Germans are better than us at cars, public
transport, bicycle commuting, and yelling at people when they break the
rules. They are also better at not being big uptight prudes at the beach:
FKK = Freikörperkultur
(free body culture)
It's less about sex
or exhibitionism and more about convenience and freedom.
World Humanist Congress
Oxford, August 8-10
Think global, act
Don't just do something,
robot runs, hops
and uses sign language
© Mark Allan
Google Brain gives Google software engineers a way to apply
cutting-edge machine-learning algorithms to a growing array of problems.
Teams using Google Brain can download the source code, tweak a configuration
file, and point it at their own data. The code may one day go public.
2014 July 27
The Nice Party
Leading Conservative women warn that mocking
the Labour leader will put female voters off the Tories and feed
their "nasty party" image.
Ed Miliband: "If you want the
politician from central casting, it's not me; it's the other guy. If
you want a politician who thinks a good photo is the most important
thing, then don't vote for me."
Organisation national chair Niki Molnar: "Women want to hear what
someone will do for them and their family, not what shoes a
politician is wearing, how they eat a bacon sandwich, or where they
went to school."
Women2Win co-founder Baroness Anne Jenkin:
"Personal attacks of any kind turn women off."
MP Charlotte Leslie: "Negative campaigning never, ever works."
2014 July 26
Sea off southern England: 20C. See at Monica Beach, CA: 19C.
The scientific method is doing controlled
experiments, setting them into a network of grand ideas, and then
progressing toward full understanding. That approach can be applied
to understanding the origin of human sentiment by constructing a
computer that has the attributes of consciousness.
based on evidence that it is free of cultural conditioning. Science
verifies hypotheses and theories. A discovery made in one region of
science requires information on discoveries made in other fields of
science. It is a supportive articulation of ideas.
of religion is the quest for understanding. Once the oppressive
authority of the church was overcome, human inquisitiveness could
find reliable answers. Science shed that type of authority and found
a method that is extraordinarily powerful and effective.
2014 July 25
UK 2014: +3.2%
The International Monetary Fund upgraded its
growth forecast: The UK is now expected to grow by 3.2% this year.
This is more than any other member of the G7. Since April last year,
the IMF has more than doubled its UK forecast. IMF managing director
Christine Lagarde conceded that the fund had "got it wrong" on the
2014 July 24
NATO Versus Russia
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General
Philip Breedlove plans to recommend placing supplies — weapons,
ammunition, and ration packs — at a "24/7 fully functioning
headquarters" in eastern Europe to support NATO troops in the event
of a crisis.The leading contender is Multinational Corps Northeast,
in Szczecin, Poland.
2014 July 23
Israeli troops in Gaza uncovered 18
tunnels used by Hamas to send armed terrorists into Israel and built
using an estimated 800,000 tons of concrete, all donated by the
Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest
tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas could have built
seven such towers and still had enough to spare to build a pair of
kindergartens with bomb shelters as big as Giants Stadium.
Hamas is not seriously interested in governing Gaza. Its raison
d'être is killing people in order to bring about the rule of its
fundamentalist and radically intolerant brand of Islam.
Unemployment in Gaza is around 50%. It rose steeply
since Israel pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005 and
tightened border restrictions. Hamas must deliver Gazans a better
life. Gazans did not vote for Hamas either to escalate the conflict
or to fire rockets from near their homes.
1 Israel will continue
until the job is done.
2 Israel wants
to erode Hamas clout.
3 Israel is
responding to rocket fire from Gaza.
Israel wants to gain a few years of relative peace.
1 Hamas says Israel will
exist until Islam obliterates it.
Hamas wants an end to the Israeli blockade.
3 Hamas wants the release of prisoners.
4 Hamas wants to rally support at home.
2014 July 22
Thomas Nagel rejects the idea that there
is nothing more to the universe than matter and physical forces. He
doubts that evolution, as currently conceived, could produce
sentient life. Mind might be a fundamental principle of nature.
David Chalmers calls on scientists to seriously consider
Max Tegmark suggests that mathematics needs to
be admitted into science as the most fundamental part of of nature.
He sets out to show that the universe is a mathematical structure,
and its physics emerges from numbers.
Edward Frenkel notes
that most of mathematics seems to be about nothing other than
AR My philosophical works
discuss these ideas in some depth. I favor a variant of panpsychism
in which the foundations of mathematics are the foundations of mind
2014 July 21
UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond: "If
there is no change at all in the way Europe is governed, no change
in the balance of competences between the nation states and the
European Union, no resolution of the challenge of how the eurozone
can succeed and co-exist with the non-eurozone, that is not a Europe
that can work for Britain in the future. ... There has to be a
repatriation of powers to the nation states."
Former UK attorney-general Dominic Grieve had
advised David Cameron not to pull Britain out of the European
Convention on Human Rights. Grieve: "If we are not meeting European
convention norms, then the chances are that the European Court of
Justice — a completely separate body — will step in and will
actually enforce those norms on us. Unlike the court in Strasbourg —
where a judgment is just an international obligation — that has
direct effect and has to be applied here."
There was deliberate and sustained action to
introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some
schools in Birmingham. Whistleblowers first approached the British
Humanist Association with allegations and the BHA passed them on to
the Department for Education.
Much of what went on in the
schools would have been permissible if the schools had been
designated faith schools. Britain is one of only four countries in
the world to allow religious selection in admissions to state-funded
schools. The others are Estonia, Ireland, and Israel.
Anglicanism is a mild and attenuated form of the faith virus. It may
even act as a vaccine against more virulent infections. But
Christianity is becoming more evangelical in response to its global
competition with Islam. Anglicans should make common cause with
humanists in defense of tolerance.
2014 July 20
Few politicians in the great Western capitals
have any idea of how to get a grip on the current global chaos.
It is safe to assume that Vladimir Putin did not personally
order the missile launch that killed hundreds of innocent foreign
civilians. What he did do was provide sophisticated missile systems
and heavy artillery to a motley assortment of trigger-happy cowboys
whose antics have greatly increased his popularity with the folks at
In the Mideast, US Secretary of State John Kerry once
talked of brokering a peace deal. The Obama administration now looks
determined to stay out of international trouble. Israel is on its
Britain has no foreign policy worthy of the name. When
the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary go on their diplomatic
jaunts abroad, they are scarcely more than sales reps for British
industry and trade.
As a leading member of NATO, the UK is
playing a central role in providing reassurance to our allies.
Thanks to four years of hard work of my predecessors, we now have
the defence budget under control.
Over the next 10 years we will spend
over £160 billion on new equipment and equipment support. HMS Queen
Elizabeth marks a new era in British maritime power. We are spending
£10 billion on seven new submarines, £13 billion on new land
equipment including armoured vehicles and tanks, and £3 billion on
new fighter aircraft. We are buying the best and most modern kit to
deal with the threats of the future.
2014 July 19
The New York Times
Israeli troops are again in the Gaza
Strip. Israel is targeting tunnels dug to store weapons or stage
attacks. The troops operated mainly within about a mile of Gaza's
edges and quickly announced they had uncovered more than 20 tunnel
The IDF uncovered 10 tunnels, struck 240
targets, killed 17 militants, and detained 21 others in the first 24
hours of the ground operations. One Israeli soldier was killed. The
IDF counted 135 rockets in the same period, 40 of them blocked from
hitting cities by Iron Dome.
Former Israeli advisor Yaakov
Amidror: "If nothing bad will happen, we will identify the locations
of the tunnels, we will blow them up, and we will retreat. How to
finish the whole operation in terms of stopping the rockets and the
missiles, this is much more complicated."
2014 July 18
Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit is
considered by many of his peers to be the world's most important
living moral philosopher. His first book, Reasons and Persons,
published in 1984, is routinely described as a work of genius.
Parfit's "repugnant" conclusion: "For any possible
population of at least 10 billion people, all with a very high
quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable
population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be
better even though its members have lives that are barely worth
Parfit is now 71. His former student Jeff McMahan,
who will soon become the White's Professor of Moral Philosophy at
Oxford, says Parfit's writings, especially on population ethics,
have "forced a rethink on almost everything in ethics, including the
value of life itself."
recall Derek from Oxford in the 1970s.
2014 July 17
about constructing visions of the world. It has nothing to do with the assembling of data and the
ways of organizing the assembly of data. It has everything to do
with our mental vision of the world. Science is a process in which
we keep exploring ways of thinking.
Science is not about
certainty. Nothing is scientifically proven. The core of science is
the deep awareness that we have wrong ideas. In our conceptual
structure for grasping reality, there might be something we have to
revise. We have a vision of
reality that is the best we have found so far.
Science is not
about the data. The data suggest the theory. What
interests us is what the theory says about the world. General
relativity is interesting not because of its data but because it
tells us that there can be black holes and a Big Bang. Science is
about continually going beyond common sense.
gravity, there are two major research directions. String theory is a
beautiful theory, but it's not sufficiently grounded in general
relativity. Loop quantum gravity is an attempt to take general
relativity and quantum mechanics seriously and bring them together.
Quantum spacetime requires some change in the way we think.
Scientists who say they don't care about philosophy have a
philosophy. They have a headful of ideas.
2014 July 16
UK Cabinet Reshuffle
The new foreign secretary is Philip Hammond, a
hardline Eurosceptic. He is replaced at defence by Michael Fallon.
Former education secretary Michael Gove is now chief whip. Nicky
Morgan moves from the Treasury to replace him. She is 41.
was offered a junior role at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but
turned it down. Owen Paterson is replaced as environment secretary
by Liz Truss, 38.
Cameron: "This is a fresh team with the
ideas, the energy, the policy, and the ability to take this country
forward, to complete the long-term economic plan and secure our
future. I think it is a team that reflects modern Britain."
AR World Cup team? Poor joke. Fox will
pray for life after Dave.
2015: Tory Win
David Cameron's reshuffle leaves ministerial
ranks looking more feminine, youthful, and skewed to the right.
Young Tories are devoted to free markets, hostile to the European
Union, and unsentimental about the welfare state. There is a
changing of the guard on Europe. The task is to win, and to destroy
Labour as a force for government.
I think the country is pretty Eurosceptic
now. We all want reform in Europe, a different kind of Europe.
That's the agenda that's going to be pursued now to get those
reforms and then to give people a choice as to whether to continue
to be members or not.
AR My EU
line: reform or out.
2014 July 15
William Hague is standing down as UK foreign
secretary and is to leave politics next year. Defence secretary
Philip Hammond replaces Hague today as foreign secretary. Hammond
said last year that he would vote to leave the EU if it remained in
its present form.
"William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the
Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving
in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first-class foreign
secretary, he has also been a close confidant, a wise counsellor and
a great friend."
"From May 2015, after such a long period in politics, I want to
embark on many other things I have always wanted to do."
2014 July 14
We can learn from them Germany. Out of the
ruins of the second world war, and the grotesque atrocities of
Nazism, the Federal Republic emerged within a decade as the paragon
of a stable, inclusive liberal democracy. The German economic
miracle was no less extraordinary. Germany has become the
productivity powerhouse of Europe.
Britain's economy is
characterized by low productivity, a poor record in technical
skills, low levels of savings and investment, and relatively weak
performance in R&D. We cannot copy the German economy, or transplant
the culture in which it is embedded. But we can learn much.
Germany is committed to a free market economy in which capitalism is
organized and responsible. Its social market encourages long-term
thinking, promotes collaboration in the workplace, incentivizes
employers to invest in the skills and productivity of their workers,
tries to spread prosperity to Germans in all regions, and supports a
welfare system based on the principles of need and contribution.
Britain cannot become Germany. But surely it is time for us to
learn lessons from Germany. We may learn how to win another World
AR This is a central pillar
of my new political career (not the World Cup).
Borough of Poole
L to R: Robert Syms, MP for Poole; Andy Garner-Watts; Peter Adams,
Mayor of Poole; Andy Ross,
at the Mayor's Charity Beach Festival, Sandbanks, Poole,
Dorset, UK, Sunday, 13 July 2014
Newtown Neurotics w/
Attila The Stockbroker
2014 July 13
Operation Protective Edge
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke
to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman:
"I told Minister
Lieberman that continuing rocket attacks from Gaza are completely
unacceptable. Israel has a right to defend itself against such
attacks, but the whole world wanted to see de-escalation."
Hague also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:
offered my condolences for the loss of civilian lives in Gaza."
2014 July 12
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu: "No international pressure will
prevent us from acting with full force against a terrorist
organization that calls for our destruction. … No country would
accept its civilians being fired at without a harsh response."
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner:
"Israel uses its weapons to defend its civilians. Hamas uses its
civilians to defend its weapons."
Israeli parliamentarian Ayelet Shaked: "Behind every terrorist
stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in
terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be
on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the
martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should
follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as
should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes.
Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."
2014 July 11
Iron Dome Tourismus: Menschen, die, anstatt
bei Luftalarm Schutz zu suchen, lieber im Freien bleiben und das
israelische Raketenabwehrsystem bei der Arbeit bestaunen. Israels
Behörden können das als Zeichen werten, dass ihre Meldungen über den
Erfolg der Iron Dome Wirkung zeigen.
Iron Dome wirklich
eine Trefferquote von 90% erreicht ist ebenso zweitrangig wie die
Frage, wie weit genau die Raketen der Hamas reichen. Bedeutender
ist, dass der technische Rüstungswettlauf zu einem wichtigen
Bestandteil des israelisch-palästinensischen Dauerkonflikts geworden
Ausgelöst wurde die erneute Eskalation durch
bestialische Morde. Israel setzt seine Armee zur Vergeltung ein,
Hamas reagiert mit Raketenfeuer. Israel schickt Kampfjets und
verteidigt sich mit Iron Dome, Hamas beschafft sich Raketen mit
höherer Genauigkeit und größerer Reichweite.
2014 July 10
Knowledge interprets experience through
human cultural understanding and experience. Metaphor is the key to
the whole enterprise. A metaphor puts blinkers on us. The metaphor
of the world as a machine rules out an answer to the question of why
there is something rather than nothing.
If God is to do
everything through unbroken law, and I can think of reasons why this
should be so, then pain and suffering are part of it all. As an
evolutionist I think that all organisms are the end product of a
long, slow process of development thanks to the causal mechanism of
I think morality is a collective illusion,
genetic in origin, that makes us good cooperators. Being good
cooperators makes each of us better off in the struggle for
existence. So I don't buy the moral argument for the existence of
God. But I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving Christians.
2014 July 9
The Liberal State
Communism as a model of state
domination is very much alive in China and Russia. The new
authoritarians offer an alternate route to modern development:
growth without democracy and progress without freedom.
America no longer has the power to shape the international order as
it once did. When conservatives win elections, corporate interests
often take control. When progressives win back power, they make the
state more domineering. A continuing dynamic of political
alternation leaves the state unreformed.
The fiscal crisis of
the liberal state is due to rising income inequality, money power in
politics, and systemic tax avoidance by big corporations. The cost
of carrying the liberal state falls on the middle class. The
institutions of the state have been hijacked by the interests they
were created to control.
2014 July 8
Operation Protective Edge
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General
Benny Gantz: "We will now activate all of our force and take all the
time that is needed in various stages in order to reach victory."
AR V is
Kant: moral commands are categorical.
Act only according to that maxim which you can at the same time will as
universal law. Humanity has dignity insofar as it is
capable of morality. We have an absolute duty to respect personhood.
Nietzsche is not crowing about the death of God.
He realized that the Enlightenment project to reconstruct morality from
rational principles retained the character of Christian ethics without
providing its foundational authority.
ESA has approved plans for the Athena
X-ray space telescope. With 100 times more sensitivity than existing X-ray
missions, it will launch in 2028.
2014 July 7
Islam and Education
Children born and raised in Britain must be
integrated into British society. Schools and teachers have a duty to
ensure that children understand and adhere to the basic principles
of the surrounding society.
Our society is governed by a
secular law defined over the territory of the United Kingdom. This
territory is our home to defend. The Church of England has defined
itself in national terms.
Sunni Muslim law is not defined
over territory. It is a religious law. Islam provides an experience
of identity at variance with the nation state. Muslims find things
that repel them in modern Britain.
Islamists want to see
Muslims define themselves against their country. Christianity is an
institution, but Sunni Islam is an identity. I say when it comes to
identity, it is nationality and not religion that counts.
Roger, but when it comes
to identity, I am a rational human being who lives on planet Earth,
where a variety of polities, such as British and German, support
only superficial distinctions.
2014 July 6
Superintelligence: An intellect that greatly exceeds the
cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains.
Nobody knows how long it will take, but once AI scientists become
more capable than human scientists, progress will be rapid. There is
thus the potential for an explosive
distinguish three forms of superintelligence:
1 A speed superintelligence could do
everything a human mind could do, but much faster.
2 A collective superintelligence
composed of a large number of human-level intellects organized to
outstrip that of any current cognitive system could could drive
technological progress much faster.
A quality superintelligence would be cleverer than humans in the
same sense that we are cleverer than other animals.
Superintelligent machine brains would have many fundamental
advantages over biological brains, just as engines have advantages
over biological muscles. We cannot hope to compete with such machine
brains. We can only hope to design them so that their goals coincide
AR This was my big
concern in G.O.D. Is Great
2014 July 5
The Creative Brain
For my latest study, I scanned the brains
of some illustrious scientists, mathematicians, artists, and
writers. I examined 13 creative geniuses and 13 controls. Both
groups had an average IQ of about 120. Creative genius is not the
same as high IQ. The creative subjects and their relatives have a
higher rate of mental illness than the controls and their relatives
do. Eureka moments tend to be precipitated by long periods of
preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed.
2014 July 4
The New Caliphate
On the first day of Ramadan, ISIS declared
that it was reestablishing the caliphate. ISIS successes are built
around military competence that includes excellent command and
control, sound intelligence, well prepared logistics support,
training, high mobility, and rapid maneuver. ISIS is prepared to
play a long game and is appealing for educated and skilled Muslims
to join it to rebuild the caliphate.
continue to view the collapse of Muslim states as something to be
countered by military action and counterterrorism operations. The
United States and its allies need to get Iran and Saudi Arabia to
deal with the crisis in the Muslim world. The Organization of the
Islamic Conference and the Arab League should both be acting to
bring Iran and the Arab world closer together.
2014 July 3
The Islamic State appears well on the road to
restarting the caliphate. But even the earliest caliphs bear little
resemblance to jihadist mythology. Muhammad composed a Constitution
of Medina stipulating that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and pagans had
equal political and cultural rights.
misdiagnose the weakness and underdevelopment of contemporary Arab
society as stemming from its deviation from "pure" Islamic morality,
as if the proper length of a beard and praying five times a day were
a substitute for science and education, or could affect global
The Islamist dream of transnational theocratic
rule appeals to a dwindling number of Arabs. Rather than a caliphate
presided over by arbitrarily appointed caliphs, subjected to a rigid
interpretation of Shariah law, millions of Arabs strive simply for
peace, stability, dignity, prosperity, and democracy.
2014 July 2
The soldiers of the new caliphate might
cross into Jordan. The Jordanian military would step up in a way
that the Iraqi military has not. But how far into Jordan would an
ISIS incursion have to go before alarms went off in Washington? How
far before Israel felt it must act to defend
If we are to avoid a regional meltdown, the United
States, Europe, the Turks, and those from across the region must
act. The White House must send a clear message that Jordan is a real
While David Cameron was being
defenestrated in Brussels, I was in Strasbourg at the Council of
Europe, speaking on a new report into the future of the European
Union. The council comprises 47 countries and 800 million citizens,
and was formed in the aftermath of WW2 to guard and
promote human rights.
Report author Andreas Gross: "Rather
than constituting a model for an ever closer political union or a
European state, federalism implies a process of balancing power in a
differentiated political order which enables unity while
Most continental politicians would
endorse that definition.
2014 July 1
ISIS claims that it had fulfilled all the
legal requirements for the caliphate and that all Muslims around the
world are religiously obliged to swear loyalty to the new Caliph
Ibrahim. Muslims worldwide are likely to react negatively to the
Prior to the pronouncement, ISIS could have
fallen back with little loss of face and a huge increase in its
warfighting capabilities, thanks to captured weaponry and stolen
funds. Now, if ISIS is driven back, the loss would highlight the
hubris of ISIS.
ISIS appears to be standing on the edge of a
precipice with an adolescent faith in its ability to keep its
balance. A US military strike would give ISIS a new line of jihadist
argument: The caliphate was restored, but it was destroyed by the
The God Helmet
Julia Llewellyn Smith
The God helmet simulates religious
experiences by directing complex magnetic fields to the parts of the
brain that include the parietal lobe. More than 80% of those who
wore the helmet reported sensing a presence in the room that many
took to be their deity.
Oxford University Regius Professor of
Divinity Graham Ward: "Religion is at the root both of so many great
civilizations and of so many wars, it has so much mythological
power, we have to understand how it works and be alert to how
dangerous it can be."
Planned twin towers in Wuhan, China: 1 km tall, open 2018
Tiger 131 rolls again
Curiosity still at work after a Martian year on
it my way
Shine on you crazy diamond
Astronomers have found a faint white
dwarf that has crystallized into a diamond the size of Earth. It is
estimated to be 11 billion years old and is a partner to pulsar
PSR J2222-0137. The astronomers noticed the dwarf when it regularly
obstructed the pulsar signal. They say it is cold for a white dwarf:
only 3 kK.
The number of
falling below minimum living standards has more than doubled in the past 30
years, despite the size of the economy increasing twofold, claims a
PSE study on
poverty and deprivation
in the UK.
AR This needs action.
A betrayal of philosophy
2014 June 30
The Islamic State
ISIS now calls itself The Islamic State. ISIS
spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani al-Shami says Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim
Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai, a.k.a. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the new
The Independent quotes Quilliam researcher Charlie Cooper:
"There hasn't been a Caliph since the Ottoman Empire outside of the
Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, and the Caliph is appointed as the only
legitimate successor to Prophet Mohammed."
Americans say their K-12 schools are mediocre
or worse, while their colleges and universities are world class. Yet
a recent study suggests that this view is wrong.
In 2013, the
OECD published the results of a large international assessment of
adult competencies. As with the measures of K-12 education, the
United States battles it out for last place. Countries such as Japan
and Finland have much higher levels of proficiency and skill among
adults. The results for people with different levels of education
show America still falls short of most other countries.
American dominance of higher education rests largely on global
rankings of top universities. But the rankings focus on universities
as research institutions.
The enemies of health reform made at least
six distinct predictions about how Obamacare would fail, every one
of which turned out to be wrong. The great majority of Americans
buying insurance through the new exchanges are getting coverage
quite cheaply, a lot of people have gained insurance through the
program, and the age mix of the new enrollees looks pretty good.
Obamacare was closely modeled on Romneycare, which has been working
in Massachusetts since 2006, and it resembles successful systems
abroad, for example in Switzerland. Why should it fail?
We just spent five trillion dollars on
useless wars. That could have gone to the moon. Or Mars. Or the
Shuttle. Or something that would inspire us in some goddamned way.
2014 June 29
David Cameron poses a "real and present danger"
to the economy as he leads Britain toward an EU exit that could put
up to 3 million jobs and thousands of businesses at risk, says
Labour leader Ed Miliband.
CBI director general John Cridland: "The EU
is our biggest export market and remains fundamental to our economic
future. Our membership supports jobs, drives growth and boosts our
international competitiveness. Alternatives to full membership of
the EU simply wouldn't work, leaving us beholden to its rules
without being able to influence them. We will continue to press the
case for the UK remaining in a reformed European Union."
A commission including Lord Browne of
Ladyton, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Sir Menzies Campbell, Sir Jeremy
Greenstock, and Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank considered whether to
spend £20 billion on renewing the Trident submarine nuclear
deterrent. They argue for doing so if there is "more than a
negligible chance that the possession of nuclear weapons might play
a decisive future role" in defending the UK.
In prison I changed. I am planning to become
a Liberal Democrat MP. I was bought up in the bad old days of
racism. I hated being attacked by skinheads but when we scared them
away by becoming extremists it became more fun.
Only 3% of the
population is Muslim, but 20% of the prison population is Muslim. If
we send guys who have planned terrorist attacks to prison, do we let
them just live out their sentences and then come out and continue on
their mission or do we use the time to change them?
is not a religion. It is an obsessive, outdated ideology. We are
still being too multiculturalist and politically correct about it.
Islamists are homophobic, antisemitic, and sexist. White males can't
be sexist and racist, so brown Muslims shouldn't get away with it
Muslim children need to see they can succeed in
Britain in conventional ways.
2014 June 28
UK PM David Cameron failed to block Jean-Claude
Juncker from heading the European Commission.
Cameron: "I believe
the British national interest lies in reforming the EU, holding a
referendum and recommending that we stay in a reformed EU. Has that
got harder to achieve? Yes."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
"The idea of an ever-closer union, as it is stated in the treaties,
does not mean that there is equal speed among the member countries,
but there can be different speeds that member countries adopt to
come to ever-closer union."
The population of Israel at the end of
2012 was just under 8 million, of whom 6 million were Jewish. But in
the whole land controlled by Israel, including the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, there are now about 12 million people. Jews now
constitute a minority in the lands under Israeli rule — 5.9 million
people compared to 6.1 million non-Jews — and the Arab birthrate is
Israel can either shed the West Bank and retain its Jewish
majority or it can continue to control the Palestinian territories
but undermine its claim to democracy because it does not allow all
those people equal civil rights.
International criticism is
inflamed above all by the West Bank settlements, which are illegal
under international law. The expansion of the settlements is the
prime reason why Israel's relations with many other countries are
becoming more difficult.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague:
"We and our EU partners are clear: systematic, illegal Israeli
settlement activity poses the most significant and live threat to
the viability of the two-state solution."
government since 2000 has signed up to the principle of the
two-state solution. But Israel has never had a negotiating
counterpart on the Palestinian side who seemed willing and able to
deliver adequate recognition of Israel's right to exist or its need
2014 June 27
Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln
Lebenszufriedenheit der Bürger in Deutschland hat einen neuen
Höchststand erreicht. Wer einen Job hat und sich gesund fühlt, ist
besonders zufrieden. Das geht aus einer jetzt vorgelegten
Untersuchung des Instituts der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln (IW)
Our research is fully conscious of its normative
conditionality. We view humans as beings capable of living free and
responsible lives and having a corresponding ability to decide and
act for themselves.
In our understanding, open, free and
democratic societies require a liberal and competitive economic
order, whose constitutive elements include this responsibility both
for oneself and for society.
An excellent Kantian perspective.
Hacking the Soul
Humans make use of fundamental processes
of life regulation that include things like emotion and feeling, but
we connect them with intellectual processes to create a whole new
world around us.
There are certain action programs that are
installed in us so that we can survive, flourish, procreate, and
die. This is the world of homeostasis, and it covers a wide range of
body states. Once the action program is deployed and the brain has
the possibility of mapping what has happened in the body, then that
leads to the emergence of the mental state.
We must separate
the component that comes out of actions from the component that
comes out of our perspective on those actions, which is feeling.
This is also where the self emerges, and consciousness itself. Mind
begins at the level of feeling.
Damasio won the Golden Brain Award in 1995. I enjoyed reading
2014 June 26
Cameron and Europe
The New York Times
UK PM David Cameron should make sure
that his looming defeat over Jean-Claude Juncker does not turn into
a forced march to British exit from the European Union.
objects that Juncker has been put forward by the European
Parliament. He sees a shift of control over the European Union from
national governments to Brussels. The European Parliament is the
only directly elected EU institution. European Council members are
elected in national elections.
But the other European leaders
do not want to take on the Parliament. Cameron may have given
British Eurosceptics more ammunition for the promised referendum.
The 20th century saw a groping toward an
archaic mentality. Psychoanalysis, cubism, surrealism, and national
socialism can all be traced back to unconscious nostalgia for the
archaic. A society in crisis looks back for a previous model that
seemed to work. The breakup of medieval Christian eschatology led to
classicism. People looked back to Platonic philosophy, Roman law,
and so on.
An inchoate groping for yet another historical
paradigm is sweeping over the world. Freudianism, surrealism, and
the rise of electronic media are all insufficient. Once you zero in
on the archaic mentality, you discover the psychedelic experience.
That experience is as much a part of life as birth, death, making
love, eating, and so on, except in the western European traditions.
2014 June 25
Word War at Ypres
The New York Times
UK PM David Cameron has set himself up
for a public failure. Brussels veteran Jean-Claude Juncker is set to
head the European Commission.
Cameron is fighting the
Eurosceptic wing of his own party and the populist appeal of UKIP in
national elections next May. Principled opposition to a Brussels
appointment at odds with government hopes of negotiating a new
relationship with the European Union may be better than bowing to a
power grab by the European Parliament. Cameron: "I will go on
thinking it is wrong right up until the end."
At the summit
in Ypres, Belgium, in what was meant to be a symbol of European
reconciliation, Cameron will defy German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Saddam Hussein compared Baghdad's fall to the
Americans in 2003 with its fall to the Mongols in 1258. That earlier
conquest is remembered by Sunni Arabs as a calamity, when the rivers
of the cultured Abbasid capital are said to have run black with ink
from books and red with the blood of the Mongols' massacred victims.
Saddam rang a change on a centuries-old Sunni grudge to appeal to
sectarian prejudices defined by the feud between Shiites and Sunnis.
AR I guess Sunni Arabia will fight
Shiite Iran over Iraq.
2014 June 24
In the UN Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, not all of the rights listed are negative rights like the
right to free speech or the right to freedom of religion. The idea
that every human being has a right to adequate housing seems to me
nonsense. You can make a good case for universal human rights of a
negative kind, but you cannot make a comparable case for universal
human rights of a positive kind.
One exception is where life
and safety are concerned. You have rights of survival. But I think
it's a big mistake in contemporary political thinking to suppose
that there is a list of universal human rights of a positive kind.
As a professor in Berkeley I have certain rights, and certain
obligations. But the idea of universal rights is fantastic. Why not
extend the idea of universal rights to conscious animals?
2014 June 23
UK National Health Service
Conservative health minister Jane Ellison
says of running the NHS: "From a political point of view, it is a
bit like being on a high wire without a net at times; it can be
Ellison says health secretary Jeremy Hunt
has done a "brilliant job" of "turning the narrative round" from one
focused on reform of NHS structures to one focusing on patients and
David Cameron and Nick Clegg said the
Health and Social Care Act of 2012 was intended to make the NHS
"more accountable to patients" and to free staff from "excessive
bureaucracy and top-down control".
Department of Health
spokesman: "Giving operational control for the day-to-day running of
services to doctors was the right decision, but we have always been
clear that ministers are responsible for the NHS, and we are proud
of its performance in challenging circumstances."
AR Translation: Disaster narrowly
2014 June 22
Today the Western world faces four main
1 China will soon
have the world's biggest economy.
Russia has made a geopolitical comeback.
Britain could exit from the European Union.
4 Political Islam is spreading its vision of reordering
Imagine Margaret Thatcher's response to these four
1 On China, she
would favor engagement, but not appeasement.
2 On Russia, she would urge us to make
more effective use of NATO.
Europe, she would say it was in neither British nor German interests
for the UK to leave the EU.
Islam, we have the most to learn from Thatcher:
challenge of Islamic terror is unique. ... Perhaps the best parallel
is with early communism. Islamic extremism today, like bolshevism in
the past, is an armed doctrine. It is an aggressive ideology
promoted by fanatical, well-armed devotees. And, like communism, it
requires an all-embracing long-term strategy to defeat it."
The Soviet empire collapsed mainly because it lost a battle of
ideas. Today secular democratic movements in the Mideast are failing
to win the psychological war against the Islamists. Political Islam
is the new communism. Freedom will win only if we are prepared to
fight for it.
2014 June 21
Muslims may justly say that their religion
is not inherently violent: I recently read both the Koran and the
Bible from cover to cover, and can assure you that the latter is
more bloodthirsty. Evangelical Christians are almost as much of a
menace to wise American governance as are Muslim jihadis half a
On the whole, however, the Christian religion has adapted to
modernity while most Muslim societies have failed to do so, whether
by creating an educated mass workforce or producing scientific or
The lessons of history are that we
Westerners can do little to change the course of events in the
Mideast. Here at home we must fight with every weapon in our hands
to prevent the curse of Islamist militancy from spreading its
pernicious influence within our own societies. There can be no
compromise with such warped doctrines here, in the sorry name of
"How dreadful are the curses which
Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! ... The fact that in Mohammedan
law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property,
either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final
extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a
great power among men."
— Winston Churchill, 1899
2014 June 20
Ryde Academy headmaster Rory Fox sent 250
girls home for having skirts that were too short or trousers that
were too tight. Boys were also sent home for wearing shoes not made
of leather. If we want to enforce uniform policies then we have to
apply sanctions equally to boys and girls. School is no place for
AR Uniforms are
old hat and pants (to mix idioms). But the issue of distracting kids
with sexuality at school remains. There was practical wisdom in
2014 June 19
Don't Save Iraq
People take responsibility only if they
must. The more we intervene to prop them up, the less they do for
themselves. We can't save them from their bad choices. They have to
face the consequences and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Wolf Blitzer: "The US left behind a ton of equipment for the Iraqi
military, spent billions of dollars training these guys, and gave
them all the help that they possibly could for nearly a decade. The
first semblance of a little tension, they take off their uniforms,
they run away."
President Obama: "The United States is not
simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence
of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that
they're prepared to work together."
Right. Let them struggle.
Our cognitive powers may lie in the musical
hum of our brainwaves. MIT researchers used EEG to observe patterns
of electrical activity in the brains of monkeys as they taught the
animals to categorize patterns of dots.
At first, the monkeys
memorized which dots went where, but as the task became harder, they
shifted to learning the rules that defined the categories.
Initially, brainwaves were forming independently in the prefrontal
cortex and the striatum. But as the monkeys made sense of the game,
the waves began to synchronize and hum at the same frequency, with
each category of dots having its own frequency.
synchronized brainwaves indicate the formation of a connection
between the two brain regions. This may occur before the growth of
new synapses, giving us time to reflect before our brains wire a
The study is the first to show specific patterns of synchrony
linked to specific thoughts.
AR In my books I called such humming the
music of the hemispheres.
2014 June 18
ISIS spielt nur scheinbar in Irak die
alles überragende Rolle. Der Aufstand wird in Wirklichkeit
überwiegend vom FNPI getragen, dem "Nationalen, Panarabischen und
Islamischen Widerstand" des Irak. Das ist eine säkulare Koalition
mehrerer Gruppen, die schon gegen die US-Armee gekämpft haben.
habe in den letzten Tagen mehrfach mit Führern des FNPI gesprochen.
Nach ihrer Auffassung spielt ISIS als Juniorpartner des Aufstands
zwar militärisch eine wichtige Rolle. Diese Dschihadisten aus aller
Welt verbreiten wegen ihres Todesmuts und ihrer Härte Furcht und
Schrecken. Das hat große psychologische Wirkung. Aber mit ihren etwa
tausend Mann vor Mossul hätten sie keine Chance. Der Nationale
Widerstand hingegen ist in Mossul mit über 20.000 Mann präsent und
wird von der Bevölkerung getragen.
Der FNPI rekrutiert viele
Leute aus der ehemaligen irakischen Elite. Es sind Leute, die nach
dem 2003 US-Einmarsch entlassen wurden. Das militärische
Zweckbündnis zwischen ISIS und dem FNPI im Irak ist allerdings sehr
labil. ISIS will einen Gottesstaat, der FNPI eine säkulare
AR A good analysis.
Stephen S. Hall
Optogenetics had its origins at Stanford
in 2004. Researchers in David J. Anderson’s laboratory at Caltech
inserted a genetically modified light-sensitive gene into specific
cells at particular locations in the brain of a living male mouse.
Using a fiber-optic thread inserted into that brain, they turned the
neurons in the hypothalamus on and off with a burst of light to
activated aggressive behavior.
Anderson: "The ability of
optogenetics to turn a largely correlational field of science into
one that tests causation has been transformative."
2014 June 17
The United States and Iran have a common
interest in keeping Sunni radicals from taking over Iraq. Forming an
alliance with Iran to beat back ISIS would leave Iran stronger. We
have to decide which prospect we dislike less: an Islamist state in
Iraq and Syria or a strengthened expansionary Iran.
analogy. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill teamed up with
Stalin to defeat Hitler. One outcome of this grand alliance was
that, at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union controlled all of
Eastern Europe. But the alternative would have been for Nazi Germany
to control all of Europe.
Iran is not the only possible ally.
Turkey has a deep interest in staving off an ISIS triumph. Nor can
the rise of ISIS be pleasing to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
or Egypt. The United States can coordinate action. The opportunities
are there, with Iran, Turkey, and others to do something smart.
2014 June 16
UK PM David Cameron believes that Britain
must forge a strong political and economic relationship with China.
But Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming says Britain now ranks behind
Germany and France among the powers in Europe.
AR Take note, Brits: The EU leaders
The BBC TV licence fee of £145.50 per year is
"a large amount for many families up and down the country," said UK
culture secretary Sajid Javid, in a TV interview.
AR Quite large enough, thank you. Cut
BBC fat cat perks.
To boldly rise above
Darker tan shows Sunni areas;
cities, from top down: Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra, Baghdad
moon of mythical oceans
New Scientist (1:26)
New Battle for Europe
It is wrong if we give in to the
British here. I am more confident than ever that I will be the
next European Commission President.
2014 June 15
China: Ecological Civilization
China is considering limiting its greenhouse gas
emissions so that they peak in 2030, then fall. Premier Li Keqiang has
declared war on pollution and his government has drawn up a philosophical
framework called ecological civilization. Chinese carbon trading schemes
will form the world's second largest carbon trading initiative after
Europe's. China has set targets to make more wealth using less energy.
AR A good precedent if it works.
No War, Low Growth
The world has not had much warfare lately. Today's
casualties pale in light of the tens of millions of people killed in the two
world wars. The greater peacefulness of the world may make the attainment of
higher rates of economic growth less urgent and thus less likely. War
Nuclear power, the computer, and jet aircraft were
all pushed along by Americans eager to defeat the Axis powers and win the
Cold War. The Internet was initially designed to withstand nuclear war. The
Soviet launch of Sputnik spurred American science and technology, and later
Ian Morris has revived
the hypothesis that war is a significant factor behind economic growth. But
today a big war would be a big disaster. Living in a largely peaceful world
with 2% GDP growth has advantages you don't get with 4% growth and many more
Intervene in Iraq
It is in our interests for ISIS to be stopped in its
tracks. It is vitally important that we realize what is at stake here and
act. The fundamental cause of the crisis lies within the region, not outside
it. We have to act now to save the future.
Where the extremists are
fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. 9/11 happened for a
reason. That reason and the ideology behind it have not disappeared. This
is, in part, our struggle, whether we like it or not.
AR The next big war?
A reservoir of water three times the volume of all
the Earth's oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth's surface. The
finding could help explain where the oceans came from. The water is hidden
in rock called ringwoodite 700 km underground in the mantle.
Steven Jacobsen: "It's good evidence the Earth's water came from
2014 June 14
Laura Smith-Spark and Arwa Damon
ISIS has captured much of the
Sunni homeland in Iraq and is now threatening Samarra. Iraqi Shiite Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani called Friday for volunteers to fight back. Iraqi
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki: "Samarra will be the starting point, the
gathering station of our troops to cleanse every inch that was desecrated by
footsteps of those traitors."
The United States is considering
intervention. But the Iraqi state is Shiite. The Iranian Revolutionary
Guards Quds force is moving in to support it. Americans would be on the same
side as Iran. Events may be birthing a sectarian split into states for the
Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunni, baptized in a bloodbath.
Iraqi military spokesman General Qassim Atta: "The security in Baghdad
is 100% stable ... The morale of the security forces is very high."
AR Reminds me of the "Baghdad Bob" bombast
From AQI to ISIS
The 2003 Iraq war precipitated the arrival of al
Qaeda into Iraq. In 2004, its brutal leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi launched
Iraq down the road to civil war. By 2007, Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, had
become the de facto government of the western Iraqi province of Anbar and
controlled a good chunk around Baghdad, the "Triangle of Death" to its
south, and many of the towns up to the Syrian border. A Sunni backlash
fought AQI down to a rump. Then the Syrian civil war transformed AQI into
the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Now ISIS has marched back
into western and northern Iraq.
2014 June 13
Theories of quantum gravity seem to reach a primal
instant when spacetime is disconnected. Space was split into discrete chunks
in the first 10^-43 seconds of the universe, each separate from
In causal dynamical triangulation (CDT), the universe is
composed of tetrahedral grains of spacetime. The way they fit together gives
spacetime its curvature. The grains can all be different, and computer
simulations combine them in billions of different ways. The scenarios that
appear most often are the most likely histories of the universe.
Renate Loll: "We hope that our
simulations will give us an indication of how the universe wants to behave
near the initial singularity without arranging things by hand."
loop quantum cosmology (LQC), spacetime is a woven fabric of braids and
knots and the cosmos grew from a point where light could not travel, so
spacetime was disconnected here too. It will be a long time before we can
properly test these models against reality.
2014 June 12
Google has built a business that generates tens of billions
of dollars a year. With the $500 million purchase of Skybox, a startup that
shoots high-res photos and video with low-cost satellites, Google can extend
its reach far across the offline world. Thanks to its knack for transforming
mass quantities of unstructured data into revenue-generating insights, the
unprecedented stream of aerial imagery to which the company is gaining
access could spark a whole new category of high-altitude insights into the
workings of economies, nations, and nature.
Google is great!
2014 June 11
Merkel Versus Cameron
The New York Times
The European People's Party headed by
Jean-Claude Juncker won the European Parliament elections last month.
Blocking the EPP candidate for the presidency of the European Commission
would undermine the parliament and its elections.
Angela Merkel warned UK PM David Cameron: "I am for Jean-Claude Juncker ...
But when I made that statement in Germany, I also made the point that we act
in a European spirit ... Threats do not belong in that spirit."
Merkel: "Britain is really no cozy partner."
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is coming closer to
statehood. ISIS began only about a year ago as the Syrian offshoot of
al-Qaida in Iraq but now effectively governs a nation-size tract of
territory that stretches from the Syrian city of Aleppo to Fallujah in
western Iraq. Now it also includes Mosul.
ISIS is focused less on the
overthrow of the Assad regime than on enforcing its harsh and austere brand
of Islamic law. Its brutal brand of Shariah law including beheadings and
amputations seems to be provoking resentment among the people who live under
its black flag. Opposition to ISIS is a rare cause that the leaders of
United States, Iran, and even al-Qaida can agree on.
US Department of State spokewoman Jen Psaki: "The United States is
deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul."
AR ISIS is Jihadistan. It symbolizes the
heralded Shariah Caliphate. It must be terminated.
Ganz oben Ganz unten
Bild ist niemals der ganze Skandal, aber ohne Bild ist der ganze Skandal
nichts. Muss ich wirklich das Privateste preisgeben, um politisch überleben
zu können? Es war schamlos und entwürdigend. Der politisch motivierte
fehlerhafte Beginn der Ermittlungen erklärt für mich die Maßlosigkeit und
die mangelnde Objektivität der Staatsanwälte.
2014 June 10
UK education secretary Michael Gove pledged to act as Ofsted
found evidence that several Birmingham schools had been targeted by Muslims
in an organized campaign to impose Islamic ideology.
Gove: "We will
put the promotion of British values at the heart of what every school has to
deliver for children. What we have found was unacceptable. And we will put
2014 June 9
PM David Cameron has ordered education secretary
Michael Gove to start "dawn raid" school inspections after officials found
evidence of covering up Islamist infiltration in Birmingham schools.
Ofsted found staff at one of the schools involved used the notice period
given before an inspection to stage "hastily arranged shows of cultural
inclusivity" to include lessons on Christianity.
our children is one of the first duties of government and that is why the
issue of alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools demands a robust
Our global neighbors watch our big budget films and see
America as a country where scenes of mass destruction are the norm, where
carnage is preferred over peace, love, and understanding. Let's call it what
it is: destruction porn. Our delight in seeing things blown up should make
us worry about the mental health of society.
2014 June 8
PM David Cameron ordered education secretary Michael
Gove to issue humiliating apologies and told home secretary Theresa May to
sack her closest adviser, following their public row over policy on
combating extremism in schools.
Britain has a long history of underestimating
the determination of those bent on subverting the West. After the 2005
bombings, the Labour government created a "preventing violent extremism"
strategy, known as Prevent, which funded councils and police to work with
community groups. But it focused mainly on preventing acts of terror, not
stifling the ideology behind them.
The coalition hardened things up in 2011. David
Cameron gave a powerful speech arguing that all forms of extremism can
create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism. He intervened in a row between
the independent reviewer of Prevent and the Home Office. The reviewer
believed it was unacceptable to appease extremism and Cameron backed him.
Bombshell reports by
EFA and Ofsted
claim Muslim radicals conspired to infiltrate governing bodies of Birmingham
Oldknow Academy has around 600 pupils, more than 95%
Muslim. It holds Islamic prayers on Friday, teaches Arabic, and organizes
trips to Mecca. Extremists allegedly pushed out head teacher Bhupinder
Kondal because she opposed Islamization. Teachers used terms such as "white
prostitute" and "hellfire" in school assemblies. Teacher Samir Rauf accused
Ofsted inspectors of "having an agenda".
Golden Hillock school has been
taken over by Islamists and fails to shelter students from extremist views.
Inspectors say the school did little to mitigate against cultural isolation,
leaving students vulnerable to marginalization from wider British society.
Chairman of governors Mohammed Shafique: "Ofsted's views are completely
unfounded. We do not practice isolationism or segregation."
2014 June 6
Niedergang der Siegermächte
Am 70. Jahrestag D-Day haben
sich die Gewichte entscheidend verschoben. Frankreich und
Großbritannien haben den Zweiten Weltkrieg gewonnen, die
entscheidende europäische Macht aber ist heute Deutschland. Für
die Statik der EU könnte das gefährlich werden.
Großbritannien zirkulierte während einer Wirtschaftskrise der
Spruch, das Land habe zwar den Zweiten Weltkrieg gewonnen, den
Frieden aber verloren. Über Deutschland lässt sich 70 Jahre nach
D-Day wohl das Gegenteil sagen.
Das Bild von der
deutschen Vorherrschaft befeuert den europäischen Populismus.
Das D in D-Day, 1944 die Abkürzung für "decision", steht 2014
nicht nur für Deutschland, sondern auch für eine gewisse Demut
im Ausgleich der europäischen Interessen.
The Myth of the Strong Leader
By Archie Brown
Bodley Head, 466 pages
AR I'm reading it now.
professor of politics
at Oxford for decades.
The Beginning and the End
By Clément Vidal
Roman Catholics and Eastern
Orthodox Christians may return
to Nicaea, Turkey,
Early followers of Jesus met
there in 325 CE to try to
Vote for me!
2014 June 5
Wiring up a rat brain with electronics
that replay memories from trained rats into the brain can give
it new skills. This research could help many people living with
Memories can be lost when damaged parts of the
brain fail to pass information from one area to another. An
electronic implant that interprets the signals from one area and
writes them into a second area can help. But first we have to
know what a memory looks like. The neural code that represents a
memory is thought to lie in the firing pattern of interconnected
A technique called multi-input/multi-output,
MIMO, can be used to pick out meaningful signals from the noise
of millions of neurons firing. A chip containing electrodes in
rat hippocampus uses MIMO to isolate and record the neural code
as rats recall a memory to act. In rats drugged to forget, the
same electrodes deliver the same firing pattern back to the
neurons, restoring memory.
MIMO has been used to record
the code for a task in a group of rats and replay it in other
rats, giving them new memories. DARPA is pushing the research
into human trials.
2014 June 4
American conservatives say there is too
much government. Government is the other side of freedom, and
what makes freedom possible. A free relationship grants rights
and duties to either party in a mutuality of interests.
The liberal conception of government is that the state exists in
order to allocate the social product, and government is the art
of seizing and then redistributing the good things to which all
citizens have a claim.
But the liberal state no longer
embodies the ethos of a nation. As in the EU, public displays of
patriotism dwindle to a few desultory spasms, and the political
class begins to be looked upon with sarcasm and contempt.
Conservative Americans can still see their government as an
expression of their national unity. They need to map out the
limits beyond which action by the government is a trespass on
the freedom of the citizen.
The uncut essay is magnificent — if you like dense prose.
2014 June 3
European Reassurance Initiative
President Barack Obama wants his Russian
counterpart Vladimir Putin to take steps to rebuild the trust
shattered by Russia's actions in Ukraine. Speaking alongside
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Obama announced that he
is asking Congress for a fund of up to $1 billion for a European
Reassurance Initiative to bolster the security of NATO allies in
AR Most reassuring!
The Obama administration has made a
strategic error stemming from a failure to grasp the nature of
political Islam. During the decades of dictatorship in the Arab
world, political Islamists marketed themselves in the West as
"moderate" movements that sought to reconcile Islam with
democracy. In reality, they were proponents of a messianic
ideology. The Obama administration bought into the fallacy and
failed to invest in civil society groups and secular democratic
parties in the Muslim world.
2014 June 2
Off to work for the
Europe, Wake Up!
The election results matter. They are a
wake-up call to Europe and to Britain. Our response in Europe as
in Britain should be to lead, not follow. We should make the
debate about more than the repatriation of certain competences
There is a keen sense that the moment is right
for Europe to think carefully about where it goes from here, how
it reconnects with the concerns of its citizens, and how it
changes in order better to realize its ideals in a changing
world. It has to be a debate elevated to a Europe-wide level,
with Britain playing a leading role, not just a negotiation of
Britain's terms of membership. It has to be about what is good
for Europe as well as what is good for Britain.
2014 June 1
The Soul of Islam
There is no single Islamist threat. The
battle is among Muslims for the soul of Islam. There is a fear
of diverse ways of thinking and living in Islamic societies.
There is also a propensity among many people in Islamic
societies to undermine any kind of intellectualism or critical
The radical ideology of "Islam versus the West"
is based on a toxic distinction. To make this distinction
meaningless, we must engage in conversations in public life. I
wonder whether part of the appeal of terrorism lies in boredom
and the constant search for a new struggle.
Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath
Employees are more
satisfied and productive when four core needs are met:
Physical, through regular opportunities to renew and recharge at
● Emotional, by
feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions
Mental, when they can focus on essentials and decide how to
● Spiritual, by
doing what they do best and feeling its link to a higher purpose
In the garden at Mottisfont, Romsey,
UK, May 31, 2014
"Dr Fox presents an overall composition that melds seamlessly
with those of the best minds of his generation. On the evidence
presented in this book, he would make an eminently capable
foreign secretary in a future Conservative government."
My review of Rising Tides
Google self-driving cars:
coming soon to our
Brain Mind Cosmos
Deepak Chopra (ed)
The eyes can detect light.
mind is aware of thoughts.
The soul can attest to God.
none of this is good enough.
Science must expand to embrace
consciousness. Theorists must plunge into the participatory
Conservative MEP Ashley Fox:
Voters have sent a message
that the EU has to change
2014 May 31
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski
has a big role in Europe's response to Russian aggression. He
studied in Oxford, speaks perfect English, is married to Anne
Applebaum, and has led the Polish foreign ministry since 2007.
His role has become crucial since the eruption of the crisis in
Sikorski says NATO has neglected its eastern
flank and must stand up to Moscow. He grew up under Communism
and mistrusts Russia. Anne Applebaum: "The Red Army was deterred
by a large number of American soldiers, weapons, tanks, and
nuclear weapons. Diplomacy had nothing to do with it."
Sikorski's polished English and intellectual wife are not always
appreciated in Poland. He sees his future at the head of an
international institution, for example as NATO secretary
general. He sees that Europe is becoming less important to the
United States and calls on Berlin to show greater leadership.
2014 May 30
The Emerging Global Organism
My print copy of the issue
of the Kozminiski University journal
Transformations with my 2013 article in it arrived
yesterday. Rrereading it, I see that it is likely to become the
definitive expression of my mature philosophy. The journal
version incorporates only minor changes from the preprint and
ends with an incorrect e-mail address.
PDF preprint: 16
pages, 175 KB
Transformations 3-4, 2013
PDF, 446 pages, 3.6 MB
2014 May 29
US Foreign Policy
America has rarely been stronger. Our
economy remains the most dynamic on Earth. From Europe to Asia,
we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.
America must always lead on the world stage. The military is the
backbone of that leadership.
America's support for
democracy and human rights is a matter of national security.
Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to
go to war. Economies based on free and open markets perform
better and become markets for our goods.
leadership requires us to see the world as it should be: a place
where the aspirations of individual human beings really matter,
where hopes and not just fears govern, where the truths written
into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in
the direction of justice.
Researchers have made a detailed
comparison of metabolism in humans and other mammals. Both our
brains and our muscles are metabolically unusual. Humans have
greedy brains that consume a fifth of our daily energy intake.
Each tissue has a different metabolic fingerprint. In
chimpanzees, monkeys and mice, the metabolic fingerprint for a
given tissue is usually more similar in more closely related
species. Two exceptions:
The human prefrontal cortex uses energy quite differently from
other species. Its expansion over the past six million years of
our evolution accounts for much of the extra energy demand our
metabolic fingerprint of muscle is even more distinct in humans.
Chimpanzees and monkeys are far stronger, for their weight, than
athletes. Perhaps our ancestors traded strength for endurance,
to gather more food for their brains.
2014 May 28
Big Bossy Brussels
David Cameron opposes the appointment of
Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.
Cameron: "We need an approach that recognises that Brussels has
got too big, too bossy, too interfering."
EU leaders are
under pressure to endorse a bid by the European parliament to
anoint Juncker as the successor to José Manuel Barroso at the
commission. Cameron: "We need people running these organisations
that really understand that and can build a Europe that is about
openness, competitiveness and flexibility, not about the past."
We cannot take the capitalist system,
which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted.
Prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but
investment in social capital.
fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the
long-term dynamism of capitalism itself. To counteract this
tendency, individuals and their firms must have a sense of their
responsibilities for the broader system. Consideration should be
given to developing principles of fair markets, codes of conduct
for specific markets, and even regulatory obligations within
There were scores of too-big-to-fail
institutions operating at the heart of finance. Bankers made
enormous sums in the run-up to the crisis and were often well
compensated after it hit. Taxpayers picked up the tab for their
AR He speaks as the
governor of the Bank of England. I agree with him.
2014 May 27
For the first time in EU history, the
major parties in the European Parliament launched top candidates
who campaigned for the job of European Commission president.
Jean-Claude Juncker won the election. Leaders of EU member
states will find it hard to prevent him from becoming the next
Former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker is
now the elected candidate for the presidency of the European
Commission: "During the next five years, we will have to find
solutions for the political concerns of the UK. We have to do
this to keep the UK in the EU. As commission president ... I
will be ready to talk to [David Cameron] in a fair and
been an ardent EU federalist for too long to bend with the new
Thomas Piketty argued that rising
inequality is the central contradiction of capitalism. FT critic
Chris Giles challenged his data. But the attack does not quite
come off. For Sweden and France the FT all but agrees
with Piketty, but its UK and US data become incoherent after 1970
— because the rich avoid declaring their
wealth, and after 1979 capitalism was restructured to promote
Piketty sees a clear upward trend to
inequality in the UK since then, but the FT uses official data
that shows nothing much. The HMRC currently estimates that the
top 10% of the population own 70% of the wealth, while the ONS
thinks they own just 44%. Bank data suggests that UK asset
wealth grew from £4.7 trillion to £7.8 trillion in the decade to
2013, with most of the rise driven by financial portfolios.
The FT data is from government tax data.
Piketty is right, only taxes on current wealth and an end to
opaque "wealth management" trails that end up in tax havens will
prevent capitalism generating levels of social inequality that
2014 May 26
SW Region EP Election Results
Number of votes cast for each party in the South
|An Independence From
|English Democrats Party
|British National Party
Elected Members of the
1 William Dartmouth, UK
2 Ashley Peter Fox, Conservative Party
3 Julia Reid, UK Independence Party
McCulloch Girling, Conservative Party
5 Claire Miranda Moody,
6 Molly Scott Cato, Green Party
for the South West region was 37%.
2014 May 25
British Museum director Sir Neil
MacGregor is to lead a big project on the history and culture of
Germany. He will write and present a series of 30 BBC4 radio
programs, launching in September. The museum will mount an
exhibition, Germany: Memories of a Nation, starting in October.
MacGregor studied in Hamburg as a schoolboy and went on to
read German at Oxford. He will not shy away from "the
unspeakable 12 years" from 1933 to 1945. The aim is to approach
German history from the Holy Roman Empire to the present day
through a selection of artifacts.
Mr and Mrs Lockhart
with their respective daughters: Lizzie and Emma left of Jolyon, Jodie
right of Beverley
Get out and vote!
2014 May 24
Marriage of Jolyon and Beverley
The European Union is in a deep crisis.
The bigger an institution becomes, the more fragile its inner
homogeneity. Political and ideological consensus was present for
all the new entrants but economic homogeneity was awry. In a
modern economy, he who decides the money decides the politics.
We face constitutional issues.
European foreign policy
reflects the shared interests and values of EU members. The EU
states share the basic foundation of Western political thinking
that the state is there for the people, and not vice versa.
European values need more resonance in the evolving multipolar
world of superpowers and large blocks of states.
democratic deficit of the EU calls for action. Democracy demands
a bond of trust and understanding between EU bodies and EU
citizens. But the European Parliament is still relatively weak
in the face of the European Council and the European Commission.
All three bodies have to win the trust of the citizenry.
2014 May 23
Europe at the centenary of the war that
devoured it is at a nadir. There is anger about high
unemployment, pessimism over the future, irritation at
immigration, and alienation from the EU. Anyone who believes in
freedom, democracy, and the rule of law is a warmonger.
Protest parties from right and left have expressed admiration
for President Vladimir Putin and his homophobic irredentism.
Europe is suddenly full of what Germans call Putinversteher, who
understand Putin or are Putin apologists. In France, top NF
eurocandidate Aymeric Chauprade declared that Russia had become
the hope of the world against new totalitarianism.
Meanwhile, on Kiev's Independence Square, known as the Maidan,
"Europe is a promise of liberty," said Nataliya Popovych, an
activist in the Maidan movement. "As for Putin's Eurasian Union,
we have been in that cage before. Why would we go back?"
Most years, Russian officials use the
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to woo foreign
investment. This year is different. The meeting was largely
dominated by officials, policy wonks and executives from Russia,
as well as Chinese investors. The debate centered on whether
Russia even needs Western finance, hinting at the return of a
heavily state-dominated economic system.
economist Ivan Tchakarov: "The key question now is whether we
will see a permanent downward shift in the economic growth."
Lord Mandelson of Foy: "Russia has not only forfeited
political trust, but, as seriously, and perhaps more seriously,
Russia has forfeited market confidence, and Russia could be
frozen out of international markets."
Leviathan is a sober and compelling tragic drama of
corruption and intimidation in contemporary Russia, set in a
desolate widescreen panorama.
The movie shows a world
governed by drunken, depressed, aggressive men. What counts is
money and power. Its hero is Kolia, a car mechanic with a
teenage son and a beautiful second wife. He owns a modest
property on prime real estate, but a crooked mayor wants the
land to build a luxury dacha. Kolia finds himself in a perfect
storm of poisoned destiny.
2014 May 22
European elections remind us that the
28 member states of the European Union have much to be proud of.
The EU has brought peace to a continent long ravaged by war and
become the world's largest economy, generating €12 trillion
annually, more than the United States.
represent a huge opportunity for the EU to strengthen its
position. There is much the EU could do better. EU researchers
estimate that realizing the single market could gain €800
billion annually. And the EU needs a common energy policy. All
this can be achieved.
Russia and China have made a 30 year,
$400 billion deal to deliver Russian gas to China. The contract
for 38 cu km of gas annually was signed in the presence of
presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in Beijing.
Global Sustainability Institute director Aled Jones:
"Russia's new pipeline to China will increase competition for
natural gas from 2018 and will most likely increase the cost we
pay for natural gas here in the EU."
Google vs Apple
Apple's brand value has diminished by 20% to
$148 billion. Google's has soared by 40% to $159 billion. Apple
has phones and tablets, Google has self-driving cars and scary
glasses. Millward Brown Global BrandZ director Peter Walshe: "To
gain more of our mind space, brands such as Google are making
ambitious plays across existing category boundaries."
2014 May 21
House says freedom has been in retreat around the world for
the past eight years. Across the Western world, people are
disgusted with their governments.
The Guardian State is
gaining strength. In places like Singapore and China, the best
students are culled for government service. The technocratic
elites play a big role in designing economic life. The safety
net is small and unforgiving. Work is rewarded. People are
expected to look after their own.
Guardian States have some disadvantages compared with Western
democracies. They are more corrupt. Because the systems are
top-down, local government tends to be worse. But they have
advantages. They are better at long-range thinking and can move
fast. And they are more innovative.
American politics has
become neurotically democratic. Politicians are campaigning all
the time and can scarcely think beyond the news cycle.
Unrepresentative groups have disproportionate power in primary
elections. If the Guardian State has speed at the top, democracy
has speed at the bottom.
Democracy needs an update.
Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush
Another Great Day at Sea is the latest book by
Geoff Dyer. He describes the world of the ship as a kind of idealized
America, "each person indispensable to the workings of the larger
enterprise, no friction between the person and the task". But it's also
a version of America very different from the one back on the beach. The
sailors do very little other than sleep and work long hours at jobs
they're proud of.
Many of them are both deeply patriotic and deeply
religious, and alcohol and displays of affection are strictly forbidden.
Dyer: "What really surprised me was the lack of leisure."
AR Seems OK to me.
2014 May 20
NATO has 28 member states. An attack
against any member is considered an attack against all. NATO
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: "Our commitment to
collective defense is rock solid, now and for the future."
A new draft NATO assessment: "Russia's ability to undertake
significant military action with little warning presents a wider
threat to the maintenance of security and stability in the
Euro-Atlantic area. Russia can pose a local or regional military
threat at short notice at a place of its choosing. This is both
destabilizing and threatening for those allies bordering or in
close proximity to Russia."
Military officials say NATO
has dangerously forfeited its ability to conduct a ground war
with large troop formations in Europe. But if NATO were
incapable of resisting Moscow in the event of a Russian
incursion into the Baltic countries, the alliance could
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski:
"NATO must do in Poland what it has done in other countries.
There are bases in Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Kosovo
and Turkey. Those are safe places. But there are no bases where
they would be truly necessary."
This year, the Central African Republic
(CAR) has collapsed in a grisly carnival of factional and
religious slaughter that has left it one of the very worst
places on Earth.
The CAR is a landlocked former French
colony between Chad to the north and the Democratic Republic of
the Congo to the south. A quarter century ago, Jean-Bédel
Bokassa, its self-appointed emperor, faced public trial for,
among other crimes, keeping a freezer full of half-eaten human
Now, most Central Africans would happily trade
their problems for a mere outbreak of plague, or some light
cannibalism. The current caretaker president, a Christian
ex-lawyer named Catherine Samba-Panza, is ineffectual at best,
and the countryside towns are fast polarizing, with Muslims
being expelled by the thousands. In the capital, Bangui, the
expulsion of Muslims is nearly complete.
(AU) peacekeepers zoom around town in APCs or Toyota Land
Cruisers with heavy machine guns mounted on the back. If the
conflict in CAR were as simple as shooting dead all the people
running around with freshly hewn human limbs, the peacekeepers
might be able to keep things under control. But the war has a
separate front between the AU and the French peacekeepers also
Christians and Muslims in this conflict share
a sense of grievance that has curdled into bloodlust. Any ideas
that don't start or end with genocide qualify as good ones.
2014 May 19
Vote For Your MEP
European parliament elections are held on
Thursday. Most EU law is decided by both ministers and MEPs.
Each minister in the council casts votes depending on their
country's size. But any legislation adopted by this body can
then be amended or rejected by a simple majority of MEPs.
EU law is like the secondary legislation that often goes
through the UK parliament on the nod, providing that a minister
has powers delegated by a full-blown act. It is often
mind-bogglingly technical, but it still matters and it still
engages fierce arguments about values.
In a globalized
world, more and more issues have to be dealt with by
international institutions because the national writ no longer
runs. You either have institutions like the EU with an explicit
capacity for political decision-taking, or you leave it to the
bureaucrats and lawyers.
EU spending is less than 1% of
GDP, compared with 48% for the 28 national governments. The EU
is an important layer of governance, no more. The European
parliament is far from perfect, but it is worth your vote.
2014 May 18
Ever Closer Union
Gunther Krichbaum: "I can't imagine that
the member states would allow Britain to extricate itself from
the 'ever closer union' clause. ... If you want more influence
in Europe, then you need closer cooperation. Britain should try
to exert more influence in the EU — I for one would welcome it."
Axel Schäfer: "Would Germany allow Britain to wiggle out of
the 'ever closer union' clause in the Rome treaty? That's out of
the question. ... If Mr Cameron thinks he has Germany and Mrs
Merkel on his side on this question, I can assure him that he is
Elmar Brok: "If Cameron is still concerned about
the language, I would be open to discussions. But you can't
suddenly question the basic principles."
UK Rich List
The Sunday Times
The wealth gap between Britain’s
richest and average households is getting wider. The personal
fortunes of the thousand richest Brits have boomed in the past
year and now add up some £519 billion, equal to a third of UK
GDP. Some 104 billionaires are now based in the UK, with a
combined wealth of more than £301 billion. London hosts 72
sterling billionaires, more than any other city in the world.
2014 May 17
The New York Times
Discrimination against Muslims in
India is so rampant that many barely muster outrage when telling
of the withdrawn apartment offers, rejected job applications,
and denied loans that are part of living in the country for
them. As a group, Muslims have fallen badly behind Hindus in
recent decades in education, employment, and economic status.
After the landslide electoral triumph of the Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, some Indian Muslims say they
are worried that their place in India could become even more
AR Some Muslims have
politicized their religion and poisoned it for the rest.
Pakistan discriminates against non-Muslims.
2014 May 16
Living on £1 a Day
When Christian Aid asked me to take up
the Live Below the Line challenge by living on just £1 a day for five days, I readily accepted. The first thing that hit me was
just how expensive fresh fruit and vegetables are. Still,
learning that you can live without certain things is a positive
experience. Fasting or giving up some of your luxuries can be
liberating, which is one of the reasons it is common across many
2014 May 15
Giulio Tononi and his colleagues
have developed a mathematical framework for consciousness called
integrated information theory, IIT. They argue that in conscious
minds, integrated information cannot be reduced into smaller
Phil Maguire and his colleagues define
integration in terms of how difficult information is to edit.
Integrating snapshots into memories makes it hard to manipulate
single images. Computers can't handle a process that integrates
information completely, so if consciousness means total
integration then computers aren't conscious.
Maguire et al.
Irrelevant to IIT. Of course conscious integration is
lossy. Otherwise we'd drown in data as soon as we woke up.
2014 May 14
The Trouble with Europe
Why the EU isn't working, how it can be reformed, what could
take its place
By Roger Bootle
"Roger Bootle perceptively analyses
what is wrong with the European Union as presently constituted,
both politically and economically; what reforms are needed to
make it wise for the UK to remain a member; and how we can most
sensibly conduct ourselves outside the EU, should those reforms
not be undertaken. It is essential background reading for any
future in/out referendum."
— Boris Johnson
AR I'm reading this next.
The New York Times
Civilian nuclear disasters have not
overcome the allure of nuclear power as a source of clean and abundant
energy. The dangers of nuclear power are real, but the accidents that
have occurred do not compare to the damage to the Earth being inflicted
by the burning of fossil fuels. Reducing carbon emissions must be an
urgent priority and nuclear energy must be part of the mix.
Pearson / EIU
The principal contradiction of the new world
order is the impossibility of creating a global political order that
would correspond to the global capitalist economy.
What if, for
structural reasons, and not only due to empirical limitations, there
cannot be a worldwide democracy or a representative world government?
What if the global market economy cannot be directly organized as a
global liberal democracy with worldwide elections?
Since the fall
of the Berlin Wall and the rise of the global market, new walls have
begun emerging everywhere, separating peoples and their cultures.
AR Dialektik vom feinsten.
NASA Z-2 suit for
Evidence of fractal growth on the surface of a
feeding black hole comes from a mathematical duality between the
equations of general relativity and fluid dynamics.
and his colleagues modeled a turbulent fluid system and then moved into
the black hole regime. They found that the horizon of the black hole
appeared to have developed an infinite surface area. If black holes grow
fractal skins when they feed, this may show up in their
2014 May 13
Support for the European Union may be rebounding
just in time for the European Parliament elections on May 22,
according to the Pew Research Center. EU favorability is now on
the rise in France, the UK, and Germany. Faith that European
economic integration is good for their own country is up in the
UK, Poland, and Germany. But Europeans overwhelmingly think
their voice is not heard in Brussels. They complain that the EU
does not understand their needs and is intrusive and
2014 May 12
Others in Europe need change to the
European Union. The Eurozone needs change. It needs a banking
union, it needs more fiscal union, and so we're perfectly
legitimate to ask for our changes.
You've already seen
other leaders in Europe, including for instance Chancellor
Merkel in Germany, not rejecting out of hand what Britain is
saying but saying yes, we can discuss these issues.
be having a referendum, where I'll be recommending: Look I've
got these changes, I believe we should stay in this reformed
I'm tremendously upbeat, bullish, and
optimistic about what Britain can achieve in terms of our
economy and also about our place in Europe.
2014 May 11
UK vs EU
The New York Times
UK PM David Cameron plans to
renegotiate British ties to the European Union. But those plans
hit a roadblock when he called for a rewrite of the EU treaty.
A group of Conservative Euroskeptics called the Fresh Start
Project now accept that an early treaty change is neither likely
nor necessary in order to change UK ties to the EU.
member Tim Loughton: "We are not going to get full-blown treaty
change on all these things by 2017. What we can do is a whole
load of things that do not require treaty change, and there
would be an understanding that treaty change will have to come
Are revamped British membership terms possible
without a treaty change by 2017?
FS member Chris
US Secretary of State John Kerry hoped
to "achieve that final-status agreement" between Israel and the
Palestinians. But they only proved that
some things are more important for them than peace.
Israelis and Palestinians want many things. Many Israelis would
rather not have peace than relinquish control over the Old City
of Jerusalem and surrounding holy sites. Many Palestinians would
rather not have peace than be forced to recognize Israel as a
Jewish state. And while many Israelis would not accept a peace
deal that acknowledges a Palestinian "right of return" for
Palestinian refugees of past wars, many Palestinians would not
accept peace if it doesn't include this right. Time and again,
Israelis and Palestinians have shown they are adamant about
Whenever the parties negotiate and are
required to make a concession, they balk and return to fighting
at the negotiating table. They have
priorities other than those imagined by the mediator.
2014 May 10
Bayesianism says quantum weirdness is all in the mind. David
Mermin: "It really is that simple."
Measurements do not
cause things to happen in the external world; they cause things
to happen in our heads. The classical world is where acts of
measurements are continuous, because we see things with our own
eyes. The quantum world is where we need an explicit act of
measurement with an appropriate piece of equipment to gain
information. For a QBist, the quantum-classical boundary is the
split between what is going on in the real world and your
subjective experience of it.
By abandoning the idea that
nature can be described adequately from the perspective of a
detached observer, QBism recalls Immanuel Kant's critique of
pure reason, in which even spacetime is a tool we use to
categorize the phenomenal manifold.
Mermin: "Why promote
space-time from a 4D diagram, which is a useful conceptual
device, to a real essence?"
I argued for this view in my book
2014 May 9
UKIP proclaims itself a non-racist,
non-sectarian party. The offensive and racially prejudiced
comments of a handful of idiots were unrepresentative of our
party. I have been noticing a surge of support and new members
from Britain's ethnic minority communities.
have a stringent immigration policy but also a fair one. The
Conservative party is a snooty party of and for the
establishment, favouring the wealthy, the powerful and the
already well connected. UKIP does not carry such baggage.
AR We all deplore racism. But a
British party can only flourish if it understands and works with
the establishment. Spurning the "baggage" is no way to win.
Ed No PM
Labour leader Ed Miliband's reach
exceeds his grasp. When he decrees that rents must be lower and
banking, energy and train fares should all be cheaper, he is
wishing the ills of the world away without any idea how a market
really works. His combination of a tendency to utopian unreality
and natural caution means that, in office, he would likely be a
lukewarm version of himself in opposition.
have no prospect of convincing anyone that Ed Miliband is Hugo
Chávez. But they might well persuade people that he is a man
with his head in the clouds, if not up his backside.
AR No hope for a British renaissance
from Red Ed, then.
China has a plan to build a high-speed
railway line to the United States. The "China-Russia plus
America line" would be 13 000 km long, from northeast China
through Siberia, through a 200 km undersea tunnel beneath the
Bering Strait, then through Alaska and Canada to Seattle. The
trip would take two days at an average speed of 350 km/h.
China plans three other big high-speed rail lines:
1 From north China via Moscow to
2 From west China via
Central Asia and Turkey to Germany
3 From south China to Singapore
AR China rails the
globe, Britain chokes on HS2.
2014 May 8
UKAEA CEO and CCFE director professor
Steve Cowley says controlled nuclear fusion is one of the "great
quests" in science. Engineering the process that powers the
stars means confining hydrogen nuclei at temperatures over 100
MK so that they fuse into helium nuclei, to release more energy
than is needed to hold and heat them. Nuclear fusion would be a
practically limitless source of energy that is clean, safe, and
The science is solid but the engineering challenge
is enormous. The CCFE JET tokamak used magnetic confinement to
generate a world record 16 MW of fusion power. The new
ITER tokamak is under
construction in the south of France. ITER involves 35 nations
and is expected to release 500 MW of power from a 50 MW input
and may even achieve ignition.
Cowley: "When ITER gets to
self-sustainment that will be one of those moments in science
that happen very rarely. I think we will then be able to say
it's completely scientifically possible to make a commercial
fusion reactor. The real question then is cost and scale."
My theory of modified Newtonian
dynamics (MOND) describes the motion of stars in the outer
regions of spiral galaxies with a departure from Newtonian
dynamics when the acceleration of stars drops below 10 pico-g.
With a single parameter, MOND can predict the rotation curves of
all galaxies with no need for dark matter.
MOND correctly predicted
the velocities of stars in about 30 dwarf satellite galaxies of
Andromeda. The main dark matter paradigm has no such predictive
power. I asked whether gravitational dynamics changed at a
critical acceleration more than 30 years ago, and Jacob
Bekenstein made MOND compatible with Einstein's principles of
relativity in 2004.
Bekenstein also did good work with Stephen Hawking on
black hole thermodynamics.
Push Your Kids
Pearson chief education adviser Sir Michael
Barber: "In the Pacific Asian cultures there is a strong belief
that effort will be rewarded and if you try harder and work
harder you will achieve higher standards. Pressure from parents
for students in Pacific Asian systems to achieve well in school,
to spend long evenings on their homework, is very, very high,
some would argue too high. There is a contrast between those
attitudes and here where some parents don't exert that kind of
pressure for achievement, don't expect that effort to be
rewarded, do think that either their child is really clever or
isn't, and sometimes reinforce that in a way that is unhelpful."
Sir Michael was speaking at the launch of an updated global
ranking of education systems in which Britain, at #6, trails the
top five by a big margin.
Sir Michael: "In the end it is
about communicating with people how much the 21st century is
going to be different from when they were at school and how that
needs different preparation. Basic skills are going to change in
a quite dramatic way and only people who are well prepared,
knowledgeable, well informed, able to solve problems, take
responsibility for themselves, are going to be able to succeed,
but if you have got those 21st-century skills it is going to be
full of opportunity."
2014 May 7
UK vs EU
Britain holds European Union
elections on May 22.
The UK joined the European Common Market in 1973.
When the Labour Party called a referendum on membership in 1975,
Margaret Thatcher campaigned in favor. As prime minister, she
signed the Single European Act in 1987, a huge surrender of
German sociologist Ulrich Beck: "The
most pro-European voices in Britain today are business and the
Brits are in a funk. Vote for Europe and get real.
A computer given a random sampling of
bits of DNA that are known to vary among humans will cluster
them into groups that correspond to the known race or ethnicity
of the subjects. The clusters identify the five major races:
Asians, Caucasians, sub-Saharan Africans, Native Americans, and
the original inhabitants of Australia and Papua New Guinea. If
the subjects all come from European ancestry, the clusters will
instead correspond to Italians, Germans, French, and other
As yet we know little about the
substance of racial and ethnic differences. Humans who left
Africa moved into environments that introduced radically new
selection pressures. The genes under selection include a wide
variety of biological traits affecting everything from bone
structure and diet to aspects of the brain and nervous system
involving cognition and sensory perception.
contrasts the polities and social institutions of China, India,
the Islamic world, and Europe. He presents evolutionary
explanations for the outsize Jewish contributions to the arts
and sciences. Then he incorporates genetics into an explanation
of the rise of the West in the past 600 years.
2014 May 6
Why Germans Love Russia
In a recent poll, 49% of Germans said
they wanted their country to take a middle position between the
West and Russia in the Ukraine crisis, and only 45% wanted to be
firmly in the Western camp.
The drift is on both sides of
the political spectrum. Part of the left is instinctively
anti-American and sides with anyone who challenges the status
quo and the US superpower. The populist right agrees with
Russian propaganda that Europe has become too gay, too tolerant,
too permissive, and unchristian.
What unites them is
disregard for the fate of the people in the lands between
Germany and Russia. When German public figures dismiss Ukraine
as "not a real country anyway" they evoke memories in Eastern
Europe of the days when the Nazis and Soviets turned the region
into a killing field.
In a more recent poll, 60% of
Germans said that their country should stand with the West in
the Ukraine crisis. So Russian aggression is having some effect
on public opinion.
2014 May 5
The Copernicus principle says that our
planet is just an ordinary one of an estimated sextillion
similar objects orbiting suns like ours. So there should be
enormous numbers of planets old enough to be transmitting
interstellar pop music. Yet not a peep.
principle says that planets unfit for life don't evolve sentient
life forms, so we are bound to wake up on a planet that's just
right. This observational bias works against the Copernicus
principle. Our case may seem typical, but it might actually be
A long string of coincidences seems to
needed for life. Primordial anti-gravity, nuclear and electrical
forces, the strength of molecular bonds — all just right for
us. The Earth almost froze over several times but recovered each
time, unlike Venus or Mars, and for the last half billion years
we've had good weather. Catastrophes have set us back but not
wiped us out.
David Waltham says there are three possible
explanations for all this: God, Gaia, and Goldilocks. God is
inscrutable. Gaia says living things somehow control the
thermostat. And Goldilocks says it's just dumb luck that Earth
is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.
seals the case for Goldilocks. It is most unusual for a small
planet to have such a huge moon. The Moon stabilized the Earth's
spin to give us fairly long days and regular seasons to defrost
the poles. Had it been only slightly different, we wouldn't be
A Goldilocks moon is unlikely. Earth might be
unique in the visible universe. We could be alone.
AR Usually with such "fine-tuning"
arguments, we find good reasons later to dispute them. My guess
is that the Moon story is far from over. See a book I recently
The Beginning and the End by Clément Vidal (Springer 2014).
2014 May 4
Manifesto for Europe
Thomas Piketty and 14 others
The European Union is in
crisis. The eurozone countries are mired in distrust and the
debt crisis is far from over. The existing EU institutions are
dysfunctional and need to be rebuilt. Democracy and the public
authorities must regain control of globalized financial
capitalism. Our proposals:
To bring tax justice and political will into the globalization
process, Eurozone countries must share their corporate income
tax (CIT). A sovereign European authority needs to establish a
common tax base. Each country might then continue to set its own
CIT rate on this common base.
To approve the tax base for the CIT, we must establish a
parliamentary chamber for the eurozone. A new European chamber,
based on grouping a portion of the national MPs and representing
the states through their national parliaments, would complement
the existing European parliament.
To put the debt crisis behind us, we need to pool the debts of
the eurozone countries. Then the European Central Bank can
conduct an effective and responsive monetary policy. The pooling
of debt has already begun, but it is time to clarify the
democratic legitimacy of these mechanisms.
Europe's political institutions has all too often been pushed
aside, which ultimately means accepting the omnipotence of
market forces and competition and abandoning all hope of
controlling capitalism. We need to start a debate so that we
finally have a social and democratic Europe.
AR A post-communist manifesto!
Rabbi Myer Kripke
The New York Times
Rabbi Myer Kripke and Warren
Buffett were neighbors in Omaha. When Rabbi Kripke and his wife
Dorothy had saved about $67,000, Dorothy said: "Myer, invest the
money with your friend Warren."
When their investment had
grown to more than $25 million, they gave most of it away. They
stayed in their apartment and Rabbi Kripke remained at his
Myer Samuel Kripke was born
in 1914, in Ohio. He was ordained in 1937. He met Dorothy in a
class taught by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the
Reconstructionist movement, a branch of Judaism that stresses
the religion's historical context instead of a supernatural God,
and married her in 1937.
Rabbi Kripke died in April 2014,
aged 100. Dorothy had died in 2000. They are survived by their
two children. Their son Saul Kripke has been called the world's
greatest living philosopher.
Saul Kripke was
my logic guru from 1972 to 1977. I studied his works and was
2014 May 3
NATO and Russia
Diana Magnay, CNN
Russian President Putin's
popularity has soared since the annexation of Crimea. US
Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia of behaving in a
19th century fashion in the 21st century.
NATO had tried to make Russia a "privileged
partner" and worked with Russia on a range of issues from
counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics to submarine rescue and
Accession of Ukraine to NATO now
seems unimaginable. A membership action plan had been discussed
for both Ukraine and Georgia at the Bucharest Summit in 2008.
2014 May 2
Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, Frank Wilczek
AI research is progressing rapidly. Success in creating AI
would be the biggest event in human history. It might also be
the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks:
term: World militaries are considering autonomous weapon
— Medium term: AI may transform our economy to bring
both great wealth and great dislocation.
— Longer term: An
explosive transition is possible, triggering the
Richard C. Lewontin
The J. Craig Venter Institute
works with fuel companies and the pharmaceutical industry to
create microorganisms to produce new fuels and vaccines. Craig
Venter: "There's not a single aspect of human life that doesn't
have the potential to be totally transformed by these
technologies in the future."
By one estimate, 2% of the US economy at present
is derived from genetic engineering and synthetic biology. This
proportion is growing at an annual rate of 12%. We see such
genetically engineered products as corn and tomatoes, and new
microorganisms for detecting toxic environmental pollutants.
By manipulating the genomes of plants and animals we could,
in principle, increase the productivity of farms and forests, of
lakes, rivers, and seas, which would be of benefit to human
existence. The NSF and the NIH depend on scientific experts to
decide which research programs should be funded.
Between 2007 and 2013, Poland received
£56 billion in EU development funds. The 2014-20 EU budget
earmarks £60 billion more for the Poles. Also, Polish farmers
receive billions in EU agricultural subsidies. Poland joined the
EU in 2004. In 2003 Polish GDP was £130 billion. By 2013 it was
£305 billion. GDP per capita rose from 44% of the EU average to
67% today and may reach 74% by 2020.
Young Poles today
travel to study and work all over Europe. After the fall of
Communism, times were hard and Poles were often coarse and gruff
in their behavior. A decade of EU money has helped to civilize
them. Foreigners no longer need fear attack by skinheads. But
some Poles say Polish traditions are being eroded by nihilistic
western pop culture. Poland is 99.9% white and 95% Roman
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw
Sikorski was educated at Oxford and a member of the Bullingdon
Club. Now he is seen as a possible successor to EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Poland is the only EU
country to share a border with both Russia and Ukraine. As a
NATO member, it dispatched troops into combat zones in both
Afghanistan and Iraq. Now Polish security doctrine envisions an
end to foreign wars in favor of homeland defense. Sikorski:
"NATO needs to go back to basics because whereas conflict inside
the European Union has become unthinkable, conflict on the
periphery of the European Union is not just all too thinkable
but is rather a very concerning reality."
Sikorski delivered a speech near Oxford: "I was making the same
argument about the EU as the UK government makes about remaining
in Scotland: Together we're stronger."
AR Britain should stay in the EU.
2014 May 1
Barbara J. King
Anthropologist Eduardo Kohn worked
among the Runa people in the Upper Amazonian forest: "Tropical
forests amplify and thus can make more apparent to us, the ways
Kohn invites us to see how forest creatures
without language think, represent the world, and make meaning on
their own. When we link signs with all of life, we break out
beyond "the conflation of representation with language" that
characterizes most of anthropology. Thinking goes on in the
forest, but not because of human agency: "The world beyond the
human is not a meaningless one made meaningful by humans."
This perspective carries with it enormous power for any
society that wants to break out of the solipsism of considering
linguistic mediation of the world as a sort of evolutionary
pinnacle. Kohn stresses his certainty that of all thinking
creatures, only humans are moral. This distinction implicates us
uniquely in a web of responsibility toward the living world.
AR Forests think on Pandora: see
To most of the people who have ever
lived, belief in god comes naturally. Certain features of human
psychology that evolved for non-religious reasons also create
fertile ground for god. So when people encounter religious
stories and claims, they find them intuitively appealing and
Analytical atheism is one route to irreligion.
It flourishes in places where people are exposed to science and
logic. Apathetic atheism is for people who don't need the
comfort of belief in god. Religion thrives on existential angst,
and as societies become more prosperous and stable, people don't
Pascal Boyer claims that atheism is
psychologically impossible because of the way humans think. Even
people who claim to be committed atheists hang on to traces of
religion, such as belief in an immortal soul. We need to find
new solutions to the perennial problems of life that religion
tries to solve.
can change: see
||© J. Andrew Ross