Aristotle said there were two kinds
of joy: hedonia (having fun) and eudaimonia (helping others and doing
good work). The
latter is more likely to last.
Researchers studied a group of teenagers to
see whether their reactions to eudaimonic or hedonic rewards
correlated with how depressed they felt over time. Brain scans
of the teens while choosing a hedonic reward or a eudaimonic one
and while playing a hedonic game of chance were compared with
self-reported depressive symptoms both initially and again a
year later. Teens whose brain responded more to the eudaimonic
choice showed declines in depressive symptoms. Teens who liked
the hedonic game grew more depressed.
2014 St George's Day
The threat of radical Islam is growing. It
is destabilizing communities and even nations. It is undermining
the possibility of peaceful coexistence in an era of
We have to take sides. Underneath the
turmoil is a struggle between:
Those with a modern view of the Mideast, one of pluralistic
societies and open economies,
attitudes and patterns of globalization are embraced
● Those who want to impose an
ideology born out of a belief that there is one proper religion
one proper view of it, and that this
view should, exclusively, determine the nature of society
and the political economy.
There speaks a militant Christian.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Philosophy is not a
science. Philosophy once claimed physics, cosmology, biology,
psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and mathematical logic.
But the view of philosophy as failed or immature science denies
it the possibility of progress, as does the view of philosophy
as a species of literature. Philosophy is really about rendering
our human points of view ever more coherent.
we give in accounting for our behavior make no mention of the
selfish gene. Coherence work of the moral kind commits us to
making ourselves coherent to others. Having reasons means being
prepared to share them. The progress in our moral reasoning has
worked to widen both the kinds of reasons we offer and the group
to whom we offer them. This is progress.
AR For me, philosophy is cognitive
integration of science and human values.
2014 April 22
UK PM David Cameron is under attack
for saying that Britons should be "more confident about our
status as a Christian country". Critics say Britain is less
Christian: 59% of those in England and Wales said they were
Christian in 2011, compared with 72% in 2001. Parliamentary
researchers predict that there will be more non-believers than
Christians in the UK by 2030.
National Secular Society president Terry
Sanderson: "If you put forward the idea that this is a Christian
country with the implicit idea that Christians are somehow
superior to other citizens then its leads down a dangerous path
of prioritizing one group's belief ahead of others."
Catholic bishop Mark Davies: "Christianity is the single most
important element in England's history. From our legal system to
our constitution, it is at the very foundations of national
AR History is not
destiny. The UK is a secular institution.
will examine allegations that radical Islamists had sought to
infiltrate the governing bodies of secular schools in
Birmingham. Head teachers were said to be pressured into
segregating pupils, abandoning un-Islamic sections of the
biology syllabus, and neglecting non-Muslim pupils. Birmingham
MP Khalid Mahmood: "There is most definitely a plot by a small
group of individuals and the plot actually affects the majority
of the Muslim community in Birmingham."
Former UK Home
Secretary Jack Straw: "The parents have to accept … that we also
live in the United Kingdom and that alongside values that are
religiously based, there has to be a clear understanding that
this is the UK, and there are a set of values, that are indeed
Christian based, which permeate our sense of citizenship."
AR This needs firm action fast.
No Islamic schools for British kids!
More than 200 projects to rebuild Britain
by improving the roads and rail network, broadband coverage, and
flood defenses will begin this year, say prime minister David
Cameron and chancellor George Osborne. Taking advantage of
improving economic figures before European and local elections,
they will announce £36 billion of new investment in
infrastructure this financial year. More than 200 schemes are to
be completed in 2014-15. Most of the £36 billion costs are being
covered by the private sector.
Cameron: "Ensuring Britain
has first-class infrastructure is a crucial part of our long
term economic plan: supporting business, creating jobs and
providing a better future for hardworking people."
AR Buying votes, but that's OK if
they resurface the roads I use before my car wears out.
2014 April 21
A Mystical Moment
In 1959, when I was 17, I stepped
out alone one day and and saw the world suddenly flame into
life. This was a furious encounter with a living substance that
was too vast and violent to hold on to, too beautiful to let go
of. I felt ecstatic and somehow completed.
the range of people reporting such experiences is wide. On the
religious end of the spectrum, people have tended to describe
their experiences as encounters with familiar deities or
spirits, while nonbelievers are likely to speak of a more
generic living presence.
One explanation is that such
experiences represent some sort of encounter. My scientific
training nudged me to consider this possibility. The universe
could be pulsing with a kind of life, and capable of bursting
into something that looks to us momentarily like the flame.
2014 Easter Sunday
Atheism is now about more than just not
believing in God. Today it aspires to a
moral system too. The
problem is that our morality has religious roots. When God is
rejected, the entire moral tradition of the West is put in
question. This was the insight of Friedrich Nietzsche. What we
mean by good and bad is rooted in Christianity.
Dawkins says humans have evolved to be altruistic. He believes
that morality is natural, yet he believes in moral progress. He
explains that there has been a major advance in our moral
conventions "from biological science, especially evolution". But
biological science and evolution can be used to authorize
eugenics and racism. The real issue is the triumph of humanism,
an ideology of equality.
A.C. Grayling says humanism is
necessarily anti-religious: with the withering of religion, "an
ethical outlook which can serve everyone everywhere, and can
bring the world together into a single moral community, will at
last be possible". He claims that humanism naturally arises from
clear unprejudiced thought about human life. But the
universalism of modern humanism is rooted in Christianity.
Terry Eagleton says rational humanism is
rooted in the Protestant passion for reform: the Enlightenment
"inherited its brave campaign against superstition partly from
Christianity itself, with its rejection of all false gods and
prophets, all idols, fetishes, magical rituals, and powers of
darkness, in the name of human flesh and blood".
AR Historically, Eagleton is right.
Kingdom Tower, Saudi Arabia: 1 km high,
building starts next week
And of politics?
MIT Tech Rev
MIT Human Dynamics Lab director Alex
Pentland says in his new book
Social Physics that our enhanced ability to gather
behavioral data will enable scientists to develop a causal
theory of social structure and ultimately discover the basic
mechanisms of social interaction.
2014 April 19
Are Atheists the New Mormons?
The American Atheists are gathering
in Salt Lake City for their annual conclave. The event is taking
place at a downtown Hilton, just three blocks away from Temple
Square, spiritual and administrative capital of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The convention opens on
Good Friday and concludes on Easter.
AA PR director Dave
Muscato: "We can actually get quite a bargain at convention
centers, because few other groups want to have a convention on
Easter weekend." He explains that the goal of the convention is
to reach suppressed atheists in Salt Lake City, not to convert
Mormons. The convention is intriguing for three reasons:
1 Atheists and Mormons are both
American insiders and persistent outsiders, trying to assert a
public identity while holding principles that baffle most
Americans. The LDS church mixes Protestantism with new rituals
and founding documents by a New York-born prophet. Meanwhile,
the AA has helped transform atheism from a theological position
to a movement, an identity, and a culture.
2 The two groups occupy, in many
ways, a position of social privilege. Both groups are
overwhelmingly white, comprise about 2% of the American
population, and tend to be more affluent than the American
population as a whole. Close to two-thirds of those who identify
as atheist or agnostic are men. Both Mormons and organized
atheists have a history of heavily male-skewed leadership.
3 The LDS and AA both have good
PR. BYU scholar J.B. Haws says new LDS campaigns are "less
scripted, and a little more trying to individualize Mormonism"
than previous outreach efforts. Recent AA billboards took the
"I'm a Mormon" campaign and recast it as "I'm an atheist" with
atheists looking friendly and ordinary. Muscato says they were
"supposed to be cute" but not meant to anger Mormons.
AR What a fun idea!
2014 April 17
The Times has grossly misled the British
public in its smear campaign against me. The use by The Times of
the word "expenses" is a deliberate and cynical attempt to
conflate the anger over MPs expenses with the way that MEPs
work. All MEPs are given a fixed allowance of £3,580 per month.
They do not have to provide receipts for any of that
expenditure. Like other UK MEPs, I publish a list of the types
of things on which the allowance is spent. I recognize that it
is public money. I have always said that I will use all legal
means to get us out of the EU, and I make absolutely no
apologies for using EU money to do it.
2014 April 16
Nigel Farage and other UKIP officials tried
to silence colleagues who questioned how UKIP handled its funds.
Farage called a senior female UKIP official a "stupid woman" and
told her to "shut up" when she asked for an independent audit
into party finances. He dismissed criticism over his EU spending
as "yet another politically motivated attack".
faces an investigation into a "missing" £60,000 in EU
allowances. Former UKIP member Ian Gillman was once "physically
threatened" for airing concerns. Tony Ellwood witnessed the
threat and said that when he was asked to reconcile the UKIP
accounts he found that 95% of its funds were being withdrawn as
cash for unknown purposes.
Former UKIP national treasurer
Bruce Lawson said he was "wholly uncomfortable" with how UKIP
MEPs handled allowances. He wrote to Farage: "MEPs [get] an
office allowance of about £30,000. No receipts are required ...
everyone relies on the MEPs' honesty. There are no checks that
any of them actually do repay this money."
MEPs vote in
the European Parliament today on a plan to reform European
AR So UKIP may be
corrupt. And the EU is beset with corruption. What's new?
Cannabis Alters Brain
Harvard Medical School researchers
scanned the brains of 20 students who used cannabis casually and
compared them with those of 20 who had never used it. They found
changes in areas involved in emotion, motivation, and addiction.
Rethink Mental Illness chief executive Mark Winstanley: "For
too long cannabis has been seen as a safe drug, but as this
study suggests, it can have a really serious impact on your
mental health. Research also shows that when people smoke
cannabis before the age of 15, it quadruples their chance of
Imperial College London professor
David Nutt: "Whatever cannabis does to the brain, it's not in
the same league as alcohol, which is a proven neurotoxin."
AR What are the psychosocial
data for people who smoke cannabis at age 15? Nutt is right.
2014 April 15
Ali A. Rizvi
Extremism in any ideology is an
informed, steadfast adherence to its fundamentals. In a true
religion of peace, the extremists would be nonviolent pacifists
to an extreme. The main reason that terrorism is linked with
Islam is that jihadi terrorists link themselves with Islam.
Parts of their religion undeniably promote armed jihad.
New atheists judge religions by the contents of their sacred
texts. Reading the Abrahamic holy books reveals endorsements of
virtually all the oppressive and discriminatory systems that
civil and human rights movements have tried to dismantle over
time: patriarchy, misogyny, slavery, tribalism, xenophobia,
totalitarianism, and homophobia.
Ethnicity, gender, age,
nationality, educational status, financial status, citizenship
status, marital status, and family background have little to do
with Islamist terrorism. The only common denominator is Islamic
belief and religious fervor, which is not a race or ethnicity.
Muslims use the "Islamophobia" label against critics of bigotry.
2014 April 14
Sam and Dan Harris
was skeptical about meditation. My parents are both physicians
and scientists at academic hospitals in the Boston area, and my
wife is also a scientist and a physician. I was raised in a very
secular environment. I work out because I want to take care of
my health, and meditation seemed like it could fall in the same
bucket. But my first taste of it was miserable.
SH Imagine that the goal of
meditation is to see your own reflection clearly in each moment.
You are looking through the very thing you are trying to find.
People who have done a lot of meditation practice often develop
a misconception that the truth is somewhere deep within. But
non-duality is right on the surface. You just need to know where
to look. The trick is to become sensitive to what consciousness
is like the instant you try to turn it upon itself.
Consciousness is already free of the ego, the thinker.
DH Most people will see the value of
having more self-awareness so that they can have more emotional
intelligence. However, I don't know that it will be apparent to
most people why it would be desirable to see the self as an
SH The illusoriness
of the self is potentially of great interest to everyone,
because this false construct really is our most basic problem in
My book is a great prolog to
AR Sam and Dan are
not related, apparently.
DDG-1000 USS Zumwalt, christened Saturday, displaces 15 000 tons and
cost $3 billion. The stealth destroyer features electric propulsion and
will mount a Mach 7 electromagnetic rail gun, currently in
development, and perhaps a future laser weapon.
On April 15, 1945, SAS Lieutenant John
Randall was the first British soldier to drive into the Nazi
concentration camp at Belsen. One prisoner he spoke to was
a Hungarian girl called Mady Goldgruber. Six decades later, John
and Mady met again in London and talked for hours.
I believe that the United States should
maintain an overwhelming military edge over all potential
rivals, and that we ought to be willing to use our military
power in defense of our ideals as well as our interests. Global
stability depends on US global leadership. This costs money: US defense spending in 2012 surpassed that of China,
Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany,
Italy, and Brazil combined.
Borough of Poole
"People hardly ever give up
their freedom, including their
rights to kill and impoverish each other, unless forced to
do so, and virtually the only
force strong enough to bring
about has been defeat
in war, or fear that such a
Vikings: Life and Legend
2014-03-06 — 2014-06-22
NASA spacecraft Cassini suggests Saturn moon Enceladus
has a subsurface water ocean. Enceladus is about 500 km across
and at the north pole has an ice shell 50 km thick over solid
rock. The south pole ice is thinner, over an ocean 10 km deep.
Mens agitat molem
2014 April 13
Many think Europe and the United
States provoked President Putin into annexing Crimea. But his belligerence stems from problems at home.
Despite recent high global oil prices, he presides over an
economy in reverse. Russia's current account surplus will
disappear this year, capital outflows amounted to $63 billion
last year, and growth is projected to fall in 2014 to 0.6%.
Putin's notion of national security is to surround Russia
with a string of economic black holes (such as Ukraine and
Belarus) and frozen conflicts (as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, and
South Ossetia). These areas depend on Russia for their economic
survival and hinder Russian economic growth. Europe and
the United States should not accept the way Russia threatens
Capitalism Isn't Working
Rising wealth inequality imperils the
future of capitalism. Once the return on capital exceed the real
growth of wages and output, the stock of capital will rise as a
share of output. Inequality of wealth in the West is broadly
twice the inequality of income. Historically, war and depression
arrested the inequality dynamic and progressive taxes kept
social peace. But now the process of capital concentration is
accelerating on a global scale.
Almost no new entrepreneurs can make
enough new money to challenge existing concentrations of wealth.
Property owners will get richer in an era when the returns
exceed those of wages and output. Their incentive is to be a
rentier rather than take risks. The rich can forget frontier
innovation or investment in production. They just need to
harvest their returns and tax breaks, and tax shelters and
compound interest will do the rest.
The rich protect
their wealth from taxation, so the burden of paying for public
goods such as education, health, and housing is increasingly
shouldered by average taxpayers. Wealth inequality thus becomes
a recipe for sluggish rentier economies, tougher working
conditions, and degraded public services. No solution is in
should be as eager as socialists to avert a plunge into the
2014 April 12
Germans understand little about the
Russians. Russophiles say that the West
slighted Russia after the Cold War and that Moscow is now taking
revenge. They say we should be more inclusive of Russia. We did
that in 1996 when, in the midst of a war in Chechnya that had
been launched by Moscow, Russia applied for membership in the
Council of Europe. The appeasers said it would prevent Moscow
from any further acts of military force. The second Chechen war
began three years later.
German finance minister Wolfgang
Schäuble compared the occupation of Crimea with the Nazi
occupation of the ethnic German Sudetenland in the former
Czechoslovakia. Of course it is absurd to compare Putin with
Hitler. But the coverage on Russian television leading up to the
annexation of Crimea, with all its lies and agitation, was
reminiscent of Joseph Goebbels.
Germany needs a new way to deal with Russia.
AR We all do.
2014 April 11
I contend that consciousness is the way
information feels when processed in certain complex ways. Giulio
Tononi argues that for an information processing system to be
conscious, its information must be integrated into a unified
whole. This is his integrated information theory (IIT).
IIT explains why the cerebellum is unconscious. The cerebellum
is mainly a collection of feed-forward neural networks, but
without feedback there is no integration and no consciousness.
For many integrated systems, one can design a functionally
equivalent feed-forward system that IIT says is unconscious. So
zombies that behave like a human yet lack conscious can exist.
But systems with feedback typically require far fewer
computational resources than their zombie equivalents, so
evolution has made us conscious.
IIT says why we are
unconscious during seizures, sedation and deep sleep, but not
REM sleep. Although our neurons work during sedation and deep
sleep, their interactions are weakened, reducing integration and
consciousness. During a seizure, the interactions between
neurons get too strong, reducing their independent information
content. A consciousness index (CI) measured from EEG traces
showed that awake and dreaming people had high CI, and those
sedated or in deep sleep had low CI.
IIT is based on
bits. But there should be a way of identifying consciousness
from the particle motions alone. A conscious system must strike
a balance between too little integration and too much.
our neurons form a Hopfield network, they can only support about
37 bits of integrated information. Viewing them as a quantum
system, I calculate the maximum drops to about 0.25 bits. We
seem to be conscious of more than that.
As Max says, IIT is not fundamental. The feedback
criterion for escaping zombie status would delight Douglas
Hofstadter because it confirms the relevance of strange loops.
It would interest David Chalmers because it lets us prove we are
not zombies. I explored the loop theory in my 2009 book
2014 April 10
How Western Is Germany?
Germans and Russians have a
special relationship. The connection reaches deep into German
history. German families still share stories of cruel, but also
kindhearted and soulful Russians. So for Germany, the Ukraine
crisis goes right to the core of the question of German
Some Germans charge that the EU and NATO
snubbed Moscow with their recent eastward expansion. Germans
have always idealized Russia, and they were thrilled when
glasnost and perestroika brought the end of the Cold War.
Finally it was acceptable to love Russia again.
opposition to Western superficiality is seen as part of the
Russian soul. During the First World War, Thomas Mann sought to
differentiate Germany from the West: "Being German means
culture, soul, freedom, art and not civilization, society, the
right to vote, literature."
War guilt created a link
between Germans and Russians, with the Second World War as an
experience shared on both sides. After 1945, the Eastern way of
thinking was pushed aside in West Germany, but Russia remained a
country of longing for East Germans.
Old questions about
a special role for Germany have resurfaced. No German would
question membership in the EU or NATO, but in the Ukraine crisis
almost half of all Germans want the country to adopt the middle
ground between Russia and the West.
The ultra-Orthodox young men at the
Hebron Yeshiva are holding out against plans to draft them into
the Israeli military and the workforce, and to make them follow
the Zionist ideology of the state. The young men at the yeshiva
say they are fulfilling the divine will by spending their days
poring over sacred texts. But many secular Israelis call them
Secular Israelis face 3 years of mandatory
military service from age 18 and reserve duty for another 20
years. The Israeli Knesset has now passed the Equal Service
Bill, which would draft many yeshiva students and reverse their
Ultra-Orthodox haredim say their
learning and prayers help defend Israel. Yeshiva student Moshe
Saler: "The Torah holds the world together, and because of the
Torah and prayers, the IDF succeeds.''
say they would rather go to jail than serve. Yeshiva student
Yaacov Halevy: "I hope I go to jail. That is my aspiration if
those are the choices. Even if the army provides a framework for
haredim, it will not satisfy us because we have a central goal
in life: studying Torah."
Following the last Israeli elections, the secularist Yesh
Atid party became part of the ruling coalition. Yesh Atid
education minister Shai Peron: ''Military and civilian service
is a symbol. It is one of the symbols of the togetherness, of
the nationalism of Zionism. In dodging and evasion there is a
divorcing from the Israeli public life.''
AR Many of us want to study all day.
I say no legal exceptions on religious grounds.
The Story of the Jews
Simon Schama starts in the early fifth
century BC, moves into the rise of Christianity and the growth
of a rich Jewish tradition of philosophy and law in the Arabic
language, and concludes in 1492 in Spain. For the encounter of
the Jews with Greeks and Romans he relies upon the account of
Jesus of Nazareth is part
of the story of the Jews. The Greeks who listened to Paul had instant access to
Greek versions of the Hebrew Bible. Christians accepted the
Hebrew Bible as sacred scripture.
The arrival of Islam as
a new monotheist religion in the seventh century was fraught
with consequences for Jews. The new faith was not only
monotheist but recognized that it shared this conviction with
the Jews. The future of the Jews after the Islamic conquests was
tied to the new faith and its language.
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon wrote with equal facility in Arabic and
Hebrew. He became known in Hebrew as Rambam and in Western
languages as Maimonides. He settled in Cairo, where his
authority made him effectively the Rabbi of all Israel in the
Islamic world. Maimonides made a compendium of written and oral
law known as the Mishneh Torah. Jews and Muslims agreed about
bug is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL
cryptographic software library. This weakness allows stealing
the information protected, under normal conditions, by the
SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet.
The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the
Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the
vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises
the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to
encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users, and
the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on
communications, steal data directly from the services and users
and to impersonate services and users.
As long as the
vulnerable version of OpenSSL is in use it can be abused. Fixed
OpenSSL has been released and now it has to be deployed.
2014 April 9
British researcher Stuart Parkin has been awarded
the €1 million Millennium Technology Prize for his research into
spintronics in hard drives.
Spintronics uses the magnetic
spin of electrons to store bits, and is "one of the most
successful fields of nanotechnology yet," said award sponsor
Technology Academy Finland (TAF). Parkin's innovations have led
to a huge expansion of data acquisition and storage capacities.
TAF: "Another key spintronics advance is magnetoresistive
random-access memory (MRAM), which Parkin proposed in 1995. This
technology is based on magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) memory
cells. The MTJ, a close cousin of the GMR spin valve, has become
standard in hard disk drive read heads."
Japanese researchers found a way to use
nonvolatile spin-transfer torque magnetoresistive random access
memory (STT-MRAM) technology to create faster computers back in
2001. Now Japanese researcher Koji Ando says: "STT-MRAM no
longer requires an electromagnetic coil for both writing and
reading information. We're excited by this paradigm shift and
are working on developing a variety of technologies for
next-generation electronics devices."
consume zero power during inactive intervals would find use in
mobile computing and wearable or embedded electronics.
AR From electronics to spintronics
to photonics — physics just keeps on giving.
A spreadsheet is a giant grid of rows and
columns filled with letters and numbers and symbols. It gives
you countless tools for manipulating and reformating this data,
but these are relics of a time when computing was the domain of
engineers and geeks willing to tinker with their software.
Two Stanford dropouts and a former investment banker hope to
change this. Ari Dyckovsky and Ryan Atallah, both 20, quit
Stanford to found Arktos. Dyckovsky had done quantum
entanglement research and then worked as a quantitative
researcher, or quant, at a stock market outfit. Atallah had
interned at Facebook. Andrew Vigneault, 24, brought a college
degree to the mix and experience in the world of venture capital
and investment banking. Arktos has no product and no funding,
just an idea.
The idea is to create a tool that lets you
organize data in what are essentially nested images. Dyckovsky
calls this a data browser. You see no more than you need to
understand the data at hand. Arktos aims to bring data analysis
to our personal devices.
AR My SAP team made such a tool. We
offered a dashboard where CEO types could play around with huge
multidimensional cubes of their business data to get to know it
at the gut level. But we needed some awesome hardware behind the
Dorset millionaire beach peninsula
Sandbanks is now the world's fourth most expensive place to
live. But some of the millionaires are furious.
Robert Syms (Conservative) says constituents are angry at
revelers who hire houses for a weekend and bring extras ranging
from naked butlers and prostitutes to inflatable phalluses and
flying beer bottles. Current laws fail to halt the "party house"
fad plaguing Sandbanks, and homeowners now dread Friday nights
when carloads of rowdies show up for the weekend.
"I really think this needs to be acted upon, otherwise the
situation will get worse and I fear that the anger of my
constituents is such that some of them will take the law into
their own hands, because they spend all their life working for a
home and they find it's being disturbed weekend after weekend
after weekend. It is running people down and they are very angry
AR My jogging trail,
my MP, my sympathies.
2014 April 8
We have not intervened in Syria. The
consequences will be a huge problem not just for the Mideast
region, but for us in the years to come.
You have to
compare the fact and the consequences of intervention with the
fact and the consequences of non-intervention. Supposing you had
left Saddam. Arguably, you would have had the Arab spring come
to Iraq. If it had come to Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria,
it was going to come to Iraq and you would be facing what you
are facing in Syria now in Iraq. When you remove the
dictatorship, that is the beginning not the end.
AR ME horrorshow — keep out.
Stressed? Ask: "What would Liam Neeson
do?" Neeson represents everything decent and honorable about a
man who doesn't fret. One thing that Neeson wouldn’t do if he
were a little stressed at work, say, dealing with an airborne
hostage situation or disarming a nuke, is get in a huddle with
his work colleagues, steep a teabag, and politely begin fielding
Neeson would make an executive
decision. He would trust his fast thinking: your first instinct
is the right one. Like the very best chess players, strong,
silent men succeed. Look at Clint Eastwood. Or James Bond.
Dealing with stress is all about making clear, concise decisions
rather than endless wittering. And, yes, sometimes this means
raising your voice.
Rachel Delia Benaim
The SermonSlam aims to give Jews
an outlet to explore Jewish thought and ideas through spoken
word poetry. The second SermonSlam in New York featured 16
performers. Their given topic was freedom.
Martin, who introduced himself as Mo, was the winner. He gave
a heartfelt sermon that intertwined ideas about the
freedom of the Jews with his own experience at a mental health
SermonSlam is the brainchild of David Zvi Kalman,
26, a graduate student in Jewish and Islamic law at the
University of Pennsylvania.
Another SermonSlam was held
last week in California. Future slams are scheduled in other
cities. Columbia Medical School student Raphy Rosen: "It's
publicizing the word of God."
2014 April 7
My foundation, the Africa Governance
Initiative, has been operating in Rwanda since 2008. Progress
has been extraordinary.
When the new government took
power in 1994, Rwanda was a shell of a nation. Some 800 000
people had been killed in 100 days of genocide, and millions
more displaced from their homes. Security and stability came
first, with humanitarian relief, and then improved health,
education, and incomes.
In little over five years, more
than a million Rwandans have lifted themselves out of poverty.
The proportion of children dying before their fifth birthday has
more than halved, and when they reach seven years old, they can
nearly all go to school. Most of the population is covered by
health insurance, and malaria deaths have fallen. Rwandans are
united in patriotism and belief in the government.
Vikings waged war against the
Anglo-Saxons from the time of their first recorded raid on the
British east coast in 789 CE. These escalated by 865 CE into
invasions by hundreds of ships bent on conquest and settlement.
The kings of East Anglia and Northumbria were defeated and
apparently killed in a ritual known as "the blood-eagle" in
which the victim's lungs were ripped out of his ribcage and
draped on his shoulders like wings. In 1002, the Anglo-Saxon
king Ethelred the Unready ordered the deaths of all Danes in his
kingdom. The Vikings stormed and sacked the city of Canterbury
in 1011. They held the archbishop as a hostage, then beat him to
death at a drunken feast.
Scott A. Sandage
Failure is a gift that keeps on
giving. Sarah Lewis: "Managing the gap between vision and work,
which often looks to others like being swallowed by failure, is
a lifelong process."
Failing well is the best revenge.
Megan McArdle: "Failing well can't be that hard, because America
spent several centuries being really good at it. We're the
descendants of failures who fled to these shores from their
creditors, their failed farms, their disastrous love affairs."
2014 April 6
President François Hollande named a
new government last week. Ségolène Royal, the mother of his four
children, now heads the environment super ministry. In the three
decades of their relationship she was suspected of wearing the
trousers — in those days his nickname was "Monsieur Royal" — and
there is mirthful speculation about whether she will end up back
in the cockpit.
New prime minister Manuel Valls will
outline a rescue plan for cuts of €50 billion before parliament
next week. The new economy minister is Arnaud Montebourg, a
former criminal lawyer with a taste for oratory and a hatred of
globalization, whose conquests range from TV anchor Audrey
Pulvar to actress Elsa Zylberstein. Finance minister Michel
Sapin worries that Montebourg could derail his job of convincing Brussels that France is
In an admission of socialist failure,
President François Hollande has appointed Manuel Valls as
France's new prime minister. Valls built his reputation as
interior minister by clamping down on undesirables. He said the
Roma should be deported, razed squatter camps, and supports
anti-Muslim measures such as the ban on women wearing veils and
restrictions on the sale of halal meat.
Ségolène Royal, the mother of his four children, as new
environment and energy minister. Royal was rejected in
parliamentary elections in 2012 and in the presidential poll
five years earlier.
will turn right and give Muslims a hard time.
2014 April 5
Norway (pop. 5 million), Liechtenstein
(pop. 36 000), and Iceland (pop. 326 000) are members of the
European Economic Area. EEA membership has some of the pros and
most of the cons of being in the European Union.
Norway has had
to implement 75% of EU laws and its total financial contribution
to the EU each year is about €340 million. Norway pays more per
capita to the EU than the UK does. Unlike the UK, Norway is also
a signatory of the Schengen Agreement, which scrapped internal
Switzerland (pop. 8 million) makes its own
bilateral deals with the EU. It is under no obligation to
implement all EU internal market legislation. It has a free
trade agreement in goods with the EU but no agreement on
services, including financial services. And it contributes about
€450 million a year to the EU budget.
Inside the EU or
out, the UK will have to follow EU rules and regulations.
Eurosceptics say they like the single market but not the EU
regulations. There is no single market without regulations. EU
members can change them.
2014 April 4
After the recent Dutch election,
Geert Wilders took to the stage when his Party for Freedom (PVV)
won seven seats: "Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this
city and in the Netherlands?" His supporters: "Fewer! Fewer!
Fewer!" Wilders: "We'll take care of that."
Wilders won over
voters with promises of a European alliance of right-wing MEPs
who would bring down the European Union. The alliance includes
PVV, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, and the National Front in France.
Parties in Italy, Austria, and Sweden may join too. UKIP leader
Nigel Farage has declined. A quarter of the vote at the European
Parliament elections in May could go to protest parties.
Arun Kundnani sees two dominant
security approaches to Muslim citizens: culturalist and
reformist. Culturalists see Islam as a totalitarian culture or
ideology incompatible with democratic modernity. Reformists see
the problem as a perversion of Islamic doctrine and categorize
Muslims as extremists or moderates. Both culturalism and
reformism neglect the basic political question. British Muslims
were ghettoized as a result of industrial collapse,
discriminatory housing policies, and fear of racist violence.
The new European far right embraces Zionism and Islamophobia.
The Turin Shroud is a piece of linen
cloth imprinted with the faint image of a naked man with what
appear to be streams of blood running down his arms, and other
wounds. Some believe it wrapped the body of Jesus after
crucifixion. Carbon dating suggests the shroud is a medieval
Researchers have found that the marks on the shroud correspond
to a crucifixion only if the arms hung above the head in a Y and
not a T pose. Someone crucified in this way would die from
asphyxiation. Similar positions were used during medieval
torture. A forger making the shroud must have been skilled to
create the correct blood spatter for a crucifixion.
2014 April 3
Farage Versus Clegg
UK deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg
faced UKIP leader Nigel Farage for a second BBC TV debate.
Farage won the debate on personality and sound bites but took a
position with many weak points. Clegg floundered and was often
reduced to rhetorical hyperbole defending a reasonable and
potentially strong case. Outtakes:
"You were absolutely hellbent on getting involved militarily in
the war in Syria, and I personally am delighted we didn't go to
war in Syria, and we're not going to get involved, I hope, in
military conflict in the Ukraine. The British people have had
enough of endless foreign military interventions."
NC "I just think if your hatred of all things
to do with the European Union leads to such a morally perverse
conclusion — that you admire the one leader in the world who
could have reined in President Assad — it really shows quite how
extreme his views have become."
British people have had enough of endless foreign military
interventions. I don't admire Putin. What I said was he had
outwitted and outclassed you all over Syria."
"Nigel Farage doesn't want to work with the Americans, to work
with the EU, he only wants to work with Vladimir Putin."
NF "Let's take back control of our our borders.
Let's stop giving £55 million a day as a membership fee of a
club we don't need to be part of. Let's free ourselves up. I
know the people are behind this. Come and join the People's
Army. Let's topple the establishment that led us into this
NC "What next? Are
you going to say we should return to the gold standard or a
pre-decimal currency, or maybe get W.G. Grace to open the
batting for England again?"
NF "I want
the EU to end but I want it to end democratically. If it doesn't
end democratically, I am afraid it will end very unpleasantly.
We are already, in some countries, beginning to see the rise of
worrying political extremism. If you take away from people their
ability through the ballot box to change their futures because
they have given away control of everything to somebody else,
then I'm afraid they tend to resort to unpleasant means."
NC "I think a referendum now would put the
economic recovery at risk."
The Conservative coalition covers the left but leaves an exposed right
Last week astronomers reported the
discovery of 2012 VP113, nicknamed Biden after the US VP. This
potential dwarf planet was spotted in the inner Oort cloud. Days
later, the same team reported two more potential dwarfs: 2013
FY27 and 2013 FZ27. Both are in the Kuiper belt, which is also
home to Pluto and three other known dwarf planets. FZ27 is 50 AU
from the sun and about 600 km wide. FY27 is probably about 1000
km across and 80 AU from the sun. Astronomers suspect the Kuiper
belt is littered with dwarfs.
In the story of
Darren Aronofsky has found the quintessential thought
experiment: If God asked you to save the world, but lose your
soul, would you do it? What kind of person is able to save the
animal kingdom and his own family, but leave the rest of
humanity to drown?
Noah makes a decision that turns him
into the villain for a good bit of the film. The Ark is
basically a giant wood box. There's something heartbreaking
about watching it tumble about in the waves. During the Flood,
there are a couple of shots of the wreckage that gave me
In addition to the Bible, Aronofsky
and his co-writer Ari Handel consulted the Dead Sea Scrolls, the
Book of Enoch, and the Book of Jubilee, as well as modern
scholarly analysis. God is always referred to as the Creator.
Aronofsky insists that he is just trying to make blockbuster
2014 April 2
UK Nuclear Warheads
The UK SLBM force is based on US
Trident D5 missiles and their nuclear warheads. The reliability
of the warheads will decline, but replacing the UK warheads
would take about 17 years and cost around £4 billion at 2012
prices. After 2015, the next government may have to decide on a
The Trident entered service in Vanguard submarines in 1995.
The UK has an estimated 225 Trident warheads, now being cut to
180. Up to 120 warheads are kept operational for the Vanguard
submarines. Each submarine on patrol carries 8 active Trident
missiles and a total of 40 warheads.
The UK Atomic
Weapons Establishment (AWE) occasionally removes warheads from
the stockpile for maintenance. About once a year, a warhead is
removed for breakdown and examination. The results update an AWE
virtual warhead, which is detonated in various ways for
2014 April 1
I used to be a scientist and did a lot
of calculations. It was a competitive world, and when I got
older, I decided I wouldn't compete with the bright young people
anymore, so I write books instead.
I was trained as a
mathematician, and I remain a mathematician. That’s really my
skill, just doing calculations and applying mathematics to all
kinds of problems. I look for interesting problems that I can
solve. I translated Feynman's ideas into mathematics, and as a
result I became famous.
The next exciting thing I did was
to work with a company in California called General Atomics for
a couple of years building a spaceship. We decided we would go
around the solar system with a spaceship driven by nuclear
bombs. We were very disappointed when the Orion never flew.
I have strong views about climate. I think the majority is
wrong. We don't understand climate. The majority don't
understand what they're seeing. It will take a lot of hard work
before that question is settled.
NSW Rural Fire Service
Bush fire near Sydney, Australia
Carnegie Institution for
The paths of Oort cloud
objects 2012 VP113 (red) and Sedna (orange)
outside the Kuiper belt (cyan) around the Solar
a.k.a. Biden, is 450 km across, about half the
size of Sedna. If it is made mostly of ice, then
its gravity probably pulls it into a spherical
shape, making it a dwarf planet.
How can I be happy?
British Humanist Association
In his TV documentary
Martin Amis, 64, says he finds
being English "a source of quiet pride". But he
describes the England of his younger days.
AR It's just a
like Roger Scruton's book
England: An Elegy
Photo of me with
after my mother's
UK TOP TEN
Most Satisfying Jobs
(plus mean income)
CEOs and senior
proprietors in agriculture and horticulture
Hotel managers and proprietors
Image: Andy Gilmore
Putin and the Surgeon
Dark Sector Lab
2014 March 31
A report from the UN
intergovernmental panel on climate change concludes that climate
change is already melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the
Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to
heat waves, heavy rains, and mega-disasters. Climate change
also poses a threat to global food stocks and to human security.
could lead to dramatic drops in global wheat production as well
as reductions in maize. Fish catches in some areas of the
tropics are projected to fall by about a half. So climate change is
linked to rising food prices and political instability.
Our Climate Future
The new IPCC report is the second of
three parts of its fifth assessment of climate change. Part 1,
released last year, covered the physical science of climate
change. It stated that the climate is changing as a result of
our greenhouse gas emissions.
Part 2 focuses on how
people can adapt in the face of uncertainty. The IPCC says we
must become resilient against diverse changes in the climate:
"The natural human tendency is to want things to be clear and
simple. And one of the messages that doesn't just come from the
IPCC, it comes from history, is that the future doesn't ever
turn out the way you think it will be."
predictions include more rain in parts of Africa, more heat
waves in southern Europe, more frequent droughts in Australia,
and rising sea levels. Poverty makes the impacts worse, and the
report suggests adaptations for alleviating it. All countries
should diversify their economies, rather than relying on a few
main sources of income that could flood or blow over. Countries
should also find ways to become less vulnerable to the current
climate variability. Current global spending on adaptation is
tiny. But the unpredictability makes it difficult to prepare for
some of the threats.
Part 3, due out in April, is on how
to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions now would
give us more time to adapt to climate change, as well as a
better chance of avoiding its worst effects.
2014 March 30
We have heard for years the
predictions that the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels will
lead to an accelerated warming of the Earth. What is now
happening indicates that these predictions are coming true. Our
actions have had consequences that are deeply threatening for
many of the poorest communities in the world.
industrialized countries, including our own, have unquestionably
contributed most to atmospheric pollution. Both our present
lifestyle and the industrial history of how we created such
possibilities for ourselves have to bear the responsibility for
pushing the environment in which we live toward crisis.
Charles C. Mann
Technology for extracting the carbon
dioxide from a coal-fired power plant and channeling it away for
underground storage is known as carbon capture and storage
(CCS). At a 2008 meeting of the G8, the assembled energy
ministers backed an IEA recommendation to launch CCS
China burns almost as much coal
as the rest of the world put together. It emits a quarter of the
world's greenhouse gases. In 2006, Beijing established a
nationwide program to boost its coal production. Starting in
2010, Shenhua built a big facility to convert coal into liquid
fuel for automobiles. In 2013, the facility's CCS plant
sequestered more than 110 000 tons of CO2 in an underground
saltwater aquifer. By 2020, if all goes well, Shenhua could be
sequestering 2 million tons (2 Tg) of CO2 a year.
most developed technique for capturing CO2 is amine scrubbing.
The exhaust from burning coal is bubbled through a solution of
MEA in water. MEA bonds to the CO2 to form MEA carbamate. The
MEA carbamate and water are boiled or the pressure is lowered,
and the MEA carbamate breaks up into CO2 and MEA. The CO2 is
pumped away and the MEA is recycled.
This kind of CCS
will eat up about a quarter of the plant's thermal output. Given
that typical coal plants convert only half their thermal energy
into electricity, CCS-equipped power plants will consume a lot
Canadian CCS startup Inventys Thermal
Technologies has a better idea. A ceramic-coated drum rotates
inside power-plant smokestacks, and CO2 molecules adhere to the
drum by static electricity. Steam washes off the CO2. This
method is much cheaper than amine scrubbing.
2014 March 28
A new cold war is starting. President
Putin does not understand the west. His political technologists
have been priming Russian television viewers with alarming
images. One showed a millionaire fascist on a stage in the
Maidan (Independence Square in Kyiv, the cauldron of the
revolution) demanding that Russians be shot in the head.
When informed (incorrectly, as it turned out) that opposition
gunmen might have been responsible for the mass killings on the
Maidan in Kyiv that were the catalyst for the Ukrainian
revolution, the European Union high representative for foreign
affairs Catherine Ashton responded: "I didn't pick that up.
That's interesting. Gosh!"
Western leaders shuttled in
and out of Ukraine, taking decisions apparently way beyond their
competence. The US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland
distributed cookies to the Maidan protesters, and discussed with
her ambassador which opposition leader should become prime
minister, as though she were viceroy of Ukraine.
first decade after the collapse of the USSR was a disaster for
Russia. Putin came to the scene so inexperienced he opened
himself up to all kinds of advice. He wooed western leaders and
mused about joining NATO one day. But then he began closing down
critical media and gathering power around himself and his KGB
comrades. The west took fright and began to build up its
defenses against Russia. NATO expanded eastward. In return the
Russians started building up their own defenses.
Talbott describes the upheaval in Ukraine today as Putin's
payback to the United States for "a quarter-century of
disrespect, humiliation and diplomatic bullying".
2014 March 27
Silicon Valley has become one of the
most ageist places in America. Even the best venture capitalists
fail most of the time, so the returns on successes must be
enormous. But the veneration of youth in Silicon Valley now
seems way out of proportion to its usefulness. However much age
and experience may grind down the rest of us, it is impossible
to generalize to that tiny fraction of people so brilliant and
driven as to be capable of creating the next Google.
Noam Scheiber paints a picture of
competent entrepreneurs unable to secure venture capital on
account of their age. Silicon Valley's startup scene is an
unparalleled hub of innovation, and the industry's most
successful founders have been young. The problem is the data
set. The young may be better at large-scale innovation. Or they
may not be. We don't have enough data to make that claim, and we
have plenty of evidence to the contrary. Plenty of
entrepreneurs, engineers, and business leaders in tech can
appreciate the wisdom of age, the strength of diversity, and the
value of experience.
You may have heard that Nymphomaniac,
the new movie by Lars von Trier, is pornographic.
discovers a woman lying beaten and takes her home. She says
she's Joe, a nymphomaniac and a horrible person. He says his
name is Seligman and he is Jewish. He urges Joe to tell her
story. A conversation starts. It is the conversation between
Judaism and Christianity.
Joe is Christ inverted. At 12,
she experiences an involuntary orgasm that mirrors the
transfiguration of Jesus. Her life becomes a quest for more
perfect forms of transcendence.
Seligman is her polar
opposite. Everything he learned in life, he learned from the
books that line his apartment. He offers Joe interpretation, to
turn her endeavors from a pursuit of salvation to a sensible way
of being in the world.
The film lets us all understand
the dangers inherent in Joe's spiritual appetites. As he had in
Antichrist and Melancholia, von Trier is arguing here that our
thirst for transcendence can only lead to disaster. We may yearn
for love, but we can't handle it.
Jewish eschatology. He believes that all attempts at redemption
must focus not on some desperate thrust heavenward but on a
series of small earthly steps.
Nymphomaniac is a godly
2014 March 26
Putin Saves NATO
Vladimir Putin is almost single-handedly
saving the moribund Atlantic alliance. President Obama is only a
day or two into his European trip and it is already clear that
something is going right again. We are thinking and acting
strategically for the first time in five years. The annexation
of Crimea took the West by surprise but has not shocked it into
paralysis. We are comfortable with this kind of enemy.
Beyond The Big Bang
The BICEP2 team saw hints of
gravitational waves in the CMB from 12 Ts ABB. Planck satellite
data depict an early universe that was almost uniformly smooth,
which seems to support inflation. The Planck team saw no signs
of gravitational waves. The BICEP2 gravitational wave signal is
twice what Planck suggested.
The BICEP2 results support
the simplest models of inflation. An inflaton
particle drove the process. In the chaotic inflation model, the
inflaton that decays quickly and allows quantum fluctuations to
trigger new bursts of inflation, giving rise to other universes.
In the natural inflation model, the inflaton retains its peak
energy for longer before decaying, to explain the smoothness of
the CMB. In Higgs-like inflation, the inflaton had a scalar
field like the Higgs boson.
If the Planck team sees weak
gravitational waves, the models get more complex. In one,
inflation starts out fast and slows down abruptly. In another,
inflation was faster in one direction, explaining the "axis of
evil" in the Planck data.
Or, in a variant of
string theory, there was no inflation. Picture the cosmos as a
rolled-up piece of paper held in place with rubber bands. The
paper is a 9D universe and the rubber bands are vibrating
strings. If two strings meet, their edges can form a single,
twisted loop, and release 4D spacetime to swell to the size of
our universe today. The BICEP2 results favor this model.
AR Oh, what fun!
2014 March 25
The Internet was begun in the United
States and it is based on American technology, but it's a global
activity. We in the United States feel it reflects free people,
free ideas, and free trade. The Russians and the Chinese want to
divide the Internet up into national domains and create barriers
I'm not prepared to apologize for
conducting intelligence against another nation. I am prepared to
apologize for embarrassing a good friend. I am prepared to
apologize for the fact we couldn't keep whatever it was we may
or may not have been doing secret and therefore put a good
friend in a very difficult position. Shame on us.
Munich Security Conference it was clear to me that Germans
regard privacy the way we Americans might regard freedom of
speech or religion. I think the director of national
intelligence, the director of the CIA, and the new director of
the NSA need to put Germany very early in their travel plans and
meet with the German service.
As a professional
intelligence officer, I stand back in awe at the depth, breadth,
and persistence of the Chinese espionage effort against the West
and the United States. The differences between us and the
Chinese: We're more sophisticated and we're self-limited. I
never claimed the moral high ground.
G8 is dead — long live G7
Russia is out of
the G7 following President Putin's landgrab in Crimea. President
Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy,
Canada, and Japan decided to freeze Russia out of the G8 club,
boycott a planned G8 summit in Sochi, and meet as G7 in Brussels
AR All these Gn meetings, for n in N, are
precursors to GO meetings in
2014 March 24
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein wrote
Plato at the Googleplex to show us that figuring out how to
live a meaningful life is something very different from
understanding the meaning of special relativity or evolution.
She transports Plato into the 21st century and puts him into
fictional dialog with a variety of contemporary characters.
Goldstein's Plato is less interested in teaching those with
whom he converses than he is in helping them see that they don't
know what they think they know. In sending Plato to Google,
Goldstein deftly exposes the conceptual presumption at the heart
of what looks like the latest high-tech methodology.
Goldstein reminds us that virtually every scientific area of
inquiry began with a question or an insight from a philosopher.
The grand forward push of human knowledge requires each of us to
begin by trying to think independently, to recognize that
knowledge is more than information, to see that we are moral
2014 March 23
Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw
Inflation is the idea that
the visible universe expanded exponentially for a tiny fraction
of the first second, from a size very much smaller than an atom
to about the size of a grapefruit. The energy of the expansion
formed the particles that later formed our universe.
Cosmic microwaves have been flying free almost since the Big
Bang 13.8 billion years ago. When the universe was just under
400 000 years old, hydrogen atoms formed and there were no
longer free particles to scatter the light. The light from that
time now bathes us as microwaves. They appear much the same
wherever you look in the sky. We explain that fact with
Quantum theory predicts ripples in the fabric
of spacetime. They are stretched by inflation and dimple the
grapefruit. As the Big Bang unfolds, the ripples clump particles
together under gravity, in time leading to stars and people.
Inflation predicts the average properties of how the matter
should be distributed, and the agreement between prediction and
observation is terrific.
The BICEP2 telescope tests for
the existence of gravitational waves from the primordial
universe. BICEP2 sees their imprint on the cosmic microwaves as
a distinctive swirling pattern in their polarization. The amount
of polarization is a measure of the energy once stored in the
vacuum. BICEP2 sees a lot of swirl, so the vacuum energy was
near the grand unification energy.
have long dreamt of grand unification of the electromagnetic
force and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The forces seem to
fuse at the energy levels about a trillion times above those in
the LHC. The new results could help turn the dream into reality.
2014 March 22
Christopher de Bellaigue
Turkish prime minister Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan leads the AKP government and works in Ankara.
Turkish preacher and moral didact Fethullah Gülen lives in
seclusion in Pennsylvania and presides over an empire of
schools, businesses, and followers.
The AKP government
and the Gülen movement share a modernizing Islamist ideology,
but relations between them have deteriorated. Erdoğan has purged his entourage and replaced half his
cabinet. Thousands of policemen have been moved from their
posts, as well as judges and bureaucrats.
Before all this, in early 2013, Turkey's modernizing Islamist
current enjoyed much goodwill. Erdoğan came to power in 2003,
after a long struggle by Islamists against the country's secular
institutions. Erdoğan reformed the economy and reined in the armed
The AKP was in an unofficial coalition
with Islamists such as the movement of Fethullah
Gülen. His schools turned out well-behaved, patriotic, pious
Turks, and the government welcomed them into the bureaucratic
and business elites. The Islamists promised high standards
of ethics and behavior.
Erdoğan has reacted to the
dissatisfaction of a largely secular minority with police
violence. He talks of "false prophets, seers, and hollow
pseudo-sages" and his target is clear. Gülen, in one of his
frequent sermons broadcast to big audiences in Turkey, recently
placed a malediction on his enemies, as the Gülenist media
spread allegations of government corruption.
that he heads a movement. His followers share his vision of a modern and
tolerant Islam. He has been winning followers since he was a
young imam preaching that humanity needs to be saved from sin
and shown the path of Koranic revelation and prophetic example.
The Gülen movement controls numerous Turkish schools and
universities, proselytizes energetically, and has infiltrated
secular institutions such as the police force. The AKP
government launched a huge investigation in 2007, which ended in
2013 with the jailing of 242 people.
2014 March 21
The European Union has a resurgent rival
to its east. Russia badly needs Europe as a partner, but Putin
is positioning it as a rival. The spontaneous uprising of the
Ukrainian people must have taught Putin that his dream of
reconstituting what is left of the Russian Empire is
After the collapse of the Soviet Union,
there was a brief moment when the United States emerged as the
undisputed leader of the world. It abused its power, but the
oligarchs who control much of the Russian economy have no
confidence in the regime. That is what makes the economy so
Russia is trying to reassert itself as a
geopolitical player. Ukraine and Crimea are of great interest to
Russia. The West cannot reverse the annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine is a potentially attractive investment destination, but
realizing this potential requires improving the business
Paul de Man
Paul de Man was one of the fathers of
deconstruction. The critic Louis Menand said deconstruction was
"like digging a hole in the middle of the ocean with a shovel
made of water".
During the Second World War in Belgium,
de Man published an essay titled "The Jews in Present-Day
Literature" arguing that European civilization remained healthy
despite Jewish attempts to soil it and that it may be best for
the Jews to move far away so as not to pollute the purity of the
master race. He behaved badly in his personal life too.
There was a correlation between the man and the theory. The
catastrophic effects of this mindset have been widely
documented. A big contribution of Judaism to the advancement of
civilization was to abandon crowds of little gods and replace
them with one God, to whose service all are called. Such a
worldview has lapsed among the thinking classes.
atomization of the American mind is a moral failure. Academics
champion individual rights and set up bulwarks of divergence.
But once you have deconstructed, problematized, and tortured the
notion of the common good beyond recognition, any act is as good
as the next one and all are bowed in the service of radical
If this mentality is horrible for all
mankind, it is particularly horrible for Jews. The story of Paul
de Man is a cautionary tale of what bad ideas can do to erode
the pillars of civilization.
God is dead — long live
Globorg, our destiny.
2014 March 20
Funeral of Liz's consort Don (1924-06-26 — 2014-03-09)
Physicists are searching for a theory of quantum
gravity. Most physicists believe that gravitons give rise to
gravity. But calculations of graviton interactions yield
Supergravity posits the existence of new
particles that mirror graviton effects. It has long been assumed
to suffer from the infinity problem, but no one was sure. Using
new tools, UCLA physicist Zvi Bern and his team are now
calculating these gravitational interactions and making sense.
In one approach to calculating scattering amplitudes in
supersymmetric quantum physics, gluon scattering amplitudes are
computed by measuring the volume of an amplituhedron. The
amplituhedron corresponds to interactions between gluons. The
fact that gravitons behave like two copies of gluons could point
the way forward.
Quantum field theory would be simpler if interactions
previously calculated with long formulas matched the volume of
the corresponding amplituhedron. The amplituhedron encodes
scattering amplitudes representing the probability that a
set of particles will turn into certain other particles
upon colliding. The amplituhedron research could show how our
universe emerges out of pure geometry.
2014 March 19
In general relativity, gravity is the
curvature of spacetime. Gravitational waves are ripples made by
accelerating objects. The discovery of primordial gravitational
waves supports inflation. For some theorists, proving that
inflation happened is a sign of the multiverse.
Linde: "If inflation is there, the multiverse is there. Each
observation that brings better credence to inflation brings us
closer to establishing that the multiverse is real."
simplest models of inflation require a particle called an
inflaton to inflate spacetime. Inflatons decay over time, so for
inflation to work, they need to last longer than the period of
inflation. Then they continue to drive inflation in their
location, blowing new universes into existence that rapidly
inflate before settling down. This "eternal inflation" produces
new universes in a multiverse.
Frank Wilczek: "For the
first time, we're directly testing an aspect of quantum gravity.
We're seeing gravitons imprinted on the sky."
Peter Watson interprets Friedrich
Nietzsche's 1882 declaration "God is dead" as a turning point in
intellectual history. Nazis drew on Nietzsche and writers like
Martin Heidegger for philosophical heft.
have seen a theological understanding of humankind replaced by a
psychological one. The new atheists say evolution and biology
disprove the existence of God. Religious belief fails to explain
the modern world and the idea of God has been debunked.
Watson implies that full engagement with the project of being
human in the modern world leads to atheism. But the vast
majority of the world believes in God or some sort of higher
power. If the age of atheism started in 1882, most people still
haven't caught on.
2014 March 18
A majority of the residents of Crimea
were happy to abandon Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
The overall outcome reflected popular wishes and was crudely
democratic. So it is unwise of US President Barack Obama and the
Europeans to declare they will "never" recognize the Crimean
In his telephone conversation with Obama on
Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin quoted the "Kosovo
precedent" of a 2008 declaration of independence by the
provincial assembly in Pristina, when Kosovo was still a part of
Serbia. Putin's question to Obama was: So what's the difference?
The right of self-determination of peoples is guaranteed
under the UN Charter. It is a mistake to make of the secession
of Crimea an issue of principle on which there can never be
compromise. The key challenge for Obama and the EU is what the
departure of Crimea implies for the wider region. The sanctions
should pivot on what Moscow does next, especially in eastern
Ukraine but also in Moldova, the Baltic states, and Georgia.
Alexander Zaldostanov is the Surgeon. He
leads the Russian motorcycle gang the Night Wolves, who crossed
to Crimea from Kerch and set up camp near Sevastopol. Their base
is straight from Mad Max. Zaldostanov: "We are seeing victory
here today, victory for Russians and victory for Sevastopol."
Amid his fans he added: "We've come to protect Russians from the
Banderas and fascists, and I hope Britain and America learn
Big Bang To TOE
Discovery of primordial ripples in
spacetime provides a deep connection between general relativity
and quantum mechanics. University College London cosmologist
Andrew Pontzen: "This is a genuine breakthrough. It represents a
whole new era in cosmology and physics as well."
provides the first direct evidence for inflation. BICEP2
collaboration lead John Kovac: "Detecting this signal is one of
the most important goals in cosmology today. A lot of work by a
lot of people has led up to this point."
The BICEP2 team
spent three years analyzing the polarization in the CMB signal.
The work could offer clues on the way to a quantum theory of
gravity and the theory of everything (TOE).
2014 March 17
Big Bang Ripples
Gravitational waves in spacetime let us
peer back to the first slivers of a second after the big bang.
Scientists working with the BICEP2 collaboration at the South
Pole (image left) announce the first clear sign of gravitational waves
in a pair of
papers published today. The results still need to be
confirmed by other experiments, but physicists say the results
Alan Guth: "No experiment should be
taken too seriously until there's more than one that can vouch
for it. But it does seem to me that this is a very reliable
group and what they've seen is very definitive."
Cosmologists say a growth spurt in the baby universe called
inflation would let us see traces of short gravity waves in maps
of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Guth proposed
inflation in the 1980s to explain the fact that CMB variations
are too uniform for subluminal expansion.
should have stretched the first gravitational waves to a size we
can detect in the CMB. The CMB is polarized as it scatters off
electrons in the cosmos. Rippling gravitational waves would
twist the polarization pattern into distinctive swirls called
B-modes (diagram below). The BICEP2 result supports the simplest
models of inflation and matches the predictions of grand
unification theory (GUT).
The detection is also the first
whiff of quantum gravity. Guth: "If gravity were not quantized,
inflation would not produce gravitational waves. So we really
are seeing a direct effect caused by the quantization of
Scientists operating a sensitive
microwave telescope at the South Pole announced the discovery of
polarization distortions in the CMB. The distortions appear to
be due to gravitational waves dating back to 10^-35 s after the
Big Bang (ABB). By comparison, the CMB was created 10^13 s ABB.
Where this may lead, no one knows. But it should be cause for
In 1979, Alan Guth proposed what he
called inflation: that the universe expanded in size by over
thirty orders of magnitude in a tiny fraction of a second ABB.
Inflation explains how the universe is likely to have grown back
then. Within a few years, Guth and others demonstrated that
quantum effects during this period could have resulted in the
formation of all observed cosmic structures.
is also subject to quantum mechanics, then quantum fluctuations
in gravity would appear today as gravitational waves. Now a CMB
probe that measures how primordial light might be polarized by
gravitational waves apparently sees precisely the signal
expected from inflation. The amplitude of the effect
is about as expected if the scale of inflation is the GUT scale.
for a soft landing
The philosopher's cone?
Viktor Yanukovych had an
obscenely opulent palace
for his presidential
from the mental
fog of a bleak winter
The Times Higher Education
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
Academic Fat Cats
vice-chancellors defend mega-pay as the going
rate for "talent" and pocket as much cash as
they can get away with. Higher education
managers pose as CEOs and claim similar pay and
perks. Open University boss Martin Bean is on
£407,000. University of Birmingham VC David
Eastwood is paid almost three times as much as
the prime minister.
AR UK HE starves students:
Checking the unrest in
2014 March 17
UK Agenda for EU Reform
I am putting forward an ambitious
agenda for a new European Union:
Powers flowing away from Brussels, not always to it.
2 National parliaments able to work
together to block unwanted European legislation.
3 Businesses liberated from red tape
and benefiting from the strength of the EU market to open up
greater free trade with North America and Asia.
4 UK police forces and justice
systems able to protect British citizens, unencumbered by
unnecessary interference from the European institutions,
including the European court of human rights.
5 Free movement to take up work, not
6 Support for
the continued enlargement of the EU to new members but with new
mechanisms in place to prevent vast migrations across the
7 Ensuring Britain
is no longer subject to the concept of ever closer union
enshrined in the treaty signed by every EU country.
AR All sound domestic politics, but
will it fly across Europe?
2014 March 15
Crimeans vote Sunday in a referendum that
effectively gives them two options: either to become independent
or join the Russian Federation. But Crimea is integrated into
Ukraine's mainland economy and infrastructure: it imports 90% of
its energy, and 90% of its water, 80% of its electricity, and
roughly 65% of its gas come from the rest of Ukraine. Crimea
gets 70% of its $1.2 billion budget from Kiev. Moscow plans to
invest over $5 billion in Crimea, but local people dependent on
tourism will suffer.
Nietzsche said God is dead. Science,
notably Darwinism, had revealed a world with no inherent order
or meaning. With theism no longer credible, meaning would have
to be made in future by human beings.
The idea that religion
is separate from culture is a Christian notion. Christianity may
be a more tragic creed than Nietzsche's doctrine, but neither
the Christian religion nor Nietzsche's philosophy can be said to
express a tragic sense of life. According to Christianity, there
is nothing that cannot be redeemed by divine grace and even
death can be annulled.
Nietzsche wanted to revive the
tragic worldview of the ancient Greeks. Tragedy requires a
conflict of values that cannot be revoked by any act of will.
But Nietzsche ended up producing a hyperbolic version of
2014 March 13
WWW @ 25
All the people who have been part the
Word Wide Web can be proud of what has been achieved. The Web
has become an important technology for everyday life and almost
everything we do. So there is a strong tendency for governments,
big organizations, and companies to try to control it.
The lack of oversight over the spying systems both in the UK and
the US needs to change. Any country that has a part of the
government or the police spying on the Internet must demonstrate
that they have a very solid level of accountability and that the
information they get is never abused.
webwewant.org to define the values that we as Web users insist
on. I would like every country to debate what that means in
terms of their laws. The right to privacy must be in there, the
right not to be spied on and not to be blocked. Access to the
Web is a fundamental right.
2014 March 12
In the multiverse scenario, our universe
is one of an infinity of space-time patches, each one outside
the causal reach of any other. In infinite space, universes
indistinguishable from ours are repeated infinitely, as is every
conceivable configuration of mass-energy permitted by the laws
of physics. Even the laws of physics may vary across the
multiverse. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that
everything that can happen will happen, infinitely many times.
Support for this scenario stems from the fine-tuning of our
surroundings. A cosmological constant much different from the
observed value would make life as we know it impossible. If it
has different values in each of the universe domains in the
multiverse, then somewhere there has to be a universe with the
value in our universe. But it is not clear whether we can
calculate the odds for anything to happen in an infinite volume
AR The fallacy
here is that everything that "can" happen will happen in an
infinite multiverse. Lots of things might never happen, however
far out we go.
2014 March 11
In 1882, Nietzsche declared that God is
dead, adding that we had killed him. Darwin's Origin of Species
was the greatest blow to Christianity, but Nietzsche's work was
a near-second. Darwin said his ideas had gone down better in
Germany than anywhere else.
Religion is a psychological
adjustment to our predicament. Worship is best understood as a
sociological phenomenon. Religion is prevalent among the poor
and in decline in the more prosperous parts of the world. It is
less that religion is on the rise as poverty is.
no one secret to life, other than that there is no one secret to
life. If you must have a transcendent idea then make it a search
for the good or the beautiful or the useful, always realizing
that your answers will be personal and never final.
2014 March 10
Stanislas Dehaene studies consciousness
and the brain at his lab near Paris. He sees an "avalanche in
the brain" when the threshold for conscious awareness is
crossed. Electrical activity in certain centers is suddenly
amplified and spread into regions of the parietal and prefrontal
cortex. Activation surges on into a much larger expanse of
cortex, and distant brain regions start showing tightly
Dehaene sees consciousness as the process of brain-wide
information sharing. Your brain is constantly creating millions
of short-lived mental representations of your world by
unconscious processing. When one is broadcast to decision
systems distributed around the brain it enters consciousness.
The global workspace supports a kind of collective intelligence.
But the "hard problem" of consciousness remains.
AR See my book
Michael S. Malone
Memories are created by a
biochemical reaction in neurons. Short-term or working memory
operates at a number of different locations around the brain.
Long-term memory takes up much of the landscape of the upper
brain. The memories are often stored in the same neurons that
first received the stimulus. Memories are made when certain
proteins are synthesized in the cell. Frequent repetition of
signals makes the record stable and permanent.
Memory is explicit or
implicit. Explicit or declarative memory is all the information
in our brains that we can consciously bring to the surface.
Episodic memories occurred at a specific point in time. Semantic
memory lets us understand how the world works. Implicit or
procedural memory stores skills and memories of how to function
in the natural world.
2014 March 9
Henry A. Kissinger
Ukraine has been part of Russia
for centuries. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet
Union in 1939. Crimea became part of Ukraine only in 1954. The
west is largely Catholic, the east largely Russian Orthodox. The
west speaks Ukrainian, the east speaks mostly Russian. Any
attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other would lead
eventually to civil war or breakup.
The problem lies in
efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on
recalcitrant parts of the country. Ukraine should:
1 Have the right to choose freely
its economic and political associations
2 Not join NATO
3 Be free
to create any government compatible with the expressed will of
It is incompatible with the rules of the
existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea.
Peter W. Singer
Americans are more afraid of
cyberattack than attack by Iran or North Korea, climate change,
or China or Russia. Some 40 trillion emails are sent a year, 30
trillion websites now exist, 9 new pieces of malware are
discovered every second, and 97% of Fortune 500 companies admit
they’ve been hacked. The complexity of the issue overwhelms
Cybersecurity is crucial but is treated as
an area only for IT folk. The technical community understands
the hardware and software but not the human side. An ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure. Very basic cyber hygiene
would go a very long way. They would stop 90% of all cyber
Snowden exposed three kinds of NSA activity:
1 Smart and strategic espionage
against American enemies
Questionable mass collection of data from American citizens
3 Unstrategic targeting of close
American allies and leaders
2014 March 8
Karl Marx called for the overthrow of
the capitalist order. But he identified capitalism with Judaism.
For Marx, the overthrow of capitalism will emancipate mankind
Anti-Judaism, David Nirenberg argues that Marx appropriated
a powerful language of opprobrium. Marx had Jewish origins and
might have questioned the association of Judaism and capitalism,
but instead he stoked old fears about Jewishness.
identification of Judaism with materialism predates the
appearance of capitalism in Europe by at least 1500 years. The
enemies are mostly not Jews but Judaizing non-Jews who take on
Judaism's negative characteristics. Real Jews have little to do
with all this.
Joseph Goebbels proclaimed that the age of rampant Jewish
intellectualism was at an end. He was making an argument that
begins in the Gospels. Arguments about how Christianity
superseded Judaism were based on oppositions: law superseded by
love, the letter by the spirit, the flesh by the soul.
German idealist philosophers repeated many of the arguments of
the early Christians. Kant understood the moral heteronomy he
sought to overcome in Jewish terms. Hegel said Kantianism was
simply a new version of the Jewish principle of opposing thought
to reality. These philosophers used the language of anti-Judaism
to resolve the ancient tension between the ideal and the real.
The Bolsheviks were widely understood as Jewish, and many of
them were Jews. Jewish bankers can rule the world and Jewish
Bolsheviks can aspire to overthrow and replace the bankers. In
some alcoves of the Western imagination, the two groups can
almost appear as co-conspirators.
Nirenberg argues that a
certain view of Judaism lies deep in the structure of Western
2014 March 7
The death of a star more than 20 times
the mass of the sun is spectacular. It collapses in a colossal
burst of energy, its core plunges inward, and temperatures soar.
Gravity pulps atoms into quarks and leptons and gluons, and so
on until no one knows. The star has become a black hole.
At the center of most galaxies is a teeming bulge of stars and
gas and dust. At the very hub of the bulge, in virtually every
galaxy looked at, including our Milky Way, is a black hole. The
one at the center of the Milky Way is 4.3 million times more
massive than the sun. It is currently tranquil. But it's pulling
a gas cloud toward it. Radio telescopes around the world are
waiting to observe the black hole in action. We will see the
accretion disk, a ring of debris outlining the edge of the hole.
This should be enough to dispel most doubts that black holes
Matter falling toward a black hole produces a lot
of frictional heat. Black holes also spin, and the combination
of friction and spin results in a lot of matter being flung off.
This hot stuff is channeled into jet streams that spurt out at a
tick below the speed of light. The jets can drill straight
through a galaxy. Eventually they cool and the gas forms new
At the center of a black hole is a singularity.
Something is there, extremely small and dense. Our universe
began, 13.8 billion years ago, in a tremendous big bang. The
moment before, everything was packed into a small, dense
singularity. A singularity was the seed of our universe.
2014 March 6
Hillary on Putin
Former US secretary of state Hillary
Clinton: "All ... the Germans by ancestry who were in places
like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept
saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my
people, and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous."
In the eyes of many ethnic Russians, the Ukrainian nationalists
are the Nazis. The revolution overthrew a democratically elected
leader and elevated Russophobe fascists into key government
positions. Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union until two
decades ago and Crimea was part of Russia until 1954. The
country contains millions of ethnic Russians and has Russian
military installations that are key to Russian strategic
The Ukrainian Nazi movement is small, and
Ukraine is dwarfed by Russia, which puts Putin in the role of
the dominant regional power picking on a small country and
exploiting its extremist politics for the purpose of propaganda.
But Putin is still no Hitler.
German anti-Islamists say Islam is a
political ideology. CDU delegate Hans-Jürgen Irmer warned Hesse
state parliament that "Islam is set on global domination" and
that Muslim groups could not be trusted because deceiving
non-Muslims is central to Islam.
There are about four
million Muslims in Germany. An estimated 42 000 of them are
fundamentalists. According to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 5%
of Germans say Islam is an "archaic religion, incapable of
fitting into modern life" and want to restrict religious freedom
Politically Incorrect is a popular
German-speaking anti-Islam website: "The spread of Islam means
that our descendants — and probably us too — will live in an
Islam-dominated social order oriented towards the Sharia and the
Koran and no longer towards the constitution and human rights."
Muslims are rising to higher positions in German society.
Mosques are being built in city centers, as in Leipzig. Yasemin
Shooman from the Academy of the Jewish Museum in Berlin says
continuing Muslim integration is strengthening anti-Muslim
2014 March 4
Russia vs. Ukraine
CNN, 1002 GMT
Russian President Vladimir Putin may
have overplayed his hand by sending troops into Crimea. The
United States and many European countries demand that Moscow
scale back its deployment.
Carnegie Europe scholar Ulrich Speck:
"Putin's broader plan is to recreate some kind of Soviet Union
lite ... If Moscow succeeds in Ukraine, it will come to the
conclusion that it can act like an empire ... Inside the EU
there is no unity about the proper reaction."
States has halted trade and investment talks and military
engagements with Russia. Nobody in Washington appears eager for
a military confrontation. US Secretary of State John Kerry: "The
last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of
Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says his
government will not give up Crimea. Former Ukrainian PM Yulia
Tymoshenko said that if diplomacy fails to persuade Moscow to
withdraw its forces from the Ukrainian region of Crimea, the
world should apply the "strongest means" on Russia.
Russia says ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
requested that Russia send in military forces. Russian soldiers
wearing no insignia have deployed around the region and
blockaded Ukrainian troops in their bases. Russian forces have
complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula.
2014 March 3
In Crimea, unbadged, troops have
seized key buildings and strategic points. It is pretty obvious
that most of them are Russian. President Putin has obtained
authority for a military intervention to protect Russian
interests and nationals. There could be war between Ukraine and
Russia. Some have begun to draw comparisons with Hitler's
invasion of the ethnically German Sudetenland in 1938.
Crimea became part of the Russian Empire more than 200 years ago
under Catherine the Great. For Russians, it is the scene of two
historic episodes of heroic resistance: firstly in the Crimean
War of the 19th century and then to the German army in the
Second World War. Add the great naval base at Sevastopol and you
can see why Putin sees a clear national interest in what
transpires in Ukraine.
There will be costs for Obama and
NATO if we cannot deflect Putin from his path. Obama has gained
the reputation of being a weak president, who will not take a
stand against aggressors. But foreign policy should be based on
a cold calculation of national interest. As Putin knows, the US
and NATO are not going to war to stop Russia taking Crimea or
the eastern Ukraine under Russian control.
The Age of Nothing by Peter Watson surveys and summarizes
20th-century philosophical and moral thought on "how we have
sought to live since the death of God".
secular lack — Watson paraphrases and quotes Charles Taylor — "a
sense of wholeness, fulfillment, fullness of meaning, a sense of
something higher; they have an incompleteness ... 'a massive
blindness’ to the fact that there is 'some purpose in life
beyond the utilitarian' ".
Clifford Geertz: "The drive to
make sense out of experience, to give it form and order, is
evidently as real and pressing as the more familiar biological
AR Seems worth
reading: Watson was good on Germans.
2014 March 2
CNN, 0949 GMT
The Ukrainian National
Security Council ordered a mobilization as
Russia appeared to mass troops for military
intervention in Crimea. Ukraine's acting
President Oleksandr Turchynov announced that
intervention would lead to war.
President Barack Obama and Russian President
Vladimir Putin spoke for 90 minutes to express
concern over the crisis, according to separate
statements released by their respective
UN spokesman for the Ukraine
mission Yegor Pyvovarov says Russia now has 15
000 troops in Crimea. Russia's UN ambassador
Vitaly Churkin rejected Ukrainian calls to stop
Russian intervention and said reports of Russian
troop deployments were only rumors.
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted
that NATO ambassadors meet in Brussels today to
discuss the situation.
Project Fear is the
political campaign to keep Scotland within the
United Kingdom. It bombards Scots with warnings
about what they will lose if they vote in
September to secede:
1 The three main
Westminster political parties reject monetary
union with an independent Scotland. Scottish
National Party leader Alex Salmond wants
Scotland to keep the pound, but it would have no
support from the Bank of England as lender of
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel
Barroso said it would be "extremely difficult,
if not impossible" for an independent Scotland
to rejoin the European Union.
3 Westminster may
not accept the existing border between Scotland
and England in the North Sea. An Oxford
professor: "It is this line only that assigns
almost all the oil to Scotland and Alex Salmond
disingenuously talks as if that line would
survive genuine separation. It could not. No one
knows how international arbitration would go,
but the best guess seems to be that about half
would go to Scotland."
amounts to a dry run for a campaign against
British voters during a referendum on
EU membership in 2017. Those who seek British
liberation from the EU should take note.
Woodland Burial and Memorial Gardens
Funeral of Elizabeth Pigdon,
13:30, 28 February 2014
My Mother Liz: A Tribute
PDF, 2 pages, 250 KB
Tool for Drivers
UK road traffic reports
Cranach the Elder (c 1525)
Masters of the German Renaissance
2014-02-19 — 2014-05-11
Living in the
ice cream cone
Sam Adams Award
Edward Snowden posts a video message as Chelsea Manning wins the Sam
Adams award for "integrity in intelligence"
Edward Snowden on
2014 February 28
Merkel in London
In her speech before parliament,
Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the UK and its role as a
liberator in the world wars, as the cradle of parliament, and as
a leading European power. She even cited Richard von Weizsäcker
that "Britain does not need to prove its European vocation".
As for the European Union, she agreed it need change. Its
laws should be checked regularly. National parliaments should
get more attention and failures must be exposed. But the EU is
working well and only needs readjustment here and there. So a
cold shower to Tory Eurosceptics.
After the revolution in Ukraine, tension flared
in Crimea. Five facts:
Russia gave Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, when both Russia and
Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union. After 1991, lawmakers in
Ukraine and Crimea voted for it to stay part of Ukraine.
2 A lot of Russians still live in
Crimea. There are three main groups in Crimea: ethnic Ukrainians
in the north, Russians in the south, and Tatars in the middle.
3 The Russian Navy has had a
base at Sevastopol for 230 years. Russia is expanding its Black
Sea port of Novorossiysk but Sevastopol is still the home of the
Black Sea Fleet.
Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, became known as the
Lady with the Lamp in the Crimean War when Britain, France, and
Ottoman Turkey fought against Russia.
5 In 1945, US President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, British PM Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader
Joseph Stalin met in the Crimean resort of Yalta to carve up
Europe for the Cold War.
If Russia takes Crimea, East-West relations freeze again.
2014 February 27
Merkel Wants UK in EU
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will set
out the case for Britain to stay in the European Union in her
address to both Houses of Parliament today. Germany and Britain
have a common interest in reforming the single market, but the
free movement of workers is a core principle of the market. She
will say she is sympathetic to measures to stop the misuse of
free movement for benefits tourism.
Downing Street was
keen to stress its gratitude for the Chancellor's visit to
London. Mrs Merkel is the second German Chancellor to address
both Houses of Parliament after Willy Brandt did so in 1970.
President Richard von Weizsäcker also did so in 1986.
AR When Brandt came he visited
Oxford and I saw him speak live. Inspirational.
715 New Planets
NASA announces the discovery of 715 new planets.
About a thousand planets had been identified in our galaxy
previously. Four of the new planets are in the habitable zone.
The planets orbit 305 different stars and were discovered by the
Kepler space telescope. A
new technique allows scientists to make new planetary
discoveries more often and in more detail. The new batch of
planets was verified using data from the first two years of the
Kepler mission, so there may be many more to come.
astrophysicist Douglas Hudgins: "Kepler has really been a
game-changer for our understanding of the incredible diversity
of planets and planetary systems in our galaxy."
AR These are
historic times for planetology.
2014 February 25
Science consists of facts and theories.
Facts are discovered by observers or experimenters. One wrong
fact is enough to ruin a career. Theories are free creations of
the human mind, intended to describe our understanding of
nature. Since our understanding is incomplete, theories are
provisional. Mistakes are tolerated.
The most exciting
and creative parts of science are concerned with things that we
are still struggling to understand. Wrong theories are not an
impediment to the progress of science. They are a central part
of the struggle. In every century and every science, I see
The key to enjoyment of any sport is
to be a good loser. The greatest scientists are the best losers.
As Einstein said, God is sophisticated but not malicious.
2014 February 23
Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed a
radically simplified version of the law of Moses and the
religion of the Hebrew prophets. The early community of his
followers was shaped by charismatic phenomena and social rituals
that reinforced the familial bonds of the group.
A steady drift away from the
Jewish faith followed. The Christian community developed a
complex system of cosmology in which Jesus became a divine being
manifested on Earth. This synthesis was different from the
religion of Jesus and his first followers.
refuses to follow earlier German scholars in their negativity
toward Judaism and is familiar with the entire spread of Jewish
thinking in the age of Jesus and Paul. His Jesus represents an
intensified version of Mosaic and prophetic faith.
gospel has to be treated as a bit of an aberration. Vermes is
inclined to see Platonic themes working the alchemical change in
Christianity. The basic alteration is a matter of turning the
faith that Jesus himself held into a faith about him.
Traditional Christian creeds are the product of a secular chain
of influences, serving to obscure the historical core of what
was new in Jesus' life and work. Vermes shows how the sort of
thing that was being claimed in the creed of 325 CE had
antecedents within a century of Jesus' crucifixion.
authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls thought of their community in
its remote desert setting as the real temple. Something of this
carries over into the New Testament: God lives among those who
associate themselves with Jesus. This develops into the idea
that Jesus is the divine power incarnate.
AR Thanks, Rowan: I shall read a few
books by Vermes.
Robert M. Price
According to Joseph Atwill, Titus
Caesar and Josephus devised a plot to seduce Jews into
worshipping Titus, son of Vespasian, under the guise of a
fictitious Jesus. The four gospels and Josephus' history were
written to be read together as a Flavian Pentateuch for a new
and pacifist Judaism.
Accepting that a committee wrote the gospels and the history
seems absurd. Only an obtuse reader can fail to appreciate the
sublime quality of much of the New Testament. Atwill's claim
that the gospels are black satires merely reveals his own
inability to appreciate what he is reading.
connects widely separated dots and collects correspondences from
gospel to gospel and between the gospels and Josephus, then uses
them to create parallel accounts. But the natural way to deal
with the parallels is to say the gospel writers wrote late
enough to have borrowed from Josephus.
AR OK: Atwill has got it all wrong.
2014 February 21
Sam Harris says we are biochemical
puppets. Unconscious associations and attitudes hold powerful
sway over our lives. Such statements assault religious belief,
traditional morality, and common sense.
nature of the universe is fully compatible with neural systems
that analyze different options, construct logical chains of
argument, reason through examples and analogies, and respond to
the anticipated consequences of actions, including moral
consequences. These processes are at the core of rational
If you doubt the power of reason, consider the
lives of those who have less of it. The relationship between IQ
and success is hardly arbitrary. High intelligence is also
related to kindness. Self-control can be seen as the purest
embodiment of rationality and benefits not just individuals but
Morality is seen as the paradigm case of
insidious irrationality. Intellect seems largely irrelevant when
it comes to our sense of right and wrong. But the existence of
moral dumbfounding is less damning that it might seem. Our moral
attitudes show systematic change over human history. The moral
circle has expanded toward inclusiveness.
us to confront those who disagree with us. If you want to see
people at their worst, press them on the details of complex
political issues that correspond to political identity. But such
instances of irrationality need not cloud our view of the
rational foundations of our everyday life.
underlies much of what matters in the world. We can use reason
to invent procedures that undermine our explicit and implicit
biases. This is how moral progress happens.
AR This is elegant but hardly fatal
to Sam's views.
2014 February 20
My Amazon review
This bloodbath comedy reinvents the end
of the Third Reich in a slapstick assassination of the top Nazis
in a little cinematic holocaust planned and perpetrated by
American and French Jews. The trademark Tarantino gore is
splashed in abundance and the dextrous wit of the multilingual
screenplay is a joy to the ears. Christoph Waltz plays an
exuberantly garrulous "Jew hunter" SS colonel in a virtuoso
performance that holds the plot together with dazzling panache.
Brad Pitt by contrast looks out of place as a drawling hillbilly
US lieutenant leading an inglorious pack of Jewish
scalp-hunters. Still, with Tarantino chapter breaks and applied
graphics to put a modern gloss on what could easily have sunk
into another fictional war story, the production sings along
What worried me at the outset and
still worries me now two viewings later is that the moral
standpoint the movie as a whole represents is both well worn in
countless previous movies and philosophically inadequate to the
loathsomeness of the evil it reflects. The Nazis were beastly to
the Jews, so let a bunch of Jews be equally beastly to the
Nazis, and let them kill Hitler too, to end the war nine months
earlier and save the world, as it were. This is fine as a first
introduction to the issues for innocent youngsters, if there are
any left, who have not yet gone deeper. But brutality was not
the unique horror of the Nazi phenomenon, and ending the horror
show nine months earlier would have saved far more Germans, who
had collectively voted to stage the spectacle in the first
place, than Jews, who had suffered their worst attrition already
by then. Hypotheticals are anyway moot in history.
the unique horror of the Nazi phenomenon was its deep
intellectual roots in a culture that saw history in racist terms
and was prepared to suffer mightily to showcase its view in
historical fact. Some six million Germans were killed in the
war, in circumstances as hideous as those in which six million
Jews also died, and the Germans knew from 1943 at the latest
that their furious revolt against the rest of the world was
doomed to spectacularly bloody failure. But they did it anyway,
in an operatic celebration of the martial arts armed with the
latest high-tech weapons that may well stand as unparalleled in
history since the astonishing career of Alexander the Great in
antiquity. That the feat left the stench of genocide in its wake
is troubling, and nothing in Tarantino's movie helps us to
digest or reprocess that obstinate fact of history.
This replaces the review I posted in January.
2014 February 18
A simple ceremony and a woodlands burial, later this month.
2014 February 16
She selflessly did her best for me all my life. That's what mums
do. They do it for no other reason than love. Not for reward.
Not for recognition. They create you. From nothing. Miracle?
They do those every day.
My Mother Liz
1924-09-28 — 2014-02-16
"I chose to do it, OK?"
Unauthorized summary of
Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus
Flavian Signature Edition
PDF: 10 pages, 131 KB
Severe flood warnings in force
as rain shows no signs of abating
The Grand Mufti
Amin al-Husaini, the Grand Mufti
of Palestine, close pal of Hitler, champion of Islamist radicalism, and
leader of the Palestinians until 1968, frequently said the Mideast
needed to get rid of its Jews, spent the war years in Berlin, met often
with Eichmann and Himmler, recruited for the SS in Bosnia, and opposed
the UN partition of Palestine in 1947, which led to the creation of
Israel. He still inspires those who dream of annihilating Israel and
establishing a purely Muslim Mideast cleansed of Jews and Christians.
Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia)
Norén (Sofia Helin)
2014 February 14
The imminent withdrawal from
Afghanistan is being hailed as the first moment when the UK has
not been at war since 1914. A strategic pause may ease budget
problems. The UK long ago ended its independent operational
capacity and is entirely dependent on the Americans. The
Pentagon has laid down three elements that a British government
must maintain: the Trident nuclear deterrent, the GCHQ
intelligence capacity, and special forces. The rest is optional.
AR The UK pays its dues for the
US strategic nuclear force and NSA surveillance and lets
Washington run the show. Now perhaps we can rebuild the old
country along new lines.
2014 February 13
People think they have control over what
they believe. But the popular sense of free will is primarily a
1P fact, not a 3P account of how human beings function. The
philosophical problem of free will arises from the fact that
most people feel that they author their own thoughts and
actions. The moment you show that a person's thoughts and
actions were determined by events that he did not and could not
see, feel, or anticipate, his 3P account of himself may remain
unchanged, but his 1P sense of autonomy comes under pressure.
Something in our moral
attitude changes when we catch sight of antecedent causes. A
person is unlucky to be given the genes and life experience that
doom him to psychopathy. That doesn't mean we can't lock him up.
We don't demand that mosquitoes and sharks behave better than
they do. We simply take steps to protect ourselves from them.
The same futility prevails with certain people.
AR This is in response to Dan
Dennett (blog Jan 28).
2014 February 12
Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld
In America today, some
groups are more upwardly mobile than others. Indian-Americans
earn almost double the national figure. Mormons have become
leaders of corporate America. Jews make up only about 2% of the
US adult population but account for a third of the current
Supreme Court and about a third of US Nobel laureates.
The most successful groups in America today share three traits:
1 A superiority complex. Mormons
see their group as an island of morality in a sea of moral
decay. Many Iranians refer to a Persian superiority complex.
Most Jewish children hear that Jews are the chosen people, a
moral people, a people of law and intellect, a people of
2 A sense of
insecurity. Immigrant kids frequently feel motivated to achieve
because of an acute sense of obligation to redeem parental
sacrifices. Chinese immigrant parents frequently impose
exorbitant academic expectations on their children.
3 Impulse control. This runs against
the grain of contemporary culture, but every one of the most
successful groups inculcates habits of discipline from a very
The three qualities are open to anyone. The
way to develop this package of qualities is through grit. It
requires the ability to work hard, to persevere, and to overcome
The United States was born a Triple Package
nation. But by 2000, all that remained was a culture of
entitlement and instant gratification. The trials of recent
years have been good for America.
The Triple Package looks at eight groups and uses financial
metrics as indicators of success. Chua and Rubenfeld say all
eight groups share the three traits essential for success.
Kindness, creativity, and happiness may not be as easy to
measure as household income, but it's sad to see "success"
defined so narrowly.
2014 February 11
UK R&D Spend 5x More For WMD Than Renewable Energy
We at Scientists for Global
Responsibility have compared recent R&D spending by the UK
government on major weapons systems with public R&D spending on
measures to tackle major drivers of armed conflict, such as
resource depletion, social and economic injustice, and climate
During the three financial years spanning 2008 to
2011, annual R&D spending on all aspects of UK nuclear weapons
systems was over £320 million per year. In the same years,
annual British public R&D spending on renewable energy was only
Comparing total public
spending on military R&D with that on work for sustainable
security (international development and poverty alleviation,
climate change impacts, sustainable energy technologies, food
security, international relations, natural resource management,
biodiversity, environmental risks and hazards, sustainable
consumption, and other measures to mitigate and adapt to climate
change), we found that on average during 2008 to 2011, the UK
spent nearly £1.8 billion a year on military R&D, while for
sustainable security research it spent less than £1 billion.
The huge UK R&D spend on nuclear weapons is particularly
bizarre. Detonating half the nuclear missiles carried by a
Trident submarine could disrupt the climate so badly through the
injection of smoke into the stratosphere that about 2 billion
people would be threatened by famine due to crop failure.
Against a backdrop of growing political instability driven
by climate change, the imperative should be global abolition of
nuclear weapons as soon as possible. Yet the UK spends much more
to maintain the nuclear threat than it does for the tools to
tackle climate change.
UK nuclear deterrent policy was forged in the cold war and has
never been properly reconsidered since then. No plausible
security nightmare warrants an independent British capability to
obliterate a score of cities worldwide in nuclear firestorms within minutes. Only
desire for solidarity with the United States and for parity with
France dictates such madness.
It is time for UK decision
makers to wake up and reflect on (a) what image and heritage the UK should
seek to project and leave for posterity in a rapidly growing and civilizing world and (b) how they
can defend squandering scarce resources on weapons that no
rational person would wish to use.
defense versus civil welfare bankrupted the
former Soviet Union. Overspending on UK defense now impoverishes
British citizens who must suffer substandard healthcare and
education plus a vainglorious public obsession with
"punching above our weight" — compare a person
esteems his muscles and his handgun more than his civil skills
2014 February 10
The Oldest Star
Astronomers at the Australian
National University have found the oldest known star in the
universe. The star SMSS J 031300.36-670839.3 is only 60 Em away
from us in the Milky Way and is roughly 13.6 billion years old.
The Big Bang occurred some 13.8 billion years ago.
star is thought to have been formed in the wake of a primordial
supernova. Key to determining its age was an analysis of its
iron content. Lead researcher Stefan Keller: "It's giving us
insight into our fundamental place in the universe. What we're
seeing is the origin of where all the material around us that we
need to survive came from."
So close and yet so old — glory be!
2014 February 8
The Second Thirty Years War
The years between 1914 and 1945 formed
one long war. Germany lost two million soldiers in Part I and
more than double that in Part II. Conversely, more than twice as
many Britons and four times as many Frenchmen died on the
battlefields of Part I than in Part II. The long war killed 70
For most of Part I, the Germans were
tactically superior to their opponents. In 1917 France was on
the verge of collapse. The United States turned the tide. By
August 1918, some 1.3 million men had been shipped from the
United States to Europe. When in September the Allies penetrated
the Siegfried Line, the war was lost. General Erich Ludendorff
asked the Kaiser to approve cease-fire negotiations.
Under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to concede
that it was solely responsible for the war. The United States
became noninterventionist, Germany was defeated, Britain was in
debt to the United States, and France was no longer a major
military power. The peace ignited a desire among Germans for
For the war veteran Adolf Hitler, the dream of
exacting revenge became an obsession. He rose by angrily
declaiming the "shameful and humiliating" Treaty of Versailles
in his speeches. The German economy struggled with depression
for years, until Germans voted for the Third Reich. In 1940
German troops defeated France in six weeks. It was the desired
victory, but for Hitler it was merely the start of a much wider
war of conquest.
In 1945, the victorious Western Allies
chose generosity. Germans who lived in the Western occupation
zones benefited from a reconstruction funded by the Marshall
Plan. Those trapped in the eastern part of Germany bore a
heavier burden for another 44 years, until reunification. The
nation that had twice plunged the continent into war was now a
model democracy and a force for European integration.
Ironically, as Niall Ferguson pointed out, the burden Germany
took on for European integration roughly matches that imposed on
the country by the Treaty of Versailles. Altogether, Germany
paid about as many billions to the rest of Europe between 1958
and 1992 as it had earlier in war reparations.
2014 February 7
Toward a Science of Morality
A critique by Andy Ross
PDF: 2 pages, 51 KB
People with schizophrenia often have to
agree to take antipsychotic drugs for the rest of their lives.
We now know these may do little to aid recovery while trapping
people in a mental miasma that ruins their chances of living a
normal life. Adding to the cruelty, people with serious mental
health problems are often denied adequate healthcare for
physical illnesses because their symptoms are assumed to be
delusional. Recent research suggests that people weaned off
antipsychotics are much more likely to live productive lives.
insight at its best
2014 February 6
I hereby plead guilty to a selective,
provocative slant on the region. Everything I said on the grim
truth behind the "Scandinavian miracle" was true, and backed up
by the OECD, the IMF, and the UN. In my book, I reflect on the
many positive aspects of the Nordic societies. Nearly all the
negative views originated with the many local experts I
interviewed during my years of research.
Put it to a
referendum and the Danes would always vote for the system we
have versus, say, the US one. There are nuances in British
culture that don't resonate here. Class matters a lot in
Britain. Denmark is a more homogenous society. We stick
together. There is a greater sense of community. Sure, we Danes
are very happy.
We Finns have a
great sense of humor. We may not be big talkers, but if a Finn
likes you he will eventually open up. How do you tell the
difference between a Finnish introvert and a Finnish extrovert?
One looks at his own feet when he's talking to you, the other
will looks at yours.
On all lists
measuring quality of life, the Nordics tower over the UK.
Iceland's eternal post-colonial project is guarding our
sovereignty. But Iceland isn't really Nordic. Just look at the
map. We are an Atlantic state. Culturally we are spot-on
British. Even our black and dry Icelandic humor is horribly
In the global
economy, it is almost impossible to maintain fully social
democratic policies, but the newly elected rightwing government
is launching deliberate attacks on collective and sustainable
solutions. None of these challenges to Norwegian society, or the
resistance to them, is mentioned by Booth. Yet the country
remains a good place to live.
seeks to balance the deep existential desire for individual
freedom and social cohesion. The state promotes laws and
policies that have freed individuals from unequal and
patriarchal forms of community. But Swedes are currently no more
successful in handling the conflict between rights of citizens
and human rights than anyone else.
2014 February 5
The Military Balance 2014
Institute for Strategic Studies
Asian defense budgets
rose again. Defense budgets in the West continued to contract.
Defense spending is shrinking in European countries when the
reorientation of US defense policy toward the Asia-Pacific
places a greater share of the international security burden on
NATO allies have made progress
on interoperability. This will be difficult to maintain in the
face of decreasing spending and following the 2014 ISAF
drawdown. The NATO agenda now includes ballistic missile
defense, cyber security, and out-of-area maritime security
Missile defense remains a key priority area for
states in the Mideast. Gulf states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
and the UAE have bought, or are buying, the most advanced
Western missile and air-defense and strike systems, including
standoff air-launched munitions.
Asian defense spending
in 2013 was 11.6% higher in real terms than in 2010. China,
Japan, and South Korea accounted for more than half of all the
real increases in Asian defense spending in 2013. Asia lacks
security mechanisms that could defuse regional crises.
AR The UK should press for more NATO
2014 February 4
MIT Technology Review
The UK has a large stockpile of
plutonium. The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
planned to mix it with uranium to form mixed oxide ceramic (MOX)
fuel for a nuclear power plant, but the project was too
technically challenging and put on hold. Now the authority says
the GE Hitachi Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (PRISM)
provides a credible alternative. PRISM is small and modular
enough for key parts to be made in factories, speeding
construction and reducing costs, and it features good passive
safety. The reactor could burn not just plutonium but all
hazardous nuclear waste, to generate low-carbon electricity at
prices competitive with other nuclear reactors.
AR Memo to NDA: Go for PRISM.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahir is exasperated
with the ISIS group fighting in Syria and blames it for "the
enormity of the disaster that afflicted the Jihad in Syria".
When ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi said ISIS was absorbing
the al-Nusra Front, both al-Nusra and Zawahiri rejected the bid.
Between 40 000 and 50 000 jihadists in the new Islamic Front are
clashing with ISIS. Zawahiri: "Our hearts are bleeding, the
heart of our Islamic nation is bleeding when we see the internal
strife among the mujahedeen in Syria." Baghdadi demanded that
his opponents "repent or suffer consequences".
AR Let Baghdadi crush Zawahiri and
let Iran back Assad. Then let Turks and Persians vie to rule the
Arabs, who seem unable to rule themselves.
The American Philosophical
Association Committee on the Status of Women reports sexual
misconduct and a female-unfriendly environment of sexual
harassment in the University of Colorado Boulder department
of philosophy. Its report cites 15 official complaints of
harassment and inappropriate sexualized professional behavior at
alcohol-soaked extracurricular activities as well as divisive
and bullying behavior to members of various underrepresented
groups. Chair Graeme Forbes has been ousted and replaced by a
faculty member from linguistics, and recruitment and admission
of new graduate students has been halted until 2015.
AR I studied with Graeme at grad
school in Oxford. Our research supervisor pushed Graeme into a
career and left me cold, apparently because my ideas were still
2014 February 3
UK defense secretary Philip Hammond has
told his junior ministers to lobby shipbuilding unions after the
ministers said that parliamentary support for the £80 billion
Trident renewal program was waning.
The huge cost of
building four new submarines for SLBM CASD has led MPs in
Westminster to question whether at a time of austerity the UK
can afford such "wildly paranoid cold war madness" (AR).
Former Tory defense minister James Arbuthnot, now chair of
the defense select committee: "Nuclear deterrence does not
provide the certainty that it seemed to in the past. It's not an
insurance policy, it's a potential booby trap."
2014 February 2
The Bridge stars detectives Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) and
Saga Norén (Sofia Helin), a Dane and a Swede, in a Scandinavian
crime drama set in Malmö and Copenhagen (between which runs the
Öresund or Øresund Bridge — see below).
Belatedly I watched the last
4 hours of the second 10-hour series and loved it. The
heroine Saga displays the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome and was a treat to see in action, racing
around in her combat duds and her scruffy old Porsche. Ah, to be
in Scandinavia now that wisdom's here!
2014 February 1
The average age at which current United
States retirees say they stopped working is 61, up from 59 in
2003 and 57 in 1993. But a January Gallup poll of baby boomers
found that 49% didn't expect to retire until age 66 or older.
Many cited financial concerns as the main reason they aren't
Financial experts warn that baby
boomers, who are often caring for ailing parents and supporting
their fiscally challenged children while trying to navigate
their own lives, are in over their heads. Aside from money
worries, many baby boomers continue working because they want
to, and because they can.
I need to earn more, and I can.
Soerfm (Creative Commons)
Öresund or Øresund Bridge between Malmö in Sweden and
Copenhagen in Denmark:
I have driven across this bridge at least four
||© J. Andrew Ross