Don DeLillo Wins
PEN/Saul Bellow Award
Don DeLillo, the Underworld author, has been named winner of the $25,000
PEN/Saul Bellow award, which goes to an American fiction writer whose work
"possesses qualities of excellence, ambition, and scale of achievement over
a sustained career which place him or her in the highest rank of American
DeLillo told PEN that it was a "special honor" to
be given a prize bearing Bellow's name. "I still have my old paperback copy
of Herzog, a novel I recall reading with great pleasure," he said.
AR I'm reading Underworld
It's excellent. I read Herzog in 1978. It's great.
Photo: Chris Buck
"I must be near the end of my career — people are starting
pain in the multiple and copious reviews being showered on Jonathan Franzen
Good 4U Jo!
Gulf States Buy Arms
The Gulf Arab states have embarked on a huge arms
buildup, ordering U.S. weapons worth some $123 billion. The states are
alarmed by Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Anthony Cordesman, from the
Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the
US was aiming to achieve a "new post-Iraq war security structure that can
secure the flow of energy exports to the global economy."
Arabia is buying 85 new
F-15 Eagles and upgrading 70 more. Another
agreement is expected to upgrade radar and missile defenses and modernize
Swedish Islamic Revolution?
With 5.7 percent of the vote, the far-right Sweden Democrats party
enters parliament for the first time. The party won 20 seats in the Swedish
Democrats tapped into voter dissatisfaction over immigrants, who make up 14%
of the country's population. Party secretary Björn Söder, who is #2 behind
party leader Jimmie Åkesson, said an Islamic revolution like that in Iran in
1979 could occur in Sweden: "Islamification is a question of destiny for the
entire western world. ... It's a political ideology disguised as religion.
And I think that it's a very appropriate subject to address, otherwise we'll
be facing the same problem that Iran did in 1979."
Against a Theory of Religion
The world's religions are often seen, by
believers and nonbelievers alike, as repositories of eternal truths.
In the Talmud, two rabbis, Hillel and Shammai, joust with each other over
some three hundred different issues. Hillel, who has been described as
"Judaism's model human being," almost always gets the upper hand. But the
Talmud records Shammai's views too. Or, as the Talmud reads, "Both are the
words of the living God, but the law is in accordance with the view of the
house of Hillel."
When it comes to spiritual things, I don't mind a
little confusion. In fact, I prefer it to having all the answers.
"More than ever, to immerse yourself
in an involving book seems socially useful," says
Jonathan Franzen. Books are "where you can actually engage productively
with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world."
Boeing Plans to Fly
Tourists to Space
The New York Times
Boeing is entering the space tourism business.
The flights could begin as early as 2015, most likely from Cape Canaveral in
Florida to the International Space Station. The Obama administration has
proposed letting private companies take NASA astronauts to orbit, and has
awarded Boeing a contract for a capsule to carry seven passengers.
Not for me, thanks.
Why 9/15 Changed
More Than 9/11
The collapse of Lehman Brothers
on 9/15 marked the end of the unipolar moment. The 9/11 attacks led to a
dramatic reassertion of American power. Charles Krauthammer greeted victory
in Iraq by hailing a "world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by
any rival." The financial crisis has changed that assumption. China is
already pre-eminent. The United States spent a decade pouring resources into
combating the wrong threat.
New Basel Rules
Global banking regulators have sealed a deal to
effectively triple the size of the capital reserves that the world's banks
must hold against losses, in one of the most important reforms to emerge
from the financial crisis.
One small step forward.
Now, about those bonuses ...
Thilo Sarrazin is being pilloried over his polemic
chastising Muslims, but he expresses the anger of Germans who are tired of
being cursed when they offer to help foreigners to integrate.
AR Behind the secular image,
Germany is a Christian land. That's the real problem for the curse-spouting
Researchers mapped how
the functional connections between brain areas change with age. Short-range
connections (green) tend to weaken and longer-range connections (orange)
grow stronger. The circles mark brain regions that indicate maturity: size
for importance and color for function.
By Jimmy Page
512 pages, over 700 photos
Leather bound, silk
wrapped, autographed, £445
A fan: "For that price
he'd better deliver it to my
house and read it to me."
Clinton: Bush Policy Insane
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used her speech to the
Council on Foreign Relations to criticize George W. Bush's fiscal record.
Cutting taxes while fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was a "deadly
combination" in terms of "fiscal sanity," she said.
AR Too true.
Barclays Capital paid its American-born head
"Bonus" Bob Diamond £40 million last year. Matthew Oakeshott, Liberal
Democrat Treasury spokesman, said Barclays was "putting up two fingers" to
the government and the Bank of England by appointing Diamond as its new CEO.
Petraeus: Don't Burn Koran
The New York Times
Burning copies of the Koran "would undoubtedly
be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame
public opinion and incite violence," said General David H. Petraeus.
AR I agree: let's withdraw the
troops first before we start
Long Live the Internet
AR Dead? Sez
New disciplines have arisen with the prefix "neuro"
in their names. This neurotrash seems to reduce the human being to a
biological computer. Take erotic love. Brain science says nothing about what
distinguishes people from laboratory rats, namely the I-to-I relation of
lovers. That is why the conflict between religion and science endures.
People hold on to their religion because it protects and endorses the belief
in human uniqueness.
Agreed: neuroscience makes no claim on the I-to-I story.
The Man Who Lied to His Laptop
Clifford Nass, Stanford University
Clippy, the animated paper
clip in Microsoft Office, was utterly oblivious to appropriate ways to treat
people. In an experiment, we revised Clippy so that when he made a
suggestion or answered a question, he would ask, "Was that helpful?" and
then present buttons for "yes" and "no." If the user clicked "no," Clippy
would say, "That gets me really angry! Let's tell Microsoft how bad their
help system is." He would then pop up an email to be sent to Microsoft.
People fell in love with the new Clippy.
Candidates around the country are drawing a line against an
Islamic house of worship near Ground Zero. In a survey by Quinnipiac
University, a majority of New York State voters, 53 to 39 percent, agrees
that "because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be
allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero." Ground Zero was just the
beginning. The case against a mosque there has shifted from extremism to
2010 September 28
Source: Van J. Wedeen, M.D., MGH/Harvard U.
Diffusion spectrum image of brain wiring in a healthy human adult:
thread contains hundreds of thousands of nerve fibers.
Human Connectome Project
National Institute of Mental Health
Grants totaling $40 million
to map the human brain's connections in high resolution have been awarded
under the Human Connectome Project.
Dr. David Van Essen, Washington
U.: "The Human Connectome Project will have transformative impact, paving
the way toward a detailed understanding of how our brain circuitry changes
as we age and how it differs in psychiatric and neurologic illness."
Researchers will map the connectomes in each of 1,200 healthy adults from
300 families. The maps will show the anatomical and functional connections
between parts of the brain for each individual, and will be related to
behavioral test data.
The researchers will use a customized MRI scanner providing high spatial
resolution. After processing with a supercomputer, the data will become web
accessible via a customized Connectome Database Neuroinformatics Platform.
AR This is a job for
IBM Blue Brain machines.
2010 September 27
Top 50 paperbacks of the year?
1 ... 50 (yawn)
A splendid pot-pourri you've prepared for us here. Evidently it was a
good year. One dark horse that I was hoping to see on the list but which
somehow ran under the radar was an intriguing manifesto in praise of things
to come called "G.O.D. Is Great" by an author whose name escapes me. New
talents always have it hard, and so it should be, but a list like this does
tend to hammer home the status quo. How about another list of new stuff by
The British Nuclear Deterrent
Air Commodore Alastair Mackie, The Times
As it discusses Trident
replacement, the National Security Council would do well to discard the
delusion that our deterrent is independent. It is no such thing. The
warheads depend for maintenance on the U.S. Trident base in Georgia. The
missiles are part-owned by an American corporation. And guiding Trident to
its targets needs American navigation satellites.
AR Our deterrent is merely an
appendage to the massive U.S. deterrent. It seems clear to me that it is
therefore a purely political weapon system. Our purpose in thus helping to
pay for the U.S. deterrent is to ensure that we keep the Americans on our
side, come what may. It seeks to do with hardware what Winston Churchill
sought to do with his personal charm offensive in the war years. As such, it
seems a reasonable investment.
2010 September 25
Twenty reasons to love the Germans
2 Music (techno)
6 Fun grammar (was ist das?)
7 Genre cinema
8 Rocket science
10 Bachelor dining (hmm)
British royal family (reality TV vom feinsten)
14 Refuge for troubled artists (thanks)
Buying British cheese
18 Klaus and Nastassja Kinski (Nasti!)
Jürgen Klinsmann (who he?)
AR As a Times-loving Brit
who has resided in this most excellent of European nations for over twenty
years, I can only applaud your good taste. Reason 21: German houses have
thick walls, big eaves, roll-down window shutters, two-way hinged windows,
marble stairs, sensible sockets for sensible plugs, reliable central
heating, great modular kitchens, and good bathrooms. Think Bauhaus and IKEA
(Swedish, I know, but same idea): stuff worth writing home about.
babes are OK too ...
2010 September 21
Swedish Far Right Advances
Andy Ross, The Times
The underlying issue is bigger than Sweden.
The far right will continue to advance in all European states until the
immigration issue is tackled effectively.
A generation ago, Europe welcomed immigration to a
booming continent. Now the boom is history and the previous immigrants need
to be assimilated. It makes no sense to exacerbate social tensions by
welcoming more. We need clear principles for deciding when to extend a
welcome. We should not let ourselves become dupes of regimes who want to
export their economic or political problem cases to us. Instead we should
help those regimes to solve their own problems first.
Union must promote a realistic immigration policy. Then Sweden and other
European states can work together instead of falling like dominoes to
The headline reactions to right-wing advances in Sweden,
the Netherlands and other European states invite the domino metaphor.
Xenophobia is on the rise and will keep growing until the political
establishment in Europe reacts with more clarity on immigration.
Naturally the far right in Sweden is filled with sentimental nationalists.
And naturally some of them support the racist stereotypes that give rational
immigration policy a bad name. They are nationalist in part because the
European internationalism on offer is so spineless.
Democrats are a pressure group. Their detailed opinions are as crazy as any
other such group. But they are symptoms of a deeper problem. We live in
interesting times and the establishment seems clueless. I propose a way
forward in my new book G.O.D. Is Great
but I doubt that it will please xenophobes.
2010 September 20
The Grand Design
John Cornwell, The Telegraph
Professor Stephen Hawking says that
if gravity was the basis on which the universe came into being
spontaneously, "it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue
touchpaper and set the universe going."
But theologians in the
tradition of, say, Thomas Aquinas, the medieval exponent of metaphysics,
would agree, for sensible theologians don't understand God as an object.
Dare I suggest that it may be the oracular Professor Hawking who is
failing to keep up with the philosophers and the theologians, rather than
the other way around?
I dare say you're right, John.
2010 September 19-24
European Planetary Science Congress 2010
Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas
Atmospheres of terrestrial planets
Exploring the Moon
Active satellites with atmospheres:
Titan, Triton, and Io
Comets, asteroids, and trans-Neptunian
New results from Venus
New science from Mars
evolution and early planetary life
I guess there's an Earthlike planet somewhere far away in the quantum
multiverse where I'm a keynote speaker at Europlanet.
2010 September 19
Is it morally good to try to make all
the money you can?
Is hypomania a useful character trait for
say sorry to Muslims for being nasty to them?
2010 September 18
American exports to China surged 25 percent in
the second quarter of this year, but German sales to China grew twice as
fast. Adjusted for the size of their economies, Germany is now out-exporting
the United States to China by a factor of three to one.
Germany has created the most finely honed export economy outside of
China. German companies are global market leaders for the products Chinese
want. Exports now account for more than one-third of Germany's national
output. Germany's $1.2 trillion in annual exports is roughly equal to the
entire gross national product of India.
Germany became the first
major economy to exit the Great Recession. In August, Germany's unemployment
rate stood near a two-year low of 7.6 percent, with some companies in
Germany now complaining of a labor shortage. Germany is better positioned
for prolonged, stable growth than it has been in years.
AR I hope lots of Germans take
time to read my Globorg book.
Abdel-Samad: "Islam is like a drug."
2010 September 17
The term "Great American Novel" was coined in 1868. It
has hung like a curse over the country's fiction ever since. The function of
the GAN is not to glorify America but to warn of very bad things.
Jonathan Franzen could have called his novel "Growth". Say "growth" to an
economist and he'll smile. Say "growth" to an oncologist and he'll frown. As
the 563-page narrative of Freedom moves to its conclusion, the authorial
opinion is unequivocal. America is not the world's engine but the world's
Franzen boils down the freedom conundrum into a fable. There
are some 75 million domestic cats in America. They kill more wildlife than
all the guns in America combined. That's freedom for you. So is Freedom the
Great American Novel? Only time will tell.
AR It sounds like Franzen has done in 563 pages what
Cormac McCarthy did in fewer in The Road. In either case, you wouldn't
expect an artist to appreciate the grand design of the Globorg that America
has launched as our bid for immortality.
2010 September 16
A New Two-Stroke
EcoMotors International, a startup based in
Troy, Michigan, has a new approach to the two-stroke engine which it says is
efficient and can meet emission standards. The opposed piston, opposed
cylinder (OPOC) engine uses two piston movements per cycle and each cylinder
contains two opposing pistons, with one crankshaft between a pair of
cylinders. The design relies on computerized control of all the components.
AR Looks better than my
first motorbike engine.
The Servile Mind
has become an association of vulnerable people whose needs must be met and
sufferings mitigated by the power of the state. Individuals find their
identifying essence in supporting public policies that are both morally
obligatory and politically imperative. This is the ultimate servility.
Pope Benedict XVI Meets Queen Elizabeth II
"Your Holiness, I am delighted to welcome you to the United Kingdom."
Pope: "Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural
society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect
for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive
forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."
planning to see the Pope? Read the terms and conditions.
At no time should
you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks, or infringe any
AR Thanks, BBC, for considering our welfare.
2010 September 15
Like the late comedian Danny Kaye, professional
scientists sometimes get their exercise by jumping to conclusions.
Historians of science call this bias the file-drawer problem: if a set of
experiments produces a result contrary to what the team needs to find, it is
filed away and the world never finds out about it. Discredited research is
regularly cited in support of other research, even after it has been
discredited. Trials of the safety and efficacy of drugs seem to be
especially liable to errors. The biases of science
reporting in the popular press produce misinformation. One response to the
problem is to believe nobody. But suspending judgment makes it impossible to
decide what to do about anything. The shortcomings of science do not make it
rational to believe cranks instead. Science is the only game in town.
2010 September 14
Jonathan Sacks, The Times
Pope Benedict XVI has been issuing a
repeated warning we would be foolish to ignore. When he was still Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, he contrasted the resurgence of Islam with the loss of
identity and purpose in Europe. The proof was in European birthrates.
The Pope is not the only one to sound the warning. My
doctoral supervisor, the late Sir Bernard Williams, a principled atheist,
was convinced that we had returned to the cultural situation of pre-Socratic
Greece. Britain today is a deeply secular place, and that is not about to
AR Sir Bernard
Williams was a good philosopher. Dr Sacks has my vote. But people need faith
in the future before they will breed freely. Our world is in flux (a Mormon
prophet once told me we live in an age of "redemptive turbulence") and until
the landscape looks clearer we do well to breed cautiously. Muslim masses
will only exacerbate the problems of learning to live with robots and global
organization, so we surely don't need to follow their example and breed
heedlessly. I think we need to rethink the core idea of monotheism. Sir
Bernard's thoughts on the self are relevant here. My new book (google
"globorg") explains how a more scientific understanding of the success story
of the Abrahamic tradition can help us.
2010 September 13
Aid To Pakistan
Andy Ross, The Times
Pakistan has too many people
for its resources. And Pakistanis seem to have made no concerted effort to
prepare themselves for the worst. Instead the authorities have fooled around
developing expensive nuclear bombs and failing to tackle religious
fundamentalism. Until we find more in Pakistan than a people in a state of
denial about their true poverty, both material and spiritual, it's hard to
see how aid can help.
A Future Dictionary
Douglas Coupland, The
New York Times
The future never feels the way we thought it
would. New sensations require new terms. Below are a few such terms to
encapsulate our present moment ...
GLOBORG DRONE SYNDROME The enervating sense of
being a selfless drone in the global organism as it races toward the
Singularity. Globorg or GO is also the global organization, the successor to
G8 and so on, so it's started already.
2010 September 12
At a reception to
mark the start of the 2010 Singularity Summit, the world's leading forum for
serious discussion of incredible things to come, in an apartment near the
Golden Gate Bridge, scientists, academics, and futurists are discussing the
Michael Vassar: "Either you and everyone you love are
going to be killed by robots or you are going to live forever."
singularity is the moment when technology has moved so rapidly that the
human race can never be the same again. This could be a good thing,
according to Ray Kurzweil, if we avoid the dangers of genetics,
nanotechnology, and robotics, then accept transhuman evolution. Or we go
down in the nerdocalypse.
Ben Goertzel: "I would be among the
least shocked people if we had the singularity in 2015. I also wouldn't be
amazed if it was delayed to 2100, because some technologies prove hard to
David Hanson makes robots he calls
empathy machines: "If we don't feel like they're part of our family, then
we're going to pick a fight with them. And the smarter they get, the more
dangerous it will be to pick fights."
Steve Mann, the world's first
cyborg, who's wearing his intelligent
spectacles, bridges the man-machine gulf by playing House of the Rising Sun
on what looks like an electronic bird bath.
Gregory Stock: "Drink this stuff, imbibe of it. When you really penetrate
into this stuff it's absolutely mind-boggling. People should be taking
pleasure in that."
Wake up Independent: The summit was a month ago.
And to drink this stuff read GIG
September 11 Anniversary
The New York Times
The ninth anniversary
was marked by memorials and by heated demonstrations blocks from ground
zero. At Zuccotti Park, Nick Chiarchiaro said, "A mosque is built on the
site of a winning battle. They are symbols of conquest. Hence we have a
symbol of conquest here? I don't think so."
The day drew famous
figures. John R. Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United
Nations, addressed the New York rally against the proposed Muslim center via
video, and Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, described Islam as an
intolerant "power of darkness," saying, "We must draw the line, so that New
York, rooted in Dutch tolerance, will never become New Mecca."
AR Wake up Americans: Islam is
not just a religion.
2010 September 11
Mapping Maturing Brains
Emily Singer, MIT Technology Review
A Washington University
School of Medicine team has mapped how connections in the brain evolve with
age. From age 5 to 30, short-range connections in the brain get weaker and
long-range connections get stronger. Now the team has shown how to use a
brain scan to determine a child's development.
team used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record fluctuations in
brain activity in a resting individual. Brain areas that are well connected
fluctuate in synchrony, providing a way to map the brain's networks. The
team studied more than 200 people of age 5 to 30 and recorded brain activity
in 160 brain areas. They used a machine-learning algorithm to find patterns
in the data. During the development of the brain's functional architecture,
different brain regions separated as the connections between them weakened.
The research is part of a growing trend to analyze how the brain's
networks interact, rather than focusing on specific brain areas. Researchers
can predict an individual's age from 5 minutes of brain-imaging data. They
are using the approach to study developmental disorders.
work: connectivity is the key logical property.
2010 September 9
Thilo Sarrazin denies preaching racism or eugenics.
His new book outlines his concerns about the German republic and diagnoses a
failure of immigration and welfare policies. The data and opinions on the
aging of German society, the weaknesses of school pupils, and the lack of
engineers and scientists are not new.
will complain about his theory of justice. Sarrazin the banker denies any
rich-poor divide. Friends of equality will find his ideas on equal
opportunity grim reading. The author lacks empathy. He explains the failures
of Muslim immigrants with reference to their culture. He believes they must
assimilate, show a zeal for education, and not bite the hand that feeds
Sarrazin believes that the intelligence of the population can
be boosted by breeding from intelligent people and suggests ways to raise the birth rate among the educated classes. He awaits expulsion
from the SPD and dismissal from the board of the Bundesbank. He has only
himself to blame.
good way to retire: make a splash and promote one's book.
Hillary Better President
Tunku Varadarajan, Daily Beast
The speech Wednesday morning by
Hillary Clinton was the best speech of this administration. The Secretary of
State told the Council on Foreign Relations that we are all living "a new
American moment, a moment when our global leadership is essential." She said
"we will do everything we can to exercise the traditions of American
leadership at home and abroad."
"The United States can, must and will lead in the new century." To do that,
Clinton promised "a new global architecture," "built to last and withstand
stress." She said: "Democracy needs defending." China must follow "the rules
of the road" in its aspiration to be a great power. Russia was scolded for
its invasion of Georgia. The message: We may live in a multipolar world, but
we have higher standards than those who would style themselves as our
Clinton used phrases like "American might." She stressed the
need for "good, old-fashioned diplomacy." Her diplomacy is based on the
premise that America is the world's leader. She said the sources of
"American might" are economic power and America's "moral authority."
Hillary understands that Obama is president. But Hillary would have made a
much, much better president than Obama.
AR Hill is brill!
2010 September 8
Bankers Win Again
Anatole Kaletsky, The Times
The financial crisis
has forced the adoption of policies that generate huge profits for banks.
Bankers have been allowed to exploit zero interest rates for their own
personal benefit. The exaggerated attacks against bankers ended up
distracting attention from the real causes of the crisis. In Britain the
false diagnoses have produced prescriptions that will shift the pain of
economic adjustment to public sector workers and beneficiaries of the
welfare state. The bankers will be laughing all the way to their banks.
AR Anatole is a good
thinker, no doubt about it. Bankers will win as long as we use money to
measure the value of our lives and work. I invented a word for this state:
Globorg, the global organism (a.k.a. GO, the limit of the series G20, G8,
G2,...). All our efforts are converging to bind us as living cells in
Globorg. This is only a horror vision if we let bankers make all the money
they can. Globorg drones of the world unite!
2010 September 7
Penguin Specials will fly again. On Wednesday, Penguin
will publish the first of a new series. What made Allen Lane's imprint
special was the decision, in 1937, to start producing — in softcover at
sixpence a go — original non-fiction books. These were the Specials.
AR This is good news. As a kid
I loved Penguin Specials. But new technology changes the game. New Specials
must be short, fast, and punchy. Penguin must issue them with minimal
editorial interference and no regard for print runs. Just fire and forget.
The e-market and the backlist will forgive a few duds. This is a concept
that can replace intellectual journals and magazines. Memo to Penguin: if
you want a good Special, I'll be happy to cut down my latest book (above) to help you
2010 September 6
In the wake of the Spanish Flu epidemic that swept the
world in 1918, five million people were struck down by a mysterious sleeping
sickness. Many of those who survived became locked for years in a rigid
statue-like state called encephalitis lethargica. Oliver Sacks was a young
British doctor who in 1969 gave them the new drug L-DOPA and woke them up.
He told their story in his book Awakenings. In 1982 Harold Pinter wrote a
play based on some of Sacks's cases. In 1990 came Penny Marshall's movie
Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. Now Rambert Dance
Company brings Awakenings to the dance stage (above).
My 126th novel was published this summer. I've
realised that it is wise to pay attention to my dreams for work, not for
great plot points or fully formed characters, but for the underlying
concepts. There's something about the place that my dreaming goes to when my
conscious mind is asleep (which I find very similar to chanting or swimming)
that allows the less obvious to bubble up more freely.
AR 126 novels? Most of them
must be crap.
2010 September 4
The Commander In Chief
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post
Obama's military leadership
can only be called scandalous. Where does America stand on the spreading
threats to stability, decency and U.S. interests from the Horn of Africa to
the Hindu Kush? Some presidents may not like being wartime leaders. But they
don't get to decide. History does. Obama needs to accept the role.
AR Der Krauthammer may be
overdoing the martial rhetoric here. We can't afford a crusade against the
entire Islamic world. The best we can do now is to learn to live without
Middle East oil.
My planned next book:
2010 September 3
Hawking's Grand Design
God did not create the universe, Stephen Hawking
M-theory may account for the birth of the universe.
Stephen Hawking and his colleagues are trying to find the patterns in
the basic fabric of reality. Einstein was fond of referring to God when he
was talking about the laws expressing the fundamental harmonies of the
universe. But for Einstein, the concept of God is an expression of the
underlying unity of the universe, something so wondrous that it can command
a spiritual awe.
For Paul Dirac, who occupied Newton's chair before Hawking, the
greatest mystery of the universe was that its most fundamental laws can be
expressed in terms of beautiful mathematical equations. The young Dirac was
an atheist. His colleague Wolfgang Pauli said: "There is no God and Dirac is
his prophet." In 1963, the old Dirac said: "God is a mathematician of a very
high order." He was speaking metaphorically.
Hawking supplants belief
in a God-created universe by belief in M-theory. But the reasons for the
mathematical order of the universe remain a mystery.
AR Einstein was better on this than Dirac, and Dirac
was better than Hawking — or is this just my ancestor worship?
Hawking: Archbishop Responds
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: "Belief
in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to
another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent,
living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its
AR Dear Dr
Williams, everything in the world revealed to me in my consciousness seems
ultimately to depend for its existence on me. But physics and biology show
that I'm not God and the world doesn't depend on me. The fallacy that it
does is the inversion of logic on which the whole self-comforting attraction
of the God meme depends. So let's get to work on a new psychology (to find
my new book on this, google "globorg"). Then we can debunk the religious
fundamentalists before they kill us all.
2010 September 2
Hawking: No God
Did the Universe need a creator? No, says Stephen
Hawking. In his new book, The Grand Design, co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow,
he says the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.
Emeritus Professor George Ellis, President of the
International Society for Science and Religion: "My biggest problem with
this is that it's presenting the public with a choice: science or religion.
A lot of people will say, 'OK, I choose religion, then' and it is science
that will lose out."
Professor Hawking says physics is on the brink
of writing a theory of everything, a single framework that has been the holy
grail for physicists since Einstein. He suggests that M-theory will achieve
Frank Close, fellow of theoretical physics at Exeter
College Oxford: "I don't see that M-theory adds one iota to the God debate,
either pro or con."
Frank Close is right: M-theory is irrelevant to the God debate. But
Hawking's colleague George Ellis is righter still: if people are forced to
choose, they will often choose religion with its superstition and willed
ignorance of science. My take: until we have a science of psychology that
can demonstrate how physics and evolution imply the self-organization of
ever higher forms of self from stuff, there will be room for debate (see
Mindworlds). Until then,
scientists do well to turn down the hubris.
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: "There is a difference between
science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about
interpretation. Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion
puts things together to see what they mean."
AR Physicists like Stephen Hawking and religious
figures like Lord Sacks alike often seem to miss the insight on the God
question offered by the great philosopher Immanuel Kant. In Kant's scheme,
the great unknown in the realm beyond all phenomena was unconditioned by the
phenomenal categories that we in our human predicament seek to impose upon
it. Nothing we can say in physics or elsewhere outruns our own categories,
but nothing in such categorial talk can condition the supra-phenomenal being
that we seek in all innocence to capture with our babbling about God. Our
knowledge of God stops at being, and thus impoverished collapses to nothing,
in accordance with Hegel's dialectical logic. Even Karl Marx knew this.
2010 September 1
Blair Speaks Out
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that his
successor Gordon Brown got it wrong with his Keynesian approach to the
economic crisis. Blair says Brown should have taken a new Labour way out of
Blair reaffirms his personal credo of market reform in
welfare and public services, economic liberalism, and intervention and
engagement abroad. He says the Western agenda has been upset: “We have
become too apologetic, too feeble, too inhibited, too imbued with doubt and
too lacking in mission.”
Blair argues that the West must be strong
against the extremist strain within Islam. The West cannot respect the
narrative of the extremists. We need to show the passion and inspiration of
the battle against communism and fascism in the fight against extremism.
AR New Labour was economic
pragmatism backed by Blair charisma. The Blair team had no plan to prevent a
Keynesian spending-spree response to financial meltdown. Tory cuts are the
consequence. But on Islamist extremism Blair is right on. We need Blair to
champion a global response that reaffirms Western core values.
Stuxnet Versus Iran
Stuxnet internet virus that has damaged computer systems in Iran was
designed by foreign governments to undermine the country's nuclear
ambitions, according to Tehran.
The malware has affected at least
30,000 IP addresses in Iran. Some western intelligence experts believe Stuxnet could
have been launched from Israel.
Iran has played down reports that the
virus has damaged its nuclear power station at Bushehr. But western experts
are keen to know whether the virus may have affected Iran's crucial uranium
enrichment site at Natanz.
Red Ed Seizes Labour
Ed Miliband, 40, has seized the Labour leadership in a
dramatic victory over his elder brother David, 45. Ed won with 50.65 percent of
the vote (to David's 49.35 percent) thanks to the unions. David was backed
by MPs and MEPs, who warned that the union vote was a "disaster" for the
AR Red doom
Mideast Arms Against Iran
administration's $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is a strategic move
to confront Iran through proxies and allies. By pushing helicopters and
fighters to the Saudis, the United States is changing the perception that
Iran is the rising power in the region. President Barack Obama and King
Abdullah seek to create a new balance of power.
The move will help
deflate calls for attacks on Iran's nuclear capacity. But while new Saudi
military capacity can resist Iran today, the weapons may also scare Israel
or other nations in the region tomorrow.
The Meat Eaters
The New York Times
We should stop participating
in the mass orgy of preying and feeding upon the weak. If we could arrange
the extinction of carnivorous species, ought we to do it? Many thousands of
animal species are being driven to extinction as a side effect of our
activities. We could favor the survival of herbivorous rather than
We must stop
tormenting and killing animals as a means of satisfying our desire to taste
certain flavors or to decorate our bodies in certain ways. But if suffering
is bad for animals when we cause it, it is also bad for them when other
animals cause it. So let us drive all carnivorous species to extinction.
Are Religions Adaptive?
Michael Blume has shown that all over the world and
in many different ages, religious people have had far more children than
nonreligious people. Data from 82 countries showed almost a straight line
plot of the number of children against the frequency of religious worship,
with those who worship more than once a week averaging 2.5 children and
those who never worship only 1.7.
This suggests that religious memes
are adaptive rather than viral from the point of view of human genes.
Religions still provide a superb example of memeplexes at work, with
different religions trying to out-compete other religions, and popular
versions of religions outperforming the more subtle teachings of the
mystical traditions. Somehow the phrase "symbiont of the mind" doesn't have
quite the same ring.
Photo: Miquel Gonzalez
Professor Bernhard Schlink, 66, grew up in Heidelberg.
He is the author of The Reader, which became a Hollywood movie starring Kate
Winslet, who won an Oscar in 2009 for her depiction of Hanna, an illiterate
former concentration camp guard. Schlink refers to the "old critique that
you can't show someone who did monstrous deeds as having a human face." But
that just wasn't the experience of his generation, he explains.
Robert McCrum, The Guardian
The one quality I look for in the
author of a great autobiography is that he or she should be as merciless on
themselves as on their adversaries. The great memoirist should face
themselves in the mirror with an unflinching gaze.
AR Robert, you're a hard man.
By Andy Ross
European Commission president
José Manuel Barroso talks about Europe as a global leader. I see a Europe
that looks like Japan. The United States and China are the pivotal players
in moulding the new global order.
Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet says the euro is resilient. I see
a European Union whose leading members are much diminished. But European per
capita incomes are still 10 times those in China.
There are still reasons to write books. It's still an
achievement to write one. A book can still give an author control over
what's said and how it's received. If written expertly, a book can signal
seriousness and erudition. And sometimes an author's labors can generate
returns beyond the minimum wage.
Afghan Wealth Running Out
Dubai has become a magnet for Afghanistan's
nouveau riche. A scandal involving Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's largest private
lender, highlighted the ties between the Gulf's commercial world and the
Afghan elite. About $10 billion flows between Dubai and Afghanistan every
year, most of it leaving the country.
Limit Religious Freedom
Christopher Hitchens, Slate
What kind of Islam will the U.S. Muslim population follow? The taming and domestication of religion is one of the
unceasing chores of civilization. Those who pretend that we can skip this
stage in the present case are deluding themselves and asking for trouble.
Green to Join Government
The New York Times
Stephen Green is leaving his post as chairman
of HSBC to join the British government as minister for trade and investment.
"I am delighted to appoint Stephen to this vital role," said Prime Minister
is better off in a
government post than in
The A-Cup Crowd
The New York Times
More small-chested ladies are openly
celebrating their look. Retailers and bra makers are serving women who make
no excuses for their flat bosoms. But women with small chests disagree about
what they want from a bra. One camp consists of traditionalists. Another
would just as soon go braless. The middle camp wants a degree of
authenticity. For too long, bra shopping has demoralized such women.
AR My advice: go braless.
Let slim women breathe free.
Minoo Vosough was arrested in Tehran more than 25 years ago
and thrown into solitary confinement. Her crime in the Islamic republic is
She is a Baha'i.
The Baha'i faith is Iran's
best hope to escape the death cult of
People think it is impossible to speak about moral truth because there
is no intellectual basis from which to say that anyone is ever right or
wrong about questions of good and evil. I want to undermine this assumption.
UK Treasury Cuts Planned
George Osborne is planning to cut staff numbers
at the Treasury by about one-quarter and scale back his department’s role as
he attempts to lead by example in the search for sweeping spending cuts
across Whitehall. The Treasury is also asking civil servants to sit at
smaller desks, closer together.
They're getting desperate!
Put The Mosque Elsewhere
Judea Pearl, Jerusalem Post
Treating homegrown terror acts as
isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their
ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they
can achieve public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and
responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to
spawn such acts. The construction of the Ground Zero Mosque would further
prolong this illusion.
Banks Trade Renminbi
A number of the world’s biggest banks have
launched international roadshows promoting the use of the renminbi to
corporate customers instead of the dollar for trade deals with China. HSBC,
which recently moved its chief executive from London to Hong Kong, and
Standard Chartered, are offering discounted transaction fees and other
financial incentives to companies that choose to settle trade in the Chinese
AR HSBC CEO
Stephen Green is an alumnus of my alma mater in Oxford.
Updating Peer Review
The New York Times
vanguard of digitally adept scholars is inviting online readers to comment
on books in progress, compiling journals from blog posts, and even
petitioning their universities to update the way they grant promotions and
traditional method of peer review can take years. This month, mathematicians
used blogs and wikis to evaluate a big new candidate proof in the space of a
"When I was growing up, an elite controlled the media. And the majority of
the world was very, very poor, both in a resource sense and an information
sense. Since then, a set of things have occurred."
CEO Eric Schmidt
Google Offers Cloud
Based Learning Engine
MIT Technology Review
Google Prediction API provides a machine-learning black box. Data goes in
one end, and predictions come out the other. There are three basic commands:
one to upload data, another telling the service to learn what it can from
it, and a third to submit new data. The black box contains a suite of
algorithms. When data is uploaded, all of the algorithms are run to find out
which works best, and the best algorithm is then used on new data.
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards called for the Red
Arrows to be scrapped. He told BBC Wales he thought the £8.8 million annual
budget for the team's running costs could be put to better use.
AR I say scrap Mr Edwards
soon as possible.
Oracle Sues Google
Oracle on Thursday filed a copyright and patent
infringement claim against Google over its Android operating system. The
lawsuit accuses Google of breaching seven patents that Oracle assumed when
it acquired Sun Microsystems. Android is based on open-source software but
Oracle says it also includes some Java elements. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison
acquired Sun largely to buy control of Java.
SAP knew Oracle would start to behave like this with Java and hence
is deemphasizing its Java stack in favor of the tried and trusted ABAP stack.
U. Cal. physicist Petr Horava wants to rip time and space
free from one another in a unified theory that reconciles quantum mechanics
The motion of electrons in supercold graphene seems to
break Lorentz symmetry. So Horava changed general relativity to remove
Lorentz symmetry and add an arrow of time. He found an apparently good
theory of gravity at the quantum scale.
Anil Ananthaswamy reports
My Amazon review of Hitch-22
by Christopher Hitchens
"There is a risk that publishers will go under, but we are very
self-confident in that regard."
Random House CEO
The Prophet On Debt
The Prophet Muhammad knew a
thing or two about human nature. An economy without interest, insurance,
limited liability, or debt trading would be righteous.
Thatcherite revolution was about freedom. The market was a moral good. The
state was the great intruder. This new morality forgot that in an economy of
fictions, nobody is called to account.
(to be continued)
2010 August 31
Britain and France are preparing to share their aircraft carriers to cut
costs. This would allow Britain to cancel one of its two new carriers. David
Cameron and President Sarkozy are expected to outline the proposal in a
is an excellent idea. Even if it produces limited cooperation and few
savings, the experience will be useful for later pooling our nuclear
deterrents to make an EU umbrella. Concorde showed we can work with the
French. Tornado and Eurofighter showed we can work with Germans and others.
A carrier deal is a logical next step. We should always work with our EU
Beck Assails Obama
Conservative commentator Glenn Beck claimed on
Fox News that President Obama "is a guy who understands the world through
liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim."
"I don't know what that is, other than it's
not Muslim, it's not Christian. It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus
Christ as most Christians know it." Beck dispelled rumors that he might be
considering a run for president in 2012.
AR Face it, guys, America is a Christian land. The
clash of civilizations is a tragic inevitability for century 21.
2010 August 30
The Daily Beast
Sharif El-Gamal and his brother Samir own the
building for the Ground Zero Mosque. They have a history of tax and debt
issues. Sharif once told a court he didn't hit a tenant from whom he was
trying to collect back rent. He told police the tenant's "face could have
run into my hand."
Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf and his wife
were surprised by the facts about Sharif, whose domineering personality
doesn't suit the boring work of building a nonprofit. Rauf may decide to
build his Islamic center elsewhere. That may be the best solution all round.
AR Certainly the best
solution for the future of Islam in America.
2010 August 27
Taleban Target Cameron
Andy Ross, The Times
Since Winston Churchill used to be casual
about his own security too, it's hard to fault David Cameron for his
attitude, but it would be a great shame to hand a victory on the scale of a
prime ministerial assassination to the Taleban. Or would we regard such an
event as a trigger for a new level of intensity in the conflict and begin to
get serious about hunting the Taleban to extinction? If so, why not do it
now and get the job over with? There are no civilians in a land where the
Taleban can melt into the population, so I see no sound reason for holding
back on the firepower, at any rate until the day when the Afghans rise up in
outrage against the spiritually stunted men of violence in their midst and
proclaim their wholehearted solidarity with us and our cause.
challenge in Afghanistan is analogous to the confrontations between the
Israelis and Hamas and Hezbollah. The only reason the Israelis hold back on
the firepower is that international opinion makers, especially those who
have never had to confront existential threats, think they know better.
Liberals think holding back is the better option, and unless or until events
prove otherwise we are well advised to indulge them. The trick is to cease
to indulge them before the threat becomes existential.
Advice To Writers
Andy Ross, The Times
Writing is a solitary game indeed. With
competition from new media and the disruption of digital technology to trash
the old business model, the publishing industry is in the worst state I've
seen it in for over forty years. This extends beyond the world of literary
novels. For example, I worked in software for years in order to earn the
money to write a popular monograph this year, and have now published it
digitally at my own expense, but what now? A deafening silence suggests
commercial doom despite all the effort (to find my book, Google "globorg"
and choose "G.O.D. Is Great"). If even a book about building a money-making
global organism is such a struggle to publish, I pity any young novelists
who don't want to pander to the mass market.
2010 August 24
Andy Ross, The Times
Ben Macintyre accepts the evident sanctity
of the Ground Zero site without taking his logic a step further. Christian
or Jewish occupancy of the Cordoba Centre would not have generated a heated
debate, and a blanket appeal to religious freedom fails to isolate the
crucial difference. Islam is a big tent that covers not only a religion but
also a political movement. The Ground Zero site recalls a hostile act
performed in the name of a politicized religion. Until the Islamists have
been neutered politically, and this is a global challenge that may take
decades to resolve, we should not treat Islam on a par with Judaism or
Andy Ross, The Times
Colin Blakemore deserves strong support for
his wise views on an issue that has dragged on unresolved for too many
years. Public tolerance of tobacco and alcohol abuse is at least as
indefensible as any relaxation of our policy toward cannabis and other soft
drugs, yet the legal contrast in our treatment of offenders is shocking.
Irresponsible drunks often get off scot-free whereas people who use
recreational drugs risk devastating legal consequences. We see the
inconsistency here but have done nothing to change it since the sixties,
when the illogic was first exposed with rock-star headlines. Chronic drunks
and chain smokers are worse for all of us than occasional party trippers.
And palliative use of marijuana should certainly become an acceptable
2010 August 21
James Cameron is currently finishing Avatar's
novelization, rather than "hiring some hack writer to come in and turn the
script into a fluffed-out piece of garbage." The 56-year-old Canadian is
just about the most powerful man in Hollywood, from his Terminator films to
Aliens, through The Abyss, True Lies and Titanic. He's been working with
NASA, designing the stereoscopic imaging of the rover they're launching to
the Red Planet next year: "We'll literally be shooting a 3D movie on Mars."
The man who saved Europe: a
German tribute to Winston Churchill
2010 August 20
U.S. troops leave Iraq to the mercenaries
Robert Wright says there's no
sound rationale for bombing Iran
2010 August 19
Andy Ross, The Times
I don't wish to seem pedantic, but I think
you'll find that the RAF bomber behind the Flying Fortress in the picture is
a Short Stirling, not a Lancaster.
2010 August 17
Chinese Military Expansion
Andy Ross, The Times
As long as Chinese military spending remains
at about a fifth of U.S. spending, we have little to worry about. In fact,
we should be grateful that China is shouldering the burden of ensuring
security and stability in the region. Western policy now should be to help
China solve issues with Taiwan and Korea, and later to secure good relations
between China and Japan. New friction there would endanger global prosperity
more than any other current threat except nuclear war in or near the Gulf
region. Chinese growth has no big implications for British defense planning.
Our best course is to focus on whipping the gaggle of European national
forces into better shape.
The End Of Empire
Paul Craig Roberts, Infowars
Washington cannot spend the economy
out of recession. Laurence Kotlikoff [blog, Aug 13] thinks the solution is
savage Social Security and Medicare cuts or equally savage tax increases or
hyperinflation to destroy the vast debts.
In 2009 and 2010 the
federal deficit jumped to $1.4 trillion. Money to finance the deficit comes
from individuals fleeing the stock market into Treasury bonds and from the
bankster bailout. The banks used their excess reserves to purchase Treasury
Next, the Federal Reserve can purchase Treasury bonds. But as
the government prints money to pay its bills, prices will rise. By the end
of this year, the rest of the world will be dumping dollars wholesale. When
the dollar goes, the United States cannot finance its trade deficit. Imports
will fall, with a risk of hyperinflation.
The United States can
reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars per year by ending the
wars. More hundreds of billions of dollars can be saved by cutting the rest
of the military budget. The United States can bring back offshored jobs by
taxing corporations according to where value is added to their product. If
the wars are not immediately stopped and the jobs brought back to America,
the United States is history.
AR It's painful any way you cut it. But surely better to
control the deficit now than lose control later.
2010 August 15
May Ling Su
The Great Cover-up
Andy Ross, The Sunday Times
Has anyone considered that the great
cover-up may be related to the increasing prominence in public discussion of
issues relating to burkas? Is the new prudery an attempt, perhaps
unconscious, to show more solidarity with Islamic norms of virtue? This
summer on Bournemouth beach I saw that women in groups from south Asia were
swathed in generous lengths of fabric. Perhaps more liberated young women
are embarrassed to flout their bodies too brazenly before such groups, who
would surely tut-tut about Western decadence if bare breasts were to bobble
in their vicinity. So what do we do? Cover up meekly or throw off the bras?
And how about public breast feeding of infants? If we want to encourage the
practice, we should learn to relax about alfresco displays of bare bosoms.
2010 August 13
The U.S. Is Bankrupt
Laurence Kotlikoff, Bloomberg
The International Monetary Fund has
effectively pronounced the United States bankrupt: "The U.S. fiscal gap
associated with today's federal fiscal policy is huge for plausible discount
rates. ... closing the fiscal gap requires a permanent annual fiscal
adjustment equal to about 14 percent of U.S. GDP."
Current federal revenue totals 14.9 percent of GDP. So the
IMF is saying that closing the U.S. fiscal gap requires an immediate and
permanent doubling of our personal-income, corporate and federal taxes, as
well as Federal Insurance payroll levy. Then we would run a surplus equal to
5 percent of GDP this year, rather than a 9 percent deficit. The IMF is
saying the U.S. needs to run a surplus now and for many years to come to pay
for scheduled spending.
The Congressional Budget Office long-term
budget outlook shows a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15
times the official debt. This discrepancy between our "official" debt and
our actual net indebtedness shows that Congress has labeled most of its
liabilities "unofficial" to keep them off the books. The fiscal gap is the
correct measure of our long-run fiscal condition because it considers all
spending, no matter how labeled, and incorporates long-term and short-term
We have 78 million baby boomers who, when retired, will
collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that, on
average, exceed per-capita GDP. We ran a massive Ponzi scheme for six
decades straight, taking resources from the young and giving them to the
old. It can't go on. Our country is broke.
2010 August 12
When the Israelis begin to bomb the
main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, they will change the Middle East
2010 August 10
Salman Rushdie on the wonders of paradox
Andrew Ross, The Times
Salman Rushdie is a fount of peerless
wisdom. Like so many of his essays, this one is a gem. Yet the cult of
contradiction may not stand uncontradicted. The great philosopher Hegel
poured forth contradictions without end, and even had the conceit, or rather
the hubris of the ambitious autodidact, to present the whole fountain of
words as a logic. Then logic moved on to more mathematical forms and ended
up shaping the world live in, where, as Salman puts it, "we are urged to
define ourselves more and more narrowly" into a straitjacket of packaged
The clashes of identity politics are among the corollaries
of the great paradox of our time. This paradox is that our human selves must
make their peace with each other in a world in which the great "I am!" has
risen above the turbulent ranks of the religionists and evaporated into the
cosmos. Salman quotes Tom Stoppard's fictional Sir Archibald, who invites us
to consider what it would look like if it looked like the Earth went round
the Sun. Well, what would it look like if we lost our identities and simply
went around asserting "I am" as our identity? Bang, bang. This is a slow
burn of a joke.
Salman is lamenting our steady loss of tolerance for
paradox. Of course he's right to lament. But scientists are right, too, to
enforce this corollary, because otherwise my computer wouldn't be logical
enough to write these words. The tragedy in this rectitude, for me, is that
I have no better instrument than my computer through which to enjoy
communion with the peerless Rushdie.
2010 August 6
Britain's Nuclear Deterrent
Andrew Ross, The Times
Sir Michael Howard's wish that we think ahead can
hardly be faulted. But a positive proposal would be more apposite. Mine is
that we merge our deterrent with the French deterrent. There are technical
issues here that would take a decade to sort out, but if we could agree in
principle to deploy a common deterrent by 2020 our international prestige
would surely rise. We could argue that the age of national ownership of
weapons of mass destruction was passing. Our precedent could trigger a
global debate on how to manage nuclear deterrent capabilities in a
globalized world. Not least, in a possible future where the European Union
becomes a more coherent global actor, the Anglo-French deterrent could
become EU property, funded jointly by all European nations. All it takes is
2010 August 4
Faster, Cooler, Cheaper Computing With
MIT Technology Review
An Intel team led by Mario Paniccia,
director of Intel's photonics lab in Santa Clara, CA, has demonstrated the
first complete photonic communications system built into silicon chips. The
system can move 50 GB/s via four lasers that shine data into an optical
fiber at different wavelengths. Chips with more lasers are planned. Says
Paniccia: "Having a chip the size of your fingernail that can deliver a
terabit per second changes the way you can think about design."
new chips could replace the metal wires between the processors and memory in
a computer. Copper wiring limits the distance between critical components.
Moving them apart would make cooling easier. And photonics links use less
power. Says Keren Bergman, who leads a silicon photonics research group at
Columbia University: "You can get an order of magnitude gain in energy
Wonderful — Globorg here we come!
2010 August 2
SAP Five-Year Plan
Daniel Schäfer, Financial Times
SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott said
SAP growth would accelerate to 2015. SAP aims to increase its customer base,
which jumped 10 percent in Q2, by putting its software on mobile devices.
SAP aims to increase users from the current 35 million to 1 billion.
SAP plans to disrupt rival Oracle's business model with its
mobile strategy and the in-memory technology [developed in my former team,
now called NewDB].
On Oracle, McDermott said: "Their story is to sell bite-sized
chunks of yesterday's technology... SAP can disrupt their
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison called the in-memory
technology "wacko, ridiculous, complete nonsense."
Paul Hamermann said: "In-memory is still emerging from Hasso Plattner's lab
and we have not seen many applications yet. It is not clear what SAP's road
map for its technological innovation is."
McDermott said SAP could
exceed its 2010 revenues guidance, currently 9 to 11 percent.
AR NewDB rocks! A billion users
would be awesome.
Go For Thorium
Thorium is better than uranium. A ton
of thorium produces as much energy as 200 tons of uranium. Thorium eats its
own hazardous waste. It can even scavenge the plutonium left by uranium
reactors. Thorium reactors run cool. And thorium is common. The United
States and Australia are full of it. All of it can be burned, unlike
The Norwegian group Aker Solutions has the
patent for the thorium fuel cycle and is looking for tie-ups with the
United States, Russia, or China. After the Manhattan Project,
U.S. physicists considered thorium reactors. But the military wanted
the plutonium from uranium to build bombs.
If President Obama ordered a
new Manhattan Project, he could end our dependence on fossil fuels within a
AR Do it,
From my Californian friend
"Twitter is a relatively
easy way to stay on the radar of a great many people. Sure, it takes a bit
of time. But on Twitter you can create instant exposure, build credibility,
and brand yourself as a top talent. Learn to be pithy and smart in 140
characters and you may attract the attention of potential employers."
The Instant Expert
usually attack early in the morning," Amin said. "It's a hot country and the
explosive vests are thick and heavy."
In Afghanistan, Captain Dan Kearney is sitting with local elders he is
trying to win over. A man complains about an arrest. Kearney turns
to his Afghan interpreter and says: "You're not understanding that I don't
"I am worried about the decline of what I call deep reading.
You do less
of that in a world where everything is a snippet, everything is an instant
message, everything is an alert."
CEO Eric Schmidt
"Google knows more about us than the KGB, Stasi or Gestapo"
Bundesjustizministerin Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the
German cabinet has decided that a general reform of the data protection law
was the best way to deal with intrusive new data services such as
This is the year when China clearly becomes the world's second-largest
economy, after the United States, pushing Japan to third place. China is now
focused on overtaking the United States (within 20 years, many project).
China's economy is now some 90 times larger than in 1978. Growth has lifted
at least 300 million people out of poverty. Last year, China overtook
Germany to become the world's biggest exporter.
City planner Albert Speer says that reconstruction in
Germany has been problematic because of the complete rejection of history
after World War II.
Osaka U. & ATR Int. Rob.& Comm. Labs
Osaka University Professor
Hiroshi Ishiguro unveils
Telenoid R1, his new
"The fundamental human rights of women trump the teachings of any religion."
For the statist, the state and its clients come
first. The political class looks after its supporters and buys favor from
the rest. European states put high taxes on all who work hard and bribe the
rest with a free ride.
What we are
seeing in Europe and America is a demoralization of economic life. The
Prophet advocated another and truer way: the way of moral judgment.
AR Pious tosh. Who decides what's moral — the clerics?
Claudia, die neue Amelie, und
Pascal hat früher mit mir bei TREX gearbeitet.
Geholfen habe ich mit seiner Doktorarbeit: Betriebswirtschaftliche
Analyse auf operationalen Daten
Get Rich In Iraq
Jeffrey Archer, The Times
If I were a young man, looking to make
my fortune, I would be off to Iraq like a shot. Plenty of other young men
are there already — Russians, French, Germans, Swedes, Chinese of course,
even Turks and Lebanese. President Talabani was keen to get across to me his
disappointment that, while thousands of foreigners were setting up companies
all over Iraq, the British were noticeable by their absence. He wants
adventurous entrepreneurs to realize there is an opportunity in Iraq that
rivals the gold rush.
Jeffrey the adventurer ...
Iraq is still the Wild West
locals learn how to maintain law and order.
Sabotaging Iranian Nukes
suffered a series of technical setbacks to its nuclear program in the past
12 months, triggering suggestions that western intelligence agencies are
sabotaging its likely ambition to build an atomic weapon.
Iraq posed no real
threat prior to the Anglo-American invasion of March 2003. The assault on
Iraq proliferated jihadism across the Middle East and incubated Islamist
extremism in the UK.
"Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad," Eliza
Manningham-Buller, former director-general of the British domestic security
service MI5, told the UK war inquiry.
If we had kept doing to Iraq what we're now doing to Iran, we could have
now done to Iran what we then did to Iraq. Bygones.
(Nelson's flagship at
2010 July 31
August 27, Amazon will ship the 3G Kindle: less than 9 mm thick, weighs less
than 250 g, pages turn 20 percent faster, longer and slimmer page-turn
buttons with quieter clicks, five-way control with OK button plus four
directional buttons, battery life one month with 3G radio off or 10 days on,
and storage for 3,500 books.
Steven Levy, Wired
2010 July 27
Cameron: Let Turkey Join EU
British Prime Minister David Cameron, in Ankara for
talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to tell
him: "When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a Nato
ally, and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European
allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be
frustrated in the way it has been." On Turkey’s strained relations with
Israel after the botched raid on ships trying to break the Gaza blockade, he
will say: "Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not
to give up on that friendship."
The Times seems to have privileged access to future time here. But
the main point is well taken: it looks increasingly curmudgeonly to block
Turkish entry into the European Union.
Astute Political Move
Suna Erdem, The Times
Turkey is an economic powerhouse. With 11.4
percent growth in Q1 2010 and government debt at 49 percent of GDP, Turkey
has a robust banking system. Exports are booming to regional friends such as
Iran, Syria, and Russia.
We need Turkey to help control global relations with Iran.
Don't Blame Pakistan
Imran Khan, The Times
The war in Afghanistan cannot be won
militarily. As the United States and NATO realize the failure of their
military policy in Afghanistan, they are seeking to shift the center of
gravity of the war into Pakistan. One fear is that it will lead to a
Taleban- controlled nuclear Pakistan. That fear betrays a total ignorance
about the evolution of the Taleban movement as well as the impact of the War
on Terror on Pakistan.
When the Americans were drawing up their
military response to the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani leadership capitulated
and the United States gave General Pervez Musharraf the embrace of
legitimacy. Anyone who knows the region and its history could see it would
be a disaster. Until that point we had no militant Taleban in Pakistan. The
country is fighting someone else's war.
AR The last sentence is the giveaway. It's everyone's war,
2010 July 26
Are We In A Black Hole?
Anil Ananthaswamy, New Scientist
According to Nikodem Poplawski,
inside each black hole there could be another universe. Maybe our universe
is inside a black hole.
general relativity (GR), inside black holes are singularities. The equations
of GR break down at singularities. Poplawski used a modified version of
Einstein's equations called the Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama (ECKS) theory
of gravity that takes account of the spin or angular momentum of elementary
particles to calculate torsion in spacetime. When the density of matter is
high enough, torsion counters gravity. This prevents matter compressing to
infinite density, so there is no singularity. Instead, says Poplawski,
matter rebounds and starts expanding again.
Poplawski applies ECKS to
model the behavior of spacetime inside a black hole the instant it starts
rebounding. Gravity initially overcomes torsion's repulsive force and
compresses matter, but then the repulsive force increases and the matter
rebounds. Poplawski calculates that spacetime inside the black hole expands
to about twice its smallest size in much less that a Planck time.
we are living inside a spinning black hole, it would spin our spacetime and
define an axis in our universe, says Poplawski.
Poplawski, Indiana University
The ECKS theory of gravity provides
a simple scenario in early cosmology which is alternative to standard cosmic
inflation and does not require scalar fields. The torsion of spacetime
prevents the appearance of the cosmological singularity in the early
Universe filled with Dirac particles averaged as a spin fluid. Instead, its
expansion starts from a state at which the Universe has a minimum but finite
radius. We show that the dynamics of the closed Universe immediately after
this state naturally solves the flatness and horizon problems in cosmology
because of an extremely small and negative torsion density parameter. This
scenario also suggests that the contraction of our Universe preceding the
state of minimum radius could correspond to the dynamics of matter inside
the event horizon of a newly formed black hole existing in another universe.
This is excellent. ECKS is better than GR. But it's still a classical
theory, and anything calculated for less than a Planck time is probably
wrong until we understand quantum gravity.
India's ministry for Human Resource Development unveiled a
touchscreen tablet expected to cost US$35. The tablet was developed at the
Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science
in Bengaluru. Says Prasanto K Roy, chief editor of CyberMedia's ICT group,
in India's Economic Times:
"You don't show prototypes unless they are
working ones with running apps, backed by a clear game plan to build up a
vendor and apps network, and a clear design and specifications, and
preferably a bill of materials. You don't launch products until you have a
product to launch. Else it's vaporware. You also don't re-invent the wheel.
We already have US$35 computing devices. We call them mobile phones. The
government is wasting its efforts, my tax money, and making a laughing stock
of the Indian technological prowess."
Roy is right.
WikiLeaks Reveal Pak
The New York Times
The military field reports
from WikiLeaks suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United
States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the
Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups
that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan.
officials interviewed could not corroborate individual reports, but said the
portrait of the spy agency's collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was
broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in one of the frequent visits by
American officials to Islamabad, announced $500 million in assistance and
called the United States and Pakistan "partners joined in common cause."
The reports suggest that the Pakistani military has acted as both ally
and enemy, as its spy agency runs what American officials have long
suspected is a double game, appeasing certain American demands for
cooperation while angling to exert influence in Afghanistan through many of
the same insurgent networks that the Americans are fighting to eliminate.
AR I suppose we should
resist the temptation, recalling a phrase from the immortal Attenborough
movie Gandhi, to seal a military alliance with India against
Pakistan and "teach them a lesson they won't forget." But I say we
should get heavy by vetting the Paki ops and forcing out the baddies. If
they don't like it, we can move back from Pakistan to India and target the Paks.
We can start by taking out their nukes.
2010 July 25
U.S. Army Vessel (USAV) Spearhead, is scheduled for delivery in 2012.
She is the first ship of the Joint High Speed Vessel program (JHSV)
resulting from the U.S. Department of Defense consolidation of the Army
Theater Support Vessel and the Navy High Speed Connector. The second ship
(JHSV 2), U.S. Navy Ship (USNS) Vigilant, is scheduled for delivery in 2013.
The 103-meter catamarans are designed to transport 600 short tons 1,200
nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. They will be able to operate
in shallow water and offer roll-on/roll-off transport for heavy items such
as combat-loaded Abrams main battle tanks. They will feature an aviation
flight deck for 24/7 launch-and-recovery operations.
Austal Builds USAV Spearhead
Six months after the opening of Austal USA's Module Manufacturing Facility
in Mobile, Alabama, the keel is laid for USAV Spearhead. The JHSV program
covers 10 ships and is worth $1.6 billion.
AR Austal is the Australian company that built the
fast Condor catamaran I rode in summer 2009 from Cherbourg to Poole. Its
family resemblance to USAV Spearhead is unmistakable.
2010 July 24
Quantum Time Machine Solves Grandfather Paradox
Physics arXiv Blog, MIT Tech Review
Time travel based on quantum
teleportation gets around the paradoxes that have plagued other time
In quantum mechanics, postselection enables a computation
to ignore some results. For example, suppose you have an expression with
many variables and you want to know which combination of variables makes it
true. A classical approach is brute force: try combinations of variable
until you find one that works. A quantum approach is to let the variables to
take any value at random and then postselect on the condition that the
answer must be true. This automatically weeds out the false combos.
Postselection leads to utopian predictions about the power of quantum
computers. Seth Lloyd at the MIT and his colleagues say that if you combine
postselection with teleportation you can build a time machine.
Quantum teleportation uses entanglement to transfer to a new
location a quantum state that was previously at another location.
Postselection can specify the type of state that is teleported, and so limit
the state the original particle must have been in. In effect, the state of
the particle travels back in time.
Lloyd's time machine gets around
the grandfather paradox, where a particle travels back in time and somehow
prevents itself from ever having existed, because of the probabilistic
nature of quantum mechanics: anything that this time machine allows can also
happen with finite probability anyway. Quantum time travel does not rely on
warps in spacetime.
Postselection can only occur if
quantum mechanics is nonlinear. All the evidence so far is that quantum
mechanics is linear. Some theorists say that the weirdness of postselection
proves that quantum mechanics is linear.
mechanics of time travel through P-CTCs
Seth Lloyd et al.,
This paper discusses the quantum mechanics of closed
timelike curves (CTC) and of other potential methods for time travel. We
analyze a specific proposal for such quantum time travel, the quantum
description of CTCs based on post-selected teleportation (P-CTCs). We
compare the theory of P-CTCs to previously proposed quantum theories of time
travel ... and investigate the implications of P-CTCs for enhancing the
power of computation.
I liked Seth Lloyd's book on quantum information and this time travel
implication makes sense: given relativistic spacetime, if you have spatial
nonlocality, you have temporal nonlocality too, which must seem in some
views like time travel. Still, causality is not violated and the grandfather
stuff is just woo-woo.
U.S. Marines Assault Breacher: M1A1 Abrams tank chassis with modified turret
and undercarriage. SLAM! Armored plow with steel skis dig up land mine. Puny
explosion only tickle! Marines drive Assault Breacher first time in December
to DESTROY Taliban in Now Zad. Marine Corps want 15 more. Each cost $3.7
million. Assault Breacher SMASH budget!
2010 July 20
During the worst of the global financial meltdown,
Berlin pumped tens of billions of euros into the economy and spent hundreds
of billions propping up German banks. Now, the country is reaping the
benefits as Germany is once again Europe's economic motor.
2010 July 19
Revisiting the math puzzle from my June 14 blog, John Derbyshire has
analyzed the problem perspicuously (and with brute force in Visual Basic)
and persuaded me that the right answer is 13/27.
2010 July 12-16
Enjoyed happy days at
Ways With Words
Festival of Words and
Ideas sponsored by The Daily Telegraph
Dartington Hall, Devon, England,
UK, July 9-19
Photo: Christopher Jones
Dartington Hall is
like an Oxford college in a Devon setting
2010 July 10
International Air Day
Viewed fly-by demos of Spitfire, Hurricane, Red
Arrows, Vulcan, and Dutch and Belgian F-16 Falcons
2010 July 8
Royal Air Force Museum
Enjoyed Battle of Britain Hall exhibition "Our Finest Hour"
Hurricane and Spitfire mounted outside RAF Museum
Two Messerschmitts: 109F and 262 at RAF Museum
2010 July 6
Reviewed HMS Victory and HMS Warrior
2010 July 2
Emily Singer, MIT Technology Review
By analyzing just 150 spots
on the genome, researchers can predict who will live to extreme old age with
almost 80 percent accuracy, according to a study published in
"Centenarians are a model of aging well," says Thomas Perls, director of the
New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center and an author of the
study. Previous findings from the project show that 90 percent of
centenarians are free of disability to an average age of 93. "They seem to
compress disability to the end of their lives," says Perls.
My new book is now on sale
My new book is also available
in a Kindle edition
Toy Story 3
Libby Purves, The Times
In Pixar's Toy Story 3, a cast of
animated toys makes most human characters in recent blockbuster cinema look
like lumps of plastic. The back story is that Andy, who owns the toys is off
to college, and putting them in the attic. The toys are happy when they
fulfill their destiny by being played with.
The inward tale of the
toy characters is epic. They bravely prepare for their attic exile like
hopeful refugees, imagining the best and looking forward to new playtimes.
But alas, they are abused and deceived ...
AR Must see this movie. Makes grown men weep, they
Touchscreen Tablet for $35
A touchscreen tablet unveiled in India that costs only $35. Aimed at students, the tablet can be used for web
browsing, video conferencing, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on.
According to Indian human resource
development minister Kapil Sibal, this new touchscreen tablet is an answer
to MIT's $100 computer. The tablet is expected to be in full production by
2011 with a subsidized price for students of around $20.
done, guys. Let's hope
it works as advertised!
Robert Wright on the emerging
David Gelernter on human and artificial thought
Ian Bremmer on the
future of U.S.-China relations
XH558 flies again
at RAF Museum