lead a progressive movement for change. It is a movement to mobilize
Europe to tackle the challenge of making a global economy work for
We are geographically, historically, economically,
and culturally part of Europe.
70 Years On: Tokyo
Soon after midnight,
1945-03-10: About 300 US B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs
filled with jellied gasoline onto Tokyo. The firestorm killed about
100,000 people, most of them old people, women and children. The
raid began an orgy of destruction in the final months of WW2 that
included dozens of similar raids on Japanese cities, and culminated
in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Almost 70 cities
were reduced to rubble and perhaps half a million people killed.
AR The British Trident deterrent is
capable of committing such a megadeath orgy within hours. British
decency would be its first victim.
2015 March 9
The anthropologist is a version of the
writer stripped down to its bare structural essentials. You look at
the world and you report on it. The writer as vanguard ethnographer
is a lovely idea. But it has an almost systematic unworkability
inscribed within it.
Universities have become businesses, and
not very good ones. Businesses have taken over their former role as
prime sites of knowledge generation. The best engineers and so on
end up working in business. More than half of all anthropology
graduates now work for corporations too.
The rise of
corporate capitalism and the astonishing rate of its recent
acceleration present a huge challenge to the writer, forcing him or
her to rethink their whole role and function.
2015 March 8
The New York Times
President Obama said that he and other
world leaders have offered Iran an "extraordinarily reasonable deal"
that will test whether the leadership of the Islamic nation is
serious about at last resolving the dispute over its nuclear
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed
a joint meeting of Congress to warn that the terms as publicly
reported would make it a "bad deal" that would still leave Iran with
a nuclear infrastructure that could make bombs.
Dianne Feinstein: "What Prime Minister Netanyahu did here was
something that no ally of the United States would have done. I find
it humiliating, embarrassing and very arrogant. Because this
agreement is not yet finished."
The Conservatives might fail to win a
majority in the general election. Britain might turn left, it might
turn right, it might leave the European Union, it might break up.
In any case, the British seems to have lost interest in foreign
policy. In 2009, the Conservatives withdrew from the Christian
Democratic mainstream in the European Parliament, a decision that
cut British influence in Germany. Then David Cameron announced his
intention to hold a referendum on British EU membership, cutting
British credibility in Europe. And in 2013, Parliament voted against
supporting US airstrikes in Syria, cutting friends in American too.
The Conservatives are not guaranteed re-election and perhaps
there are no votes in defense. But the UK will be worse off in a
world where it has no influence.
The UK net migration target has been
missed by a mile. Mass immigration poses profound questions about
the nature of citizenship and rights. Today 16% of the British
working age population is foreign born. Pressure on services is
straining some local authorities to breaking point.
Money is the root of all politics. Any
major political movement needs big money to fund it, and rich
business people get access and influence proportionate to their
Politics now is just accountancy. Politicians
feel the need to act as though they run something. So they act like
company directors. But the money men pull their puppet strings.
2015 March 7
Turning Poole Blue
Delivery Day for the latest Poole Town In Touch
AR Over the months I've published about
a dozen In Touch newsletters for the various Poole wards.
2015 March 6
About 4 billion years ago, Mars had enough water
to cover its surface in an ocean about 140 m deep.
NASA and ESO scientists studied Mars with three IR telescopes (Keck
II and the
ITF in Hawaii and the ESO VLT in Chile) to map its atmosphere
over six years. They measured the ratio of H2O and HDO (in which a
hydrogen atom is replaced by heavier deuterium): the greater the
water loss from the planet, the greater the ratio of HDO to H2O in
the water that remains. Atmospheric water in the near-polar region
was enriched in HDO by a factor of 7 relative to Earth ocean water,
implying that Mars lost a volume of water 6.5 times larger than the
present polar caps.
Lead author Geronimo Villanueva: "Our
study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by
determining how much water was lost to space. With this work, we can
better understand the history of water on Mars."
Water isotopic anomalies in martian atmosphere
Maps of atmospheric water and its deuterated form
across the martian globe show isotopic anomalies indicative of great
water loss. Early Mars (4.5 Gy BP) had a global equivalent water
layer at least 137 m deep.
2015 March 5
Life And Death
Yuval Noah Harari
Medicine today is more and more focused
on upgrading the healthy. This opens the possibility of creating
huge gaps between rich and poor. This century, most humans will
likely lose their military and economic value. Then the continuation
of mass medicine is not so certain.
The biggest question in economics and politics of the coming
decades may be what to do with all these useless people. Events in
the Mideast are just a speed bump on the highway of history. People
like Ray Kurzweil are creating new religions that will take over the
Globorg is great!
2015 March 4
People get together in small groups,
and these groups gradually become more extreme. They form an
identity that is resilient to argument and the norms of the outside
world. They accept a narrative that justifies further extremism and
brooks no opposition.
This has happened repeatedly in
history. Now it is Muslim identity and Islamic ideas that have been
co-opted by these groups. The burden of condemning it and
challenging it and exposing it inevitably falls upon Muslims:
Culturally, to ensure greater social integration and prevent these
Politically, to challenge a Muslim identity based upon victimhood;
Intellectually, to expose the weakness of the jihadist view of
AR I say retire Trident, upgrade QE carriers for CATOBAR ops
F-35C (not B) and B61-12, build more Astute SSN and upgrade for
nuclear Tomahawk SLCM, build more frigates, order P-8 MPA, and so on. Save billions and get
more flexible forces with adequate deterrence.
Islamic State executioner
Mohammed Emwazi, is a British computer science graduate from the
University of Westminster. This university is well known for being a
hotbed of extremist activity.
2015 March 3
The Iranian Bomb
The foremost sponsor of international
terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium
for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons.
We must all stand
together to stop Iran's march of conquest, subjugation and terror.
Iran's regime will always be an enemy of America. Don't be fooled;
the battle between Iran and Isis does not turn Iran into a friend of
America. When it comes to Iran and Isis, the enemy of your enemy is
Iran will become even more aggressive when its
economy has been unshackled and it has a clear path to the bomb.
This deal will be a farewell to arms control.
The Great Deceiver
Dallas G. Denery II
Saint Augustine said God cannot sin.
Everything God does, God does well and justly. So why did God send
his only son to redeem mankind? And why did Christ appear on Earth
as the man Jesus?
Well, the Devil had deceived Adam and Eve.
To undo this tangle of despair, God decided to deal with the Devil
much as the Devil had dealt with Adam and Eve. The Devil had
disguised himself as a serpent, so God disguised himself as a
sinless man. He tempted the Devil to crucify the innocent Jesus and
so to lose his grip on humanity. Augustine: "The Lord's cross
was the devil's mousetrap."
During the Scientific Revolution,
the commitment to rational causes for all events robbed God of the
power to deceive or even to interact with the world. God became the
source of universal order.
Thus the great deception was debunked.
2015 March 2
US Army chief of staff General Raymond
Odierno is "very concerned" about British defense cuts.
David Cameron: "Britain has the fifth largest defense budget of any
country in the world and the second largest in NATO. We are a very
strong partner for the US."
1 Russia poses a
threat to some of our NATO allies. Malign Russian activity in the
Baltic, the Balkans, and the Caucasus should remind us that under
Article 5 of the NATO treaty an attack on one member is an attack on
2 Upgrading our nuclear
deterrence and increases in capability will include the training and
manning for the new carriers as well as provision of F-35 joint
spending cuts in public spending should have been deeper and
earlier. Defense took its share of those cuts.
4 For Britain to fall out of the 2% club
would not only be a source of anxiety to the United States but would
undermine British moral authority.
Keep it above 2%, chaps.
Ranking By Truth
Google search currently uses the number of
incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality. A Google
research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness
of a page by tapping into Knowledge Vault. Facts the web unanimously
agrees on are considered a proxy for truth. Web pages that
contradict them are bumped down the rankings.
2015 March 1
For more than a decade, US leaders worked
to prevent Iran from acquiring or developing nuclear weapons
technology. The international community imposed sanctions that would
remain in place until we could rest assured that Iran would not
develop nuclear weaponry.
President Obama now seems prepared
to ink a deal that would put Iran on the cusp of nuclear weaponry.
Yet nothing of late suggests that Tehran will change for the better.
Iran remains an aggressive state sponsor of terrorism across the
region. Its leaders continue to threaten Israel.
View from the rooftop of Hotel A La Carte. My
Khe beach, Da Nang. Image: Thomas Uhlemann/dpa/Corbis
Vietnam 40 years on
End UK tax dodging
Live long and prosper
The first Chinese train to Spain
completed a 26 Mm round trip on a new cargo line through Kazakhstan,
Belarus, Poland, Germany, and France.
View from Russian Bear of
RAF Typhoon off Cornwall
"Marx to the left of
Thatcher to the
Here I am,
stuck in the middle
Photo: Fiona Hanson
"I'm preparing for
my final years."
AR He's younger than me!
Dresden 70 years
left 25,000 dead
2015 February 28
Islamists Versus Christians
Asra Q. Nomani
For Muslims, shirk is equating any being
with God. Various translations define shirk as paganism, idolatry,
or polytheism, and people who practice shirk are mushrikun. The
Quran says shirk is a major sin. In one hadith, shirk is worse than
murder. For most Muslim, Christians and Jews are people of the book,
but they are mushrikun for Islamic State extremists.
Wahhabists accuse Muslims of shirk if they are Shi'ites, visit the
tombs of saints, or celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.
Islamic theologists regard tombs as shirk. Islamic State has
interpreted shirk to put a veneer of ideology and piety on the
kidnapping of women from the Yazidi ethnic minority of Iraq and
Syria by calling the women mushrikun.
Translations of the
Quran by the government of Saudi Arabia feed hatred of Jews and
Christians. One translation adds parenthetical phrases: "Guide us on
the Straight Way, the Way of those whom You have bestowed Your
Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the
Jews), and not of those who went astray (such as the Christians)."
2015 February 27
Jessica T. Mathews
Bret Stephens believes that
international security is skidding downhill. The evidence suggests
otherwise. The number of armed conflicts is down by more than one
third since the end of the cold war. Recent years have also been
ones of declining threat from weapons of mass destruction. There are
now far fewer nuclear weapons in the world and fewer countries with
nuclear programs than there were twenty years ago. Stephens urges a
US global hegemony.
have so pacified Homo sap with nukes that the US Globocop looks
musclebound and Trident like overkill.
An IS militant: "These antiquities and idols behind
me were from people in past centuries and were worshiped instead of
God. When God Almighty orders to us destroy these statues, idols and
antiquities, we must do it, even if they're worth billions of
AR My psychology of
revelation gives such inner compulsion a logical semantics in which
"orders" like these arise from brain states.
2015 February 26
The economic system that we have created has
also created global warming. The system is broken. The lack of
restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.
We are going to experience global warming and far more natural
disasters. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic
warming. We also have time to change our economic system.
have to make some decisions now about what values are important to
us and how we really want to live. As long as we have a chance to
minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.
We need a
dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a
fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we
need to do and our current political reality.
The system in
which we live sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth
that are clearly not good. Emissions are rising and climate change
We need an economic and political transformation,
one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater
regulation, and a departure from this obsession with growth.
2015 February 25
As the only Muslim-led member of NATO, Turkey
has a central role to play in the Mideast. Turks aim to topple
Bashar al-Assad in Syria and to ensure that the Kurds do not exploit
Mideast chaos to carve out their own state. In both these aims,
Islamic State is not so much an enemy as a useful tool.
communicate with IS commanders and help support the IS economy. They
do not let NATO jets bomb Islamic State from Incirlik, the US
airbase in Turkey. Turkish forces went into Syria only to rescue the
holy tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the
Turkey is playing a double game. For now, we
will just have to pretend to be friends.
Well Done, Old Chap!
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne
deserves a "pat on the back" for Britain's economic recovery and
should be allowed to "finish the job" of performing a "textbook"
recovery, says OECD secretary-general Ángel Gurría: "The UK has made
tremendous progress exiting from the worst economic crisis of our
lifetime. Job creation is remarkable and growth is strong."
2015 February 24
The New Way of War
Douglas A. Ollivant
Wars today are brutal and manpower
intensive. We encounter professionals who intermingle with the
population, outside national bounds, in spaces that belong to no
state or only tenuously to a state.
The United States must
1 We need to rethink the
way we go about buying our military hardware. The debacles of both
F-35 aircraft and the US Army DCGS intelligence architecture
are well documented.
2 We need
forces that work with allied forces in spaces where the state is
weak or nonexistent. Special forces teams are the capability most
needed for future warfare.
need prepared and ready land power. Indigenous land power supported
by US airpower will continue to be the preferred approach, but the
United States still needs a reliable ground force.
4 The Pentagon should focus on systems
that push power and information to the edge of the system. In our
age the force of choice has had access to centralized information.
The forces of choice for the future will need to have information
pushed out to them.
personnel management systems have defects in recruiting and
development. We need new proposals that increase flexibility and
expand the talent pool without degrading the production of leaders
who can take young men into combat.
Warfare has not changed fundamentally. Wars will continue to be
fought by young men over issues of fear, honor and interest, much
2015 February 23
Islamic State is very Islamic. Virtually
every major decision and law it promulgates adheres to the Prophetic
methodology. The Prophet reportedly said the armies of Rome will set
up camp in the Syrian city of Dabiq. The armies of Islam will meet
them and defeat them there. After that, the caliphate will expand
and sack Istanbul. An Antichrist from Iran will kill vast numbers
until just a few remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Then Jesus will
return to Earth and lead the Muslims to victory.
2015 February 22
Shortly after May 2015, the UK government will decide on
replacing the Trident SLBM force V-boats with Successor-class SSBNs.
A decision to go will lock the UK into capital spending of up to £33
billion by 2032 on the new subs, and this will likely lead to the UK
operating Trident beyond 2050 at a total LCC of about £109 billion.
If the UK scraps plans for Successor-class SSBNs and moves to a
free-fall nuclear capability based on LM F-35C JSF DCA and US B61-12
PGM, an alternative nuclear force based on 100 B61-12s has a capital
cost of less than £17 billion. This includes:
• Associated nuclear storage and C2
• Conversion of both QE-class
aircraft carriers for CATOBAR
5 additional Astute-class SSNs
4 additional Type 26 frigates
6 shipborne AEW&C and 4 COD aircraft
Converting the 14 RAF Voyager for flying boom AAR
• 8 P-8 class MPA/MMA
these investments will enhance UK conventional force projection
capabilities and precision conventional strike capability.
AR The VfM + LCC argument is convincing.
Go for F-35C + B61-12.
2015 February 21
700th Anniversary Lecture by Dr Rowan Williams:
Churches and Holy Societies"
University Church of St Mary the
Virgin, High Street, Oxford
Followed by tea in Exeter College
The Conscious Web
Kevin Kelly says AI will enliven inert
objects in the way that electricity did over 100 years ago.
"Everything that we formerly electrified, we will now cognitize."
The internet of things (IoT) will link countless objects and
people with embedded wireless identifiers that communicate
autonomously, with 50 billion nodes by 2020.
sees the IoT as the biggest online development yet. He thinks we
should "expect our devices to anticipate us in all sorts of ways"
and points to Google Now.
David Chalmers and others speculate
that all things in the universe might be (or potentially be)
conscious. If so, could we in the midst of a conscious web?
Teilhard de Chardin envisioned a global sphere of thought called the
noosphere. He saw it as the evolutionary step beyond our geosphere
AR This scenario
is my Globorg hypothesis — see my books, from
2015 February 20
Germany is not pulling its weight against the
Russian threat. UK defense secretary Michael Fallon says the
Russians pose a "a real and present danger" to the Baltic members of
Every euro for the Greeks is one less for the
Bundeswehr. German disarmament since the fall of the Berlin wall has
been greater than that from the Versailles treaty after World War I.
At the end of the Cold War the army had eight Panzer divisions. Now
it has some 63,000 active soldiers.
NATO is looking thin.
Britain and France have their eyes on other problems. Their armies
are being rebuilt around the concept of agility, meaning
lightweight. German troops played a minor role in Afghanistan, but
in Europe the German army could play to its historic strengths.
German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen will overhaul
German strategy in the light of the conflict in Ukraine. A new
approach is needed for when diplomacy fails. Germany could
reinvigorate NATO by reconstituting six Panzer divisions to build up
150,000 armored troops.
Former Polish foreign minister Radek
Sikorsky: "I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in
history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I
am beginning to fear German inactivity."
2015 February 19
Evolution of Eukaryotes
David Baum and Buzz Baum
The evolution of the eukaryotic
cell was a critical event for life on Earth.
eukaryotic cell is an intricate meshwork of membranes called the
endoplasmic reticulum (ER), interspersed with other structures such
as mitochondria. At the core is the nucleus, a large compartment
with a double membrane, within which lies the DNA. This type of
cellular organization distinguishes eukaryotes from prokaryotes.
Perhaps the eukaryotic cell evolved when a prokaryote folded
parts of its outer membrane inwards, pinching off portions to
generate internal compartments. Some membranes then wrapped around
the DNA to make the nuclear membrane, while others morphed into the
ER. Other cells engulfed by the cell went on to become mitochondria.
We propose that eukaryotic cells evolved when a prokaryote
extruded blobs of outer membrane through its cell wall. These then
fused to form the peripheral parts of the eukaryotic cell that
contain the ER and mitochondria. The outer membrane of the
eukaryotic cell is new. The nuclear envelope is the boundary of the
Our model explains features of the ER
and the nuclear membrane.
2015 February 18
In 2008, capitalism had a global spasm.
The financial crisis set off a chain reaction that pushed Europe
into a downward spiral that continues to this day.
crisis of European capitalism is far less likely to give birth to a
better alternative to capitalism than it is to unleash dangerously
regressive forces that have the capacity to cause a humanitarian
bloodbath. We need to arrest the free fall of European capitalism in
order to buy the time we need to formulate its alternative.
Karl Marx created a narrative populated by workers and others who
struggled to harness reason and science in the context of empowering
humanity. Contrary to their intentions, they unleashed demonic
forces that usurped and subverted their own freedom and humanity.
This dialectical perspective on the great contradictions of the
capitalist era dissolved the paradox of an age that generated the
most remarkable wealth and the most conspicuous poverty. Beside the
dialectical relation of debts and surpluses, of growth and
unemployment, of wealth and poverty, indeed of good and evil, Marx
discovered another binary opposition: the contradiction between
human labour as a source of value that can never be quantified in
advance and labour as a quantity that is for sale and comes at a
Economic theory that treats human and other productive
inputs as interchangeable assumes that the dehumanization of human
labour is complete. But if it could ever be completed, the result
would be the end of capitalism as a system of value.
capital ever succeeds in commodifying labour, it will also squeeze
that human freedom from within labour that allows for the generation
of value. The portrayal of human freedom as an economic category is
unique in Marx.
Marx made the greatest contribution any
economist has ever made to our understanding of the contradiction
buried in capitalism. Capital can never win in its struggle to turn
labour into an infinitely elastic input without destroying itself.
Marx argued that wealth is collectively produced and then
privately appropriated through social relations of production and
property rights that rely on false consciousness.
have convinced a large array of people that markets are not just a
useful means to an end but also an end in themselves. The great
objective behind liberalism was to separate the economic sphere from
the political sphere and to confine politics to the latter, leaving
economics to capital.
Margaret Thatcher delivered a shock to
the UK. The recession her government engineered destroyed
progressive politics and the notion of values that transcended
What good will it do today to call for a
dismantling of the eurozone?
We must try to minimize the human
toll from this crisis.
Varoufakis is the Greek minister of finance.
2015 February 17
SAP S/4 HANA
SAP S/4 HANA is the biggest innovation since
R/3. SAP is breaking all limitations of the past, with a completely
Simpler: Complexity is the most
intractable business problem that all companies face today. SAP S/4
HANA will remove complexity from core systems and help companies
return to standard. CIOs will be able to reduce their company data
footprints and show a huge gain in performance. A focus on
parallelism without locking improves throughput. Companies get more
Faster: Custom code and
modifications hinder innovation. Critical modifications we can host
on the SAP HANA cloud platform. By getting back to a standard code
line, we open businesses up to a much faster innovation cycle.
Without long upgrade cycles or waiting for enhancement packs,
businesses can consume innovation frequently. CIOs can become
trusted innovation partners.
will guide SAP S/4 HANA deployment either on premise or via the
cloud. They will have the option to consume innovation packages
delivered either in the public cloud or on the SAP HANA enterprise
cloud. On premise customers can consume updates more frequently.
Companies with SAP S/4 HANA on premise can easily convert to SAP S/4
HANA on the cloud.
With complexity eliminated and innovation
easily adoptable, companies can become faster and better at what
AR I was in the HANA
team. We broke new ground.
2015 February 16
The July 2011, massacre by Anders Breivik was
the worst mass killing in Norwegian history. In a long
Breivik revealed a preoccupation with Islamic colonization abetted
by the ruling Labor Party. He had been in the Progress Party, which
warned about stealth Islamization. In 2013, the Labor Party was
voted out and replaced by the Conservative Party in coalition with
the Progress Party.
Thanks to oil, Norway's GDP per capita is
now more than $100,000. It has low income inequality and leads the
world in gender equality. Its cities are clean, almost every child
gets a public education, the prisons are models of rehabilitation,
and all tax returns are published online. The Norwegian government
sends more humanitarian aid abroad per capita than any country.
After 9/11, opposition to Muslims and Islam entered Norwegian
politics. A community of Islamophobes supported the Eurabia theory
that there was a conspiracy to Islamize Europe. Young Norwegian
Muslims founded Islam Net, an online youth organization with a
Salafist ideology, raising suspicions that it was a pathway to
radicalization. Hostility to Muslims in Norway is growing.
Muhammad began to preach to his fellow
Meccans in 612 CE. His message was based on the Quran, a new
revelation for the people of Arabia. Many believed that their god
Allah was identical with the god of the Jews and Christians. The
bedrock message of the Quran was simply that it was good to share
your wealth with the poor and vulnerable and to treat them with
2015 February 15
Classical and Quantum Gravity
The team responsible for the
visual effects in Interstellar developed new code to generate the
movie images of the wormhole and black hole Gargantua. When a camera
is close up to a rapidly spinning black hole, surfaces known as
caustics create multiple images of individual stars and of the plane
of the galaxy in which the black hole lives. The images are
concentrated along one edge of the black hole shadow and are caused
by the black hole dragging space into a whirling motion and
stretching the caustics around itself many times. The code mapped
the paths of millions of lights beams as they passed through warped
spacetime to make an iconic image for the movie.
hole focuses a light beam emitted from any point on a caustic
surface into a bright cusp of light. All the caustics but one wrap
around the sky many times when the camera is close to the black
hole. As each caustic passes by a star, it either creates two new
images of the star as seen by the camera or annihilates two old
images of the star. The simulations showed the caustics creating and
annihilating a huge number of stellar images. On the opposite side
of the shadow, the multiple images of each star are compressed
inward and are not seen in the images.
Kip Thorne: "This new
approach to making images will be of great value to astrophysicists
like me. We too need smooth images."
2015 February 14
Master of the Universe
Guy Spier read PPE at Brasenose with Dave
Cameron. After Oxford and Harvard Business School, Spier headed
straight to a toxic New York brokerage firm. Eighteen months later,
no one in the financial industry would employ him. He grasped that
the secret to making money is first to turn yourself into the kind
of person who is good at making money.
He renouncing the
excitement of shorting, of bubbles, of vertiginous rises and
headlong falls, in favor of value investing. He learned to spot
which companies are going to do well and then backed them for the
long run, knowing that their value will increase steadily over time.
He realized that the quest for value extends far beyond
financial markets into a whole way of life. He quit the buzz of New
York for the dull life of Zurich. He located his office well away
from the financial center and just ten minutes from home.
philosophy: the happier you are and the better you are at making
others happy, the more easily you generate an environment in which
you thrive not just personally but financially.
Stephen Green: clergyman, banking
executive, then chairman of HSBC from 2003 to 2010, and author of
Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain
After his elevation, Lord Green joined the Coalition
government as a trade minister. Now he has nothing to say on the
aggressive tax avoidance procured by his bank's Swiss subsidiary on
his watch, or on allegations of tax evasion.
AR I once chatted with Stephen at a
college dinner in Zurich (we are old boys of the same Oxford
college). Nice chap, moral and religious. Oops!
2015 February 13
What Putin fears most in this confrontation
is not the introduction of some Western tanks or rockets but a
thriving, prosperous Ukraine. It would be an example to the rest of
the former Soviet republics that a better, richer life can be had
under Western styles of governance and economics than under Putin's
dream of a resuscitated USSR.
Messages to ETI
Douglas Vokoch, of the SETI Institute in
California, advocates beaming powerful radio messages to
hypothetical alien civilizations advanced enough to read them.
Vokoch: "With recent detection of Earth-like planets in the
habitable zones of other stars, we have natural targets for such
transmission projects. Some would argue that we should avoid
powerful transmissions at all costs for fear of an alien invasion.
If this mindset became entrenched, it would signal a guarded vision
for humankind as isolationist, avoiding exploration, trying to
minimize risk at any cost."
2015 February 12
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and
France may be close to agreement following all-night talks in the
Belarus capital Minsk on resolving the Ukraine conflict.
AR Hope it works. We're not ready for
2015 February 11
MIT Technology Review
Power has begun work on a nuclear reactor that would be smaller
and safer than a conventional unit. The design uses molten salt as
its coolant, making it safe from meltdown, and it can burn nuclear
waste without making material for weapons. Based on a
reactor developed and tested 50 years ago at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, the new design uses zirconium hydride as a moderator,
protected from the corrosive molten salts by silicon carbide.
Experiments will test whether the new materials perform as expected.
The work is supported by
2015 February 10
Anglo-American liberalism has never been the
sole version of the tradition. The French tradition treats modern
individualism as a historical product rather than a natural fact.
Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers appealed to the classical
past in order to attack Christian oppression. They encouraged their
heirs to skirt the roots of liberalism in the Christianity that
flourished in the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages were much more
Christian than liberal. We need to explain the move from a refusal
of the relevance of Christian moral beliefs in politics to a
revolution in assumptions about the subordination of individuals to
The monotheists made the divine so otherworldly
that man was liberated. Christianity severed the monotheist promise
from terrestrial fulfillment and inscribed it in the soul. The same
revolution that alienated individuals in relation to the world
inadvertently prepared their independence from the divine and
deprived politics of any sacred meaning.
Axel Honneth: "One of the major weaknesses of contemporary
political philosophy is that it has been decoupled from an analysis
of society, instead becoming fixated on purely normative
2015 February 9
The digital economy does not so much disrupt
what went before as destroy it. We need to ask what kind of world we
want to live in. For most authors, editors, photographers, and
musicians, the 25 years since the birth of the web have been a
disaster. The winners take all, the rest wither and die. The
internet has not been an unmitigated success.