I used to think communism
was the most
that could be foisted upon an
economy. Now I realize
is an even more destructive
belief system: localism.
AR I hereby confirm that
Primrose Hill is indeed as
brilliant as Alan Sillitoe
said it was.
the Internet of Things
2015-06-23 — 2015-06-25
Drone strikes, manned airstrikes,
special operations raids buy
space and time. But by them-
selves they are only a delaying
action. This counter-terrorism
concept is a fantasy.
M.C. Escher Co.
The Amazing World
of Modern Art, Edinburgh
2015-06-27 — 2015-09-27
European Space Agency director
Johann-Dietrich Wörner wants
to build a village on the Moon:
"This is not so hard to achieve
... I see it as a small human
habitat, with humans and robots
from across the world ... If one
company wants to build a hotel,
if another wants to mine and
explore, that is perfect."
200 years ago today:
Battle of Waterloo
French army NH90
Le Bourget 2015
2015 June 30
No Means Grexit
Greece and its creditors are in the
endgame. The troika (EC, ECB, IMF) has foisted a 25% decline in GDP
on Greece and is still demanding a budget surplus that economists
condemn as punitive. Greeks will hold a snap referendum this weekend.
EU leaders resist the referendum. Concern for popular legitimacy
is incompatible with EZ politics. Yes means depression almost
without end. No opens the possibility that Greece might grasp its
destiny in its own hands. I know how I would vote.
Islamic State is the latest manifestation of
the Islamic fundamentalism that has swept the Mideast for decades.
We will not defeat it until we recognize what it is.
Prime Minister says Islamic State is an existential threat to the
West. So why has the UK utterly failed to come up with a coherent
response to Islamic fundamentalism? We have expended a lot of
military effort overthrowing regimes that were no threat to us and
even regimes that had been keeping the Islamic fundamentalists at
David Cameron seems reluctant to face the facts. It is
time he stopped telling us what a wonderful peaceful religion Islam
is and tackled the problem.
2015 June 29
Back to the Future
Humans are still masters of their fate.
But when machines become smarter than humans, they will take over.
Machines with huge amounts of computing power, working at speeds
inconceivable to the human brain, will create global networks with
each other, communicating without human interference.
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be able to take over
entire transport systems, national economies, financial markets,
healthcare systems, and product distribution. Anything you can
imagine the human race doing over the next 100 years AGI will be
able to do faster, including doing wrong.
attempts to limit the powers of AGI could go wrong too. An
instruction to prevent human suffering could logically be
interpreted in AI as one to kill all humans, thus ending
suffering altogether. An instruction to keep humans safe and happy
could be translated in machine logic as one to entomb everyone in
concrete coffins on heroin drips. You get what you ask for,
not what you want.
We need plans for safe AGI before we
create the first dangerous AGI. The software industry is devoting
enormous effort to developing AI, and we are almost at the point of
generating an AGI that is as intelligent as humans. As we race to
the goal of safe AGI we need to outrun the computer industry.
Can a business be alive?
2015 June 28
Teen romance as fairy tale? We have a winner!
An Irish novel for young adults about fairies may seem an
unpromising item for readers outside the charmed circle of Irish
teenage girls. But Helen Falconer gives it enough power to work its
magic on a wider class of readers, and she surely nurses the hope of
emulating in her own modest way the success that J. K. Rowling
achieved with her Harry Potter books. As a novelist accustomed to
high praise for her prose, Ms Falconer is no doubt eager to enjoy a
royalty jackpot commensurate with the exceptional quality of her
The story starts with enough modern realism about
schoolgirl crushes and teen texting to lull its target readers into
a relation of trust. Then, with accelerating tempo, the magic kicks
in and realism goes out the window in an escalating rush of
supernatural fantasy. Once the tale has taken off, the action lets
rip in fine style, with enough dash to propel this reader at least
through a fairly long saga in one extended sitting. That, by the
way, is a big achievement. Most of the few novels that this
impatient philosopher reads at all leave him cold. Those consumed in
one sitting are rare indeed. But modern teens unused to reading big
books will need this narrative drive, and a novel that lacked it
would fail at the gate.
With its artful blend of young love
and folk wisdom,
The Changeling strikes one as eminently fit for purpose.
PDF: 1 page, 57 KB
2015 June 27
Helen worked as a journalist and book reviewer on
the Guardian before becoming a full-time writer. Her novels
Primrose Hill and
Sky High feature teenage protagonists. Her latest novel
The Changeling is published this month.
Helen has been
teaching creative writing classes since 2005. She believes that new
writers are subject to common errors including:
Wandering point of view
Beginning the story in the wrong place
Failing to describe characters until too late
Delivering back story in an indigestible chunk
Losing drama when focusing on getting from A to B
Using general instead of specific words to set scenes and situations
Breaking up action with description
I'm belated reading
Primrose Hill (first published 1999) today. I tutored her
in philosophy at Oxford back in 1977. She was quite brilliant and
went on to get a congratulatory first in PPE.
2015 June 26
Politicians today can barely manage to enact
health and education reforms. Creating new worlds and new human
beings is far beyond their agendas.
The new prophets are
technology gurus. They want to tear down the old world and build a
completely new world in its place. They look toward a future in
which algorithms replace human beings in the economy and life no
longer revolves around work.
The silicon prophets are
building socioeconomic models for a society in which human beings no
longer produce anything and are merely consumers. They are dreaming
not only about remaking society and the economy but also about
defeating death, engineering superhumans, creating the Internet of
Things, and merging them all to form some kind of cosmic
What people hope to achieve is often far more
important than what they can actually do. It is dangerous to mix
godlike technology with megalomaniac politics but it might be even
more dangerous to blend godlike technology with myopic politics.
Technology gives us the power to reshape the future. If
politicians flub the job of planning this future, the really big
decisions might be made by the gurus.
The Internet of Things
IoT technology can create real economic
value. The potential is huge, but capturing it will require an
understanding of where real value can be created and an effort to
address systems issues.
We analyzed more than 150 use cases,
ranging from people with devices to monitor health and wellness to
manufacturers using sensors to optimize the maintenance of equipment
and protect the safety of workers. We estimate that the IoT has a
total potential economic impact of $4 trillion to $11 trillion a
year by 2025. The top end value is over a tenth of world GDP.
Among our findings:
Interoperability between IoT systems is critical
Companies need to use IoT data widely for optimization and
• B2B apps will
probably capture more value than the consumer uses
The IoT will be big both in advanced economies and in developing
• Customers will capture
most of the benefits
A dynamic industry is evolving around
IoT technology. The digitization of machines, vehicles, and other
elements of the physical world is changing how goods are made and
distributed, how products are serviced and refined, and how doctors
and patients manage health and wellness. Capturing the full
potential of the IoT will require innovation and investment.
AR A good way for a big company to get
IoT ready is to run on
2015 June 25
UK in Europe
Sir Mike Rake et al. (27 names)
As business leaders from a variety of sectors,
and from businesses of all sizes, we believe it is overwhelmingly in
Britain's interests to stay in the EU. This country is stronger as
part of the largest market in the world, with half a billion people.
We can trade freely with just one set of rules across the whole of
Europe. We also benefit from Europe's free trade deals with more
than 50 countries around the world.
Britain as a whole is
stronger too: together with our European partners we can best
address common problems that respect no borders, such as crime and
environmental protection; we stand firm with 27 other countries in
the face of common threats; and each UK household benefits by an
average of £3,000 per year.
Of course the EU is far from
perfect and that is why the prime minister is right to call for
change to make it more efficient, streamlined and competitive.
Britain has shown in the past that where we make the case for change
we can win. Reform is an ongoing process that needs to happen now
and long into the future. The best way to secure that is to be in
the room fighting for it, not outside knocking on the door.
2015 June 24
Global Warming or Cooling?
There is about a 1 in 5 chance of the Sun
entering a grand solar minimum in the next 50 years. The last grand
solar minimum occurred between about 1645 and 1715.
has been in a grand solar maximum over the past few decades but it
is quickly becoming less active, with an increasing probability of a
grand solar minimum by the end of the century.
A grand solar
minimum would cause global average temperatures to fall by about 0.1
K. An increase of several K is expected due to global warming if
greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
UK Met Office
researcher Sarah Ineson: "The Sun isn't going to save us from global
Regional climate impacts of a possible
future grand solar minimum
Sarah Ineson et al.
Maurits Cornelis Escher
Roger Penrose was a young man when he first encountered
"Relativity impressed me the most ... My conclusion was we find the
pictures disturbing because we fear Escher may be right.”
Penrose: "For those who do pure mathematics for its own sake, it's
the aesthetic, the joy, the beauty in the subject itself, that
elegance which lies in a proof or a result. Artistry in some form is
so important to mathematics."
John Searle believes that philosophical
work on perception since Descartes has been incoherent. He thinks he
has found the bad argument. He says our perceptual capacities enable
us to see things as they are in our local environments.
is an external world full of things. These things and this world are
objective. There is also a subjective world consisting of internal
states of mind. If you get things wrong, your perceptual system has
produced an inaccurate representation of the external world. Two
perceptual states that differ only in that one of them is accurate
perception of the world and the other is inaccurate are
Searle says all
perceptual states have contents, but not all perceptual states have
objects. Perceptual contents pertain to how the world is
represented, not to what in the world is represented. We can
perceive external objects directly.
Searle has no patience with the brain as VR generator image
2015 June 23
US Global Air Strike Commander Lt Gen
Stephen Wilson: "I don't think we've ever seen so much power put in
one person in Russia, and some of the things happening there are
troubling and concerning for everybody ... Lots of people are trying
to figure out what is the strategic intent of Russia ... We want to
bring Russia back into what we knew from years past, a relationship
which was stable, with good dialog, and understanding and
communication to avoid any potential miscalculation."
2015 June 22
National Space Society
The NASA New Horizons spacecraft
will speed past Pluto on July 14, 2015, beaming back photos and data
from the dwarf planet. (HD video, 2:52)
2015 June 21
The Fifth Gospel
I found this a satisfying novel. It has an intriguing theme and it
is thoroughly researched, as well as skillfully plotted and
populated with deep and credible characters.
The Shroud of
Turin is the iconic motif in a plot that really turns on the schism
between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Debatable claims
for and against the authenticity of the Shroud give way to much more
interesting reflections on the apparent blasphemy of such imagery,
while parochial reflections on eastern versus western faith from the
perspective of Vatican politics turn into a deeper analysis of the
numerous little contradictions between the four canonical gospels.
gospel of the title plays a didactic role in dramatizing what might
otherwise have been a rather tedious exercise in comparative
hermeneutics. The Gospel of John turns out have something to say on
the mystery of the Shroud, but to say more here might spoil the
The priestly characters, including Pope John Paul II in
all his terminal frailty, add real depth to the philosophy and
illustrate better than any moralizing how Christian faith,
for all its intellectual vulnerability, can give shape and meaning
to mortal human lives.
Altogether this is a book for
discerning readers. With a body count of one and no graphic sex it
is not an airport novel.
2015 June 20
Wimpzillas are superheavy weakly interacting massive particles.
Wimps from the early universe could explain dark matter. But the
creation of wimpzillas and other superheavy dark matter takes
energies last found during the inflationary epoch.
from BICEP2 and ESA Planck tell us the free energy in that epoch
could have been in the YeV range. Quantum gravitational fluctuations
could have created wimpzillas. But expansion has diluted them and
they do not interact directly with detectors on Earth.
wimpzillas decay, the decay products will have superhigh energies.
The IceCube neutrino telescope has seen 3 neutrinos with energies in
the PeV range that could be decay products of superheavy dark matter
with an extremely long half-life.
Another way to detect
superheavy dark matter particles would be via the ultra-high-energy
cosmic rays (UHECR) emitted when they decay. UHECR create showers of
particles when they enter the atmosphere, but only a handful do so
The Japanese Experimental Module – Extreme
Universe Space Observatory (JEM-EUSO) will look for light emitted
when UHECR hit the atmosphere. Energies that cannot be explained by
standard astrophysics could come from wimpzillas.
In general relativity, gravity slows down
time. Lab experiments with atomic clocks show that your head ages
slightly faster than your feet, because your feet feel a stronger
Igor Pikovski and colleagues calculated
what happens when you do quantum experiments in Earth gravity. If a
molecule is in a superposition of two states that are at different
heights from the ground, each state will vibrate at a different
rate, destroying any superposition. If you could place an atomic
clock in a vertical superposition, it would tick at two rates
simultaneously, forcing it to decohere. This effect is too small for
present clocks to measure.
General relativity and quantum
mechanics are mathematically inconsistent. Quantum gravity theorists
would like experiments to check their ideas. Pikovski says this idea
Nature Physics, DOI: 10.1038/nphys3366
2015 June 19
1 Each year sees the disappearance of
thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know,
which our children will never see, because they have been lost
2 The warming caused by huge consumption on the part
of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the
world, especially Africa.
3 Christians must forcefully reject
the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion
over the Earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.
4 Access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal human
5 By itself the market cannot guarantee integral human
development and social inclusion.
6 In the face of a culture
of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life. Concern
for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the
justification of abortion.
7 Valuing one's own body in its
femininity or masculinity is necessary if one is going to be able to
recognize oneself in an encounter with someone who is different.
8 The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or
to replace politics. But there is urgent need of a true world
9 An integral ecology is also made up of
simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence,
exploitation and selfishness.
10 The Earth, our home, is
beginning to look more and more like an immense
pile of filth.
On 18 June 1815, France lost an emperor.
Napoleon the military genius was also a dictator. The image of the
visionary of modern Europe is now tainted.
the beginning of an unprecedented era of peace, stability and
development in Europe. It marked the end of the political cycle of
the French Revolution and the beginning of the industrial revolution
in Britain. It opened the way to a golden age for European science,
arts and literature.
We call on our British allies to resist
the familiar temptation of splendid isolation. Beware, Brexit could
be your Waterloo! Your future is in Europe.
2015 June 18
Europe and Waterloo
Napoleon the Great swept all before him,
overthrew ancient and despotic regimes, put a reactionary Catholic
church in its place, liberated the oppressed, and imposed a modern
legal code on vast swathes of Europe, all at the point of a sword.
His return in 1815 from exile on Elba galvanized the stalled Vienna
conference. The great powers agreed to commit large armies to his
defeat. Napoleon's dream ended at Waterloo.
The battle of Waterloo meant
victory over Napoleon. A long war was ended and the invasion threat
to Britain was lifted. It meant victory of the feudal crowned heads
of Europe over the forces of the French revolution. Waterloo was a
victory for a reactionary European order. Lord Byron, visiting the
field of Waterloo in 1816: "I detest the cause and the victors — and
In final exile on St Helena, Napoleon said what
he would have done if he had invaded England in 1805: "I would have
hastened over my flotilla with two hundred thousand men, landed as
near Chatham as possible and proceeded direct to London, where I
calculated to arrive in four days from the time of my landing. I
would have proclaimed a republic and the abolition of the nobility
and the House of Peers, the distribution of the property of such of
the latter as opposed me amongst my partisans, liberty, equality and
the sovereignty of the people."
2015 June 17
Rise of the Robots
Creative Machines Lab head Hod Lipson: "For
a long time the common understanding was that technology was
destroying jobs but also creating new and better ones. Now the
evidence is that technology is destroying jobs and indeed creating
new and better ones but also fewer ones."
A guaranteed basic
income is part of the answer. Give people a modest amount of money.
As a negative income tax, the idea was popularized by Milton
Friedman as a way to cut government bureaucracy. The idea offers a
way to help people shut out of labor markets. It provides a safety
net with minimum government involvement.
The rise of the
robots might be needlessly scaring our children. The trajectory of
technological progress depends on choices by governments, consumers,
and businesses. The machines are tools. Technology can be a dynamic
engine of economic growth, but more people need to own the robots.
Whoever owns the capital will benefit.
Lipson: "The solution
is not to hold back on innovation, but we have a new problem to
innovate around: how do you keep people engaged when AI can do most
things better than most people? I don't know what the solution is,
but it's a new kind of grand challenge for engineers."
Global Peace Index 2015
Vision of Humanity
Globally the intensity of internal
armed conflict has increased dramatically, with the number of people
killed in conflicts rising over 3.5 times from 49,000 in 2010 to
180,000 in 2014.
The economic impact of violence reached a
total of US$14.3 trillion or 13.4% of global GDP last year.
The most peaceful and least peaceful countries:
Economics and Peace
Global Peace Index 2015
PDF, 128 pages, 7.6 MB
2015 June 16
New York Times
Greece will most likely default on its
debts and exit the eurozone.
To save Greece, European
officials need to produce a realistic plan to revive the devastated
Greek economy and put its finances in order. The 18 other EZ members
would have to agree to forgive or delay the repayment of some of
Greece's crushing debt. The Greek government would have to increase
tax collection, make the government more efficient, and boost
The eurozone will suffer if Greece defaults
and exits from the euro. But default and Grexit will devastate the
Greek economy and financial system. EZ officials have made the Greek
crisis worse since 2010 by demanding austerity policies that have
inflicted suffering on individuals, contracted the economy, and
pushed Greek unemployment to 1 in 4, and 1 in 2 for young people.
Greece is trapped in an economic calamity with no end in
2015 June 15
George W. Bush
The Bush Doctrine:
1 No matter how long it takes, we will
vigorously pursue those who do us harm
and bring them to
2 If you harbor a terrorist,
you are as guilty as the terrorist.
We have to take threats seriously before they fully materialize.
The 9/11 attacks were a wake-up call for our country because
they meant that we were vulnerable to an attack no matter how many
miles of oceans protected us. The only way to defeat an ideology of
hate is with an ideology of hope. All decision making sprang from
There will not be a complete victory until
ideologies of hate are marginalized. You achieve that by advancing a
society in which the population gets to decide the fate of their
government as opposed to governments deciding what is going to
happen to the population.
My brother Jeb would be a very good
president. In this coming campaign, foreign policy is going to be an
issue. The American people are aware of potential threats to the
country. People getting their heads cut off — I think Americans are
going to pay attention to this issue.
Looks like Bush versus Clinton in 2016.
UK Looks Feeble
Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce
Field Marshal Lord Walker
Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire
The recent Queen's Speech contained no guarantee that we would
meet our NATO minimum spending target of 2% of GDP. The ring-fenced
0.7% of GDP allocated to overseas aid should not be lumped in with
defence purely as a means of meeting the 2% NATO target. We
call on the government to ensure that their review does not degenerate into
yet another cuts exercise.
US Army in
FGM: David Cameron will stop
people taking girls abroad for
female genital mutilation.
CJHS: Most men prefer
women with shaved or
The Ring of Life
Bridget Riley: The Curve
De La Warr Pavilion
Bexhill On Sea
2015-06-13 — 2015-09-06
Lakshmi, goddess of
wealth and prosperity
Polish secretary of state
Rafał Trzaskowski says the
British people must be told
brutal truth about the
damaging consequences of
They must not be duped
into believing they can
"keep all the goodies and
forget about the costs".
AR Popping our bubble!
Photo: Mervyn O'Gorman
Girl on Dorset
The RPS Collection
2015-03-20 — 2015-06-21
2015 June 14
Heavy Metal for East Europe
New York Times
To deter possible Russian aggression in
Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry
fighting vehicles, and other heavy weapons to equip a brigade of up
to 5,000 US troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries.
Former NATO supreme allied commander James G. Stavridis: "This
is a very meaningful shift in policy. It provides a reasonable level
of reassurance to jittery allies."
New York Review of Books
The Management of Savagery, by
Abu Bakr Naji, was first posted online in 2004 and is widely cited
by jihadists. Naji, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2008, saw
the coming violence as causing "vexation and exhaustion" that would
force Americans who "have reached a stage of effeminacy which makes
them unable to sustain battles" to fight.
A Berlin district has voted new rules for
billboard ads. They ban ads showing girls in pink with dolls or boys
in blue playing with technical toys. Ads cannot show females as
hysterical, stupid or naive alongside men as technically skilled,
strong or business savvy. Women must not be shown happy in the
household or smiling for no reason.
European activists are
targeting gender mainstreaming. They are pressing for policies and
laws ensuring that everything from bathrooms to boardrooms to street
signs are gender neutral. They want fuller equality for women and
sexual minorities in both the job market and the public sphere. They
want to end the culture of male dominance.
lights still flash red or green images of men to say stop or go, but
German cities are replacing some images with female ones. Vienna
city officials replaced figures of lone men with mixed and same-sex
couples. A 2015 German toy store catalog features a girl playing
with a toy gun and boy in an apron playing in a toy kitchen.
Unisex toilets have opened in Berlin public buildings and theaters.
Many more are planned, as spaces where anyone can heed nature
together, doing away with prudery. Germans accept intimate exposure
between sexes, for example relaxing naked in the summer sun in city
parks or public pools. Shared bathrooms are the next step.
2015 June 13
Inside the Islamic State
In November 2001,
James Buchan imagined the triumphant entry into Mecca of Osama
bin Laden. While the details have changed, the scenario he outlined
appears plausible today. Islamic State Caliph Ibrahim is commander
of the faithful in a nascent state and poses a formidable threat to
Caliph Ibrahim was born in 1971 in Iraq. His
tribal lineage includes the Qurayshin tribe of the Prophet Muhammad,
and Sunni tradition requires the caliph to be a Qurayshite. His
family includes several imams and Quranic scholars. He has a
doctorate from the Islamic University of Baghdad in Islamic
jurisprudence and history.
Islamic State is a highly
centralized and disciplined organization. The caliph and his
deputies set the overall objectives. A sharia council oversees
imposition of criminal penalties including amputations and capital
punishment. An education council oversees schooling. Science is
taught and teachers are paid, but the curriculum is based on a
strict Salafist interpretation of the Koran and sharia law.
Evolutionary biology is banned and gender segregation is rigorously
The Islamic State media department employs an army
of journalists, photographers, and editors. They produce slick
propaganda videos with high production values featuring gruesome
images of brutal crucifixions, beheadings, eviscerations, mass
executions, homosexuals being pushed from high buildings, and
severed heads impaled on railings or brandished by children. Such
atrocities guarantee global publicity.
A restored caliphate
has been the dream of Islamic revivalists since the abolition of the
Ottoman Caliphate in 1924. Their aim is a transnational body that
stands above the various tribes or communities making up the Muslim
world. Their most potent psychological pitch is exploiting dreams of
Both the House of Saud and the Islamic State lay
claim to the true path of Islam, as outlined by Muhammad ibn Abd
al-Wahhab. But Islamic State challenges the legitimacy of Saudi
guardianship of the holy places. The nightmare imagined by James
Buchan may soon become a reality.
Jamie is good on the Mideast.
2015 June 12
We need a new explanation for dark
matter and a better understanding for black holes. We know that dark
matter is lightly smeared everywhere in the universe, but that there
are regions where it accumulates due to gravity.
space telescope has allowed us to chart lumps of dark matter by
their gravitational lensing. My work has focused on clusters of
galaxies. A cluster is a blob of dark matter that holds about 1000
galaxies. Dark matter does not emit radiation and its presence is
inferred by its gravitational influence.
A theory called MOND
(modified Newtonian dynamics) proposed by Jacob Bekenstein and
Mordehai Milgrom suggests that a slight tweak to Newton's laws would
be sufficient to explain away dark matter. Some of my work
confronted MOND theory with clusters. MOND fails to explain the
properties of clusters, so it's not viable.
The standard idea
of how the first black holes formed is that the first stars burned
up to leave little seed black holes. These grew very rapidly to
generate all the massive black holes that we see in the centers of
most galaxies, including the ones that glow as quasars. But we are
detecting quasars when the universe was about 1 billion years old,
and the black holes powering quasars can be about 10 billion times
the mass of the sun.
Models of direct collapse black holes
that form early in the universe predict that you should see bright
quasars much earlier into the universe. This prediction will be
tested by the James Webb Space Telescope.
2015 June 11
Anthony Atkinson proposes a new plan of
action for a British government:
• Higher rates of income tax
and higher contributions to national insurance
• Expansion of the
national social security and income redistribution system
Universal family benefits and increased retirement and unemployment
• Guaranteed public sector jobs at a minimum wage for the
• A national savings system with guaranteed returns for
• A capital endowment for each young citizen as he or
she reaches adulthood
like this would kill the incentive to work and impoverish everyone.
The plan is a manifesto for a shirker's paradise.
2015 June 10
Sitting in New York, it's completely
evident to me that no American government would ever take seriously
a Britain that has withdrawn from the European Union. It's almost
like Britain would be resigning from the world.
2015 June 9
The UK government is delivering on its pledge to hold a referendum
on EU membership. The British public are not happy with the status
quo, and the British government does not believe in an ever closer
union. We need guarantees to ensure that our interests are protected
as those that want to integrate further do so. We want a stronger
role for national parliaments. We need to tackle benefit abuse and
welfare tourism. We are determined to succeed.
2015 June 8
New Age Dawning
The G7 nations have agreed to cut greenhouse
gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the
century. Angela Merkel said the G7 leaders had committed to the need
to "decarbonize the global economy in the course of this century"
and to raising $100 billion in annual climate financing by 2020. The
European Climate Foundation called the announcement historic.
Barack Obama: "One of the
great values of having the United Kingdom in the European Union is
its leadership and strength on a whole host of global challenges, so
we very much are looking forward to the United Kingdom staying part
of the European Union."
2015 June 7
Barack Obama will aim to show unity on
global challenges with Angela Merkel. The pair will open with a
public display of friendliness and remarks about the US-German
alliance. Then they plan to meet privately at the G7 site to
coordinate before joining the other leaders.
A response to
Russia on the heels of violent clashes in eastern Ukraine is
expected to dominate talks. Russian president Vladimir Putin was
ousted from the G8 for his aggression. Also high on the agenda are
the global economy, terrorism, and trade.
relationship was tested after the NSA tapped Merkel's mobile phone.
The German BND may have helped the NSA spy on European companies and
officials as far back as 2008. The impact of the NSA revelations has
not subsided in Germany.
Barack Obama: "This morning, as we celebrate
one of the strongest alliances the world has ever known, my message
to the German people is simple: we are grateful for your friendship,
for your leadership. We stand together as inseparable allies in
Europe and around the world."
Angela Merkel: "Although it is
true we sometimes have differences of opinion today from time to
time, but still the United States of America is our friend, our
partner and indeed an essential partner with whom we cooperate very
closely. We cooperate closely because this is in our mutual
interest. We cooperate because we need it. We cooperate because we
The Special Relationship
Washington is retrenching. Previous UK prime
ministers could at least pivot away from the Atlantic and toward the
European Union, but David Cameron has chosen a strategy of EU reform
and referendum. It is far from obvious how the minor member of the
Anglo-American dynamic duo should proceed when the United States has
so dramatically scaled back its international objectives.
the Mideast, the Obama administration has neither extinguished nor
contained the wildfire of Islamist terror. The perception of US lack
of determination extends to the Ukraine crisis, where Washington is
content to let Angela Merkel do the heavy lifting with Moscow, and
to the tension with Beijing in the South China Sea, where the
Chinese believe they may have the upper hand.
Blasphemy can be a step toward affirmation
of belief. If God is real, then presumably God can cope with
anything we choose to throw at Him. If God is not real, the
experience of rejecting what we think we know of God is a way of
discovering whether the notion of God matters to us.
violent rejection of a God who has failed may open up a new picture
of God. Unless you can say what you feel about Him, the God you started
with is not worth believing in. Without forceful doubt, you may
never know the real strength or weakness of what you claim to
2015 June 6
The West has failed to respond in the
fight against Islamist extremism, either to understand the
motivations of the protagonists or grasp that Arab nations are
disintegrating. The threat from Islamists will take decades to
conquer. The movement against nation states and for a caliphate is
central and fundamental. We are in a competition of ideas.
The heads of state and government of the
seven leading industrial countries will gather in Germany on June 7
and June 8 to discuss global challenges.
This G7 summit is
about much more than crisis diplomacy. Our goals are sustainable,
values-oriented growth and prosperity for as many people as
possible. This can only be achieved in open economic systems with
high investment and trade based on high social and environmental
The G7 should commit to eliminating hunger and
absolute poverty by 2030. A second global challenge is climate
protection. The G7 ought to be a model for the transition to a
I am convinced that the G7 can be the
driving force for a world worth living in. I am committed to shaping
the global economy and global integration in such a way that the
living conditions of all people around the world are improved. We
must be committed to peace, freedom and security.
2015 June 5
Humans Hybrid by 2030
By 2030 our brains will be able to connect
directly to the cloud, where thousands of computers will augment our
native intelligence. The brain will connect via nanobots made from
DNA strands. Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and
non-biological thinking. The bigger and more complex the cloud, the
more advanced our thinking. By about 2040, our thinking will be
2015 June 4
Emmanuel Macron, Sigmar Gabriel
The EU crisis of recent
years highlights two architectural weaknesses:
1 The end of economic convergence
between eurozone countries
Political tensions within the member states and within the union
Now is the time to fix the eurozone. We have to launch an
economic and social union by agreeing on a process of convergence
that would involve not only structural and institutional reforms but
also social and tax convergence. This would bring EZ economies
This convergence would allow the creation of a
preliminary EZ budget. A fiscal capacity over and above national
budgets would allow the EZ to adjust fiscal policy to track the
economic cycle. This budget need not come at the expense of fiscal
discipline at the national level.
To make its institutions
work, Europe will need to address its democratic deficit. New
executive powers at the eurozone level need to be complemented by
governance reforms leading to stronger accountability.
need a simpler and more efficient union, with streamlined governance
and a stronger sense of community. Our goal is to render it
unthinkable for any country in pursuit of its national interest to
consider a lesser union. Europe cannot wait any longer.
The Pentagon is rushing missiles to Iraq to
counter suicide truck bombers. The new Swedish AT-4 anti-tank
missiles are effective but simple to use. Iraqi forces fled from
Ramadi when concentrated waves of suicide bombers driving captured
US armored vehicles packed with tons of explosives forced an IS
2015 June 3
In 2007, Kamila Markram,
Henry Markram, and
Tania Rinaldi developed a theory of autism as Intense World
Syndrome. They believe that the autistic brain is supercharged and
hyperfunctional, making stimuli overwhelming, causing people with
autism to withdraw for self-protection.
EPFL researchers now
show how autism might be treated following IWS. They exposed rats to
the drug valproate (VPA), then put the rats in three different
environments: a standard laboratory cage, an unpredictable enriched
environment, and a predictable enriched environment.
exposed to VPA were more sensitive to their environments than
control rats. Those in the predictable environment did not develop
behaviors indicating anxiety and fear that the VPA-exposed mice in
the unpredictable environment or the standard environment did. It
seems an unpredictable or impoverished environment, but not a
predictable one, exacerbates autistic symptoms in rats.
Kamila Markram sees implications for treating children with autism:
"Structure and predictability is important, but none of the
approaches has put this at the center. We say you have to put it at
the center and you need to be addressing sensory overflow."
2015 June 2
Bundestag foreign affairs committee chairman
Norbert Röttgen: "In a time and global environment where we are
facing global disorder and the world is falling apart, there is a
requirement for a strong Europe, for European unity and strength,
and a signal to fall apart, to get disintegrated, would be a
disastrous message of European weakness. ... The fact is it would
break the hearts of most Germans if Great Britain would leave. It
would break my heart absolutely, in general and particularly because
I love this country and I'm absolutely, strongly convinced that
European unity is crucial to assert our way of living in this
globalized world. ... We want to have a well balanced European Union
and Great Britain contributes to the balance of what Europe really
UK Armed Forces
UK armed forces are in dire straits. The RAF
is down to a handful of operational bombers and has no sub hunters
at all. The army is yet again cutting back on soldiers. The navy is
getting new aircraft carriers, but they can carry only jump jets and
the awaited F-35B is delayed and over budget.
The UK defense
budget is the fifth biggest in the world, around the same as that of
France. But France has an aircraft carrier with planes, plus
hundreds of operational strike jets, maritime patrol planes, and an
army with many more soldiers than ours.
We could do better
buying off the
shelf from US companies. Our new carriers allow
the option to add catapults. The cats were canceled, but we could
refit them and lease US F/A-18E/F Super Hornet "Bug" strike
fighters. Bugs are cheap and capable and could fill the RAF Tornado
AR A new UK wish
• Refit the carriers
with cats and fly Bugs from them
Use Bugs for strike instead of Tornado and Typhoon
• Buy more Tomahawk cruise missiles
for attack subs
• Deploy Reaper
and new drones for close air support
Deploy Poseidon for maritime patrol and sub hunting
• Prefer C-17 Globemaster over
A400M Atlas for airlift
We could pay for all this by retiring
2015 June 1
The Reality of Consciousness
Consciousness is a fundamental quality of
the cosmos. Our experience of the world is a representation of
reality created by the brain. We mistake the representation for
Perhaps all we can say about
physical reality is that it is a highly structured field of
information. The information has been given form in awareness. These
forms appear to us as the material world. But this material world
exists only in our awareness. Matter, as we know it, is all in the
There is not only a complex flow of information, but an
integration of the information from many different processes across
the brain. The hard problem of consciousness still remains. Nothing
in our current scientific worldview predicts that any arrangement of
physical matter should ever result in an inner conscious experience.
Perhaps the capacity for experience is present, to some extent,
in everything. If the capacity for awareness goes all the way down,
then it must be an intrinsic quality of the cosmos. The world out
there has the potential to be aware. The information field is aware.
And that is all there is.
The essential nature of the cosmos
is mind, not matter. My innermost essence is the essence of
everything. In the words of the Upanishads, I am That.
This about as far as I got too in my conception of reality. Peter is
a welcome fellow traveler on the long march through
(mathematics—informatics—physics) to enlightenment.
Boeing P-8A Poseidon
UN special rapporteur on the
Professor François Crépeau
on proposed UK
from the ECHR: "We have to
remember the 1930s and
the rights of the Jews were
restricted in Germany ...
If this is allowed to happen
again, that majorities are
allowed to trample the rights
of minorities with impunity,
are going back in history
and we're going to pay for it."
AR Example of logical fallacy
Reductio ad Hitlerum
Bob the Builder
Should the United
remain a member of
The words invite a Yes:
"Can we fix it?"
Mob: "Yes we can."
The Great Recession
My review of
The Shifts and
by Martin Wolf
Why the polls
The joys of summer:
Eurovision song contest
victor Måns Zelmerlöw
Abraj Kudai, Mecca:
£2.3 billion hotel with
4 helipads, 5 floors for
bedrooms, 45 storeys,
near the Grand Mosque,
open in 2017
U. Alvarez-Rodriguez et al.
Dr. h.c. Hala Gorani
George Mason University
wins 8 gongs
at Billboard bash
2015 May 31
The Climate Club
William D. Nordhaus
Climate change is the premier
environmental issue facing the globe. Most scientists say it is a
very serious problem. Progress in climate change policy has been
slow for three main reasons:
There are strong incentives for free-riding in current climate
agreements. The benefits from investments to reduce emission of CO2
and other greenhouse gases require costly investments by individual
countries, but the benefits from the lower emissions are spread
around the world. For climate change, the temptation of free-riding
will push policies toward minimal investments in slowing emissions.
2 Scientists are increasingly
confident but not certain that the results of climate modeling are
accurate. They calculate that past emissions have contributed to
warming of almost 1 K over the last century, with rapid continued
warming projected for this century and beyond. Current policies
allow a substantial chance that global temperatures will eventually
rise by 6 K, which would be catastrophic.
3 Geoengineering could offset CO2
induced warming by managing solar radiation, so that less sunlight
is absorbed by the surface of the earth. This cooling effect will
offset the warming that comes from the accumulation of CO2 in the
atmosphere. But the dangers are frightening.
I propose a
Climate Club. Member countries would undertake harmonized but costly
emission reductions and penalize countries outside the club.
Countries will join the club to avoid the penalties. The concept of
a Climate Club is utopian.
UK in NATO
The NATO target of 2% defense spending is a
minimum. Many people would be far from content, in a situation of
increased threats, to be spending only the NATO minimum.
The government has boxed itself in. This is the
trouble when governments do not think strategically and make what
sound like worthy commitments to spending elsewhere.
opposed to the idea of extending NATO membership to countries such
as Ukraine or Georgia. Would you be prepared to start a third world
war in defense of that country?
2015 May 30
The four UK Trident submarines still have a
planned decade to go. But we need to commit now to replacing them to
have time to design and build their successors.
renewal focus on jobs, national security, and skills. Opponents cite
the £100 billion lifetime outlay. Development will add a third to
the UK defense procurement budget for a decade.
The UK cannot
afford to renew Trident when it struggles to meet the cost of
aircraft carriers, modern planes, and a big army. We face no
realistic nuclear threat anyway.
We have a golden opportunity
to bolster our conventional defenses and to decommission our weapons
of mass destruction. We could employ the resources now used for the
nuclear fleet on conventional warships and other nuclear and civil
price of losing Trident is having no way to stop a hypothetical
Russian invasion force once it had conquered Poland, Germany, and
the Low Countries. Rely on the US bomb — or France?
Maritime Patrol Aircraft
Air Marshal Sir John Harris
Air Vice Marshal George Chesworth
Air Vice Marshal David Emmerson
Air Vice Marshal Andrew Roberts
Air Commodore Andrew Neal
We believe the UK needs to
acquire MPA now:
submarines are monitoring the Trident base in Scotland. Without MPA,
they will have
acquired valuable intelligence since Nimrod
2 The only aircraft capable
of meeting UK needs soon is the Boeing P-8 Poseidon. But others have
ordered it and we must wait in the queue.
The effectiveness of MPA depends on the expertise of the operator.
Lost expertise takes years
to regain. Experienced RAF MPA
aircrew will soon be lost.
Even without Trident we need Poseidon.
2015 May 29
China's Space Race
Chinese astronaut Nie Haisheng: "As an astronaut, I
have a strong desire to fly with astronauts from other countries. I
also look forward to going to the International Space Station."
Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wang Jin: "The Chinese
government has always advocated the peaceful use of outer space, it
opposes space weaponization and an arms race in outer space. This
position will not be changed."
Chinese State Administration
of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense vice
director Wu Yanhua said of the successful 2014 Moon orbital mission
that it had gathered a lot of experimental data and laid a solid
foundation for future missions.
US space analyst Miles
O'Brien: "I think in the end, tortoise versus hare style, they will
2015 May 28
The Queen's Speech
The first task of a One Nation Government is to help all working
people have security. And nothing is more crucial to that than a
job. A new Bill will help to create two million more jobs this
2 Social justice
starts with education. Our school reforms in the last Parliament
were bold. In this Parliament they will be bolder still. We will
continue increasing spending on our health service. True social
justice turns workless households into working households, and the
welfare system into a lifeline, not a way of life.
3 We will bring every
part of our United Kingdom together. People must have more direct
power over the areas in which they live. We will have a Scotland
Bill, a Wales Bill and a Northern Ireland Bill, and will introduce
English votes for English laws. We will also legislate to have an EU
Referendum before the end of 2017.
A One Nation Government is
a Government for working people. This is the Britain we're setting
out to create. In the last Parliament we laid the foundations. In
this Parliament we will use them to build something special.
Layers of Reality
The underlying laws of physics take us from
a simple early universe to an expanding and empty space in our
future, passing through now, where things are intricate and complex.
Think about the universe as a cup of coffee. When the cream and
the coffee are separate, it's simple and it's organized; it's low
entropy. When you've mixed them all together, it's high entropy.
It's disorganized but it's still simple — everything is mixed
together. It's in the middle, when the swirls of cream are mixing
into the swirls of coffee, that you get this intricate, complex
structure. You and I — human beings — are those intricate swirls in
the cup of coffee.
In the underlying microscopic world you
can run forward and backward in time. No one understands why notions
of cause and effect work in our world but not down there.
2015 May 27
China's Military Strategy
State Council Information Office, PRC
China will follow
the path of peaceful development. The United States is enhancing its
military presence and alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan is
overhauling its military and security policies. China must safeguard
its maritime rights and interests.
China's national security
is vulnerable to international and regional turmoil, terrorism,
piracy, natural disasters, and epidemics. Security interests
concerning energy and resources and strategic sea lines of
communication are an immediate issue.
strategic goal is to build a prosperous society by 2021, when the
CPC celebrates its centenary, and a modern socialist country by
2049, when the PRC marks its centenary. The Chinese Dream is to
achieve a great rejuvenation.
transcript on the USNI site is long but worth reading.
America is not in decline. Its per capita
income is more than eight times higher than China's. It is the
world's largest exporter of goods and services and food. It has
an entrepreneurial culture, deep and efficient capital markets, and
an unrivaled capacity for technological innovation.
the United States could become almost entirely energy
self-sufficient. It will no longer depend so heavily on unstable
regions and unreliable partners in the Mideast. The United States
can play the dominant role in shaping military and economic outcomes
in every region of the world.
Angela Merkel wants to keep Britain in
the European Union. She tells David Cameron: pull out, and your
country will find its position in the world reduced. But she is
equally worried about Europe.
The German government assumes
that the British prime minister also wants to keep Britain in the
EU. Freedom of movement and economic migration within the EU will be
the biggest problem.
2015 May 26
Never Give In
UK prime minister David Cameron greeted EC
president Jean-Claude Juncker at Chequers. They met in the room
where Winston Churchill reputedly wrote some of his most famous
wartime speeches. Cameron invited Juncker to recall: "We'll fight
them on the beaches."
War Zone: South China Sea
Gordon G. Chang
Last Wednesday, the Chinese navy sent
eight warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft flying
over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. On Friday, the
Chinese Foreign Ministry called the flight "very irresponsible and
dangerous and detrimental to regional peace and stability".
China is staking a claim in 3.5 million square km of water bounded
by Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where
annual commerce totals $5.3 trillion. Beijing is accelerating a land
reclamation program in the Spratly reefs to add about 4 square km of
land. At present, there are 100 Chinese dredgers at work in the
shallows. A new runway on one reef is about 3 km long. Last week's
radio warning from the Chinese navy to the American P-8A referred to
"our military alert zone".
The United States has no
territorial claims in the South China Sea. The US Navy deploys
planes and warships into what China considers its sovereign airspace
and territorial waters to defend international law and freedom of
AR China sees islands
this far from its shores as part of a defensive island chain. They
enable the Chinese navy to counter the threat from US Navy carrier
fleets. But surrounding states, including Japan, see hegemonic
ambition. Others also see greed for oil revenue.
2015 May 25
If somebody had said, "I have a deal for
you: we are going to lower the tax rates at the top and deregulate,
and the outcome a third of a century later is that 90% of you are
going to see no income increases, many will see decreases, the
economy is going to grow slower than in the past but all the growth
is going to go to the top 10%," it is inconceivable that any
democratic society would have voted for that package.
story of a well-functioning market economy is that not only does it
create jobs but it also creates increases in income that are shared.
This is not a matter of bashing Wall Street. This is really about
reconstructing our economy where the financial sector has an
important role but is doing what it is supposed to be doing. This is
not about the politics of envy, it is about trying to create a
Fall of Ramadi
US defense secretary Ash Carter: "What apparently
happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.
They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the
opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the
site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have
an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend
War in Ramadi
Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), the
Golden Division, was created and trained by US special forces. An
ISOF commander: "We are elite, the tip of the spear."
Golden Division suffered heavy casualties and were demoralized
when holding a defensive line against ISIL militants in Ramadi.
Former US army military adviser to ISOF David M. Witty: "It was a
complete waste of an elite force. But Iraq was forced to do that,
because it was the only dependable force they had."
airstrikes in Anbar province are co-ordinated by Australians. An
ISOF officer calls them and they call the Americans for approval
before an airstrike, which often comes too late: "We are paying for
this with our soldiers' lives."
2015 May 24
A Nuclear Nightmare Averted
The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was
signed in 1968 and became international law in 1970. After the Cuban
missile crisis of 1962, President John F. Kennedy saw that the
nuclear order of the time was unacceptably risky. The United States
and Soviet Union set up a hotline for talks during crises, signed a
test ban treaty, and began negotiations that led to the NPT.
Many nations who signed up for the NPT were known cheaters. It
seemed delusional to presume that the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) would be able to identify violators. The IAEA has
found the task challenging, but its record compares favorably with
that of national intelligence agencies.
Today the US
intelligence community is hugely more capable and more focused on
the spread of nuclear weapons than it was in 1970. There are still
only 9 states with nukes: Britain, China, France, India, Israel,
North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States.
UK Versus Islamic State
Islamic State poses a threat to civilization
in the Mideast and beyond.
If the the IS caliphate is not
defeated in Syria and Iraq, its ambition will spread across the ME
region and potentially into Europe. Air strikes and limited
assistance to indigenous forces have failed. On the ground is where
the evil problem must be solved.
As the head of the British
army from 2006 to 2009, I will never forget the costs of the Iraq
invasion in terms of UK soldiers, 179 of whom died in the campaign.
In Afghanistan, more than 450 died trying to defeat the Taliban. But
we must defeat the caliphate.
We are facing a fight to the
finish against this despicable enemy.
2015 May 23
Iraq Versus Islamic State
Iraqi forces are attacking Islamic State militants to
defend Baghdad. An alliance of Sunni tribal fighters,
Iraqi security forces, and a Shiite militia could take back Ramadi,
capital of Anbar province.
The Islamic caliphate has
In the Ramadi area, militants summarily executed people in the
street whom they accused of working with the government.
forces are pushing along the Euphrates River between Ramadi and
Falluja. They face the Habbaniya military base, from which the Iraqi
government now hopes to retake Ramadi and Anbar.
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi is
now commander in chief of the army. On April 1, 2015, he walked into
Tikrit after the Islamic State retreat, triumphantly waving the
Iraqi flag. But while he rejoices in his military accomplishments,
his civilian advances have won him the most plaudits. After eight
years of al-Maliki's dictatorial methods, many Iraqis welcome
al-Abadi's lighter touch.
Baghdad feels calm. Thousands
throng to its historic book market for a weekly literary festival.
In Najaf the Shia shrine of Imam Ali was the scene of a book fair.
On one stall were Arabic translations of the Bible, Talmudic
tractates, and Baha'i texts. Another bookseller displayed works by
Marx, Kant, and Spinoza. This year's best seller: a new Arabic
translation of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene.
Islamic State is the most explosive Islamic
movement the modern world has ever seen. The movement is looking to
do something big, something that would make any past operation look
like a squirrel shoot. The more groups that pledge allegiance the
more possible it becomes to pull off something truly epic. As a
hypothetical operation, they could call on their wilayah in Pakistan
to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to
corrupt officials. This is the sum of all fears for Western
On Monday, UK prime minister David Cameron
gave his first major speech after being re-elected. Confronting a
world of challenges, he pledged to ensure that UK hospitals will be
better staffed on weekends.
Britain has resigned as a global
power. Over the next few years, the British army could shrink to
50,000, about the size of the New York Police Department. RAF
Tornado strike aircraft are a generation behind USAF F-22 Raptors.
The Royal Navy does not have a single aircraft carrier.
members aim to maintain defense spending at 2% of GDP. Britain might
not hold that level. In recent years the Foreign Office budget has
been cut by more than a quarter, and further trims are likely. The
BBC World Service budget has been slashed, with more cuts to come.
Britain supports an international system based on the free flow
of ideas, goods and services, and promotes individual rights and the
rule of law. It is a country with talent and capacity. Its inward
turn is a tragedy.
AR Britain is
almost bankrupt. World wars, end of empire, oil prices, banking
crisis: no choice but to sigh and move on.
2015 May 22
A new origin story is being constructed.
It is vastly more powerful than previous stories because it sums
over vastly more information than any earlier origin story.
There is a coherent story about increasing complexity. The early
universe was very simple. Gradually, over 13.8 billion years, more
complex things appear.
After the big bang is the creation of
stars. Next is a universe with all of the elements of the periodic
table. You can now make new materials, and planets and moons. On
some rocky planets, you get an astonishing chemical diversity. With
life, you get complex entities appearing in extremely unstable
Variations become information, because
something is responding in a complex way to those variations.
Something like choice enters the story. Natural selection kicks in.
Living organisms appear in unstable environments. To survive, they
need to be able to detect information. They give the appearance of
Human beings are next in increasing complexity.
Human language crosses a threshold where information accumulates
across generations, through culture.
A universe without
teleology can blindly create interesting and complex things. Big
history can help us see that there is a coherent story behind modern
2015 May 21
MIT Technology Review
Evolution is an
algorithmic process. An evolutionary algorithm in a virtual
environment soon creates lifelike organisms that live and reproduce.
This kind of life is a phenomenon of pure information. A population
of individuals capable of reproducing undergoes selection so that
better adapted individuals produce more offspring than others.
Change between the generations may occur through random mutation or
by sexual recombination. When these steps are repeated over many
generations, the individuals that emerge are those that survive best
in the given environment.
Unai Alvarez-Rodriguez and others simulated the
way life evolves in a quantum environment. They started by creating
quantum individuals with two parts: the genotype, or the information
passed on from one generation to the next, and the phenotype, or the
body that interacts with the environment and eventually dies.
The creatures can reproduce in two ways. Asexually, the genome
separates from its body and joins with another body. That creates an
identical copy of the original, but mutations can occur randomly.
Sexually, two creatures reproduce by exchanging quantum information
to produce a new genome. This can then join with a body to create an
organism with a new genotype.
The operation that passes
information from one generation to the next is a form of quantum
cloning. Mutation is a logic operation that changes the quantum
information a particle carries. Entanglement among different
individuals can clone the classical information and propagate the
quantum coherences of the initial quantum living units to the
successive generations. The resulting simulation is so complex that
it can be done on a classical computer only for a small number of
Quantum processes seem to lie at the heart of
biological phenomenon such as photosynthesis, our sense
of smell, and even bird navigation. Perhaps they played a role in
the origin of life.
AR I used to discuss all this with
Johnjoe McFadden and others
over a decade ago.
2015 May 20
The relationship between the author and his
community of readers is changing. Once he could assume that at least
initial readers would be those of his immediate national community
who shared a rich cultural and linguistic context with him. That is
still largely true in the States, but not elsewhere.
one seeks to produce for a larger public one inevitably has to drop
material that would only be understood by a particular group. If you
want to appeal to people of different languages and cultures, you
have to move toward tropes that are universally recognized.
Translators are underpaid, they receive a book and are told to
produce a translation in a couple of months. They may not be aware
of the particular stylistic habits of this or that author. Only
where the originals are poor and the translator talented are you
likely to get much real gain.
Never forget the
role money plays in shaping the writer's life. The life
inevitably informs the work. I always want a publisher to give me
adequate money for what I want to do.
The self is a developmental entity. Its
development is a process. A self is not a physical object but a
mental entity. Perhaps it is an illusion generated by your brain.
Imagine looking in the mirror and discovering that your brain is
missing. Even if you believe that your brain is no longer in your
body but floating inside a vat you can see on a computer monitor,
you don't feel yourself to be in the vat along with your brain.
Consider teleportation, as in Star Trek. Our bodies and brains
are destroyed at the departure gate and data transfer yields an
exact replica at the arrival gate. Your self survives the process.
We are embodied selves. We can imagine disembodied selves in
thought experiments, but we have no real experiences of them. If we
ever learn how to upload our minds into computers and that becomes a
regular practice in real life, our conception of a self will change.
2015 May 19
Reproduction through sex carries substantial
costs. One theory is that sex allows sexual selection to clear the
universal fitness constraint of mutation load. Under sexual
selection, competition and mate choice create intraspecific filters
for reproductive success, so that only a subset of males gains
paternity. If reproductive success under sexual selection depends on
individual condition, which is contingent to mutation load, then
sexually selected filtering could offset the costs of sex.
test this theory by comparing how populations with histories of
strong versus weak sexual selection purge mutation load and resist
extinction. After evolving replicate populations of the flour beetle
for years under conditions that differed solely in the strengths of
sexual selection, we revealed mutation load using inbreeding.
Lineages from populations with strong sexual selection were
resilient to extinction and maintained fitness under inbreeding.
Lineages derived from populations with weak sexual selection showed
rapid fitness declines.
Multiple mutations across the genome
with individually small effects can sum to a significant fitness
load. Sexual selection reduces this load.
2015 May 18
Ed Miliband staked his campaign on the wager
that the triumph of market individualism in Britain could be
reversed. He and his advisers saw the central divisions of British
society as based in class. They did not understand the difficulties
of governing a country where competing nationalisms jostle with
market individualism and the socially disruptive effects of global
The working-class support on which
Labour has relied is melting away in the north. In Scotland it is
already gone. The SNP story is that nationalism can be detoxified
and become the basis of a type of supranational government. This
progressive narrative may explain the sunny view the SNP takes of
the European Union. These problems shape the Labour struggle to
A referendum in which David Cameron succeeds
in delivering a vote to stay in the EU will leave him and the
Conservatives stronger than they are now. Offering a bold form of
devolution to Scotland serves the Conservative interest. Full fiscal
control would give Scottish voters a taste of what independence
would cost. Miliband staked his party on an unreal vision of
Mad Max: Fury
AR No characters but a
imagery for a desert war
Science is endless.
1MW concept car
has a revolutionary electric
power train. From
AR 1 MW = 1341 hp
Far From the Madding Crowd
is based on a classic novel by
Dorset writer Thomas Hardy
Robert Syms: "The whole
campaign has been a joy."
70 years ago today:
Conservatives gave Poole
Twin Sails Bridge,
opened in 2012
Geert Wilders with SWAT team
before they kill 2 at Muhammed
cartoon event in Garland, TX
"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 17
Democracy is in crisis. Between Westminster,
Whitehall, and the City, the same people are in power. It is a
democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite. The
assumptions, the structures, the rules that govern our lives are not
subject to anything as unpredictable as the will of the people. We
need to make democracy work as a vehicle for real people power, not
the plutocrat power we have today. We need to take power out of the
hands of big donors and unions and business and put it back in the
hands of the people. Take back our democracy!
AR Hilton was chief strategist for David
Cameron. He seems not to understand politics. He should read more
2015 May 16
The big bang ought to have produced equal
amounts of matter and antimatter particles, which would instantly
annihilate each other to leave nothing but light. Yet we are here.
In 2001, Tanmay Vachaspati offered a theoretical solution. Even
if matter and antimatter were created in equal amounts, as they
annihilated each other they would create monopoles and
antimonopoles. As they in turn annihilated each other, they would
produce matter and antimatter with a charge-parity (CP) bias toward
If so, twisted magnetic fields permeating the
universe should have left-handed twist, not right-handed. Vachaspati
and his colleagues looked for traces in data from the NASA Fermi
space telescope. Gamma rays should be bent by the twisted fields. The
data shows they are.
Intergalactic magnetic field spectra from diffuse gamma rays
Ex Machina is about a
young man who is seduced by a devious, soft-spoken female robot
called Ava. The real test of human identity turns out to be love.
The movie explores the suggestive confusions that result when
machines look and think like humans.
Ava manipulates the
young man to win him over in a plot to rebel against her maker. She
is as human as the biblical Eve, who also achieved humanity by
rebelling against her creator. What is the relation of the creature
to her creator? The answer is not a happy one.
2015 May 15
Prince Charles' "black spider memos" are now
released under the Freedom of Information Act. Clarence House is
briefing journalists that Charles should be compared to the great
Conservative environment secretary Liz Truss
attacked the monarchy during her Lib Dem days: "We Liberal Democrats
believe in opportunity for all. We believe in fairness and common
sense. We do not believe people are born to rule." She still does.
The most forward thinking traditions of the Conservative party have
always been rooted in a commitment to meritocracy and self-reliance.
The party that should be leading the charge against monarchy is
the Conservatives: "It's not where you come from, it's where you're
going." Let's make the British bill of rights a republican
Sunni Versus Shiite
The New York Times
If the Iran deal is sealed, President
Obama will say he bought another decade before Iran can get a
nuclear weapon. But Saudi Arabia and other Arab states vow to match
whatever enrichment capability he lets Iran retain. They say he
cannot credibly argue they should not do so.
The members of
the Nuclear Suppliers Group have a long list of components they will
not ship to the Mideast. For the Saudis that leaves Pakistan. The
Saudis financed much of the nuclear work done in Pakistan. It is
thought Pakistan would provide Saudi Arabia with the technology.
Over the years, the Saudis financed nuclear research projects
but no more. They bought Chinese missiles useful only to deliver a
nuclear weapon but there is no evidence they ever had warheads for
them. Obama is expected to offer security assurances to the Sunni
AR I predict a
nuclear war in the region.
2015 May 14
Alan Guth devised the theory of inflation
in about 1980. Our universe expanded exponentially for a tiny
fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Now the sphere of spacetime
we can see from Earth is 90 billion light years across. This expanse
is only a small part of a tiny bubble in a frothy sea whose
proportions defy comprehension.
John Kovac and colleagues ran
the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole. They saw some of the oldest
light in the universe. It suggested the theory of inflation is true.
Paul Steinhardt said the analysis of the BICEP2 data was flawed.
He had developed a theory of eternal inflation that generated an
infinite bubbly multiverse. Andrei Linde developed a similar idea in
BICEP2 looked at a patch of sky for 3 years to
collect photons from the big bang afterglow. The primordial universe
would have been awash in gravity waves that would spin the photons
into a polarization pattern. The swirling effect would be visible in
only 1 in 30 million photons. The BICEP2 team found the swirling
patterns (blog 2014-03-17).
BICEP2 published its results in April 2014. In May,
cosmologists began to question their interpretation. In June, Kovac
sat on a panel with Guth, Linde, and Steinhardt. In September, most
cosmologists decided that BICEP2 could not distinguish its signal
from dust glow. In February 2015, Kovac and his team admitted as
The BICEP2 saga was a triumph for science. It showed
why science is our best way to get to know the natural world.
Our Earth sits in the middle of the observable cosmos, the
sphere of light that we can detect with our telescopes. Gaze into
this sphere and you see layers, from stars and the planets that
circle them, from the billions of galaxies beyond, to the final
layer of light, the afterglow of the big bang. We are trapped in
this snow globe of photons forever.
2015 May 13
Jews in Britain
1 Howard Jacobson has explored the fear and loathing surrounding
Israel and anti-Semitism in Britain. He sees a tone in anti-Zionism
that he explains as hatred of Jews. He fears this combined with
Muslim anti-Semitism could be lethal.
2 Muslims make up a quarter of the population in Bradford.
George Galloway MP has adopted the rhetoric of Palestinian
nationalism. Bradford city council head David Green is Jewish and
concerned that this is harming Bradford.
3 Manchester has the largest British Jewish community outside
London. It has an orthodox Jewish area with the feel of a ghetto
crowded between a poor white area and a large Muslim area. Both Jews
and Muslims experience abuse.
4 Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, exhorts a
crowd in London to support Palestine and denigrates Israel as the
apartheid state. Many British Jews sense a visceral loathing of the
Jewish state on the British left.
5 Ties between the Jewish community in Britain and Israel are
close. Zionism is at the heart of British Jewish identity and Israel
is a way of life. As Israel becomes more isolated from Europe
politically, that identity becomes complex.
2015 May 12
Patrick Wall suggested a functional view
of pain as a mixture of sensation and the motivation to make it
stop. He explained how rituals or procedures offered by a doctor or
shaman, regardless of their efficacy, could reduce pain. Pain
motivates an animal to escape from a source of damage, protect a
wound, or devote energy to recovery. Wall argued that one of its
roles in humans is as a motivation to seek help from a trusted
source. When that goal is satisfied, pain is relieved.
evolutionary time, several stimuli and situations that are not
painful in other animals have come to be felt as painful for humans.
Our distress elicits help from others and hence offers a survival
advantage. Labour pain is a good example. Human childbirth appears
to be uniquely painful among members of the animal kingdom.
Protracted labour pains make us show distress and recruit help from
others well in advance of the birth. This strategy offers a survival
2015 May 11
Global connectivity is increasing as more devices,
more machines, and more companies connect via the Internet. The new
IT uses real-time, connected software to remove complexity built up
over years in legacy systems.
SAP is a thought leader for
IT-driven innovation and best practices. SAP teams implement SAP
software before it becomes available on the market as a first
ramp-up customer, pressure-testing the new solution, providing
first-hand feedback to development, and partnering with the business
units to help them achieve their strategic goals.
runs transactional and analytical data in the same database in
memory to create huge business value with lower costs. SAP S/4 HANA
is a next-generation business suite offering a radically simplified
data model, analytical flexibility, and the ability to slice and
dice data on all dimensions. It can help businesses run simple in a
digital and networked economy.
SAP uses more than 70,000
smart devices and has 130 apps in its app store, many built on the
SAP HANA Cloud Platform. SAP software and mobile workflows let SAP
employees work productively on their own devices.
AR I worked for 6 years in the SAP HANA
development team. I wrote the
book (now outdated) on our prototype engine. As my colleagues used
to say: "Wir sind die Guten."
2015 May 10
Cameron Launches Blitz on Europe
The Sunday Times
With a working majority of 15, prime
minister David Cameron will redraw constituency boundaries to make
the electoral system fairer to the Conservatives.
George Osborne and foreign secretary Philip Hammond will go to
Berlin and Brussels to redraw UK-EU relations. New lord chancellor
and justice secretary Michael Gove will abolish the Human Rights
Act. And a new culture secretary will reconsider the BBC license
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will
address British concerns about benefits abuse by EU migrants: "The
proposals will be tailored to address long-standing British
concerns, but also the concerns of other countries such as Germany
and The Netherlands."
A German source said chancellor Angela
Merkel "does not envisage an EU without the UK" and is awaiting
"specific and constructive" ideas from London.
The scale of the SNP victory in Scotland
was epoch making. All but three Scottish seats fell to the
nationalists. Conservatives, Labour, and the Lib Dems were left with
just one seat each.
The election result is no threat to the UK. Scots were
reluctant to back the SNP when the issue was independence and voted
for them on the issue of Scottish representation at Westminster.
The result is no threat to the EU either. Regional nationalists
and environmentalists now enjoy substantial support in many member
states. Labour and the Liberals are victims of a backlash against
political establishments that we see all over Europe. Moderate
conservatism is clearly the dominant force in both England and Germany.
2015 May 9
The Victory Day parade in Red Square featured a new
Russian tank. The
T-14 Armata MBT has a remote-controlled turret and automatic
loading system. With a weight of 48 tons and a top speed of 90 km/h,
the new MBT is lighter and faster than current Western tanks.
Armata has 3 crew in an armored capsule in the hull, away from
the ammunition, and it has an active protection system against
incoming projectiles. Its main armament is a 125 mm smoothbore gun
that can fire APDS and guided munitions. The engine is 1500 hp
diesel. A tank information control system (TICS)
monitors components, diagnoses malfunctions, and
controls onboard systems.
(UVZ), Armata will replace most of the T-72 and T-90 tanks in the
Russian army. UVZ plans to deliver
2,300 Armata by 2020.
Cameron Conservatives, like conservatives in
the Anglosphere and Germany, converge with and diverge from
Republicans in the United States in ways crucial to their electoral
Center-right parties in Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, and the United Kingdom have all made peace with government
guarantees of healthcare for all. They accept that universal health
coverage belongs beside pensions and unemployment insurance in a
These parties have updated their respect for
family, work, and community. None seek to police female sexual
behavior or reproductive choices. All have accepted gay equality and
racial inclusion. They all advocate an immigration policy determined
by the national interest.
They are tough on terrorism,
extremism, and international disorder. David Cameron has stated that
the extremism that threatens Western democracies is Islamist.
Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott are consistent supporters of Israel.
Harper advocates NATO defense of Ukraine.
UK Election Results
Lib Dems 8
Plaid Cymru 3
In the local elections in Poole, Conservatives
won 32 seats out of a total 42. They now have a comfortable majority
on the previously hung council.
Local election results
swept the board, with one small exception: a Council seat for me alongside my colleagues.
2015 May 8
1 Up 3 Down
The Guardian 1222 BST
Conservative leader David Cameron
Labour leader Ed Miliband resigns,
leader Nick Clegg resigns,
UKIP leader Nigel Farage resigns.
Conservatives Win Big in Poole
BBC News 1019 BST
Lib Dems 8
Plaid Cymru 3
Conservative Robert Syms
Young 7,956 16.8%
Labour Helen Rosser 6,102 12.9%
Democrat Philip Eades 5,572 11.8%
Green Party Adrian Oliver 2,198
Poole People Mark Howell 1,766 3.7%
Northover 54 0.1%
Dorset Mid & Poole North
Tomlinson 23,639 50.8%
Liberal Democrat Vikki Slade 13,109 28.2%
UKIP Richard Turner
Labour Patrick Canavan 2,767 6.0%
Green Party Mark
Chivers 1,321 2.8%
AR We did it.
Council results later today.
2015 May 7
As British voters go to the polls in the most closely
fought election in a generation, CNN asked the audience at its UK
2015 debate to pick the most important issue to them. The economy
came out top by a huge margin.
Pauline Neville-Jones: "It's the absolutely basic thing, without
which you can't do anything else."
2015 May 6
I'm asking for five more
years to finish the job we have started: to secure our economy, so
we get more people into work, more young people getting trained
rather than sitting on the dole, more couples into homes of their
own, more pensioners feeling security and dignity in old age.
There is so much more we need to do: to start cutting the taxes
of 30 million working people, taking the lowest paid out of tax,
funding 3 million more apprenticeships, building 200,000 more homes
for young people, putting more money and more doctors and nurses
into our NHS.
Labour helped to break our economy and they
would do the same all over again. Their plans do not add up. They
want to borrow more money than we can afford. They want to tax more.
And they want to pile up more debt than our children and
grandchildren could ever hope to repay.
The choice tomorrow:
me leading a strong and stable government, or Ed Miliband being held
to ransom by the SNP. There is no room for protest voting, or voting
for marginal parties. A vote for anyone apart from the Conservatives
risks Britain and its economic recovery grinding to a halt.
Together we can keep strengthening our economy, creating more jobs,
investing in our health service, giving more young people a chance
to get on in life. The future can be brighter, but only if Britain
Germany is the economic engine of Europe.
The export industry is the second largest in the world, bolstered by
a weak euro. Germany is now the second most popular destination for
immigrants in the world, after the United States.
is at its highest level in Germany since reunification 25 years ago.
Reforms enacted in 2003 deregulated temporary work, pulled together
public benefits into a streamlined welfare program, and pushed
welfare recipients into jobs. The number of temporary jobs has
doubled over the past 10 years and many workers take multiple jobs
to make ends meet.
Germans are beginning to complain of
rising inequality. The growing chasm between rich and poor, and the
lack of economic mobility, undercuts the work ethic and the idea of
2015 May 5
If David Cameron is returned to office, the
UK will face a referendum in 2017 that could take it out of the
European Union and into strategic irrelevance. Two years will be
lost to a paralyzing debate in which British bigotry will have free
Cameron has overseen an economic recovery that has not
translated into a sense of confidence. Booming London has left the
rest of the country behind. Cameron has found his voice in the name
of free enterprise. His gamble with EU membership has been reckless.
AR This is a view from New York.
Americans want Britain in Europe.
2015 May 4
Vote For Reform
The coalition government led by David Cameron
has a lot to be proud of. It set out to reform the welfare state in
order to encourage work and the education system to encourage
learning. It tried to reform the health service and the justice
We need more reform in the tax system and the
planning system. Pensions need reform. Quangos need reform. The City
of London needs further reform. We need reform of the BBC. And only
those with an interest in keeping the National Health Service
inefficient and unresponsive to its users would wish to leave it
Conservatives also want reform of the European
Union and have a strategy for getting it.
The National Union of Students has voted to
Counter-Terrorism and Security Act and agreed to lobby against
it alongside the Islamist advocacy group
NUS blather: "Demonising radicalisation and
extremism can and is being used to target anyone who dissents from
the unjust, oppressive and exploitative state of society."
NUS statement: "As a movement, we've been let down by
politicians who have failed to speak on our behalf in a world where
the odds were already being steadily stacked against us. We've seen
the tripling of tuition fees, educational maintenance snatched away
and work prospects diminish. ...
[On May 7] we have a real
opportunity to start fixing politics in the UK. We can start
creating a New Deal for the Next Generation."
AR As long as the NUS flirts with
enemies of the state and "dissents" from hard facts of life we
should refuse to tolerate its naive and dangerous blather. A "New
Deal" might work, but not like this.
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