invested billions in improving its scientific standing. Almost every Chinese
ministry has some sort of program to win a technological edge in everything
from missiles to medicine. China has jumped to second place behind the
United States in the number of research articles published in scientific and
technical journals worldwide. The National Institute for Biological
Sciences, NIBS, is responsible for half of the peer-reviewed publications in
China. Its 23 principal investigators, director, and deputy director are all
returnees from the United States.
Eamonn McCabe / The Guardian
Oxford Professor of Poetry
election by landslide
Hill is frequently described as the greatest living poet in the English
language. He has received a host of literary garlands, from the Faber
Memorial prize to the Truman Capote award for literary criticism.
He was 78 on June 17:
The new IBM supercomputer system
Watson can understand a naturally posed question and respond with a precise,
factual answer. This fall, the producers of the TV quiz show Jeopardy will
pit Watson against some of the game's best human players.
AR Achtung TREX-Kumpel —
IBM hat Euch hier überholt!
Afghan Mineral Riches
The New York Times
The United States has discovered nearly $1
trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan. The previously unknown
deposits including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium.
Afghanistan could be transformed into one of the most important mining
centers in the world.
An internal Pentagon memo states that Afghanistan could become the
"Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key metal for batteries in an electric future.
Digital self-publishing is
changing book publishing
"We are not born free. Freedom is something we acquire. And we
acquire it through obedience."
The Wall Street Journal
In a vintage Monty Python sketch, there
is a soccer game between Germany and Greece in which the players are leading
philosophers. Germany is captained by "Nobby" Hegel and boasts the
world-class attackers Nietzsche, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, while the wily
Greeks, captained by Socrates, field a dream team with Plato in goal and
Aristotle on defense. Socrates scores a match winner. Hegel argues in vain
with the referee, Confucius, that the reality of Socrates' goal is ...
Photo: Michael Dunlea
My posted Amazon reviews
of books by various authors
Converting To Islam
converting to Islam in order to gain perks and the protection of powerful
Muslim gangs. It seems that some
convicts are taking up the religion in jail to receive benefits
only available to Muslims. The share of Muslim prisoners has risen
from 5 percent in 1994, to 11 percent in 2008. Staff at
top-security prisons and youth jails have raised concerns about the
intimidation of non-Muslims and possible forced conversions.
Sir John Templeton
Sir John Templeton
was an architect of
globalization. As he grew older, he would rhapsodize about science's amazing
progress in virtually every area of knowledge except in spirituality. He
envisioned a new "humility theology" that
emphasizes how much believers need to question and test their beliefs. Templeton
wrote of the search for "spiritual information"
and of God as "Unlimited Creative Spirit."
From 1090 until 1273, the Order of Assassins
played a singular and sinister role in the Middle East. A small Shiite
sect more properly known as the Nizari Ismailis, the Assassins were
geographically dispersed, and despised as heretics by most Muslims. By
conventional standards, the Assassins should have been no match for
their many enemies. But the charismatic and ruthless Hasan-i Sabbah
forged this sect into one of the most lethally effective terrorist
groups the world has ever known. The Assassins were brilliant at
asymmetric warfare. Their targeted killings produced a stable balance of
power in the Middle East. Then the Mongols crushed them.
recently watched the movie Der Mongole
by Sergei Bodrov about the rise to greatness of Genghis Khan. It seems
he was wise and judicious, the veritable Moses of his people. Maybe the
West needs a new Moses.
Wulff mit Merkel
Wulff mit Ehefrau
Britain's new defense
minister, Liam Fox, described Afghanistan as a "broken 13th-century
country." One Afghan official said Fox's comments "show a lack of trust" and
prove that Britain is a "colonial, orientalist, and racist country."
Look at the power of religion in rural Afghanistan. Islam still permeates
all aspects of everyday social relations in rural society. Its influence
pervades people's ordinary conversations, business transactions, dispute
resolutions, and moral judgments. There is no relationship, whether
political, economic, or social, that is not validated by Islam. In such a
society it is impossible to separate religion from politics. Christianity
played a similar role in medieval European life.
Karzai is like a medieval European king. An understanding of medieval power
politics would be of greater value to the international advisors sent to the
Karzai government than a background in constitutional law.
truth is never proof of colonialism or racism.
Has Israel lost it?
Robert Fisk, The Independent
Had Europeans (the Turks are
Europeans, are they not?) been gunned down by any other Middle Eastern army
(which the Israeli army is, is it not?) there would have been waves of
What does this say about Israel? Isn't Turkey
a close ally of Israel? Is this what the Turks can expect? Now Israel's only
ally in the Muslim world is saying this is a massacre — and Israel doesn't
seem to care.
2010 June 30
Bellevue Palace, Berlin home of the new German president Christian Wulff
The G8 and G20 summits have just wound up their latest meetings in
Toronto. No one would say they enact global governance in any politically
meaningful sense, any more than we can say United Nations sessions reflect
the general will of the human community on planet Earth. But, hey, they're a
start. We could do worse.
Could we? Why stage global summits at all?
Why not muddle along at the national and regional level for a few decades
longer? Most people on this planet, if and when they have the freedom to say
so, insist on maximal sovereignty, maximal delegation of powers from the
center, and minimal interference from above. The political superstructures
we build to regulate our affairs are most successful when they work with a
light touch, ideally as light as air, with just a breeze from time to time
to remind us they still exist.
By that standard, the GX summits, for
X in the range 2 to 20, are dismally heavyweight. ...
2010 June 26-27
G-20 Summit Meeting, Toronto, Canada
"An artificial lake, birds singing from the tape, food taster for the
Banquets: In order to polish his image does, Canada is the G-20 summit in
Toronto to cost more than a billion dollars. On the statesmen waiting a true
paradise — in which they are to debate the economic crisis."
Der Spiegel [poetry via Google]
Taming The Financial
The G-20 summit may be the last chance to regulate
financial markets. But it seems more likely that the leading industrialized
nations will once again fail to reach an agreement.
"The G-20 was
kind of the thing that was at hand in a moment of crisis. It's not
necessarily the natural board of directors of the global economy, let alone
global social welfare."
Charles Freeman, Center for Strategic and International Studies
not attending the event, sad to
2010 June 24-27
Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
14th Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada
I'm not attending this event either.
2010 June 26
My Afpak solution: Pull out
the troops, bomb the crazies
2010 June 25
Basic Income For All
Cameron Abadi, City Journal
According to some Christian
Democrats, the only way that Germany can honor people's right to material
dignity while freeing the labor market of distortions is by means of
unconditional basic income [bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen]:
a single monthly payment, pegged to levels currently received by the
unemployed, guaranteed to every citizen from cradle to grave.
AR Good idea to replace the
incomprehensible jungle of tax and
payments that befuddles even smart dudes like me
2010 June 23
"The idea that we are going to
spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is
2010 June 21
Spaceship Earth is the greatest machine that human beings can ever hope
to build. Well before the planet is shipshape, natural- born humans will have
ceased to exist. That won't stop them building it. It will stop them taking
With life on Earth united in a global organism of superhuman power and
purpose, the human prehistory of that organism will be capped and trumped
with convincing finality. The species will rest in peace as a precursor form
in the great unfolding.
Pascal Bruckner on guilt
Theodore Dalrymple on surrender
2010 June 20
Innocently surfing the web, watched a video ... 95 minutes later,
will never be the same again:
Directed by Shaun Monson
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix
and featuring music by Moby
EARTHLINGS is a documentary film
about humankind's perception and treatment of animals.
EARTHLINGS is by far the most
comprehensive documentary ever produced on the correlation between nature,
animals and human economic interests.
"If I could make everyone in
the world see one film, I'd make them see Earthlings"
— Peter Singer
"This is the single most powerful and informative movie about society's
treatment of animals."
— Woody Harrelson
And now for something completely different:
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),
the annual global arms trade is way over $1 trillion.
"The financial crisis and economic recession that affected most of the
globe appeared to have little effect on levels of military expenditure, arms
production or arms transfers. However, the crisis probably did undermine the
willingness and ability of major governments and multilateral institutions
to invest other, non-military resources to address the challenges and
instabilities that threaten societies and individuals around the world."
— Bates Gill,
And now for something else completely different:
Marco Roth on neuronovels and
on aging and Martin Amis
2010 June 19
Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post
Pedestrian is beneath
Obama. Mr. Fix-It he is not. He is world- historical, the visionary, come to
make the oceans recede and the planet heal. ... The gulf is gushing, and the
president is talking mystery roads to unknown destinations. That passes for
vision, and vision is Obama's thing. It sure beats cleaning up beaches.
AR I'm disappointed that Obama
wimped out of even considering
the nuclear option.
2010 June 17
José María Aznar, The Times
The state of Israel was created by a
decision of the UN. Its legitimacy should not be in question. Israel is a
nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open
society, a fully fledged Western nation.
years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for survival. Punished
with missiles, threatened with destruction by Iran, and pressed upon by
friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment's peace.
The rise of radical Islamism threatens not only Israel but also the world at
large. Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region that is
constantly at risk of descending into chaos. If Israel goes down, we all go
The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape
of the world's future. But to abandon Israel to its fate would merely serve
to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now
Friends of Israel support Israel's right to exist and to
defend itself. For Western countries to do otherwise is not only a grave
moral mistake but a strategic error of the first magnitude.
a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its
Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and
Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Our fate is inextricably intertwined.
AR Well said, [Spanish
2010 June 16
Oil Addiction Is Suicidal
Anatole Kaletsky, The Times
The Western world's addiction
to oil is not just environmentally destructive and geopolitically suicidal,
but economically irrational. By relying on fossil fuels, the West is not
only risking catastrophic climate change and subsidising some of the world's
nastiest political regimes to the tune of $1 trillion annually, it is also
forgoing the opportunity to develop new energy technologies in which
knowledge-based societies, such as Europe and America, would enjoy a clear
My three-point policy advice to President Obama:
1 Pop a B61
bunker-buster bomb down the spill drill hole and
bill BP another billion dollars for the favor.
a punitive pump tax on automotive gasoline to wean the
guzzlers off gas and pay down the federal deficit.
a crash program to push a terawatt of electricity from
new-generation nuclear reactors into the grid by 2020.
2010 June 14
Mathematics In Action
New Scientist, I
caught a remarkable display of fallacious reasoning in action.
Alex Bellos reports (29 May, p 44) the following recreational maths puzzle:
"I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the
probability that I have two boys?" Curiously, he make errors in both his
attempts to answer it.
First, Bellos tries an estimate that ignores the fact about Tuesday. Of
the four equally likely possibilities BG, GB, BB or GG, he says, the boy
excludes GG, leaving three possibilities and a chance of 1/3 that the second
child is a boy. This is wrong. Either you ignore birth order or you don't.
If you ignore it, the equally likely possibilities when you also know one
child is a boy are the same as when you simply ignore that boy and answer
the question: "I have a child. What's the probability it's a boy?" Here the
answer is 1/2. The error in the 1/3 calculation was to count BG and GB as
different when they differ only in (irrelevant) birth order.
Bellos misses the conversational implicature (so to speak) that the second
child (which may have been born first, of course) was not a boy born on
Tuesday. Ignoring that fact for a moment and reasoning a priori, the second
child can be boy or girl, born on any of seven days, to give 2 x 7 = 14
equally likely possibilities. Of these 14 cases, 6 are boys not born on
Tuesday, to give a probability of 6/14 = 3/7 that the speaker has two boys.
Bellos tries to consider birth order and conflates cases to get
a bizarre result of 13/27 independently of the conversational implicature.
This is surprisingly tough stuff. You have to be clear about what you can
take as given and which are the equally likely cases.
2010 June 13
The New York Times
Ray Kurzweil, 62, looks like a
professor. His franchise includes best-selling books, lucrative speaking
engagements, blockbuster inventions, and a line of health supplements. In
August, he will begin a cross-country road show to promote a
documentary about his life and beliefs that present him almost as a mystic.
Kurzweil is a prophet of the Singularity. He says there will be a
thousand times more technological progress in this century than in the
twentieth century. He says humans will fill their bodies with nanoscale
creatures that can repair cells and will tap their minds into computers. He
says the computer and the Internet have changed society much faster than
electricity, phones, or television, and soon industries like medicine and
energy will grow as fast as IT. In 2008, Kurzweil and others
founded Singularity University.
AR Ray's ideas helped inspire
my book — see above.
2010 June 10
The Hasso Plattner Institute is
developing imaginary interfaces for mobile devices to replace screen and
keyboard with hand gestures
AR Just like in my book — see above.
The liberal VVD party has come first in the Dutch
parliamentary election, beating Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's
Christian Democrats into fourth place. But the election's real winner is
anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders, whose Freedom Party could be part of the
Let Freedom Ring
The real victory went to Geert Wilders' Party for
Freedom (PVV), which demands an end to immigration from Muslim countries and
a ban on new mosques. The PVV now has 24 seats and could enter a coalition
government. Wilders called it a magnificent result: "We are the biggest
winner today. The Netherlands chose more security, less crime, less
immigration and less Islam."
the Dutch way better than the British way of life, below?
Charles: "Follow the Islamic way"
Prince Charles yesterday urged the world to follow
Islamic spiritual principles to protect the environment. He argued that
man's destruction of the world was particularly contrary to Islam. He said
the Koran teaches that there is "no separation between man and nature" and
says we must always live within our environment's limits. The prince was
speaking in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre on the occasion of the 25th
anniversary of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, of which he is the
"The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the
rest of creation for a very good reason, and that is, we cannot exist on our
own without the intricately balanced web of life around us. Islam has always
taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with
has taken an inconvenient truth from Al Gore.
2010 June 9
A More Forceful China
The New York Times
Relations between the American and Chinese
militaries are in a very deep freeze.
Shangri-La Dialogue, a meeting of the defense ministers of 28 Asia-Pacific
nations including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and General Ma
Xiaotian, the deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation
Army, who said: "A cold-war mentality still exists."
said military ties between the nations are "held hostage" by the Taiwan
issue, even though American arms sales to Taiwan "have been a reality for
A Chinese admiral lectured
on American "hegemony" in a private session during last month's Strategic
and Economic Dialogue in Beijing. American diplomats were left furious.
The Obama administration's approach to China needs
2010 June 8
British Social Engineering
Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal
Britain is one of the worst
countries in the Western world in which to grow up. This is the consequence
not of economic poverty but of the various kinds of squalor that are
prevalent in the country.
alleviators of the effects of social pathology, such as social workers and
child psychologists, dispute this claim. A common view is that poverty is
simply maldistribution of resources. But redistributionist thinking denies
agency to the poor and encourages dependency and corruption.
British state is today as much a monopoly provider of education to the
population as it is of health care. The burocrats believe that public
education is a means of engineering social justice.
AR I tend to agree with
the verdict. At least since the winter of
discontent in 1979 that triggered the Thatcher revolution,
Britain has shown signs of societal dysfunction.
If you would know Allah, go to the infinite blue.
Who is this you call Allah?
Almost formless, embodied in light,
In his embryonic avatar,
He meets his beloved.
We all know this to be the truth.
We flower from the past
To become prophets of the future.
He who has self-knowledge
Is open to any religion,
Be it Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or Christian!
— from Homage to Adam by Bengali poet Lalon Fakir
Quoted by William
Dalrymple in his reflective study of the steady diminution of
religious diversity in India
2010 June 7
Iran Red Crescent Aid To Gaza
Iran's Red Crescent Society will try to break the Israeli
blockade of Gaza. One shipment of relief goods will go to Gaza via Egypt and
two ships will go straight to Gaza, including a hospital ship and a ship
with more relief goods.
This looks like checkmate for the Israeli blockade.
2010 June 6
Young, Muslim, Brutal
A new study shows that violence among young Muslims
increases with their religiosity. Muslim religiosity promotes acceptance of
a macho culture and use of violent methods.
The conclusions stem from a joint research project of the Federal Interior
Ministry and the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN) led
by criminologist Christian Pfeiffer. The KFN interviewed around 45,000
Turkish scientist Rauf Ceylan explained that
the majority of imams in Germany support a retreat into a conservative Islam
and their own ethnic group. Most imams are only temporarily in Germany,
cannot speak German, and have no positive relations to German culture. They
regard male dominance as self-evident.
Pfeiffer said the results show
there is a problem with how Islam is propagated to promote acceptance of a
macho culture. While young Christians show less violence with increasing
religiosity, the opposite is true in young male Muslims.
AR Islam is failing in
its duty as a moral code. Imams, take note.
2010 June 4
Hints of Life on Titan
The Cassini spacecraft has found two potential
signs of life on Saturn's moon Titan. Scientists suggested that life forms
could live in the lakes of liquid methane or ethane scattered over the moon's
surface. Microbes could get energy by breathing in hydrogen gas
and eating the organic molecule acetylene, creating methane. This would
result in a lack of acetylene on Titan and a depletion of hydrogen close to
the surface, where the microbes would live. Cassini measurements have
now borne out these predictions.
Voraussichtlicher nächste Bundespräsident Christian Wulff
"The Turkish government increasingly finds itself on a collision course with
the West. The frustrations of millions of frustrated secular Muslims may
lead them down the path of Islamist radicalization."
More Gaza flotilla fallout
2010 June 3
Photo: Kimberly White
Mark Zuckerberg predicted that in a few years' time
thousands of websites and services would be linked to consumers' profiles
and preferences, following the trend that Facebook has started: "Things are
going to be designed around people. The world is moving this direction where
things are going to be designed more around people and that's going to be a
really powerful direction."
Steve Jobs predicts the era of the personal computer is
coming to an end and the tablet will take its place: "The transformation of
the PC to new form factors like the tablet is going to make some people
uneasy because the PC has taken us a long ways."
IDC predicts that 46 million tablet computers will be
delivered worldwide during 2014. Jobs said that it was "surreal" that Apple
had overtaken Microsoft by market capitalization.
I foresee these trends too — see my
2010 June 2
What's To Investigate?
The debate about the Gaza blockade has nothing to do
with the raid on the flotilla. As long as blockade is the policy, no bunch
of protesters can be given the right to enter. The relevant question is
about the use of excessive force against the protesters. Israel wasn't
expecting to kill civilians. The soldiers were surprised by a mob. They
opened fire. Civilians were killed. It's no cause for pride — but also
nothing to be ashamed of.
A great shame, I'd say.
2010 June 1
Schloss sucht Boss
Die umstrittenen Worte über Krieg und Frieden vom ehemaligen Bundespräsidenten Horst Köhler:
"Meine Einschätzung ist aber, dass insgesamt wir auf dem Wege sind, doch
auch in der Breite der Gesellschaft zu verstehen, dass ein Land unserer
Größe mit dieser Außenhandelsorientierung und damit auch
Außenhandelsabhängigkeit auch wissen muss, dass im Zweifel, im Notfall auch
militärischer Einsatz notwendig ist, um unsere Interessen zu wahren, zum
Beispiel freie Handelswege, zum Beispiel ganze regionale Instabilitäten zu
verhindern, die mit Sicherheit dann auch auf unsere Chancen zurückschlagen
negativ durch Handel, Arbeitsplätze und Einkommen."
AR War is the
continuation of trade by other means — hmm —
Go tell it to the Greeks.
Now that's what I call a
pimped ride! A Japanese scooter
Rory Stewart is no
ordinary politician. He was an officer in the Black Watch and a diplomat in
Montenegro following the Kosovo conflict. He was deputy governor of an Iraqi
province after the toppling of Saddam Hussein and later helped to set up
schools in Kabul. He is the author of two bestselling books, one an account
of his walk across Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, and speaks
11 languages. Until the election in May, he was a human rights professor at
Harvard. Now he is Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border. He is 37.
G20 is a prototype for Globorg
Photo: Pete Souza
The Runaway General
No Sex, Please!
Janice Turner, The Times
Is a woman who doesn't want sex
suffering from a medical condition? The problem is not that she cannot
perform, but that she has no desire to. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder
(HSDD) is common. Surveys show that
43 percent of American women have it.
That's either an epidemic or simply a norm.
AR Maybe I have HSDD.
But who the hell cares?
"Iran stands to
lose much influence as Turkey assumes a new role as the modern and
democratic nation willing to take on Israel and oppose America."
Turkey and Iran:
Rebirth of a legendary
German marque: the 2010
Horex with 200 hp V6
America's efforts to use the religious and political fervor of Islam to its
own ends followed a Nazi program intended to do much the same thing during
World War II.
Me 262 over Berlin
2010 ILA Berlin
British Blogger Sage
A blogger who left Britain 20 years ago for rural bliss in
Spain has become an unlikely economic sage who advises the International
Monetary Fund. Edward Hugh counts Nobel Prize winner and American economist
Paul Krugman among his avid followers. Krugman: "I wish he posted more."
Hugh attended the London School of Economics in the late 1960s.
AR So there's hope for me
Two New Humanist gems:
A more thoughtful analysis
of the flotilla blockade saga
Converting To Islam
The number of female
converts to Islam is on the rise. At the London Central Mosque in Regent's
Park, women account for roughly two thirds of the "New Muslims" who make
their official declarations of faith there. In 2001 there were at least
30,000 British Muslim converts in the UK. According to Kevin Brice, of the
Centre for Migration Policy Research, Swansea University, this number may
now be 50,000. Most are women.
British Women Imamahs
Women imams could be leading prayers in British mosques
within 15 years, according to a leading Muslim. But resistance from
traditionalists means that it could be decades before they lead mixed
congregations. The number of female Islamic scholars, or
alimahs, is soaring. There are five seminaries for women in Britain, with
hundreds of graduates.
The Hitch weighs in on
Israel and Turkey
More repercussions of the spat
between Israel and Turkey
Coolpix of a sunlit walk in
Wulff mit Bier
Wulff mit Lena
Aluf Benn, Haaretz
The "flotilla affair" offers a good opportunity to
complete the disengagement from Gaza and leave Hamastan to its own devices.
The Hitch does self-parody well. According
to his closest friend, Martin Amis, he "likes the smell of cordite" and is
always on the prowl for an argument. "Against the Hitch," Amis once wrote,
"physical and intellectual opposition are equally futile."
favored debating technique is charm followed by an abrupt, flick-knife
withdrawal of charm.
Who is Chris Hitchens?
Who was Ayn Rand?
Four Turks Among Dead
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said
Tuesday that four Turkish citizens are among those that were killed in
Monday's Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship the Mavi Marmara.
AR Is Israel ambitious to become the North
Korea of Southwest Asia?
Lena cheers as her score mounts
All Souls Update
The New York Times
The All Souls entrance exam
included a three-hour exam in which applicants wrote an essay about a single
word printed on an otherwise blank question paper. No longer. All Souls
College, part of Oxford University, recently decided to scrap the one-word
exam. "For a number of years, the one-word essay question had not proved to
be a very valuable way of providing insight into the merits of the
candidates," said Sir John Vickers, the college warden.
Thirty years ago I'd have loved to be an All Souls fellow.
regularly with fellows there, for example with Charles Taylor, the 2007
Templeton Prize winner, and with Crispin Wright, now Global Distinguished
Professor of Philosophy at New York University. I read all their books
Cash For Clunker?
Alison Flood, The Guardian
A science-fiction author is offering
people a cash incentive to read his novel. Peter Riley finished his novel
Universes in 1999 but failed to land a publishing contract for the book. He
has posted the novel online for free, offering readers part of a $3,000
prize if they answer some questions about the book. Riley: "I'm hoping that
publishing the book online and pretty well paying people to read it will get
it noticed ... I'm 65 ... and I'm desperate to get it published while I'm
Chin up, man!
Garbage and Gravitas
Corey Robin, The Nation
When Russian emigré Ayn Rand arrived in
the United States,
Zarathustra was the first book in English she bought. With Nietzsche on
her mind, she was inspired to write in her journals that "the secret of
life" is, "you must be nothing but will. Know what you want and do it. Know
what you are doing and why you are doing it, every minute of the day. All
will and all control. Send everything else to hell!"
Clear thinking, AR!
New Life Is Born
Mark Henderson, The Times
Craig Venter has created a synthetic bacterium. Nicknamed Synthia, it is a
breakthrough in biological engineering, allowing the creation of organisms
that make vaccines and turn carbon dioxide into biofuels.
"This is the first synthetic cell ... a proof of concept. But the proof of
concept was key, otherwise it is just speculation and science fiction. This
takes us ... into a new world."
Reuters / Robert Galbraith
"I'm probably more aligned to Lucifer and the dark side"
MIT Technology Review
Researchers from Columbia
University, Arizona State University, and Caltech have made a nanobot that
follows a programmable path on a surface patterned with DNA and researchers
from New York University have made a nanobot that picks up pieces of gold as
it moves along a surface patterned with DNA. The machines are described in
Susanne Lencinas Fotografie
Time for me to
and enjoy nature again
2010 May 30
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST WINNER
Lena gewinnt Grand Prix
Lena Meyer-Landrut hat am Samstagabend den Eurovision
Song Contest 2010 gewonnen. Die aus Hannover stammende 19-jährige
Abiturientin war erst vor wenigen Monaten in einer Casting-Show entdeckt
worden. Sie konnte ihren Sieg kaum fassen. "Oh mein Gott, ich dreh durch!",
rief sie völlig überwältigt.
"Love, oh, love" — what a fun song!
2010 May 29
The X-51A was launched over the Pacific on May 26, achieving scramjet
ignition and acceleration, but the engine ran for 200 s rather than the 300
s planned, and the vehicle reached around Mach 5 instead of Mach 6.
The X-51A booster-and-cruiser stack was released by the B-52 mother ship at
around 15 km and Mach 0.8. The stack separated cleanly and the booster
ignited as planned, taking the vehicle to Mach 4.8, where the cruiser
separated and executed a roll.
At Mach 4.73, the scramjet ignited
with ethylene and transitioned to JP-7 fuel. The X-51A accelerated at up to
0.15g instead of the projected 0.22g. At around Mach 5, the vehicle began to
slow. When telemetry was lost, range safety officials terminated the flight
and destroyed the vehicle.
Spiegel fact checkers take note!
2010 May 28
X-51A Waverider on B-52 wing pylon
Three Minutes at Mach 5
Engineers were "ecstatic" at the first flight of the
hypersonic X-51A Waverider scramjet. The U.S. Air Force launched the X-51A
from a B-52 at an altitude of 15 km. The solid-fuel booster accelerated the
missile to Mach 4.8, then the scramjet fired for 200 seconds of Mach
5 flight through the atmosphere. This is a breakthrough in supersonic
combustion ramjet technology.
We all wanted scramjets 40 years ago for fast interceptors.
2010 May 27
Germany Versus Europe
The New York
Germany is doing far better than the rest of Europe. But its
economy would sputter if European consumers could no longer afford to buy
its goods. German banks lent billions to Greece and other troubled European
With a low fiscal deficit and strong export surpluses,
Germany has contributed less than its fair share to the global stimulus. The
eurozone's lack of a common fiscal policy is the responsibility of all the
The PIGS countries spent lavishly during the bubble
and failed to reform labor markets or control wages. Germany should have
demanded adjustments earlier. Those countries have been forced into tax
increases and spending cuts to bring their deficits under control. The cuts
risk plunging Europe into recession.
Instead of committing to more
spending, Germany is now preparing a multiyear program of deep spending
cuts. German austerity will likely cripple Europe's nascent recovery and
Germany's own prosperity.
Where are the German Keynesians when we need them?
Dunkirk boats departing Ramsgate for
France to mark the anniversary of the evacuation 70 years ago
AR Still gives me shivers
to think of all that
2010 May 25
Korean War 2: Countdown
Scott Snyder, director of the center for U.S.-Korea
policy at the Asia Foundation, Washington: "This is really the last phase of
unwinding of this policy of engagement that had been in place between the
Koreas since 1998."
Professor Hazel Smith, North Korea expert, Cranfield University: "Wars
sometimes happen by accident, or because you have escalation and no one can
Hillary Clinton called stability on the Korean peninsula
a "shared responsibility" of China and the United States as she wrapped up
two days of talks in Beijing.
Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images AsiaPac
South Korean Air Force F-16 team, Seoul International Aerospace and Defense
Exhibition (ADEX) 2009
A few years ago I practiced piloting bombing runs over Korea
in a USAF F-16 simulator on my PC
2010 May 23
The iPad Revolution
The New York Review of Books
the Association of American Publishers, book sales fell nearly 2 percent to
$23.9 billion in 2009. Educational books and paperbacks took the biggest
hit. The figures seemed to confirm what Steve Jobs said in early 2008: "It
doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't
read anymore." Also in 2009, sales of digital books were over $313 million,
with analysts at Goldman Sachs predicting that U.S. sales of e-books would
grow to $3.2 billion by 2015. What Jobs said was wrong.
two ways to display words on a screen. E Ink reflects light and looks like
regular ink. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) have backlit pixels that can be
dimmed or brightened. Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook are both
monochrome readers that use E Ink. Aple's iPhone and iPad have LCDs, and
both are backlit. Backlit screens are hard to read outside or in direct
sunlight. Reflective E Ink screens are hard to see in low light. LCDs drain
power, E Ink screens conserve it.
The Nook is built around the ePub
format, which is open and freely available for any device. The Kindle uses a
proprietary format, which functions only for Kindle. The iPad's iBook app
uses the ePub format. So far, the iBookstore has some 60,000 titles. The
ePub format is used by every electronic reader except the Kindle. Google
Editions, scheduled to launch this summer, will use it.
AR I shall consider
offering GIG in
2010 May 21
Revised Cover and Blurb for GIG
Through our efforts
to develop new technology and globalize its industrial application, we
humans are working together to create a global organization so integrated
that we become parts of a single living organism. Andy Ross calls this
Globorg is the natural
culmination of biological evolution on planet Earth. It will embrace humans
as living parts. It will include human history as part of its own history.
We are building its brain with the infrastructure of the web and cloud
We shall identify with Globorg. On a clear day we shall see and act as
one. Globorg will have woken up. But first we need to win the war between
science and religion. Andy Ross proposes a logical foundation for
a new philosophy of life.
This book is a road map from here and now to
Globorg. It will open up a new world for smart and ambitious readers.
2010 May 20
Thatcherize The Eurozone!
Emmott, The Times
Panic is not a word normally associated either with
Germany or Angela Merkel. But that was the impression given by Germany's
announcement on Tuesday that it was banning short-selling of eurozone
government debt or of shares in financial companies by German institutions.
When the euro was launched in 1999, rules were set for budget
deficits and public debt. France and Germany were among the first to break
the rules. So when the southern European nations broke the rules big time,
it was no surprise. Nor can it be a surprise that banks in France and
Germany lent the money.
Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy (PIGS)
must make budget cuts. Presumably, the penalty would be expulsion from the
euro. But Merkel has described any exit as unthinkable.
Kampeter, the German Finance Ministry #2, said the eurozone needs a strictly
enforced fiscal union, combined with a broad liberalization of goods,
services, and labor markets. In other words, it needs to be Thatcherized.
Will the PIGS take the medicine? Will Germany?
AR Do it! If Brits could
take it, Krauts can.
2010 May 14
SAP Stack Wars
SAP's acquisition of US peer Sybase
is the largest deal SAP has done since buying Business Objects in 2007. Sybase is a market leader in software for putting business
apps onto mobile devices.
deal will help SAP to push forward its in-memory technology. SAP says
in-memory systems can cut database analysis times from hours to seconds. It
is the next big leap in computer technology. Developing in-memory computing
has been a pet project for Hasso Plattner, SAP's chairman and co-founder.
Sybase is focused on clients from the financial and trading world, where
the in-memory technology will pay off well.
AR Hasso is developing in-memory technology
with my old team.
I almost wish I
was still there in the middle of the action.
Literary criticism is a
refuge for unsystematic thinkers
2010 May 13
Carl de Souza
Britain's First Couple: David Cameron and Nick
How long should we waste our time with the sheer banality of the New Atheists?
AR My book news: the
manuscript is finalizing at 300 pages in a
handy 12.9 x 19.8 cm paperback format
2010 May 11
"A Muslim has no nationality except his belief."
2010 May 10
Through our efforts to develop new technology and globalize its industrial
application, we humans are working together to create a global organization
so integrated that we become parts of a single living organism. Andy Ross
calls this organism Globorg.
Globorg is the natural culmination of
biological evolution on planet Earth. It will embrace humans as living
parts. It will include human history as part of its own history. We are
building its brain with the infrastructure of the web and cloud services.
We shall identify with Globorg. On a clear day we shall see and act as
one. Globorg will have woken up. But first we need to win a major turf war
between science and religion. Andy Ross presents an original and winning
This book is a road map from here and now to Globorg. It conveys a stark
message that many will find controversial.
AR My new book is now available as a PDF file
(303 pages, 2 MB)
set in a handy
paperback page format (but not yet for sale)
2010 May 9
The beloved U.S. imam who now
preaches jihad from Yemen
non-biologists try to say what they think Darwin got wrong
Nietzsche and Heidegger: still too much slime below the surface
2010 May 8
65 years ago today: VE Day
Otto Donath / Berliner Verlag
Lena pops the celebratory cork
Apple Passes Microsoft
The New York Times
The most important
technology product no longer sits on your desk but rather fits in your hand.
Apple, maker of iPods, iPhones, and iPads, shot past Microsoft, maker of
Windows and Office, to become the world's most valued technology company.
This change caps a stunning turnaround
for Apple. Microsoft has dominated the relationship most people had with
their computers for almost two decades. Apple still sells computers but
makes twice as much revenue from hand-held devices and music. As of
Wednesday, Wall Street valued Apple at $222 billion and Microsoft at $219
AR Combined street value of $441 billion ... I work with
both Microsoft and Apple products for hours every day. I'm so in tune
with the Zeitgeist. So where are my own millions?
Aaron David Miller
at 40 years of
Mideast peace process
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Islam
The Euro Crisis
The measures so far taken to prop up the collapsing euro, such as the "$1
trillion package", are no more than gestures. We are witnessing a judgment
on the European project. Everything has been directed to one goal, full
political and economic integration. The most important part was locking the
member states into a single currency. There was no way economic and monetary
union could work unless it was run by a single all-powerful economic
government, with the power to raise taxes.
If the euro disintegrates,
the consequences would be incalculable. Without a currency, trade would
collapse. Cries went up last week for the European Union to be transformed
into an economic government with control over national budgets and the power
to raise taxes.
Ein Europa, eine Währung, eine Politik — alles nur konsequente
Ich habe kein Problem damit.
The Euro Is Dead
Jeff Randall, The Telegraph
The game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together
work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club
Med. You cannot run a single currency with one interest rate for 16
economies with such huge fiscal disparities.
Withdrawal from the eurozone
of one or more countries is now inevitable. Greece and Portugal are
favorites to be booted out.
A new hard currency zone, led
by Germany, Austria
and the Benelux countries, is being proposed for the winners.
CIA Can Kill Cleric
The New York Times
The Obama administration
has authorized the CIA to kill an American citizen. American-born
radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is hiding in Yemen. Administration officials
say that no legal or constitutional rights can protect him. The idea that
the CIA can execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone,
with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, discomfits some
SAP to Buy Sybase
The New York Times
SAP has agreed to buy Sybase
for $5.25 billion. The acquisition puts SAP into the database software
market and raises its game against Oracle.
AR Good move
and good for my
IISS Strategic Dossier
Release date: May 10
CNN International is showing
the leaders debate this
All eyes will be on Nick Clegg.
AR Clegg was full of good ideas but outgunned
by David Cameron. Pity Cameron has such a wingnut nationalist mistrust of
Liberal Democrat leader
Nick Clegg has been voted the most popular party
leader since Winston Churchill following his bold display of winning form in last week's TV
young man but looks like yet another party clone: David Campbell was
educated at Eton and Oxford, Nick Clegg at Westminster and Cambridge.
Will Brits always go for toffs?
Hanging Out With Ian McEwan
Tina Brown, The Daily Beast
Tina Brown talks to
Ian McEwan about his
Solar and the frozen penis scene.
Watch the interview (16:49)
War and Peace
Victor Davis Hanson
explain the peace in the Western world. War zones can be imaged in real time
from air or space. Surprise is rare and potential combatants know the odds in advance.
The cost of modern military technology is high. Many Westerners believe that
war is the preventable result of rational grievances. But aggressors are
often guided by destructive emotions from deep in the human psyche. We are
not at the end of history.
(Boy Scouts motto)
QuiverFull: "We exalt Jesus Christ as Lord, and acknowledge His headship
in all areas of our lives, including fertility"
2010 April 21
Image: Micaela Rossato
The Sunday Times
Candace Bushnell is the woman who created Sex
and the City. Bushnell is 51. She moved to New York at the age of 19, intent
on being a writer. She tried modelling and acting, worked as a journalist,
and was offered a column on The New York Observer. The column was called Sex
and the City. She got a book deal and the book was optioned for a TV series.
It premiered in 1998, ran to six series, and was revived as a movie.
Meanwhile, Bushnell went on to write several bestselling novels ...
Goldman Sachs — The Great American Bubble Machine
2010 April 18
Coolpix of a walk in the springtime sunshine
Liberal Democrat Election Outrage
Martin Kettle, The Guardian
Explosive new YouGov poll results:
Conservatives 33%, Liberal Democrats 30%, Labour 28%. According to a BBC
calculator, this would translate to these election results: Labour 276
seats, Conservatives 245, Lib Dems 100, others 29. This latest shift in
public opinion speaks of an appetite for change. If the Clegg bounce is
reflected in the result on May 6, it could unleash a political and
Bring it on — break the stale duopoly of British politics!
Klaus Gaeth / monacoeye.com
Motor Yacht A
Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, 38, owns Motor
Yacht A. Launched in 2008, the $300 million yacht is 119 m long and has a
luxurious master suite his employees call the nookie room.
AR Such ominously
threatening beauty in those stealth lines.
We're bored with big flaring bows: we like cut of his jib.
2010 April 16
Vulcanologists say we may soon get more eruptions
like that of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano now grounding all commercial
flights across northern Europe. Increased rumblings under Iceland in the
past decade suggest the area is entering a more active phase.
2010 April 15
The War in Afghanistan
David Miliband, The New York Review
Afghanistan was the incubator
for the September 11 attacks. The Afghan and international strategy over the
last eight years has been to focus on building up the key functions of the
state and delivering better lives for the Afghan people. There is a real
record of achievement here. In 2003, the Afghan National Army numbered fewer
than two thousand. Today it is over 100,000 strong. As the Afghan National
Army gets stronger, international forces will be able to withdraw from
combat operations. In 2001, only one million Afghan children attended
school, all boys. This year we expect to see seven million Afghan children
enrolled in school, a third of them girls. The achievements of the National
Solidarity Programme would be a remarkable story in any country. But justice
and law and order are a battleground, civil administration remains an uphill
struggle, and corruption is widespread.
AR Not good. It's taking too long and costing us too
2010 April 8
President Obama on Nuclear Posture Review:
"The Nuclear Posture
Review, led by the Department of Defense, recognizes that the greatest
threat to U.S. and global security is no longer a nuclear exchange between
nations, but nuclear terrorism by violent extremists and nuclear
proliferation to an increasing number of states. Moreover, it recognizes
that our national security and that of our allies and partners can be
increasingly defended by America’s unsurpassed conventional military
capabilities and strong missile defenses."
AR This is my assessment too.
result, we are taking specific and concrete steps to reduce the role of
nuclear weapons while preserving our military superiority, deterring
aggression and safeguarding the security of the American people."
AR This is the correct
"The United States will not conduct nuclear testing and will
seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States
will not develop new nuclear warheads or pursue new military missions or new
capabilities for nuclear weapons."
I would update the warheads.
2010 April 4, Easter Sunday
Malcolm Grimston, CNN
World energy use is expected to double by
2050. We get a lot of our energy from oil and coal. Oil is around $80 a
barrel and the sources are often insecure.
Nuclear economics look
good compared with future fossil fuel prices. The industry should be able to
deliver new stations to time and cost. Uranium is mined in Canada and
For baseload, nuclear energy does not compete with
renewables but with coal and gas. Nuclear power plants cause no serious carbon
dioxide emissions. The waste problems are minor compared to energy shortages and
agree. Most nuclear waste can be burned in new reactors.
2010 April 2, Good Friday
Fundamentalists Versus Secularists
Caspar Melville, New Humanist
Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?
By Eric Kaufmann
Profile Books, 320 pages
London-based political scientist Eric
Kaufmann says modernity does not inevitably lead people away from religious
belief and toward rational humanism.
Since the birth rate of secularists
worldwide is below replacement level (2.1 in the West), and the birth rate
of religious fundamentalists is above (between 5 and 7.5 depending on sect),
demography favors the fundamentalists.
Differential fertility also
widens the rift between religionists and secularists. In America, 35-40
percent of young whites are secular. But the converts come mostly from
moderate religions. The closed sects cling on to their kids. Irreligion and
fundamentalism are growing and moderate religion is shrinking.
Kaufmann argues that religion provides enchantment, meaning, and emotion.
"This is the challenge for secularism: can it come up with such an
The last line of the book: "The religious shall inherit
My next book aims to come up with such an ideology.
2010 April 1
My site is now formatted not only for Windows but also for Mac.
Electronic Cat Brain?
University of Michigan
engineer Wei Lu invented the memristor, a device that remembers its previous
voltage state. Now he has built a memristor circuit that shows memory and
learning. In a brain, neurons are connected to each other by synapses that
can be reset based on the strength and timing of neural signals. This is
spike timing dependent plasticity, thought to be the basis for memory and
learning. Lu has demonstrated spike timing dependent plasticity using a
memristor circuit. He uses voltage timing to change the electrical
conductance in the memristor system. In our brains, similar changes in
synapse conductance underlie long term memory. Lu's dream is to implement
the high-level workings of a cat brain in a two-liter machine.
Jennifer Aniston promoting
her new line of perfume.
41, says it is a
AR Homeopathic perfume,
perhaps, as fine as the
Emperor's new clothes?
USAF B-2 Spirit dropping
B61 gravity bomb
The B61-11 nuclear bomb
energy downward, destroying buried targets to a depth of several hundred
meters. The yield can be set from 300 tons of TNT to more than 300,000 tons.
M28 Atomic Battle Group
The Davy Crockett system was developed half
a century ago, when the U.S. Army felt it needed 150,000 nuclear weapons to
fight a protracted war with the Soviet Union. The M388 warhead was a W54
fission bomb with a selectable yield from 10 to 250 tons of TNT. The maximum
range of the M28 was 2 km.